Emrys Solutions Moves From Farm to Enterprise

Although it has been developing extranet/electronic commerce applications for 2 years, Emrys Solutions (Wylie, Texas, www.emrys.com) is not a household IT word. That’s because, until now, the company's applications have been developed solely for crop insurance companies.

However, because the company's application development, e-commerce, Internet-based program, Emrys Visions, has been so well-received in the crop insurance business, Emrys decided to take its farm act on the road -- the NT enterprise road, that is. The idea was very attractive for Emrys because to expand its market required no change to the existing product. The company simply has changed its focus from a narrow, vertical market, such as crop insurance companies, to the broader market of the NT enterprise.

Emrys Visions’ visual tools enable programmers to create applications that can be customized to specific industries or tasks and functions. The three primary components of Emrys Visions are development tools, an application server and a thin client component. It is built on a message-passing, n-tier, client/server architecture that uses thin client technology to allow GUI online transaction processing and decision-support systems to run over LANs, WANs and the Internet.

All application code is centralized on one or more NT servers. A client component, called the View Manager, is the only distributed piece of software. The View Manager gives users access to all information on the application servers without users' having to load individual programs. The applications can be developed natively in C++ or Java code, and the client can be run as a local executable or a browser plug-in.

Carl Gideon, president of Emrys Solutions, says the thin client application is just 800 KB and includes no application-level intelligence so it runs at 28.8 to 36.6 Kbps. The information accessible is extensively organized with security levels so the people who use it see only what they’re assigned to see.

This technology has been especially helpful in the crop insurance industry where the federal government frequently updates a large number of rate tables. Crop insurance companies are able to change those rates in the database, and that information will automatically update when the companies’ field agents connect to the network. The first customer of Emrys’ to use the system was Producers Lloyds (Amarillo, Texas).

This crop insurance company previously ran its applications on a DOS system but realized it was becoming very difficult to maintain in a distributed environment. "We wanted to rewrite those [applications] into a client/server application for us as a company to use, and then extend the access to that to our field representatives and agents," says Larry Latham, treasurer for Producers Lloyds.

Latham says the challenge was to provide a centralized system that was affordable for the agents to use. This ruled out dedicated lines and long-distance direct calls. To Latham, the only feasible communications medium was the Internet. However, Producers Lloyds wanted a large-scale application that was far beyond the scope of HTML or CGI. For this, they contacted Emrys Solutions.

According to Latham, the results have been positive. "This has been a tremendous boom to our business and the services we’re able to provide our customers," he says. "We used to have three people running our application system. … Now we have none."

The enterprise NT market is certainly a much larger plantation than the farm market Emrys Solutions is used to, but Emrys’ Gideon says his company is anxious to get started: "This [extranet/e-commerce applications] is essentially our entire business now."