IBM i Modernization Gets A Fresche-look
September 22, 2014 Dan Burger
Fresche Legacy is making a name for itself in the IBM midrange business. Today the company announced it is acquiring looksoftware, one of several successful third-party application development tool vendors. The transaction creates a unique modernization-focused company. One year ago, Fresche Legacy purchased Databorough, a company with strong database technology. What’s taking shape is a company with an expanded modernization strategy designed to help companies solve modernization puzzles.
The marriage of application modernization and database modernization is something new for the IBM i software community, where application modernization has gained a foothold while database modernization struggled for attention. Earlier this year, with the release of the long-awaited IBM Redbook titled “Modernize IBM i Applications from the Database up to the User Interface and Everything in Between,” the overall modernization view began to get noticed. Fresche Legacy’s plan seems to be right out of the Redbook playbook.
Fresche has assembled a combination of tools, skills, resources, and people with an array technologies and services. Its goal is to advise IBM i shops and provide tools to modernize. The acquisition of looksoftware provisions Fresche with the technology to accomplish application modernization projects–particularly green-screen to graphical user interfaces–and introduces Fresche to the looksoftware customer base, which the company estimates to be more than 3,000.
“We felt we were missing a critical part of our modernization offering, which led to conversations with looksoftware and its GUI-enablement tools and front end technology for the IBM i platform,” says Fresche Legacy President and CEO Andy Kulakowski. “This makes us a one-stop shop for modernizing IBM i environments.”
Application modernization vendors have not had a lot to say about database modernization, a process that involves an assessment of current database policies that are generally rooted in the past and are creating business process bottlenecks that handcuff organizations as they plan their future IT strategies. IBM, long ago, shifted its DB2 database development to an SQL-based, data-centric development approach. The view that modernization projects should take into account both applications and databases has gained support in recent years, but at the same time it has added to the complexity and the confusion of companies uncertain where and how to tackle the modernization process.
Fresche Legacy, with its acquisition of looksoftware and Databorough is the first vendor to take this larger view of modernization.
Kulakowski believes IBM i users–from small, to midsize, to large shops–have a great interest in leveraging the power that the platform, but is confused by the marketing messages and options.
“We will hopefully decrease the confusion on where to start a modernization project,” Kulakowski says. “Companies are asking, ‘Should I modernize my database, my program logic, my user interface, and which should I do first and how do I go about it?'”
The Fresche Legacy message is that it has the assets, skills, and expertise to lead organizations toward their modernization visions.
“Modernization of the database needs to be considered along with application modernization,” the Fresche Legacy CEO says. “Every company is different. And the way they apply their technology and integrate technologies is different. We customize solutions around customer needs and business requirements. You don’t go to market with one simple formula that says do this first, this second, and this third. The way to do it is to provide modernization expertise and then consult and advise with businesses to determine the right modernization journey. It’s not easy and that is why IBM i shops are challenged.”
Among the IBM i challenges Kulakowski identifies are staff attrition and a skill shortage for RPG, COBOL, CA 2E (Synon) and CL.
“This is really the important part of why this makes sense to looksoftware and its customers,” says Brendan Kay, CEO of looksoftware. “We have delivered success for a lot of companies. However, there is a maximization of value in the overall modernization process. There will UI (user interface) modernization, database modernization, and application logical program modernization as well. Companies need to address all three to get the maximum value. The exact order and way to do so will change from client to client.”
The Fresche Legacy-Databorough tools, Kay points out, have capabilities that extend beyond database modernization. They are also used with application and program logic modernization, which involves extracting business rules and discovering where business rules are redundant or inconsistent. Much of the modernization process is a discovery process. Kay says the modernization platform being created by Fresche Legacy will help shops decide where the biggest value can be obtained with consideration of database, UI, and program logic. In the end, he says, the shops end up with code that is more flexible and maintainable.
The financial details of the Fresche Legacy-looksoftware transaction were not made public. The two companies began talking about a partnership five months ago, just seven months after Fresche acquired Databorough. Both look and Databorough are now wholly owned subsidiaries of Fresche Legacy.
According to Kay, the transaction can be described as a merging of both companies’ teams and that each will remain intact. Looksoftware products will continue to be marketed and sold under the looksoftware name.
“This is very much a merger as opposed to a take-over opportunity,” Kays says.
Kay and Gavin Rogers, co-founders of Melbourne, Australia-based looksoftware receive financial payment from Fresche Legacy. They have reinvested some of that money in the combined companies and have “an ownership stake,” according to Kulakowski.
“Gavin and I will become part of the single management team for the group of companies,” Kay says. “This started as a partnership discussion, but as we discussed we saw ways the two companies could do more as a combined entity than even a close partnership could accomplish.”
The two companies will integrate their products and services and will be offering managed services, staff augmentation, IT planning, platform and application analysis, UI enhancements, mobile and cloud enablement, and application and database modernization.