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California aims at changes for offenders

CDCRLogo HP 3000s track offenders in California prisons. Ever since he left HP's COBOL labs, OpenMPE director Walter Murray has worked in the Enterprise Information Services division of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. HP has announced a big contract to revamp the department's computing through the vendor's EDS subsidiary.

HP's press release says that the engagement "streamlines dozens of databases, record keeping processes and systems with a single integrated solution. The resulting highly-automated environment will include software, hardware and processes designed to transform paper-based adult and juvenile offender records into digital records."

The HP release calls this work "applications modernization services." Making applications more modern in the prison system probably won't eliminate their building block: COBOL.

The HP 3000s may now have an exit date set for them -- it looks like 2013, more than two years beyond HP's end of support deadline. But the language these systems use is likely to remain in Murray's toolset for the department, which he calls CDCR.

Yes, I’m very aware of the project to “modernize applications” at CDCR. Yes, SOMS -- the Strategic Offender Management System -- will involve replacing HP 3000s with something more modern.

However, speaking only for myself, I don’t think I’ve written my last line of COBOL just yet.

COBOL is another way to define a platform for customers' applications, especially apps created and cultivated in-house. Other platforms include databases (IMAGE vs. Eloquence vs. Oracle), vendors of systems, and complex, enterprise-sized packaged apps such as ERP systems. Migrating more than two of these platforms at once increases risk for anyone but the shops who can afford to hire outside expertise.

A CDCR release says that 40 systems will be consolidated in a project budgeted at almost a quarter-billion dollars. The four-year effort from EDS "will allow custody and programs staff to better manage the offender population, which should lead to a reduced recidivism rate."