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December 29, 2006

Top Stories of 2006, Part 4

The year 2006 once represented a finish line for many HP 3000 customers. If you relied on the HP 3000 to handle your company business, well, by the end of this year you needed a new business server tested and ready, or a support extension from HP, or a new support provider.

HP's action of December 20, 2005 changed the distance to the finish line for many customers on the Transition trail. Sparked in part by HP's decision, users proposed a 3000 conference, warned the community about a flawed database feature, and reinvigorated user and advocacy groups which will deal with HP's endgame for its 3000 operations. Here's the wrap up on our dozen Top Stories of 2006.

10. Customers reported that HP's divisions didn't know the 3000's support got a two-year minimum extension. The 3000 group inside HP knew better, but couldn't get the word out as fast as customers were asking, especially during support contract renewals. Those contracts came to a head as HP looked for beta testers to get the latest 3000 enhancements into a PowerPatch for MPE/iX 7.5.

11. Third parties warned the community about data-corrupting Large File Datasets in IMAGE. A troika of some of the best 3000 vendors in the world — Adager, Robelle and Allegro — issued details to keep 3000 sites from creating or using any more of these "LFDS." HP responded with a report that it continued to work on a repair for the datasets, which were the IMAGE default for bigger-than-4GB datasets at the time of the warning.

12. An advocacy and user group effort continued to serve the 3000 customer during 2006. From the announcement in mid-January of the 2006 Greater Houston RUG's 3000 Conference, to the continued efforts from OpenMPE to clarify and document HP's policy on MPE/iX licensing and other endgame issues, the users didn't act like their future was irrelevant.

That kind of reaction during 2006 reflected the history and legacy of the 3000 community: resourceful in the face of problems, sharing and inventive when the need arose for combined efforts, and most of all, willing to work with whatever their vendor could do to smooth the ownership path during Transition. Whether you spent your 2006 leaving the 3000 for another platform, or dedicated the year to a sound homesteading effort, we salute your spirit.

We've been honored to chronicle your year on these blog pages and in our printed issue. Have a prosperous and productive 2007 — a year that's certain to generate another great dozen stories of your pluck and faith in one another.

09:43 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 28, 2006

Top Stories of 2006, Part 3

Let's recap. Our 2006 Top Stories List, now half revealed, includes these tall tales and breaking bulletins:

1. HP retires its Large Files Dataset project for IMAGE/SQL.
2. OpenMPE earns its first revenues from HP
3. HP uncaps virtualization plus low-to-midrange 3600 and 6600 Integrity servers
4. HP chairman Patricia Dunn resigns over a HP spying program to stem board leaks
5. HP reinstates MPE/iX Professional Certification holders
6. HP releases third PowerPatch for its penultimate release of MPE/iX

Are we seeing a pattern here yet? Perhaps the inclusion of the same two letters of the alphabet in each headline?

News from outside HP also ranked high on our 2006 list. Third parties were busy, too.

7. Advant, working from its Immediate Recovery Systems operation, released the first Generic REplacement Boxes for HP 3000s. The PA-RISC servers shipped with only a Linux distro installed, but ready for either a HP 9000 or HP 3000 personality, applied by the IRS SSEDIT program. The software modifies stable storage of a PA-RISC server, something only HP could do until these "GREBs" are announced.

8. Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith announced their first class at MPE-Education.com. Edwards and Smith overhauled HP's class materials for MPE Fundamentals as the duo's first step into independent, HP authorized training.

9. A high-end Series 987 server sold for less than $300 in public auction, demonstrating that 3000 hardware would be both plentiful and cheap during the coming years of the Transition Era. OpenMPE board member Matt Perdue bought the used server, which sold for six figures while new, for less than a month's worth of support used to cost for the system.

07:05 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 27, 2006

Top Stories of 2006, Part 2

Some of the HP 3000 community's biggest stories of 2006 came directly from the vendor's officials and labs. While this was no surprise four to five years ago, when HP was parting ways with the 3000's future, the vendor's reach into the 3000 customers' future surprised us during the past year. No story was more surprising than the HP admission of a spying program conducted through 2005 and 2006.

4. HP informed the marketplace and the 3000 community that the chairman of the board Patricia Dunn had started a program in 2005 to stem leaks from its dissident board members to the business and industry press. HP-financed spying, which violated HP's own privacy policies as well as California law, netted the company the name of the dissident director, but also netted the firm a $14 million fine and the general condemnation of both the business and 3000 communities. Dunn resigned as chair, the second chairman in as many years to leave the post under fire.

The privacy-violating investigation included HP employees who had helped the vendor track down and prosecute third party HP 3000 hardware brokers in 1999. One such employee said the "pretexting" used in the spy hoax had been a regular practice of HP's for more than seven years. The disgrace and distrust amassed a greater damage to the company's reputation than to its stock price — although by the end of 2006 federal officials wanted to question HP's CEO on a stock sale he executed just before the spy news surfaced.

5. HP reinstated the certification holders who'd earned HP's professional credentials as HP 3000 and MPE/iX experts. HP had dropped the IT pros from its certification program for budget reasons. Although few in number, those who held the certifications have remained in the 3000 community as consultants and technical experts at third parties.

HP restored the credentials of the IT pros as a result of lobbying and work from OpenMPE board member Paul Edwards, who worked with Rich Gossman of HP to rectify the error. Although HP won't certify any more IT pros in 3000 skills, the move opened the door to let these certificate holders stand out in a marketplace growing hungry for 3000 expertise during migrations or homesteading sustainability projects.

6. HP released the third PowerPatch for its penultimate release of MPE/iX. The PowerPatch represented HP's 2006 offering of enhancements and critical bug fixes for the 3000 — and it would have been the last bit of HP lab work for the 3000 if the vendor had not extended its support program until 2008 or later.

10:25 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 26, 2006

Top Stories of 2006, Part 1

It's a week of rest and recovery for many HP 3000 shops, but some of our readers are still at work completing migrations by year's end, or finishing off year-end financial reports. The approach of year's end spurs us to select the top 12 stories of the past year, covering both migration and homesteading resources.

1. Most recently we heard from HP that its Large Files Dataset project is being retired, even after the patch was tested and approved for general release. LFDS is likely to be the last big-scale project HP undertook for MPE/iX, IMAGE and the HP 3000.

2. OpenMPE earned its first revenues from HP this year, when the engineers attached to the advocacy group eaned a consulting fee for reviewing HP's MPE/iX source code build process. Customers still await the release of source code and those build processes. HP's ability to use the veteran community technical expertise of the OpenMPE "virtual lab" was a milestone in the history of the advocacy group.

3. Perhaps most important to the enterprise revenues in the HP financial quarter just ending, HP demonstrated that its architecture and integration with virtualization has finally come of age for the 3000 customer, with the advent of the low-end to mid-range 3600 and 6600 models of Integrity servers. The momentum HP was gaining with the fifth generation of the Itanium architecture might have sparked some rock-tossing; at the same time IBM hired an analyst to cast doubts about the future of Integrity. We've been waiting for this watershed — where the Itanium servers offer a better value as well as higher performance than PA-RISC — to appear on the HP 3000's migration path. After all, the HP Unix solution has no other hardware set to fly toward than Integrity.

11:39 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas Wishes!

On this holiday we wish our readers and sponsors and supporters the best of this season of giving. We feel blessed to have retained the gift of your interest and involvement in the life of the HP 3000, a computer that is constantly given little respect outside its community; rarely given a chance of surviving in a meaningful role for more than a couple more years — and ultimately given the task of keeping a company running while a migration takes longer than expected, or starts later than planned.

Today we invite our readers to look over an editorial from just two Christmases ago, written long before we knew for certain HP would sell support beyond its 2006 "end-of-life" deadline. HP placed no such holiday present of an extension under the customers' tree this season like it did las December 20. About all a customer could ask for with any reason would be a clear message about licenses for MPE to use on generic PA-RISC servers. We bet HP will be sharing that message in the New Year.

It looks like Dreamgirls might be the Christmas Day movie for 2006 here at our home offices, amid a slate of slim pickings for holiday releases. You may dream of sugarplums dancing in your heads today and tonight, or a continued effort from HP to keep MPE/iX up to date until the support plug gets pulled at "the end of 2008, or later."

HP is watching what its 3000 customers do about migration, and how quickly they do it. That's why the last Christmas included the HP support extension. You can head into 2007 confident there will be others to step in and help the community. Gifts are on their way, like the late presents ordered but not delivered by the big day — gifts of tools, strategy and upgrades that can make a Transition easier.

05:55 AM in Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2006

More help in homesteading

Your marketplace waves more than one flag, as most of its citizens know. Much more unfurling takes place on the migration battlements, where projects proceed apace. But the homesteading front gains its reinforcements too. A new resource in California and elsewhere is raising its standard this month.

Data Management Associates (DMA) will be opening up two new Web sites at DMAWashington.com and HP3000HomeSteading.com. The seasons greetings card from Ralph Berkebile, CEO and Software Engineer at DMA, promises "a unique venue that encourages interaction through blogs, newsletters, white papers and industry setting updates."

DMA, which donated a $100 check to the OpenMPE advocates at September's OpenMPE update meeting, said the new Web sites will let the company "help our clients with methodologies, tools and strategies supporting the continued use of their onsite or hosted HP 3000 MPE and HP 9000 HP-UX environments for years to come."

05:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 21, 2006

Syngistix demise: the 3000's circle of life

News reached us this week that Syngistix is tossing in the towel as a company, after years of working to serve the HP 3000 community. More longtime 3000 customers will know the firm as Distribution Resources Corporation (DRC), an asset to companies which did warehousing and distribution as part of their operations.

Syngistix did its best to try to acquire multi-channel commerce vendor Ecometry in 2002, but the financing on that deal fell through a few months after the acquistion was announced. At that time Ecometry was a public company; when Syngistix couldn't come through with the deal, Ecometry took itself private.

Rumors among the 3000 vendor community indicate that Syngistix shuttered operations because of the intersection of two unfortunate events: declining support revenues from an installed customer base; and a late project to develop a solution to run on a non-3000 server.

This is how your average HP 3000 supplier heads for that great repository in the sky. Revenues from what has served customers slip. The launch pad for new products gets fogged in.

In the case of Syngistix, the solution is still in use at Long's Drug, but now there's nobody to call for support. Other customers decided that with the 3000 coming off HP's support lineup, dropping support for their 3000 applications was okay, too.

Software companies whose success was built upon the 3000 often aim for a new platform to keep their doors open, trying to migrate their application code to something like Unix or Windows. But that elaborate work can only go as far as the development headcount for producing the new version of the flagship product.

Ecometry was able to make this transition, and Summit Technologies's credit union solutions also made the transfer. Both companies still book support revenues for the 3000 version of their software. But each is counting more sales revenue on new platforms — and so less reliant on the flow of support dollars from MPE versions of software.

Individual companies which don't renew support sometimes have good reason to stop support payments on their 3000 third party apps and tools. 3000 budgets get raided to pay for overhauling Windows desktops, where the shift from Win 2000 to XP to XP SP2, and now to Vista, creates expensive churn. Then there's the migration efforts to fund.

But dropping support puts one more rock in the pockets of 3000 companies trying to swim to the shore of new platforms. Add enough of that dead weight, and a transitioning company cannot keep its head above the waters of change.

05:35 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 20, 2006

HP grows, senior executives go

During the past quarter HP has seen its top executives in finance, R&D and legal affairs retire or resign. It's a sign the company is both maturing and changing that the likes of Bob Wayman, Dick Lampman and Ann Baskins will leave the company. HP is much changed since these executives entered HP's executive ranks. The corportion has made the transition from a business computing company to one where consumer products and commodity PCs account for well over half the business HP books.

Wayman is probably the biggest seat to fill for HP. The Chief Financial Officer joined the company in 1969, and he's held the CFO post since the Mighty Mouse HP 3000 (Series 37) showed that business computers could run in regular office spaces. (That's 1984 for those of you without a geneaology chart of HP systems.) Wayman steered the company through the tenure of four CEOs, and even held the post for a month himself between Carly Fiorina's ouster and the hiring of CEO Mark Hurd.

HP says that its treasurer, Catherine Lesjak, will succeed Wayman. He'll remain with the company until March to oversee the transition. HP's market cap and profits haven't been this rich since before the dot-com boom, so Lesjak will have to leap high to clear the bar that Wayman has left behind.

Lampman presided over an HP Labs which developed the world's leading inkjet technology, the designs that power more than half of HP's profits today. The Labs were also one of the birthplaces of the PA-RISC processor designs, the chips which still power every modern-day HP 3000 still running in the marketplace. Lampman came to HP in the same era as Wayman, joining the company in 1971. That was an HP still developing the 3000 and MPE, designing IMAGE, and unsure if a business computer was a good product to offer its instrumentation customer base.

Baskins led HP's legal affairs since 2000, serving as Chief Counsel until she resigned under the fire of the spying probes which HP weathered this fall. Her departure left many questions unanswered about how much the top corporate officers, like Wayman, knew of the illegal investigations HP was funding to stop leaks.

Unlike Wayman and Lampman, who are leaving HP amid a record of successful transition and development, Baskins stood to take the blame from HP's CEO and its chairman this fall. After taking the fifth, the top lawyer for HP listened while HP's corporate and board leaders described her as the person most responsible for HP's biggest mistake since eliminating the HP 3000 from its product line.

A fascinating article on Baskins' role in the spying — which might well have been a contributor to the departure of Wayman, and perhaps Lampman — was posted on the law.com Web site. In part, the article says:

In the end, the HP scandal comes down to this: The spying probe became a runaway train. And Ann Baskins was the person in the best position to recognize the danger and stop it. But she didn't. In fact, the records show that from June 2005 to April 2006, Baskins raised legal questions about the tactics at least six times. But she never pushed for a definitive answer about whether the methods used were, in fact, lawful. Or, more importantly, whether they were unwise and dangerous to the company. In retrospect she could have, and should have, shut down the throttle on this train long before it crashed.

The article goes on to report about Baskins' successes with HP: the spin off of Agilent and the merger with Compaq, the latter of which included handling a civil suit levied by shareholders. But her departure under fire stands in contrast with HP's top financial and development leaders.

10:15 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2006

HP puts its best virtual foot forward

"We are absolutely the leaders in virtualization," said Mel Lewandowski, HP's guru for HP-UX. We were chatting back at this fall's HP Technology Forum, and Lewandowski said HP's designs have gone after the high availability sector of the enterprise market. That's a sector that should sound familiar to the 3000 owner, often running a server where failure is not an option.

Uxfuture Virtualization is HP's solution to creating a system that will never fail to deliver at least some part of your processing needs. The Gartner Group says HP has reached mainframe levels with its ServiceGuard product for HP-UX. Unix installations have long been associated with multiple instances of servers, unlike the HP 3000s driving many apps from a single host. The virtualization at the heart of the 11i v3 release lets that consolidation of UX servers take place in a single box.

HP's Unix, of course, is the vendor's first choice to capture migrating HP 3000 customers. Yes, the application is always the first consideration. But the customer who chooses Windows or Linux rather than HP-UX to host a migrated or new app is just as likely to climb onto a platform not manufactured by HP. HP's Unix keeps the hardware in the HP ledger, which keeps the even-more-profitable support revenues rolling into HP.

Lewandowski delivered solid reasons why an investment in HP-UX is a purchase for the long haul. "We're investing to outgrown the Unix market," she said, meaning that HP wants more Unix business than just the new customers coming over to Unix systems. HP believes that with the new virtualization and HP-UX 11i.v3, it's got a product that can pull market share away from IBM and Sun.

"This is actually the first forum where we've rolled out the word vision," Lewandowski said, describing the company's strategy for the HP-UX future. "I get asked, 'Is HP serious about HP-UX? Are you going to Linux?' The answer is that it's a fair question. We did analysis on this. It's a big, $18 billion market that's roughly flat in the aggregate, but it's actually pretty stable."

Next_in_ux For the things that Unix is uniquely good at — business processing, decision support — people are confident in that and expect to continue to go there, Lewandowski said. HP-UX will continue to play from the low-end to the high-end, "because the low end is getting more powerful."

Low-end customers using HP-UX, which will include a lot of the HP 3000 migrating customers, are using a deeper portion of the stack of features for the OS, Lewandowski said. "People used to need a giant machine, and they still need some of those, but they need some of the same attributes in a cheaper machine," she said.

HP's become big on cheaper for UX hosts, now that the Montecito CPUs are driving the new 3600 Series of Integrity servers.

11:05 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 18, 2006

HP drives out the word from its Road Shows

HP hosted a mighty road tour over the months that followed the vendor's Technology Forum this fall, spurred on by the Montecito class of Itanium chips driving the newest Integrity servers. But only 50 to 100 customers per city got to see the most current story about the company's alternatives to the HP 3000. We watched in San Antonio and took close notes on virtualization, which we'll share tomorrow. For the first time in four years, the Adaptive Enterprise seems to make better sense for a growing IT shop.

There are easier bits to assimilate from these presentations — especially for the 3000 manager who's used to looking at upgrades from a hardware perspective.  After all, HP's Dave Snow — who used to trot out the newest hardware from the 3000 line at user conferences — gave one of his classic "feeds and speeds" talks about the new honking hardware in the 3600 and 6600 models of Integrity.

PDF files of the slide shows are available online now from HP. Each slide set, Virtualization and Hardware, has good details about the landing strip for the customer now in flight from the HP 3000s which have served them for so many years.

HP has sent off e-mails to invite the interested 3000 customers who didn't attend the road show. Come on, they say, at least download the slides and have a look. The links open up PDF files in a Web browser so configured. Or you can right-click on the HP landing page and same these massive files to a desktop or elsewhere on your computer.

If you weren't among the 2,000 or so customers who made the trip to a town near you, well, the presentations do lack a little color, since they're sans audio commentary and are without the customer interactions (questions) at their conclusion.

But your HP rep or reseller is  supposed to have some reason  to chat you up befor e the end of the calendar year, aren't they?

If you want to pass around the link to HP's PDF files, hand off this one; its the redirect target from a simpler HP URL that seems to be fussy:

http://r.your.hp.com/r?1.1.HX.GP.s0mFv.CYvpfy..N.ELES.2164.az1udWxs2linO2

12:49 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 15, 2006

A Wiki arrives to teach 3000 skills

Chris Bartram, the HP 3000 veteran who's been at the center of the Web and Internet community for the system, has just opened up the first Technical Wiki for users, fans and customers of your redoubtable system.

This Twiki permits any registered user to edit or post articles about the use of the HP 3000. Bartram, a friend to the NewsWire since our newsletter's inception and even before, invited me to post the HP 3000 entry as a way of defining what the whole TWiki will be about.

This is a cutting-edge way to gather information and advice about the 3000 from community experts and veterans. Today, as a way of explaining what's so special about this server, I put up the start of a history of the system, marked with a few high points. Users are already registering to contribute to the 3000's TWiki. You can sign up to edit and post, or simply view the Wiki without registering, at twiki.3k.com/twiki/bin/view/TWiki/HP3000FAQ

Bartram said he has been working on a way to make the deep knowledge of the 3000's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) file more accessible in a more modern era.

I’ve been working on re-vamping the FAQ for some time; one of the major features I’d been looking for was the ability for others to contribute easily. Easy inter-linking of topics was another. Spreading the topics out a bit (to aid finding things from the search engines) was another. A wiki was a natural choice. “TWiki” was an implementation I found that came highly recommended, and turned out to be pretty easily to install and configure.

I’ve ported most of the current FAQ documents into the new wiki; anyone that’s interested in filling in gaps or adding topics of your own, help yourself! All you need to do is register (which is free and automated) and you can update or add any topic you like.

There’s one link from our home page (www.3k.com) currently; I’ll be replacing the links to the old format FAQ in the coming weeks. There’s no google presence of the new site yet, but it should be crawled and indexed soon.

Since Chris asked, I have started the ball rolling on the definition of what an HP 3000 is:

" The HP 3000 was the first minicomputer — a type of business computer smaller and easier to manage than a mainframe — to include a database from some of its earliest versions onward. This distinction helped to set the stage for success for this system, which boasted 70,000 working systems at its peak in the late 1980s. The HP 3000 continues to work in major corporations and modest-sized companies today, more than 30 years after that database was included."

But you can have your say and edit the start that Chris began and that I've expanded. Register today and help make the 3000 knowledge as easy to consume as the legendary Wikipedia. The technology behind the 3000's TWiki and that online encylopedia are very much the same.

10:38 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2006

Cherry job, still available in 3000 shop

Walter Murray once worked for HP in its MPE/iX languages lab, but several years ago he left HP in one of its downsizing, cost-cutting moves to join the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The CDCR organization, which operates the prisons in the largest state in the US, is also one of the biggest users of HP 3000s. By Murray's account, there are 75 HP 3000s still doing production work at the CDCR.

Now the organization needs upper-level specialists in HP 3000 software. Murray reported to the 3000-L newsgroup that the 3000s use COBOL and TurboIMAGE — like more than 4 out of every 5 HP 3000 sites — but also employ VPlus, PowerHouse and Oracle.

The open positions at the CDCR pay as much as $78,000 to $81,000 a year. It's safe to say that few community members might have imagined a job paying 80 grand a year to open up for HP 3000 work at the end of 2006. The California prisons are not chained to their HP 3000s. But for a long time to come, the organization relies on these servers which HP expected to be switched off by now.

Murray is happy to help community members navigate the California civil service hiring process, which he called "a daunting task." He explained the details of the jobs, and how to apply:

CDCR is the largest user of HP-3000s among all the California state agencies.  We operate a network of about 75 MPE/iX-based servers, which includes servers at each of the state’s 33 prisons. We use COBOL, TurboIMAGE, VPLUS, PowerHouse 4GL, and Oracle software.  We will probably be homesteading for several years, as the replacement system is still in its early stages. Of course we use a wide variety of platforms, not just the 3000.

The Systems Software Specialist would typically work in such areas as database administration, information security, system administration, or networking--as opposed to application development and support.

If you are interested, the first step is to apply to take the exam that will get you on the civil service “eligible list.” Do not delay.

The filing date for both of these exams is December 21, 2006.

For details, go to www.spb.ca.gov and follow the links: 
Seeking Employment with the State of California-->Exam Bulletins-->Exams by Title-->SYSTEMS SOFTWARE SPECIALIST II [or III] (TECHNICAL). 

It takes a while to figure out how to fill out the application, so don’t wait until the last day.

Give me a call or e-mail if I can help or provide any additional information:

wmurray@surewest.net
Walter.Murray@cdcr.ca.gov
Work:  916-358-1406
Cell:  916-801-9927

12:54 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 13, 2006

HP sticks to cost-cutting course

Hewlett-Packard advised securities analysts this week that the company intends to continue its cost-cutting measures for the foreseeable future. The strategy has paid off handsomely for your vendor, locked in a PC pricing battle with arch-rival Dell and competing hard for Unix system wins against IBM.

Those challenges drive down the price HP can ask for its systems and software. One way HP has kept up its bottom line: pruning off parts of the company, or keeping operations expenditures tamped down.

Travel has been high on the list of lowered HP expenditures since 2003. But in a company of HP's size — more than 90 billion in its fiscal 2006  — there are countless ways to scale back spending. R&D is a traditional savings opportunity, but HP cannot afford to flag behind HP in the development of advanced operating systems in the Unix campground.

HP's admission, if the cost-cutting news can be called that, came as Chief Financial Officer Bob Wayman announced his retirement from the company. Wayman, who's been at HP 37 years — more than half the company's lifespan — was so vital to HP he took the CEO post for about a month in 2005 until HP announced a replacement for ousted CEO Carly Fiornia.

Current CEO Mark Hurd — who on Wednesday was asked by the SEC to explain a sale of HP stock he executed just before HP revealed its spying on reporters and board members — told the analysts there is much more to trim from an HP that could hit $100 billion in sales in 2007.

“We have a lot more cost to take out,” Hurd said. “We are a company that is transforming — we are not a company that is transformed.”

Hurd already is credited with sparking a dramatic turnaround at HP in less than two years at the helm; HP’s stock price has doubled. Beginning in July 2005, HP has cut 15,300 jobs and overhauled its retirement plan, moves aimed at saving $1.9 billion a year.

But Hurd said those steps alone have not made the company as efficient as it could be.

“I wish it were that easy,” he said. “We have more work to do.”

Hurd said that after HP’s $4.5 billion acquisition of software maker Mercury Interactive Corp. this year, the company would likely engage only in “targeted” mergers and acquisitions.

“You should not be expecting us to do huge transactions,” he said.

On Monday, HP agreed to acquire Knightsbridge Solutions Holdings Corp. to bolster its services business. Knightsbridge, which has 700 employees, focuses on information-management services for larger companies. Terms for the purchase of the Chicago-based company weren’t disclosed.

HP Chief Financial Officer Robert Wayman, who announced retirement plans Monday, released the company’s first public forecast for 2008, saying revenue would likely grow 4 percent to 6 percent, to somewhere between $101 billion and $103 billion. Earnings per share should be between $2.78 and $2.98.

07:23 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2006

MPE Education.com readies for class load

Independent MPE/iX trainers are still getting inquiries about teaching HP 3000 skills, according to Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith. The two HP 3000 veterans operate MPE-Education.com, a third party instruction company which cut a deal with HP this year to offer classes on MPE Fundamentals.

Like so many other parts of the 3000 ecosystem, HP's gotten out of the 3000 training business. But the customers still rely on their systems even while migration projects lope along at varying speeds. Much of the 3000 marketplace relies on staff which never got HP 3000 instruction. Birket Foster of MB Foster calls the situation "the flight attendants flying the airplane."

This venture got onto the taxiway this summer, but couldn't muster real expenditure commitments from several prospects. The newest plan will let classes form as customers sign up.

Edwards and Smith announced a new business plan for their venture, which will teach HP 3000 skills online using the same interactive software HP uses for its own offsite training and remote meetings. Since the bandwidth for the software requires a capital outlay — not to mention the 40 hours per week of airtime on a voice dial in network — MPE-Education.com will now schedule a remote class when it gets three customers to commit with payments.

While some in the 3000 community contend there's no demand at all for a 3000 training program, Edwards said he engaged prospects for the training this fall, as recently as last month's HP 3000 conference sponsored by GHRUG.

"Our new approach to make MPE courses available to the HP 3000 community will now take course reservations without specifying a date," Edwards said. "As soon as the minimum number of students register and prepay for the course, we will confer with those students and set a mutually agreeable date for the course. This will allow us to deliver the MPE/iX training to larger audiences more often. When you register you can be sure the course will be held — there will be no disappointing course cancellations because of low enrollment."

HP called off its scheduled HP 3000 training classes regularly while the vendor was offering the training. MPE-Education.com is also offering a discount of more than 20 percent off of HP's classroom pricing. Edwards said the education he and Frank Alden Smith will offer  — both veterans will lead sessions in a  class — will cost about $500 less than what HP was charging for its in-person HP 3000 training.

The first class to offer the new registration option from MPE-Education.com is the MPE/iX Fundamentals (H3217S) course. To register for the course, click on this link:

http://www.mpe-education.com/courses/regform_h3217s_TBA.htm

11:59 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2006

Ideal, Advant merge on hardware, support

HP 3000 suppliers Ideal Computer Services and Advant have announced a merger of their companies, effective immediately. Ideal and Advant have had an overlap of services and customer areas for many years. Both companies sell used HP 3000s and PA-RISC servers, and both firms offer support for HP 3000 systems.

Advant's Steve Pirie reported the merger to us last week by explaining that national coverage of HP 3000 sites can now permit all of the Ideal support customers to make use of Advant's Immediate Recovery Solutions (IRS) products. These include SSEDIT, the program that Advant wrote itself to modify stable storage of HP 3000 servers for disaster recovery scenarios — like when you need a CPU board reset.

"This gives HP 3000 customers nationwide hardware support without the intervention of HP," Pirie said. Advant has been promoting its Generic Replacement Boxes this year, PA-RISC systems which don't require HP intervention to load a legal copy of MPE/iX or HP-UX.

Organizationally, the two companies remain largely the same. Pirie becomes Chief Operating Officer for the merged company, which Paul Lawrence of Ideal remains CEO of the ICS group.

"This expands our products out the IRS group," Pirie said. He added that existing support customers of both companies will continue to be served by their existing company. A full merger with logo-swaps and other legalities will "probably take a year," he said.

02:44 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2006

HP ponies up millions for boardroom spying

HP on Thursday agreed to pay $14.5 million to settle a civil complaint from California's attorney general that sprouted from the company's investigation into corporate boardroom leaks.

The agreement, filed yesterday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, has HP paying out millions, almost all of which is earmarked to help state prosecutors snare other companies which violate privacy like HP did over the past two years. $13.5 million of the judgement will create a new fund to assist California state prosecutors in investigations and prosecution of consumer-privacy and information-piracy violations. The remaining $1 million covers a fine, and money to reimburse the attorney general's office for its investigation.

The court document was drafted in such a way to keep HP from admitting it broke the law. The judgment's language states the document was issued by the court and agreed to by HP without

...this Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction constituting evidence of, or an admission by HP, regarding any issue of law or fact alleged in the Complaint on file herein, and without HP admitting any liability herein in so far as any other litigation regarding allegations of violations, which occurred prior to the entry of this Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction.

However, HP now has a Permanent Injunction against it that prevents the company, its subsidiaries, its directors, officers, employees, agents, independent contractors, partners and associates from

(1) Using false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, personations, or promises to obtain from a public utility any confidential, privileged, or proprietary information, including customer or billing records, in violation of California Penal Code section 538.5.

(2) Obtaining and unlawfully using personal identifying information, including social security numbers, in violation of California Penal Code section 530.5.

(3) Knowingly accessing and without permission using any data, computer, computer system, or computer network in order to (a) devise or execute any scheme or artifice to defraud, deceive, or extort, or (b) wrongfully obtain property or data, in violation of California Penal Code section 502(c)(1).

(4) Knowingly accessing and without permission taking, copying, or making use of any data from a computer, computer system, or computer network, or taking or copying any supporting documentation, whether existing or residing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network, in violation of California Penal Code section 502(c)(2).

(5) Violating California Penal Code section 638, effective January 1, 2007, which prohibits the purchasing, offering to purchase or conspiring to purchase any telephone “calling pattern record or list” without the written consent of the subscriber or, through fraud or deceit, attempting to procure or obtain any telephone “calling pattern record or list,” as set forth in the statute.

06:49 AM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 07, 2006

Discounts drive down prices of late-model 3000s

The longer a 3000 customer waits to upgrade a system, the better the deal gets. Few are as good as the one this summer where Matt Perdue walked away with a high-end 9x7 server for less than $300. But the more modern models of the 3000 are going for less than 50 percent of the HP-levied prices of four years ago.

Client Systems, which operates the Phoenix 3000 used hardware company, sent us notice of an A-Class server selling for under $6,000. Keep in mind that this particular A-Class is a 110MHz  one-CPU server, so it has a relative speed rating of 17 — just about half of that 987's speed rating. But the A-Class draws less power, qualifies for HP support (if you want to pay for that at HP's pricing) and connects with the latest generation of HP peripherals. The 987 won't boot MPE/iX 7.0, either.

We won't pretend that a $6,000 system that runs half as fast as a $300 is a relative deal. But compared to what HP was selling this same A-Class hardware for new in 2002, this box has become a bargain. Including the IMAGE database, an unlimited user license, 1GB of memory and an 18GB drive, the A400 is now priced almost $10,000 less than four years ago, new.

If your calculator is on your desktop, you might do the math: that's a next to latest generation HP 3000, selling for 38 percent of its original list price.

Even with HP's traditional discounts of 20 percent off list, at best, the A400 is still a server selling at less than half what it used to cost. You get that value because you waited, biding your time patiently with your 9x8 or 9x9 server. Customers like the City of Houston are computing just fine with an A400, a server so compact that HP's Dave Snow walked down the aislewith a server under his arm at the 2002 Interex e3000 Solutions Symposium

Spend $3,000 more at Client Systems and you get a A500 low-end system, one with a speed rating equal to the slowest 9x9, but with better connectivity and power efficiency. Client Systems reminds customers that like the rest of the used 3000 purveyors — Genisys, Ideal, Advant and others — it also has an inventory of 9x9s, N-Class servers and the old Emerald-class 99x 3000s. Client Systems also notes that they are still the only "HP-authorized, HP e3000 refurbished distributor in North America."

The major take-away from the sales announcement: Even the later models of the 3000 are being discounted heavy by now. You could get an even better deal, maybe, by asking around. But don't be holding out for another $300 server. Not yet.

06:19 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 06, 2006

Homestead community reaches for ageless instruction

A comprehensive training resource for the HP 3000 community has resurfaced, risen from the ashes of the destroyed HP compuer user group Interex. Beginning in 1994 Interex worked with HP's George Stachnik to publish a series of articles teaching the technical nuances of operating HP 3000s. The 24-part series appeared in Intteract Magazine until the late 1990s.

Interex knew it had a valuable resource on its hands. You couldn't read the articles before becoming an Interex memeber, even though everything was posted on the user group's Web site. Interex user community assets such as the Contributed Software Library programs have been locked away since Interex self-destructed last summer. But now the community is at least taking back Stachnik's 3000 instruction.

Chris Thompson of The Internet Agency reports the company "has copies of the set of 34 tutorials by George Stachnick, which we downloaded just prior to the demise of Interex. Most of them have been recreated in MS Word format; the last few being PDF’s. I suppose we could PDF the others too."

Thompson added that he seems to recall that there may be one or two missing figures but these are so trivial as to be of no conssequence. "It is our plan to place this set on our Web site, along with a revised PDF version of TRAX-Cobol, but if anyone needs copies prior to this then please email me."

There's also another way to read these fine articles, using the Internet's Wayback Machine.
Michel Adam reports

I’ve found that ‘The Wayback Machine’ is your friend in these cases.

Go to archive.org, and plug in the link from Jazz, in this case http://www.interex.org/enterprise/hp3000.html

That will get you a page of links. Pick the October 29, 2000 one, which will give you the first 20+ articles, which are directly accessible.

For the other ones, pick the last page (I guess July, 2005), and start copying and pasting the links to a text file. You will need to go do some hunting in the archive.org database, since you can’t get them directly due to the login page that comes up for the later articles.

In the archive.org search page (do a search by using  web.archive.org/web/*/interex.org/pubcontent/enterprise/* ) and then start hunting for the relevant pages based on the links you copied earlier to your text file. Try forming a link for the above search that use as long a string from your text file of saved results. It could speed things up.

07:53 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2006

PowerHouse migration support, from the beginning

PowerHouse customers who use the HP 3000 are making a move away from the platform, and Speedware officials say that a transition to PowerHouse on another platform (Unix or Windows) is their safest bet. But another company, with a longer tenure of working with Cognos, reminded us today that they have been migrating longer than anyone in the 3000 field.

Birket Foster of MB Foster — in strong competition with Speedware, by his accounts — called up to note that he was with Cognos as a sales rep since the days before the company even called itself Cognos. That's the 1970s, when the firm was called Quasar, a company selling its only product, now called Quiz. The Quiz report writer represents the vast majority of Cognos installs on HP 3000s, but that's not the point Foster wanted to make. He said that working with Cognos on migrations is not a new thing to MB Foster.

There's more here, so we thought we'd pose some questions to Foster about the current alliance between the companies. We reached him at his office, at the phone number he's never been shy about announcing: 800-ANSWERS.

What kinds of things has your team been doing in migrating HP 3000 customers with PowerHouse?

The first migration of PowerHouse was done by our CTO George Marcinek. George was working for Cognos at the time and moved Powerhouse to the VAX, and then to HP-UX, IBM-AIX, DG-UX, and even the AS400 — eight platforms in all.

So when it came time to advise on architecture and migration planning, nobody was better suited to write the checklist than George. In fact MB Foster sold its first PowerHouse installation to a customer in the financial services industry in 1984, and we have been a PowerHouse partner for migrations since 2002.

You say you go back to the beginnings of Cognos, even before the beginning. Your territory included Texas, our home state. It was a wildly different time for the HP 3000. Any stories about those days?

I helped establish PowerHouse as the premier 4GL in the HP 3000 market back in 1979. In those days the company was called Quasar. I took on the role of marketing and selling the product to HP 3000 sites in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico. I got to pioneer many of the sales techniques that MB Foster uses today. I was instrumental in the initial OEM sales to DRC and ASK (MANMAN), installing and teaching Quiz to their teams. This kind of sale plus the great power of the 4GL helped get Cognos a 25 percent market share in the HP 3000 market.

What kinds of things has your team been doing in migrating HP 3000 customers who use PowerHouse?

The first migration of PowerHouse was done by our CTO George Marcinek. George was working for Cognos at the time and moved PowerHouse to the VAX, and then to HP-UX, IBM-AIX, DG-UX, and even the AS400, 8 platforms in all. So when it came time to advise on architecture and migration planning nobody was better suited to write the checklist than George. In fact MBFoster sold its first PowerHouse installation to a customer in the financial services industry in 1984, and we have been a PowerHouse partner for migrations since 2002.

What did MB Foster do to help Cognos with its Eloquence interface for HP-UX and Windows?

The team at Marxmeier made Eloquence so similar to the 3000's IMAGE database that there were only a few technical items to take care of. We had done the work to get MBF-UDALink to work with Eloquence on Unix, Linux and Windows, and we were able to help Cognos get PowerHouse to interface as well. Of course, PowerHouse has been able to work with many databases on the different platforms it supports for years.

By the way, Eloquence is our favorite way of delivering a low risk, low impact, and low-cost HP 3000 migration. By helping Cognos with its Eloquence interface, we helped ourselves and the PowerHouse community.

So where have these customers been going?

We have had customers who moved PowerHouse to Windows and to HP-UX. There is always a debate on target database during that migration, as many times the changes to normalize and take advantage of the RDBMS world will require lots of code changes both in Powerhouse — and perhaps a full rewrite for 3GLs like COBOL and FORTRAN. You can use the RDBMS in a similar manner as IMAGE, but you won’t be taking advantage of the capabilities that an RDBMS can deliver.

So selecting the database poses a challenge, even when using Powerhouse?

Yes. Knowing PowerHouse the way the our team does means we can help the customer with understanding the trade-offs, as well as help build and execute a plan to take the issues into account and deliver a working solution. There are definitely items related to KSAM and the use of MPE commands and calling programs from PowerHouse Quick screens. I like to say that our experience and knowledge of PowerHouse cross platform environments, and files and databases make us a great partner for PowerHouse customers.

So you're saying that MB Foster has been quietly moving PowerHouse customers for years?

Yes we have, and I expect that in 2007 many Powerhouse customers with questions will be calling us

12:32 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 04, 2006

Speedware embraces the constant growth of change

    If there’s an HP 3000 vendor who has made a bigger set of changes than Speedware in the 3000’s Transition Era, we’d be hard pressed to find it. The company purchased development solutions as well as companies that create applications, saw itself purchased twice, and now is working to establish a migration services relationship with former arch-rival Cognos.

    The companies just announced their agreement to work together on migration projects. Speedware's president Andy Kulakowski said his company had a meeting at the Cognos facility in August, preparing to combine forces on migrating PowerHouse customers to other platform versions of that 4GL.

    Kulakowski says that more than half of his company's revenues now come out of Speedware’s  professional services work. Speedware's director of marketing VP Chris Koppe said that for a PowerHouse customer, moving to PowerHouse on a non-3000 platform is the least risky migration strategy.

    PowerHouse and Speedware in step together, to work for a 3000 customer on the move? What’s next, cats and dogs living together? We asked Kulakowski, as well as the company’s Koppe, about what has led the company down these and other unexpected roads.

How does your experience in development tools impact the typical migration engagement? HP seems to be reporting that customers should focus on duplicating functionality first, then adding new features at a later stage.

    What we’re starting to see a lot more in this migration market is slowly identifying this opportunity to modernize when people are migrating. There is a slow development of traction for the idea of customers not only migrating their app, but then to leverage our background and history in these tools. We want to offer them productive methods of modernizing their legacy application code.

HP and other migration advisors have been counseling customers to get a “same-set” of functions migrated first, then expand to the modernization. Do you see customers gaining confidence in migration capabilities, so they do the modernizing right alongside their migrations?

    If you think about it, years ago the migration situation was very immature. Today if you look at that landscape you see a lot of other signs, a lot of success stories. There are a lot of vendors like ourselves that have developed very streamlined expertise. So yes, there’s a lot more confidence out there.

   A customer might be doing their first migration, but since they can rely on success stories and references of environments so similar to theirs gives them a lot more confidence on how to go about these. Just from two years ago.

    These are very much unlike the ERP implementations we have known. Migration projects are going in on-time and on-budget.

Why do the customers you engage feel that confidence now? It’s not just simply because of the extra advice from those who’ve gone ahead of them, is it?

   Migrations are more about re-platforming. That means you’re keeping the apps the same. It’s very easy to compare the results of before and after testing. The migration process assisted by tools becomes extremely simplified in terms of what has to happen to the code.

    Modernization projects, where you’re trying to get to the .NET, Java, relational database plus a whole new platform, reengineering code as part of that process — those projects are very manual-intervention oriented. As a result there’s a lot more room for human error and bugs that are generated as part of that process. Testing is very difficult to compare the before and after. Those projects have a much higher risk of overshooting budgets and timelines.

Speedware’s made an investment in existing tools, like AMXW, and then improved on that acquisition. You’ve also built up a tool from scratch like DBMotion. What role are tools playing in 3000 migrations today?

    We’re adding more functionality and predictability into the tools as well. That development of tools is to make application migrations smoother and smoother.

Are more of your migration engagements now in the re-platforming area?

    Right now, yes. It’s more of a recent trend where we see people wanting to modernize at the same time. That’s something we’d like to evangelize as well.

What kind of company is willing to go that extra step, to show their board more than “we’ve got the same thing, just on a new platform?”

    Well, even for the company which wants to modernize, we develop a phased approach. If you want to go from A to Z in one project, you are setting yourself up for a huge risk, and a failure. To do all that in one shot is very risky.

Do you have an engagement process where you book all the phases before you begin, or do you perform the first phase before trying to win the next one?

    We focus on the phase one. But in a high percentage of the time, phase one does include some modernization of the base platform. When we start talking about the other stuff — moving to Java, improving your interface, reporting, analytics — those are highly recommended as phase two goals. While we complete phase one, we’re selling and pitching the phase two.

Are people now willing to commit more funding to these kinds of projects?

    Yes. I think this is going to be our busiest year.

A few years back it was common to hear from a migration services company that they had people on the bench, waiting for engagements. Has that changed for you by now?

    We have our own people completely engaged, plus we have a stable of outside talent that we are keeping busy. So we’re more than 100 percent engaged now.

If you’re a 3000 specialist who has good knowledge of target environments as well, would they qualify for that outside resource?

    We’d like them to get in touch with us. One of our biggest challenges is getting access to these HP 3000 people as quickly as we need them. These engagements tend to be some of the longer ones. They average 9 to 16 months.

HP’s talked about its end of support deadline as being “at least” 2008. How would you feel about seeing this date pushed out again?

   I don’t think it would impact what we’re doing to a significant degree. Ultimately we expect this to be a very long business, beyond HP’s end of life for support date. Even for companies who are homesteading, it’s not a question of if you move. It’s a question of when you move.

    This is not a business that ends for us in 2008. It’s a business that goes on for five or 10 more years. 

06:48 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2006

Speedware, Cognos, working together

Speedware issued a press release yesterday that took the wraps off a long-term project: a working relationship with its arch-rival Cognos. Talk to the companies' officials and you won't find much of that kind of language, but the arch-stuff is still a strong memory for the 3000 community. You used a 4GL back in the 1990s, or especially the 1980s. And it was one of these two, more than likely; at one point Cognos had 7,000 companies using PowerHouse.

Cognosinspeedware Speedware and Cognos have been meeting since late summer to firm up the new relationship, one which deploys Speedware's migration services to help PowerHouse customers move to PowerHouse on a platform other than the HP 3000.

We poked our heads up to mention this briefly back in September, when Cognos showed up as an resource in Speedware's booth at the HP Technology Forum. Speedware has a lot to say about this alliance, so far, including an article we mailed out in our November print issue of the NewsWire. Above are Speedware's Jennifer Fisher and Chris Koppe giving some love to Cognos's Charlie Maloney at the Houston-based show this year.

What did Speedware's president have to say to us about this, months before yesterday's release made the matter more public? It seems to be a matter of adjusting how you look at the companies which once made the bulk of their business off of 4GLs.

How did the arrangement with Cognos get started?

   Speedware’s no longer a competitor with Cognos anymore; neither company sells 4GLs anymore except as upgrade licenses. But that’s still a very good part of our business.

    Today Speedware is not in the business of converting a PowerHouse shop to a Speedware one. We’re far more concerned about providing a solution to an HP customer to help him continue with his computing environment.

   We have complementary strategies. By virtue of us developing the expertise and skills we have in the migration space, we are capable of preserving those PowerHouse licenses on open systems.

Part of your projects with PowerHouse customers must be to help them get converted to the latest releases of PowerHouse. Does Cognos’ services division support you in that, too?

    They’re very responsive and very timely in their support. All in all, something that closes the loop very well in the partnership.

   It was a very monumental meeting with Cognos, really. We had to sit there and reflect on it: for the first time ever in the history of our companies, there was a team of Speedware people sitting in a Cognos boardroom, talking about how we can do more things together.

Since migrations represent some of the biggest opportunities for 3000 business, what of the Cognos professional services group? Don’t they want to be the ones to direct a migration for a Cognos customer?

   It’s not in the scope of what they want to be doing. That Cognos professional services group is primarily focused around education and solutions architecting.

How large a share does the migration services business represent to Speedware’s overall revenues? More than half?

   It’s about 55 percent of our business today. That’s where our focus is. We’re in the migration and modernization business.

Does Cognos represent a few big projects in your migration business, or more?

   In the past it hasn’t been as significant as what it’s developing into now. PowerHouse is the biggest 4GL installed base in this community. And so we expect there’s a significant amount of PowerHouse code to be migrated there. Sixty percent of the opportunities we see have some PowerHouse in them. The biggest combination we see is a COBOL-PowerHouse shop.

What about Speedweb and Autobahn? Do you have to shift gears when dealing with PowerHouse customers, those working to get more integrated with the Web; do you want to say that Speedweb could perform in place of PowerHouse Web?

    Autobahn was never designed to be a Web enablement product of Speedware code. We wound up making Speedweb because Autobahn could not easily Web-enable existing Speedware code.

    In our own product complexion, we didn’t feel like we had a solid Web enablement offering the way PowerHouse had one for theirs. PowerHouse was there ahead of us for a [Web] solution to existing 4GL code.

10:41 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)