After IBMs purchase of the Informix database company this April, many Informix customers have debated where their best interest lies in developing future applications. Many were users of Informix 4GL, a fourth-generation programming language with ties to the database system.
Now a small company from San Jose, Costa Rica, may have the answer. ArtinSoft is a 200-person consulting company that can migrate Informix 4GL applications to Java, preserving much of their existing structure and helping current maintainers of the application to recognize its components in the new language.
"After two weeks of Java training, an Informix 4GL programmer should be able to understand the new syntax," said Frederico Zoufaly, ArtinSofts chief technical officer. "We try to keep the same logic and structure to the application."
ArtinSoft executives said this "equivalence preservation" distinguishes ArtinSofts migration engine from recompilers, where the program format constructed in one language can disappear into the conventions of another.
"Its much easier for a programmer to learn a new technology, such as Java, than for a skilled Java programmer to learn the business practices captured in the logic and structure of the application," Zoufaly said.
The Informix 4GL was part of a wave of relational database-oriented development tools that appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s. ArtinSoft previously helped users of the Informix tools to migrate their applications to Java. Now, the Central American company can help them migrate the application and, if the customer chooses, let it work with a different database system as well.
IBM has declared that it plans to continue supporting the Informix Dynamic Server relational system, and announced the upcoming 9.3 release of the product. Typically, the products of an acquired company are merged into the dominant companys product line, and IBM has also indicated that key Dynamic Server features will become part of its DB2 product line.
ArtinSofts Zoufaly said the migration engine isnt perfect. It converts 96 percent to 98 percent of an Informix 4GL application, flagging trouble spots that are then converted manually. It isnt unusual for a software user to undergo a migration. They have occurred with regularity across many product lines, Zoufaly noted, but migrations "are associated with pain, lots of pain."
ArtinSoft will help with the conversion by taking a customers application and converting the majority of it, subject to translation by the migration engine, and returning it to the customer to do the rest. Or ArtinSoft will agree to ensure the whole application is migrated to Java, returning it when the job is completed. ArtinSofts fee for the former work falls at the low end of its price range: 30 cents per line of code or less, depending on the project. A full conversion tends to cost 30 cents to 60 cents per line of code, Zoufaly noted.
One user is Mercy Ships, a Texas-based fleet of hospital ship that sail around the world donating medical care. The ships systems needed to deal with a variety of vendors and databases, and converting old applications to Java allowed them to do so, Zoufaly said.
Both the Intel Communications Fund and Microsoft are recent investors in ArtinSoft and its conversion technology. Microsoft has named ArtinSoft as its preferred vendor for helping Visual Basic application users migrate from Visual Basic 6.0 to Visual Basic .Net. Scheduled for release at the end of the year, Visual Basic .Net departs from some previous Visual Basic constructs.