The funny thing about IT companies that specialize in supporting and converting old applications is they appear to be in the business of putting themselves out of business.

After all, when things stop being legacy, won’t they have to shut the doors?

Montreal’s Fresche Legacy doesn’t think so. In fact, it just bought a British-based firm to help its work supporting IBM’s AS/400 (now called iSeries) platform – a mid-range system created in 1988 to support what were then called legacy IBM applications.

Fresche said Thursday that it has bought Databorough Ltd. to gain its X-Analysis, X-Migrate and X2E tools, which perform analysis and code transformation from Synon, RPG and COBOL to Java or C#.

“The technology and their skills is what really attracted them to us,” Freche CEO Andy Kulakowski said in an interview.

The tools “will really help us understand AS/400 legacy environments.”

In fact, Fresche has known Databorough for a while because it has been a reseller of its tools on projects.

Known until a year ago as Speedware, with tools that helped businesses automate and streamline their IT operations, Fresche now focuses on helping organizations support or migrate applications from AS/400, IBM mainframe (zSeries) and HP e3000 platforms.

Customers are often governments, healthcare institutions and financial institutions.

Within the last year it has created a plan for an unnamed North American railway to migrate 100 apps to a Linux platform, and been retained by the Los Angeles power and water utility to modernize a division’s iSeries applications.

Customers have included banker ING Australia, furniture maker Tenex Corp. and Virginia International Terminals, which operates marine terminals.

Kulawkowski said the company has about 100 employees and $15 million in annual revenue. Although it does work in several countries, about 90 per cent of its revenue comes from the U.S.

It has about 300 customers. Databorough has 200.

The acquisition, Kulakowski said, shows Fresche’s commitment to the AS/400 platform.
It will also lead to more work for the company, so he expects it to be hiring here.

The kind of people Fresche wants have experience in older computer languages, some of whom may have retired or been let go by their IT departments.

Kulakowski admits there are “a lot of grey-haired people” on staff, but there are also a lot of young “whipper-snippers.”

What customers want ranges from converting COBOL apps to Java, HP MPE to Unix or AS/400 to Windows or Java, to merely maintaining existing apps.

But it isn’t all dusting off the cobwebs. Some organizations want their Java apps moved to Windows. In that sense, Kulakowski points out, “what is being developed today will be legacy one day.”

If so, he intimates, his firm will be around for a while.

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