Need An RPG Programmer? Nalashaa May Have You Covered
April 19, 2021 Alex Woodie
Companies that are having trouble finding RPG programmers to maintain IBM i applications may be interested in the services of Nalashaa Solutions, an IT services company that has nearly 200 RPG programmers at its disposal. In addition to expertise in healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing/distribution industries, the New Jersey-based company can help with application modernization, code documentation, and migration to the cloud, too.
The RPG coder supply chain is an oft-discussed topic that incites passion in many people. In some parts of the country and the world, companies have no problem finding RPG programmers to hire. In other locales, you have approximately as much luck finding qualified RPG developers as finding a package of toilet paper during the height of the COVID panic-buying spree. Geography, as it turns out, can be a cruel mistress.
If there’s one good thing to come out of the coronavirus epidemic, it’s that companies are more open to remote work arrangements. They also may be more aware of the limitations of their aging green-screen applications. Both of those situations bode well for Nalashaa Solutions and the IT services that it can provide.
Nalashaa was founded about 15 years ago to provide general IT services, specifically around software development. The company is headquartered in Woodbridge, New Jersey, and also maintains a large office in Bangalore, India, where many of its programmers work and live.
The company fell into the IBM i gig almost by accident several years ago, according to Sarthak “Sam” Thussu, head of sales for AS/400 at the Nalashaa Group. The company was very active in the healthcare space, both with medical providers and insurance companies, and it discovered that these companies needed assistance with RPG applications running on their IBM i servers.
After working on so many IBM i-based healthcare applications, such as McKesson, Concentrix, and Wellsky, the company realized there was a considerable amount of demand for RPG coders in this space, Thussu said. So near the end of 2017, the company formalized its IBM i practice and began marketing its services.
“From 2018, we started marketing our AS/400 services, and what we were marketing was plain and simple RPG support, Thussu said. “Being a programming shop, that is what our core offering is, where we support people from a programming standpoint.”
Soon thereafter, the company expanded into other industry niches that are IBM i strengths, such as financial services, manufacturing, and distribution. The company has experience with all of the major RPG-based applications from Infor, including XA, LX, System 21, and A+.
Nalashaa is working with a handful of IBM i shops that run their businesses on these ERP systems. The company, which has 50 RPG programmers working out of the New Jersey office and about 130 working out of the Bangalore office, signs staffing arrangements with its customers to supply RPG programmers to maintain those systems.
While maintaining the applications and answering support tickets are typically the most pressing priorities, Nalashaa’s developers often find themselves being introduced to other IT projects at clients as well, Thussu said.
“Most of our relationships are around plain and simple RPG programming support,” he told IT Jungle. “And then they snowball into larger initiatives, like modernization, cloud migration, or somebody wants to use Profound Logic to modernize the UI. That’s something that we do.”
Nalashaa’s developers are often skilled in other areas beyond just slinging out the RPG code, including expertise in specific ERP programs, in specific industries, and documenting and modernizing code, and they bring that experience to those client engagements, Thussu said.
“Typically, whenever we start a relationship, we enter as programming support team,” he said. “That’s the exploration phase, where we want to understand the business context, the technical context, and that is when, from a consultation capacity, we help them with a roadmap for what their IT should look like in the [future].”
Business picked up in 2020 thanks in part to the economic lockdowns, Thussu said. Accessibility became a big issue as companies needed to enable their employees to access applications remotely. The 5250 interface does not endear itself to simple and easy access, so its engagements with Profound’s modernization tools, as well as its own in-house kit, to create modern Web and mobile GUIs were quite successful, he said.
The pandemic also increased some companies’ desire to get out of the data center business and move their IT to the cloud. In these situations, Nalashaa can help companies prepare to migrate their IBM i systems to run on the Linux operating system, which can then run on X86 servers in the public clouds. For these types of engagements, the company works with an RPG code emulator from Infinite Software.
“You’re not touching RPG at all. You’re just recompiling it on the cloud,” Thussu said. “It’s not a huge endeavor to do it. It’s pretty simple because Infinite has already made those configurations available. You can leverage Infinite or choose whatever cloud you want, like AWS or Azure. Whichever is your choice.”
The bulk of the work in those migrations lies in the planning and preparation stage, which is where Nalashaa’s manpower can come in handy. In cases where the backend RPG code is recompiled to run in the cloud on a Linux machine, Nalashaa will typically also provide support for modernizing the front-end client interface, too.
Code documentation is a byproduct of an in-depth examination of RPG code, and it’s another service that Nalashaa can provide.
“We all know how poorly these systems have been documented, so that’s another service that we have,” Thussu said. “While our programmers are solving tickets for you, they also document the system and they also document the methodology that they are using to resolve those tickets. So whenever there’s a new programmer who joins the team, whenever there is a new team that helps you in RPG support, we can look at these documents and understand what the system essentially does and also understand the best solutions for certain tickets that you get, so that improves the efficiency.”
According to Thussu, the company has around a dozen IBM i customers at the moment. Considering that the company has 180 or so RPG programmers, some of those companies are of considerable size. However, Nalashaa keeps some of its RPG programmers on the “bench” in order to be able to service new clients, Thussu said.
“Our intent is to provide services for anybody who’s looking for any kind of help. If somebody comes to us and says that we want you to keep our AS/400 alive and we want programmers from your team who can support our system, we can provide them with programmers who will be working with your own programmers. They’ll support the user base, they will work on the service, they’ll resolve all the tickets,” he said.
“For people who are looking to decommission the hardware we have the cloud migration services, for people who do not like the look and feel of the green screen, who are eventually hiring younger crowd who are more comfortable with a GUI feel, for them we have the front end modernization service where we have a few different techniques,” Thussu continued. “Now if somebody comes to us and says that, okay we are fed up with RPG, we want to decommission the hardware as well as the software, that is when we help them with migration services as well.”
RPG programming accounts for about 15 percent to 20 percent of Nalashaa’s total business, according to Thussu. It also provides expertise in Microsoft Dynamics 365, robotic process automation (RPA), and product engineering. You can find more information at www.nalashaa.com.