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How AAA Mid-Atlantic moved from Cobol to Java

The continuing search for a gentler Java includes software vendors seeking to make it easier for IT shops still working with mainframes and green screen terminals to move into the new era of Web-based applications with GUI interfaces.

That was what AAA Mid-Atlantic, the automobile club and insurance company based in Philadelphia, recently accomplished using a Java-based conversion tool to replace the green screen terminals its insurance agents were using.

At the recent Gartner Symposium in San Diego, Jay Straube, director of application development for the auto club, presented a case study of how his organization began the transition from Cobol to Java.

"The legacy system worked, but it was cumbersome for our agents," Straube told JDT in an interview at the Gartner conference. To service a typical customer request for an insurance quote for autos, agents had to work through as many as 12 green screens for data entry; it took 17 green screens for homeowner policies.

With the newly installed Jacada Interface Server, agents now have a GUI interface to the Cobol and DB2 back-end systems that has reduced those numbers to around six screens. And instead of entering arcane codes into fields in the green screens, agents use drop-down menus and work in standard business English, Straube said.

The end result is better customer service as well as improved productivity for the agents, which was the project goal, noted Straube. This first project has been so successful that the auto club is now working on Web portals for agents to use and then a portal for customers, he said. This will move the organization from legacy to e-commerce.

Asked for tips that might help other development managers seeking to "collapse" green screens into GUI interfaces and Web-enable their back-end systems, Straube told JDT that it is important to get Java tool vendors to go beyond their PowerPoint sales pitches. His selection process, which was supplemented by consulting services from Gartner, required Java vendors to actually do a proof of concept based on the AAA requirements. While this was a lengthier process than simply picking a tool vendor based on a sales call, Straube said it contributed to the success of the project.

After listening to vendors give PowerPoint presentations, reviewing the proof of concepts and then scoring them in a detailed matrix, Straube's team selected Jacada Inc., an Atlanta-based vendor of Java tools for legacy integration and Web application development.

AAA Mid-Atlantic is using Jacada Integrator, which Gartner ranks as "the leading product for programmatic integration [legacy integration]," said Rob Morris, vice president for product strategy at Jacada. He told JDT that the Jacada tools generate a Web interface and Web services applications with no Java coding required, so Straube's IT team did not need to learn Java to complete their projects.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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