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Subject: RE: Another life after VFP thread?
Author: "Robert Jennings" <rej at marinesoftware .DOT co.uk>
Posted: 2007.04.02 at 11:30:11
 
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	Hi all,
 
I don't often get time to read the profox list as I'm busy with my head in code, providing solutions
to problems posed by customers.
 
I think that the thread has certainly brought up many thoughts and discussions of languages. It may
be fine for a programmer who goes from company to company to pick up lots of languages and write
software in them (Which is fine) but my problem is that I have applications that I have out in the
Market, we have over a thousand sites/ships using our software.
 
Prior to 2000 the company had software written in Clipper running in DOS.
VFP was the natural progression to provide the software on the Windows Platform. (yes a rewrite was
required from the ground up) Saying that, it took 2 years to Migrate 1 application from Clipper to
VFP.
 
We have had 9 years since the first VFP code was written. We have 6 Products that have progressed
immensely since 1998. We have libraries of functions that work providing the meat of data
manipulation and the interface presenting the data to the user. Many of the systems have been
modified to meet user requirements.
 
Suffice to say, that I don't think that there has been a month gone by when the software hasn't been
worked on to provide a customer modification or upgrades. There are 3 full time developers working
on this software. I would say that 21 Man Years are invested into our software in VFP.
 
Granted, the software does need overhauling, made to be more oop, separate the Interface from the
Data and make it work with a SQL server (any flavour) (we are still using VFP Tables!) Rewriting in
VFP would be much faster as a lot of code can be copied over. We could have created the separate
layers and we would have gone to version 2 of our software without a problem (well, I'm sure there
would have been a couple but not too big!)
 
Now lets look at what Microsoft have done.
Driven the nail in the Coffin of VFP. They will not sell it, the will not Open Source it. The
language, DBMS et al will go. At some point and they can't confirm when, their operating systems
will not support the VFP runtime. Yes granted, it may be 2020 before that happens, but I'm astounded
that there is not an upgrade path. If they rolled VFP into .NET then fantastic, I should imagine
that we could have ported our applications.
 
Now lets look what I face.
Move all my applications over to another Language e.g. Dabo, .NET (any flavour), Python etc etc etc.
This is going to mean that I have to stop the Modifications and Upgrades to my applications while I
(and the rest of the team) re-write the applications (6 of them) from the ground up. This is going
to cost my company at least £200,000 ($400,000) for every Year it takes to re-write (Wages / Lost
potential earnings in Modifications & Upgrades). I think it will take 3 of us at least 3 years to
re-write all 6 modules. 9 MAN YEARS if we are flying.
 
The new software will not have all the modifications for clients who will one day have to move over
to the New application, then there is going to be a backlash from them as I'm going to have to
charge them to modify the software to do exactly what they want.
 
We are a small company, because of Microsoft actions our profitability is going to take a big hit.
Our customers are going to see a slowdown in our reaction times (which at the moment is lightning)
and they will face a bill to upgrade once we have re-coded. Companies are going to have less
confidence in our products because they know that Microsoft is stopping support for VFP in 2015. If
we had a rough date by which time VFP will no longer work on the VFP platform at least we could
reassure customers slightly.
 
If we go over to .NET will Microsoft Kill that at some point?
 
Can Microsoft be more specific when they will pull the Plug on VFP running on Windows Operating
Systems?
 
 
Here is an email that I sent to Microsoft (VFP Team) putting my concerns over to them. Below that is
a response from them.
********************************************
*Email to Microsoft
********************************************
Hi,
 
We are a small development house in the UK and we have been using VFP since 1999. We have built a
suit of products all based on VFP5 and then 7.
 
I should imagine that we will be upgrading to 9 to allow us to run with better support on Vista once
Sedna is bedded in.
 
I would like to know why Microsoft has seen fit to kill a perfectly suitable programming language.
 
Where are we meant to go now?
 
What language are we going to have to now develop in?
 
Is there going to be an alternative or will Microsoft Sell VFP to another software house to keep the
RDBMS and Programming Language alive? If not, is the DBMS still going to be available after 2015?
 
Is there an alternative that we can port or code over to?
 
After 2015, will the MS OS'es not support VFP runtime?
 
What are plans for Operating System support for the VFP Runtime in the future?
 
Will VFP still run after 2015?
 
What are the risks to business, if they still use VFP after 2015?
 
What is Microsoft's official thoughts on a migration path from VFP?
 
Do you know how much a total re-write is going to cost businesses? I think that possibly at least 5
Man years will be our cost to change our suit of products over to a new platform. It is certainly a
worrying time for us small businesses that have relied on VFP as our language of choice. It gave us
an upgrade path from Dbase/Clipper, was an excellent RDBMS with much better performance than Access
and kept the excellent Xbase language alive.
 
Are you forcing everyone to go to SQL server (expensive, per seat costs, makes our application more
expensive to end users)  or Access databases (limited users, poor performance)
 
I have heard in groups that .Net projects are failing and companies out there are turning .Net
projects into VFP to get them working and delivered. Can you comment on that?
 
I would like your thoughts on all of the above so I can face some tough decisions.
 
In anticipation,
 
Robert
 
*****************************************
* Response from Microsoft to above email
*****************************************
Hi Robert,
 
Thank you for your keen interest in this.
 
If you have applications deployed at locations that are planned for migration to Vista, upgrading to
VFP9 is your best short-term measure. VFP9 has stood up to our tests quite well. We will be
addressing the remainder of the issues in the upcoming service pack.
 
Where are we meant to go now?
 
This is always a very difficult question to answer. The VFP engine will continue to run for a long
time. We have customers that are still running FoxPro for DOS. That version has not been supported
for several years. End of a support cycle does not mean that the product will stop working.
 
The engine is quite stable and has been for a long time. Most of the enhancement requests we get are
in the areas that are written in XBase. We announced that these will become part of a shared-source
community driven effort. I am sure these will continue to evolve.
 
Sedna, the upcoming release, contains API that allow you to interoperate with the .NET framework as
well as Vista. We are also working on guidance for working with Office 2007. These elements and a
set of publications on MSDN are meant to help transition to .NET.
 
What language are we going to have to now develop in?
 
This too is a difficult question to answer. We have provided some guidance and will continue to
develop more, to help you adopt .NET. The .NET for Visual FoxPro section on MSDN has several useful
links. (http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/vfoxpro/bb190277.aspx). I would be happy to help answer
your questions, or point you to other experts in these areas within Microsoft.
 
Is there going to be an alternative or will Microsoft Sell VFP to another software house to keep the
RDBMS and Programming Language alive? If not, is the DBMS still going to be available after 2015?
 
There are currently no plans to sell VFP.
 
After 2015, will the MS OS'es not support VFP runtime?
 
Unfortunately I cannot say, at this time. Existing VFP 9 SP2 deployments will certainly continue to
work on today's operating systems even after 2015. However, it is not possible to guarantee
compatibility with future Operating Systems.
 
What are plans for Operating System support for the VFP Runtime in the future?
 
See response to prev question.
 
Will VFP still run after 2015?
 
Yes. On existing platforms VFP will run.
 
What are the risks to business, if they still use VFP after 2015?
 
VFP will not be supported beyond 2015. We have several users still using FoxPro for DOS. These
companies have evaluated their risks with this and have not migrated for several years. In speaking
to them, we have heard that they have not seen the need to migrate at all. This is certainly not the
course we recommend. However, you should evaluate your own risks, and determine the your strategic
roadmap for migration and tech adoption.
 
What is Microsoft's official thoughts on a migration path from VFP?
 
See response above. We recommend migrating to the .NET platform. The paths, phases and deployment
strategies are different for each company.
 
Do you know how much a total re-write is going to cost businesses? I think that possibly at least 5
Man years will be our cost to change our suit of products over to a new platform. It is certainly a
worrying time for us small businesses that have relied on VFP as our language of choice. It gave us
an upgrade path from Dbase/Clipper, was an excellent RDBMS with much better performance than Access
and kept the excellent Xbase language alive.
 
Are you forcing everyone to go to SQL server (expensive, per seat costs, makes our application more
expensive to end users)  or Access databases (limited users, poor performance)
 
Just as applications migrated from Dbase/Clipper or Paradox, so would they from Visual FoxPro. There
is certainly no requirement to make this transition immediately.
 
Enterprise Editions of SQL Server do have a price point. However, these are meant for enterprise
scale data, and applications that have higher demands on reliability, security and scalability.
Often these applications depend on other auxiliary services such as replication and analysis
services, etc.
 
If your application does not demand this scale, SQL Express and SQL Server Compact Edition are both
excellent alternatives. Both are free and very robust.
 
I have heard in groups that .Net projects are failing and companies out there are turning .Net
projects into VFP to get them working and delivered. Can you comment on that?
 
Unfortunately I am not aware of this data. We would be very interested in working with companies
that have moved from .NET to VFP, to help understand the roadblocks and definitely help clear them.
 
I would like your thoughts on all of the above so I can face some tough decisions.
 
I do understand that you face a tough decision. In making this announcement the VFP team also faced
a tough challenge. The team has core members that have worked with Fox for more than 20 years.
 
Please let me know if I can assist you with your migration.
 
Thanks.
 
*************************************************
*End of response
*************************************************
 
 
 
Your thoughts on all of the above will be appreciated.
 
 
Robert Jennings
 
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