Attachmate adds tools for tying legacy data

Attachmate Corp. plans to announce software for integrating legacy mainframe and minicomputer applications with newer systems, the first of two steps it’s taking to expand beyond the shrinking terminal-emulation market.

The myExtra Smart Connector tools are due to be followed next quarter by a set of products that can be used to design new user interfaces for green-screen applications, said Markus Nitschke, vice president of marketing at Attachmate in Bellevue, Wash.

The company began limited shipments of Smart Connector last year, and Nitschke said that about 15 users have built applications with the technology so far. The tools convert legacy application data into formats such as XML and are aimed at short-term integration projects as a lower-cost alternative to full-blown enterprise application integration (EAI) software, he said.

For example, The Stanley Works, a New Britain, Conn.-based maker of hand tools, plans to use Smart Connector to tie applications on its back-end IBM mainframe and AS/400 (now called the iSeries by IBM Corp.) to a new online order-entry system based on Microsoft Corp.’s .Net technology and BizTalk Server software.

Automated Mapping

K.C. Jones, .Net architect at Stanley, said other integration technologies “were cost-prohibitive” compared with Smart Connector. The Attachmate software also provides an automated way to map how legacy applications work, Jones added. “We have a lot of legacy code that was written before the dawn of time, and nobody knows what kind of logic is built into them,” he said.

Jim Ingwerson, manager of call center integration at the Kansas Department of Human Resources in Topeka, said cost was also a key factor in the state agency’s decision to choose Smart Connector over integration software from IBM and other vendors.

The agency, which administers the unemployment insurance program in Kansas, used Smart Connector to tie a CICS claims-processing application running on an IBM mainframe to a Web-based self-service system that lets residents file unemployment claims online.

Ingwerson wouldn’t disclose how much the agency paid for the Attachmate software. But the integration project, which cost a total of $7 million, paid for itself within seven months through savings in areas such as call center staffing, he said.

The Smart Connector line includes a drag-and-drop design tool, a security and user authentication component, and runtime code that can be distributed across multiple Windows, Unix and Linux servers. Pricing starts at US$65,000 per runtime server CPU and can exceed $500,000 on big projects, Nitschke said.

Mark Vanston, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said Smart Connector is “a quick-and-dirty way” to hook new applications to legacy systems, a capability many EAI vendors have ignored.

“But it’s going to be harder for Attachmate to sell than they think it is,” Vanston warned. Users that have already bought EAI tools or application server software may not want to add another middleware vendor, he said.