MRC Unveils Productivity Series for the Millennium

In mainframe and midrange computing circles, few development tools can boast a pedigree as pure as that of the Productivity Series suite from Michaels, Ross & Cole Ltd. (MRC, Lombard, Ill.). The 1997 release of Productivity Series97 marked the seventh iteration of MRC's development suite to date, but with three years gone by and the millennium closing in, MRC decided to revamp its flagship product. Enter Productivity Series2000, a rapid application development (RAD) suite with a heavy emphasis on Java and Internet technologies.

MRC Productivity Series2000 is a development tool that allows developers to code for both AS/400 and Windows environments. MRC Productivity Series2000 can compile both RPG and Visual Basic applications with one set of instructions and very little manual programming.

According to MRC, Productivity Series2000 is geared for both novice and experienced programmers, and provides a GUI-based, menu-driven front-end that can help first time users transition to the Productivity Series2000 development environment.

One of the most significant new enhancements to MRC Productivity Series97 was the addition in early 1999 of a new Java development model that enabled developers to create Java applications with little or no Java programming experience. According to Tracy Doell, director of communications with MRC, Productivity Series2000's Java development environment enables customers to build scalable Java applications quickly and efficiently.

"Our customers have reported that they've generated Java applications in a matter of days or even hours. Many of them are completely unfamiliar with Java programming," Doell explains. "The same applications, developed manually, would have taken weeks or longer to develop and that's only after conquering Java's learning curve."

Productivity Series2000's Java development model operates like most other RAD environments. A developer inputs the application's specifications then turns the controls over to the RAD system, which automatically handles details such as code generation, database management and security.

Because of its robust Java-generating capabilities, programmers are no longer required to learn Java or Visual Basic to leverage Productivity Series2000 as a development environment. More importantly, Productivity Series2000's Java support can actually make it possible for power users to develop their own highly-customized applications. MRC officials say that corporate power users could use Productivity Series2000 to create a variety of applications to perform simple tasks such as querying databases for specific data and generating reports based on this data, for example.

A tool like the Productivity Series2000 could be just what AS/400 shops need to transition to Java while continuing to leverage existing investments in RPG code, says Janet Krueger, an application modernization consultant with IBM AS/400 Partners in Development.

"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."