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Green screens taken over by .NET

iSeries software vendor ASNA recently updated its Monarch software, which migrates green-screen applications onto Microsoft .NET.

Seeking to speed up the demise of the iSeries green screen, San Antonio-based Amalgamated Software of North America (ASNA), recently unveiled Monarch 2.0. This updated version of ASNA's software suite enables users to migrate RPG-coded "green-screen" applications onto Microsoft .NET for integration into service-oriented architectures (SOA) and Web services.

Monarch software translates RPG, as well as display files, into freestanding .NET applications that perform the same functions as the green-screen predecessors, while allowing those applications to talk to iSeries and SQL Server databases.

Aimee Farabaugh, director of software development at Ebensburg, Penn.-based Infocon Corp., needed to get rid of those green screens. Her customers -- mainly local government organizations and small businesses with iSeries boxes -- were demanding modernized applications.

"People wanted .NET, not IBM green screens," Farabaugh said. "So we tried to go with WebSphere and tried Java, but it was too time-consuming and often didn't work."

And while Farabaugh couldn't stay "true blue" with software, she'd like to at least keep most of her company's and her customers' programs on the iSeries.

"We're hoping to keep all of the data on the iSeries. We prefer to stay with it. It's a reliable box and we're comfortable with it. Unfortunately, the perception is different. But this certainly allows us to extend the use of it. We'll keep it on the box until customers demand SQL Server," Farabaugh said. "It's part of the college movement; kids have no idea what an iSeries is. They know Microsoft."

Once the data is ported to .NET, it's that much easier to leave the iSeries behind. But ASNA president Anne Ferguson said that it doesn't support customers going one way or another -- that it's about choice.

"There are people who have made the choice to get off the iSeries and others, such as Infocon, have stayed with it," Ferguson said. "It doesn't force people one way or the other. The ability to leverage current hardware is becoming very attractive to the iSeries community."

According to Ferguson, most ASNA customers come to them with a strong iSeries background, and ASNA trains them on .NET.

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"There's some training in Visual Studio [.NET development tool] in .NET. It's a two-week process and not very difficult," Ferguson said. "It's a very rapid development environment. Once you get on the platform, it's very easy to use all of the modern development tools."

Farabaugh agreed, calling the migration "surprisingly painless."

"To ASNA's credit, the support and training were unbelievable," Farabaugh said. "Also, with Visual Studio, there is no comparison. The debugging capabilities are great."

Monarch 2.0 comes on the heels of last fall's initial Monarch release, and includes new application segmentation capabilities, higher levels of printing support, object grouping, an expanded framework that supports third-party controls, and new command and display file keyword support.

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