Big-Iron Resurgence

When Groton, Massachusetts-based New England Business Service Inc. (NEBS) wanted to port its core applications from an older IBM S/390 mainframe to a distributed client/server environment, it needed help. The company needed help not only with the actual migration, but also with product selection and implementation strategy. NEBS, a multinational business-to-business direct marketer, turned to Beacon Application Services Corp., a software integration firm in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Beacon began by developing an enterprisewide project plan with NEBS that focused on the cross- functional impact of the change to a client/server applications suite--in this case, PeopleSoft Inc. products. Beacon, a PeopleSoft business partner since 1992, has helped more than 100 other customers migrate from mainframes to distributed computing. Consequently, the integrator was able to recommend and specify the server platforms NEBS ultimately selected.

Key to the platform-selection process was NEBS and Beacon's joint goal of transitional stability. "They're moving sensibly to new technology," explains Madeline Osit, vice president of operations for Beacon. "NEBS has an extremely high volume--10,000 orders per day-- and they don't want anything to interrupt customer service or make it difficult for customers to do business." Web-Based Business Processes To minimize disruptions, NEBS chose not to shed its IBM Corp. mainframe completely. Instead the company invested in an upgrade, the S/390 Enterprise Server, to maintain a stable environment for its front-end order-management and order-entry systems--mission- critical CICS (customer information control systems) applications custom-written by NEBS developers. "NEBS isn't just moving off the mainframe because it's the trendy thing to do," says Osit, who has been involved with the project since it began in November 1996. "They're still investing in the mainframe where it make sense but are moving applications off where that makes sense."

For NEBS the latter approach makes sense with general ledger, financials, and payroll applications. Beacon is converting these apps to the PeopleSoft environment in discrete stages. General ledger was the first completed, going live in July 1997 on Sun Microsystems Inc. servers running the Solaris operating system. Order management, billing, and accounts receivable were next up on the conversion list. Beacon is also doing business-processes consulting to maximize the PeopleSoft enterprise data model, and it is integrating NEBS's order-management and credit- management systems with the Web. The project is slated for completion in October 1999, and Osit is confident of realizing NEBS's vision of well-defined data and processes that will make the company more competitive in the next millennium.

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