FRANCESCO BALENA ON VB MIGRATION

 

[PRESS RELEASE] VB Migration Partner goes to India, too!

clock July 31, 2009 10:42

S7 Software has signed a non-exclusive reseller agreement with Code-Architects, Italy that will enable S7 Software to distribute Code Architects’  VB Migration Partner.  This agreement will enable customers in APAC and North America to migrate VB applications to .NET in less time and with significantly fewer compilation and runtime errors than those produced by other conversion tools.

S7 Software is a Bangalore; India based company with offices in US specializing in VB migration. Having successfully migrated VB applications to .NET for customers in Retail, Manufacturing, ISVs…, S7 was mentioned by Forrester Research in their report “Keys to Successful VB Migration” (Jeffrey S Hammond, March 2007).

“Our goal is to provide a one-stop solution to all our VB customers in Americas and APAC” said Manjunath M Gowda, CEO, S7 Software “This reseller agreement to distribute VB Migration Partner will help us offer our customers an innovative software that converts VB application to .NET with highest accuracy. Combining the tool with our existing VB migration expertise makes S7 Software a safe option for companies thinking of migrating their VB application to .NET”.

Read the entire press release here and find more information about our partners.



Estimate total migration cost for existing VB6 conversion software

clock July 31, 2009 04:04

Every day we receive requests and queries from VB6 developers and companies who are interested in migrating their code to .NET. Migration a complex application to .NET is a serious matter, therefore it’s no surprise that virtually all our prospects plan to compare our software with the similar tools from the competition.

We take migration seriously and we take competition even more seriously. As a matter of fact, we entered this market niche only when we were sure we could offer the best VB6 software that could be possibly written. And that’s why we have continued to improve our VB Migration Partner until it offered support for virtually all major VB6 features, including outdated features such as “classic” drag-and-drop and DDE.

Some other companies in this market have a different perspective, though, and some of our competitors prefert to cut the list price instead of improving their software to match all the VB Migration Partner’s features. A recent example: One of our competitors has dropped their list prices twice in a few months, in an obvious attempt to compensate for all the features that their product lacks.

Which brings up an interesting question: is the list price the “correct” way to estimate how expensive migration tools are? Isn't the total cost of migration a better criterion for selecting the right conversion tool?

All the real-world migration experiences and case studies show that greater part of migration costs is related to the manpower needed for manual tasks that are to be completed before and after the mere action of passing the VB6 code through the conversion software. In the big scenario, the cost of the migration tool is a very small fraction of the total cost, often in the range 5-10% or even lower. Therefore, when comparing migration tools the most “correct” selection criterion should account for the manual labor that each tool saves you

Some time ago we published a very detailed white paper that compares VB Migration Partner with other VB6 conversion tools. The document clearly illustrates that VB Migration Partner outperforms the competition under virtually all aspects, yet it doesn’t really emphasizes which supported features impact on the total cost and duration of the migration process. Here we remedy with the following short summary.

1. Functional equivalence: VB Migration Partner can handle even the most subtle differences between VB6 and VB.NET, including true auto-instancing (As New) semantics, by-reference ParamArray, correct disposal of database connection and other COM objects, thread-safe behavior for multithreaded components, 100%-compatible file I/O statements, and the many methods that behave slightly differently in VB6 and VB.NET. These features can dramatically cut the time required for testing the migrated application.

"It took 2.5 hours to get a compilable and runnable VB.NET project with VB Migration Partner, and 13 hours with its closest competitor." (from a case study by SIS, an Austrian Microsoft Partner)

2. Variant and Null values: VB Migration Partner can (optionally) translate Variants into the special VB6Variant type, which behaves exactly like the VB6 type. It even supports Empty and Null values, which is a lifesaver if you are migrating a database-intensive application that uses Null values in expressions and assignments. By comparison, all other conversion tools simply convert Variant into the Object type, which in practice means that you have carefully test each and every statement that might be using a Null or Empty value.

Note: one of our customers is converting a very large VB6 application that makes extensive use of Variants; they estimated that VB Migration Partner saved no fewer than 3-4 man/moths just because of its support for Variants and Null values. We will provide more details when the migration is completed.

3. Late-binding method calls: VB Migration Partner comes with a library of .NET controls that expose the same properties and methods as the original VB6 controls. This detail ensures that your code works fine after the conversion to .NET, even if the control is accessed in late-bound mode. If you use another conversion tool you must manually rewrite each and every statement that uses late binding. If your VB6 code uses many Variant, Object, and Control variables, this task alone can keep you busy for weeks.

4. Support for *all* VB6 keywords and features: if your VB6 app uses GoSub, On Goto, or On Gosub statements, using a conversion tool other than VB Migration Partner means spending at least a few minutes on each of these keywords. The problem might be more serious if your VB6 code relies on other, less common features - such as Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), ADO data sources or data consumers - because you’d be forced to re-write large portions of your code. Implementing a reliable communication infrastructure based on .NET remoting or WCF may take one week or two if you aren’t a .NET guru, or it takes ten seconds flat if you use VB Migration Partner.

5. Graphic statements: VB Migration Partner supports virtually all VB6 graphic capabilities, including the Line and Circle methods, double-buffering (the AutoRedraw property), and user-defined system coordinates (ScaleMode property). VB Migration Partner lets you can convert a graphic-intensive VB6 application in a matter of seconds. Any other conversion tool takes days even for the simplest graphic project, because none of them supports these graphic features.

For examples of painless conversion of graphic-intensive VB6 code, have a look at EGL25, TypeNSign, Stars, Barcode Generator, BC-52, and MP3 Player applications in our Code Sample section. (We even have fully playable versions of classic games such as Tetris, Pacman, and Space Invaders!)

6. Windows API calls: all our competitors are behind VB Migration Partner in how they deal with complex Windows API calls, such As Any and callback (AddressOf) parameters in Declares statements. Our VB Migration Partner goes even further: it automatically fixes undocumented issues caused by string immutability and orphaned delegates, recommends the best “pure .NET” replacement for 300+ common Windows API calls, and automatically performs the substitution automatically, if possible. You can read more here.

7. Rich user interface: in theory all conversion tools support all VB6 user interface features; in practice tools from our competitors require that you manually fix each individual form. An indirect evidence of their limits is that none of our competitors dares to offer examples of real-world VB6 forms and the corresponding .NET form, because they would be obliged to mention all the manual fixes that are necessary to have a working .NET application. Also, none of our competitors even gets near VB Migration Partner’s support for more advanced UI features, such as drag-and-drop (both OLE and “classic” flavors), popup menus, dynamically created controls (the Controls.Add method), and 100%-compatible object models for complex controls such as TreeView, ListView, Toolbar, and StatusBar.

Tip: When comparing conversion tools, have a look at the many differences between VB6 and .NET controls, prepare a list of those that may be important for you, and ask each vendor whether their tool can handle them.

8. Staged migrations: VB Migration Partner is the only conversion software that can convert a large N-tiered VB6 application one DLL at a time while preserving the binary compatibility with the original VB6 components. Binary compatibility means that you can reuse the VB6 user interface to launch and test the converted .NET components, and you can even reuse your automatic test procedures, if you have any. You can even hit the market with a “hybrid” VB6 / .NET solution earlier, if you need to do so. If ease of testing and reduced time-to-market are important to you, the choice is obvious.

9. The convert-test-fix methodology: A real-world migration process may take weeks or months, and you might need to extend or modify the original VB6 code before the migration is complete. All other tools on the market work on a snapshot of the VB6 code, therefore once the migration is ended you’ll have to manually modify the .NET code to preserve the functional equivalence with the VB6 application. This process takes time and is error prone, and can be very expensive. You don’t incur in this added cost if you adopt our convert-test-fix methodology, which in turn is based on migration pragmas (another VB Migration Partner’s unique feature).

"The batch processing and code-test-fix methodology will allow us to convert a changing code base without making the same changes twice, once in VB6 and again in VB.Net." , said Brian Olson, Actuarial Systems Corporation, USA.

10. Documentation, code samples, licensing, and support: A realistic estimation of total migration costs must include the time needed to become familiar with the migration software and its idiosyncrasies, peculiarities, and defects. In this respect, nothing beats VB Migration Partner’s online manual and the vast knowledge base, which we update and improve almost every day with tips, code examples, and workarounds.

We believe so much in our software that we offer lifetime warranty on VB Migration Partner’s support library: if you are a registered user of version 1.xx you have the right to download future 1.xx versions of the library. (For more details, please read our EULA.) Compare our approach with the time-limited license that most of our competitors offer, and you’ll have a clearer idea of which product can really save your time and which one can waste your money.

As for the quality of tech support, here is what some of our customers have to say:

"The documentation is excellent, and Code Architects’ tech support has always been very responsive."
Dr. Otto J. Wiegele, CEO, SIS Datenverarbeitung GmbH

"I’d like to thank Code Architects’ technical support team, who supported us through our endeavors, in a professional and efficient way. They and their software allowed us to complete the migration of our flagship application earlier than expected.
"
Marco Meneo, ProgeSoftware, Italy

"The Code Architects Team always solved all our doubts and problems, often in a matter of hours. Francesco Balena in person replied to the toughest queries about COM marshaling and object disposal. It was a pleasant surprise to find such a competent team and a company that is willing to extend their support to issues that aren’t strictly related to their product."
Stefano Baldi, Engineering PLM Solutions, Italy

"Any issue that I raised was answered positively on a next day if not next hour basis also made a huge difference. It's really as close to having VB Migration Partner's support team work in my office as one could get!"
Ara Ashikian, P.Eng., President, Structural Concepts Ltd, Vancouver, BC - Canada



Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) can be migrated, at last!

clock July 25, 2009 01:41

If you've never heard of Dynamic Data Exchange - a.k.a. DDE - consider yourself a lucky developer. In short, DDE is a simple communication protocol that allows two or more Windows processes to communicate with each other. DDE never really caught on, however a number of Microsoft applications and languages supported it, including of course Visual Basic (starting with version 3, if I remember correctly).

The main pros of DDE are its simplicity and flexibility: in most cases, you just need to set a few properties and you soon have a number of controls in a DDE client application reflect the state of a control in another application. More precisely, you can have a TextBox, Label, or PictureBox in an application (known as the DDE client) to be "linked" to a similar control in another application (known as the DDE server). You can even have multiple clients linked to the same server application, so that when the control in the server app changes, all the client apps automatically receive the new value. The DDE protocol allows other variations on this theme, for example the code in the client app can poke a value into a server's control, so that a client can indirectly notify all other clients that a new value is available.

DDE has several shortcomings, too, which explain why it never became very popular. For one, it appears to be quite fragile and you have no warranty that all the processes involved in the communication received the notification. For these reasons, it was soon replaced by COM in all developers' minds and hearths.

Regardless of what your opinion about DDE is, it's a fact that many VB6 applications - especially those that were born as VB3 projects - do rely on DDE. In the last few months we received several enqueries from potential customers who needed to migrate a VB6 app that was based on DDE to some extent. In these cases we could only suggest to replace DDE code with COM code before the migration, or replace portions of the VB.NET code with calls to native .NET technologies, such as remoting or WCF.

This is what all articles about migration recommend and is also what all our competitors do, but clearly wasn't what our customers liked to hear, especially because implementing a robust communication mechanism based on .NET requires time and skilled developers, plus the time required to fix the migrated VB.NET code to use the new mechanism.

About one month ago we rolled up our sleeves and we are now proud to announce the VB Migration Partner now supports all DDE properties, methods, and events!

Instead of implementing the "real" DDE protocol - an approach that would inherit all the DDE limitations and weaknesses - we decided to adopt a different approach based on Windows messages. This gives "our" DDE more robustness and better efficiency, while keeping it source-code-compatible with all existing DDE code written in VB6. In other words, we do support all the DDE properties and methods even if we internally use a different implementation.

Because of the approach we chosen, there are only a few minor differences with the "real" DDE protocol. The main limitation is that a migrated VB.NET app can use DDE only to communicate with another migrated VB.NET app. (If you used DDE to communicate with Microsoft Excel you can't use our prioprietary implementation, for example.) Also, our DDE protocol is inherently synchronous, therefore we don't support the LinkTimeout property and the LinkError event. Except for these details, the implementation is complete and sound. If your VB6 app uses DDE, this single feature can save you weeks during the migration process.

If you are interested in seeing a migrated VB.NET app that uses DDE, you can download a good sample here. The sample includes two projects - the client and the server - so you should launch the DDE server first and then one or more instances of the DDE client application. You will see that changing a field in the server app affects the linked control in all clients. You can compare the VB.NET behavior with the original VB6 application, whose source code are available here.

It almost goes without saying the VB Migration Partner is the FIRST and ONLY migration software that supports DDE, an achievement that confirms that our product is simply the state-of-the-art in its market segment.





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