This showcase originally published in our customer magazine, the LANSA Review Issue 31, 2005.
Many iSeries customers are actively contemplating the future of their platform and application portfolio. The pressure to modernize is substantial, driven by increasing demand for business agility and the pace of technological change. While managers with iSeries systems are frustrated by the cost and complexity of the competing .NET and J2EE paths, doing nothing is no longer an option. With an almost 20-year history in the iSeries market, LANSA has a proven track record for application modernization, whichever path you take.
This article showcases some of the many examples of successful modernization projects that range from extending COBOL and RPG systems with LANSA Web and Windows solutions, using legacy code in a Service Oriented Architecture environment, to completely re-architecting systems with the Visual LANSA Framework.
- Application and Business Process Integration
- SOA and Web Services
- Enhanced User Experience with Visual LANSA
- Better Architecture with Visual LANSA Framework
- Architected for the Future
Successful modernization projects are initiated and guided by business drivers. In our experience, there are three main drivers for modernization. Firstly, application and business process integration, including extended trading borders. Secondly, enhancing the user experience with an easier-to-use and more productive environment. And finally, re-architecting core applications to support new technologies and business opportunities.
It's not easy to categorize LANSA customers neatly into these areas as they typically start using LANSA in one area and expand to other areas. This showcase features commercial companies only. In a future issue, we will focus on how Independent Software Vendors use LANSA to modernize their solutions.
Application and Business Process Integration
Giving branches, customers, agents, dealers, suppliers, remote staff and other parties self-service Web access often provides an immediate improvement in service, as well as increased efficiencies. But providing self-service to business partners is only a first step in business process integration.
Direct Application-to-Application and Machine-to-Machine integration avoids the need for any manual intervention in the business process flow between internal systems as well as external business parties. There are a multitude of methods for integration, in which XML, EDI-INT and Web services have emerged as worldwide standards.
LANSA offers tools and solutions for developing browser-based Web solutions, as well as direct Web integration solutions, allowing companies to deliver and maintain both with a single skill set.
E.P. Barrus Ltd, located in the U.K., designs and manufactures engines and distributes a diverse range of products including MTD lawn and garden machinery, moto-roma scooters and motorcycles, Mercury, Mariner and Yanmar marine and industrial engines. Barrus chose LANSA to extend its GEAC System 21 core ERP system with EDI and XML messaging to trading partners, as well as for dealer Web access. A special feature of the Barrus' dealer Web site is that it uses LANSA Integrator Web services to link to and exchange Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) messages with a third party specializing in engine diagrams.
The accurate and timely flow of information between Barrus and its business partners resulted in new beneficial business schemes, a measurable increase in market share, reduced stock levels and more timely delivery of goods.
Dave Hansford, IT manager at Barrus, said, "LANSA hides the complexities of XML and EDI and allows us to implement new technologies rapidly with our own staff. We think of the iSeries as solid and reliable and have no plans of moving away from it. Still, it is good to know that LANSA doesn't lock us in. LANSA is multi-platform and future proof."
Brewers' Distributor Ltd. (BDL) is Western Canada's leading distribution and container return service for the brewing industry. BDL uses LANSA to provide Web self-service and real-time machine-to-machine integration to over 7,000 retail customers. High volume retailers can send orders in a variety of formats directly from their POS system, while a rapidly growing number of smaller customers are using the Web order facility. Both solutions integrate in real-time with JD Edwards.
With the upgrade to i5, BDL moved its Web site to an iSeries Linux partition, using LANSA for the Web Edge Server.
Customer service improved, annual labor savings exceeded $100,000 Canadian and long distance phone expenses came down by $10,000 per year.
Mike Benson, IT manager at Brewers' Distributor Ltd., said, "With LANSA, we can address the different needs of both our small-volume and large-volume customers. LANSA's Web and M2M technologies were easy to develop and easy to integrate with JD Edwards, allowing us to look after both systems with our own staff."
Allianz Ireland is one of Ireland's largest multi-line general insurance companies. After the success of consumer quote-and-buy Web sites, developed by LANSA Business Partner MDC, Allianz chose LANSA as their strategic Web development tool for all B2C and B2B projects. Allianz's back-end solution is Insure/90, an RPG-based solution from Computer Sciences Corporation.
Initially Allianz embarked on developing their B2B solutions with WebSphere. But after spending over six months on training staff in Java and getting up to speed, WebSphere was dropped in favor of LANSA.
Recently Allianz also extended its broker communication with LANSA-based Web services, allowing direct exchange of information with its largest broker.
Karen Forte, IT manager at Allianz Ireland, explained, "Allianz has always been very focused on investing only in technology that was justified from a business point of view. The level of investment that would be needed for the three-tier Java and WebSphere architecture could not be cost justified."
High Liner Foods Inc is one of North America's largest processors and marketers of prepared, value-added frozen seafood and pastas. From its head office in Canada, High Liner markets products under the High Liner, Fisher Boy and Gina Italian Village brands. High Liner has been a LANSA customer since 1989 and implemented many LANSA extensions to JD Edwards World over the years, including iSeries, Web, Windows, GDSN and EDI-INT modules.
One of these extensions, a Virtual Supply Chain, gives suppliers, shipping companies and customs brokers worldwide, as well as internal and manufacturing staff easy access to the same up-to-date information.
High Liner also uses LANSA Data Secure Direct for EDI-INT transactions with business partners and LANSA Data Sync Direct to meet Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) requirements.
Peter Burns, director of information services at High Liner, said, "Every year we re-evaluate how we deliver services to the company. And every year LANSA is in the picture. With LANSA, my staff is agile enough to work on just about any business project required, whether we need a Web, Integration, 1SYNC, or RFID solution, we can depend on LANSA keeping ahead of our needs."
Chown Hardware, in Portland, Oregon, USA, is the largest family-owned distributor of quality door hardware and plumbing fixtures in the USA. In 1998, Chown was one of the first iSeries companies to use LANSA to implement an online and real-time integrated retail shopping site. The Web site extended a native iSeries and LANSA-based core system. Many Web and Windows enhancements have followed.
Fred Chown, president at Chown Hardware, said, "I am happy that we decided to use LANSA in 1990, when nobody had heard of the Internet. Now we can extend our existing systems to the Internet. To re-use the same technology on the Internet is the only way that makes it possible for small companies like us. I can even be one of the first on the Internet."
Electronic trading and extended trading borders have resulted in new compliancy requirements for manufacturers, which their core ERP solutions could not always meet. Hundreds of manufacturers in the food and hardline industry use LANSA Data Sync Direct to synchronize their product offerings to retailers and meet Global Data Synchronization requirements, without having to update their existing ERP systems.
SOA and Web Services
In a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), IT systems, within or between companies, can transact with each other, without having to understand the context or state of the other system. Many companies have extended their core system with LANSA-based Web services to exchange messages internally, with Web portals and third parties.
Apria Healthcare is America's leading provider of integrated home healthcare products and services. Apria used LANSA to extend and integrate a mixture of core systems including a Synon order processing and billing system, a MAGIX infusion system, a WebSphere online order system, SAP HR payroll and JD Edwards Inventory and General Ledger.
Apria's LANSA Integrator-based fast two-way XML interface allows for transacting in multiple formats between its internal business systems and its business partners systems, as well as its externally hosted eCommerce Web site.
George Suda, executive VP information services at Apria, said, "With LANSA we built an XML plug-in connection engine that allows us to communicate to anything out there, without having to change our existing business systems."
Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) is a global medical technology company that serves healthcare institutions, life science researchers, clinical laboratories and the public. BD uses LANSA Integrator to exchange real-time transactions between its iSeries-based European sales and distribution system and its global eBusiness platform.
Rudi Deschilder, manager eBusiness at BD, said, "Everything we develop is universal. We don't differentiate between our own Web site and external portal sites and we view our own Web site, developed with Broadvision on a Sun Solaris, as an e-partner. Transactions from this site are transformed to XML by WebMethods and accepted by LANSA Integrator for immediate order processing and confirmation back. LANSA is the power behind our core distribution system and the glue between our logistic systems."
The Board of Studies New South Wales is responsible for the content, distribution and logistics of syllabus materials and the School Certificate (year 10) and Higher School Certificate (year 12) examinations for NSW, the most populous state in Australia. Since 1999, the Board has been extending its iSeries and LANSA-based examination system, initially developed during 1989-1990, with LANSA-based Web solutions for a growing number of its interactions with students, schools and other parties.
These highly visible and highly political Web solutions include the collection of 1.2 million grades and assessments from schools during the year. On the day the yearly High School exam results are made available, about 65,000 students access the Board's highly secure site to find out their results, typically within minutes of the results becoming available.
Recently, the Board extended its browser-based services with SOAP messaging, using LANSA Integrator, to reconcile student information with Australia's largest Technical And Further Educational institution.
Muir Mathieson, senior IT consultant at the Board of Studies, said, "The Web solution builds further on our use of LANSA that was already behind our applications. Without LANSA we would not be anywhere near this far advanced."
Enhanced User Experience with Visual LANSA
LANSA offers a staged approach to modernizing green-screen applications.
For those systems that need an immediate user face improvement, without the need (or resources) to do any re-development, a refacing tools instant User Interface generation is the quickest option. This refacing approach is often used as a first step in application modernization.
With Visual LANSA, you can enhance or replace existing business logic, not just the user interface. For those programs that have a user interface, you can choose a browser or Windows interface.
Geodis Wilson Australia is one of the worlds largest freight management companies, employing 5,500 people worldwide from a global network of offices and air/ocean hubs in over 50 countries. Geodis Wilson has extended Freight/AMS, its COBOL-based freight management solution from Transaxiom, with LANSA-based Windows functionality and Microsoft Excel reporting to improve productivity and customer service.
Green-screens are replaced as needed. For example, when a commonly used COBOL-based green-screen program needs to display a new piece of information, the program is replaced by a Visual LANSA function.
"A new inquiry function takes just three hours to develop with Visual LANSA. And users enjoy not just the extra functionality, but also an attractive and productive Windows interface," said Trevor Gall, IT Australia/New Zealand for Geodis Wilson.
Wilson Bowden plc, one of the U.K.'s leading house builders and property developers and a LANSA customer since 1997, has extended its core LANSA and RPG-based systems with a Visual LANSA-based end-to-end integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM), sales and lead generation solution.
Over 500 PCs through Wilson Bowden's offices now have access to the highly graphical CRM solution by clicking on an icon that runs the Visual LANSA applications from networked servers in each of the 20 regional sales offices. The database requests are done via call server functions to the central iSeries.
LANSA Integrator is used to map sales leads from Wilson's outsourced Web site in XML format to the CRM system, where the information is pulled together and distributed to the appropriate person. Customers who leave an enquiry on the Web site can expect to be called by a sales advisor within 15 minutes of pressing the submit button.
Paul Astbury, systems development manager at Wilson Bowden, said, "In the seven years that we have been using LANSA, we have seen many technologies emerge and disappear. LANSA has always stayed ahead and made good decisions about which technologies to adopt."
NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc. designs, manufactures and sells lift trucks and aftermarket parts on a global basis under the Hyster and Yale brand names. NMHG has extended its PRMS MRP and Synon-based order management systems with a large Visual LANSA-based demand flow manufacturing system. The Visual LANSA extension has been deployed to eight plants and over 360 users around the world, in three different languages.
Ron Duffett, manager global manufacturing systems at NMHG, said, "With LANSA we productively developed a user friendly and graphical application that fully integrates with our Order Management and MRP systems. Visual LANSA performs well in our large and demanding development and deployment environment and LANSA's multilingual facilities allow us to deploy exactly the same version in English, Spanish and Italian."
Better Architecture with Visual LANSA Framework
If you decide to re-architect your core applications, the Visual LANSA Framework lets you rapidly create and maintain future-proof Windows and Web applications. With a minimal interruption to your business and with your existing development team, LANSA allows for easy and gradual extension, integration and replacement with new technologies, without reverting to low-level coding and without learning the complex details of the underlying technologies.
Boddie-Noell Enterprises (BNE), headquartered in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, is one of America's larger privately held companies with over 12,000 employees and over 350 restaurants. BNE is the largest franchisee of Hardee's and also owns and operates Texas Steakhouse and Saloon and other restaurants. BNE used Visual LANSA to modernize several critical COBOL and RPG applications originally migrated from an IBM mainframe to the iSeries to resolve Y2K issues. BNE now uses Visual LANSA for all new development and is progressively re-architecting all its legacy COBOL and RPG applications.
Phyllis Hardee, director of programming services at BNE, said, "All development is done using Visual LANSA Framework. We used to have separate PC development and COBOL/RPG development teams. We have retained the same development staff, but now we have just one LANSA-skilled team that can work together on both Windows and iSeries."
Nelson Gainey, VP of information systems, said, "Our business users like the new applications, as they are easier to use and far more productive. They can see multiple windows at once and all programs are friendly and consistent, similar to our Lawson ERP applications. Training sessions can be very short and are often not needed at all."
Terminix, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, is the largest pest control company in the world. Terminix replaced a COBOL mainframe system and 400 standalone UNIX systems at its branches with a LANSA application running on a single 890 iSeries used by 8,000 staff.
Lee Crump, CIO at Terminix, explained the company's systems strategy, "There wasn't a good software packaged solution for us to use — we needed to develop one. IBM recommended we look at LANSA in the early stages of visioning. We liked LANSA's speed of development, but more importantly, a LANSA solution would give us a single source set without tying us to a single platform or database."
Western Financial Groups' division formerly known as Hayhurst Elias Dudek Inc. (HED), offers specialist advice in a diverse range of commercial, group and personal lines insurance. In the eighties HED purchased the source code to its original RPG-based S/36 insurance system 'InLib'. While the system was migrated to the iSeries and grew over the years into a highly functional and customized solution, its green-screen interface was inadequate. HED's Life & Health and Pet Plan Insurance systems were redeveloped with Visual LANSA and LANSA Client is now used by HED for management reporting.
Brian Hynes, assistant vice president, information technology and business
systems at HED, said, "In
about six to eight weeks, my team was productive in LANSA. Using Visual LANSA's
graphical prototyping approach, our development team was able to get quick
feedback and sign-off from the business users. LANSA made it easy to integrate
the new systems with our existing iSeries-based insurance system and Windows
and Sequel-based Web site."
Hayhurst Elias Dudek Inc. ("HED”) is part of the Western Financial Group ("WES") since 2009 and continues to use LANSA to develop and enhance its IT systems.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, USA, houses one of the world's greatest art collections. MoMA needed to replace two unintegrated RPG-based iSeries membership and donor systems that had grown over time. MoMA also needed to replace a 10-year-old DOS-based Point of Sale system that was slow, limited in functionality and did not integrate with the membership system.
As an interim step, refacing was used to give a graphical and more productive user interface for internal users. Then Visual LANSA was used to develop new integrated Windows and Web-based membership, POS and Wireless entrance ticket verification systems.
Steve Peltzman, CIO at MoMA, said, "We evaluated several development tools. LANSA's demonstration very convincingly showed how productive it is to develop and maintain programs. I also liked the idea of developing at a high enough level so the tool can generate the Java, C or other code underneath. I don't want to bet on which way technology will be going and LANSA's track record of moving existing business logic to newer technology environments is reassuring."
Architected for the Future
IIn almost all cases, modernization projects, unless totally re-architecting all applications, should build on the strength of the original applications and the investment in the existing IT infrastructure. LANSA has always supported evolution, not revolution.