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Ancor migrates from IBM mainframe to Windows

Faced with the prospect of running two separate platforms, Michigan-based Ancor decided to migrate from an IBM mainframe to Windows boxes.

Ancor IT director Kelly Colohan had a decision to make. Informed by IBM that it would no longer support MVS 2.10, the operating system he was running on his mainframe, Colohan had two choices. He could either stick with Big Blue by buying a new mainframe, or bump his ancillary servers up to the varsity and migrate.

For Colohan, running two separate platforms -- one on the network, one on the mainframe -- just didn't make sense anymore, especially since he believed migration would eventually prove more cost-effective.

The reason people switch from the mainframe to Windows is that the cost difference is quite large. But in moving mainframe applications over to Windows, there are technological hurdles to overcome.
Ron Langer
languages group senior directorFujitsu

So Colohan took the 24 servers he already had, added six more and left IBM and its 2003-205 mainframe behind.

Ancor, a Troy, Mich.-based print and production company that provides outsourcing for companies such as Ford Motor Co. and AAA, is a week away from finishing a year-long migration to Windows. The company, which specializes in offering customer communication tools such as database marketing/management, statement processing and direct mail, as well as a suite of eSolutions, added six Microsoft servers to its existing 24 boxes -- 70% of which are Compaq servers, the rest Dell -- and a new storage area network (SAN).

The revamped network will run on Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2000 operating systems.

"The first benefit obviously will be cost, just reducing the amount I'm spending on technology," Colohan said. "The other benefits go straight to our customers. With the new platform, we will be more able to create and deploy solutions for them. The quicker I can develop custom solutions for them and get them to market the better."

According to Colohan, running two different platforms presented the challenge of maintaining a staff with two different skill sets: COBOL JCL with DBS on the mainframe side and Visual Basic .NET framework with SQL Server on the network side. He also didn't want to get locked into a three-year mainframe agreement with IBM, which is standard when purchasing a new mainframe from Big Blue.

Futijsu Software Corp. provided the tools Ancor needed for the migration, and spent a week training Ancor's IT staff on using the tools, as well as the differences between the mainframe and Windows.

According to Ron Langer, a languages group senior director with Fujitsu, reliable tools are the key to making sure a migration goes smoothly and to ensuring an organization is able to realize the fiscal benefits that drove the decision to migrate in the first place.

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"The general reason people switch from the mainframe to Windows is that the cost difference is quite large. But in moving mainframe applications over to Windows, there are some technological hurdles to overcome," Langer said. "Our tools) help solve those issues."

Ancor used NetCOBOL, a migration tool from Fujitsu that takes COBOL from the mainframe and moves it onto the network without changing the source code. Using this tool, programs can be backed up and running in minutes.

The migration wasn't without its kinks, however, as NetCOBOL had trouble meshing with Ancor's specific needs early on. But Colohan and Fujitsu's development staff came up with the necessary patches and it was smooth sailing from there.

"It went well. There were some bumps in the road, but I planned on them," Colohan said. "We were able to get around them and keep going."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

This article originally appeared on

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