Application Development Tools for IBM i


With the increasing challenges developers face today in both maintaining and modernizing existing applications, having the right set of tools at their disposal is critical to their success. The following Rational portfolio of products provides a complete collaborative lifecycle management set of tools for the IBM i platform for existing and new developers:

  • Rational® Development Studio for i
  • Rational® Open Access RPG edition
  • Rational® Developer for Power Systems
  • Rational® Team Concert
  • Rational® Host Access Transformation Services
  • Rational® Application Developer for WebSphere® Software
  • Rational® Business Developer

Each of these products provides a unique set of capabilities but can be combined to provide a more integrated solution for each developer. We will explore each of these products below with links to more information and technical resources.

Rational® Development Studio for i

Rational® Development Studio for i V7.1 was shipped along with the latest IBM i operating system in early 2010. A significant list of new features and enhancements were provided in the ILE compilers with a strong focus on user productivity and cross platform integration. With the growing need to integrate technologies and reuse existing business logic, the ILE RPG and ILE COBOL compilers had a number of key enhancements in XML processing. ILE C and ILE C++ continued to focus on performance and new data types were introduced to better exploit the POWER 7 hardware.

Rational Development Studio for i is composed of three optional priced features, and is commonly ordered along with the hardware or operating system. These three features consist of:

  • ILE compilers Option 31 ILE RPG Option 35 ILE RPG PRV Option 41 ILE COBOL Option 45 ILE COBOL PRV Option 51 ILE C Option 52 ILE C++ Option 56 IXLC for C/C++
  • Heritage compilers Option 32 S/36 compatible RPG II Option 33 S/38 compatible RPG III Option 34 RPG/400 Option 42 S/36 compatible COBOL Option 43 S/38 compatible COBOL Option 44 OPM COBOL
  • ADTS – Application Development Toolset SEU – Source Entry Utility SDA – Screen Design Aid RLU – Report Layout Utility PDM – Programming Development Manager Etc…

IBM has a strong commitment to the IBM i compilers and work on the next release has already begun. Expect to see a number of survey’s and questionnaires on our future directions both online and at some conferences.

Rational® Open Access RPG Edition

IBM Rational® Open Access RPG Edition allows developers to change the I/O access of the ILE RPG language and extend their applications to access resources beyond the native interfaced previously available. Developers are now able to direct ILE RPG I/O operations to devices other than traditional 5250 screens, printer files, or native database. This includes but is not limited too: web browsers, mobile devices, web services, XML, spreadsheets, to name a few. There are no limitations to what can now be controlled by an ILE RPG application, except for the imagination of the developer. Figure 1 below is simple representation of how this product works:

Figure 1. Simple product description
Open RPG

Rational® Developer for Power Systems

IBM Rational® Developer for Power Systems provides an integrated development environment to edit, compile and debug applications for IBM i, AIX and Power Linux operating systems. The V8.0 release shipped in late 2010 and consists of four priced features:

  • RPG and COBOL Development Tools for i
  • C and C++ Development Tools for AIX
  • C and C++ Development Tools for Linux
  • COBOL Development Tools for AIX

The RPG and COBOL Development Tools for i, supports the development of native applications on IBM i V5R4 to V7.1. With the growing challenge of understanding existing applications and the need to simplify the development environment, the IBM i tooling has focused on ease of use and integration with other tooling by exploiting the Eclipse framework.

The editors in the RPG and COBOL Development Tools for i, provide a rich user experience while continuing to support the more traditional SEU commands (see Figure 2). Modern equivalents of the native 5250 editors SEU, RLU and SDA have been created, which exploit the integrated environment to provide functionality like:

  • Tokenizing
  • Content Assist
  • Outline view
  • Integrated error feedback
  • Integrated help

    Figure 2. Edit support
    RDP Edit

The Remote System Explorer (RSE) in the RPG and COBOL Development Tools for i, provides an easy to understand representation of the IBM i file system while conforming to all the restrictions and privileges of the user profile. This RSE view allows new users to quickly manipulate files and issue builds in a seamless integrated environment (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. RSE

With a strong focus on ease of use and reducing the learning curve for new developers on the IBM i, the debugger provides a simple user interface to debug all languages on the system. Whether the developers need to debug standard 5250 based applications or service programs wrapped in a web service, the debugger provides a consistent experience helping bring native developers into new technologies.

Figure 4. Debug
RDP Debug

For more details on Rational Developer for Power Systems, refer to the following link:

Rational® Team Concert

IBM Rational® Team Concert is a collaborative lifecycle management tool that integrates with Rational® Developer for Power Systems to provide a complete source code management system for the IBM i operating system. Rational Team Concert provides the ability to manage all source, whether RPG, PHP, C, C++, .Net or Java, in a single repository with a consistent and uniform tracking system. This integrated solution helps developers automatically document code by keeping track of each change to a source file and how it relates to other files in the repository. A single defect can now be used for changing both the web service and the RPG based service program, helping future developers understand why changes were made. An audit report can also be generated to validate that all objects in the target library were produced as part of an official build and were not modified outside the build process (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. RTC

Rational Team Concert is used inside IBM for the development of Rational Development Studio for i and Rational Developer for Power Systems. This tooling has helped our teams increase productivity by providing a constant stream of communication between developers and has proven invaluable in our understanding of our code.

For more details on Rational Team Concert, refer to the following links:

Rational® Host Access Transformation Services

IBM Rational® Host Access Transformation Services (HATS) is a tool that quickly and easily transforms your 5250 (or 3270) green screen applications into intuitive web, portlet, rich client or mobile device user interfaces. HATS also has the ability to create web services from your existing 5250 based applications by programmatically navigating the 5250 screens and interfacing the results to the web service. This runtime fee based product can be deployed with minimal development impact by exploiting the default configurations. Customization of the transformation rules requires the HATS product be installed into Rational Developer for Power Systems and either Rational® Application Developer or Rational® Business Developer. The customizations available are exhaustive and provide developers an easy to use set of tools that can quickly integrate 5250 based applications into existing website designs (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. HATS

Rational® Application Developer for WebSphere Software

IBM Rational® Application Developer for WebSphere Software (RAD) is the primary tool for Java developers to rapidly design, develop, assemble, test, profile and deploy high quality Java/Java EE ™, Portal, Web/Web 2.0, OSGi, Web services and SOA applications. When integrated with Rational Developer for Power Systems, the combined product allows IBM i developers to quickly wrap programs and service programs in an SOA call (see Figure 7). The generated SOA call can then be deployed to the built-in WebSphere Application Server found in the RAD tooling. This integrated test environment allows developers to quickly build and test the SOA logic without involving the SOA consumer. If problems arise, the same integrated debugger can be used to debug both the SOA logic and the program or service program being called on the IBM i.

Figure 7. RAD

Rational® Business Developer

IBM Rational® Business Developer is an integrated development tool for building applications with the open source technology EGL. The EGL language reduces the technology learning curve by shielding developers from the complexities of JavaScript, HTML, Ajax, JSON, and other Web 2.0 technologies and provides a platform neutral approach to development. Its ability to abstract the business logic into this higher level language isolates the constant churn most developers are experiencing today with the continually evolving user interface technologies.