Today's Economy Encourages a Second Look at Low-Cost Modernization Tools

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With IBM's continued support, the community of EGL users appears to be slowly growing.


There are numerous modernization approaches available today and a number of new products from vendors that can make life easier for those who wish to Web-enable their green-screen applications. With the economy still in an unsteady recovery, however, it would seem to make sense to first try a low-cost approach before moving up to more expensive solutions.


For those who haven't yet tried EGL Community Edition, or EGL CE, the operative word here is free! They say there is no such thing as a free lunch, and it may be that IBM is trying to lure developers into buying more-expensive tools, but if you're a programmer, you just may find there is a lot of tool here for very little money (that would be none). You can download EGL CE here, and then it's quite easy to create a simple Web application with it. There is also free training, and IBM is offering the EGL Distance Learning 2010 classes at no cost throughout this year.


Everyone has preferences, and it seems that a number of camps are emerging among developers who prefer one tool over another. The crescendo has risen with the introduction of Rational Open Access, RPG Edition (not a tool but software that provides the runtime enablement for the I/O handlers) and the repulsion by several vendors that have invested millions of dollars developing very viable solutions to addressing the challenge of modernization. I think Jon Paris recently helped defuse the issue when he said simply that there are different tools for different purposes, and none is likely to be an answer for every situation. So, as in most debates, staying calm, sticking to the facts, and keeping an open mind is usually the best approach. We won't digress into the RPGOA issue, as the point here is to refresh your interest in free tools, specifically EGL CE.


Before we talk about that, however, we must point out that CGI Service Program, or CGIEDEV2, is a popular and also free toolset for developing interactive Web-based applications using RPG ILE or COBOL as the back-end interface language. Author Giovanni B. Perotti of has a version that you can download for free here, and IBM Systems and Technology Group (STG) Lab Services has a version for download that is also free. Limited support is available, we're told, from STG Lab Services, but that is not free. OS/400 V5R1 or higher is required.


So CGIDEV2 users are quite pleased with the results; the only problem is that IBM has chosen not to support it. What IBM has chosen to support is EGL, and there is an—albeit slowly—emerging community of EGL users, not the least distinguished of which is MC Press author Joe Pluta. Joe has written about EGL and EGL CE before, but I wanted to point out the benefits of the EGL Online User Group 2010, where you can sign up for free, semi-quarterly Web and audio conference sessions that discuss EGL and EGL CE, Rational Business Developer, and various IBM modernization topics. The sessions offer a chance to network with developers and chat with members of the IBM EGL team in a real-time setting. Scheduled at a recent session was a discussion of EGL database connections, rich UI deployment, and Dojo widgets. The next online gathering will take place July 20, and you can register here. The July meeting will feature a "special EGL announcement" by IBM's Will Smythe.


There are some very easy IBM-sponsored tutorials on YouTube that show just how simple creating an application with EGL CE can be. The more in-depth EGL Distance Learning sessions require more time but provide an opportunity to learn EGL through e-conference presentations and extensive hands-on labs. Each is five days and involves two hours of e-conference time plus three to five additional hours of lab and workshop time per day. For these, you're expected to be a programmer with at least two years experience, though the language or platform can be almost anything from Ruby on Rails to Visual Basic to COBOL. The next session is scheduled to begin June 21, and you can register here.


Whether your choice of Web-enabling tools is PHP, CGIDEV2, EGL, EXT JS (the favorite of Aaron Bartell,, or one of the many fine and highly regarded proprietary development tools from IBM Rational or the vendors in the Power Systems market, the important question to keep in mind is this: how will my investment in this technology benefit my internal or external customers?