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Lawson goes Java

Major iSeries ERP vendor unveils a new Java platform for business applications, codenamed Landmark.

St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson Software recently unveiled its new Java-based platform, codenamed Landmark, at its user group conference. The new environment has been under development for more than three years.

With the new technology, Lawson will offer a backbone of the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition-compliant Web services for service-oriented architectures (SOAs) running on industry-standard platforms, such as IBM WebSphere. Landmark also supports standards such as Web Services Description Language, XML and Simple Object Access Protocol.

"Landmark is going to help us get our clients to a SOA where they get reusable objects easily integrated across different internal products and expose Web services to customers and vendors," Terry Plath, director of enterprise resource planning market development said.

According to Plath, Landmark's SOA will cut down on the amount of programming required to enhance the function of the software.

"You can make a change at one point in the software and it permeates throughout the entire suite. It takes applications from being hundreds of thousands of lines of software code to being just hundreds," Plath said.

He also said comparable releases -- such as Oracle Corp.'s Project Fusion, which unifies J.D. Edwards & Co., PeopleSoft Inc. and Oracle applications under a single application platform -- would basically require customers to do a reimplementation. Plath added that SAP's model requires users to upgrade an entire system at once.

"The nice thing about Landmark is that it builds on the existing business logic within the Lawson project. It's going to be an evolutionary migration for our customers. They'll be able to run Landmark-developed applications and their Lawson classic-developed applications at the same time. And little by little, swap out pieces," Plath said.

Plath said iSeries clients that he talked to at the user conference are exploring Java and said they believe Java is a good thing for them. According to Plath, Kevin Patterson, director of worldwide sales for the iSeries, was very favorable that this will provide Java applications to iSeries customers in the Lawson client base.

"It will provide them with a common language that is cross platform and will allow for more flexibility and portability. A lot of them have not only an iSeries, but also maybe a Microsoft or other things," Plath said.

But not all iSeries users will be happy to hear Lawson is switching from RPG 4 to Java. Plath acknowledged that there will be some resistance from the programming community and that many shops have made a strong investment in the language.

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He also said Lawson has "not necessarily" stated that it is going to discontinue RPG.

"We just announced it yesterday. It's not going to affect people in RPG shops for a number of years. We believe that Java will be received positively by the iSeries user base as time goes on. We think our timeline is in step with the adoption that is already happening," he said.

Tony Iams, analyst with Port Chester, N.Y.-based Ideas International, agrees with Plath that Lawson's timing is reasonable. According to Iams, the company will have to pace the evolution correctly to not alienate customers, but it will dramatically increase Lawson users' options.

"Java isn't new. It's been around 10 years. There are not a lot of new RPG programmers showing up and there is no shortage of Java programmers," Iams said. "ISeries users are conservative and have to be dragged kicking and screaming."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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