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Java Vs .NET: Pros and Cons of Migrating PowerBuilder Applications To either of those Technologies

December 4th, 2023

PowerBuilder enjoyed the top spot in application development software solutions, especially among rapid application development (RAD) technologies, thanks to its speed and simplicity that attracted most developers worldwide. Though Powerbuilder was the go-to development environment between the 1980s and 2000s for its ability to create sleek user interfaces, efficient data management, and seamless database connectivity, the platform is now falling into obscurity.

When rapid advances in technology and programming languages are fueling businesses, diminishing support and snail-slow development are making Powerbuilder applications less extensible. It has been unstable, passed through multiple hands, and lacks basic functionality from modern technologies, more reasons that make the platform even less desirable.

Overall, while PowerBuilder may not be the go-to choice for new software development, large government enterprises continue to depend on client-server ERP products and line-of-business applications that were meticulously developed using PowerBuilder in the past. These essential applications play a crucial role in efficiently managing the core databases that serve as the lifeblood of their day-to-day operations.

It’s time for organizations to move Powerbuilder to futuristic technologies, best cases of migration being Powerbuider to Java or .Net. Let’s dive deeper into its benefits and the pros and cons of Powerbuilder to Java migration and PowerBuilder to .Net migration.

What’s the urgency?

Pressing factors for Powerbuilder Modernization.

  • Unclear Vision – PowerBuilder Has changed hands thrice in a decade.
  • Lack of skilled developers
  • Confined to Desktop Environment
  • Restrictive benefits from modern technologies

Benefits of PowerBuilder to Java migration, .Net migration and other modern technologies

  • Access to new technologies and their benefits
  • Cost-effective development and savings on TCO
  • Access to a bigger pool of developers
  • Adoption of new business models
  • Enhanced security and compliance

Need for Migrating PowerBuilder Apps

Powerbuilder is an obsolete tool. It possesses several legacy risks that seriously threaten your business excellence. Some prominent disadvantages that call for an immediate need for PowerBuilder Migration are Powerbuilder Modernization are:

Unclear Vision

It is hard to trust a platform that has changed hands thrice in the last decade and has no clear vision for the future. Powerbuilder also slipped out of the 50 most popular programming languages over a decade ago, while languages like Java and C# remain in the top 5. As a result, the PowerBuilder community and resources are shrinking significantly.

Lack of skilled developers

The skill gap is the biggest concern for companies to maintain PowerBuilder applications. While most original developers are either retired or left the companies, new-age developers are not interested and skilled enough to work these apps.

Confined to a Desktop Environment

Applications tied to a Desktop Environment have no place in today’s world. Users expect applications to perform on multiple devices and platforms. Migrating to modern web technology keeps the applications alive and up-to-date with new-age users’ expectations.

Restrictive benefits of modern technologies

Recent technology developments have been beneficial for businesses in reducing costs and enhancing application performance. However, consuming these improvements from Powerbuilder is hard. Many tools for automated testing, application profiling, and integration do not function with Powerbuilder.

PowerBuilder to JAVA Migration / .Net Migration Motivators

Is the cost and effort of migrating worth it? The question is common among business leaders looking for modernization. And rightly so. After all, they are putting their resources into upgrading applications that have worked fine so far.

The answer is often a ‘depends.’ It depends on the function of the application and the post-migration vision. Here are some of the best reasons that motivate PowerBuilder to Java migration or .Net migration.

Access to new technologies

Most new technologies did not exist 20 years ago when Powerbuilder was in its prime. Modernization opens access to these technologies and juices their full benefits. Data analytics, automation tools, and cloud benefits, such as serverless functions, elastic computing, and boundless scalability, become easily accessible by moving from Powerbuilder to newer technology like Java.

Economical deployment

PowerBuilder to Java Migration can significantly alleviate the tedium of creating installers for desktop applications. Verifying their function on multiple environments further adds to the project’s cost. And then, programmers must support various versions and ensure all users install the latest version. Upgrading applications resolve all of these issues. Concepts like single-server deployment ensure all users have the newest version that can shrink or expand based on real-time requests.

Doorway to a broader developers’ community

Evolving PowerBuilder applications is possible only by finding and hiring experienced people. However, acquiring talent with 15 or more years of experience is hard. Moving PowerBuilder to Java or to other new technologies opens the possibility of growing the team faster. It also allows engaging an affordable workforce as interns and entry-level developers and gives them growth opportunities.

Conforming new business models

Using Powerbuilder limits organizations from adopting new business models, a make-or-break decision in today’s fast-paced world. PowerBuilder to Java migration allows companies to offer products with an ‘as-a-service’ model. They can let multiple clients share infrastructure and new markets on monthly payments. It simplifies maintenance and reduces overall costs.

Security and Compliance

Businesses must secure data and comply with regulations and standards. With more sophisticated attacks threatening businesses, they must apply the latest security updates to applications and developing platforms to quickly patch vulnerabilities. It is much easier to achieve with modern platforms like Java than Powerbuilder.

Powerbuilder Modernization: Powerbuilder to Java or .NET

Java and .Net are two dominant pathways for moving out of Powerbuilder. Both allow businesses to profit most from rapid programming languages and frameworks developments, acquire talent from a bigger pool of programmers, and reduce the total cost of ownership(TCO).

While both Powerbuilder To Java Migration and Powerbuilder To .Net Migration are powerful, popular options, it is often perplexing to choose the right path. The following section explores both routes to help you make an informed decision.

PowerBuilder to Java Migration

Java is among the most sought-after programming languages for PowerBuilder Migration. While it delivers incredible benefits, PowerBuilder to Java Migration comes with it’s fair share of challenges.

Beginning with the good things first, here’s a look at the advantages down this road.

  • Platform independence: Platform flexibility is the most significant driver for PowerBuilder to Java migration. Applications can run on various environments (web or mobile) and business models.
  • Benefits from Single-page architecture: Dynamism and interactivity are modern applications essentials. Reactive Javascript frameworks like React, Vue, and Angular help realize single-page architecture and create interactive apps.
  • Stability, security, and cost reduction: Changing hands three times in one decade raises serious stability concerns for PowerBuilder. Conversely, Java is a robust, stable, and secure environment with backward compatibility and a solid future vision. It also reduces TCO significantly.
  • Near exact replication: PowerBuilder and Java can deliver the same look and feel and support compatible security and error handling. Powerbuilder To Java Migration provides services similar to Powerbuilder classics with more efficient technology, better productivity, and no limitations on the target server platform.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin and explore the major challenges in the PowerBuilder To Java Migration path.

  • Mapping DataWindow controls and reports: UI controls, especially DataWindow controls and edit masks, do not map easily. Also, printing reports, something that PowerBuilder developers take for granted, requires good experience in Java.
  • Mapping PowerBuilder events with Java Swings: Some PowerBuilder UI events do not have equivalents in Java Swing. Developers must have significant experience to avoid experimentation.
  • Highly skilled programmers required: A limited amount of automation for PowerBuilder to Java migration is possible. Businesses must have highly skilled and seasoned programmers to ensure successful accomplishment.

PowerBuilder to .Net Migration

Powerbuilder 12.5 integrates with the Microsoft ecosystem very well. Although initially developed to compete with IDEs like MS Visual Studios, Powerbuilder .Net integration allows the Powerbuilder user base to benefit from the .Net platform.

This integration depletes the gap between the two platforms making Powerbuilder To .Net Migration a preferred modernization option for many developers. Some significant benefits are the following.

  • Simplicity and speed: The DataWindow technology of the classic Powerbuilder is also the basis for the graphic software construction feature for .Net. Such platform synergy accelerates migration and provides a certain degree of ease during the process.
  • Evolution with advancements in VUI and functionality: Powerbuilder To .Net Migration typically ensures that the applications are high-performing and data-driven. These apps constantly evolve to accommodate technological advances in the .Net framework and meet the dynamic business needs in the fast-paced market.
  • Multiple development options and shareable services: Migrating to the modern .Net platform enables highly effective applications. It allows the creation of services that businesses can share with partners and customers. The platform also comes with multiple development options and support for open databases.
  • Benefits of the brand: The absence of solid backing from a trusted brand is one of the key drivers for moving out of PowerBuilder. Migrating to Microsoft .Net definitely gives businesses that assurance and a clear vision to move forward.

No project can be all rosy and dreamy. PowerBuilder to .Net Migration also has some challenges and crucial considerations that businesses must address.

  • Closed environment: Despite supporting multiple languages and open databases, .Net is still a closed development environment. There will be proprietary vendor dependencies for new controls and APIs, even for DataWindow functionalities.
  • Emulating PowerBuilder Inheritance: .Net and Powerbuilder implement many concepts differently. This difference can lead to limitations that are apparent in migrating inheritances. For instance, visual inheritance is not possible in .Net.


Application modernization is a norm today. However, every migration project is a massive investment. It calls for adequate expertise to resolve challenges and make crucial decisions.

Beyond the technology considerations that have been discussed above it is also important to look at the IT org’s technology roadmap, questions like how much open source dependency is acceptable, choosing the right stack to ensure the tech obsolescence is factored in the design of the solution, incorporating technological advances and end-user preferences are all important factors among many more.

If you are considering PowerBuilder to Java migration or .Net migration, we encourage you to have an all-around assessment discussion with us. Being a boutique system integrator for many decades now our neutral assessment will only benefit you in making successful and informed choices for your business.

Kumaran System has extensive experience, unparalleled expertise, and proven approach and tools for PowerBuilder to Java migration, .Net migration or any modern technologies. From choosing the target architecture to staging the migration and successfully moving you out of PowerBuilder with the right amount of automation we make all crucial decisions with a customer-centric approach. Get a free consultation to help you pick the right technology for your migration needs.

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