Over A Year Later, PL/I to Java Conversion a Winning Ticket
Recently, Modern Systems’ management made a trip to Canada to visit with partners and check in with customers, both current and past. A highlight of this visit was the positive feedback provided from the leadership team at Loto-Québec on the success of our PL/I to Java conversion. Hearing the customer validate the converted application made for a great end to a lengthy and complex migration.
Modernization of Critical Application Spurs Savings, Reduces Risk
Loto-Québec is a Québec government corporation whose mandate is to operate games of chance in the province in an orderly and measured way. It was created in 1969 to implement a public lottery and was the first agency to operate a terminal-based lottery sales network. Loto-Québec employs over 7,000 people and supplies over 10,000 retailers.
In February of 2011, the team at Loto-Québec was putting the finishing touches on a mainframe migration. However, one application remained that prevented Loto-Québec from being free of the mainframe. This application, which tracked distribution, ticket location, inventory and sales- was called ALEX. ALEX was an internal application, built in PL/I and running on an IDMS database. ALEX was used by several different departments at Loto-Québec. Despite it’s “mission-critical” designation, only one resource within Loto-Québec had the skills to maintain or update ALEX, permanently stalling development cycles. Furthermore, it was determined moving ALEX off the mainframe would save Loto-Québec over $500k annually in support and licensing costs.
Loto-Québec wanted ALEX to meet the company’s standard with a Java codebase working from Oracle Database. ALEX’s age, lack of documentation and mission-critical status made it an expensive and risky candidate for a rewrite. All business logic had to be present in the modernized application to meet business requirements. Therefore, Loto-Québec leveraged our Legacy Forensics service to quickly and accurately document ALEX’s technical inventory.
Upon completion of system inventory, minor scope changes were made and conversion work began. We worked with partners in Québec, AXON and WAZ Informatique. AXON handled test case development and validation, working side-by-side with users to build test cases in absence of proper documentation. We worked together to extract business rules and identify how they interacted with data, and built detailed test scenarios leveraging AXON’s Tester product.
The end result was a PL/I to Java conversion that met the goals of the customer- and created serious operational benefits.
PL/I to Java: Operational Benefits, Best Practices
The successfully converted ALEX application was delivered in Java with a 100% functionality match to the source version. This had an immediate cost savings impact and created several operational benefits. Loto-Québec now had enough resources to properly support and extend ALEX’s capabilities. They could also use Business Object tools for BI. “PL/I applications running on IBM mainframes are nearly always business-critical. It’s essential to provide a robust platform that helps organizations move applications with as few changes as possible,” says Rick Oppedisano, VP of Global R&D for Modern Systems. “Our products mitigate risk, which is the number one concern of CIOs interested in exploring how migration can benefit their organizations.”
We asked Loto-Québec to share what they thought was the best advice they could give another customer, based on ALEX’s conversion from PL/I to Java. Here were their top three:
- Make sure legacy system is properly inventoried
- Proper test case development is vital, automated testing adds LOTS of value
- Going in-depth with your Proof of Concept helps identify and properly prioritize issues earlier
It was great following up with the folks at Loto-Québec and hear their story. PL/I to Java is a complex modernization. They accomplished their goals and we added another “reference-able” customer.