December 07, 2016
Taking Steps into Open Source with a Plan
A significant number of HP 3000 shops have employed Linux as a replacement over the last 15 years. (Yes, it's been that long that the MPE/iX community has been migrating or homesteading their systems). Over that time, open source software has become so mainstream that an architecture meeting often includes a line like, "Well, what can open source do for us here?"
If open sourcing a commercial datacenter sounds enticing—think of the size of the community you join, for example—it's wise to remember a commercial open source is the way to success. Downloading and testing is always essential, but adding open source has its best prospects when there's a commercial, paid support aspect to the choice.
This week we reported on one HP 3000 site where the system is making a slow exit. Harte & Lyne is still using a Series 918 with MPE/iX 7.5. The operations are being supplanted by what manager James Byrne calls FOSS: Free and Open Source Software. He's got his reservations about doing much more in that direction, though. Byrne said a more commercial—though not vendor-specific—approach to new architecture is in order.
HP was advising this to its enterprise computing customers as far back as 2006. Linux in the datacenter was a lot more exotic in that year, a time when HP was still selling support for the 3000. That vendor-based support is all gone by now, right down to the demise of docs.hp.com webpages where advice and training materials once lived. If you need 3000 support, third parties like Pivital Solutions are the best way to go forward, even if you're going away slowly.
An HP exec of 2006 said it only made sense to look for a supported FOSS design. David Claypool said
The rational thing to do is to choose something from a commercial company, whether implementations available and supported by a Linux distribution or non-affiliated Xen implementations like those from XenSource, Virtual Iron, and now Oracle.
Working together in such alliances was part of what FOSS was all about at the beginning. It would be another four years before Oracle would hire the departing CEO of HP, Mark Hurd, to run Oracle's software business. In 2006 all was pretty collegial between Oracle and HP.
Pivital Solutions: Your complete
HP 3000 resource
December 05, 2016
COBOL's Continuing Value for 3000s
The venerable workhorse of COBOL is often maligned during IT strategy meetings. The language usually has to make do with a lot less educational opportunity these days in universities, too. It is verbose and legacy and not ever going to captivate a ping pong table discussion about which platform development platform is best. There are perhaps only 1 million people in the world still trained in using it.
However, COBOL brings a single, enduring asset to the 3000s and other mainframe-caliber servers where it runs. COBOL is a standard, one that's exploited and extended and supported by many vendors, not to mention carried through decades of use. This is no one-man show.
You cannot say that about Powerhouse, or any other fourth generation language. If there's a standard out there for C-Sharp, or the wonders of Visual Basic, it is controlled by a single vendor. Powerhouse users are in a pickle. A single company, Unicom, controls the fate of all users employing the 4GL, and the vendor is jerking its leash on users. When Unicom said it was canceling the license of one customer, James Byrne at Harte & Lyne, then Byrne had a response.
"I am ignoring that," he said. "One cannot cancel a contract without cause."
He went on to point at what sets COBOL apart while he's choosing foundational software. "Not that we use it," Byrne said, "but there is a reason that COBOL is still around. The people who do not understand why are at the root of many of the problems with FOSS." That's open source software he's referencing, something that a vendor cannot cancel, but drifting toward commercial prejudices anyway.
December 02, 2016
Friday Fine-Tune: Print classes, STORE, FTP
I need to add classes to a printer on my HP 3000. I keep getting a message that the LDEV doesn't exist from SYSGEN's I/O section when I issue the ACLASS command. I can see the device exists, so what's the problem?
Devices on your system that are configured through NMMGR must have their classes changed through NMMGR, which is probably why you're getting the error message. Run NMMGR and go to the PROFILE for the device. You should be able to add classes to the device at that point. After making changes in NMMGR, remember to VALIDATE these changes to NMCONFIG, and then cross-validate using the RDCC command from SYSGEN's SYSFILE section.
NMMGR changes take effect after the system has been reSTARTed and the power has been cycled on the DTCs. You should cut a System Load Tape (SLT) making these changes so you'll have them on tape for your next UPDATE.
If your device was configured through SYSGEN, the device should have its classes modified through SYSGEN. You're right, you do use the ACLASS command in the IO section. Changes to the IO section require a START to make them take effect.
In HP's MPE/iX manuals I am are directed to backup the system as follows:
What is the practical benefit over
People trot out the reason from the distant past: if you have to do a re-install it is good to have PUB.SYS (and maybe the TELESUP account) on the front of the tape so you can restore quicker.
Gilles Schipper woke us up with his response. “The reason one would perform the former over the latter is to ensure that all of the files residing in the SYS account be placed at the beginning of the backup. Whether that is a good thing is, in my opinion, dubious."
November 30, 2016
This just in: Generalissimo Cobol is not dead
A favorite running gag on the most antique Saturday Night Live shows was Chevy Chase reading the fake news. With each broadcast he'd repeat this joke: "Generalissimo Franciso Franco is still dead." Same result, week after week. A situation with a lot in common with COBOL's current fortunes. Despite what people think they know about it, the Common Business Oriented Language still props up a vast swath of the business data across the world.
Nothing has changed with COBOL's fortunes since we last visited this topic with a podcast in 2014. During that year's spring, the NPR Planet Money radio team posted a show that blamed COBOL for the slow pace of money-changing in clearinghouse transfers. The mistaken report was like fingering English for the outcome of the Presidential election. Yes, the COBOL code in banks turns the IT cranks. The result is not the fault of the tool, but how it has been used. Yes, English was used in the 2016 campaign. [Insert joke about Twittering here.]
Our COBOL correspondent Bruce Hobbs pulled this story back into the light this week. He pointed to an article on the HackerRank blog, examining COBOL's not-dead-yet status once again. If you like numbers, the article included these above. Its still a language that supports 80 percent of all point of sale transactions and routes health care to 60 million patients a day.
To be fair, one of the sources of that graphic is the company still selling COBOL, Microfocus. But Gartner is also cited, an impartial consulting giant. In the NPR show the reporters interviewed an exec from Fiserv, a vendor who might have known better; they made some of their fortunes selling Spectrum/3000 for credit unions.
In the HackerRank piece, the author quotes an article from 20 years ago that surveyed why COBOL has held on so long.
November 28, 2016
3000 customers ponder what they're leaving
This month's relicense quotes that Unicom delivered to Powerhouse customers could spark some migrations. Although these 3000s have held on by using out-of-support software, the five and six-figure prices to return to MPE/iX support "are difficult to imagine as a sustainable model," said Charles Finley of Xformix. "The price makes it worthwhile to move away from Powerhouse entirely."
Finley, who's been assisting 3000 shops in migrations and conversions for 15 years and more, isn't the only vendor who's skeptical of the Unicom pricing scheme. "That strategy will not last long," he said of the sky-high quotes. "We can move the Powerhouse to a Java-based non-proprietary alternative for something in that [$300,000] ballpark. Pricing like that [from a vendor] only provides incentive for people to leave the product."
The full scope of what a customer is leaving is worth some consideration, however. Finley offered the scope of a typical 3000-using Powerhouse customer's datacenter lineup.
Focusing on the base language is misleading at best. The background processing/shell scripting is usually more difficult to migrate than the base application. I suspect that there could be more to a relicensing story than simply the Powerhouse license. For example, if the customer has some dependent 3GL code such as COBOL, a few third-party products such as Suprtool and MPEX, along with JCL, UDCs, and Command Files—the cost to migrate all of that, and the database and other file types, could well exceed the price of only the Powerhouse license.
Hearing such please-go-away pricing can be hard to comprehend. A decade or two of using a foundational tool like Powerhouse shouldn't end with a six-figure quote, but sometimes such a lengthy relationship drifts to a bottom-line-only state. "Don't they normally look at the financials before determining price?" asked consultant Craig Lalley. We've heard about that same software update strategy from another support consultant.
November 25, 2016
Friday Fine-tune: Adding disks and IP blocks
Is it possible to add a disk drive "on the fly" without doing a reload?
Jeff Kell replied:
You generally have to shut the system down to install and cable the disk to avoid electrical/interface problems. The usual approach is to use SYSGEN to configure the new device on the path where it will reside, keep the new configuration, shutdown the system, install the disk and do a START NORECOVERY.
Once the disk is recognized by the system, you can add it to your running configuration as follows (assuming the new drive will be LDEV 5 in the system volume set):
> newvol mpexl_system_volume_set:member5 5 90 90 (DISC,SPOOL)
[For details, see "Volume Management", HP Part No. 32650-90045 or "Performing System Management Tasks" HP Part No. 32650-90004.]
This will add the volume to the system volume set, but it also has some side effects. Since the new volume is "empty" and the disk space allocation routines attempt to "balance" loads across drives, all of your new files and transient space will be allocated on the new drive until it's capacity approaches that of the other volumes. This will create an I/O bottleneck on that drive, at least initially.
You could selectively :RESTORE certain accounts (or the whole system) to try and balance the allocation. You could also perform an INSTALL and a :RESTORE for better efficiency, but at the cost of a great deal of time. There are also certain third-party utilities that will balance disk utilization across members of a volume set. These utilities work online on a running system and don't require any downtime.
The network configuration of our HP 3000 was originally set up with one block of IP addresses. Now I need to add another block of addresses. Where do I add these in NMMGR?
You can add an IP address using NMMGR the following way:
- After typing NMMGR, select "Open Directory" .
- Then select "Update Dir."
- Now select the "Add" option (F5.)
- You are placed in a screen where you can enter the IP Address of the machine. The type is generally set to 1( IP).
- Now press the "Save Data" (F6) option, back out of NMMGR, and you are done.