Love Your Legacy, But Look To The Future
March 31, 2014 Dan Burger
Just five years ago, the IBM midrange community–at least the 90 percent that operate businesses in the SMB market–responded to emerging technologies with a great deal of detachment. They stayed entrenched in tradition with little concern about living in a silo. They had their integration struggles and did their application maintenance, but figured they were still years away from needing an overhaul. And although each company is different, this generalization applies more than it doesn’t.
Have things changed all that much in five years? Are IBM i shops approaching the challenges posed by new technologies with the same detachment or is there a growing sense of opportunity?
“We see companies that are very satisfied with their IBM i and IBM’s roadmap for that platform,” says Andy Kulakowski, CEO of Fresche Legacy, an IBM i software vendor with an unfamiliar name but an organizational focus on helping legacy shops adapt to modern IT surroundings. The perception of IT has changed and is changing dramatically, he says. The midrange has strength and power and scale, but it is undervalued by enterprises that see it as past its prime. He believes there is much more value for growing companies in the midrange and that recognition will dawn on a wider audience as more of them modernize their businesses.
“Technology sprawl is the byproduct of what we have seen over that past couple of decades. Shops have multiple flavors of technology. Consolidation due to mergers and acquisitions has left enterprises with a mishmash of technologies,” Kulakowski notes. Coming to grips with that, he says, is what Fresche Legacy is all about.
“Consolidating sprawl on IBM i is a solution we believe in,” says the former midrange programmer turned software company executive. “We are focusing business processes and we have a keen eye and an awareness of other environments. A lot of our technology is geared to understand other environments. We have products that run on a wide variety of platforms. That’s the way we introduce innovation into our company and we see how other companies introduce innovation for themselves. We satisfy our appetite for innovation by being open. When we design software, we do it so it is open to other technologies even though our focus is on IBM i. This helps us solve technology sprawl for our customers.”
Kulakowski says about 85 percent of Fresche Legacy’s customers are IBM i shops.
“Our growth plan and our vision for the future is focused on IBM i,” he says. “Our server room is stacked with IBM blades. We have the financial resources to support accelerated growth through M&A opportunities within the IBM i marketplace. We are not looking to diversify into other operating systems or hardware platforms.”
Fresche Legacy acquired Sykora, an RPG migration tool vendor, in 2012, and purchased Databorough, maker of application and database analysis and migration tools, in 2013. The company was formerly known as Speedware, which developed its business model around midrange application migration and modernization.
Kulakowski says most of the IBM i shops that engage with Fresche Legacy are very comfortable remaining on the IBM i platform and are not interested in migrating. He acknowledges a smaller segment of the IBM i market is worried about the sustainability of the IBM i platform and are thinking of migrating to .NET environments. A more likely occurrence is working with a company that wants to keep the platform, but migrate RPG or Synon/2E to Java. The reason for that migration, he says, relates to RPG skills becoming scarce and more expensive.
Here’s how Kulakowski sees it, and we will let him do the talking:
“I am a big believer in preparing for the next generation of IT professionals,” Kulakowski says. “I am an advocate for enterprise IT and preparing IBM i legacy environments for new technology, environments, and languages. I’m not saying give up on RPG. Ride it out. Love your legacy. Do not be afraid of it. Understand it. Appreciate the value that comes out of it and the value of aligning it with growing business. There are all types of solutions backed by IBM and its community of vendors that enable many options–.NET development, Web development, mobile development–but continue leveraging the IBM i platform into the future.”
“I wouldn’t necessarily think there’s a revolution to continue pitching the RPG development platform as competitive to the Java platform or more modern ways of development. That’s a hard revolution to fight. RPG is dated. The innovations and programming styles that have come with the new development environments are worth embracing and are easily integrated into IBM i environments. There are lots of tools and services that support the move from RPG to more modern environments.”
“Generations X and Y are coming. They are very big part of population and will be far more demanding than we were. I think it would be a losing battle to try to convince them to use RPG as a development platform. It’s up to us to set the table for the generation to come. We have the tools and technology to do that. That’s the revolution I would fight for.”