Level Up Your RPG with Python

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In our November 2023 iChime meeting, special guest, Joseph Wright, an experienced IBM i programmer and consultant, led an enlightening session on Python’s role in augmenting RPG. He shed light on a groundbreaking approach in IT development: the integration of Python into RPG programming. This blog post captures the essence of this insightful discussion, targeting both IT developers and executives keen on staying abreast of the latest trends in programming and application modernization.

The Rise of Python in RPG Environments
RPG has been a stalwart in the realm of business applications. However, the evolving demands of industry necessitate a more flexible and efficient approach. Enter Python, a language renowned for its simplicity and robust library ecosystem. The integration of Python into RPG programming is not just an enhancement; it’s a transformative step towards modernization and efficiency.

Key Insights From the Meeting
Python as a Helper Language: Python acts as a supplementary tool to RPG, enabling developers to execute tasks in a few lines of code that would otherwise require extensive effort in RPG. Its use in API development, file conversions, and database interactions exemplifies its utility in simplifying and speeding up development processes.
Rapid Prototyping and Development: The plethora of Python libraries means many solutions are already available, allowing RPG developers to avoid reinventing the wheel. This accelerates the development process significantly.
Enhancing RPG Applications: Python can be integrated into RPG for tasks like converting database tables to Excel or enhancing file handling capabilities. This integration opens up new avenues for RPG applications, making them more versatile and adaptable to modern requirements.

Practical Steps to Integrate Python into RPG
Joseph provided a roadmap for RPG developers to start integrating Python into their workflows. This includes:
a. Setting Up Python: Easy setup through ACS (Access Client Solutions) and the use of open-source package management for installing Python.
b. Writing Your First Python Program: Using the interactive Python interpreter to start coding immediately.
c. Calling Python from RPG: Utilizing techniques like Qshell and command exec for RPG to call Python scripts.
d. Leveraging Existing Python Libraries: Utilizing Python’s extensive libraries for various functionalities, from file handling to API integrations.
e. Error Handling and Debugging: Emphasizing the importance of incorporating robust error handling in both Python and RPG code.

The Impact on IT Development
The fusion of Python with RPG is more than just a technical upgrade; it’s a strategic move towards modernizing legacy systems. This integration enables existing RPG applications to meet contemporary business needs without the necessity for complete overhauls. For IT executives, this means enhanced efficiency, reduced development times, and extended relevance of their existing systems.

Relevant Links
Here are links that were mentioned during our meeting:
https://wright4i.github.io/#/tut/py_getting_started – Getting Started with Python on IBM i
www.ryver.com Ryver – Chat group with several IBM i open-source developers
Service Commander – IBM i – https://github.com/ThePrez/ServiceCommander-IBMi
IBM i OSS Docs – IBM i Open-Source Repository – https://ibmi-oss-docs.readthedocs.io/en/latest/README.html

The iChime meeting’s focus on integrating Python with RPG offers a promising path for organizations looking to modernize their legacy systems. This approach provides a balance between maintaining the robustness of RPG and embracing the agility and efficiency of Python. As the world of programming continues to evolve, such integrations will be pivotal in keeping legacy systems relevant and efficient.

Published by Charles Guarino

Charles Guarino believes in the “power” of IBM Power Systems. His career reflects his interest in bringing the platform and its solutions to others. Charles started his professional journey as a department of one. Today, he is serving individuals on a worldwide basis though his consulting work and award-winning speaking engagements. Charles is a true people person and can often be found at conferences sharing his expertise in RDi and other IBM i topics. Reach out to Charles through his company, Central Park Data Systems, at [email protected]. He looks forward to hearing from you.