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A Cautionary Tale

Pop quiz: What do you do when you get to work in the morning and your AS/400 or iSeries is down?

  1. Go get breakfast
  2. Give it a swift kick
  3. Point to the person standing next to you and say, "He did it."
  4. Quickly execute your disaster-recovery plan

If you answered 4, good for you. You understand the value of always being prepared. If you answered 1, 2 or 3, you could be headed for trouble.

Unfortunately, many organizations are in the latter category. They've read the industry articles about the stability and reliability of the AS/400 and iSeries and don't think unplanned downtime will ever happen to them-always the other guy. As a result, they don't perform enough backups, make the effort to mirror their systems or develop a solid, well-thought-out recovery plan.

And then the unthinkable happens. Their AS/400 or iSeries quietly whirs down to a deafening silence. The fan is still and the hard drive refuses to click. Now what? The organization usually panics. In tears, one of the workers tells the local IBM service representative to drop everything and hurry out to the site, exclaiming, "This is costing me millions!"

Fortunately, this doesn't have to be the case. As the Minneapolis Grain Exchange recently learned, unplanned downtime doesn't necessarily mean the end of the world. The Exchange didn't even have a documented recovery plan in place (an issue that has since been rectified), but it did have the foresight to recognize that a problem could indeed occur. As a result, within hours of their AS/400 taking a temporary nap, the trading floor of the Exchange was up and running.

Bumping and Jostling
Minneapolis Grain Exchange, located in Minneapolis, Minn., is like a miniature stock exchange, complete with shouting traders, flying paper and the electronic blur of the overhead ticker.

But instead of facilitating the trading of blue chip and high-tech stocks, it specializes in the selling and purchasing of wheat, primarily spring, durum and white wheat, as well as trading in frozen shrimp, electricity and cotton seed.


"I can't describe the emotions you have when you're doing something like this. We'd tested it before and done everything you're supposed to, but when you do it for the first time live, you start praying." -Kris Nelson, assistant vice president of clearing and information systems, Minneapolis Grain Exchange

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at



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