CHARON sets 3000's future
Freeware emulator user reaches for support

Advice on reductions helps manage risk

Most managers of 3000s cope with the same challenges seen on other platforms: fewer resources, layoffs and retirements, aging hardware. Yes, even in the marketplace of HP's Itanium or Windows servers, hardware gets older. Not like the 3000s, those boxes which will, by this fall, be at least one decade old.

If the server is built well, if the budgets hold up, if the headcount doesn't shrink, enterprise server owners won't have to manage any risk. What're the odds of that? Since you'd probably admit that you can't dodge all of those, MB Foster held a Wednesday Webinar yesterday to outline the stategies for how to cope with less.

Any special demands for the 3000 didn't come up during the 1-hour webinar. It didn't need to be highlighted, because the elements of risk management are universal. It's just a matter of degree. Do you have an aging workforce, or is the company thinking of using younger IT pros? There's a career retirement trend out there for the professional who can afford it. Foster said 5,000 people born between 1945 and 1960 retire every day. That's ages 53-68, probably the largest slice of 3000 managers.

Standish StatsThe odds are stacked against implementing change without a complete plan. Even an optimist would shudder at figures that MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster shared from the Standish Group. By that group's research, 90 percent of the replacements of ERP systems will finish over budget, behind schedule -- or be scrapped altogether. That slender slice of orange in the pie chart represents the lucky companies who got what they wanted, on time and in budget.

Of the ones that finish, companies are averaging about half of the functionality they pursued with their change. Swapping in an off the shelf app for 3000 application could well overlook customizations for spreadsheet interfaces, for example. "And the spreadsheets weren't part of that IT system, they were part of what the user base used," Foster said.

A company is likely to be just one merger or acquisition away from doing more IT with less resources. The 3000 has built-in restrictions that can leave it serving more computing than intended: storage, memory, capability to connect with the latest peripherals. But even the migrated customer can benefit from a plan to mitigate risks.

For example, Foster said a company needs $100,000 on average just to deal with planning for the challenges related to a merger. An application portfolio plan, which starts with a professional assessment, can help a company determine not only what they should do, but what they can stop doing.

"It gives people an opportunity to look at all of the processes in their business," Foster said of a portfolio project. "It helps standardize business practices, so the best ones move forward in a merger."

One newer trend in business is analyzing key performance indicators. The HP 3000, or a replacement, can be delivering data needed to access these KPIs. "You pull that data out of your database and put it into a dashboard," Foster said. You can get ready access to that data by using a data mart -- or as Foster said, "putting your data in a fishing pond instead of an ocean." These data marts are fed by an Operational Data Store, or a data warehouse. 

Data warehouses are far from new strategies. The 3000's app family was developed for warehouses as far back as the middle 1990s. But a much newer concept, cloud, also harkens back to 3000 roots. "The cloud is a just a modern version of the service bureau, Foster said. His partner in the webinars Chris Whitehead added that using the cloud "is an effective way to mitigate some of the costs and fewer resources you will have if you've gone through a big round of layoffs." Foster took note that using best of breed applications connected through the cloud still demands you assign an "application of record" to each customer datafile. It could be shipping, billing or a CRM system, but you must decide.

One segment of the webinar held special meaning for the 3000 site which is homesteading. Complete plans on how to weather reductions of resources include plans for aging hardware. 

"You can figure out what hardware can go away," using a portfolio plan in an era of cutbacks, Foster said. The estimation should be based on the hardware's business fit, its stability and quality, and its maintainability. Mean Time to Recovery of Operations is "the other side of your disaster plan, understanding the cost of recovering. This helps determine how long a company could afford to be off-line if a system failed.

Mergers help define movement, but the rise of mobile computing also will tax aging resources. "You'll have to think about how mobile fits into your picture. Maybe some of your operations don't have to be done with a web browser. A shipper could look up a status over a smartphone.

But that fishing pond, the reservoir that spills out of a classic data warehouse, delivers insights that can begin with 3000 data. Any 3000 customer who's thinking of moving off the platform will benefit from creating these ponds out of their oceans of data.

"There's a real benefit of being able to have replication of data that exists on an HP 3000 into a seperate repository," Whitehead said. "You can redirect all of the users to that environment on say, Oracle or SQL Server, so they can do their reporting. It facilitates the transformation if they do make the change in ERP -- and stops individuals from hacking away at the production environment, too."