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@CloudExpo: Article

Nexaweb Wants To Put Your Legacy Apps In The Cloud

Company Uses Unique Tools, Tech, and Technique to Cloudify Client/Server

Remember the days of "client/server" computing?  Back when you did your job in your office at your desk, using a big, clunky desktop computer that was connected to a room full of big, clunky server computers somewhere in the building or the office park.  If you even had a cell phone, it was also big and clunky and only did voice calls.  The internet was for email and the web was little more than an electronic magazine.  Back then, "SaaS" was spelled differently and it was something you didn't want your kids to do, "clouds" were a game day worry, and there was no such thing as an "app".

The Legacy Lives On

Those days may be ancient history for many of us, but not for the multitudes that still must use, manage, and maintain the billions of dollars' worth of custom client/server applications built back then and still running today in most large organizations around the world.  And, those apps, er, applications are the subject of a recurring conversation between business, IT and finance people.  The business people wish they were more flexible, the IT people wish they were more scalable, and the finance people wish they were more fungible.  And they all realize the same thing.  Replacing them is an impossible dream, and continuing to use them as they are is a growing nightmare.

And it is an expensive nightmare, too.  Forrester estimates that more than half of a company's software budget is now consumed by "ongoing software operations and maintenance of existing solutions".  More ominously still, a recent Gartner Group report warns customers that "a train wreck is coming unless you modernize IT" and urges them to undertake an "application overhaul program."

Someone Feels Your Pain

If that sounds like you and your concerns, there is a company near Boston that feels your pain and wants to help.  Nexaweb is a company on a mission, a tough, unglamorous, but absolutely essential mission: re-engineering custom enterprise client/server applications for the cloud computing environment.

Depending on how far back you go, you may remember one or more past application "modernization" schemes, like code wrapping, screen scraping, or web facing.  These and other techniques were usually intended to provide an escape route from dying programming languages and processor architectures, or a veneer of modernity over obsolete code and skills.

At their worst, such cures were little more than linguistic lobotomies that resulted in applications that were, in the end, less functional and harder to maintain than untreated ones.  And, at their best, application modernization projects usually have been and continue to be complex, unpredictable, one-off expeditions with staggering cost and marginal leverage.

Live It Up

Nexaweb's goal is not to just keep old code alive in the cloud; it is to "transform" client/server applications into native cloud apps that accrue all the benefits of cloud computing, including improved scalability, lower operation cost, universal accessibility, and enhanced business agility.

Their approach combines reusable open standards-based Java and Ajax application frameworks, patented tools and middleware, a rigorous, repeatable methodology, and highly skilled engineering and mentoring resources.  Together, these elements enable them to rapidly transform legacy programs created with PowerBuilder, Cobol, Natural/Adabas, Visual Basic, and even Assembly Language into applications that take full advantage of modern network, database, language, and operating system technologies.

In addition, the company boasts a number of technical innovations that can even make those transformed applications richer and more capable than many of applications written indigenously for the web or the cloud.

One such innovation is what the company calls "Desktop in the Cloud", where "rich client" user interfaces can be rendered in a standard web browser, enabling complex user interaction and input, data streaming and real-time messaging.

Another Nexaweb innovation is their "Internet Message Bus" which enables secure, two-way message processing between applications servers and browser clients in a way that supports publish/subscribe, push broadcasting, guaranteed delivery, load balancing, and failover.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of technical mojo, though, is the Nexaweb "zero-install" end-point deployment architecture.  This allows a very rich application client to run in any standard browser without the need for pre-installed widgets or plug-ins.  It provides GUI control rendering, data input validation, Section 508 accessibility support, data caching, and even off-line use with re-sync support, all in a thin, browser-based client.

It is a telling testament to Nexaweb's technology and methodology that in the five years or so the company has been around, without much publicity or marketing investment they have built an impressive roster of name-brand customers, including PepsiCo, Aflac Japan, Best Western Hotels, Nokia Siemens Networks, and about 200 other enterprises around the globe, for whom they have modernized nearly five hundred different legacy applications across a wide range of business functions.

Corporate Catnip

Nexaweb is a fairly small company succeeding in a business and a market dominated by large consulting firms that can outman, outbid, outlast and out-BS any smaller competitors.  How do they manage it?  Well, their technology, skills, and methodology are certainly impressive.  But, they back those things up with the corporate catnip that no CFO can resist.  They deliver a turn-key solution with a fixed cost, fixed schedule guarantee.

It is said, the greatest acrobats work without a net, and that is what makes them the greatest acrobats.   That seems like an applicable notion with Nexaweb; if they didn't have the goods, they would be dead by now.

More Stories By Tim Negris

Tim Negris is SVP, Marketing & Sales at Yottamine Analytics, a pioneering Big Data machine learning software company. He occasionally authors software industry news analysis and insights on Ulitzer.com, is a 25-year technology industry veteran with expertise in software development, database, networking, social media, cloud computing, mobile apps, analytics, and other enabling technologies.

He is recognized for ability to rapidly translate complex technical information and concepts into compelling, actionable knowledge. He is also widely credited with coining the term and co-developing the concept of the “Thin Client” computing model while working for Larry Ellison in the early days of Oracle.

Tim has also held a variety of executive and consulting roles in a numerous start-ups, and several established companies, including Sybase, Oracle, HP, Dell, and IBM. He is a frequent contributor to a number of publications and sites, focusing on technologies and their applications, and has written a number of advanced software applications for social media, video streaming, and music education.

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