• Subject: Re: Third Party Hardware and the AS/400 (was Interposer needed for 3490 tapedrive?)
  • From: Larry Bolhuis <lbolhuis@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 04 Jan 2001 10:36:26 -0500
  • Organization: Arbor Solutions, Inc

> Tell us a story, PLEASE!!!

 In the past two weeks we have had customers going V4R4 to V4R5 who
needed to have non-IBM drives replaced because V4R5 introduced
incompatibilities. This includes both Hard drives and Tape drives. In
the hard drive case they replaced them 'free' (but the customer was
still down for a couple hours and had to spend time there doing the
swapout) but in the tape drive case it is a $1,600 uptick for the drive
to work! (so much for savings...) 

 We have also had non-IBM tape drives falsely accept an IBM tape drive 
PTF that rendered it a well cooked vegatable. In that case the vendor 
shipped a special tape and some instructions for re-loading the
micro-code 
back into the drive. No cost, but a couple days with no backups! (sweat 
sweat)

 The issues are always the same with the third parties: They must
reverse 
engineer IBM stuff or data streams to make theirs. In that process they 
can miss features that exist in the IBM product that are currently not
in use or at least not required. When future OS releases utilize (and in
some cases require) those features the third party guys are cought flat
footed. Best case is they come up with a way to support the requirement
and you are just delayed in your upgrade, worst case is you forget to
verify compatibility before starting the upgrade and get laid out flat
in the middle of it. In either case the cost savings are often eaten
up within a year somtimes by factors of 10 or more.

 The worst one I've been involved with turned a 1 day upgrade into a
four day fiasco because a whole drawer of non-IBM drives died in the
middle of it: "Clunk, Clunk, WHUMP. Game Over, Please play again".  [Yes
we DID verify compatability of the drives with the target OS/400 Level!]
It's a long sad tale but I guarantee that customer will NEVER buy
non-IBM
stuff for his AS/400 again. Ever.  

 The biggest 'gotcha' with Non-IBM Tape drives is can you IPL from it?
In the case of a disaster recovery you would need to do that if your
SAVE 21 is on it. Often you can't! This is especially true when the 
drive 'emulates' something other than the tape type it has in it, or
when the save was made on a different drive.

 Frequently the older 8MM third party drives emulated a 9348 reel
tape unit. Some of the new 8MM 20 or 40G units emulate a 3590. This
causes all kinds of problems attempting to get the AS/400 to utilize
the unit as an Alternate IPL device. If you intend to do full sys saves
to this drive, attempt to IPL to DST from the thing afterwords to make
sure it will work! Better to find out now if it doesn't!!!!!! (<-Spam
filter trigger!....:-)

 So at the Very Least before you do an OS upgrade OR do PTFs, verify
with
the third party product vendor whether the hardware is compatable with
the
upgrade intended.

 It's always your call. If you can afford to be without the device in
question
for some time while it is fixed/replaced then it may be a good deal. 
This is 
why I've used hundreds of non-IBM terminals, and printers, and even tape
drives
when they are used for data exchange or access to archived data. But as
Fed-Ex 
says: "When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.." Stick
with 
the guy who made the box.

 - Larry

Larry Bolhuis
Arbor Solutions, Inc.
(616) 451-2500
(616) 451-2571 -fax
lbolhuis@arbsol.com
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