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April 20, 2015

Replacing Apps, and Adding On, to Migrate

At Idaho State University, migration away from HP 3000 operations has been underway since before 2007. The school directed nearly all of its business functions using MPE/iX software, a good deal of it hand-tooled in PowerHouse. Within a couple of years of the migration launch the higher-education application Banner, running on Solaris Unix servers, took over for key parts of the 3000 operations. The last set of applications of the project now has a target for completing by July.

Add-onJohn MacLerran, senior IT analyst, updated us on the work at the university, noting that there are three applications, as well as control of the school's PBX, that must still be replaced from the 3000. The bank reconciliation functionality in Banner (by now renamed Ellucian) splits up accounts payable and payroll, while the MPE/iX app unified both AP and payroll. "I am rewriting that in Oracle PL/SQL as an add-on for Ellucian," he said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law."

These revisions are following a strategy that lets the university rely on updates from Sungard, the vendor selling Ellucian. MacLerran said that whenever possible, his department wants to "not to modify Ellucian directly, but to do add-ons instead — and we were able to hold to that in all but a very few cases."

It's a significant choice for any migrating 3000 site that's moved to a replacement suite. (MB Foster calls these migration targets Commercial Off The Shelf apps.) "Having a no-modification policy saved us quite a bit of heartache," MacLerran said, "as Ellucian comes out with patches and updates quite regularly. Since we didn't modify the original code, we don't have to spend too much time making sure it's still in sync."

Ellucian has aspects that are common to wide-ranging replacement applications. There are organizational operations at the university that have been handled by the 3000 which the ERP's inventory module couldn't match, for example. Another bit of replacement software will step in for the existing MPE/iX app.

The campus facilities management office has used a 3000 app to track inventory, MacLerran said.

Our stores department maintains an inventory of items used on campus by our facilities management office — plumbing supplies, janitorial supplies, paint, rubber gloves, light bulbs, etc. The inventory management system in Ellucian didn't have the needed functionality. That application will be replaced by an off-the-shelf application called SouthWare that we are licensing through B.A.S Software (bas-solutions.com). We are in the process of implementing it now.

The patient and comprehensive work at Idaho State reflects IT management that's been careful about matching functionality. That's meant the 3000 there will finally see a potential switch-off date this summer, about eight years after migration work started. There have been many months with design and testing and development taking place even as MPE/iX continued to serve. At one point the Stromasys Charon emulator was under consideration, but accelerating the migration schedule with extra in-house resources let Idaho State stay true to its program — going directly from HP's 3000 hardware to Solaris servers.

MacLerran said there's another 3000 app in its Motor Pool -- the university has locations in three Idaho cities -- that's still in need of migration. That operation bills departments  or the use of vehicles by professors who travel to class. The solution to that replacement is still in transit. Again, add-ons are the strategy for migration in the Motor Pool, where an existing system called Dossier might get an add-on module.

As for the PBX, it's telecom equipment the university owns and maintains. 

We run our own PBX for telephone switching on campus, and charge departments for phones (the physical phone on the desk), for phone lines to the offices, and for long-distance use. The telecom system bills departments for those charges. About 85 percent of it is already ported to a third-party system (from a company named Pinnacle, I believe), and the rest is scheduled to be done by June 1.

06:34 PM in Migration | Permalink

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