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“How do I easily migrate a PowerBuilder app to .NET?”

I hear this question ALL the time…  And frankly, I think the question itself is a little misinformed!  (Of course, I don’t say that to the person’s face…)

The first step is to find out what they’re really asking…

“Do you mean, you want your PB application to run inside a browser, so you no longer have to worry about client-side deployment?”
(And yes, there are still people that think “.NET” means “runs in a browser”…)
If the answer is YES, we talk about the native WebForms capability of PB11.5.  You simply create a Webform target and project object, click DEPLOY, and your existing PB app runs inside an Internet Explorer browser with IIS as the web server.  Alternatively, there’s the Appeon for PowerBuilder utility, which supports additional browser clients and application servers.

If the answer is NO, then the next question is, “Are you saying, you want your PB application to run as a Microsoft Windows Forms app, so you can access the .NET framework classes directly, or use the Smart Client deployment features?”
If the answer is YES, I show them how PB 11.5 apps can be deployed as Winform applications, and how they can reference .NET assembly classes directly from their PowerScript code with conditional compilation blocks.  And with the Smart Client deployment features, even the client-side deployment headaches are taken care of!

If the answer to that question is NO, then I follow up with, “OH!   Do you mean you have PowerBuilder non-visual components that you would like to deploy as .NET assemblies or web services, so that they can be accessed from C# or VB.NET apps?”
If the answer here is YES, then I proceed to demonstrate how easy it is to deploy .NET assemblies or web services right from PB 11.5, with absolutely NO code changes required.  PB 11.5 even supports strong-named assemblies and Code Access Security standards to help ensure code integrity and security.

If I’m STILL getting a blank stare, then I have to ask, “I think I get it…  You want to use Visual Studio as your IDE, and write code in C# or VB - but you’d rather not lose the functionality of the Datawindow…”
This is when I drop Datawindow.NET on them, but I have to explain that we’re now crossing the border from “migration land” into “rewrite land”.  The datawindows that they’ve developed in their existing applications can be reused, and they’re a critical component of the presentation layer.  It’s the business logic layer will need to be completely refactored into the new target language, and there’s no way around calling that a “rewrite”.

If they’re still not satisfied with my answer at this point, then it’s pretty clear what they’re after…  A magic tool that will translate their PB applications into XAML, so they can take advantage of the new Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphical rendering engine, and have their apps run as 100% managed code!  This is certainly an important requirement, as WPF is the future of Windows user interface development and many IT departments are requiring full .NET compliance.
Well, there’s good news and bad news.  The good news is, Sybase is developing a tool that can do this!  The bad news is, it won’t be released for another few months, but the Beta program is still open and you can try it out today!

The bottom line is, you don’t need to “migrate” away from PowerBuilder to embrace .NET in your organization.  PowerBuilder *IS* .NET!

Enjoy!
-Paul-

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More Stories By Paul Horan

Paul Horan is a Senior Solution Advisor and Mobility Architect at SAP, and works with the SAP Mobile Platform and SAP Mobile Secure product lines. Paul joined SAP as part of their acquisition of Sybase in June, 2010. Prior to that, Paul worked for Sybase as a technical pre-sales architect supporting PowerBuilder, PowerDesigner, and SQL Anywhere. Paul works out of SAP's Reston VA office. A 1984 graduate of Indiana University, Paul currently resides in Arlington VA.

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