November 30, 2005
Migrators advise: set aside lots of time
Summit Information Systems probably has more migrated HP 3000 customers than any other package application vendor this year. They got a good two-year head start on the rest of the application market by launching a Unix port during 1999. It was 2003 before the company was ready to have its customers test out an HP-UX version of the Spectrum credit union application.
After two years of migrations, their customers are checking in with positive reviews about the process of moving away from their HP 3000s. (Reports on relative ease of use and value are still too far off.) A credit union customer is similar to many HP 3000 sites in one way: Many of these companies have limited IT operations, instead of the vast data processing staffs that make up the majority of the HP migration success stories. These can be companies with much in common with the garden-variety HP 3000 customer, if size matters.
The customers report that time matters the most in being successful with a migration. Yesterday we introduced the strategy that Summit has followed to move more than 50 of its customers onto HP's Unix systems, and a tip to use ISO 9001 training to smooth out a migration, if you've got ISO background. Even with that kind of prelude, however, the advice is to set aside enough time to get the transfer right.
Scott Curwood of Rogue Federal Credit Union in Medford, Oregon, who had the benefit of such ISO training, reported to his community his migration lacked drama, thank goodness:
It went incredibly smooth and almost anti-climatic, even though we migrated a whole month earlier than our original target date. We didn’t have any surprises whatsoever, mostly due to our stringent testing and having run at least 20 data migrations prior to live weekend. We were almost running a fresh data migration every night. That may sound like a lot, but I guarantee, it’s what you need to do. The success of our migration is a direct correlation of our constant testing of our jobs, as well as being able to run them in parallel with our live system with fresh data to verify that the jobs are actually doing what they are supposed to do.
It's this testing that's going to extend a migration's duration, according to much of the advice we've heard this year from users, Platinum partners and HP.
Curwood said ISO laid the groundwork for a testing mantra at Rogue Federal Credit Union:
Part of ISO is proper testing plans and proper documentation for implementation on procedures. Using this as a base to create our testing plan templates, we were able to work with each department in creating testing plans that both covered every aspect of their interaction with Summit on a daily basis, as well as making sure they tested these interactions in Unix. We had every department testing on Unix daily for two weeks. Our motto was 'If you do it on live, go do it on Unix.'
This is also why we needed to do almost nightly data migrations. We needed to make sure our numbers on our postings and reports where as accurate as possible.
A migration as a non-event over a weekend only comes about with thorough preparation, including the selection of good tools. Summit's Dick Drollinger said at the HP Technical Forum that Robelle's Suprtool was essential in the smooth move to MPE/iX, since the data extraction and report tool operates on both HP 3000 and HP's Unix systems. That led HP's Alvina Nishimoto to comment right away that "Suprtool doesn't have a Windows version yet," so customers on the 3000 considering a move to PC servers had better size up their dependence on Windows.
For Summit, Suprtool is even essential to sending out a new release of code. Summit enjoys the luxury of moving all of its code and testing on development-lab platforms. During tests, Summit uses Suprtool to generate tag files, to extract a specific number of members of credit union members.
Once these credit unions have moved away, their HP 3000s go into the community marketplace for purchase by the 3000 customers who are homesteading and need to upgrade. Ralph Raugust, VP of IT at the Tuscon Federal Credit Union, reported that his N-Class server "apparently still has some (or at least considerably more) worth on the market, unlike what I hear about the 9xx series of HP 3000s." And Rogue had a N-4440 (a 4-way N-Class server) available after its migration in October. In addition to providing the migrating customer with field advice, these early migrators are also seeding the community with upgrade systems.
Recovering costs by selling off a 3000 is a good strategy for the site that doesn't need to look back into archived data, or run parallel. But Curwood took note of the time budget, not dollar costs. Just as many other migrating companies report, the length of a migration could be more extensive than it first appears — even with the app vendor support which Summit supplies to each of its customers:
For those of you who are about to start you migration, I have some pearly words of wisdom. Set aside a lot of time for this! Just because we did it a month early isn’t because it’s really easy. It’s because we made it easy. We dedicated a lot of time to test each step of the way. If you can set aside one or two people to test each part of your migration, it will smooth everything out."
That's almost enough of a caution to make a 3000 site wonder who's going to take care of their regular IT operations while the migration gets underway. But we have a suggestion for that challenge tomorrow.
November 29, 2005
Migrations earn credit from testing, tools
Summit Information Systems is leading the way among HP 3000 software vendors in migrations to Unix. Dick Drollinger reported the company had migrated 52 of its customers by October, using an application written for HP-UX that's in its fourth revision. Summit rolled out its first Unix version of its credit union application in 2003.
Some of the credit union computer professionals are announcing their migrations on the SU-Talk mailing list, a Yahoo group. One noted that his ISO 9001 training at a software company helped him move through the migration process once he landed at Rogue Federal Credit Union in Medford, Oregon. Rogue has more than 41,000 members and assets of $340 million. Scott Curwood, the Information Services Administrator at the credit union, said the ISO training he brought to Rogue "was a good experience that has allowed me to apply those same stringent testing policies to other areas like our Unix migration."
Drollinger said Summit has been preparing well in advance of their actual cutover dates, so the migration appears to be accomplished over a weekend. In fact, he added, most of the tellers and loan officers don't even know they've got a Unix system to replace the HP 3000. ""The front office staff — the teller and lenders — don't even know there's a change," he said during a talk this fall. "It's all the back office staff that gets the opportunity to learn new things."
Drollinger said the vendor's clients do the entire data migration and the live cutover on a weekend. It takes about 18 hours. Summit preps the client by having them use the UC4 job scheduler, "primarily because it runs on MPE and HP-UX, so we could make these migrations to this job scheduler much earlier.
“We move all of our code and do all of our testing on our platforms," he explained at the HP Technology Forum. "Then we have a factory process when we go to the client, so we move their UC4 JCL over to scripts, and they start testing. Then they do between eight and 10 test data migrations before they go live. They will test every program that they use for approximately three months. By the time live migration weekend comes, it’s pretty much a non-issue.”
Eloquence is at the heart of the new application, a database Drollinger praised for its speed. "The performance enhancements are substantial," he said. "It will run with anybody. It's an excellent database." Summit is finishing off audit reports this fall so its customers can tell who made changes to the database, what time they made them, and from what IP address they were working.
Summit has been working longer on making a transition to an HP 3000 alternative than any other application vendor in the MPE space. The company began its project in 1999, and Drollinger said Summit would have announced its Unix alternative to the credit unions on its own, if HP had delayed its discontinuance decision another six months.
Customers who've offered their testimonials on the Yahoo group have said how anti-climatic their migration weekend unfolded. But a few have noted the lack of drama was a result of plenty of planning and testing beforehand. We'll have more on that tomorrow.
November 28, 2005
Be thankful you can make a difference
In our weekly podcast (5MB MP3 file) I talk about the news I heard on the eve of Thanksgiving, news that made me feel thankful for opportunity. After NPR had broadcast the line, "this is my baby, the best computer system in the world, the HP 3000," they had me hooked. Have a listen to our five minutes of commentary and follow-on reporting about the real impact of a business decision.
You can also listen to the original NPR broadcast, which has some "untruths," according to the HP 3000 expert quoted in it, out at the NPR Web page:
November 25, 2005
Leading An Offer of an Enterprise Group
Kristi Browder wants her user group to become your user group. Like many HP 3000 customers, the president of Encompass board of directors has been an enterprise computing user since the mid-1980s, starting with Digital’s PDP/11 systems. This year her group of 10,000 members wants to attract former members of Interex, rolling out a first-year-free offer and other discounts for members of the other HP user group.
Have a look at our Q&A interview with Browder, one we conducted while Encompass was helping HP mount the first HP Technology Forum this fall. User groups still have a role to play in the life of the HP 3000, especially if they're willing to assume advocacy duties with an understanding of collaboration.
November 24, 2005
Can Linux lead to open doors?
Yesterday we took a peek at what the HP 3000 is facing to remain a player in the open software environment. Training and experience play a big role in making a 3000 customer confident to use software such as perl and PHP with the MPE/iX environment.
Making perl modules install and run as expected can fall short of expectations for 3000 customers. For example, CPAN installation packages, designed to save time for new perl functionality, sometimes don't work, pushing the persistent administrator into manually installing perl packages.
That might seem like a demerit for the 3000, but another perspective is how much of this thrashing is a common part of many an open source odyssey. Yes, the HP 3000's perl fell behind the latest release this summer, when HP's Mark Bixby had to beg off his volunteer updating efforts. But even work with the latest release of an open source standard like RedHat's Linux can become a genuine time-sink.
HP 3000 software developer and entrepreneur David Greer shared an insight with the NewsWire this week about how inscrutable the Linux experience can become. On the other hand, Guy Smith, a 3000 veteran who's built a healthy tech marketing consultancy, reminded us that MPE and IMAGE offered lots of head-scratching in their earlier days, too.
I’ve been playing with Red Hat Linux ES 3.0. I chose that distro because Dell would ship me a machine with it installed (I was not offered any other options). I recently needed to update a bunch of Perl stuff and it wasn’t in RPM format. I lost five hours before I knew it. And I never did get my machine updated the way I wanted. I feel that Linux looks simple on the surface. When you try and get it to do useful stuff, it sometimes shines and sometimes just sucks a lot of time.
Reports that Linux can be a time-sink and fairly geeky to administer don't encourage the belief the OS is going to step for a lot of 3000 sites — at least not in the present state of these Linux "distros." If Linux can suck up five hours at a crack from a developer with Greer's pedigree, I shudder to think what less-experienced computer administrators might require to keep Linux in good shape.
Not so fast, Smith said in a message he shared with the NewsWire. Linux isn't any more complex than the 3000 in its worst spots:
The amount of time required is variable on (a) the tool being managed, (b) the common wrappers around the tool and (c) the education of the administrator.
MPE had plenty of mystical and mind numbing oddities that required an admin to tinker about. And when new features were introduced (networking, Posix, etc.) we all slammed our collective foreheads into our desks.
Linux is no different. And the amount of pain is reduced mainly via (a) directed education (we all went off to HP’s classes at some point, or at least spent hours upon hours updating and reading those paper binders) and (b) the wrapper.
I have SUSE Linux 9.x running here. SUSE continues to add more and more admin GUI functionality to the product. There are not many common tasks that a server admin needs to do that are not supported for the command line-shy.
The tradeoff in IT (especially larger enterprises) has been between talent and performance. IT gets a long of bang for the buck using Linux, and needs to spend the same (or maybe a little less) on Linux training.
As for that perl problem that sparked Greer's comment, Smith said "the real problem is when you step outside of the tidy CPAN world. Rarely does using CPAN cause problems, but hand-installing perl modules can. Again, education proceeds success."
So perhaps Linux can open some open source doors. But it's no different than any other enterprise contender: It needs IT pros trained in its nuances to ensure success.
November 23, 2005
Can open source still be a 3000 stream?
The 3000 community's most seasoned vets have spread their wings well beyond MPE in recent years. These are developers, founders of software vendors, even the top lab experts still inside HP. Many have been scouting the heady waters of open software such as Linux distributions and open source tools such as the scripting language perl. Much of this is available on the HP 3000, but it is in need of attention.
Not long ago, a discussion among these vets raised the question, "How much trouble will the HP 3000 have following the open source stream?" The answers included observations about how much attention any kind of open source solution, even Linux, still demands from the brightest in your community.
Perl was the trigger for this discussion. David Greer, once a principal at Robelle until he sold off his share for a two-year journey by sail around the Mediterranean, posed the problem clearly. In a message he shared with us, he tried to set the stage for a study everyone in the 3000 community needs to undertake:
We are in an interesting time when I think the management of many of the common platforms (Windows, Linux, Sun, AIX, HP-UX, MPE) is getting much harder. To really run these well, you need to understand systems at a deep, deep level, just as we did in the 1980s with the HP 3000. But market dynamics suggest that no one is willing to fund this level of expertise. And no one is training people on a multi-platform basis, despite the fact that the Internet is forcing unheard-of interoperability."
Greer, who we profiled six years ago while he was president at Robelle, is working with tech startups today and experimenting with such open source staples as perl. He shared his own experiences with perl as a way of showing that open source will cost less — but it demands an investment of training and experience. Those are things the HP 3000 needed, too, according to another veteran of the platform.
I invested another three hours this afternoon to try and install the Perl modules that I was trying to install last week. Based on the excellent advice of using CPAN as a service and not just a Web site, I made a good go of it this afternoon. Hours later, I still couldn’t get everything installed. One tiny piece of the whole picture failed to install due to testing errors. The software engineer in me was thinking “good thing they had a test suite.”. The business manager in me was saying, “why can’t I just get my job done?”
To be fair, the company I’m working with, whose Web site is totally based around this technology, had warned me that the Perl Template library was known as a really big problem to install. In this company, I’m working with some of the best Perl programmers on the planet (e.g., Stas Beckman, Director of Development, has been the mod_perl implementer for the last three years and author of the O’Reilly mod_perl book). I can’t distract them from their primary job, but even someone like me with deep technical expertise can’t get to where I need to go (i.e., follow in the footsteps of these young, but experienced, developers).
To me, there is a deep underlying infrastructure problem which we are only on the edge of understanding. It is going to take some clever thinking to manage this infrastructure build-out going forward (HP 3000 or no HP 3000). No one has managed thousands and thousands of independent development teams so that the end result of their collective efforts can be truly integrated together in a reliable way.
Greer notes that the 3000 — in an era when the resources in HP's 3000 lab pros are now focused on other platforms as the company ramps down its MPE business — is going to need help from some source to keep open source software a reliable tool.
While I’m not focused on the future of the HP 3000 as a market, I can’t help but still think about it after spending more than 20 years on the platform. To me, this issue is the biggest short- to medium-term concern that I have with the viability of the HP 3000 platform: If it is to continue to survive, it must interoperate with the massive open software and Web services movement that is out there. It’s clear that the software piece is already getting a lot more difficult. I don’t know how this will play out, but my gut is saying that without solutions to this issue, HP 3000 customers will have to look elsewhere sooner rather than later.
Since this is a serious subject whether you are migrating or homesteading, we'll look closer at this tomorrow. But it seems that the community needs a lab effort to work on even the open source pieces of MPE/iX — Samba, perl, PHP, sendmail, PGP, Java and more. The alternative could be moving to Linux, built entirely of open source developers. Some 3000 veterans, however, report that Linux needs a more attention to work in place of a vendor-supplied environment.
November 22, 2005
Faster COBOL, post-migration
Duane Percox, one of the founders of K-12 software supplier QSS, has put up numbers that show how much faster COBOL becomes once you move away from the HP 3000 hardware. QSS has been moving its MPE/iX software to the Unix and Linux platforms for several years, patiently testing and selecting the best components to the new non-3000 solution. Percox, who's taught software architecture classes for Interex user group conferences, has a new set of numbers that show the speed you can expect to gain on Intel-based hardware.
I assume everyone is enjoying their migration efforts these days as they make their way off their favorite platform. I recently ran my simple COBOL benchmarks on a Linux production-class server which we just installed here at QSS. (The system is a 2-way Xeon 2.8 Ghz; 6Gb RAM; 2x73-Gb 15k hw/raid-1; 4x36gb 15k hw/raid-5; the Linux distro is SuSE Ent. 9 SP2 for 64-bit) This box is now the fastest system I have tested.
... This system can sort an 800Mb file (10-char key; 80-byte record) faster than an HP 3000 A400-100-110 system can sort a similar 30Mb file. But everyone knew that would be the case...
The QSS updated cobol timings can be found at http://qwebs.qss.com/cobdata.html
The numbers at Percox's test page include some genuine eye-openers, especially if you've been locked into the 3000 hardware world with few comparisons. (To be fair, comparing the 3000's performance to anything has been difficult for many years. During the 1990s HP gave up on benchmarking the system with industry standards.) Luckily, the 3000 community has included curious members like Percox who share their results.
Another conclusion that might be drawn from these test results is that HP-UX is a waystation you might not need on your journey away from the 3000. While the HP rp7410 and rp 2470 HP-UX systems topped all 10 of the 3000s used for comparison in file builds and file sorts, and even outperformed the Intel-based Linux servers — well, the HP-UX servers trailed the Linux systems in the main benchmark: Computing all prime numbers up to 50,000. Sure, HP's HP-UX systems didn't trail the Linux systems by as much as HP's hamstrung N-Class servers. But Linux was six times faster than HP-UX in those tests.
When you chip in the vendor independence that Linux promises, could it be that Linux is the better long-term target to aim your migration toward? We'll look at some technical reports about that tomorrow.
November 21, 2005
A new commando takes up collaboration
Have a listen to our six-minute podcast (6MB MP3 file) to the sound of MPE's tomorrows — and tomorrows and tomorrows, someday. Resistance is a word that’s described some noble organizations in the world’s history, especially the 20th century. If you can think of the board members of OpenMPE as the leaders of the MPE resistance, then those leaders have engaged a cooperation commando. Last week, on the fourth anniversary of HP’s business announcement about the 3000, they told us Martin Gorfinkel would be the go-to guy to get a deal worked out about MPE’s future.
Why it makes sense to wait for a deal negotiated by this veteran is the question we consider in our broadcast. It's more than just a matter for the long-term homesteader, too. Anybody migrating who will need to keep relying on MPE in 2007 will also want the best afterlife for the 3000. A single voice to hammer out the details instead of a committee might make sense right now. It's those details that HP seems willing to discuss, this year.
November 18, 2005
HP's servers finally star in a quarter
HP released its fourth quarter 2005 results yesterday, numbers which finally included some balance in the company's profit picture. After many years of watching the company's printers dominate HP profitability, the unit that makes HP's 3000 replacements tripled its profits. Other HP units generated black ink on a basis not seen in many quarters.
That Unix-and-Windows-selling Enterprise Storage and Servers business racked up $405 million in profits, a reflection of CEO Mark Hurd's promise to "double down" on this core business in the quarters to come. After investments in many consumer products and a misguided chase of Dell-like, low-profit revenue numbers in PCs, it appears HP is righting its business mix ship.
That said, Printers and Imaging still led the HP profit picture for the quarter as well as fiscal 2005 totals. Printers had operating profit of $896 million, off nearly 20 percent from last years' Q4. Services, still collecting revenues from HP 3000 sites who purchase HP support, notched $322 million in profits, followed by PC's $200 million and HP Software's $27 million. Doing the math on the totals shows that printers contributed less than half of the operating profits — just — for the first time in years at HP.
Investors bought the company stock up to above $30 a share in after-hours trading, a mark that HP's stock hasn't seen in more than four years — roughly the period since HP decided to purchase Compaq.
There were some troublesome elements to the company's report, overall. Business Critical Servers, the part of Enterprise Storage and Servers that includes HP's Unix systems, showed a revenue decline of 1 percent. Printers had their profits flagging at the same time that Dell's printers won a customer satisfaction survey over the HP products.
One job in ten at the company has been emptied, although it's hard to say what the net effect is because HP is also hiring at the same time. HP has now laid off (or in the 3000 group's case, "Enhanced Early Retired") some 15,300 employees, more than the 14,500 forecast by Hurd in July. And the CEO was proud of the fact that "We're tighter with a buck" than ever, a business strategy that can't be sustained if it wants to play in low-profit places like printers and TVs and consumer PCs. For one thing, separating that many people from HP cost the company more than $1.6 billion in Q4; the company took a total $1.1 billion charge for "restructuring-related costs and amortization of intangible assets."
The total numbers for HP's quarter set a record for sales, though, and the company revenue growth rose 7 percent. That charge notwithstanding, HP beat the analyst profit predictions by 5 cents a share. But watching the company put more wood behind its enterprise arrow might be comforting to the HP 3000 customer who wants to remain an HP customer, betting on the long-term future of Itanium systems and the longevity of HP-UX development.
HP sold $86.6 billion of services, computer equipment and software in the fiscal year that ended Oct. 31. The company totalled a profit of $2.39 billion — down from last year's $3.49 billion. Enterprise Storage and Servers contributed $810 million of the 2005 operating profits, outperforming the Personal Systems consumer PC group in profits by 23 percent. Perhaps a full year of focus on the higher-profit enterprise business can improve those totals for fiscal 2006.
November 17, 2005
Set up an HP 3000 Secure Web Console
By Gilles Schipper
As an HP3000 system administrator, have you ever been in a situation where you have had to reboot your HP3000 without advanced planning or warning?
Or — even with advanced planning — wouldn’t it be nice to be able to enjoy 100 percent full console capability, including system reboot, for your 3000 from the comfort of your home or any other location remote from the actual HP3000?
How convenient would that be — particularly if your HP3000 is located in another city, even another country from where you or your support staff is situated ?
Of course, some would argue that capability is already at hand with the remote console functionality associated with the modem port that comprises the multi-function IO card of most HP3000s.
That would be a correct assumption if you had the right modem and the right configuration.
In my experience, you would also need the moon and planets to align correctly and know the magic incantation to recite at the precise time in order to have the remote console facility behave in a manner as described above.
Not only that, the existing remote console port requires dial-up modem access in order to establish the necessary communication. How passé – not to mention insecure - in this day and age of high-speed Internet access.
In many instances, any alternative to the physical console would be preferable to the quality of output of existing ancient consoles, devices that even laser eye surgery would not correct satisfactorily.
Fortunately, there is a simple and affordable solution available today that provides very convenient remote console capability from any location where Internet access is available (and that, today, is virtually anywhere on this planet, and even elsewhere).
This same solution also provides for physical console replacement in cases where the physical console is not in the best condition — probably a quite common situation for many HP3000 installations.
The convenient and inexpensive solution is in the form of the HP Secure Web Console (SWC).
For those happy administrators fortunate enough to be taking care of A-Class or N-Class HP3000s, the SWC facility is built right into the HP3000 box.
All that’s required is to simply plug a network cable from the remote-console-labelled RJ45 connector at the back of the HP3000 to an available network hub or switch port and then to appropriately configure the SWC IP address, subnet mask, gateway address, permitted user names and passwords — and away you go.
For those cases with built-in SWC capability, one can utilize both the physical console and remote console simultaneously, although only one would have “control” over console command input.
For all other HP3000s there is the external HP Secure Web Console, Part No. J3591A.
This little device looks very much like an external HP Jetdirect box that is commonly used to provide network printing capabilities to printers lacking internal networking plumbing, if you will.
The external HP SWC comprises an RS232 serial port that is used to attach the console serial port to, a 10Base-T RJ45 network port that connects the SWC to the network hub or switch via Cat 5 network cable, and a power port that is used to provide electrical power to the device.
Unlike the built-in SWC, which is communicated to via telnet, the external SWC requires a network browser, such as Internet Explorer, to access it (or perhaps the Firefox browser, for a more secure experience.)
For additional security, the SWC (both internal and external) should have its IP address in a network segment range corresponding to the internal side of a virtual private network (VPN).
The external SWC is firmware upgradeable and the latest version is A2.0.
Once you’ve experienced the convenience of the remote console capability associated with the SWC, you will wonder how you could ever manage without one.
For anyone interested in obtaining an external SWC and having it set up, flashed to its latest firmware version and properly configured, please contact me at email@example.com or 905-889-3000.
November 16, 2005
Two hours' advice on moving to twisted pair
In the span of less than two hours, the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup delivered a series of user reports today on how to move away from coaxial network connections and onto more modern twisted pair wiring. In wiring parlance, this is moving from 10-Base-2 networks (called ThinLAN in the 3000 world) to 10-Base-T — the T standing for twisted pair.
Once James Byrne asked how to do this upgrade to his disaster recovery system, a quartet of net vets explained the process. Denys Beauchemin chipped in first:
It’s been several years since I have done this, but it’s easy. You have the pull the MFIO card and right inside, next to the outside panel itself, you will find a rather sizable (2 inches) block that you need to lift and place in the other position, if I recall correctly. Then you need to get an inexpensive ($5-$35) transceiver and plug it into the MFIO card. You then plug your RJ-45 into the transceiver.
Tracy Johnson confirmed this advice;
Exactly what Denys said (although I thought the block was smaller.) Instead of a transceiver, you “could” use one of those fat AUI cables long enough to go to a hub or switch. But I don’t think they make hubs or switches with those ports anymore. So you’re better off with a cheap transceiver.
Jeff Kell, curator of the 3000-L host system (which we've learned is a Windows 2003 system, not a Linux server) added a time-saving alternative next.
You can also use a "media converter", which is essentially a 2-port hub with a BNC and an RJ45. We went that route when we still had a rack of DTCs and didn't want to buy that many freakin' transceivers :-) It fixed them all with one fell swoop. Ours were Allied Telesyn, who made a variety of converters and media converters. Try http://www.alliedtelesyn.com/products/features.aspx?cid=4
Allied Telesyn products are sold through Best Buy for Business, among other outlets.
Finally, HP support engineer James Hofmeister added more hands-on details on how to make that swap inside the 3000's cabinet, and told Byrne what contingencies to watch out for:
Take care to discharge static before touching the card. Usually having a hand in contact with the metallic part of the system case before touching the card is sufficient. On removing and re-installing the Console-LAN card, take great care to align the card in the cage slot before re-inserting. The part that extends the furthest off of the card is a fuse which protects the card from the AUI interface; if you bend/break this fuse, the AUI interface does not work 8-)
The 8-pin jumper you will be moving is about 3/4 of an inch long and you will be moving it from INT to EXT. Note: This jumper is very close to the location of the AUI 15-pin connector.
What contingencies should you provide for? A) blow the fuse... prepare to go back and run ThinLAN, or make a trip to Radio Shack? to replace the fuse. B) blow the card.... have a spare before you start?
Four experts, less than two hours' response. You might think about that the next time you wonder who's going to support the HP 3000 during 2007. Some fundamentals, even those hidden inside the 3000's cabinet, are just an e-mail message away.
November 15, 2005
OpenMPE adds a new negotiator
The group advocating a post-2006 future for MPE and the HP 3000 added a seasoned software executive to its toolbelt yesterday, on the fourth anniversary of the HP announcement cancelling the vendor's 3000 business. Martin Gorfinkel, a veteran of nearly 30 years of development, company management and use of HP 3000s and related hardware, was named to the organization as the lead negotiator with HP in a press release.
OpenMPE's directors said Gorfinkel is also going to be responsible for taking up the challenge of attracting customers to the advocacy group. Chairman Birket Foster said this summer that OpenMPE wouldn't have full-time employees. Gorfinkel may act as the one exception — provided HP gives the group something to do during 2006.
The vendor will announce before year's end whether it will license MPE/iX source code for limited use by a third party, although the nature of the announcement is still being closely held by HP. Language in the OpenMPE press release remained optimistic about the announcement, expected before December 31, that could make using 3000s a safer prospect after HP shuts down its development and support labs at the close of 2006.
"OpenMPE is in final stages of working with HP on strategies to support the HP 3000 customers past Dec 31, 2006," the release said. "OpenMPE has proposed to the community a fee-based service for providing upkeep of the MPE operating system and its environment. If this service comes on line, users of MPE will be asked to commit funds to enable OpenMPE to hire software engineers to take charge of the 68 racks of equipment and the build and test processes which turn millions of lines of code into the secure and stable OS we know as MPE."
Gorfinkel owns and operates LARC Computing, a development house and consultancy which has produced Fantasia, a printer forms utility for MPE and Unix systems. He's been on the 3000 scene since 1976, and ran for the OpenMPE board of directors during last spring's election.
"Having MPE cared for by people other than HP doesn’t bother me particularly as a vendor,” he said in commentary on OpenMPE's mission in 2003. “HP, at this point, gives no better service than other vendors.”
Gorfinkel has been engaged to "negotiate with HP on OpenMPE’s behalf to obtain the use of the MPE source code and to organize member-users into a sustainable enterprise. Martin is an experienced executive with 30 years of corporate management," said Foster. "We are at the point in time where we need an executive to build out the plan for taking stewardship of the MPE source code, and have the correct business plans and processes in place."
The software executive based in the Silicon Valley "will be the driving force behind our program to sell our services to the community," said OpenMPE board member Paul Edwards. "Martin will be adding detail to the business plan as this transition goes forward and OpenMPE becomes operational."
November 14, 2005
Listen Up: After 4 years, what's transition amounted to?
With the unwitting help of the Temptations, our weekly podcast (9.5 MB MP3 file) comes in one business day later than usual, on a very special day in the HP 3000’s history. Four years ago today, HP dropped the axe on its oldest business computer line. But the debate still goes on about why, whether HP’s business move will kill off the community — and how much longer a computer without a vendor’s future can feel safe to rely upon.
Have a listen to our 10 minutes of history and perspective, filtered through the lessons of four years of change. What has happened in those four years has been the rise of the third party’s value to the 3000’s future. Third parties will make migrations work for many of the smaller shops. Meanwhile, volunteers have been working on HP to get a limited license for MPE in 2007 and beyond. If anything's dying, it's certainly taking the time to do it right.
November 11, 2005
Steps to send DTCs out the door
Distributed Terminal Controllers represent the first technology HP 3000 shops used to connect with PA-RISC systems. These DTCs remain in use across the 3000 community, but shops are looking at making their networks more modern with the use of standard switches. What's more, HP's yanked support for DTCs under HP-UX 11i v3 (11.26), according to a panel discussion at last month's HP Technology Forum. That means either keeping DTCs in place after a migration by setting up a separate HP-UX workstation, or cutting those DTCs off.
When a 3000 customer using ThinLAN networks asked what steps to take to "de-commission" their hardware, Tracy Johnson delivered the answers over the 3000-L mailing list:
Can I just simply power down and disconnect, or is there a graceful way of doing this? Also, if a printer is attached via one of those DTCs, how can I relocate the device to be plugged into the one DTC I want to keep?
Since you’re on ThinLan all you should need to do is take your “T” BNC connectors and put terminator ends on both sides of it. Then plug it into the back of your Multifunction I/O card. In effect, your ThinLan is still working, but there is nothing to talk to. Assuming your DTCs are the only things using your ThinLan of course, and you have another NIC card for the remainder of your network. (I’d hate to ruin your whole network.)
Second, in NMMGR go to the DTC subscreens and hit the DELETE key for each DTC and SAVE it. Then go through the VALIDATE procedure. When it gets to the point where is says to do it now or at next reboot, either yes or no, it shouldn’t matter. Although now would be more convenient. (It “may” fail, but there will be a disclaimer saying it will take effect at next reboot anyway.)
Joe Dolliver added that keeping a DTC-linked printer in the network means "You need to know if the printer accepts a Jetdirect card. If so you have to connect via the card."
November 10, 2005
24-hour update: 3000 conference interest rises
Responses to Alan Yeo's proposal for a 3000-only conference in 2006 were rising toward the 30-attendee mark in the first day after the posting on our blog yesterday. (We included a note out on the 3000-L mailing list about the post, too). Yeo added a comment to the post this morning that notes that early responses, including 20 e-mails directly to him, have been "encouraging, but nowhere near enough yet. So get those fingers typing and remember the default if you don't respond is 'Not Interested!' "
To put rosy glasses on for a moment, having nearly 30 people, including Eloquence vendor Marxmeier Software's offer of support, respond within a day feels more than encouraging. Interex mounted user group conferences for the HP 3000 which did not draw 100 attendees, including vendors and speakers, during 2003. No meeting of the 3000 customers at last month's HP Technology Forum could even muster 45 attendees in a single room.
Of course, Interex's benchmarks for attendance in the 2002-2004 period don't serve as a marker for fiscal success — unless you factor in a new model of conference: organized by volunteers like a user group, supported by vendors eager to connect to 3000 sites who are still mulling over migration (even if they are homesteading for the near term). If Yeo's stalking horse took steps onto the conference track, it would only have to break even, so long as it delivers face-to-face networking and leads for its sponsors.
Things have changed, to be certain, since the Internet became such a rich alternative for system information in the 3000 world. Paul Edwards, who's on the OpenMPE board of directors and served Interex for many years as a speaker, volunteer and board member, talked about this "inevitable" decline of the brick-and-mortar user groups when Interex collapsed in July:
I guess it was inevitable, given the end of the HP 3000 platform by HP and the unnecessary additional conference that HP scheduled this year that drew vital funds from Interex. The world has changed considerably with the spread of the Internet. The HP3000-L e-mail list provides almost instant access to gurus in the community for users to ask questions and get answers. The 3000 Newswire provides in-depth reporting of MPE news. The OpenMPE organization has assumed the duties of HP3000 customer base advocacy to HP for the last couple of years. HP and third party vendors provide excellent hardware and software support.
The MPE customer base has excellent and responsive resources to use to continue their migration or homesteading efforts. I am confident the users have the best possible opportunities to run their systems with available help for any problems they may encounter. We are all now waiting for the decision by HP, expected this year, for their final disposition of the MPE operating system.
While that's all true, there is interest afoot for a face-to-face meeting. Many sites are still deciding how to handle their transition.
"Continue to move forward with your ideas," said Bruce Naylor of Benchmark Brands told us in an e-mail yesterday. "Since we have not decided whether to migrate off the HP3000 or homestead, I believe a gathering of HP3000 users is a terrific idea. I'd certainly do my best to attend. I think a meeting of the minds and sharing info about the HP3000, including products and services is very positive."
Add a comment below to indicate your support for the idea. Or tell us why you can't make time for a 3000-only conference next year.
November 09, 2005
Hands Up for a 3000 event in 2006!
By Alan Yeo
Okay folks, this is a bit of a stalking horse piece. I’d like to solicit feedback to see if there is enough enthusiasm within the HP 3000 community to see if it’s practical to organise an exclusively HP 3000 event in 2006.
In my opinion, it is unlikely that any organisation planning an event in 2006 would have sufficient high-value content for anyone interested in homesteading on, or migrating from the HP 3000 to make it worthwhile attending. So if we think there is still value to be gained — and knowledge to be shared — within the 3000 community in physical rather than virtual manner, then maybe we had better think about organising it ourselves.
[Editor's Note: You can e-mail Yeo your answers — just a simple message like “Great Idea, I'd go” or “Not interested, Include me out” — by clicking on the link on his name above. Or posting a comment here, using the "Comments" link below.]
I'm not talking about creating a new HP 3000 User Group. What I'm thinking about is something like a weekend or two-day event that’s exclusively HP 3000, with two parallel tracks, one for Homesteading and one for Migration, but with lots of opportunity to network and share knowledge and experience. Funny, I guess I have just described the early User Group meetings I used to attend.
The objective would be to make this event as low-cost as is practical. Try and find a location that has good, and hopefully inexpensive air transport to it. Maybe for the location, a university campus or something similar. So no, I'm not thinking of a $150 a night hotel and $1,000 entrance fee of major events. Maybe something that could be organised for a couple of hundred dollars each, plus travel expenses.
We know that there are an awful lot of good presentations available on both Homesteading and Migration topics. In fact, for the last couple of years I suspect that more HP 3000-specific presentations were rejected for things like HP World than were accepted.
We also know from the last couple of years that there are still vendors within the 3000 marketplace that will happily chip in to get something organised jointly. The HP 3000 Lounge at HP World in 2004 managed to get sponsorship from such a group of vendors, and if the event had gone ahead this year there were even more offers of sponsorship. So I would be hopeful that if something worthwhile was being proposed, that some sponsorship could be raised.
We also know from the "World Wide Wake" in 2003 that given the opportunity, the community can self-organise.
But the whole thing really hangs on the 3000 communities enthusiasm for and desire to have and attend such an event – That means you! I'm sure that there are people who will either volunteer (or who will be volunteered <grin> ) to work out if it’s practical to organise such an event. But not even this will happen unless a sufficient number of people actually would attend.
So first of all, let's have some feedback from you — positive or negative. Just a simple message will do, like “Great Idea, I'd go” or “Not interested, Include me out.” If we get sufficient positive response, then we will organise something more sophisticated to find out specifically what people would like. And then see if there is sufficient real hard interest to make kick-starting something like this worthwhile. On the other hand, if the response is dismal — well, it’s up to you! 12 months and counting down...
Alan Yeo is founder and CEO of HP 3000 solutions supplier ScreenJet Ltd. He led the effort to organize the 2003 World Wide Wake at the end of HP's sales of the 3000, as well as the HP 3000 Community Networking Lounge at HP World in 2004.
November 08, 2005
User group wants to encompass 3000 sites
The community of HP 3000 user group members can turn toward a new organization this fall, pretty much for free at first. Encompass, the user group founded by Digital's enterprise computer customers which now embraces all of HP's enterprise lines, wants Interex members to join up. Until December 31, the membership for the first year is free to former Interex members.
Kristi Browder, the president of Encompass who's running for another term, said "We hope that Interex members will be able to find a new home and join in the valuable exchange of user knowledge that is the foundation of all user groups." While at the moment there's not a lot of HP 3000 expertise in Encompass, the group has built a significant experience base for the 3000 migration targets of HP's Unix, Windows enterprise servers, storage solutions and the OpenVMS environment.
The first-year-free offer also goes for the OpenView Forum International (OVFI), a user group built around the experience of using HP's network management environment. Encompass and OVFI partnered along with HP to produce last month's HP Technology Forum. Encompass counts about 10,000 active members, and OVFI has about 8,000 on its membership rolls. As of the week of the Technology Forum, Encompass is extending its membership discounts to another group of HP 3000 pros: HP Certified Professionals.
Encompass is offering a special HP Certified Professionals rate. It's also got a $75 individual membership which includes the proceedings DVD from this year's Tech Forum presentations. Interestingly enough, Encompass membership also includes proceedings from final two HP World conferences, 2003 and 2004. These are documents that users can't get any longer from Interex, since that group closed down its Web servers. For complete details on the $75 deal, check out the Encompass Web site at www.encompassus.org/membership/Discountmembership.htm.
The user group is running Special Interest Groups, too. It would seem that a Migration user group could be a useful addition to its SIG lineup — and since Platinum solutions provider Speedware now has its marketing director Chris Koppe on the Encompass board, we expect this kind of addition is only a matter of time. Platinum solutions provider MB Foster's founder Birket Foster also made a presentation on migration planning at the Tech Forum, a detailed set of slides that's included on the Tech Forum DVD.
Homesteading advice from the user group might be a more nascent resource, for the moment. But Encompass membership includes a hobbyist license for OpenVMS, the kind of license that MPE/iX expert developers want for the 3000 from HP. If the specific content for working with a discontinued line of 3000s isn't in the Encompass resource list yet, at least the spirit and experience of VAX users is already in place at Encompass. The OpenVMS SIG was the best-attended special interest group I visited at the Tech Forum — and the comments at the meeting sounded a good deal like those from SIG MPE.
November 07, 2005
NewsWire TV: Seeing a CEO in action
For our second episode in our new video ventures, we offer about five minutes of footage from the recent HP Technology Forum's keynote of all keynotes, when new CEO Mark Hurd addressed about 4,000 attendees. If you've never seen or heard from the replacement for ousted CEO Carly Fiorina, you might want to take a look. Hurd reminds us of former CEO John Young, with a better sense of humor.
We've got a 7 MB QuickTime file to look over in your browser, if it's equipped to watch QuickTime. You can also right-click on the link below to save it to your PC and run it in QuickTime standalone, or in another viewer.
(If you're a Windows user, you can download the free QuickTime player for Windows 2000 or later to watch this small-screen version.)
Hurd had confidence that stopped short of hubris in his brief scene before HP's presales professionals and some of its customers. The company produced a slick show for those who want some hope of a return to more traditional HP ways, even if Hurd's appearance did get preceded with a driving dance beat. Hurd only spoke in a speech for three minutes before repairing to the center of the stage to do a "Q&A" interview with one of his chief marketing executives.
November 04, 2005
Listen up: The sound of Itanium braking
In our weekly podcast (7MB MP3 file), we talk for about seven minutes about how it’s become easy to doubt the future for HP’s enterprise processors. Those are the Itanium line of chips, conceived by HP, but being built by Intel. Built more slowly than HP dreamed, in passionate speeches down at the Technology Forum last month. Today’s Itanium serves in HP’s Integrity systems. But the latest news about the Itanium roadmap might be making some 3000 customers slow down their migrations to Integrity, if they want the fastest alternatives.
November 03, 2005
Itanium line delays another chip's arrival
When HP chose a partner to help build its enterprise-grade processors, the company picked the market leader more than a decade ago. But HP hardly could have imagined a world of 2006, when delays at Intel's chip foundries would keep customers from making the move to HP's latest business computers.
In summary, that's what Intel's announcement last week means to the HP 3000 customer looking forward to moving up to faster, more price-competitive servers. Intel announced that it will be delaying not only its Montecito generation of Itanium chips, but the next two generations beyond. Tukwilla, the chip that knows how to idle at extemely low power, as well as an in-between improvement to Montecito, Montvale, have also been delayed.
The holdup looks to be about six months of delivery, according to Intel's report. But that can turn out to be a crucial six months for the HP 3000 customers. Those who need to stick with HP for support, well, they've been looking at the second half of 2006 as a very important period of installation for 3000 alternatives. The Intel news appears to be a factor in kicking Montecito-based HP Integrity servers into 2007 delivery. That's a significant six months for many HP 3000 sites.
About a year ago we reported from a survey that the HP 3000 community seemed to have little focus on Itanium, Integrity or anything unrelated to PA-RISC-based HP alternatives. But while I attended the HP Technology Forum last week, I observed a good deal of interest about the Itanium-based line from HP. The questions that came up in the new Integrity SIG meeting — until last week, a group called SIG Itanium — where about "when?" Not "how?" or "how much?"
Even HP was eager to know when it could begin to sell Montecito-based Integrity servers. The lead on HP's sales team to FedEx — already an HP-UX site — wanted a released date he could tell his customer. HP answered those questions last week by saying mid-2006. HP's Brian Cox, worldwide product line manager for business critical servers, said that a Montecito-based demo Integrity server was running up in the Confidential Disclosure suite at the show. That system, and about 40 running throughout HP as similar demos, will apparently be all of the Montecito rollout HP will enjoy during 2006.
How much difference can six months really make to a 3000 customer looking over new hardware during 2006? Itanium 2 hardware, in any configuration, will seem faster to the 3000 site which is accustomed to Series 9x9, PA-8500 processors. Even the fastest generation of 3000s, the N-Class servers, are going to run a lot slower when a customer is using an N-Class that's been hamstrung by HP's MPE/iX processor-slowdown code. But knowing that HP and Intel's roadmap could have delivered a dual core revision of Itanium in time for a migration purchase? That's a coulda-been that might have some impact on migration schedules, at least for customers who have the elbow room in their deployment schedules. Some sites might take all of 2006 to finish, especially those which need stability in the last quarter to manage holiday commerce.
November 02, 2005
NewsWire TV premiere: 3000 Crash Test
We've probed the depths of the NewsWire's rat-pack — er, we mean archives — to unearth a popular bit of 3000 legend. In the spring of 1997, as part of the computer's 25th anniversary celebration, the HP 3000 division created a 3-minute video to show how the server could survive a three-story crash.
We've got our copy of the HP "customer-viewable" video available as a download in a modest QuickTime file of 7 MB. You can right-click on the link to capture the file to your disk, if you want, then play it in the standalone QuickTime player at an enlarged screen size.
There's also a version you can watch on YouTube at the 3000 NewsWire channel.
George Stachnik of HP narrates this video, produced in the era when HP was still marketing the server as a more reliable and mature choice than HP's Windows and Unix servers. Well, the vendor never really did make much of a direct comparison, even though its sales force and customers were doing just such a compare.
If you've never seen this, we won't spoil the ending. But HP 3000 customers know that the hardware which makes up their system was built far beyond the survival specs of, say, a Dell Windows 2003 server. How many servers you will need to toss off the roof of a building is an exercise we'll leave to our readers.
We invite you to share your own 3000 survival stories through the Comments link below. We'll compile what you post up as a blog entry for the future. Stay tuned to this channel for future NewsWire TV reports. Coming up: Clips from HP CEO Mark Hurd's keynote speech at the HP Technology Forum.
November 01, 2005
Software slices bakery's migration problems
Migrations are going to earn a reputation over the next two years as the hardest work many HP 3000 shops have ever accomplished. 3000 sites don't have deep IT staffs, in many cases. That's why having a software solution work right out of the wrapper can be a blessing during the hard times of migration.
Dan Coyle, the VP of MIS at regional bakery Lewis Bakeries, had that "works as promised" experience with Viking Software's Viking Data Entry (VDE) system. The applications hosted at the bakery's IT shop serve four different divisions. Some of the work is heads-down data entry, as Coyle calls it. The work flowed through DE/3000, a data-entry front end app whose vendor had gone out of business. The bakery found VDE for the HP-UX system that it's preparing to replace its HP 3000. But VDE eventually went to work in a Windows environment, one reason the software suits Coyle so well. Itanium's nuances didn't slow down the Viking solution — not like the Itanium problems that the two-person IT staff at Lewis had to knock out over the summer.
The Itanium-based HP-UX applications at Lewis Bakeries receive their data from VDE, Coyle said, using Samba as its intermediate file server mechanism. "You create a mapped drive under Samba and point your PC at that drive," Coyle explained. "When you click on that icon, it goes right into the Unix system. It's one of the cooler programs."
The architecture which lets a Windows software front-end serve HP-UX apps is an example of how a vendor with an established specialty, like Viking, can help 3000 shops set and forget some segments of a migration. Lewis has a lot of segments to consider when moving its application, created in 1989.
The bakery's payroll, inventory, order entry and other applications required a double-key entry software product that performed in a similar manner to the older DE/3000 product. Coyle said he'd last seen an upgrade of DE3000 in 1994. VDE stepped in without problems.
"We still do heads-down data entry, and we needed a package on the Unix side to cover that," Coyle said. "VDE fit it quite well. It's one of the few packages in this migration that worked without having to do a whole lot of work on it. This migration's been a monster."
Coyle had planned to run VDE under HP-UX; data entry staff would access VDE with terminal emulation software on their PCs. Larry Castell of Viking’s support team suggested that VDE for Windows could be installed on the Itanium server, and run directly from Windows workstations, making it easier for the operators to enter the necessary data without the need for terminal emulation.
Viking's solution came up pretty fast for the bakery. Coyle spent a couple of days learning the VDE development facility. When he completed the tutorial and started on his own jobs he picked up on the process easily. He reported that over the course of a weekend he completed the conversion of all of his 80 jobs to VDE. He was impressed with the fact that the software was installed and conversion completed in under a week. “VDE is the next best thing to sliced bread," he said, "and coming from a bakery, that is a pretty high compliment.”
Coyle has plans to finish his migration sometime next year, but said the snags in getting software bugs for HP-UX software ironed out on Itanium have kept the bakery from making its January, 2006 deadline.
"Just about all the software vendors in the world weren't ready for Itanium," Coyle said. The differences in the Itanium architecture gave software companies a challenge to support, he said. "Every other package we used had problems with [the Itanium server], except Viking's, which loved it," he said.
He said that HP-UX 11i (v 11.23) has also removed support for DTC controllers, making the management of his network another problem to tackle.
Lewis Bakeries started on the project in mid-June, and Coyle said it took "close to a month to get the software working" with Itanium. The lack of DTC support on the latest version of HP-UX means that Unix users have to use a separate HP-UX workstation, with an older release of HP-UX, to manage DTCs. For now, the HP 3000 at the bakery continues to manage the DTC devices.
"We're getting there," Coyle said. "We've finally got most of the bugs out of the software, so we're picking up some speed. We're 65 percent done. But the thing is, you have your regular standard business functions to take care of. We've had to stop and do critical business applications that our customers have needed. You can't tell a customer, 'Hey, I'm doing a migration, go away.' "
Getting a migration done on a small staff is a good reason to look for solutions that work straight out of the wrapper. ROC Software's Easyspooler for spoolfile management was another thumbs-up solution at Lewis Bakeries, according to Coyle.