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NorCal transit will run its 3000 route again

AC Transit logoAnybody who wonders where HP 3000s are hanging on can grab a rider strap on the Alameda-Contra Costa transit service. The public entity AC Transit just opened up a one-year contract to maintain its two HP 3000s, along with the applications.

The systems under maintenance are a Series 957 and a Series 987. If you're scoring at home, these are servers built and sold during the 1990s -- still powering a California organization with duties to ferry 191,000 riders daily with a fleet of  584 buses. The District’s service area extends from western Contra Costa County to southern Alameda County, and the organization employs 1,863 employees.

As if that's not enough, this contract -- which is out for bids until Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 10 AM -- has a provision for extension. The district isn't sure when it will be able to stop using those 9x7s.

At the sole discretion of the District, the contract may be extended up to 12 additional months in increments of three months. This is to  accommodate the uncertain end date for the District’s use of these HP 3000 computers.

There are many 9x7s -- well, more than you'd think -- still serving the public or working in private firms. Keeping these two servers online 24x7, including holidays, is going to demand that a winning bidder can prove they know the 3000 and MPE. Things being the way they are in California municipal government, this contract starts its period of performance three days before the bids are due. We'd bet they're going to approve a support supplier pretty quickly.

The minimum requirements sound like they could be from any HP four-hour response contract.

  • The Contractor will provide a toll-free telephone number, staffed during typical local business hours, to allow one or more AC Transit contacts to report all service requests. 
  • The Contractor will provide unlimited telephone consultations for both 957SX and 987SX systems during AC Transit business hours.
  • The Contractor is responsible for all parts, labor, travel, testing equipment and phone consultations on covered equipment and necessary on-site visits.
  • The Contractor shall provide staff to make at least one weekly on-site visit to manage the tape backups and perform a physical systems health check.
  • The Contractor must provide staff that can physically attend to these systems and operate independently 24x7x365 with or without a District Information Services escort once an appropriate District security badge has been provided. 
  • The Contractor is required to demonstrate proficiency in HP 3000 system support by compiling a checklist for AC Transit review and approval. The selected contractor will employ this checklist daily to determine and report on the hardware and software health of both systems.
  • The Contractor must have access to a local facility that stocks good-order hardware equipment in a location such that needed parts have been tested and are delivered and installed within four business hours of the incident opening for priority 1 and priority 2 incidents.

Whoever takes on the maintenance "will create and employ a 24 hour/7 day automatic alert system that will alert them to a hardware failure on the Series 957SX and/or the Series 987SX." That's far from commonplace. There are plenty of businesses that don't have auto-alert failure systems.

All this by console “via a dedicated workstation with a serial connection to each of the two HP 3000 computers.” It doesn’t sound like networked remote console access, but that wasn’t a big part of the 9x7 experience anyway. IT at AC Transit calls the shots on application maintenance requests.

It's not a static system, by the looks of the bid. Item 7 calls for a contractor to "Perform ‘software application support’ allowing I.S. staff to make program or application changes. These changes would require that the affected application have no user access while  the changes are being made."

ACMaint DetailsThere are 37 pages of this RFP, but some of them even do a good job of outlining the base competencies for any 3000's management. Like the 30-item list at left (click for details). It'll be interesting to see what AC Transit eventually replaces those 9x7s with -- and when -- considering that it's got such a customized app suite on its hands. At least there's 12 months of work here, and probably more, for a persistent bidder. Got to keep the buses running in the public's interest. Yeah, buses: as fundamental a transport technology as a Series 9x7.