IBM Systems Magazine, Power Systems - February 2018 - 35
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Fail to Plan,
Plan to Fail
"Pressure is coming from end users and
upper management now. They're aware
of the Agile principles, they see other
companies doing continuous delivery,
and they expect those things to be in
place at their own businesses."
-Jim Diephuis, IBM i consultant, IBM Lab Services
specifically those that relied on
midrange or mainframe business
systems, were trying to figure out
how to do business on the web. Almost on top of that came Y2K and
the vastly overhyped (but still real
and pressing) need to modify date
fields in internal code that had been
in use for years, if not decades.
So in the mid-1990s-back
when mobile phones weighed
about as much as present day
laptops-corporate IT was aware
of this issue, and many enterprises were actively working on
solutions. Yet today, modernization remains a widespread need.
In most respects, IT has moved
forward, bringing in shiny new
hardware with astonishing processing power. But beneath the
surface remain critical applications written in legacy code
that have always been viewed as
too complex and too valuable to
"Most of my clients have a lot
of RPG or COBOL code that's
20-plus years old," says Diephuis. "It works just fine, it does
exactly what they want, but it's
gotten to a point where it's very
difficult to make modifications
because it's one huge program,
or a set of many programs."
The Right Tools
So is modernization a problem
with no solution? Hardly. In
fact, some of the answers themselves have also been around
for some time.
For many of the IBM i clients
that Diephuis works with, "modern" RPG continues to provide
the path forward. RPG was
transformed during the 1990s
and early 2000s, first with the
debut of RPG IV, and then with
the introduction of "free-form"
capabilities. The changes were
designed to allow RPG to interact
with modern languages like Java*
and XML. Most importantly,
IBM's efforts made the venerable
programming language that was
created for punch card machines
decipherable to veteran Java coders and young computer science
majors entering the IT workforce
alike. Read more about the
evolution for RPG here:
The other pillar of IBM's
modernization strategy is found
within the Rational* suite of
development tools. The Rational
suite provides products and
services for software and systems
development for various application environments, including
Eclipse, Java and Linux*. IBM
Rational Developer for IBM i
(RDi) provides an integrated
for creating, maintaining and
modernizing applications. RDi is
available in three versions:
We all want to modernize, and goodness knows we've been told for 20
years to get busy doing something.
There are many factors that contribute to a modernization project's
etc. But nothing is more important
than building a cohesive plan.
I recommend beginning by evaluating your business needs. Some
companies need to enhance the
UI so they can reduce onboarding
time. Maybe the current systems
are inadequate due to industry
evolution or planned growth.
In any case, I've found it best
to follow three rules:
1. No subject is off limits. Discuss
all of the possibilities and their
2. Interview all of the stakeholders.
Dig down to the pain points and
debate what's really important
to the business.
the data and distill it so management can accept it as truth.
You might feel backed into the
proverbial corner by a manager
who says, "Modernize now, or else."
I urge you to stop, breathe and
plan. Challenge management like
I'm challenging you to develop your
reasons for modernization. Then use
those reasons to build your plan.
IT strategist, Fresche Solutions
Mike has worked with IBM midrange
solutions since 1992. In his current
role at Fresche, he works closely
with IBM i clients to help build their IT
ibmsystemsmag.com FEBRUARY 2018 // 35