Fresche Makes Bold Move In IBM i Modernization Arena
June 13, 2016 Dan Burger
Another IBM midrange earthquake was reported last week as two of the big application modernization vendors joined forces to create a single source of a wide range of products and services. Throughout the IBM i community, windows rattled and light flickered as Fresche Legacy–now known simply as Fresche–announced it was purchasing Quadrant Software. According to Fresche, it now has a client base totaling more than 22,000 IBM i customers.
Financial details of the acquisition were not reported, as both software companies are privately owned.
Fresche’s CEO Andy Kulakowski said the purpose of this acquisition was to allow Fresche to offer more modernization options. During 2014, Fresche bought the IBM i application tool vendor looksoftware. The key piece in the Quadrant purchase is the IBM i application tool vendor BCD Software.
“These are two companies with like-minded strategies, vision, and cultures that were both executing the same plan,” Kulakowski said in an interview with IT Jungle. “The difference in technologies, however, is what leads to being more flexible as to what customers determine is best for them. There is enough differentiation in the market that both technologies will survive. We believe the combination of products and solutions cover the breadth of options that the market requires.”
The combination of looksoftware and BCD Software extends Fresche’s modernization development options to include RPG, NET, PHP, and Node.js. It also has options that allow shops to set up their development environments on either IBM i or Windows Server.
BCD Software, a vendor with a long history in the IBM midrange, was purchased by Quadrant in February 2014. Its suite of modernization products includes an automated green-screen to GUI conversion tool called Presto and a Web and mobile application development tool called WebSmart, which is available in IDEs that include RPG ILE, PHP, and Node.js.
looksoftware’s suite of application development products includes green-screen conversion tools that use either .NET (Renew) or RPG (Openlook) to produce GUI screens, an emulator replacement product called Smartclient, and a more feature rich 5250 transformation tool for desktop, Web, and mobile apps called Newlook.
“Each of the products have their unique strengths that provide a better fit for more companies with varying strategies,” says Marcel Sarrasin, who will be the vice president of corporate marketing and business development. Before joining Fresche, Sarrasin had a similar position at Quadrant.
IBM i shops are looking for basically three types of modernization architecture, Sarrasin says. Some insist that development software run native on IBM i. There are also companies looking for a Windows server option. And there are also companies that want to invest in a heads-down, very quick data entry option that comes with a 5250 session.
“There are large customer bases for each of those products. We plan to continue to invest in all of those options,” Sarrasin says.
Brendan Kay, the CEO at looksoftware before it was acquired by Fresche and an executive vice president with Fresche since that time, is now the chief technology officer over all the Fresche development groups.
Although there’s more to the acquisition than the application modernization software–there’s business intelligence and document distribution solutions–it is the modernization components that are most interesting.
The Future of Modernization
As application modernization efforts in the IBM i market evolve, it’s expected that new, more complex application development will replace the simple green-screen conversions to graphical interfaces that have been the norm. And as companies take a deeper look inside existing RPG apps they will need help sorting out what to keep and what to toss. This is where tools such as Fresche’s X-Analysis will play an important role by automating much of the discovery process.
Helping IBM i shops figure out the future of their applications is the future of application modernization.
“This is not just a customer choice between BCD and looksoftware options for green-screen modernization,” says Steve Woodard, formerly CEO at Quadrant Software and now chief revenue officer at Fresche. “This goes beyond Presto and Newlook, which are two options for screen-scraping 5250 applications.
“There are a lot of Presto and Newlook customers that will be thinking about longer term strategies involving additional application development. Customers will be thinking about new development whether it is RPG, Node, PHP or something else. This takes it well beyond Newlook and Presto. BCD software supports Node.js and PHP.”
Not all IBM i shops march to the same drummer. Fresche is interested in providing modernization choices and modernization services because it sees decisions being made that take multiple development paths. The BCD options will augment the Looksoftware options that Fresche already has in place.
Sarrasin says it’s common for IBM i shops to have a huge inventory of legacy applications and at the same time be unaware of what’s in a large percentage of that RPG code.
“Every one of our customers that doesn’t have X-Analysis can benefit from it,” Sarrasin says.
“They tell us they don’t know how their programs relate to each other, and are unsure what’s the impact of changing or adding a field to a file. They cross their fingers and hope it doesn’t break everything.”
They would like to add new features, but IT can’t quickly respond in a low-risk way. X-Analysis offers a big value in gaining an understanding of applications.”
Fresche will be on a mission to raise the level of awareness of what the company can provide the IBM i community in terms of solutions and services.
Emphasis on Partnerships
Expanding partnerships to reach a more global market is one of Fresche’s next objectives.
Kulakowski sees strong opportunities in geographies outside of North America. Fresche has more presence in Europe than Quadrant, but Quadrant had been actively seeking partnerships in Asia–Japan especially.
Partnerships with change management software companies with strengths in specific regions will aid in this development. About a year ago, Fresche initiated a partnership with the CMS company Remain Software and BCD did the same with Midrange Dynamics two months ago. Each of those CMS vendors have done well in Europe and a strong partnership with Fresche should help Fresche in that market. Fresche has made inroads into Europe, but is hoping to become a bigger factor there. The two CMS vendors are hoping the partnership will lead to their gaining a greater presence in North America.
The partnerships are not exclusive on either side, but there will always be favorite partner status that leads to recommendations. All parties are preparing their products to work with as many options as possible, which gives them more options to present to their clients and prospects.
Integration will be important as the more complex modernization projects start to take shape. Already it is apparent that a lack of IT integration is costing organizations. Careless spending due to inefficient processes is being examined much more closely. That’s where the change management software becomes important in modernization projects. Shortening the development process, increasing the quality of applications before turning them loose in production, and reducing the maintenance burden are all part of integration goals.
Code writing and editing, code analytics, and software change management each require different tools. Integrating those tools obviously has its benefits.
Vendor Community Consolidation
The acquisition activity that’s occurring in the IBM i vendor community has surprised some observers and caused some disturbances. Just a week ago, HelpSystems purchased Linoma Software. HelpSystems has been the single entity with the biggest appetite for acquiring IBM i software vendors. Fresche has made an impact as well.
Speaking about his own company’s buying habits, Kulakowski provided his perspective on the changes.
“This is fantastic for vendors and the customer community,” Kulakowski says. “It highlights those vendors who are driven and ambitious to become the thought leaders and to become end-to-end vendors that customers can trust to protect their investments in the IBM i platform and to leverage that for the future. Companies that have the strategy to surround themselves with more technology and solution offerings offer more value to the customer base. I think that’s great news for the customers and the vendor community. Here are two long-time vendors in the IBM i community saying we are far better off together than we are alone.”
“We hear over and over again that customers are looking for a partner,” continues Kulakowski. “They are not looking for vendors that sell technology that solves a piece of the puzzle. The market has been around for decades. There are many customers who are very happy with the platform. But if you ask them who they would call to help them with a modernization strategy and an ongoing evolution of their platform, they are somewhat confused. It’s an opportunity for Fresche to become the trusted source for long term strategy. We think the market is in desperate need for that. And that’s what we are investing in.”