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Mitigating Risks in the 3000 Environment

By Birket Foster

As a software vendor with licensed customers in the HP 3000 market, I am astounded by the number of IT shops that have not clearly communicated to their senior management the issues associated with HP's December 31, 2010 end of hardware and software support. You see, senior management is often more concerned with the budget than with the risks involved, since financial analysis is something the company is measured upon. However, for all the companies I visit every year (and there have been hundreds), I have yet to see a company where the Microsoft Windows budget is less than the HP 3000 budget (service bureaus aside). Windows always costs more, and yet that desktop environment does little to run the applications required to run the business.

Budgets are good to monitor. But you must also remain aware of risks, and monitor and plan for them, in your mission-critical 3000 environment.

So here's a little “end of summer” exercise – let’s think through a scenario for your HP 3000. Something goes wrong with a disc controller rendering your storage useless – what is your plan for getting things back on track? Yes, that would be called a Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery situation. What's more, you should not only have such a plan readily available, but also have a management-approved measure called Mean-Time To Recovery of Operation (MTTRO) associated with it. What this metric consists of are the costs for the loss or impairment of a critical resource as well as the time-frames involved for different kinds of incidents. Each scenario should be played out with the costs involved and a discussion of what is acceptable downtime for that situation. (For some ideas, see the Wikipedia entry on MTTRO.)

Think of the best possible scenario. The downtime occurs right after a backup, with spare parts and the right team members present on site to recover from the failure. How long will it take you to recover? What will the downtime cost you while the HP 3000 is not available? You will need to know if that cost and the length of downtime is acceptable to your senior management team.

Okay, so let’s look at the impact of a crash on Friday afternoon when the HP 3000 was backed up last Saturday (you do verify your backup tapes, right?) You have a full backup from last Saturday and daily backups from Monday through Thursday. The spare parts are not on site, and you have to contact your provider to get the parts and a skilled technician to the site, and then you can start restoring your hardware and application environments. How long will it take to restore all the data, applications and the whole system?

Is there a plan with priority order for recovery – how would you know what data was lost from today? How can you recover it -- are there any transactions or data likely to be unrecoverable (for example, Web transactions)? Was does four hours of downtime cost at the maximum -- and what about eight hours, 2 days, or a week? Think about what could you do to mitigate the risks. What does it cost to shorten your MTTRO? You need to determine the cost of downtime per hour or per incident worth “insuring” against. Are you making a conscious decision not to make provisions to mitigate the risk?

At this point in the HP 3000 market lifecycle, it is worth understanding such a roadmap, your plan for applications, and what the high-level picture is for maintaining your 3000 environment. At my corporation we call this a sustainability plan.The plan looks at the entire environment -- application, tools, people and skill sets (both users and IT personnel). It estimates the sustainability and the readiness for training and knowledge transfer capability that exists within the corporation. From this sustainability plan you can see where the risks might be mitigated. More information can be found in a white paper (PDF) at our web site. You can also use the plan to support the environment for an expected period of time.

I hope this made you think. If you have questions, I am at 800-ANSWERS extension 204. Or contact me by email at [email protected]

Birket Foster is CEO of MB Foster. He started his career selling software solutions to enable large enterprise customers -- such as Exxon, GM, Noranda, Bose, Wellington Management, Bombardier, Mass Mutual, American Airlines, Weyerhaeuser, Kodak, Xerox, Proctor & Gamble, 3M, and Boeing -- to obtain access to their application information. He has led MB Foster through more than 30 years of growth and numerous successes, including being awarded the HP 3000 Contributor Award from HP. Foster is involved with his personal and professional community as chairman or director of such diverse organizations as Rotary, OpenMPE, Storm Internet, and Friends in Sport Fishing.