Initech Debuts with Low-Cost iTool Suite
August 10, 2004 Alex Woodie
When it comes to paying maintenance fees, Brian Bradley is probably like most AS/400 administrators. That is to say, he doesn’t like them. To avoid paying the fees, Bradley, who runs a data center in Mobile, Alabama, developed his own utilities, including security and object maintenance programs, to save his clients money. Now the entire iTool Suite is available for under $800 through his new venture, Initech.
In his day job, Bradley is the technical director at Mobile Customer Service Data Center, which hosts servers and applications for 20 or so companies in the credit union and shipping industries. Half a dozen live AS/400 and iSeries servers make up the backbone of the data center’s operation, along with a handful of Windows and Linux servers on the periphery.
About a year and a half ago, Bradley developed the first utility that would eventually make it into the iTool Suite, a product called iClean. One of his clients’ systems had been running slow, and he didn’t know why, so he developed a utility that sorts out OS/400 objects by size, so he could remove unnecessary objects and keep the system running efficiently. “That tool has saved me from purchasing drives,” he says. “It didn’t take long to write, and it will save people money.” Today it’s available for $195, a small fraction of the cost of an iSeries disk drive.
But iClean was only the beginning. Bradley, who is president of Initech, and his team of three developers, whose day jobs are also at the data center, have teamed up on iAssist ($295), a pop-up windows system that can call any program when the user hits the “attention” key (escape on PC keyboards). There is also FTP Assistant ($495), which provides a menu-driven way to exchange files with trading partners, using the OS/400 server as an FTP client. Then there is the Web Start Kit ($995), which, Initech says, can get a user set up with a Web-based inquiry program in a single day.
But the big product push at Initech involves iGuard, a network security program. The tool, which costs $795, locks down OS/400 exit points and prevents unwanted system access. The iGuard includes programs for locking down FTP, ODBC, DDM, DRDA, SQL, and the transfer facility of OS/400 servers. Administrators can use iGuard to disable entire applications or restrict access to certain users. It also keeps a log of all activity.
While iGuard may not cover as many OS/400 exit points as more mature network security programs, many smaller shops can’t afford the $6,000 it costs to license them (not to mention those dreaded maintenance fees), Bradley says. “If a customer is on the fence about it, price is probably the number-one determining factor,” he says. “The goal isn’t to make a ton of money. My goal is to get this out to the smaller companies.”
Some of the smaller shops that could benefit from the increased security of iGuard can be found in the Gulf Coast Midrange User Group, of which Bradley is president. Bradley says that he “found that many of the members are connecting their AS/400s and iSeries boxes to the Internet and local networks without a complete understanding of the implications.”
Initech customers will never be asked to pay an annual maintenance fee, which is a reflection of Bradley’s strong feelings about the fees. “I have been paying 20 percent maintenance fees for years, and never felt like I got my money’s worth,” he says. “After five years, I’ve purchased the product again.”
Bradley says that he rarely finds much use for upgrades, as he usually buys tools for the functionality they originally came with. But if an upgrade is delivered to an Initech product–and customers will be encouraged to submit their ideas–it will be offered to customers free of charge, unless it’s a major upgrade, he says.
As part of Initech’s opening marketing campaign, iGuard, iClean, and iAssist are being sold as the iTool Suite, for $795. For more information, go to www.initechllc.com.