iSeries Web Adventures Call with iSafari
February 13, 2007 Alex Woodie
Meet AdventureTech Group, an IT vendor specializing in OS/400 software and services. You may not have heard much (or anything) about this crew, but that’s soon to be changed, as the Olathe, Kansas, company continues to gain customer wins with iSafari, its Web-enablement software for iSeries servers, and iConga, a two-way message management utility that offers capabilities unmatched by some larger competitors.
Doug McDaniel, president of AdventureTech, says iSafari is an ideal solution for iSeries shops that are proficient in RPG development and are looking for a simple Web-enablement solution. “It’s simpler because we don’t have an IDE that you have to code in,” he says. “Customers have to learn HTML, but it allows them to keep their RPG skill sets.”
McDaniel hopes to tap into the still-solid vein of RPG skills with iSafari. “The point of it is, you write in RPG, so it’s fairly quick to write sound business applications,” he says. “The way they keep enhancing the RPG language, with freeform RPG, it almost looks like C or Java the way it’s going. . . . It’s not a dead language.”
Because it’s a fast sockets-based connection, iSafari treads more lightly on hardware than, say, IBM‘s WebSphere, which has been known to force an iSeries upgrade or two. “It will run on customers’ current hardware,” McDaniel says. “It’s running on RPG, so it’s light and quick. It doesn’t put a big hit on the machine.”
The product has been in development for seven years, and is installed at more than a dozen organizations across the country. Many of these customers are in the government and utility industries. For example, iSafari is used by the city of Topeka to serve a Web interface to a Sungard-HTE system for buying parking spaces in a city garage. It was also used by the city of Idaho Falls, Idaho, to create an online interface for a utility billing system originally developed in Lotus Notes.
iSafari implementations do not take long–a couple of weeks in the case of Idaho Falls–and the customer is left with several working Web applications, McDaniel says. The $20,000 price tag for the unlimited version of iSafari includes 80 hours of training from an AdventureTech “guide” (likely the product’s developer and company principle, Tim King) and the first year’s maintenance. There’s also a “light” version starting at $6,000.
Currently at version 3, iSafari is seeing more enhancements as companies buy maintenance contracts. Some of the new features include integrated FTP and e-mail servers, windowing control, PDF conversion capabilities, integration with OS/400 user logons, and a new forms overlay capability developed at the request of an insurance company looking to put its OS/400-based claims management system on the Web.
AdventureTech has taken iSafari on the road to various trade shows during the past few years, and that work is now starting to pay off. “We’re getting to where it’s starting to get noticed now,” McDaniel says. “Consulting is [still] about 80 percent of business, but software is starting to pick up more.”
The company’s other product besides iSafari is iConga, a message queue monitor for iSeries servers introduced about two and a half years ago. iConga frees operators and administrators from their consoles by monitoring the important QSYSOPR message queue for them. If a message matching the user’s filtering criteria hits the queue, iConga automatically e-mails the alert to the operator or administrator on call.
Here’s the best part about iConga: it’s two-way enabled. So not only can the administrator or operator view the alert, he can also respond to it with a command. For example, if a nightly backup fails for some reason, the user can send the command to restart the backup from his e-mail enabled cell phone, saving precious time. At least one customer has ditched another major message management system in favor of iConga due to this feature, McDaniel says.
AdventureTech added the two-way messaging feature to iConga recently after speaking with pager-equipped iSeries managers at trade shows. “Some of these managers said, ‘I’m here at the show, but if I get paged, I’ve got to go up to room to get the laptop to respond to the message. I’d like to be at this show and send the message on my phone.’ We said we could write a solution for this.” Brett Gibson, the lead developer of iConga and one AdventureTech’s four principles, spent eight months writing it, McDaniel says.
iConga has some other nifty features, including its break message management. With this feature, if an operator or admin is logged on, iConga will send a pop-up window to the user’s console when an important message hits the queue, instead of e-mailing it to the user.
The product’s name matches AdventureTech’s jungle-oriented theme. Conga drums have been used in Africa for long-distance communications, while the “i” reflects the iSeries and System i orientation.
iConga version 1.0059 is available now in two versions. The full version, which includes the two-way messaging capability, sells for $3,500, while the light version, which only allows users to view the messages (but not respond to them) goes for $1995.
For more information, tour www.atgi.org.