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Trust in the Future, Through Experience

BirketHeadshot We think of Birket Foster as the community’s futurist. HP has made it clear to the community that the future of the 3000 won’t include Hewlett-Packard. Since the company is now counting down its last two years of support, we wanted to look beyond that coming initial year of post-HP operations. Seeing into that future, with more migrations and fewer homesteaders, seemed a lively exercise for Birket Foster, leader of the HP Platinum Migration Partner MB Foster and a forward thinker. His company has been in this market since 1977, and a Migration Partner since 2002. He wanted to envision the 3000 market 10 years after that date.

   We talked about the world of 2012, three years from now and well away from HP’s influence on 3000 ownership and migration. MB Foster is sharpening its message this year to reflect its business beyond 3000 expertise. In the years to come the company is booked to help manage migrated applications and environments running for customers MB Foster has migrated. Foster calls this mission “providing the knowledge and experience to earn your trust.” We interviewed him just after he returned from fresh field work in the 3000’s e-commerce community.

Now that the HP MPE/iX lab has closed, will it affect the timeline for migrations?

If you’re already determined to stay on the 3000, the closing of the lab means nothing. The HP lab was doing less and less over the last five years anyway. It’s really about the applications, not about the 3000’s technology.

   The correct answer to the question “When do I migrate” is “when the rest of the world changes over to the next major new technology.” When that technology gets introduced, and it cannot be incorporated into the 3000 in any way, then you end up with the 3000 unable to integrate.

    I sat in a meeting with a CFO this month who said, “I’m going to be the last guy standing in the management team. Everybody is moving except me, because I’m the youngster. So guess what? I don’t want this on my watch, so I want to get the process ready. I’d like to start the process to mitigate the risk.” The people in the IT trenches don’t always understand that from a risk-mitigation point of view, management may vote differently. In this company, they brought somebody back from retirement to run the 3000. Does that tell you anything?

Seemingly small things can impact the future of 3000 transitions. Can you think of an element that’s been overlooked that will shape the future of the marketplace?

Availability of people who know how to support the applications. There are lots of hardware guys. It’s not just the people in IT, but also the people on the business side of the world. The last person in accounting who knows how the accounting system works — when he leaves, you’ll have to replace that system. That’s one of the biggest risks people are facing, whether they want to admit it or not.

It’s 2012. How much of the market has made the move by now? Who’s still on the 3000, who’s moved, and why?

Maybe 10 percent of the original installed base is left. Even today there are a lot of machines out there, but I know of companies that have plans afoot to get themselves out of where they currently are. That might not be by 2012, but it’s going to be pretty close to that time. For example, anybody who has a credit card application right now needs to be able to do certain kinds of encryption and protection for credit card numbers. Some applications didn’t handle that very well. If you just got told that your Visa, MasterCard and American Express merchant rights are going to be revoked if you don’t get onto the new application, I guess you don’t have a choice, unless you want to close the doors.

    In the healthcare sector, there are new HIPAA regulations that make you ensure you can see who looked at a patient file. That’s often not going to have been built into the 3000 application.

    It’s going to get harder over the next three years to put out a help wanted call that says “Wanted: HP 3000 programmer.” You’re more likely to get more response if want a Windows programmer, or a .NET programmer. Even a Java programmer, although we’ll see what Oracle does with Java.

    I think you’ll be stuck with the small guys on the 3000. The big guys all will have moved, because they all have some kind of accountability to banking. Banks will start pushing down the chain on how much risk they have in their client base.

    In fact, there are banks already doing that. Companies are having their risk profiles revised when they apply for their annual line of credit to cover payrolls or big inventory buys. Even though you’ve done business for 20 years, there’s somebody at the bank who’s going to look at you to see whether you’re a risk after all. During that process they may look at what’s critical to your business. If that’s an HP 3000, at some point somebody’s going to recognize it’s not HP’s price list anymore, so it represents a risk.