July 27, 2015
N-Class 3000s offer subtle bathtub curves
A serious question on today's HP3000 newsgroup emerged about server reliability. The best answer came from an HP engineer whose career features more than 15 years of IO design and maintenance on hardware systems including that ultimate 3000 N-Class system. And along the way, Jim Hawkins introduced many of us to the bathtub-curve charting strategy.
It looks like a bathtub, this chart of how reliable hardware can be. High left-hand side, the part of a product lifecycle called infant mortality. Long-term youth to middle-age to early senior years, the flat, stable part of the bathtub. Finally the end of life, that sharp upswing on the right where moving parts wear out.
The question was posed to the newsgroup readers by Steven Ruffalo
I'm concerned about the reliability going forward of our N-Class servers. Are there any type of studies and metrics that could be used to determine how the failure rates of the parts on/in the N-Class will increase linear with the age of the equipment? I would imagine this would be true for any systems, but we have had an increase in processor failures over the last year. Is this coincidental, or should we start trying to stockpile additional spares?
According to Hawkins, there's been no tracking of N-Class hardware reliability by HP, which introduced the first N-Class models within a year of announcing it would be exiting the 3000 business. But he offered anecdotal, your mileage may vary, caveat emptor advice. He advised the 3000 owner that "You are in uncharted territory. Literally."
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July 24, 2015
3000 world loses a point of technical light
Veteran engineer and developer Jack Connor passed out of worlds including the HP 3000's this month, dying at age 69 after a long career of support, volunteering, and generous aid to MPE users.
In a death notice posted on his local funeral chapel's website, Connor's story included Vietnam era military service, a drag racing record, and playing bass on Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I Got Love In My Tummy, a single that went to No. 4 on the US charts. He had been the proprietor of a bar in Columbia, Missouri, known as Nasties, and a tea house in Columbus, Ohio, The Venus Fly Trap.
Connor played a role in the volunteer efforts for OpenMPE in the last decade. He was also the worldwide account manager for HP and DuPont in the 1970s and 80s, and the death notice reports he was involved in the first satellite uplink in history for commercial purposes. At the time of his death Connor was working at Abtech Systems and Support from Indiana, and at his own company, InfoWorks, Inc. In the months that followed HP's shutdown of its MPE lab, he created NoWait/iX, software that eliminated the wait for an HP technician to arrive, on a rush-charge time and materials call, to transfer an old HPSUSAN to a new 3000 CPU board.
NoWait/iX was intended for use "until HP can be scheduled on site at both HP and the customer’s convenience -- and not paying the emergency uplift charge," Connor said. "However, if a customer has a third-party tool which is no longer supported, or licensing is no longer available for an upgrade, NoWait/iX can operate indefinitely, returning the old information to that single product."
In the waning months of OpenMPE's activity, he chaired the board of directors and promoted the creation of a new Invent3k shared server. "Making Invent3K a repository for the community is the primary focus," he reported to us in 2011.
Connor was a frequent contributor of free tech savvy to the 3000 community, using the 3000 newsgroup as a favored outlet. Just this spring we relayed his advice about linking a 3000 with existing networks.
July 23, 2015
Throwback: When IA-64's Arrival Got a Pass
During a summer of 15 years ago, the reach of HP's final processor foundation became obvious. Rather than take over the computing world, the project that started as Tahoe and eventually became IA-64 was labeled as an incremental improvement. Hewlett-Packard said this was so while it started talking about IA-64's lifespan and impact. It would be a gradual change.
This story is instructive both to today's migration planning as well as sustaining homesteading of the HP 3000. Processor power doesn't matter as much as a vendor claims. The pass that HP gave IA-64 in 2000, labeling the technology as years away from the datacenter, proved that chips wouldn't make a difference much more. When it comes to chip futures, the only ones that make a difference come from the timelines of Intel. HP partnered with the vendor, but it wouldn't get a marketable advantage out of the alliance.
In July of 2000, not a single IA-64 system had shipped, even though Hewlett-Packard annointed IA-64 as the successor to the PA-RISC chips that powered servers like the HP 3000. PA-RISC performance remains the leading edge of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware. But 15 years ago, making the leap to IA-64 processing looked essential to keeping MPE/iX competitive.
In 2000, though, the technology based on Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing was just being dubbed Itanium. HP's Integrity brand of servers hadn't been introduced, and HP was supposed to be farming out Itanium to niche markets. The vendor's Unix servers, being sold by the same resellers who offered 3000s, ran on the same PA-RISC chips. And those chips were in no danger of being lapped by IA-64.
Up at the CNET website, an interview with HP's Duane Zitzner included a comment from HP's marketing for IA-64. In 2000, IA-64 computers were "a development environment," said Dirk Down. "You're not going to put this stuff near your datacenter for several years."
In the Newswire, we did the translation for a customer base that seemed certain that leaving IA-64 off the MPE roadmap was a bad fork in the road. Zitzner said PA-RISC would still outsell IA-64 for another five years.
His comments explain why few people in the HP 3000 division seem to think of IA-64 as nothing more than a future. In one interview after another, lab experts and general managers praise the new architecture, but point out that it has little to do with meeting customer demands for performance. Now we seem to know why: the stuff won't be ready for datacenter-level performance for years.
July 22, 2015
Replacement rides on software selection
MB Foster's latest webinar on Applications Portfolio Management included an estimate that 80 percent of applications in a migration can be replaced. Migrating app code to a new platform is usually only a solution for 15 percent of the software in a 3000 environment, and an unlucky 5 percent of applications will have to be rebuilt.
So if 4 out of every 5 apps should be replaced, what steps make up the best practices for software selection? The webinar indentified nine.
- Add a detailed current workflow to the software assessment.
- Look at three to seven packages for each replacement
- Compare the selections to the app, to make sure you have no orphaned functionality
- Understand the business process re-engineering tasks. CEO Birket Foster said "If you're changing applications, there will be certain rules where there's a different way to do things, and people will have to be retrained."
- Make all data clean and ready, moving department by department
Then there's a step to plan for surround code, which can sometimes be the trickiest to replace.
July 21, 2015
User group takes virtual tack for conference
A vendor with ties back to the 1980s of the HP 3000 world took several steps today into the new world of virtual user conferences. The education and outreach at the Virtual Conference & Expo came in part from Fresche Legacy, formerly Speedware, but it was aimed at that company's latest prospects: IBM Series i enterprises. Advances in long-form remote training, with on-demand replays of tech talks, gave the IBM COMMON user group members of today a way to learn about the IBM i without booking time away from workplaces.
The offerings on the day-long agenda included talks about vendors' tools, as well as subjects like "Access your IBM i in the modern world with modern devices." Customer-prepared talks were not a part of today's event; that sort of presentation has become a rare element in the conference experience of 2015. But some of the best HP 3000 talks at the Interex user group meetings came from vendors, lifted up from the ranks of users.
The virtual conference of today won't be mistaken for the full-bore COMMON Fall Conference & Expo of this fall. That's a three-day affair in Fort Lauderdale, complete with opening night reception and conference hotel rates at the Westin. A few days in Florida could be a perk for a hard-working IT manager, even in early October.
But the practices of remotely educating users about enterprise IT have become polished by now. Wednesdays in the 3000 world have often included a webinar from MB Foster, guiding managers in subjects like Application Portfolio Management or data migration. Those are more dynamic opportunities, with individuals on an interactive call using presentation software including a Q&A element. They also cover skills that are more essential to the migration-bound customers — although data migration skills promise great potential payback for any IT pro.
July 20, 2015
The Weekend a User Group Went Lights-out
Ten years ago this week, the Interex user group went dark in both a digital and literal way. The organization that was launched 30 years earlier to serve HP 3000 customers took down its website, shuttered its servers, and shut out the lights to lock up its Sunnyvale, Calif. offices. A bankruptcy went into its opening days, one that would take more than two years to make its way into Federal Court. But the immediate impact was the loss of the tent-pole gathering for the 3000 community, that year's annual HP World conference.
Millions of dollars in hotel guarantees, prepaid advertising, and booth exhibitor rents went unpaid or unreturned. It was more than the loss of an event that had a 28-year history of joining experts with customers. The Interex blackout turned off a notable light that might've led to a brighter future for a 3000 community still looking for answers and contact with vendors and expertise.
Looking back from a decade later, signs were already evident for the sudden demise of a multi-million dollar organization with 100,000 members of some pedigree. Tens of thousands of those members were names in a database and not much more, places where the Interex tabloid HP World could be mailed to generate advertising revenues. A core group of users, devoted to volunteering and rich with tribal, contributed knowledge about HP's servers, was far smaller.
Interex was all-in on support and cooperation with the Hewlett-Packard of 2005, but only up to a point on a crucial user group mission. The group was glad to re-label its annual conference after the vendor, as well as that monthly tabloid. HP held the rights to both of those names once the group made that transition. There was an HP liaison to the group's board for decades. The key managers in the 3000 division made their first-person 2002 articles explaining HP's 3000 exit available to the Interex publications. Winston Prather wrote "it was my decision" on pages published by Interex.
But in 2004, HP sowed the seeds of change that Interex watered with a no-collaboration decision. User groups from the Digital VMS community agreed to cooperation with HP on a new user conference, one to be funded by HP. Interex's directors polled the member base and chose to follow an independent route. The Interex board would stick to its plans to exclusively produce the next HP World. Advocacy was at stake, they said, and Interex's leaders believed the group would need its own annual meeting to keep asking HP to do better.
HP began to sell exhibitor space for an HP Technology Forum against the Interex HP World booths. Just before the HP World San Francisco Moscone Center wanted its final payment — and a couple of weeks after exhibitors' payments were in hand — the tune the 3000 world heard was Boom-boom, out go the lights.
July 17, 2015
Do Secure File Transfers from the 3000
I'm trying to use ftp.arpa.sys to FTP a file to a SFTP server and it just hangs. Is there a way to do a secure FTP from the HP 3000?
Brian Edminster replies:
The reason that using MPE's FTP client (ftp.arpa.sys) fails is because as similar as they sound, FTP and SFTP are very different animals. Fortunately, there is a SFTP client available for the 3000 -- the byproduct of work by Ken Hirsh and others.
It used to be hosted on Ken's account on Invent3K, but when that server was taken out of service, so was Ken's account. As you've no doubt already noticed, it's available from a number of sources (such as Allegro). I'd like to highlight another source: www.MPE-OpenSource.org
July 16, 2015
Bringing the 3000's Languages Fourth
Documenting the history and roots of IMAGE has squirted out a stream of debate on the 3000 newsgroup. Terry O'Brien's project to make a TurboIMAGE Wikipedia page includes a reference to Fourth Generation Languages. His sentence below that noted 4GLs -- taken as fact by most of the 3000 community -- came in for a lively debate.
Several Fourth Generation Language products (Powerhouse, Transact, Speedware, Protos) became available from third party vendors.
While that seems innocent enough, retired 3000 manager Tom Lang has told the newsgroup there's no such thing as a Fourth Generation of any computer language. "My problem with so-called Fourth Generation Languages is the use of the term 'Language' attached to a commercial product," he wrote. The discussion has become a 59-message thread already, threatening to be the longest discussion on the newsgroup this year.
Although the question doesn't seem to merit debate, it's been like catnip to some very veteran developers who know MPE and the 3000. The 4GL term was probably cooked up by vendors' product managers and marketing experts. But such languages' value did exceed third generations like COBOL. The term has everything to do with advancing developer productivity, and the use of generations was an easy way to explain that benefit.
In fact, Cognos -- the biggest vendor of 4GLs in the 3000 world -- renamed its Powerhouse group the Advanced Development Tools unit, using ADT instead of 4GL. This was largely because of the extra value of a dictionary associated with Powerhouse. The dictionary was offered up as a distinction of a 4GL by Birket Foster. Then Stan Sieler, who's written a few compilers including SPLash!, a refreshed version of the 3000's SPL, weighed in with some essentials.
July 15, 2015
How to Keep Cloud Storage Fast and Secure
Editor's Note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In our series of Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for multi-talented MPE pros.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
One of the many cloud-based offerings is storage. It moves data from the end device to a remote server that hosts massive amounts of hard disk space. While this saves local storage, what are some of the challenges and risks associated with the type of account?
Cloud data storage applications have been compromised through different weaknesses. Firstly, there is the straight hack. The hacker gains administrative access into the server containing the data and then can access multiple user accounts. The second one is obtaining a set of usernames and passwords from another location. Many people use the same usernames and passwords for multiple accounts. So a hack into an email server can reveal passwords for a cloud storage service. What are the ways to defend against this level of attack?
Encryption is always a good option to protect data from unauthorized users. Many service providers will argue that they already provide encryption services. However, in a lot of cases this is what is called bulk encryption. The data from various users is bundled together in a single data store. Then the whole data store is encrypted with the same password. This gives a certain level of protection, for example of the disk is stolen. But, if administrative access is gained, these systems can be compromised. A better solution is to choose a service that offers encryption at the account level.
July 14, 2015
A Fleet of Trucks That Couldn't Fell MPE
Out on the HP 3000 newsgroup, Tracy Johnson inquired about the state of the 3000's and MPE's durability. Johnson, who's worked with OpenMPE in the past while managing 3000s for Measurement Specialties, was addressing the Truck Factor for the 3000 and its OS. "In what year did MPE reach the Truck Factor?" he asked, referring to the number of developers who'd have to get hit by a truck before development would be incapacitated.
MPE long ago stopped counting the names of such authors. Development ended for the OS when HP retired or reassigned its lab staff during 2009. But the tribal operating and administrative knowledge of the OS has a high truck factor, if you account for global connectivity. Dozens of MPE experts who are known to the community would have to fall under the wheels of trucks for MPE's operational knowledge to expire.
"I honestly don't think it applies any longer to MPE," Art Bahrs commented on the list, "as MPE has now stabilized and has a support base in people like Stan Sieler, Birket Foster, Donna Hofmeister, Neil Armstrong, Alfredo Rego and such. I know I'm forgetting lots more."