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September 2000

Training options stretch to meet demand

New university, online options help provide MPE skills

A computer platform less well-known than others is getting more options to introduce IT professionals to its details, as third-party firms bolster HP’s 3000 education offerings that are playing catchup to customer demand.

Getting MPE/iX training isn’t as easy as it was in the system’s salad days, when courses crowded HP’s classroom schedules and more MPE-savvy pros could pass along expertise. HP’s offerings in education haven’t declined in the past few years, however scarce they became over the past summer. Now HP online Web-based courses join the classroom mix. What’s more, classrooms are opening outside of HP to teach the 3000.

Customers point to training for 3000 systems as crucial to maintaining the platform’s strength. With fewer 3000 professionals available to the workforce, some managers are taking the tack of training their less experienced hires in MPE, or adding 3000 skills to staff already managing other systems.

“There are many companies who are considering movement away from the 3000 because they can’t get qualified people for the platform and they can’t afford to train new people coming on board,” said Glenn Koster Sr., a former consultant and trainer for Managed Business Solutions now working with Quintessential School Systems. “What we need is to get the 3000 back in the classroom where the concepts are taught within our universities. We need to get the mundane training to the Internet.”

Until recently, few options have existed outside of HP’s own offerings. MPE education was available from hardware broker Abtech during 1998, while the company was selling HP 3000s. But HP’s demand that the firm close down its 3000 business to settle a lawsuit about Abtech’s alleged illegally-licensed 3000 sales shuttered the training option as well — one priced significantly below HP’s.

Some customers believe training options have been limited of late. “Since HP has cut back on training offerings at their local and regional offices, it has become cost-prohibitive to use their training services,” said Kathleen Fitzgerald of Custom Research Inc. “Now that there’s a whole new training paradigm available via the Web, I’d like to see HP offer HP 3000 training classes through that medium, and at much lower prices than in-person classroom settings.”

Some of the features of the platform related to its rebranding as the e3000 in February still have little if any HP training available. Skills to teach configuring and setup of the Apache/iX Web server, programming in Java, creating scripts for use on 3000 Web sites and sharing files through Samba/iX are only now being considered by HP’s education operations.

“I think HP could do a better job,” said Kim Borgman, a manager at National Wine and Spirits. “For example, is there a class on using and setting up the Apache Web server on an e3000?”

Another customer said, “It seems that if I want to use the HP e3000 with the internet, then I must find someone else to train me, as HP doesn’t really plan on doing it.” Others are looking for materials to do their own self-paced training outside a classroom setting.

“We would love to know about CD-based training and books,” said Chris Coglianese, Director of Information Services at the IU Medical Group’s Primary Care unit. “We have been using an HP 3000 for three years, but have not been able to find any books — other than HP manuals, and they leave a lot to be desired — or courseware on the system. We’ve had minimal training from our software vendor [HBOC] and would like to learn more. Our people are bright and could easily learn more about this platform — if we could only find the materials.”

Other customers in a NewsWire survey cited an absence of classroom courses for more experienced MPE programmers, as well as a decline in the quality of HP’s courses. One classroom report noted more than 350 errors in the MPE/iX System Manager coursebook used early this summer.

“HP needs the material completely revised, brought up to date, labs tested and revised, put in a logical order, new graphics installed, and placed on PC projectable media like PowerPoint,” one instructor said. “We need to provide the best quality materials for the customers.”

Even customers using the 3000 in advanced applications can’t locate HP’s training. “In Europe, there is no training for the new functionality of the HP e3000,” Peter Herpich reported in a posting from Lindauer-Dornier, a company that’s deployed Enhydra over the Web with its e3000s. “I don’t understand this strategy. No trained users, no new applications.”

Some new HP offerings

Lori MacInnes, an education manager for HP Americas and MPE Program manager in Education, said HP has just revised its System Manager courses and several others for the 6.5 release of the operating system. She maintained that HP is meeting the demand for classroom training with its current offerings, which include some Web-based seminars.

“We’re covering it,” MacInnes said. “Many of our students are coming in new to the HP 3000. The 3000 division and HP Education are working together to determine solutions we can come up with for the e3000.”

Training in Java, Samba or Apache is covered at a configuration skill level for a few hours in the MPE/iX Network Administration classroom course. Customers can learn of HP education offerings from a printed catalog, or go to the HP Education Web site to order a catalog or see a complete list of e3000 classes being offered. (Browse to www.hp.com/education/sections/mpe.html; updated courses are at www.hp.com/education/newmpeix.html).

MacInnes said HP e-mailed notice of last month’s course updates for 6.5 “to our installed base, because many customers are at the stage now of defining going to 6.5.” An online course was delivered for the first time over the Web on Aug. 16 and Sept. 7 covering “New Features and Functions of MPE/iX 6.5.” Additional dates for this online course were scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25, November 20 and 21, and December 11 and 12. Some courses were scheduled to start in mid-afternoon GMT for European customers. Seating is limited to 60 students for each course, and customers can sign up at the HP Web sites.

This three-hour New Features course, led by HP consultant Sally Blackwell for $299, includes information about changes in Apache/iX, LDAP software and languages, and changes in memory, peripheral support, diagnostics, the new large file support, disks, networking and HP databases. HP is also offering a relatively new (September 1999) online MPE/iX for System Operators course, covering nine hours and priced at $749.

Calling registration at 800.472.5277 in the US (800.563.5089 in Canada) will yield more information about course contents, according to MacInnes. European customers can look at a schedule of training from their local HP Education Web site. A list of Web links and phone numbers for HP education offerings is at education.hp.com/contact-phone.htm

3000-specific courses

But specifics offered for some HP platforms still aren’t available for the e3000 customer. HP has a course for customizing Apache under HP-UX and no corresponding course for its e3000 customers. Those HP-UX materials could be a good start at an equitable e3000 offering.

Jennie Hou, solution team leader for training at the 3000 division, said that “whenever there’s leverage, we do want to take advantage of that. We’re looking to that right now, because customers do want more in-depth training. Everything’s still in the works right now, and we hope to have more information in the near future.”

Hou also said HP has “lots of [Web-specific] materials available on the division Web page, and it’s a matter of how do we package everything together and make it into a training format.”

HP offers a Speaker’s Series Web seminar once a quarter for e3000 customers, and this one-hour presentation is free, but space is limited. In the series a CSY engineer talks “about hot technology like Java or Internet security, “ Hou said. “For every session there are a couple hundred seats, and customers can dial in on a first-come, first-serve basis.” Information on the MPE/iX Speaker’s Series is available in the education section of HP’s IT Resource Center Web site, education.itresourcecenter.hp.com.

HP’s decision on offering e3000-specific classes about the new Web technology will be a joint one between HP Education and the 3000 division. Lars Appel of HP’s German Response Center said he has taught a seminar on Java, Apache/iX and other Web tools for the 3000 several times in Germany, a course he said could be two days of hands-on training.

The e3000 division considers training “a core value. It’s not optional for our customers,” Hou said. “We have to make sure they have the adequate training they need, especially as we bring new customers in as solution buyers.”

Other than the new System Operators online course, the e3000 education offering hasn’t been expanded beyond the set of courses offered in 1998 when HP Education last revamped HP 3000 courses. HP did add 3000 training in the Chicago area over the period. Five classes have been enhanced for MPE/iX 6.5, but only the online course breaks new instruction ground.

Early reports on the 6.5 enhancements to classic courses like Performance and Tuning have been positive. “I thought the class was pretty good,” said Fred Cook of Medical Pathways Central Coast, an Amisys site. “The 6.5 stuff was a work in progress, and I thought it should have been five days instead of four, but otherwise I was quite happy with it.” Errors in the existing courses are being fixed with the 6.5 updates to the courses, according to MacInnes.

Customers are grateful for the addition of Web-based training, but they want more. “I have nothing but praise for HP making the operator’s course available as a self-paced course,” said SIGSYSMAN chair Donna Garverick. But she added that on the whole she doesn’t have enough 3000 training options, citing a lack of higher-level HP classroom courses.

Third-party options expand

Garverick was among customers who cited HP’s costs for classroom courses as too high for their budgets. “We at Humana/ChoiceCare have been looking for better HP 3000 training for a long time,” said datacenter operations manager Rich Rolland. “The HP courses are way too expensive for what we get, and no one else seems to have interest in providing HP training.”

A third-party is emerging as a training alternative, offering education in a classroom for both MPE fundamentals and MPE vendors’ software utilities. TechGroup University (www.abctechgroup.com, 301.714.1854) is planning on opening its doors this fall in Hagerstown, Md. Jon Backus is deploying resources of TechGroup to teach in the classroom facilities of an area community college.

“While Hewlett-Packard enjoys record sales of this platform, the pool of trained users is very small,” Backus said. “We would like to see that change.”

The first objective of TechGroup’s university is to provide training for users of products from Adager, DISC, Lund Performance Solutions and VEsoft. By conducting third-party training classes at the facility, TechGroup is giving these 3000 software companies, based in the Western US and Canada, an Eastern US training presence. But TechGroup also plans to offer a System Management course and a Development Fundamentals course for the HP 3000.

“We can send a programmer to a fundamentals class and get them the 3000 training they need, so long as they already know their language,” Backus said. “It increases the additional flow of talent into the 3000 talent pool.”

Backus said that the University will offer MPE fundamentals courses “on an as-needed basis. It will be a matter of how well our classes are perceived and attendance. If we’re getting suggestions that people want a Fundamentals class, I’m not adverse to offering that. It’s not exclusive 3000, but there is going to be a significant focus in that area.”

Craig Solomon, Consulting Director at Lund, said his company is readying an Advanced System Manager’s Skills course in addition to the performance-related courses the company will offer at TechGroup. Solomon said teaching MPE skills to new managers who have had the 3000 thrust upon them is essential to the platform’s survival.

“We want TechGroup to be a good place for people to go and get something out of their experience,” Solomon said. When IT pros are given the 3000 to manage, “Their first inclination is to get off this platform and onto something they know. We’re trying to show them this isn’t a bad system, and there’s great opportunity. With MPE, 99 percent of the time what it does has something to do with the revenue stream of a company.”

See the FlashPaper for news on an emerging e3000 software application that manages training content using Web-based interfaces.


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