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The Essential Guide to IBM i Database Modernization

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IT modernization is the process of extending the value of aging platforms and systems into the future by adopting modern, efficient technologies.


Editor's note: This article introduces the white paper "The Essential Guide to IBM i Database Modernization," available free from the MC White Paper Center.


Those within the IBM i community love the platform for its reliability, scalability, and ability to deliver tremendous business value with unusually low operational costs. So why is the system perceived as being "legacy"? Many point to the green-screen user interface or a lack of effort to publicize the value proposition of the IBM i. Nonetheless, based on extensive research by IBM and others, we strongly believe that the lack of application agility is the primary factor limiting the growth and acceptance of this remarkable platform. In fact, the biggest constraint of application agility is neither the user interface nor the RPG-written applications; it's the fact that we're not using the SQL capabilities in the DB2 for i database.


This whitepaper will explain:

  1. Why companies should consider modernizing their application's database
  2. The database modernization challenges companies have faced in the past
  3. The benefits of migrating legacy or heritage database objects
  4. The new technology advancements that can be leveraged after database modernization has taken place


First and foremost, it's important to ask the following:


  • What is the cumulative value of the intellectual capital invested in your applications?
  • What competitive advantage do your current application systems provide?


Without a doubt, there's significant value in your "legacy" or "heritage" applications, and this value can be leveraged relatively easily for dramatic results and benefit to your company. It's entirely feasible (rather simple, actually) to extend the life of these applications while remaining competitive. Our goal is to build a case for database modernization that supports your business goals by defining the value in your heritage application system.

Modernize Your IBM i

IT modernization is the process of extending the value of aging platforms and systems into the future by adopting modern, efficient technologies. This can be accomplished whilst removing the operational constraints that inhibit growth and agile response to changes in the business environment. However, what should be thought of as an ongoing process of IT system improvement is perceived as a large and daunting project because incremental improvements to monolithic code often exhibit "gotchas" along the way. As a result, the importance of system improvement is often forgotten as IT personnel are consistently challenged to "do more with less."


Interestingly, modernization has continued to be a top priority for CIOs. The results of a survey conducted by Gartner of over 2,300 CIOs indicates "Legacy Modernization" as being one of the top 10 CIO business and technology priorities for 2012.

Why Is the IBM i Perceived as Legacy?

  • User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX)Younger CIOs and CFOs see the default interface of the IBM i and are often quick to pigeonhole the entire platform as legacy. In addition, younger programmers and users cannot relate to the 6 – 8 character field names and the 6 – 10 character file names of DB2 for i, which older programmers have historically employed to name database constructs and elements. 
  • Old-Style Monolithic CodeIn previous years, developers created huge "structured" monolithic programs, as that was the programming model of the time. Often, 80% of the lines of code in these monoliths dealt with database relationships and database validations.


Additionally, there was little or no separation of function, which made maintenance problematic. This presented massive maintenance backlogs and frustrated users.


Some companies seldom (or maybe never) improved applications by introducing newer coding techniques; leveraging new enhancements to the language, operating system, and database; or improving the maintainability of the applications because the system just kept on running. Now, IBM shops strive to remain competitive but are facing challenges: skyrocketing costs constrain IT budgets; the intellectual property invested in heritage systems needs to be retained and leveraged; and major advances in analytics, cloud, mobile, and database engine technologies must be utilized. Fortunately, this problem is solved through database modernization.

Understanding Database Modernization

Companies must think strategically to correct the fundamental challenge brought on by lack of application agility, which is retained by old code and an inflexible database structure. Often, companies start by modernizing the UI because it's the most visible part of the application. The most important piece should be in modernizing the database and eliminating monolithic code so that discrete functions of core applications can be leveraged for a variety of benefits.


To create application agility, applications designed on old standards have to be fundamentally re-constructed in order to unlock their massive value, retain the competitive advantage facilitated by those applications, and recover the business rules in re-usable components.


All modernization has to start at the database engine layer, as most of the advances introduced to the platform since 2000 pre-supposes the use of an SQL database engine. In fact, in our experience, if the SQL engine is leveraged, your code base can be reduced by approximately 80% by simply moving database functions historically coded in RPG (or other HLLs) down into the database engine. It's possible to implement a solution with minimum disruption using a low-risk, gradual, iterative process to ensure no loss of business continuity and to support parallel databases during the process.


This automatic, gradual, and non-disruptive process doesn't require manual program recompilation during the initial phase of the migration. Subsequent refactoring or reengineering of the code at both a code and database level will require recompilation of the objects.

Want to Know More?

Download "The Essential Guide to IBM i Database Modernization," available free from the MC White Paper Center.

inFORM Decisions, Inc.

inFORM Decisions (www.informdecisions.com) specializes in document management, payment automation and modernization solutions for IBM i (iSeries). inFORM's acclaimed iDocs Suite make it easy to design, add intelligence, archive and/or intelligently distribute electronic documents, reports and checks to laser printers, fax, or email (in popular formats like PDF, Excel, RTF, HTML, TEXT and more). The company distributes the database modernization solution, Adsero Optima Foundation, to facilitate and automate the migration of all legacy (ISAM or DDS) databases to the latest DDL (SQL/SQE) implementation of DB2 on IBM i. To learn more, visit www.informdecisions.com or call 949.709.5838

To find out more about inFORM Decisions, Inc. and its products see their listings in the MC Showcase Buyer's Guide.



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