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November 2002

Migration testimony charts meticulous journey

HP’s examples at conference outline projects spanning years, costing millions

As HP and its migration partners tour the US this fall, the customer reports HP presented in an HP World migration roundtable show that moves off the system are likely to cover many seasons.

Customers from a software and service bureau vendor, a tax services subsidiary, and a busy seaport all described their migrations away from HP 3000s. Only one of the three customers began its migration from the system since HP’s announcement of the end of its support, while the other two customers migrated during the 1990s.

HP’s George Stachnik hosted the meeting of about 60 people at HP World, describing the customer base as still deciding how to handle the transition era.

“My sense of it is that most people are still in the planning process,” Stachnik said. Only two hands went up when Stachnik asked if any customers were farther along than “trying to see if you can do this, and what your options are” regarding migration.

All three of HP’s testimonial customers — Ceridian Tax Services, CT3, and Virginia International Terminals (VIT) — reported they are satisfied with their choices to phase out their HP 3000s. VIT’s assistant IT director Clark Farabaugh, who just began his quest toward a new server this summer, said the decision to shift to HP’s Unix servers “has changed our shop, for better or worse.”

VIT took delivery of a Unix-based rp8400 server in July to replace its HP 3000s, and Farabaugh said “we were the first ones on board.” The applications running at VIT handle shipments through a terminal with 7,000 international longshoremen at work, and a desire to Web-enable the apps led VIT away from the 3000. The project will take 12 to 18 months to complete in the 45-person IT staff, taking apps from Speedware on the 3000 to Speedware on HP-UX.

Even though Farabaugh described TurboIMAGE as “the fastest database I’ve ever seen,” the organization is moving toward using Oracle on its migrated system. Three IT staffers — VIT is doing all the work in-house — are being trained in database admin for Oracle.

Speedware did do the conversion of the VIT database, part of a six-week engagement that Speedware’s Professional Services did for VIT. “There’s a lot of care and feeding you’ve got to do to keep the Oracle performance up,” Farabaugh said.

Testimony from CT3’s president Steve Hall verified that the actual transition from the 3000 to the 9000 was the toughest part of the project. CT3 made its shift in the early 1990s when it pursued a customer which was already using HP-UX. “Speedware’s code ported over no problem,” Hall said.

The president of the company, which sells its timber tracking solution to forestry companies, said that implementing a Unix application for customers was easier than explaining why they were using the HP 3000.

“It’s been an advantage in getting the deals,” Hall said. “It’s easier for a mediocre salesman like me to sell something with name recognition.”

The largest migration project that was outlined at the one-hour session came out of Ceridian’s tax service subsidiary. David Goodman, who worked on the project during its 1996-1999 timespan, said his transition was budgeted for $10 million and ultimately cost $20 million. Much of the initial cost came in learning about the company’s applications, and paying an outside firm to lead the project.

“One of the things we discovered is how much you don’t know about your application,” Goodman said. “Once everybody forgot about the pain — it’s kind of like childbirth — after the initial hookups, I think everybody was pleased.” Ceridian had a 170 people including some from the user community working on the project at its peak, including a development group of 50 to 60 engineers. HP’s Professional Services group assisted in the project with outside consulting.

CT3’s migration appeared to take the shortest amount of time, producing an app with the same functionality in a project that ran from August of 1994 to January of 1995. The company ported 3,000 programs totaling 1 million lines of source code, applications written entirely in Speedware.

Hall said that CT3 has been happy with the reliability of the HP-UX hardware, saying that the HP 9000s which it operates “haven’t needed a reboot in three years.” He added that CT3 ended up “using Oracle like it was an IMAGE database” at first.

Goodman’s experience with getting Ceridian onto Unix came at a much higher cost because of the project’s complexity. “It was a very large project, and very large projects get very complex,” he said. After several years when the company planned the move, the one-year project ultimately took two years, finishing just a few months before the Y2K deadlines kicked in around the world’s IT shops.

Workload on the company’s operations staff during the migration “was a whole lot more” than under HP 3000 operations. Three servers running MPE/iX became six servers running HP-UX, including three V-Class servers, the largest HP 9000 boxes at the time.

Ceridian’s move was prompted by a choice to use Oracle on the HP 3000 well before the company committed to a migration. When Oracle’s support staff knowledgeable in HP 3000s dwindled to less than a handful of engineers, the company chose to move to the Unix platform and keep Oracle. COBOL applications totaling several million lines of code had to be converted to MicroFocus environment for Unix.

“We found a lot of the debugging tools to be much better, and more robust” Goodman said, “and it was painful at first for the programmers. But from a long-term perspective it was good for their careers.” Very little of the $20 million expense came from training users, “because they got the same application they had before.”

Like CT3, VIT’s Clark said he didn’t plan to get much extra use of Oracle’s advantages when migrating the port’s applications at first. VIT has licensed DISC’s OmniAccess to replace the indexing functionality of Omnidex, which has been powering the HP 3000 apps.

VIT’s decision came from hearing HP’s briefings about the 3000 at this year’s e3000 Solutions Symposium. He advised customers who are migrating to “do your homework up front, and prepare an adequate budget.”

Advice from Hall and Goodman on how they would do things differently today covered both technical nuance and political processes. Hall said his IT team learned that MPE’s batch job management was more straightforward, and that it’s not as easy to run jobs in a particular order under a Unix environment.

Goodman said customers looking at a migration would be well-served to ensure “you get buy-in on the project from management and from users. That was important when we ran into trouble.”

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