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OS/400 Edition
Volume 3, Number 23 -- June 10, 2003

BluePhoenix Launches New UPC Remediation Tool

by Alex Woodie

If your company deals in consumer processed goods, you should be well aware of the changes to UPC codes coming down the pike. Instead of supporting just the standard 12-digit code established by the Universal Code Council, there are new initiatives involving 8-, 13-, and 14-digit product codes that companies should seriously consider supporting. BluePhoenix Solutions recently launched a remediation tool called UPCEnabler that analyzes a company's application source code and makes the necessary changes to bring it into compliance.

Whether your company is a manufacturer, a distributor, or a retailer, the changes coming to product codes are likely to affect your company. The 2005 Sunrise initiative, announced by the Uniform Code Council in 1997, requires American and Canadian companies to support the 8- and 13-digit product EAN (European article numbering) codes, used by European companies, by January 1, 2005. A separate initiative sponsored by the council, called the UCCnet, is seeking to establish a centralized database of product codes, called the GLOBALregistry, to provide one set of standards in pursuit of global trade. The GLOBALregistry uses a new 14-digit global trade item number (GTIN) that would be EAN- and UPC-compliant. (For more on UCCnet, GTINs, and 2005 Sunrise, see "Tech Insight: UCCnet Touted as Cure to Product Data Woes.")

BluePhoenix's UPCEnabler solution includes software and services to bring companies into compliance with the new product code initiatives, using a two-step process. First, the tool uses BluePhoenix's cross-referencing and search capabilities to analyze a company's application to find where UPC codes are being used. After every UPC-related area has been scoped out, UPCEnabler's "mass change" component assists the user in making changes.

The discovery process is absolutely vital to a UPC code remediation project, says Ted Venema, chief operating officer of BluePhoenix, in Cary, North Carolina. "If it's a UPC problem, it's like a virus: It gets itself everywhere," he says. "You've got to check everything."

For example, one company that engaged BluePhoenix on a UPC remediation project found its UPC-related problems were a lot more than it had bargained for. When BluePhoenix started to analyze the application, it found that someone had altered the program, splitting the UPC code and the company code, which were then stored in separate locations. An estimated 70,000 man-hours would have been required to bring the company into compliance with the new product codes. "It's not just a question of knowing what you have, but how big the problem is," Venema says. "In some cases, the company will say, 'I'm not going to repair it. I'm going to replace it.' "

Requiring assistance in finding out what's inside that application may sound pedantic to a programmer/analyst who thinks he knows his company's application like the back of his hand. But, in all likelihood, he doesn't know where everything is, Venema says. "We're finding that 100 percent of the time they don't understand completely what they have," he says. "There is always some stuff they don't understand. There are always surprises."

UPCEnabler, along with a similar offering called EuroEnabler, which helps companies convert to the euro currency, represent a new focus for BluePhoenix on delivering packaged products, instead of just services. BluePhoenix's primary business has been migrating legacy applications to new platforms, and it has developed an expertise with many different operating systems, including OS/400, but primarily mainframes.

Earlier this year, BluePhoenix's parent company, Liraz Systems, in Israel, was acquired by Crystal Systems Solutions a subsidiary of Formula Systems, a public Israeli company that owns many software companies. Like BluePhoenix, Crystal Systems was in the business of delivering legacy modernization software and services to enterprise organizations. Today, the two companies operate as a single entity, with about 400 employees and an annual run rate of about $50 million. The organization plans to change its name to BluePhoenix.

The underlying search technology used in UPCEnabler, EuroEnabler, and forthcoming products was developed by Crystal Systems to power the application discovery component of platform migrations. This search technology was written in COBOL and Assembler and runs on the IBM OS/390 mainframe. The search technology includes "harvesters" that go out to the targeted platforms, including OS/400, and mine data about application use. The code generation component of UPCEnabler is largely based on a BluePhoenix fourth-generation language (4GL) scripting language called AppBuilder that can generate C, C++, COBOL, and Java code.

The company expects to roll out additional products that use components of the two companies' technologies. Venema says the company is busy these days, and is also extremely pleased with a recent report from market researcher Gartner that placed the combined company in the upper-right section of its "Magic Quadrant" for legacy rejuvenation technology, providing a higher vision and ability to execute than any other vendor reviewed.

UPCEnabler is available now. Pricing is based on the amount of services required once the discovery component is complete. The discovery component usually costs between $20,000 and $40,000, while the cleanup can range upward of $1 million. For more information, go to

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News Briefs and Product Shorts

Alex Woodie

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Shannon Pastore

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Joe Hertvik
Shannon O'Donnell
Timothy Prickett Morgan

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Kim Reed

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