Case Study: 4GL Informix Application Connector to Java/SOA
CustomerTMN – Portugal Telecom Group
TMN is the biggest mobile telecommunications operator in Portugal, with more than six million customers.
To better interact with their customers, TMN developed a CRM (Custom Relationship Management) system. It allows TMN's employees to access subscription data submitted by the customers including information on service activation and plan changes.
The system development began many years ago, using Informix 4GL programming language, and has evolved to meet the company's organizational changes. It is well adapted to TMN's culture and it's one of the great advantages they have that distinguish them from their competitors.
TMN's CRM was developed with 4GL language, property of IBM, which chose not to evolve the language, neither through the user's interfaces, neither through its integration capabilities with other technologies.
Also, TMN has implemented many other systems, destined to meet the needs of other areas, such as, SAP ERP, for example. Some of the systems were acquired and others were developed internally, using different technologies.
TMN has to face the dissemination of several IT systems, each with their purposes, and their integration, so that all departments could access all the necessary information in a coherent manner.
It happens that despite well adjusted to TMN's business requirements, the CRM syste, developed with Informix 4GL had integration limitations, creating a big problem to TMN. Validation and update processes became very slow and subject to errors.
While working on the maintenance of the CRM system, MoreData's team noticed the integration issue and alerted TMN for the opportunity to develop a solution. MoreData, at the time, was also programming in other languages, such as Java, and was also training TMN's staff in Java.
The solution found and proposed by MoreData was the development of a connector between JEE (Java Enterprise Edition) and 4GL Language. The connector, constituted by a code genertator and a set of C and Java libraries, allowed TMN to export the 4GL functions to a Java application server in just a few seconds.
The connector was developed obeying Java standards for system integration (Java Connector Architecture). This requirement made it really easy for Java programmers to execute the CRM functionalities, in Informix 4GL.
The code generated also allowed TMN to document their applications, making it easier to make changes to the applications.
Finally, in the second phase of the projects, MoreData modified the connector so it would be also possible to integrate 4GL applications, not only with Java, but directly with a SOA (service Oriented Architecture) stack, through the development of SOAP web services.
By implementing MoreData's solution, TMN avoided the entire substitution of their CRM system with one that used a more integrable technology. Besides the costs, TMN wouldn't have any advantage on making this substitution – they already had a system that fully met their business needs.
MoreData's solution made the CRM's functionalities quickly available to TMN's other systems.
By using the integration solution, designed and implemented by MoreData, TMN could respond more quiclky to the users needs, when systems integration was required.