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Jarman: Regardless of Language, IBM Wants Clients to Have AD Choices

December 4, 2008

A few weeks ago, I used this space to solicit questions readers would like posed to Ross Mauri, Power Systems GM. I got a few questions that I then asked Ross. But he was unable to answer the question I got from Aaron Bartel. So Ross referred me to Ian Jarman, Power Systems Software Manager.

I caught up with Ian recently to pose Aaron’s question (the first one below) and a few other application-development related questions. The net of his responses is that IBM isn’t trying to move clients in one direction or the other. Rather the company’s goal is to provide application-development options. What follows is a Q and A with Ian.

Q: Given that an operating system and platform are no good without applications to run on them, why is it that IBM isn't furthering the native application stack (i.e., RPG and related technologies) at a fast pace and instead trying to boil the ocean by introducing platform-generic technologies like Enterprise Generation Language (EGL) that make much less use of native functionality and require RPG developers to do more re-tooling than necessary?

A: First of all, IBM is enhancing the native application stack including not only RPG but also the Java environment. For example, we included further Web services capability in the latest release as well as enhanced the Java environment with the new 64-bit JVM. Also, in conjunction with Rational, IBM released Rational Developer for i, RDI. RDI is a tool designed specifically for RPG and COBOL developers. It’s a great new graphical tool. In addition to that IBM recognized that some customers want to deploy mixed workloads across multiple environments. And Enterprise Generation Language gives them the opportunity to simply develop new applications, have the applications generated in Java or COBOL and to deploy those applications on a number of environments including AIX, i, Linux and Windows.

So really it depends on what customers are trying to achieve, which tools they should be using. But in conjunction with Rational, IBM continues to offer a broad set of choices regardless of whether the customer wants to use RPG or Java or whether they want to use the high-level generation language. You’ll also note, by the way, that IBM also just introduced Rational Team Concert, which is a new tool to improve productivity and interaction between developers. It’s another example of how IBM is extending the tools that we traditionally have had on the platform in conjunction with Rational software.

Q: Does use of RPG versus EGL vary by company size or is it more a matter of the type of skills an organization has?

A: I think it’s very difficult to generalize about which companies are using which products. Many of our clients have RPG applications developed over many years. And they continue to enhance those applications and develop new applications because of the efficiency, particularly in transaction processing, with RPG. I meet customers all the time that are continuing to enhance applications in the RPG portfolio. People who are doing so want to make the code more modular. They want to extend it with Web-based interfaces and integrate Web-services function. So it’s not just the traditional transaction processing of the past, but extending those to new Web-based applications.

On the EGL side where I’m hearing a lot of interest is in the ISV community as well as larger customers who have opportunities to deploy applications across multiple environments. And you can see from an ISV’s point of view, for example, the productivity benefits of using EGL, plus the opportunity to market a product that can be deployed in multiple environments depending on the customer’s choice. So EGL offers ISVs a very flexible development and deployment platform.

Q: So it’s really about giving customers choices and options?

A: I think with so many customers with so many different skill sets, what IBM has learned over the past 10 years is we need to make sure we provide choices. You can’t tell such a diverse group of customers to adopt just one technology or another, there are many more different requirements. It makes sense to have a variety of choices, but also to make those choices clear. One of the most clear priorities today is that to help improve development productivity. Customers should be looking at the Rational tool set, which provides strong productivity benefits over and above the traditional, green-screen tools like SEU and PDM. Regardless of what language they’re using it makes sense to move up to the Rational tools because they are the most productive base for creating applications across a range of environments.

Posted December 4, 2008| Permalink

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