Livestock firm makes big moove

While most of the country was enjoying the Easter break, a team at Livestock Improvement in Hamilton was working to put the company's Amdahl mainframe out to pasture.

While most of the country was enjoying the Easter break, a team at Livestock Improvement in Hamilton was working to put the company’s Amdahl mainframe out to pasture.

The long weekend was to be the climax of year-long Project Moove, which involved the migration of 130GB of dairy herd records from DB2 on IBM’s OS/390 to DB2 on Sun Solaris.

The database is fondly known as “the births, deaths and marriages register” of the dairy industry.

The aim, says IT general manager Les Christopher, is to carve $1 million from the company’s software licensing bill, rather than an upgrade for performance reasons.

“Software costs for OS/390 are horrendous,” says Christopher.

The saving comes from shifting the database to existing Solaris servers, supplemented by some additional Sparc-based machines.

“We won’t know for sure if we get a performance gain until we stress-test the database on Tuesday,” Christopher says.

The table-by-table data transfer was expected to take about 20 hours, and followed “many tests over many weekends”. If the process went awry, there were a number of points at which they could roll back to the mainframe, Christopher says. Testing during the weekend would establish that a clean data transfer had occurred.

“The worst-case outcome is that users won’t be able to access the database on Tuesday.”

The database is the core of Livestock Improvement’s business, containing records dating back to the mid-1980s on more than 20 million milking cows.

The data is accessed by about 250 people, while dairy farmers input fresh information by file transfer. The database was unavailable to farmers for updates during Easter.

Aside from shifting to a new DB2 platform, Project Moove has involved a massive rewrite of the company’s applications. Several hundred programs written in Cincom’s Mantis have been redone in Delphi and 650 Cobol-for-OS/390 programs have been converted to run on Solaris.

Christopher says the Mantis to Delphi rewrite has enabled 480 green-screen applications to be turned into a much more economical 60 programs, through the functionality of the Windows GUI.

“These are the applications used by our call centre for answering farmers’ queries.”

Moving the data and applications, which has occupied more than 30 IT staff, was brought forward a month to take advantage of Easter.

The Amdahl mainframe, meantime, has only been partially retired. Christopher says the machine was being shared fifty-fifty with Fonterra, which continues to run its BOSS stock control system on it.

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