SAFECO and Microsoft® with the aid of the Visual Basic Upgrade Companion, partnered to convert a large scale, real world application to Visual Basic .NET. Safeco looked towards a VB to .NET migration to enhance performance and take advantage of .NET’s improved development environment.

Company Overview

SAFECO is a FORTUNE 500 diversified financial services company based in Seattle, Washington. SAFECO has been in business since 1923 and has grown to be premier provider of insurance and financial products. Its products include auto, home, life and business insurance, investments such as mutual funds, annuities and stock purchase plans; retirement plans for business, trust services and surety bonds.
SAFECO had more than 17,000 partners, including independent insurance agents, brokers, investment advisors and wholesalers. For 2001, its annual revenue was $6.87 billion.

Business Challenge

All the independent agents who sell personal Auto and Home products used SAFECO’s software, Personal Lines Rating Software (PLRS), developed in VB 6.0. The company had maximized the use of its software by having remote quote and sale of its Home and Auto products. Even though the software permitted download and upload of the updated transactions using standard internet connections, the new .NET framework offered additional benefits highly desired for the superior client server services.

The PLRS software was provided to more than 10,000 agents back then. Thousands of quotes were done on a daily basis using PLRS, and thousands of sales were uploaded to SAFECO monthly. More sales were received at SAFECO through PLRS than any of its other sales channels or technologies.

Agents applauded the PLRS software for its ease of use, automatic self-updating, and the use of standard Internet technology. PLRS could also bridge information from a number of the popular agency management software systems that were often used in an insurance agency, making sales tracking and servicing even easier.

Recognizing the great value of the current application and the need to evolve to a higher technological platform, the company decided to investigate migrating to .NET and leverage the knowledge and capital embedded in its software.

The VB to .NET migration was a challenge. The PLRS software consisted of approximately 230,000 lines of code, 462 classes, and 580 designers. In addition it had approximately 258 reports. SAFECO wished to migrate this application to VB .NET in order to take advantage of anticipated performance enhancements on the server side, utilization of web services, better change management vs. COM, and the ability to run multiple copies of code. On the client side, SAFECO felt that .NET offered a more stable development environment than ActiveX. These two benefits added would substantially reduce Total Cost of Ownership by simplifying deployment and maintenance for more than 10,000 agents.

The challenge for SAFECO was to determine the viability of migrating this strategic application from VB to .NET to take advantage of the technological advantages this platform offers, while retaining the valuable business logic and functionality of the PLRS software.

Solution 

SAFECO, in conjunction with Microsoft, turned to ArtinSoft, the industry leading enterprise software migration and upgrade specialist. ArtinSoft developed for Microsoft the Visual Basic 6.0 to Visual Basic .NET Upgrade Wizard that is included with Visual Studio .NET and has been working with Visual Studio .NET and the .NET framework even before its official release.

ArtinSoft, in consultation with SAFECO, developed a project plan to achieve full functional equivalence of the PLRS software in Visual Studio .NET in 101 calendar days. The application port was essentially completed with an effort of 4 man-months of work. This is just a fraction of the estimated 4 man-years it would have taken to manually re-write the application from scratch. In order to optimize performance, VB6 string manipulation functions were converted to their equivalent functions in .NET, and COM interop for User Controls was eliminated. A conversion project of this size (230,000 lines of code) shows the robustness of the ArtinSoft automation, and the experience of ArtinSoft’s engineers to handle a “real world” application.

Benefits

For SAFECO, the opportunity to migrate PLRS to the .NET platform provided several key business benefits, including support for web services, more rapid response time, better change control to enhance the development process, and a more productive development environment. The elimination of DLL version conflicts and simplified deployment substantially reduced TCO and downtime.

Utilizing ArtinSoft’s expertise and rapid migration methodology and technology allowed significant savings in both dollars and time over new development of the PLRS functionality in Visual Studio .NET.

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