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Corvette America, PHP and IBM i – Modernization Part 1

July 23, 2013

IBM i LogoBefore I get started today, let me thank you for your patience as “You and i” took a break. Organizing all the IBMi25 blog posts was quite an undertaking, and when it was all done, there were some pressing matters (including a vacation – I encourage those!) But I’m back now and I have a plan to do a short series on a topic that is critical to most IBM i shops: Modernization.

I was recently on a webcast discussing the topic of modernization and here’s one of the points I tried to emphasize:

"Modernization is about applying new knowledge to improve something valuable. If something is valuable, it's worth enhancing with today's advanced technology."

There are many approaches to modernization, but the key reason to modernize is highlighted in that quote – you have an asset, probably an application, which has significant value, but it needs to have new technology applied to it.

The best way I know to show customers how important modernization can be to them is to show examples of other IBM i clients who have done it. So, I have a series of three blogs in the works to talk about that topic, and today’s first blog discusses the modernization undertaken by Corvette America.

Corvette America logo.jpg

If you want parts and accessories for any Corvette built from 1953 to today, Corvette America is a name you need to know. With the largest aftermarket inventory in the nation, they need to have a great computing infrastructure to deliver orders fast and keep their customer loyalty high. While they were a market leader, they saw the need to modernize. Here is what Pete Sultatos, Corvette America’s IT Director said:

“Our goal was to make the search for parts, prices, inventory availability, and the placement and tracking of orders much faster and easier for our dealers,” said Sultatos. “We had a retail customer-facing website, but lacked a site dedicated to the needs of our growing 3,000-member dealer network. We wanted to provide them with a business advantage to help them sell more effectively to Corvette owners around the world. Our goal was to put product and sales information at their fingertips, allowing them to find and order products and track point-to-point order status online without multiple calls, faxes and delays.”

The answer, for Corvette America, was to use PHP and the Zend Server running on IBM i to modernize their business processes, while keeping the core of their custom software stable. Their programming staff was familiar with RPG, but not as familiar with PHP, so they supplemented with Jvalance Consulting and the end result was a cohesive solution that will carry Corvette America into the future.

“Our schedule to rollout was one year,” said Ray Taylor, Assistant IT Director at Corvette America, “and within nine months, we developed, tested and launched a fully operational e-commerce site providing Corvette America’s 3,000 dealers with a greatly improved user experience.”

Now, some projects take more time, and many take less, but the key here is that the client was able to protect the investment they had in their core applications, but enhance it with new technologies, such as PHP. Again, from Taylor:

“Our ERP system was developed over 20 years, so there’s a lot of business knowledge in its DNA. It runs on the IBM i, which provided us with an extremely stable system and direct access to the ERP. But without Zend’s tight integration with the IBM i, we probably wouldn’t have chosen to develop our dealer site in this operating environment. Because Zend runs natively on the IBM i, there was no need for us to run on Linux or Windows servers and then connect via ODBC or other connections.”

The work we’ve done to make Zend’s support of the PHP language integrate with the IBM i operating system is one of many tools in our toolbox for modernization. There are more. Tim Rowe talks about this topic in his Modern-i-zation blog, and as I said, I will be writing about a couple more of them in the weeks to come.

Until then, if you have a piece of software with significant value, but you want to use the latest and greatest technology, remember that you have options! Modernization is about using the option that works best for you and your IBM i!




Posted July 23, 2013| Permalink