Surveys See .NET Rise for Legacy Integration

A pair of recent surveys of IT execs expect 2005 will see many shops with COBOL/RPG legacy systems seriously review .NET-based middleware options will give Java a run for its money in offering effective and low-cost ways to integrate legacy apps and data into web applications and web services.

Tags: ISeries, Web Service, RPG, Ross, Java, IBM, Programmers,

A pair of recent surveys of IT execs finds that many shops with COBOL/RPG legacy systems are reviewing .NET-based middleware options as cost-effective ways to integrate their apps and data with web applications and web services.

First, Forester Research, found 56 percent of IT execs said they intend to do future technology development on .NET. Secondly, ASNA, a provider of RPG tools to the iSeries (AS/400) installed base, also finds their customers looking to deploy Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) projects are also seeing .NET as a key enabling platform.

"Beginning in 2005, there will be significant adoption of .NET, Web services and service-oriented architectures. ASNA is committed that this movement be a productive, non-disruptive experience for our IBM midrange customers." said Anne Ferguson, president and co-founder of ASNA.

"We're seeing enterprises using older iSeries applications really rallying around .NET, even though IBM is really pushing them to move to Java, especially those for back office data processing and inventory control systems, Eduardo Ross, ANSA's vice president for R&D told Integration Developer News.

This uptick in .NET for the back office integration is coming just as IBM is stepping up its push to move those same mini-computer clients (iSeries and/or AS/400) to Java.

The Legacy Appeal of .Net
Why would .NET be winning out over Java, a proven mid-tier technology in IBM shops for years.

Ross has some simple answers: "There are thousands of programmers fluent in RPG, and migrating them to Java, while it is being done In some places, is often a slow and expensive process. And, then, of course, IBM is always there willing to sell these companies professional services, which can also be expensive. It's ironic, but at this point IBM has really done little beyond their Java and WebSphere products to bring middleware or migration technologies to iSeries. That's why in 2005, we believe .NET may actually start offering a lower-cost and more attractive solution to these customers."

As an alternative to a Java migration, ANSA offers iSeries shops a suite of RPG developer tools and middleware that run atop .NET. These tools let iSeries' RPG programmers continue to write code in RPG, while learning only a few .NET elements. "Our Visual RPG tool let RPG programmers very quickly learn the .NET commands they might need to expose parts of their iSeries application as a web service," Ross said.

Using the ANSA tools, programmers can encapsulate a particular iSeries function (via a web service) and then hook that function up to a web application, a web service or even a mid-tier Java/J2EE application," Ross added.

In addition, "if they need to integrate an iSeries application or database with some other part of their enterprise, they can simply construct an asynchronous connection to let it talk back and forth to a web service. Part of ANSA's offering is a DataGate integration module for .NET that can isolate parts of the legacy iSeries logic onto the .NET server, to make sure the original RPG code stays as is, yet can integrate with the outside enterprise/web service, Ross said.

According to Ross, ANSA looks at it this way: NET was built to deal with any language, and we just provide an RPG cartridge for it. So, with the combination of .NET and our tools on top, an enterprise IT shop can migrate their code -- not all their programmers. That's a lot faster and less risky," Ross said.

ASNA and Microsoft are co-sponsoring AppEvo, a series of half-day executive seminars focusing on application evolution processes and how ASNA's .NET solutions can generate an improved return on investment. Locations scheduled for the first quarter of 2005 are Orange County, Calif., Jan. 19; Detroit, Feb. 23; St. Louis, Feb. 24; and Charlotte, Mar. 25.