September 13, 2012, 12:59 PM — The Ohio Dept. of Public Safety has successfully moved its mainframe applications to a Windows-based system, and all the work was done in-house.
The decision to keep the work in-house prompted much debate and skepticism, but there was no ducking the question that the agency had to retire the mainframe technology that had long supported its most important operations.
The project began in 2007 and the switchover was completed in March of this year. The mainframe is now unplugged.
The mainframe had supported legacy code in applications that dated back to the 1980s.
There were about 2,000 programs running on the mainframe, about 50 of which no one knew anything about. As engineers retired, knowledge about many of the applications running on the mainframe was lost.
At the beginning, all of the migration options were daunting.
Rewriting everything to Microsoft's .Net programming language would be too expensive and would take too long, but staying on a mainframe was too expensive as well.
Bringing in consultants to handle a transition to Windows might have cost as much as $10 million, said Keith Albert, the chief of IT governance and strategic direction for the department.
Therefore, the department trained its staff of long-time mainframe veterans who had worked mostly in IBM Pacbase code. The migration involved .Net training and a move from moving a hierarchical to a relational database.
The agency spent some $250,000 on training, and hired a few contractors to augment the staff.
The core of the development team included about 30 IT staff members who, by Albert's count, spent about 84,500 person-hours on the project.
There was some skepticism about the project at the start.
Albert said IT officials found little information about successful migrations and that was disconcerting. "We couldn't find anything out there that said we were going down the right path," he said.
The lack of information made an impression on Albert, who wrote a paper detailing the steps taken during the agency's migration and the issues the development team and management dealt with. The 18-page paper was completed last month and was posted Thursday on the department's Web site.
The document is a compelling read, with details about the problem, the options, the internal debate and the lessons learned along the way.