Baker College, Mobile, RPG and IBM i – Modernization Part 3
Last week, I continued my blog series on modernization with the Kawasaki story, and this week’s story has a some of similarities with that one. This week, we’re going to talk about Baker College, and its move to mobile device support using RPG Open Access.
In all the examples I’ve written about so far, the key business software, which contained years and years of knowledge about business processes, needed to be augmented with something new. As in last week’s example, Baker College wanted to enable mobile devices.
Baker College, for those not familiar with it, is the largest independent college in the state of Michigan. Baker had a long history of using IBM i, and had written a user portal that had more than 2,000 interactive programs with data to support the college’s administrative faculty. Prior to the project, the portal could only be accessed via a 5250 green screen interface. The college’s development team decided to create a new, Web-based solution and chose to use using Profound UI – the development and modernization suite by Profound Logic Software. Profound UI goes beyond ‘screen scraping’ and is built on IBM’s RPG Open Access. It uses the processes familiar to RPG developers, which gives them the capability to develop Web and mobile applications without the need to learn new programming languages or become Web development experts.
Others have written extensively about RPG OA (here is an article Jon & Susan wrote, for example) so I will simply summarize the key feature of RPG OA:
RPG Open Access allows RPG programs to use something other than the 5250 data stream as output. To accomplish this, the program passes information to a “handler” rather than to the IBM i operating system.
The results were impressive and the project was submitted as an excellent example to the COMMON Innovation Awards. I exchanged e-mail with Pat Ritter, the current leader of the team, and it’s clear she and her team are very proud of the work they’ve done, and the capabilities they have provided their customers. If you would like, you can read the case study they did for Profound.
Modernization has many, many flavors. In these three posts, I have concentrated on modernization of user interfaces in RPG programs, because that tends to be the first thing people think about when it comes to bringing a fresh set of technology to an existing application. And, to be honest, it’s the kind of modernization that seems most in mind when a customer complains that their software is “old.” It’s not the only kind of modernization, though.
This summer, in fact, right now as I am writing this, we have a group of people – partners, customers and IBMers – who have started creating an innovative new Redbooks publication on modernizing IBM i applications. They will describe how to apply new technology such as RPG OA or PHP to user interfaces, but they will also describe applying database technology and other methods to bring even more value to the applications you depend on in your IBM i shop. When the Redbooks information gets published, I’ll be sure to let you know.
I am about to start a long, wonderful journey to present at conferences is Auckland, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia. For that reason, I am not sure when my next blog will get written. Stay tuned here, or if you would prefer, follow me on Twitter – I am @Steve_Will_IBMi. I will likely be tweeting from “Down Under” and I will certainly tweet again when I have a new blog for you to read.