Mobilizing IBM i
When I last wrote, I was at the COMMON Annual Conference. I came away with a long list of topics to discuss so it’s about time I get started. Today’s theme: Mobilizing IBM i. No, not “partition mobility” – that was last time. This time, I’m talking about using mobile devices – such as smartphones and tablets – as the interface device into applications running on IBM i.
If you will pardon the pun, a common theme running through the conference was the use of such devices, and how to make good use of them with IBM i. You could walk around the exposition area and see many vendors showing their capabilities on iPhones, Androids and the like. Particularly exciting were those companies who were making a point of showing how to make RPG applications use such devices. In fact, companies that specialize in helping others improve software assets had great demos and material to show IBM i applications on mobile devices.
This has been a growing trend in the i community over the past couple of years. Most businesses are at least examining the use of mobile devices, and some are mandating that a connected workforce use them. In response, IT shops are figuring out how to use the function IBM i provides, plus additional capabilities of partners and the open-source community, to create interfaces their businesses can use. This is what I call “mobilizing” their applications. (My attempt to use “mobilize” as technical jargon may not catch on, but in my mind, this particular topic deserves its own word, because it is one of the biggest “modernization” trends.)
To drive the mobilizing trend home, consider the following: A fun new session was added to the conference that allowed people to stand up and tell a success story in 5-10 minutes. No prepared presentation was needed – just tell the story. Two of those stories were about adding mobile interfaces to existing RPG applications. In once case, it took a few weeks; in another, a few days. Yes, that’s all!
Using the capabilities of the operating system and the language – and in both instances, building with the Rational tool set – the mobilization took far less time than many people in the community would expect. Yes, the programmers had to learn a few new things, but this was not a multiyear project. To be sure, they did not mobilize every RPG application and interface they have, but they addressed the ones that mattered most to their businesses, and along the way they learned the techniques they can apply elsewhere as the business need arises.
There are some added benefits of this mobilization. First is the smile on IBM i users’ faces when they see their favorite system being used in such a useful, modern way. Another is the thrill IBM i developers get from learning something new that can be applied to make their work applicable, important and cool – all at the same time.
Some mobilizing techniques are only applicable to RPG – for example those that use Rational Open Access: RPG Edition. But others are not. There are often multiple ways to satisfy a requirement, and that’s certainly the case here. It’s one of the reasons people have taken to PHP on IBM i, for example. But since most of the software that has been written for this platform over the years has been written in RPG, it is an important demonstration of the capability and vitality of IBM i as an application platform.
Twitter: #ibmi, #commonug #IBMRational @Steve_Will_IBMi