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The Software AG system at Antalis is like the apocryphal broom that has lasted for 20 years (with only 5 new handles and 10 new heads). Named internally as ‘GENISYS’, the Antalis system has had two databases and three changes of hardware platforms, but continues to serve the needs of an expanding user base.
Established in Aldgate London in 1761 and originally called Wiggins Teape, Antalis is the largest paper merchant in Europe. They are also one of Software AG’s most established customers and have been using Adabas/Natural for over 30 years; their current system supporting the UK and Ireland businesses, GENISYS, will be 20 years old in 2010.
It was in the late 1980’s that Wiggins Teape determined that they would replace their current order processing system “BOPS” with a brand new and shiny system that would not only take orders, but would also manage customers, suppliers and stock, produce invoices and credit notes, handle collections and returns and post ledgers. Not only would it process almost all of their business, it would proactively handle customer and order events and alerts, predating business process management by more than a decade.
The new system was to be known as GENISYS, the GENeral Information SYStem. IT Director Farid Motamed remembers “GENISYS was a very significant investment at the time and was designed in such a way as to give us a real market edge in a highly competitive paper wholesale market. This project was the largest IT project undertaken by the company.”
The logical design was carried out internally by Wiggins Teape personnel in conjunction with Hoskyns. The physical design and development phases were then awarded to Software AG UK and the project was started in early 1987.
The physical design was to be based around IBM’s DB2 database and Software AG’s ‘Natural for DB2’ 4th generation programming language and much time was spent benchmarking these technologies for performance and suitability. Software AG originally put together a team of 17 in four sub-teams each with a ‘sponsor’ from Wiggins Teape. Each team was responsible for the development of the one of the four main business functions: sales order processing, warehousing and distribution, finance and master file maintenance. This was at that time the biggest development project Software AG UK had worked on and the team took up an entire floor at the old offices in Derby city centre.
In late 1990 the first phase of GENISYS went live incorporating temporary but sophisticated bridging to the old BOPS system as they were to be run in parallel for some time. By the end of 1991 GENISYS was fully live and the plug was pulled on BOPS and the bridging system was retired.
Although based around Natural and DB2, GENISYS took advantage of ADABAS, VSAM, CICS temporary storage and MVS transient data. It ran on a large Amdahl machine in a large purpose built office in Basingstoke that reassembled the hanging gardens of Babylon (as far as we can tell!)
GENISYS ran successfully in its original design configuration until 1995 when it was decided that in order to reduce costs, it would be ported to a lower cost open systems platform. The project was carried out jointly by Wiggins Teape and Software AG UK and the first phase was to replace DB2 with ADABAS as the main data store on the mainframe. Once this had been completed GENISYS was ported to UNIX and by mid 1996 was in full production running on a Sequent platform.
“The easiest part of the port from mainframe to Unix was the SAG products as both the ADABAS data and Natural programs were ported using standard utilities. More difficult were other packages as these were by necessity new products and the conversion of JCL to scripts. Initially the flexibility of shell scripts was daunting, but a simple framework was put together to replicate how the mainframe JCL ran and this still survives today. A number of interfaces were written using C programs with direct ADABAS calls.” - Colin Jenkins, DBA
The Sequent box was subsequently replaced by an IBM AIX machine and although hardware and software have been upgraded over the years, that is where it remains on its 20th anniversary.
“GENISYS has worked very well for us over the last 20 years and has proved to be highly reliable and flexible to suit our changing business needs.” - Farid Motamed, IT Director.
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