Factory rides ACUCOBOL-GT to Windows
LOreal migrates 400 programs through Transoft, Acucorp
When the end of HPs support for the HP 3000
turned a working server into an IT risk, a LOreal factory and
distribution center turned its MPE applications into Windows 2000
code. The project, completed in 2003, shows a method to move 3000
programs and business logic without leaving COBOLs standards
Jesús Solórzano is IT Manager at
LOreals Xochimilco, Mexico operation, one of seven
throughout the Americas. Each year at the plant and shipping
facility, 130 million units of shampoos, deodorants, skin creams and
LOreals signature hair coloring products are made for the
Mexican market. Some products are also destined for North America and
Once HP announced it was ending sales and support of
the HP 3000, Solórzano said he began to investigate ways to
leave the platform. HP had been charging the operation $45,000 a year
for hardware and software support on an A-Class HP 3000,
The manager said support from HP Mexico couldnt
guarantee four-hour response time for the server, which LOreal
purchased just two years ago. A figure of $100,000 yearly was offered
to LOreal for mission-critical support services on the A-500
server. HP said parts would be difficult to get, too.
Whats more, Solórzano said that HP could
not recommend any resources to integrate ODBC services on the HP 3000
with Visual Basic front ends. The company wanted to create more
modern VB GUIs for its programs, some of which were 16 years old at
the time of the evaluation.
HP not only couldnt support us on what we
were trying to do, but they couldnt find any references or FAQs
anywhere in the world. It sounds ridiculous, but thats what
Growth at the firm posed another problem in staying
with the HP 3000, Solórzano said. Every three years we
have to buy a new machine, he said, and we didnt
want to invest all that money in a machine that isnt going to
The IT manager cited familiar reasons for leaving the
3000: a lack of expertise and a point of view that new technology
wouldnt be easy to implement on the system.
It was difficult to find the people necessary
to support the MPE environment in our market, Solórzano
said through an interpreter. It was also very difficult and
cumbersome to integrate new technologies. It would be possible, but
it would take a long time and the performance would be inadequate.
From the point of view of IT technology, it was a commercial
disadvantage for the factory.
Stuck between high-priced support and HPs lack
of information about 3000 development options several MPE
third party vendors do support ODBC and Visual Basic
Solórzano decided the best business move would be away from
the HP 3000. But the company didnt want to replace its
application. Instead, Solórzano wanted to migrate his code, to
retain the business rules in the programs.
He turned to Transoft for the project, shipping off
the programs to the US in December, 2002. The services company used
its Legacy Liberator toolset and migration services to convert the
factorys applications from HP COBOL II to Acucorps
ACUCOBOL-GT, and returned the work to the Xochimilco plant in March,
The target for the newly-migrated code was an HP
ProLiant server running Microsoft Windows 2000. After four months of
testing, the factory cut over to the new environment, using its COBOL
code now running in ACUCOBOL-GT. The Xochimilco unit saw its
hardware-only support bill drop to $1,900 for three years of
maintenance. Other support fees for new software are not included in
that figure, but the total cost of the transition falls within the
Its rare that a project actually falls
within the allotted budget and timeline, Solórzano said.
But this conversion came in right on budget at $240,000, and
the only delay with the timeline resulted from our decision to make
code modifications due to inevitable changes in the production
The server itself, a 4-CPU HP ProLiant DL740 with
2Ghz processors, cost the company $33,000 above the $240,000 bill for
consulting, software and services. But Solórzano said the
hardware might have exceeded the factorys needs, because the
new server hasnt been taxed very hard. The factory is using
Microsofts SQL Server for its database.
Third-party support options are too risky for
LOreal, the IT manager added. We couldnt afford to
contract with sources that werent 100 percent reliable,
he said. Thats why we contracted with HP for hardware and
the software support.
After the ACUCOBOL-GT code arrived at the plant for
testing, the IT department there had other issues to manage:
temporary files and spooler operations that are different on Windows,
as well as user management tasks. But the company had IT staff that
was experienced in Windows to make those transition tasks easier,
The company feels newer technologies like XML and
Java are more accessible, now that the firm is using Acucorps
extend software solutions. The development tool supplier calls these
life-after-migration strategies, improving application
interoperability with computing languages and environments like .NET,
XML, Java, and C# as well as more data access to non-COBOL data
sources and relational database management systems.
The Xochimilco system, which serves 100 users, now
interfaces with Crystal Reports, to deliver reports that can be
deployed in several places. An Internet portal is in the future.
Solórzano said his business unit
didnt have anything against HP-UX in particular, but we
learned our lesson with the HP 3000 situation, where we were in a
very closed environment. We didnt want to be in a similar
situation in the future. HP-UX, a proprietary system from HP,
didnt seem very attractive. And Unix, even though its
cheaper than MPE, has support that is still more expensive than
For Windows, I can contract for a lot more
resources than I could for HP-UX, he said. For HP-UX,
pretty much Id have to go with HP for support again.
Linux presented more risk than LOreal could handle.
ACUCOBOL-GT fit into the picture at Xochimilco when
Transoft earned the migration engagement. After Acucorp met with
Solórzano to present its tools and approach, We were
confident that they satisfied our requirements for a painless
migration. We heard many times of tools that promised a transparent
migration, but we were pleased to see that this was a pain-free
migration for us.