Thursday, April 4, 2013

Drop me in! The case for upgrading your communications software …

With the latest successful deployment of uLinga, it is proving to be easy to simply drop-in and replace existing software, providing a significantly better value proposition as a result!

With the calendar first quarter now behind us, it’s encouraging to see that customer support for the uLinga product suite continues to remain strong. With two very well established vendors, each having a rich history for product innovation, launching a competitive product was never an easy undertaking so it is good to hear of further success.

As has been covered already in previous posts to this blog, the uLinga product suite supplants any need for either the NonStop SNAX product suite or the ACI ICE product suite, but that really doesn’t give full credit to all that uLinga can provide. Rather, displacing SNAX or ICE at any NonStop site is but a starting point. As interest mounts in uLinga for CICS and uLinga for IMS, and where securing the exchanges between transactions on NonStop and those running on IBM continues to be questioned, uLinga’s popularity will only become more tangible.

However, after two years of selling the uLinga product suite, and with the expertise in customer use-case scenarios that this has fueled, gaining a foothold in a new country is always a pleasing outcome. This time, uLinga has “gone live” for a managed service provider supporting one of the key banks in Ireland. It follows similar success by the same managed service provider in Canada. On both continents, it has displaced the ACI ICE product, where the heritage of the Australian development team has proved advantageous – the personal involved are all very familiar with both SNAX and ICE.

I have often written about the difficulties that come with replacing crucial middleware components and perhaps there’s no other middleware product that worries data center managers more than the communications stack being relied upon. After all, if it’s all bedded-down and running reliably, why change? What compounds the difficulties in pursuing a communications stack replacement business is that often the communications protocols involved are legacy, and a leftover from the days when IBM mainframes ruled the roost! What could possibly drive consideration for pursuing a replacement when all that seems certain is unwarranted risk!

Networking continues to evolve and the way we build-out networks is driven by how best to drive down costs – once relied upon hardware components are gradually being replaced with software features that are an integral component of the communications stack. If two systems can communicate with each other directly, with nothing but a communications link between them – no switches, protocol convertors, concentrators or front-ends, the resultant solution is not only cheaper to deploy and manage, but inherently more reliable. The more moving parts participating in any network connection, the more fragile it will appear.

“The uLinga for EE product was selected by the customer as they were already familiar with ICE HPR/IP,” said InfraSoft Managing Director, Peter Shell. “The customer already understood that this allowed them to connect peer SNA applications - one running on NonStop the other on the IBM mainframe and this time, it was IMS application on the IBM mainframe - over a pure IP network with no protocol convertors or other networking components intervening in any network exchanges. They fully understood the value that came from doing this but what they now wanted was a solution that had a much lower price point and yet, had even better levels of support than they were used to.”

What really sealed the deal was just how easily uLinga dropped into the NonStop system, replacing the incumbent solution. “We did have to make some minor changes to reflect that the IBM subsystem was IMS but no additional enhancements were required – it just went in,” was how Shell described the installation process. “Testing of course and the support of a pilot roll-out were still necessary for the customers own benefit but we would have been very surprised to have not seen this happen given the importance of finding a replacement for ICE.”

Of course, this was all helped by good NonStop knowledge within the Ireland managed service provider and this enabled responses to be generated in a timely manner for which the customer was particularly grateful. “We are very pleased in having replaced the incumbent system with uLinga for EE and it proves once again that it provides great value for money,” responded comForte Marketing VP, Thomas Gloerfeld, in a recent email. “Coupled with a quality development team in Australia and excellent support services, it’s a compelling proposition for any customer looking for alternative communications stacks.”

There are many ways to mitigate risk, even when it involves something as complex as finding a replacement for such a critical piece of software as the communications stack. Having watched their colleagues in Canada complete a migration certainly helped. Having a stack that simply could be “dropped in”, with little to no impact on the APIs being relied upon, also helped. Nevertheless, enjoying a better value proposition as a result provides a compelling reason to simply go ahead! 

As often as I write about this subject I never cease to be impressed that middleware of this complexity even works, let alone offers superior capabilities at a much lower price point and I have to believe others within the NonStop community will be equally impressed.

uLinga continues to thrive and already I have become aware of yet another success story I hope to be able to cover later in this quarter. I am convinced that the ease of the installation and deployment, the “just drop it in” property of the solution, contributes to its success and helps making a change in the customers networks a truly painless operation!

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