by Ray Bernardi | February 2, 2018

Automating IBM i Modernization in 3 steps

It’s 2018 – Have you modernized yet ? If not, you must be waiting for some kind of invitation. Consider this a formal invitation. You need to get with the times.

If you haven’t noticed, over the past few years there have been some significant changes in the IBM i landscape, changes for the better. I used to hear people talking about how the days of the IBM i were numbered, that it was antiquated and that the people working on it were all dinosaurs. That’s simply not true.

What is true is that a lot of shops haven’t taken the steps required to use the IBM i the way it’s designed today. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be the mentality. That’s no way to think. In 1920 they made what they called modern cars to work on the modern roads of that time. The roads have been updated. They have lots of new features. If you adopt the attitude above, you are taking 1920s technology onto the interstate and trying to compete with all the 2018 models racing by you. Not only can’t you compete, you are actually in your own way.

Take that 1920s car to a mechanic who just graduated school. He will look at it for a minute and say, I don’t think I want to work on that, I can’t even figure out where to plug into the computer…. New talent, old technology, that’s a complete miss.

I understand the need to keep things running. I get that some organizations are at their limits just maintaining what they have now and feel like there’s no time to add a modernization process that’s full of risk and has a possible bad outcome. Who will do this? How can we keep running if we change everything? What are the real benefits in undertaking such a large scale project? There’s a lot of questions and a lot of uncertainty out there.

I can tell you, there is a path. It can be done. It can be done while you keep running. It can be done with very few resources and very little time. How? Automation that’s how. Have you heard of DevOps for IBM i? You should have, and it’s all about automation. You need tools. You can’t fix anything without the right tools.

You need to be able to quickly analyze what you have now, structure a process to control the modernization changes, and then, actually transform yourself into a modern shop. It’s not that hard.

ARCAD-Observer can analyze what you have now. It can help you understand your database, generate documentation, and help you identify complexity hotspots. It gives you the information you need to get started.

ARCAD can do version control, continuous testing, do DevOps and agile deliveries, it’s automation. You will need a process ready to take the modernized version of your application and make it available to the world. It’s doable, this isn’t rocket science.

Finally you need to make the transformation. What do you want to modernize? The database from DDS to DDL? That can be automated. Your code from RPG to Free Format RPGLE? That can be automated. Testing the new code to see if it works like the old code? Yup, that can be automated. Delivering the new code to your production servers?? You guessed it, it can be automated. That’s DevOps. I have been talking about this for 5 years or more now. I’m always surprised when I meet someone who is really stuck in the past and not taking advantage of what’s here today. I wish there was some way to tell them – It’s not that hard.

What I just discussed is a roadmap to modernization. If you look at the IBM i Redbooks on this that’s what you are going to find, the same roadmap. You should get on the road.

You could start with just the database. Use ARCAD-Transformer DB to convert it from DDS to DDL. Use ARCAD-Verifier to automatically test the results and make sure the database still works as designed. When you’re ready, we have the tools to move that new proven database into production with very little downtime.

Most people start with the code itself. Why? They want new talent. Remember the mechanic with the 1920s car? Give that same mechanic a brand new 2018 model and off he goes. It’s a viable path, you can start here, but eventually you will hit limitations with the old database. Do both. Why not?

You could transform your database into DDL, and then, in a few keystrokes, convert all your RPG to Free Format RPG. Use the automated testing I talked about to see if things are all ok, and then get that new modern code into production.

Now you can hire a Java developer that will be able to read and understand your legacy RPG code. You have leveraged the old system to its full extent – like we said – it wasn’t broke, so we didn’t fix it, we just upgraded the hell out of it.

Stuck in a CASE Tool? They generate source right? Convert it! Break out of that old technology. Become free, RPG Free that is.

ARCAD does this as a service. Don’t have the time? We do. We can deliver a completely modernized application to you in less time than you can imagine.

Modernize the user interface? We can do that too with the help of some of our partners.

I guess in the end the point I’m trying to make is that, if you are not modernizing, you are really missing the boat. The other thing I’d like to get across is that, it’s not that hard. There are tools and a proven roadmap to follow. The goal of a modern application is right there if you want to reach out and grab it. It could very well be the decision that ensures your organization is still viable in ten years, or has shuttered its doors.

Modernization is a must. It’s 2018 – get going already!

About the author 

Ray Bernardi, Senior Consultant, ARCAD Software

Ray is a 30-year IT veteran and currently a Pre/Post Sales technical Support Specialist for ARCAD Software, international ISV and IBM Business Partner.  He has been involved with the development and sales of many cutting edge software products throughout his career, with specialist knowledge in Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) products from ARCAD Software covering a broad range of functional areas including enterprise IBM i modernization and DevOps.  In addition, Ray is a frequent speaker at COMMON and many other technical conferences around the world and has authored articles in several publications on the subject of application analysis and modernization, SQL, and business intelligence.