Open Skies flies to a .NET transition
November 6, 2013
Mark Ranft has been reporting on choices being made by his Pro 3k consultancy to move airline transaction processor Navitaire off a farm of 35 HP 3000s, carefully and with precision. The application -- which began its life as IMAGE-MPE software in the 1990s -- has become New Skies, a shift from its Open Skies roots. Windows .NET is the platform of the future.
What remains of the 3000 farm is going up for sale, he noted in a posting at the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn. Asked why Windows and its .NET architecture is a suitable replacement for the MPE/iX operations that served major airlines, Ranft said that Windows, like MPE or Linux or HP-UX, is just a tool.
"The enterprise architect must understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the platform and design the application around them, Ranft told us when the migration was underway, some five years ago. "Sometimes this may mean you have large pools of mid-tier systems/application servers to make up for the lack of resiliency in the operating system. This could be compared to using the RAID concept for disk arrays. However, I fear that most enterprises will find the licenses, care and feeding of the numerous mid-term systems needed is far from being inexpensive. Keep in mind that MPE was never exactly cheap."
.NET has been popular for years, a way to apply the Windows environment with more complete application architecture for enterprises. But some of the latest advice about .NET seems to factor in the slowing speed of the Microsoft juggernaut. One writer has even called .NET a failed Microsoft business line, but IT managers who use the product say it's a good choice for Windows implementations.
Ranft has reported that the enterprise once known as Open Skies ran more than a dozen of the largest HP 3000s that Hewlett-Packard ever sold. Five years ago he said
We have 21 HP 3000s. Eighteen of them are the largest, fully-loaded N4000-4-750 systems you can get. We have migrations to Windows in various stages, but there is also a very real need for legacy data access after the migration. The alternative is to migrate all the data and all the archival history, and that can be costly.
.NET has been on the radar screens for 3000 migration since at least 2004. Back when Managed Business Systems was one of the four HP Platinum Migration partners, Rich Trapp said at an HP World presentation the environment may be involved if an organization chooses:
To port their applications, since some porting tools convert the existing applications into .NET. Tools from Unicon specialized in .NET while they were being used by 3000 sites doing a migration. Once inside the .NET framework, further enhancements may involve .NET development.
For the limited number of companies that choose to re-build their applications, they may be re-written or re- engineered in a .NET development environment.
To replace 3000 apps with off-the-shelf packages, which can mean adopting an implementation in a .NET development environment. After replacement, customizations and interfaces may best be written in .NET.
The development for all of these choices takes place in Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE. Like many transition choices from standard 3000 tools -- VPlus, COBOL II, 4GLs, DEBUG and the like -- stepping into Visual Studio means a serious increase in power, as well as a learning curve if a 3000 pro hasn't developed VB skills yet.
.NET adoption means that a staff will need to be up to speed on Visual Basic .NET, C# and SQL Server -- or another .NET-compatible database. There's also a need to get a scheduler working in the Windows world. Fortunately, a 3000-like scheduler has been available for Windows since 2010, from MB Foster. MBF-Scheduler has gained advanced reporting tools, explicit and fine-grained filters, and the same robust functionality as the MPE/iX job handling tools.
The primary difference between development in an HP 3000 environment and a .NET environment is the HP 3000 is geared toward procedural design, while .NET is geared toward object oriented design. Procedural design establishes procedures or steps as a sequence of commands, acting on data structures. With object oriented design, developers model real-world situations and business scenarios as objects that perform actions, have properties, and trigger events.
Even nine years ago, when .NET was much less entrenched, Trapp said that ".NET provides efficient development, well-structured applications; a large number of interfacing techniques and interfaces; and a large quantity of existing, re-usable source code."