Integration Eases Free-Format RPG Migrations
September 15, 2014 Dan Burger
The capability to convert fixed form RPG to free form RPG is one of the most far-reaching enhancements to the IBM i operating system. Last week, two members of the IBM i ISV community formed a partnership that could benefit organizations that are ready to take advantage of this feature, which was introduced with IBM i 7.1 TR7. The software change management company Remain Software and the RPG modernization firm Linoma Software are combining efforts to ease the migration of RPG applications to free-format, a process that is considered a wise investment in legacy IBM i assets.
Linoma’s RPG Toolbox is the conversion tool, while Remain’s TD/OMS provides application lifecycle management on the IBM i platform. The integration of these two products has been completed and is generally available.
For users of TD/OMS, which supports processes such as component management, incident management, configuration management, and software distribution, this provides the capability to convert legacy fixed-format RPG applications to free-format RPG within their application lifecycle management tool and under control of software change management.
The main benefits are improved software quality and acceleration of the RPG development process. One of the reasons free form RPG applications are desirable is their longer life expectancy based on increased usability regardless of changes made to related applications created with other technologies. Free-form RPG apps are also more easily read and understood by application developers unfamiliar with the RPG language, a benefit for companies where RPG developers are scarce.
Free-format RPG has created a great deal of interest in the IBM i development community since it was announced earlier this year. However, there is a relatively small portion of the community running either IBM i 7.1 or 7.2–the only versions that support free-form RPG. That number is increasing though. The article titled IBM i Upgrades Not All On The Same Path in this issue of The Four Hundred illustrates the growth spurt of these two most current versions of the operating system closely associated with RPG development.
“Since IBM came out with the capability to convert H, F, D, and P specifications in RPG to totally free form RPG, we have seen an increase in people looking at the product,” notes Linoma’s lead developer for the RPG Toolbox Ron Byrd.
“IBM’s message is that you should change your code to free form so that you can hire programmers with other skills–like Java and PHP–and they will be able to work on your RPG code, too.”
Byrd pointed out that IBM is not supporting or adding functionality to its venerable green-screen development tool SEU (Source Entry Utility). Instead, Big Blue is steering IBM i shops toward its Eclipse-based graphical user interface design tool called RDi (Rational Developer for IBM i).
Linoma’s RPG Toolbox comes with an RDi plug-in.
“In today’s quickly changing market, it’s extremely important for organizations to timely respond to customers’ needs and requirements. Adjustments to current business processes lead to changes in key business applications,” says Wim Jongman, Remain Software’s CTO and managing director. “It goes without saying that these must be implemented fast and there’s no place for bugs or any issues. Keeping track of software changes and automation of change process is crucial. For vast number of organizations who still use RPG programs, it might be a bit more challenging, as most often this software needs to integrate with other applications written in the more recent languages. And there is a place for TD/OMS and RPG Toolbox Pack, which allows users to modernize their legacy applications to free-format code and connects seamlessly with the latest technology. The entire process will be under the TD/OMS control, so no data will be missed and customers’ applications will be up and running quickly,” says Wim Jongman, Remain Software CTO and managing director.
“This cooperation is again a sign how important it is for us to meet our customers’ needs and give them freedom and flexibility of choice,” says Marco Kok, managing director at Remain Software. “It enhances our product portfolio, but without any vendor lock. Instead, our customers can profit from a solution, which is a result of cooperation between companies who are experts in their own fields. The additional advantages for the customers are ease of use and quick implementation combined with the low-entry cost. One-time payment allows modernization of unlimited number of RPG applications.”