‘ALL Out’ Effort Improves Security Tool’s Look
March 18, 2014 Alex Woodie
It’s no secret that IBM i applications suffer from an image problem. The green text interface of 5250 applications is arguably the platform’s biggest liability. While efforts to improve the user experience (UX) typically focus on user-facing applications, ALL Out Security is benefitting from an overhaul of its IBM i security product, courtesy of looksoftware‘s UX modernization tools.
ALL Out Security developed TRACE to help IT managers detect suspicious activity on the IBM i server. The software is basically a data mining solution for the IBM i audit journal and gives users the capability to detect when potentially criminal events are occurring, such as changes made to sensitive fields in DB2/400, the use of SQL or ODBC to change data, and the bypass of application-level controls.
Whereas many security tools focus on what kinds of access users have, TRACE is different because it shows exactly what users have already done. “It shows where security has been breached, where mistakes have been made, where the database has been corrupted, where fixes have been applied, when segregation of duties breaches have taken place and yes, it happens, where there has been fraud or deliberate malpractice,” says ALL Out technical director Luke Phillips.
TRACE has been well-received by ALL Out’s predominantly JD Edwards customer base since it was acquired three years ago and unveiled to the IBM i community at the spring 2011 COMMON conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, it was becoming apparent that the product’s 5250 green-screen interface was being negatively perceived by potential customers, especially JDE EnterpriseOne shops, who have become accustomed to rich graphical interfaces. (JDE World shops, apparently, are not as resistant to text-based interfaces.)
The Colorado Springs, Colorado, company responded to this realization by committing to modernize the UX of TRACE and delivering a GUI. Company officials evaluated several modernization tools before settling on looksoftware and its newlook and smartclient offerings.
Newlook is looksoftware’s primary development and design tool for modernizing IBM i applications. The software uses a rules-based engine to detect fields and other entities in a green-screen application and automatically maps those into a graphical grid used for the new UX. The software can work with IBM‘s RPG Open Access technology, and supports Windows, Web, and mobile interfaces through smartclient (for fat client) and lookserver (for thin-client Web and mobile interfaces).
The modernization process at ALL Out went smoothly, according to a case study on the looksoftware website. When it was completed, the company not only had Web- and Windows-based interfaces to flaunt, but also the capability to work with TRACE data from the comfort of Microsoft Office applications.
Phillips is particularly pleased with the PC integration with TRACE that looksoftware enabled. “Users can get a real-time email if any unauthorized or inaccurate database update occurs and a real-time Excel [spreadsheet] showing all unauthorized database changes over any historical period with just two clicks of a mouse,” Phillips says in the case study.
ALL Out director and co-founder Richard Belton says the new graphical interface has opened new markets for the product. “Traditionally we have worked with the technical community to enable them to produce compliance reports,” he says in the case study. “However the introduction of a graphical interface has enabled us to market the product to a completely new audience of Windows end users and help desk users, for whom a green-screen interface would be a significant challenge. They are now able to track the nature and sequence of an error, resulting in reduced risk and enhanced data recovery capability for the business.”
During sales presentations, representatives are no longer called to answer for the ugly 5250 interface, and instead can proceed with demonstrating the functionality of the product. “I have always believed that TRACE is technically one of the smartest products we have, for its ease of installation and obvious cost-benefit advantages to our clients,” Phillips says. “But working with looksoftware has helped us take the software to the next level.”
Belton says the company can attribute sales directly to the new UX. “We anticipate significant growth in our customer base in the coming months thanks to the modern look, feel, and functionality of TRACE,” he says.