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February 2004

ViaNova moves MPE service, apps off hardware

Ordina Denkart’s software, services preserve 3000 details through transformations

Some HP 3000 sites are stepping into a new environment with their old boots — moving MPE applications through a rapid migration process that can use Unix, Linux or Windows servers to drive MPE application computing.

A suite of tools and services can remake HP-UX, Linux, or Windows servers into systems that can host MPE/iX applications. Ordina Denkart (32.03.866.0022) offers the solution as a package it calls ViaNova 3000, and the Belgium-based technology company is rolling out the offering in earnest this year after finishing development during 2003.

Even though that’s a recent milestone, much of the software is proven. Parts of ViaNova were developed for HP in the 1990s, when the vendor contracted with Denkart to help turn IBM mainframe customers into HP-UX sites. But Denkart — which joined the IT services group Ordina several years ago — has continued to develop and improve on its original set of software since HP announced the end of its 3000 support in 2001.

One of the most unique parts of the ViaNova 3000 concept is MPUX, a sub-system that lets 3000 sites run and maintain MPE/iX applications. MPUX lets system administrators use the 3000’s command set, as well as supporting MPE/iX intrinsics, on non-3000 environments. The software doesn’t isolate applications or users in an emulation environment, but instead provides Unix, Linux or Windows services to the MPE/iX applications.

Ordina Denkart says using MPUX can get a 3000 application off the platform quickly. Customers install MPUX, move their application code to the target platform, then simply recompile their programs on a non-MPE system. But MPUX is only the first of several steps that ViaNova can make toward an environment without HP 3000s.

Dirk Steyaert, sales manager for Ordina-Denkart, said the solution addresses the needs of the migrating customer step-by-step. “The first step is to be as fast as possible onto the target platform,” he said, “and the second step, if the customer wants to do it, is to re-engineer the application to be native on the target platform.”

Steyaert said MPUX can get a 3000 site away from the platform in a matter of a few weeks, plus the time to test. He added that the ViaNova 3000 Flex plan can re-engineer a typical MPE application for native use on Unix in as little as three to six months. The multiple-step process, where a program first operates under MPUX, gives customers a way to continue to use their MPE/iX applications beyond HP’s end of support deadline.

“The deadline of 2006 will be too soon for a lot of customers [to migrate],” Steyaert said. “That is because a part of the HP 3000 community has been doubting and delaying their decision, or even their market search for solutions. If you look at the magnitude of the market, I don’t think everybody can be migrated before the [HP] deadline.”

ViaNova is made up of more than a unique MPE emulation subsystem. The solution also can tap edWin/3K, an interface converter that moves VPlus forms into the XML format. “You just dump your files on the target system, and it’s a migration in seconds,” Steyaert said. edWin/3K emulates VPlus intrinsics through a compatible library, which eliminates the need to modify applications. Once the user interface is in XML, the screens become standard-compliant and human-readable (XML can be edited in a word processor). edWin/3K forms can be enhanced to include GUI elements, the ability to display forms in Web pages, and automated data exchange with XML-aware applications.

edWin/3K addresses a need that other tools in the 3000 market meet: moving away from VPlus without changing application source code. However, Ordina Denkart’s software has had a longer development lifespan and, according to Steyaert, is more complete. edWin/3k started out in the 1990s as Wingspan, designed to bring windowed interfaces onto block-mode devices like HP terminals for applications such as MANMAN. edWin/3K supports block mode and translates the VPlus screens’ fieldspecs. Wingspan is one of three standard clients in edWin/3K, along with Java and an HTML environment.

ViaNova’s support of HP 3000 nuances like fieldspecs, block mode, and MPE/iX intrinsics shows the Ordina Denkart depth of understanding about the platform, according to customers who have used the service. Summit Technologies used the toolset that powers ViaNova to move its Spectrum credit union software to HP-UX. Steyaert said a European insurance company, which HP migrated to Unix, is using edWin/3K on an 800-user installation.

Database support comes via the ti2SQL product from ORDAT, which works as a Call Level Interface to move requests for IMAGE data to SQL databases. Marxmeier AG’s database Eloquence is supported under ViaNova, as well as all other major databases. Programs sometimes must be revised to access these non-3000 databases, except for Eloquence.

Tools serving flexibility

Ordina Denkart can sell its tools directly to end-user companies if required. The vendor works through the four North American Platinum migration partners, supporting the partners with technical advice as partners help a customer onto MPUX and edWin/3K. Some then continue onward to native computing on a new environment.

MPUX is available for direct sale, based on the number of users a company needs to support simultaneously. Steyaert gave a sample price of $25,720 Euros (about $32,000 US dollars at press time) for a one-time, 65-user MPUX license. The price includes a spooler and batch subsystem, two items which migrating 3000 customers must be careful to replace. HP 3000 job and session management are also handled by the product. Support is 15 percent of the license price per year, and remains an ongoing cost after purchasing the MPUX license.

Steyaert said customers can move beyond MPUX through the ViaNova 3000 Flex strategy. This migrates applications and systems “part by part,” he said, “to a native environment in the time frame you want, and in line with your financial possibilities.” MPUX will be supported in the future, “because further supporting our customers who used this technology to migrate is one of our business fundamentals.”

But some customers want to remove all lock-in to a specific vendor’s solution like MPUX. ViaNova Flex — the service engagement from Ordina Denkart or one of its partners that re-engineers code for a completely native environment in Unix or Windows — lets a site ease off its MPUX dependence over several years, Steyaert said.

“You can spread it out, and have your migration finished in 2010, 2012 or even later,” he said. “You don’t have to be ready in 2006. Just through the coverage of the maintenance contract, one can keep on running MPUX risk-free as long as wanted or needed.” When a site goes completely native on a new environment it can drop MPUX’s support fee.

Ordina Denkart works in other environments to enable migrations. For example, its ed/Win product line also has an element that can move forms from Wang servers to IBM’s AS400/iSeries systems. “Our main platform we migrate with is HP,” Steyaert said. So far, no HP 3000 sites have asked for a version of ed/Win to migrate HP 3000 forms to the iSeries or any other non-HP platform, he said. But a custom contract to do such work is always possible if requested by the customer, he added.

Choice is essential to the ViaNova 3000 solution, which can include services, resource cross compilers to move COBOL code to other languages, support for non-IMAGE databases, and a GUI toolkit. COBOL cross compilers for Pascal, Fortran and SPL are part of the offering. Other less frequently used languages can be part of the solution on a project basis. “We’ve tried to develop a high quality solution to help a customer in this market,” Steyaert said, “who’s moving to the platform of his choice.”


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