MRC Automates AS/400 Java Development

In the opinion of many industry watchers, the write-once, run-anywhere promise of the Java programming language could provide AS/400 shops with the ability to rapidly develop and implement Java-applications, dispensing with the lengthy development cycles and specialized expertise sometimes associated with development in the AS/400’s traditional RPG language.

With the release of an upgrade to its Productivity Series 97 development suite, Michaels, Ross and Cole Ltd. (MRC,

According to John Lipsey, communications director with MRC, the Productivity Series 97 development suite provides an efficient and robust application development environment for either RPG- or Java-based AS/400 applications.

"Anything that you can create manually you can create with the tool, but with an 80 percent efficiency gain – you can do it in 20 percent of the time that it would take you to do it manually," Lipsey says. "The AS/400 is still the fastest, most secure computing environment available, and the ability to run Java on it makes the AS/400 a valuable choice because then users won’t be tied into just RPG."

But Java itself is still relatively new and untested. Many AS/400 shops have not yet implemented Java-based solutions because of concerns about application stability and the costs associated with implementing the new technology. And many AS/400 users are still satisfied with 5250 green-screen applications and are hesitant to implement a new and unproven technology.

According to Janet Krueger, an application modernization consultant with IBM AS/400 Partners in Development, tools like Productivity Series 97 provide the easiest way for AS/400 shops to realize the promise of Java application development while leveraging existing investments in RPG code.

"I think that that level of tool probably provides the easiest way for people to experience the benefits of Java without having to undergo the cost of Java," Krueger comments. "That lets you focus on your business problems and what your application needs are, rather than on the technology underneath, and that’s the ideal situation where you can just start leveraging the new AS/400 [Java] technology without having to really understand it or be an expert on it."

The new Productivity Series 97 Java development model operates in a manner similar to that of the existing RPG model – and to most RAD environments in general. A developer has only to input his or her application specifications and the RAD system automatically handles details such as code generation, database management and security. According to MRC’s Lipsey, this makes it relatively simple for companies to design and implement client-side and server-side Java applications, even without specialized in-house Java development expertise.

Krueger says the MRC-Productivity Series 97 development suite is a pragmatic solution that should appeal to many AS/400 environments.

"The big advantage of a tool like MRC is that you don’t have to make a black-and-white choice, you don’t have to decide whether or not you’re going to hire an RPG programmer or a Java programmer," she notes. "For each specific application you can generate it both ways and see which works best."