A well-earned (application) retirement

Posted on 17 Sep 2010 by The Manufacturer

Howard Sherrington, CEO of NSC Group shows how retiring legacy apps can cut IT costs and free up resources – if the right approach is taken to accessing the legacy data

The one constant in business IT is that yesterday’s new systems will become tomorrow’s legacy. As organisations evolve and new technologies emerge, IT departments have to deal with the impact of this constant evolution and change on business operations.

Application retirement does not just apply to the older, obsolete systems originating from the late 1980’s and early 90’s. It may also be necessary to retire more modern applications, which have been made obsolete through duplication following corporate mergers or acquisitions.

It’s all about the data
It is essential to establish why the legacy system is being maintained. In the vast majority of cases, it’s because of the data held in the system or application.

This was the situation encountered by SSL International when it decided to standardise its ERP system and infrastructure. Let’s take a closer look at how the company rationalised its range of obsolete systems.

SSL International is a focused consumer brand company employing around 4,500 people, with leading global brands Durex and Scholl. The company has manufacturing facilities in the UK, Thailand and China, a joint manufacturing venture in India and commercial offices in over 35 countries.

A recent history of mergers and acquisitions had resulted in the company having a large number of different and often obsolescent IT systems throughout its business.

Solving the Legacy Data Problem
The applications concerned were mainly ERP systems from Infor – BPCS (originally SSA), System21 (originally JBA) and Data3 (originally KBM) – but also included ERP systems from other suppliers and bespoke systems written by SSL. The data held on these applications was still required by SSL’s own users and had to be preserved for audit, tax and legal reasons.

Transferring all the data to the new system was rejected on the grounds of practicality and cost, so only orders up to 2 years old were migrated to SAP. The continuing use of the Infor systems and the AS400 platforms was also rejected.

SSL looked for a solution to this problem for some time and chose NSC’s DataNovata. Over 600Gb of data from the legacy ERP systems was to be consolidated onto a single SQL Server platform, from which DataNovata would generate all the necessary enquiry facilities to satisfy the users and statutory obligations.

The Project
After a successful proof of concept, the project started in September 2008. DataNovata is to be used worldwide for all day-to-day enquiries, standardising access to the legacy data. The software was enhanced to include a multi-language capability for use in continental Europe.

SSL has its entire legacy data consolidated onto one, low-cost SQL Server platform, accessible by standard DataNovata applications in the user’s own local language. DataNovata runs under VMWare and all necessary support software is free, so the infrastructure costs attributable to it are negligible.
Stewart Sawinski, Technical Architect Controller, SSL International plc said:
“NSC quickly understood what we were trying to achieve and we have found DataNovata to be robust and easy to use. The enquiry applications we have created are ideally suited to our requirements.”

Applications and platforms will come and go, but data is forever.