How much does a VB to .NET migration costs?

15. December 2008 12:42 by enassar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

If you are familiar with VB to .NET migration projects, you certainly know by now that this is not a trivial task. And with the state of the economy today, saving up on scarce, valuable resources is a must. That’s when an automated software migration solution proves to be the most viable approach, constituting the most cost-effective, non-disruptive method of application renewal.


I recently read an excellent article in ASP.NET PRO magazine, where Alvin Bruney offered some insight on the challenges of migrating VB6 applications, providing some estimation on the overall effort. For starters, he accurately notes how a large part of the cost in these projects is related to the QA process, something we’ve definitely seen in large, complex enterprise application upgrades, as it usually represents around 50% of the total time.


He then provides some numbers regarding the cost for VB to .NET migration projects: $1/LOC for simple applications, $3-$7/LOC for large enterprise systems, and $10-$15/LOC for the more complex ones. However, this varies a lot from one project to another, depending not only on the complexity of the application and target requirements, but also on the quality of the tools and the skills available for the migration. For example, due to a proven methodology, consultants with broad experience in VB to .NET migration projects and powerful conversion tools, a turn-key solution delivered by ArtinSoft, taking care of the complete migration up to functional equivalence in the target language, is generally between $1-$2 per line of source code. This includes the Supplier Testing activities, though not the User Acceptance Testing, where the customer finally certifies functional equivalence through predefined test cases. And of course there are other post-migration costs involved, like those related to the new application’s deployment and enhancement, but I think it is safe to say that the cost per line of code for the migration itself, on a turn-key basis, is rarely higher than $3.


Moreover, when time to market is a critical factor, this automated migration solution just can’t be beat. For example, a recent customer estimated that rewriting from scratch his highly complex, business critical, 100,000+ LOC VB6 application would take him up to 2.5 years, while using ArtinSoft’s comprehensive solution allowed him to release the C# version in less than 6 months. And using only about 1/17th of the resources required for a rewrite. Expect the case study soon, but trust me: we’re not talking n00bies here ;-) And another example I mentioned on my last post described how a recent customer cut down the project time in 1 year, representing savings of about $160,000.


On the other hand, calculating how much it will cost for someone who licenses our Visual Basic Upgrade Companion to perform the migration in-house is more complicated, since it depends greatly on his dexterity. But just to provide another example of how much our solution reduces the effort, another customer with a 550,000 LOC application recently told us he managed to save 14 man/months by using ArtinSoft’s tool internally, instead of the Upgrade Wizard that ships with Microsoft’s Visual Studio.


In any case, as Bruney wrote on the aforementioned article “automation is the key to containing cost”. But watch out for conversion tools that will only cause you to waste your time and money. Some of our customers have tried some of these options in parallel before choosing our tool, but a few were lured instantly by the deceivingly low prices. Most of the latter have come to us in the end, frustrated with the poor results.


By the way, the article says that “the migration tool takes you to VB.NET only”. I assume the author is talking about the Upgrade Wizard, since even a couple of the tools I referred to above convert to C#, but the Visual Basic Upgrade Companion is the only one that allows migrating effectively to both VB.NET AND C#. Finally, if you have settled for C# as the target language, I should warn you again about the infamous double-jump approach, that is, converting from VB6 to VB.NET and then to C# (the author mentions this option, though he doesn’t exactly recommends it). We’ve seen a couple of customers who tried that and found it really problematic, to say the least. In fact, they finally decided it was a whole lot easier starting all over from VB6 and using our tool to move to C# directly.

Legacy transformation alternatives revisited

3. November 2008 11:41 by enassar in General  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

Today Eric Nelson covered the quasi-legendary legacy transformation options graph on his blog. Taking into account the 4 basic alternatives for legacy renovation, that is, Replace, Rewrite, Reuse or Migrate, this diagram shows the combination of 2 main factors that might lead to these options: Application Quality and Business Value. As Declan Good mentioned in his “Legacy Transformation” white paper, Application Quality refers to “the suitability of the legacy application in business and technical terms”, based on parameters like effectiveness, functionality, stability of the embedded business rules, stage in the development life cycle, etc. On the other hand, Business Value is related to the level of customization, that is, if it’s a unique, non-standard system or if there are suitable replacement packages available.




This diagram represents the basic decision criteria, but there are other issues that must be considered, specifically when evaluating VB to .NET upgrades. For example, as Eric mentions in his blog post, a lot of manual rewrite projects face so many problems that end up being abandoned. One of ArtinSoft’s recent customers, HSI, went for the automated migration approach after analyzing the implications of a rewrite from scratch. They just couldn’t afford the time, cost and disruption involved. As Ryan Grady, owner of the company in charge of this VB to .NET migration project for HSI puts it, “very quickly we realized that upgrading the application gave us the ability to have something already and then just improve each part of it as we moved forward. Without question, we would still be working on it if we’d done it ourselves, saving us up to 12 months of development time easily”. Those 12 months translated into a US$160,000 saving for HSI! (You can read the complete case study at ArtinSoft’s website.)


On the other hand, for some companies reusing (i.e. wrapping) their VB6 applications to run on the .NET platform is simply not an option, no matter where it falls in the aforementioned chart. For example, there are strict regulations in the Financial and Insurance verticals that deem keeping critical applications in an environment that’s no longer officially supported simply unacceptable. Besides, sometimes there’s another drawback to this alternative: it adds more elements to be maintained, two sets of data to be kept synchronized and requires for the programmers to switch constantly between 2 different development environments.


Therefore, an assessment of a software portfolio before deciding on a legacy transformation method must take into account several factors that are particular to each case, like available resources, budget, time to market, compliance with regulations, and of course, the specific goals you want to achieve through this application modernization project.

Critical software applications and business continuity

22. July 2008 04:09 by enassar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

In the past, the concept of business continuity was typically associated with a company's ability to recover from natural disasters (fires, flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes). The events of September 11th changed the paradigm, ending the somewhat lax attitude towards business continuity planning and turning attention to those threats having an element of human intent. Moreover, business continuity planning began focusing not only on allowing an organization to continue functioning after and during a disaster, but on reducing its impact, hence minimizing the risk of extended disruptions.

Undeniably, the traditional approach to business continuity requirements has shifted, driven by the demands of globalization and high-tech society. It has grown out of the response and recovery focus and into prevention strategies and techniques. Under this new paradigm business continuity emphasizes on managing mission critical business assets and processes to ensure continuous availability.

Business continuity planning is a crucial part of an organization's overall risk management, and in a world where information is power and technology is a decisive business enabler, every analysis around contemporary threats with a potential of causing severe damage to the organizational infrastructure leads to the assessment of operational risk linked to information systems. This certainly recognizes the value of software assets in today's business infrastructure, taking into account the fact that significant investments in intellectual capital have usually been embedded in the systems over the years, comprising the back-bone of many companies. Therefore, a modern structured approach to managing uncertainty related to threats encompasses all the necessary averting to ensure reliability, correct functioning and scalability of business critical applications.

Modern organizations must secure their continuity considering the increasing complexity and interconnection brought by the reliance on technology to accomplish their goals. Those with business critical applications will certainly realize the grave impact of system malfunction upon business continuity, and the implications for stakeholders of damage to the organization naturally deems it as unacceptable. Protecting the financial health and stability of an organization is an essential issue for management, and the high impact risk associated with vital software applications make this area of business continuity planning highly relevant on many companies.

Risk avoidance or reduction strategies linked to information assurance have to deal with the applications' security, performance and other technical capabilities, with development and maintenance costs and support availability constituting critical issues to consider. In fact, governmental entities and organizations in the power, telecommunication, health, banking and financial industries are subject to regulations that aim to protect public interest, including systemic failure among its previsions to ensure information confidentiality, integrity, authentication and availability.

But the concept of business continuity is not limited to regulated public utility infrastructures only. Of course, it's fairly obvious how some minutes of downtime can seriously affect a large financial institution, but losing access to information systems has consequences on any type of business. Business continuity is vital to business success, and in today's interrelated world, practically every aspect of a company's operation is vulnerable to fatal disruption. And the aforementioned value of software assets applies to any type of organization, making it an objectionable operational risk to maintain exposed, unsupported critical applications that may not run properly. And modernizing them through non-disruptive methods like automated software migration effectively contains the issues.

To VB or not VB. That is the question

15. July 2008 06:37 by enassar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

... in fact, a very common question we hear out there when people begin considering upgrading from VB to .NET: “should I migrate my Visual Basic 6.0 applications to VB.NET or C#?”

Well, Google on the subject and this seems to be an endless discussion, but let’s start by saying that Microsoft is entirely compromised with the future of both languages, and they have done great efforts to ensure that both VB.NET and C# provide the full-power of the .NET Framework. This was clearly stated during the last TechEd, where I went to both the “Meet the VB Team” and “Meet the C# Team” sessions. They talked about the future of both languages, and made clear that there are no riffs between the teams. They even have Tuesday dinner nights and work together when looking for common solutions. In fact there are several people working on both teams. Of course, each team has invested in different features, but this only result in advantages to developers, providing a better opportunity to opt for the language that better fits each particular job.

The truth is both VB.NET and C# are first-class citizens on the Common Language Runtime (CLR) with equal access to the same framework features. So in the end the decision should be based on your specific needs, that is, your available resources and customer demands if we are talking about business applications. For example, if most of your developers have been working with VB 6.0 they will probably feel more comfortable with VB.NET. On the other hand, if you have a Java or C++ code base coexisting with your VB applications, it might be better to migrate your VB6 systems to C#, a language that is more comfortable for programmers exposed to some other object oriented languages due to its syntax, constructions and usability. However, the real work on a VB6 to .NET migration is dealing with the Framework and moving your mental model from COM to .NET, so the transition is not just about syntax and semantics issues.

By the way, we’ve seen a few people suggesting a double path approach for those who chose to migrate their VB6 applications to C#. This idea mostly comes from those who offer a solution that only converts to VB.NET, and they even say it’s irrational to think about jumping from VB6 to any .NET language other than VB.NET. Well, the immense set of differences between VB6 and C# or VB.NET are accurately resolved by ArtinSoft’s Visual Basic Upgrade Companion tool, and about half of our customers can tell those unbelievers better. You’ll find detailed info about that here.

Compliance relief through automated legacy migration for financial institutions

13. June 2008 14:01 by enassar in General  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

It’s well known that financial institutions are under a lot of pressure to replace their core legacy systems, and here at ArtinSoft we’ve seen an increased interest from this industry towards our migration services and products, specially our Visual Basic Upgrade Companion tool and our VB to .NET upgrade services.  In fact, during the last year or so we’ve helped lots of these institutions move their business critical applications to newer platforms, accounting for millions of lines of code successfully migrated at low risk, cost and time.


Margin pressures and shrinking IT budgets have always been a considerable factor for this sector, with financial institutions constantly looking for a way to produce more with less. Some studies show that most of them allocate around 80% of their budgets maintaining their current IT infrastructure, much of which comprised by legacy applications.


Competition has also acted as another driver for legacy modernization, with organizations actively looking for a competitive advantage in a globalized world. Legacy applications, like other intangible assets, are hard to emulate by competitors, so they represent key differentiators and a source of competitive advantage. Typically, significant investments in intellectual capital have been implanted in the legacy systems over the years (information about services, customers, operations, processes, etc.), constituting the back-bone of many companies.


In the past, they approached modernization in an incremental way, but recent compliance and security developments have drastically impacted financial institutions. In order to comply with new regulations, they are forced to quickly upgrade their valuable legacy software assets. Industry analysts estimate that between 20-30% of a bank's base budget is spent on compliance demands, so they are urgently seeking for ways to reduce this cost so that they can invest in more strategic projects.


However, many institutions manually rewrite their legacy applications, a disruptive method that consumes a lot of resources, and normally causes loss of business knowledge embedded in these systems. Hence the pain and mixed results that Bank Technology News’ Editor in Chief, Holly Sraeel, describes on her article “From Pain to Gain With Core Banking Swap Outs”. “Most players concede that such a move (core banking replacement) is desirable and considered more strategic today than in years past. So why don’t more banks take up the cause? It’s still a painful—and expensive—process, with no guarantees”, she notes. “The replacement of such a system (…) represents the most complex, risky and expensive IT project an institution can undertake. Still, the payoff can far exceed the risks associated with replacement projects, particularly if one factors in the greater efficiency, access to information and ability to add applications.”

That’s when the concept of a proven automated legacy migration solution emerges as the most viable and cost-effective path towards compliance, preserving the business knowledge present in these assets, enhancing their functionality afterwards, and avoiding the technological obsolescence dead-end trap. Even more when this is no longer optional due to today’s tighter regulations. As Logica’s William Morgan clearly states on the interview I mentioned on my previous post, “compliance regimes in Financial Services can often dictate it an unacceptable operational risk to run critical applications on unsupported software”.


“These applications are becoming a real risk and some are increasingly costly to maintain. Regulators are uncomfortable about unsupported critical applications. Migrating into the .NET platform, either to VB.NET or C# contains the issue. Clients are keen to move to new technologies in the simplest and most cost effective way so that their teams can quickly focus on developments in newer technologies and build teams with up to date skills”, he ads, referring specifically to VB6 to .NET migrations.


So, as I mentioned before, ArtinSoft has a lot of experience in large scale critical migration projects, and in the last year we’ve provided compliance relief for the financial sector. With advanced automated migration tools you can license, or expert consulting services and a growing partner network through which you can outsource the whole project on a fixed time and cost basis, we can definitely help you move your core systems to the latest platforms.

ArtinSoft’s CEO interview on Eric Nelson’s blog

10. June 2008 06:25 by enassar in General  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

Today Eric Nelson posted on one of his blogs a short interview with Roberto Leiton, ArtinSoft’s CEO. Eric works for Microsoft UK, mostly helping local ISV’s explore and adopt the latest technologies and tools. In fact, that’s why he first contacted us over a year ago, while doing some research on VB to .NET migration options for a large ISV in the UK. Since then, we’ve been in touch with Eric, helping some of his ISV’s move off VB6, and he’s been providing very useful Visual Basic to .NET upgrade resources through his blogs.


So click here for the full interview, where Eric and Roberto talk about experiences and findings around VB6 to .NET migrations, and make sure to browse through Eric’s blog and find “regular postings on the latest .NET technologies, interop and migration strategies and more”, including another interview with William Morgan of Logica, one of our partners in the UK.

Birth pangs to ease your .NET migration pains: ArtinSoft’s Visual Basic Upgrade Companion v2.0 is born!

7. April 2008 14:04 by enassar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)


I mentioned a few days ago that ArtinSoft was about to release a new version of its VB to .NET migration product. Well, today it is official: finally, the Visual Basic Upgrade Companion v2.0 has been released! After an incredible amount of work (kudos to everyone involved), the tool now includes a series of enhancements basically aimed towards increasing the generated code quality and the overall automation of the upgrade process, allowing to reduce even further the manual effort required to convert and compile your VB6 code to VB.NET or C#.


These are just some of the new features and improvements included in this version of ArtinSoft’s Visual Basic Upgrade Companion (VBUC):


  • Upgrade Manager: The VBUC v2.0 now sports a dashing GUI and Command Line interface that improves the user experience. Incorporating a screen to set up migration profiles, it allows selecting and applying only those features you require for a specific conversion.
  • Support for conversion of multi-project applications.
  • Migration of mixed ASP and VB6 code to ASP.NET and VB.Net or C#.
  • Individual conversion patterns designed to improve the migration of a large amount of diverse specific language patterns.
  • Conversion of unstructured to structured code, reducing the presence of spaghetti code and improving code maintainability and evolution.  This includes the transformation of frequently used patterns related to error handling. For example, the VBUC recognizes “On Error Goto” and “On Error Resume Next” constructs patterns and replace them with the .NET “Try-Catch” structure. It also performs “Goto” removals.
  • Improved typing system, which provides additional information to assign more accurate target types to existing VB6 variables, functions, fields, parameters, etc.
  • Improved Array migration, such as conversion of non-zero-based arrays and re-dimensioning of arrays.
  • C# specific generation enhancements: declarations and typing, events declaration and invocation, error handling, conversion of modules to classes, indexer properties, case sensitive corrections, brackets generation for array access, variable initialization generation, and much more.
  • Migration of ADO to ADO.NET using .NET Common Interfaces.
  • Support for converting many new 3rd-party components such as SSDataWidgets SSDBGrid, TrueDBList80, Janus Grid, TX Text Control, ActiveToolBars, ActiveTabs, ActiveBar 1 and 2, etc.
  • New helper classes that offer frequently used VB6 functionality that is either unavailable in .NET and/or that is encapsulated for the sake of readability.
  • Automatic stub generation of no-maps as a proven strategy to manage overall remaining effort towards successful compilation of upgraded code.
  • And much more!


For more info, you can visit ArtinSoft’s website, and let us know about your specific migration requirements.


VB6 is dead. Long live .NET

1. April 2008 10:00 by enassar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)


Well, not exactly. But official support for Visual Basic 6.0 has certainly ended, as I’ve mentioned on previous posts. VB 6 has been used by millions of people all over the world to develop applications ranging from thousands to millions of lines of code. It’s definitely time to move those significant organizational investments to .NET, and appropriately ArtinSoft is about to launch a new enhanced version of its VB to .NET migration product (Visual Basic Upgrade Companion). Stay tuned for details…

Jay Roxe on VB to .NET migration motivations and benefits

25. March 2008 11:21 by enassar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)


Browsing through some of the good old VB to .NET migration resources I’ve accumulated through all these years, I rediscovered a Dr. Dobb’s interview by Scott Swigart with Jay Roxe. Among other things, they talked about the motivations for migrating from Visual Basic 6.0 to the .NET platform, either to VB.NET or C#, and some of the benefits of the new environment.


Putting aside the VB6 support end concerns, he describes the lifecycle of any application as one of the motivations for a .NET upgrade: “The application has reached a point where the code has grown beyond its original scope, and it's time to rewrite the application anyways, and it just makes sense to transition to the latest development platform at the same time”. Other incentives relate directly to the .NET Framework’s new functionality and development capabilities, and that’s where the benefits come under the spotlight. For instance, he mentions that “We're also seeing, particularly for some of our Web customers, that when they took a VB6/ASP application, and moved it to a VB.NET/ASP.NET application, it was 300 percent more scalable, and they got 200 percent more throughput from the application”.


Roxe also explains how the ClickOnce technology solves the DLL Hell issue by providing better deployment and management, checking the prerequisites availability before installing the application itself, with the option of setting up version checking and without impact to any other applications on the machine. There’s also the possibility of deploying a COM component with an application without having to register it, allowing multiple side-by-side installations of that component without conflicts.


Finally, he responds to the questions around choosing the programming language (VB.NET or C#) once you decide to move to the .NET platform, adding some advice around VB to .NET migrations and pointing some of the available resources. You can read the whole article here, and if you have a VB to .NET migration project in your hands or want to share any experience you’ve had with such upgrades, I’d definitely love to hear about it.

The curtain unveils – Aggiorno is out!

15. January 2008 05:56 by enassar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Since 2007, a team of ArtinSoft’s experts has been working on a tool that helps automate a lot of actions commonly performed by web developers, increasing their productivity and resulting in more efficient pages. The outcome is Aggiorno, an expandable plug-in for Visual Studio that produces SEO friendly, XHTML compliant, CSS styled HTML and ASP.NET, which eases enormously the task of delivering web standards compliant web sites. Based on a unique pattern detection and transformation engine, Aggiorno’s beta version is currently available on a by-invitation-only basis, so register now and get early access to this revolutionary product!