Solution to be provided by Wiseco Consultants Ltd.

It is our mission to provide Strategic IT Consulting services for investment protection with focus in adding value to Legacy Systems, from here on to incorporating applications data and streamlining business operation to achieve the highest return on investment from every dollar they spent on the Information Technology. We have a team of highly responsive technical people who help enterprises resolving their problem at the area of:

  • Legacy System Connectivity
  • Modernizing legacy applications
  • Replicating data between heterogeneous systems
  • Managing AS/400 Reports Printing


  • The Issue

    Image the date when people migrate their desktop Operating System from DOS to Windows environment. System Administrators were jumping high and low to resolve system resource problem, hardware issue and, most of all, are their corporate standard PC applications Windows compatible. The story repeated itself every two years and people are still running around to perform major OS upgrade from Windows to Windows 98, then Windows 2000, and Windows XP. Imaging all the hassle of fixing PC packages compatibility issue and that is why people find browser based thin client benefit.

    PC Emulation solution that connects PC to IBM Mainframe and AS/400 are not exempted from this trend. By their very nature, emulation products are prone to having hardware compatibility issue. Emulation software requires to perform protocol translation, session handling and communication control that requires heavy hardware intervention.

    Different Implementations of Web-To-Host technology

    Terminal emulation thin client approach does not come in single implementation method. One implementation requires end-user to download a small servlet onto their PC and provide full function SNA (System Network Architecture) LU (Logical Unit) implementation. Where user can have LU2/LU5 display terminal and LU1/LU3 printer session on their desktop with presentation using browser.

    Secondly where people may be looking for solution that can transform host screen into static HTML page that can host at their corporate web server. The actual connection to mainframe/AS400 is done at the server level and passes the result back to end-user as web page. Application to this implementation can provide business partner access to corporate host resource without exposing the corporate servers to the Internet environment. Some vendor・s solution, like Attachmate・s, allows customizing the end-user display such that only critical information will be disclosed to the viewer.

    Yet another implementation involves rejuvenating the host screens, consolidating multiple screens, scrambling it with other connection to corporate resources, like RDBMS server, and presenting the output at an information rich integrated user interface. This can be a good solution to supplement host being considered a text-crunching machine. This technology will normally be used to provide user friendly GUI to facilitate end-user・s productivity.

    Case Study - SNA thin client implementation

    Company A is a corporate with 30 outlets around the region. Their core application is built on IBM mainframe platform and distributed to remote offices through public leased circuit. A SNA gateway is installed at each office to consolidate communication between client PCs and the host. The leased circuit, SDLC adapter and SNA gateway are all duplicated to provide secured resilience. As their business growth, the company implemented high-speed WAN connection between to support other business application like corporate email, portal, RDBMS access. With the new network infrastructure in place, the company is looking for alternative to replace their existing SNA network for the reason of:

  • Multiple protocols are required to support both legacy mainframe access and other business applications.
  • The SNA hardware and software are outdated where sourcing for spare part for maintenance is next to impossible. The new SDLC hardware doesn't・t support their existing SNA gateway.
  • Recurrent cost to keep the private leased circuit and IBM・s communication controller is costly.
  • In view of the concern the company has, Wiseco proposed using Attachmate・s thin client solution that provides direct TN3270E access to their mainframe through TCP/IP. A single protocol can be standardized in such a case and all the network traffic can be travel through their high-speed WAN link.

    The ROI can easily be justified by reducing all the private leased circuit・s cost and maintenance cost to keep the communication controller running.



    Corporations running mission-critical legacy applications as backend may find their business growth hindered since these applications is not able to catch up with growing business need for a few reasons:

  • The legacy applications are hard to maintain
  • New staffs do not have knowledge to modify the legacy systems
  • Long learning-curve
  • Long latency to get the work done at legacy system
  • In certain cases, customer does not own the ip right of the application source code and they need to pay for very high cost for modification

  • Available technologies to modernize your legacy applications

    Legacy modernization can be achieved by multiple levels of implementation. Critical factors to be considered are:

  • Project Scope - just revamping the green-screen interface or rejuvenating all legacy applications
  • Budget availability
  • Time Schedule - how fast customer wants the solution to be available
  • Technical knowhow available in-house
  • Support from top management
  • Resources availability. e.g. source code
  • From the simplest to the most comprehensive, web-to-host offers uses available tool that makes legacy green screen (TN3270/TN5250/VT) "Windows" like and customer will be able to re-arrange the screen layout to cater for business requirement. e.g. remove un-necessary fields, grouping of fields by functions, or join multiple pages to make them presents in a more organized format.

    There are other tools that can navigate host application screens, build automatic navigation map, and then retrieve host application screens' data and pass them to other applications for further process. This method offers advantages of:

  • No host application development knowledge is required, in most cases these tools are running on Visual Basic, Java, or .NET platform
  • Do not need host source code to integrate with other application
  • Do not re-invent the wheel since data captured from host screen are proceeded according to business logic built-in to the host applications
  • Faster time to market
  • Do not have host component that needs to be installed at the legacy boxes

  • There are also other ways to integrate host data through different means like database middleware, Message broker, CICS Transaction spool,AS/400 Spool, or re-vamping the AS/400 application using more effective tool like Web Smart.


    Case Studies

    With the latest legacy modernization technologies, bank can relocate the data center anywhere easily

    The IT system of bank is one of the most complicated one in the world. Not just because of its high transaction volume, complex arithmetical processing and absolute accuracy requirement, co-existence of many different systems or applications is no doubt another major reason.

    Figure 1a. is the simplified system diagram of a customer of Wiseco - a bank. Different systems are used for handling different business function. They are developed by different vendors, programmed in different languages and running on different platforms.

    Consider a very common and simple transaction V change of customer address. The data entry staff needs to go through all the different systems, in which customer address is being maintained, for address amendment. More than that, nobody can guarantee that the addresses in these different systems are consistent.


    Relocation of data entry center

    For the sake of controlling cost, the bank considered to relocate the data entry center to ShenZhen in mid 2000. With the complicated IT system structure, the bank encountered problems on implementing the relocation. Two major problems are:

  • Communication link the bandwidth of the communication link between the two offices may not be able to handle so many users to log in many different systems at the same time. Training it is time consuming to train the data entry staffs in ShenZhen for so many different systems. Besides, the anticipated high error rate is another problem.
  • Attachmate was employed as the solution provider for tackling these problems in mid 2000. With Attachmate e-Vantage Enterprise Access Objects, a simple single interface for integrating all the dispersed systems was developed (Figure 2c). Consider the change of customer address transaction again (Figure 2a). Data entry staffs in ShenZhen office can enter the new customer address through a GUI interface once. The transaction can then be posted to the different systems, in real time or batch basis.
  • As connection is only be established during posting, the bandwidth demand is greatly reduced. The GUI interface contains only those fields necessary. The screens are much simpler and more understandable. The training time is much reduced.


    Future development

    As the bank plans to develop several data operation centers in different cities of mainland China in the future, they are going to make use of Internet (Figure 2b). With Attachmate・s e-Vantage Enterprise Access Objects, it is easy to develop a web application, which integrates all the back-end systems and provides user with a single web interface for entering data through web browser.

    Automating Bank Loan Application

    Background

    CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited (the 'Bank') is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CITIC International Financial Holdings Limited ('CIFH'), which is approximately 54% owned by CITIC Group. Under a strong and experienced management team, the Bank continues to grow its businesses, and is recognized by the market as an innovative and progressive bank.

    The Bank operates 33 branches in Hong Kong, and two branches in the U.S. in New York and Los Angeles. In the Mainland, the Bank has two representative offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and a wholly-owned finance company, China International Finance Company Limited (Shenzhen). The Bank is rated 'Baa2' by Moody's Investors Service and 'BBB' by FITCH

    Platforms

    IBM Mainframe, Windows 2000 Server, Attachmate MyExtra Solution Suite, Microsoft SQL Server

    Case Problem and Wiseco's Solution

    With strong demand for loan application, Citic Ka Wah is looking at streamlining the mainframe based LOAN system where exiting system requires end-user to navigate through multiple applications and tens of host screens to extract customer information to approve the applications. The time to complete the above steps ranges from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the case's complexity.

    Using Attachmate's MyExtra Solution Suite, Wiseco Consultants Limited successfully developed a web-based JAVA application where end-user will have the appropriate customer information retrieved and stored at Oracle Server for approval process. The new system incorporates new functionality while preserving their legacy system's business logic and host data.

    The new system significantly improves time to complete a loan application.

    Do you need real-time analytic data or afford to have it delay for a day?

    The answer relies on how dynamic your competitive environment is. However it is in a general situation that people will have a negative answer especially part of their data comes from legacy boxes like AS/400 or mainframe. The answer is obvious since they cannot afford to leave 10, 20 or 40 ODBC connections to their mission-critical system at one time that can affect normal business operation seriously. In an extreme situation customer needs to upgrade their legacy system to cater for the high demand from data-crunching applications.

    With Hit DBMoto, customer has an option to replicate their business data to a dedicated RDBMS box and leave their legacy system running mission-critical applications. This architecture offers customer with the advantageous of:

  • Preserve more expensive resources to business
  • Use a less expensive resource to serve data analysis / reporting purpose
  • Move data closer to business user
  • Offer business user a choice of near real-time data
  • Help releasing WAN link's loading in the case where customer have their legacy box and B.I. applications segregated at different locations because only changed data is replicated at defined interval


  • Success Case - Epson improves warehouse management with DBMoto

    Background

    EPSON PRECISION (HONG KONG) LTD is one of the largest overseas subsidiaries of the Japanese Seiko Epson Corporation. It is a manufacturing company, with more than 30 years history in Hong Kong. Epson Precision Hong Kong was formed in June 1986 through a merge of two subsidiaries of Seiko Epson Corporation.

    Epson Hong Kong is also a subsidiary of Seiko Epson Corporation in Japan. It handles marketing, sales and customer service of the South Asian Pacific region.

    Platforms

    iSeries/AS400, Windows 2000, and Solaris

    Case Problem and HiT Software Solution

    Epson needed to reliably replicate their iSeries/AS/400 data to their Oracle subsystem databases for their Warehouse Management Project. This project consists of front-end barcode data collection devices to cover "receiving," "stock in," and "transfer" warehouse functions. This data is uploaded to a middle tier Oracle database. Using DBMoto, the data is then replicated to a backend iSeries/AS400 database.

    Product Functionality

    DBMoto performs refresh and real-time data replication for enterprise server and desktop replication needs. All major database platforms such as IBM DB2 UDB (including iSeries/AS400 and zOS), Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise, and MySQL are supported.

    Product Strength

  • Reduced solution development time
  • Shortened overall project schedule
  • Excellent technical support services
  • Data interface & replication setup using DBMoto is significantly faster than programming the data interface using standards such as JDBC / ODBC in house.

  • Customer Support

    "Hit Software provided us with the best AS/400 DB2/400 to Oracle replication tool at an affordable price. We were most impressed by their professional support service."

    -- Johnny Ip, Systems Analyst, Epson Precision (Hong Kong)



    A traditional green-screen application running at AS/400 or mainframe generates reports that often lack the level of graphical interfaces to appeal to user's favor. The monotonic interface may be good for system log printing. Management reports for busy managers today requires highly summarized graphical information where any alert scenarios can be identified from the report. User is able to drilled down into details of particular transaction should there be any abnormal situation surfaced. In case of AS/400 iSeries user, Clover can be a very good solution for sophisticated report generation where the dashboard function provide an intuitive interface to executives. The tool offer the level of graphical user interface where end-user can design their own ad-hoc reports. Information Technology department's staff can be released to more critical tasks by then.

    On the other hands, we always see customer connect their PC based reporting engine to AS/400 or mainframe through SQL middleware, like ODBC connection. Customer can enjoy the level of graphical fantasy with PC-based reporting tool with real-time information from their legacy boxes. The disadvantage with this approach is that client-based middleware always lacks of a control mechanism to control the number of concurrent user access to the backend host. The drawback is degrading the backend host performance seriously when the number exceeds the threshold.

    Excessive AS/400 access through ODBC interface can be a chaos to the backend host

    A server based SQL middleware is suggested to tackle this situation. The benefit is that concurrent user access can be controlled by the server from exceeding the pre-set value allowed. A server based SQL middleware also provides performance enabling features like "sessions pooling" to preserve re-usable resources for better performance.

    Server based SQL middleware helps to release the concurrent connection chaos

    An ultimate solution is to replicate data from AS/400 to other RDBMS, say, MySQL using DBMoto where all user access can be redirected to a less costly RDBMS and leave the precious backend system for running your company's core applications.

    Ultimate solution for AS/400 report printing