A business need for information integration is driving a small, but definite trend to add Microsoft .Net developers to IBM i shops, according to a recent column on IT Jungle. The key and unexpected issue here seems to be integration over migration, although some in the article suggest migration might be an end goal.
The typical scenario seems to be that you have an enterprise business application, written in RPG or Java, running on the iSeries, and .Net developers writing departmental applications. Obviously, if your goal is information integration, at some point these apps all have to talk to one another-and that's driving the shift, according to the president of one system integrator who specializes in this type of project.
.Net is often used to provide a front end to iSeries applications, integrating with the Microsoft Office suite, but sometimes it's also used to build a standalone application, according to the article.
Apparently, it's a fairly significant shift in the status quo, at least for IT. Microsoft, of course, says it's a huge trend, but more independent sources say that while it's not quite as pervasive as Microsoft would have you believe, it is definitely a trend. As an example, Michael Killian, vice president of sales for ASNA, an IBM ISV (independent software vendor) said five years ago, it was rare for his firm to work with anything other than RPG developers, but now approximately 80 percent of the shops ASNA talks to have both iSeries and .Net development teams.
Sometimes the goal is migration, but sometimes it's more being "migration-ready," according to sources.
I found it interesting that business need is driving this trend, and, perhaps not surprisingly, one of the main obstacles has to do with IT "religious wars":
One of the most difficult aspects is bringing the two development groups together, breaking down the barriers between those groups, and getting the .NET people to start learning IBM i and the vice versa. Once you get the first project out the door, it becomes easier to move through the phases.
That should be an interesting challenge for IT leaders, particularly since in the past, these groups of developers have blamed each other for some of the problems users experience. Still, it's a good sign that more IT shops are moving away from seeing themselves as only a ".Net" or an "RPG" or a "Java" shop and focusing on what needs to be done to integrate and support business-critical needs.