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DCA is used to Migrate Data
Our Experts use DCA to automate the steps of a carefully defined Methodology
The Data Conversion Architect (DCA) is UCT's data conversion toolset. It is a web-based collaboration tool with a number of critical features and components that automate parts of the conversion system development lifecycle. It is important to note that DCA does not perform a conversion; no customer data is loaded into DCA. Instead, DCA's role is to aid the team as they develop a separate "conversion system" - a program(s) that migrates data from one system to another system.
DCA turns Business Experts into Programmers
A major role of DCA in the development of the conversion system is as a 4GL to 3GL converter. It accepts and stores migration business rules or logic from non-technical business experts that is expressed in a natural form, like "move field-1 to field-2". From the logic, DCA generates migration modules that can be compiled and executed on the platform that will host the conversion (usually the source platform). As the business expert creates the logic they periodically validate it to ensure it is clear and unambiguous. Validating a map also produces the more complicated 3GL migration modules, which are ready to be executed. With DCA, the business expert is able to rapidly alter migration modules without involving a programmer - a key differentiator between DCA and other migration solutions. Logic can be created to not only support data migrations but supports data auditing & cleansing, error & status reporting, balancing, reconciliation, validation, and many other activities.
DCA uses metadata for logic creation and code generation
At the start of a data migration, metadata for the systems involved in the migration is imported into DCA. Metadata can be COBOL copybooks, database DDL files, XML schemas, or transaction keyword definitions. DCA uses the information from the metadata to aid in logic creation and code generation. Business experts enter migration logic into "maps" in much the same way they would record data relationships in data dictionaries or spreadsheets. A DCA map is a collection of related pieces of migration logic, which may populate a database table, for instance. Instead of delivering the data relationships to programmers for implementation, DCA first uses the metadata to clarify and perfect the logic and then to generate migration code.
DCA utilities are reused by the team
Within DCA are a suite of "utilities" that exist to support the team. Utilities have been collected from past projects to do a variety of things. One example is a utility referred to as UCT Messaging. It is used to standardize and collect run-time error and status messages. Other utilities can be invoked from map logic to do bit-level processing or load run-time conversion tables that are defined inside DCA. Data migration projects typically include common activities and code components that are created to support those activities are collected as utilities. UCT has been collecting utilities since 1992 and we use them to speed up development, shorten the lifecycle, and drive down data migration costs.
Testing intentionally starts early
The UCT methodology is an Agile-like approach that evolves the map logic. The initial map logic created by the business experts is very simple and incomplete. Testing begins as soon as the logic has been entered, which is very early in the development lifecycle. Whenever a new requirement is discovered, the business expert can rapidly alter the business logic to accommodate it. This is important because with old, complex systems it is not possible to fully understand the migration requirements in advance. Because the methodology and tools are designed to rapidly adapt to emerging requirements, the development lifecycle is greatly shortened.
DCA Reporting evaluates conversion success
Once testing begins, DCA Reporting collects the run-time messages and performs success evaluation. Messages are automatically reported when common data migration errors are detected (like data truncation) and business experts can also add logic to create custom report messages. To aid in error management and tracking, each messages identifies an "owner". Messages that are collected for a migration attempt can be compared to the results of a previous attempt to see how the migration logic is improving. DCA Reporting includes features that allow team members to drill down into the message data to understand problem trends or the root cause of a problem. It also creates portable and easy-to-use MS-Excel reports from the messages. These include a message summary and message detail pages and messages can be collected into reports by owner, by policy, or by message.
Some maps are automatically generated by DCA
Finally, DCA features provide the ability to create complete maps of a particular type. One type of map that can be automatically created is "audit" maps, which perform auditing or data analysis on the source system. DCA can automatically create audit maps so that they include all necessary logic to audit the data in the source system. Another map type that can be automatically created is "balancing" maps, which do balancing (sometimes called reconciliation or validation) after a data migration.
DCA is essential to data migration success
DCA features are used as required during a data migration. DCA turns migration logic expressed by the business experts into a conversion module. This allows the business expert to drive the migration development process and eliminates their dependency on programmers as well as unnecessary communication paths that cause implementation errors.
Testing and requirement discovery begins earlier than with other methodologies. The tool lets the business experts rapidly create improved migration code that can be executed immediately. Reporting lets them detect new requirements and detect and understand errors.
Balancing and auditing are conducted to ensure that data meets expectations and is converted correctly. The conversion, auditing, and balancing maps that are used in DCA to collect the logic can be exported from DCA as text files and reviewed in walkthroughs or archived for posterity. When this time saving application is combined with experts and a proven methodology it ensures a successful conversion.