NonStop Under 40 – Operation Support – Part 2

Part 2 – Next Generation Training Plan

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In Part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the importance of grooming the next generation of support team for NonStop Operations. As the new work force is younger, it is important to adapt the training to this new group, instead of trying to force feed “legacy concepts” to them. In order to speed up their learning process, we need a new paradigm based on these three tenets: Just-in-time Learning, Learning by Analogies, and Using Modern GUI Tools

Just-in-time Learning

Just-in-time versus Just-in-case

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Most of the traditional courses familiar to us are just-in-case training, including the ones from NonStop Education. For example, an NonStop introductory course may cover many details about Guardian processes or Pathway environment, whether you need to use it now or not, because just in case… you may need it later in the future.  The result is an information overload. Very little is retained until the situation comes up which actually requires the information long forgotten due to lack of use.

In contrast, just-in-time training provides people with vital information they need right now. The approach is to build an iterative learning process based on an incremental road map that an employee can follow as his skill grows. As such, just-in-time online training resources must be quick, convenient, and targeted to the specific goals and needs of the individuals. As an example, let’s say we want to introduce a new Operation Support team member to one of his basic daily tasks of monitoring the application environment. We may want to start with these basic topics for the person to learn:

  • What programs should be monitored?
  • How do I look at the running programs?
  • What does it look like when everything is running normally?
  • What are some common errors?
  • Where should I look for errors?
  • What information should be collected when reporting an error?

Using these topics, a person can be introduced gradually to the NonStop concepts of PROCESS, STATUS, PATHWAY, EMS, VHS and other logs. But just enough practical detail for the person to get his job done for now. The primary benefit of just-in-time online training is that it addresses the immediate benefits in learning. There is a sense of urgency, as the learning is required for the desired outcome, i.e. accomplishing a task. That makes it easier for a person to learn and to retain what was learned.

Learning through analogies

Easier to learn NonStop using examples

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Analogical reasoning is a powerful mechanism for exploiting past experience in planning and problem solving. Similarly, teaching by analogy is especially useful for learning new technologies by helping a person draw on his past experience to understand the new concepts.

Let’s say you are trying to introduce NonStop to a member of the Corporate Windows Help Desk team, who just asked you: “What is NonStop?”

How would you respond?

(A)  ” NonStop is a scalable, high performance system that has built-in nonstop process pairs and mirrored disks that provide fault-tolerance resulting in 99.9999% uptime.”

(B)  “NonStop is a system built on a cluster of servers (like Windows or Linux) connected by an internal super high speed network that can run different applications written in different languages (like Java or C) and services (like SQL Database, Web server, Directory) with a built-in load balancing capability (like F5).”

Which answer do you think would get a better reception?

Granted that the second answer (B) may not completely convey the full value and features of a NonStop system, but it helps a Windows experienced person understand more quickly what it is, in terms that he is already familiar with.

Here are some other helpful analogies to explain NonStop terms to a Windows person:

Windows NonStop
Task Process
Disk Volume
Folder Subvolume
File type File code
Print Manager Spooler
Events EMS
Command.com or Terminal TACL
Task Scheduler  NetBatch

Using Modern GUI Tools
GUI is more productive than green screens

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Asking a person 35 years old or younger to work with green screens is like asking him to use a rotary phone to make a call. We are dealing with a younger generation that grew up using point-and-click with the mouse, now moving over to touch screen for everything they do. Using a green screen will not be productive for them. If we are to bring in younger resources into the NonStop Operation support world, using GUI and other modern tools is a must.

The good news is that is no shortage of GUI tools for the NonStop.

  • TOP – The Operation Pack
  • MOMI
  • Web ViewPoint
  • Prognosis
  • NonStop ASAP
  • HPE ODBC/MX Manager
  • SQL/Xpress, and many others.

Each of these GUI tools access NonStop data for many uses including Operations Support, and may be worth exploring on your own to identify which tool fits your team’s specific needs.

Here is a simple example to illustrate how GUI tools make it easier to train a new person on NonStop.

How do I see what programs are running?

Windows world: Task Manager

TaskMgr

NonStop world using TOP

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How do I look at the files on the system?

Windows world: Windows Explorer

WindowsExp

NonStop world using TOP:

TOPExp

While these are only simple examples, one can see how a new team member could relate to the GUI display more easily than to these green screen TACL equivalents:

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summary

A well prepared Operation Support team is extremely important to managing a mission critical application environment. As the current NonStop Operation team is “maturing”, it is imperative to start recruiting younger staff, and implementing plans to train and prepare them to learn and support the NonStop environment. With the proper support from management and a good training plan, we can prepare a new generation of Operation Team to continue to provide first class support for critical NonStop applications. The best time to do it is now!

Phil LyPhil Ly is the president and founder of TIC Software, a New York-based company specializing in software and services that integrate NonStop with the latest technologies, including Web Services, .NET and Java. Prior to founding TIC in 1983, Phil worked for Tandem Computer in technical support and software development.

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