Bill Lancaster is working to give e3000 managers more
influence in their companies. The founder of e3000 consultancy
Lancaster Consulting, he was the driving force behind the new
Solutions Symposium training event held this year, the first new
3000-only event on the US calendar in more than five years. Lancaster
promoted the idea to Interex and to HP as a way to get more training
out to a customer base thats advancing in age, to create a new
middle-class of 3000 manager whos technically adept but relies
on more than tech savvy. To his surprise, the attendees of this
years show were tech veterans about twice as many as
Those 3000 managers found plenty to polish in technical
skills at the conference, but Lancaster remains concerned the average
3000 manager may be lagging in solutions seniority. Instead of being
about technology, he says, the industry has become all about
confidence. That calls for a different set of skills, especially in
managing the largest e3000 shops.
Those large shops are another reason Lancaster caught our
eye. His firm has quietly signed on some of the top technical
managers from HBOC after those Amisys experts left the company. As
such, Lancaster Consulting now calls on some of the most savvy
resources for companies pressing the HP 3000 to its performance
limits: healthcare firms with hundreds of thousands of
subscribers data to manage.
if that werent enough, Lancaster has made close study of the
highest capacity storage solutions for the HP 3000, serving on the
High Availability Forum in recent years. With HPs about-face
away from EMC in the market, advice on how to proceed with RAID units
and disk farms is based on experience from his firm.
joined the 3000 community after serving as a Russian linguist in the
US armed forces, and counts next year as his 20th working with the
system. Lancaster served at insurance companies and helped establish
the thriving service bureau business at Summit Information Systems in
the 1980s, always focusing on the problems of the datacenter manager.
In the 1990s he was general manager of Lund Performance Solutions,
giving him exposure to the challenges and solutions around revving up
3000s as making them as efficient as possible. Now that Lancaster has
assembled performance, management, datacenter and application
experience in his own company, we wanted to hear from him about how
the system can exceed its current limits.
How do you think the shortage of qualified HP 3000 IT
professionals can be reversed?
Move the hands of the clock back. I think were going
to be looking at an increasingly serious shortage of talent, and not
just in our community, for years to come. I dont think
its a good impact. Part of the natural life cycle of any
product is the fact that there are evangelists out there in the
trenches. Not sales people, but people who are satisfied users. The
smaller that group gets, the quieter that voice becomes. Maybe it can
be somewhat offset by having the greybeards or the accomplished pros
in the field become louder, but I think to some degree were
already a voice crying in the wilderness.
What we have to do is change our collective message out of
technology and into solutions and I think well get heard. But
peoples hearing has become much more critical. Im not
altogether optimistic about it, which is why were trying to do
our part to be strong evangelists for the 3000.
Senior management in many companies do not invest their IT
organizations with a lot of credibility, or trust them as much as
they used to. Part of that is because IT organizations have been
irresponsible in that they have managed by frequent flyer magazines.
Theyve gone with the latest sexy technology because its
enhancing for their careers. Its rare to find to find an IT
organization that says I dont care about the technology,
what I care about is the solution. Thats why they
dont trust them.
People are just not as available as they used to be.
Anybody who is any good, and many people who arent, are 100
percent or more employed. People do not have a hard time getting a
job in this business. Sometimes employers just have to pick up a warm
body to do things, and that means the ability level in general is
much less than it used to be. If you gave me 100 IT professionals
from 10 years ago and stacked them up with people who had the same
amount of experience now, the 10-year-ago professionals would
probably walk all over them. They had to do so much with so little.
The post-modern people are not as interested in working those kinds
of hours. I dont find anybody thats hitting their
deadlines for any kind of technology implementation.
tell our clients not to look for technology, but to look for
solutions. And to look at solutions that keep their environments
simple and sustainable. Simple in that it can be implemented quickly
and sustainable in that it can be maintained without outside help.
HPs big on the outside help these days. How do
you think HPs services based solution will impact the role of
Im an optimist by nature, and its the trend of
the marketplace to sell customers basically the bare end of wires
that they plug into. They will sell customers confidence they can
perform their transactions. Business is no longer about technology.
It never really has been. Its been about confidence, and CEOs
and executives have so little confidence in their IT organizations
being able to fulfill business requirements that I think this will be
honey on their lips. Senior management would love to be able to say,
Ill give you the money if you give me the transactions. I
do not want to hear from IT professionals who have been disappointing
me year after year, and have me spending millions.
So was the Solutions Symposium a way out of that?
Whats the big concept behind it, and its potential for changing
the 3000 community?
had to do with helping IT professionals make the transition away from
technology centricity and into solution centricity. The timing has
grown to be very good for that because of all these other pressures
on the marketplace. If people have a resource [like the Symposium]
where they can get three hours with [e3000 Web and internet expert]
Joe Geiser, who can show them how to install Apache and how to get it
going, thats the simplest way for them to adopt new technology
into their organization. They dont have to become the wizards;
they can stand on the shoulders of giants.
will give people a shorter timeline between becoming aware of new
technology and implementing it. People are running too fast to sit
down and do these things. We also hoped it would bring a lot of new
blood into this market in terms of technologists. We have an informal
model for the 2001 Symposium: 30 percent under 30. Ive spent a
lot of time talking with the folks at [3000 distributor] Client
Systems and 3kworld about that. Theyve got the ability to
significantly help us broaden that age group.
Who will be your target audience for that show
the same IT manager that attended this year?
think those definitions are going to get blurred. In the Amisys and
Smith-Gardner shops of the world, they dont have any full-time
IT people. Id like them to come in and see the front end of the
Symposium, the art of the possible. That will help them become more
knowledgeable in working with contractors and staff in a set of
meaningful goals for technology introduction. We want to try to
evangelize more people than the technical people into the
Has there been any talk of trying to connect the
consultant community directly to the Symposium attendees?
Ive thought a lot about it. We can put them together
by bringing in 35 speakers like we did. It was a real uphill battle
for some of them because they didnt buy into the vision. I
think weve seen it succeed beyond most peoples
expectations. As a consultant, the biggest amount of blue sky is your
exposure. The best way for a consultant to gain a greater
constituency is by serving.
Youve gathered some of the top technical staff
from Amisys, people who left when it appeared HBOC was drifting from
the 3000 mission. With the relatively new personnel, whats the
scope of your offerings for the e3000 healthcare community?
About half of our business is with HMOs, and the other
half is a mix of everything: Smith-Gardner business, Summit,
manufacturing, home-grown stuff. Were definitely not just
focused on Amisys, but we have a great cadre of Amisys talent.
Weve done two or three proposals in the past year to completely
take on facilities management. We also just completed a project where
we were managing the datacenter for a very large HMO through a
Mostly what we try to focus on is strategic consulting,
giving people direction for the future based on what their business
goals are. We help them make the translation from business goals into
technical requirement and back again. Phase two is technical
implementations and phase three is supporting these technologies in
the longer term.
You and your associates have had time to sit with HBOC
customers and officials at the recent Amisys user conference.
Whats your sense for how the company can rebound now that
its put Amisys Open onto the shelf?
was clear that McKessonHBOC Payor Solutions Group has shelved the
Amisys Open product. Theres a real difference between shelving
something and throwing something away. I will be an interested
observer to see how the make this transition. Within their
organization they have four initiatives that they are actively
working on right now. One of them is What to do with the 3000,
and where is the 3000 going to go. So they can have a long-term
understanding and report back to their installed base and their
management at McKessonHBOC before that.
They have put together a strong group of people to help
answer that question. There are other questions to be answered, like
what technology they will use. They spent four years on the Open
product, and they developed a tremendous amount of competitive
advantage. Now the question is how much of that technology that can
provide a competitive advantage in their marketplace can they port
back into the 3000 product. They were in separate loops.
The first step they are doing: to refocus into a single
technology platform. If they hadnt done that, I dont even
think they would have been able to bring the Open product out
successfully. You cant serve two masters. They have a very
difficult task, because they also have a very tough market now. Under
50 percent of the HMOs in this country are actually profitable.
Theres a new information law called HIPPA, an information
privacy statute that HMOs have to become compliant with. Many HMOs
are estimating that the work to do that on their information systems
is approximately 10 times greater than the work to become Y2K
compliant. HIPPA is a huge issue. There is no easy answer about
whether Amisys is going to be successful in making the transition.
Well do everything we can to help them.
The 6.5 release was written for healthcare sites, but
some are saying theyre not switching anytime soon. How would
you advise a customer with high performance needs to approach this
Its nice to have the pressure at the high end of the
line, because its forcing newer and newer technology into the
market. Doing Suprtool extracts is regularly blowing up that 4Gb file
limit. People have become much more reluctant to become early
adopters. I recommend to my customers that they deliberately move
from taking the leap to slowing down. With any release of MPE, I tell
customers if you have compelling needs for some of the technologies
in that release, then by all means go for it. If you dont have
a compelling need, then always wait for the first update release, and
let other people debug it for you. I think 6.5 is a very solid
release, but theres some real fundamental changes way down
deep, in terms of memory management and how the dispatcher
multi-processes. Let other people deal with those problems, unless
you absolutely have to have it. If you do have to have it, develop a
working plan to move into it methodically and carefully.
What has your work on the High Availability Forum shown
you about RAID options for the 3000 market? How are you advising
customers who need large storage now that EMC and HP arent
cooperating as they once did?
was always troubled by the unholy alliance between HP and EMC. It was
two companies with different DNAs, and it was always a rocky
relationship from the field perspective. I never had a lot of
confidence the EMC people understood IO in the 3000 world. Most of
the time the best you would get with EMC was a wash with Just a Bunch
of Disks performance. Now that there is no development relationship
between EMC and HP Im even more concerned that the gulf will
grow between disk IO performance realities on the 3000 and EMCs
understanding of them.
The good news is the XP256 offering is a huge performance
improvement. Im seeing early returns that suggest the RAID 5
XP256 performance is better than RAID 1 on EMC. Its going to
take time for it to really penetrate the 3000 market, but I think it
will do a great job. Im very optimistic about the high
availability offerings coming out of HP for MPE both the ones
that are available now and the ones I understand will be coming out
in the next several months.
Where do you think the new HVD10 SureStore units are
going to play for e3000s?
Its going to be a complete replacement for the
Jamaica units, but it doesnt offer significantly greater
availability over the Jamaicas, although it potentially offers
greater performance because of the 10,000 RPM drives. My biggest
sensitivity about the new performance is the spindle count; I
dont want to drop them down.
Youve worked closely with Interex on its Forums
and the Symposium. How can this user group continue to have impact on
the 3000 community in an era where Internet communication is becoming
dont think the Internet can ever solve any organizations
needs any more than I think a local area network can solve all the
needs of an organization. Its an infrastructure. We need to be
real creative in our use of that. Id like to see us do more in
distance learning. I had a small initiative to see if we could do
something about Webcasting some of the Symposium tracks. The only way
Interex can succeed going into the future is by having a strong tie
in to the people theyre trying to serve.
What kind of potential does training present to the
3kworld venture? Can significant instruction get delivered over the
Internet for HP 3000s?
feel strongly thats true. Anybody whos planning on doing
anything in the 3000 world should have a strong educational
component. One leg will be the delivering of the education across the
Internet. Different delivery mechanisms for that training is also
The Internet can provide a significant amount of
assistance in what were trying to do. A lot of people have
contrary opinions, but I believe theres no substitute for
people getting together face-to-face. Seeing the kind of energy that
comes out of that creatively is a great thing. The Solution Symposium
is not a one-way street. Resumes get handed out and business goes
Were designed as social creatures, for the most
part. We are not people who want to live in a cave and have people
funnel stuff into us. Its got to work in both directions. I
personally would much rather go to a classroom setting. Many other
people would prefer just to have it pumped though their wire and have
it come out on their screen.
That kind of training can give managers control over
their resources. You had a long stretch of your career managing Lund
Performance Solutions. What are some of the misconceptions about
performance youve heard from 3000 sites?
People sometimes still think you dont have to manage
performance. You do have to care and feed your systems to get the
most out of them. You have to provide some downtime to do things like
reorganize your databases and defragment your disk drives.
Isnt that work that doesnt get done easily
by the less technical staff?
Its still technical work. Thats why this is
such a good time for training. You still have to take care of
business. You have to change the oil in your car, even if you
cant do it yourself. You can get somebody to help you do it.
was in the software business for many years, and I saw that software
was becoming commoditized. We havent even seen that come to
full fruition. The bottom line for me is that the place to be is
services. Ultimately, people always need help, even if they
dont need software.