C programming on the System i5

I have been known to be a bit of a bigot when it comes to the IBM System i5 (i5), for those who dont know what it is I hope you know of the AS/400! IBM does a pretty poor job of getting people to develop on the i5 and I feel that is because of a lack of knowledge outside of the i5 community as to the benefits of the platform. I love those adverts for the Apple systems, they show the clear benefits of having a system which is not open. Ask your self the question why does Apple seem to able to make a good story about this, yet IBM gets beaten down because the i5 is closed and proprietary? Does MAC OS run on anything except Apple? Do you have choices of the operating system you can run on an Apple? Do you see much in the way of pirated software? Its stable most of the time. Seems to me a bit like the i5 doesnt it?

Well I may stretch the point a bit, but I dont see why people defend Apple and hold it up as a leading light yet have dificulty supporting IBM systems. Ever thought about some of the points Apple use against Microsoft, no Virus’s (well none that are published), dont have long and tedius upgrades (that could be because they only run on their hardware and dont have to consider hundreds if not thousands of alternative drivers, some not written or approved by them?), Doesnt fail that often (see previous point) very quick (if you write for a specific hardware platform of course its going to be quick!). No I am not a Microsoft avengalist but I do like how a company which holds less than 4% of the desktop market can give such a good fight against a company with over 90% of it! IBM isnt in the same minority position so you would hope they could do a better job… Still thats another story!

So why this blog, well I have been looking at why I feel the i5 is not gaining ground in the market, not just because of the poor IBM marketing everyone seems to point at. If I was a student at University and looking at a career in IT what do think I would consider? First of all it would be what kind of position do I want and which field I would like to specialize in. If I want to be a programmer I would look at what the current language of the day is and possibly look at the platforms out there so I would have the best chance of gaining a job once I leave University. Program language may be difficult as most Universities have courses which concentrate on a particluar language and dont really offer much choice about that. You would probably do most of your course using the Java Language with possibly a little bit of C, C++ or C#. No RPG! Thats right unless you attended the defunct IBM university you would never see RPG. So in terms of platform what would you choose, well the safest bet would probably be Intel based (Windows probably) with Linux, Unix or some other derivative being the next option. No I dont think anyone would even consider i5! Why well because it only runs RPG doesnt it?

So having gone through all of that I doubt if any new tallent gets to even consider the i5 unless they have some very close links with an i5 shop. Do I think the i5 University works? No and why, well if I am very good at what I do (programming) I would probably get lots of very interesting and well paid job offers for other platforms. If not I may need to retrain, the i5 University would be a good option but is that what’s good for the i5?

So how can we fix this? I dont have all of the answers but a little more lime light on the fact the the System i5 supports ‘C’, ‘C++’, ‘Java’,’Cobol’, PHP’ and RPG ( I mention RPG last for a reason) is a good thing, then those who have spent a lot of time developing their skills in a particular language may see the possibility of working in a shop which needs those skills.

Thats not the answer though because finding a job which requires skills in the above languages(except RPG) in a System i5 shop are like the proverbial rocking horse S**T. We need to get companies turning away from the RPG language and developing in one of the newer languages and publish what they have done. I have some thoughts on why Java isnt necessarily going to be the answer but that’s another topic.

Then hopefully we will see new people coming into the i5 space and developing new and innovative applications which can be ported to other platforms! Not to get rid of the i5 but to allow them to gain a return over multiple platforms and therefore increase their return on investment.

Next we need to address the publications which are about the i5, lets stop publishing how IBM has improved the RPG language and made it more free flow and easier to program in! Start by publishing articles about how someone has developed something in ‘C’ or C++ and how they did it! Show more examples of code which those outside the platform may be interested in reviewing. Stop blaming everything on IBM’s lack of publicity, we all have our share to do.

So to wrap up this meandering, lets start by letting others know how open and flexible the platform is, lets start publishing our non RPG content (C & PHP will be done here for sure) so other can see just what is possible and maybe get some of that new talent which is just about to leave or start University to consider the platform as an option with a long future …

I hope others read this blog, I am happy to share and debate the content and will not shy away from the truth. I write programs on Linux, Windows and the i5 so I have experience on all of them, I have only written products for the i5 for many reasons but mainly because I like the platform and the stability I get when writing a program, I wrote some programs back on Version 4.3 (long time ago) of the operating system and they still run unchanged with not one line of RPG anywhere!

Next week I hope to give a few samples of code for people to debate and share…


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