In 2014, one of the drives in the business-critical AlphaServer at Wheeler Manufacturing failed. This was not the first time a drive had failed, but it was the first time it had happened during business hours. Wheeler lost a day of production in addition to everything on the drive – and it took three or four days to receive the necessary support from HP.
Over the 15 years that Wheeler Manufacturing had been using the AlphaServer, it had proved itself to be a relatively reliable system. When it did have a problem, which was once every year or two, getting support quickly was a challenge. Wheeler is located in a remote part of South Dakota, and the support center serving their classic system was located 350 miles away. The risk of lost production time weighed heavily on the company.
Wheeler Manufacturing had relied on classic systems from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) for decades, beginning with a PDP before moving to a MicroVAX, then to a VAX, and ultimately to an Alpha in 1999. The hardware ran business-critical applications that were customized for Wheeler and related to many aspects of the manufacturing process. They wanted to continue using these applications, but they needed to find a way to reduce risk and eliminate unwanted downtime...
When a business-critical AlphaServer failed at Wheeler Manufacturing, a search for hardware replacement ended with Alpha emulation.