AURA Hopes U.S. Modernization Crowd Has Silver Lining
May 16, 2016 Dan Burger
AURA Equipements CTO Sylvain Rubele says he knows of 4,000 IBM i shops that are integrating IBM i native applications within Web or desktop applications that run on Windows, Linux, and Unix operating systems. How does he know this? Because, by his count, they are AURA customers. Eighty percent of those reside in French-speaking European countries. He wouldn’t mind if that number was smaller, if the number of IBM midrange customers in the United States was larger.
With the increasing emphasis on application and database modernization, Rubele expects to do better in that market. But if wishes were fishes, we’d all be casting out bigger nets. AURA is not just wishing for better business in the U.S., however; it’s fishing for system integration partners that speak the modernization language and back up what they say with a combination of skills and service.
AURA is no stranger to the U.S. market. Rubele says the U.S. is the company’s largest market outside of the 80 percent that are European. The company does have some U.S. history. Just about 10 years ago, AURA and Zend Technologies, which develops and markets PHP software for IBM i shops, formed a partnership. AURA’s client/server integration technology, called Easycom, was OEM’ed and packaged into the PHP offerings that Zend (and IBM) distributed to IBM i customers. At that time, AURA claimed hundreds of IBM i shops adopted its software, which was designed so IBM i-based PHP applications could access native IBM i resources such as RPG program calls, DB2/400 files, and spool files. In addition to developing the software, AURA also provided technical support to IBM and Zend customers.
The partnership, which lasted from 2006 to 2011, dissolved when IBM decided an open source PHP toolkit was the direction it wanted to take. That was a setback for AURA. Had that decision not been made, AURA’s customer list in the U.S. would assuredly be larger and the system integrator search may not be going on today.
After the agreement with Zend was discontinued, AURA marketed Easycom, its client-server integration toolkit, as an independent product with direct sales in the US and Canada. Those efforts lacked the necessary resources to gain traction, although AURA did carve a small niche market among advocates of the Delphi/400 fourth-generation language and integrated development language environment.
“We have several VARs that port Windows applications to IBM i. We use connectors for Delphi and we move the database from Oracle to IBM i, SQL Server, or MySQL,” Rubele says while noting that Delphi is a shrinking market these days.
AURA’s Easycom is also found as an integration component in Magic Software‘s xpi for IBM i software.
IBM i shops with an interest in PHP development are a primary target for AURA, which means it will be bumping heads with its former partner Zend. However, the company has also been successful with non-PHP alternatives. It has the integration pieces to build graphical front ends to RPG back ends using Node.js and .NET. In France, the development environment of choice is .NET. In fact, AURA has done more IBM i integrations with .NET than any other platform.
Of course, Zend isn’t the only competitor AURA faces. The application development and modernization field is intensely competitive. It includes vendors such as Profound Logic, BCD Software, Fresche Legacy, Rocket Software, ASNA, LANSA, CNX, and Surround Technologies.
Rubele says AURA’s goal is to establish multiple partnerships with consulting companies and managed service providers that specialize in application modernization and database modernization projects. It’s widely recognized that in many instances IBM i shops are ill equipped to take on new projects because their existing development staffs are too busy with application maintenance and other routine chores.