Red Oak Simulates World’s Fastest Human Terminal Operator
September 25, 2007 Dan Burger
George Cummings, president and CEO of Red Oak Software, describes his company’s Legacy Integrator product, a programmatic integration tool for connecting System i and System z applications with other applications, as a replacement for the world’s fastest human terminal operator. In other words, Legacy Integrator flips through green screens faster than humanly possible. Much faster.
“Our software brings the entire application, or pieces of it, down to the desktop,” Cummings says. “It allows the developer to pick the transactions, capture them, and turn them into callable business objects. Our tool doesn’t capture entire applications by dragging and dropping. You have to transverse the application and pick the critical areas that you want.”
Cummings then put this into every day terms. “For example, you need to put in a customer ID, hit the enter key, hit F12, flip down three more screens, enter seven fields with valid data, hit another enter key, get the results, and pass them back to the user, parsed properly. We can do that better than anybody.”
This isn’t about presentation. This is about functionality, the automation and deployment of legacy business objects, and application integration with the major systems and application servers–particularly with the integrating of online application transactions.
Legacy Integrator 2.0, which Red Oak announced recently, includes the latest round of performance upgrades that speeds the process of integrating application logic and eliminating the need for host changes in multi-platform environments. As it has from the beginning and through several iterations of the software, Integrator relies on Java for its interoperability and its capability to build composite business objects.
Java has a reputation of being slow, yet after all things are considered, it is widely considered to be fast enough to do sub-second transactions.
The performance enhancements that come with Integrator 2.0 are not huge in terms of percentage gains, but they should be noticeable for current customers that tend to have hundreds of thousands of transactions occurring over a 24-hour period. These are customers that are using large machines and performing sophisticated tasks involving multiple screens that need to be traversed in order to get to the final transaction. The performance that counts the most relates to emulation capabilities and threading–areas where bottlenecks can occur. Integrator has also been designed to avoid bottlenecks and run the most current version of Java.
According to Cummings, about 10 percent of Red Oak’s business is with System i users and 5250 emulation. “The kinds of problems that we solve and the kinds of customers we have are high-end, enterprise class,” he says. “They don’t have a couple of 5250 terminals here and there. They have multiple clustered iSeries solutions. One of our customers has 13 iSeries data centers. You don’t use a tool like ours for one system. Our pricing and our value is geared to the larger customer.”
The lion’s share of Red Oak business comes from IBM mainframe customers. “There are more CICS transactions out there than any other,” Cummings notes. “They dwarf everything else.” If you turn back the pages on Cummings’ resume, you’ll find he worked 16 years with IBM dealing with large MVS customers around the world.
Legacy Integrator is a component of Red Oak’s Application Integration Framework products, which include Legacy Composer, an Eclipse-based visual design tool for Unix/Linux systems; Web Integrator, a Web-based tool for integrating HTML and XML application transactions; and Web Clipper, which is used for portal development. The company also has a product called .NET Bridge, introduced 18 months ago, that allows Legacy Integrator to talk with Microsoft Windows applications. In this case it is generating C# rather than Java.
Each of the Transaction Integration products includes a workbench or software development kit (SDK) and a runtime server that enables most legacy and Web-based systems to be integrated with other application servers and major enterprise application systems.
The SDK is a visual drag-and-drop tool that is convenient, but Cummings says only about half of Red Oak’s customers use it. “They just use the API calls, because these are sophisticated users and they don’t use drag-and-drop tools. These are heavy-duty Java guys. They don’t use desktop tools. They think those are for sissies.”
And what about those Web-enabled applications? “We think the future of integration is going to be on the Web,” Cummings says, “so we have invested in Web products. There is a more sophisticated and more difficult problem integrating Web application functionality.
“Our Web Integrator product is designed to take any application that is Web-enabled and treat it as Legacy Integrator would a CICS application. This is about back-end applications. Rather than taking the back-end transactions and turning them into JavaBeans, it captures Web transactions and turns them into JavaBeans. Instead of interfacing with a terminal (like Legacy Integrator), it interfaces with a browser.”
Legacy Integrator 2.0 is available at no extra charge to existing customers with maintenance contracts. Red Oak’s maintenance and support is structured as an annual fee and that covers fixes, upgrades, and unlimited support.