10 Reasons IBM i Developers May Want to Take a Closer Look at Microsoft .NET

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What language will you choose when you're ready to go to the next level?


Development languages. There are many of them! If you're curious, the Tiobe Index ranks them for you based on popularity calculated from various search engines. For November, C is #1 again, Java is at #2, PHP is at #6, and C# is at #5. COBOL has fallen a spot to #28, CL gets in at #65, and RPG ekes out a spot in the top 100 at #93. Check out the new Google Trends tool for another comparison. For the most part, RPG and COBOL hold our legacy on the IBM i, while Java and PHP are the platform favorites and are heavily positioned by IBM for the future.


Take what you will from the Tiobe index, I find it fun to have a look at once in a while. It is interesting to see trends come and go. For example, only five years ago RPG was ranked at #18. What do you think it means to go from #18 to #93? Everyone knows they need to modernize. RPG and COBOL have their issues, but mostly the problem is the sheer quantity of code and unwillingness of developers to venture into new worlds. Some tools open up the opportunity to breathe new life and options into RPG (Open Access being one of them), but even adopting those tools requires the adoption of other technologies.


The big question is this: What do you choose when you're ready to move beyond RPG or COBOL? In the IBM i space, .NET has often gotten a bad rap. But why? I believe mostly due to fear, which spurs the impulse to Forget Everything And Run. Alternatively, I like to take a closer look at that fear and see if it is actually False Evidence Appearing Real. In this case, I believe the false evidence is that Microsoft is the devil, and adopting .NET means moving off the platform. Both of these reasons I consider to be arguably absurd. I encourage you, IBM i developers, to take a closer look. .NET just may be what you've been looking for all along.


Whether you already use .NET or not, you may be wondering if it is really right for you. You may also have already cast it aside. No matter, the following are 10 reasons you may want to take a closer look at .NET.


1) Microsoft's Vast Ecosystem: Widely Known and Large Community

Coming from legacy IBM i development, we programmers were very nervous in the early days about adopting .NET! We had evaluated Java and PHP, as well as other options, but ultimately chose .NET. Developing in .NET was completely new to us. It took some learning just to figure out where to start, to understand where to go after "Hello World." But, once we did, it was like the shackles were removed and we were free. There were so many options, so many capabilities. But now we had a new problemtoo many choices. There were so many ways to do the same thing. We started second wondering whether we were doing it the right way. Would the users like it? Would it perform well? Being developers in the IBM i space, where we have always felt so sure of what we were doing, that was probably one of the most frustrating and debilitating issues early on.


That's when we found our next enlightenment. The knowledge base and huge community-driven ecosystem available was fantastic, from both Microsoft themselves and the vast development community. One of the most critical pieces often overlook in modernization projects is the ability to get answers and find readily available help and talent. For this, you must use technologies and tools that are widely known. The Tiobe index and technology job boards are good indicators of how widely a technology is used; however, I suggest you also look into other areas to get a full grasp of what's available. Some examples are:

  • The Technology Provider's, in this case Microsoft's, Resources:



  • Training and Educational Options: Have a look at Reason #7 for details on this.
  • Open Source Options: Check out CodePlex and other open-source communities. Even Microsoft's ASP.NET MVC, Web APIs, and Razor Web Pages are open source.
  • Online Communities: There are thriving generalized communities such as Stack Overflow and Code Project that provide significant .NET targeted sections. A simple Google search will yield many more. Channel 9 is a great Microsoft community site that has video channels, discussions, podcasts, screencasts, and interviews with everyone from community members to Microsoft execs. There are also numerous developer blogs. Check out ASP.Net Community Blogs and MSDN Blogs for just some of them.
  • Local User Groups: In order to excel, any developer should belong to a user group. Networking within a user group allows you to surround yourself with like-minded developers, solve any problems that you're experiencing, and stay at the top of your game. Meetup and Community Megaphone are great resources for finding user groups, but again, a simple Google search works just as well. User groups are typically well supported with knowledgeable speakers and swag by the local developer community, Microsoft developer evangelists, and .NET controls vendors. Meetings are both educational and fun. These organizations often host weekend-long, free educational Code Camps, business-starting Hackathons, and various other industry events.
  • Technology conferences: The .NET community has some of the biggest and best conferences in the industry. They are almost always sold out. For those who can't attend, many of the conferences are streamed real time for free. There are also many virtual conferences available.


With apps, training books, tools, controls, and even a partner network at your disposal, there's limitless access to the resources that you need to situate yourself for success.


2) Powerful and Extensible Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

.NET development becomes even simpler with Microsoft's Visual Studio, a powerful environment that is not only extensible, but easily integrated with other development solutions. Microsoft works hard to ensure that it is continually updated to support the latest technologies as they emerge. Similar to Eclipse for Java developers, Microsoft Visual Studio offers a number of features out of the box, and the surrounding ecosystem and Open IDE brags thousands of community add-ins on the built-in package manager. offers 28,500+ unique extension packages. Just one year ago, there were "only" 14,000 if that gives you a better idea of the growing resources for Visual Studio and Microsoft development.


Microsoft provides the core tools, but it is the openness of and ability to integrate with those technologies that makes the community the primary driver of the innovation. For example, while Microsoft is heavily focused on the mobile space with their own mobile platform, companies such as Xamarin enable .NET to be used with Apple and Android devices. And, if you are thinking of running .NET applications on other platforms, have a look into Mono. With .NET's continued and growing adoption even in the IBM i space, perhaps that is something we will see in the future again. As with all their partners, Microsoft supports these companies and encourages the innovation.


3) Readily Available Skills and Multi-Vendor Support

Many companies struggle to find developers for their legacy systems. Finding RPG, COBOL, Synon, LANSA, and other IBM i-specific development technologies is getting harder and harder. IT education firms like ProTech Training and LearningTree continue to offer RPG and COBOL courses, but finding developers to put in those courses is a struggle.


Comparatively, if you needed .NET developers right now, you'd find a large talent pool to select from. A job search for .NET yields thousands of listings, which is not only a good indication of the number of companies already developing in .NET, but also a good idea of the amount of talent that is out there. Having immediate access to those skilled in .NET is crucial. Whether you're in need of employees, consultants, or both, you want to make sure that the tools you use are supported and serviced. The more options you have, the greater the chance of finding the right talent at the right price and finding them locally. If you are going to pay a premium, make sure it is because you getting premium service, not because you are beholden to a single company for talent.


4) Mobile, Web, and WindowsIt's About the UX!

Simply put, .NET gives you the most choices. It was only 10 years ago that we started touting Windows, Web, and mobile. The needs for all three interfaces still exist, but the priority has shifted. At Surround Technologies, we now take a mobile-first approach to all of our Web development, delivering a responsive interface to the different-sized devices and sometimes adding adaptive functionality for touch- and smaller-device needs.


A great application helps users succeed in the easiest and fastest way possible. Users with knowledge of your business should be able to use it with minimal to no training, and they should be able to find what they need to make informed business decisions and complete tasks in an efficient manner.


Development on the IBM i has always been heavily focused on business needs, and now there is all this other technology to deal with. In fact, many developers today spend much of their time dealing with multiple technology issues instead of delivering the much-needed business solutions themselves. .NET as well as the various .NET productivity solutions can help to consolidate much of that.


.NET has many tools that provide developers with the flexibility they need for development in the following realms:

  • Windows Apps: Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) makes developing these apps much faster and better than in the past Winform days, and they're the hands-down best option for line-of-business applications where you demand peak user productivity or require integration with other systems and devices.
  • Desktop, Tablet, Mobile Responsive Web Sites, and Apps: The Model-View-Controller (MVC) development pattern was a game changer for development in this area. Microsoft's has firmly adopted HTML and web development, including HTML5, which is now the desk application development language for Windows 8 and beyond. With the ASP.NET MVC development framework, .NET is an extremely powerful option for enterprise web applications that work on all devices. Microsoft also has templates for utilizing CSS and JavaScript frameworks like JQuery, Bootstrap, and AngularJS.
  • Native Mobile Apps: Historically, when it came to developing in the native mobile app space, many enterprise organizations avoided it because of the cost and time associated with building the software in each of the platforms' native languages: Objective C for Apple, Java for Android, and .NET for Windows

With the ever-growing popularity of smartphones and heavy competition between providers, this is no longer an option. For quick native+web hybrid apps look into using Phone Gap. For full native apps on all three platforms built all in .NET, look into Microsoft partner Xamarin.


5) It Just Might Save the Platform

There is a myth in the IBM i community that the introduction of .NET spells the end of the IBM i. It has been our experience, however, that it is the best way to keep it. Often, company execs choose to abandon the platform because they feel trapped with their current software, unaware that it is not the hardware but the development that is the trap. The choice of hardware is an IT decision. I suspect that upper-level management really doesn't want to even care about it. They just want greater productivity, better integration, and fewer user complaints. When they see that they can provide the same level of enterprise software as they see elsewhere in the industry, then the choice of hardware will be based on IT's choice for performance and reliability of the hardware.


6) It's Good for Your Future and Your Company's, Too

It is hard to believe, but many IBM i shops have not begun modernizing their systems or even taken on small projects to extend or modernize parts of it. Executives and IT directors should understand that moving away from these aging languages isn't an option; it's a requirement. It's an "evolve or die" situation, and it's no longer a matter of when or if, but whether to buy a new package or modernize what you have.


As more and more enterprise organizations move away from legacy and proprietary technologies, career opportunities become fewer and often mean having to relocate to find them. Learning .NET will open up a developers' options and do great things for their company, their overall personal career, and their net worth to the business. It's your choice to be part of either the maintenance drag or the future solution. And, if it is fear of this unknown technology holding you back, take comfort in knowing that it's not that hard. Take the first step by reading the next reason.


7) It's Not That Hard (At Least, It Doesn't Have to Be)

What I have observed over the years is that many developers have tried to provide modern software. They have done some Java or PHP or .NET programming and usually got it to work, but they go it alone and it takes a lot of time and effort, often leaving them wondering, Why does this have to be so hard?


It doesn't have to be. There is a plethora of free and fee-based training options available for .NET. Here are just a few that we and our clients have found useful:

  1. Welcome to Visual Studio: This page has a set of links to download, understand, and guide you through the various parts and use of the IDE.
  2. "How Do I?" Video Series
  3. Visual C# Resources
  4. Visual Studio Information on Windows Presentation Foundation
  1. ASP.NET MVC 5 General Information


  • Self-Study Books
  1. Microsoft .NET: Architecting Applications for the Enterprise
  2. Pro C# 5.0 and .NET 4.5 Framework
  3. Pro WPF 4.5 in C#
  4. WPF 4.5 Unleashed
  5. Pro ASP.NET MVC 5
  6. Pro jQuery 2.0
  7. Programming C# 5.0
  8. C# 3.0 Design Patterns
  9. Adaptive Code via C#
  • Training courses: IT training providers' courses and programs have become more effective. Below is a list of resources that many of our clients use to stay current and productive:
  1. Pluralsight
  1. Learning Tree
  1. ProTech Training
  • Additional Frameworks and tools

 8) It's Fun

Limitations are frustrating. Consider the unthinkable, the impossible, and all the powerfully productive things you see in other software but just can't do with your trusty 80 lines by 24 rows. With .NET, they are totally doable and probably much more achievable than you would think. I have always loved creating software that people appreciated, a hard thing to do in business-related software because people just expect it to do their job. With .NET, we are back to developing rich, productive software that people don't just appreciate, but actually love. Software that they champion for others to use as well. This is what I want for all developers: to create software people love. This doesn't need to be only for the iPhone app developers. You may not make a worldwide viral app like Flappy bird, but you can make companywide viral software. Developing with .NET not only allows you to move away from the limitations that exist with legacy development, but encourages you to foster a continual learning mindset, hone your skills, and be exposed to hundreds of new tools, technologies, and resources along the way. .NET is your opportunity to have fun with software development once again.


9) Microsoft is Not Evil

In the past, Microsoft has been labeled as inflexible, closed, and proprietary. In the IBM i world especially, Microsoft is the evil nemesis. But those days are long past. All that has changed. Not only has business in general changed, but Microsoft as a company has changed significantly, embracing openness, enabling cross-platform solutions, and supporting new and growing businesses.


Not so sure about that? Have a look at Microsoft's Open Specifications and legally binding Community Promise. Most of Microsoft's newer development solutions are being provided as open source, all of ASP.NET is open source, and Microsoft is also moving some of its existing technologies to open source. Their compiler is a prime example.


Also, the Microsoft BizSpark program is a clear example of Microsoft's support and love for programmers and startups. If you want to build a startup on the Microsoft stack, they will give you free licenses to basically every product they make, including SQL Server, and a free MSDN gold subscription for three years. Then they help you market and promote your solution.


10) .NET Is Not Just a Programming Language 

It is important to keep in mind that .NET is not just a programming language. It incorporates many languages, the primary of which is C#, Microsoft's equivalent of Java. But .NET is so much more than a language. It includes:

  • A comprehensive Framework Class Library (FCL) with significant base functionality that a developer no longer needs to write.
  • Language interoperability so that code written in one language, like C#, can use code written in various other languages, like VB.
  • Additional frameworks for other core functionality, such as Workflow Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Presentation Framework, Entity Framework, etc.
  • The Common Language Runtime (CLR), an application virtual machine that provides services such as security, memory management, and exception handling.

To the developer this means less code to write, faster development and integration, easier and much smaller deployments, and an overall more productive development experience. To the business, this means lower development costs, faster software delivery, and better quality solutions.


Those are the top ten reasons, but there is even more greatness in .NET, especially when you dig deeper into the Microsoft partner solutions. With Visual Studio and .NET, Microsoft provides a single environment to support the entire software development lifecycle. It's no wonder Gartner, IDC, and Forrester all agree that Microsoft .NET is the leader in a complete vision for the business.


As a company grows and changes and its requirements expand, today's software needs to be able to adapt and change with it. The company needs to enable the business to take advantage of the ever-changing technology environment. It needs to deliver software for all types of users: employees, customers, customers of customers, partners, and vendors. It needs to deliver software where the users are, when they need it, and on the device they choose to use. .NET is the best solution to meet all those demands. Perhaps it's time to explore what a new development environment like .NET could do for you and your company.


Lee Paul is the CEO and founding member of Surround Technologies. With over 22 years in the industry, Lee is a software innovator, visionary, and strategist focused on helping and enabling companies use software to tactically and strategically solve their business challenges.


Lee's primary role at Surround is in leading the company, executing on its mission, and driving toward its vision. He also serves as both Accelerated Software Development Evangelist and Chief Modernization Strategist, whereby he leverages his years of experience to educate and guide organizations and pursue the best strategies for accelerating software modernization.


Surround Technologies is a software-innovation business with solutions and services to substantially accelerate the creation, modernization, delivery, and maintenance of high-quality, state-of-the-art software. Surround's Accelerator is the only rapid application development solution with Windows, Web, and mobile user experiences in an n-tier agile architecture with no limitations or proprietary lock-in. Whether you're modernizing legacy applications or creating new functionality, with Accelerator you can deliver your software faster with better results and more functionality.


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  • The Top Five RPG Open Access Myths....BUSTED!

    SB_Profound_WC_GenericWhen it comes to IBM Rational Open Access: RPG Edition, there are still many misconceptions - especially where application modernization is concerned!

    In this Webinar, we'll address some of the biggest myths about RPG Open Access, including:

    • Modernizing with RPG OA requires significant changes to the source code
    • The RPG language is outdated and impractical for modernizing applications
    • Modernizing with RPG OA is the equivalent to "screen scraping"


  • Time to Remove the Paper from Your Desk and Become More Efficient

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericToo much paper is wasted. Attempts to locate documents in endless filing cabinets.And distributing documents is expensive and takes up far too much time.
    These are just three common reasons why it might be time for your company to implement a paperless document management system.
    Watch the webinar to learn more and discover how easy it can be to:

    • Capture
    • Manage
    • And distribute documents digitally


  • IBM i: It’s Not Just AS/400


    IBM’s Steve Will talks AS/400, POWER9, cognitive systems, and everything in between

    Are there still companies that use AS400? Of course!

    IBM i was built on the same foundation.
    Watch this recorded webinar with IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will and IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington to gain a unique perspective on the direction of this platform, including:

    • IBM i development strategies in progress at IBM
    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days


  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.


  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption



  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access




  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.


  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.



  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.



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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.