Final Ode to OpenEdge ABL Part 1: a Ruby Adapter is Born

15 minute read

Foreground: ABL developers at work. Background: arrival of Ruby adapter

It’s weird how I have trouble letting go. Nearly two years ago, I wrote a post where I theorized a cure for a programming language and database that had tortured me at the first full-time programming job that I ever had: OpenEdge ABL. Shortly after writing that post, I quit my job and moved to a new city, where I got a job contracting as a Ruby developer. I’m much happier at my new job, but every once in awhile I would think back on my time with OpenEdge and how I never really got to revolutionize it like I wanted to (yeah, I like to set the bar high). I sometimes would find myself checking in on the Progress community areas to see if anything’s changed, kind of like stalking an ex-lover on Facebook.

Little has changed in Progress-land, it seems from my visits. People are still drinking the Kool-Aid, waiting for Progress to keep improving the ABL language. I think some are slowly catching on to the insanity of it… many are taking advantage of the CLR bridge and writing a lot more .NET / C# code. Of course that only works for Windows clients; no Mono support yet. Others are slowly catching onto AMQP, writing STOMP messaging code in ABL and interfacing with an external broker like ActiveMQ or RabbitMQ. Been there, done that (you’re still writing ABL… eww). Others that still use ABL directly seem to have all these tools that generate ABL code for them from model-relationship diagrams (like UML) so they don’t have to write so much boilerplate code; if that’s not a sign of a language smell I don’t know what is.

I’m hoping to change all that, now, with the tool that I theorized in that old blog post - a Ruby adapter for OpenEdge using the DataMapper ORM framework. At the time I wrote that blog post I didn’t have enough Ruby experience to extend an existing library, especially that does something bare-metal like talk to a database. That has changed, and I am proud to present the alpha version of this adapter available for immediate testing.

I’m planning this post as part of a short series that will finally give me some closure on my OpenEdge ABL / Progress past and allow me to move on. After I’m finished I hope to be able to completely wipe OpenEdge from my mind and not visit the community anymore (I’m sure they’ll appreciate it). I’d like to spend some time improving my Ruby and maybe learning some Clojure|Erlang|Haskell.


The example code relies on OpenEdge 11.1; other versions may or may not work (the only other version I tested is 10.2B, with success). git is also required for downloading the sample code. I would also advise using Linux or Mac for running this code, as it is what Ruby plays best with.

You will need to extract the JDBC .jar files that correspond to your OpenEdge version and put them somewhere in your Java CLASSPATH environment variable so that the adapter can find them. They can typically be found in an OpenEdge installation directory under $DLC/java.

Preparing a database

The example code will need a copy of the sports2000 database that is running the SQL engine. Here are some commands to create one with the name foo, convert it to UTF-8 (expected by the adapter if there are any non-ASCII chars) and start serving it on port 13370. These commands should be ran from a proenv prompt on a machine that can create / serve up OpenEdge databases:

prodb foo sports2000
proutil foo -C convchar convert utf-8
proserve foo -S 13370 -cpinternal utf-8 -cpstream utf-8

Note that I don’t think the -cpinternal or -cpstream stuff is necessary for the SQL engine but I left it there anyway as I’m paranoid.

Preparing the Ruby environment

We’re going to need a JRuby interpreter in order to run the DataMapper code; I am assuming you don’t have one and am providing installation instructions using rvm (note that these instructions should work for Linux and Mac, but Windows users are on their own):

  1. Install rvm to manage Ruby interpreters and namespace gems that we are going to be installing (a gem is basically a way to package up Ruby code for distribution). Just install rvm as your own user; do NOT use sudo or install as single-user mode as root user… it never seems to work right.
  2. Open a new terminal window and prepare to install a JRuby interpreter. Type rvm requirements and find the section “For JRuby, install the following:” and install all packages required. When that is finished, type rvm install jruby-1.7.0, which will download and install a JRuby interpreter.
  3. Create a gemset for containing the gems that we are going to install. Type rvm use --create [email protected]. This will also switch you into the new interpreter and gemset.

Getting teh codez

I created a little snippet that bootstraps the DataMapper model definitions needed for the example queries below. There’s also a Gemfile for installing some gems needed to get up and running.

Get the code by cloning the git repo:

git clone git:// dm-example
cd dm-example

Note JDBC version

Open the file Gemfile and look at the line with jdbc-openedge on it. Notice that the version is 11.1; you should change this to the exact version of OpenEdge that you are on (you still have to have put the necessary .jar file(s) into your Java $CLASSPATH manually).

Install needed gems

Make sure you are using the rvm gemset we created, and install the gems from the Gemfile using bundler:

gem install bundler
bundle install

Set the database parameters for example snippet

Open the file models.rb and modify the line that starts with DataMapper.setup to have the parameter values that correspond to your database. It should take the form of

openedge://user:[email protected]:port/databasename

Running the code

Read it first

Before running the models.rb code, it makes sense to take a look at it first and see what it is doing. Here is the code:

require 'data_mapper'

DataMapper.setup(:default, 'openedge://[email protected]:13370/dmtest')

class Customer
  include DataMapper::Resource
  storage_names[:default] = "Customer"

  property :cust_num,      Integer, :field => "CustNum", :key => true
  property :name,          String
  property :country,       String
  property :address,       String
  property :address2,      String
  property :city,          String
  property :state,         String
  property :postal_code,   String,  :field => "PostalCode"
  property :contact,       String
  property :phone,         String
  property :sales_rep,     String,  :field => "SalesRep"
  property :credit_limit,  Decimal, :field => "CreditLimit"
  property :balance,       Decimal
  property :terms,         String
  property :discount,      Integer
  property :comments,      String
  property :fax,           String
  property :email_address, String,  :field => "EmailAddress"

  has n, :orders, :child_key  => [ :cust_num ]

class Item
  include DataMapper::Resource
  storage_names[:default] = "Item"

  property :item_num,  Integer, :field => "Itemnum", :key => true
  property :item_name, String,  :field => "ItemName"
  property :price,     Decimal
  property :on_hand,   Integer, :field => "Onhand"
  property :allocated, Integer
  property :re_order,  Integer, :field => "ReOrder"
  property :on_order,  Integer, :field => "OnOrder"
  property :cat_page,  Integer, :field => "CatPage"
  property :cat_desc,  String,  :field => "CatDescription"
  property :category1, String
  property :category2, String
  property :special,   String
  property :weight,    Decimal
  property :min_qty,   Integer, :field => "Minqty"

  has n, :order_lines, :child_key  => [ :item_num ]

class Order
  include DataMapper::Resource
  storage_names[:default] = "Order"

  property :order_num,     Integer, :field => "Ordernum", :key => true
  property :cust_num,      Integer, :field => "CustNum"
  property :order_date,    Date,    :field => "OrderDate"
  property :ship_date,     Date,    :field => "ShipDate"
  property :promise_date,  Date,    :field => "PromiseDate"
  property :carrier,       String
  property :instructions,  String
  property :po,            String
  property :terms,         String
  property :sales_rep,     String,  :field => "SalesRep"
  property :bill_to_id,    Integer, :field => "BillToID"
  property :ship_to_id,    Integer, :field => "ShipToID"
  property :order_status,  String,  :field => "OrderStatus"
  property :warehouse_num, Integer, :field => "WarehouseNum"
  property :credit_card,   String,  :field => "Creditcard"

  belongs_to :customer, :child_key  => [ :order_num ]
  has n, :order_lines, :child_key  => [ :order_num ]

class OrderLine
  include DataMapper::Resource
  storage_names[:default] = "OrderLine"

  property :order_num,      Integer, :field => "Ordernum", :key => true
  property :line_num,       Integer, :field => "Linenum",  :key => true
  property :item_num,       Integer, :field => "Itemnum"
  property :price,          Decimal
  property :qty,            Integer
  property :discount,       Integer
  property :extended_price, Decimal, :field => "ExtendedPrice"
  property :status,         String,  :field => "OrderLineStatus"

  belongs_to :order, :child_key  => [ :order_num, :line_num ]
  belongs_to :item,  :child_key  => [ :item_num ]


You can see that the code is very readable. All it is really doing is specifying the definitions of a few tables of the sports2000 database in Ruby/DataMapper form. Each Ruby class definition represents a table in the database; each property is a column and an instance of the class represents a row in the table.

The storage_names[:default] = part is for overriding DataMapper’s default behavior of trying to pluralize model names when it looks for them in the database; e.g. for the model Customer the default behavior is to look for table Customers in the database. A similar behavior is going on with the :field attribute on some properties of the models; DataMapper looks for an inflected form of the actual property name in the database so we must override it. Both of these issues can be solved by writing a custom method that tells DataMapper how to transform these names properly; it’s just outside the scope of this simple example, but would greatly DRY up the code and make it much more readable.

Another thing you may notice is the belongs_to and has n attributes. These are for setting up associations or relationships between tables. Examples will follow later.

Finally, notice how primary keys are specified - simply pass a :key => true as part of the attributes of the property. Also note that DataMapper has no trouble supporting composite primary keys - check out the OrderLine table definition!

Finally, execute the code

Type bundle exec irb to open up an interactive Ruby shell. To run the example code, simply type require './models'. If the code loaded successfully, you should simple see => true (the => denotes the return value). The rest of the commands in the following sections will be entered from within this irb shell. If you are having issues, just post in the comments and I will try to help.


The adapter should handle most queries that DataMapper does. I will also post some SQL that the adapter is generating behind the scenes.

Find the first customer:

c = Customer.first
# => #<Customer @cust_num=1 @name="Lift Tours" @country="USA" @address="276 North Drive" @address2="" @city="Burlington" @state="MA" @postal_code="01730" @contact="Gloria Shepley" @phone="(617) 450-0086" @sales_rep="HXM" @credit_limit=#<BigDecimal:678c862e,'0.667E5',3(8)> @balance=#<BigDecimal:3abd6b1e,'0.90364E3',5(8)> @terms="Net30" @discount=35 @comments="This customer is on credit hold." @fax="" @email_address="">
# SELECT TOP 1 "CustNum", "name", "country", "address", "address2", "city", "state", "PostalCode", "contact", "phone", "SalesRep", "CreditLimit", "balance", "terms", "discount", "comments", "fax", "EmailAddress" FROM "customer" ORDER BY "CustNum"
# Get their name: # => "Lift Tours"

Find the last customer:

# => #<Customer @cust_num=2107 @name="foobar" @country="USA" @address="" @address2="" @city="" @state="" @postal_code="" @contact="" @phone="" @sales_rep="" @credit_limit=#<BigDecimal:247aa859,'0.15E4',2(8)> @balance=#<BigDecimal:70c27dc4,'0.0',1(4)> @terms="Net30" @discount=0 @comments="" @fax="" @email_address="">
# SELECT TOP 1 "CustNum", "name", "country", "address", "address2", "city", "state", "PostalCode", "contact", "phone", "SalesRep", "CreditLimit", "balance", "terms", "discount", "comments", "fax", "EmailAddress" FROM "customer" ORDER BY "CustNum" DESC

If you know the ID of your customer, you can look them up directly:

# => #<Customer @cust_num=5 @name="Match Point Tennis" @country="USA" @address="66 Homer Pl" @address2="Address 2" @city="Boston" @state="MA" @postal_code="02134" @contact="Robert Dorr" @phone="(817) 498-2801" @sales_rep="JAL" @credit_limit=#<BigDecimal:3f15676d,'0.11E5',2(8)> @balance=#<BigDecimal:16394576,'0.0',1(4)> @terms="Net30" @discount=50 @comments="" @fax="" @email_address="">
# SELECT TOP 1 "CustNum", "name", "country", "address", "address2", "city", "state", "PostalCode", "contact", "phone", "SalesRep", "CreditLimit", "balance", "terms", "discount", "comments", "fax", "EmailAddress" FROM "customer" WHERE "CustNum" = ?

Get the total number of customers:

# => 1118
# SELECT COUNT(*) FROM "customer"

Get the number of American customers (country == “USA”):

Customer.all(:country => "USA").count
# => 1060
# SELECT COUNT(*) FROM "customer" WHERE "country" = ?

Get the number of non-American customers (country != “USA”):

Customer.all(:country.not => "USA").count
# => 58
# SELECT COUNT(*) FROM "customer" WHERE NOT("country" = ?)

If we often need to look up the Americans, we can create a scope for this particular query by re-opening the Customer class (Ruby has an open object model which lets you re-open class definitions at runtime!) and adding it:

class Customer
  def self.american
    all(:country => "USA")

Customer.american.count # => 1060

Let’s say that I just want the first Wisconsin customer. I can use the first method and even chain that onto my new american scope to make it quicker:

Customer.american.first(:state => "WI")
# => #<Customer @cust_num=1114 @name="Apple River Sports" @country="USA" @address="945 US HWY" @address2="" @city="Amery" @state="WI" @postal_code="54001" @contact="K Conroy" @phone="(715) 268-9766" @sales_rep="JAL" @credit_limit=#<BigDecimal:4bfb1305,'0.498E5',3(8)> @balance=#<BigDecimal:509dd43b,'0.4517465E5',7(8)> @terms="Net30" @discount=25 @comments="" @fax="" @email_address="">
# SELECT TOP 1 "CustNum", "name", "country", "address", "address2", "city", "state", "PostalCode", "contact", "phone", "SalesRep", "CreditLimit", "balance", "terms", "discount", "comments", "fax", "EmailAddress" FROM "customer" WHERE ("country" = ? AND "state" = ?) ORDER BY "CustNum"

DataMapper also supports relations between tables, something that OpenEdge doesn’t really natively do. For this to work you have to define some associations in your model definitions, which we have already done.

Let’s start exploring associations by starting with a particular customer to branch off from. We’ll just use the first customer.

c = Customer.first
# => #<Customer @cust_num=1 @name="Lift Tours" @country="USA" ...

Let’s get all the orders for this customer:

o = c.orders
# => #<Order @order_num=6 @cust_num=1 ... (there's a bunch)
o.count # => 19

To get all the order-lines for this customer:

ol = c.orders.order_lines
ol.count # => 46

To calculate the total money this customer has spent on every order for all time, we use Ruby’s reduce method, which is a functional programming derivitave for reducing a collection of data down to a single value:

total = c.orders.order_lines.reduce(0){|sum, ol| sum + ol.qty * ol.price}
# => #<BigDecimal:6f09c9c0,'0.6736944E5',7(8)>

BigDecimal’s string format is yucky but the answer is $67369.44 if you look closely. If this were a real app I would consider a custom type for monetary values. But anyway, that brevity should bring a tear to your eye after picturing the huge nested FOR EACH mess that ABL would make you write to get the same value… shudder.

To get all the items this customer ever ordered:

i = c.orders.order_lines.items
i.count # => 26

To go backwards and get every customer that ever ordered an item:

c = Item.first.order_lines.orders.customer
c.count # => 49

Obviously I’m not very good at coming up with examples… play around yourself!


Record mutation was a secondary feature for me when writing this adapter, but it seems to work just fine. One big stumbling block was the lack of autogenerated primary key support in the database. This means that creating new records requires explicitly setting the primary key values on insertion (however coming from the ABL world one should be used to that already):

next_id = Customer.last.cust_num + 1 # => 2107
c = Customer.create(:cust_num => next_id, :name => "foo bar")
# => #<Customer @cust_num=2107 @name="foo bar" ...

DataMapper’s create method is an atomic thing; it tries to immediately do a database insertion. If you want to build up an object incrementally, you can use new and then when you are ready to persist it, call save:

c = => "baz quux")
# => #<Customer @cust_num=nil @name="baz quux" @country=nil = "USA"

# If we try saving at this point, we will not be able to because we
# forgot to set a primary key value. The save method returns false: # => false

# To see the error for this object, just call the errors method:
# => #<DataMapper::Validations::ValidationErrors:0x3a57aa @resource=#<Customer @cust_num=nil @name="baz quux" @country="USA" @address=nil @address2=nil @city=nil @state=nil @postal_code=nil @contact=nil @phone=nil @sales_rep=nil @credit_limit=nil @balance=nil @terms=nil @discount=nil @comments=nil @fax=nil @email_address=nil>, @errors={:cust_num=>["Cust num must not be blank"]}>

# To fix the error, we set cust_num to the next PK value:
c.cust_num = 2108 # => true

Updating a record is basically the same as how we did the new/save combo, except we will find an existing record instead of calling new:

c = Customer.get(2107) # => "foo bar" = "corge grault" # => true
Customer.get(2107).name # => "corge grault"

When you get angry and want to delete a model, use the destroy method:

Customer.get(2107).destroy # => true
Customer.get(2107) # => nil

Future development

This is beta software. If you use it and find any bugs, I would be grateful if you report them (contact me directly or open a ).

A large amount of the code, which maps OpenEdge logic into DataMapper’s DataObjects library has been accepted and integrated into DataObjects. However, the front-facing stub which uses the DataObjects code and implements a few other bits (dm-openedge-adapter) has not received as much attention, and is just implemented enough to demo for this blog. I would label it as beta software; contact me or open a GitHub issue if you find any bugs.

To complete the mainline DataMapper integration, there needs to be better tests for dm-openedge-adapter as well as creating virtual machine images with different OpenEdge versions pre-installed, ready for running tests on. As I don’t deal with OpenEdge anymore I would only find the time to work on this if my time was subsidized. Contact me if this interests you.

Some other features that would be nice to have, that I could work on:

  • :sequence option for fields, like the Oracle adapter has. Would allow you to not have to manually provide a value for the field on record insertion if there is a sequence that can be used (you can still manually specify it if you want). Very useful for PKs.
  • Support for migrations? I’m not really sure if this is something people would use as I would think this would be used more for legacy support rather than new development. It would probably be a lot of work, too.
  • More tests!

Next posts in series

I hope to write at least two more posts in this series on OpenEdge; the first will be expanding on the use of this adapter to write a simple RESTful Web service using either Sinatra or Rails that exposes sports2000 tables as resources (including JSON representations). Then, my final post will be some final musings on OpenEdge ABL and how to sandbox it; I think I will also give some parting advice to Progress Corp. on how they should open up ABL more.

Update: Part 2 has now been posted.