May 27, 2015
Make old PCs do a console's work
Got a wheezing PC someplace in your IT shop? Believe it or not, even the creakiest of desktops can still serve your HP 3000: as a console, a la the HP700/92 variety. This is the kind of PC where, as one veteran puts it,"the keyboards have turned to glue."
...Trying to type a coherent instruction (or even worse, trying to talk someone through that task remotely) where random keys require the application of a sledgehammer to make them respond, at which point they auto repeatttttttttttttttt.
It's enough to give a veteran manager a pain in the posterior, but hey -- some HP 3000s (of the 900 Series) demand a physical console as part of their configuration. Can't you just hook up such an antique PC straight to the 3000's special console port and let it work as a console? Yes, you can.
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May 26, 2015
The Legacy of Trusted 3000 Access
In plenty of HP 3000 customer sites -- or the IT operations that include a 3000 among the servers -- MPE has been an outlier. An important one, however, and that's a good reason that access to the TurboIMAGE data has sparked a generation of tools. Linux, Unix, Windows systems all need to connect to the 3000's data. UDALink software has a track record of keeping 3000s in the computing Circle of Trust. Now there's a new generation.
Finance might need 3000 data to get a firm grip on the current operational profitability of the business. Customers will need to gauge supplier and vendor performance, based on data in 3000s. Accurate data, delivered in a timely way, improves customer relations and sales. And manufacturing processes must measure the time it takes to complete or commit to a product delivery date, for example. 3000 data might be on a legacy system, but it can be crucial to corporate objectives.
MB Foster is showing off the setup, configuration and enabling of secure ODBC/JDBC connections in UDALink to access a HP 3000 or another environment, starting at 2 PM Eastern on Wednesday. The webinar lasts about an hour, and you can register through MB Foster for the free briefing. This is software that connects 3000s to the rest of the world by way of direct access to data.
May 25, 2015
A Memorial to 3000 Advocacy
It's Memorial Day in the US, a holiday where we celebrate those fallen in combat. There's that ultimate sacrifice in uniform and on duty for this country, worthy of a parade. But here on a day when many of us take time away from the job, it's worth a moment to remember those who've left our MPE community after good work to benefit all.
Wirt Atmar was one of those fellows. He passed away more than six years ago of a heart attack, but he's got a living memorial up on the archives of the 3000-L newsgroup. The lifespan of HP's business with the 3000 got a benefit from his work as well. It's safe to say that MPE's 1990s would've been poorer without his advocacy for IMAGE.
1990 was a high-water mark in HP 3000 advocacy. From his company AICS Research, Wirt created the report tool QueryCalc as well as QCReports and a free QCTerm emulator. In the fall of 1990 he helped spark a change in HP's business practices about the 3000 — a change that remains important to those who are changing little about a stable HP 3000 environment.
May 22, 2015
The 3000's Growth: Built Upon Basics
IT managers with MPE applications still hold hope of better futures for the HP 3000. The future of the system is the same as it ever was in many places, companies and organizations that protect the value of the custom apps they've built. HP miscalculated the value of these in-house, hand-tooled apps. The vendor's warnings of a shrinking ecosystem placed little value in these home-grown systems.
Tim O'Neill rarely misses a chance to illustrate what HP missed in 2001. When our report on the fate of Carly Fiorina's presidential run emerged, O'Neill wrote about the vitriol aimed at all things HP including Carly.
Despite all the errors and vitriol and despair that HP inspired — continuing to this day and even in this space (where space refers to my space) — the world still could use an operating system dedicated to managing data for business and industry, and doing so effectively and affordably, and without the risks contained in other systems not designed for such real purposes.
With proper system engineering planning, oversight, and new development, and modern hardware (e.g. using the product from Stromasys,) MPE/iX could fill the requirement not being met by a few popular proprietary operating systems and dozens of competing alternatives. In the mode of the HP 260 business system, a New Age HP 3000 from Stromasys could be a dedicated multi-user business system with storage on a SAN of choice.
But what is this HP 260 in O'Neill's memory, and why was it successful in its era of the late '80s and into the '90s? Business Basic drove that system. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies reminded us of what made an HP-designed integrated solution a good enterprise choice.
May 21, 2015
HP disses synergies as Q2 flows downhill
Penetration rates increased for HP's Business Critical Systems in the company's second quarter of 2015, year over year. And the corporation that sold thousands of HP-UX systems from that BCS to HP 3000 migrators reported that it has spent more than $400 million in dis-synergies in the just-finished quarter. Such were the milestones of financial jargon delivered to explain Q2 business. On the strength of profits that met expectations, analysts said the last 90 days of business didn't sink the SS Hewlett-Packard any further.
But the $25.5 billion in sales dropped from last year's Q2, and the revenues fell from the previous quarter as well. HP is selling less -- especially in the enterprise servers it created like Integrity -- and its already spending hundreds of millions to split itself into Enterprise and PC-printer companies. Halfway through the final year when all of that business is under one corporate banner, the company is looking ahead to rising reports as a split-up entity.
"HP is becoming stronger as we head into the second half of our fiscal year and separation in November," said CEO Meg Whitman at this afternoon's analyst briefing. The stock had closed at $33.83 and rose about 40 cents a share in after-hours trading.
The strength of the company, a subject of interest only to the 3000 customers who've chosen HP for migrations, must be measured in more than the price of its stock. HP hopes so, at least, since HPQ is trading in the same middle $30 range of 2011. Whitman has held her job since then, a time when PC pursuits and big-ticket acquisitions were the order of the day.
Now HP is merging with a new sense of focus. Merger and acquisition plays have both negative and positive prospects. Savings come through synergies. Declines come through dis-synergies, something HP wrote off as restructuring and separations costs that totalled more than a half-billion dollars.
May 20, 2015
Discovering HP's Futures
In a couple of weeks HP computer users will gather for an annual conference in North America. For the past five years, the meeting has been called HP Discover. This year's event is promising to show off visions of the future. Pictures of stalwart enterprise community members will be harder to find.
Among the HP technologies developed as computing environments, only HP's Unix will have a Special Interest Group Forum at the June 2-4 conference. Searching the sessions database for the letters VMS -- pretty special to the Digital customers that HP preferred to serve futures to versus 3000 sites -- yields no hits. If VMS is being discussed at HP Discover, it's likely to be just a topic on the floor.
Stromasys will be on that floor, talking about several platforms whose HP futures have already or will soon enough expire. Charon HPA, emulating the HP 3000 hardware, as well as virtualization products for the Digital systems and even Sun's Solaris computers will be demonstrated. Sarah Smith of Stromasys says it's a regular stop in the company's itinerary.
"At the booth we'll be doing demos of Charon," she said. "We've been going for years. VAX, Alpha, and PDP were all DEC products, so we talk about all of them at Discover."
Meanwhile, HP will be talking about many commodity solutions along with The Machine, its project to deliver six times more power than current computer systems on 1.25 percent of the energy. Its big idea is universal memory, driven by the elusive memristor HP first began discussing in 2008. Universal memory is as inexpensive as DRAM, as speedy as static RAM, as non-volatile as flash memory, and infinitely durable. The Machine is an HP Labs project reputed to have requisitioned 75 percent of the Labs' resources. Its delivery date is far enough out in the future that hearing about its potential is still just about all anybody expects this year, or next.
Read "Discovering HP's Futures" in full
May 19, 2015
MANMAN migrations posed by new player
A new resource has begun to scout the MANMAN customer base, hoping to pose the potential for migrating off the venerable ERP solution. Merino Consulting Services contacted us to try to survey the field of MANMAN users that Merino might try to serve. Terry Floyd of The Support Group and Terri Glendon Lanza of Ask Terri know a good deal more about who's still running MANMAN on a 3000 today. The list used to include Rockwell Collins, E.D. Bullard (makers of the iconic three-ridge construction hats) and semiconductor test maker Delta Design.
MANMAN has been in place for decades at places like Delta Design, which installed the ERP suite in 1995.
Merino would like to help migrations off of MANMAN, something that's been an active mission in your community for more than 20 years, according to Floyd. We're scheduled to hear more from Merino next week about what they'll bring to an MPE user in the way of environment expertise during a migration.
Even among the companies that use homesteader solutions for manufacturers, there's a sense that a long-term ERP plan will involve Windows rather than MPE. The length of that term varies, of course, depending on the outlook for the current software in place. Customization keeps MPE systems in charge at companies very small and some large ones (albeit in small spots at those giants, like Boeing.)
May 18, 2015
Portfolios That Make a Path to the Future
Wednesday afternoon (2 PM Eastern time, US) MB Foster is educating IT managers on the business case for using Application Portfolio Management. (Register here for the free event.) APM has gained a lot of traction in boardrooms and the places where analyst reports score points.
Gartner's researchers report that "Application portfolio management is critical to understanding and managing the 40-80 percent of IT budgets devoted to maintaining and enhancing software." HP 3000 managers, and especially those who are on the move to a new computing path, understand how much of their work has always gone into extending and repairing apps that make a difference.
Foster's team says that APM "changes the way you manage IT assets. Without proper visibility, IT executives can never be sure that they are investing appropriately by acquiring enhancing or retiring, the right application at the right time. Without visibility, APM is simply impossible without an ongoing view of IT investments."
In this Wednesday's webinar, Birket Foster will highlight the business case for APM, and outline "where you should start, mapping your portfolio, building a score card, examining business and technical fit, understanding benefit and risks and other subject related content." Foster's been talking about APM for more than 10 years, just about the whole time 3000 migrations have been in play.
APM can begin by delivering a means to increase the visibility of HP 3000 apps. And if that MPE visibility leads to a more energized transition plan — because now the executive management sees how vital the MPE/iX application is to meeting company goals — that's a good thing as well.
May 15, 2015
SSDs in use on 3000s: Virtualized by now
Earlier this week, a 3000 devotee and technician asked if anyone was using solid state disc (SSD) on HP 3000s in place of the aging SCSI drives in most servers. "It sounds like a great concept," said Jon Jonston, who's working on a preservation project for the HP Computer Museum.
We are just looking to restore images onto a disc for demo purposes. So, even powered down life is not important, but cost is. We have found that IDE->CF works great as a hard disc replacement in old DOS PCs. SCSI2SD is a great low-cost solution (for Apple), but doesn't work with HP. We are looking for a low-cost, single disc SSD for HP 3000 computers.
After one newsgroup user compared putting SSDs in 3000s to a McLaren racing engine in an SUV, a more plausible solution emerged: using SSDs to support a virtualized 3000 running on an Intel-based PC. "You could house your 3000 in a Stromasys emulator running on a Linux box with VMware," said Gilles Schipper, "employing as many SATA SSD disks as you want on your host."
But there was a time in another May when SSDs running native in HP's 3000 hardware was a possibility worth investigating.
May 14, 2015
TBT: The Day that HP's 3000 Division Died
On a day in May 13 years ago, Hewlett-Packard took the designation of "division" out of its HP 3000 business. And so that summer started the first era in 36 years when the 3000 and MPE had no dedicated company unit or general manager to call its own. Its final GM believed selling 3000s was not his exclusive focus.
Only six months before the 3000 left the org chart, the vendor announced the term of its swan song for the system. But through the early months of 2002, there was still a Commercial Systems Division -- CSY in the HP naming conventions -- to issue software, business decisions, and pronouncements about the future. General Manager Winston Prather ended that era as he stepped away from the GM post. (The photo at left comes from the Chicago HP World, where HP told customers nothing about a 3000 pullout announced 90 days later.)
As 2002 began, we asked Prather what he saw in the future for CSY as an HP unit and MPE as a computing environment. Asked if he'd be the last 3000 division manager, Prather said, "Gosh, I don’t know. Part of me wants to say ‘I hope so.’ But there’s a negative sound to that, too." He sounded positive that MPE users would outlast the vendor's lifespan, unless HP planned to be around longer than forever.
Here’s the bottom line: MPE will be around forever. And we want to help that. This is in no way HP trying to kill MPE. We will explore and look at all the different options to enable what I’d call the afterlife — or at least the after-HP life, beyond 2006.
Prather was stepping away from a 3000 whose futures he claimed to have curtailed with a personal decision. "It was my decision," he told a user group publication, adding that the server had stopped being strategic to its owners and users. He told us that as GM it wasn't his job to sell 3000s -- just to deliver the right server to the customer from HP's many choices. Later that year he ended HP's 3000 life. He'd been doubling as a GM for another HP division for more than a year by the time HP took CSY off its org chart. And so the community began an eight-year period of referring to a Virtual CSY, and the vCSY nickname earned a place in user group communications.
May 13, 2015
Deciding Which Cloud Cabin To Ride
Trends in IT management are pushing server management into co-located and cloud-based service providers. If a path toward migration seems to lead toward services rather than servers, there are some developments to note while choosing a place to relocate the apps on critical servers.
Amazon is the leader in the cloud computing space with its AWS business. But just until recently, the world didn't know specifics of how well AWS was earning. It turns out that cloud services are one of the few Amazon products making a generous profit. And the existence of profits goes a long way toward protecting the future of any product or service. The 3000 is supposed to have crossed over from profitable to not so during the period after Y2K.
Once the system's projected revenue line dipped below the projected expense line, at that point you could say even those inside HP considered MPE servers a dead product. It didn't happen until after that Year 2000 bubble, though. The HP 3000 owner, having experienced this, will be wary of any single point of solution failure.
AWS is well above such a line. Other companies, such as HP, are not breaking out their cloud business results. But HP is making a point of promoting its latest HP Discover conference around the cloud concept. You can even ride in a cloud, the vendor promises, next month in Vegas.