New Talent Brings Innovation to IBM i
Profiles of the latest IBM i Fresh Faces
By Brett Martin06/03/2019
David Cary // Programmer
Consultech Services Inc.
As a programmer, I work primarily with IBM i. I’ve been using it for almost two years, and I help promote it by being part of SEMIUG, a local user group. I’ve been able to use IBM i to help solve customer support problems. I have several examples of offering support to our clients who use IBM i, like helping a client perform an upgrade where we moved all of the data from an older system that would only go up to 7.1 to a new system that supports 7.3.
Using a modern platform helps me be more successful in my job. I’m relatively new to the industry, so modern platforms are advantageous because they’re user friendly and the interfaces look less intimidating. This is important for someone like me who is still learning. I would find it discouraging to work and practice on a system, right after college graduation, that would create a feeling that I’m working with technology that seems outdated, even though it really isn’t.
Some companies aren’t modernizing their environments with open source or artificial intelligence (AI) because those technologies might seem a little scary to people. Open-source and AI projects can seem overwhelming to take on, not to mention the resources needed to train people in something new. Resource allocation is what may be holding them back.
I also think more people aren’t using IBM i because of the “look.” This can be solved by taking IBM i to web-based applications, which is a good way to go because the interface looks more inline with other technologies.
Sean Corpuz // Programmer analyst
CELS Enterprises Inc.
I’ve worked with IBM i for more than three years. I help promote it by contributing to the OCEAN user group of southern California. It’s an education and networking association for IT professionals, including many who work with the IBM Power Systems* platform and IBM i. We collaborate with different speakers, but most important of all, with each other. As the programs director, I contact eminent speakers who can provide ideas to our local community. I also contribute by speaking on Db2* SQL with Google APIs.
At CELS Enterprises, my team is modernizing our 5250 applications over to web browsers; our focus being full-stack development. We use ExtJS from Sencha and solutions provided by IBM to present data in an exciting format for users. We’re venturing forward with plans for mobile applications. No detail is overlooked as the stack is concerned, from the RPGLE source code used in the back end to our SQL queries using the latest and greatest IBM i technology refreshes and releases that result in performant code. We strive to achieve aesthetics and performance, which are imperatives in our development.
I recently used IBM i to help solve a customer support problem in our Dropship department where an application was required to provide the status of Dropship orders that are processed daily. The program reports which orders are open, which still require scanning and which aren’t yet invoiced. A Daily Flash is also provided, giving all of the totals for a Dropship customer based on the current date. This is important because Dropship requires a shipping success rate of over 98%. This is achieved using ExtJS and is testimony to the power and flexibility of IBM i.
Having access to IBM i has been a fruitful experience filled with learning and challenges. Whether working with new development, maintenance, or administration, I’m constantly considering the best options for the problem at hand with a plethora of tools available. IBM i is an agent of change. I’ve grown not to think outside the box—but to make my box bigger. I’ve heard people say a lack of educational resources is one reason people haven’t modernized with IBM i. I encourage learning to occur on your own time because many sources of free information, even from IBM and the open-source community, are available.
Mohit Gangani // IBM i and Java developer
I have been working on IBM i since 2017. Programmers.io, my first company, trained me in IBM i and Java*. We are helping customers maintain their applications. We are providing our services to keep their system up and running along with the integration of modern technologies. This helps them retain their IBM i system instead of migrating from it. Our company also participates in trade shows to offer support and promote IBM i.
At Programmers.io, we work to move beyond the traditional practices in IBM i. We use free-format RPGLE or SQLRPGLE applications instead of traditional fixed-format RPG and also use advanced features like JSON and API calls to connect IBM i to the cloud. We're using Java technology to provide our clients with a web interface. We provide applications to our clients through which they can upload a spreadsheet file to update the Db2 files and provide cloud integration with IBM i using Java, as well as API calls from RPGLE. We also work on modernizing green-screen applications. Currently, we’re working on implementing microservices using IBM i.
One client needed files from cloud storage to IBM i. We implemented a Java application in IBM i, which pulls the files from the cloud and puts it in IFS. Nowadays, many clients need to integrate other technologies to IBM i like cloud, web, etc. which can be easily accomplished.
Mainly, we see many clients struggling to maintain their current applications due to a shortage of staff so they cannot even think of modernizing. Many clients are unaware of the different modernization techniques that can be used with IBM i.
April Medinger // UX designer/UI developer/web applications developer
When I joined HarrisData in July 2014, I primarily worked on the LAMP and MAMP stacks. Since HarrisData runs on the IBM i cloud, it was new territory for me. This is when my eyes were opened. Watching my co-worker navigate the green-screen menus and run database commands, I knew I was in uncharted territory. I was intrigued and asked a lot of questions, like: “Why don’t you have to do such and such on IBM i?” And she would respond: “Because it does it for you!” Reminds me of a scene from “Hidden Figures” where Octavia Spencer’s character Dorothy Vaughan is looking at the manual for the IBM Data Processor and she says “Oh, you have a brain. I can work with that.” That’s what comes to mind when I think about IBM i. It has a brain.
By now I’ve met more of our clients, some of whom have been with HarrisData for more than 20 years. Most of these clients are running HarrisData’s HD 4.3 and HD 5.0 products on premises with IBM i in their shops. Because I primarily work on the newest HarrisData product, I had limited knowledge of their struggles with modernization, so I was curious and asked questions. What I eventually discovered was a turning point for me.
Coming from a web and open-source background, I was floored that companies were running the same software, sometimes the same compiled code for the past 20 years. Here I am as a web developer having to manage numerous open-source libraries’ LTS on a project less than three years old.
I’m thinking: “What is my job going to look like in the next five or 10 years?” This is where I am now. I decided to dive into IBM i by taking an introduction to IBM concepts and RPG course from imPower Technologies, led by IBM Champion for Power Systems Jim Buck.
My goal is to bring my open-source knowledge to IBM i to help support clients’ modernization. From an outside perspective, cost is one reason more clients don’t use IBM i. The limited number of developers also plays a role. With open-source leading the marketplace, it’s difficult to find developers to manage legacy software on IBM i.
Anurag Kalya // IBM i developer
I've been working on IBM i since 2016. I was always interested in Java and I couldn’t help but notice the pool of opportunities that come with the combination of the two.
We are helping our clients maintain their current applications and offer them the opportunities that come with adopting the modern technologies in IBM i. This helps them catch up with the growing competition, while utilizing the existing resources at their disposal to the fullest.
At Programmers.io, I am responsible for the modernization of our legacy applications. I worked on the development of free-format RPGLE programs, which use web services and client applications based on Java. I have worked on the development of Java applications that use Db2 database to perform PCML calls to IBM i. These applications were deployed on WebSphere* Commerce server. Currently, I am working on implementing single sign-on and OAuth authentication on client applications.
We have developed a pickup application that enables end customers to schedule the pickup for an order and the request goes to the warehouse for processing. This was implemented using Java and IBM i, and was deployed on WebSphere Application Server. Web services help us in developing user-friendly and reusable applications for our clients. We show our clients the various ways in which their current IBM i systems can be modernized and to bring them on par with their rapidly increasing competition.
Many clients struggle to maintain their current applications because of staffing shortages. Many are also unaware of the modernization that can be accomplished with IBM i.
Marina Schwenk // Software developer/junior IBM i administrator
I'm involved in the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association (WMCPA) Women in Information Technology (WIT) committee. The committee focuses on mentoring and inspiring young women to promote IBM i. WIT also supports the importance of understanding business vocabulary and processes. I also took the lead role in developing and hosting the first WMCPA RPG student competition. We wanted to give students a chance to solve a real-world problem and get exposure to applications they may run into post-graduation.
I am the co-author of two open-source projects built in native RPGLE running on IBM i. The first is a logging service program that you can invoke from control language and/or RPG to log situations at four different levels: debug, informational, warning and error. The logging severities are controlled by a runtime configuration that allows you to turn on or turn off logging during runtime. The logged information is saved to a table for easy access.
The second is an RPG unit testing framework iUnit, which allows you to unit test your RPG programs and service programs from native RPG. The framework is modeled after xUnit and Junit unit-testing frameworks.
I use IBM i in my daily work, whether that’s modifying Java code running our customer websites or Java/RPG code running our internal applications. Because it’s the platform that runs most of our applications, all of our customer support problems are solved using languages that run on IBM i and its integrated database. One of the things I love about IBM i is the integrated Db2 database, which provides flexibility and power as well as easy access from all of our applications.
The most popular response I have heard why people aren’t modernizing with open source is that they either lack the skillset or manpower to implement the new open-source languages. I believe that the biggest hurdle to why no one uses IBM i is that they don’t know about it. When I was earning my bachelor’s degree with Bellevue University, it was completely unheard of in every discussion I had with my classmates. I would bring it up and the response always was: “What is IBM i?”
Matt Seeberger // Power i engineer
CMA Technology Solutions
I’ve been working with IBM i for more than 10 years. As an active proponent of IBM i on social media, I post articles, comments and relevant information about the system. In 2019, I started a Slack community (ibmi community.slack.com) dedicated specifically to the platform, and we had about 80 members join in just a few weeks. I also support and promote Domino* on IBM i. I attended IBM Think 2019, where I spoke at an opening session and presented a session about Domino and IBM i.
My company is innovative. We host more than 30 customers on several IBM i systems. I’m working to connect seasoned IBM i developers, administrators, trainers and IBMers with people who are new to the platform. I encourage everyone to join us on Slack.
Because Db2 and the platform are so flexible, we can create many custom applications to give users insights into data and key performance indicators. This allows customers to make intelligent business decisions and solve problems.
As a modern platform, IBM i has many features baked into the system. The “i” stands for integration—security, database, web server, open-source packages, networking and storage. This is what makes it convenient to create a web service, customer portal, custom applications and other requirements. The platform can run more modern languages and open-source packages than people realize—with modern front ends. I’m committed to seeing the platform grow and expand, which is why I share information about what it’s capable of doing in order to reach the masses.
Michael C. Szczepanik // Application developer
GEMKO Information Group
I’ve been working on the platform for about 10 years. I enjoy showing clients who have an outdated opinion of Power Systems what IBM i can accomplish. I demonstrate its capabilities beyond the green screen, such as using it as web server, running open-source software or utilizing the built-in powers of SQL and the Db2 database engine.
I’ve been involved in projects that push borders, especially in client perceptions, of the platform. One project integrated an iPad application using web services with both modern and legacy IBM i applications, utilizing the Power Systems server as a web server. This also integrated with Google Maps Location services to help sales teams plan travel routes to find the closest customers.
I’ve used IBM i to solve client problems. For example, one client had trouble getting isolated systems to communicate with each other. ERP software was housed on the IBM i web server on a Linux machine, the file server was hosted on Windows*, and several small, one-off pieces of hardware served singular purposes. Rather than fighting to make all of these individual systems shake hands, I suggested taking advantage of the underutilized Power Systems server hosting the ERP system. We brought the pieces together on the server. This removed communication issues. We also saved the client money by harvesting power it was already paying for in the server and by decommissioning several now unneeded pieces of hardware.
With current business demands, having access to many different tools is extremely important. A modern platform that provides tools including Perl, PHP, Java, XML, Apache and more allows a dev eloper to take the “right” approach and not just “the one that works.” One of the most surprising reasons I’ve encountered for clients not modernizing their environment with IBM i is because “no one is really using that.” This is unfortunate because there’s a huge benefit to taking advantage of the open-source community and tools that AI, especially IBM Watson*, can bring to a business.
Become a Fresh Face
Are you interested in becoming a Fresh Face or know someone who would be a great candidate?
Reach out to Brandon Pederson for more information.
Brett Martin is a freelance writer based in Shakopee, Minnesota. He’s been writing about business and technology for more than a decade. More →