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A Visit from Vladimir

After posting up one of our longest podcasts on Friday, recapping the last year of transition, I stepped out into another part of 3000 history with Vladimir Volokh, leader of 3000 utility makers VEsoft. Vladimir invited my partner Abby and I out to the best rib joint in Austin, County Line on the Lake, to celebrate "the four-year anniversary of our interview in the NewsWire."

After the three of us finished eyeing the dozens of turtles bobbing along the riverside deck, we took our lemonades inside and bobbed through tales of the present and the past of the 3000. VEsoft, makers of Security/3000 and MPEX, still count several thousand customers in their empire. It's a world where the horizon is always advancing, to paraphrase a joke Vladimir tells.

He compares the 3000's end-of-life to the horizon. "You know about horizon," the Russian emigrant says in a voice rich with charm. "Whenever you approach it, it moves farther away." We chuckled because for many 3000 sites this is true; the closer they seem to get to the cut-off for their 3000s, the farther away the end moves. Change is expensive and risky. VEsoft's customers are not the kind who embrace risk, at least not after Vladimir pays them a visit.

For those who keep up with Vladimir's family, both his sons are now law professors. Eugene, fellow creator of MPEX who still maintains the product, teaches law at UCLA and appears on news networks. Sasha, after taking a PhD as well as a law degree from Harvard, earned a spot as a law clerk at the US Supreme Court, just like his brother had. But Sasha got a rare stint; he started with Sandra Day O'Connor, but stayed on after the justice retired to clerk for new justice Sam Alito. Sasha now teaches law at Georgetown University.

After more than 25 years in the 3000 community, Vladimir still travels to customer sites, a good portion of each work-month. He invited us to dinner because he was in Austin for a few days, visiting with an HMO based here. He explained that these consulting visits nearly always result in opening a customer's eyes to holes in their system security, disks in need of better management, or productivity from MPEX, a product often already installed on the HP 3000.

Sometimes, he says, the company grants him access to a CIO, COO — a person who can authorize a product purchase or support renewal on the spot. Most of the time, he consults with a technical expert managing a 3000 who must get approval for a new tool, or another year of support.

He grinned when talking about his pitch to companies to keep their 3000s running and maintained as well as the small rental cars he tools around America. "They say to me, 'We do our best' " to maintain and secure. "I say we have experience and know better. I say, "You don't want to do your best. You want to do our best.' "

Like many of us still serving the 3000 market, Vladimir does not know when the community's business will ebb away. He notes that the number of customers has stopped declining, even while VEsoft, like every other 3000 software company, scraps to keep its support contracts active.

"We are still here, eh?" He says it out in the County Line parking lot, always with a smile, after he's picked one of our Texas beef rib bones clean. We lead him out along the highway to the budget motel where he stays in his multi-week journeys, making face-to-face contact with his significant share of the community. The next day he visits Terry Floyd's ERP company the Support Group, inc. On a Saturday, Vladimir trains the staff in the VEsoft product nuances. These veterans of your world remain on the path to assist you, whether you're driving away keeping your course on MPE.