RPG Use “Skyrocketed” Says IBM i Marketplace Report
February 20, 2023 Alex Woodie
RPG has always been the number one development language on IBM i, the platform with which it is most closely linked. But as open source languages like PHP and Java spread on IBM i, some speculated that RPG’s popularity would begin to slip. That hasn’t happened, according to Fortra’s most recent IBM i Marketplace Survey Results report. In fact, usage of RPG has “skyrocketed,” it says.
From 2015 to 2020, the percentage of Fortra (formerly HelpSystems) Marketplace Survey-takers who chose RPG as one of their development languages stayed steady, hovering around the 84 percent to 89 percent level. Structured Query Language (SQL) has always been a steady number two, followed by Control Language (CL).
However, in the 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey (reflecting surveys conducted in late 2021), something unexpected happened: RPG garnered a 93 percent share, indicating increased uptake of the language. Report Program Generator maintained that number going into 2022, which is reflected in the most recent 2023 study.
“The usual leaders – RPG and SQL – remain at the top this year with 93 percent and 80 percent respectively,” Fortra wrote in its IBM i Marketplace Report, “but RPG usage has skyrocketed. People have worried that RPG was going to fade away, but IBM’s modernization of the language has helped it become a viable language into the future.”
What’s leading to RPG’s surge? Fortra speculates that the language’s general utility and do-it-all nature is behind the uptick.
“It has the ability to call services, integrate open source, SQL and other modern techniques,” the company writes. “Organizations are using modern, modular, free format RPG for new development, and they are pairing this with other languages, which is evident in the number of languages that have significant usage.”
This year’s study, which you can get here, is based on surveys taken last year by about 300 individuals from the IBM i community. The study also showed increased adoption of open languages, such as PHP, Node.js, Python, and Java.
Java has gone from 40 percent last year to 42 percent, while PHP has gone from 20 percent to 21 percent. Python also inched up one percent to 20 percent, while Node.js jumped three percent to 20 percent. Interestingly, COBOL usage also jumped three percent, to 20 percent, up from 14 percent in the 2020 report (perhaps there is something of a renaissance happening in COBOL-on-IBM i-land). C++ also logged a solid increase, going from 8 percent last year to 11 percent, while .NET/C# went from 8 percent to 9 percent.
Back in the RPG wheelhouse, Steve Will, the IBM i chief technology officer and Distinguished Engineer with IBM, indicated he was pleased to see the language’s adoption hit the 93-percent level.
“That number has grown as we have modernized RPG to be able to do things in free format and modular and so on,” Will said during the January 26 webinar, which you can view here. “So that investment in making an RPG that can help customers with the requirements they have today, when supplemented with things like the open languages, it seems to be paying off.”
Languages by themselves are important, but what’s more important is how languages come together with other tools that developers need to create modern applications. To that end, integration with DevOps tools like Git (used by 25 percent of survey-takers, up from 20 percent last year) is also important, Will says.
“People are moving to that source control [product] that helps them do DevOps,” he says. “We have been looking out ahead and engaging the open on i community to make sure that we have the right things for people to take advantage of here.”
Will says he’s also happy in how customers have adopted Rational Developer for i (RDi), the flagship integrated development environment (IDE) for developing IBM i applications in ILE languages. IBM has worked with Fortra to ensure that Git is integrated into RDi for the benefit of their customers. (For the record, Fortra develops RDi, PowerHA, and BRMS on behalf of IBM.)
“As people have wanted modern software, they’ve wanted to use modern tools, and we, between us, have been investing and making sure that this tool can help them get there,” he says. “It’s nice to see that in total, more and more of our customers have been taking advantage of that. It’s not the only thing out there, but it’s a very powerful tool and I’m happy so much uptake has happened.”
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You’ve outdone yourself – great job! I love the cancer analogy and the inclusion of harm to the natural world.
In the key differentiation sof RPG compared to other, many don’t mention a fundamental fact:
RPG has native, hardware supported, and idiomatic fixed point arithmetic (i.e. like monetary types). Many RPG programs involve businesses and business logics and such capability is fundamental. Not a small thing.
Also, native/direct record access, I would add, is a great complement to SQL.
Native access has still distinctive advantages i.e. the fact of being compile checked, all the fields are imported automatically, not “a string” like SQL statements, for many tasks is indeed powerful.