Legacy computing lends its aid to viral safety

Every conversation seems to lead toward the COVID-19 pandemic these days. IT talk is no different, as companies prepare for a remote workforce and the infrastructure to support their workers. There’s no way to make delivery or sales of food fully virtual. But preparing a suite of end of quarter reports for a manufacturing plant, then sharing it during a Zoom teleconference, is an all-digital affair.

Companies using manufacturing outside the US will have manufacturing results to report. Even Apple has started up its iPhone operations in China again, now that the SARS-2 coronavirus incidents appear to be waning there. Some estimates by the CDC and epidemiologists predict that manufacturing won’t return to normal until August, if then. A lot depends on the automation in a factory, since the robots won’t contract biological viruses.

The viral resistance is a hallmark of legacy computing. One long-time IT expert from the HP 3000 community, Birket Foster, said of those servers and their legacy cousins, “They’re ultra-reliable, un-hackable, they just work, and they don’t need the care and feeding like other systems do.”

Mainstream systems like Windows and Linux are going to be placed under great user pressure as the workforce moves online and in-home for the next several months. Hacks will be launched at home-based users operating over corporate networks, exploiting the less-secure home networks, according to an article in the New York Times today.

Legacy systems like MPE/iX, VMS, and even Tru64 to some extent will be more secure, using the security-through-obscurity strategy. Datacenter systems that don’t need constant protection from hacks, or more frequent reboots to supply patches, are supported using legacy operating systems.

What’s more, the physical care and feeding of a legacy server is less likely to command extra resources, in some cases, because the hardware itself is a higher caliber. There’s nothing that’s safe about a 15-year-old disk drive. But other components in a server that once cost $150,000, like some of the VMS and MPE servers, were built to last a generation. It’s a big deal at the moment to help resources flow where they’re most needed. Comparisons to the World War II rationing are appropriate.

As more work moves online and out of offices this year, it’s useful to point out that legacy computing puts no extra strain on what will be a stressed-out set of network channels. The answers about what has been sold and built will still flow through legacy business servers, computers that don’t have to scramble for fresh links to the rest of the world’s data.

Pointing out that a legacy system is less taxing on computing resources is a wise move for a career. Managing the servers that didn’t need extra attention is good and noble work, especially in a time when everybody’s got to learn to share more.

Image by Jan Alexander from Pixabay

Leave a Reply