May 31, 2007
Elderly 3000, just under $100
Eventually it had to happen: an HP 3000 offered under $100. At a starting price of $99.95, the Series 967 showed up May 30 in Weird Uncle Irwin's Shop on eBay — right alongside a used clarinet and a pair of Bongo Davidson Lace Women's Boots. You can place a bid, yea, even the first bid, on eBay at Uncle Irwin's shop, until June 5.
It's better not to think of what this baby cost new, say 15 years ago or so. No, not the lace-up boots, the HP 3000. With a model number in the high end of the 9x7 line, this now-pokey system rolled onto the loading dock of customers like Jennison Associates and Xavier University, costing upwards of $70,000.
Now you can buy it for less than a boxed set of the Sopranos. In 2007, when it comes to paying a lot for the older HP 3000s, fuggagedaboutit. But the same summary might go for finding one this cheap which operates with MPE/iX 7.0 or 7.5. And a Series 967 runs at a snail's crawl of twice the speed of a Series 918, the rock-bottom HP measure of performance established when the vendor dropped industry-standard barometers.
The $99.95 starting bid doesn't trump the opening price of $7, set last summer when a Series 987 sold for $200 plus shipping. Few companies would want to operate their business on computers this slow, at least for very long. But as disaster recovery systems, to back up applications at homestead sites, the larger 9x7s have a useful role to play.
More to the point for the wider HP 3000 community, the predictions of plentiful and cheap hardware are coming true. If several hundred dollars will bring a lumbering, heavy HP 3000 through your door, you can do the math to see how higher powered servers stack up.
The lower-cost HP 3000s make it easier, to move off the platform at a moderate pace, in the short term. Customers will need to have floor space available for models like the 967, unless you've already got an HP 3000 rack with an opening.
May 30, 2007
Where two 3000s work better together
Where MPE/iX fears to tread on HP 3000s, hardware can muster onward. On the Unix side of HP's enterprise equation, instances help spread the computing workload. Multiple copies of HP-UX can live inside the same HP Integrity server, and so distribute the work of, oh, say the reporting from fourth generation language applications.
MPE/iX wasn't designed for such sharing, at least not out of the HP labs. While your average HP 3000 operates many more applications than a Unix server, splitting up the computational lifting calls for a third party, plus multiple 3000s.
The latter part of that combination has never been less costly. The latest report we've heard has a Series 928 selling for $200. That's a system which runs the latest 7.5 release of MPE/iX. So adding a server to share the work won't break a budget. This is called replication, but it requires outside software to sync up the servers in matching steps. Quest Software provides it; last week the company's John Saylor noted that replication can reduce the drag from 4GLs — if the 3000 is feeling the strain.
Saylor, whose current title at Quest is Director of Sales, Specialized Markets, said that if the 3000 configuration running a 4GL uses a lot of system resources, "We have many customers that have a reporting server set up on a economical HP 3000 server, and use Quest replication technology to create reports 24x7 on the smaller system to offload the main production server."
"This is mainly directed at homesteading customers," Saylor explained. Using a phased approach, such a customer hosts the Quiz or Cognos application, and the centralized directory points the data requests to the main server.
"Many customers have saved thousands of dollars by purchasing a small application server for this function. The main benefits are 24x7 reporting, offloaded CPU resources, application inquires, Adhoc reporting, remote batch updates and the ability to use an application like Output Management Viewer.
The Viewer app, formerly Quest's VistaPlus, provides reporting and viewing of output spoolfiles, with full search and security-levels of viewing. "Any homesteader would be interested in adding more computing power without changing their existing environment," Saylor said, "and increasing functionality and availability is huge."
May 29, 2007
HP updates its FTP powers
With all of the advances HP's added to the FTP server on the 3000, customers could use a good catalog on the added functionality of the file transfer service. HP delivers an update on the security enhancements of FTP its latest white paper.
HP's Jeff Vance announced the location of the paper, on HP's Jazz Web site. With just a few more days to go until the 2007 retirements kick off, last Friday afternoon's announcement could be the last from Vance to the 3000 community.
"The new paper on Jazz describes how to get the most security possible when using FTP/iX," he said in his usual venue, the 3000-L mailing list. "Check out: https://jazz.external.hp.com/papers/ and scroll down to the heading “HP e3000 papers, faqs and training.”
Vance added, "There is also a new script, SFTPPUT, which provides a more secure way of transferring files from your 3000. It can encrypt files and automatically decrypt them when the remote system is also an MPE/iX box. It is aware of the netrc file too, and hopefully will help out with internal audits."
May 24, 2007
BARUG to bump about on the bay
Bay Area HP 3000 users around San Francisco once fostered one of the biggest and best Regional User Groups. A legendary showdown over IMAGE database administration performance went down at BARUG. The RUG once hosted an annual conference in Santa Cruz, a legendary surfer's beach. The meeting included an evening's outing at the local amusement park.
That's a long way from the 21st Century landscape. More's the pity, since that BARUG conference exhibit area had a bodacious view of those beaches, the surfers, and California swimwear and tan lines. Right outside the windows, something for everybody to admire.
The 3000 community honors the past, so BARUG is reviving itself for one last time next month. On Sunday, June 10, the group turns back the clock for an afternoon and evening meeting, noon until eight. Right there on the same Santa Cruz beach, complete with the beach Boardwalk's bumper cars.
BARUG's Donna (Garverick) Hofmeister announced the outing, which the group bills as "The Last Great BARUG Meeting, or, The Second MPE Wake." Contact Donna if you're interested in attending; the 3000 group meets at 3 in front of the Boardwalk's bumper cars. HP is involved too, both in attendance, the announcing and as part of the attire.
Garverick's announcement page is hosted on the HP 3000 Invent Server, the public MPE system the vendor launched as a free developer sandbox. And on that Web page, user group meeting attire is listed as "a shirt with an HP or even better an MPE logo (but don't forget it can be quite chilly!)"
That forecast won't describe the feelings on that sunshiny beach. We're just guessing, but MPE legend Jeff Vance lives out near Santa Cruz, and he retires from HP about one week before the Wake. So maybe that's something that prompted the meeting's gathering place.
The 3000 community has hosted wakes before, meetings around the world that marked the end of another HP era: sales of new systems. That was three and a half years ago. Perhaps the sighting of a new wake will ensure another three or more years of useful community for HP's oldest business server.
May 23, 2007
Final shoe falls in HP pretexting hoax
In what was likely the last result of HP's 2006 pretexting investigation hoax, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a "cease-and-desist" order against HP. The SEC demanded that HP stop withholding information about why one of its directors left the HP board.
The SEC and HP settled on the matter, instead of levying fines against the company, or any other penalty. The SEC ordered HP to stop its failure to disclose why director Tom Perkins resigned from the HP board abruptly last spring. Perkins left over HP's investigation into a press leak and accusations of misconduct by director George Keyworth. The vendor did not admit or deny the SEC's findings as its part of the settlement.
While the vendor is far from the first company to use such pretexting tactics in its internal investigations — its hired private eyes pretended to be phone company officials, to gather private information — HP was the first No. 1 computer vendor to use the trick. HP CEO Mark Hurd said the matter left HP with repair to do on its image. "This company will regain not just its reputation as a model citizen with the highest ethical standards — we will regain our pride,"
Some members of the 3000 community pointed to the California Attorney General's office as the instigator in the debace. The AG was running for re-election in five week's time.
HP's resigned chair, Patricia Dunn, fingered HP's legal department in the matter. HP's General Counsel Ann Baskins, a 24-year-employee of the company, resigned at the same time, then plead the Fifth to avoid testifying. In February, HP appointed Michael Holsten to the counsel position, after Holsten and the Morgan, Lewis & Bockius law firm led HP's internal review of the pretexting hoax.
Holsten said in a statement that HP believes it acted in a proper manner, but "we understand and accept the SEC's views and are pleased to put this investigation behind us."
But after resignations from Baskins, Dunn and several others, and the firing of key HP security executives, the vendor shouldered a $14.5 million California state fine. Dunn, who was cleared in a criminal investigation, launched the probe of reporters, their family members and former HP directors. An outside investigation subcontractor, paid by HP, used the pretexting tactics, and evidence surfaced that HP staff knew about those tactics but did not stop them.
HP staff issued a report on the tactics to CEO Mark Hurd, who claimed he did not read the March, 2006 document. The report assured HP executives that pretexting tactics are legal.
May 22, 2007
Podcasts preface conference content
HP is exploring new options to lure customers to next month's HP Technology Forum. Over the next two weeks the vendor will be posting the last four of 10 podcasts, interviews with Tech Forum speakers.
It's an interesting way to sample sessions if you're already headed to the conference, or maybe justify a trip if you have not scheduled this training already. So far, the HP-ETV Web site has posted podcasts which include sessions on privacy in relation to e-mail, high availability, mobile device policy enforcement, and storage solutions.
If you listen to that most recent podcast, about storage solutions, you'll hear the host pitch HP's speaker Pierre Bijuoi a fat question: "What's the problem with tape today? Why look for alternatives to tape?" As you might guess, HP has some new technology it offers as an alternative.
HP 3000 customers who are headed toward Unix, and especially HP-UX, can listen to 10 minutes of Unix guru Bill Hassell on June 5, when his podcast about system administration goes live. And there's even a presentation on HP-ETV from an author who once pointed out the resurgence of the HP 3000 product line in a popular business book.
The Tech Forum marketing has a wide scope this year, but there's nothing like the resource of the system vendor to help bring the bodies to the conference site. HP-ETV also has podcasts on Integrity Blade Systems, plus slick videos of HP executive's speeches and five minutes of Geoffrey Moore, the IT markets and technology savant and author of Crossing the Chasm.
Moore wrote in Crossing the Chasm
Product life cycles are getting shorter, but whole product life cycles are as long as they ever where. Ask HP about the recent resurgence in their minicomputer line — not the 9000, but the HP3000... There's gold in them thar hills!
HP says that Moore has spent his life studying "disruptive technologies," a term you might use to describe the way these podcasts and videos can help break up your day.
May 21, 2007
CAMUS invites managers of 3000 sites
CAMUS (the Computer Applications for Manufacturing User Society) is inviting HP 3000 site managers to attend its annual user’s conference this summer in Nashville. The show runs Monday through Wednesday July 16-18. Since it's modest-sized user group, CAMUS is hosting its conference at a hotel, the Holiday Innn Brentwood.
The user group leadership is pragmatic about using 3000s as mission-critical servers, even in the era of 3000 Transition. "Our theme is 'You Still Have a Business to Run,' " said conference organizer Ed Stein, "and it is focused on strategies for homesteading on legacy systems or migrating to other systems.
Like the Greater Houston RUG, the majority of CAMUS members use HP 3000s. These ERP sites run the MANMAN MRP application. The app is one of many owned and mothballed (developmentally) by Baan. But that doesn't keep several hundred companies from using MANMAN as an information wheelhouse, especially for manufacturers with run rates of under $100 million.
CAMUS is giving back to the community, too, in a savvy way. The final day of the three-day conference is free.
"Come listen to members who are making the most of their legacy systems or migrating to newer software on other systems," Stein said. "Join us as we investigate how to keep your business running during changing times."
The Free Training Day is July 18. You can register separately for the free single day, or for the full CAMUS conference. Free training is also included on APICS Supply Chain & Business Process Modeling, as well as application specifics in the MANMAN software.
A good number of 3000 sites manage manufacturing operations using homegrown applications, which will make the CAMUS conference a place to network about homesteading or migration strategies. "Even if you don’t run MANMAN, this is a chance to see a number of ERP vendors demonstrating their systems in a small conference," Stein said. "While they will be directly comparing their system to MANMAN, you will have the opportunity to talk about your particular requirements and arrange further discussions if needed."
May 18, 2007
Third parties: Fact of life for Windows support
HP's sold a lot of systems, and prodded many customers to migrate, on the benefit of its support. Even while a steady stream of 3000 sites say they get spotty HP support, it's apparently still miles ahead of Microsoft's help.
Our Google trawling software dug up a user report from Karl Palachuk, a consultant and author, which compared HP 3000 support back in the day with the current Microsoft disappointments. Palachuck supported 3000s in the early 1990s. On a blog which which covers his consulting practice, Palachuk says you'd better get a North American superstar at Microsoft on the support call, or look elsewhere:
Microsoft's support of Small Business Server is deplorable. Until you can escalate your call to one of the superstars in North America, you are just as likely to have them burn your server to the ground as to get a solution.
How does he solve his problem? The same way many 3000 sites have today: get a third party. Just like the 3000 community's economics, the third party's support is inexpensive. Like $37 a month per Small Business Server.
We mention this because Windows is the leading choice for 3000 sites making a migration. They often go to the Microsoft solution on price, plus the choice of a replacement application. These sites might not know a third party is often essential to uptime.
Zenith Infotech provides outsourced helpdesk and managed services for Palachuk's client base now. It's not a matter of dismay about overseas tech reps, either.
So when a partner works on a problem in-house for the allotted period of time, they don't escalate to Microsoft's incompetent tech support and hope to talk their way up to the competent technicians. They call Zenith. And the very competent technicians in India "Just solve the problem."
In your community, you have the same experience in many third party support companies. HP no longer takes a key spot in the problem resolution process. That's why the end of support date has been such a weak motivation for making a migration. The companies who need vendor-based support must move.
By all reports, many 3000 support suppliers also do Windows, along with the floors of the MPE/iX service. You should check to see how much of the total support package you can get. The price might differ from Zenith's. But then, they don't know anything about MPE/iX.
So choosing Windows as the new environment doesn't demand vendor-based support, for most companies migrating. Ever wonder why things are so different for this new platform than the old 3000? It's not as if the Windows Server is going to less mission critical than that 3000, after all. Palachuk's report illustrates another cost of migration: third-party support.
May 17, 2007
The RTU that doesn't cost you
HP did its best to alert customers this spring about the new Right to Use MPE/iX licenses. Jennie Hou, the new leader of the virtual 3000 group in HP, and e3000 lab manager Ross McDonald briefed us, posted HP Web pages — just about everything short of issuing an official HP press release.
But we heard a report that the RTU, in practice, doesn't seem to be required while upgrading an HP 3000. So long as there's a 3000 someplace in the process with a valid MPE/iX license, resellers report that the standard HP 3000 License Transfer operations are keeping HP satisfied when a 3000 grows bigger. If the 3000 license is big enough.
That's to say that if a 3000 stays in its performance tier during the upgrade, HP's not requiring an RTU license up to now. If it seems confusing, customers can let their used hardware resellers take care of the paperwork. What you must have, apparently, is the MPE/iX license that can cover the bigger 3000.
Bigger? Like a B or C version of the N-Class, an upgraded model that can run its processors at faster speeds than an A version of the system. It's looks like you have a right to use the HP 3000 of your greater needs, so long as you've got a valid 3000 license. Or so we hear, from resellers still purchasing and selling 3000s.
HP has been reviewing and approving these 3000 license transfers in upgrade situations all this year, the resellers say. One reported that during more than a half dozen upgrade transfers, no RTU was involved. It just seemed to us like a 3000 that would be upgraded would need an RTU, when HP explained the new license to us in February.
HP said, when asked why the RTU was making a 3000 price list appearance:
When purchased upgrade kits were no longer available, we realized that customers needed a way to create a valid system.
Additionally, there seemed to be confusion in the marketplace on how customers could ensure they had valid e3000 systems. We’ve been working on it for a number of months, trying to get this out in a timely fashion.
We’re putting a product back on the price list to enable this for the 3000. We’ve been winding down the 3000, so it was not expected that we would do this. We’re really doing this to accommodate customers who need to upgrade their systems.
So since HP's License Transfer operations don't demand an RTU on an upgrade, what's the RTU really doing for HP? Maybe just ensuring that something like another PA-RISC server, say a cheap L-Class, doesn't become an HP 3000 just because a program can modify that PA-RISC server's stable storage. Oh, you can do such a thing, with legal software. Some customers already have purchased such a Generic Replace Box from Advant/Ideal
But it always appeared to us that the RTU was a means to require a payment to HP for an MPE/iX license moved from one 3000 to another. Plus, we were most impressed with the language in that RTU briefing that makes it clear none of HP's non-3000 PA-RISC servers would qualify for a valid MPE/iX license from HP — no matter how the stable storage might ultimately ID such a system.
That 3000 which was once another PA-RISC machine won't ever qualify for HP support, either. But if you're a customer who purchases 3000 support from a third party vendor, you've got "air cover" — as one reseller called it — to make your generic replacement box a stable, supported part of your enterprise.
HP said it's got no taste for legal threats to enforce the RTU at this stage of the 3000's life, regardless of license appearances. That stance, of course, is a far cry from the ads and lapel buttons of 1999, when an FBI's enforcement threat and the FBI logo got pirated in the ads. That problem, by the way, prompted the FBI to demand those ads disappear.
May 16, 2007
PC business leads HP's Q2
Strong sales of servers drove HP to a record quarter of revenues in the second fiscal 2007 period. But the server sales were of "industry standard" variety rather than the HP Unix systems. HP's own name for "Windows-based" servers says more than the company might intend about its future in the enterprise.
Even though HP posted its first $25 billion sales quarter in the company's history, the rise in Hewlett-Packard fortunes does not flow from distinctive products. HP 3000 customers might remember a time when computer sales at HP were led by proprietary servers like the HP 9000s and the 3000. For a time in the early 1990s, HP didn't pay enough attention to the enterprise opportunities of Windows.
Nothing could be more different today, especially in light of the latest results. HP's Enterprise, Storage and Servers grew its revenue 8 percent over last year 's Q2, to $4.6 billion. Profits rose by more than 7 percent. But listen to HP explain the ESS sales growth. "We had a strong quarter in industry-standard servers, with revenues up 17 percent year over year, and share gains in every region," said CEO Mark Hurd.
Make no mistake: HP's success in selling Windows-based servers,especially blades, should be applauded. But with Windows as the leading enterprise sale at HP, the company delivers its 3000 customers into waters where the choice of vendor is a minor consideration. Windows is HP's enterprise industry standard, not the operating environment of HP-UX, one that more closely matches the MPE/iX advantages.
Plainly put, HP's Business Critical Systems offerings are losing market share, outshone by the company's success in Windows solutions. Selling an Integrity server is harder this year than last, even though HP now drives more BCS sales than ever into the Intel-based Integrity servers. The company has finally reached its goal of selling more Integrity than PA-RISC or Alpha systems.
BCS revenue decreased 6 percent year over year, but HP waved a flag of confidence. "We continue to see strong Integrity momentum, with revenue growth of 60 percent over the prior-year period," said CEO Mark Hurd. "In the second quarter, Integrity represented 61 percent of business-critical systems revenue, and that is up from 36 percent in the prior-year period. Integrity momentum was offset by ongoing declines in PA-RISC and in Alpha."
One way to interpret those numbers: When a customer cashes in a PA-RISC system, many times the replacement is not HP's Unix server, but a Windows system. When a vendor fails to keep its enterprise customers in the vendor-specific fold, it offers competitors and open source options a way to wrest business out of the HP nest.
HP 3000 customers are choosing Windows to replace their servers when they leave the 3000 platform. Even though these customers are a tiny percentage of HP's overall business, they mirror the problem HP hasn't solved: not enough of its own customer base, those most likely to stay with HP, are choosing an HP-centric solution like HP-UX.
May 15, 2007
Passing ghostly 3000 history
Where were you when you heard the news, the bolt of HP's notice about exiting the 3000 marketplace? Last week I passed the very spot where I first heard about the "end of life," as HP wanted to call it in November, 2001. On my recent 50th birthday vacation in Paris and Switzerland, I walked past the very phone booth in Lausanne's train station where my distraught partner was telling me from the US, "HP says the 3000 is going away. They're not going to make it anymore. They need to talk to you, before they announce."
I didn't shiver last week when we finally walked past that phone booth together. The weather this May was warm and sunny, even in the shadow of the Alps. But I could call up the chilling thoughts and questions I already had started to dream up, even before that trans-Atlantic call with my wife Abby was finished. On that night I was 45 years old. I'd covered the HP 3000 for 17 years. I knew that HP's five-year time-frame for getting customers off the 3000 was outlandish, knew it even before I hung up the phone.
It's been five and a half years, as of this week, since HP made the announcement to change your careers. I bought a new notebook the next day, when my son and I got back to Paris, and began to write questions for my interview. At the top of the first page I wrote the seminal query, the one that fueled 49 more:
Tell me why it's going away.
Even after all this time, some of those 50 questions I wrote in a fever of inquiry, roaring toward London on the under-the-Channel Eurostar train, remain unanswered. Some that HP's Winston Prather and Christine Martino did answer have fuzzy replies, even after half a decade. Things like open source or sharing of MPE code with third parties, or a delivery channel of HP-like 3000 services beyond 2008 — remain unresolved. When will third parties get HP's direct help for the homesteading customer? Things like that remain mysteries.
To this day, customers still wonder how long HP knew — before it began to tell its top application partners and bigger customers — that it would cancel its 3000 operations and development. "A few months before" was the answer I got in 2001, sitting in a London hotel doing an interview, two train rides away from that Lausanne platform. "Months" is the most real part of that answer.
Among the other questions that still must be nailed down, now by a team taking over for Dave Wilde, Mike Paivinen and Jeff Vance:
Will the customers and development community get access to HP's internal compilers, to make changes to MPE/iX? (HP hasn't gotten that specific about what it will release.)
What are HP's plans for its own 600 internal HP 3000 systems? (Here I was told those plans "were similar to those of major accounts; hundreds have a plan to migrate." But there are still HP 3000 systems running HP company functions this year, well beyond the 2006 deadline)
Are the PA-RISC customers in the HP 9000 customer base being given an obsolescence date as well? (Not at all, I heard. But by now the PA-RISC HP-UX server is being phased out, replaced with Integrity servers using Itanium.)
Three years ago HP committed to IA-64 [Itanium] for the 3000. What has happened in the market since then to change that commitment? (We heard of a decline of "the 3000's ecosystem." But low-growth product lines like the 3000, generating small revenue increases, had to go under CEO Carly Fiorina's plans. If anything changed in the market, it was HP's measure of an acceptable size of a business line.)
Will there be a planned reduction in Response Center staff trained in MPE? (The answer was no, but then HP offered two Enhanced Early Retirement programs, plus moved its MPE staff onto concurrent support duties for other operating environments. Not exactly planned, but a real staff reduction has taken place.)
What are the possibilities of having solution providers take over some parts of MPE source, like the spooler or ODBC? (HP didn't know then, and it doesn't know now how it will hand off MPE, or to who.)
Is there any possibility of reviewing this decision? (I was told no. But then HP extended its 2006 deadline about four years later. No reversal of the decision, but the vendor isn't out of the market yet, is it?)
What migration training do you have planned? (A Webcast series was promised beginning in February 2002. Not enough training emerged from HP until well into 2003. Third parties took up the slack, but the leadership from the vendor would have sparked more serious migration activity.)
Is this decision in the best interest of the 3000 owner, and if so, how? (HP said back then that it was in the customers' best interest, because HP felt it was risky to remain a 3000 customer. Ownership of a 3000 was most influenced by the vendor's leadership and plans, so HP's decision steeped whatever risk was already floating in the waters. For the customers already moving away, they saw it as in their best interest — a reason to invest in migration.)
Sitting in that hotel in Europe I asked, in a question near the end of 90 minutes of grilling, "What blueprint will HP use to close down a mission-critical business line like the 3000?" It was a trick question. I already knew the answer. There was no blueprint on that week in November. That's what you, your third parties, and HP have been developing during the last five-plus years. In 2001 I walked away from that train station phone booth knowing that drafting the blueprint would be the story — for years to come.
In an editorial I wrote in a London Internet cafe about the afterlife of the 3000, I said nobody would know what any afterlife might look like. And here we are, still 18 months away from that life-after-HP's 3000 business. There's plenty of stories still to tell and advice to pass on, I thought, passing that phone booth on our way back to the US — and preparing a May, 2007 issue to put onto the presses.
May 14, 2007
Norco's last 3000 deal
HP hardware supplier Norco Computer Systems announced this month they are closing their doors after more than 20 years of serving the HP 3000 marketplace. The Brunswick, Ohio-based reseller drew comments of praise from its former customers on the HP 3000 newsgroup, after selling hardware that not only included the HP 3000 but servers running Unix from HP, Sun and IBM, storage devices from HP, Sun, Dell and EMC, and more.
Connie Selito of The Cat Fanciers' Association, who called the closing "an end of an era" added, "We had a long-standing business relationship with Norco, having purchased our Series 937RX system from them many years ago, as well as disk and tape drives, printers and various other HP peripherals. My sincere thanks to our sales representative Wil Bournigal, for his integrity, support and excellent service."
Chuck Harner of the company said that his firm had lost key personnel who'd been tough to replace — along with a toughening market for computer hardware sales.
"[The closing] is because of numerous factors," Harner said. "The last three years have been rough; lost some good people, declining sales, couldn't get the right people in to replace the ones who left."
Norco was ready to provide evidence of HP's 3000 pricing history in a lawsuit against the vendor in 2004, an action to block HP's attempt to collect more than $10 million in insurance against lost 3000 sales to Hardware House.
Three years later and in its closing, Harner said the company still has one of the largest HP 3000 N-Class systems available in its remaining stock. "We have a e3000/N4000 4 x 750MHz machine. It has a valid license and it could be a very good deal for somebody. See the specs."
Harner said that Norco's biggest HP 3000 system has these specifics:
HP 3000/N4000 4-Way 750MHz CPU
Unlimited User License
MPE FOS, IMAGE/SQL
Glance Plus MPE/iX
HP PCI 2Gb Fibre Channel Adapter, 2-Copies
4 X 750mhz Cpu's
2 X A6689a PSM
1 X A4882a Memory Carrier
1 X A4923a 1Gb Memory Kit
1 X A6739a 18Gb Disk
HP 3000 sites (and other brokers, for that matter, such as Genisys, which purchases systems from resellers) can contact Norco at 330-225-5588, by cell at 330-242-1026 and by IM at norcochas.
Los Angeles legal firm Anderson, McPharlin & Conners went to the 3000 mailing lists and newsgroups in 2004 to beat the community’s bushes to discover prices for used HP 3000s sold between 1994 and 1998. Paralegal Laurie Moss said HP wanted to calculate the full software price on every server sold to Hardware House.
During the legal firm’s discovery search, Moss said many 3000 community members that were contacted wanted to help.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people have said ‘I sure do wish I could help you in this,’ “ Moss said. The law firm’s attorney Lisa Coplin deposed John Adamson, former owner of Hardware House, in the case, as well as Balon. HP settled within a week of those depositions for five percent of its original claim.
“We were afraid that some of the hardware brokers wouldn’t want to come up against HP,” attorney Lisa Coplin said. “Norco said, ‘We’ll give you everything we have.’ “
May 11, 2007
How HP views your MPE/iX lifespan
Rather quietly on the day before his retirement was announced, HP's Jeff Vance clarified what the vendor considers to be the term of your MPE/iX license for your 3000. It has nothing to do with how long HP sells a 3000 product or service.
"An HP e3000 system must have a valid Right To Use (RTU) license when running MPE/iX on it, whether HP is still manufacturing [the 3000] or not," Vance said. We noticed [the following] postings regarding MPE/iX licensing and would like to take this opportunity to correct these misstatements of our policy:
You can still use a box that doesn’t have a (LTU) transferable user license, you just can't get HP support for it or buy any HP software for it. Other than that, it's the same as having a “licensed” box. ...
What about an RTU? Or is that going to cost too much?
Using an old HP slogan “What if?” you buy an old machine, and the manufacturer has stopped making it, selling it, and supporting it. Transferring the LTU would have no purpose. So for the manufacturer to refute the RTU would also serve no purpose.
Would the new owner still be able to get third party support? Or is this machine to be dismantled, and used for parts only?
Vance then clarified HP's policy on your 3000's license, which has an "evermore" term:
“MPE/iX Fundamental Operating System (FOS) and HP database right-to-use (RTU) licenses on the HP e3000 servers allow customers to use that software only on the system for which it was purchased. FOS and HP database software may not be transferred to other servers without prior written approval from Hewlett-Packard. Using MPE/iX — FOS, IMAGE/SQL, and ALLBASE/SQL software products — on original, upgraded, or modified hardware systems without the appropriate right-to-use license and/or software license upgrade from HP is prohibited.
You cannot cobble together a 3000 configuration which HP does not, or has not ever, supported:
1. MPE/iX is only licensed for use on valid HP e3000 hardware configurations.
2. To use MPE/iX on hardware that has been upgraded or modified by any party other than HP authorized personnel, the appropriate MPE/iX license upgrade and authorization must be obtained from HP or HP authorized resellers. This authorization will only be given for systems adhering to an official HP e3000 upgrade path.
The above policy is posted on /www.hp.com/products1/evolution/e3000/hw_lic_update.html. Furthermore, whenever an HP e3000 system is sold in the secondary market, the seller must contact HP’s Software License Transfer (SLT) team to initiate the proper license transfer(s) to ensure that the new owner has a validly licensed system.
May 10, 2007
Stopping spam by slowing it down
HP 3000 managers steward more than their MPE/iX systems. Many of our readers care for Unix servers, Windows networks — the whole enchilada, as we say down here in the Southwest. A former HP 3000 expert is offering a solution on stopping spam that might ease the non-3000 portion of your task list.
David Greer, a leading light from the 3000 community's foundation days, is helping in the battle against spam. Nearly all 3000 sites which manage their own mail server use something other than the 3000 as a mailbox. This fact of life makes Traffic Control, a product offered from MailChannels (where Greer is a board member) a good prospect to keep e-mail humming at 3000 sites.
Most e-mail spam is delivered from robot and zombie computers these days, a shift in the strategy that's letting a lot more junk clog up operations. "People don't understand how fundamental a shift this has been over the last three years," he said. "Spam volume doubled last year. The problem's getting worse."
Throwing money at the problem with extra servers, to keep up with the torrent, is a losing battle. Enter Traffic Control, which makes it less profitable for spammers to fill the pipe with the 89 percent of mail that is spam. By slowing suspected spammers, the spam business model is hurt. Either fewer messages must be sent per hour (increasing costs), or zombie computers must pick different targets.
The way Greer explains it, a concept called "throttling" gives Traffic Control users (yes, a Linux server is required) a way to make spammers look elsewhere — like a burglar moving on when they hear a dog in a house.
With targeted sender throttling that operates at the network layer and is triggered at network and application layer, "Spammers voluntarily abort the connection in under 30 seconds," Greer said. The solution conserves resources for legitimate senders inside an organization, eliminates false positives (mail that's not really spam)
and reduces server impact.
Traffic shaping, which is the control of computer network traffic in order to optimize or guarantee performance, low latency, and bandwidth "is totally new at the application layer," he adds, a technique that MailChannels is working to patent.
Stopping spam by slowing its return on investment meets a problem in a novel way. Greer said an 80-90 percent reduction in spam is common. A 3000 manager who can set up a Linux or Unix server can have MailChannels set up a free evaluation.
May 09, 2007
HP Q2 shows PC growth helps customers
A gamble in 2002 is starting to pay off for HP this year, as the merger with Compaq has driven HP's PC business to new highs — and brought along HP's share price in the run-up.
Yesterday HP's shares traded above $45 for the first time since November, 2000. That was the month when HP was still hosting things like the "Go e!" conference for 3000 customers in Europe, pushing the platform. Perhaps just a coincidence. One November later, the 3000's story and future at HP changed.
In more than five years since that exit the 3000 market announcement, HP's stock and its growth have been tied to making that merger work. Then-CEO Carly Fiorina tried to right the shareholder ship when the stock stalled in the middle teens. Even after she went overboard in 2005, however, the PC business remained lashed to the deck of HP.
This week HP had to make an estimated revenue and earnings statement about its Q2 for 2007. An inadvertent leak forced the report, ahead of schedule, that HP will post its first $25 billion quarter. A tide of PC business growth is lifting that ship. It's also doing something good for 3000 customers who will stay loyal to HP.
Business Critical Systems growth has been driven by sales of PC-based solutions. Success in this area is good for the 3000 customer who needs a hardware bargain while trying to afford a migration. Even if Integrity servers have been tough to sell to migrating 3000 customers, that BCS group is going to need some gains. The rising tide of selling PCs — a business IBM bailed out of last year — give HP leverage.
It also appears to have proven that while Fiorina was wrong about clipping low-growth businesses like the 3000, she was right about PC futures. Even if they did take about three years longer to come true than she expected.
May 08, 2007
Tribal intentions recalled
As HP sets off on its preservation of 3000 institutional memory this month, it seems a good idea to review the vendor's intentions for the 3000 community as of 2003. In February of that year HP issued a lengthy resolution of its intent for the 3000 customer, especially those who would not be migrated by the (then) December 2006 HP exit date.
One of the members of the 3000 group who departs HP this month, Mike Paivinen, (left) broadcast those intentions to the community. Full of good humor and wry wit, Paivinen handled the customer concerns when emotion rode the highest among 3000 owners. Fury is not too harsh a word to describe what he heard from IT managers who faced — and still do — a project even bigger and more complex than surviving the Y2K transition.
Notable among those intentions: A desire to offer an MPE/iX license for a 3000 emulator, once such a product came to market. The price of $500 was mentioned often for this license in 2003. Of course, to date the emulator has been stalled, or slow in emerging. How the new RTU license might affect such an emulator license is a question unanswered.
Paivinen put his name to the bottom of a document that had been through many meetings inside the 3000 group. But this phrase stands out: "Below is HP's current proposal for distributing the MPE/iX operating system independent of the HP e3000 hardware platform."
Paivinen was also the spokesman for the most eagerly awaited reply from HP: Whether the vendor would ever release source code to MPE/iX to a third party. The answer was yes, with some provisions.
The answer was that HP wants to wait until its out of the 3000 market completely before it releases MPE/iX source. Paivinen said in an e-mail to the community
When HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties -- if partner interest exists at that time -- to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners.
No release of source for future development has ever been promised. Basic support needs, which OpenMPE has defined as patch-buildiing
Then there's the "Gang of Six," the key requests the community demanded and needed within a year of hearing that HP was leaving the market. HP granted three outright: the ability to let a hardware emulator project proceed, including creation of new MPE licenses in the future; the protection of HP’s documentation about the system and freeware, including the Jazz Web site; and the removal of passwords on HP’s diagnostic software for the 3000.
The timing and details on HP's removal of the 3000's diagnostic passwords is also uncertain. There remain other questions that the 3000 group must still address.
Of the rest of the Six, 3000 hardware add-ons became a reality for awhile from HP, and now the third party market is delivering what the customers need. But HP wants to ensure its licenses for 3000 systems and MPE/iX remain intact. We wrote back in that summer of 2002
Although HP is taking slow, deliberate steps on making homesteading a viable future, it also recognizes that its customers are moving slower than expected toward other platforms.
More noteworthy to some customers: a list of what HP's 3000 group would not consider: Removing speed governors from the newest HP 3000 lines, the A-Class and N-Class. Making the 7.0 version of MPE/iX run on the very elderly (by now) 9x7 servers. There's little reason to believe HP will ever grant either of these requests, even with new staff in place to make decisions.
But the tribal knowledge we mentioned in our Friday entry also works in the customer's favor at OpenMPE, a group that's been teleconferencing with Paivinen for years. Recently the OpenMPE group delivered a report on the MPE build process to HP. The memories are clear among longstanding board members about what HP still needs to address post-2008.
May 07, 2007
Micro Focus acquires Acucorp
COBOL solutions ownership, and potential product design direction, changed on Friday when Micro Focus announced it has acquired development and COBOL supplier Acucorp for $40.7 million and an acquired cash consideration of no more than $250,000.
The two companies have battled for business in the HP 3000 migration marketplace. While Acucorp designed and released a 3000-compatible compiler in 2001 — only to see, within months of release, HP announce a 2006 exit from the 3000 marketplace — Micro Focus has worked from a broader base of enterprise environments. HP 3000 customers and application suppliers, including Amisys and others, have chosen the Micro Focus solution when moving away from the HP 3000.
Neither company made headway into selling a solution for homesteading 3000 sites: Acucorp because of HP's withdrawal from the 3000 market, and Micro Focus because the company has never offered an MPE/iX solution.
Acucorp generated $3 million in profit in its just-ended fiscal year, according to MicroFocus. The company will be restructured by 2008 "to margins... consistent with Micro Focus' existing business."
Acucorp's gross assets at the end of 2006 were 13.1 million. Micro Focus will take an $8 million restructuring charge, by April of 2008, to bring the Acucorp business into the Micro Focus operations.
Micro Focus, the larger of the two suppliers, issued a press release on Friday reporting the company's year-end results along with the purchase details. Micro Focus a public corporation, while Acucorp is not.
The release on the Acucorp Web site assures the Acucorp customers — the majority of whom have little to do with the 3000 market — that the merger will bring benefits to them:
Micro Focus remains committed to delivering the highest level of support and business value to Acucorp customers. Specifically for Acucorp customers, the combination of the two companies will bring further improvement in support and maintenance capabilities. The company believes the future will provide broader development capacity to accelerate innovation to meet customers’ current and future demands.
Micro Focus CEO Stephen Kelly, who's brought a new management team on board in the past year, had more detailed comments on the purchase.
Kelly, who has been focused on increasing Micro Focus revenues as well as profits, in part through pursuit of "legacy customers" said
The acquisition of Acucorp is consistent with Micro Focus' strategy of expanding our core areas of expertise. We anticipate that the acquisition of Acucorp will contribute revenues of approximately $17m in FY2008."
MicroFocus had just acquired HAL Knowledge Solutions in November of 2006. A Micro Focus release reports the company posted $170 million in revenues for its fiscal year just ended on April 30. Preliminary numbers on profits, before accounting depreciations and taxes, were $65 million.
May 04, 2007
HP tribal knowledge hopes to help 3000
HP hopes to stay in step with the needs of its 3000 customers this month, even while more than 70 years of experience with MPE/iX departs the company or the 3000 business. Corporate behavior relies on "tribal knowledge" to bridge the gap when longtime, well-versed leaders and executives depart. This month will be busy with the drumbeats of the 3000 tribe at HP, even while it loses a significant number of its warriors.
Customers who know the work of mainstays such as Jeff Vance, Mike Paivinen or Dave Wilde try to imagine how issues will be resolved, plans made and policies proposed without these tribal members.
"Jeff [Vance] has been a rock for the MPE community for as long as I have been using HP 3000 systems," said Joe Dolliver, an expert in the healthcare applications field and independent consultant at Dolliver's 3K Solutions firm. "I can't imagine HP or the 3000-L [newsgroup] without him."
Such loyalty stems from familiarity. Whether a customer agreed with Paivinen, Vance or Wilde, they often knew what to expect. Those expectations, and the intentions of the 3000 loyalists still inside of Hewlett-Packard, are what the tribal knowledge is supposed to carry forward and protect.
A search on "tribal knowledge" in Wikipedia yields a definition about knowledge carried forward without writing, in oral form. But the Wikipedia page also refers to "institutional memory," something closer to what the 3000 community will need from the HP successors of Craig Fairchild, Bill Cadier, Walt McCullough and Jim Hawkins — as well as new 3000 business manager Jennie Hou.
Wikipedia's entry explains institutional memory as an element often found in corporations:
Institutional memory is a collective of facts, concepts, experiences and know-how held by a group of people. As it transcends the individual, it requires the ongoing transmission of these memories between members of this group. Elements of institutional memory may be found in corporations, professional groups, government bodies, religious groups, academic collaborations and by extension in entire cultures.
Institutional memory may be encouraged to preserve a group's ideology or way of work. Conversely, institutional memory may be ingrained to the point that it becomes hard to challenge if something is found to contradict that which was previously thought to have been correct.
HP's intentions are to preserve the facts, concepts, experiences and know-how of the group of departing people. Employees have left the 3000 group before now, but this is the first time the community watched the exit of such prominent players. This month, and probably for the month before, the replacement staff, already working on other 3000 issues, is faced with learning and taking to heart the intentions and desires of departing staff.
Tribal knowledge works in the other direction for those who desire change as an effect of departures. It takes time for new players to develop a differing view of what to do for a customer base like 3000 owners. Time may not be on the customers' side; if you take HP's promises to heart about the vendor's exit, about 19 months remain until all goes dark in the 3000 labs and cubicles. Retaining the intentions of HP's desire to ease the exit of its customers who are going — that's the challenge. At least those who are taking on the role have been in the group for many years.
"Craig Fairchild, welcome aboard and do the right thing for the community and be productive for us," Dolliver said in his message to the community." HP's intentions were clear four years ago. We'll recall them on Monday.
May 03, 2007
Vance leaves creative, contact shoes to fill
Jeff Vance has acted as essential as postal carriers to the HP 3000 community during his 28 years at HP: traversing everywhere, bringing new solutions, essential to communication. His departure from the company leaves a hole that HP will work to fill with Craig Fairchild, another HP 3000 engineer whose decades of duties will now include part of Vance's regular tasks: being the public voice to the customer base, as well as an in-house advocate for the 3000 user's point of view.
Vance leaves HP along with Mike Paivinen, the most forward-looking HP staffer regarding the post-HP segment of the 3000's history. Jeff Vance leaves behind his own take on the future of HP's relationship with its 3000 customers, too. As recently as this week he posted a message on the 3000 and OpenMPE Internet mailing lists, restating how HP views your MPE/iX licenses.
But this avid mountain biker was at his best in customer contact at meetings, or in Command Interface development in his offsite lab. Over one rainy weekend during 2001, he told us in an interview, (right after HP's discontinue announcement) that he created "customer delight" CI enhancements for fun:
Stories are out there about things you wrote “because it was a rainy weekend.”
Well, that’s how I like to do it: If it’s a nice weekend I want to go out and do something fun, and if it’s a rainy weekend I have fun programming. Especially if I see leverage, if I’ve already been in the code for something else I’m doing and it’s just a matter of doing a little bit more. I like to be able to leverage as much work as I can into a patch, so there’s less administrative overhead and more time actually creating code.
This illustrates the generous spirit in Vance, something akin to the "information wants to be free" creed among the 3000's founding community. He explained about his decision to leave HP now, after a few other chances to do so — a choice seemingly centered on getting to new work closer to customers of a strategic product, in a much smaller company.
"The decision was very difficult, as you can imagine. My entire career, since graduating from college, has been HP, MPE, and the 3000. It's been 28 memorable years, but since the end-of-life announcement in Nov 2001, the focus of my job evolved such that there were fewer opportunities to delight customers."
"I always have liked working with 3000 customers, even now. And, I have had really excellent managers and just plain good people here as my bosses over the years. The value of this cannot be overstated. My managers have supported every work decision I’ve made, while also providing me work-life balance, trust, independence, and their confidence."
"I like to create (invent!) and develop code and solutions to delight customers. Unfortunately, there are simply fewer opportunities for this kind of work on a non-strategic product, even though I still enjoy my chances to help customers continuing to use their 3000s to run their business. I tried to be a voice of the 3000 customers in our meetings where policies and decision were being made. I tried to find win-win scenarios."
Vance sometimes took an adamant stance to represent customer needs in HP's meetings, always keeping in mind his first allegiance to his employer. He took a similar sort of risk as a matter of course in his passionate hobby, mountain biking, where he pushed his limits to new levels.
"This was the first Enhanced Early Retirement offer which I actually thought about. I guess I wanted to work on something more strategic to a company. I searched around some within HP and concluded that my best bet was to find a new job outside of HP, which I am in the process of doing now. I am looking at other companies where I can wear several hats, and help them create solutions to delight customers. I want to remain close to the end users."
He feels confident that the substitution of Craig Fairchild for his public liaison responsibilities — Vance was often the bearer of HP policy over the Internet channels — will meet the community's needs.
"Craig is eminently qualified to hand off my responsibilities to. He's been here 20-plus years and cares for our customers and partners. He has a good sense of what's right and will be an asset to our customers."
May 02, 2007
Pair of HP's 3000 vets retire; Wilde hands reins to Hou
A pair of HP engineers, steeped deepest in HP's 3000 development and post-2008 planning, announced they will leave HP at the end of May — the same month that the current e3000 business manager is handing over his reins to another HP 3000 veteran of more than 20 years.
Jeff Vance and Mike Paivinen will accept the Enhanced Early Retirement (EER) offer from HP for 2007, leaving behind decades of work on the HP 3000 and MPE/iX, as well as more than five years of service to a 3000 community in transition. Dave Wilde, who's been the HP 3000 "virtual division" general manager and e3000 business manager since 2002, reports that he's taking a new HP post to work in a vertical industry team that serves HP's Health and Life Sciences business.
While HP cannot replace the resource which Vance, Paivinen and Wilde represented to the 3000 community, the company will be carrying on their work in development, advocacy and management with current 3000 staff. Jennie Hou, a veteran of more than two decades of 3000 experience who's been working as one of the e3000 R&D project managers, takes over for Wilde as business unit manager. Hou was HP's representative at the HP 3000 conference hosted last fall by the Greater Houston RUG, and she spearheaded this spring's announcement of the new Right To Use MPE/iX license.
While Vance has made the five years after HP's exit-the-market announcement bloom with MPE/iX enhancements, marshaling beta test patches into customer hands, Paivinen served as HP's liaison to OpenMPE — keeping the advocacy group updated with HP's long-range plans and current software procedures.
The work of Vance and Paivinen is being passed to several 3000 veterans inside HP, with the public customer liaison duties most particularly passed to Craig Fairchild. "Fairch," as he's been known in the deepest development and lab circles of the 3000 community, is a leading architect on the MPE/iX file system, among other projects — a system which pumps the heart of all HP 3000 software operations. He's one of the most senior HP 3000 engineers still working for the vendor.
Wilde, whose tenure with the 3000 community began in 1986, said that other lab experts, such as Jim Hawkins and Walt McCullough — whose technical expertise and conference presentations have focused on 3000 storage solutions, IO devices and drivers — would also be taking on the duties of the two engineers who are leaving HP. Vance and Paivinen's EER agreements set a departure deadline by the end of May, Wilde added.
May 01, 2007
The awards and rewards of Web support
Web pages probably deliver the most HP 3000 support from the vendor to the 3000 community this year. HP extended by two years its commitment to remain in the 3000 support business, until at least the end of 2008. The Web gives HP a means to do this without taxing its resources of live IT support engineers. People who own 3000s contribute to the knowledge that HP offers in Web support. But the real gold online comes from HP's 3000 engineers.
Nevertheless, the HP IT Response Center — ITRC, to the community — is described as an "online community" in this week's press release that touts another award for HP's Web support site:
[The ITRC is] an online community of IT professionals with an average of 1.5 million visits per month worldwide. The website provides enterprise and commercial customers with online tools, expert assistance from HP response center engineers, online training, community forums of IT experts and a broad, fully searchable multi-vendor knowledge base.
Customers can receive services and support for HP-UX, Linux, MPE/iX, NT, OpenVMS and Tru64 UNIX servers and workstations, as well as diverse tools and information for managing multi-vendor environments.
That's right, you see your MPE/iX brand right up there with some operating environments HP is still selling and installing. (Come to think of it, HP is still selling MPE/iX, since its Right to Use (RTU) licenses showed up in the price list this year.) The reason the 3000 and MPE get on the roster is because support has a much longer shelf life than software enhancements or new hardware.
HP just earned an award from the Localization Industry Standards Association naming the ITRC as one of the Ten Best international Web support sites. Other than the RTU, support is the one 3000 product HP wants you to buy — although that ITRC does deliver patches for free.
But paying for HP support lets an ITRC user gain access to services and knowledge (e.g. submitting cases electronically, accessing knowledge documents like the setup for Sendmail under MPE/iX). Of course, as shown in our recent article on Sendmail, you could find that a former HP 3000 lab expert has delivered as much detail on Sendmail as what your paid support agreement will net out of the award-winning ITRC.
3000 support veterans argue that you get what you pay for in MPE/iX and hardware support. They're right, but customers report they pay less to receive more outside of HP's channels. The only exception is those patches, and the increasingly rare MPE/iX enhancement. HP's Jeff Vance has chipped in plenty of the latter over the past five-plus years of 3000 transition, an astonishing output for just one engineer.
It probably comes as no news to the 3000 owner that the ITRC is the resource to search HP's Technical Knowledge Base for technical documents. HP's list of operating systems with tech docs on ITRC is a curious one, though. On the Web site you can find Security Bulletins, Patch Information, Service Requests and more "related to MPE, DOMAIN/OS, HP-UX, RTE, Windows 95, and Windows NT operating systems."
Five of those six operating systems are no longer sold by the vendor. But the support lives on, as does your use of the systems that run these OS's.