App Dev Evolution Opens Doors For Midrange Dynamics
February 8, 2016 Dan Burger
Application development continues to be the name of the game in IBM midrange shops. What’s changing is the integration of development environments. RPG development remains the meat and potatoes, but a growing list of side dish environments are on the table. Change management software helps maintain order as these diverse entities cross paths, but it also takes on more responsibilities beyond the strictly app dev assignments. Take Midrange Dynamics, for example.
Its latest release of MDCMS, Version 7.4, features cross-system tracking capabilities at the top of the priority list. Workflow, troubleshooting, and deployment improvements have been added, but the spotlight is on a centralized console designed for organizations with a large flock of remote systems. Deployment to far-flung systems (yes, LPARs too) can be scheduled from the central development system. The addition of one-screen viewing of detailed logging messages and the capability to monitor the remote status of promotion packages throughout deployment and installation are significant changes from MDCMS 7.3, which was released a year ago.
IBM i shops with many development environments to manage can also use MDCMS to distribute and apply product upgrades, license keys, and configuration settings.
With Version 7.4, the MDCMS plug-in, called MDOpen, for RDi, Eclipse, and Zend Studio, connects to any server, IFS folder, or staging library. It also allows multiple components to be bundled for synchronized deployments or rollbacks across platforms, but has the capability to trigger events on selected servers at individually specified times, even in different time zones.
MDCMS and the MDOpen plug-in are designed to be used with any Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE).
“Version 7.4 is primarily enhanced to take care of the work, management, and troubleshooting needs of large organizations,” says Michael Morgan, Midrange Dynamics managing director. “Our priority is optimizing the organization. Anywhere the user interface is Windows or Unix boxes that need to stay in sync with the business layer on the AS/400.”
The recent enhancements can be directly attributed to Midrange Dynamics work with an unnamed customer, which Morgan describes as the largest enterprise using his company’s software. The MDCMS deployment went live last week.
“The new customer, which migrated from a Midrange Dynamics competitor’s software, had a wish list of features and Midrange Dynamics enhanced its software to provide it. We saw there were gaps in MDCMS 7.3 that did not fit what the new customer needed,” Morgan says.
So what about the multi-platform development environments? MDCMS has prepared for this in previous releases.
Although far from commonplace, integrated multi-platform environments are occurring more frequently in IBM i shops. Morgan says 13 or the last 15 Midrange Dynamics customers had change management for multi-platform development as a requirement.
“We see companies getting away from 100 percent green-screen environments,” Morgan says. “They want to get away from the siloes and they want one CMS product for all their boxes,” he says, while acknowledging this is not an epidemic. Companies that were using home-grown basic change management software, designed to be used in 100 percent RPG green-screen development environments, are no longer able to use that with the development plans they have now that include deployments to other server platforms. The companies that are actively looking to shore up their deployment capabilities have pain points.”
Based on Morgan’s observations, there are a surprising number of companies, even large organizations, with development environments absent of change management systems. About half of new customers at Midrange Dynamics did not previously use change management software. The other half are converting from a CMS they no longer wish to own.
Application modernization, a concept that has hovered over the IBM midrange for at least a dozen years, is showing signs of gaining velocity. Surveys have indicated it’s a high priority item for the majority of IBM i shops that respond to survey requests. And the merger, acquisition, and partnership developments in the IBM i vendor community point to expected growth in the modernization strategy, which is far more active than the migration strategy.
“Depending on the industry, you find differences in the push to modernize,” Morgan notes. “You might think that banks would be interested in modernizing more than other segments, but that’s generally not true, except for banks in Asia. They are pushing hard for modernization. By comparison, however, the banks in the U.S. and Europe are slow to change.”
Database modernization, a strategy that IBM continues to emphasize in its IBM i roadmap, is an infrequent topic of discussion between Midrange Dynamics and its customers and prospects.
“Companies in our pipeline are much more interested in application modernization than database modernization,” Morgan says. But for those who are revamping their databases, in its product suite, Midrange Dynamics has MDRapid, which is designed for database modernization.
Morgan admits his company doesn’t have the brand awareness outside of Europe that leads to familiarity and recognition of products and ultimately to trusted solutions, but the Swiss company is working on that. Midrange Dynamics North America (formerly known as Synergivity Software and based in Peterborough, New Hampshire) has made inroads as the U.S. distributor of MDCMS beginning in 2010. And a new business partner, 42 Consulting, was just added in Singapore, which will handle customers in Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
The Asian market is growing for Midrange Dynamics, but Morgan believes the greatest growth potential for his company lies in North America. He estimates the revenue sources for Midrange Dynamics to be 30 percent from Europe, 30 percent from North America, 15 percent from Asia, and 15 percent from Latin America.
Morgan says ease of implementation is a differentiating characteristic for Midrange Dynamics and that companies that require a proof of concept before making software purchases will recognize that benefit. The POC includes six hours of free support and includes all the functionality of the final product. If a purchase is made, he says the average configuration time is two days, but longer if the customer is a large enterprise. The average amount of training purchased is three days.