The purpose of this article is to compare a range of IBM i modernization tools. To better understand the characteristics and benefits of the products that will be profiled, we will start with a brief overview of some of the factors that should be considered in the planning and execution of a modernization project.
A significant number of companies are running their operations on IBM i systems. IBM i modernization is great in instances where enterprises would like to retain infrastructure and applications running on IBM i whilst updating its capabilities, scalability, robustness, and ease-of-use. For example, one area where this might be required is at interface level where users often require the ability to access key functions in a web-interface as opposed to directly accessing the traditional green screen terminal interface.
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Why consider IBM i Modernization?
- The business environment is fast evolving. AI, the cloud, and big data are changing the way in which we operate. Keeping technology up to date, and enhancing reliability, is therefore a crucial factor in maintaining an edge over competitors.
- Securing technological infrastructure is business critical. Modernization allows for the deployment of the latest security and compliance tools.
- It is challenging to roll out new applications across older systems, IBM (also known as IBMi) modernization can simplify this task considerably through the creation of easy to use and familiar interfaces.
- Not modernizing could create significant challenges in the long run e.g., due to developers being unfamiliar with legacy applications or disaster recovery protocols becoming obsolete.
What are some of the key factors to consider when planning modernization?
- Minimizing disruption is key. A modernization strategy should, therefore, ideally be phased to ensure as little down-time as possible.
- An audit of modernization requirements could be very helpful to assist in the planning of the process. If done well, such an audit will clearly show where the priorities in the use of time and money can be found.
- Modernization solutions should not add yet another layer of complexity, but should instead be easy to use, scalable and very reliable.
- Users should also make sure that chosen solutions will enable streamlined data management, enhanced security/compliance, and improved customer experiences.
With this in mind, we now turn to some of the best IBM i modernization tools for 2022. The tools that we will profile are those developed by:
- Fresche Solutions
- Profound Logic
- CNX Corp
- Rocket Software
Products: aXes, Visual LANSA, Composer/Integrator, LongRange, Portalize
LANSA is a well-established leader in the field of IBM i modernization. The LANSA system is designed to help customers deal with the challenges of rapidly changing conditions and the struggles of developers to keep up to date with ever evolving requirements. Its response was to develop a cost-effective system that is easily scalable and can, therefore, evolve to meet the needs of growing and changing enterprises. Some key features include:
- The use of a visual environment to enable super-fast web-based access to 5250 screens on a variety of platforms
- The creation of a modular approach to enable developers to modernize as needed and thus minimize disruptions
- The ability to generate new applications based on customer needs
- A manageable learning curve due to intuitive interfaces and the creating of a low-code environment
- Dedicated tools for improving security and reducing risks
The above factors and capabilities combine to provide the following distinct benefits:
- LANSA provides flexibility, scalability, and simplicity. As such it can slot seamlessly into the evolving needs of growing and changing businesses.
- It is a cost-effective solution, enabling enterprises to continue to realize returns on investment on IBM i expenditure
- It is a reliable, well established, service that has a solid reputation for efficient operation and support
- LANSA is easy to learn and can therefore play a significant part in modernizing and streamlining development processes.
Pricing: Prices differ between the development and production environments. Other options, including perpetual licensing, can be explored by contacting the sales team.
Products: Newlook Suite, Presto, WebSmart, Nexus
Fresche Solutions is a major player in the IBM i modernization space. They have developed a range of effective tools and have helped many clients to update and repurpose their technological assets. Some key features and benefits include:
- An emphasis on creating reliable standard and portable code in Java or PHP
- Strong security and testing capabilities
- Attractive and intuitive web interfaces
- Automated processes to minimize the risk of human error
- A strong developer and support community
On the downside, it’s possible that consulting and troubleshooting form a major part of the Fresche business model. This means that there can sometimes be a subtle upsell process to nudge users to make use of these services instead of putting in the time to become proficient themselves.
Products: Profound UI, Profound Genie, Profound.js Spaces, X-Elevate, Profound Mobile
Profound Logic prides itself on providing IBM i modernization solutions that major on the updating of legacy code to different, easier to use, formats including Node.js. The bringing of code-heavy applications into more intuitive environments can significantly speed up development processes. Some key features and benefits include the following:
- The ability to transform PRG-based applications into modernized modular solutions.
- Well-designed tools for presenting terminal data in a web environment
- Users have a choice to update to either ‘Truly Modern RPG’ or Node.js
- Included tools are very flexible and scalable, meaning that development can easily keep pace with changes and growth
One main drawback of working in the Profound Logic environment is that modernization options are focused on Node.js and Truly Modern RPG. Developers wishing to work in other languages will, therefore, likely experience a lack of support.
CNX Corp (Valence)
Products: Valence Low-code App builder, Valence Portal
CNX provides a series of runtime and development tools, under the Valence label, that can facilitate IBM i modernization and present the results on a wide variety of platforms and technology types (desktop, tablet, phone etc.). Some key features include:
- A focus on usability and ease of use to facilitate relatively seamless modernization processes
- The Valence suite includes a range of tools, including an app builder, utilities, and developer tools
- In some cases, Valence tools can also be used beyond the IBM i environment
Product: Rocket Modern Experience (previously known as Rocket Legasuite)
As the name indicates, the intention behind the development of the Rocket Modern Experience suite was to provide users with ways to utilize modern user interfaces and applications that rest on the IBM i platform. In practice this means that mobile app and web browsers are central to the way in which data and functionality is accessed. Some key features include:
- An easy-to-use operating and design environment
- Clear workflow processes, allowing users to have a big picture view of design processes
- The ability to add frequently used elements through drag-and-drop
Some users have reported that it can be difficult to become proficient in using the system so that could be a drawback. It is also possible that deployment and publishing can sometimes be needlessly complex.
The strong suit of the m-Productivity suite is that it can rapidly deploy modernization solutions in ways that will minimize risk and down time. This is particularly true in the case of simpler, less data heavy, applications. This suite is backed up by consulting and high-level support services. Some key features include:
- An emphasis on agile design and deployment
- Strong security, compliance, and reporting capabilities
- Relatively easy to use
- Seamless SQL server integration
On the downside it should be noted that the m-Productivity suite may sometimes struggle with data-heavy applications in some cases. Developers may also encounter complex documentation which could increase cost of use.
So what are the best IBM i Modernization Tools in 2022?
It should be clear from the above that there are a wide range of IBM i modernization tools available, each with their own unique strengths and capabilities. However, in our opinion LANSA is the standout option in terms of functionality, ease of use, and affordability. Contact us to get started today!