Which Applications Should You Migrate?
And if all of that weren't frustrating enough, there is still a much larger and more abstract task that must be front-loaded onto this whole messy process: deciding which apps to migrate and which to leave as is. Zoufaly tries to put a somewhat tidy bow on that part of the decision making. A migration project, he says, is worthwhile only if the application will use the new functionality in .NET to significant advantage. Consider, he says, only those applications—and indeed portions of applications therein—where "if you move it to .NET and Web enable it where you're really adding value to your business." He says these should be "highly visible projects" within the organization. Leave everything else, he says, in VB6.
But that answer strikes me as too simplistic, considering what he told me about the prevalence of macro issues and the incredibly long and tedious migration process for an application of significant size. Assuming a developer has an application that could leverage new features of .NET to great advantage, he or she needs a way to estimate the time and resources required for the migration in order to make a well informed decision—to avoid wasting precious time on a project that will ultimately be abandoned halfway through.
And that, really, is where the murkiness continues. There is no tested methodology for estimating the parameters of a migration effort. You either jump in and be ready with a Plan B in case you have to pull out, or you get the organizational support you need to bring the project to completion regardless of the unseen challenges which might arise. Neither is a comfortable way to begin.
There's a flip side to all of this of course, which is that however flawed and difficult the migration process might be, the tool provides an invaluable bridge. Zoufaly asserts that the migration wizard ArtinSoft has built will convert a VB6 application in one-tenth to one-twentieth of the time it would take to rewrite it manually. He says that on an average project, it will do 90 percent of the migration work automatically. For those enterprises for which migration is a foregone conclusion, the migration wizard is a treasure.
But developers should also know that stability continues to be an issue. Though Zoufaly says that he feels the product is currently quite robust, the ArtinSoft team is still working on some bug fixes. Zoufaly says that there are "almost no breaking changes." (Italics are mine.) Further, it will not be until the next version of .NET is released that the entire feature set will be in place. Support for migrating WebClasses and User Controls are not available now, but are the two planned features that will complete the product.
Other ArtinSoft Migration Tools
ArtinSoft has several other .NET migration tools in various stages of completion. The company announced earlier this month two different products under the moniker Java Language Conversion Assistant (JLCA), one of which converts JDK 1.1.4-compliant code to C# (obviously catering to the Visual J++ developer) and another which will migrate J2EE code. The former is available in beta now. The J2EE version is expected in the third quarter.
Zoufaly also promised an ASP to ASP.NET conversion tool that ArtinSoft hopes to release in time for Tech