OpenLegacy’s Modernization Approach Impresses New Partner
April 15, 2015 Alex Woodie
With its commercial open source business model, OpenLegacy is breaking the rules when it comes to the traditional ways that IBM i and mainframe software vendors sell their wares. But according to Treehouse Software‘s chief business development officer, it was the underlying technology in its application modernization suite that ultimately led it to become one of OpenLegacy’s first North American business partners.
Treehouse Software’s Wayne Lashley first encountered OpenLegacy about two years ago, when the company was still in its infancy. “I was intrigued by the idea,” he tells IT Jungle. “But I felt they were a little early and wasn’t sure about their ability to carry this thing off with a business model that is different than what we’re used to.”
When Treehouse re-engaged the startup in the middle of 2014, OpenLegacy was still proposing to give away large chunks of its intellectual property surrounding its modernization tool, which is radical to an IBM mainframe software and services vendor like Treehouse.
“But when we had our technical people look at what they were doing and how they were doing it, we were pretty impressed with how comprehensive it is and how much it does for you,” Lashley says. “Once you get past that point of configuration and design, you press the big green button, as I like to say, and out pops all this really rich platform code that you can basically immediately deploy in various use cases.”
Treehouse’s mainframe customers are in a similar position as many IBM i shops. They both run so-called “legacy” applications that are critical to operations but which are getting a bit long in the tooth and don’t feature the snazzy Web, mobile, and REST interfaces that today’s users and developers demand. While the guts of many IBM i and mainframe apps are still strong and the business logic has been tailored to fit the organizations like a fine suit, the fact that the applications were developed in older procedural languages (COBOL on the mainframe, RPG on the IBM i server) make the availability of programming skills a big and growing issue. Combine all that with the balance that must be struck between shrinking IT budgets and an aging workforce, and you’re left with organizations that are searching for application modernization tools that can leverage the legacy that the previous generation built while simultaneously providing a path to serve the next generation.
With OpenLegacy, Treehouse hopes that it’s found an answer to its customers’ needs. “We don’t have a whole fleet of Java programmers that we can send out to customers to pump out code to try to knit this stuff together,” Lashley says. “What I got back from our technical people [regarding OpenLegacy was] ‘Wow you can take somebody with mainframe skills, who knows how to navigate the applications, and with very minimal technical training and orientation . . . they’re perfectly capable of delivering on the modernization exercise.'”
As we explained two months ago in a The Four Hundred article, OpenLegacy takes a different approach to legacy modernization and application integration than other vendors. Instead of modifying any existing code, it essentially builds an additional layer on top of the existing applications. After analyzing 5250 and 3270 screens, the RPG and COBOL business logic, and the database calls, the software uses a wizard to automatically generate new interfaces, which could include a graphical user interface (GUI) for Web or mobile devices, programmatic interfaces (a REST or XML Web service), and database interfaces.
This approach works for IBM i and mainframe shops, which typically want the same types of things out of an application modernization engagement. “You can generate a REST interface that you can plug into a native iOS application, or you can put a nice Web front on a funky old 3270 application,” Lashley says. “You can access the application through the business logic, so to speak, or through the terminal, or straight through the database. They have different ways to do that integration, to expose the application and data functionality. It’s just very comprehensive in what it does for you.”
The fact that OpenLegacy works with both the heavier SOA approach as embodied with the service oriented application protocol (SOAP), as well as the lighter SOA approach as embodied with REST, is key to helping companies be productive, Lashley says.
“To be able to package up and expose legacy functionality in the same way as people are developing new applications that come out of the box with this architecture–the fact that OpenLegacy has embraced that and is promoting that allows our customer to enter that space without rethinking their architecture,” he says.
While Treehouse today is mainly focused on serving its customers mainframe needs, the company could provide IBM i capabilities in the future. OpenLegacy is currently looking for IBM i business partners to work with in the United States.