HP CEO cuts to the questions
Listen for the sounds of a new conference

Handling migrations of systems and groups with grace

HP, its partners and customers dispensed migration advice on the last full day of the HP Tech Forum, including a forecast from HP's David Parsons on what to expect in future versions of this conference: An appropriate level of tension between user group members and HP rather than the entertaining all-out scraps of the past.

The migration counsel rolled out early on Wednesday, when an 8 AM session delivered user reports from a quartet of customers about migrations in play or completed. Summit Information Systems VP Dick Drollinger gave a report on the vendor's move of 52 HP 3000 sites (so far) to an HP-UX version of its Spectrum credit union application. Another 3000 ISV, Softvoyage, told about its transfer of much of its customer base to HP-UX. The company's Christian Scott said that his travel agency customers' IT shops have been advised to use Taricon's Xi-Batch and Xi-Text to reproduce the 3000's batch and scripting capabilities on Unix.

Batch represents the biggest challenge in migrations, according to MB Foster's Birket Foster. VESoft's Streamx functionality, the job scheduling part of Security/3000, has been recovered by AMXW, a Speedware tool which was invoked often during the day's migration advisories. Speedware's Chris Koppe said his company provides his migration customers with scripts written for AMXW which mimic some of the StreamX job scheduling abilities. John MacLerran, an IT systems analyst from Idaho State University, was looking for a replacement for the Streamx job stream programming language as the university moves off its Powerhouse-based applications by the end of next year.

MacLerran, whose university just approved hardware and software purchases to begin its migration, wanted assurance that AMXW handles Unix commands gracefully. The question of graceful handling came up later in the day, when we spoke with Parsons about the prospects of the Technology Forum being able to handle the high-tension kind of exchanges between HP and users which marked many Interex conferences of the past. Parsons said HP didn't have any contention with the Interex user base, but didn't see eye-to-eye with the group's for-profit management model.

As for the emotional speeches delivered at microphones to HP managers on panels, Parsons, the VP of Enterprise Marketing for HP Americas, said he wants the conference to air less gloves-off combat.

"You have some people who loved coming to the Interex shows like going to a hockey game," Parsons said. "They go because they love to see the fights. It's just not a hockey game. For those people who want to go see a hockey game and see the fight, that's not what we're going to be about. People who want to see a hockey game minus the extra-curricular stuff are going to have a good experience."

Parsons said HP wants the Technical Forum to include feedback to HP, but in a tone more appropriate to business. "There's a constructive way to raise issues. We're going to create many opportunities for our customers to continue to have a dialog to raise issues in a civil way. Not that it was uncivil before. If people feel a need to get more negative and vocal about it, that just means we've failed somewhere else, because we haven't provided a channel. It's not unlike the balance of power in government," he said. "As long as we maintain that equilibrium, we think it's a great partnership."

The heavy share of HP speakers at the conference may not need adjustment, Parsons added. It will depend on the reviews of the conference content by attendees. About 700 HP Americas presales employees attended out of a total just short of 4,000, and about one third of attendees were customers. HP, he said, did its best to encourage the 3000 speakers set for HP World to bring their talks to Orlando and HP's event. "There was a lot of work done to completely open the invitation to the Interex folks," he said. "I'd be shocked to find out there was anybody who had a legitimate topic, which wasn't already covered, who weren't given the opportunity to speak."

Migration speakers at this year's conference ran close to the company's list of partners. While speakers were candid about problems during migrations, Drollinger, Thompson, Koppe and Foster all have partnerships with the vendor, Thompson's as an ISV linked to Speedware's 4GL and migration products. Bob Lewandowski of ASAP Software stepped in to fill a slot on the migration user panel, and said that 3000 apps which are built to retrieve data record by record from IMAGE databases have to be re-engineered when choosing a SQL Server solution. "You can't really get there in a port," he said. "You definitely have to do some engineering." Speakers like Drollinger, who used Marxmeier's Eloquence database instead, simply converted databases without revising their apps' data access.

Advice which emerged from the migration audience — about 35 attended the morning and afternoon sessions — sometimes flowed from the ISV community, too. John Shick, a developer from healthcare ISV Amisys, said that he trains himself on Unix by reading the HP-UX man documentation pages, "and Google," he offered during the morning session.

Shick added that the difficulty so far in his company's migration has been "getting used to Oracle" and learning the new HP-UX environment," rather than adjustments to a new programming language. Amisys used the HP-UX versions of Powerhouse in its first version of Amisys Advance. "It was all fairly smooth," he said. "It was just a matter of making sure we successfully converted millions of lines of code from the 3000 to the 9000 environment."

But the humor and candor were never far from the surface of the day's advice. When MacLerran asked the migration panel how they communicated the change away from the 3000 to their users, Drollinger was ready with a joke. "We just blamed HP for everything," he said, sparking a outburst of laughter. HP's timing on its discontinuance announcement happened just after Summit had met with its customers. "Six more months would have been just right for us," he said, since the company had begun to create an HP-UX version of their app in 1999 for credit unions which had mandates to be on "open systems, when they didn't really understand what an open system was."

Summit is making its customers migrate away from their application by the end of June, 2007, "or they'll be on their own," Drollinger added. He expects about 20 to 30 of the company's customers will "be struggling on giving up the pacifier," not migrated as HP's end of 2006 deadline expires.

The coming months should bring a major upswing in migration activity, according to HP's Migration Center manager Alvina Nishimoto. "The majority have some sort of plan by now," she said. "It's going to be a little bit of a panic now, as people start to wake up the fact. The ones that are waiting the longest are the packaged app folks, because they do think it's going to be faster [to move to a packaged app]. It's faster, but they still have all their surround code, and they don't necessarily think of the implications of the surround code."