University of California, Santa Barbara
Shape Up and Shim Out


The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) developed its campus-wide financial system in the 1980s on an IBM mainframe.  This base computing platform lasted 30 years.  How did they do it? 

In the early 2000’s, they began developing use- and department- specific applications written in Java and .Net.   This ended up in over a dozen applications that became deeply embedded in the user community.  Departments became dependent on user-facing web apps like flex card, transfer of funds, student refunds, and other finance tasks.  To make it all work they developed a custom library that allowed the web apps to talk to the mainframe.  

Making it Simpler

In 2012 the IT department began a conversion to PeopleSoft Financials.  They started by moving the mainframe to a different physical location, and began the conversion.  In the planning stages the IT folks faced the unpleasant task of converting the highly functional apps and training scores of departmental users. 

When Simpler was contacted to bring in Simpler datapps for PeopleSoft we realized that this web-to-mainframe library offered us a single point to talk to the mainframe data.  We quickly wrote a shim to replace the old interface. (According to Wikipedia, “a shim is a small library that transparently intercepts API calls and changes the arguments passed, handles the operation itself, or redirects the operation elsewhere.”)  We then used our datapp platform to transform data to the PeopleSoft data model. 

This allowed all the web apps to communicate directly with PeopleSoft without the user community facing any changes.  The subsequent conversion to PeopleSoft became transparent, saving the campus a tremendous amount of time, money, and headaches.   

Our motto became “shape up and shim out”.