Back-end to the future

Jackson Lumber, ProSales Magazine’s 2014 “Dealer of the Year,” migrates their back-end solution from an OpenVMS-hosted xfServerPlus solution to a Windows-hosted WCF solution with native Synergy .NET

Since 1946, Jackson Lumber & Millwork has been providing quality building materials to professional builders and project-minded homeowners. They use a Synergy/DE application to manage many of their internal functions, including sales, inventory control, manufacturing, purchasing, dispatching, marketing, and accounting.

Over the years, Jackson Lumber has tweaked and fine-tuned their application substantially, resulting in a very robust and powerful solution. Looking forward, however, they knew it would be critical to have a back-end solution that supports all of today’s modern standards.  It would need to communicate with the rapidly changing device world, as Jackson Lumber’s users and customers would soon be demanding access to information from anywhere, at any time, on any device. Being able to deliver this functionality would be a key component to the future success of the business.

Jackson Lumber embarked on the project in two phases.

First, they moved their xfServerPlus solution from their Alpha OpenVMS system to the Windows Server operating system. This change allowed them to update their server and storage hardware to address local and wide area redundancy goals.  At this point in the project they retired the Alpha OpenVMS server.

Interface design upgrade

The second phase of the project was to move the back-end software solution away from traditional Synergy/DE xfServerPlus with proprietary networking protocols to a pure .NET solution, by developing Synergy .NET WCF services to replace all of their existing xfServerPlus methods. Rather than preserving the traditional functions wrapped in Interop projects, they elected to take the time to write these methods from scratch. “I felt this was the time to take advantage of writing fresh .NET code,” explains Piccirillo. “These new WCF services now support our desktop C# .NET application, our website, and some new and exciting Windows apps that we’ve also been developing. Having a pure .NET back-end enables us to more easily create these C# apps that access it. We’ve also put ourselves in a position to hire .NET programmers developing completely in Visual Studio.”

Jackson Lumber’s development scenario is now purely .NET, and they couldn’t be happier.

The apps are also benefiting customers exponentially. “The quality, timeliness, and availability of data that these apps are yielding directly affect our customer experience in a positive way,” raves Piccirillo. The apps are being used by delivery personnel to collect data such as delivery times, signatures, and even pictures, all of which is synched directly with the outside sales staff’s app so they can provide customers with real-time delivery tracking, scheduling, and manufacturing data. Plus, in-house staff uses the apps too, for receiving and inventory management. Soon the apps will replace Jackson Lumber’s picking systems and production floor systems, which are currently paper-based. “Our new apps are a huge hit with our staff. In fact, we feel the tablets and apps have sparked some new excitement in the workforce. These productivity tools that we’re putting in the hands of our staff is making them so much more efficient in everything they do.”

“Our application has always been extremely robust,” concludes Piccirillo, “but we knew that to stay relevant, we needed to embrace today’s technology. And the result has far exceeded our expectations. The evolution of our application from a DIBOL application in the 80s to today’s WCF solution available on devices is a true testament to Synergex’s commitment to delivering the latest technologies and platforms over the years. This commitment has made it possible for our ‘very important to us’ business solution to survive and thrive.”