iSeries/AS400/i5

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Looking for ten good reasons to do this? Check out this article from iSeries network on this very topic.

The Top 10 List

Number 10: Modernization
I'm sure you'll agree that our industry is becoming more Web-centric every day. Whether it's with Java, Domino, HTTP Web servers, Websphere, or any of a host of other emerging technologies, your applications will need to use RPG IV and ILE for peaceful coexistence. You may have the need for multinational applications; if so, RPG IV's Unicode support may be in your future. If your business plans include these more modern technologies, RPG IV and ILE will more readily enable your applications.

Number 9: Application control and independence
ILE provides for greater granularity with activation groups. You can now divide jobs into more discrete pieces. Activation groups give you new application isolation boundaries. Functions such as file opens and file overrides can be scoped to an activation group rather than to the entire job, giving the developer much tighter control of the application and providing a higher level of flexibility. The developer can insulate sections of code from each other by placing each section in its own activation group, protecting each section from the effects of others.

This level of application control and independence is increasingly important when application integration is a consideration. For instance, one group of developers may be working on an order-entry application and another group on an inventory application. These applications may share some common files and be tightly related. The granularity of activation groups lets each developer group assign its tasks to a unique activation group, ensuring that when the applications are integrated, neither group will affect the other.

Number 8: Enriched functionality
RPG IV sports many new features when compared to RPG III, and the list of enhancements grows with each new release. Features such as enhanced date support, new built-in functions, ILE APIs, new data type support, dynamic memory management, and procedures energize your applications. A notable feature of ILE is its error-handling capabilities, which are incredibly robust. You'll find that all these features make your applications more powerful than ever before.

Number 7: Modularity
Both RPG IV and ILE include features that let you design more modular applications. Your development will more closely resemble that of an object-oriented environment with tightly focused objects that perform one specific task. Don't underestimate the importance of modular design. It is perhaps one of the most important application considerations.

Number 6: Faster development and maintenance
With the new features of RPG IV and ILE, you can expect much faster development and maintenance cycles. Many of the enhancements to RPG IV let you perform in a single line of code what could take many perhaps hundreds of lines of code to accomplish in RPG III. With a good, functional decomposition and the encapsulation into small, reusable objects that modular design affords, your applications will take on a high degree of integrity. More solid code translates into less frequent maintenance. And in those cases where maintenance is required, you'll find the job considerably easier because the body of code will be smaller and more easily understood.

Number 5: Language flexibility
Several AS/400 high-level languages, including C and Cobol, are ILE participants. Each of these languages lets you create modules that can be bound with other modules to create programs. This support means you can now code functions into modules using the language best suited for the job and then bind the modules, perhaps of differing languages, into one program.

Number 4: Consistency
Because ILE is an environment, you can use many of its features across all ILE languages in a consistent manner. For example, ILE APIs are available to all the ILE languages and have a consistent interface across those languages. Perhaps one of the most important areas where consistency is a major factor is in error handling. Condition handlers and cancel handlers are excellent error- handling features, and with ILE, you can develop a single, standard error-handling model that you can use in all ILE languages. Gone are the days of wrangling with each language's methods and limitations.

Number 3: IBM enhancements
No matter how robust a language or an environment is, there's always room for improvement. New functions can be added, or the performance of existing functions can be enhanced. It's no surprise that IBM will focus its enhancements on the newer technologies rather than the older ones. For instance, there's little incentive for IBM to enhance RPG III when RPG IV exists. If you want your development environment to improve, you have to move with the improvements. Today, that means RPG IV and ILE.

Number 2: Staffing
I often hear about the shortage of AS/400 professionals. Businesses can't seem to find the RPG programming talent they need. I also hear of businesses whose management won't permit their shops to move to RPG IV and ILE for one reason or another. I simply urge management to remain cognizant of the fact that a shop that falls behind runs the risk of losing employees. As employees become bored, disgruntled, or concerned about their careers, they will begin to look for new opportunities.

Attracting new employees to a behind-the-times shop is even more difficult than retaining existing staff. Encourage your employees to make the move to RPG IV and ILE and nurture an environment in which they can learn and grow. It will make a difference.

Number 1: Your career
There's no reason more important for you to make the move to RPG IV and ILE than your own career. The farther behind you fall, the less marketable you become. It's easy to lull ourselves into a false sense of security in a position, but time often has a way of shocking us back into reality.

You never know when a change is in store for you. Any number of reasons might lead to the need for you to find a new position. Whether it be for more money, for health reasons, to follow a spouse whose change of job results in a move, or for your children's educational benefit, when it happens, you need to be prepared. Competition is stiff, and you must ensure your skills are up to the challenge.

Conclusion
You owe it to yourself and to your business to remain current in your skills and development style. RPG IV and ILE might seem confusing at first, but within a short time, you'll be quite comfortable with them.

Gary Guthrie, August 2, 2001