A Webcast takes on all challengers, asserting that the technology works elegantly to modernize source-code available applications while saving time and requiring no programming.
There has been an air of mystery and, thus, skepticism surrounding RPG Open Access since IBM introduced it in April 2010 with the release of IBM i 7.1. The program, officially known as Rational Open Access: RPG Edition, was perceived as exotic and incomplete since it relied upon users or ISVs to write handlers to make it work, rather than providing a complete solution to, what might be called, GUI envy!
Several leading vendors in the IBM midrange space went so far as to say it was a road leading nowhere since there were so many better solutions already available, and they couldn't envision how the stateful/stateless connection to the display device could ever be anything but a conundrum.
Well, the skeptics were clearly wrong, says Profound Logic CEO Alex Roytman—and IBM was right (once again). RPG OA does work, and quite well at that, says Roytman, whose suite of modernization tools called Profound UI relies on RPG OA for a fast, accurate, complete, and—most significantly—native IBM i modernization solution.
Roytman this week teamed with IBM's Alison Butterill, Power Systems offering manager, and Profound Logic's Brian May, one of the company's IBM i modernization specialists, to present a Webinar that challenged what the company calls the "Top Five RPG OA Myths." After debunking false ideas that May says he has heard circulating around the industry, such as "using RPG OA will require significant programming effort," or that "the RPG language is dead; other languages are better for modern applications," or that "programming for the Web in RPG is too complicated," or "modernizing with RPG Open Access is just like screen scraping," and, finally, that "modernizing with RPG Open Access is too costly," the company gave a live, online demonstration of what you can do with Profound UI's Visual Designer, showing how little effort it actually takes to convert an application to take advantage of RPG OA.
Butterill opened the presentation with a wrap-up of the announcements, starting with the introduction of IBM i 7.1, in which IBM introduced Rational Open Access: RPG Edition, and then leading up to the most recent company announcement: withdrawing it as a separate program but making it temporarily accessible for free to all IBM i clients and partners before it's rolled into Rational Development Studio as an ILE Compiler feature.
Butterill made it clear that IBM continues to develop and invest in IBM i and RPG, citing more than 100,000 installations of the operating system worldwide. While there are less-frequent major releases of the OS now, there are frequent technology refreshes that can be applied as PTFs to keep companies painlessly up to date on the latest technology innovations to the operating system from IBM developers.
Butterill cited an April 2010—when IBM i 7.1 was released—open letter written by Hayden Lindsey, IBM Rational vice president and distinguished engineer, enterprise modernization, modeling, construction, and compilers, in which he references the letter by then IBM Power Systems General Manager Ross Mauri (now vice president of Enterprise Process Transformation) outlining IBM's "solid and unchanged commitment to our IBM i clients."
"We at IBM Rational would like to echo this by confirming our commitment to support and enhance our ILE RPG and ILE COBOL compilers on IBM i and our application development tools," Lindsey says. Butterill said that RPG OA was among a number of significant technology enhancements to RPG that included such things as improved sorting and searching of data structure arrays as well as the way procedures are defined. Also new to the language are being able to use alias names in data structures, provide built-in functions to "scan and replace," provide an encrypted debug view, and support a teraspace temporary storage model.
She was followed by May, who methodically went through the list of five RPG OA myths and explained how either they weren't true or there was a simple workaround to the alleged problem. "While you may hear that using RPG OA will require a significant amount of programming effort, the reality is that in most cases, using RPG OA with Profound UI requires only the addition of a single keyword in your RPG program source," said May. "That keyword is HANDLER."
"Profound UI has a complete HANDLER program that supports all operations against a display file object," said May. Instead of the program outputting to a green-screen, it outputs to a handler and, ultimately, a rich user interface.
One add-on that Profound Logic has that sets it apart from other companies in the Open Access space is its precompiler that allows companies using versions of i5/OS back to V5R3 to take advantage of Open Access and Profound UI. Normally, a machine would have to be running IBM i 6.1 or 7.1 to take advantage of RPG Open Access.
You could almost hear the cheers from the muted audience members when May addressed head-on the notion that "the RPG language is dead" and "other languages are better for modern applications." Wrong again, May declared. IBM continues to invest in RPG, and RPG OA is just another example. "New features continue to be added in every release," he said. May pointed out too something that many have known but few people have stated as directly: that many of RPG's language capabilities are "severely under-utilized." He cited features of RPG IV, available APIs, and the free-format nature of the modern language. May noted that there are "millions of lines of RPG code in use today in countries around the world" and said that it had gone well beyond "critical mass."
The Webcast, which was recorded and then processed for online viewing, is available by clicking here. For anyone planning a modernization project, it is an interesting and informative look at what benefits RPG Open Access can offer in conjunction with, or in lieu of, refacing and basic Web enablement.