Small support shops fill big shoes
Spring GHRUG show moves forward

Homesteaders dodge risky business(es)

Long ago, it seems, HP said that risks revolve around using the HP 3000 as a mission-critical platform. There are risks in using any computing solution, from security breaches and malware to the general malaise of applications and platforms which under-perform while being over-promised, or exhibit flash-of-light lifespans.

For the HP 3000 site which homesteads, however, a risk does not lie in MPE/iX, IMAGE or the hardware that hosts those two marvels of software. No, the prospective fault lies not in ourselves, as customers, but in those stars of suppliers, to twist a bit of Shakespeare around. Put more plainly, providers going out of business pose the greatest risk, according to Resource 3000's Stan Sieler.

Sieler, who's part of the Allegro Consultants' brain trust, addressed the question at the most recent e3000 Community Meet in the Bay Area. "The biggest risk I've seen is vendors going out of business," he reported. "We've had customers using Bradford's SPEEDEDIT, and SPEEDEDIT has a bug in it as of 2007 which made it stop running because of a weird clock limitation." Allegro patched around the problem for those customers. Bradford Business Solutions supports SPEEDEDIT no more.

But there's a more widespread risk: Being unable to move any application or solution from one system to another. Upgrade your 3000 at the sweet prices of today and you might find some programs are frozen onto the older hardware.

HP suggested just this scenario when it said the 3000's "ecosystem" was at risk before HP decided to curtail its HP 3000 business plans. Looking into the matter's history is a matter of chicken-or-egg coming first. Would Bradford Business Systems have gone so dark by 2007 if HP had maintained its 3000 business? Difficult to tell, but any system vendor dropping out of the server's market certainly doesn't help.

What helps avoid this risk is choosing long-term, stable HP 3000 suppliers, ones with a lengthy track record and an avowed dedication to continuing to serve your community. HPSUSAN numbers identify new HP 3000 servers; active and dedicated vendors can accomodate new HPSUSAN numbers. Gone-dark vendors' software can only run on older system HPSUSAN numbers.

Sieler suggested one way to solve the problem might be contacting HP to request a move of an old HPSUSAN number to a new server. After all, every customer is paying $400 to have each MPE/iX license transferred from old server to newly purchased system.

There's little a customer can count upon, either from HP or a gone-dark vendor, to dodge this kind of software risk. But Sieler mentioned another risk that's cropping up. "I've seen a surprising number of sites that have hit the Third Bear of IMAGE, from Fred White's paper," he said.

This third bear is "BABY BEAR," wrote White, who created the IMAGE database along with Jon Bale at HP. "It is represented by 'paths,' another feature whose misuse, while normally not disastrous, may have a negative effect on response time and/or throughput."

White's exacting and detailed paper is available to read either online at the Adager Web site, or as a downloadable PDF file. But the awareness of this bear will depend on who's left at a 3000 customer base who understands the database at the heart of their 3000.

"They're running along fine, and suddenly their database stops performing well," Sieler said. "It's a problem that's well-known in the 3000 community, but [it's] only [identified] if they have people in their business who know anything about the 3000. That's when people call me with sudden performance problems."

The way to beat the bear is the same solution as dodging the HPSUSAN and new bug risks: HP 3000 expertise, engaged either through a support contract with a third party, or continuing your support with an application or tool provider. Risk aversion is the HP 3000 owners' hallmark. Keeping a budget alive to maintain links to expertise is a 3000 habit which can avoid risky business.

Just because the HP 3000 lunch has gotten inexpensive doesn't mean it's free.