Use What Ya Got,
and Get Prosperous

At some point using What Ya Got is smarter than starting over. It’s that way for a lot of the HP 3000 community. Systems got installed years ago for most of the 3000 customer base. Our demographics tell us the majority of you have had your 3000s running for more than 10 years. But more than a few readers have had a moment of change present itself as an opportunity. It seems like the most successful companies have resisted that change, and stuck with What Ya Got technology.

You know that newer isn’t always better, and sometimes it can be worse. Like when the good ship New Technology has its shakedown cruise last until it goes into mothballs. (That’s what I’d call a real shakedown, if you know what I mean.)

So What Ya Got technology – let’s call it WYG, to dress it up for the inevitable overhead presentations to the board – doesn’t have to prove its merits. It’s COBOL programs written when Jimmy Carter was president, and still running. It’s the kind of tech that’s been around for years and isn’t very sexy. They don’t write it up in Wired magazine. But you don’t need day-glo pages to find WYG working. It’s everywhere, from your favorite catalog’s warehouse to just about any airline counter.

If WYG doesn’t have to prove itself, it must maintain its reputation. It’s always worked for us, and we expect it to keep on working no matter what. It’s the no-matter-what part that can get complicated. In some HP 3000 shops, no-matter-what can be a tsunami of change you’re trying to surf. Or it can be the same work that just got too big for a 3000 to handle.

It’s not heresy to think of a task too big for an HP 3000 to handle. We just don’t know of very many – provided you’re committed to making your WYG keep working. That’s committed as in “the pig at breakfast.” The old joke is that “in an eggs and bacon breakfast, the chicken is involved – but the pig is committed.”

We recently heard about an HP 3000 customer who’s struggling with WYG for their site, trying to break ground for the system. After a lot of investment and plenty of consulting, their upper management is trying to pull the plug on the project. It’s noteworthy because the HP 3000 doesn’t get itself into very many of these blind alleys. What you see in the HP presentation is usually what you get.

There are a few things about this customer’s site that contribute to this corner case. They are pressing the system into performance objectives it has never reached anywhere else. They have several software tools absolutely vital to continued uptime, provided by third parties whose business commitment to the project couldn’t be as strong as the customer’s commitment. And the customer has paid a lengthy stream of consultants from both inside HP’s Professional Services Group and outside firms to build and test the system. Burn rates of $3,000 a day have been weathered before being dowsed.

Those are cautions, to be sure. But the customer acted on full faith in HP’s ability to deliver a solution. Some might say they were overpromised – like sponsoring a champion cyclist on a hot bike in the Tour de France, then learning that the fellow at the pedals was Drew Carey. Certainly at some point everybody believes they’ll finish first, even Drew. Reality sets in somewhere on those steep slopes of the Pyrenees.

With results falling short of promises, our troubled customer comes to the fork in the road often caused by a management shift. And whispers from that level begin about using a 3000 to do what it’s never done before. These are the kinds of whispers much slower to materialize when you’re a slave to fashion, using NT servers or Unix T-500s, or choosing IBM instead of anybody else. The fashion slaves whisper about aging this and legacy that. Sticking with WYG gets painted as something carrying as much panache as platform shoes and dancing the Hustle.

What they skip over is the track record for WYG, especially realized in the HP 3000’s flavor of it. WYG sticks around because of one glowing attribute. It works without fiddling, so people can do their business instead of playing Mr.Wizard.

When applied as intended, WYG is all about simple. It’s all about conserving. It’s all about efficiency, and learning to use a tool better with experience. But most important, it’s about prosperity and personal time. No matter who you are, you’re bound to care about one or the other. WYG technology puts you closer to both – closer than those slaves changing to every new-tech fashion.

Apply WYG in a ground-breaking application and you need to pay close attention to the level of your commitment. For every technology choice, you must err on the side of ample ability and certain capacity. The biggest system you can find. The very best software tools, even if they do cost more and complain about your implementation. And a level of commitment guaranteed by all involved – not an invitation to bill $250 consulting hours as if they were so many peanuts on a lengthy flight.

That level of commitment needs to begin and end with you and your management, customers choosing HP 3000s. Problems and roadblocks appear sooner or later with any platform choice. In our experience they show up much later with HP 3000s. But while you often get what you pay for, changing your mind always costs you more than using What Ya Got.

As I too often do, I find an allegory in sports. Up around Dallas there’s a baseball team that can hit like madmen. The pitching, however, is of an less notable pedigree. At the moment it’s the worst in the league. This team has traded away perfect-game pitchers and Cy Young winners. There’s always someone new to be acquired to solve the problem. Meanwhile, outfield seats are now $20, and the team still can’t stay in first place. Want to guess which part of the team is What Ya Got? That would be the part that’s leading the league in batting.

Using good WYG assimilates new tech, but doesn’t surrender simplicity and bulletproof legend. Sure, fashion slaves will try to whisper about aging this and legacy that. If you hear a jab about a legacy system, remind somebody it’s the one they didn’t have to replace – and pay for the fashion statement on somebody’s resume who’s long gone. If you really need to shop, buy something better to dress up the good choice of WYG. Make that new stuff earn its shot – and wherever you can, use What Ya Got.

– Ron Seybold