What Size Development PC Do Your Programmers Have?

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As you no doubt already know, IBM is pushing its WebSphere Development Studio client (WDSc). This tool is a full-scale replacement for PDM, SEU, CODE/400, and the rest of the developer tool package that ran on the client. WDSc is based on Eclipse, the new Java-based development environment initially created by IBM and released to the open-source world.

Eclipse is written largely in Java. The only parts that are not written in Java are the user interface controls. Because Java is just too darn slow, IBM used platform-native user interface controls to help speed up processing. So if you're on Windows, you get the familiar Windows user interface controls; if you're on UNIX, you get Motif. In addition, add-in components can be built and integrated with Eclipse.

That's all well and good, but is IBM just promoting another "next year's" technology that the mass iSeries market isn't ready to pick up on? I recently decided to attempt to install and use WDSc on an IBM ThinkPad with 512 MB of RAM and a 1.8 Ghz Pentium 4 CPU. The installation itself was marginally problematic, but I eventually got the product installed.

But even with a 1.8 Ghz CPU and 512 MB of RAM, the WDSc development environment still took "centuries" to load. After a few posts on an email list server and a couple of interviews with the only two people I found who actually use this product, I discovered that you really need a minimum of 1,000 MB of RAM to use Eclipse. In fact, one user told me, "You really want an extra PC that has only WDSc loaded on it."

So, assuming memory prices continue to drop, people may decide to throw away their old RAM 64 or 128 MB cards and replace them with two 512 MB cards. But that's just to get the thing running. It probably takes 2 or 3 GB to make it sing. But who knows?

IBM seems to be trying to promote a tool that for all intents and purposes will not be useable on the mainstream iSeries programmers' PC systems for at least a year or two. Both the WSDc product itself and PCs installed in iSeries shops will have at least a year before they're ready, and then the product still will not be as productive as the legacy SEU/PDM tools that over 90% of all iSeries shops use today. Most iSeries and AS/400 shops I visit have Windows 98 installed. More and more are installing Windows 2000 Professional which is, in my view, the best choice for a Microsoft Windows platform.

When I first saw Eclipse and heard about the WDSc development environment, I thought it would be more user friendly than IBM's previous development tools, and it is. But because of the performance and resource overhead, it's hard to believe that iSeries developers will move to it quickly.

I know I'm going to upset a few people with the following statement, but I'm going to say it anyway: IBM's biggest problem with application development today is the fact that IBM continues to insist that Java is the end-all language of choice. I think Java is a fantastic language, but the runtime environment just isn't there. Java was a good try, and maybe in a few years it'll be what it aspires to be. But if I were IBM, I wouldn't bet my company's entire future on every customer moving to Java "this week." It'll take some time before Java hits critical mass.

So for now, my suggestion is that you stick with CODE/400 or CodeStudio as your editor for RPG  and DDS, and if you're still an SEU/PDM user (as virtually everyone is), then I suggest you stick with that, but try to move to the raw CODE/400 or CodeStudio for editing, and then use PDM for compiling and member management. If you stick with SEU, you're better off installing the RPGAlive product, which I recently saw at a customer location. It's the most useful add-on to SEU I've ever seen.