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September 25, 2012

App design changes induce homesteading

At the e-commerce site Musical Fulfillment, ERP manager Chris McCartney would prefer to remain on the HP 3000 with an app which has been working well. But migration mandates at these kinds of satisfied sites are triggered by many things, including the loss of HP support or acquisitions by larger companies.

AMSLogoMusical Fulfillment has used the Ecometry application for more than 10 years. The company even moved up to the N-Class HP 3000s just a few years ago. "We were hoping to get a few more years out of it before we had to make a decision to upgrade or move to a different ERP system," McCartney said. Her firm is the parent company for musical suppliers such as American Music Supply.

"Personally I love HP 3000s," McCartney said. "They are sturdy, they run forever, and they are just one box with none of this load balancing across multiple servers."

The alternative path away from the 3000 induces changes, sometimes ranging beyond a new environment. It starts with a new vendor, in McCartney’s case. Red Prairie acquired Ecometry’s creators last year.

Accomodating a new vendor for your app induces change, but a shift in the product's designs through a replacement version can be more serious. It might be difficult to duplicate all software functions with a replacement package, even the Unix and Windows-based replacement from Red Prairie.

Customers want to carry their business rules and customized code to another platform. It can be tough if application changes have drifted away from the MPE designs. More than five years has elapsed since the vendor last cut Ecometry code crafted for MPE/iX.

One question to put to a vendor inducing a migration to a commodity replacement version: What have you got in software that's going to emulate the operations of our last MPE/iX release, for a minimal amount of change to my site's configuration? If you don’t like the answer, getting more years out of the 3000 is another plan.

Making a stand on MPE, or the 3000 hardware, poses a different challenge to delay a migration. One way to go is some kind of emulation, to get MPE/iX onto newer, non-HP 3000 hardware. AMXW, an emulated platform, lets a company move their MPE environment to a Windows, Linux or Unix host. The product creates a shell above the host hardware.

Another ploy to stay with an MPE application that's working well might be to deploy the MPUX software, from Ordina Denkart. (It's sold as part of the company's ViaNova 3000 solution.) MPUX is really meant for a move to  HP-UX. MPUX hasn't been moved forward to Windows 7 yet, and there's no mention of Windows 2008 on the Ordina Denkart website. Additionally, it would not be a good fit for an Ecometry client.

"Most Ecometry sites go to Windows," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "Therefore, MPUX is not a fit. Secondly, most Ecometry sites want to convert Suprtool, COBOL and JCL to native scripts."

Newer e-commerce solutions which run on other hardware platforms have licensing practices in place with application vendors. For something like the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator, an Ecometry Direct Commerce customer would need a license from Red Prairie to run Ecometry on it. This licensing for emulator is an area where the app vendors are waiting for customers who want to go to a 3000 hardware emulator.

Open Systems Ecometry looks to be the path of least change for an MPE Ecometry customer. Whatever ROI there might be could come from eaving the 3000 community (and its need for MPE IT skills) behind. At this point in the assessment, customers ought to ask themselves if they could hire someone to replace their MPE/iX experience.

However, the adoption of SQL Server or Oracle represents another significant change in using Open Systems Ecometry, plus new exposure to reporting tools which are unlike Cognos Quiz. 

At least Suprtool — also key surround code for Ecometry — runs on HP's Unix. Many more Ecometry sites have moved to Windows when they stayed with Ecometry. Suprtool is also within reach of running on Windows, because Robelle has made tech changes enable a new version for Linux, too. Some sites remain on watch for a more sensible package to replace Ecometry on MPE.

09:55 AM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink

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