From Green to Dream

This is the first in a four-part series on iSeries application modernization. Read part two, part three and part four.

In addition to our on-site teaching and consulting work, we present sessions on a variety of application development topics at conferences around the world. At each conference that we attend, there's one question that we can guarantee will be asked: "What is the best approach to move our green-screen applications to GUI?" That question inspired this series of articles, which we hope will help you make your decision.

Before we begin, we should point out that if you're reading this expecting to find a "golden bullet," your time will be better spent mowing the lawn. In our experience, there's rarely one right answer, and the chances are pretty good that two or three combined approaches will provide your organization with the needed solution.

In this first article, we examine the different tool categories in the marketplace to try and pinpoint some of their capabilities and limitations. In addition, we try to give you an idea of the demands that different solutions place upon you. By demands, we mean the skills that you'll need in-house to maintain the applications and the resources you'll need before you can begin. For example, some tools require that your applications source code be available. If you run packaged software, this may not be the case.

Subsequent articles will focus on each tool category and take a more detailed look at the different options available. We also invited the vendors in each category to provide short technical write-ups of the principal features and benefits of their particular products.

One more point before we start examining the alternative approaches you can take. An important piece of the puzzle is design. Too often it's overlooked. We see far too many applications where the resulting GUI screens look and feel like multi-colored 5250s, which is more of a nightmare than a dream. To help you avoid these pitfalls, we suggest that you read the accompanying article, "Refacing Challenges." The author, Trevor Perry, has been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.

Decisions, Decisions

Before deciding on tools, you must consider your requirements and motivation. Sure, your users are pressing you for GUI, but are they really asking for GUIized 5250 applications or something else? In many cases, we find that a cry for GUI is often a cry for control. We'll walk you through a typical user 5250 application scenario to give you a hint of what we mean.

If your current applications are written in RPG, then a tool that allows you to use your RPG skills and business logic may be a better fit than one that requires you to learn a new language and redevelop business logic.

Jon Paris is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

Susan Gantner is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

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