Developers: Up with iOS, down with HTML5

A survey of developers shows that their interest is in iOS, while Android and Windows 8 get mixed reviews

A just-released survey of more than 5,000 developers put another massive dent in in HTML5’s reputation as a development platform for mobile apps, locking in its reputation as one of the most overhyped technologies in years. Apple, though, still shines in the hearts of developers. Android? Not so much.

In the most recent quarterly survey of its own developer base, mobile application development platform vendor Appcelerator found widespread dissatisfaction with nearly every key feature of HTML5. (IDC conducted the actual survey.) Developers dissed the user experience, performance, monetization, fragmentation, distribution control, timeliness of new updates, and security. That covers pretty much the whole HTML5 app gamut.

[ Go deep into HTML5 programming in InfoWorld’s “HTML5 Megaguide Deep Dive” PDF how-to report. | Then understand the issues surrounding HTML5 today in InfoWorld’s HTML5 Deep Dive PDF strategy report. ]

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It’s worth remembering that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said that his biggest mistake to date was betting so heavily on HTML5, and so he’s moving the company to native code. Whether that’s really a blow to open standards isn’t yet clear. But given the enormous gravitational pull of Facebook, there’s no doubt that the move blew a huge hole in the future of HTML5. (My colleague Andrew Oliver has a very different view, saying Facebook blew it by not hiring enough top-notch developers.)

The only HTML5 features that earned a thumbs-up were cross-development capabilities and immediate updates, liked by a few points more than 80 percent of the respondents.

Michael King, Appcelerator’s head of developer relations, says there is a future for HTML5, but it will be with a limited class of applications. Things like forms and other apps with a low degree of interaction are appropriate, he says, but not immersive and interactive apps. They demand a native environment to have the performance, look and feel, and easy access to native features.

Apple, yes; Android and Windows 8, maybe
Apple maintained its dominance at the top of developers’ lists for mobile app development this quarter, with 85 percent of developers very interested in building apps for iOS smartphones and 83 percent similarly focused on iPad apps.

The survey was conducted in August, weeks before iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 were launched, so developers were unaware of the Apple Maps app fiasco. At the time of the survey, the iOS features developers said they were most looking forward to using were Apple Maps (37 percent) and enhanced Siri (22 percent). Despite the Apple Maps problem, “the massive numbers of applications that interface with or use Google Maps, such as Yelp and Facebook, will now rapidly migrate to Apple’s new mapping function, leaving Google a much smaller audience for Google-sponsored ads and Google information,” King says.

Android, though, did not fare well. Developer interest as measured by the survey has declined for three of the last four quarters. It appears that just under 66 percent of developers are very interested in developing for the Android tablet platform, and 76 percent for the Android smartphone platform. Google’s inability to curtail Android’s massive fragmentation, even with “Ice Cream Sandwich,” has forced developers to focus on the iPad as the leading tablet platform and on the iPhone first for smartphone apps,” King says.

10 Tips and Tricks for iOS 6

Learn how a few special secret buried in iOS 6, as well as a couple of the most important features of Apple’s new operating system.

Maybe you’ve installed Apple’s iOS 6, the newest operating system for iPhones, iPad, and iPod touch, but do you know about all the tricks that are inside and how to use them?

Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 6, may have sparked a fury of Internet hate for the new Maps app, and I certainly won’t wag my finger at anyone who misses Google’s engine behind the Maps app, but plenty more goodies are tucked away in iOS 6 that you shouldn’t miss.

Here are ten of the best features and how to use them.
1. Swipe up to reply to incoming calls with a text message. Maybe you heard that when a call comes in, you can now reply with a text message instead of just declining the call. But these options don’t appear automatically. You have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal them.

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2. Customize your text replies to declined calls. The feature that lets you turn down phone calls but reply with text message allows you to use a canned message for added convenience. A few options appear when you swipe up, as mentioned in the first tip. To change what they pre-written texts say, go to

Settings > Phone > Reply with Message.

You can now customize your one-touch replies.

3. Learn how to work the Do Not Disturb option. A new feature called Do Not Disturb appears in the settings, but it’s nothing more than an on/off switch. Where can you set the hours for quiet time, or make it so that calls from emergency contacts come through? Oddly, these choices fall under the Notifications area. Go to

Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb.

The Scheduled button lets you define the hours when you don’t want to be disturbed. The Allow Calls From button just below it launches a new screen where you can exclude people from your do-not-disturb list.

4. Attach photos and videos to email in the Mail app. Formerly, using the mail app was occasionally a pain. You’d compose a message, remember that you wanted to send the recipient a photo, too, and realized you couldn’t actually attach anything to the draft. Now you can. In an email draft, press a hold anywhere in the body. In landscape mode (holding the phone horizontally), list of options will appear, including one to insert a photo or video. If you’re in portrait or vertical mode, just press the arrow button that appears until you see the right choice.

5. Read in full-screen mode. News articles, blogs, and other text-heavy pages, when viewed on an iPhone especially, cause squinting and more pinching, zooming, panning than most people feel comfortable doing. When Safari detects a text-heavy page in iOS 6, it supplies a button called Reader at the top right of the URL bar, which reformats the page in a full-screen and easier-to-read layout. You’ll also notice a “share out” or “send to” button (curved arrow) in Safari with a lot of great option beneath it also worth exploring. They’re mostly not new to iOS 6, but they do appear in a newly designed interface.

6. Pass your iPad or iPhone to friends without worrying they’ll get nosy. I admit that I’ve hesitated in the past before passing my mobile devices around to friends to let them look at photos or something that made me giggle on Facebook. The larger the group of friends, the more suspicious I am that someone might take liberties with my device when I’m not looking. The same is true, I’m sure, for parents who let their kids play with their iPhone or iPad. Guided Access, new to iOS 6, lets you lock down your device so that only the app you open can be used, and no other functionality works until you enter a unique four-digit passcode. It’s a little tricky to find and set up.

First, go to

Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access.

Toggle the switch to on and set a passcode. When you want to use Guided Access, just open the app of choice, and triple tap the home button. Be sure to hit the start button at the top right. But wait, there’s more (see the next tip).

7. Disable buttons in apps (in Guided Access). When you enable Guided Access in an app—which locks users from going into any other app or areas of the phone—you can also disable parts of the screen. For example, if you turn on Guided Access in the Photos app, you can also use your finger to circle parts of the screen you want to disable, such as the top row of buttons so that one can look through your other albums. Just be sure to hit the Start button in the top right corner before handing over your device!

8. Share Photo Stream. Apple’s syncing service, iCloud, handles images with speed and good responsiveness. But it was never easy to share your pictures until iOS 6 came along. To share your Photo Stream images, go to the Camera app and press Photo Stream. Then hit the plus button in the upper left, which will open a screen where you can fill information about how to share your Photo Stream, whether with a select few individuals, or by making it public on your iCloud account.

9. Learn what the new Privacy button means (and use it). A new Privacy button under Settings comes with little explanation. Tap it, and you might not know what information it’s even telling you because there are no instructions or explainers. Here’s what it does: Privacy shows you apps that can talk to other apps, and whether they are. For example, my Twitter app talks to my Flipboard app. I enabled that integration, and I’m okay with it. But if I didn’t remember allowing it, or wanted to shut it off, I can do so in the Privacy area with one quick motion. This feature gives you very good ability to quick ability to turn off any app-to-app sharing that you don’t want and you might have forgotten existed. So if you don’t want Facebook to know where you are, check the Location Services section of your Privacy buttons, and you can flip the switch off lickety-split.

10. Customize native Facebook alerts. A big new feature in iOS 6 was the direct folding in of Facebook functionality, meaning you can share to Facebook a picture from your Camera app or a link from Safari without ever opening the Facebook app itself. It works similar to the baked-in Twitter functionality that was new to iOS 5. What many users may overlook, however, is the ability to customize your Facebook chat and message alerts, separate from the Facebook app as well. They’re found under

Settings > Facebook > Settings.

Of course, you can also add Facebook alerts to your Notification Center, but that feature isn’t new (it’s under Settings > Notifications, and then scroll down until you find Facebook in your list of apps).

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Today, there is one idea that is transforming how we conduct business that idea is e-operations. 1995 Microsoft steps into the web browsers market, releases internet Explorer version 1.0.The question becomes one of determining which data to use. Better result might require simplifying design and operations, even as our techniques for handling complex phenomena improve.




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However, getting the certification is not a simple or easy process. There are seven different MCITP exams that must be taken in order to certify you as a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist. Each MCITP exam must be passed in order to secure the certification. Once you pass the seven MCITP exams, you have the MITP certification for life, and may even apply it towards future certifications from Microsoft that are eligible. There are some wonderful study aids that you can use for the MCITP exam. One of my favorite is the Cert kingdom MCITP Certification MCITP Testing Engine. Not only does the MCITP Testing Engine cover each MCITP exam in mind numbingly explicit detail, but it will also give you practice MCITP exams to help check your readiness levels for each MCITP exam, Best MCITP Training via Testing Engine some features are listed below. * Live Realistic practice MCITP exams * Live Virtual MCITP exam environment * Live Practice MCITP exam environment * Mark unanswered Q&A * Free Life Time Updates * Realistic simulations of practice exams * 100% Success Guaranteed * Mail your MCITP exams results * Re-examine the unanswered Q&A * Make your own MCITP exam scenario (settings) * Get you’re self completely prepared for real MCITP exam * Included in Life Time Membership. The job marketplace of the IT industry, and for that matter all other industries too is becoming tougher and stricter, with no space left for compromises. Companies want to hire the best of professionals. This stands even more true and apt in case of the IT industry because every day, there are new challenges coming up, and there is a need for smart and efficient people who can deal with all obstacles effectively. The industry is growing at a fast rate, and only few have the ability to manage with all kinds of situations. To confirm that you are among the cream of the lot, Microsoft brings the MCITP certification.

MCITP stands for Microsoftcertification informational technology professional. With this certification, you will be able to show technical expertise in a variety of tasks which include Windows Operating System, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft Visual Studio. The MCITP certification ensures that you gain both practical as well as theoretical knowledge. This kind of training helps in knowing and understanding the basic concepts well, and also helps to know their practical application. The MCITP guarantee is for fine-tuning quite a number of skills that you already know; which is precisely the reason why the candidate profile demands at least one to two years of experience in installing, configuring, troubleshooting, building and debugging of any one Microsoft Technology.

Speed Testing Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion

Speed Testing Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion
The two latest and greatest desktop operating systems are now ready to go head-to-head against each other in performance tests.

Windows 8 has reached its “release to manufacturing” (RTM) state, and Apple’s Mac OS X Mountain Lion has been out for a few months, so now’s the time to pit the two new operating systems’ performance against each other. Even though each OS is in its final state, there are still a few caveats: the tests were run on an Apple laptop, since it’s not feasible to install Mountain Lion on anything but Apple hardware. This means that Apple gets the advantage of tuning the OS precisely to the hardware configuration. Windows, by comparison, must run on a huge array of different hardware combinations from many vendors.

I tested by installing 64-bit Windows 8 RTM on a 13-inch MacBook Pro (a 2012 2.9GHz Core i7 with 8GB RAM) using Boot Camp. The setup process was pretty smooth, though I’d imagine that not all the Windows hardware drivers were perfectly tuned for the MacBook. Nevertheless, the system was snappy and responsive running Windows 8. And as you’ll see in the results below, the emerging OS can hold its head high on several measures of performance.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion Windows 8 RTM
Startup (seconds, lower is better) 26.9 19.6
Shutdown (seconds, lower is better) 5.5 11.9
CD Ripping in iTunes (min:sec – lower is better) 3:42 3:47
Geekbench 2.2 64-bit score (higher is better) 8706 10068
Geekbench 2.2 32-bit score (higher is better) 7918 7549
SunSpider in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 167 158
SunSpider in Safari/IE10 156 105
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 2510 2301
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Safari/IE10 (ms, lower is better) 2427 4352
Psychedelic Browsing in Firefox (RPM, higher is better) 1062 5709
Psychedelic Browsing in Safari/IE10 (RPM, higher is better) 3645 7224
Large file folder copy (seconds, smaller is better) 23.2 26.6
*Green cells denote the winner.

Startup and Shutdown
One of the most important gauges of speed in a computer is how long it takes to start up and be ready. This is probably one of the main reasons the iPad is so successful—it’s just there and ready to go, no need to wait for a boot process, usually. Not quite as critical, but nevertheless important is the time it takes the computer to shut down. I tested start by timing from the click of the disk boot choice to a functional home screen, with no wait spinner spinning.

For shutdown, I started the timer at the moment of hitting the Shut Down choice, and stopped it when the laptop’s fans went silent. I went through iterations for each, throwing out the high and low results and averaging the remaining five. The surprise here is that Windows 8 starts up significantly faster on a MacBook than OS X Mountain Lion does, though the latter shuts down in half the time of Windows 8. But note that hitting the power button puts Windows 8 into sleep mode, which happens pretty much instantly.

iTunes Ripping Test
A popular app used in both OSes is Apple’s iTunes, and I used this to measure how long ripping a CD (Buena Vista Social Club, to be exact) took in each OS. This test didn’t show much difference between the two OSes, with Lion coming in a scant 5 seconds quicker. It took Windows 8 3:47 to rip the 60-minute disc to 256Kbps M4A tracks, while Lion took 3:42. This one is pretty much a wash, though OS X gets a tiny advantage.


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Synthetic Benchmark: Geekbench
Geekbench 2.3, from Primate Labs, is a cross-platform benchmark that runs a series of geeky tests like prime number, Mandelbrot, blowfish encryption, text compression, image sharpen and blur, and memory stream test. The subtests comprise both single- and multithreaded applications. The results are normalized so that a score of 1,000 is the score a Power Mac G5 1.6GHz, so a higher number is better.

I ran both the 32-bit and 64-bit tests in Geekbench three times and took the average for each OS. Though it’s mostly designed to test hardware, it can at least show us whether the OS is getting in the way of accessing the hardware quickly. The result for this benchmark surprised me, with Windows 8 in 64-bit mode taking the crown, delivering a score of 10068 compared with Mountain Lion’s 8706. In the 32-bit version of the test Mac OS S Mountain Lion was actually a bit faster, with a score of 7918 compared with 7549 for Windows 8.

Web Benchmarks
To test with a few popular Web browser benchmarks, I installed Mozilla Firefox on both operating systems so that the browser engine would be less likely to determine the results. But since a case could be made for using the OS’s native browser, I ran the benchmarks in Safari on OS X Mountain Lion and Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8, too.

The SunSpider JavaScript benchmark is a heavily used measure of a browser’s JavaScript performance, put out by the WebKit organization, which, by the way, makes the rendering engine for Apple’s Safari. Results on this test was comparable with all setups, hovering in the high 150s—with one big exception: It was significantly faster on Internet Explorer under Windows 8, which consistently delivered results closer to 100 milliseconds.

Mozilla’s Kraken 1.1 is another JavaScript benchmark, which the open-source browser maker says represents a more realistic workload. Both OSes were close when running Firefox, with a slight advantage to Windows 8. But when running the native browsers, Windows 8’s IE10 fell far behind Mountain Lion’s Safari 6.

A final browser benchmark, Psychedelic Browsing, from Microsoft’s IE Testdrive site, is designed to test graphics hardware acceleration of Web content. Microsoft has done a ton of work on this acceleration technology, and it shows in the results, using both Firefox and the native browsers.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion Windows 8 RTM
Startup (seconds, lower is better) 26.9 19.6
Shutdown (seconds, lower is better) 5.5 11.9
CD Ripping in iTunes (min:sec – lower is better) 3:42 3:47
Geekbench 2.2 64-bit score (higher is better) 8706 10068
Geekbench 2.2 32-bit score (higher is better) 7918 7549
SunSpider in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 167 158
SunSpider in Safari/IE10 156 105
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 2510 2301
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Safari/IE10 (ms, lower is better) 2427 4352
Psychedelic Browsing in Firefox (RPM, higher is better) 1062 5709
Psychedelic Browsing in Safari/IE10 (RPM, higher is better) 3645 7224
Large file folder copy (seconds, smaller is better) 23.2 26.6
*Green cells denote the winner.

File Copy Test

For this one, I took a folder containing 20 files weighing in at 636MB, and simply timed how long it took to copy it from a fast USB thumb drive (a 16GB Corsair Flash Voyager GT) to the MacBook running Windows 8 and then Mountain Lion. As when I compared Windows 7 with Windows 8, the operation took a few seconds longer in Windows 8. A Microsoft representative explained to me that this is because “in Windows 8, each file transfer is scanned to ensure there is no malicious code, which takes a little longer but is a better and safer experience for users.”

Windows 8 vs. Mountain Lion
This is hardly an exhaustive comparison of every kind of performance measurement you could want to compare operating systems. And indeed with (in most cases) different software running on each, it’s hard to make direct, apples-to-apples comparisons. But the results do show that, say what you like about features and interface, Windows 8 can hold its head high next to Apple’s newest desktop operating system when it comes to performance. In particular, I was impressed with how quickly Windows 8 started up on my test MacBook, and with its remarkably faster Geekbench (64-bit) and SunSpider (in IE10) performances. And anecdotally, Windows 8 feels snappy. Speed is one thing you won’t have to worry about with Microsoft’s next big operating system.

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Mountain Lion, as you’d expect, doesn’t feel like any kind of slouch running on a Core i7 MacBook, either. And you could argue that you’d expect the rich environment of OS X to require more processing than the primary-color simple interface of Windows 8. This is especially true for startup, which has to load more of the rich OS’s features. Mountain Lion’s shutdown time is half that of Windows 8 running on the same machine, and on an independent JavaScript benchmark, Mozilla Kraken, its Safari browser beats Windows 8’s IE10. Finally, Mountain Lion’s faster file-transfer time will be magnified for truly large amounts of data, too.

For more Mountain Lion and Windows 8 comparisons, read Windows 8 vs. OS X Mountain Lion: Feature by Feature, and for deep dives into the operating systems’ features, read our review of Mountain Lion and hands on with Windows 8.

Microsoft, RIM Enter Licensing Agreement Ahead of BlackBerry 10

Microsoft and RIM have signed a licensing agreement that allows the BlackBerry to use technology for transferring audiovisual files between a desktop and mobile devices.

Microsoft and Research In Motion have entered into a patent-licensing agreement that extends Microsoft’s Extended File Allocation Tablet—known as exFAT, which, even more fun, is the predecessor of an earlier FAT system—to select BlackBerry smartphones.

exFAT, Microsoft explained in a Sept. 18 statement, is a modern file system that facilitates the transfer of large audiovisual files between a desktop and mobile devices.

“Today’s smartphones and tablet require the capacity to display richer images and data than traditional cellular phones,” David Kaefer, general manager of Intellectual Property Licensing at Microsoft, said in a statement. “This agreement with RIM highlights how a modern file system … can help directly address the specific needs of customers in the mobile industry.”

The deal also offers a reminder that—oh, yes!—while Apple, Nokia, Motorola, Amazon and others announce products that will see them through the holiday shopping season, RIM continues to work on the upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform and smartphones that it won’t introduce until early 2013. Speaking with London’s Telegraph in August, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins narrowed that timeline a bit, promising smartphones in January.

Heins stepped into the CEO role in January and soon after began remaking the company, cutting thousands of staff positions to save money, slimming down the executive staff—he replaced RIM’s two CEOs and was one of at least two COOs at the company. Heins also announced that RIM would become a leaner, meaner company, focusing intently on exactly what it does best and leaving all the rest to partners.

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“I’m not going to develop games anymore, i’m not going to develop maps—there’s a company out there that really can do it better than I can,” Heins told eWEEK during a private interview Aug. 14. “So, I need to partner, I need to get [developers] on board, and I need to get them a great programming interface, and off we go.”

Heins promised that in addition to RIM’s expected enterprise features, BlackBerry 10 will also offer a very strong consumer experience—which is where exFAT may help out.

RIM’s agreement with Microsoft seems one more example of the company knowing when to look beyond its Waterloo, Ontario, headquarters for help. Even when the help comes from a direct competitor.

RIM is said to be in competition with Microsoft and its largest handset partner, Nokia, for the coveted third position on the mobile podium—if such a thing exists. While analysts have reported that the wireless carriers want and will aggressively support a third mobile platform, against which they might balance the expenses of the Apple iPhone and high-end Android handsets—others say there’s no longer room for a third party.

“Ninety-eight percent of [the mobile market] will be shared by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS,” Global Equities Research analysts wrote in a Sept. 13 research note. “There will not be any third spot left. Nokia, Microsoft and RIM will struggle in the remaining 2 percent of the market.”

RIM, like Nokia, was once a dominant mobile player and is working to regain market share from Apple and Android.

Heins remarked on a Canadian radio program earlier this summer, “I am positive that when we launch BlackBerry 10, there will be huge support from our carrier partners, from our enterprise customers and that we will eemerge—specifically in the U.S. and in Canada—and a very strong player…”

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Quick Windows Server 2012 tips

With the launch of Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012, enterprises should look for better management and an option that can squeeze more performance out of every physical server, according to an IT certification expert.

Server 2012, which became generally available this week, enables automation for certain server tasks that can cut the time it takes to configure servers by automating the process and save money by freeing up time for the most skilled admins to do other work,

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The higher skilled workers can now create automations via Power Shell, Jones says, leaving them with more time free to accomplish strategic tasks. At the same time, automating processes makes it possible for lower level admins to oversee automated tasks. That gets the tasks done faster and also reduces errors that can be introduced when these chores are done manually.

“It makes them more productive and less dangerous,” he says.

Some of this management could entail clicking a single button on 50 different servers, Jones says, something that can be done centrally in much less time.

Also in Server 2012, admins can knock off the graphical user interface from server software, turning devices into simple servers, Jones says. Tools for setting up Active Directory or DHCP servers, for example, would reside on a client, not the server itself.

Lopping the GUI off the server reduces the load on the server CPU, he says, which in some cases can be a significant reduction, citing an extreme case with an actual customer in which the business was able to squeeze 40% more virtual servers on a single host. “It’s a lot of overhead. I think that’s what most folks don’t realize,” he says.

Removing the GUI requires a single uninstall command and reboot. Jones recommends doing this on a virtual machine and testing whether the server works well with the client-side interface. He says the preferred platform for System Center and SQL Server is a GUI-less server.

Server 2012 also has support for blending in resources from traditional data centers, private clouds and public clouds, but these are options. If they aren’t useful to a particular business, they don’t have to be used, he says.

“All businesses will do it eventually,” for at least some servers, Jones predicts, “unless there is a major, major reason to hold all resources in-house.”

Mainframe to Windows in just 84,500 person-hours

Ohio government agency said $1 million in annual mainframe MIPS charges had become too much to bear

Computerworld – The Ohio Department of Public Safety 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 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 website.

The document is a compelling read, with details about the problem, the options, the internal debate and the lessons learned along the way.

The title of the paper — Exodus Project – Pigs Really Do Fly! — is a remark made by a staff member who, early on, thought the project was impossible.

The agency’s Unisys ClearPath Dorado mainframe had operated dependably for many years and was running more than 2,000 programs. However, the model the agency owned had reached its end of life and it had to be replaced by this year.

Albert said he would have stayed on the mainframe for several more years if Unisys had extended the product’s life and cut its MIPS charges, which were running about $1 million a year. The agency paid an additional $200,000 in maintenance fees.

The high MIPS (millions of instructions per second) charges and the fact that the hardware was reaching the end of the line were grating for Albert.

He compared the situation to “owning a car that runs fine, but there is only one place you can buy gas for the car and that gas station refuses to sell any more gas for the car after that X date.”

“There was no reason why we couldn’t use the mainframe another five years,” said Albert. The latest machine had been installed in 2001 but was actively maintained by adding fiber cards, I/O processors and I/O channels, as needed.

But there were other motivations for migrating off the mainframe. One was its Pacbase code. Working with it was becoming increasingly difficult as veteran staffers retired. “There are very few Pacbase programmers in the world anymore,” said Albert.

There was skepticism internally about whether the legacy code could run as reliably on a Windows platform as it did on the mainframe — if it could run at all. But with about 30% of the IT staff eligible for retirement in three years and 50% eligible in five years, a migration was all but inevitable.

The agency will still need Pacbase skills for years to come, but the long-term plan is to rewrite the 2 million lines of legacy code for a .Net environment. “As long as my Pacbase programmers stick around long enough to keep things running, my .Net programmers can rewrite it,” he said.

Albert’s paper outlines some of the struggles faced by the development team.

There “was no expert judgment available or models to follow,” wrote Albert. The initial work could have been completed more quickly “had the decision to re-platform not been repeatedly debated.”

Albert also made note of the “valleys of despair” the team faced along the way, and he included a list of lessons learned.

Despite its challenges, the team had executive sponsorship throughout the project.

Users were also engaged. “The users were more confident with the change because the re-platforming approach meant the same code was executing, and that meant very few errors occurred,” wrote Albert.
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There were issues related to the code. There was no inventory of 5% of the code, and there were about 50 programs running that no one knew anything about. The people responsible for them had long since left the organization.

Some of the issues were overcome by using a Fujistu compiler that worked with Pacbase and allowed the legacy code to execute in a Windows environment.

The department sought bids for x86 systems. It selected Unisys ES7600 servers.

If Unisys had backed off on the need for MIPS charges, Albert said “we would have a much different conversation.”

MIPS charges have been a longstanding approach in the mainframe market, according to Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT. As onerous as the charges may seem, “the vast majority of mainframe owners don’t seem to have a problem it,” said King.

Vendors argue that the mainframe is such a unique technology “that it deserves a unique kind of sales, service and maintenance model,” said King.

Unisys, in a written response to a query about Ohio’s migration, said the department “made its decision to transition off of its ClearPath system before Unisys introduced the new NextGen platforms and modernization technology.”

“Evolving the ClearPath line to a common Intel-based architecture has enabled Unisys to improve price/performance options for our clients and reduce maintenance costs to levels comparable to those for other Intel-based platforms,” Unisys said.

The mainframe and the Windows servers ran in parallel for three and a half months before the switch became permanent.

In the end, Albert estimates that the project will save the agency between $7 million and $10 million over the next five years.


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