June 27, 2002
Stargate Eclipse - iSeries Development Update

The dawn of Eclipse.

My boss and I attended the Stargate event at IBM yesterday. There we were shown the new version of the WebSphere Development Studio Client. This comes in a bewildering variety of versions, and consists of an equally bewildering array of subcomponents. All of the versions of WDSc, and all of the subcomponents were referred to by acronym, and all the acronyms began with W, and we were thoroughly confused.

But anyway, the long and the short of it is that if you are an iSeries shop, you get the lot.

The new version of WDSc is based in the Eclipse framework. As anyone who has used Eclipse will know, it is just beautiful.

Eclipse is basically a framework for building IDEs, and other things. It ships with a plug in which makes it into a Java IDE, which as I said, is superb. Tools vendors other than IBM are also basing tools on Eclipse.

WDSc consists of a number of plug-ins to Eclipse to enable iSeries development. It has tools to navigate libraries and objects on the iSeries - think of a cross between PDM and Windows Explorer, but with filtering options more powerful than either. You can edit and compile RPG, DDS and so on, with any one of several powerful editors. SEU is ancient history now.

There are also some powerful tools for developing Java based web applications possibly involving iSeries components, though not necessarily. The tools for building JSPs, beans of various types (including EJBs) and so on are powerful. There are also tools to building wrappers around iSeries based RPG modules and turning them into beans and/or web services.

All great stuff, and for iSeries development it is going to be wonderful.

It is missing one crucial set of tools, though, as far as I am concerned. There are no tools for refactoring RPG. All these clever tools which IBM provide are meant to work on nice modular systems, where your presentation and business logic are nicely separated. Our legacy system isn't like this - it consists of large programs (5000 to 15000 lines) with the business and presentation logic thoroughly mixed. There are no separate callable modules implementing business functions, and that is what much of the new tooling requires.

Now, obviously there is no way to automate the modularise of a large program - it is inevitably a manual job, and a big one. But there are tools which can help - or there could be.

The Java development tools which ship with Eclipse include a number of powerful refactoring tools. For example, you can highlight a block of code and extract into a separate function (method). All inputs to and outputs from the selected code are automatically worked out, and turned into parameters (arguments). If large RPG systems are to be modernised, this is the sort of tool which we need.

I brought this up at the event. IBM have no plans to build this sort of thing into WDSc. Eclipse is totally modular and extensible, though, so anyone could do it. It was suggested that this might be an opportunity for my company! We are not a tools vendor, though, so it isn't going to happen. There were a number of tools vendors present, though, and a couple were interested enough in the idea to come and talk to me...

The latest version of WebFacing was also demoed - on which more later.

Update: Eclipse Forces Developers Across the Java Divide at the iSeries Network.

Update 02 July 2002: See Welcome to the Dawn of Eclipse by Phil Coulthard and George Farr, the guys who presented Stargate. Plenty of screenshots, and lots about the RPG tooling.

Posted to iSeries by Simon Brunning at June 27, 2002 11:50 AM
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