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HP gets new ally in IBM AS/400 migration

IBMSeriesi HP 3000 migration provider Speedware has announced it's joining HP in the drive to get IBM customers onto HP's Unix, Linux and Windows servers. Speedware said it will provide comprehensive AS/400 legacy modernization solutions with HP. Hewlett-Packard has been working since 2003 to get this part of IBM's customer base to use Unix. HP has called the effort mainframe modernization at times. Lately Alvinia Nishimoto, who served the 3000 community for decades, has been a driver in HP's migration push.

The work might be harder to spark than 3000 migrations, since IBM is still developing new servers and improving the operating system for what it now calls the Series i. But the community that refers to itself as AS/400 has been nervous in the spots that are vocal. Like the 3000 customers of the late '90s, they're convinced that IBM doesn't see their platform as strategic any longer. Sales have declined, but migrations are not as frequent as HP would hope.

We have tracked the iSeries issues since 2002, including a couple of Special Issues of the NewsWire aimed at a community that seems to mirror the HP 3000 profile. More recent developments show a more sketchy picture of opportunity.

Speedware wants to increase that momentum. The manager of marketing alliances at the company, Christine McDowell, said the company already has tools and some experience in migrating what it calls AS/400s.

"This new alliance with HP is a result of several factors: our extensive knowledge of this market, our 100 percent success rate in legacy modernization projects, and our long and successful partnership history dating back to when we became members of the HP e3000 Platinum Partners Program," she said. "Our end-to-end modernization solutions, including products such as the ML-iMPACT code conversion tool, remain integral components of our strategy for success in the AS/400 market."

McDowell also pointed to "customers frustrated with the limitations inherent in the platform," adding that owners among the 200,000 servers are reaching out to Speedware and HP. The Series i community has far fewer technical hurdles to overcome than HP 3000 sites who've seen their vendor shut down the lab and put its support team on notice. IBM has been working for the last 10 years to integrate the operating system and hardware with its Unix and Windows enterprise servers. Long ago, an AS/400 shop could use a server inside a Superdome-like configuration alongside Unix and Windows. HP cut the 3000 out of that kind of configuration a decade ago.

But there's plenty of opportunity among such a large system base that is edgy enough to start its own "preserve us" advocacy program. There's also a lot of common elements between the 3000 and the AS/400 base. A meeting of the COMMON user group feels like an Interex gathering of the late 1990s, except that many in the room are even older now. Seasoned veterans running mission-critical business apps don't change careers quickly or often.

Speedware lists the challenges to this group as "the mounting cost for maintenance; licenses and support of legacy systems; limited access to platform-compatible software products; the complexity in integrating AS/400 applications with other systems; and the increasing shortage and high cost of resources with experience in legacy applications." These sound like 3000 issues to us, albeit among a group with more critical mass than the 3000 ever had, times two.

One recent tool that might assist in the Speedware migration effort is its recent adoption of StrongHold. The software moves PowerHouse customers onto Java. IBM is very strong in its Java support, something that HP has not demonstrated to the same extent. But StrongHold has a great target in the PowerHouse AS/400 installed base. That's a customer base at Cognos without a scheduled end of support date, however. Plans for a long-term future, rather than the exits of vendors, could well be the chief factor in getting Big Blue sites to adopt HP.