Moving Britain's largest direct marketing bookseller from a mainframe to a Windows environment.
BCA (Book Club Associates) is Britain's largest direct marketing bookseller. It also has sister companies throughout the world, including the USA, Australia and most of Europe. BCA provides almost two million members with great prices on a wide range of quality books.
In March 2004, BCA decided to replace its current dispatch and logistics system, migrating these applications from a Fujitsu ICL mainframe to Windows. This implementation was required to coincide with a change of parcel carrier that was taking place at the start of July. The mainframe system was comprised of multiple functions, many of which had been replaced by SAP and a .NET-based solution.
However, this left key elements still not supported by the new system, including document production for new member and current member invoice production. Because these applications were critical to the day-to-day running of the business, BCA wanted to migrate these off the mainframe, which was costing BCA a six-figure-sum a year to run.
"The mainframe once ran all BCA's systems but this had been whittled down to just running the logistics and document production side of the business and this was clearly not sustainable or affordable going forward."
Due to the very tight timescales of this carrier change, and the need to have the new software working and producing documentation, BCA felt that it wasn't an option to rewrite these applications from scratch. However, the document production module is crucial to BCA's operations and so it was vital that the organisation found a low risk, cost effective and reliable solution quickly.
Due to the short timeframe that BCA had, the idea of reusing these systems rather than rewriting them emerged. This was reinforced by the fact that there was no business justification (in terms of required new functionality) for rewriting these programs – they simply needed to run on a different system.
To assist in the migration of these applications onto a new platform, BCA turned to Micro Focus and MigrationWare to supply a solution because of their experience in modernising legacy software and systems. MigrationWare was subsequently tasked to perform the migration of the applications off the mainframe.
"We have had good previous experience with Micro Focus in the UNIX world, and so we felt that working with these two organisations was an option that strongly warranted investigation," said Johnston.
MigrationWare used a set of Micro Focus products collectively known as Micro Focus Studio and Micro Focus Server, to port the applications to the new platform in line with its decision to run its WMW logistics platform on the same technology framework.
João de Oliveira, Sales Director at MigrationWare, says that the COBOL-based logistics and invoice document systems were integrated into the .NET-based system. Pre-existing ICL mainframe COBOL programs were converted to consume file output from BCA's Manhattan .NET warehouse management system and then enrich and reformat the data prior to its transfer to BCA's existing document composition application.
The main challenge of the migration for BCA was that the modules of code that were required by the document production applications were part of a totally integrated system on the mainframe which was being replaced by the organisation, piece-by-piece. Therefore, unpicking and converting a lot of the common routines and understanding what needed to be ported over from the mainframe posed significant challenges.
De Oliveira said that a critical component of this multi-faceted migration was automatically validating the success of the migration. MigrationWare’s Regression Manager was used to accomplish this.
"The migration tool provided a dynamic view of the runtime environment on the mainframe, identifying all components that interacted as part of the document production run. In addition, Regression Manager produced Windows batch scripts for the re-running of the migrated applications, as well as automatically comparing results to prove that no differences were produced by running the same jobs in the new environment.
"This tool was a key to validating the success of migrating from Fujitsu ICL to COBOL code and assured BCA that the migration would be successful. MigrationWare also provided their specialist Fujitsu ICL migration products and services, including the conversion of all SCL scripts, application programs and data," he says
Thanks to the migration, applications performance has been significantly improved. "The performance of Net Express has really impressed me," said Alison Richards, developer, BCA.
"The application used to take between 20 to 40 minutes to run on the mainframe. With the new system it takes just 20 seconds. This is a tremendous increase in productivity and also means that any backlog in orders can be quickly addressed. It’s good to have that peace of mind."
BCA has reduced costs significantly by eliminating mainframe leasing costs. In the first year, post implementation, BCA forecasts that it will make a 50 percent savings of £200,000 with a one-off upfront investment of £100,000.
The new solution reduced the risk involved in migrating as it enabled parallel testing with the old system throughout the process. This provided BCA with peace of mind and assured them that the new solution would work.
MigrationWare specialises in modernising legacy code and aging IT infrastructure by transforming and extending existing valuable investments in IT onto contemporary, open, more cost-effective environments or software languages. Through its commitment to automating the conversion and migration process, MigrationWare reduces to a minimum the costs and risks associated with IT rejuvenation projects.
MigrationWare and Micro Focus:
MigrationWare is a strategic partner of Micro Focus. MigrationWare's products supplement Micro Focus's offerings which are distributed by Micro Focus worldwide. MigrationWare also partners with Micro Focus on a number of international clients and distributes and supports Micro Focus software in Southern Africa.