Independent service providers have signed up most of the 3000 homesteaders by now, according to Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci. The CEO still runs across the occassional shop served by HP out of habit. A big share of the available service contracts have already been passed to independent companies, however, according to an article in our in-the-mail February NewsWire print issue.
But using an independent firm for support is a smart deal only if the provider has ample spare parts allocated to your site, Suraci said. A system administrator who manages the Series 969 at Hostess Brands (how's that for a large homesteading company -- Twinkies anyone?) needed an HP A5418A fiber router (at left) to replace a blown device. The indie support company serving Hostess didn't have one, so Joe Barnett went looking on the 3000-L mailing list himself. He needed to maintain connectivity to his VA7410 array, or face rebuilding the array from backup tapes.
Solutions and suggestions trickled in -- including the purchase of one 5814A for sale on eBay "that might not rewritable," because it wasn't the MPE -003 model. What's more, that vanilla unit ships on 4-14 days delivery time, according to the eBay listing. Suraci, whose company specializes in 3000s, pointed at a weak Service Level Agreement (SLA) as a bigger problem than just not being able to get a replacement HP router.
How many HP 3000 shops are relying on support providers that are incompetent and/or inept? The provider was willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.
But Suraci was posing one of the harder questions. "Here are my hardware devices: do you have spares in stock you're setting aside for my account?" Hardware doesn't break down much in the 3000 world. But a fiber router is not a 3000-specific HP part. Hewlett-Packard got out of the support business for 3000s for lots of reasons, but one constant reason was that 3000-related spare parts got scarce in the HP supply chain.
The economy has recovered a bit, Suraci said, so he suggested now's the time to ask these hard questions. "It might be time for everyone to review their support provider, and maybe look a little deeper than what they charge for service," he said. "In many cases, you get what you pay for. Response time, parts availability, and legitimate HPSUSAN updates all need to be addressed in advance of signing on the dotted line. It's one thing to be budget conscious, and a whole other to be blinded by it."
Even when a last-minute email could solve a parts problem -- and it looked like Barnett might have gotten lucky on locating a spare router -- that's not a reliable support plan. One suggestion was a Crossroads SA-40 switch, but Craig Lalley notes that you can't boot a 3000 via the Crossroads device. He had to hook up a Mod 20 storage unit for boot-ups only.
Jack Connor, who does 3000 support work for Abtech, seconded Suraci's advice. "I couldn't agree more. Costing out the spares and having them available should be part of the contract."