Angus: Time for tough love!

I started a recent tweet exchange with “I petition IBM to remove RPG from #IBMi SEU. Require developers to modernize with some tough love!”.

While this was a tongue in cheek comment, the responses got me thinking. IBM provides longevity in its IBM i OS by allowing developers to leverage applications and code written on previous generations of the platform. Certainly, this applies to AS/400, and at least back to System/38 and System/34. What incredible technology, what an incredible legacy.

On the other hand, this capability of the platform seems to have had another interesting effect. If a business ~can~ run the code they wrote thirty years ago, then surely this platform must be old and outdated! And this accusation is leveled often by platform detractors and competitors. Without marketing of IBM i, the I.T. industry is generally unaware of the evolution that makes IBM i significantly more modern than the predecessors, and a modern, agile, scalable, powerful, integrated business platform.

Partly, this view of the IBM i platform as being old is propagated by the same developers who have benefited from the ability to code in the same manner as they did twenty of thirty years ago. Their career has been one sweet ride, using the same principles of coding and development upon which they started their career. Unless they are forced somehow into connecting to new applications, new platforms, or new technologies such as web services, they remain in their 1988 bubble.

The community has been making an attempt to spread awareness of the IBM i platform, the branding, the capabilities, the developer tooling. Over the last 4 years, awareness of the current brand name has helped some people realize their own future. PHP has had a remarkable impact on the perspective of a modern IBM i. Industry pundits and educators have spread awareness of the Rational tooling, and as more and more companies upgrade their skills, existing applications are being modernized and developers are building new 21st century enterprise applications.

The difficult part for the community is to reach the IBM i, System i, iSeries and AS/400 customers who don’t engage in the community. IBM i vendors are able to reach more customers than are seen at conferences, or are engaged in social media and online forums. Yet there is still not universal adoption of modern technology, modern development, modern methodologies, modern applications or modern user experiences.

It is my contention that IBM could fix all of that. One PTF to remove SEU+SDA would do it. Build it in V5R4, 6.1 and 7.1, and send out an urgent PTF fix letter to every IBM i customer whose address is still known. After the PTF is applied, STRSEU simply shows a standard marketing message that informs the developer that new tools are available, and provides them with an easy method of downloading and installing them.

Tough love? Exactly. Would it piss a lot of customers off? Absolutely! And in that, the press that IBM i would receive would be global, and reach the entire I.T industry. Imagine if IBM was now lauded as the next Microsoft – requiring an update to developer skills with a new release of the OS? Sure, there will be negative press, we may lose a few customers, but the number of customers we would gain would far outweigh the losses. And, the world would – once again – be talking about our platform.

Of course, there would still be a number of companies who never apply PTFs and would not be affected. Some would see the press, and jump on the bandwagon, but the rest would stay in AS/400 bliss forever. Sure, we could make the process a little less disruptive, and provide a phone number to call to get SEU+SDA reinstated. In that phone call, there would be an opportunity to inform those customers of the evolution of the platform – something we have been unable to do as a community. They would then need to upgrade their skills or hire developers with modern RPG and RD Power skills, schools would start to offer IBM i and RPG education, and user groups would be screaming for RD Power speakers.

With one small PTF, the entire industry would be reinvigorated.
I cannot think of a better outcome!

11 Comments

Jean MikhaleffJuly 17th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Use Microsoft and Windows to be modern is for sure a very good advise!!!
You can say better.

Nathan AndelinJuly 18th, 2012 at 4:19 pm

The irony is that IBM just released product 5761-AMT, IBM Rational Application Management Tool. The price is something like $300 for the P05 software tier. What is it? Well, it’s PDM and SEU! It is now repackaged and available at a heavily discounted price.

I ordered a copy for our new server, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. You still need PDM and SEU for CL programming, DDS, SQL DDL, and other SQL members run through the RUNSQLSTM command, if nothing else.

Don’t take your anger out on tried and true SEU. IBM i will always need a thin client editor. RDP is such a resource hog, it will probably never run on an iPad.

If the community needs tough love to drive them out of their cages, begin by disabling the S/36 environment in a future release, then sometime later disable the “original program model”. Force shops to use ILE compilers after a period of time. Get the dialog rolling. Take baby steps.

Tough love for SEU users would be misdirected.

angustheitchapJuly 19th, 2012 at 8:07 am

Jean,

I am not advocating ~moving~ applications to Microsoft and Windows.

I am advocating the use of RD Power instead of SDA and SEU. Yes, it runs on Windows as a client, but it is an IDE used for developing IBM i applications. Rather than use a text editor with some validation (SEU), I propose all IBM i companies should be pushed to RD Power. Preventing SEU from working might make them aware of RD Power first, then it should encourage them to modernize their toolset and their skills.

angustheitchapJuly 19th, 2012 at 8:09 am

Nathan,

I am not sure where you interpreted ‘anger’.

Why can’t you edit CL in RD Power? Why would you advocate DDL being edited in SEU rather than GUI tools such as iNav or RD Power?

I like your ideas of S/36 environment removal, and OPM removal, however, I think SEU and SDA currently have a replacement that works, and it IS the baby step.

Jean MikhaleffJuly 19th, 2012 at 10:52 am

Trevor,
What I have to say is not a provocation, but SEU PDM are much more closer from Google and Cloud applications than Client/Server. When I want to use my loving SEU PDM, I signon, and I have immediately a virtual computer on hands. I can open 5 sessions to have five virtual computers at the same time and switch from one computer to the other with one click. I can share programs and data with other users natively. We are natively multi-tenant. Yes definitively yes, SEU PDM is much more modern than RDP. Client/Server is now the past and Google our future. I am proud to use SEU PDM. I know that IBM doesn’t want to give us the web UI this fantastic platform deserves but this is not a reason to go to Client/Server which is now our past. With SEU PDM we are already AnyWhere AnyTime. With Client/Server we are NoWhere AllTheTime.
Jean

angustheitchapJuly 19th, 2012 at 10:59 am

Jean,

Your perspective seems skewed. RD Power is an IDE, not a text editor like SEU, and has all the capabilities you mentioned and more. It also includes the latest in RPG validation, such as OA syntax checking, etc. RD Power is a word processor compared to SEU as a text editor – there simply is no comparison.

And I don’t see how Client/Server works in this situation. RD Power is a development tool – you can build whatever you want. Nothing to do with Client/Server.

As for “IBM doesn’t want to give us the web UI this fantastic platform deserves”, what are you smoking? IBM has given us multiple web UIs that work native to this platform over the last couple of decades. And if you don’t like the IBM supplied native UIs, then you have literally dozens of choices to build a web UI for IBM i applications, dozens of choices to build web applications themselves for IBM i, and more tools and applications being built regularly. I think you must be living in a bubble somewhere..

Jean MikhaleffJuly 19th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Trevor,
Microsoft won’t rely on ISV to improve the life cycle of its native graphical interface. If you want to invest millions of $, you won’t take a platform with no native Web Interfaces, because 70% of new applications will be built in a browser. You don’t have to modernize Microsoft because Microsoft takes care of the life cycle of its OS, not IBM. If I need LookSoftware or Profound Logic web interfaces to be modern, that proves IBM i is not modern for investors. I don’t smoke, I drink wine and eat snails and frogs,
Jean

angustheitchapJuly 19th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Jean,

Microsoft DO rely on third parties to improve the GUI. They deliver Internet Explorer, and third parties build on that.

As for your continued claim of a “platform with no native Web Interfaces”, it seems ridiculous to then say “70% of new applications will be built in a browser”. IBM i can deliver NATIVE web applications without third party applications, but many companies will choose a third party application because it works for their modernization strategy.

And when you write “You don’t have to modernize Microsoft”, you are way off the mark. Every release of the OS requires you to modernize your MS applications. Even with that, there are tons of companies selling modernization solutions to the MS world. Modernizing is ~not~ just about a pretty face, but about ensuring your apps are built for modern technology, modern development methodologies, agility and security, to name a few reasons.

Maybe it is time to start smoking snails?

Aaron BartellJuly 19th, 2012 at 5:31 pm

I’m with Nathan – we need a “thin” editor on the server and SEU works best (better than EDTF). IBM should just include it at zero cost as they do with EDTF.

What’s interesting is many of the “modern” programmers out there (let’s pick on RubyOnRails developers) also like their “thin” editors for quick changes on the server (i.e. vim, pico, etc). They serve a very valid purpose.

I am still waiting for RDPi to be supported natively on Mac so I don’t have to boot up Parallels to use it :-|

Nathan AndelinJuly 19th, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Trevor,

I really didn’t interpret your “tough love” as “anger”. You indicated right in the beginning of the blog that your original “tweet” was I said with “tongue in cheek”. So it would only be fair of me to stir the pot, too. After all, more often than not “tough love” is rarely ever really “love”.

Whether it’s love or anger, the sentiment is misdirected. SEU is NOT the problem. Forcing people to use RDP would NOT make people modernize their applications. It wouldn’t even help, much. RDP is not designed to “create” modern applications. Like PDM & SEU, it leaves that up to the developer.

Notwithstanding all the differences between RDP and PDM/SEU, people use one or the other to accomplish the same things and the same types of things.

I think that what Jean was trying to say is that the world is moving away from HEAVY client interfaces, and I agree with him.

If IBM or anyone else were to make a good browser based alternative to PDM & SEU; something that would run on an iPad, then I would probably switch.

I’m Okay with IBM getting rid of the S/36 environment, though ;-)

-Nathan

John AndersenSeptember 20th, 2012 at 5:17 pm

A bit late to the party… I fail to see how taking away tools from a system has ever increased sales and market share. Do end users really care what language or editor a program is written with? Would they even know?

I blogged about this some time ago for Midrange IMHO… the best thing the IBM i entrepreneurial crowd can do is create programs that solve problems. And like you mentioned; with features such as PHP and Aaron’s open RPGUI, web apps that solve problems can be created to serve markets previously served only by systems using LAMP architecture.

-John Andersen

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