OpenLegacy: Go from Green to GUI for Twelve Bucks
October 7, 2015 Alex Woodie
OpenLegacy wants to modernize your 5250 screens for $12 to $20 each as part of a new service it unveiled this week at the COMMON conference. Called OpenLegacy Click, the new service is aimed at smaller companies that don’t have the budget for full-blown modernization projects, but have a business need to convert a select number of 5250 screens to Web and mobile interfaces just the same.
OpenLegacy is turning heads in the IBM i modernization space with an approach that emphasizes application re-use and open source technology. Its flagship IBM i product, called OpenLegacy iSuite, essentially models how IBM i applications work, and then uses a wizard to generate new interfaces, including graphical user interfaces (GUI) for Web or mobile devices or application programming interfaces (APIs) using REST or XML Web service programs. It handles much of the underlying “plumbing” of a modern application, the company likes to say, but uses industry standard, open source technologies that don’t lead to lock-in.
This relatively lightweight approach resonates with some IBM i shops, but it’s still too much for others who don’t want to buy tooling that may carry a five-digit price tag at the end of the day. Since launching its legacy modernization business a few years ago, OpenLegacy has had conversations with hundreds of prospects, mostly senior IT executives at IBM i and mainframe shops, and one of the things the company keeps hearing over and over is that modernization projects are too costly and they take too much time, says Rolin Zumaran, the company’s SVP of sales.
The OpenLegacy team thought about this, and decided to take a new approach. “What if we were to offer a limited number of transformation activities–meaning 10 or 25 screens max–for a very small fee, where we provide you with a portion of our technology that allows you to touch those screens?” Zumaran tells IT Jungle. “You send us that file, we convert it for you, and we send you back a file that you can execute and put in a server.”
That’s essentially what the company is providing with OpenLegacyClick. As part of the new service, OpenLegacy installs a modeler on the customer’s IBM i server, and then navigates through the screens the customer wants to modernize. The modeler creates an XML-based trail of the session, which OpenLegacy uses to convert into modern HTML code. It packages that code as a Web Application Archive (WAR) file, which customers can then load onto their Web application servers–usually Apache Tomcat running under IBM i.
The resulting HTML screens deliver the same functionality as the 5250 green screens, but it can be accessed from any device with a Web browser, including a mobile phone or a tablet. This will help customers who aren’t ready for a full-blown modernization project get started with Web applications in an easy and affordable manner, the company says.
Got a Twenty, Get a GUI
OpenLegacy has two bundles available. The first one gets the customer 10 modernized screens for $199 per month, or about $20 per screen per month. The second one gets the customer 25 modernized screens for $299 per month, or about $12 per screen per month.
“It’s really for small shops that are using an AS/400 and don’t have a budget for major a modernization project,” says OpenLegacy COO Hans Otharsson. “They don’t have the budget to spend hundreds of dollars per screen to modernize their system.”
That’s massively less expensive than typical engagements by legacy modernization service providers, says Otharsson, who used to work at Software AG. “In my past lives, when we’ve been in bake-offs against competitors that do legacy modernization projects, they’re charging from $400 to $800 per screen,” he says. “They base that on an easy screen being four hours [to convert], a hard screen being eight hours, and a complex screen 16 hours. That’s how they bill the pricing models. I know this because I used to do this type of work. Thatâ€™s how those projects can get very expensive.”
The new service is available now through OpenLegacy and its business partners. OpenLegacy, which will actually generate the code for customers, says customers can change the look and feel of the resulting applications by picking one of several pre-built templates. They can also include their logos.
But in most cases, the customers aren’t too interested in how the applications look–they just want something fast. And this service is fast, Otharsson says. “We can turn it around very quickly because the automation is built on our technology,” he says. “We can turn it around in a day or so.”
If customers want to upgrade to the full OpenLegacy product–which combines an IDE with an execution engine along with user and process management–they can bring their converted screens with them. And no changes are required to the customers’ environments.
“All we’ve done is open up a REST API window from a mobile or tablet device to access those screens,” Otharsson says. “We’re not changing their 5250. They can go into an old inventory system if they want and look at the green screens. But from a business perspective, if I’m on one end of the warehouse and I need to see what’s on rack seven, row three, I should be able to look that up right on my phone and get that done and be able to move things forward.”