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The Year Ahead

February 02, 2017

In our previous blog, we talked about the things that we regarded as the highlights of 2016. As you might expect, since Application Development (AD) is our primary focus, the majority of things on our prediction/wish list for 2017 are also firmly rooted in that area.

Open Source (OS)
The majority of the tools that people have been requesting (Python, node.js, git, PHP etc.) are now in place. What we'd like to see happen next is for IBM to start looking at providing executable versions of (or at least instructions on how to build) those packages required to make many of the common OS applications work. The IBM i OS forums and mailing lists bear witness to the number of these "missing pieces" that are frustrating those who are attempting to exploit these new tools.

We've already mentioned in another post that we also think that there is a real need for instructions in plain English. These need to be understandable to long-time IBM i users to help them to begin to utilize some of these tools, and convey why users should care about them. This is an area in which, in our opinion, IBM has missed the mark. They did a great job, in conjunction with Zend, when PHP was introduced - but this just hasn't happened with Python and the other OS tools. Luckily there are others among the IBM i OS community who agree with us and are working towards filling this gap. Watch this space as we intend to participate in those efforts.

There are many requests for RPG features that we hope to see become available in 2017,most of which we have discussed at different times before. They include things like procedure overloading and/or typeless parameters. But these are big-ticket items and we have managed to live without them so far, so we won't cry too much if they fail to appear. However, there are some that may be far easier to implement that we hope to see. For example, V7.3 significantly improved the language's ability to support null capable fields. What we need now is for the compiler to take the next step and to automatically clear the null indicator associated with a field whenever a value is assigned to that field. Come to think of it, we haven't seen an RFE for that one yet.

Speaking of RFEs, one of our hopes for 2017 is that those in the IBM i community (that would be you, our readers!) would take the initiative to vote on the RFEs (Requests for Enhancements) that they feel are critical. IBM has now opened up RFEs not only for RDi but also for most aspects of our platform, such as database, RPG, etc. There are some great RFEs submitted by the community but there are a pathetically small number of votes for even the most popular of those. We've written before about how to view existing RFEs and cast votes for your favorites. You can also submit your own great ideas, but you may want to start out by voting. Here's a good starting point: Jon is really hoping to see his RFE for nested data structures get implemented. It really would make defining them so much simpler and cleaner - check it out and add your vote here.

Data Studio
It would be nice to see the IBM i folks put a bit of effort into making Data Studio "IBM i friendly." The tool has some terrific features as we have noted in a previous article.  Particularly the SQL statement wizard is an absolute godsend for those who are relatively new to SQL as it can make even quite complex joins both more obvious in what they are doing and far simpler and safer to change. It is all great seeing some of the old Navigator favourites get added to ACS - but that is just putting a new face on old capabilities. Data Studio has some really useful new features that could easily be made more accessible to IBM i users.

Not really our game, but one prediction that almost writes itself is that there will be further vendor consolidation in the next year. The question is not "If" it will happen but rather "who" it will involve. We have our own ideas on who the next big acquisition/merger might involve, but we'll keep them to ourselves for now.

One side-effect of past mergers and acquisitions has been that the North American market has become more open to smaller, dare we say "nimbler", vendors from Europe and elsewhere. Hopefully that trend will continue as there are many excellent offerings in the European and Australasian markets that have to-date made little impression this side of the pond. Time will tell.

Do you have any predictions or hopes for the upcoming year? If so, please let us know via the comments. But, please, don't bother with Eeyore-like "The platform is doomed ... the sky is falling" messages. There's enough negativity in this world already.

Posted February 02, 2017 | Permalink

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