Migration strategies vary from in-house to
Firms prepare for self-sufficiency, but
engage outsourced help to complete their journeys
HP 3000 customers have always prided themselves on
their hands-on approach to computing services. A customer base with
many small- to medium-sized IT shops has a history of self-reliance.
Some migrating customers, however, are finding that outside resources
engaged today will help them use new platforms tomorrow
Take the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana,
for example. The TRSL had been an HP 3000 shop since 1980, but it
finally switched off its MPE system last fall, a choice that IT
Director Doug Smith said almost brought tears to his eyes. But to
keep the crying to a minimum in a new future with HP 9000 servers,
Smith engaged Speedware to help train his staff before the
The Series 979/200 HP 3000 has been replaced with
a pair of rx5640 HP-UX servers linked with HP-UX ServiceGuard for
failover capability. TRSL also replaced its IMAGE database with
Oracle and the Speedware training included a week with key
programmers on the differences between the two databases.
As often happens, when TRSL first cut over to
Oracle and Unix, a few glitches emerged as users accessed the
Speedware application on the HP 9000. But the training that
Smiths staff received let them demonstrate their independence
When we put 200 users on, we had to increase
some parameters in Oracle, and in the Unix operating system,
Smith said. But even at that, my staff found the problem and
fixed it. I cant brag enough about how they took over and
learned their way around Unix.
Smith praised the training from HP, which provided
two weeks of HP-UX classes, and Speedware, which trained key
programmers in the differences between using Speedware under MPE
versus Unix and IMAGE versus Oracle. He added that the learning curve
was shorter because much of his staff didnt have to unlearn
Our key people have been on the HP 3000 for
years, but I had a fairly new and young programming staff below
that, Smith said. They didnt have to unlearn a lot,
and that really helped.
Key developers and support staff at TRSL got a
second week of training on the HP-UX fundamentals from HP. The less
senior staff hired straight from college took to Speedware easily,
Smith said, because its a 4GL, Visual Basic type of
language, and they were familiar with that type of environment. It
was a good training effort by Speedware and HP, mainly.
In time, the TRSL programming staff took the lead
on the migration effort after Speedwares early involvement.
After Speedware had changed the embedded MPE commands to Unix
equivalents, TRSL programmers initially had a lot of questions for
Speedware. Then it got to the point at the end of the project
where Speedware was calling us, asking us how it was going,
Business growth sparks help
At another Speedware site, an explosion of
business growth has changed in-house intentions to an outsourced
engagement. Speedware will be going on the job to help finish a
migration at Virginia International Terminals (VIT), one of the
earliest subjects that HP offered as a success in its migration
campaign. VIT planned to complete its migration by this year. But a
steep increase in shipping into the Virginia ports the VIT
coordinates has delayed the migration.
IT Director Clark Farabaugh said VIT remains
committed to migrate off its HP 3000s. But now Speedware will be
engaged in a services contract to port highly customized programs off
VITs N-Class HP 3000s. When VIT decided to migrate, only one
N-Class was running in Farabaughs shop. The business boost has
prompted him to add a second HP 3000 while HP was still selling the
The delay gives Speedware a shot at helping VIT
arrive at a successful migration. Farabaugh said that a migration on
the original schedule, with no outside help, wouldnt have been
a good choice.
We had to make a choice, he said.
Do the migration now, and tell operations management we
couldnt handle any extra cargo and that really
wasnt an option. When youre in the IT business these
days, you have weave and bob with the way the winds
VITs migration is now scheduled to complete
in June, 2006. In the meantime the company is training its staff on
Oracle and Unix. VIT also purchased a Server Expansion Unit for its
original loaned HP 9000 system. The company was among the very first
to take advantage of the HP loaner program announced in 2002.
That effectively doubled the number of
partitions were got, Farabaugh said of the extension.
Weve got the hardware, the licenses and all the
infrastructure in place. Its just that we had to take a
slightly different approach to who was going to move the
VIT will be doing its own testing and quality
assurance of the migration work that Speedware will perform.
For the mechanical aspects of moving the code, were just
paying other people to do that for us, Farabaugh said.
Timing on the project is exacting. Cargo terminals
have a busy season that matches the year-end retail sales season in
the US. With US West Coast terminals overwhelmed, major retailers
such as Wal-Mart have started to target the East Coast of the US as a
terminus for freight shipments from the Pacific Rim. Ships move due
west, through the Suez Canal, then on to the mid-Atlantic seaboard
VITs migration will have to be complete and
tested by next summer to ensure the new Unix-based system is ready
for the 2006 retail season. Each application will have a
self-contained project plan, with testing performed throughout the
Were not going to move all the code,
then test it during a date range, Farabaugh said. It will
be a big moving process, with sub-processes going on.
Some of the applications Speedware will port are
incredibly complicated, Farabaugh said, with the UI
written in Speedware, then youll have COBOL subroutines, and
hand-held computers in the field that integrate with the core
application, and EDI processes bringing data from outside. Its
real tedious with a lot of pieces, and its not a matter of
tweaking the intrinsics in the code, changing the IO calls and off
Instead, VIT ratcheted up its
relationship with Speedware, giving the vendor a chance to improve
the code inside VIT applications while they migrate it. Oracle
experts inside VIT want to get their hands around a big Oracle
Other companies have helped alongside Speedware.
Transoft used its Legacy Liberator suite, in a remote engagement via
VPN, to replace the JCL calls in VIT applications. Transoft has also
worked on MicroFocus COBOL replacements and built Oracle database
While its in-house staff expanded automation
initiatives on the 3000s, VIT had to face the fact that its own
resources were already at full capacity.
Our business objectives clobbered the
daylights out of our IT staff, and forced us to put the migration on
the back burner, Farabaugh said. It was always my goal to
do this with my staff. But even if Id brought consultants in,
we wouldnt have had the resource to do that. The outsourcing
model works best for us.