Thursday, August 23, 2012

Part 1: Staying very much connected to the users!

This is the first part of a two part update on the success uLinga with more sites now in production including the first ever uLinga replacement of SNAX. But working closely with customers also has led to the roll-out of new features …
The game of cricket continues to evolve, as the demands of all those involved exert pressure on the sport’s governing body. Promoters want to see nothing more than an exciting finish with both teams fighting to the very end. Spectators just want to leave the stadium with a result. Television needs color, action and a touch of glamor. And all the while, traditionalists harbor angst that the traditional five day test-matches between countries could disappear entirely.

However, it’s a real strength of a sport to weather such sea changes and today we have supporters for all three forms of the game – test matches that can go the distance, limited over (or one day) games, where a maximum number of balls each side faces has been set,  and more recently the very flashy Twenty / Twenty (or Twenty20 – T20) played in just a few hours and highly suited to the huge audiences that flock to their TVs.

When it comes to NonStop and the need for connectivity – a fundamental requirement of servers focused on transaction processing, as is the case with HP NonStop systems,  there has been a major sea-change where forty years of IBM’s dominance is finally winding down. Traditionalists still pine for the robustness and security present in IBM’s SNA, but the demands by business to reduce costs and to simplify the infrastructure has led to Internet-derived TCP/IP rising to dominance. Traditional SNA, particularly the huge footprint of SNA applications that remains, will continue possibly for several decades longer, but the underpinnings, the boxes and wires that support the flow of transactions, is now almost universally IP based.

Late last year the Infrasoft product suite, uLinga, was launched and with an early surge into the ICE marketplace, quickly established credibility across the Americas and Europe. Working with the NonStop community, additional features and modules were quickly developed to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. Based on a completely new framework and leveraging open and industry standard tools, services and utilities, the value proposition of uLinga was quickly established and its place as the premier offering among those NonStop customers wanting to modernize their communications was established.

Just recently, the very first former-SNAX user went live with uLinga – a remarkable feat when you consider NonStop customers that continue to rely on the legacy SNAX product are among the most conservative of NonStop users – traditionalists who have depended on their primary vendor, HP, for their middleware and infrastructure. Gaining a toehold in a marketplace and getting that first win is always a major milestone (for any product), and with this win the future of uLinga appears to be sealed. It’s a viable option for all NonStop customers who’s systems need to interact with SNA applications.

The early work done to add new features and modules to uLinga was helped along by the presence of key Infrasoft developers being onsite, working with the prospects. In so doing they were not only able to gain unique insights into how uLinga was being used as well as the types of systems and devices that were part of the network, but also take a fresh look at what the operations of very modern data centers required. The traditionalists supporting NonStop products always want to see a command line interface – and uLinga comes packaged with Console Controller (CCon) just for this purpose – but the younger operators, fresh from college, wanted a lot more. They wanted instant access to uLinga from a browser, and so a complementary product, Web Controller (WebCon) is just about to hit the marketplace.

“WebCon works with all products on all platforms,” Infrasoft Managing Director, Peter Shell, explained to me this week. “The only pre-requisite is uLinga. Nothing else. We have embedded an HTTP Server for the purpose of supporting browser access.
WebCon doesn't require any software to be installed on client devices other than a modern web browser (notably, that also means that Java does not need to be installed, as it is not used by WebCon).”

Shell then further explained how Infrasoft developers were "
able to leverage early HTTP code we had to do in support of uLinga for CICS and the CICS IPIC interface was expanded slightly to handle the needs of WebCon. As for the need for WebCon, we always had the idea of a browser interface – it is the modern way of configuring things. The other driving factor is that CCon is only available for HP NonStop implementations so configuring Windows and Linux online (and not through configuration files) was only possible going with the browser model.”

Modern products, just like any sporting event, have to appeal to a diverse mix of users. Traditionalists will continue to feel lost if they are not provided with a line at a time interface whereas new converts to NonStop will be looking for a GUI – and providing a browser interface to the level of capability and sophistication (and for free, of course), as is now being delivered with uLinga’s WebCon, helps ensure everyone involved in operations gets what they need. And of course, as the usage of tablets and smartphones continues to escalate, even within the data center, then too, the needs of these users will be addressed.

The uLinga product suite continues to develop traction within the NonStop community – providing an option for modernization whether ICE or SNAX is present. And with the availability of uLinga, knowing there are roadmaps and ongoing development being aggressively pursued only affirms the overall value proposition of uLinga. Knowledgeable CIOs are aware of this, and the expectations for even more success for uLinga can no longer be overlooked or ignored.

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