Establishing A Support Strategy
By Frank Calvillo
According to the most recent HP surveys, approximately 35 percent of HP 3000 customers are intending to remain on the HP 3000 beyond its end-of-support life. Now that these customers have decided to stay, the next question is how do they establish a long-term stay strategy that minimizes business impact?
A critical piece of this strategy entails assessing support options for these customers hardware, operating system, and applications. Since most businesses will have to outsource at least part of this support, this article will provide an outline of these critical areas. Well also cover factors to consider as you select an outsource provider to enable your homesteading efforts.
Hardware and MPE support
The proliferation of the HP 3000, combined with the unavailability of HP support for certain obsolete models, has given rise to a new market: companies offering alternative HP 3000 hardware support options. These companies have spent considerable time and effort to stockpile the parts, expertise, and availability necessary to extend the life of HP 3000 machines. These same companies are an excellent resource to identify the costs and processes required to ensure the hardware support life of virtually any HP 3000. Some key areas to examine when choosing a hardware support provider are reputation, especially through references; cost of support; performance, parts availability, personnel, and proactive maintenance.
Regardless of the hardware support provider you choose, the first order of business is to ensure your existing hardware is up to date. If possible and if the hardware is available, take advantage of upgrade offerings from HP. Often, this action will prove to decrease costs over time by extending the life of the hardware from the outset.
System support focuses on the MPE operating system. Companies must ensure their machines have the latest system updates in place and that those updates have been tested. Once support is discontinued by HP at the end of 2006, it is highly unlikely HP will enact changes to MPE by distribution of patches or updates. Some organizations have announced plans to continue MPE system support beyond the end-of-support date. If this course of action is followed, keep the following questions in mind:
Strategy: How does the vendor intend to perform the support without access to MPE source code? At this time, customers dont know if HP will make source code for MPE available through any third parties. HP hasnt ruled out this option yet.
Staff: Does the vendor have qualified personnel with experience patching operating system problems at the application layer?
History: Does the vendor have long-term viability as a business? What is their company size? How long have they been in business? Is operating system support, especially MPE, their core area of expertise?
A commonly overlooked homesteading subject is application support. This support includes custom applications designed in-house, or applications created by a third party which has either gone out of business or chosen not to port their applications to another platform such as Windows or Unix.
A managed application support (MAS) provider will possess knowledge and experience in not only application support but also application development. Since customized applications are widespread throughout the HP 3000 world, MAS providers should have extensive experience supporting customized applications. These customized applications represent the very core of a business. Questions to help determine whether a provider offers managed application support include:
Business knowledge: Does the provider have a balance of technical and business expertise?
Application knowledge: Does the provider have the ability to support unique, custom applications?
Technical depth and breadth: Are the providers services scalable? Can the provider work in mixed environments? This is especially crucial since, eventually, HP 3000 customers will need to move to an alternative platform.
Support focus: Is support the providers core business? How long have they been in the support business?
Outsourced support issues
Once you have determined whether the provider offers true managed application support, there are several other factors to consider, including:
Service level agreement (SLA): This agreement ensures that expectations and service level is communicated and adhered to. An SLA is extremely valuable in the support world, where there is no time for mistakes and where profitability can be impacted significantly in a short period of time.
Application transitions: The application transition is critical to laying a solid foundation that minimizes problems and total cost of ownership.
Proactive support model: A provider that adheres to a proactive support model will focus on fixing recurring problems, monitoring applications, exploring issues that may occur, and facilitating proactive communication to the business customers in order to increase business productivity.
Support methodologies: Documented and proven support processes are the sign of an enterprise that understands support and has built its business around service delivery that is efficient as possible.
Support tools: Support tools can help enterprises reduce ongoing support costs by streamlining processes and ensuring efficiency. Tools to consider include a knowledge base, problem management tools, and communication tools.
Application enhancements and upgrades: In order to reduce an enterprises ongoing support costs, it is critical that any application enhancements and upgrades be done with an emphasis on long-term supportability.
With your business profitability and performance riding on the HP 3000, its critical that you carefully plan your homesteading efforts by assessing hardware support, system support, and application support. Outsourcing some or all of this support to experts may enable your business to reduce risks and minimize impact to your business, the key to establishing a long-term homesteading strategy.
Frank Calvillo is Alliance Manager for MBS, a Professional Services organization providing homesteading, application migration, integration, and customization services. Frank spent 13 years with HP in a variety of roles.
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