MultiValue Legacy Application Modernization!

Legacy MultiValue application modernization is much more than the addition of a “pretty face”. It is a transformative process that will change the way a company operates and when done right leads to increased profitability and company growth.

Talk to most MultiValue user executives about application modernization and many believe that it means adding a Graphic User Interface (GUI) to their green screen applications, the “beautification” of the UI. To others it may also mean the applications will run on the web and/or integrate MultiValue data with best-of-breed CRM and warehousing applications as well as having the applications run on mobile devices.

Legacy application modernization means so much more than application beautification to the mainstream software development community. Application modernization is the reuse of application business logic into apps supporting current business processes that fundamentally changes how a business operates. The focus is to deliver value to customers/employees/partners that will generate growth and increase profitability. To many it means “Digital Transformation”.

But first a bit of history.

In the 1970s, MultiValue (the Pick Operating System) was a gift to the business world. It allowed programmers and business people to create enterprise strength applications based upon business processes. It became a multibillion-dollar software industry when a billion dollars meant something!

MV grew in an era where hardware manufacturers were King and companies chose hardware first. Application software was an afterthought. It was a time when IT Directors said, “No one ever got fired by choosing IBM.” 

MV was on-line, real-time, interactive when most competing systems were batch. The applications developed for MV were being used in Fortune 500 companies as well as “mom and pop” shops. Data entry was into green screen terminals. The terminals were 80 columns wide by 24 rows. Each intersection of column and row allowed for an ascii character to be printed or input.

Many of those applications are still in production. Some are still green screen. Some are using terminal emulators that presents a GUI. Some have been converted to GUI by using screen scrappers and some have written a presentation layer using long-hand coding for the web and desktop.

As the cost of PCs came down, they replaced green screen terminals.

GUI became mainstream development in the 1980s supported by Apple and Microsoft. In 2007 the iPhone was introduced followed by the iPad in 2010 and the modern era began.

Over the years, the MultiValue user community has shrunk. Users have purchased new applications that presented the modern look and feel for desktop and/or ran on the web. More importantly they changed the way the company operated; as an example of changes to business processes think order-entry and how they have changed in the past 25 years.

Companies have written off the millions of dollars invested in their MV applications. Many neglected to recognize that the business logic is salvageable for application modernization. MultiValue is perceived as old technology.

History lesson over!

There are perceptions that the risk and cost of modernizing MV applications will be far greater than replacing, migrating the data and learning new business processes.

The Society for Information Management (SIM) reported in their 2021 “IT Trends Study” that buying a new package as a replacement for legacy applications was among the largest investments for IT.

Another study funded by the Indian firm Tata Consultancy Services and AWS found that more than 70 percent of executives of global companies consider legacy modernization a strategic business priority for the next three years because it runs their core business operations. There are challenges. Respondents worried about integration with new and installed apps, security considerations as well as being able to modify and enhance legacy software based upon buyer behavior and new technology integration. There is also the fear that the legacy technology will be given an “end-of-life”!

There are four main options for the modernization of a MultiValue application’s user interface layer. Be aware that there may be a requirement for refactoring the DataBasic/Python/other code:

  1. Terminal emulations, i.e., Accuterm, Wintegrate, etc.
  2. Screen scrapper technology such as LegaSuite
  3. Long-hand recoding of the UI using modern programming technology (for example, Java) integrating with DataBasic business logic
  4. Low-code/no-code Development Platform

Once it has been decided to modernize the MultiValue legacy applications, here are some basic questions that need to be asked:

  • When choosing an approach, will the resultant application:
    • be proprietary (vendor lock-in) or an open system?
    • be only web, be only desktop or can it be native on target devices (desktop, mobile phones, tablets, watches, etc.) or can they run on all?
    • run on Android, iOS, Linux and Windows environments?
    • be adaptive on target devices (desktop, mobile phones, tablets, watches, etc.)?
    • run in the cloud?
  • Factors when choosing a modernization option, will the development environment allow:
    • for the creation of new apps or only the “beautification” of the old?
    • for easy learning?
    • for the incorporation of any of the thousands of third-party components and component libraries (e.g., jQuery, ASP.NET, UV Charts, MailJet, etc.)?
    • for non-technical personnel to join the technical staff to create new apps and work on the modernization of the legacy applications? (A definite help because of programmer shortages.)
    • teams to work on a single app?
    • for the integration of existing back-end DataBasic, Proc and Python (other) business logic?
    • the incorporation of other databases (Oracle, SQL Server) alongside MultiValue?
    • for drag and drop, point and click, option select development?
    • for easy modification to installed apps based upon changes in buyer/employee/partner/market behavior and technology advances?
  • More things to consider are the costs for:
    • support
    • training
    • in-house development
    • outside consulting and development
    • timeframes to complete and deploy the project!

I believe that over the next few years most MultiValue user company management will make the decision to rebuild or buy; standing firm will no longer be an option. The decision will be driven by changes in market behavior – look at business changes brought about by the pandemic. Management must consider the least disruptive solution. They need to consider the costs and timeframes to the desired end-result. They can control MultiValue modernization using low-code development. Every process provided by a newly purchased package is under control of the vendor with additional cost for app modification.

Low-code development is quickly becoming (if not already) the platform of choice in mainstream software for legacy application modernization and new app creation; see Forrester, Gartner and Intellyx. The only low-code development platform to support the MultiValue system as well as Oracle, SQL Server databases is the Microsoft centric Evoke Low-code/No-code development platform from BlueFinity International.

Contact BlueFinity International to discover how the Evoke low-code development platform brings MultiValue into the modern digital world!