MSD to 're-platform' Swiftt benefits system to Java

MSD plans to make the move using an Australian-developed "transformation engine" that will automate much of the switch-over

The legacy Swiftt social welfare benefits system and its companion beneficiary information system, Trace, will be transferred to a Java platform by early 2009.

The Ministry of Social Development plans to make the move using an Australian-developed “transformation engine” that will automate much of the switch-over, says the ministry’s CIO, Tim Occleshaw. The new system will have the same functionality as the old.

Swiftt (Social Welfare Information for Tomorrow Today) was developed in the mid-1990s for the then-Department of Social Welfare, using the Unisys Linc programming language. Trace was added later, to help combat benefit abuse.

Various options for upgrading or redeveloping the system were canvassed around 2003 and costed at between $78 million and $180 million. The cost of the “replatforming” exercise will be “a fraction of those figures”, Occleshaw says. He declines to give any closer estimate as “a number of commercially confidential arrangements are still to be concluded”.

It is also a “surprisingly low risk” option, he says, because of the automated translation and the decision not to change functionality. “The business case put to Cabinet demonstrates that [the exercise] will pay for itself several times over within the next five years,” he says.

To decrease risk further, there will also be a long parallel-running period, when the old systems will be kept alive in case of any problems with the new one. The ministry has already experimentally migrated parts of Trace into Java objects without difficulty, says Occleshaw.

The automatic migration tool is from Quipoz, which is based in Sydney. Quipoz claims it generates a set of business rules and other system documentation automatically, as well as new code.

As a first step, Quipoz says, the transformation engine checks the legacy code for redundant or inconsistent elements and then transforms it to an intermediary Wide Spectrum Language (WSL). This, in turn, is transformed to an industry-standard environment, which is usually J2EE, but .Net code can also be generated, says Quipoz.

The ministry’s transformation of the Swiftt and Trace code is expected to be completed within 18 months, says Occleshaw. Transformation into Java fits with a general policy to “go more mainstream” in applications, so as to exploit opportunities to interface with package software written to widely recognised standards, he says.

The ministry has also recently finished the main development stage of its client management system, based on the Irish package software suite Cùram. Deployment to regional offices and training courses is expected to occur by the middle of next year.

• A full interview with Occleshaw will appear in the December issue of CIO magazine.

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Tags javaMinistry of Social Developmentswiftt

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