ARCAD Strengthens IBM i Modernization Portfolio
April 19, 2017 Dan Burger
Two IBM i modernization products have been added to IBM’s eConfig ordering system, signaling an increased emphasis helping customers move forward on the modernization path. The additions come from ARCAD Software and pertain to the conversion of fixed-format RPG source code to free-format code and the analysis of existing IBM i applications.
The conversion of legacy code to modern free form syntax is accomplished by the ARCAD Converter product. The process is recognized as a progressive step toward RPG code that is more easily understood by programmers from outside the RPG world and, therefore, more easily integrated and more easily maintained. It opens software development on IBM i to a younger generation of software developers, particularly those with Java and PHP experience, two programming environments that are readily found in IBM i shops.
Alison Butterill, IBM’s worldwide product manager for IBM i, is one of the most vocal advocates of modernizing RPG code. “Our IBM i clients had been asking for a long time to have a completely free-format RPG language,” Butterill notes in a press release supplied by ARCAD. “IBM delivered that, and in concert ARCAD has delivered a transformation tool (ARCAD RPG Converter for IBM i) that takes the old-style RPG code and converts it into this free-form. This is a game-changer. This is a big deal for our clients.”
There’s a significant difference between old RPG and modern RPG. Start with code that is written in RPG III or an earlier version is practically unreadable for almost anyone except veteran RPG programmers. And because all modern codes are modular, the old stuff doesn’t mix well with the new. That is why ARCAD Software, in conjunction with IBM Rational, created its RPG converter tool for migrating legacy RPG to free form RPG.
Another challenge for many IBM i-based organizations is the understanding of legacy code and databases, which can be decades old. Often that code has been revised and repaired multiple times with a variety of programmer-specific styles and constructs and making maintenance and integration efforts a time-consuming and costly effort. Using ARCAD Observer for IBM i, allows analysts and developers to graphically view and navigate application structure without reading reams of source lines.
ARCAD Observer for IBM i views the deep dependencies throughout an application and generates documentation including database relationship models, calling chains, I/O diagrams, and workflow diagrams. This metadata facilitates modernization projects and improves accuracy.
Philippe Magne, ARCAD Software CEO, explained during a phone call with IT Jungle, the convenience for IBM i shops to order ARCAD modernization tools using the IBM ordering process. “IBM’s e-config ordering system is used by all the hardware business partners throughout the world. The fact that IBM has included our modernization tools means that many IBM i systems will now be delivered and upgraded with modernization tools.”
To get the modernization products with a system upgrade requires ordering them through IBM, if you are a customer who works directly with IBM, or through an established business partner relationship. It is not, for instance, shipped with the operating system. Like Rational Developer for i (RDi), the products are add-on items when purchasing a new system. And by the way, Converter and Observer plug in to RDi. And, of course, the products can also be purchased through ARCAD. Annual software maintenance fees will be collected by IBM, which will provide level one tech support. ARCAD will provide support levels two and three.
Converter is a product that requires very little tech support, Magne says. Observer, because it is dealing with cleaning up old applications is more likely to require services that ARCAD will supply.
“We all know that modernization is the right way to go,” Magne says. “Our challenge is to let people know the capabilities exist within the system.”
“There’s a tremendous amount of dialog that Allison Butterill and Tim Rowe (business architect for IBM i) do around modern free-form and modular RPG. They will be talking about how the tools to do this can be added to a system upgrade,” says Floyd del Muro, business development manager for ARCAD. “The analysis tool and the documentation capabilities are things IBM never provided before.”
The ARCAD product lineup that covers the application lifecycle and goes beyond the IBM i, can likely help organizations that purchase Converter and Observer. And in that vein, ARCAD has taken a step to further its integration with open source environments by developing an IBM i connection with GitHub. It brings IBM i considerations such as build dependencies, tooling in test automation, and release management to the open source development arena.
“We are bringing i into the world of hybrid application development,” del Muro says. “It takes IBM i out of the silo that denies the business modern activity. Now there is more development with Web and mobile teams for hybrid application development. You can work under a single project manager, a single source tool, and single release tool.”
IT Jungle will have more on the ARCAD and GitHub relationship in the coming weeks.