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March 09, 2018

Fine-Tune Friday: Account Management 101

Newswire Classic

By Scott Hirsh

Ledger-bookAs we board the train on our trip through HP 3000 System Management Hell, our first stop, Worst Practice #1, must be Unplanned Account Structure. By account structure I am referring to the organization of accounts, groups, files and users. I maintain that the worst of the worst practices is the failure to design an account structure, then put it into practice and stick with it. If instead you wing it, as most system managers seem to do, you ensure more work for yourself now and in the future. In other words, you are trapped in System Management Hell.

What’s the big deal about account structure? The account structure is the foundation of your system, from a management perspective. Account structure touches on a multitude of critical issues: security, capacity planning, performance, and disaster recovery, to name a few. On an HP 3000, with all of two levels to work with (account and group), planning is even more important than in a hierarchical structure where the additional levels allow one to get away with being sloppy (although strictly speaking, not planning your Unix account structure will ultimately catch up with you, too). In other words, since we have less to work with on MPE, making the most of what we have is compelling.

As system managers, when not dozing off in staff meetings, the vast majority of our time is spent on account structure-related activities: ensuring that files are safely stored in their proper locations, accessible only to authorized users; ensuring there is enough space to accommodate existing file growth as well as the addition of new files; and occasionally, even today, file placement or disk fragmentation can become a performance issue, so we must take note of that.

In the unlikely event of a problem, we must know where everything is and be able to find backup copies if necessary. Periodically we are asked (perhaps with no advance notice) to accommodate new accounts, groups, users and applications. We must respond quickly, but not recklessly, as this collection of files under our management is now ominously referred to as a “corporate asset.”

You wouldn’t build a house without a design and plans, you wouldn’t build an application without some kind of specifications, so why do we HP 3000 system managers ignore the need for some kind of consistent logic to the way we organize our systems?

A logical, adaptable, documented account structure is a huge time saver in many respects. As most of us now manage multiple systems, we have no time to waste chasing down lost files, working with convoluted file sets, struggling to keep access under control or reacting to full volume sets.

I once had a conversation with a co-worker who was an avid outdoorsman. He was discussing rock climbing and I asked him about exciting rock climbing experiences. His reply: “In rock climbing, anything exciting is bad.” I would say the same thing about system management. By getting your account structure under control, you build a solid system management foundation that translates into much more pleasant work.

If this were a “best practices” column, we would discuss the best ways to clean up your system’s account structure. But this is worst practices, so let’s look at the no-nos.

No naming standards,
bad naming standards

Oscar Wilde once said, “Consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative.” Do you think he was referring to HP 3000 system management? If so, not much has changed since Oscar’s day.

• In one account the jobs are located in group JCL. In another account, group JOBS. The developers keep “special” jobs in a group you never heard of in the critical application account. And just to make things more interesting, all your so-called “production” jobs are kept in an account called JCL, containing all kinds of groups, including “TEMP.”

By having consistency across accounts I control, I can easily find what I need when I need it. If jobs are always in the same group across accounts, I can LISTF @.JOBS.@, etc. Backups/recoveries are easier, updates are easier, training new operators is easier. Sure, consistency is boring, but we must resist the lure of adrenaline.

• I’m going out on a limb here, but my guess is that your UDCs, the few you have left, are in a different place in every account. Why is that? And your system UDC (singular) is located in the SYS account, right? Because it’s the SYStem UDC, of course! Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to have another, non-SYS account for globally accessible files. What’s the catch? The system UDC file needs to be in the system volume set, for obvious reasons (learned that one the hard way).

• An MPE file name consists of a whopping maximum of eight characters. That should make every character count, right? So why do jobs that live in a group called JCL or an account called JCL all start with the letter J? File that under the department of redundancy department.

• We manage the systems, so we make the rules, right? Wrong. If we want the rules followed, if we want the best rules possible, we must get input and buy-in from all the others who will be expected to honor our rules. Ignoring users when it’s time to develop naming standards and other system policies is a classic Worst Practice, and a good way to ensure continued chaos. And don’t forget that upper management will need to be involved when a little “gentle” persuasion is required.

Scott Hirsh is former chairman of the SIG-SYSMAN Special Interest Group.

06:51 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink

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