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RPG and DB2 Technology Continue to Evolve With New Functions

RPG and DB2 technology

The workhorses behind the majority of applications in IBM i shops remain RPG and DB2* database software. That’s not to say, though, that these are your father’s tools.

Today’s RPG IV, for example, is barely recognizable as the same language as the original column-oriented, indicator-laden version that launched over 20 years ago. The power, flexibility and simplicity of today’s free-format RPG IV are often under-valued. In its latest incarnation it is a powerful, business-oriented language readily embraced by today’s programmers, whether their background be Java*, PHP, C# or any of the myriad other languages vying for attention.

RPGers who don’t feel they need to understand or deal with CCSIDs today will almost certainly need to in the future.

RPG is not alone. Major updates have greatly extended the scope and usability of DB2 for i. These include some surprising recent enhancements that surface system information previously only obtainable through APIs and outfiles.

Other areas of the system have also grown radically. The original AS/400 supported RPG, COBOL, PL/I, Basic and Fortran. Today’s IBM i has added Java and PHP to that list, and more recently, Node.js and Python. And it doesn’t stop there. Along with PHP, ZendDb (Zend’s implementation of MySQL for IBM i) opened the door to high-quality open-source software such as Drupal, WordPress and SugarCRM.

The latest addition arrived late last year when IBM announced the availability of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) on IBM i. Why is this important? Because nearly all open-source language implementations were written with these compilers in mind. Similarly, many open-source packages rely on GCC tooling, all of which can now be readily ported to the system.

The downside is that developers can no longer hope to keep current with everything happening on the platform. As a result, we have been forced to narrow our focus and concentrate primarily on application development in RPG, PHP and DB2 SQL. Of course, we also make extensive use of the Rational* Developer for IBM i (RDi) tool set. Even so, it’s hard to keep up with everything happening in this restricted sphere. Just in case you find it as hard to keep up as we do, here’s our summary of the recent major happenings in the worlds of RPG and SQL.

Freeing RPG

The most noticeable changes made to RPG in recent years are related to free-format coding capability. The ability to code the logic in free format came about in 2001. Most RPGers took to it like a duck to water and have never looked back—except, perhaps, when forced to maintain old code that hasn’t been converted yet.

Free-format logic’s most important impact was in the ability to attract/convert new RPGers, particularly those with experience in another language and/or platform. While the old fixed format coding syntax wasn’t any more difficult to learn, it looked strange compared to any other language. Plus, it was clearly more difficult to maintain, especially without special tools built into the editor to help with deciphering nested logic. Free-format logic meant RPG looked much like PHP, Java, C++ or other languages programmers are likely to know.

Jon Paris is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

Susan Gantner is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.



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