The IBM Power System running IBM i (and its predecessors) has been a workhorse in the commercial computing environment for decades. Its reliability, security and performance are unmatched in the marketplace. That’s the attitude of our clients. To say there’s an affinity for the platform by those that rely on it is an understatement. Also on our client’s minds is how to modernize their business applications while retaining all of the great features of the Power System. Because this platform and its predecessors have been so reliable for many years, there’s a large reliance on legacy applications. The challenge many of our customers face is modernizing those applications while retaining the investment and knowledge imbedded in the code.
A go-to option – PHP on IBM i. PHP on the IBM i has been around for over 10 years now. The answer to our clients that are seeing RPG and Cobol as a hindrance to their long-term goals is PHP. As a server side scripting language or a developmental platform for mobile applications, PHP is typically the choice to replace those RPG applications. Businesses are demanding mobile access to the growing volume of valuable data stored in their enterprise servers. Mobile PHP applications are one answer. PHP is a server centric web scripting language that handles the web front end while also allowing calls to legacy RPG and Cobol programs. This enables the organization to retain the investment in their application base as well as the business rules that are encoded in their code.
PHP has 3 flavors; procedural, framework based and full object oriented (OOP). Our typical client, with a team of experienced RPG developers, is usually most comfortable replacing their procedural based RPG applications with the procedural model of PHP. The procedural model includes subprocedures and subroutines, allowing the typical RPG and Cobol programmers a certain comfort level. Our experience shows that an experienced programmer can become productive using PHP in a very short period of time.
As the experience builds, PHP framework applications can be developed, adding mobile capabilities to their applications. Finally, with a strong basis of PHP understanding, those same procedural based application developers will be moving to create object-oriented application, taking advantage of OOPs features of reusability and extensibility (creating applications with future growth and portability in mind).
One of the biggest questions our clients face as they start down this modernization path is how to integrate the development platform into their shop. The answer is usually by starting with one project and one developer. Start with an idea and some initial education and grow it from there. An experienced developer that has been creating applications with a procedural language like RPG or Cobol will quickly grasp the procedural flavor of PHP. With the appropriate experience and basic grasp of PHP they will be able to apply the concepts of the framework-based development environment. At that point they have a developer with the ability to create mobile applications, integrating them with the existing legacy code base as well as API oriented applications that can bring new capabilities to the organization.
The goal here is to take advantage of the strengths that are offered by the Power System platform, leverage the talent base and stored knowledge of the existing application development team, and use that to modernize the business application set. This way an organization can take advantage of all these strengths while providing increased value and functionality to the enterprise.
For help in getting started I would recommend that you access the IBM Redbook Modernizing IBM i Applications from the Database up to the User Interface and Everything in Between.
At Arbor Solutions we have been down this path. We’ve also walked this path with our customers. If you would like to discuss how we could help you make that happen, give me a call.
President, Arbor Solutions, Inc.