Because of the announcement on November 14, 2001 by Hewlett-Packard of the end of sales and support of the HP 3000 product line, MPE/iX customers have had to assess their future MIS directions. There are a variety of choices open to these companies. The main challenge is to make the proper choice and plan for the future. There is no need to panic and make hurried decisions. The HP 3000 platform with the MPE/iX operating system is a very reliable and stable platform with lots of flexibility and a user-friendly operating environment. It has been a popular system of choice for many companies, large and small, throughout the world.
The strategic planning process for the future is very important to the success of a company and the achievement of their long-term goals. Market place and technology changes will dictate that the company be flexible and have a well thought out direction defined. Without a comprehensive MIS strategic plan, continued survival of a company will be difficult.
The concept of homesteading comes from the 19th century United States law and practice of people moving west to settle the open public lands available. These rugged settlers had to endure many hardships to have a 160-acre plot of their own to cultivate and raise a family. Often they were far from their nearest neighbors and had to fend for themselves. My mother's family used the land runs in Oklahoma territory to acquire land for their settlement. We still have several pieces of family furniture in our house that were in their wagons used for the Run.
This concept applies to the HP 3000 site that will continue to provide self-support for the platform long after the support from HP is gone. Since their announcement, HP has not shown to be proactive in providing the kind of support you have been used to in the past. But you don't have to be left out in the wilderness on your own if you apply the information in this article.
This article addresses the situation of companies who will not migrate to another platform until sometime in the future, if ever. Having a well-maintained systems environment is always essential to good corporate responsibility. We will discuss the choices the company has available and what planning steps they need to take to properly face the future. Proper systems management information contained in a Systems Manager's Notebook is needed to recreate the existing configuration in the event of an emergency or to use in a future migration project. Hardware and software support, backup strategy and training, MPE/iX version considerations, and business issues will be explored, too.
The Notebook will contain the following as a minimum:
Maintenance of in-house written applications systems has to be an active process as users still want new features and some possible bugs may be found. If insufficient staff resources are available to provide this support then consultants are available to assist your company. There are third party operating system support companies like Allegro and Beechglen that can help with MPE related questions. Application source code should be kept current for additional development and problem resolution.
Upgrading to a supported version of MPE/iX may be required to add new functionality or problem resolution. A software support contract from HP is required to continue to receive the update materials. This contract is separate from a hardware support contract with HP.
HP hardware support for HP 3000 systems and peripherals ends December 31, 2006 or earlier based on the product life. The HP web site lists the end of support date for each piece of equipment. Third party support is readily available from many regional hardware support companies and even nationally from companies like Terix. You may want to stock your own parts and systems that are readily available and priced right from other customers on Ebay, the Internet, and notices on the HP3000-L list. Remember mechanical devices such as disk drives, tape drives, and printers are high failure items. HP equipment is usually very reliable and should last a long time. Upgrade to used systems with greater performance capability is always an option. I highly recommend that the inexpensive HP RAID systems, such as the model 12H or Mod20 be used to provide hot swap capability without long downtimes from JBOD arrays. They are bootable and provide mirroring of the system volume set and user volume sets.
A backup of data files and the system files (CSLT) should be done regularly. I always tell people that the system downtime and amount of data loss you can afford to suffer should dictate the frequency and type of backup. You can't look at a backup tape or the resulting listing from a backup process and be assured that the tape set is good. Use multiple drives for the backup process so that you can be assured that the backup you just made is readable on another drive. Backup should be done to one drive and verification on another. DDS drives are not as reliable as you may think and can easily drift out of alignment. A tape you make today may not be able to be read by that drive a few weeks or months later.
Verify data backups with VSTORE.PUB.SYS. It only checks that the tape media is good and the files on it can be read. It doesn't compare the files on the tape with the files on disk. Since a CSLT takes only about 20-30 minutes to make regardless of the amount of disk files you have, this process adds little to the time it takes for a backup cycle. You should make one at least every other full backup cycle. Verify the CSLT with CHECKSLT.MPEXL.TELESUP. Use a proper, secure storage environment and don't use the tapes more often than recommended by the manufacturer. Run BULDACCT.PUB.SYS prior to each full backup to create the BULDJOB1 and BULDJOB2 files so that they will be included on the backup. Remember that they contain passwords and should be purged after the backup. Consider DLT technology for faster and more reliable backups.
Keep your users and technical staff trained on all aspects of your environment. Education should include technical topics as well as general staff information. Formal classroom and on-site training is available from HP, third party vendors, and consultants. Utilize the training opportunities at conferences, webinars, and symposiums put on by companies you have relationships with. Cross training is important for staff retention, support coverage, loss of staff, and days off like sick, vacation, personal, company travel, and training. Just because you are homesteading doesn't mean your training requirements have stopped.
Making a comprehensive business case is the proper justification of action for any planning process. Study the costs for each choice or combination listed above as it applies to your situation. If you plan to migrate someday, the costs have to include many items to consider. The replacement of your current hardware systems, database systems, operating system and applications software are the starting point. You have to train your users and staff on the new environment. There is data and program conversion with testing and possibly test system hardware and it's software. You may need additional staffing and consultants with the expertise in the new environment. JCL, UDC, job streams, and command files have to be converted to a totally new format. New written procedures and documentation have to be produced.
Plan for company business growth with a comprehensive capacity planning effort. New functionality or applications may be needed over the next few years for your company to remain competitive. You have to ask if your HP 3000 meets your needs now and in the future. Government or other retention requirements may require your company to keep the existing system in operation for auditing purposes. HP and third party support availability will be very important long-term. Future budgets may be a major limiting factor in deciding if you can afford the high cost of migration.
In summary, homesteading is the least expensive choice for now but risks will get higher as time goes on. Proper systems management and being prepared are keys to the success of your company's future. Until you can make a proper business case to migrate, stay on your HP 3000 platform. Remember, planning is critical to success.
Paul Edwards, www.peassoc.com