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December 2002

Showing thanks for family and familiarity

NewsWire Editorial

This year’s Thanksgiving at our house brought a special ingredient to the menu. My mom Ginny came to visit from Las Vegas. Our house was full of the familiar: dishes I hadn’t tasted in decades, stories about relations I’d long forgotten, phrases she used in conversation that triggered memories of my childhood. I took some comfort in the familiarity. You might feel like doing the same in your HP 3000 shop, at least through the current economic climate.

The business weather out there isn’t turning sunny soon. We watched cutbacks hit our longtime columnist John Burke, who’s starting a consulting business and a teaching career, as well as Chris Gauthier, who’s moved from HP’s 3000 distributor Client Systems to his own business selling expertise to third-party support companies. Both of these MPE veterans were furloughed within days of one another during November. Their names were among many IT pros who are being put on new paths.

Despite such setbacks, we try to rally around hope and what we know. Both John and Chris have years of explicit knowledge about HP 3000s and MPE. Their knowledge, like the things Abby and I know about what Thanksgiving should taste like, can be the familiar which sustains. They call it comfort food because it reassures us.

Although my mom celebrates her 77th birthday this month, she came to Texas determined to cook for our holiday. Unlike my efforts at my first cherry pie filling, it would never occur to mom to try some new dish on the year’s most special day of food. Say what you want about Easter, Hannukah or Christmas. Thanksgiving is the only holiday that’s about the food and little else, except maybe football and family. Mom made her ginger ale salad and cranberry-walnut salad, fretting sweetly about whether the Jell-o would set up around the crushed pineapple, cranberries and red grapes. She pulled the pans from our aging fridge with a smile, offering up a small prayer of thanks when the salads set as we expected.

Expectations are setting the table for HP 3000 owners now, because companies know what they can expect from their vendor regarding their systems. They expect HP to continue to sell support for years after it stops selling 3000s. Now comes word that the Series 9x7s — systems that HP rigorously reported would be dropped from support — are being picked up by HP support. We don’t expect it to be an isolated incident.

One year after HP’s big announcement that it’s leaving the 3000 market, few have moved, and less than half of those we asked have even announced an intention to do so. We find that almost un-expected, considering the press being put on by HP and its partners to encourage a change. The 3000 community doesn’t seem to want to break apart, not yet anyway. The cohesion reminds me of our Thanksgiving dinner, the act of seating of our dozen diners. Everybody hung together, despite a lack of room at the table.

We’d planned to have a buffet dinner, with several eating areas around the house — a quartet in front of the TV for the footballers, and a trio out in the sun room, and so on. We pressed our 25-year-old teak dining table into buffet service, since it’s too small to accommodate 12 at once.

But when the time came to carve and serve and sup, everybody found a spot in our living room, pulling the chairs up alongside the big sofa, balancing plates on knees, resting wine glasses on the tiny magazine table nearby. Some even sat on the floor, munching and looking up with satisfied smiles. We all wanted to be together, three families pressing close to the familiar. Even our football fans put the game aside for a few first downs, despite some office pool wagers.

Hanging together at the 3000’s table this season looks like the order of business for your community. Layoffs at IT and service suppliers set that table with new MPE resources. Companies choosing to migrate are doing so slowly, keeping their HP 3000s running until the last minute to ensure their success on the next platform. We heard one Platinum Migration partner remind customers during November that one in three IT projects like migrations fail, and more than half run 100 percent over budget and schedule. These are good reasons to get some outside help on a task that many are saying will dwarf Y2K efforts, only without such an absolute deadline.

That’s right, there is no hard deadline. HP leaves the field in four years, but support alternatives are already rising. Only the packaged application users have outside deadlines, from what we can see. The 3000’s Transition schedule is more like the evening of Thanksgiving after the meal, when there’s all that great food still around. Unlike the hours leading up to the dinner, afterward there’s no rules about how late you can eat it. Abby made her famous Pink Stuff, another molded salad with whipped cream and Jell-o that the neighbors want their own bowl of, even in the years they don’t sit at our table. She also whipped up her usual carload of dressing, using a recipe from her departed dad the tugboat captain. Late on Thanksgiving night, there’s nothing like a turkey-and-dressing sandwich with a sweet side of Pink Stuff.

In the days that followed we tightened our belts and stepped back on the exercise path again. Customers who are migrating will be tightening purse strings in other departments to pay for the IT changes. Companies staying with the 3000 will be paring back their reliance on HP, looking for the independent resources to replace that trusted advice from their vendor which their companies grew up with.

In the near future people are staying close to what they’ve grown up with. Those moving report timeframes vague as how long my mom’s Jell-o salads took to jell: until it’s ready. I expect us all to be crowded together around the familiar technology, waiting out the economic harsh weather. Honor your traditional menus while planning for an unfamiliar future. What we know and love can sustain us all for the challenges that might lie ahead.

— Ron Seybold  

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