RPG Open Source Horse Pulls IBM i Community Plow
November 7, 2016 Dan Burger
The RPG development community is shrinking. I don’t mean because old programmers are riding into the sunset. I’m talking about collaboration and its ability to guide development that benefits the community by addressing the chAllanges of next generation applications for IBM midrange shops. Not that a collaborative open source culture is thriving here. But it could and it should. There are efforts to get this under way. And that will figuratively shrink the community.
Tim Rowe, IBM i business architect for application development and systems management, supports the idea.
“Why not have an RPG open source community? We have a vibrant community of open source developers and some have created amazing tools that can make RPG programming all that much better,” Rowe says.
Scott Forstie, the business architect for DB2 for i and the SQL development leader, is on board with building a collaborative community as well. He sees it working well with the SQL services that are rolling out of IBM i development.
“This can be a place where the community can share their versions of IBM i services. Some of the power programmers in the RPG world know how to provide access to operating system detail much like our IBM i services. We never intended to build a full complement of these services ourselves.”
The RPG community is very active. And some of the very bright minds have been interested in creating open source RPG programs for many years. Expanding the awareness and the participation should not be all that difficult, especially if there’s assistance from IBM.
“It’s about building an open source-like community for RPG,” says Alison Butterill, product offering manager for IBM i. “We (IBM) support the community, but IBM does not intend to run the community. The community will drive this. We’ll help because we are part of the community.”
Liam Allan, a young RPG developer with overt open source tendencies, is shepherding the open source software-oriented community. Earlier this year, Allan received the COMMON Student Innovation Award for developing a programming language and virtual machine on an IBM i system. He also built an ILE package manager for IBM i. It resides in the OSS ILE GitHub repository.
Allan explained the OSS ILE project by answering a few questions last week.
IT Jungle:What can you tell me about the progress being made now that we are about three months removed from our last conversation?
Liam Allan: As for open-source ILE, a lot has happened in the last three months. The main point is that IBM is focusing on open source and has an OSSILE repository on GitHub. IBM has also appointed Jesse Gorzinski (open source architect for IBM i) to focus on open source software for IBM i, which indicates they are really taking it seriously.
IT Jungle: How many people are involved and what kind of projects are being worked on?
Liam Allan: At this point in time, I am unable to give a specific number, but I would say about 20 or more and growing.
As for OSSILE, there is a lot of stuff going on all at once. Some examples:
I hope to see a lot more projects within 2017.
IT Jungle: Has the project accomplished what you hoped it would in the early stages?
Liam Allan: For sure! The package manager was risky when I created it, because I could only find one other RPG project on GitHub named ILEDOCS. It is old and is no longer maintained. I’d love to see it being worked on again. Perhaps in my spare time I could work on it a little bit.
Also, I wasn’t sure how many people had done Git plus RPG (or any ILE) before and I was worried about the perception it may have had.
And now the package manager has lots of input and usage from different developers, including IBM. People even ask me about it at conferences and I am shocked because they actually know what it is.
Something else that is very good is the adoption of Git and ILE being used together. Not everyone likes it, honestly. But those that have used it for their projects would never want to turn it away because of how powerful the tool can be.
IT Jungle: What’s next on the to-do list?
Liam Allan: My plan is to continue contributing to the OSSILE repository on GitHub and still maintain and add features to the package manager. I hope that 2017 will bring more developers using ILE and Git.
I submitted a workshop to COMMON Spring 2017 for Git and RPG. This should hopefully gain more interest in Git–knowing that Git is a key step in collaborating in open source software with others.
IT Jungle: What are the expectations for the near term and long term?
Liam Allan: Near term, I hope to see more projects. I plan to spend more of my own time helping people learn Git on IBM i and how they can use open source to their benefit. 2017 for me is all about helping people learn what is available and hopefully what the future is.