Independent developers take over for vendors who quit

Companies that rely on classic applications for production don’t often choose changes. The VMS and MPE sites running MANMAN have a proven software suite. Some companies have run MANMAN for decades. They feel differently about their software than the vendor does. Infor, the last in the line of owners of MANMAN, is quitting the MANMAN market next year.

Owners of applications like MANMAN don’t need to worry. The long-haul resources, independent software developers and support companies, are stepping in as needed. Legacy applications, after all, are a major reason why operating environments are still powered by OpenVMS and MPE/iX to begin with.

Some customers only learned about Infor’s departure by asking the company if they could buy new modules. Standen’s is a manufacturer that operates “North America’s largest single-facility site for building leaf spring, suspension components, trailer axle and agricultural tillage tools.” The website is proud of the business that keeps vehicles and farm implements working. TufTruck coils, for hauling heavy loads, are one specialty part built at Standen’s.

Long relationships with application code need a long-term resource. Customization happens a lot with these ERP suites. Over time, the data that’s inside of a MANMAN suite needs to be shared with other parts of an enterprise. At Standen’s, the company was attempting to purchase the module Dataport from Infor.

“They replied with a PowerPoint presentation,” said Alice West, one of the independent support suppliers keeping MANMAN sites running. During a recent conference call for MANMAN users, organized by the CAMUS user group, she referred to a 2018 PowerPoint deck from Infor. The vendor shared the news with the customers which it could locate about that 2020 end of support.

The problem with relying on a vendor to find you — so they can update you on when they’re quitting on your application — is the vendor’s record-keeping. Infor’s support customer list was not a complete list of MANMAN users. A summertime PowerPoint show is also a casual way of telling a data enterprise manager that the backbone of IT is being discontinued.

Instead, such a vendor expects they’ll get a genuine engagement with a legacy site only when the site tries to order new modules. Or change a support agreement, or submit a question about a bug. MANMAN was anything but cheap going into legacy sites, decades ago. The end of life announcement process, though, seems to have been put on a low-cost basis. “We’ll share a PowerPoint deck from last year” is a long way from an account rep who’d keep the customer up to date.

Standen’s doesn’t have to worry about getting Dataport for its MANMAN. The money that it would cost to buy it from Infor is better spent with Alice West, or Terry Floyd at The Support Group, or other independent experts who “can write a better data collector than Dataport,” Floyd said on the call. Heads all around could be heard nodding at the buggy nature of Dataport.

Software like Dataport usually has to be modified for use in an ERP system. Buying a module from an indie developer — a company more likely to stick with a smaller number of customers — is a better investment. App vendors are shutting down support for legacy products. That doesn’t mean the end of the line for legacy computing, though.

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