Welcome to the premi?re issue of Midrange Developer. My name is Bob Cozzi, and I'm the editor of this new, free application development newsletter for midrange professionals.
Since the mid-1970s, I've made a career out of IBM midrange computers and, specifically, the languages that run them--RPG and COBOL. I have written countless articles as well as several books, including the best-selling The Modern RPG IV Language. I've taught RPG to thousands of programmers, I worked with IBM on the design of some of the RPG III enhancements, and I influenced the design of RPG IV and many of its features.
Why Do a Newsletter?
Application development as it relates to the RPG language has come full cycle (pun intended). It is apparent that there is now more than ever a need for midrange application development information. A new generation of programmers is using RPG to maintain applications written years ago and to write applications using cool new technologies such as CGI, HTML, and XML. It only makes sense to do a newsletter like this now.
In Midrange Developer, I'll cover a wide variety of topics that are of interest to the midrange community. For developers/programmers, I'll present application development tips and coding techniques. I'll answer questions and feature links to useful Web sites. On "Page II--The Midrange Manager," I'll address topics that are important to the IT manager. I'll review useful AS/400- and iSeries-related software and solutions, including not only commercial packages but also free or nearly free tools, utilities, and shareware. In addition, I'll occasionally feature project management issues and industry trends.
Over the past few years, AS/400 programmers and systems administrators became concerned about IBM's direction for the AS/400. IBM was actually working to create ?off-ramps,? technologies that would allow AS/400 customers to move off of the AS/400 onto other platforms. It seemed to me that IBM was planning to eliminate the AS/400 from its offerings. Today, IBM seems to have reconsidered this madness and has turned its attention to creating ?on-ramps,? technologies that allow non-AS/400 customers to move onto this system or at least coexist with OS/400. And that's good news!
Third-party software vendors are getting into the act, too. CrossWorks, Inc. has developed OpenRPG, an RPG compiler for non-OS/400 platforms. CrossWorks realized that some shops can no longer afford the AS/400 or iSeries and have decided to move to non-iSeries hardware running Windows- or UNIX-based operating systems. Already, some small shops that run only a few applications are using the CrossWorks OpenRPG environment. OpenRPG is more than just an RPG compiler; it's very similar to a Java virtual machine for RPG--an RPG Virtual Machine (RVM)--without the slow runtimes you have with Java (it doesn't use Java).
Why call it an RPG Virtual Machine? Because it includes a full runtime environment for RPG, including RPG III and RPG IV compilers, DDS and CL compilers, and an OS/400-like database. While OpenRPG currently offers only a full solution for "repurposing" existing RPG-based applications onto a Windows or UNIX network, a standalone developer edition is due in early 2002.
There are also several other midrange developer tools and utilities on the market today. Most run natively on the AS/400, while others, like my own CodeStudio Workplace, are Windows-based. Microsoft has even gotten into the act by announcing that it will support RPG, COBOL, and other languages in its new Visual Studio .NET developer suite due in February 2002. Could ?RPG Everywhere? be in our not-too-distant future?
Although most common business-oriented languages have all but disappeared from the midrange developer scene, soon all iSeries programming languages will be available in most AS/400 and iSeries shops. Why? Because IBM has changed the packaging--and pricing--for OS/400 Version 5. You can no longer purchase only the RPG compiler; you are now required to purchase WebSphere Development Studio. The price for this package on a P10 processor group is $8,200; on a P40, over $60,000. (See the full pricing online on the WDS product page.) Be aware, however, that in order to run some of the compilers under V5R1, the chargeable PASE environment is required. There is a $100 nuisance fee for PASE, which means most people still won't have the C or C++ compilers installed. Just exactly why PASE isn't free or at least bundled with WDS is beyond my logic or reasoning skills. Under V5R1, the C and C++ compilers are the same compilers IBM offers for its pSeries (formerly, RS/6000) AIX operating system. To run AIX binaries on the AS/400 or iSeries, you must install the PASE environment.
By the way, Software Subscription is a good value, which is a rarity from IBM. I strongly encourage you to evaluate it for your shop. If you don't have Software Subscription and you upgrade regularly, you're almost better off buying new hardware every couple of years and staying on the same version until you switch boxes.
There's something for everyone in Midrange Developer, the FREE newsletter for IBM midrange professionals. So tell your friends and forward this newsletter to them so they can subscribe!
Robert Cozzi, Jr.