IBM i And RDi: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
October 2, 2017 Dan Burger
Evaluating the future of your IBM i environment should be on your mind. It should be on the mind of your boss and the minds of everyone at the C-level where you work. Maintaining and modernizing existing applications means being prepared for today and tomorrow, even if that requires technological changes that test the outer limits of your comfort zone.
The need to integrate technologies and reuse existing business logic may vary from foggy to laser sharp, but continuing to get more from IT is probably happening to some degree, or it soon enough will. Are you prepared to become more productive? Will your existing system allow that to happen?
Some IBM i shops have taken steps to align with the new reality. They’ve made the transition, or are preparing to do so. They are the same shops that tend to maximize their Power hardware. We often see Rational Developer for i (RDi) in these environments. It’s sort of like where there’s smoke, there’s fire – if application development is more than maintenance and new development plays an important role, chances are good that RDi is in use, but not always.
Getting a handle on how popular/unpopular RDi is would be interesting. It would also be a good indicator of how close the IBM i installed base is to the IBM mothership.
As we’ve noted before in IT Jungle articles, RDi continues to gain momentum, but the adoption rate analogy is closer to being a garden hose than a fire hose. It falls short of any definition of mainstream. A request of enhancement (RFE) suggesting a free lightweight version of RDi is being considered as one way to introduce the product to more IBM i developers.
Last week, I asked several people from the IBM i vendor community about their customers’ environments with respect to RDi.
Michael Morgan, managing director and lead architect, at Midrange Dynamics – application development software and consulting services company – says RDi fits in with a continuous movement toward Eclipse-based solutions. But he also noted that some of Midrange Dynamics more progressive clients remain green-screen shops.
“RDi adoption has been slow,” he says. “Common objections we hear include the additional expense of an RDi license and the difficulty in making the actual license purchase. Even more significant to our many clients that are financial institutions, it’s a challenge to install RDi in a secure environment where developers don’t have administrator rights. The current installation process presents a barrier for organizations that have tight security on installations. This delays our clients’ adoption of new releases of our software.”
ProData, a software company with a long history of creating utilities for the IBM midrange computers, has an RDi plug-in for its successful DBU cross-platform database utility. That utility is sold on a subscription basis and the number of subscriptions are increasing. However, it appears that growth is attributable to current RDi users are buying more seats rather than indicating shops are transitioning from green-screen tools to RDi.
“DBU RDi is being deployed in organizations that have bigger development staffs,” says Shelli Peck, the marketing manager at ProData. “We see more multiple seats purchased in larger shops, while the smaller shops seem to be sticking with their tried and true SEU for their development tool. The feature/function is similar between DBU (green screen) and DBU RDi (graphical interface). “It’s just nice for our customers who work within the RDi environment to pull up DBU easily within that environment and work with the DBU graphical interface rather than the green screen.”
Peck is not convinced pricing is the main cause for the slow uptake of RDi.
“I think the pain of change may be more of the cause. Especially if the company is in maintenance mode with very little new development. SEU works fine for them. That being said, some shops are very price sensitive, so we’d be happy to see lower cost entry for RDi,” she says.
Getting a read on the RDi adoption rate is murky business. IBM claims it doesn’t track RDi installations, but in this world of big data analytics that seems more like IBM saying “We’re not going to give you a clue,” than the oft repeated “We don’t track that.”
If you are staying current with your IT Jungle newsletters, you probably recall an article six weeks ago about IBM choosing HelpSystems as a partner in RDi development and marketing. Helping accelerate the product roadmap is how it was described.
HelpSystems’ vice president of technical services Tom Huntington also claims there are no “quantifiable numbers” on RDi adoption because RDi is sold through the channel. Based on recent customer visits, Huntington says customers are satisfied with RDi and happy with the quality, particularly with the usefulness of the debugging features.
With regard to the RFE suggesting a free version of RDi, he would only say, “We are working with customers and IBM to evaluate all product enhancement requests and prioritize them.”
There are plans, he said, to expand RDi educational opportunities through webinars.
You would think, given the amount of time it’s been around, RDi would be the primary development platform for RPG applications in most IBM i shops. It still has a long way to go to make a claim like that.
A free 60-day trial of RDi is available on the IBM Rational Developer for i website.