Introduction to CA 2E Application Modernization

This demonstration video is about CA 2E (Synon) application modernization. It shows how to move CA 2E model applications from RPG and COBOL to Java, the web, and cloud. You can watch the video here:

John Rhodes, CM First Group’s CTO, provides some background about the process, about CA 2E applications, and how to modernize them. Senior Engineer, Abram Darnutzer, then gives a detailed demonstration of the CM M3 application modernization process to help the viewer understand how it works. The video concludes with a discussion of next steps.

Application Modernization Choices

Typically, when evaluating CA 2E (Synon) systems, application managers consider two primary choices: Rewrite/replace them or continue to maintain them. Let’s consider these two options:

Rewrite/replace 2E applications:

It may be possible to replace the application with COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) software, but in many cases, it will be necessary to conduct a custom application development project using in-house or outsourced development resources, or both. Either way, it’s a large investment and data show that most projects of this nature fail. Either they don’t meet their budgetary constraints or timeframes, and they often do not meet the needs of the business in terms of required functionality. Oftentimes they are aborted before completion.

Maintain 2E applications:

The other option is to leave things as they are. While this may be the easiest, it is not necessarily the best choice or even the safe choice. With the aging of legacy application developers, it is getting hard to find people with the skills required to tackle complex RPG and COBOL applications. It is also difficult to integrate these applications with newer technologies that may be running in the cloud. Technical debt continues to increase further compounding the complexity and cost of maintaining these applications.

CA 2E Application Modernization – A New Approach

Fortunately, there is a third option. Modern tools make it possible to move a CA 2E model application to a more modern environment, generating a modern web application. Software automation enables this to be done at a known, lower cost than traditional, people-intensive methods, removing the risk of schedule and budget overruns.

This is what we have learned from talking with hundreds of CA 2E (Synon) customers that are considering this process:

  • They have thousands of functions and screens to migrate. These are very large-scale, very difficult projects.
  • Their system works well, but they want to do something new; they want to be able to move the system off the IBM i platform if they want.
  • They may want to move to a different database.
  • They want a responsive user experience that works on all devices, including smartphones and tablets, as well as widescreen monitors.
  • They want built-in APIs.
  • They want the system to be future-proofed, following current tech standards.
  • They don’t like risk. They want a known, fixed cost for the modernization project.


It is also important that the developers who have maintained the CA 2E application are productive in the new environment. They know the business, they know the business rules, and if they’re not able to understand the modernized application, then that will be problematic.

CM M3 for CA 2E (Synon) Application Modernization

CM First Group has many years of experience helping companies through these challenging CA 2E application modernization projects. CM M3 extends the economic value of CA 2E models by bringing them into a more modern environment from which modern applications can be generated. There are certain pillars to this modernization process and technology:

  • The automation must approach 100 percent of the scope because if it is less, say 80 or 90 percent, the remaining ten or 20 percent finding bugs or flaws can really extend the project.
  • The model environment in CA 2E must be preserved in the new environment.
  • Developers must be as productive or more productive in CA Plex as they were before.
  • The resulting application must be understandable and maintainable by your existing staff as well as new team members.
  • The resulting application must be a responsive web application with APIs out of the box.
  • It must have predictable costs and timelines. It cannot fail.


In the CM M3 process for CA 2E application modernization, we analyze the CA 2E model and the surrounding technology, RPG, and COBOL, and CL, and other artifacts on the IBM I, and provide a fixed price and timeline for the migration project, working with the client’s staff. Then, we move to the transformation process where the CA 2E model is converted to CA Plex. From that, we help the team generate Java or C# code, web and mobile applications that can stay on the IBM i or be moved to IBM z, Linux, Windows, AWS, Azure, or other platforms that support Java Runtime.

More than Application Modernization

It is important to stress that the CMM3 process does not just modernize the application, it also modernizes the whole method for developing applications. It enables you to generate to modern databases like Oracle, MySQL, or SQL server — anything that has a JDBC connection. It creates modern HTML5 interfaces that run in a browser across in a responsive manner, scaling automatically to the screen size of the device. It generates API interfaces that make use of inheritance, enabling developers to be much more productive than without the inheritance. They will be working in Eclipse, the visual studio, for debugging and for builds. CA Plex has very sophisticated versioning and customization control baked into the product.

CA 2E Application Modernization Demo Overview

It should be clear that the CM M3 process offers a predictable application transformation experience and outcome. Developers become more productive with these technologies than they were able to be with the limitations of green screen development. The video shows the process in action, demonstrating how:

  • A green screen application is transformed to a native Java web application
  • The database schema in the CA 2E model is brought over in CA Plex and SQL generated
  • The schema is visualized via ERDs
  • How the application is re-platformed from DDS running on IBM i to an alternative data space like SQL Server
  • The code is transformed in a very maintainable manner, including how the CA 2E action diagram 2E is transformed to an action diagram in CA Plex, how the code can be visualized in new ways, and how developers can be more productive once the code is transformed.
  • This application is deployed as a Java Web App to run on any platform.