New Software Provides CL With Direct Database Access
September 15, 2009 Dan Burger
Old habits may die hard, but here’s one (or more) that will pass with few tears being shed or remorse being noted. IBM i programmers in the CL camp take note. All the time consuming grunt work you put into gaining access to database information using RPG, COBOL, or C user interfaces are no longer necessary. A new product called CL for Files (CLF) not only provides direct database access for CL commands, but also support for accessing both display files and print files.
That clacking sound you hear are shackles being released.
Bruce Vining–an ex-IBMer with enough OS/400 (i OS) knowledge to fill a Rochester, Minnesota, warehouse–is the mind behind CL for Files. His company, Bruce Vining Services, introduced the first in a series of products to be marketed under the PowerCL name.
In short, CL for Files is a productivity toolset for IBM i developers, operators, systems administrators and QA professionals. Many of you old pros have learned to work around the short-comings of CL using other languages to assist CL commands. Not only will CLF help you wizened old veterans, but it will also be a boon for CL developers with no knowledge of RPG, COBOL or C–those on a mission to create efficient system maintenance utilities, application control programs and test scripts without support from other developers.
Programmers and developers have accepted (not all of them quietly) using two languages and multiple programs to pass information back and forth between the programs for more years than it takes hair to turn gray and beards to grow long.
“It’s not what I consider to be highly productive; not a good use of programming talent,” Vining says. “Most people with highly skilled development staff or programmers would much rather be solving business problems than working around language limitations.”
Vining took the biggest limitations with CL and hurdled them. He began with the limited random access to database information and moved on to the inability of CL to create reports. Because CL could not write to a file, it, therefore, couldn’t write to a report.
CL for Files provides all the support that is found in RPG, COBOL, and C, plus a few things that are not in any of those languages, and made them directly accessible as commands in a CL program.
In the AS/400 world, you’ll find a great number of people familiar with CL. Not all are programmers, but whether you have programming skills or not, CLF provides the capability to work with database files, interactive display files, and printer files directly from CL.
The key to the CL highway is its pre-compiler. By way of comparison, it is similar to the pre-compiler used in RPG, COBOL, and C to access SQL. The similarity is that it automatically generates instructions that eliminate the need for programmers to do those types of operations. In other words, it makes programmers more productive.
CLF is compatible with i5/OS V5R4 and i 6.1 (V6R1). Vining says the product makes use of many of the CL enhancements IBM introduced in OS/400 V5R1, noting that the product could not be as efficient operating on earlier releases of the OS. Most importantly, the pre-compiler became much more feasible.
(As a side note, at a recent Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association user group meeting where Vining was the guest speaker, he took a hand count of those using V5R3 are newer versions of the OS and everyone in attendance [approximately 30] were up to date to that extent. The majority was on V5R4 and a good number were on 6.1, Vining said. User groups clearly represent a more active individual and more progressive AS/400 shops, but it’s an indicator of the system requirements of active programming professionals.)
This is the first general use product from Bruce Vining Services, but the company has been involved with designing tools on a custom programming basis and Vining has a long list of design and control products that were accomplished during his 28-year career at IBM when he was heavily involved in the operating system most know as OS/400, but currently marketed as i OS.
Vining says there will be more products in the Power CL pipeline. “Power CL is the family name and CLF is the first product in that family,” he says. Additional products are under development at this time.
The price of CL for Files, which is available now, is $3,495 per server or LPAR. It includes unlimited use of the CLF pre-compiler, generation tools, sample programs, free run-time support, and a six month maintenance contract.
“We asked people at companies involved in the testing of the product what they thought it was worth and then we priced it significantly lower than that,” Vining says.
The base CLF option and the runtime support is no charge. That allows any CLF program developed on an LPAR or a server with the pre-compiler installed (the $3,495 fee) to be moved to any machine that has the no charge base option and it will run. Development using just the base runtime support can result in full-functional applications without using the pre-compiler, however, productivity gains provided by the pre-compiler are lost and coding by hand using conventional editors would be required.
Vining says part of this reasoning takes high availability into account. “We did not want those with a hot backup site finding they did not have a license for the runtime to run the program. That’s why we made the runtime free.”
In multi-server of multi-LPAR systems, the only servers using the pre-compiler–the servers used by the programmers and developers–would require a license fee. For more information, check out the company’s Web site at www.brucevining.com.