To remain competitive, the pressure to constantly evolve and improve applications is driving application developers to adopt an efficient DevOps culture, along with streamlined continuous integration-continuous deployment (CI/CD) processes and industry standard tools for code repositories, testing and automation. While these practices are common in many environments, modernising business-critical IBM i applications has always been more of a challenge.
Now in its eighth year, the HelpSystems benchmark captures how businesses are using IBM i platforms and what IT initiatives they support.
Sprinkle a little IBM i Merlin Magic
Organisations have been looking for a way to combine the power, reliability, and security of IBM i together with emerging new technologies. The answer came as part of the release of IBM i version 7.5 earlier this year – although the solution also supports v7.3 and v7.4.
IBM i Modernization Engine for Lifecycle Integration, or Merlin, enables users to develop IBM i applications in IBM ILE languages like RPG and COBOL through a browser-based integrated development environment.
Merlin uses an open source version of Microsoft’s original Visual Studio Code and also takes advantage of ARCAD Software’s DevOps expertise to incorporate support for de facto standard tools like Git source code management and Jenkins for CI/CD pipelines.
This enables a standard enterprise-wide development pipeline for IBM i, Windows and Linux.
Merlin’s Transformer tool offers single-click conversion from RPGLE that modernises legacy code making it easy to understand for a new generation of developers that are unfamiliar with ILE languages.
Using Merlin, a developer extracts source code from the IBM i system and can then work with modern browser-based graphic tools. When then new code is ready, it is uploaded into the IBM i environment and the application can be re-compiled. Business user access to the application is unchanged.
Red Hat OpenShift on Linux
The whole Merlin solution (open source VS Code and ARCAD components) is packaged together to run in Red Hat OpenShift containers – developers access the environment through a web browser.
Even though containers don’t run on IBM i platforms, IBM has chosen this approach to hide complexity and allow developers to create a standard image of all application components, confident that they will all work together. Merlin’s suite of container-based tools may be the catalyst to accelerate the modernisation and development of next-gen IBM i applications.
As a containerised application, Merlin is managed by a Linux-based Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform (OCP). OCP can run in various platforms ranging from Linux partitions on the same IBM Power system as the IBM i LPARs, to Linux VMs in a public cloud.
Containers, Linux and Red Hat OpenShift may not be the primary focus for IBM i clients – especially if they are driving app modernisation. But many IBM i clients expect that containers will be part of their new application development strategy.
IBM seeks Technical Support from Business Partners
IBM recognises that many clients may lack the required technical skills and admit this is may be an obstacle to taking advantage of Merlin.
Cited in this article by IT Jungle, during his keynote on Merlin at the recent POWERUp 2022 conference in New Orleans, IBM i CTO and Chief Architect Steve Will points to IBM business partners to help with implementation.
“Most of our clients don’t have folks who know how to do this. It’s going to be one of the biggest initial stumbling blocks you’ll have. I’ll just admit that up front.”
CSI Delivers “Best of Both Worlds” Solutions
As an IBM Platinum Partner, Advanced Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider Partner, and a Microsoft Azure Cloud Solution Provider (CSP), CSI is perfectly positioned to help organisations navigate this complex world.
We are trusted by organisations in all market sectors to support and manage their critical IBM Power systems running IBM i, AIX and Linux.
With the growing adoption of cloud-native technologies, CSI is uniquely positioned to offer “best of both worlds” solutions. You get the performance and reliability of IBM Power together with the flexibility of open-source technologies like containerisation on public hyperscale clouds.
CSI can design, set-up and manage a Merlin platform so that IBM i users can take advantage of the application modernisation tools without being distracted by the demands of Linux and Red Hat OCP.
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