Editor's note: Yesterday we got a call from a company which had read this "Worst Practices" column written in 1999 as if it were brand-new. Scott Hirsh, who's now leading the charge into cloud-based storage solutions at Nirvanix, wrote these columns for the NewsWire after his years of managing an HP 3000 operation for a capital management firm in San Francisco. It's robust advice for anybody new to managing a 3000, and the guidelines are still useful today. If you're inheriting 3000 management, or passing it along to someone younger and newer, account structures are still a great place to get things correct before anything else happens. He called this one "Shaky Foundation."
By Scott Hirsh
As we board the train on our trip through HP 3000 System Management Hell, our first stop, Worst Practice #1, must be Unplanned Account Structure. By account structure I am referring to the organization of accounts, groups, files and users. (To keep this discussion simple — and typical — I will discuss the standard MPE name space, not the Posix name space.) I maintain that the worst of the worst practices is the failure to design an account structure, then put it into practice and stick with it. If instead you wing it, as most system managers seem to do, you ensure more work for yourself now and in the future. In other words, you are trapped in System Management Hell.
What’s the big deal about account structure? The account structure is the foundation of your system, from a management perspective. Account structure touches on a multitude of critical issues: security, capacity planning, performance, and disaster recovery, to name a few. On an HP 3000, with all of two levels to work with (account and group), planning is even more important than in a hierarchical structure where the additional levels allow one to get away with being sloppy (although strictly speaking, not planning your Unix or Windows account structure will ultimately catch up with you, too). In other words, since we have less to work with on MPE, making the most of what we have is compelling.
As system managers, when not dozing off in staff meetings, the vast majority of our time is spent on account structure-related activities: ensuring that files are safely stored in their proper locations, accessible only to authorized users; ensuring there is enough space to accommodate existing file growth as well as the addition of new files; and occasionally, even today, file placement or disk fragmentation can become a performance issue, so we must take note of that.
In the unlikely event of a problem, we must know where everything is and be able to find backup copies if necessary. Periodically we are asked (perhaps with no advance notice) to accommodate new accounts, groups, users and applications. We must respond quickly, but not recklessly, as this collection of files under our management is now ominously referred to as a “corporate asset.”