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How to transition away from Macola

How to transition away from Macola

How to transition away from Macola

(OP)
One of my clients is an online retailer of widgets. They have been using Macola since time immemorial. They're on Macola 7.6.400A with MSSQL. On top of Macola, they use a third-party software package - we'll call it Labrador. Labrador does everything for them that vanilla Macola does not. It can read/write the Macola tables, and has some separate tables of its own.

About once a week, some consultants from Labrador make changes to the Macola extensions or add new ones. For the next day or two, I can expect to spend most of my time chasing down mysterious errors that can be traced back to Labrador/Macola. The software often fails silently, or prints a stack trace revealing that seemingly-obvious edge cases haven't been handled (e.g., crashing when no files remain to be processed in a folder, as opposed to saying "All done!"). Labrador is not just a set of custom forms and reports; it's a does-everything software package that extends Macola's built-in features and adds new ones, mostly to connect to the company web site and do e-commerce. Labrador itself is not much more modern and open than Macola. It uses Web Forms (not even ASP.NET MVC) to serve up web pages, for example. More disturbingly, it seems that only the Labrador consultants understand this software. The client would be in a bad situation should Labrador cease supporting their product; and yet, as time goes on, Labrador and Macola support becomes a constant source of a weekly paycheck from the client to these consultants, with no end in sight. I am absolutely terrified of the long-term consequences if this client does not transition to something more standard, up to date, and more ubiquitously supported. As it is, I often wait several days for the Labrador gurus to reveal their secrets, as I don't know what's in the source code, don't know how the tables relate to one another, don't know what they may have changed this week, etc. From what I've gathered online, this situation is not uncommon amongst the companies that still use Macola.

I'd like to present my client with options for moving away from Macola (and the arcane extensions the consultants have added on top of it), but don't know how to go about it. There's easily a decade of information in the MSSQL database that Macola and Labrador share, and from what I have gathered, it's not easily interpreted by a human being who isn't employed by Labrador. The Labrador consultants seem like nice guys, but helping my client transition to another solution runs counter to their business interests (i.e., being paid for their regular tweaks to this inherently crufty solution), ergo I can't rely on them to port everything over to a more robust solution.

Has anyone transitioned away from Macola? What did you use instead? Caveats, warnings, ideas? All are appreciated. I've already read literally every thread on this forum that seemed apropos, and it's been the most useful resource I've found to date.

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