Migrations earn credit from testing, tools
Second careerist seeks 3000 stewardship

Migrators advise: set aside lots of time

Summit Information Systems probably has more migrated HP 3000 customers than any other package application vendor this year. They got a good two-year head start on the rest of the application market by launching a Unix port during 1999. It was 2003 before the company was ready to have its customers test out an HP-UX version of the Spectrum credit union application.

After two years of migrations, their customers are checking in with positive reviews about the process of moving away from their HP 3000s. (Reports on relative ease of use and value are still too far off.) A credit union customer is similar to many HP 3000 sites in one way: Many of these companies have limited IT operations, instead of the vast data processing staffs that make up the majority of the HP migration success stories. These can be companies with much in common with the garden-variety HP 3000 customer, if size matters.

The customers report that time matters the most in being successful with a migration. Yesterday we introduced the strategy that Summit has followed to move more than 50 of its customers onto HP's Unix systems, and a tip to use ISO 9001 training to smooth out a migration, if you've got ISO background. Even with that kind of prelude, however, the advice is to set aside enough time to get the transfer right.

Scott Curwood of Rogue Federal Credit Union in Medford, Oregon, who had the benefit of such ISO training, reported to his community his migration lacked drama, thank goodness:

It went incredibly smooth and almost anti-climatic, even though we migrated a whole month earlier than our original target date. We didn’t have any surprises whatsoever, mostly due to our stringent testing and having run at least 20 data migrations prior to live weekend. We were almost running a fresh data migration every night.  That may sound like a lot, but I guarantee, it’s what you need to do. The success of our migration is a direct correlation of our constant testing of our jobs, as well as being able to run them in parallel with our live system with fresh data to verify that the jobs are actually doing what they are supposed to do.

It's this testing that's going to extend a migration's duration, according to much of the advice we've heard this year from users, Platinum partners and HP.

Curwood said ISO laid the groundwork for a testing mantra at Rogue Federal Credit Union:

Part of ISO is proper testing plans and proper documentation for implementation on procedures. Using this as a base to create our testing plan templates, we were able to work with each department in creating testing plans that both covered every aspect of their interaction with Summit on a daily basis, as well as making sure they tested these interactions in Unix.  We had every department testing on Unix daily for two weeks.  Our motto was 'If you do it on live, go do it on Unix.'

This is also why we needed to do almost nightly data migrations.  We needed to make sure our numbers on our postings and reports where as accurate as possible.

A migration as a non-event over a weekend only comes about with thorough preparation, including the selection of good tools. Summit's Dick Drollinger said at the HP Technical Forum that Robelle's Suprtool was essential in the smooth move to MPE/iX, since the data extraction and report tool operates on both HP 3000 and HP's Unix systems. That led HP's Alvina Nishimoto to comment right away that "Suprtool doesn't have a Windows version yet," so customers on the 3000 considering a move to PC servers had better size up their dependence on Windows.

For Summit, Suprtool is even essential to sending out a new release of code. Summit enjoys the luxury of moving all of its code and testing on development-lab platforms. During tests, Summit uses Suprtool to generate tag files, to extract a specific number of members of credit union members.

Once these credit unions have moved away, their HP 3000s go into the community marketplace for purchase by the 3000 customers who are homesteading and need to upgrade. Ralph Raugust, VP of IT at the Tuscon Federal Credit Union, reported that his N-Class server "apparently still has some (or at least considerably more) worth on the market, unlike what I hear about the 9xx series of HP 3000s." And Rogue had a N-4440 (a 4-way N-Class server) available after its migration in October. In addition to providing the migrating customer with field advice, these early migrators are also seeding the community with upgrade systems.

Recovering costs by selling off a 3000 is a good strategy for the site that doesn't need to look back into archived data, or run parallel. But Curwood took note of the time budget, not dollar costs. Just as many other migrating companies report, the length of a migration could be more extensive than it first appears — even with the app vendor support which Summit supplies to each of its customers:

For those of you who are about to start you migration, I have some pearly words of wisdom. Set aside a lot of time for this! Just because we did it a month early isn’t because it’s really easy. It’s because we made it easy. We dedicated a lot of time to test each step of the way. If you can set aside one or two people to test each part of your migration, it will smooth everything out."

That's almost enough of a caution to make a 3000 site wonder who's going to take care of their regular IT operations while the migration gets underway. But we have a suggestion for that challenge tomorrow.