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May 17, 2010

Changes swap Microsoft for HP in migration

When the wholly owned subsidiary True Value Canada made its migration away from in-house HP 3000 ERP, HP lost a customer to the world of Windows and Intel systems. IT manager Tim Boychuk said choosing Windows over HP-UX, or anyone else's Unix, was not difficult.

"We weren't very much of a Unix shop prior to our transition," Boychuk said. "There wasn't anything here that was was Unix-based, or even Linux-based. All of our file systems and print servers were Windows-based before we migrated. The only thing that wasn't Windows-based was the HP 3000."

True Value's story is typical of the 3000 migrator. HP announces its end of 3000 support and development, so there's a vision of no more life for the MPE/iX systems. The announcement triggers a plan to renovate the IT services in the company, fueled by more thorough use of the data. It all starts, of course, with the HP news of 2001, telling customers there was no more future in the 3000. As it turned out, this was the end of HP's future at True Value.

"There was an end-of-life cycle for MPE," Boychuk said. "We also wanted to improve our data access by going to a new ERP system, and that was one of the things that was most attractive. To this day I think that was a good move, because of data access down at the desktop. It's now very easy to do a lookup or a quick report on the data, because it's all integrated on one database." That's a Microsoft SQL Server database today, more than two years after the company completed its move away from both the 3000 and HP.

Hillary Software's byRequest has been one of the few constants in the IT architecture, however. The software that uses email to move reports around an organization, as well as distribute them over the Web, remains essential for communicating with more than 700 dealers across Canada. byRequest began its True Value service talking with the HP 3000.

ERP has been a fundamental application for 3000 customers over the years, but HP doesn't offer that kind of software integrated with its Unix systems. That kind of play is left to the database providers such as Oracle, which also operates in the Windows market. Boychuk said that Microsoft Dynamics AX, the Windows app that replaced the 3000 ERP system, makes it easy to come to analysis and make business decisions. True Value also engaged a services company we haven't heard about much in 3000 transitions: Big Four auditing and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche.

"They provided analysis on the front end of the project, and they were the prime integrators of the new system," Boychuk said. The migration took place over a period three years. There were many changes to be managed, but the largest one might have been installing a software company as the lead in the solution, rather than a system provider such as HP. In True Value's case, that software company was Microsoft.

"It was a lot of hard work, and we had many people involved with the project over that 2-3 year span," he said. "But it's a much easier system to manage. We walked away from [3000 tools like Suprtool and job management], but we adapted to whatever new tools were required by AX. Primarily, AX is pretty much self-contained in terms of needing any third party tools to manage it. If you want additional capabilities there's lots of software providers allied with Microsoft to provide you with add-ons."

The byRequest add-on was tested in conjunction with Dynamics in an end-to-end process, Boychuk said. The software even gives dealers the option of receiving reports by fax, in addition to the email and Web options. The IT manager said the add-on is driving 400,000 individual reports -- all maintained for dealers' current and historic business -- across the enterprise.

06:21 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink

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