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Zero-dollar prep cages Fanciers' migration

At the US Cat Fanciers' Association, Connie Sellitto needs help on a very small budget. The CFA got itself new leadership last year, top management that has voted its HP 3000 off the island. But at the moment it looks like the migration can't get off the sandy beach without a wireframe boat.

A wireframe what? Sellitto send a request to the 3000 community this week that asks for help finding a wireframe mapping tool to outline the 3000 system design that's been running CFA for more than 20 years. Wireframe is a term more often used in web page design projects, a way to outline everything that a page touches in a website. It's no wonder the term is in use there, since CFA's lead migration consultants are web designers by trade.

"CFA has just signed a contract to have a web-design company rewrite our entire business application on a Windows platform," Sellitto reported last month. "The timetable has been stretched from six months to something a bit more realistic, but as yet there are no firm dates. I have already met with the project manager of this formidable undertaking, and expect that I will be acting as 'technical coordinator' for CFA."

The most immediate need at CFA is for a wireframe application, of zero cost, to identify all of the 3000 apps and allied tools and databases. Sellitto needs to provide to the web designers a map of "several IMAGE databases, as well as the 350-plus COBOL programs that feed them. This will be used by the contractors who are planning our imminent migration off the HP 3000. I have already sent copies of the schema files, source code, COPYLIB layouts, and so forth."

On a zero-budget, can you recommend any software which might be of help to me? Otherwise, I'll be using QUERY or ADAGER to create copies of the schemas, capturing screen shots of all applications using Reflection and/or MS92, and fluffing up our text-based documentation.

"Our Board is determined to get the migration underway," Sellitto reported last fall. "I have therefore spent a considerable amount of time educating CFA's IT Committee as to the uniqueness (and great reliability) of the HP 3000 system, researching options, having demos and discussions with migration solutions partners, getting quotes, etc. and still handling the day-to-day issues that arise, as I'm the only staffer on the HP 3000."

One 3000 manager recommended a website with a roundup of 10 free apps that will do wireframes, but most of these turn out to be far better matched for web designers than application/systems architects. Speckyboy Design Magazine describes wireframe as follows.

A wireframe is a visual illustration of one Web page. It is meant to show all of the items that are included on a particular page, without defining the look and feel (or graphic design). It’s simply meant to illustrate the features, content and links that need to appear on a page so that your design team can mock up a visual interface and your programmers understand the page features and how they are supposed to work.

Such an apparent disconnect on specs can arise from misunderstanding how much a 3000 does to run an organization. Sellitto is still working hard to see an impact from her reports about databases and other un-webby elements at CFA.

A major consideration is the data itself, as we have several TurboIMAGE databases which will be converted to SQL Server. I had recommended that CFA (or their designated IT consultant) contract with an HP-specific knowledgeable vendor, so the data and various links would be preserved. To date, I have not been informed as to the status of that plan. The actual business logic? That's another story -- I've been updating and fleshing out our documentation, but it's my understanding that our current Board may be revising policy and procedures as part of this migration.

As of this week, CFA's plans will permit a new consulting company to manage the entire IT operation, with regard to web interface and background processing. CFA plans to employ a network administrator in-house, but actual programming changes will be done by the consultant.

Sellitto, whose IT roots go back into the 1970s, said the situation "reminds me of a migration I took part in back in the early 1980s, where the small bank at which I worked as programming manager was assimilated into a holding company. Our IT philosophy was "make the computer system do whatever management policies dictate," but theirs was "buy an off-the-shelf system that meets 80 percent of your needs, then change your policies to match the other 20 percent."

Sellitto is expecting "an interesting year." And if you've got an idea on how to "wireframe" an HP 3000's system architecture on a zero budget, she would love to talk to you. Soon, as she reports she's got a deadline of the Ides of March to deliver this first map for the migration.