looksoftware Talks Implementation and Invigoration
May 8, 2012 Dan Burger
If there were flags for RPG and IBM i, looksoftware would be waving them. At its annual user conference, which is cleverly named “lookahead,” there was plenty of “can do” for the IBM midrange advocates in attendance. CEO Brendan Kay was noticeably energized during his closing session Thursday and it carried over to our conversation afterward as he spoke in glowing terms about the IBM i platform, RPG programmers, and the projects completed and under way at looksoftware customer sites.
Accomplishments rather than a new product focus dominated at the conference. Kay was obviously pleased that with the last major release of the company’s flagship product, lookserver 9.1, the vendor has Rational Open Access: RPG Edition support across its entire product line.
“Having OA across the product line is significant from our perspective,” Kay said. With the multi-channel product lineup that is available, Kay says the company “delivers the right functionality to the right user on the right device.”
As Kay sees it, the power should be in the hands of RPG programmers.
“We believe RPG should implement all the business logic,” he says, while quickly adding that enhancements based on RPG OA technology and incorporated into looksoftware’s development products, “lets RPG programmer completely control all business logic portions of the user interface.”
For example, RPG can populate selections within a list, determine how many records to display independent of the size of a screen, and view more columns in a subfile than would fit in a screen. The point is that it can get beyond the limitations of the green screen, which has severely darkened the reputation of the IBM i platform.
“You don’t want to end up with part of your business logic in an RPG program and part in some separate UI program,” Kay said. “Without Open Access, RPG is limited to 5250. The only thing the UI should be worried about is, What is the best way to display the information?”
“Some people have both skills,” Kay said. “But that number is fewer than the number of people who think they have both skills. It’s a different mindset.”
A lot of talk at this conference came around to the IBM i server and where it is going. Kay sees a promising future. The company backed this up by sponsoring an event called iBelieve, which was somewhat of a religious tent revival meeting designed to shine a light on the positive features of the platform. You can read about the event in an IT Jungle article published in yesterday’s edition of The Four Hundred.
“We see a lot of positive news and developments in the IBM i market,” Kay said. “There have been a lot of negative comments about how IBM was trying to kill off the i, but we know that is not the case.”
Kay pointed to information blogged by Steve Will, chief architect for IBM i, that sited lofty Power Systems Group revenue figures for the first three-quarters of 2011, including 19 percent year-over-year growth for the IBM i platform. Getting any IBM i statistical figures from Big Blue is a rarity, but I suppose Will has his ways. I would hope so anyway. (Keep sharing those numbers, Steve!)
Statistics can be impressive, but they don’t often convince people. If you’re hard to convince, chew on this info from Kay: “We have seen customers who are making decisions to start projects on IBM i and, in some instances, migrate things off other platforms and onto the i. That wasn’t something we were seeing just a few years ago,” he said.
An emphasis at any IT conference is to show what can be done. It’s better to hear from customers who have completed projects with proven success than to have a vendor talk about what could be done.
During the three-day lookahead conference, several customers delivered the goods.
Baker Corporation, a heavy equipment rental company based in California, showed an iPad solution based on IBM i applications. The company was assisted with “around two weeks” of looksoftware consulting time, Kay said, which was just about the total time to complete the project. In this case, all of the required functionality was available in the underlying green-screen applications.
Agilysys, a well-known software vendor in the hospitality field, demonstrated an IBM i-based green-screen application that was modernized into a Web application. It integrated data from several systems including the IBM i database and an external CRM system.
K-mart in Australia showed a how five main systems and 18 subsidiary systems with separate interfaces used by freight managers were integrated into a single interface that has improved workflow.
CLARO, a communications company in Guatemala, built Web interfaces for pushing out applications to its audience. And Xperia Solutions modernized its COBOL-based ERP application so that, in Kay’s words, “it is virtually unrecognizable from what it once was, which has led to a significant increase in business.”
Looksoftware is in the fourth quarter of a very successful fiscal year, according to Kay, who wouldn’t get any more specific than to say double-digit growth was achieved in each of the first three quarters.
Instead he finished up our interview by revealing the “three core tenets” important to IBM i applications moving forward. Applications must work in modern ways in terms of navigation and workflow; they need to be integrated with other systems; and they need to be open without lock-in or dead end.
“When applications meet those criteria, they meet with great success,” he said.