Application Maintenance Becomes a Service at vLegaci
June 23, 2009 Dan Burger
Before the recession, organizations looked to cut costs by extending equipment upgrade cycles and trimming staff. Globalization increased competitiveness and then the recession intensified the requirements for success. In IBM AS/400 (iSeries and System i) IT departments, this plays out in decisions to delay system upgrades and make staff reductions, just like other departments are faced with similar situations. Given this reality, Steve Kilner at vLegaci, believes he has a tool that fits in well.
Kilner, who is president of vLegaci, has a product called Codelyzer. Its introduction was covered in Four Hundred Stuff in an article titled “Codelyzer Offers Relief from Application Maintenance Burdens” in mid-March. As of last week, Codelyzer is now available in a software as a service (SaaS) offering.
Codelyzer was designed to simplify and reduce the amount of time devoted to application maintenance, a serious time and resource hog in any IT department. It’s an RPG source-exploration and program-comprehension tool designed so that programmers can more quickly understand the structure of complex programs by finding statements within a program. On legacy applications, this is often not an easy thing to accomplish by hand.
“Some of these old RPG programs are so complicated that, even with the ideal tool, they are still risky and difficult to figure out,” Kilner says. For example, Kilner has seen and heard of subroutines that perform up to 100 tasks, and programs that will not write data until the second time around. The reasons for poor-performing legacy applications are many.
Some programs were devised to handle many variations on how a company might do business as opposed to one method that a company always does business. These contingencies in the code make it very complicated. Often there are modifications that were made years ago by possibly several different programmers using different methods.
“My goal is to improve the effectiveness of maintenance programming for legacy systems. ROI increases when developers can quickly comprehend unfamiliar programs and maintain them faster with fewer mistakes,” Kilner said in March when Codelyzer was introduced.
What Kilner has discovered is that many companies don’t have the staff to handle tasks that go beyond the day-to-day responsibilities. Using the Codelyzer tool involves a new task, so that puts it in the category of being useful only to companies that have adequate staff to take on new projects.
“If a company chooses to develop its staff, and invest in staff skills, it would buy the tool,” Kilner says. According to Kilner, the use of the Codelyzer tool is a key to training maintenance specialists in an organization that depends on legacy code. He says Codelyzer will result in more productivity from fewer people.
Increasing staff and increasing investment in skills training is not all that common these days. When not focused solely on budget cuts, the most rational staffing models keep key staff and get them trained on more modern tools. Routine programming is the type of programming that might be outsourced. And when peak programming needs arise, a company might consider RPG as a service (RPGAAS), which is what Kilner calls Codelyzer when it is sold as a service.
“It doesn’t make sense to staff for peak needs,” he says. “I think companies have done that in the past. Now they can’t afford to do that. That’s why there have been layoffs. But ad hoc programming needs are still going to come up. Companies need a way to get those done.
“RPG as a service makes sense where companies already laid off people. They have cut back from staffing for peak demands. Then when something comes up in business and they need to get something done, they don’t have the people. Hiring to fill staff probably doesn’t make sense. And even if they could find local consultants, it will take them time to come up to speed.”
With the training on the Codelyzer tools already accomplished, Kilner’s people can become more productive more quickly.
For example, a company might have a large 10,000-satement program that needs modifications. It could take a programmer days, or even weeks, to learn what that program does under normal circumstances. The Codelyzer tool takes that 10,000-statement program and quickly gets an overview of it by drilling down and locating the code that needs to be changed.
In the RPGAAS version, the customer sends the software to vLegaci and it gets run through the Codelyzer tool by people trained to use it. They get a quick understanding of what the program is about and where the code needs to be changed.
To fit RPGAAS into the needs of a wider variety of company requirements, vLegaci offers resources that include on-site, on-shore, near-shore, and off-shore. The choice depends on a given problem.
Some projects need an on-shore or on-site person. If that’s not required, then the near-shore option uses less-expensive programmers that are in the same time zone as companies based in the United States. Sharing a time zone makes constant communications much easier. For projects that don’t require constant communication, the off-shore programming option is the least expensive.
RPGAAS can be obtained on an hourly basis or it can be priced as a fixed bid for a project.
For more information, visit the vLegaci Web site.