Talking Change Management With Chrono-Logic
December 12, 2016 Timothy Prickett Morgan
There is, we think, a bit of a resurgence in the IBM i community when it comes to software change management tools, which have always been one of the workhorse pillars of the vendor community and one of the key functions that need to be automated in the datacenter.
To get a sense of what is happening in the software change management arena, we had a chat with Ghislain Jacques, vice president of development at Chrono-Logic, a long-established vendor in the IBM i market that has expanded its product lines and boosted its aspirations to get more IBM i shops to automate the way they deploy applications.
TPM: What percentage of the IBM i base is using change management software?
Ghislain Jacques: The percentage of IBM i shops that have change management software is probably not more than 25 percent. I know that when we go to conferences and when we talk to people, most of them do not have a change management solution. I think there is still a big market, for the IBM i market in general and for outside it is probably even lower than this. For LANSA shops, we never did any marketing and our competitors like Aldon, SoftLanding, and ARCAD all had extensions of one form or another, but among the LANSA shops, I would guess that maybe 10 percent of the companies have change management software.
It is still a wide open market.
TPM: Well, I am glad to hear that. I don’t like markets that are closed. . . .
Ghislain Jacques: I would not like it either!
TPM: What is your focus right now? I you trying to push harder in North America, expanding into Europe, trying to push into South America and Australasia?
Ghislain Jacques: We are pushing in North America for now, and we are going to be at all the conferences and we are going to be aggressive in the next year for sure.
TPM: Change management tools are not new to the AS/400 through IBM i family of machines, and for many years, this software was one of the big pillars of the community along with high availability clustering. You started out in the LANSA base, and most people probably know you from this, but you have been expanding in recent years. Tell us about that a bit.
Ghislain Jacques: We develop change management solutions, and we have two main products. One is for the IBM i in general, called iAM4 IBM i, and we also have another one for LANSA running on IBM i. We have been a LANSA shop for the past 19 years, and the first product we did was for that market. About a year ago, we released the product for the general IBM i market. The software manages RPG, CL, COBOL–all of the languages you have on the IBM i platform–and deploys applications to LPARs or physical machines. We also have one product, called iAM4 Windows, that goes with both products and it deploys Windows objects using the same processes as the IBM i objects. We have customers that are using this for Web applications with the database on the IBM i and DLLs and executables on the Windows Server machines. So they can include everything in a single project and create packages for IBM i and Windows environments and deploys them in the same processes.
TPM: Do you have an IM for Linux? Do you think there is a need for such a thing, given all of IBM’s increasing emphasis on Linux in the datacenter and with Linux on Power Systems machines in particular?
Ghislain Jacques: I am not sure that there is a need for it. We never looked at it, and we have never had demand from customers or prospects for support for Linux.
TPM: I will put a little bug into your ear, then. Imagine that you could walk into an IT shop and tell customers that all of the things that they have been doing in Windows they can do in Linux. There is no service that is done in Windows that does not have an analog in Linux, and not only that, customers would not even have to buy X86 servers any more, they could deploy these Linux services on logical partitions running on Power Systems machines. Now they would get back to having a single, integrated system and also a single way of deploying application on that system, whether it was for IBM i applications or Linux applications. They could get rid of Windows Server licenses or enterprise agreements. I could go so far as to even argue that IBM should be paying customers to make such a move. . . .
Ghislain Jacques: We are the only change management solution that has that deploys Windows and IBM i objects in the same process. Nobody else does that. Some of them say that they are doing that, but they are using shared folders on IBM i, which requires them to load all of the files there and it really becomes a mess. It is not a long-term, viable solution. We are the only SCM vendor that has a receiver on Windows that checks for object updates on those servers.
TPM: How is this new product been received? We noticed that you are doing a big marketing push, obviously, and that you want to expand out to the general IBM i market more aggressively. Why do you think there is a need for Chrono-Logic here? There are already several change management systems in the field.
Ghislain Jacques: Well, we want to do our thing and we want our share of the market. We are going to be promoting both of our products, the IBM i and the LANSA tools, into next summer.
To give some examples of our users, we have a couple of big customers in the United States, one with 43 LPARs–one development LPAR and 42 production LPARs. Another big customer is a software is Fidelity Information Systems, which has been a customer for eight or nine years, and it uses our software to develop its own software, and they have three development licenses and they are asking for a fourth one on their LPARs. Dean Foods is another big customer, and they had 14 LPARs but they have downsized to six LPARs and they have a big development team that deploys to Windows servers and to Windows PCs using our software, so it is a complete integration to all of their machines. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has been a customer of ours for ten years now.
TPM: What makes your software different from SoftLanding Systems, Rocket/Aldon, MKS, ARCAD, and others? Is there anything else that differentiates other than the Windows application deployment?
Ghislain Jacques: That is one part. As for where you deploy to, we have integrated the security and our configuration options are very strong. What happens is that we replace Aldon or SoftLanding at some of our customers, and MKS Implementer at others. The big difference is that using other change management solutions, what happens 90 percent of the time is that customers have to develop user exit profiles because the software does not do the job completely. It might be just 3 percent or 5 percent of the code, but it means the customers have to develop some programs that they have to plug into the change management program to handle the user exit programs. And when they upgrade, they have to maintain that code, which might take a couple of weeks to develop. But with us, we have never had one customer who had to write code; for our customers, we handle this and they don’t have to write that extra code.
Another key feature in our software is our Impact Analysis Engine. This identifies all cross references and either recompiles them automatically or adds them to the package and promote these with the modified sources and objects.
TPM: What does change management software cost?
Ghislain Jacques: With most of our competitors, it depends on the size of the machine, but we don’t do that. We price by the LPAR, and for some customers that have very large production LPARs, the price is really good because they pay based on the LPAR number, not the size of the machine. Our main product runs in a development LPAR and then the remote LPARs where production code runs we charge a lower amount for the license. We also have special pricing for small development shops with fewer than five programmers. This software only has a receiver and an installer to do the deployment. These are perpetual licenses and annual maintenance is 20 percent of the license cost, which includes support and upgrades. We also do not sell the software without also selling the software installation and training. It is a turnkey solution, and it takes about a week to get it up and running for most companies. About three days to do the configuration, one day for the operation people, and two days for training the developers.