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.
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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.
August 15, 2016
Poster anniversary lingers beyond sunburns
The biggest statement 3000 users made worked its way onto a front page. 847,000 OC Register readers took note.
Twenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community staged its most prominent protest. The stunt landed the server on the front page of a metro daily paper's news section for the only time in the 3000's history. It also produced sunburns and filled a football field. The lasting impact was memories, like so many computer stories. But a world record was set that remained unbroken longer than HP's product futures were intact for the server and MPE.
It was August of 1996 when a team of 3000 users, vendors, and developers gathered on the football field of Anaheim's Loara High School to build the world's largest poster. The stunt was also a message aimed at HP's executives of the time: Glenn Osaka, Wim Roelandts, Bernard Guidon and especially CEO Lew Platt. "Pay attention to the 3000's potential and its pedigree," the poster shouted. Acres of it, mounted under the Southern California sun of summer. Computerworld (above) was skeptical.
Summed up, the organizers led by Wirt Atmar unfurled 2,650 3-foot x 4.5-foot panels needed to say "MPE Users Kick Butt." Atmar was one of the most ardent advocates for the power of MPE and the 3000. He printed those thousands of sheets off a 3000 Micro XE, a Classic 3000 because why would you need a PA-RISC system? It drove an HP755CM DesignJet printer for two weeks, printing the required 463 billion pixels. Atmar said, after he and his employees loaded and drove the 687 pounds of sheets in a U-Haul truck from his New Mexico offices to California, that "moving the paper into the vehicle was our company's corporate fitness program."
They all had to be numbered and sorted and placed on the field. That was a spot where the winds arrived by lunchtime or so. It would be a race against the clock to build it, but the 3000 was always racing against an HP clock. The statement made for the server moved the needle for existing customers. General Manager Harry Sterling was just taking his job that summer and pushed for funding and lab time to bring the 3000 into parity with Unix and Windows NT servers HP sold. Often, it sold them against the 3000.
The image of the poster made it onto the Metro front page of the Orange County Register. The NewsWire provided lunch and recorded the event for our newsletter just celebrating its first birthday that month. We supplied sub sandwiches and pizzas, recording every request for things like a vegetarian kosher option. It was easier to get media attention than get a kosher veggie delivered to the Loara sidelines, it turned out.
August 12, 2016
How to purge UDCs on the HP 3000 safely
The software vendors most likely to sell products for a flat rate -- with no license upgrade fees -- have been the system utility and administration providers. Products such as VEsoft's MPEX, Robelle's Suprtool, Adager's product of the same name -- came in one, or perhaps two versions, at most. The software was sold as the start of a relationship, and so the relationship focused on the understanding the product provided for people responsible for HP 3000s.
That kind of understanding might reveal a Lewis Carroll Cheshire Cat's smile inside many an HP 3000. The smile is possible if the 3000 uses UDC files and the manager uses only MPE to do a file PURGE. Of course, PURGE ships on all MPE systems. Using that means you'll have to rebuild the UDC catalog. But even that's not enough.
Stan Sieler of Allegro shared a story about this recently. "We recently encountered a site where—somehow—an HFS filename had gotten into COMMAND.PUB.SYS. You can't delete UDC entries with HFS filenames, nor can you add them. I had to edit the file with Debug to change the name into something delete-able." Then there's the rebuilding of the catalog. Keven Miller has contributed a program that sorts and reorganizes UDC files.
There is a more complete way to remove such things from a 3000's storage. You're careful about this because eliminating UDCs with only MPE might leave a user unable to use the server. That grin that lingers is the UDC's filename.
User Defined Commands are a powerful timesaver for 3000 users, but they have administrative overhead that can become foolproof using the right tools. These UDCs need to be maintained, and as users drop off and come on the 3000, their UDCs come and go. There's always a chance that a UDC file could be deleted, but that file's name could remain in the filesystem's UDC master catalog. When that happens, any other UDCs associated with the user will fail, too. It might include some crucial commands; you can put a wide range of operations into a UDC.
When you add a third party tool to your administrator's box, you can make a purge of such files foolproof. You can erase the Cheshire Cat's grin as well as the cat. It's important because that grin of a filename, noted above, can keep valid users from getting work done on the server with UDCs. This is not the reputation anybody expects from a 3000.
August 10, 2016
Measure 3000 performance for datacenters
Measuring the performance of an HP 3000 used to be a leverage point for increasing investments. By now the numbers help justify continuing to use the server in a datacenter with newer boxes. "We think of our HP 3000s as stable, and even reducing in usage over time," says one systems manager, "though actually as the company grows, the data requirements and load on the 3000s increases."
One way to measure a 3000's footprint is the amount of memory it requires. Memory upgrades cost nothing like what they did even 15 years ago. But any spending at all makes that 15-year-old server suspect. HP's Steve Macsisak recommended sessions x 4, plus jobs x 16, plus 64 MB as the criteria for memory usage.
An HP 3000 uses as much of its memory as possible to make processing efficient. The design of the PA-RISC architecture makes memory the most important element of performance, after IO speed. It's not that unusual to see a 3000 using 100 percent of its memory, according to field reports. There's also CPU usage to measure.
CPU percentages can come via the REPORT command. Count up the CPU seconds used in the week, and divide by the total number of seconds available (604,800). But for all of this, it doesn't feel like a graphic report the rest of the datacenter gets from its Unix and Linux systems using SAR. There may be a program inside a 3000 that can help, even if the company never purchased performance tools from Lund. HP's Glance gives away its reporting power in its name, one manager has joked.
There's freeware available to create handsome graphs like the one at left, suitable for showing in a meeting about datacenter resources. Ploticus/iX was written by Andreas Schmidt. It uses data from SCOPE.SYS. Ploticus even works with SAR's data.