ARCAD Unveils GUI Modernization Tool
September 25, 2019 Alex Woodie
ARCAD Software is getting deeper into the application modernization business with the launch of iNow, a new tool designed to help IBM i users create compelling graphical user interfaces (GUI) that run across Windows, Web, and mobile form factors. The new offering, which is based on Microsoft .NET and utilizes Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) technology, is being sold as part of a new suite called ARCAD for IBM i Modernization.
IBM i shops have been adapting their applications to Windows interfaces for the better part of 30 years, to the Web for about 20 years, and to mobile interfaces for the past decade. The benefits of moving beyond 5250 screens are well known by this point, and users have come to expect a great user experience (UX) when interacting with computers.
For ARCAD Software, the time was right to make a move into GUI modernization. The company, which is based in France but has customers all over the world, has provided other types of modernization tools, including database and RPG code modernization, and with iNow, it’s now going after the 5250 green screens, too.
iNow can be used in two different ways. For starters, customers can use it the automated “on-the-fly” mode that uses algorithms to create the GUI screens on behalf of the user. This requires no upfront work and is best for customers that want a quick result. Customers that are willing to put in a little more work can use the graphical GUI designer to create a custom Windows, Web, or mobile interface. The software works with any existing ILE program running on the IBM i server, such as ILE RPG or ILE COBOL.
Customers who take the time to develop their own GUIs will be rewarded with iNow’s rich functionality, ARCAD said. For example, users working in the screen designer “flex grid” can drag and drop different components onto the screen, and can even plug in any existing .NET controls they might have, including ones shipped by Microsoft or custom-developed ones, if they have any. Customers that are proficient in writing their own C# programs will feel right at home in the software, but it doesn’t require proficiency in .NET.
iNow also supports the customization of screens with graphics and Word or PDF documents, in addition to subfile programs that tap into columns of relevant data from Db2 for i and other databases. According to ARCAD, these screens can have an unlimited number of records available to them, which users can sort, filter, group, and search as they like. Customers can also use iNow to expose 5250 resources as REST Web services, which gives them another option for modernizing old code.
iNow includes client and server components, and uses RDP — which you may remember as the protocol that Citrix used for emulating Windows desktops — to handle communication between the iNow server and the iNow clients, whether they’re running on Windows, the Web, or mobile devices.
When used in the automated “on the fly” fashion, the software doesn’t touch the DDS display files underlying the green screen application. When customers create their own custom screens, the DDS is modified, ARCAD said. This approach gives customers greater flexibility, the company said.
Using RDP delivers better security than what you can get using HTTP, according to ARCAD.
“The new ARCAD iNow answers the need in our customer base for an advanced UI modernization solution offering complete platform independence and, most of all, bulletproof security,” ARCAD CEO Philippe Magne said in a press release. “Our customers in the BFSI [banking, financial services, insurance] industry have penetration tested ARCAD iNow, and by using only one secure RDP port, applications modernized with ARCAD iNow pass the most stringent of security regulations.”
The company relies on RDP to transport 5250 data to Web and mobile clients in addition to Windows because it isolates the customer from the burdensome maintenance requirements that come with keeping Web browsers updated. RDP is simply more secure, ARCAD said.
iNow is based on technology that ARCAD obtained through an OEM partnership with ML Software GmbH of Germany. The iNow software appears very similar to iNEXT suite, which is ML Software’s.NET-based modernization tool for IBM i. ARCAD and ML Software have an existing partnership, and the companies have integrated other tools before.
ARCAD is selling iNow as part of its new ARCAD for IBM i Modernization suite. In addition to iNow, the suite includes various Transformer offerings, including solutions for expanding the size of database fields, for converting applications to Unicode, for transforming RPGLE to RPG Free Form, changing the database from use of DDS to DDL (SQL), and Transformer CASE, which transforms CA 2E code to RPG Free Form.
“ARCAD iNow marks the completion of our modernization range,” Magne said. “This is important because ARCAD is the only vendor able to offer a complete and fully integrated range of DevOps and modernization solutions, from the database through the source code and now up to the UI.”
The fact that ARCAD maintains all changes within an overall DevTestOps framework is important because it accelerates delivery and detects any defects early, the CEO continued.
“With this level of automation there is absolutely no doubt that when compared with a risky rip-and-replace alternative, modernizing an IBM i application has undeniable advantages: from the reliability and low TCO of the underlying platform, the competitive advantage of a custom application and above all less risk and cost – up to 40 percent in some cases,” Magne said.