One IBM executive's retirement has indirectly led to an uproar among the iSeries user base -- specifically those using CGIDEV2 code.
iSeries guru Giovanni B. Perotti, who is planning to retire after 39 years with Big Blue, runs an AS/400 Web site called easy.400.net that offers CGIDEV2, an iSeries Web development software suite, along with demonstrations, tutorials and examples to support it. CGIDEV2 is a valuable tool for 400 users because it permits programmers to write code for the Internet using COBOL or RPG as CGI language, giving new life to legacy programs.
Despite plans to ride off into the sunset, Perotti was prepared to offer the code on his site for no charge. There's just one problem. According to a memo from Perotti, IBM is no longer going give away its code, even when the company no longer plans to support it.
The news was taken hard by those in the iSeries community that deploy CGIDEV2 for many of their essential applications. They feel that Big Blue is trying to push them toward WebSphere.
Marty Cytrynbaum, an analyst/programmer for Montreal-based Liberty & Associates Ltd., said he believes IBM sees the growth of CGIDEV2 as a potential threat to the WebSphere road map.
It's a position that doesn't sit well with Cytrynbaum and many of the estimated 2,000 developers working with the code. Cytrynbaum said he recently produced about five months' worth of projects using CGIDEV2, only to see those projects' future growth stunted by Big Blue's decision. For him and many other so-called "mom-and-pop shops," moving to WebSphere is an expensive and frustrating proposition.
"They're in their ivory tower responding well to their largest customers who have big needs. The rest of us who have small IT budgets can't afford to spend six months training people on WebSphere," Cytrynbaum said. "They're not being responsive to us."
One of the developers affected by IBM's decision is Jeff Stojevich, a senior programmer/analyst for the Minnesota Counties Information Systems group. Stojevich and his staff use the code for the group's payroll database, and said CGIDEV2 is instrumental in alleviating end users' many problems, taking pressure off the IT staff in the process. Big Blue's move could force his organization to move toward WebSphere, which according to Stojevich, is an expensive proposition for a public sector shop that is constantly struggling with its budget.
Stojevich, who is part of a small iSeries shop, said WebSphere isn't necessarily a great fit for data centers of his size. However, he thinks Big Blue is trying to get everyone on it, for better or worse.
"It doesn't seem like the smaller shops are using it, but IBM keeps pushing WebSphere," Stojevich said. "It would be a big blow to us … counties are strapped for budgets, and we'd have to pay extra for WebSphere."
Like Stojevich, Jim Caldwell, a senior programmer/analyst with the Pasco, Fla., sheriff's office, is a public sector employee who is not too thrilled that Big Blue plans to stop users from deploying CGIDEV2 on an open source level. Caldwell's staff uses CGIDEV2 for an intranet database that helps track sexual predators, allowing end users to easily update the database.
Caldwell said moving to WebSphere, which he already uses in a limited capacity, will cause headaches for his staff because there's a steep learning curve involved. To make matters worse, the CGIDEV2 code he and his staff find easy to use and reliable will soon become obsolete.
According to Caldwell, the move makes no sense whatsoever.
"We've been using it, and it works. Suddenly it's being yanked out from under us," Caldwell said. "I don't see how IBM is going to win from this … it's very disappointing."
CGIDEV was developed by Mel Rothman at the IBM Custom Technology Center in Rochester, Minn., and was updated as CGIDEV2 in 1999.
IBM was unavailable for comment, following repeated requests.
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer