CNX Widens Reach with Sencha Deal, Focus on Modernization
June 1, 2016 Alex Woodie
Look out: CNX is going global. The Chicago-based provider of IBM i development tools just signed a partnership deal with Sencha that will see the Silicon Valley firm distributing Valence around the world. CNX also just released Valence version 5, which brings a number of new features, including a stronger focus on modernizing RPG applications.
Scott Mullarkey, Sencha’s vice president of global alliances and professional services, says CNX’s desire to have a global footprint led to an extension of the OEM partnership the two companies signed in 2008.
“Ninety-five percent of their [CNX’s] business is U.S.-based. They do not have a strong presence in EMEA or APAC,” Mullarkey tells IT Jungle. “So we decided to do a partnership that allowed us to basically be a sales channel in those theaters for CNX.”
Because every copy of Valence includes an OEM copy of the Sencha Touch framework, Sencha will benefit from every overseas Valence sale. The Redwood City, California, company also expects to pick up some professional services work as a result of the deal.
Sencha runs into the IBM i platform quite a bit during its dealings with Global 2000 companies, Mullarkey says. One of the goals of the partnership is to increase the awareness that tools such as Valence exist, that there is a path forward to modernize legacy apps.
“IBM i . . . has a huge worldwide footprint,” the Sencha VP says. “These platforms are everywhere. Customers love them, for very good reasons, and they want to preserve them, but they want to extend them.”
CTOs and CIOs may not be aware of what’s going on with legacy modernization, Mullarkey says. “They see things around the edges, but they haven’t seen perhaps examples of how this works,” he says. “CNX is a great example of how it works, in that you take those RPG programs, not change anything on the backend, continue to take advantage of all the great services that the backend provides, and essentially create new [applications] or migrate older applications’ into the newer technology, with zero risk, which is exciting to many of these companies.
“This is not screen-scraper technology,” Mullarkey continues. “It’s a true Web 2.0 architecture that preserves all the enterprise attributes of the IBM i platform.”
Pivot to Modernization
Application modernization historically has not been a strong focus of CNX. Instead, the company has mostly concentrated its efforts on helping IBM i shops to build new applications that are designed from the ground up to work in the modern Web 2.0/AJAX manner.
The distinction between new development and modernization has been fading in recent releases, such as with last summer’s release of Valence 4.2, which expanded the capability to display 5250 screens directly within Valence programs via an emulator.
Now, the focus for CNX appears to be squarely on the application modernization opportunity, and in particular highlighting the differences between the development approach it espouses with Valence and less desirable approaches, namely screen-scraping and Web-facing.
This new focus was evident during CNX’s press conference at the COMMON conference in New Orleans two weeks ago. CNX CTO Richard Milone led off the press conference by displaying a slide titled “Beliefs in Software Modernization.” It read as follows:
Clearly, CNX isn’t making any dramatic changes in how it goes about developing software. The company’s pivot to application modernization is as much about marketing and perception as anything else.
The company has been consistent in its belief that core business logic in RPG–indeed, RPG programs–should be retained as much as possible, but that the presentation needs a dramatic overhaul. The company still believes there is no “silver bullet,” that simply putting a Web interface on an existing 5250 screen is mostly insufficient, that the workflow issue must be addressed, and that a better approach is needed all around.
But because Sencha can dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s with EXT JS–and because it can actually provide a live human for technical support should something go wrong, as opposed to just a link to a forum–Sencha is a sound bet and a good fit for IBM i shops that are hesitant to dive into the open source pool.
CNX already had a pretty well-rounded tool with Valence, and the enhancements with version 5 are primarily around the edges.
CNX has also bolstered its “Nitro” family of products, which are only available with the enterprise version of the product (the core Valence product itself is free and open source).
For example, IBM i power users can now create basic query-driven Valence apps using the Nitro Query option, thereby eliminating the need to involve programmers. Provided the user has a good understanding of the layout of the database, Nitro Query enables the user to create dashboards or query apps with no coding.
Programmers also get a power boost with enhancements to Nitro AutoCode. CNX says developers can create fully functional file maintenance or grid-based inquiry apps for users in less than a minute using the new release. The apps can be further extended through any source editor, such as Sencha Architect.
“Nitro AutoCode and Nitro Query together make it possible for anyone who downloads Valence to product an instant ‘win’ for their users,” Milone says. “It means even developers who have zero experience in Web or mobile app development can be immediately productive to create tremendous value for their companies.”
For more information or to download Valence 5, see the company’s website at www.cnxcorp.com.