Software AG Maintains Investment in Jacada Tools
July 24, 2012 Alex Woodie
It’s been almost five years since Software AG acquired the rights to Jacada‘s application modernization and Web enablement tool for IBM i and z/OS environments, called the Jacada Interface Server. Over that time, the German software giant has continued to invest in the software, which it now calls webMethods JIS. Early next year the company expects to launch a major new release of webMethods JIS that will keep the product relevant in our mobile world.
Jacada was one of the early leaders in the Web-enablement business as the Internet started to bloom in the 1990s. When the company launched as Client/Server Technology in 1994, its first product, called GUIsys, received lots of attention for its capability to convert 5250 and 3270 screens into HTML screens. It was one of the industry’s first screen scrapers, and it helped to shape how we think about application modernization today.
Jacada went public in 1999, struggled through the dot-com bust and ensuing recession, and continued to develop its products until late 2007, when Software AG paid about $26 million to buy its application modernization business. The deal transferred intellectual property rights for three products, the installed base of customers, and maintenance contracts to Software AG, but the Atlanta, Georgia-based company retained the right to sell the software to clients in the call center business, which is Jacada’s sole industry focus today.
The three products in the deal included JIS, Jacada Integrator, and a terminal emulator. The emulator has been retired, while Jacada Integrator continues to receive minor enhancements. JIS was the big catch for Software AG, which coveted the product for its scalability, its strong mainframe customer base, and its repute among analysts.
Since the acquisition, Software AG and its Israel-based development team for webMethods JIS have shipped six releases of the product. The big focus early on was improving the product’s usability and administration, explains Andreas Goermer, Software AG’s senior product manager in charge of the ARIS PPM (formerly IDS Scheer) and former Jacada products.
“We talked to the developers and asked them, ‘What are the main pain points that weren’t covered?'” he tells IT Jungle in a phone interview from Software AG’s headquarters in Frankfurt. “One of the pain points was the administration and installation, so we spent a lot of time and invested so that these things could be made much easier and more cost-efficient regarding the operations.”
As part of that work, Software AG overhauled the product and converted almost everything to Java from its original code base, which contained lots of C and a smattering of Assembler, says Guido Falkenberg, the company’s senior vice president of product marketing for enterprise transaction systems. “We did our housekeeping work and cleaned up everything so that we run today on standard Java environments,” he says. The product can still run natively on the IBM i server, but in time the server environment will be shifted entirely to Java.
Much of the development work today is focused on the client. webMethods JIS includes two types of clients: a Java client and an XHTML client. With the forthcoming release of version 6.2 early next year, the XHTML client will be overhauled to support HTML5. It will also support mobile devices running Android and iOS.
The new HTML5 interface running on Android and iOS “looks great,” Goermer says. “It’s not a real [native] app, but when I look at other mobile websites, we can really compete with them,” he says. “It is something we will market to existing customers and hopefully use to attract new customers.”
Software AG currently has about 250 customers around the world. About 70 percent of them are mainframe shops, with the remainder being IBM i shops. Most of the business lies in serving existing customers. In fact, one of the webMethods JIS customers just added an additional 10,000 seats, Goermer says. There are three webMethods JIS resellers in the United States, which work with personnel in Software AG’s office in Virginia.
Software AG also sells two other products called webMethods EntireX and webMethods ApplinX that offer similar application modernization capabilities as webMethods JIS. However, those two products are more strategic in nature, and are focused on modernizing legacy applications to work inside service oriented architecture (SOA) environments. That leaves webMethods JIS as the go-to product when a tactical product is required to move from 5250 and 3270 green screens to a modern Web user experience.
The proven scalability and performance of webMethods JIS gives it an edge against other modernization tools that might offer more glamorous Web 2.0-style user interfaces, Falkenberg says. “The unique selling points of JIS are still the same–its extremely scalable, high performance architecture,” he says. “I think the main power is its rules-based, instant conversion of screens to new Web pages. I would say customers sometimes appreciate that solid, highly scalable backbone more than having a little bit better feature on the UI side.”
According to the webMethods JIS roadmap that Software AG shared, that high performance backbone will be around for years to come.