ARCAD Sets Out To Modernize German Midrange
January 11, 2016 Dan Burger
In theory, modernization is an ongoing process. It’s the opposite of aging. And as we all know, getting old sucks. There are a lot of successful companies that have managed to postpone IT modernization. But eventually age takes its toll and that’s what we see happening in IBM midrange shops, where IT modernization is a big concern. Helping companies modernize is the reason ARCAD Software, the IBM i software vendor, is opening a subsidiary office in Germany.
The IBM i market in Germany is estimated to be the largest in Europe. It is largely defined by a half dozen highly industrial and commercial areas, where large multi-national corporations with familiar names reside. However, the majority of organizations fall into the midsize category, defined by companies with between 500 and 1,500 employees. Rarely do these businesses extend beyond the German borders.
“Eighty percent of the gross revenue in Germany is produced by midsize companies and IBM i has big presence in these companies,” says Luc Crauwels, ARCAD’s vice president of sales for Europe. “There are a lot of legacy applications and a need for modernization.”
Robert Schneider is the managing director of the new German market operational headquarters located in Hamburg. From there, ARCAD will extend its reach into portions of Switzerland and Austria. Schneider’s description of the midsize IBM i shops is not unlike similarly sized companies in North America.
“For past 20 years, German IBM i shops have treated modernization as basic screen scraping–putting a graphical user interface on an existing green-screen application. The goal was to get a GUI without programmers spending much time on it. More recently, customers are looking at mobile computing and Web services–requirements that can’t be evaded. Now there’s an awareness that the need includes modularization of applications, creating SQL databases, and using agile development. Requests from users and business units are increasing as the amount of time available for additional programming is being reduced. IBM i users are feeling pressure to come up with new solutions quickly, but also to test them thoroughly. It is the right time and place for our plan to offer modernization as a service,” he says.
Customer demand, Schneider says, is what led to the creation of the German subsidiary of the company, which has its headquarters in Annecy, France. ARCAD has similar subsidiaries in the United States and Hong Kong. The signs of increasing interest in modernization have also been noticed at various technical conferences throughout Europe, according to Crauwels.
In previous articles, IT Jungle has reported on the developing pursuit of modernization activities and the frequency of modernization projects that are competed by application tool vendors or their business partners. The majority of those have been fairly simple screen scraping exercises. As implementations have increased and modernization projects become more complex with changes to the business rules and to the database, there has been an increase in partnerships between the IBM i application tool vendors and the software change management companies.
ARCAD, which began as a software change management company, has developed the tools to do much of the modernization work. That includes tools for analyzing existing applications, conversions from fixed format RPG–and other legacy applications such as Synon and CA2EE–to free form RPG code, and conversions to SQL-based databases. It partners with Profound Logic, makers of modern application development tools with the capability to create graphical user interfaces as well as working at the business logic level.
The analysis of existing environments and the documenting of applications have become the necessary first step, Schneider says, as companies plan for a new generation of developers who will participate in development and maintenance. And the transformation of fixed format to free format code allows new staff to work with code that is familiar.
The decision to modernize is not made without some consideration of migrating applications to other platforms or potentially leaving the IBM i platform completely. Migrations happen for a variety of reasons–some good, some bad. Reasons related to the IBM i platform being old technology or that IBM is no longer investing in the platform still surface, but are discounted by those who know the system well.
“It seems there’s a growing realization that migration off the platform is a risky alternative with hidden long term costs,” says ARCAD vice president of marketing Olenka Van Schendel. “Modernization is being seen as a lower risk and less costly and allows companies to keep the competitive advantage that their existing applications hold. What has tended to draw IBM i shops to migrate away from the platform has been the resource squeeze, and IBM i skills have become particularly scarce in Germany. So the ability to modernize existing applications by converting to a universal standard such as SQL and an accessible language like RPG Free is particularly relevant. This is one of the main reasons for our creation of a German subsidiary with a focus on modernization, and modernization as a service.”
For IT Jungle‘s German-speaking readers, ARCAD has a series of webinars scheduled in the coming months:
February 23 — Future-proof your IBM i application, with free form RPG
See the News & Events listing on the ARCAD Software home page for webinar details and registration.