Lansa Opens the Web to the AS/400

The Internet, the World Wide Web and e-commerce have initiated a transformation in the development models of most IT organizations. While a number of rapid application development solutions have vied for contention in the client/server space, in the AS/400 world, Lansa Web from Lansa USA Inc. (www.lansa.com) has emerged almost alone as a key Internet development platform that may help to push the AS/400 into new markets.

Lansa Web is an application development environment that allows organizations to rapidly build Internet and intranet applications capable of accessing and updating AS/400 data. To that end, Lansa Web is capable of generating HTML, JavaScript, CGI or Java from programmable templates that are pre-defined by developers and which provide an interface to native AS/400 data.

In some ways, solutions such as Lansa Web are making the AS/400 platform a more attractive alternative for the small-sized organizations into which IBM has been trying to sell the AS/400 for years. In the case of KTM Sportmotorcycles USA Inc. (KTM, www.ktmusa.com), a sport and recreational motorcycle manufacturer based in Amherst, Ohio, an AS/400-based e-commerce solution proved to be an excellent replacement for a previously-installed PC-based scheme.

When KTM President Rod Bush determined to replace his company’s existing PC-based order entry system, he wanted to create an extranet system that would allow KTM dealers to place orders and have remote access to the Strategic Parts Management System, which provides part pricing and availability information. Bush went to Strategic Business Systems (SBS, www.sbsusa.com ), a Lansa and IBM business partner that develops application solutions specifically targeted for motor vehicle resellers.

To that end SBS designed an AS/400-based extranet Dealer Communication System (DCS) for KTM, which provides the company’s dealers with secure, password-protected access to the DCS Web site for part pricing and inventory availability information.

According to Mike Herlihy, motor vehicle system product manager with SBS, the AS/400 and Lansa Web combination proved to be a perfect fit for the rapidly expanding company.

"KTM is a growing company, and they had some PC systems that they were just outgrowing and they felt that with the growth rate they were achieving they’d need some new and more scalable systems to be ready for the future," Herlihy comments. "We would come in with our systems and then connect the Lansa Web interface into these systems, and by using the AS/400, we were targeting a lot of the problems that were due to their stand-alone PC system, which wasn’t nearly as reliable or adaptable or scalable."

As far as KTM's Bush is concerned, the DCS has been a hit with his company’s dealers, most of whom have reacted positively to the openness and accessibility of the new system. "Dealers are already telling me that compared to other DCS systems they have to use, the KTM system is the easiest to use and most practical for their business," Bush says. "As usage increases, we expect that this rapid information access will help dealers serve their customers better."

SBS’ Herlihy sees KTM’s success as an example of how IBM’s new e-business initiatives and enabling development technologies such as Lansa Web can help push the AS/400 platform into new markets. "This is an example using a relatively small company that really doesn’t have much of an IS department inside, and here we’ve introduced an AS/400 system that’s just running for them," Herlihy explains.