As the number of active RPG programmers and administrators dwindles due to promotions, retirement and attrition, companies will struggle to retain sufficient development resources to maintain and develop their System i applications.
IT organizations will need to find a way to help new hires quickly and accurately grasp the complexities and subtleties of these oftentimes vast systems, while providing them with the confidence to make changes and extend these systems – even though they have no hands-on development experience with the language or the platform.
In this edition of IBM i Insights, we will expand on this growing challenge in some detail, and discuss technologies and concepts that are available to help IT organizations address the RPG brain drain challenge and support continued development on the IBM i platform.
A typical application on IBM i could be anything from a few thousand to many millions of lines of code, with all of the complexity, design inconsistencies, languages, syntaxes and semantics that go with years of ongoing development. Mission critical applications consist of a great many physical files or tables, and programs. The inter-dependencies of program-to-file and file-to-program alone can easily reach hundreds of thousands. These are not abstracted or esoteric individual pieces of technology, but entire business systems, supporting critical business functions.
As with any successful management system, information about the system is key. The level of detail and availability of this information is another critical factor, which has already been proven in business by the success of ERP and business systems in general. The requirement is not a new one but is becoming more universal as systems continue to grow and mature. A key issue is how to manage the cost and risk of maintaining and modernizing these systems, and continually evolve to align with the needs of the business.
Application mapping – extracting and analyzing a comprehensive database of information about your business application system – is a core solution to the problem.
By mapping an entire application, a fundamental base line of information is made available for all sorts of metrics and analysis. Counting objects and source lines is generally the most common practice used for obtaining system-wide metrics. Many companies carry out software project estimations and budgeting using only this type of information. The level of experience and technical knowledge of a manager and his staff might help these numbers to some degree, but more often than not, it’s mostly guesswork.
A slightly more advanced approach used with RPG, COBOL or Synon applications is to dig deeper into the application and count design elements in the programs.
These elements include:
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