It's time for us dinosaurs to get out of the tar pits. RDi is here to stay.
We've heard lots of reasons not to use the GUI tools IBM has (not so) gently nudged us toward: WebSphere Development Studio Client for System i (WDSC) was way too much tool for RPG developers. It was too big, too slow, too cumbersome, too limited. Even if those were valid reasons, they have been alleviated bit by bit with each release, culminating in the final breakup of the tool into various offerings, including Rational Developer for i (RDi). For those who have been sitting on the fence trying to find ways to avoid the future, with the June 24 announcements IBM has made the future today, and only the most stubborn RPG developers can justify staying on Application Developer ToolSuite (ADTS), the umbrella name for the traditional green-screen tools of PDM, SEU, and SDA.
First, the Tool Suite
This unbundling actually hurt the niche market of folks like me, who were using WDSC for all of its purposes. Not only did I design my corporate Web site entirely using WDSC, I also wrote my Web-enabling tool, PSC iQ, using both Java EE technology and RPG, and I used WDSC to develop and test the entire product line.
But for those who didn't really need all the capabilities of WDSC, the unbundling made sense, especially when IBM positioned the old and new tool suites side by side: You could purchase either ADTS or RDi for the same price, $795 per seat. Although the move from tiered licensing to per-seat pricing has led to some confusion, when you compare the per-seat prices of ADTS to RDi, it's awfully hard not to move to all the additional functionality of RDi.
But that's for new boxes. The problem was for older boxes. While moving from ADTS to RDi resulted in the same maintenance costs, there was still the initial cost of getting RDi. Initially, IBM insisted on a full license for every seat, while the user community thought that a no-cost upgrade was in order. And while no cost would have been best for us users, IBM compromised in the end, giving a 40 percent discount to current ADTS subscribers. (Why 40 percent? Why not 50 percent? What magical number crunching caused this decision? We'll never know.)
Anyway, you now have the ability to upgrade your existing users from ADTS to RDi. First, of course, you need to move to the new IBM i 6.1 and thus to the new pricing scheme. Go through the process of determining the number of entitled users you want to claim, and then you can decide which of those to upgrade to RDi. You no longer have a good reason to stay with ADTS.
Well, Ok, the screen designer in RDi isn't complete yet. It's getting better with every release, but it's not quite there yet. But I hope that an ever-decreasing amount of your time is spent in SDA and that at least some of that time is perhaps spent in CODE Studio (the original PC-based screen designer) instead. And there are a few things that PDM does a little better: A long thread in the midrange.com mailing list was devoted to searching for strings in multiple files, something WDSC does very well but not very quickly. But now that you can get things like color coding and the Outline View for the same price as good old SEU (and with only a partial per-seat cost for upgrading), it's a lot harder to justify ADTS.
That's Not All, Though
There's a second part to this announcement that affects developers as well. It's an evolving response as IBM attempts to escape the corner it painted itself into with the no-charge inclusion of WDSC into its standard System i development tools. In order to extend the previous strategy in which you purchased one product, 5722WDS, and got every development tool in the arsenal, IBM would have had to significantly raise the price of that single product. Instead, IBM decided to unbundle the tools so that shops can purchase only those tools they need. Whether or not that's the "correct" decision is neither here nor there and is a discussion to be had on mailing lists among people with way more time than I have. Instead, this article concentrates on the fact that this is a done deal and addresses the ramifications.
One of those ramifications is that programmers now have to justify to management which development tools to purchase. This hearkens back to the old days in which you had to decide whether to purchase a COBOL compiler or an RPG compiler, which could influence other decisions as to the direction of your architecture. Personally, I was thrilled with the new all-in-one bundle because it allowed me to play with things I hadn't seen in a while, like COBOL on the i. I think programmers like to try things in order to upgrade their skills, keep current with the state of the art, or just break the monotony, but that's hard to do when you have to ask the boss for money.
That's why WDSC was such a great sandbox for System i programmers to learn new skills. With its wealth of tutorials and tools for Java, Java EE, and other Web-based technologies, WDSC was a great impetus for those programmers with an adventurous nature to try their hand at some of the new technologies.
Done In by Unbundling
This ability to delve into the Web world without requiring a lot of justification to management really allowed some adventurous programmers to experiment with new ideas for their companies. With the unbundling, some of that creativity was stifled because WDSC as we know it is no longer available as a no-charge additional option on some already-purchased product. In the past, at worst you had to get the WDSC disks from your business partner, but now getting the tooling for anything beyond the specific software you need to do your job requires approval from management.
The new offering from IBM helps alleviate some of that. The IBM i 6.1 Power Express 520 offering is a special developer box that basically provides a small but powerful i hardware package along with all the development tools i developers can use. This includes not only the compilers, but also RDi and even a single-user license for RDi-SOA so that developers can begin their journey into the world of Web-enablement. For those who haven't been reading my articles, RDi-SOA is the tool suite that provides both basic green-screen development tools as well as EGL and is in my opinion the best way for i developers to write Web applications.
While I would rather this had been a much broader offering, it's not bad. In fact, it's really two different machines. The entry edition is a 4.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 140GB of disk, while the growth edition doubles the RAM and disk and adds a few other goodies, like a 175MB write cache and an uninterruptible power supply.
You can read about these offerings in detail in the announcement letter. And if you read between the lines, there's no denying it: RDi is here to stay. I think it's finally time to put ADTS in the rearview mirror.