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I just got out of a college program that had a great deal of coursework dealing with OS/390 stuff (COBOL, JCL, BAL, etc) and i have pretty much accepted the fact that a job using that stuff is going to be extremely difficult to come across at an entry level position (please, tell me otherwise).  Anyway, some  people i know in the industry have advised me that I may want to begin to learn the workings fo AS/400?  My questions are:

1.  Are there any emulators or something to that effect that can mimic the operations of an AS/400 system that i can get into without having to pay big bucks for training that may not lead anywhere.

2.  For those who do work on AS/400 stuff, is it comparable at all to OS/390 technologies? 

3.  Is there still actual system development still abound in AS/400, or is it probably almost all maintenance coding now?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

This is based on my experience with the AS/400 (now called the 'iSeries') is a bit old, but here it is...

1. I don't know of any system emulators, but there are compilers that will compile AS/400 RPG programs on WIndows/Unix/Linux and execute them in a simulated AS/400 environment. The problem is, these cost almost as much as a small AS/4000 (over $5000. last time I looked).

2. The AS/400 has very little, if anything, similar with OS/390 systems. The IBM midrange series (systems 24,26,28 and AS/400) are a totally seperate evolutionary path.

3. If you like doing COBOL and RPG, there should still be jobs around, but the number of Windows and Unix/Linux positions far outnumber them. Also, most of the development on the AS/400 is in RPG, with COBOL coming in second place (and C, C++, and other languages far distant).

The AS/400 is an excellent machine, but if I was already changing from OS/390, I'd try to find something with a bit more marketshare.

(BTW - what college still uses OS/390 for the majority of their coursework? and Why?)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Has free access to the as/400 and a nice tutorial.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

"Is there still actual system development still abound in AS/400, or is it probably almost all maintenance coding now?"

Not sure how you'd classify this, but here where I work (at a community college) we keep all our records, grades, payroll, etc. on an AS/400 (or eSeries, or iSeries, or Pillar of Evil).  Working with the intranet and E-Learning systems, I've had to write several Perl scripts to extract data from the AS/400 to stick in MySQL tables.  I don't consider that maintenance coding, but neither is it AS/400 coding.

My point: people still use the AS/400, there are companies who write software for it, said companies develop software on OS/400, and you can run always run Linux on an AS/400 as well.  It's not all maintenance code, there is system development out there -- or at least around here.

This is my opinion, based solely on my poor understanding of Longhorn, but I think your knowledge of the AS/400 file system will put you a head when Longhorn comes out.  From some initial articles I read, Longhorn's file system reminded me of how my boss described OS/400 to me.

Andrew Burton
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I was in a similar situation back in 1998. I graduated from college with a computer programming diploma with focus on the AS/400.  (Not 0S/390, but in the same family)  I took a job doing Y2K work at a firm that specialized in AS/400 and had there own little accounting app. (The core of the system was actually written for S/36 ) The field of work for these types of systems is strictly big business number crunching.

As for entry level positions they are out there. But you will probably have to move. I did.  And once I had a job I busted my butt pushing my RPG skills off my resume. I would doing the same to anyone starting out in a similar situation. Tying yourself to any of these mainframe systems will limit your career options. RPG and Cobol simply don't work the same way as modern languages. I've known many RPG/Cobol people who after several years simply couldn't move to modern languages because all of the concepts they where used to where missing.  (What's a local variable? How come I just can't CHAIN to the record I want? Where are the indicators? What's this multi threading business? SQL, What's that? Method Parameters? Why would you ever need to have more then 8 characters to name a variable anyways?)

If you want career options get away from these proprietary systems.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

As a windows / web developer in a shop with a heavy AS/400 presence, I would have to echo Rob's comments above.  I'm involved in a big project getting data from an AS/400 RPG app, and it's hard to even talk to the AS/400 developers.  They have a totally different vocabulary and concept map.

That said, I also agree with Andrew that there is still a lot of life left in AS/400 programming, at least based on the investment we're putting into it around here.  We bought a new iSeries for $600K this year, and rolled out a new app last year.

We are a construction company, and before here I worked for a large homebuilder who had a significant AS/400 farm.  I'm also fairly aquainted with a large trucking company that lives and dies by AS/400 apps.  My point with these anecdotal accounts is that the common theme seems to be AS/400's are popular with companies that have A LOT of transactions.  The trucking company uses it for all their manifests, and they have thousands of trucks on the road every day.  At the homebuilder and here, you can't break wind without it going on the G/L.

But then again, the homebuilder was in the process of migrating their acounting applications off the AS/400 onto AIX and their construction applictions to .NET / MSSQL, after which the 400's would remain for historical purposes only.  So that kind of goes back to Rob's point.

Good luck be it in green-screen land or the windows world.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

"and it's hard to even talk to the AS/400 developers."

Well, your probably worrying about virus/worm du jour whereas they do work that the company depends on.

SNT the evolution of RMS
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

As a geek, the AS/400 is an impressive piece of technology (hardware, software and OS together).  Whereas almost all other computers systems are designed as "technical" computers, the AS/400 and its system/38 predecessor are designed entirely to be business computers and they excel at it.

The tools and techniques they use are only just being rediscovered now (Java, .Net, code portability etc).  Oh, and they did a 24 to 32 to 64 bit migration without a single line of application code having to change (nor most of the operating system for that matter).  Just as an example of what a different beast they are, a typical machine spends 97% of its time executing kernel code.  It would be a very sick Windows or Unix box that did that.  The memory management model is about as opposite as you can get from Unix/Windows.

I recommend reading the books by Frank Soltis (who is the guy responsible for all this).  Yes, they are expensive books, but well worth it.  It is a small price to pay to see a completely different way of thinking about system and application problems and implementations.

Roger Binns
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

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