HP's 3000 software practice once wide open
Eloquence smoothing UX-Linux migrations

Oracle serves Nordstrom's ex-3000 users

Nordstrom-shoppingEcometry e-commerce software once landed the HP 3000 some of its best-known customers. Store chains seen in shopping malls were also among 3000 owner ranks. One of the best-regarded retailers has replaced Ecometry when the company shut down its HP 3000. Both catalog and online sales were changed at Nordstrom. The beneficiaries of the multi-step move at Nordstrom were IBM and Oracle, but HP didn't get shut out completely.

Nordstrom-logoBob Thompson of Nordstrom's Sales Systems group said that the company's HP 3000 was used only for Ecometry processing. Triggered by HP's pullout of the marketplace, the retailer started to re-evaluate its e-commerce software along with the platform. Ecometry lost out to Sterling Commerce, a software provider which has become part of IBM. The software is listed under IBM's Selling Solutions.

Thompson said the company converted all of its Ecometry data to Oracle. The Sterling solution is running on Java, Oracle and Linux, but Oracle isn't a complete winner: There are a few Solaris boxes waiting to be replaced.

The migration started with a new COBOL program. Nordstrom wrote one to read its IMAGE/SQL data and convert it into XML. Then services were developed to use the Sterling APIs to add the data to Sterling's Oracle database. Nordstrom converted two years worth of data to import into the new software. Then even more Oracle embracing commenced. Nordstrom was not rewriting or doing a lift and shift migration. The strategy called for an application replacement and data migration.

"This part involved a direct conversion of all the Ecometry IMAGE datasets, for all time, to Oracle for historical reporting," Thompson said. "The initial COBOL conversion effort took close to a year," Thompson said, "plus another four months for the second part" to create the historical reporting facility. After leaving behind the HP 3000 and Ecometry and IMAGE, HP was left with a hardware assignment to fulfill at the company. But the Business Critical Systems, running Itanium, haven't been tapped from the HP product lineup.

"Originally, Solaris hardware replaced the HP 3000," Thompson said, "but now most of it is Red Hat Linux on HP hardware. Ecometry was all that was run on the HP 3000 here; warehousing has been done on the IBM AS/400, and other functions were done on IBM mainframes. But now all that's mostly Unix/Linux."

Choosing Oracle wasn't really the leading option in the decision process. Sterling's software uses the database. This is a typical way for Oracle to extend its reach into a migrating HP 3000 shop. Oracle is everywhere, but so is its reputation. Jeff Kell, working at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where HP 3000s are installed, says Oracle's got its baggage.

"Oracle is more of a third-party-requirement than an elective," he said. "If our applications ran on SQL Server --- for the ones that do, we typically take that route -- or MySQL, or anything else, we would avoid the pain."

But that kind of requirement brings in a database that can soon act as important as any operating system. Eloquence database creator Mike Marxmeier has said, "Being an Oracle user is really like being a user of an operating system, not a database."

Although Oracle now has a complete database-OS-hardware stack, just like the HP 3000 does, Kell said there's not much attraction for the Sun OS or hardware. "We have a similar aversion to Solaris for many of the same reasons as we now have an aversion to HP platforms," he said. "Java is unfortunately inevitable and something we do accept, even after the Sun/Oracle transition -- much as we still use HP's printers."