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October 31, 2005

Two years past no-sale, plenty to buy

Two years ago today, the HP 3000 fell off HP's corporate price list. The worldwide community held a "wake," prompted by ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, and got itself into the mainstream trade press with its marker of the end of HP's sales era. But sales have continued beyond HP's plans, out in the rich field of independent resellers.

All though the 3000 community, the lights continue to blink on the latest HP 3000s the vendor ever built, the last-generation N-Class and A-Class servers. These systems scarcely got a half-year of unfettered sales time at HP before the vendor announced the end of its 3000 business in 2001. As one IT manager — from a major shop with "double-digit" numbers of N-Class servers still running a sales counter application — told us two years ago:

HP finally puts the HP e3000 on an even hardware playing field as HP-UX and they discontinue the platform — pretty frustrating.  We do plan on upgrading these N-Class systems over the next couple of years.  If HP does not have the parts, we will look in the secondary market.

There are many places to look today, two years after the wake. If anything has died off, it only appears to be HP's official stream of 3000 systems. And even HP was participating in 3000 sales through a secondary market outlet, Phoenix 3000, which resold the systems HP took in trade-ins.

HP seems to have slipped to secondary status in the hardware marketplace for 3000s, although the vendor just managed to outbid Genisys in last Thursday's Interex customer list auction. Of note: Genisys placed a bid of $66,000 at the very end of that auction. Even though HP nipped past Genisys to take control of the list, it's important to remember that Genisys had $66,000 to spend on the list. That shows some financial strength from that member of the independent hardware reseller community.

The community has gotten creative, too. Systems Support Group launched a Web site a few years back which it called HP TraderOnline. HP "respectfully" asked SSG to drop the HP part of the Web site name this summer. By the end of the year, this hardware Web resource will have to make do with Hi-Tech Trader Online (www.hi-techtrader.com), but it's got a "wanted to buy" section along with the usual N-Class, 9x9 and 9x8 systems as well as XP storage arrays. In an interesting business model, customers can buy a membership at $25 a month or less to post unlimited HP and Compaq inventory — and it's always free to shop.

When deciding whether to build up or move away, customers are more tied to their applications than HP's support, in many cases. Third-party options for hardware and software support, from suppliers like Pivital Solutions, make staying no less risky than relying on a dwindling HP support network. As Keith Robertson of Comsonics told us just before that wake of 2003:

Our MRP program is tied to the 3000, thus a hardware migration is also an ERP implementation; nothing to take lightly, either logistically or financially. So for now we're staying pat. Any improvements to our 3000 will come from the used market.

Another customer, who runs a 911 dispatch center and wanted to remain anonymous, said reliability was more vital to his company than buying direct from a systems vendor:

As of today, our plans are to stay on the 3000 for the foreseeable future — we will purchase hardware and software support from third party suppliers.  In our business, reliability is critical and the HP3000 platform has provided that (I'm knocking on wood right now...).

A little while ago here on our blog, we took note of some hardware resources for purchasing systems. The network of suppliers seems to be growing bigger. As more companies choose to migrate away from their HP 3000s — larger sites seem to be migrating first — their top-class servers will become available on the used market.

There's another element of the 3000 hardware market that seems to have some headroom to grow. Genisys' Robert Gordon said from his booth at the recent HP Technology Forum that customers who know the 3000 have their own spare parts options to rely upon.

"They're either going to go third party maintenance, or they're going to self-maintain," Gordon said. "I think a lot of people are technically savvy on the 3000; they know it's not rocket science, and they're going to buy spare board kits. So we're going to see that business pick up. We'll see a lot 3000 sales in the year 2006."

10:03 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

And the Interex list winner is...

After many rounds of serious bidding over the telephone yesterday, another hardware vendor emerged as the winner of the Interex customer list auction. The customer list came up for auction as part of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings for the user group.

At the end of the auction, it was HP which took possession of between 110,000 and 115,000 names of Interex members, subscribers and individuals who requested the e-mail blasts the user group used to put out. The final price: $66,500.

If that seems quite a bit higher than the $15,000 opening offer from HP hardware resource Genisys, it's probably because the bidding was conducted blind, with two of the three parties remaining anonymous. HP had no idea who the third party was in the bidding for awhile, and didn't even have to identify itself until it won the auction. Genisys was bidding against two anonymous competitors. HP might have believed it was buying the customer list to keep it out of the hands of a competitor like IBM.

Genisys founder Danny Richardson said he knew his company would have plenty of cleanup to do on such a gaggle of names, gathered over 31 years and not pruned much. Genisys put down the first offer for the list and wasn't concerned about its size or condition.

"I didn't get a great sense of the size or content of the list," Richardson told us, "although I have heard it will take a lot of work to make it usable. We bid what we thought was a fair price given the perceived condition of the list. Genisys has been serving the HP 3000 community since our start in 1992. We are committed to supplying quality hardware well into the future."

The irony of HP's purchase wasn't lost on some in the HP community. After losing more than $100,000 to the user group through the failure of the 2005 HP World, HP then paid more than half as much again to purchase a list of its own customers. At least we know that HP has the resources to stay in touch with the enterprise computer user community. How much of that community actually resides among those tens of thousands of names remains an exercise for HP's marketing team.

06:37 AM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2005

Disaster Recovery Optimization Techniques

By Gilles Schipper
GSA

While working recently with a customer on the design and implementation of disaster recovery (DR) plan for their large HP3000 system, it became apparent that the mechanics of its implementation had room for improvement.

In this specific example, the customer has a production N-class HP3000 in its primary location and a “backup” HP3000/969 system in a secondary location several hundred miles removed from the primary.

The process of implementing the DR was more manual-intensive than it needed to be.

As an aside, it was completed entirely from a remote location — thanks to the Internet, VPNs and the use of the HP Secure Web Console on the 969 – a subject I will expound upon in future.

One of the most labor-intensive aspects of the DR exercise was to rebuild the I/O configuration of the DR machine (the 969) from the full backup tape of the production N-class machine, which included an integrated system load tape (SLT) as part of the backup.

The ability to integrate the SLT on the same tape as the full backup is very convenient. It results in a simplified recovery procedure as well as the assurance that the SLT to be used will be as current as possible.

When rebuilding a system from scratch from a SLT/Backup, if the target system (in this case the 969) differs in architecture from the source system (N-4000) it is usually necessary to modify all the device paths and device configuration specifications with SYSGEN and then rebooting the system in order to even be able to utilize the tape drive of the target system to restore any files at all.

(This would be apart from the files restored during the INSTALL process - which does NOT require proper configuration of any I/O component at all).

Some would argue that this system re-configuration needs to be completed only once since any future system rebuilds would require only a “data refresh” rather than a complete system re-INSTALL.

I say that this would be true only in very stable system environments where I/O configurations – including network printer configurations – are static AND where TurboIMAGE transaction logging is not utilized.

Otherwise there could be unpleasant results and complications from using stale configurations in a real disaster recovery situation.

In any case, there really is no reason to take any chances, since the labor-intensive step of creating a proper DR target system configuration environment is achievable minus the labor-intensive part – or at least without repetition of the manual chore of re-configuring the target system each time the DR is exercised.

Unless both the production system and the DR system are architecturally similar (i.e. they belong to same HP3000 family) the configuration of the target system (the DR machine) cloned from the source system (the production machine) will be non-trivial.

At a minimum, before data restore can begin on the DR machine, the path hierarchy of the tape drive associated with the backup tape must be re-created.

Further, if the subsequent restore requires more than just the system disk, all the path components for all the disk drives must also be created.

In a real DR situation, this task can be daunting at best – particularly since ii may be difficult in that event to be able to access the appropriate documentation that describes the pertinent SYSGEN configuration requirements.

How much preferable would it be to be able to complete this configuration well in advance of the hope-to-never-happen event.

In actual fact, it is entirely possible to create an appropriate DR configuration environment that is (almost) completely integrated into one’s production environment.

SYSGEN I/O requirements

In order to provision a potential DR HP3000 system’s I/O configuration requirements into an existing production HP3000 SLT, it is only necessary to configure all of the DR path components into the existing production system’s I/O configuration.

The fact that these paths do not exist on the production (source) system is immaterial – as long as you can withstand the menacing – although perfectly innocuous – console error messages that accompany a reboot of a system so configured.

An example of these console error messages is shown later.

There is also the small matter of actual device numbers – and that is why I included the “almost” when mentioning “completely integrated” earlier.

Clearly, it is not possible to have duplicate device numbers when configuring both production and DR devices into the production SYSGEN I/O configuration.

So, in order to distinguish between the 2 systems (one the real production, the other virtual DR), I simply add 100 (you can choose any number) to the device numbers associated with the virtual machine.

Then when actually testing or invoking the DR process, it is a simple matter to change the device numbers in a batch job designed for that purpose.

Another batch job could be pre-built that would add the appropriate disk drives and volume sets to the system’s disk pool, using VOLUTIL.

These batch jobs would be included in the full backup tape and could be restored almost immediately following the INSTALL by referencing:

:file tape;dev=107 (to use my example of adding 100 to the corresponding virtual device)

:restore *tape;{fileset};directory;olddate;keep;create;show (where {fileset} corresponds to the fileset that would include the appropriate device number change and volutil batch jobs.

One could take this technique one step further in the case where the DR target machine is unknown.

In such a situation, you could create a SYSGEN I/O configuration that includes path constructs for any possible virtual machine that you could think of and include them in the host configuration – adding 100 for devices associated with virtual machine 1, 200 for virtual machine 2, and so on.

An example of a SYSGEN I/O configuration of, in this case, a model 969, integrated into the host N4000 follows below.

Note that the following example saves the changed configuration to the CONFIG.SYS group – which would be the one used upon a subsequent START NORECOVERY reboot.

You could easily keep the modified configuration to a different group – say CFGTEST.SYS - and test it with a START NORECOVERY GROUP=CFGTEST prior to subsequently saving as CONFIG.SYS once you are satisfied with the result.

:sysgen

SYSGEN version E.05.00 : catalog version E.05.00    WED, OCT 26, 2005,  9:15

AM

Copyright 1987 Hewlett-Packard Co. All Rights Reserved.

        **note** Retrieving NMMGR configuration data...

        ** First level command **

        io                log (lo)       misc (mi)        spu (sp)

        sysfile (sy)

        basegroup (ba)    keep(ke)       permyes (pe)     show (sh)

        tape (ta)

        clear (cl)(c)     exit (ex)(e)   help (he)(h)     oclose (oc)

        redo

sysgen> io

        ** IO configurator commands **

        aclass (ac)      adev (ad)       apath (ap)      avol (av)

        dclass (dc)      ddev (dd)       dpath (dp)      dvol (dv)

        lclass (lc)      ldev (ld)       lpath (lp)      lvol (lv)

        maddress(ma)     mclass (mc)     mdev (md)       mpath (mp)

        mvol (mv)        hautil (ha)

        clear (cl)(c)    exit (ex)(e)    help (he)(h)    hold (ho)

        oclose (oc)      redo

     io> lp 10

        **warning** path doesn't exist

     io> ap 10 id=a2372-60003

io> ap 10/4 id=a2372-60003

     io> ap 10/4/0 id=a2372-60003-console/lan

io> ap 10/4/4 id=hp28696a   

io> ap 10/4/4.0 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/4.1 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/4.2 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/4.3 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/4.4 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/4.5 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/4.6 id=pseudo

io> ap 10/4/12 id=hp28696a

     io> ap 10/4/12.0 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/12.1 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/12.2 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/12.3 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/12.4 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/12.5 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/12.6 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/16 id=hp28642a-scsi

     io> ap 10/4/16.1 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/16.2 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/16.3 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/16.4 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/16.5 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/16.6 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/20 id=a2372-60003-scsi

     io> ap 10/4/20.0 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/20.2 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/20.3 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/20.8 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/20.9 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/24 id=hp28696a

     io> ap 10/4/24.5 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/4/24.6 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/16 id=a2372-60003

io> ap 10/16/4 id=hp28696a

     io> ap 10/16/4.3 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/16/4.4 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/16/4.5 id=pseudo

io> ap 10/16/4.6 id=pseudo 

io> ap 10/16/12 id=hp28696a

     io> ap 10/16/12.3 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/16/12.4 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/16/12.5 id=pseudo

     io> ap 10/16/12.6 id=pseudo

io> ad 80 path=none id=hptcpjd

     io> ad 101 path=10/4/24.6.0 id=st34573wc

     io> ad 102 path=10/4/24.5.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 106 path=10/4/20.8.0 id=lp_pp_id

     io> ad 107 path=10/4/20.0.0 id=hpc1537a mode=autoreply class=tape,dds

     io> ad 108 path=10/4/20.3.0 id=hpc1557a mode=autoreply class=tape,dds,autodds

     io> ad 110 path=10/4/20.9.0 id=jobtape_id outdev=lp         

     io> ad 111 path=10/4/20.2.0 id=hpa1999a

     io> ad 120 path=10/4/0.0    id=a2372-60003-console-terminal

     io> ad 121 path=10/4/0.1    id=a2372-60003-console-terminal

     io> ad 122 path=10/4/0.3    id=hpa2994a

     io> ad 130 path=10/4/4.6.0  id=hvddisk    

     io> ad 131 path=10/4/4.5.0  id=hvddisk 

     io> ad 132 path=10/4/4.4.0  id=hvddisk

     io> ad 133 path=10/4/4.3.0  id=hvddisk                      

     io> ad 134 path=10/4/4.2.0  id=hvddisk

     io> ad 135 path=10/4/4.1.0  id=hvddisk

     io> ad 136 path=10/4/4.0.0  id=hvddisk

     io> ad 137 path=10/16/4.6.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 138 path=10/16/4.5.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 140 path=10/4/12.6.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 141 path=10/4/12.5.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 142 path=10/4/12.4.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 143 path=10/4/12.3.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 144 path=10/4/12.2.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 145 path=10/4/12.1.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 146 path=10/4/12.0.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 147 path=10/16/12.6.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 148 path=10/16/12.5.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 150 path=10/4/16.6.0  id=st15150n

     io> ad 151 path=10/4/16.5.0  id=st15150n

     io> ad 152 path=10/4/16.4.0  id=st15150n

     io> ad 153 path=10/4/16.3.0  id=st15150n

     io> ad 155 path=10/16/4.4.0  id=hvddsik

     io> ad 156 path=10/16/4.3.0  id=hvddisk

     io> ad 165 path=10/16/12.4.0 id=hvddisk

     io> ad 166 path=10/16/12.3.0 id=hvddisk

 

     io> hold

     io> exit

sysgen> keep

        keeping to group CONFIG.SYS

        Purge old configuration (yes/no)?y

        ** configuration files successfully saved **

sysgen> exit

:

Systems that are configured to include “virtual” devices in this fashion will be accompanied by console error messages during bootup that appear worrisome but are in fact completely safe to ignore.

Here is what they may look like:

LLIO Error - subsys: 213,  proc num: -116,  error_num: -77

for path 10/4/24.

ERROR  - LLIO device configuration error: -11

          status - subsys: #150  info: #-11

higher component configuration failed.10/4/24.5.0

higher component configuration failed.10/4/24.6.0

LLIO Error - subsys: 213,  proc num: -116,  error_num: -77

for path 10/4/4.

ERROR  - LLIO device configuration error: -11

          status - subsys: #150  info: #-11

higher component configuration failed.10/4/4.0.0

higher component configuration failed.10/4/4.1.0

higher component configuration failed.10/4/4.2.0

higher component configuration failed.10/4/4.3.0

higher component configuration failed.10/4/4.4.0

higher component configuration failed.10/4/4.5.0

higher component configuration failed.10/4/4.6.0

….

followed later, by:

Warning  - Volume is not available for mounting.  The ldev is 155

Warning  - Volume is not available for mounting.  The ldev is 138

Warning  - Volume is not available for mounting.  The ldev is 137

Warning  - Volume is not available for mounting.  The ldev is 146

Warning  - Volume is not available for mounting.  The ldev is 145

Warning  - Volume is not available for mounting.  The ldev is 144

Warning  - Volume is not available for mounting.  The ldev is 143

Warning  - Volume is not available for mounting.  The ldev is 142

06:41 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 26, 2005

Carriage wit tracks follow path to open MPE

Homesteading sites in the 3000 community are counting down the days to the end of 2005, not 2006. By the close of this year HP will reveal its plans for sharing the source code — through some sort of limited license — to the HP 3000's operating system. Those plans could be a complete denial, or something much more encouraging for the site still relying on 3000s for several years. Customers are counting on the community to give HP some confidence to release the vendor's intellectual property. Starting next month, HP said it's going to invite a non-HP engineer to look over the 3000's OS build process.

Not long ago one of the board members of OpenMPE, the advocacy group for post-2006 HP 3000 use, offered up what he called "carriage wit" about why HP should trust the customers to take care of MPE/iX after HP leaves the market. It's called carriage wit, according to Matthew Perdue, because it's "thinking of something you wanted to say after the show and you're in your carriage headed home." Purdue, who runs an ISP and software operation in Texas and consults for 3000 sites, was home almost two months after the August OpenMPE meeting at HP. But his message on the OpenMPE mailing list speaks to the spirit we chronicled yesterday on our blog.

Perdue said

My “carriage wit” plea to HP is to take into account that MPE/iX is today what it is because of the participation and contributions of the community that has used the OS over the years — and now that HP will be leaving the marketplace, turn the care and upkeep of MPE/iX over to those that have helped create it in the first place: the customer base.

From the legal standpoint, HP owns the copyright to MPE/iX (with some subset portions licensed from others). But in a larger view, MPE/iX is the intellectual creation of the customer base that has used it over the past 30 years and HP together — and the customer base that remains wishes to continue using the product they developed with HP after HP stops support on 12-31-2006.

HP believes that the full year of 2006 will be enough time to hand over MPE/iX to a third-party lab. HP's Mike Paivinen said that HP will be making its announcement in this quarter, and "there's a lot of speculation out there that thinks its going to be Dec. 31 at 11:59 PM, but that's certainly not our intention."

"Given what our investigations said about the things we would be turning over," he added, "12 months from even the last month of 2005 is very sufficient time to give people [in the third-party labs] a chance to exercise and play with our build processes — if our answer goes in that direction." HP has not said yea or nay to OpenMPE's request for a limited license to the source code.

Paivinen said that "early November is when our review process shows we need to have someone come in [to HP labs] for an external review" of the MPE/iX build processes.

What makes HP confident that 12 months is enough time to transfer the build integration processes to a third party? Paivinen said during that August meeting this was a good question. "My confidence comes from my own personal experiences with the build, test and integration processes, and not from an empirical test. I think it takes way less time that that. I'm pretty intimate with our build and integration processes."

Should the homesteading customer be hopeful that HP has assigned engineers to investigate the turnover of code? "We're doing due dilligence to make sure that we understand all of the factors that are going to be involved in the final decision," he said. "People should be hopeful of the fact that we're treating this as a very serious decision. It wasn't 'no' out of the box. It was never 'no' out of the box. We always intended to invest our time in trying to make a good decision."

11:29 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

Homestead community stewards useful bits

The dictionary defines the verb "steward" as an act "to manage or look after (another's property)." The 3000 community shows how to do this with its expansive archives across many systems all over the world. When a customer wanted to use vi as an editor on their HP 3000 — to remain consistent with Unix systems at his site — the request for help led to stewards who've looked after software for all homesteaders.

It began when James B. Byrne was having "no end of trouble" using vi on his 3000. The editor is somewhat legendary for its cryptic interface and commands, but it's in wide use on "open" systems such as the HP 9000. From across the Atlantic, Lars Appel, retired from HP's support operations, delivered advice on making vi behave better on the 3000. Then in California, OpenMPE member Donna Garverick added a warning about using MPE's "frombyte." A smarter third-party program, BYTECNVT, exists to ease the process, she said. But where to get BYTECNVT, or where to even start to look?

Google didn't provide the answer, although it tried. The search engine had hidden the location of BYTECNVT in its "omitted some entries very similar to those already displayed." How often do you chase those extra links?

Since the answer wasn't obvious, I went to the best repository of third party, freeware and contributed 3000 programs: 3k Associates' 3k.com Web site. On the 3k Native MPE Applications Web page, however, BYTECNVT wasn't listed. Ted Ashton, a former OpenMPE board member, wrote the program but since retired from Southern University, the old location of BYTECNVT. Southern's server was no longer hosting the program, which replaces frombyte and tobyte, and opens the file specified, determines whether it is currently bytestream or not and converts it to the other format.

Time for another Web tool, recently upgraded, to search for the community's steward. Since the vi discussion sprang up on the 3000-L mailing list, I went to the new search engine for the list. Bingo: A posting from Keven Miller reported that he's got BYTECNVT and will send it to you. He's the steward, for now, of a program to make vi useful on HP 3000s.

Out at the 3000-L Web site at http://raven.utc.edu/cgi-bin/WA.EXE? there's also a feature called "Archive Search: Search through multiple lists' archives at the same time." You can use this if you feel like your subject might have been discussed on the OpenMPE mailing list, also hosted at raven.utc.edu. You need to log in to the 3000-L Web interface to use this search. Supply the e-mail address you use for subscribing to the lists, and pick a password if it's your first time through the log in process.

Former HP support technician, Lars Appel. 3000 manager and recent winner of the e3000 Contributor's Award, Donna Garverick. Retired 3000 manager and former OpenMPE director Ted Ashton. 3000 community resource Jeff Kell, curator of the 3000-L list at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. A 3000 expert who's running a reel tape transfer service for 3000 sites, Keven Miller. Not a single HP staffer among this crew of stewards — but then that's a topic for tomorrow, and MPE/iX futures in 2007 and beyond

09:27 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

3000 sites step into Unix healthcare

Amisys Synertech announced another of its 3000 sites that's made the transition to the HP-UX platform on Friday, showing the way for the majority of the Amisys base that's still running the MPE/iX version of the payer software system. Amisys Advance substitutes Oracle for the 3000's IMAGE database. The migrating customer, Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP), reported in the Amisys press release they feel the 3000's data functionality is intact after their migration.

“As a data-driven organization, CDPHP has always considered Amisys to be a very highly functional claims processing system,” said Raymond Murphy, CDPHP's Senior Vice President, Technology and Operations and CIO. “With the recent upgrade to Amisys Advance, CDPHP’s systems now run on an industry standard technology platform that will provide us with the opportunities to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of our business.”

This need for industry standards in a business platform drives a lot of 3000 migrations, as managers at the CIO level reach out for computers in the Unix or Windows mainstream. CDPHP had been an HP 3000 shop since the 1980s, according to our subscriber records at the NewsWire. The organization, which now serves 377,000 residents of New York state and is headquartered in Albany, had an IT shop of more than 20 staffers when we last polled them. CDPHP "performed many aspects of the migration themselves," according to the Amisys release. But the health plan still engaged Amisys to help finish the project.

Amisys professionals assisted in completion of environmental set-up and data migration for core and custom databases. Amisys databases are among the largest in the HP 3000 community, and the veterans of migrations report that the one of the biggest chores is getting accustomed to Oracle after years of using IMAGE. ASI’s Technical Services team also supplied on-site migration specialists "to ensure success throughout the implementation."

Although the 3000's user base is well-known for its do-it-yourself zeal, a migration can easily outstrip a company's resources at key points of the project. HP and others believe that migration expertise is going to become harder to find in the year to come, while some customers rush toward getting off their servers before 2006.

The CDPHP migration was the second in as many months Amisys announced. In September Scott & White Health Plan (Scott & White) successfully implemented Release 1 of the AMISYS Advance payer software application. The Release 2 software steps away from Powerhouse screen forms to a Java-based interface. Scott & White, one of the largest regional plans in Texas and a well-regarded health provider which funnels much of its insurance business through its own health plan, will process claims for more than 187,000 members.

Al Gain, a veteran of Amisys from the days when the company wasn't owned by larger parents like HBOCMcKesson or Synertech, used the same quote in both releases about the two different companies. “This is another example of solid business partnership in action,” Gain said.  “ASI and (fill in health plan name here) partnered together with commitment, experience and collaboration to successfully complete the migration to AMISYS Advance.”

At least the migrations were unique. Both health plans needed Amisys experts to finish their migrations.

07:19 AM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

Listen for the sounds of a new conference

In our weekly podcast (12MB MP3 file), we cap off our first week of reporting from Orlando with talk for about 12 minutes about the opportunity and reality presented at this week's HP Technology Forum. The 3000 community was represented by some managers like the State Farmers, from the biggest shops, intermediate IT chiefs like Joe Farrell from Airmotive Ireland, and a few tiny shop managers, too. Hear HP's CEO play the humor card, and get HP's take direct from David Parsons on how this show won't be a rowdy hockey game. HP's got hopes to host an independent meeting where frank but civil discourse is welcome, and the Encompass user group wants to attract the Interex HP 3000 customers who are looking for help in moving forward.

12:23 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2005

Handling migrations of systems and groups with grace

HP, its partners and customers dispensed migration advice on the last full day of the HP Tech Forum, including a forecast from HP's David Parsons on what to expect in future versions of this conference: An appropriate level of tension between user group members and HP rather than the entertaining all-out scraps of the past.

The migration counsel rolled out early on Wednesday, when an 8 AM session delivered user reports from a quartet of customers about migrations in play or completed. Summit Information Systems VP Dick Drollinger gave a report on the vendor's move of 52 HP 3000 sites (so far) to an HP-UX version of its Spectrum credit union application. Another 3000 ISV, Softvoyage, told about its transfer of much of its customer base to HP-UX. The company's Christian Scott said that his travel agency customers' IT shops have been advised to use Taricon's Xi-Batch and Xi-Text to reproduce the 3000's batch and scripting capabilities on Unix.

Batch represents the biggest challenge in migrations, according to MB Foster's Birket Foster. VESoft's Streamx functionality, the job scheduling part of Security/3000, has been recovered by AMXW, a Speedware tool which was invoked often during the day's migration advisories. Speedware's Chris Koppe said his company provides his migration customers with scripts written for AMXW which mimic some of the StreamX job scheduling abilities. John MacLerran, an IT systems analyst from Idaho State University, was looking for a replacement for the Streamx job stream programming language as the university moves off its Powerhouse-based applications by the end of next year.

MacLerran, whose university just approved hardware and software purchases to begin its migration, wanted assurance that AMXW handles Unix commands gracefully. The question of graceful handling came up later in the day, when we spoke with Parsons about the prospects of the Technology Forum being able to handle the high-tension kind of exchanges between HP and users which marked many Interex conferences of the past. Parsons said HP didn't have any contention with the Interex user base, but didn't see eye-to-eye with the group's for-profit management model.

As for the emotional speeches delivered at microphones to HP managers on panels, Parsons, the VP of Enterprise Marketing for HP Americas, said he wants the conference to air less gloves-off combat.

"You have some people who loved coming to the Interex shows like going to a hockey game," Parsons said. "They go because they love to see the fights. It's just not a hockey game. For those people who want to go see a hockey game and see the fight, that's not what we're going to be about. People who want to see a hockey game minus the extra-curricular stuff are going to have a good experience."

Parsons said HP wants the Technical Forum to include feedback to HP, but in a tone more appropriate to business. "There's a constructive way to raise issues. We're going to create many opportunities for our customers to continue to have a dialog to raise issues in a civil way. Not that it was uncivil before. If people feel a need to get more negative and vocal about it, that just means we've failed somewhere else, because we haven't provided a channel. It's not unlike the balance of power in government," he said. "As long as we maintain that equilibrium, we think it's a great partnership."

The heavy share of HP speakers at the conference may not need adjustment, Parsons added. It will depend on the reviews of the conference content by attendees. About 700 HP Americas presales employees attended out of a total just short of 4,000, and about one third of attendees were customers. HP, he said, did its best to encourage the 3000 speakers set for HP World to bring their talks to Orlando and HP's event. "There was a lot of work done to completely open the invitation to the Interex folks," he said. "I'd be shocked to find out there was anybody who had a legitimate topic, which wasn't already covered, who weren't given the opportunity to speak."

Migration speakers at this year's conference ran close to the company's list of partners. While speakers were candid about problems during migrations, Drollinger, Thompson, Koppe and Foster all have partnerships with the vendor, Thompson's as an ISV linked to Speedware's 4GL and migration products. Bob Lewandowski of ASAP Software stepped in to fill a slot on the migration user panel, and said that 3000 apps which are built to retrieve data record by record from IMAGE databases have to be re-engineered when choosing a SQL Server solution. "You can't really get there in a port," he said. "You definitely have to do some engineering." Speakers like Drollinger, who used Marxmeier's Eloquence database instead, simply converted databases without revising their apps' data access.

Advice which emerged from the migration audience — about 35 attended the morning and afternoon sessions — sometimes flowed from the ISV community, too. John Shick, a developer from healthcare ISV Amisys, said that he trains himself on Unix by reading the HP-UX man documentation pages, "and Google," he offered during the morning session.

Shick added that the difficulty so far in his company's migration has been "getting used to Oracle" and learning the new HP-UX environment," rather than adjustments to a new programming language. Amisys used the HP-UX versions of Powerhouse in its first version of Amisys Advance. "It was all fairly smooth," he said. "It was just a matter of making sure we successfully converted millions of lines of code from the 3000 to the 9000 environment."

But the humor and candor were never far from the surface of the day's advice. When MacLerran asked the migration panel how they communicated the change away from the 3000 to their users, Drollinger was ready with a joke. "We just blamed HP for everything," he said, sparking a outburst of laughter. HP's timing on its discontinuance announcement happened just after Summit had met with its customers. "Six more months would have been just right for us," he said, since the company had begun to create an HP-UX version of their app in 1999 for credit unions which had mandates to be on "open systems, when they didn't really understand what an open system was."

Summit is making its customers migrate away from their application by the end of June, 2007, "or they'll be on their own," Drollinger added. He expects about 20 to 30 of the company's customers will "be struggling on giving up the pacifier," not migrated as HP's end of 2006 deadline expires.

The coming months should bring a major upswing in migration activity, according to HP's Migration Center manager Alvina Nishimoto. "The majority have some sort of plan by now," she said. "It's going to be a little bit of a panic now, as people start to wake up the fact. The ones that are waiting the longest are the packaged app folks, because they do think it's going to be faster [to move to a packaged app]. It's faster, but they still have all their surround code, and they don't necessarily think of the implications of the surround code."

09:09 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

HP CEO cuts to the questions

Mark Hurd spoke before HP customers at yesterday's HP Technology Forum, a keynote that cut almost directly to questions rather than linger on a 15-minute speech. Hurd was self-effacing and relaxed in front of a crowd top-heavy with his employees; when he opened his presentation with "good morning," attendees barked "good morning" right back at him. Perhaps everybody was in sales contact mode with less than two weeks remaining in HP's fiscal year. Hurd said that he was "shamelessly in tactical mode" while trying to wrap up HP's fourth quarter. He came to the conference from speaking across town at the Gartner IT conference, so his keynote didn't start until 11.

After three minutes of introductory remarks, Hurd repaired to the center of the stage to sit down for a "Q&A" session with his senior VP David Booth asking prepared questions. Although the format was obviously rehearsed it was a good choice, giving Hurd a chance to show off humor and insight into the challenge HP's facing as it emerges from the years of Carly Fiorina's hubris and change. While Hurd's got to respect what he's been handed to manage, he had a few well-placed quips at hand to show his leadership won't be a complete rubber stamp. HP 3000 customers hoping for a miraculous shift back to their system didn't hear those magic words of return, though.

Hurd wanted to assure the crowd that feedback from customers was back in vogue at HP, perhaps a result of the shift in leadership at HP's Palo Alto HQ. "There is some belief, and I don't know that it's pervasive, that all great ideas eminate from Palo Alto," Hurd said. When the laughter began, Hurd added, "That's a smaller group now." He went on to say that "the farther we get away from our presales organization, our sales organization, our partners and customers, the harder it is to align the stuff we're working on to bring solutions to customers."

Hurd also espoused a desire to eliminate "the checkers of the checkers" process at HP, paring back mid-management levels. This drew outright applause from the crowd. He also worked on a little humor. When asked if his management strategy would go beyond cost-cutting, he quipped, "Nah. Just costs. That's working for us."

In the day's only HP 3000 session, business manager Dave Wilde reviewed the company's strategy and the division's accomplishments during the past four years of transition era, a talk that also did not contain a change of direction from the vendor. Wilde said most customers have undertaken the start of their journey. "There's been a shift over the past couple of years, where most customers are in that planning and implementation phase now," he said.

Some news emerged in the hour-plus presentation. HP has extended its sales of add-on software products through September, 2006, breaking through the previous deadline of June 30 of this year. The vendor will do 3000 support on a time and materials basis after 2006 "to do license transfers and conversions of HP 3000s to HP 9000s." Hardware experts at the conference have said turning an A-Class or N-Class 3000 into an HP 9000 is a quick path to the lowest value for such systems, which are bringing much better sale prices on the reseller market.

HP continued a tradition from the days of HP World conferences at the 3000 briefing, a meeting attended by about 35 people including many from the reseller community. OpenMPE board director and long-time Special Interest Group leader Donna Garverick won this year's e3000 Contributor Award. Prior award winner Birket Foster was quick to link up the meeting room with Garverick, who wasn't attending the conference, so Wilde could pass on his congratulations. The plaque for the award kept the spirit of Garverick's all-lower-case messages on the 3000-L, spelling her name without capital letters.

06:14 AM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2005

HP's show features different players, same agenda

The very first HP Technology Forum delivered a splashy first act inside the mammoth Orange County Convention Center here in Orlando. HP's leader of the Technology Solutions Group assured about 3,600 attendees that nothing was changing about HP's strategy. But Ann Livermore delivered her keynote to an audience brimming with HP employees, one whose user group component was made up of Encompass and OpenView Forum members rather than the familiar faces of HP 3000 community volunteers.

There has been much about this conference that feels just like the Interex conferences of years past, however. An HP executive spoke after being introduced by the presidents of user groups. Breakout sessions followed immediately, including a standing-room-only talk on the futures of the HP Integrity server lineup, systems that represent the future of HP's enterprise offerings and HP-UX platforms.

Ric Lewis delivered "feeds and speeds," as they call the high-detail talks about processing power and configurations, with all the unerring high-octane focus of former CSY marketing expert Dave Snow. HP is utterly convinced that Itanium will provide a stable platform in the marketplace in the years to come. Market adoption by other vendors has ceased to be a discussion topic, because Integrity servers now make up about one-third of HP's server revenues. One slide in Lewis' great presentation, delivered just on the edge of non-disclosure, came directly from Intel.

By lunchtime I could believe that the Interex show experience had been cloned forward, even if that user group didn't survive. But there were some differences to be noted which show how close the partnership truly is between HP and the two user groups helping with this event.

We noted yesterday that the speaker lineup for this show is three-fourths HP speakers. Huge banners across the front of the conference hall indicate that the major participants go well beyond the Encompass and OpenView Forum user groups. "HP Americas Presales" has its own banner, illustrated with its own close-up of a well-scrubbed 30-something model that HP employs in its advertising and PowerPoint slides. HP has put its momentum behind the show to draw attendees. One top-level HP Certified Professional reports that any CP who already had a certificate could have that cert extended for one year simply by attending the show. No test was required, he said.

The roots of the Technology Forum lie in the Digital user community, which has followed new parent vendors from Compaq and then on to HP to attend a training show once a year. This conference is ripe with technical instruction, but all of it is on HP's products. The opportunity to learn about third-party solutions is limited to the Technology Exchange, the conference's show floor, for the most part, a floor with about 80 vendors including HP 3000 suppliers Speedware, Transoft, Quest Software and Genisys.

Not that there's anything wrong with that HP-only focus in the talks. It's just very different from the experience of years past. HP's David Booth, Senior VP of the US section of the Technology Solutions Group at HP, was noted as a sponsor on a par with the user groups present. The show floor is generating revenue for the user groups, which have SmithBucklin to organize the exhibition hall — and top-dollar travel agency Martz to stand at the information booths and direct traffic around the hall. HP World might have had Interex staff doing some of that work.

HP World got invoked in a presentation by HP's security expert and CTO Tony Redmond, when he showed slides that he said were last presented in Chicago at HP World 2004. And some things didn't change much during the keynotes, introduced with dance club tempo music and iPod-commercial style actors on a bank of five giant screens behind the stage. After a Katrina reference admitting that "Mother Nature certainly didn't make it any easier for any of us to get here," Livermore told the crowd not to expect any change to HP's course.

"Here's the big announcement," Livermore said, looking fit after a kidney transplant this summer. "There isn't going to be a big announcement. We're not going to do a fundamental shift of our strategy. You aren't going to see us spin off any of our businesses. Frankly, we're happy with our current strategy. Our approach is going to remain consistent. We're going to collaborate with our customers, collaborate with our partners."

Partners is a term invoked about every two minutes in a meeting like this. The concept of partners even gets used to describe customers like the long-time OpenVMS users who gathered in the OpenVMS SIG meeting after a lunch of pork tenderloin and baked chicken served buffet-style on plates which must be washed rather than tossed. In that meeting room with about 60 attendees, the oldest vets of this user group planned for the future and took notes on what they could improve about their conference. Take away the tech specifics and you could have walked into a room at an Interex SIG with grey-bearded 3000 vets talking MPE. The similarities ran right down to the sullen speeches from the back of the room about how HP ought to be selling the VMS solution better.

Looking into the future is part of the user conference mission. Looking back at better times is another habit of customers who use the vendor's most established solution. Some in the room were not worried about the vendor's attention to OpenVMS. After all, these users already have a hobbyist's license to use, so the technical expertise is growing in the volunteer community aside from HP labs. But a couple of customers had concerns, too.

John Donavan of Nielsen Media Research told some colleagues, "Our CEO says VMS is dead here, but we've got so much of it at [corporate parent] VNU it's not going anywhere." And Dale Lobb of the BryanLGH Medical Center said that his shop's OpenVMS server count is dwindling, from a high of 12 down to two. "Please tell your HP rep to stress the number of applications available for VMS," he said. Marketing a mature solution seemed to present the same kind of challenges that HP 3000 customers saw in the years leading to HP's announcement of discontinuance.

06:10 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 17, 2005

Conference cranks up

This morning HP opens the doors to the first HP Technology Forum, a meeting co-produced with the Encompass user group. The production of this show is a novelty for the HP 3000 community. This is the first event related to the HP 3000 organized and scheduled by a professional user group management company, SmithBucklin. 3000 customers got a peek at this level of organization in Los Angeles in 2002, when Encompass and Interex produced HP World together. HP's training was prominent in that show, and the training opportunity is paramount in this year's Tech Forum.

People who said that HP had little experience mounting a user show might have been discounting the experience of SmithBucklin. It was the little things that stood out in that LA show, like having a badge you'd need to scan to enter a room. The system recorded who was attending. It also produced a very public count of how many bodies were in a meeting room. This year an RFID system not only tracks atttendance, but can call up an attendee's schedule so you can remember where you're supposed to be.

Speaking of little things, the 3000 community is likely to be a little thing at this week's show, too. Only six HP 3000 division staffers are in evidence on the speaker list. It's not for a lack of total HP presence, though: more than 75 percent of the 236 listed speakers are from HP. Migration advice is what HP is bringing to Tech Forum attendees who know about the 3000's transition.

And Tropical Storm Wilma is well south of Cuba, posing little chance of turning into something to hit Orlando before the weekend. That didn't keep the local TV news from leading off with the "threat," of course. One hurricane cancellation already lies in the Tech Forum's history. But the 3000 community is getting adept at weathering cancellations.

Today I'm scheduled to talk with Kristi Browder, the board president of Encompass, and Chris Koppe, Speedware marketing director and a new director on the Encompass board. We hope to find out more about what Encompass wants to do for the 3000 customer in transition, as well as those customers who don't plan to move away from the platform. It's easy to believe that Encompass wants to embrace the Interex members now cut off from the user group experience. Those volunteer hours are essential to a well-run user group, even one that's steered by "HQ" help, as they call it, from a company the size of SmithBucklin.

To be clear: the conference's HQ functions are the equivalent of what Interex staff did at HP World. A very smooth bus transfer, free, carried me to the hotels to the north of the vast convention center. There's also 13,000 members of Encompass to draw upon for volunteering. Advocacy happens in "campgrounds" here, we hear.

Later this week HP will mount its migration panel. This year's attendees include some returning faces from last year's lineup at HP World: Dick Drollinger of 3000 ISV Summit, Ken Porter of the City of Houston, Matti Meriläinen of Oy Porasto Ab. Christian Scott of ISV SoftVoyage and Donnie Harmon of the Thompson Group are this year's new faces.

There's also a press dinner on Tuesday, something that signals an increased HP corporate presence. But for the ultimate increased presence, there's Tuesday's CEO keynote from HP's Mark Hurd. We don't expect any surprises in his talk, but the attendance of the HP CEO was an infrequent element at Interex's HP World shows. Today's CEOs are the highest-priced talent, delivered from deal to deal while on the road to cement relations with top customers. That HP will do this kind of cementing in late October, as its 2006 planning is still in flux, indicates a different level of dedication to the user group show. As well as a dedication to the fiscal 2005 year's final numbers, of course.

06:17 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2005

Let us help hang out your job shingles

On Friday we announced we'd be opening a couple of Web locations for HP 3000 pros to advertise their availability. Veterans in the community believe that 3000 skills will be in higher demand over the next three years as companies begin their migration projects. Our Friday podcast looked at the details of what kinds of work are already available. Many 3000 customers don't have as much 3000 talent on hand as they would like; the 3000 tends to run itself, in the absence of any any significant changes. Migration is going to be Y2K kind of intensive, once the work begins.

Send us your summaries of your 3000 experience in a couple of healthy-sized paragraphs, including your contact information, plus a link to your resume that's hosted on your own Web site. We'll put up your "situations wanted" shingles at the NewsWire blog and on our main Web site. E-mail your notices to editor@3000newswire.com, or rseybold@sbcglobal.net.

09:30 AM in Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 14, 2005

Listen up for another run-up in opportunity

In this week's NewsWire podcast (6MB MP3 file), we talk for six minutes about a resurgence in requirements for HP 3000 skills, especially in applications. A healthy market has grown up around migrations, projects that make Y2K work seem like child’s play. This fall it looks like the sandbox is finally starting to include work for HP 3000 experts. We’re going to be adding a free resource to our blog and Web site next week where those pros can post their availability. We believe that what you know is going to earn you more than it has in a long time.

11:05 AM in Migration, Podcasts, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 13, 2005

Interex customers may get auctioned

More than 2,000 creditors of the bankrupt user group Interex got a US Bankruptcy Court notice that the Interex customer list may be auctioned off on Oct. 27. HP 3000 and HP 9000 hardware supplier Genisys has asked to buy the list of names with an offer of $15,000, and the estate's trustee Carol Wu replied by saying her law firm intends to auction this asset — but the creditors still have time to object to an exclusive-use sale of the list.

It's unclear if more recent privacy laws will apply to customers on the list. Such customer lists are usually rented, rather than sold outright.

The rest of Interex's "personal property" assets — computer equipment, office furnishings — have only drawn a $3,000 offer in the trustee's first attempt at a sale. The user group's estate would lose money on that price, according to a court document filed by attorney Joanne LaFreniere. The estate's trustee hired appraiser R.J. Papale "to attempt to market the personal property and to inventory and inspect the records and property. Mr. Papale met with several prospective purchasers, and received only two offers: $3,000, and $2,500. However, even the high offer of $3,000 is still too low to economically sell the personal property."

Of course, the cost of attorney's fees for preparing documents related to the sale were among the reasons listed that "the estate would have lost money on such a deal."

One of the objections first raised to abandoning the Interex property — which takes these goods out of the court's hands — came in a letter from Genisys founder Dan Richardson, who believed the property contained the Interex customer list. Once informed by lawyers that the list was not part of the property, Richardson filed a declaration in support of the abandonment, then made his company's offer to purchase the list.

The court's report indicates that Interex's life insurance company was worried about personal information in the records. Papale has been instructed to shred all the personnel files.

Stan Sieler of Allegro Consultants and Gary Border, a former Interex board member, both want access to the property for historical purposes. The trustee's lawyer gave both men the contact name of the landlord's agent "to request access to view the property."

Any creditor who wants to bid on the Interex customer lists — which don't have a very strong record of performance for marketing, according to several 3000 community sources who rented the names at 50 cents per use — must post a $1,500 good-faith cashier's check with the court. Bids will be taken in $500 increments on Oct 27 starting at $16,500.

Some say that selling the list one time only would generate less money to pay off Interex creditors than selling it several times, for non-exclusive use. An auction of a customer-list of a 31-year old computer user group is a novel thing, however — an event without much history to guide customers on the list, creditors who can bid or object, or attorneys brokering the deal. The attorneys will bill fees at every step of the way, too. Any objections will need to be filed by lawyers, as well:

An objecting party must file with the Bankruptcy Court and serve counsel for the Trustee with a written objection, and/or a request for hearing

Objections have to be filed by Oct. 25; those good faith cashier's checks have to be at the court by Oct. 26 at 5 PM.

09:45 AM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Nouveau network printing surfaces

It took HP about six years to release the latest level of its support for network printing on the HP 3000. The irony in that period is that the majority of those years were in the 3000's Transition Era, when MPE/iX customers started looking at migrations once HP stepped away from the system.

This week HP made its official "general release" announcement about patch MPEMXU1A, a modification to MPE/iX 7.5. Users of that 3000 OS release can now add a couple of keywords to network printing's NPCONFIG's syntax, PCL_ENABLED and FLUSH_LAST_PAGE_WITH_FORM_FEED. These words give non-HP printers a chance of receiving print jobs from 3000s without choking up on PCL sequences. The words also give customers a look at how to get what you want from the HP labs, if you just keep asking. (You can download the patch from HP's IT Response Center today, even without an HP support contract)

Whether the enhancement is close enough to what customers have been requesting since 1999 remains to be seen. We're also interested in how people will put this long-awaited enhancement to use. We put out a summertime report on network printing just to summarize what it will do. HP's promised a more complete technical article about the enhancement on its Jazz Web site sometime in the future.

Network printing services on the 3000 have grown up, but third party companies made a good living on the shortfalls between customer needs and HP's design for some time. John Burke was one of several system advocates who pointed out those shortfalls. To Burke in 1999, it seemed that network printing to non-HP devices was a hidden value.

I can see only two explanations for this secret feature:
• It was there from the beginning, but HP pulled it at the last minute, perhaps in deference to the third parties or other divisions within HP; or,
• It was added after the fact at the behest (with possible funding provided) of one or more of HP’s top “magic 12” customers, and part of the deal was keeping the “feature” quiet.

The journey of net printing is an oddessey of attrition. Users began to ask for connection between the 3000 and non-HP devices in 1995, because they rely on the well-designed spooler in the MPE/iX OS. A limited version of net printing emerged in 1996, but users pressed for more in forums like the 3000-L mailing list and at user group meetings.

Net printing kept growing up even as HP grew away from the 3000 customer base. But the lab kept listening for at least the top half-dozen customer requests, and network printing topped the list in the last full System Improvement Ballot of 2004. HP reports that its goal with this patch is to extend the list of printer options for the 3000 user. A byproduct: A good example of how repeated, reasonable requests give a vendor repeated chances to be customer-focused — even if the drive takes longer than customers hope.

06:49 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2005

3000 lifeline list gets a makeover

It's hard to describe how essential the 3000-L newsgroup/mailing list is to the 3000 community. Or to the NewsWire, for that matter. When we began our news service 10 years ago, I was encouraged to believe we could produce a newsletter every month — heartened by the intelligent traffic in 3000 knowledge flying along on the 3000-L, even back then when the Internet was still brand-new to most of us.

A decade later, this Web resource remains a top-flight font of system tips, community gossip and outlandish arguments. (And for almost all of that decade we have tracked the list's 3000 tips and the news in our net.digest columns, written mostly by John Burke with some off-the-bench help from me.)

Those debates on the list, the Off-Topic OT: postings, are a bane to some 3000 users who look at this resource and an entertaining delight to others. In the last few years the list has lost subscribers (who take the messages via e-mail, like we have done for 10 years at the NewsWire) because of the debating over such high-spirited OT posts. But the newsgroup is a user group, as far as HP and more than 1,000 customers and developers are concerned. Not long ago "the L" got a makeover for its Web counterpart — an interface that lets you keep up with the traffic without loading up your already-bulging in-boxes.

If your time is limited, and you don't need any every 3000 tip show up in its own e-mail message, the new Web interface is a good way to get a taste for what 3000-L offers. The "L" in the newsgroup's name stands for Listserv, the open source software that drives so many Internet newsgroups. Having a quick look at the latest version (opens in new window):

http://raven.utc.edu/archives/hp3000-l.html

shows off the top level of organization, by week of the month. Clicking on any week's link brings up a list of topics for a 7-day period; the L's weeks start on Saturdays. The messages are sorted by subject name, with all relevant messages threaded together. The Web site has been improved with a Subscriber's Corner to let e-mail-style readers adjust their subscription options more easily, too. New software includes the ability to set themes (like large type, or colors).

The 3000-L Web site is a place to research, too, with lookups across 10 years of traffic on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Linux server where the data is hosted. The 32 instances of the product AMXW mentioned since March 2003 popped up in seconds. (Google's Groups search does this as well, but not as focused as at the new Listserve 14.4 interface.)

The L is also mirrored onto an Internet newsgroup, comp.sys.hp.mpe, or Google would know little about it. The newsgroup interface is favored by those in HP's labs, it's said. But it's interesting to note where a 3000-L message can end up for action or a solution. HP's business development manager for the e3000, Dave Wilde, has selected 3000-L traffic sent to his PDA, when spotted by others in the HP team.

The list is still a good place to be heard and listen up, whether you're going or staying on the 3000. Reports have included advice on what's working to convert JCL to Unix scripts, as well as this most recent riposte about N-Class hardware availability for homesteaders, under the heading <plug> eN4000 "Unlicensed" Servers:

Vendor: I have in stock the following servers that would not be eligible for HP hardware or operating system support:

eN4000  220 1-Way
eN4000  330 1-Way
eN4000  440 2-Way

Customer: Don't worry about it.  In 447 days, no one's server will be eligible for
HP hardware or operating system support.

07:01 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 10, 2005

Elegance in cancellations

MPE/iX, the 3000's operating system, brims with elegant solutions that sometimes elude even long-time users of HP 3000s. Since the 3000 runs at its heart with a character-based interface, some of the elegance can only be tapped from the command line.

Walter Murray used to work for HP in its 3000 COBOL labs when the vendor actually had such things. Today the COBOL maintenance is minimal inside HP, and Murray works outside of HP's labs. He posted a reminder about a command-line trick that says a lot about the 3000 experience — and a little bit about who's left to keep the lamp of knowledge about the server lit.

Murray wanted to point out, late on a Saturday night over the weekend, that Control-X was still inside your 3000, waiting to be used. And if you're a customer who uses the command line, then Control-X can save you some keystrokes. Now Control-X is part of a terminal emulator for the 3000 too, Murray said:

I don’t know if anyone else even cares about this feature, but I’ve used it since the earliest days of MPE. When you’ve started to type a command or a line of input, and realize that you don’t really want to send that line, you can, of course, backspace over the entire line. 

But the right way to handle this is to type a CNTL-X (line cancel) character.  The terminal driver puts out three exclamation marks and a CR-LF, and ignores everything on that line.

Maybe everybody knows that, but I’ve run into a number of HP 3000 users who aren’t aware of it, especially in shops that use the Minisoft terminal emulator.  Searching the archives, I found that this was discussed about five years ago, but apparently Minisoft did not release a fix.

Good news!  I brought this to their attention, and the current release of the Minisoft 92 terminal emulator now handles CNTL-X.  I just thought you would like to know.

The Internet and the Web changes the formula for figuring a system's lifespan. During the last decade, a computer abandoned by its maker would survive only as a hobbyist's workbench after five years or more. Now, the wisdom wired into a system like the 3000's, with a living community, can be timeless. On a weekend night a tip can emerge that the experts knew long before you started using your 3000. A vendor who's making an emulator like Minisoft can be convinced by a user to mimic this tip — even though the computer hasn't been sold as a new machine for nearly two years. It's all enough to make you start to question the meaning of the words "dead" and "old."

Our thanks for Murray for pointing out the tip on the 3000 mailing list, which has a new Web interface for customers who want to read or research MPE/iX expertise, but don't want to manage any more e-mail. More on that tomorrow.

08:15 AM in Hidden Value, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 07, 2005

Listen up for the rate of changes

In our weekly podcast (4MB MP3 file) we look at rate of change in the 3000 community shops this season. The period of transition between reliable 3000 applications and the new frontier of apps like SAP shows the contrast between high value and high performance, a couple of spots that IT directors aim for. Take about four minutes to listen to the note of dedication — however resigned — from an IT director who's changing very little on his 3000 while his best developers move the company's ERP applications to a new platform.

10:41 AM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 06, 2005

Storage selections for disaster recovery

With two major hurricanes sweeping through the Gulf in the last month, more 3000 sites are thinking about disaster recovery systems. Backup options are a key element of a DR setup; you'd like to save some money on a system that will only be mission critical in the event of a disaster, rather than requiring 24x7 uptime like a production systems.

Such DR configuration led OpenMPE board member Donna Garverick to ask for user reports on storage array options. Customers chimed in with options less costly than the top-flight XP disk arrays from HP.

Garverick, whose 3000 shop we profiled making good use of a VA 7100 array with its production system, asked:

I’m working on building a DR server (which is likely to be a 989... but whatever it is, it will not be a PCI system  — just too $$$). I’ll need to attach ~350GB of disc to this box.

I know I can do (multiple) Mod 20s, but I am worried about the age of these arrays (not to mention the discs and the batteries) as well as the total amount of disc that needs to be attached.

There are also the 12Hs.  Am I correct in thinking that they can be ‘locked’ to a particular mode... and that way get around the autoraid performance problem?  And again, what about the total disc?

Finally, there’s a VA array (7100 most likely).  I already have four fibre-to-SCSI routers, so that’s not a problem. For either of the SCSI arrays, I’m probably looking at multiple chassis.

I should say that I’m not concerned about performance in the same way that I would be if this were truly going to be a production server. So, for example, I know that if I were to go with a VA the routers are going to create a bottleneck... and that’s okay.

Joshua Scott, the HP Systems Support Manager at HP hardware and support provider SourceDirect, offered a set of options:

It all comes down to price/performance. Choose one of the following:

2 Mod 20s in RAID-1 with 20x 18GB each
2 12H arrays with 11x 36GB drives each
4 12H arrays with 11x 18GB drives each
VA7100 with 10 73GB Drives 2x VA7100 with 20 total 36GB Drives

The Model 20's are the most easily configurable (beside the VA7100), and you can set up RAID-10 which cuts down on the number of LUNs. You can only have 8 LUNs usable on Model 20 systems, so this could be an advantage. The VA7100 would have much better performance because of the higher speed drives.

Mark Landin added, "Don't forget about the Model 30s, which were basically FibreChannel-attached Model 20s, but with 30 disks."

10:11 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 05, 2005

HP's 3000 expertise keeps moving on

Mark Bixby announced his departure from his 3000 duties at HP yesterday, closing a rich chapter of development and advances for the server. Bixby came to the HP labs from a position at a California  college's IT department, where he'd already worked on porting the Apache Web server to MPE/iX. He's been one of the leading advocates of the open source movement; a good deal of his work for the 3000 has revolved around open source subsystems such as DNS and bind that brought the platform into the modern era of networking.

When Bixby arrived at HP in 1999, the vendor was still pushing the 3000. He joined the company without relocating to the  Cupertino area, working remote from his Southern California home. It seemed a natural fit for someone so closely tied to the Internet. His personal Web page, which is thick with links to 3000 shareware, includes this mission statement:

At one time or another, every one of us has thought "If I were in charge we'd do it THIS way and life would be great". Using the Internet, you CAN do it your way. Turn your creative ideas into reality and share them with the world. Let the satisfaction of making the world a better place be your primary motivation.

By the end of the '90s, the 3000 division had been hiring some of its talent through such telecommute positions. Bixby was already well-known when he put on an HP badge, having already created the Patchman patch analysis software for MPE/iX and filed more than 100 Service Requests for MPE/iX. His list of ports outstrips nearly every other single developer's: Apache, BIND, OpenSSL, Perl, PostgreSQL, sendmail, syslog and more. He even wrote a perl script that converts the 3000's help files to individual Web pages. HP put a Posix interface into MPE in 1994 to tap the wealth of open source solutions. Bixby was one of the leaders in putting Posix to work for the community's benefit.

As he moves off to full-time work in another segment of HP, Bixby noted that he'll have to reduce his 3000 efforts to personal time. A few other HP resources for the 3000 are working on their own time, but that's a limited effort, as it must be balanced with family, friends and outside interests. HP's handing off Bixby's 3000 duties to another HP 3000 linchpin, Jeff Vance.

Bixby made his reputation among most of the 3000 community with his Internet advocacy. While that seems like a quaint term today, 3000 customers didn't take to the Internet like their Unix counterparts already had when Bixby joined HP. His experience with 3000s at the Coastal Community College included working with them alongside Unix systems. He helped bring these advantages of Unix to the 3000.

The departure of such talent from the 3000 division is a clear signal for HP 3000 customers who rely on the vendor's support — as well as those who believe there's no need for outside lab efforts for the 3000. HP support technicians who know the 3000 are managed by HP's Services group, but so is the 3000's the lab these days. TCSD, the Total Customer Experience and Support Division that contains the staff of the 3000's lab, remains the HP division where Bixby will work for HP, but now in a group called the Server Health Management Lab. Lab experts like Bixby not only resolve customer questions directly, in an informal setting like the 3000 newsgroup or personal e-mail, but they also back up HP's ITRC support reps. Watching HP's 3000 group "diaspora," as Bixby called his exit, shows customers the need for alternatives to HP's lab efforts. Bixby's departure also shows the clock is ticking on HP's end-game for its 3000 work. Generous in his exit, he told customers they can continue to ask him 3000 questions

via personal e-mail to mark@bixby.org, so that I can pass on my MPE knowledge before those neurons get recycled, but please be aware that I must now limit my MPE replies to my too-scarce personal time.  So don't be surprised if it takes you several days to get MPE replies from me.

As Jeff Vance takes on Bixby's work, it's clear that 3000 lab alternatives like OpenMPE need HP's support — as well those of 3000 sites staying on the platform beyond 2006, either migrating or homesteading. Sign up for lab services with OpenMPE to give that lab alternative a chance.

10:26 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

Seasoned trainers take over HP's 3000 classes

Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith, two consultants and MPE experts who've made careers out of training 3000 customers, have taken a non-exclusive license to use HP's MPE and 3000 class materials to expand their training enterprise. More importantly, these experts have taken up the mission of training the 3000 community as HP exits the 3000 education business.

The 3000 NewsWire has done Q&A interviews with both Edwards and Smith, a pair of dedicated advocates for the 3000 platform. (We interviewed Edwards the month before HP's announcement it was leaving the 3000 market; Smith spoke with us in 2004. Both maintain faith in the value proposition of the 3000 as well as its useful future.)

Smith's Alden Research and Paul Edwards & Associates announced the license of the HP materials yesterday. The two companies had worked for four years to convince HP to release its class cirriculum and slide sets while HP continued to reduce its 3000 training options. The two men have been HP contract instructors for nearly a decade and are long time solution and training partners of HP. Their press release issued yesterday reports they "will provide ongoing course material updates, creation of new courses, and delivery of high quality MPE training at specific training facilities or customer sites."

Their companies are maintaining a new Web site  www.mpe-education.com, a Web resource where HP will steer all HP education web site visitors searching for MPE training classes.

“By entering into this agreement, HP is showing that they are forward thinking and quick to react to their customer needs by providing the best quality, lowest cost, and most responsive training environment for the user community,” said Smith of Alden Research.

The joint enterprise will offer classes in MPE Fundamentals, MPE System Management, TurboImage and Query, MPE Network Administration, MPE Performance and Tuning, MPE Programming, and VPlus. Some of the class materials are vintage files, delivered on a tape in a format HP once used to make acetate slides, Edwards said. But the slides outline training classes in products which are still in use at 3000 sites — software for which the customer's expertise might have retired or moved on. These sites could need re-training to extend their future using the 3000, training that HP is curtailing.

Edwards, who's also on the OpenMPE board of directors, said the effort to get HP's license for training materials reminds him of OpenMPE's efforts to secure a license to MPE/iX source. "There's a lot of parallels there that I see as a prevalent thing in HP," he said, referring the apparent delays and deliberations from inside the vendor's staff. "This whole four-year process, which is what it took to get this, has a lot of parallels with OpenMPE's acquistion of MPE we've been trying to accomplish with HP."

We reported last week that Edwards has also started an investigation along with HP on re-starting the MPE/iX Certification program — which proves that a 3000 manager has learned the key MPE/iX skills.

08:09 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 03, 2005

Virtualization you can afford

When HP rolled out its latest generation of virtualization solutions Sept. 12, the vendor leaned on a lower-cost option to entice small businesses. Since so many HP 3000 customers work from this SMB segment, this aspect of virtualization looks like it's pitched straight at 3000 shops — and the biggest share of the platform's migrating customers, those who are moving to Windows.

HP's virtualization solutions for the small customer rely on VMWare, a well-regarded PC-based solution for Windows and other operating systems. HP wants its customers to hear about PC-based solutions, and it's spending marketing budget to inform you of these options. We talked about the VMWare options in our September printed edition of the NewsWire.

In addition to briefing editors and analysts, HP wants to tell migrating customers about the VMWare and Intel-Windows option. A message this morning from InfoWorld encouraged us to download a white paper, Building Business to Scale, written by InfoWorld columnists and sponsored by HP. InfoWorld writes these as marketing tools for vendors, but charges $195 for a 15-page PDF paper once the sponsorship contract expires. This week, their paper is free, if you give them your contact information. It's a pretty good summary of how to do IT for less. But some of that advice might not be a way to steer you to HP's solutions.

In the section "Building IT on the Cheap," one writer delivers this advice to customers trying to squeeze a budget tight:

Skip the brand-name desktop. Go the generic server route instead. White-box systems are unbranded servers and desktops. You’re using them now, whether you realize it or not. In my opinion, the premium charged for a low-end system’s service and support nets the buyer little to nothing.

That might not be the best way to encourage a customer to buy HP products, but it was probably a line that HP's marketing team could live with.

Support for Wintel PC-based solutions is turning out to be one of the hidden costs in going to an HP 3000 alternative. 3000 customers are used to paying for their support; it's so vital to the equation that HP thought ending MPE/iX support would motivate customers to migrate. Support of Dell's systems is supposed to be among the worst, if you buy at the lower ends of their product line — but even HP's PC support has prompted tales of woe. You need to buy higher up the product line to ensure reliablity.

Virtualization is a great technology for making hardware compute full time. It gives a 3000 customer the ability to run Windows and Linux on one Intel-based server. If you want to add HP-UX to that virtual mix, you'll need to buy HP's Intel-based servers, the Integrity line. We posted a podcast about choosing Integrity last month.

Staying in the scale of Windows solutions will demand you manage your support closely, since these systems can be far less reliable than the 3000 you've been using. In the Transition era, support is a resource that will require a direct relationship. Windows PCs are not built to rarely fail, unless your investment level is well above the lower ends of a vendor's line

09:00 AM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack