Flynet Pivots To Catch IBM i Web Business In U.S.
June 27, 2016 Alex Woodie
There’s scarcely any new project for the IBM i these days that doesn’t involve the Web in some way, shape, or form. Mobile front-ends, application modernization, Web services–heck, even the lowly terminal emulator has become a Web app these days. One IBM i software vendor that is positioned to capitalize on this trend is Flynet, which sells a single product that can address multiple Web initiatives for IBM i shops.
You may have never heard of Flynet, but the company, which is based in the United Kingdom, is by no means new to this sector. In fact, Flynet has been selling IBM i, mainframe, Unix, VMS, and multi-value solutions to big European companies like DHL, BMW, Vodafone, and Tesco since it was founded in 1995. And now, thanks to a new reseller partnership with Atlanta, Georgia-based Onsystex that it announced in April, the company is ready to bolster its presence in the United States.
Why should IBM i shops in the U.S. care? According to Flynet COO Christian Rule, it’s all about simplicity.
“We have four products and each product builds on the other,” Rule tells IT Jungle. “The main differentiator between someone like us and Rocket, for example, in the emulator and modernization space is we only have one product stack. They essentially all use the same technology. You install one service, not seven.”
Flynet’s flagship product, called Flynet Viewer, encompasses several different products with one code base. This includes a terminal emulator called Flynet Viewer TE; a legacy modernization solution (including mobile apps) called Flynet Viewer Studio UX; a modernization solution for Web services called Flynet Viewer Studio WS; and a business intelligence dashboard creator called Flynet Dashboard Server. Flynet unlocks different parts of the suite depending on what the customer licenses.
The core engine was written in C and runs on a Windows server, says Flynet CTO Mark Thomason. “We wrote it in C for performance reasons,” he says. “It’s been designed from very beginning to all run on a single stack. Even though we talk about all these different products, they are different classes of the same engine.”
Flynet says having a single stack proves useful when tackling legacy modernization projects. Customers can target the most heavily used 5250 screens for an overhaul and use the Flynet Viewer Studio UX functions and templates to add modern user experience (UX) elements like drop-down boxes and radio buttons, while leaving the rest of the application to access via a 5250 emulator.
Since it’s all one stack, the handoff between 5250 and GUI screens is smooth, Thomason says. “Because everything is written on our stack with the same core server, you can mix and match,” he says. “You can cherry pick the sessions and leave the rest to emulation. That makes it easier to finish a project.”
The fact that Flynet’s emulator is entirely Web based in HTML5 is another advantage, says Thomason. “There are no plug-ins, so it’s fast and responsive,” he says. “But just because it’s in the browser and pure Web it doesn’t mean it’s second best to a desktop emulator. Any features you find in desktop emulator you’ll find also in our Web-based terminal emulator.”
That includes features like keyboard mapping, macros, printing, file transfers, and screen resizing. “Quite advanced things you wouldn’t expect from a pure Web solution,” Thomason says.
The rapid growth of smartphones and tablets has bolstered the need for pure Web solutions that don’t require plug-ins, which can be fickle, especially on iPhones and iPads. “What we have now is an emulator that is as feature rich as any headline leading terminal emulator,” Rule says. “All the functions you’d expect to find, you’ll find in our 100 percent pure HTML browser-based product, with no client-side software whatsoever.”
The company has been developing its emulator for more than 15 years, and over that time it’s had to solve some tough problems, like spotty networks and dealing with dropped sessions. The fact that Flynet can count some of the biggest European IBM i and mainframe shops as customers is a testament to its product stability.
“Speed has got to be one of our biggest advantages,” Rule says. “But speed doesn’t mean weak or unsecure. We’re the most secure emulation product you can find. I think we’re the only one who survived the KPMG penetration test. We’ve just been doing it this way for a long time, and it just so happens that a lot of people now want to do it this way.”
Flynet is now in the midst of a transformation. The company has been quietly serving its customers for years, but is now set to become more aggressive in marketing its products. The company recently hired IT business executives, including Rule, in a bid to boost its presence and make the market more aware of its product.
“A number of things have happened the last few years, which has created a perfect storm for Flynet,” Rule says. “Mobile, cloud, big data, and IoT have really start singing the Flynet song sheet. It’s less if Flynet can help, and much more how Flynet can help.”