Transition from 32-bit Technology to 64-bit: Are Database Vendor Changes Forcing You to Upgrade?

“Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,“ is the mantra of many successful IT managers. Their goal is simple: minimize risk, manage costs, and eliminate unnecessary headaches. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to minimize the change that complex and strategic applications are exposed to. However, life is not that easy. Sometimes, no matter how much you try and avoid it, change is forced on you.

64-bit technology falls into this category. Although it has been around for many years, 64-bit technology is now forcing its way into enterprise systems and distributed applications built with CORBA, Entera/NXTera, and other older middleware platforms. Previously, some companies made the transition when they moved to a new operating system or upgraded their hardware but many companies, who had complex systems with compatible external dependencies, postponed the transition to 64-bit technology. The reason? “32-bit works fine; let’s not create work for ourselves.” However, vendor changes to operating systems and database libraries are forcing managers to face the music. As a result, there will be more full system recompilations of legacy systems than most prudent IT managers would like.

These projects can be more complex and demanding than they seem. Databases are the primary culprit because they are now ending support for several legacy databases and associated client libraries. For example, Oracle is limiting the availability of 32-bit client libraries while vendors, like IBM and Sybase, are completely phasing out the 32-bit versions of their databases in favor of 64-bit. They still package the 32-bit libraries in new releases for compatibility but they are not delivering the 32-bit versions of the database utilities. These changes are forcing the user to upgrade.

Why is this a big deal? Applications with custom interfaces that communicate with database libraries need to be re-compiled for 64-bit because the database utilities that provide functionality for compiling and testing in 32-bit are no longer available. In most cases, a 64-bit machine is required to install new versions even though 32-bit compatibility is provided.

As a result, IT managers are being forced to recompile and migrate applications and code (some of it decades old) to 64-bit architecture in order to upgrade their databases to the supported versions. This is not a problem if you have the sources for all the miscellaneous pieces, the make files still work, and you have a team that knows how to do what needs to be done. If you have problems, you may want to reach out to someone that can help. We have helped several companies using Entera and NXTera transition from 32-bit to 64-bit in 2012 and are well positioned to do more.

In upcoming posts we will discuss best practices and what to do when you’ve lost your source code.

On Our Radar in 2013: Part One

There will be many unexpected developments in 2013 so our job is to be prepared.  Of course, experience is the best preparation.  Our experience and work with Fortune 1000 companies in 2012 put several important trends on our radar.  The trends represent challenges and opportunities but we are prepared to help your company make decisions to drive value.

As we see important trends pop-up on our radar, we will share them with you here.  So far, trends we are noticing involve continued industry consolidation, the impact of 64-bit technology, and the difficulties companies are having responding to business change with legacy CASE tools like COOL:Gen.

Industry Consolidation

Industry consolidation will continue to generate consequences for enterprises that have related strategic applications.  Although the specific impact on operations is hard to predict, systems built on pre-SOA middleware need to be especially agile with the changes of ownership and/or philosophy in the JAVA and CORBA middleware markets that occurred in 2012.  Our focus on integration, consulting, and development tools, based on open standards like Eclipse and our NXTware Remote platform, will help users manage these challenges with the greatest adaptability.

64-bit Technology

64-bit technology has been around for years but library changes made by operating system and database vendors will force the recompilation of more legacy applications in 2013.  Because 64-bit libraries cannot be compiled with 32-bit libraries, the recompilations are more extensive and have wider ranges of dependencies.  Based on our experience, you can expect these projects to be more complex and demanding.  Thorough assessments are key to the success of these projects as they help ensure the most effective path is taken to 64-bit support.

Transition away from COOL:Gen and related Legacy CASE tools

The third trend we have noticed involves legacy COBOL applications built with Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) systems like COOL:Gen (aka Advantage:Gen and AllFusion Gen).  These applications are loosing the ability to respond to business change.  Firms using this technology will be forced to look at converting these applications into standard formats that can be more easily maintained.  For years, companies have tried to convert these systems to Java or another contemporary language.  However, the cost and complexity of this approach is proving to be too much.  In 2013, we believe that companies will choose a simpler solution and move to the standard easily maintainable COBOL.  This quarter, we will be introducing new solutions in this area.

We are positioned to help customers make these transitions and face whatever technological challenges 2013 may bring.  As more trends pop-up, we will discuss them here.