PowerBuilder, the Y2K of 2014?
SAP is dropping the proverbial ball better than the Times Square on New Years Eve. When SAP purchased PowerBuilder from Sybase in 2012 loyal PB developers celebrated the anticipated greener grass at SAP which ended up resembling that of the Bayou Corne (on the verge of collapse) in Louisiana.
SAP has taken the crown in alienating the dwindling army of loyal PowerBuilder developers and partners. They have provided no guidance or new releases angering their betrayed followers to the point of organizing and collecting over two thousand signatures on a petition demanding SAP release the source code to open source.
Of course SAP didnt bother to acknowledge the petition confirming what we already knew, that the loyal developers mean nothing to them.
PB15 – SAP’s hand is looking like a bluff
I REALLY feel bad for Sue Dunnell, Bruce Armstrong and others at SAP who have an genuine interest in PowerBuilder and are class-act individuals but SAP is playing them like a violin like they are to us. My displeasure with SAP is in no way directed towards any employee of SAP other than those who are responsible for the decisions at a very high level.
I am making a promise my readers with this piece, that requests to take it down will be ignored. If SAP wants it taken down they can put a beta copy of PB15 on our computers.
SAP – Playing Us Like A Violin
A quick “duckduckgo” of “PowerBuilder 15” will result in thousands of the same thing, websites with posts from people asking when PB15 is coming or SAP saying it is coming soon. Take a look at a few of the examples dating as far back as 2012. Again nothing personal to those who wrote the articles, this piece is directed at top-level SAP management.
“We know that people are anxious for a roadmap, and we will have one available soon. Currently, the roadmap we presented back in September is still a fairly accurate snapshot of our plans. You may recall that the roadmap we presented was in standard SAP format, and that a specific timeline is not presented with features. This will take a little bit of getting used to…” So, whats up with PowerBuilder by Sue Dunnell on SAP Community Network, Feb 6, 2013
“PowerBuilder – the beta for 15 will be announced soon, and so will the roadmap for the product.” – PowerBuilder Beta, WiFi Hotspots, and other stuff – by Sue Dunnell on March 6, 2013
“Topics included continued development on PowerBuilder 15 despite no official word on it’s release…” by Bruce Armstrong on the PowerBuilder MVP Blog on July 10, 2013
“We apologize for the delay in providing you with an update, and realize that we need to improve our communications. You have our commitment that we will be as open and transparent as possible going forward.” by Sue Dunnell on PowerBuilder FaceBook Page on August 18, 2013
Migrating PowerBuilder to Competing Technologies – Challenges
Many of the smaller PB applications have been rewritten using ASP.NET, Java, or tools such as WaveMaker. The reality is that to this day there really isn’t a perfect replacement for PowerBuilder and it is too bad that SAP doesn’t see this. Moving a large complex PB application to any of the competing technologies is no trivial task and has proven to be extremely difficult and expensive with many failures (projects canned because they made no progress) when going to both .NET and Java.
The remaining legacy PB applications would cost millions to redevelop. There are some really huge, robust and mission critical legacy PB applications in the corporate world, one that comes to mind was developed by Perot Systems many years ago and is still used by many health care companies. It would take years to redevelop at a cost in the millions. The amount of time needed to redevelop in something like .NET would be much longer than the original application took.
Why are legacy PB applications so difficult to redevelop?
One obvious answer is the datawindow or lack of a datawindow replacement which is what made PB one of the most capable tools for developing business applications.
Why there may be rush to rewrite legacy PowerBuilder applications?
Because SAP may never push a new release of PowerBuilder and they have cut support for most of the newer versions allegedly due to a licensing dispute with some after-market tools that were packaged with it. Some may say that there have been legacy systems in COBOL for decades and that is true however there is little to no risk of a COBOL compiler not being available should a company need to modify their business applications.
There is a risk that a tool for compiling PowerBuilder code may be unavailable in the not-so-distant future and if I were an IT manager I’d be concerned. What happens when Windows 8 starts pushing out to the corporate world (might be a while considering the popularity) and there is no PB compiler certified for Windows 8 and your company has a PB application that changes frequently due to government regulations? You will be in a tough spot and might be forced to buy Citrix or jump through other expensive hoops.
PB Developers Are Becoming Scarce & Expensive
The task of rewriting legacy applications would be much harder than the Y2K fixes were but admittedly not on a scale even close to what Y2K was. Even so, the move from legacy PowerBuilder may have a noticeable impact on the IT world over the next few years. There has been a very marked surge in PoweBuilder bill rates during 2013 as PB developers with experience become scarce and companies in less desirable locations are forced to do whatever it takes to lure a developer onto their team.
We are set to surpass rates of $100/hr (to the developer) as early as 2014 at the current pace, for a senior developer. This could further amplify the move from PowerBuilder should SAP continue to drop the ball. If you haven’t yet signed the petition to SAP, please click the link in the right bar of this blog. Maybe we can get SAP to sell the source to someone else or better yet open it up.
An open source PowerBuilder may be enough to spark PB round two… or not.
funny stuff –> lol