A veteran of 26 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek is looking toward a different future in his IT career. He’s the IT operations and Systems Administrator for the City of Sparks, Nev. But sometime in 2012 the last HP 3000 app will step out of production mode at the city that’s not far from Reno. Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks; he chuckled repeatedly even while telling stories of revisions of management plans. In Friday's interview we talked with him about how the 3000 came to a turning point at Sparks. We also wanted to know where he's networking to stay current on migration issues, and the potential for user group Connect to help the 3000 homestead community.
It sounds as if your migration was never approached as a calamity. How are you able to weather all this change of the situation, given all your 3000 work?
Well, I took the city from a Series III. But then we started with Windows NT, and before that an OS2 LAN manager. We started going in the Windows direction for a few things. I did HP-UX OpenMail for a number of years. We’ve kind of evolved over the last 26 years. I watched us go from terminals to where we are today. It’s moving forward, and you’ve got to keep moving forward.
You can’t block modern technology just because it might be hard to manage. That’s always been my thing: what’s the next step that can make our jobs easier?
When you say hard to manage, do you mean the way the new tech is designed compared to the HP 3000?
Let me tell you — you just can’t beat the way the HP 3000 runs. You can do so much more with the MPE operating system. It’s so much move robust than people ever realized.
But you can’t just keep looking at that. The city manager wants to use his iPad, connected to our network. We can’t just tell him no. We’ve got to look at the future, these handheld devices. You have to be able to look at your data from that level and at the desktop, laptops or whatever the next great thing is out there, but look at it securely.
What’s going to happen in the shutdown during 2012?
The 3000 will be there for looking at older records. The plan is to do a last dump of the payroll data for the last couple of years into a SQL Server database, then figure out how to write an interface so if we have to do lookups we can. Beyond that the 3000 will just be sitting here for history until we don’t legally have to keep the data around.
Did you need to hire an outside provider to help move the apps off?
We really didn’t need to. We had totally new systems. We looked at HP-UX but didn’t really get bids we liked. We wrote the links to pull the data out of our IMAGE databases into the SQL database for our current financials, both times that we did it. We’re not migrating the system, we’re going to something fresh.
How did your involvement with the user groups, and Connect, help you with this transition?
Ever since I first got involved in a local Interex user group in 1985, talking to other members, seeing what they’re doing, and then trying things out has probably been the best thing that has happened. The other thing that’s helped is that as our training budget has gone down, we’re been able to have local meetings for Encompass and now Connect, where we’re able to pass on information you couldn’t get for free, if you weren’t involved in a user group of some kind.
You found them on a social network, or a chat group?
When we started with this, those things weren’t there yet. A lot of it is that we’ve all been involved with it for so many years. There even used to be a Bi-Tech user group. The thing they liked the most is that they were able to interact with people who were doing similar things.
So you’re one of two officers of Connect with extensive 3000 background. Were there things you found at this year’s HP Tech Forum that helped you in your migration?
Not really. Connect hasn’t had a huge presence with the 3000. I know with both Chris (Koppe) and I you’d think there’d be more. I’ve been hearing a lot of rumor about doing something with the old CSL. But it’s like [3000 customers] haven’t really needed much. The 3000 community has been working with the 3000-L and communicating through that for years. OpenMPE, same thing. The real vocal people have been involved there.
You’ll be president in a little over a year. Is there a role for Connect to play for the 3000 by then?
I still watch 3000-L every day. But I think Connect can be a place where they can help each other. Especially if they’re looking at migration issues. Or even keeping things running, I’d love to have face to face meetings with 3000 users like we had in the OpenMPE meeting in Vegas this year.