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October 2004

Customers find abundance of 3000 migration advice

HP World session brings field experience to 3000 managers

In one of the best-attended HP World sessions for the 3000 community, a handful of HP customers testified about their experience migrating away from the platform. The session differed from two others that HP has presented at prior HP Worlds. Some of the customers had finished migrations recently. What’s more, the audience in Chicago got details on how to make the alternative platforms step in for the 3000.

To begin, customers wanted to know if any of the panelists had experienced false starts or surprises. Ken Porter of the City of Houston, which is moving off its HP 3000 municipal applications, said he’d begun with a browser-based design. But that led the IT staff to discover that users’ PCs had unauthorized software running on it. The city is now coding and testing to a design that lets it roll out changes to its systems in minutes, or at most hours.

ASAP Software, a reseller of PC programs, was surprised by the effort to move its VPlus screens and Omnidex indexing tools to a .NET Windows platform. Bob Lewandowski said that “it’s the little things, like escape codes that we used in VPlus screens to position cursors. When we ran those screens through a migration utility, it kept blowing up. We had to get rid of those escape sequences.”

At ASAP, the shop uses Omnidex extensions to DBFIND and DBGET calls, “and we have to find a couple of different alternatives to solve problems like that. We code for each one and see which one is going to work best for us.”

Matti Merilainen, a director of insurance services company Oy Porasto, was surprised by the level of effort to replicate the functions of a 3000 application that’s been developed over 25 years. “It’s very difficult to develop the same kind of production environment on the Unix side,” Merilainen said.

He was also surprised at how much more database administration his IT department had to do under Unix. “When we used IMAGE and Allbase, it was easy to administer. In the Oracle environment, we need one or two database administrators.”

HP’s Alvina Nishimoto, who’s been managing technical issues at the vendor’s migration center, added that another customer underestimated database needs. Virginia International Terminals, she said, “realized after they brought their data over that they needed a true data verification and synchronization tool.” VIT bought software from Taurus to fill that need.

Jurgen Probst, HP’s 3000 Transition Manager for Europe, said his customers have been surprised they can’t add new features to systems at the same time they migrate. “It’s virtually impossible,” he said. “First you migrate, then add the features.”

JCL replacements

HP 3000s run their batch jobs using a job control language (JCL), functionality that has required detailed effort to duplicate on other platforms. Gary Paveza of insurance giant AIG said his IT group rewrote the 3000’s JCL into perl scripts. “We wrote the perl modules that emulated the MPE functionality,” Paveza said.

To move JCL capabilities to the Windows platform, ASAP reported they call ISQL from command files.

Departmental printing

In addition to replacing batch capabilities, migrating sites needed to handle printing that was managed by MPE/iX. “We had to replace the spooling system of MPE,” Paveza said, choosing Quest Software’s Vista Output Manager under HP-UX.

Many such substitutions are handled by Ordina-Denkart’s MP-UX emulation suite, the choice at Oy Porasto. “It has the same kind of spooling system as the MPE environment,” said IT director Merilainen.

Choosing a database

Panelists at HP World pretty much had their databases chosen for them when they decided to migrate away from the HP 3000. Those sites which had Oracle experience in-house picked Oracle, although Oy Porasto’s Merilainen noted that Oracle seemed to have more migration tools available for it. ASAP Software picked SQL Server to replace IMAGE because it already had the Microsoft database in production elsewhere.

Nishimoto said that smaller to mid-size customers who didn’t have database expertise outside of IMAGE have been looking close at Marxmeier Software’s Eloquence, with its IMAGE-workalike features that require less changes to applications and no dedicated database administration.

Layers of database abstraction helped early customers capture IMAGE calls and send them to new databases, but Nishimoto said more recent tools make that extra programming effort less necessary. Oy Porasto is using the ORDAT TI2SQL software, which is included in the Ordina-Denkart suite of tools which emulate the 3000 environment on non-3000 platforms.

Forward motion

Most of the customers on the panel said they needed outside help — consulting, or a services contract — to migrate away from the HP 3000. For some, it wasn’t a matter of not having the skills or being able to learn. The migration added workload to IT staffs which were already busy.

“For us it goes back to moving the business forward while you’re going through this migration,” said ASAP’s Lewandowski. HP Services got part of the outsourced work on a fixed bid, while Platinum migration partner MBS searched for a replacement package for ASAP’s distribution system.

Business expansion demands put pressure on ASAP’s IT resources. “Our organization grows 20 to 30 percent a year. If we’re not growing, we’re not in business,” he said. “You can’t manage both migration and growth. In our case it was a must to bring on extra people.”

A much smaller organization with 15 IT specialists, Oy Porasto is doing most of the work itself, but outsourcing “one or two” parts of its migration.

“Our staff is too small to do it all,” said the City of Houston’s Porter. But he said his organization will see a return on its services engagements that make the migration possible. “Part of our costs are correcting old ills,” he said. “Besides, I don’t know of any organization that has all the expertise it needs sitting on staff.”


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