Don’t Be the Eeyore of Digital Progress, OpenLegacy Says
June 1, 2016 Alex Woodie
The Internet continues to present powerful and compelling new capabilities that many organizations are leveraging to their advantage. But all too often, the tantalizing digital future remains out of reach for IBM i and mainframe shops due to the difficulty–either real or imagined–of engineering those new capabilities to work with legacy systems. Helping organizations overcome those challenges is one of the goals that OpenLegacy has set for itself.
OpenLegacy CTO Hans Otharsson has spent most of his career working with enterprise systems, including banking systems running on IBM i servers and mainframes, and knows firsthand the massive amount of ingenuity, effort, and experience that those systems embody, as well as dedication, talent, and perseverance of the people tasked with managing and maintaining those systems on a daily basis.
“These individuals built fantastic systems that have stood the test of time. They’re tremendous applications,” Otharsson said in a press conference at the recent COMMON conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. “But now in an organization, they’re the naysayer. They’re the ones who raise their hands and say, ‘That’s a great idea, but that’s going to take me 18 months to do and I have to shut all this down.’ They become the Eeyores of the organization. ‘No we can’t do that. It’s going to take too long.’
“And it’s true,” he continued. “A lot of that takes time, if they’re going to do it with the technology they have in hand.”
For IBM i professionals, that means trying to do everything with RPG, COBOL, or CL. While those tools are very productive if you stay inside the Hundred Acre Wood, they’re not quite as useful once one ventures out into the big wily world.
This, in a nutshell, is essentially the void that OpenLegacy was created two years ago to fill. The New Jersey-based company develops tools that allow IBM i and mainframe shops (and now Unisys and HP3000 shops too) to expose existing processes and applications as APIs that can be accessed via standard Web services protocols. The software is open source and freely downloadable.
OpenLegacy’s approach doesn’t require modifying any existing code. Instead, the technology basically maps the I/O of the legacy code into a new Java object that can be accessed by any Java developer (although Java programming expertise is not necessarily needed). It’s “very elegant plumbing” designed to help and companies overcome the “rigor mortis” of their backend systems, Otharsson said.
“I call it rigor mortis, because [the legacy systems] were effective, they worked, they did what they wanted them to do, but they weren’t able to open them up,” Oatharsson, who originally hails from Iceland, said during the press conference. “I’m in the IBM preservation business because I want people to keep their legacy technology. Legacy means it might be old, but it was written well and it works, so why would I want to change that? But I do need to find out ways that I can leverage that in the digital economy and not have to do that through development. That’s really what we do.”
At the COMMON conference, OpenLegacy announced version 3 of its API Integration Platform, which is one of several products the company sells, in addition to its OpenLegacy iSuite. While OpenLegacy is more concerned with the creation of APIs (of either the SOAP or REST variety), its customers are demanding more capabilities to manage the APIs that are created. That’s the gist of the version 3 announcement.
New features in API Integration Platform version 3 include a new Unified Management Console, which is now the primary location to control the operation of the OpenLegacy platform. Users also will find more API lifecycle management features here, as well as API usage statistics. New security features in the areas of authentication, access, and content controls have also been put into place, as well as new deployment and performance features, such as one-click deployment of secure APIs, workload balancing, deep caching, and scalable containers.
While the API Integration Platform won’t give customers the same degree of API control as they would find with a full API management product from the likes of Apigee (with whom OpenLegacy recently presented at a conference in Mexico), Otharsson said it can satisfy the needs for a tactical management tool. “It won’t necessarily replace an Apigee or other products that they might have. But if they didn’t have something . . . we could be considered an enterprise-level solution,” he said.
Otharsson also provided an update on the company during the press conference. Despite being a startup, the company is already making money, and is on track to record more than $3 million in sales this year, a 400 percent increase from its first year. The company has doubled the size of its R&D staff, which is split between Israel and Ukraine, to 20 people, and is ramping up operations in American and Latin America, he said.
OpenLegacy remains very much a channel-driven business. The company works with a number of partners, from small consultants with five to 10 IBM i customers to global system integrators like Accenture and Tata Consultancy Services. The big SIs, Otharsson said, are particularly interested in solutions OpenLegacy can provide to customers in banking and financial services, which arguably is the vendor’s strongest vertical segment.
While OpenLegacy finds customers suffering from Eeyore-like symptoms relating to legacy integration problems, the company leaves them with Tigger-like confidence, according to Otharsson.
“After customers start using our technology for three to six months, you see these same individuals and now they are agents of change,” Otharsson said. “They get what they can do. They can see what they’re doing and they’re the first to raise their hands, saying, ‘You know what, we can do that. This is how we can do that for you.'”