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Developing Applications for Open Source Platforms with GeneXus

[Guest post by James Reed, founder of Information Services Select, Inc.]

Introduction

This document is not intended to compare open source to closed source but, rather, to describe the experience of developing applications using an open source platform using GeneXus.

My name is James Reed and I have been developing software since 1987. I am currently the owner of Information Services Select Inc (ISS). I have used GeneXus since 1991, both in the Fortune 500 arena and the private sector with small to medium size companies. Since then I have never considered using another development tool. Before I go into detail, let me describe GeneXus. GeneXus is an application that assists with creating applications. As a developer, GeneXus allows developers to work and focus on a creative level rather than being buried in technical details, thus expediting productivity and yielding stable products.

When I first heard about GeneXus, I had no interest. Having worked with code generators and always hitting a limit with what you could do, inefficient code, and having to fall back on regular tools to complete the design anyway. Fortunately, when I got to see GeneXus in operation my mind was changed. GeneXus is much more than a code generator. It is a declarative language so I can simply describe my application with rules and events. I can select a target environment and a language for it to be generated. In case you are wondering, yes, an application can be described once and generated in different platforms such as Microsoft .NET or Java. GeneXus takes care of my database and structures it to conform to third form normalization whie offering a number of databases to choose from. When structural changes are made, it takes care of the data as well. There is much more this tool does! I’ll admit, if I had never seen it and someone tried to tell me about it, I would be skeptical.

Our Application

GeneXus has allowed my organization to be extremely productive with a very small team that would have been much larger using traditional development tools.

We have developed a cloud service that runs entirely on free opensource operating systems, web server software and database servers. This has allowed us to offer services at a very affordable price that are just as reliable when using proprietary software counterparts. The benefit with using GeneXus is the effort and process of development are the same. Our servers have the operating system FreeBSD installed on them. For web hosting we are using Apache HTTP server and Apache Tomcat to host our java web application. We chose PostgreSQL as our database server.  With PostgreSQL we are able to offer enterprise level features and performance at no cost. All of this coupled with reliable GeneXus-generated Java Code makes for a dependable software product. In turn, it allows a product to acquire the confidence of your customer through the software services you provide.

There are a number of awesome opensource operating systems, hosting software packages and database servers. We are not saying the stated software is the best way to go, but it has proven to be a great choice for what we are doing.

Support

Software support can be a big deal, especially when its “unfamiliar territory.” When I first got in to software development, a key component was always having a good library of books on the software tools being used. Today the internet makes it possible to find information on open source tools with examples of almost anything you want to do. There are services out there that you can subscribe to for technical support if you feel you need it. Most virtual private server hosting providers have knowledgeable technicians for the opensource operating systems they offer. We have not found it necessary to subscribe to support services as using Google for problems or researching requirements has always proven successful, if we did not have the knowledge or experience available.

As for support from GeneXus, using these platforms has been equivalent to the support received when using proprietary platforms such as Microsoft or IBM. GeneXus offers a Wiki that is very vast and rich with information as well as online chat assistance. If the need arises, they will even remote to your machine to further explore or resolve the issue.

The Result

We have written a number of customized applications for companies that have helped them to overcome complex problems and stream-line their processes. Our flagship product is called “Enterprise Automated Support Environment” referred to as EASE. We have done our best to create a system where business owners and their management teams can manage their business with “EASE”. Our target audience is small businesses and startups to help provide an affordable software service that produces the reliability, flexibility, and agility to compete with larger organizations. The product is completely browser based. Our customers do not have to worry with installations and compatibility issues that often arise with locally installed software packages. Some of the key functions the product offers are: Item Setup, Unit of Measure, Purchasing, Receiving, Vendors, Warehouse Management, Barcoding, Inventory Locator, Picking, Packing, Shipping, Cycle Counting, Physical Inventory Counting, Sales Orders, Customer Management, Sales Rep Commission, Human Resources, Travel Expenses w/Online Receipts, Time off Balances, Time Clock (With or Without GPS), and Delivery Tracking with Electronic Signatures and much more.

One of our clients that uses EASE is Rowland’s Safety and Supply located in Jackson, TN. They use EASE in all areas of their organization from Clocking In to payment entry of invoices. The only things EASE currently does not do is produce employee paychecks but, does provide the data for their payroll system. EASE also updates Quickbooks which produces Profit and Loss Statements as well as other financial reporting requirements.

For many of the operations at Rowlands Safety and Supply, Chromebooks have become the standard or preferred device as they are reliable, portable, and batteries last for most of the day on a single charge. Tablets are used by their truck drivers to acquire signatures and provide electronic copies of the packing slips and manifests for customers. Deliveries can be monitored online as the system can report which customers have and have not received their goods and the electronic signature is visible as well.

EASE has a complex audit tracking feature designed to record all changes. It displays the before and after values of any data that has been added or edited. User security clearance is based upon security roles. This ensures documents cannot be editable without special privileges, ensuring data integrity and consistency. Custom modules can easily be created and added to the menus and launchpads. Rowlands Safety and Supply performs a recycle service where they clean oil absorbent pads, gloves, aprons, sleeves and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This saves their customers money by not having to buy new items and helps keep the environment clean as the oil is also reclaimed and recycled.

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About James Reed

James Reed

James Reed

James Reed has been performing in the Information Technology field since 1987.  Having grown up in a rural town in Tennessee, a career in the technology field was not a profession that most people in his home town had ever heard of, much less did they expect he would excel in this area.

Today James has a vast amount of experience in all areas of Information Technology (I.T.).  Thanks to the military, he got his start while serving in the Marine Corp.  While serving with a counter-intelligence team he assisted with creating a portable terrorist tracking database as well as a portable offshore manifesting system for managing deployments.

During his time in the Marine Corp. he managed to acquire skills that made him a well-rounded specialist in areas of I.T. This included learning software development, networking, and computer hardware and software installation.  He then took the skills he acquired to the civilian world.

He moved up rapidly through the corporate ranks becoming the Director of I.T. for the fortune 500 company, Kellwood.  He was also the director of I.T. at We’re Wireless Communications where he was responsible for all technology operations for over 77 locations across 5 states.  He then became the CIO for TSCM Security Services based in Maryland where he established one of the first Defense Contractor Audit Agency (DCAA) compliant cloud services for managing government contractor operations.

In 2014 James founded Information Services Select, Inc. with a focus on small to medium business, offering a one-stop-shop solution for strategic technology planning, desktop support, and business software solutions via the cloud.   ISS has developed software for a wide range of industries from textile, health, warehouse and distribution and has even provided computer forensic services for local attorneys.

James is very enthusiastic about software development and is always looking for the best of tools to work smarter, not harder, and provide iron-clad solutions.  Since 1991 the tool of choice for James has been Genexus by Artech from Uruguay.  Today ISS offers a cloud service called the Enterprise Automated Support Environment referred to as EASE.  EASE has quickly become a flagship product for ISS and helps companies manage their business with “EASE”.

James has designed systems which are still in operation in both Government and Commercial entities (public and private) today.  James is a very self-motivated and goal-oriented person.  He lives by the wisdom of his late father, Samuel Reed: “Good, better, best.  Never stop to rest until good becomes better and better becomes best”.

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