August 29, 2016
How Good Things Are Slow to Change
Five years ago this week I was debating Apple's place in the future of tablets. The iPad was roaring along with more than 60 percent of the share of tablets shipped at the time. I bought one for my wife a few months later, to help her convalesce following a hip surgery. It was an iPad 2, and it's turned out to be the equivalent of a 9x9 HP 3000. It might run forever.
My debating point in late August of 2011 was Apple would not be chased off its leadership of market share anytime soon. In 2011 nobody offered a tablet featured with apps and an infrastructure like Apple's. I heard the word "slab" to describe tablets for the first time. That label predicted that a tablet could become nothing more special than a PC. White box, commodity, biggest market share will eliminate any out-sold competitors.
The trouble with that thinking is that it's the same thing that drives the accepted wisdom about the future for datacenters still using MPE/iX and the HP 3000. Last Friday I attended a 20th work anniversary lobster boil at The Support Group for Sue Kiesel. She left her datacenter career on MANMAN systems to become a part of Terry Floyd's consulting and support company. All through those years, HP 3000 experience has remained important to her work. There's years ahead, too.
Those years also track the Newswire's lifespan. It's always a chipper afternoon when I visit the company's HQ out in the Texas oaks near Lake Travis. In addition to things like barbecue and cake, reminders of the success of the 3000 are often laying about. Last week I noticed flyers and documents outlining software from Minisoft. Not all of that software is MPE-centric products, but it is all designed for a company that still makes and ships products using a 3000-driven datacenter. Even if that datacenter is hooking up iMacs to MPE/iX, a specialty Minisoft has come to own completely. The 3000 users who remain in the market believe they have a good thing. Change comes slowly to good things, behavior which mirrors human nature.
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August 26, 2016
Expecting the Best, Even During A Disaster
This week marked the onset of cheaper air fares. August 23 was the official day for lower fares to be posted by airlines. A fare between Austin and Bejing -- the country where a dozen HP 3000s are driving a manufacturing corporation's operations — is down to $863.
So the impact of airline companies' failed disaster recoveries will recede. There are fewer people to strand when a system goes dark like the one did at Delta Airlines. The disaster was centered around a single building in the Atlanta power grid. It led to people tweeting “I’ll never fly your airline again.” This is just life in 2016. Get used to it: instant reviews, dashed off in the heat of anger and dismay. Tweets motivate spending millions to do good DR.
But the assumptions are that legacy systems are to blame. "Legacy systems stay on way too long," said one blogger who's had some software experience as well as work at Boeing. "Vendor agreements, support and maintenance — and the pain of switching and upgrading a system that’s by and large pretty reliable and so deeply integrated—are things few CTOs want to touch."
Southwest Airlines had no legacy systems at work during its high-season meltdown. The 3000s had been turned off. The plan was to save money by getting more modern. The disaster recovery was not high on the budget list. Customers don't care about IT budgets. They expect the best, even during a disaster. Plenty of 3000s have come through hell and high water.
That reliability doesn’t come out of thin air. The track record the server built during the advent of ticketless flight operations is one reason it still drives manufacturing in places like China and airports serving See's Candies. Celebrating the days of MPE glory won't return it to those places where DR has failed, though. Turning back only happens when a system fails upon installation. Once you're in, it's hard to turn something away at the gate.
August 24, 2016
Some 3000 magic is beyond SAP's powers
SAP has taken the place of HP 3000 apps in the last 15 years. Not easily and not completely, in some cases. SAP is known for its switches—choices in configurations that sometimes shape the way a company does business. Some enterprises have to bend their practices to fit SAP, instead of the other way around.
At General Mills, SAP replaced just about everything. As it did, the IT manager there thought "If everyone buys and runs the same generic SAP software, how do you get a competitive advantage over your customers? We had spent years creating custom solutions and with SAP, we transformed the business to be... just like everyone else's."
Success stories are out there, too. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said the SAP migration that he's helped with "went brilliantly."
"It's because the implementation was driven by the user departments who knew exactly what they wanted," he said. "They were given responsibility for doing it, so they used about zero external consultancy. All we had to do was extract the data from the HP 3000. Shame that we lost a good customer."
In another instance that Yeo is aware of, the company began replacing their financials and purchasing systems, went on to billing, inventory and sales. "Then they got to the clever stuff that the HP 3000 was doing and failed. 16 years later they are still running an HP 3000 doing the clever stuff."
August 22, 2016
Replacements can trigger re-licensing, fees
HP's 3000 hardware is built well, but aging like any other server manufactured in 2003. Or even longer ago. The boxes are at least 13 years old. Hardware includes storage devices that can be newer. But eventually an MPE/iX server will need to be replaced. No iron lasts forever, even if the 3000 comes closest to feeling that way.
When a 3000 wears out or breaks down, something else that resembles the server takes its place. It could be a system just like what stopped working, delivered right to the datacenter. A new 3000 box will require some license transfers, operations beyond what HP expects for MPE/iX.
Third party software that checks for an HPSUSAN number will find a new one on HP's replacement hardware. This means a call to the software vendor for help in getting the application or tool to fire up again. Some software doesn't do this check. The call won't be required then.
The term re-license can include a couple of things. One of those things is a re-negotiation of fees for use. A few software companies in the MPE world have strict accounting for the size of a server. Only a straight-up replacement box will forestall an extra fee for these vendors.
If somehow you could replace an old 3000 with something much newer, while retaining the HPSUSAN number to skip all this administration, would you do it? What you might choose could have a much newer pedigree, too, iron that was built in our current decade. You might see where this is going.
August 19, 2016
Vendor makes its installs a key to emulation
Customers have not been crazy about paying for services along with their software. You can make a case for doing things differently when the expert arrives to put something mission-critical into your datacenter, though. Hardware integration included installing services for a long time, until the commodity era arrived. Software then slid into self-install territory with the advent of PC apps, and then open source.
Thing is, the 3000 community managers learned lessons from an era when they were sometimes as experienced as anyone the vendor could assign to their installs. By the end of the 1980s, though, the vendors often had sharper software engineers than most customers. But the MPE vendors didn't have big staffs for outreach with installs. Here's a tape, stream it like this. Call us if there's a problem. DIY system management was the first option.
Now, if you got a great third party support company, they'd help you with anything. Few software companies wanted to be in that business, though. Adager's Rene Woc would say they got called for every problem someone ever had with an IMAGE database. Sometimes the calls didn't even come from customers. After the call, there was sometimes a sale, though.
Finally, there was freeware. For the price, there was no reason to believe anyone would help install this at your site. Emails and websites gave advice. This was the moment when Charon HPA stepped in. People needed to see the new product working to believe in its magic. For a couple of years anyone could download the software on a single-user license and mount it themselves. The results depended on how adept your administrative skills were. Everybody likes to think of themselves as well-seasoned. It's sometimes less than true.
Charon HPA is a mission-critical part of enterprise computing. Although it doesn't emulate anything in MPE/iX, this is software that transforms an Intel processor into a PA-RISC engine. MPE users have lots of variations in their PA-RISC configurations. That's what happens after 40 years of commercial computing success.
So freeware Charon downloads ended a few years ago. Then over the last year-plus the DIY option has been ended too. "We do it ourselves to be sure it's done right," said one official at Stromasys. There was the freeware era, then the DIY era with customers installing themselves. Now it's the vendor-install era. The proof of this concept comes from a statement by the HPA expert for 3000 sites. Doug Smith says, "All of our installs are successful now."
August 17, 2016
Crashed IT Versus Staying On MPE's Course
Earlier this month Delta suffered an IT meltdown that made Southwest Airlines' disaster of DR look puny. Three thousand canceled or delayed flights went idle in a single day. A hasty DR mashup was using dot matrix printers at one airport. Delta was never a 3000 user. It's an easy retort to say, "Of course not. Nobody in the modern world of commerce would be staying in the 3000 business."
However. You exit a flight and go into the concourse this month, and there's a See's Candy kiosk. Oh yes, the clerk says, we sell right here and it goes straight back to the main office. And you just know, if you keep track of who's staying the MPE course, that the new point of sale terminal is tapping a TurboIMAGE database somewhere in California. Because See's stayed the course while Southwest veered away.
The largest candy shop company in the US was founded in 1921. See's operates more than 200 stores across this country, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, plus it counts on online sales. See's is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire's iconic founder Warren Buffett called See's "the prototype of a dream business." Buffett certainly knows nothing of See's IT choices, but his managers surely do. He commented on See's dreamy business in a book published in 2012 — more than a decade after HP's plans for the 3000 dried up.
In another state, one of the biggest manufacturers of mobile air conditioning units manages their ERP with MPE. They're moving away from 3000 hardware, in a way. These days you don't need the HP badge on aged hardware to stay the course with MPE applications. You can virtualize and emulate Hewlett-Packard's iron. Yes, MANMAN is still an everyday tool at a company whose name is synonymous with cooled air.