Small supporters sprout up
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In HP's lee, solo experts keep up 3000s

This morning is the first of a two-week darkness at HP, the holiday time when the company has closed its doors. HP's labs are going dark for 3000 customers for good. It's a time when the independent wizards will rise up to create workarounds for complex problems. The wind of HP's changes for the 3000, even to aid support, has now fallen. The community is on the leeward side of 3000 Island.

Independents keep the breezes moving, though. These support sources can be small in staff. But compared to the number of 3000 lab experts who will work at HP from now on, the solo supporters still out-staff Hewlett-Packard.

Some of the slightly-larger independent companies are making strategic resources available by region, so a solo provider takes on support of clients across an area of a country. Jason Peel, who’s part of The MPE Support Group, said that the 3000’s reliability and stability keep support demands manageable for a single provider.

“I don’t really get that many calls at night,” he said. “It seems like everyplace I walk into now, instead of lights-out, 24x7 operations, it’s no lights on the weekends. After 5 o’clock, most of the [IT operations] people are gone, because the processing just runs.”

Solo supporters like Peel, or John Stephens of Take Care of IT, work on other platforms occasionally. But they report that their 3000 work keeps them busy nearly 100 percent of their available time. Stephens said he’s gotten an MCSE Windows certification, but it’s the 3000 knowledge which keeps him in the IT management business. Much of the work is available because companies have no more 3000 expertise on the payroll.

“More than half of the situations are basically shops where the last known expert on MANMAN on the 3000, for example, has retired,” he said. The one-man IT shop, so common among 3000 customers, lends itself to a solo supporter like Stephens, he explained.

“We have clients that have five people in an IT group, but we have super-small clients who don’t have anybody,” Peel said. “While we were doing a project with one client, we were getting status updates from the senior VP.”

The smaller support providers find ways to support one another in the community as well. Stephens said he’s got backup from another provider, but in the end, “I’m the last man standing. I have colleagues in the business I can ask to keep an eye on things for me. But realistically, month-long European vacations are not in the cards for me anytime soon.”

Vacations and holidays are already underway in Europe, and soon in North America for many IT customers. HP is taking its holiday away from development and sales in this quiet time, too. But it's a permanent holiday for the 3000 labs which back up HP's support from today onward. The virtual lab of allied independents is leaving the doors open and the lights on for the community.