IBM i Database Capabilities Highlight Midrange Dynamics’ Development Activity
February 28, 2018 Dan Burger
Despite the gravitational pull of a legacy reputation, development on IBM i systems continue to move into new arenas. Shops are modernizing their applications not just to eliminate green-screen displays but to also add features and functionality. Databases are being modernized for the same reasons. And tools that benefit the modernization process are being enhanced.
Change management software (CMS) is in the thick of this. Michael Morgan, managing director of the CMS development company Midrange Dynamics, sees IBM i shops investing in new technologies. He’s doing the same to keep pace with the early adopters and to prepare for the changes that will become commonplace in future IBM i development.
Midrange Dynamics recently enhanced its core change management software, MDCMS; rewrote its database file conversion software, MDRapid; and introduced a data transformation tool, MDTransform.
“We are seeing a big uptick in our customers wanting to do DDL-based databases on,” Morgan said during a telephone interview with IT Jungle last week. “They are also wanting to do more custom development of their database tables. They are gaining the performance capabilities in IBM i 7.2 and 7.3 and addressing specific needs. All those things combined to put database mapping and file change capabilities at the top of our priority list.”.
MDTransform is the key piece in Midrange Dynamics’ product expansion. It guides users through the steps to add and populate new fields or update field content, while creating a new version of the file. It also automates the management of field expansions, initializing new fields, merging fields, and managing deployment of DDS to DDL conversions. Data transformation results are validated during the compile phase to avoid any surprises (syntax errors, for instance) during installation.
It saves a lot of coding that would otherwise go into complicated SQL scripts that map and manipulate the data content from the old version of their files to the new version. Developers can, for instance, combine fields, redesign tables and make determinations about what they want to do at the column level.
The conversion of existing DDS to DDL is not new, but most companies have been leaving their old programs in DDS while writing new programs in DDL. Morgan says that is changing, but he also recognizes there are companies that will continue to use DDS files. They can use MDTransform, he says, to automate the addition of fields, protect specified columns, and perform pre-deployment validation.
There are two pieces to a conversion project. One is the conversion of the source code from DDS to DDL. Several products can do this, including MDCMS. MDTransform is not involved in that part of the conversion. It comes into play by converting the data after the new form or table is prepared. This is more than just copying a file. Once ready to deploy, it maps data from an old version of a file to the new version. It doesn’t matter if the new version is DDS or DDL, but in a modernization project it would be DDL, because DDL tables allow more functions than DDS.
MDRapid integrates with MDTransform to reduce application downtime by allowing business applications to continually access databases while upgrades are taking place. The process, based on high availability journaling technology, is applied in development and testing environments. If any issues with the data manipulation occur, it is discovered, and nothing makes it to production until it’s been mapped and synced. Original files are moved to backup library before new files are moved in, so if anything does go wrong, it can be rolled back.
Both MDTransform and MDRapid are separately licensed modules that enhance MDCMS. The MDCMS base license is needed to use either product.
Midrange Dynamics’ change management software supports many complex deployment requirements, and version 8.1 includes several noteworthy enhancements. Control and automation of the deployment process is one of the focal points. MDCMS has improved its granular, location-specific deployment capability, which means users can control deployment down to the records in a file they send to a server or system and deployment can be controlled from an external tool via extensive APIs.”We have ISVs and some very large organizations with unique requirements. Some need to control base components, plus certain custom components, and specific data records. A central console and automation is important,” Morgan says. “ISVs, for example, can automate deployment of custom versions of their software. They want to control what gets distributed to each of their targets. The same deployment customization requirements apply to some of our other customers.”
Workflow management tooling is another area that Midrange Dynamics has included in MDCMS v8.1. Enforced workflow ensures important quality steps aren’t overlooked and integration with company-wide issue management systems was considered an important feature. Morgan noted the Jira interface was called for by customers and prospects. With MDCMS v8.1, Jira users are imported and mapped to security settings within MDCMS.
Midrange Dynamics also updated its text editor as part of the MDCMS v8.1 package. The previous text editor was a basic green-screen tool. The replacement is on par with other text editors used for building Web applications, but is also easy to use with green-screen applications.
Ease of software migration has remained important to MDCMS development. The software can update itself — jumping multiple versions — using a single command. It can deploy itself to multiple targets — local and remote and it backs up the older version in case a rollback is needed.
Midrange Dynamics supports 10 years of major releases. The v8.1 release of MDCMS requires IBM i 6.1 or higher. MDCMS v8 offers support back to V5R3.
It supports Rational Developer for i (RDi), Zend Studio, or any Eclipse-based IDE and has interfaces to Git and SVN source repositories.