Smells like Java - Softwareentwicklung mit Natural

Hallo zusammen,

ein Kollege und ich haben einen Artikel für das JavaSpektrum geschrieben: Smells like Java - Softwareentwicklung mit Natural. http://www.sigs-datacom.de/fachzeitschriften/javaspektrum/archiv/artikelansicht.html?tx_mwjournals_pi1[pointer]=0&tx_mwjournals_pi1[mode]=1&tx_mwjournals_pi1[showUid]=7900

Wir haben darin beschrieben, wie wir unseren Entwicklungsprozess für Natural auf Basis moderner Entwicklungswerkzeuge - insb. Eclipse, Jenkins und Unit-Tests (mit unserem eigenen Framework NatUnit) - neu gestaltet und an Java angelehnt haben.

Aktuell sind wir in der Lage, auf Knopfdruck unsere gesamte Natural-Applikation zu bauen, automatisiert zu testen und auf die Zielumgebung zu deployen.

Über jegliches Feedback oder einen Gedankenaustausch würden wir uns sehr freuen!

Viele Grüße!
Stefan Macke

PS: Sorry for the German post. Unfortunately, the article we wrote is in German, too.

It appears that access to the article requires payment (2.50 EUR), but otherwise, it is greatly appreciated that you have written such an article for publication to socialize the concept of using Natural as a current and modern development language. As your post and the article summary describe, the rich set of tools for coding and testing built on the Eclipse studio offer the same ease of use that developers require and have available in Java and offer a vastly different experience from the 3270-based editors.

I may break down and pay the fee to access the article to see what else you say.

This isn’t the first time Natural has been compared to Java, and one similarity is the fact both are interpreted languages: Natural executes in a runtime environment that interprets catalogued object code, as opposed to other languages which are compiled into machine code and run as platform-dependent executables. This is very similar to Java and how it runs as byte code interpreted by a JVM. Both were made this way for platform portability, and Natural was first.

However, being first is really not enough to be relevant to new programmers. Certainly availability of tools and ease of use of a development environment is foundational, but as was the case when Natural’s competition was COBOL, the most important question is, “Can I build the kind of business application I need to build better and faster with Natural than with Java (or name any language here)?” Natural’s strength has always been it’s ability to allow the developer to focus on the business requirements instead of low-level coding (database access, I/O, memory management, etc), and I believe that could be an advantage vs Java as much as it was vs COBOL.

The more people consider these ideas, the more Natural will become a preferred language for new development.

Hi Brian,

thanks for your feedback.

That is exactly what we had in mind when we wrote the article: To show that Natural is not some old language nobody wants to use anymore, but that it can be as modern as any other language when using the right tools.

At the last user group meeting in Germany, this was very obvious. I presented our new development process and the next two presentations showed mobile and responsive apps communicating with a Natural backend. So, Natural can be used to create modern applications and you can also work with modern tools.

However, the main concern of the attendees was how to find new Natural developers. Despite the obvious possibilities, companies struggle to find developers that are willing to shift over to Natural, e.g. from Java. I think we need to promote the language and tools more to attract potential developers. And I hope our article helps with that.

Best regards,
Stefan

Stefan,

People say how finding Natural expertise is difficult but I do not understand that. Natural was created as a language for developing business applications without the need of highly skilled programmers such as those who can write low-level assembler or C. The advantage of a 4th generation language such as Natural is you can take your business employees who have some amount of logical and analytical capabilities and teach them Natural in-house. Who cares if your Java programmers don’t want to work with Natural… your accounting analyst (or whatever appropriate business function employee) will.

Penn State University is one place that has proven that still holds true. They hire long-time employees or local residents and teach Natural to build their capabilities. Sure, you do need to have some experts on your staff to mentor them, but everyone doesn’t have to have that level of skill and knowledge to be successful.

Maybe in your next article, you can address the myth that Natural talent cannot be found, as the answer is that you may already have it in your organization (they just don’t know it yet!).

-Brian

The myth of how hard it is to find Natural developers is propagated by competitors who have an interest in shifting customers to another language/platform.
That was the justification used by a client I worked for who moved away from SAG products

Not only by competitors.

IT managers, who claim they can’t find expertise, usually simply don’t want to find it but force a platform change.

Those who really want to continue with Natural (or even explore new paths like Natural for Ajax) either find people with the required skills or employ that mystic scheme called “education”. Yes, there IS Natural training and yes, there ARE people willing to be trained, even youngsters.

Don’t get me wrong: We educate our own Natural developers for many years now and manage to get by quite well with this approach. Every new apprentice has to learn Natural (although to pass the final exam they all need to learn at least another - object oriented - language). So, we don’t have the problem of finding new developers, because we train them ourselves. And for this reason we tried modernizing our development process, so that young developers stick with Natural even longer.

However, many companies seem to have problems finding new Natural developers. The problem may exist due to lack of internal education, but many companies also complain about the lack of training resources even from Software AG itself. And from personal experience: we tried hiring Natural developers ourselves but weren’t able to find a single qualified candidate. Maybe we didn’t search long enough, but I think the main reason is, that there simply aren’t that many Natural developers looking for a job.

@Brian: Thanks for the hint. However, in our company we separate the business part from the development part. So we search for “real” developers to fill our Natural positions. And I personally think, that a large Natural application like ours can’t be developed by business people alone. You need qualified developers to manage the complexity. I agree, Natural is quite easy to learn compared to other languages, but I think you need experienced programmers to develop solid applications.

“lack of training resources even from Software AG itself” is a catch 22, it doesn’t make sense to schedule 4 Natural training tracks a year when noone signs up, and otoh people appear to think Software AG doesn’t offer training when they don’t find regular, scheduled classes in a training catalog.

That’s not true, just call Software AG training and they’ll be happy to set up tailored training / workshops for your needs.

Now the article is online. Everybody can download it for free.

Best regards,

Markus Wessjohann

Just found this thread and while is refreshing, it is really hard to find work in USA regarding Natural.
It has been a struggle since many companies have moved away from SAG products and the few that still have it, don’t want to pay decent rates/salaries.