Once upon a time, HP 3000s dominated the 911 dispatch sector. In 2000, while it announced that it would call its server the e3000, HP boasted that the computer directed emergency calls for 90 percent of US cities of more than 100,000, tapping an application from PSSI.
But some cities with smaller populations have taken a shine to other solutions for routing fire, police and medical calls. Sumter, SC had its city council approve the funding to move off its 3000 earlier this month, and officials in the IT group there felt they were among the last to make a change. An article from the Sumter Item reported the council gave a green light to changing the system that controls emergency lights.
The new server, which is a Sentinel system, is used throughout the state and is a replacement for the current HP 3000 platform being used. Sumter is the last place to make the switch, which will cost about $118,683.87. But that money will come out of the E-911 fund rather that the city's budget directly, and $47,473.54 of that cost will be refunded by the state.
The Sentinel replacement is sold by a Motorola division, but its description shows how a computer platform is the least element in a small county's migration considerations. The words PC, Windows or even the phrase "the computer" don't appear in the Sentinel data sheet. 911 has become computer telephony.
All those unmentioned elements are a vital part of the Sentinel solution, but the software-hardware bundle is more focused on a much more crucial part of 911: the telephones.
The Sentinel Patriot E9-1-1 Call Taking System includes a PBX phone exchange embedded in a Windows server, an option that also exists in products from Public Safety Systems Inc. The PSSI solution started with HP 3000s in 1984 and has migrated to Windows since HP pulled the plug on its 3000 futures.
But the public's understanding of the need to upgrade is not wrapped around PSSI's relative features. Instead, the HP 3000 and the Hewlett-Packard pullout is the driver to trigger a $118,000 purchase, as well as the retraining and implementation costs. PSSI still serves more than 150 municipalities with its Computer Aided Dispatch solutions. But the software company doesn't take the ding for missing the cut on a replacement.
Some IT managers point at older hardware as a reason for adopting a solution where the server isn't even part of the discussion. Applications drive IT changes, as always. But in some cases, the change needs a kick start from hardware to get new software in place. Changing the subject sometimes works to trigger change.
Homesteading solutions are surviving in sectors where the awareness of the hardware and operating environment remain high. Reducing the hardware's profile can be one of the warning signs of an impending desire to migrate.