Magazine article Policy & Practice

The Best Route to Take

Magazine article Policy & Practice

The Best Route to Take

Article excerpt

Colorado was one of the first states to have a federally certified child support system nearly 30 years ago. The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) implemented the Automated Child Support Enforcement System (ACSES) in April 1986. At the time it was a cutting edge Natural/ADABAS system operating on the mainframe. Because of its sustainability, along with the work of dedicated Natural developers, more than $500,000,000 in child support payments was eventually distributed through the ACSES each year.

Despite the reliability of ACSES, the Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT) recognized that the infrastructure was hindering the organization's future strategic goals. Each year the problems and operating costs of the mainframe were growing, while the number of skilled Natural developers and compatible software services was shrinking. By 2008, it cost CDHS $1.5 million per year to operate on a hardware platform that was headed toward extinction. CDHS and OIT decided it was time to move ACSES from the mainframe to a modern, state-of-the-art operating platform.

ACSES consisted of 1.5 million lines of non-comment Natural code and more than 500 million records of ADABAS data. Creating the requirements for a new system would have been a three-year endeavor by itself. The state was determined not to spend that amount of time or taxpayer dollars on a high-risk,

"rip and replace" solution. They had concerns because ACSES is a mission-critical system processing an average of 5,500 payments daily, supporting more than 200,000 families. They knew determining the right approach was paramount to the success of the project, so they assembled a top-notch team to design a request for proposal for a low-risk solution.

The team knew that ACSES contained 30 years of dependable business logic, so any solution that could not prove to be 100 percent functionally equivalent would not be considered. This led them to the conclusion that system migration was the best course of action. The question that remained: Who could help them transform ACSES from Natural to Java and ADABAS to a relational database management system?

The team agreed they needed to find an experienced partner, and not a vendor selling a "big bang" solution. They agreed that in technical projects of this size, if a vendor falls short of promises, the existing staff absorbs the work. In addition, the team and the state recognized that the value of ACSES came from the developers who built, grew, and maintained it. …

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