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How Low Code Helps Businesses Modernize their IBM i Apps

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Digital transformation and application modernization are both never-ending cycles of continuous improvement. Whether a business wants to adopt the latest technologies, upgrade legacy applications, or improve the integration of various systems, modernization never stops.

In fact, there are quite a few drivers of modernization, and for businesses relying on the IBM i (previously known as IBM iSeries or IBM AS/400), the availability of human resources is quickly working its way to the number one spot.


It’s no secret that RPG developers are retiring faster than they are being created, and it’s an issue that is projected to widen over the next few years. To make matters worse, there is a major gap between open developer jobs and talented developers to fill those roles.

Even companies such as Amazon, Google, and Verizon are struggling to fill their open developer positions.

Between retiring RPG developers, and the difficulty in attracting top young talent to create modern applications, IBM i businesses are in quite the conundrum.

As bad as it may look right now, there is an alternative to address this situation, low-code. More specifically, hybrid-low code.

Low-code is quickly becoming the go-to app development platform for many businesses. However, low-code comes in many varieties, and not every low-code platform is designed to create complex enterprise apps. In fact, there are only a few low-code platforms that currently run on the IBM i.

The key is finding a low-code platform that is easy to use for RPG developers nearing retirement as it is for junior developers right out of school.

After all, it has to bridge the current talent gap and allow IBM i shops to utilize any developer. If the platform relies on JavaScript alone, easily creating full-stack applications will be difficult.

The platform has to strike a balance between ease of use and functionality. While being easy to use is nice, it still has to be powerful enough to create complex enterprise applications.

Must-have features to create complex enterprise apps should include the ability to create a full-stack app utilizing a single platform. Integrating with any system utilizing APIs, integrating with SQL, or natively accessing the IBM i’s own database should also be “table-stakes” for a development platform.

When you look at all the necessary criteria needed to be a viable RPG replacement as well as being able to fill the current talent gap, it becomes pretty clear that Visual LANSA’s hybrid low-code solution may just be the solution these IBM i businesses need.

Let’s take a closer look at what Visual LANSA has to offer.

Easy to Learn:

Defining what qualifies as an easy-to-learn platform or language is quite a challenge, and it can be very subjective. Many low-code platforms claim you can create an app in less than a day, and technically they are correct.

You can also create “Hello World” in any language in less than an hour. But much like a “Hello World” app, the low-code app created in less than a day is pretty useless. You are not going to be able to create an enterprise-level application in one day with any platform, period.

Visual LANSA has a track record of being able to go from beginner to creating production-ready applications in about two weeks. For example, four recent college grad developers at Bemis Manufacturing were able to create production-ready applications by their second week of employment.

They accomplished this task without any formal LANSA training, only utilizing Visual LANSA tutorials and concepts they learned in school. When it comes to training, British Car Auction only needs one week to train Visual LANSA developers before setting them loose for their first task. Both are great examples of how quickly new developers can learn Visual LANSA.

IBM i Full-Stack Apps - One Platform

Aside from Visual LANSA, creating full-stack applications on the IBM i is a multi-language or multi-platform process. Certain low-code vendors offer IBM Cloud solutions to compensate for the lack of native IBM i support. So, while you may get away with a single platform, cloud deployment is your only option.

Other vendors offer the ability to create simple front-end apps with a JavaScript-based low-code solution but lack complete full-stack development. Only Visual LANSA allows IBM i developers the ability to create native full-stack applications without ever leaving the IDE.

Visual LANSA’s unique hybrid low-code concept blends the best of low-code methodologies with the power and flexibility of a traditional language approach. This means that whether developers are creating stunning visual front-ends or data crunching back-ends, they will use the same language and development techniques for both.

This approach simplifies app development, decreases development times, and is a contributing factor to the speed at which new developers learn to create Visual LANSA applications.

Active Business Rules Engine to Easily Access DB2 Databases

Visual LANSA allows for the direct import of an IBM i DB2 database. Once the DB2 tables are inside the Visual LANSA Rules Engine, they become easy to access plus developers have the ability to utilize global rules and triggers on them.

Global rules and triggers can be set one time in the Rules Engine and then applied throughout any Visual LANSA application. This simplifies application development since redundant hand-coding is eliminated.

The Active Business Rules Engine isn’t just for DB2 databases. You can import SQL tables, Excel spreadsheets, and a wide variety of different database formats.

Along with holding your database tables, the Rules Engine will be a central access point for creating APIs and accessing your code modules. It is truly a powerful feature not seen in any other application development process.

Planning for the Future - Staying on the IBM i

There is no doubt businesses relying heavily on RPG applications need to start acting on modernization plans sooner rather than later. One thing is certain, those modernization plans should focus on staying on the IBM i. The IBM i is the most reliable business server and it is optimized to crunch data.

There is no denying the value and advantages the IBM i brings to so many businesses. The key question becomes how to efficiently and effectively replace decades of RPG applications. I have no doubt low-code will be the solution.

When it comes to low-code on the IBM i, Visual LANSA is the only platform that can confidently check all the boxes needed for a full RPG conversion project.

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LANSA is a low-code, high-productivity software development platform for mobile, web, and desktop applications. Visual LANSA's unique low-code development platform, system integration, and digital transformation technologies reduce hand-coding, support multiple languages, and empower development teams to build applications up to 10 times faster. More than 8,000 organizations in 65 countries use LANSA's platform to develop, maintain, and integrate their business applications, ensuring a consistent look and feel with minimal coding. Customers include JPMorgan Chase, Kawasaki, TruGreen, Vistar, and Walt Disney, among others. LANSA is a division of Idera, Inc.
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