Re: National's Computing Status
Todd Norman Tingblad (tingbltn@UWEC.EDU)
Thu, 28 Sep 1995 13:15:22 CDT
Pat Meehan and others:
Here are the answers to your questions:
a) Why a $70,000 machine?
This machine is in the Server range of power and connectivity...yes! The
thinking as it was explained to me was to have all your terminals and PC's
connected to it so that you do not need to have another network like Novell
running to run the commerically available software. Plus, Councils pay
National's IT folks maintenance money. Put it all on one package with one
bill and it will all be simpler. This is old Mainframe thinking going on
here...one size fits all. Right......
b) Why HP and not some other machines?
National is running a "Turnkey" system for Councils. National will supply
and support all parts of your computing needs (as long as it is on their
box). Limiting it to one vendor's box lowers the cost of support greatly.
To support this, National has included the code in their software that will
only allow it to run on Texas Instrument (TI) Business Systems Unix or
HP-9000 Unix. HP bought TI's Unix line two years ago, so National had to
change to something else as the TI boxes were discontinued. HP was the
logical choice. Back when the first Unix system were coming out from
National, some councils with help from some IT (Information Techology)
professionals, purchased PC clones that ran Unix. There were a lot of
problems getting software run and the datacomm back to National's mainframe.
So National said, "We will only support this stuff on this machine and only
this machine." From a management standpoint to control costs, this makes
c) What is the OS they are running?
It's Unix. On the TI machine, it is a very old System V 1.3 (or is that TI's
version?). On the HP machine, it is HP's current System V Unix that is a bit
different from most vendor's Unix (includes some special stuff that is HP
only things). At the time this system was designed (1982) (there was an even
earlier design in the late 70's), Unix was the only low cost decentralizable
OS that the data transfers could happen on. Like most buinesses, moving to a
new OS is a very large process. Because of HP's purchase of TI, the
conversion was needed. All code has been converted to run on the HP Unix
machines. The code is written in COBOL. The port (conversion) to HP
required code rewrite from TI COBOL to Micro Focus COBOL. This is a great
move since Micro Focus COBOL is the COBOL for PC LANs like Novell, NT, OS/2
and most every other system out there. So down the road (Jan. 1, 2030?) BSA
may have enough money to get this software to a PC LAN type OS. That's the
biggest problem National's IT department has right now, MONEY. They are just
trying to keep what they got running to continue to run, plus their own
in-house information system. That's too bad for the Councils.
In my council, Indianhead, St. Paul, MN, we have a large staff (40 in the
office and 4 distant year-round camps). All the staff really need access to
the database information on the TI system. The TI system only has 16 serial
ports to connect to. To get enough ports or to put the HP machine on an
Ethernet backbone, $70,000 bill is the needed money for this type of system.
In Chippewa Valley Council in Eau Claire, WI (right next door), a much
smaller system is needed since their staff is very small and the current TI
machine is overkill in power. So what do you do? If you are like most
councils, you hope that all that money you have sent to National for IT
support will also be the best IT solutions available. We on the Indianhead
Council Computer Consultants Committee do question that to a degree.
So if you got $2 Million (that is most likely too low to do a really great
job) just setting around doing nothing, give it to National to be used only
to bring Council Support Services IT software up to the 1990's so it can run
on a PC type LAN. (Personal Note: I would vote to get all this Council
software to run on a Windows NT environment...but that's just a personal
choice...but I really don't like giving Bill Gates any more money than I
really need to...). With software that our Council Pros can really use to
make Scouting available to more kids is what we need. Our DE's could get a
single report that could show: 1) How A Unit Is Advancing; 2) If A Unit Is
Going On Outings (day outings & camping); 3) Training Needs As Leader Come
And Go Day To Day; 4) Unit Fundraising Efforts; 5) Past Member Resources; 6)
FOS/SME Levels; 7) Unit's Leadership In Other BSA Functions (District &
Council Committees). That's just the DE, this and other information, even
with what is already in the current databases, can help many in the Council
and the District if only we had the tools to get at the information without
doing overnight data dumps and off-line data sorts.
Hope that all helps you understand this stuff a little better...I don't have
all the answers. Sometime down the road, when your DE says, "I can't get
that information", it's because there's just no way to get it out of the
Council's computer system...even though you know it's in there. (Where's Tim
"The Toolman" Taylor when you really need him). :-)
Todd Tingblad -- TINGBLTN@UWEC.EDU
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City