Legacy platform flies beyond its expert’s career

Out in the Pacific Northwest, the aircraft giant Boeing continues to build products. One part of the operation in the Seattle area employs a legacy application. The software runs under MPE/iX. The hardware platform is not HP’s computers at its foundation. Intel servers drive what the IT pros still call an HP 3000 application suite. That’s because the Stromasys virtualization software makes the Intel CPUs mimic the 3000’s PA-RISC.

Boeing has employed Stromasys Charon for at least five years. The company will not be able to say its MPE expert remains in its employ after July 31. After decades of service, Ray Legault reports he will soon no longer be an Boeing IT staff member.

“My internal replacements will not know the HP 3000 and the MPE/iX OS. And may not be much help to the IT finance analysts that support the applications,” Legault reports about his layoff.

“They will not know how to correct job aborts, create and submit finance batch files, or a lot of other routine tasks,” he adds. The routine tasks of legacy system support are rarely taught outright. Successors adopt a system of practices, not insider knowledge. Often, this oversight arises because the organization mis-values the legacy server.

That strategy is much like keeping a bus running on a route but eliminating the mechanics who know its engine specifics. Keeping the bus remains essential to the business in a way that finance cannot grasp. Often, a legacy OS runs an application that has never failed or crashed in recent memory. “That just works, and we’re not sure where it exists” is a story about MPE/iX apps.

One aspect of the Boeing situation is the legacy hardware platform is going to outlive the professionals who know the OS. Emulation locks in the value of bespoke legacy apps. The experts are also customized. In fact, they are the reason a legacy app gets to the point of emulation. They care for what is worth preserving.

Photo by Ethan McArthur on Unsplash

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