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iSeries developer road map under construction

Anxious about making a wrong turn, iSeries users are paying close attention to IBM's developer road map.

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- Six months after iSeries general manager Al Zollar introduced the iSeries developer's road...

map, IBM is about to deliver on version 2.

The new version, available on IBM's Web site mid-April, will provide for a wider spectrum of users and include things that should have been part of the first road map, said Alison Butterill, Big Blue's technical advocate for application development.

We didn't want to throw you off the diving board into the deep end.
Alison Butterill, Big Blue's technical advocate for application development
technical advocate for application developmentIBM

Butterill, who spoke Wednesday at the annual Northeast iSeries AS/400 User Group Conference, said that, after the first version was announced, it became apparent what was missing.

"Everyone was quick to tell us what they thought," she said, "especially COBOL users."

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Consideration for COBOL, which was excluded from the first road map, will be a major part of the new version. The new version will also include more details about DB2, Structured Query Language (SQL), portlet support and tools from other vendors.

"The road map is about phasing in e-business integration," she said. "Over time, you'll see additional integration because technology doesn't stand still."

Butterill added that one of the most important facets to this road map and what many of the additions are about, is making sure there are multiple entry points and exit points -- so users can jump in and jump out whenever and wherever it suits their needs.

"We didn't want to throw you off the diving board into the deep end," she said.

Through a combination of educational tools, specific product offerings and learning guides, the road map take developers, at their own pace and terms, on itty-bitty steps from RPG development to a more modern Web user interface.

The road map hand-holds programmers through technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and tools like the IBM WebFacing Tool, IBM WebSphere Host Access Transformation Server (HATS) and Remote Systems Explorer (RSE). RSE provides iSeries server access from Eclipse IDE and is included as part of WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries. It moves on to Java 2 Standard Edition with Java, servlets and JavaServer Pages; to integration technologies like XML and Web Services; to full Java 2 Enterprise Edition with Enterprise JavaBeans; and through WebSphere Development Studio Client Advanced Edition for iSeries.

Though the idea of moving to an e-business infrastructure has been slow to take off, iSeries users are warming to the thought. To many iSeries programmers, it's a sign that IBM recognizes that programming languages such as RPG and COBOL are slowly fading into oblivion, and they're not about to miss the boat.

Glen Taylor, a programmer analyst for Commerce Insurance, Webster, Mass., said he's interested in using the road map as a guide to figure out where IBM is headed in terms of technology. According to Taylor, information about future product offerings doesn't often trickle down to the programmer level, and salespeople are usually more interested in selling applications than telling you about future hardware.

"By following this road map, I can pretty much figure out where IBM is headed and what tools or technologies I need to be looking at," he said.

Commerce Insurance, one of the largest insurance companies in the Northeast, runs primarily on iSeries 890s, rare for a company its size. Still, the company is rolling out two e-business initiatives and expects to be fully engaged soon.

Taylor said that, when you're moving into new territory, it's not such a bad thing to follow IBM's lead -- hence, interest in the road map.

"It's hard when there are so many tools available -- not just from IBM," he said. "If you're an IBM shop, you want to follow along with the program."

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Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, senior news editor.

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