Databorough Targets CA 2E Apps for Migration
May 25, 2010 Alex Woodie
Databorough this month unveiled a new suite of products aimed at helping System i shops migrate applications developed with CA Technologies‘ 2E, the 4GL programming environment originally created by Synon. Called X-2E, Databorough’s new product helps to automate many aspects of a migration, from analyzing and documenting existing 2E application designs, to migrating the code to Java, EGL, and C#.
Originally created in 1996, 2E is one of the most successful, if not the most successful, fourth-generation language (4GL) development environments on the AS/400 (i/OS-based Power Systems) platform. Thousands of end-user companies and ISVs have used 2E’s advanced model-driven development paradigm to streamline programming tasks and quickly generate RPG or COBOL code for execution on the OS/400 (i5/OS and IBM i/OS) operating systems.
2E, which is currently owned by CA Technologies (the former Computer Associates company that changed its name from CA to CA Technologies earlier this month), is still used by many companies. However, 2E is suffering the same fate that has met nearly all 4GL and CASE tools–namely, few companies are adopting the products or buying new licenses. Enhancements have been occasionally added–the most useful perhaps being the 2E Web Option and EJB generation, which were added nearly a decade ago.
Enter Databorough, a company whose expertise lies in application analysis and cross-referencing tools for applications that run on the i/OS server. It’s telling that the founder of Databorough, Mark Tregear, developed the documentation tools so that companies running 3GL apps written in plain old RPG or COBOL could get the same deep level of insight into the inner-workings of their applications as CA 2E developers working in a 4GL get by default.
In recent years, Databorough has been adapting its flagship X-Analysis suite to tackle the challenges of migrating and modernizing i/OS applications. Presented with a million lines of undocumented RPG or COBOL, the company’s tools are able to figure out how the logic flows, and then recreate business processes in generated EGL, Java, or C# code. It can also move data from DB2/400 into SQL databases, too.
With X-2E, Databorough is tweaking its X-Analysis tool to work in 2E environments. This required some tinkering, as 2E business logic resides in the very dense and efficient model-based development paradigm of that 4GL environment. But the end result is the same: movement from 2E and the “restrictions” it imposes (according to Databorough), to a new world of Java, EGL, or C#, and other databases, including SQL Server or MySQL.
“This represents the results of nearly a decade of development in re-engineering tools,” says Stuart Milligan, vice president of business development for Databorough. “By listening to our CA 2E Synon customers, we realized that there was an increasing appetite for an alternative development ecosystem. After having extracted the data model from CA 2E for many years, it was a natural extension for us to extract the complete CA 2E model directly.”
Milligan says Databorough’s approach is unique in that the X-2E tooling uses the 2E model itself, and not the 3GL RPG or COBOL code that is generated by the tool. “This reduces the resulting code base by at least 100 to one, and it provides CA 2E developers insight into architecture they understand,” he says. This provides a more cohesive application that is more maintainable than line-by-line 2E conversions provided by other vendors, he adds.
Databorough introduced two versions of the tool during the recent COMMON conference in Orlando, Florida. X-2E Professional provides analysis and documentation capabilities for 2E applications, but does not generate new code from the 2E models. X-2E Enterprise goes the next step and generates Java, C#, or EGL code as part of a Web-based application based on the concepts of the model, view, controller (MVC) software architecture and object-oriented programming.
Databorough is walking a fine line with its X-2E products. On the one hand, the company and its product pay homage to the power of the 2E development approach, which has served many companies very well over decades of use. On the other hand, Databorough is clearly saying that CA has not done enough to bring the tools forward into the age of the Internet.
“Even with this strident history, many companies are now facing real pressure to modernize their business applications beyond the scope and capability of what CA 2E can offer,” the company says in its X-2E announcement. “The challenge is to move forward without discarding decades of investment in design, evolution, and fine tuning stored in the CA 2E model.”
Later this year, Databorough expects to release an option that allows users to generate user interfaces with Microsoft’s Silverlight technology. This is expected during the third quarter. For more information on X-2E, see www.databorough.com.