Stop Worrying About the IBM i Brain Drain

Is it possible to be working with IBM i and not even know it? You bet! Is that a good thing? Yes. I often talk to executives of companies who are considering leaving IBM i. When I ask them why, a common answer is that IBM i is an outlier. It works differently than everything else. That makes it hard to find new people to maintain their applications. They are concerned that they can’t access its data and functions without knowing IBM i’s unique way of operating. Developers on the open source side of the house feel they are constantly waiting for the IBM i people to get them the data they need from their core applications. 

It does not have to be that way.

We recently hired a young JavaScript developer at Eradani to work on some web applications that required data from IBM i programs. The new developer started by working on some JavaScript projects that were accessing IBM i data and displaying them through modern web (Angular) interfaces. The developer was using Visual Studio Code as his IDE, GitHub as his version repository and Node.js and Angular for development. He was accessing the IBM i via SSH using a bash shell and Eradani Connect. After four days, the developer went to his manager and asked, “when am I going to be able to start working with the IBM i?”  Amazingly, the IBM i looked so much like his standard Linux environment, he did not realize that he had been working on the IBM i the entire time.

Worrying about what to do when their IBM i programmers retire is one of the most common concerns I hear from IBM i users. A great way to address that concern is to make it possible to work with IBM i just like you would work with any other platform. By doing that, you can hire developers who are skilled in technologies like Node.js, React, Python, .Net, Java, and PHP to extend the capabilities of your core applications. You can rely on all of the fantastic work the IBM Rochester lab has done to support open source on IBM i and you can use products like Eradani Connect to handle authentication, program calls and translating the data formats (eg. JSON) from open source to IBM standards (structured data, parameters) and vice versa. Those connectors can make the differences between the environments completely transparent to both the RPG and open source developers.

Making IBM i and your RPG programs accessible just like any other platform does not diminish the value of IBM i – it does just the opposite. RPG is still a great language for core business applications. IBM i remains the most reliable, most secure, lowest cost to manage platform available for running your business. If you can easily make use of the latest technology, build the coolest user interfaces and maintain your applications for the long term, why would you consider using anything else?

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