Sibley Elaborates on ‘Synergy’ of ILE Compiler Move
July 12, 2017 Alex Woodie
When Steve Sibley, the vice president and business line executive for IBM Cognitive Systems, announced a month ago that it’s moving development of its RPG compiler from the Rational group directly into the IBM i development organization, he cited the increase of “synergy” as the main reason for the move. IT Jungle finally caught up with Sibley last week and obtained a more detailed explanation.
In his June 9 open letter to IBM i customers and partners, Sibley announced that development of the Rational programming tools for IBM i and ILE RPG and ILE COBOL compilers themselves would move into the IBM i development organization at the IBM lab in Rochester, Minnesota. The move was a matter of reporting structure, not a physical move, as some had believed; the Rational and compiler team will remain in Toronto, Canada, where it has been since the days of the System 3/x.
Sibley cited synergy as the main motivation behind the move. We asked Sibley to elaborate on this, and he kindly responded:
“While the IBM i Compiler and Tools Development tools teams have always had a close relationship with the IBM i Development team in Rochester, bringing the team into the same organization enables a more streamlined focus on IBM i priorities.
“Moving the compilers and tools under IBM i development allows requests for enhancements and additional function from our clients to be reviewed in context of the IBM i client base versus a broad brush of all IBM clients, which was the constituency that was supported by Rational as a separate organization.”
(Translation: the specific needs of IBM i shops will no longer be drowned out by the cries for attention by IBM Rational’s Linux, AIX, and Windows customers – and that’s a very good thing.)
Sibley says the move has already started paying dividends in the form of new capabilities, including:
- “The IBM i push to enhance and extend the open source environments are reflected now in the beginning integration of Git with the RDi tools. Git plug-ins are supported within RDi and can work today with RPG code stored in the IFS. This will continue to be a direction;
- “IBM i clients have long requested the integration of some of the other desktop system tools such as Access Client Solutions into RDi. The beginning of this integration was announced in October last year with Visual Explain in the latest versions of RDi;
- “Mac OS support has been a request from the IBM i developers for years. It was delivered in September last year.”
Sibley says the new reporting structure for the team behind the Rational tools and compilers — in concert with the new Web-based Request for Enhancements (RFE) requirements process that IBM implemented last year as well as the COMMON Requirements process – will help the IBM more quickly deliver enhancements that satisfy real-world business requirements of IBM i customers.
“IBM i clients have submitted their request through the COMMON Requirements process and the newer RFE process and there is a list of those that we want to implement in the compilers and tools [such as] additional integration with open source products as well as closer integration with IBM i tools such as Access Client Solutions and Navigator,” Sibley writes. “We can direct the resources and choose the best strategies for our IBM i clients.”
It will be interesting to watch how this heightened feedback loop that IBM execs are creating between IBM i customers and the development tools folks bears out. While much of the focus in IBM i development circles today revolves around utilizing open source technologies, there’s also a growing backlash against non-native approaches, i.e. anything that runs under the PASE AIX runtime.
Many of the most exciting developments in application development recently has come from open source. For example, in 2015 it announced it was bringing the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) into the IBM i realm, which brought a host of compilers to the platform that already supported Node.js, Python, and PHP. Clearly, IBM sees open source software as a way to bring in fresh blood to the IBM i community, and extend the investment of existing IBM i shops by giving them new capabilities. All the work in PHP, Python, Node.js, and related languages comes from open sources.
But in his June 9 letter, Sibley also mentioned two of the biggest enhancements to RPG in the past decade: RPG Open Access and Free Format RPG, which was largely the result of work of Barbara Morris, who has been the lead developer for the RPG compilers for many years. Could IBM have plans for Morris to tackle another big enhancement to the compilers, on par with these new features? If it does, it’s not saying, but it could help settle increasingly restless natives.