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XML can Enable Modernization to Deliver IBM i Business Value

Businesses of all sizes have invested heavily over the years in developing RPG applications that run on IBM i, but changing market drivers require ongoing modernization of technology solutions.

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Believe it or not, IBM i celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. The first time I worked on this system was back in 1991, when the hardware was called AS/400—a classic tan-colored box with a reel-to-reel tape drive. I was immediately a fan.

Today, thousands of companies rely on IBM i to drive positive business outcomes across a range of industries from manufacturing to computer software. While IBM i on POWER* is most popular among midmarket companies, it’s used by organizations of all sizes because it provides a totally integrated and bulletproof system with unparalleled management tools. In addition, it represents a cost-effective and scalable solution that addresses enterprise-level application and data management needs.

Transform Your Business

Businesses of all sizes have invested heavily over the years in developing RPG applications that run on IBM i, but changing market drivers require ongoing modernization of technology solutions at every level. The exciting news is that today, companies can expand the power of their IBM i investment and breathe new life into RPG programs by exploiting XML along with API-based solutions, enabling their system to continue to deliver business value in 2019 and beyond.

In our always-on, 24-7, fast-paced global economic environment, developers must focus on creating solutions that drive the business model, enabling new capabilities like mobile commerce, robust web-accessible applications and delivering on critical B2B functionality. This is where XML and web services can be transformative.

What Is XML?

XML (eXtensible Markup Language) is poised to be the future of data interchange solutions because it provides a powerful way to describe and encode data that is system independent. Because it was developed to be a markup language for creating other markup languages, it’s becoming the standard data interchange language for B2B applications.

The original intent was to build a language that could address some of the limitations of HTML. XML was designed to carry data, not display data—that’s the purpose of HTML. One of the most important characteristics of XML is that it lets users create their own tags, which are descriptions of the data. This capability gives the developer tremendous flexibility to communicate with various systems and programs without having to create custom interfaces for every interaction.

Basically, XML represents both the content and the nature of the information, providing a consistent level of standardization around how information is represented. And this kind of standardization accelerates and simplifies information interchange.

By leveraging XML, IBM i users can create web services that extend their applications and allow machines to share and preserve business logic, data and processes through a programming interface across a network. In addition, this approach supports integration with third-party consumers and applications that can further extend the capabilities of IBM i.

For example, an XML/RPG/API solution could enable trading partners to place orders directly, check stock, monitor order status and much more.

Additionally, you can create mobile applications that need specific functionality to enable your field sales force. The ability to reuse these interfaces across multiple computing and user domains gives new flexibility and capability to your business.

Using XML also allows IBM i users to leverage today’s computing resources, newer languages and new coding engineers, ultimately improving integration with core business systems and resources. Numerous tools are available to help IBM i users exploit this capability.

Leveraging APIs for Mobile and Web Applications

XMLSERVICE, a library of open-source RPG code, enables XML scripting calls of IBM i resources using almost any language available on a company’s platform. The XMLSERVICE RPG server library doesn’t require other language products to run on IBM i, and language teams can leverage a wrapper client toolkit to greatly simplify XML calls to XMLSERVICE.

By leveraging XML, IBM i users can encapsulate workflows and data from any green-screen application, web service, SQL or other data source as APIs. Using these APIs, a company can then integrate the encapsulated data and features into new or existing web or mobile applications in a way that’s completely transparent to their users. Customers and employees get the data and functionality no matter where they are. At the same time, this avoids potentially massive costs and risks associated with rebuilding an enterprise application portfolio.

Success With XML

Numerous opportunities are available for using XML and web services to modernize trusted IBM i applications that have helped many companies be successful over the years. I’m excited to see the new ways in which XML will enable IBM i solutions to deliver even more business value over the next three decades and beyond.
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