Expeditors moves more than clients
Worldwide 3000 customer makes AMXW its keystone in
The $2.2 billion company manages the movement of
billions of dollars worth of cargo each year. But Expeditors
International is moving something just as vital as its global
logistics customer shipments this year. One of the largest HP 3000
customers is moving its applications away from the 167 HP 3000s which
it runs, heading into the world of hardware-independent platforms.
The target platform for the move hasnt been
decided yet. IS Project Manager Lori Fritz said the company is
considering suppliers beyond HP, including Sun or a vendor which
could offer platforms for Microsofts Windows 2000/NT. Whatever
the destination, Expeditors is using the vehicle of Nearteks
AMXW emulation suite to make its move away from MPE/iX.
The project shows the power of using software to
emulate the MPE environment on non-3000 hardware. In this type of
emulation, any Windows or Unix platform can host HP 3000
applications, making the new operating environment behave as if it
were MPE/iX by accepting commands, batch jobs and database intrinsic
Fritz said the decision to shift away from the HP
3000 platform the company has used it for more than two
decades was made before she began to manage the actual
migration of programs and data. She said the company decided it could
not continue with the 3000 without a worldwide support operation
backing up its IT staff. HP ends its worldwide support of the system
in December, 2006.
You dont want to be on an unsupported
platform with an office in Bombay, or Madagascar, she said.
Worldwide support is more important to Expeditors
than to many HP 3000 customers. Operating on six continents in 168
offices, the company forwards air and ocean freight, performs vendor
consolidation and customs clearance, handles marine insurance and
other international logistics services. Its profits are on the rise,
too, posted at $25.1 million for its latest quarter.
Expeditors employs more than 150 IT workers in its
core IS group, and the company identifies the HP 3000 servers by name
in its corporate Web site. Fritz has been leading a team of six
full-time developers in the transition effort since May, 2002.
Expeditors works with its own in-house developed applications,
connected over a global wide area network. Fritz said her work has
been an extension of her 11 years supporting the companys 3000s
and its applications.
We have all of our applications converted and
were in QA, Fritz said. The company plans to install its
first branch over the next month or so. The rollout away from the
3000 is planned to be complete by the end of 2004, because of the
companys business reach.
Based on the fact that theyre deployed
worldwide, its going to take us some time to convert that
data, she said.
She said that AMXW works for Expeditors because
its hardware-independent, works with Unix, and its
the most extensive MPE emulation tool to support our
environment. The products COBOL code converter the
new code emerges in MicroFocus COBOL and a macro expansion
component allows the company to maintain a single set of source code
for both the HP 3000s still in operation and the new platform.
We dont have to split the code and do
several updates, Fritz said. AMXWs SPL-to-C converter has
also been key, because we have a lot of code in SPL in
the application. The software suite also emulates file types unique
to MPE/iX; at Expeditors, that means the applications circular
and message files can be supported on the new platform.
The company is also making use of UDC and script
support in the emulation suite, and added that AMXW has created a
batch facility under Unix to emulate the MPE batch environment.
We run a lot of jobs on the system on a 24x7 basis, Fritz
It feels like an HP 3000 when youre in
their shell, Fritz added.
Emulation carries a reputation for taxing hardware,
which makes performance issues a concern for companies considering
the strategy. Fritz said that Expeditors did testing on the
applications to spot places where performance had to be improved.
We went back and made some changes to the
source code to improve performance in some places, she said.
Another aspect of emulated solutions uses wrappers around calls to
the IMAGE database, so databases such as Oracle, DB2 or SQL Server
can handle the 3000s data. ORDATs ti2SQL software
emulates the 3000s IMAGE database inside a relational database.
The end result is CLI calls native to the Unix-based database.
HPs Platinum migration partners report that
wrappers around intrinsics can have performance implications, but
Fritz said performance has been comparable to the
companys HP 3000 native solution. Expeditors is working with
DB2 for its new applications database.
Fritz said the performance testing has taken place on
an HP server, with some parts tested on NT systems, as well as on Sun
servers. She said the platform flexibility that AMXW provides was a
key benefit to picking the solution.
Thats why we chose Nearteks
product, because we could go any route we wanted, because
theyre hardware independent.