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IT pros prefer serving own software

In a spot poll we launched yesterday, a majority of IT pros who manage HP 3000s want to keep software close to their own infrastructure. Although Software as a Service (SaaS) is at the top of HP's new offerings, these computing clouds don't appear to be forming yet for many 3000 customers.

Some of the resistance might rise from a mismatch between the size of companies using the 3000 and the target for HP's cloud computing, says migration provider Birket Foster of MB Foster. Since IT staff is the most costly element of keeping software out of the services category, eventually companies will purchase software for use from the cloud.

"If you won't be able to afford to run an IT datacenter, you'll buy those services from a large provider," Foster said, a firm such as Bellsouth or an ISP. HP's messaging on clouds is aimed at these large companies, he added. 3000 customers who are processing cloud messages at events such as the HP Technology Forum "go because they want to understand how the framework operates."

For the moment, a small share of our poll respondents are considering clouds in their migration plan. But many still see outsourcing as the most compatible strategy to move computing infrastructure offsite. In the Ecometry e-commerce community, Cliff Hart of Shar Music said his firm evaluated "an ERP system that was basically SaaS. They have the servers offsite and you lease seats for your users."

Sharmusic.com sells string instruments through a Web site and catalog to schools, teachers and musicians around the world. The company, which was founded in 1962, was hopeful that the PCS (Profit Center) from Systemax could offer a migration solution to move servers out of Shar's IT operations.

"The concept seemed good," Hart said, "but they seemed to have some trouble getting their package off the ground. I know one Ecometry site migrated to it and had difficulty." Ultimately Shar migrated to the Ecometry Open Systems Windows/SQL application suite and retained software services onsite.

Distinguishing SaaS from outsourcing habits and strategies has been a slow embrace for 3000 customers. The community remembers similar old-school practices such as timesharing, as well as the offerings of the 1990s like Application Service Providers. Companies such as DST Health Solutions and the Support Group host servers for clients who don't need a 3000 onsite, or any other server, so long as able administrators can manage their computers on their behalf.

Migration service provider Speedware sees a trend for custom-app users to keep software inside a small company's infrastructure when they move off the 3000. Product marketing manager Nick Fortin said that some companies aim to replace custom-built apps with packaged apps are more open to consider cloud computing to serve their needs, but Speedware's migration solution customers aim at local resources.

"The tend to aim for low-risk, lift-and-shift migrations of their existing custom-built applications and related supporting environment," he said. "They usually purchase their own servers, software and own the infrastructure that powers them, so they don’t really opt for a cloud computing or software-as-a-service model since they host the apps locally."

Years of practices that keep data and services under company control are not rolling back quickly into clouds for career 3000 managers. "No such plans here, said Jeffrey Elmer, director of IS for Dairylea Cooperative. "We like to know where our data is and who has access to it."

But computing abilities handled by the HP 3000 continue to march out of localized datacenters. Many of these transitions move computer operations to another location, for another team of IT pros to manage via remote access. "They leave the servers in the datacenter -- these days they are normally talking to a lot of other boxes in there -- and push the operations and applications support out to be managed remotely by a third party," said ScreenJet's Alan Yeo. "We see this happening more and more."

The only downside, Yeo quipped, "is that after about a year -- when for some obscure reason someone actually tries to do something at the real console rather than the remote one -- you find that the keyboard has gone sticky through non-use, and you end up having to bang some of the keys to get them to work."