ASNA’s Newest RPG to .NET Option Now Available
January 18, 2011 Dan Burger
There’s more than one road to take when going from traditional IBM i green-screen applications to Web-based apps. One of those options is a new product from ASNA, a company with a history of products that favor Microsoft .NET development and presentation tools. ASNA’s newest product is called Wings, and the company announced its general availability last week. Four Hundred Stuff reported on the coming of Wings last October.
Of particular note is that Wings uses IBM‘s Open Access: RPG Edition (OAR), a methodology that allows RPG programs to redirect display file I/O–the traditional 5250 data stream–to ASP.NET browser pages. OAR technology was delivered in version 7.1 of the IBM i operating system.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Open Access feature, it uses the native RPG I/O access methods for accessing the native database (DB2/400, or officially DB2 for IBM i) and outputs information to screens–or other applications written in other languages–and then allows that data to be presented in a browser rather than a 5250 screen. To accomplish this requires the use of a “handler,” a different kind of data stream, which is where ISVs like ASNA factor into the process.
IBM and the third-party vendors have created similar pathways for this end result for years, but this native method for using RPG is new with the introduction of IBM i 7.1. It’s a different way to interface with the breadth of computing resources, including XML documents, Web services, spreadsheet programs, databases, and cloud-based applications–that run beyond the System i-based RPG applications.
ASNA points out that Wings has the capability to identify data elements in the display data stream, which allows users to make functional and cosmetic enhancements at the presentation layer level without making changes to the ILE RPG logic or file I/O.
Modernizing applications with Wings, ASNA says, doesn’t require writing code in the new presentation layer. Additional customization or enhancement of the presentation layer, however, can be accomplished using Microsoft’s Visual Basic, C#, or ASNA’s Visual RPG, when those skills are available on the application development team.
For companies with a strategic plan to eventually migrate applications off the IBM midrange platform, ASNA has created Wings to work with its Monarch and DataGate tools that lead to .NET and SQL Server. Monarch transforms applications originally written in ILE RPG or RPG/400 into native .NET applications, so applications written in older versions of RPG require more effort, as is nearly always the case no matter what modernization methodology is being used.
“Wings is a subset of the Monarch technology,” says ASNA president Anne Ferguson. “Much of what ASNA is providing with Wings, we already had–such as the development environments and the capability to bring in the code. We are not throwing away a screen scraping technology to go to this. ASNA never used screen-scraping technology. With Wings, we are modifying our interface to hook into Open Access RPG, which IBM should have delivered years ago.”
To take advantage of Wings and its OAR technology, companies will have to be running on IBM i 7.1 and have a license for OAR. Also required will be a license for DataGate data access technology, which connects DB2/400 and Microsoft’s Internet Information Server (IIS) Web server. For more information, see ASNA’s website at www.asna.com.