Database Modernization Network Grows for TEMBO
June 28, 2017 Alex Woodie
A growing network of business partners is helping TEMBO Technology Lab spread the word about the benefits of database modernization to IBM i shops in North America. It’s also helping to lower the barrier to of entry for IBM i clients to get started.
If you ask a group of IBM i professionals what application modernization means, you’ll likely hear a lot of different answers: the importance of avoiding “legacy” technologies, why free form RPG is great, the value of responsive design, and the importance of having a “mobile first” approach.
To TEMBO founder Marinus van Sandwyk, these answers aren’t necessarily wrong, but they show that people may not be seeking the best answer to the question, because in his view, modernizing a customers’ database provides a much bigger return on investment.
“A lot of people seem to be confused,” he tells IT Jungle. “Eighty percent of the lines of code that used to be in the application in a modernization implementation is actually in the database [following a TEMBO engagement]. That’s where this really comes into its own.”
TEMBO has struggled to find traction for its product, Adsero Optima, since it broke onto the scene back in 2012. The company has not deviated from its core message that IBM i shops would greatly benefit by migrating from coding DDS and using native I/O toward SQL coding and using DB2 for i’s SQL Query Engine (SQE).
There’s no debate whether the SQL engine is better than native I/O in almost all cases. But there’s considerable difference of opinion on how best to get to the SQL engine. Embarking upon a major database rewrite is not for the faint of heart, particularly for those with a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.
TEMBO has found that convincing end-user IBM i shops to recognize the situation and take steps themselves to modernize their database is a tough route to success. Now the company is taking another approach by enlisting the help of smaller regional business partners and application vendors around the country who have close relationships with their IBM i customers.
One of TEMBO’s newest partners is Infoview Systems, a Michigan software and services company with extensive experience in the IBM i arena. The company, which develops a connector that hooks IBM i into Mulesoft‘s integration environment, is adamant about helping its IBM i customers evolve their applications to meet future needs. To that end, TEMBO fits well into Infoview’s plans.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” says Mike O’Meara, vice president of operations for Infoview. “If you get a modern database, you’re going to be more agile and quicker to market. That’s the focus of a lot of the engagements we’re in.”
No business is against being agile and adaptable. But it often takes a bit of time to explain the significance that database modernization can have on an IBM i shops agility – particularly if the decision maker is focused on those 5250 green-screen interfaces and wondering why they’re paying to support what’s obviously (to them) an outdated and legacy system.
“As we take our time to explain to more technical folks in the IT organization, they get the message that, yes, you need to have a solid foundation for the system in order to move fast, to grow at the speed of the business,” says Dmitry Kuznetsov, Infoview’s VP of integration and cloud solutions.
“The SQL database is a small aspect of the overall roadmap that TEMBO provides. It’s a first step,” Kuznetsov tells IT Jungle. “The next step is basically enhancing the database in a way that it takes ownership of a lot of data validation rules that might be coded in the application layer, making it lighter on the coding side and reducing the dependencies and hard couplings between different components. So in the end, the idea is that it’s going to be much easier to evolve the system to add new functionally, because it’s less dependent on everything else in the codebase.”
This is the heart of TEMBO’s message, and it makes sound technical and business sense. But of course, it won’t resonate with all IBM i shops, including those that are determined to leave the IBM i platform for perceived greener fields of SAP or Oracle on Intel platforms, or emerging cloud options.
“There are many companies that have gone down those avenues,” O’Meara says, citing an example of one billion-dollar company that failed in its attempted migration off its IBM i application to SAP, and ended up moving back to the IBM i. “Some folks say, ‘Hey, I have this huge investment that I’ve made over many years. Do I throw it away and move onto something else? Or do I try to enrich what I have today.’ That’ a convincing and compelling argument.”
Another new TEMBO partner is Databorough Services, a Toronto-based firm run by Neil Woodhams. The company, as you may have guessed from the name, used to be affiliated with Databorough, the IBM i database modernization tool vendor now owned by Fresche. But Woodhams is now backing TEMBO.
“Their core product helps companies achieve their database goals by providing a combination of automation and administration to the role of the DBA/DBE,” Woodhams says in a statement on the TEMBO site. “I’m glad to be associated with them and I’m sure others will realize what I already know.”
Van Sandwyk says tapping local partners is a better way to extend TEMBO’s reach to the small and midsize businesses that don’t have the financial or technical wherewithal to embark upon their own database modernization, but who may have the most to gain by doing it.
“We’ve changed our distribution model dramatically,” he tells IT Jungle. “Where previously we were focused on larger partners, we are now focusing on small regional players that actually have footholds in their specific marketplaces and already have their existing client base for which they do application development and application modernization to a certain degree.”
Smaller IBM i shops are prone to be swayed by the promise of a low-cost Microsoft Dynamics implementation or a cloud-based SaaS application. But if they ditch their custom-coded IBM i applications, Sandwyk argues, they will lose their competitive advantage, as codified in all those lines of RPG that TEMBO wants to push down into DB2 for i, where they will live on as triggers, procedures, and referential constraints.
“Our focus is a lot more on the SMBs because those are the people who have less money and have to ensure that the way they modernize will genuinely provide significant ROI and provide longevity of the application,” van Sandwyk says. “We believe the need for modernization is significantly more pronounced in the SMB. It’s quite an unusual situation where the application defines the lifeblood of the organization.”
The company has also signed agreements with iPerformance Group in Alabama and Softlink Systems on the West Coast. TEMBO is in discussions with three or four more, and is on pace to sign about eight new partnership deals in 2017, bringing the company’s total partner network to about 10 or 12 companies.
The hope is that this more hands-on approach with the partners will pay dividends for all parties involved, not the least of which is the end-user companies who modernized their IBM i system by updating the most important aspect of their application: the database itself.
“Our whole partnership model is completely different because it’s genuinely a partnership on the education side of things,” van Sandwyk says. “We really see those companies as an extension of ourselves and they see us as an extension of themselves.
“It’s not a quick one-, two- or three-month exercise and you get it out and you’re gone,” he continues. “It’s a much longer-term engagement where you’re essentially re-educating the developers within that shop, implementing modern design and coding practices, etc.”