The outdoor recreation retailer gives users easy mainframe access with Micro Focus Rumba.
“Micro Focus Rumba software is a very reliable product. We install it on the PC and configure it here, ship the box to our stores, and they take it out and plug it in. Rumba software is there when you need it; Rumba software works.”
Systems Support Supervisor
At a Glance
- Delivered new functionality that simplifies processes for IT and users
- Provided a consistent look and feel across platforms
- Improved user productivity across disparate systems and platforms
Seattle-based national retailer REI is a unique company with an interesting history. Founded in 1938 by a group of mountaineers seeking quality climbing equipment, the company now operates 48 retail stores nationwide. It runs a domestic and international mail-order business, as well as a full-service adventure travel company. While REI’s business history may be uncommon, its information system issues and needs are all too familiar. “What our users care about is connectivity to the host,” says Betsy Cushman, REI Systems Support Supervisor.
REI’s users are on several hundred PCs located throughout its chain of stores. The hosts, which are located within the headquarters facility and distribution center, include an IBM mainframe and four AS/400s. Connectivity problems began to materialize when REI moved its PCs onto Windows and a core application no longer worked.
“Very early on, we discovered that the product we had been using just couldn’t handle a Windows environment,” says Betsy Cushman, systems support supervisor at REI. “The product had some conventional memory problems on the PC. In fact, it wasn’t ever architected to be a good citizen for PC-conventional memory. It worked fine for DOS, but when we upgraded to Windows, it didn’t work at all.” This view is endorsed by Dave Sellinger, information center analyst at REI, who adds, “The product also required us to do a lot of hot-keying.”
As REI had made the decision to implement client/server computing, providing connectivity in a Microsoft Windows environment was not the only criteria: APPC driver support functionality and the ability to work with software from Progress were also critical.
Looking for a solution, REI tested Rumba from Micro Focus. A pioneer in the Microsoft Windows connectivity market, Micro Focus’ connectivity software product takes full advantage of the Microsoft graphical environment. “We tested Micro Focus Rumba and it worked,” Cushman says. “We tested the other leading connectivity product, and it simply did not perform.”
Meeting REI’s APPC driver requirement was straightforward because Micro Focus aggressively supports IBM Advanced Program-to-Program Communications (APPC)—in fact, the APPC engine forms the foundation upon which Rumba software products are built, but getting Rumba and Progress to work together raised some problems. “Progress and Rumba software didn’t co-exist very well at the PTF level,” Earl says. “Fortunately, both Micro Focus’ and Progress’ personnel were extremely helpful in sorting it out.”
That attitude of cooperation impressed Cushman. “One of our biggest issues in a multivendor environment is getting the vendors to work together to solve technical problems,” she says. “We were fortunate to have been working with Micro Focus and Progress—they concentrated on how to fix the problem, not where to fix the blame.” Micro Focus’ support operation, Sellinger adds, is always responsive and easy to reach.
“Installation of Rumba was easy,” Sellinger says. “We were able to make some quick changes to the procedures that made installation faster and easier for us.” Rumba’s consistent interface across platforms also improved productivity for REI’s programmers. However, Rumba software’s real value, according to John Earl, REI senior systems programmer, is in its presentation manager and workstation functionality. “I was pleasantly surprised by a number of product features,” he says. “For example, you can do file transfer directly from an AS/400 screen. You just click on transfer, send, or receive—there’s no need to leave the AS/400. The edit function is also superb, particularly the ability to cut and paste from an AS/400 screen. We have four AS/400s, and I sometimes have to apply extended commands—which can be up to 130 characters—to all four systems. Thanks to Rumba, I have only to type it once, not four separate times.”
According to Sellinger, users also appreciate the ease and functionality Rumba brings to their desktops. “Of course, the first thing is how much easier the Windows environment is to use when compared to DOS,” he says. “But there’s so much more. People are doing things they could not do before, like running multiple AS/400 and mainframe sessions simultaneously.”
“Micro Focus Rumba is a very reliable product,” says Cushman. “We install it on the PC and configure it here, ship the box to our stores, and they take it out and plug it in.” Sellinger adds, “Rumba software is there when you need it; Rumba software works.”