IMB i Modernization Solution

IBM i Modernization :
why and how to start?

Do you want to evolve your IBM i system, enhance it with modern languages, open-source tools and user-friendly interfaces? Boost your agility and opt for a deep and flexible IBM i application modernization strategy! Check out this quick overview of the challenges, methods and tools for a successful modernization on IBM i.

1. IBM i Modernization – Challenges and Objectives

“Why should I change? Everything is working perfectly…”

Typically legacy applications remain in production for a long time, undergoing major changes and relying on different technologies, making it difficult to understand the code. Unfortunately many IBM i modernization projects start only after there has been a serious business impact caused by the failure of a legacy application. Too often, the analysis of the costs and risks involved in modernizing applications concludes with: ‘if it isn’t broken, let’s not fix it’. But skipping this step only delays the cost (“technical debt”) in development. Isn’t it better to proceed with a series of small but regular evolutions rather than a revolution? A system that does not evolve will necessarily lead to a revolution one day, because the world does not wait to evolve quickly.

Generation gap

Specific IBM i technology skills, RPG or 4GL development, tend to disappear. IT staffing levels are declining and young developers are not always able or willing to manage legacy code in the form of a column developed for a “green screen”.

This “generation gap” is forcing some companies to consider abandoning the IBM i platform, redeveloping their internal applications in another language or replacing them with an off-the-shelf package. Both approaches are costly and high-risk, involving complex architectural change and loss of competitive advantage.

Kody Robinson, Software Developer at Arkansas
Electric Cooperative Corp. – Challenges of a young developer
joining an experienced IBM i development team, and value of RPG Free Form.

Well managed, your modernization projects will become profitable

The modernization of legacy applications is low-risk and allows to keep the intellectual property. This phase requires effort, but becomes profitable when a global approach is adopted that takes into account long-term business objectives.

The ongoing challenge for a CIO is to leverage their IBM i platform to adapt it to current needs, meaning using it to its full potential. Read our article and discover how IBM i management represents a challenge or an opportunity for the CIO.

Tim Rowe, Business Architect Application Development at IBM,
gives a 360 degree view of modernization on the IBM i platform
– both the development methods and the application itself

Modernize the existing application assets? And why not change the platform?

Convinced that it is necessary to replace your legacy platform? We have all dreamed at some point or another of having a cutting-edge information system, always flexible to their changing business needs and, in this, a major contributor to their performance. Shouldn’t we move forward and reinvest in what already exists instead of replacing everything? Ask yourself this question in all sincerity while reading our article “Legacy modernization: 10 preconceptions to urgently dispel“.

Legacy systems have shown their incredible resilience and ability to provide outstanding competitive advantage to leading businesses. It is important to note that despite the myriad of emerging technologies revolving around them, it is these “good old” and trusted systems that continue to keep the entire global economy running smoothly and securely. Discover the strengths of this system through our article “Legacy” will never die!. Interested in learning how IBM i is an efficient and resilient platform for modern business workloads? Download ourWhite Paper and learn more about one of the industry’s leading integrated operating environments.

The typical reaction of any company looking to modernize its applications is to rewrite everything in Java, a universal and far more portable language than RPG. Looked at from the outside, this choice is not surprising. You could easily believe that a rewrite in Java would address two burning issues: preparing you for an exit from the IBM i platform at some time in the future and providing an easy answer to the RPG skill shortage. However, if you look more closely, it is clear that each language has been conceived from the outset for a specific technological environment. Can RPG Free Form and Java languages coexist to get the “best of both worlds”? In our article RPG Free Form vs. Java: nothing compares we discuss two languages that everything opposes.

Driving digital transformation in the new economy

Digital transformation has become a major focus for companies and project times have decreased. DevOps and agile technology initiatives have taken precedence in a year where most companies have fewer resources and less budget to operate with. Legacy IBM i application modernization is a key component of digital transformation and optimization. Discover new opportunities to modernize IBM i applications in the new economy in our White paper.

2. How to modernize your IBM i applications?

Automate your modernization project in 3 steps!

Automating IBM i Modernization in 3 steps

You need to be able to quickly analyze your legacy, build a process to monitor modernization changes, and ultimately transform your application.

1.Analyze your application to detect anomalies and redundant code

2.Implement a structured process for version control and regression test

3.Transform your application (source code, database, user interface)

Floyd del Muro, Technology Evangelist, explains how
Modernization works at ARCAD Software

Discover the three steps to implement an IBM i modernization strategy by reading our article Modernize your IBM i in 3 steps. It is not so difficult, follow the roadmap in our article Modernization process, application modernization roadmap.

Analyze your application

How to ensure that your IBM i (AS400) applications are always solid, stable and reliable? How to modernize them for a better maintainability? With the Application Healthcheck solution, obtain a quick overview of your IBM i application assets in terms of quantity and quality, an analysis of the context and a set of recommendations to :

  • obtain an exhaustive report on your IBM i assets
  • make decisions on a factual basis
  • obtain a group of recommendations to support your strategic aims

Discover the Application Healthcheck solution through our Datasheet IBM i Application Healthcheck.

Make your IBM i modernization a success!

Successful IBM i application modernization projects are those that find the right balance between IT and business objectives. Whatever the reason for a modernization project for a legacy system like IBM i, it is important to identify some key points for the success of the project.

  • Obtain backing from general management
  • Define an overall modernization roadmap
  • Involve staff early, to include all impacted parties
  • Secure through automation
  • Test for non-regression

Find all the details of these 5 key steps to a successful modernization of your IBM i applications in our article 5 keys to IBM i Modernization Success.

3 aspects are essential for a successful modernization:

  • Tools – automated conversion helps minimize project risk
  • Process – a DevOps framework secures parallel development for an easy merge of changes
  • People – managing change in teams is vital to modernization success

Complete modernization or progressive approach?

Do you want achieve a ‘full stack’ modernization of your IB M i application? Convert your source code and database to a modern language? Create Web services from your existing code?

=> Every modernization project is different follow the guide!

3. The different layers to modernize


Take advantage of complete, integrated IBM i modernization tools for every tier in an application:

  • Database: convert your DDS to DDL (SQL), for a fully relational database on IBM i
  • Source code: convert your RPG IV code to RPG Free Form, easier to understand

  • User interface:
    replace your 5250 access by modern Web et mobiles interfaces

To learn more about modernization for each of these layers, watch our webinar IBM i modernization step by step – database, code, user interface.


A key step in modernizing IBM applications is to convert your DDS files into standard DDL (SQL) tables and views, improving performance to facilitate the understanding for any developer.

Source code

As databases begin to age, so does their source code. Rebuilding a database often requires modification to the database at the field level, which can have all sorts of undesirable consequences if not executed with the greatest care. When a modification requires the extension of a field or a change in field type, a potential impact must be considered in the source code. This process is time consuming and potentially error prone when conducted manually. Are you concerned? Read our article on the Impact of Database changes on your IBM i source code or watch our webinar Expanding a field on IBM i in a quarter of time..

if you keep your existing code as it is, you definitely need to find a good expert with many years of experience in this really “exotic” language that has not been taught at school for several decades now. But what if you used a “translator”? Read our article RPG Free Form: Why is it so important for you? A poor quality code can make your application difficult to modernize. Discover the Continuous Quality by watching our webinar Continuous Quality checking for your RPG code or our webinar Check IBM i code quality automatically.

As well as a critical shortage of Synon skills, applications developed in the 4GL environment are unable to access many key technology advances in the IBM i o/s; and though a leader in its day, the Synon CASE tool is incompatible with modern DevOps and concurrent development. In the following webinar, find out a risk-Free migration from Synon CA 2E to fully modern application. Do you want to automatically convert near 100% of your CA 2E Synon application to RPG Free Form? Watch our webinar Convert from CA 2E Synon to RPG Free Form, with near 100% accuracy.

4. Modernization tools

Automating your modernization project not only reduces its complexity and duration but also protects you from bugs and manual error, limits the risks of regression and, more importantly, guarantees the reliability of your application.

ARCAD for IBM i Modernization

Transform your IBM i applications end-to-end from the database to the user interface, including the source code. Launch a complete transformation with our ARCAD for IBM i Modernization solution.

Trial version of the tools

ARCAD Modernization as a Service (MaaS)

Entrust us with your modernization project! Modernize faster and with less effort for your in-house teams. In collaboration with our partner IBM, our professional team offers you modernization as a service (MaaS). Together we’ll future-proof your code and safeguard its security and reliability. Don’t delay, discover our ARCAD MaaS service ! Discover more in our White Paper “IBM i Modernization as a Service” or in our datasheet “ARCAD MaaS” .

Modernization tools needed to analyze, transform, convert and integrate your applications

Discover the ARCAD CodeChecker architecture and demo in our webinar replay “Check IBM i code quality & security automatically”.

Find a demo of ARCAD Transformer RPG in the first session of our webinar series IBM i modernization step by step – database, code, user interface.

Watch the demo of ARCAD Transformer Field in our webinar replay Expanding a field on IBM i in a quarter of time.

Refer to the datasheets

ARCAD Audit Datasheet

Check your IBM i application source code for anomalies and archive obsolete code.

Download this datasheet and learn more about ARCAD Audit and how it will help to clean up your code.

ARCAD Observer Datasheet

Analyze the code and data of your application, display its architecture in a graphical and navigable form.

Download this datasheet to learn more about ARCAD Observer and discover how to automate the analysis of your applications.

ARCAD Transformer RPG Datasheet

Convert your Legacy systems from RGPLE to RPG Free, automatically.

Download the ARCAD Transformer RPG datasheet and discover how our solution helps you resolve the resource ‘squeeze’ and breathe a new lease of life into your IBM i assets.

ARCAD-Transformer Field Datasheet

Automate massive code transformation following an expansion in size or a change in field type.

Download this datasheet to learn more about ARCAD Transformer Field and discover the benefits of its mass automation on the source code and RPG database.

ARCAD Transformer DB Datasheet

Modernize and convert your database to SQL, automatically

Download this datasheet to learn more about ARCAD Transformer DB and discover why the conversion to SQL helps future-proof your IBM i applications.

Arcad API datasheet

Quickly and easily generate Web services from any 5250 interface.

Download this datasheet and discover how in least than 10 minutes on average with ARCAD API, you can create, test and deploy a production-grade RESTful Web service.

Retrieve all Arcad modernization products in brochure format.


Microservices, containers, hybrid cloud, CI/CD, DevOps. The list of these “buzzwords” goes on and on. You’ve probably heard a lot of about them recently, especially with all these virtual events taking place the last few years. You’ve also been told you need to use these technologies to modernize your IBM i applications. But how do they apply to your existing RPG-based business applications? And how and where do you get started? Maybe you need the help of a wizard.
That wizard is here. Introducing IBM i Modernization Engine for Lifecycle Integration, or “Merlin” for short. Merlin is a joint solution from IBM and ARCAD to help streamline new next-generation application development on IBM i and automate modernization of existing ones. Read our article A “Wizard” for Application Development and Modernization on IBM i.

5. Some IBM i modernization cases

Success Story GEODIS MaaS

To minimize risk and avoid delays, GEODIS opted for ARCAD’s Modernization as a Service (MaaS).

Success Story Dutel

All applications in the Dutel group have been developed exclusively using CA 2E Synon over DDS.

IPECA Success Story

IPECA has adopted several ARCAD solutions to meet the demands of a constantly evolving market.

Success Story Arkansas

Arkansas Electric needed to modernize RPG source code to bring new graduates on board and improve productivity.

Customer Success Story - Brown Brothers ARCAD Transformer and ARCAD for DevOps

Brown Brothers Engineers embarked on an extensive modernization initiative spanning both their development processes and application source code.

Letsos Success Story Transformer RPG

Letsos Company had to modernize legacy source code, they decided to transform their core application into RPG Free Format, enabling efficient software maintenance without additional staffing & training.

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