IBM i Modernization Gets a Newlook Accelerator
December 14, 2016 Dan Burger
Legacy applications tend to outlive the predictions of their imminent demise. The trouble they cause can be costly, though, as maintenance and vanishing skills for out-of-date programming languages are problems. Modernizing applications remains a priority in many IBM midrange shops, where reuse of existing IBM i 5250 screens and RPG (and COBOL) code is being closely examined. Tools like Accelerator from Surround Technologies and Newlook from Looksoftware are getting attention, too.
The latest collaboration from these two software vendors results in the generation of an IBM i-based user interface that’s accessible from any desktop or mobile device with a browser. Naturally, having a single development process for desktop and mobile sounds good to a lot of people. Accomplishing that development process with a bare minimum of coding sounds even better. So, what we have here are applications that were once locked into a green screen on a proprietary system are now capable of running on Web and mobile devices that run on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Chrome Books, iPhones, and Android.
As modernization has become more complex–going from basic screen-scraping of green-screen applications to projects that include more conveniences, greater functionality, composite applications, and multiple devices and screen sizes–it has become a bigger challenge to keep things simple for developers faced with multi-interface development.
Most people choose simple over complex, so a quick and easy green-screen conversion to a graphical user interface is often the first step. Conversion to .NET is one alternative. Both Looksoftware and Surround Technologies have products for this purpose. The two companies combined efforts on Looksoftware’s Renew product in the past, though it was limited to producing only Windows applications. The Windows capabilities remain, but the potential for so much more with Web and mobile capabilities is a big step forward.
The integration of Accelerator with Looksoftware’s core development IDE called Newlook has added a software generation capability to Looksoftware’s portfolio. Together they offer the capability to architect a new application using legacy RPG or COBOL code. This is where the heavy lifting is done in modernization projects. It goes beyond screen scraping–which remains tied to multiple-screen navigation to access data–to rearchitecting software and getting the value from the business logic.
“If your underlying legacy system is providing the majority of what’s needed–the core functionality works–then this integration of Newlook and Accelerator is a great solution. If the underlying legacy system is not cutting it anymore and it needs to be vastly changed to meet business needs, then maybe Accelerator is an option,” says Lee Paul, CEO of Surround Technologies. “The majority of companies are successful with their underlying legacy system. They just want to make it easier to use with better integration and a strong path forward and without adding to their technical debt.”
The integration of Newlook and Accelerator–made possible through Newlook APIs–leverages Web development technology such as HTML5, CSS3 and JQuery, which provide modern navigation, search, and browsing capability.
The Accelerator Server provides the core architecture and frameworks for generating custom-coded software and exposes services to applications where and when needed. It also provides system-, application- and module-level information used by the presentation layer to deliver the user experience. It can be configured for system navigation and user options. Accelerator is .NET based and the source code is completely accessible.
The speed and ease with which screens can be modernized is a huge selling point for all the modernization products from a variety of vendors. And for those who haven’t seen the capabilities, it is really an eye-opener. However, the entire process of rearchitecting applications is not as easy as flipping a switch.
“We are producing a runnable, executable, usable application in minutes,” Paul says. “But in some cases, it will take hours and even days to do more with it. We let people know that if they want to show a modernized app to upper management, it can be done in on IBM i in minutes. Yes, there is additional work that pertains to business rules. That’s where Newlook comes in. But still, there is very little code that needs to be written.”
looksoftware is a division of Fresche. It was acquired in September 2014.