User advice: have a spare CPU board ready
HP-UX to serve 10,000 college users by 2011

34 colleges start testing 3000 migration code

A team of four vendors led by Speedware has been helping 40 IT staffers at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges wean itself off 34 HP 3000s around the state. After the first year of planning and work, the principal delivery of millions of lines of migrated application code has been accepted.

The vision of moving this three-decade HP 3000 customer, a plan first conceived in 2003, is becoming real enough to test with users on the college campuses.

SBCTC now goes into user test mode for the next six months or so before it starts to power down the major 3000 applications that have supported higher education in the state since the 1980s. Bob Adams, director of the SBCTC's Portfolio and Project Management Office, has been managing HP 3000s since the start of that decade. He's now leading the group's efforts to move away from hardware HP will stop supporting in less than two months.

The biggest risk that prompted the move off the 3000 was parts availability, according to Adams. Several of the colleges use the Series 9x7 generation of servers, for example, hardware which HP stopped building in the 1990s.

Even while there were fewer parts available for these oldest 3000s at SBCTC, there was even less HP Unix experience on staff at the organization. Adams said the solution to embracing this new environment was to contract out support for HP-UX, learning it from lead migration contractor Speedware.

“We're in the process of mentoring our staff,” Adams said, “having them attend HP-UX training, and we contracted to hire someone very familiar with the HP-UX production environment.”

While the colleges' IT staff has been focusing its critical mass on the project, 3.7 million lines of code has been migrated by Speedware and its allied firms. MB Foster, ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software took significant roles in moving SBCTC away from a mix of Transact, Protos (a COBOL derivative), TurboIMAGE and older versions of Data Express reports. In place of each of these technologies came Transaction (built by ScreenJet to run Transact on non-3000 platforms), Micro Focus COBOL, the Eloquence database and MB Foster's UDALink reports -- the last re-engineered by the vendor in a new version to run Data Express reports on the latest HP Integrity servers.

Adams said that 50,000 of the reports run across the 34 campuses, multiple instances of similar reports customized for each college. More than 1,450 programs have passed testing by SBCTC, and the project is on schedule for complete implementation by May of next year.

SBCTC is moving swiftly to the point of testing because it already had 9,000 test instances created prior to starting the migration. IT staff had prepared the cases for a previous project which the colleges decided to restart. A new strategy was among the fundamental changes between migration efforts, Adams said.

“If the project is well-conceived to begin with , it has a good chance of being successful,” he said. “If you have the right team of people, if you have the right vendor it will be successful.”

Getting too ambitious in a first attempt will prevent that migration success. “It's got to be basic, simple, understandable,” Adams said. “Risks have to be determined and be realistic. Project management is common sense.”

The colleges' IT group will be converting 600 fundamental Data Express reports among its project tasks. 180 were converted at the start of this fall.