Quickly Produce Progressive Web Apps To Manage Logistics Systems

Progressive web applications provide a way for developers to create universal experiences across mobile and desktop applications alike. They let developers view and utilize the web in a completely new way. A way that increases a product’s marketability while ramping up the speed of logistics systems deployment.

Using a vast array of web APIs, progressive web applications can rapidly accomplish much of what a native application can provide. For example, with technologies such as WebRTC, a progressive web application can be a chat client that connects via a peer-to-peer interface.  It can stream real-time logistics data down to the application, and also enable live video chat. Progressive web apps are web apps created using extra components — a service worker and app manifest. This allows the web app to be installable on desktop and mobile devices, work offline, and access native features of the device it is on.

What are progressive web apps?

Among other things, progressive web applications are fast. Taking advantage of this, one of their main goals is to reach the next level —  access the billion users worldwide who have limited network connectivity. Obviously, end-users need their applications to be a fast, seamless online experience.  They also expect the most recent content and want to interact with their other applications with as little friction as possible.

The progressive web app centers itself around core principles that enable the web to be more user friendly, performant, and interactive. The web has become a set of powerful standards that provide almost endless possibilities for your web applications. These include everything from interacting with native device features such as the camera, to being installable on desktop and mobile devices.  Because of their versatility, progressive web apps provide a whole host of possibilities.

Even if you are familiar with progressive web apps, however, you may not know that many of the standards that these applications possible are not new. What has changed is that because e of emerging key technologies such as the service worker, PWAs are more poised than ever to create scalable, reliable, and flexible experiences within the browser.

What are the benefits of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?

Download a the Progressive Web Apps white paper!

All of this sounds great, but what are the benefits of PWAs for the enterprise logistics environment? That question can be answered readily by Pinterest, Twitter, Nikkei, and a host of other businesses with varying models that have found that providing a progressive web app increases retention and acquisition of new users, while decreasing your data usage. There are plenty of use cases in favor of progressive web apps.

How PWAs can be used for your business practice:

There are a number of ways progressive web apps can help you and your business. here are just a few of the highlights.

  • Crafting new user experiences for employees to access and query the information they need on any platform
  • Creating a web-based ticketing system for support agents, enabling work to be completed on a desktop or mobile environment
  • Utilizing Web NFC to communicate with IoT devices and retrieve information about manufacturing and logistics equipment performance
  • Creating a Content Management System (CMS) to deliver student content that can be available offline, enabling students with limited internet connectivity to view, edit, and complete assignments
  • Enabling E-commerce with the Web Payment API and Paypal integrations
  • Supporting Mobile accident assessment applications with the ability to take photos and videos of an accident, use audio recording to record testimonies, and more.

Download a Progressive Web Apps white paper!

How can Progressive Web Apps Help Manage Logistics Systems?

Visual LANSA makes it easy for companies with logistics systems to build progressive web apps using its drag-and-drop user interface design. In addition to reducing an app’s time to market, with Visual LANSA your developers don’t need to worry about how a new app will interface with the device it is on. Simply put, this means a developer can focus on creating their logistics solutions rather than worrying about device compatibility.

The result is that low-code developers can comparatively quickly create enterprise-level PWAs. Accordingly, for businesses, this means higher ROIs from their low code investments.

Logistics companies that have found success with Visual LANSA include:

  • Eagle replaced their dispatch board with Visual LANSA
  • Federated Group deployed Windows CMS portal
  • Geodis Wilson Australia saved money with Visual LANSA
  • ITT-TDS reduced development budgets with LANSA low-code solutions
  • Nulogx apps are more agile and responsive with LANSA
  • DSI customers reduced spend with virtual supply chain solution
  • Royal Wagenborg manages ship and shore with LANSA
  • Walon boosted workshop productivity with LANSA
  • More case studies!

“With a development team of two and LANSA, we have delivered systems that let our customers run their logistics in a very efficient way” – Port Logistics Group

It’s easy to quickly produce progressive web apps using Visual LANSA V15+, assuming that you already developed a web application on Visual Lansa.

How can I build a PWA with Visual LANSA?

Go to the Web Pages and Click the page you want to enable PWA as a homepage.

Click the “offline support” tab.

On the Bottom left click “Details”. Then click the “None” on the Offline Support Dropdown. Finally, choose “Web App Manifest /Service Worker” on the Top Left Dropdown of the Details Menu.

Caching by the service network allows PWA to work offline and load reliably off the user’s network connection. For instance, a service worker can be programmed to always serve content from the cache first. Then it falls to the network. There is an added benefit to this strategy. If the content is not available in the cache, then the service worker reverts to the network. It then clones the information it is served into the cache for future use.

Once you have set up offline support, click Compile and Execute the app on the Visual LANSA Software. This will automatically open a new tab in the browser. At the URL bar, you’ll see a plus sign. Next, click the plus icon and install it. Voila! You already installed the Web App as a Progressive Web App! Congratulations on your First PWA!

 

Want to take a deeper drive into progressive web apps? Download the whitepaper!

 

 

Developing Stunning Hybrid Low-Code Solutions with Visual LANSA

In order to stay at the top of their game, application developers naturally keep track of emerging trends in the software industry. If you have been paying attention, you have certainly noticed that one of the hottest trending words in the app dev community in 2021 is low-code.

But what is low-code, what does it mean and how can it help you as a developer?  Have you ever wondered if low-code will allow you to develop your apps more quickly? Or better yet, have you ever questioned what impact low-code will have on your own or your client’s businesses?

Here are some of the answers you are looking for.

How can Visual LANSA  help me?

LANSA’s hybrid low-code application development platform puts you back in control by accelerating the development and delivery of your enterprise web and mobile applications. In other words you can typically build your apps are typically built 10x faster than you could by using traditional methods. Simply put, LANSA makes you and your team more productive with its unique hybrid low-code language which converts your coders into full-stack developers.

Here’s how low-code and Visual LANSA will enable you to quickly respond to demands from users and executives:

  • Speed app development by up to 10x for new web, mobile, and desktop apps.
  • Complete more projects in less time utilizing your existing staff and without adding headcount.
  • Quickly deliver attractive, modern apps with UI and UX that drives user adoption.
  • Easily integrate with existing systems through LANSA’s powerful hybrid integration platform.
  • Extend the longevity of your apps by being able to port/migrate them across on-premises servers and the cloud. These include Windows, IBM i, Linux, and AWS/Azure.
  • Enforce system-wide standards, controls, and business rules that ensure app quality.

Watch this on-demand webinar with LANSA Product Marketing Manager, Tony Graham. In it, you will learn what low-code is and what its benefits are. You will also understand why you should choose Visual LANSA for your low-code solutions.

Head over to check out more information about the Visual LANSA hybrid low code solution.

Visual LANSA IBM i Industry 4.0

Hybrid Low-Code: Efficiently Implementing Industry 4.0 on the IBM i

The need for optimization and to implement industry 4.0 concepts has never been greater than right now. The year 2020 was quite challenging for manufacturing as businesses had to deal with several issues stemming from the global pandemic. From workforce shortages and supply shortages to a downturn in the economy, 2020 was quite the hurdle. The need to automate, optimize, and become more efficient in all aspects of manufacturing became rather apparent. 

Saying you need to optimize and actually implementing those changes effectively are quite different though. What should be optimized first? What exactly do we need to analyze? Too much data and irrelevant data can be as bad, if not worse, than not enough data. How can manufacturing really be agile? 

Performing internal audits at each point in the manufacturing process is a great way to start —  from bringing in the raw material to how it gets delivered to the shop floor, the efficiency of the production machines, the process of transferring finished goods to the warehouse, billing and receiving, quality control, staffing, training and customer service. Odds are, all these areas can be improved, but focusing on a few that can make the biggest impact first is key.

So how can LANSA help manufacturers become more efficient, more agile, and better optimized? Simple — by enabling IT departments to create applications critical to every aspect of manufacturing quickly and efficiently. 

Experience the power of hybrid low-code first hand for free! Check out our free trial.

Real-Time Data from Your Production Processes

Visual LANSA can create real-time applications that interface with your production machines’ PLCs via SQL or ASCII. This data can be stored on the IBM i, Windows servers, or the cloud. Real-time data at the fingertips of production supervisors or the production workers themselves means adjustments can be made before costly problems occur. Before quality checks and before a catastrophic failure, making adjustments in real-time means valuable production time and resources are not wasted. This data can be displayed on phones, tablets, or even monitors located near the machine where the machine operators can constantly assess them.

Better Warehouse Operations 

Accurate warehouse data is vital to a company’s bottom line. Knowing exactly how much of a product is in stock and the exact warehouse location means less manual checking, better production planning, and a reduction in human error. The ability to quickly create applications that can run on the latest scanners is a major step in ensuring warehouse data is correct and up to date. You don’t need to be limited to an MC9090 and a 5250 emulator. You can also create progressive web applications that run when network connectivity is low or nonexistent, so warehouse data does not need to be kept manually, then added manually later.

Analytical Dashboards for Everyone

Create real-time dashboards for production, sales, and even the CFO to make decisions based on the most accurate data. Visual LANSA installs directly on the IBM i or Windows so you can access your data anywhere with an internet connection. You can even set different dashboards based upon the user login credentials. Combine data from different sources, SaaS platforms, CMMS, EHS, ERP, IBM i, and SQL into one easy-access dashboard as needed.

Streamline, Optimize, and Save 

Running an IBM i doesn’t mean you can’t integrate the heart of your business with your industry 4.0 initiatives. In fact, it is easier than ever to include the IBM i in all your optimization and IT objectives. Visual LANSA can turn any developer into a full stack developer, creating the most intuitive web apps in a matter of weeks. Equip your IT department with the tools to quickly and efficiently complete the apps you need to meet your optimization and automation goals.

Try if free and experience the power of hybrid low-code!

What Is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)?

All around the globe market expectations are forcing companies to digitally transform using Industry 4.0 tools and technologies. This is also creating a corresponding demand for next-generation, business-enabling solutions and enterprise IT infrastructure products. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is one field, in particular, seeing growth fueled by the introduction of technological innovations. A study by Allied Market Research valued the global ERP market at $39 billion in 2019. That same study also projects it will reach $86 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 9.8% from 2020 to 2027.

There are many reasons for the ERP market’s rapid growth. Firstly, ERP systems are essential components of modern-day IT infrastructure. They power and support a wide variety of business functions. Next, organizations are looking to modernize their legacy ERP systems without interrupting routine business operations. Finally, the need to modernize is especially relevant to companies that use IBM i platform to power their IT infrastructure. They require powerful tools to facilitate their legacy application modernization and enhance their outdated ERP systems to meet the demands of the new era. 

But today we would like to focus specifically on ERP systems and their role in the digital transformation process. 

What is ERP?

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a general term that refers to specialized software solutions organizations use to manage business operations. ERP systems support a variety of activities like supply chain control, procurement, accounting, project management, and risk management. 

ERP systems are complex software solutions that use multiple applications to integrate business processes. These different enterprise tools communicate with each other, monitor business performance indicators, and manage the flow of data between the layers of IT infrastructure. In addition, they collect, store, and interpret data for analytical insights. Today, ERP systems play a critical role in the operational processes of thousands of companies. 

A brief history of ERP

The history of ERP goes back more than a century. Ford Whitman Harris created the Economic Order Quantity Model (EOQ) in 1913. This marked the emergence of what we call ERP market today. The EOQ model was a paper-based manufacturing system for production scheduling. It quickly became a standard in the manufacturing industry. In 1964 the Material Requirements Planning (MRP) solution combined EOQ concepts with a mainframe computer. MRP complemented and essentially replaced the EOQ model until Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP II) emerged in 1983.  

Gartner first used the term ERP in the 1990s. It described a new model of business management software that merged the capabilities of MRP and MRP II combined with innovative computer integration and networking technologies. The concept of ERP also encompassed business activities beyond manufacturing. The ERP became the software technology that handled all core enterprise functions. These include accounting, customer relationship management, and human resources. 

ERP system adoption has grown quickly since the 1990s. At the same time, ERP software became increasingly powerful and all-encompassing. In 2000, Gartner coined the term ERP II to describe web-based software solutions that further expanded ERP capabilities. ERPII systems moved beyond resource optimization and transaction processing to other business activities and processes. Another feature of ERP II software is that it provides employees, suppliers, customers, and partners real-time access to ERP systems. 

What are ERP system capabilities?

As a result of this century-long evolution of enterprise resource planning, ERP systems ended up being all-encompassing and truly fundamental to the business operations of thousands of companies. 

Here’s a list of modern-day ERP system functional areas, which are also frequently called ERP modules:

  • Project management (project planning, resource planning, activity management, etc.);
  • Management accounting (budgeting, cost management, recruiting, training, retirement, etc.);
  • Financial accounting (fixed assets, payables, receivables, and collections, cash management, etc.);
  • Human resources (recruiting, training, rostering, payroll, etc.);
  • Manufacturing process (work orders, scheduling, capacity, workflow management, quality control);
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) (sales and marketing, customer support, etc.);
  • Supply chain management (supply chain planning, purchasing, inventory, claim processing, warehousing, etc.);
  • Order processing (ordering, inventory, shipping, sales analysis, and reporting, etc.);
  • Data services (web interfaces for employees, suppliers, customers, and partners).

What are the business benefits of ERP?

Modern-day ERP systems offer multiple business benefits. They make processes more efficient, improve workflows and align departments, in addition to providing employees with better tools to work with. 

Here are some of the most notable business benefits of ERP system implementation: 

  • Lower operational costs
  • Improved efficiency of business processes
  • Consistent infrastructure management
  • More reliable financial controls
  • Lower management costs
  • Better user-adoption rates
  • Enhanced employee collaboration capabilities
  • Business insights from real-time data collection and analytics
  • Improved data integrity

What is LANSA’s tool for smart IBM i ERP system transformation?

Clearly, ERP systems play a key role in the digital transformation processes and implementing the latest business automation technologies. That said, modernizing legacy ERP solutions can be a significant problem for organizations using the IBM i platform to power their IT infrastructure. Many IBM i ERP software solutions require extensive consulting, expensive upgrades, and high maintenance fees while failing to provide much-needed functionality. 

LANSA ERP Frameworks is an open-source enterprise resource planning software solution that relieves the pains of ERP development, maintenance, and modernization for IBM i users. 

LANSA’s ERP software is a comprehensive, enterprise-wide solution with rich business functionality and high visibility. It also provides high control options and data for educated business decisions. In addition, each LANSA ERP module is seamlessly integrated with related modules, contains transaction auditing, and includes reports necessary for monitoring key metrics and reporting to governing agencies. 

LANSA ERP Frameworks also come equipped with a complete business process integration and workflow engine. This workflow engine allows businesses to automatically process transactions from any source or format based on business priorities and needs.

How did Kawasaki Motors modernize its ERP system with LANSA’s tools?

Want to learn how LANSA’s ERP Frameworks helped a large company modernize its ERP infrastructure? This business case shows how Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp implemented LANSA’s tools, ERP Frameworks, RAMP, Composer, and Integrator, to develop an online supplier portal. The portal integrates with Kawasaki’s underlying ERP system and multiple LANSA-based applications. It also generates purchase orders, packing slips, box labels, and invoices as well as EDI transactions.

Below you can also find a short video about Kawasaki Motors’ experience using LANSA’s LongRange tool. They used it to create and deploy native mobile apps for their assembly line and warehouse workers. As a result, Kawasaki streamlined its assembly line processes and increased its inventory visibility. They also reduced labor costs by $3500/day.

Finally, if you’d like more detail about the technical powers and capabilities of LANSA ERP Frameworks, check out the audio webinar titled “Take Control of Your Business with LANSA ERP Frameworks.” In this extensive, almost hour-long webinar, Bob Gleisner, LANSA’s Director of Professional Services, gives an in-depth overview and demonstration of LANSA ERP Frameworks.

Ready to begin? Then get in touch with us to start utilizing LANSA ERP Frameworks and other powerful IBM i modernization tools for both your automation and digital transformation needs. 

An Introduction To Low-code Data Integration Tools

It is hardly news that in their day-to-day operations, businesses today generate truckloads of data.  Irrespective of its industry, a typical business employs numerous applications and on-premise systems to store enterprise data. Every business activity produces data, whether it is marketing, shipping, billing and financial transactions, or research and testing, and managing customer relations. Simply put, data is the backbone of any business. Producing all this data, however,  is pointless if it is not adequately analyzed and available where it is needed most. This is where data integration using low-code comes into it.

According to research by Forrester, the top 5 low-code use cases are: 

  • Customer-facing applications
  • Business process/workflow applications
  • Web and/or mobile front ends 
  • Complete mobile applications
  • Administrative apps for gathering and tracking in addition to reporting data. 

In the Forrester survey, John Rymer, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, points out that these use cases all have one thing in common: “they all rely heavily on integration.” What’s more, delivering applications is an extremely intensive process. It involves integrating both on the front and back as well as integrating with systems, data centers, cloud sources. More importantly, in any integration project, your data integration tool often dictates whether you succeed or fail. 

This article introduces the LANSA Integrator, strategic middleware that provides tools and services for all data integration needs. 

What Can LANSA Integrator Do? 

LANSA Integrator is strategic middleware that provides tools and services that enable: 

  • Application-to-application data exchanges. 
  • Business-to-business document transfer and data interchanges. 
  • Manual data integration processes automation. 
  • Simplified data integration solution design and reduced development effort. 

Integrator provides the data transformation, transport services, and infrastructure that can assist developers in building integration solutions. It also simplifies integration design by providing the tools you need to receive, extract, transform, and send data. Developers only need to define the data, the transformation rules, and choose a data transport. After that, Integrator takes care of the detailed work that ensures the data is in the right format and reaches its destination successfully.

Integrator also supports multiple data formats. These include XML, EDI, text, video, SMS, email, Microsoft Excel workbooks, and PDF files as well as relational databases. In addition, Integrator includes services for data transformation, communications, email, and messaging, and web services. Interface tools and utilities that complement these services are another part of the Integrator package. 

Developers can use Integrator services to transform data from one format to another in their integration applications. It supports multiple data transport methods to move your data. These transport methods include HTTP, FTP, SFTP, Web services, and message queue software.  Finally, any application can call Integrator’s services using simple APIs.

Is Integrator a Flexible Solution?

Some of your customers, suppliers, or partners may use XML or EDI to exchange data. Others may use more generic formats like spreadsheets or text files. In either use case, Integrator’s flexibility allows you to choose from an array of many formats to satisfy any data transformation and integration requirements.

How can you use Integrator? 

LANSA Integrator provides a productive toolset for data integration between applications and sending data to/from customers, suppliers and partners. It also includes services developers can use to manage integration interfaces, call upon communications protocols and transform data from one format to another. 

Integrator’s services for transforming and transporting data make it the “Swiss Army Knife” of data integration. In other words, any time developers confront a situation requiring data exchange and/or transformation, there is an Integrator service that can simplify the task. 

Here are some examples of how you could use Integrator: 

  • Send orders as XML, text, and email, as well as EDI format to a manufacturer automatically.
  • Transfer files securely from desktop or laptop computers to remote servers.
  • Send data from a mobile device to an application running on a server.
  • Generate SMS text messages to a mobile device describing the status of orders or deliveries in real-time.
  • Connect a Java-based credit card application to an order entry system.
  • Integrate back-office applications using data formatted as XML and sent via IBM WebSphere MQ messaging services.
  • Provide PDF documents, secured with digital certificates and password-protected, sent via email for contract negotiations and also agreements.
  • Provide Web service interfaces to existing line-of-business applications.
  • Send procurement documents to suppliers and receive acknowledgments from suppliers.
  • Receive a text file via FTP, convert it to a PDF and send the PDF as an email attachment

Are You Ready To Integrate With LANSA?

Low-code solutions help businesses to keep up with the pace of change. In addition to accelerating product delivery, low-code integration can significantly improve hard business metrics like your ROI. You can also save costs by reusing APIs to open new revenue streams. 

LANSA Integrator is a low code solution that moves data between diverse platforms and applications. It manages data transformation, email, communication, messaging, and SOAP, as well as REST web services. For more information on how you can integrate with LANSA, contact us.

What Is The Biggest Challenge With Business Process Integration?

All organizations today, regardless of their size or industry, face a mounting need to implement automation solutions. Only a few years ago we considered digital transformation and Industry 4.0 technologies like AI and Big Data futuristic solutions that could provide a company with a competitive edge. In 2021, however, these solutions are a necessity for any organization that wants to keep up with the times. 

What are the hardships of automation?

The majority of organizations and business leaders today are well-aware of the capabilities of the latest automation solutions and their business benefits. But the process of implementing these innovations can be a long and exhausting journey that sometimes ends in total failure. 

Organizations typically face a number of challenges when trying to modernize IT infrastructure and implement new tools. One of the top automation issues is how to create new applications and modernize old ones while integrating them and establishing connections to share data with external parties. The majority of companies relying on IBM i to power their IT infrastructure would certainly agree with this. For these companies, low-code platforms are a powerful game-changer.

Integration is often the hardest part, especially implementing a new or modernized app without disrupting operations. In addition to this, you need to integrate your new apps with third-party apps. Then there is integrating with your cloud platforms.  These processes typically require a team of developers with diverse skill sets and experience with various technologies from different vendors.

Is data one of the hardest parts of automation?

Business Process Integration (BPI) is the efforts of an organization to synchronize various parts of its IT system. It involves automating data and document exchanges between different internal departments, apps, and external partners. 

Organizing data is probably the most challenging part of BPI for the majority of organizations. When it comes to automating your data exchange in line with modern-day BPI requirements, there are several common considerations:

Are different data formats spread across your platforms?

Most organizations with legacy IT infrastructure have data is spread across multiple platforms. This makes it difficult to bring together in a functional and actionable way. 

Do your data chains contain too many manual steps?

Business processes are frequently a mixture of computer interfaces and human input. Moreover, data chains are the steps that link them together to complete a business process. A data chain containing too many manual steps leads to an increase in delays and errors. This makes your business processes inefficient. 

Is your data poor quality?

 The need to deal with flawed and low-quality data is another BPI challenge.  Teams working on BPI projects must deal with incorrectly formatted data, duplicate records, and other flaws that make it difficult to use. 

Are your data chains getting longer and more complex?

Finally, data chains tend to grow. They get longer and more complex as you extend your business processes. It is a natural process because as your business and technological environments become more complex, your data chains do too. The growing complexity of your operations requires new links and connections. 

How can you creatively address your BPI challenges? 

Because of these data-related issues, BPI implementation projects can easily spin out of control. The good news is that you can ensure a successful digital transformation by choosing the right BPI tools. There are a variety of automation solutions and services out there that can solve your data integration problems. 

For example, LANSA, a powerful low-code development platform, provides custom tools to make your automation and legacy modernization easier and more accessible. 

LANSA understands the challenges of business process integration first-hand. We provide solutions that help companies establish effective data exchanges and integrate all layers of their IT infrastructure. In addition, our solutions are platform-independent — it doesn’t matter if you use IBM i or any other system. LANSA’s tools make integration and automation of business processes cost-efficient and accessible to people with limited technical skills. They are also future-proof, allowing companies to build systems that will be reliable and easy to maintain for years to come. 

You may think every provider of automation tools praises their own products as the ultimate remedy to all business automation woes. What separates LANSA from the others, however, are the many real success stories of companies that used LANSA for their digital transformation. Read on for an example of how an organization successfully used tools like LANSA Composer to overcome their BPI challenges and save both time and money.

LANSA Composer

LANSA Composer is a specialized business process integration suite. It handles the integration and process improvement challenges businesses face. It streamlines how your business exchanges, processes, and monitors data between your internal systems, external trading partners, and the cloud.

Composer is also a simple and cost-effective way to get business transactions in and out of your business systems with less human effort. It reduces your development time with a set of ready-made business process integration tools. Rather than writing new code, with Composer,  you simply assemble your business processes to quickly manage the process.

Composer lets you drill down into any step of a business process. It gives your company full visibility into every transaction, letting you examine the success or failure of each process. With LANSA Composer you can restart a failed processing sequence from the point of failure. You can transform databases across your IT ecosystem. Composer’s processing sequences can invoke any executable on the same server or spread across multiple Windows/IBM i servers.

LANSA composer also supports both Windows and IBM i-based IT systems. It has several custom features that simplify IBM i deployments by allowing activities to interact with legacy 5250 green screen applications, retrieving and sending data with ease. 

How did Green’s BPI succeed beyond their expectations with LANSA?

Green’s General Foods (Green’s) is an Australian food product company. It is one example of a large organization that succeeded in business processes optimization using LANSA Composer and related tools. 

Prior to modernizing with LANSA tools, Green’s was a classic case of a company using a reliable but outdated IT infrastructure — a BPCS 8.0 ERP system supplemented by over 30 other systems. This involved custom-developed RRPG programs with many business rules embedded that were only visible to a programmer. Overall, the company had more than 150 RRPG programs that were increasingly problematic to use and maintain. 

Green’s reviewed several BMP (business process management) platforms and middleware tools. including TIBCO and MS BizTalk. Eventually, they concluded that big and complex BPM solutions just weren’t suitable for their needs. With a team of only four people, Green’s couldn’t afford to start implementing large-scale platforms, either in terms of licensing costs or what it would mean to learn, implement and support the changes.

Simplifying BPI with LANSA Tools

Using LANSA tools, however, they successfully replaced all 150 legacy RPG programs with new automated processes. 

Green’s also benefited from several LANSA tools for easy IBM i modernization.  With aXes, an API that allows applications to automatically operate 5250 screen-based programs, Green’s automated their billing process and overcame the limitations of their outdated ERP system. 

“The LANSA Composer and aXes combination turned out to be a very good solution for us. Composer orchestrated and contained our business rules, while aXes-Robot helped us with the ‘last mile’ integrations we needed to stop developing custom RRPG programs. By putting the rules and validations in Composer and filling the data-entry gaps with aXes-Robot, we removed the need for many custom programs,” said Anish Mathur, a Senior Business Analyst at Green’s 

Thanks to the power of LANSA tools, the project took less time than expected and saved the company a substantial amount of money. 

“We gave ourselves six months for this project, but after two days with a LANSA Consultant automating the first few processes, I quickly designed and created the rest of the processes.  We did most of the work in two to three months and we had the luxury of parallel testing for the remaining three to four months,” explains Mathur. “If we had to re-write the RPG interfaces from scratch, I estimate we would be looking at something like $60,000 to $100,000 and at least seven man-months. Although the new programs would be better quality than the old RPG programs, fundamentally we would have ended up in a similarly heavily customized and difficult to upgrade ERP environment.” 

Read the full version of Green’s business case study if you want to learn about it in more detail. 

Ready to start a BPI project? 

Business process integration is essential for any organization in 2021. Automating the exchange of data between systems and trading partners helps to lower processing costs, improve data accuracy, and provide access to many other valuable business benefits. 

Want to know more about the secrets of smart BPI? Download this free white paper by LANSA. 

Ready to begin? Get in touch with us to start utilizing LANSA Composer and Visual LANSA low-code platform for your automation needs.

How to handle the increasing complexity of systems and development environments?

The Anatomy of a Great Low-Code Platform

In today’s economic climate, slow and steady no longer win the race. Market conditions and customer needs change constantly. As a result, companies need to develop and deploy business solutions faster and with limited resources. For this reason, business growth and success rely on finding solutions and techniques that speed up product delivery using existing resources. This is where low-code platforms shine.

Low-code development uses a graphical user interface to faster develop and configure your applications. With low-code platforms, enterprises eliminate tedious traditional development processes and significantly improve time to market. They do this in two ways:

  • By empowering non-developers to build and maintain solutions tailored to specific business needs.
  • By empowering developers to build more applications faster

Either way, low-code development is changing the software development paradigm. Many businesses are shifting to low-code development to remain relevant in a competitive market. In this article, we’ll discuss the anatomy of a great low-code platform.

Low-code platforms require less programming expertise

Low-code platforms democratize enterprise application development and empower employees with minimal or no programming skills. As a result, citizen developers can build solutions that solve strategic business challenges.  Simply put, low-code accelerates application development by eliminating a developer’s need to master multiple technical skills to produce software applications. Using drag and drop in addition to other low-code platform features,  you can quickly create beautiful UIs. In addition,  low code development allows you to easily create solutions that directly solve your business problems. It is a far simpler alternative than customizing an off-the-shelf solution.

Does Low-code offer Faster Time to Market?

Time to market refers to the time it takes to develop a solution, from conceptualization to design to deployment. T0 stay competitive, businesses need to disrupt rather than follow market trends. In terms of rapid application development, Low-code platforms reduce time to market. Traditional application development that may take months or even years takes weeks or even hours with low-code. Low-code platforms leverage visualization and drag and drop techniques to make the development process run more quickly and efficiently.

What are the costs of Low-code?

All low-code platforms have different pricing policies but they are generally affordable for businesses. The most common pricing model is per seat per month. For example, Visual LANSA has different “per user” fees that depend on your capacity. Entry-level (up to 100 users) costs $16.66/user. Mid-level organizations pay $13.34 per. Finally, enterprise rates are only $8.34 per seat. Most low-code platforms also have different service tiers, and what each tier offers is transparent. This means no hidden fees — you only pay for the features you need. The total cost of ownership is significantly lower than traditional development tools. If you are feeling budget constraints due to COVID-19, low-code platforms could be the solution for you.

What about Third-party Integrations?

Most enterprises need solutions that can integrate with their existing applications, databases, or third-party applications. Unfortunately, off-the-shelf solutions can be very limited. Some can only integrate with specific applications. Low-code platforms, however, let you build your applications and integrate them with everything from APIs and databases to your existing applications. Low-code platforms facilitate integrations through third-party connectors. They use the RESTful web services found in most business applications. Drag-and-drop technology, templates, and widgets also make low-code applications easy to configure and integrate as you develop them.

 

Are You Ready to Leverage Low-Code Platforms?

Low-code platforms are powerful. They speed up your product delivery cycles. It doesn’t end there, however –by empowering citizen developers to solve business challenges, your IT department can focus on more strategic digital transformation projects or more demanding business needs. This increases everybody’s productivity.

To fully reap the rewards of low-code development, however, you need to choose a partner that’s the best fit for your business — one that offers all the features necessary to meet your business goals.

Check out all of the features of our hybrid low-code Visual LANSA.

 

Why You’re Failing At Automation

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution — Industry 4.0 — gains momentum, most businesses see the benefits of implementing the technologies driving the transformation. Even those business leaders who previously thought automation was unreliable understand its necessity. Simply put, automation is now a necessity for any organization that seeks a modern standard of efficiency and productivity.

Is there an automation perception controversy?

Every day new reports showcase the real-life results of automation projects in various fields and business processes. As a result, automation is commonly seen as a magic solution capable of driving business KPIs through the roof.

With most cutting-edge innovations and trending technologies, however, the reality lies somewhere in the middle. When implemented correctly, automation solutions can undeniably provide multiple business benefits. They can boost productivity, improve cost-efficiency and empower organizations in countless ways. Unfortunately, automation and digital transformation projects can also end up being outright failures. Done incorrectly, automation projects may not only fail to deliver any measurable improvement, but they may also disrupt business processes and cause substantial financial losses.

What are 5 reasons why automation projects fail?

There are multiple reasons why organizations fail at automation. Let’s consider several key issues that business leaders and IT decision-makers pursuing digital transformation frequently overlook.

Unrealistic expectations

Beginning with the obvious, unrealistic expectations are a key contributor to failed automation and digital transformations. The media bombards us with stories about the power of automation. Under pressure to keep up with the latest trends, stakeholders start to think about Industry 4.0 technologies as a cure-all. This misplaced enthusiasm often results in automation projects greenlighted based on high hopes and nothing else. Needless to say, with this approach, the business results rarely live up to expectations.

A lack of vision and a poor long-term automation strategy

In addition to unrealistic expectations, a lack of vision, clear end goals, and long-term strategy often leads to poor results when it comes to implementing automation projects. Automation for the sake of automation is also not uncommon in the modern-day business world. After all, failing to have a vision and develop a proper strategy is understandable given the complexity of the task.

That said, it is important to plan meticulously. What do you automate first? Which tools do you select for the process? How do you integrate innovations that fit your existing operation, and when do you opt for a complete change? These are all non-trivial questions, and their answers vary depending on multiple factors.

A shortage of technical expertise

From a practical point of view, the most common issue preventing successful automation is a lack of technical expertise as well as human resources. Many business leaders tend to underestimate the importance of involving highly qualified developers experienced in specific tools and technologies. Completing an automation project successfully requires different programming languages and technologies. It could also involve dozens of tools across various fields of software development.

As the demand for automation grows, hiring and retaining experts with relevant skills becomes increasingly problematic. The unavailability of qualified developers jeopardizes entire projects and leads to delays and budget overruns.

Relying on the wrong tools and software development approach

Another common mistake is choosing the wrong tools or software development approach. This can make an already challenging task insurmountable. One example of this is relying on bloated frameworks and inefficient libraries. Originally intended to help software developers to save time and build rich-feature solutions, many frameworks became their own problem, due to the uncontrolled growth of these “convenient” ecosystems.

According to this report, the life cycle of an average mainstream JavaScript framework is a couple of years. Each new framework quickly gains popularity and then suffers a steady decline as developers adopt newer platforms

This, in addition to these framework’s and libraries ‘ growing complexity, has created several serious issues the web development community is dealing with right now. Automation projects that rely too heavily on frameworks result in software solutions that are ineffective, costly to maintain, and progressively more difficult to work with.

Maintenance and out-of-control complexity

In the end, however, most projects that fail, do so for several reasons. In addition to the factors above, these include a flawed understanding of developer productivity and a failure to account for future maintenance. Add to that inadequate or difficult test procedures, and the inability of many applications to fulfill their purpose long-term. Taking everything into consideration, it is not difficult to see how companies end up implementing abysmal automation solutions that are devastatingly expensive and increasingly difficult to maintain over the years.

What is the LANSA recipe for successful automation?

LANSA takes a different approach to automation projects. It is an approach based on years of practical experience in automation and low-code development tools. LANSA empowers developers to create new solutions regardless of their skillset. Visual LANSA is an arsenal of tools that allow companies of all sizes to build, implement and maintain the latest IT innovations using limited resources and modest financial investments.

With Visual LANSA, organizations can build and deploy new enterprise apps in days. It delivers proven and well-documented results, increasing the development productivity up to tenfold and even more in some cases,

Visual LANSA allows organizations to turn any programmer into a full-stack developer without mastering and supporting a dozen different languages and server technologies. With LANSA, you also use the same language and IDE for all parts of an application—client-side, server-side, and everything in between—increasing the speed and cost-efficiency of the development process.

What are some proven automation tools?

LANSA Composer

LANSA Composer automates and integrates business processes. Its features include transport, data transformation and mapping, process orchestration, and administration. Composer also allows you to automate processes and minimizes human intervention and exception management. It also decreases development with ready-made activities that most companies need for business process integration.

LANSA Integrator

LANSA Integrator moves data between diverse platforms and applications. It simplifies exchanging data between applications and transferring files and documents between businesses. It enables bi-directional flows of data and/or files in almost any format. Integrator also allows you to easily design and build data flows that link a new application with existing applications, especially data flows that cross corporate boundaries.

LANSA Client

LANSA Client is a query and reporting tool for creating reports from enterprise data on Windows and IBM i servers. You can save report data as MS Access, MS Excel, and HTML, as well as XML or ASCII text files.

Powerful legacy modernization capabilities

LANSA offers a variety of solutions for modernizing legacy systems. Specifically, it includes powerful tools for IBM i modernization. These tools also allow companies to develop new apps, modernize old ones, or create an entire ERP without hiring specialized IBM i and RPG developers.

Simplified integration features

With Visual LANSA, and the ability to code directly inside the IDE, the bar for low-code integration is brought to a new height. The hybrid low-code approach of Visual LANSA means you can integrate anything and everything without creating time-consuming workarounds. LANSA integration solutions simplify how data gets transported between business processes. This allows developers to confidently set up data exchanges and automate processes with minimum effort.

Cross-platform deployment support

Visual LANSA is a low-code platform that truly lets you deploy anywhere, including IBM i, Windows, the Cloud, and Linux. Where many other low-code platforms are only able to provide limited deployment options, Visual LANSA enables businesses to deploy where it makes the most sense for them.

Failed automation is not an option for you?

Visual LANSA combines all the right trends in modern-day software development and digital transformation. It safeguards organizations from abysmal automation projects. Finally, it makes cutting-edge technical innovations accessible to companies of all sizes. This allows them to build applications with outstanding user experience, create workflow automation solutions as well as modernize old systems without needless risks and struggle.

Ready to begin? Get in touch with us to start using Visual LANSA for your enterprise automation needs.

How You Can Access IBM i 5250 Applications From the Web

The Next Big Thing in IBM i 5250 Applications

There has never been a more challenging period in the history of IT.  COVID-19 has fractured the global economy and IT departments are under unprecedented pressure to support their enterprises. The internet revolution has also changed customer expectations and the role of application software. We can access almost every product or service imaginable via the web. In addition to that, our technologies and skillsets are much broader than ever before. Software development is no longer slow-paced, and with platforms and languages changing yearly,  it is almost impossible to maintain the skills necessary to create web applications.

Because of this, enterprises that run their core business applications on specific platforms like IBM i are also under more pressure than ever before. IBM i is rock-solid, fast, and one of the most reliable operating environments created. As a result, organizations running on this platform are not looking to forfeit these perks. They don’t want to give it up. IBM i applications, however, are monolithic and rigid with 5250 green screens that only provide on-site access through centralized terminals or computers. They just aren’t compatible with the expectations of modern users.  

This raises some important questions: What’s the way forward for IBM i 5250 applications? How can enterprises take a more integrated approach to applications and avoid silos in favor of shared data and workflows?  Finally, how can they leverage their existing developer skillsets (RPG and COBOL) to make it happen?

Read on for an overview of the future of IBM i applications.

How Can You Automatically Web-enable IBM i 5250 Applications?

If you want the benefits of modern software but want to maintain your robust IBM i, Visual LANSA is the way forward. Simply put, LANSA has been web-enabling 5250 applications for years.  aXes, its powerful terminal emulator allows you to convert IBM i applications to the web with a simple install. More importantly, aXes doesn’t require programming skills or access to the source code. By simply installing it on IBM i, you give your employees secure access to their 5250 applications from any web-enabled device like a laptop, phone, or tablet. In addition, your end-users don’t even need to install anything on their devices. That is because aXes does all the work on IBM i. It is a simple but powerful IBM i modernization solution.

Another benefit of aXes is that you can modernize in steps. In other words, you can quickly web-enable your applications according to what you need. Once your priority systems are online, you can add other functionality. 

In hours, aXes can turn your 5250 applications into web apps with secure access from any device with a browser and Internet connection. By giving legacy applications a new web UI, it also protects your investment in proven, robust, and functional server applications. 

Finally, the aXes 5250 terminal emulator provides a smooth transition for data entry users and casual users alike. aXes creates UI objects automatically. Menus become clickable links, subfiles become scrollable tables, and function keys become buttons. No programming is required, but you can also change your default modernization rules or customize your screens using aXes development studio. 

How Can You Create a Modern UI for 5250 Applications?

With LANSA aXes you can also modernize your UI by adding much-needed functionality. it completely converts your 5250 screens to modern web user interfaces. In addition to that, with the host of web user interface controls aXes provides, you can add value with new business processes. The result is optimized workflows and decreased user training times.

A well-researched redesign of the user interface produces fewer keystrokes with intuitive navigation that improves workflow. The enhanced user experience enables users to perform day-to-day tasks faster and more effectively. aXes delivers increased business benefits to your organization. 

There are two approaches to customizing your web-enabled UI with aXes: local customization and global customization. The former involves locating the screen in question and adding functionality specific to that screen. The latter involves setting up global rules that determine how aXes displays elements on your screen. 

You can also customize the aXes screens by calling RPG and COBOL programs from scripts. This allows you to expand the features available to users without changing the application itself.

How Can You Integrate 5250 Applications with Web and Line-of-Business Applications?

aXes host integration allows organizations to integrate 5250 applications with web and line-of-business applications. This way, you can automate data exchanges with 5250 applications by leveraging an application programming interface (API). Developers can use the API to write programs that automatically operate applications RPG or COBOL apps.

aXes can also simulate a person entering data on 5250 screens. With this feature, you can integrate existing 5250 applications with .NET, Java, or other 5250 applications without changing the source code of your 5250 applications.

LANSA aXes caters to a wide range of automation options. It has APIs for .NET for Windows, Java for IBM I and Windows, and RPG for IBM i. The .NET version is managed code, the Java version is Java SE, and the RPG version is a wrapper around the Java API.

 

Are You Ready To Leverage The Next Big Thing?

Don’t let your IBM i applications hinder your company’s ability to embrace digital transformation. LANSA is here to unlock the full potential of your 5250 applications. With aXes, you can automatically web-enable IBM i 5250 applications, create a modern UI for 5250 applications, and integrate 5250 applications with web and line-of-business applications.

You can download and try for free to see how easy it is to convert IBM i applications to modern web apps with LANSA’s aXes. Ready to get started? Contact us!

 

Why You Should Modernize Your RPG and COBOL 5250 Apps

The IBM i platform has enjoyed user loyalty and an exceptionally long life cycle. After three decades, it continues to power critical IT infrastructure for more than 100,000 organizations around the world.  This is because of its core strengths — reliability, cost-efficiency, and impeccable security. In addition to its bullet-proof architecture, however, there is another element critical to IBM i’s enterprise success. 

That element is 5250 green-screen applications. From the early days of enterprise IT, green screens were indispensable to organizations that required safe, reliable, long-lasting, and future-proof enterprise tools. Unfortunately, times change, and as reliable as the 5250 green screen is, today it is legacy software prime for replacement or an IBM application modernization effort.

Why you can’t postpone modernizing your 5250 apps any longer 

From a modern point of view, it is easy to spot the weaknesses of 5250 green-screen apps. It is also easy to see why 5250 apps struggle to keep up with business requirements in the era of digital transformation and Industry 4.0. 

IBM i 5250 apps are a product of a different era. They come from a time when the Internet was in its infancy. For this reason, 5250 green-screen apps are not web-enabled. They also don’t support seamless transition to a web environment without specialized tools and expertise. Today, that lack of web support is unacceptable. The Internet is essential to the operations of virtually every element of the IT infrastructure in every industry. 

Based on legacy RPG and COBOL programming languages, 5250 apps also share the weaknesses of programs developed in the 1980s. They have outdated functionality, inefficient workflows, and an inconvenient UI.  Essentially, 5250 apps match up with current enterprise technologies as well as carriage wheels fit a self-driving electric car. 

For the majority of organizations that still rely on RPG and COBOL 5250 apps, the need to modernize is more urgent every year. 

How do you approach 5250 app modernization in 2021? 

We have reached the point when enterprises can no longer postpone modernizing their legacy tools.  It is also clear that enterprises that can’t keep up won’t be able to compete and will lose their market share.  

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. A lack of tools to enable modernization and a poor understanding of how to approach the problem is common.  In addition, few companies can afford to spend millions on a full-scale update of their outdated RPG and Cobol solutions.

This is where the LANSA low-code development platform comes into it. LANSA provides a full set of tools that make modernizing IBM i solutions accessible to companies of every size. 

LANSA is the ideal way to streamline your IBM i legacy transformation. Best of all, modernizing your 5250 green-screen apps is central to the process.

Let’s take a look at some of LANSA’s key modernization tools.

RAMP

Lansa’s Rapid Application Modernization Process (RAMP) is a fundamentally new approach to modernizing IBM i infrastructure. It includes a variety of tools for refacing outdated applications as well as facilitating new development. By consolidating existing functionality with new technology inside RAMP, you get the applications you want without throwing everything else away. You can modernize in stages, introducing new functionality incrementally without impact on your business operations. In addition, RAMP gives all of your applications a consistent new user interface.

With RAMP you can give your green-screen applications a modern graphical user interface that is familiar to your users.  RAMP makes it easy to replace complex 5250 hierarchical menu structures with point-and-click UI elements. Simply put, RAMP lets you modernize your app design with minimum effort. 

RAMP also simplifies adding new features to your 5250 apps. For example, it supports components built with Microsoft development tools in C#. It also includes many ready-to-use components your developers can implement during your 5250 modernization efforts.

With RAMP, it won’t take your developers much time to convert outdated green screens into modern Windows desktop applications or web browser apps that support Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer.

aXes

aXes is another tailor-made tool that automates the creation of web-enabled IBM i 5250 applications. Out of the box, Axes transforms your existing 5250 screens into web pages, without you changing the source code. 

The aXes API allows developers to automatically create programs that operate legacy applications written with RPG or COBOL. In addition, applications can use aXes to simulate the actions of a user entering data on screens in a 5250 application. This feature makes it possible to integrate existing 5250 apps with .NET, Java or other 5250 apps without changing their source code. aXes provides a wide range of automation options with versions of the API for .NET for Windows, Java for IBM i and Windows, and RPG for IBM i. 

aXes host integration interface allows new applications to use 5250 apps to retrieve and update data. You can retain the functionality of your 5250 applications while serving data to your new apps.

Watch this video demonstration of aXes to see what it is capable of. 

 

LongRange

Last but not least, LANSA’s LongRange is the final element of successful 5250 green-screen modernization. LongRange builds native mobile apps for IBM i with the RPG, COBOL or CL programming languages. 

The LongRange mobile app builder ensures IBM i mobile app development and maintenance with a short time-to-market and reasonable total cost-of-ownership. LongRange helps companies with limited resources and budgets develop powerful new applications. 

With the LongRange mobile app builder, you can build and maintain stylish, modern and business-focused mobile application solutions indistinguishable from native mobile apps, like Twitter, Skype or Salesforce. Your users can download Longrange apps and run them with the speed and reliability of native apps. You can also build LongRange apps without acquiring additional skills like HTML5, CSS3, PHP, JavaScript, Java or Objective-C.

Lacking expert knowledge on modernizing RPG and COBOL apps? 

LANSA has helped organizations across the world to modernize and support their IBM i infrastructure for more than three decades. We have accumulated a truly great treasure trove of knowledge on this matter. 

Here’s a video presentation, sponsored by LANSA and hosted by IBM i development experts, that focuses on web-enabling IBM i apps. It discusses challenges typical to the process and explains how you can address them. 

The need to modernize legacy IBM i solutions is often obvious to IT departments and tech specialists. Many business leaders and key decision makers, however, hesitate to begin modernization projects. They are skeptical of fixing something that, in their opinion, isn’t broken. They also worry about disrupting long-established work processes. Here’s another great webinar, featuring Steve Collins, LANSA’s Director of Professional Services, that explains how to justify a modernization project using ROI. 

Finally, download this white paper focused on mobile app development with LongRange for RPG and COBOL programmers. This paper describes the approach to replacing legacy 5250 green-screens with modern mobile apps and explains how to reduce time-to-market and control development costs by using LongRange to build mobile device apps using only RPG, COBOL or CL developer skills.

Anxious to get started?  Contact us today at Lansa.com.

 

Everything You Need To Build Secure .NET Apps For IBM i

IBM i is a robust and reliable operating environment. It is still used by many organizations today, especially for data-heavy applications. Over the years, businesses have heavily customized IBM i applications to suit their business processes. Most of these applications, however, run on an RPG code format that outputs to monolithic 5250 green screens. These screens contrast starkly with modern software expectations.

While 5250 green screens are effective, they don’t provide the rich UX-based experience users demand from modern software applications. In addition, because of the knowledge gap and dwindling talent pool of IBM i developers, most organizations run on multiple computing systems. They generally have a different IBM i development team siloed from developers working on other computing systems. This also adds to the complexity surrounding data and application integration within organizations running on IBM i.

Microsoft’s .NET Framework can address these issues by enabling the development of Windows or Web applications that integrate seamlessly with IBM i. Microsoft .NET Framework applications provide end-users with a rich graphical interface that integrates with IBM i databases as well as existing RPG and COBOL programs and stored procedures. While .NET technology provides a solid foundation for building modern graphical IBM i applications, security is always an issue when it comes to developing IBM i .NET applications. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to modernize your IBM i by building secure .NET applications. 

How is IBM i .NET Security Different From That Of Other IBM i Applications?

Most IBM i applications use menu-level security. This is where code in the application governs the access rights for different types of users of the same application. However, data access mechanisms like ADO.NET and the .NET Data Provider are not governed by the same menu-level restrictions as 5250-based applications. That doesn’t mean .NET access to the IBM i is insecure. It just means that .NET access is controlled by native IBM i object-level security instead of menu-level security. This fundamental difference underscores the importance of planning and implementing your IBM i object-level security.

The authentication mechanism used by the .NET application is another important security consideration. In order to gain access to IBM i resources, .NET applications need to supply authentication information to the IBM i. Applications using ADO.NET and the IBM UDB .NET Data Provider can either use application-supplied authentication or Windows integrated authentication.

Application supplied authentication passes information to the IBM i using a connection string. Unfortunately, it is not the most secure approach. This is because the connection passes user profiles and passwords in an easily intercepted text format. Even though application-supplied authentication may be acceptable for applications on private internal networks, it is not adequate for applications that use public networks. You must encrypt Public network connections to the IBM i using SSL or other encryption technologies.

Alternatively, Windows Integrated Security provides much stronger network security. It never passes authentication information over the network in plain text. Windows Integrated  Security sends authentication requests using the user’s current security token. It is a much more secure method because raw authentication information never surfaces on the network. This security technique, however, requires matching user IDs and passwords on both the Windows client application and the IBM i server.

How Can You Secure Your IBM i .NET Applications?

A layered security approach is the best practice for securing your IBM i .NET applications. Layered security better protects your application data by providing a more granular and manageable security implementation. First, at the network authentication level, you take advantage of Windows integrated security. Then, at the transport layer, you make use of data encryption to protect the contents of the data stream between the .NET client application and  IBM i. Finally, encrypting the data stream prevents the application user’s authentication information from being intercepted and secures the data exchange between the client and the server. 

Object-level Security and the Principle of Least Privilege

At the server level, be sure to use IBM i’s object-level security to restrict user access to objects required only to perform their jobs. This is the “Principle of Least Privilege”.  If a security exposure does occur, restricted access limits the intruder’s access to the objects that the application user has rights to use. This prevents the intruder from accessing any other system objects.

Another example of implementing the principle of least privilege in an IBM i .NET application is to use IBM i’s adopted authority to restrict users from direct access to all base tables and only allow access to a set of stored procedures or data access programs. The system objects can then use adopted authority to access the base data tables.

In this approach, the user has no direct access to any system objects other than stored procedures used for data access. The stored procedures or data access programs use IBM i adopted authority to access the base tables used by the application. This helps prevent SQL injection attacks or other exposures that take over the end user’s credentials in order to access unauthorized system data.

SQL injection attacks are based on an attacker entering unexpected SQL commands data into the application’s data input fields. If the connection and application are compromised, the attacker only gains access to the stored procedures in the data access layer. They have no access rights to the application data or any other system objects. 

Input Validation

It’s vital to ensure you properly validate all input fields at the application level. Although you might think of input validation as a data integrity measure, it is also a vital security precaution. Proper data validation ensures that all data sent to the database complies with the organization’s business requirements. It also prevents hackers from performing SQL injection-style attacks.

Input validation blocks these attacks. It ensures that any data used by the application meets the expected data type requirements. You should also validate all data in your application to ensure that it meets the expected data type, only contains expected characters, and falls within length and value boundaries. In addition, consider adding encryption algorithms to the application to protect critical data elements like credit card numbers you may store in your IBM i database.

How Can You Connect Your .NET Applications To Your IBM i Resources?

To access your IBM i resources from the graphical user interface of your .NET applications, you need IBM i middleware. LANSA Open for .NET is powerful middleware. It is also Visual Studio plugin that allows Windows developers to access IBM i (AS/400, iSeries) resources (including data and programs) directly from their .NET applications. It also offers easy integration between IBM i and .NET.

With LANSA Open for .NET, IT departments can safely open up their IBM i data and applications to internal and external .NET applications. Most importantly, they can also do it without risking security or data integrity. The result is a better customer or employee experience. 

How Can You Modernize With LANSA Open for .NET

.NET applications run on graphical user interfaces. With LANSA Open for .NET, you can upgrade your green screens to use the .NET graphical user interface. Other benefits of this solution include, but are not limited to the following:

.NET and IBM i Collaboration

This solution allows you to break down application silos and achieve a single version of the truth. You achieve this by enabling .NET and IBM i to collaboratively share real-time data and automate business processes. You can also eliminate synchronization between Windows and IBM i platforms.

Controlled Access to IBM i Data from .NET

With LANSA Open for .NET, IT departments can safely open up their enterprise IBM i data to various internal and external applications without risking security or data integrity. LANSA’s Business Rules Engine also enforces validation logic and ensures that unacceptable data never hits the database.

Faster Transfer of Data and Information

LANSA Open for .NET implements native record-level access to Db2 data over an encrypted, secure connection. Using native record-level access also means .NET applications can quickly work with large volumes of Db2 data by taking advantage of IBM i’s powerful data processing capabilities.

Tighter IBM i Security from .NET

LANSA Open for .NET’s runtime DLL also encrypts and compresses data during transmission between the client and the server. Overall, this protects sensitive data from compromise by sending it down the wire using industry-standard DES or Twofish.

Easier Resource Management of Dev Teams

Reduce the challenges of managing siloed development teams and multi-platform projects by sharing resources between mixed .NET and RPG, as well as COBOL development environments. With LANSA Open, you can reuse the same enterprise business logic, validation rules, and also calculations.

Are You Ready To Build Secure .NET Applications To Modernize Your IBM i?

Microsoft.NET technology provides a productive and powerful set of tools for developing graphical IBM i applications. While LANSA Open enables a secure and seamless connection between .NET applications and IBM i data,  enterprise-level application development also requires attention to real-world application development issues, like security. The guidelines presented in this article can help ensure that your IBM i .NET applications meet the security demands of your organization. 

To get started with LANSA Open for .NET, request for demo here.

3 Ways To Maximize And Future-Proof Your IBM i Investment

The IBM i platform has holds a unique position among the operating systems and software solutions organizations use to power their IT infrastructure. Originally introduced by IBM as part of the AS/400 system back in 1988, IBM i is a rare case of a platform that has served its users faithfully for decades. What makes it remarkable is that it hasn’t become an anachronism. Other computing solutions born in the 1980s, before the Internet went mainstream can’t make the same claim.

Why is IBM i more popular in 2021 than ever?

Thanks to continuous improvements, transformations, and updates, IBM i is as relevant as ever. In 2021 more than 100,000 organizations in various industries around the globe still use IBM i  to power their most critical operations. Remarkably, most of them plan to keep relying on IBM i going forward. This is because the platform has proved itself as a great IT infrastructure investment multiple times over.

According to a recent survey [1] of IBM i users, 44% of organizations said they are running between 76% and 100% of their core apps on IBM i. 25% of users surveyed also said they are only increasing workloads on the platform, while just 3% said they were planning to migrate applications from IBM i over the next two years. 

The reason for IBM i’s continued relevance and the loyal user base is simple. It stayed up-to-date with evolving technology while exercising and perfecting its core strengths. Strengths like great security, high performance, and incredible reliability. 

Business leaders see IBM i as an impregnable fortress. It safeguards and nurtures their IT systems. In addition,  IT specialists recognize multiple benefits of this platform over its alternatives. That is why businesses keep using it. 

Addressing the need to modernize

That said, it would be foolish to deny that technology has come a long way since the 1980s. The IT needs of an organization back then don’t compare to today’s IT infrastructure requirements. Legacy components and the system and applications that run on top of it also challenge IBM i users. 

Is there a way to preserve an IBM i infrastructure while also staying in step with the times? Can you reap the business benefits of the latest tech innovations, and ensure your organization is ready for Industry 4.0?

Absolutely, and today we are going to share some recipes for success. 

LANSA is a truly bottomless pit of knowledge when it comes to future-proofing your IBM i investment. In fact, we are one of the oldest IBM i service providers. LANSA has helped organizations implement, maintain, modernize and expand the functionality of IBM i since the 1980s. LANSA witnessed the evolution of IBM i over the years. We even like to believe that we were co-creating IBMi by building software tools that address its biggest pain points. We also have years of supporting companies using LANSA tools in their IBM i-based projects. 

The secret to future-proofing of your IBM i investments essentially comes down to informed modernization plans and using the right tools to make them a reality. That way you can modernize and keep IBM i up-to-date for many years to come. You can also ensure that your maintenance expenses remain under firm control.

More specifically, the recipe to success has three main components: transforming legacy systems, low-code development, and tools that smooth over problematic parts of IBM i development.

Transforming legacy systems

Modernizing legacy systems is the major pain point for many IBM i users. It’s easy to see why — most organizations are using systems from the 1980s or earlier. 

According to the results of our poll of legacy systems users, 39% of surveyed organizations said their system was implemented in the 1980s. Another 18% said it was implemented in the 1970s or earlier.  

Overall, it takes years to develop and integrate enterprise systems and applications into an organization’s operational processes. It’s not surprising that many companies struggle to keep up and continue to rely on legacy tools that don’t support modern technologies. 

Having no alternative to legacy solutions can trigger a cascade of business problems and challenges. Low productivity and the high costs of product development and maintenance are also common consequences of staying legacy. 

Legacy maintenance issues

LANSA conducted an RPG language development teams survey a couple of years ago. According to the results, 65% reported missing maintenance deadlines on an annual basis. Similarly, 19% said they miss deadlines two or three times a month. 38% also said that upper management considered the costs of maintaining those legacy tools to be a burden to the business. 

Maintenance is the most expenseful part of any software product’s costs. When it comes to IBM i solutions, legacy maintenance costs tend to grow each year. They are driven by increasingly confusing architecture (which lowers productivity) and a shrinking pool of RPG developers. The majority of organizations using IBM i are well-aware of these problems.

 Replacing your legacy tools with newly developed ones, however, is only one way to address the IBM i modernization need. It is also the most expensive, time-consuming, and risky one. 

LANSA has a selection of tools designed to enable the easy modernization of IBM i solutions without hiring many diversely expertized developers. 

Want to learn some first-hand insights about implementing the modernization of IBM i legacy solutions in 2021? Then watch this extensive webinar hosted by Eden Watt, Vice-President for Professional Services at LANSA. Watt talks about transforming IBM i legacy with specific examples and illustrations. 

Low-code development

In the future low-code development is the key element to success in IBM i infrastructure management.

Low-code platforms and tools allow organizations to solve virtually all challenges of modern-day IBM i development. These include hiring new RPG developers, overly complex legacy code, and old RPG developers lacking knowledge of newer technologies.

LANSA was among the pioneers of this now-trending approach when we created Visual LANSA. We saw the power of low-code in enterprise development,

Visual LANSA is a powerful low-code development platform that allows organizations to build and deploy new enterprise apps in days. Using Visual LANSA delivers proven and well-documented results. It increases development productivity 10X or more in some cases. 

Visual LANSA allows organizations to turn any programmer into a full-stack developer without having to master and support a dozen different languages and server technologies. With LANSA, you can use the same language and IDE for all parts of an application—client-side, server-side, and everything in between. This increases the speed and cost-efficiency of the development process. 

Want to know about the latest trends in low-code development, LANSA’s strengths, and capabilities in this field? Do you want to learn about one company that used LANSA to power its digital transformation efforts?  Then watch this webinar featuring John Rymer, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, Keith Arteaga, IT Manager at Brunswick Bowling, and Yad Jaura, Head of International Marketing at LANSA, as the main speakers:

Tools to optimize IBM i development 

To optimize IBM i development, you need specialized tools to modernize the process.  This makes it both rapid and simple enough to enable developers without the knowledge of RPG and years of experience in IBM i engineering to build new apps and integrate them with other systems. 

As you probably guessed, LANSA, with decades of experience and deep knowledge into every aspect of IBM i development and maintenance, has got IBM i users covered here as well. 

LANSA has a selection of tools built primarily for organizations using IBM i. 

LongRange

LongRange is a mobile app builder that allows you to build native mobile apps for IBM i with RPG, COBOL or CL programming languages. It allows organizations to deliver, maintain, and update mobile apps to a user community at unprecedented speed and with minimal costs. 

aXes

aXes is a unique tool that allows you to web-enable IBM i 5250 applications automatically. IT transforms existing 5250 screens into web pages out-of-the-box, without changing source code. You can also change the default modernization rules to suit your requirements and apply the changes automatically across all screens in an application.

LANSA Integrator

LANSA Integrator moves data between diverse platforms and applications. It simplifies exchanging data between apps and transferring files/documents between businesses and enables bi-directional flows of data and/or files in almost any format. LANSA Integrator allows you to easily design and build data flows that link a new IBM i application with existing apps and systems, even if they are hosted on other platforms. 

And that’s not all. If you want to learn more about the LANSA tools that empower IBM i development in line with the standards of the new era, make sure to watch this almost hour-long webinar. It features LANSA’a David Brault and Sherry Barnvos talking about the biggest challenges of IBM i development in the digital transformation era. It also explains how LANSA relieves virtually every major pain of IBM i development teams. 

 

Want to test LANSA in action? 

LANSA offers a full selection of solutions to give businesses complete control over their IBM i development, modernization and maintenance. Approaching the IBM i infrastructure management armed with expert knowledge and professional tools is what allows organizations to utilize the full power of IBM i, implement digital transformation projects and replace legacy solutions without disrupting day-to-day processes 

Ready to get started? Contact us at Lansa.com.

[1] https://www.helpsystems.com/resources/guides/ibm-i-marketplace-survey-results

A Beginner’s Guide to ERP Framework Solutions On IBM i

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) refers to an integrated enterprise software stack. That stack is comprised of a central database surrounded by multiple plug-ins or solutions. Each solution is tailor-made to meet a specific business need. These needs include managing a business’s financial, manufacturing, supply chain, customer relationships, and back-office functions, amongst others. At the core of all ERP solutions is a central database that houses all the records within a company’s framework.

But simply storing data isn’t useful. That’s why ERP systems are important. They take all that data and integrate it so that users can increase efficiency and save costs. Find out more below or take a look at our IBM i modernization demo.

Common ERP Software Problems

Let’s assess what’s going on in the ERP software market right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, and lots of consolidation going on. This is because larger companies are getting larger by absorbing smaller companies. As a result, there’s often a lack of direction. For example, each company has its own ERP, and the mother company ends up with several acquired software systems that all do the same thing. Simply put, they end up with multiple distribution systems need to figure out which one they should focus on, which they should focus on. 

In addition, many of these packages and companies are struggling with modernization. Once again the result is a lot of uncertainty. No one is sure where they’re headed and with that comes a rise in upgrades and maintenance costs. Next, some of the large or established ERP systems come with costly annual maintenance, difficult upgrades, decreasing support, and increasing costs that offer poor business value. 

What’s more, some may have open-source systems. You probably understand the benefits of open source. The reality, however, is that open-source offerings are unlikely to solve your business problems. They come with questions like: Does it contain the rich functionality that my company needs? Is it proven at other companies? What level of support am I going to get?

If this all sounds like too much to overcome, take a look at some LANSA ERP framework solutions that could solve your problems. 

What Is The LANSA ERP Framework?

LANSA’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is not just an open-source enterprise resource planning software solution for IBM i (System i, iSeries, AS/400). It is a comprehensive, enterprise-wide business solution with rich business functionality. It provides Executive Dashboard, Advanced Workflow, Desktop Integration, and flexible End User Queries and Reports. In short, the LANSA ERP Framework gives you the visibility you need to take control and make educated business decisions.

As mentioned earlier, other IBM i ERP software solutions require extensive consulting, expensive upgrades, and high maintenance fees. Even then you fear whether or not you will ever get the desired functionality and ROI from your ERP system. LANSA ERP Frameworks remove that risk by providing:

  • Open source to all of the applications modules
    Consulting support to integrate and train your team
  • Education for your team to implement and support
  • Knowledge for your team to control its future application life cycle and evolution

What Are the Benefits of LANSA ERP Frameworks?

Each LANSA ERP module integrates seamlessly with related modules. The LANSA ERP contains transaction auditing and includes the reports you need to monitor your business and report to governing agencies. You can also use each module independently and in “best-of-breed” situations. 

Other benefits of the LANSA ERP framework include:

No Vendor Lock-in and High Maintenance 

If you already have an ERP system running on your IBM i (System i, iSeries, AS/400), you may already be experiencing vendor lock-in. With LANSA ERP, there is no more vendor lock-in, high maintenance fees, being stuck on a release, or bad customer support.

Business Process Integration and Workflow

LANSA’s IBM i enterprise resource planning software comes equipped with a complete business process integration and workflow engine. This allows you to automatically process business transactions from any source or format based on your business priorities and needs.

Complete Control

You know you will need to make changes to your ERP to remain competitive in your market. Since everything is 100% LANSA, you get an easily modified system that meets your constantly changing business requirements. In addition, you get all the benefits of a proven system that is also rich in functionality.

What Are the Components of the LANSA ERP Frameworks?

The Distribution Framework 

LANSA’s ERP distribution framework offers core application modules that address your critical business requirements. You can also easily tailor it to meet your organization’s unique needs. Finally, you can extend it to provide web, Windows, and XML interfaces using LANSA’s advanced software.

The LANSA’s ERP modules include Inventory Management, Purchasing, Quality Inspection, Order Entry, Shipping, Billing, Returned Goods, Sales Analysis and Customer Quotes, as well as Cost Accounting.

The Manufacturing Framework 

Another critical component of LANSA’s ERP software solution is its manufacturing Framework which offers core application modules that deliver a fully integrated base system.

You can easily tailor the manufacturing Framework to meet your unique needs. You can also extend it using LANSA’s advanced software to address trading partner integration, web browser self-service applications, and application-to-application integration.

Modules include Bill of Material, Material Planning, Production Control, Production Reporting, Forecasting and Cost Accounting, General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Cash Management as well as Multicurrency, and Currency Translation.

The Financial Framework 

LANSA’s Financial Framework is a strategic component of LANSa’s ERP software solution. It offers core application modules that include multicurrency, multilevel tax processing, and multi-company capabilities. Implementing procedural changes as business circumstances requires soft parameter changes rather than coding/development changes. In addition to meeting your organization’s unique business processing needs, you can use LANSA software to extend your Financial Framework and create web, Windows, XML, and EDI interfaces.

Modules include General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, and Cash Management, as well as Multicurrency and Currency Translation.

Is the LANSA ERP Framework Proven At Other Companies?

Some companies choose to implement big ERP packages that require them to change their business procedures. Unfortunately, these changes are not strategic. Instead, they involve changes their ERP vendor has determined best business practices. In these environments, it is technically and financially challenging to add or customize business functionality. One of our customers, Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp., USA, decided to go along a different path and is reaping the benefits.

Kawasaki’s consumer products plant in Lincoln, Nebraska, operates on a ‘just-in-time’ basis to eliminate expensive warehousing and over-ordering parts. To achieve this, the company needs to work closely together with its suppliers. Using the skills and knowledge of its in-house IT team, Kawasaki’s Lincoln plant developed an online supplier portal that paid for itself in just a few months. The supplier portal, underlying ERP system, and the entire process of generating purchase orders, packing slips, box labels, invoices, and EDI transactions consists of LANSA-based applications.

For more information on how Kawasaki achieves quick ROI with LANSA, click here.

How Can You Modernize with LANSA?

For managers responsible for satisfying IT demands from users and executives alike, LANSA’s low-code development platform will equip your team with more speed, choices, and control over your application development projects while also minimizing risk, delays, and overspending. With LANSA, you get a single platform that tackles all your tactical as well as strategic goals. Here are a few ways LANSA can help you modernize:

  • Modernize existing IBM i applications with aXes to transform 5250 screens into web and mobile interfaces without changing code.
  • Build upon your refaced 5250 screens using RAMP to snap them inside a modern application framework that provides “new application” functionality while refactoring as much of your existing code as possible.
  • Build new web and mobile applications easily with the Visual LANSA low-code development platform.
  • Complete more projects in less time and quickly respond to demands from users and executives.
  • Leverage a single development platform and skillset for better resource management.
  • Reduce complexity by having everyone code in the same high-level language for the client-side and server-side.

Are You Ready To Leverage LANSA’s ERP Frameworks?

Enterprise Resource Planning boosts efficiency, saves costs, and ultimately increases your chances of success. However, you must choose the right ERP solution. 

LANSA’s ERP modules all have standard reports. Plus, with LANSA Client, you have easy access to any report that you want. In the general ledger segment, there’s a fully functional and flexible financial report generator. And it doesn’t end there — by leveraging the latest tools and gathering feedback from our customers, LANSA constantly makes improvements that might be valuable to your business. For a feel of the LANSA ERP frameworks, click here to schedule a Demo.