Prof’s Startup Untangles Problems With Old Software

When Dr. Gopal Gupta took the helm of the Department of Computer Science, contributing to the regional economy through entrepreneurial endeavors was a goal set for faculty members and students, and an expectation he applied to himself.

Dr. Gopal Gupta and associates

Dr. Gopal Gupta (right) employs several UT Dallas alumni at Interoperate (from left): Varshada Buchake MS10, Dr. Qian Wang PhD07 and Tapas Behera MS09.

Three years later, he is co-founder of Interoperate, a startup company whose clients now include publicly traded organizations that rank in the top 100 on Fortune magazine’s list of the largest companies in America.

“We have leaders of Fortune 100 companies who trust us to solve their problems,” said Gupta, holder of the Erik Jonsson Chair. “The computer science department is full of talented faculty members who can create sophisticated software solutions. Interoperate is one of many that will be successful.”

Interoperate automatically translates computer programs made from legacy codes, those created decades ago, into their modern versions accurately and efficiently.

Many legacy codes were created before modern technology such as the Internet existed, so they are limited in how and when people can use the program. In most cases, newer programs written in modern languages are available and can be accessed using the Internet, but translation is needed to bridge the communication gap.

Rewriting the code into a new language can be troublesome because the programmer who wrote the code may no longer be around.

“It can be very difficult to understand someone else’s code,” Gupta said.

Companies who take this approach often hire workers in another country where labor costs less to try to decipher and update the code.

“Building an automated translator using traditional languages such as C++ could take years of work, but it only takes a few months with our approach.”

Dr. Gopal Gupta,
head of the Department of Computer Science

Gupta, an expert in programming languages and applied logic, took a different approach. He built a translator that uses the most sophisticated programming languages available to automatically translate legacy code.

“We use rule-based languages that take more training to understand and use appropriately,” he said. “Building an automated translator using traditional languages such as C++ could take years of work, but it only takes a few months with our approach.”

“In most cases, the source and target languages come embedded with an advanced programming interface (API) that makes the process of building a translator significantly harder,” Gupta said.

An approach based on automated translations significantly increases productivity: migration projects can be done 10 to 15 times faster compared to using a manual approach. In one case, Interoperate migrated 380,000 lines of computer code in the equivalent of nine months of human labor. A manual process would have taken an equivalent of more than 10 years of human labor with no guarantee of success.

“We guarantee that the code will be correct, and we also guarantee a project’s success,” he said. “A lot of migration projects fail; they try to decipher the code for two years and then realize it’s not going anywhere and give up. We’ve have customers who have tried and failed, then they come to us and we made them successful.”

Interoperate’s first product is marketed toward companies that write software to make sure graphical user interfaces, for example websites, work correctly. The company has won many customers and is housed in the University’s Venture Development Center. The  facility, located next to campus, is a business incubator that houses spinoff companies that are based on UT Dallas technology. Interoperate is funded by the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

The company is currently working on applying its technology to the mobile phone market.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].