Magazine article Business Credit

Mainframes and Financials - the Right Combination for TAMKO

Magazine article Business Credit

Mainframes and Financials - the Right Combination for TAMKO

Article excerpt

While many companies are moving from mainframe to midrange or client/server systems, this strategy doesn't make sense for everyone. Scaled down computing architectures may provide a lot of flexibility, but there is no replacing the processing power, centralization and reliability of the mainframe for some companies, particularly when it comes to their bread-and-butter financials.

At TAMKO, a leading residential and commercial roofing product supplier, staying with its 15-year mainframe strategy is the way the company chose to protect its investment in existing technology and ensure the integrity of its of its financial systems. This decision has provided us with the best of both worlds: the benefits of mainframe technology and the latest desktop financial software.

Since the late '70s, TAMKO has had mainframe-based computer systems, progressing through the IBM System3 platforms to an IBM 9672. The company has also run IBM's DB2 relational database on the MVS operating system since 1988. As the company grew, it needed to replace its proprietary financial systems, accounts payable rAP) and general ledger (GL) in particular, which were written for a smaller company on a smaller computer. We re-evaluated our entire mainframe strategy due to the limited financial software choices for the mainframe. After an 18-month evaluation where TAMKO looked at mainframe and AS/400 packages, it chose to remain a mainframe shop for three key reasons.

First, our information technology (IT) department, which includes 35 professionals, already had many years of accumulated mainframe experience. Shifting to another platform would have required the IT department to spend valuable time learning a new platform technology.

Second, we have sophisticated, customized software, such as our order entry system, running on the mainframe. These systems, which could not be easily ported to a new platform, provide us with a competitive advantage by enabling it to differentiate itself from the competition by providing specialized customer service.

Third, the company needs the mainframe's speed, reliability and integrity to ensure its financial systems are as close to 100 percent available to users as possible. This is a capability that mainframe technology has had more than 20 years to perfect and that UNIX systems, for example, are now struggling with. When it came to its financial system, our company decided not to take a chance with a platform that has not been proven as stable and reliable.

The Search for Mainframe-compatible Financials

Once we decided to keep our mainframe, we faced the challenge of finding AP and GL software to replace proprietary applications. We also needed a purchase order (PO) system, which the company did not previously have.

Because there are not as many financial applications for mainframes as there are for AS/400 and UNIX platforms, our company had a limited choice of true DB2-based financial application offerings. Many of the products that are built for the mainframe turn out to be DB2 look-alikes instead of providing true native DB2 capabilities.

We ultimately chose financial software from QSP Financial Information Systems that runs natively on a mainframe under MVS and DB2 as well as on Windows NT or UNIX servers. QSP Financials' platform portability enables companies to use the mainframe as a server and leverages existing information systems infrastructure and skills. This is an important capability for TAMKO, which runs the software on the mainframe while enabling users to access the financial system from their Windows NT servers and Windows 95 desktops. …

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