June 29, 2007
CAMUS conference registration closes soon
The ERP and manufacturing user group CAMUS is closing its registration very soon for its mid-July conference. On July 3, registration will wrap up for the July 16-18 meeting at the Holiday Inn Brentwood, in Nashville. The 3000 app MANMAN, still working at a surprising number of HP 3000 shops to serve manufacturing firms, is at the heart of CAMUS members' knowledge.
These people have a lot of experience to share, on both homesteading and migration of HP 3000 systems.
The group has a lineup of experienced speakers to cover two full days of paid training — and at a good price — $350 for a CAMUS member, $450 for a non-member. Plus, a free training day follows on the 18th. You can even register separately for the free day. (They even have a "Stump the Stars" meeting on the free day, for consulting via meeting-room Q&A at no charge.)
Registration, including the capability to pay online with a credit card, is at the conference reg page. More details about the speakers and the lineup are at the meeting's schedule page and on a additional information page.
June 28, 2007
SWC gotcha on HP systems
Regardless of your HP platform — either the HP 3000 or a target migration system — you will now want to watch for PC system hangs while using HP's Secure Web Console.
The SWC became a new tool for the 3000 several years ago. As our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper noted in a November, 2005 article, the SWC lets a 3000 manager "enjoy 100 percent full console capability, including system reboot, for your 3000 from the comfort of your home or any other location remote from the actual HP3000."
But a snag has appeared in using the SWC. It's not just with the 3000, either, according to OpenMPE director Donna Garverick. This detail is the kind of report that OpenMPE will be able to provide in 2009, once HP licenses MPE/iX source to the group.
PCs running Java 1.6 will hang when trying to download the .jar file from HP’s Secure Web Console running the a2.0 firmware — but they will connect to devices running older firmware. Java releases prior to this work with all (recent) SWC firmware revs.
HP does not have any copies of the old (< a2.0) firmware," Garverick adds. "HP also states that a SWC cannot be back-dated from a2.0."
The work-arounds include:
- don't update Java to 1.6 if you have a2.0 SWCs
- don't update SWCs to a2.0
- check eBay/etc for SWCs without a2.0
- replace SWCs with a different solution
- for PCI systems, use the built-in SWC/GSP
A glimmer of hope remains that sun will release a fix for Java 1.6. Other folks with older .jar files are complaining.
And just to be clear — this isn't just an MPE issue. It impacts any system with a SWC.
June 27, 2007
HP blows up marketing real good
As my last official duty at last week's Technology Forum, I watched a fun film. HP produced it, and HP 3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou escorted me onto the closed expo floor to watch the film from the HP booth, just to make sure I'd seen it.
In a prior report, I mentioned the HP booth at the Tech Forum was big enough to require a tour guide. (I found the tour useful and enjoyable. In fact, one of the cooler parts of it was listening to the guide's voice over her headset follow her. Zoned speakers picked her up from point to point around the HP exhibits area.)
The film — which works as an HP marketing piece — unreeled in an unlikely spot at the booth: The HP NonStop display. HP used C4 explosive to make a bang-up demonstration of how a disaster would mean no more than two minutes of downtime. As they used to say on the SCTV show "Farm Film Report," HP blowed up its computers real good.
After watching HP's film, I believe the old "marketing sushi as cold, dead fish" image of HP's communications is long dead — or just as blowed-up as the computer configuration in the film. As an added touch, HP's Jack Mauger, Product Manager of the Business Continuity Products in the NonStop Enterprise Division, stood boothside wearing a white lab coat with the HP logo on the back. "Costume," he called it, in another repudiation of HP as an inept marketing firm. Perhaps being Number One in the IT marketplace brings budget enough to produce such drama.
Mauger was also passing out portions of the exploded computer, encased in a handsome lucite block. (Click on the image at left if you're "ready for a close-up, Mr. DeMille.") I haven't had such an HP paperweight for my desk since the early 1990s. This one takes its place next to the Precision Risc Organization clock from the same era. Perhaps only time will be able to erase the Itanium-based systems, much as the calendar has caught up with PA-RISC designs.
The DR catch-phrase is "disaster-proof," a feature that many HP 3000 sites have experienced after floods, fires and the like. HP recovered five different environments after it used 65 pounds of C4 to destroy an Itanium-based system and attached storage. The film's high-energy narration says the vendor's test crew was simulating a gas line explosion, with a backup failover system connected less than a quarter-mile away.
No, MPE/iX was not among the recovered environments. Windows, Linux, HP-UX, OpenVMS and NonStop got the stopwatch treatment. It made me wonder if, during a wholesale migration of HP 3000 code, any NonStop servers have been evaluated by the risk-averse HP 3000 crowd.
The footnotes from Mauger included a story that the detonation and filming site was in Camden, Arkansas, where an electrical storm had fried out a nearby substation with a single lightning bolt strike just before shooting was to begin. For two days, the HP server and storage sat in a tent with portable cooling units. Meanwhile the HP film crew waited for the skies to clear. After all, 65 pounds of C4 is not something to hook up under threatening skies.
The customer who chooses HP as their Transition supplier might be more certain of HP's marketing prowess after seeing the film, complete with cute animals. Marketing was a downfall of HP's business plans for the HP 3000. The vendor has learned a few things since those mistakes were made. Mistakes, after all, are really the only things that teach new lessons.
June 26, 2007
HP's end of patch days remains unclear
It's not exactly news, but the update on HP's patching futures did not change at the recent HP Technology Forum. HP continues to work on useful enhancements and needed fixes for the 3000. These repairs and improvements, like new disk support and more secure FTP, arrive in the form of patches.
HP builds the software and tests it in its own labs. Then it goes out for public beta testing. Only HP support customers can test a patch. At the moment, more than 80 of HP's patches, for MPE/iX versions ranging from 6.5 through 7.5, remain in beta test. So, only HP support customers can download these enhancements and repairs, until the testing is completed to HP's standards
Last year HP was considering whether the non-HP-support customers could test patches. No decision has been made during the past 13 months.
HP's plans to wrap up this process are in-process, we learned after asking at the Technology Forum. Possible plans include setting free all the beta patches available once HP's public patch creation process ends; leaving the beta patches in limbo, unreleased; or perhaps passing them off to a third party which holds a limited license to patch MPE/iX during 2009 and beyond.
The current list of such limited license candidates appears very short. Only OpenMPE has asked for the ability to create patches for MPE/iX. The group would like to get started on this just as soon as HP can complete a process to share MPE/iX code.
One other patch distribution candidate — a company which hasn't proposed any development, like OpenMPE — is Client Systems. The Denver-based company was HP's last North American HP 3000 distributor, and it remains an outlet for refurbished (read: used) HP 3000s, already loaded with transferred-license copies of the 3000's OS.
Whoever carries on the HP patching work could be liberating many man-hours of HP lab work, if that third party can continue beta testing to HP's satisfaction. Otherwise, the final 2006-2008 stories of the 3000 patch skyscraper may go unoccupied and unused.
For example, the fate of enhancement patches like the SCSI pass through driver — which goes into beta test sometime before the end of this year — is not clear. If that driver patch does not receive enough testing from customers, HP won't give the patch general release status. It might remain in beta test status on December 31, 2008.
HP hasn't decided yet how its beta-tested patches will fare after the vendor shuts down its patch process. The best option for the user community which plans to use 3000s in 2009, and relies on patches, is to test those beta patches now.
June 25, 2007
2009 support from HP, for a few, maybe
At last week's HP Technology Forum, HP introduced the concept of supporting HP 3000 customers beyond 2008. Jennie Hou, HP's 3000 business manager, cautioned the crowd of fewer than 30 in a small Forum meeting room that HP isn't extending its basic support for the entire user base beyond 2008.
Hou was specific in an interview after the meeting. "There may still be customers out there looking for help from HP," she said. "We will be looking at specific customer needs, and we will evaluate those needs based on local capabilities. It may not be a worldwide program. It's really on an individual basis."
Hou wanted to be sure that customers understand: HP's global message on 3000 futures hasn't changed. HP wants you to exit this platform. The vendor believes the risk of running a 3000 is increasing. Any post-2008 support from HP will only be available on a special contract basis. What's more, HP isn't even sure that any customers are going to want HP's support for the 3000 beyond 2008.
HP is calling the program Customized Legacy Support. Customers who qualify will be able to receive "site-specific patches, and workarounds." Hou said that HP will be shutting down its general release patch process at the end of 2008 — meaning no new patches will be available for download from HP's IT Response Center (ITRC) after December 31, 2008. As of January 1, 2009, what you'll see in the HP patch site for the 3000 is what you will get.
The whole HP offering for 3000 support in 2009 will depend on the parts available in a customer's area, plus other resource availability.
If everything above sounds exploratory and evolutionary, that is HP's intent. The vendor doesn't want to leave customers without support, but it appears to be sticking to its 2008 date. License transfers will continue at HP indefinitely. But many questions remain unanswered about the "post-08" period of HP's 3000 business. (Of this I can be certain, because I asked many of them. The replies often ran to "we haven't worked out that process yet," or words to that effect.)
HP's Jeff Bandle — the new liaison to OpenMPE — and Hou seemed to suggest answers will be available when they're needed.
HP still believes that one full year from the end of its 3000 business is enough time for a third party to step in and receive a limited license to portions of MPE/iX. By connecting the dots, that would make January of next year the time when a hand-off of 3000 operating system might occur.
June 22, 2007
Looking for a handful of good directors
As the Encompass HP user group wraps up a successful conference, another group of users builds up its experience and energy — also on a push toward an annual meeting. The Greater Houston Regional User Group (GHRUG) has issued a call for nominations to the group's board of directors. Five seats are up for grabs on the 10-member board. Current members include much HP 3000 experience, but also specialize in computing on Windows, Unix, Linux and HP-UX platforms.
Nominations are for five directors, with a nomination deadline of July 12. You can nominate a co-worker or colleague, but be sure you get the okay from your nominee before submitting it to GHRUG. The voting starts on Friday, July 20, and runs through Tuesday, July 31st. Submit a nomination, or toss your own hat into the ring, by e-mailing GHRUG President Richard Pringle at Richard.Pringle@escg.jacobs.com
GHRUG holds a special spot in the heart of the 3000 community. No other user group in North America represents the HP 3000 homesteading user so completely. This past week we surveyed the work of Encompass to maintain a modest lineup of HP 3000 migration-related talks. In addition to a broader array of 3000 training, GHRUG is also planning to offer soft skills training at its next conference. But that meeting will be an affair that's far smaller than the vast enterprise which Encompass just closed up this week, all complete with a Grammy-winning band at the farewell party.
And that's okay, as Stuart Smalley might say. A modest conference is more in keeping with a computer community that's now marking its 34th year. GHRUG gives the 3000 professional a chance to extend their network through board service, as well as spice up a resume and add new platform exposure.
June 21, 2007
Swank show floor draws quality customers
Nary a homesteading provider can be found among the HP Technology Forum Expo exhibits, unless you count longtime 3000 friends such as MB Foster (whose MPE sign is shown left) and Speedware, companies both supporting sustainability plans as well as making migrations happen. But there is no reason to expect that kind of exhibitor here, a place where a new HP future would be on the minds of most 3000 attendees.
Few were in attendance at yesterday's 3000 updates and advisories. Head count never topped two dozen for the main talk by HP's Jennie Hou and engineers Craig Fairchild and Jeff Bandle. Nine bodies were present for the OpenMPE update. A stronger turnout listened to migration advice from HP partners Softvoyage, Summit-Fiserv, Oy Porasto AB and HP's own Kevin Cooper. (Cooper mentioned in passing that he's worked with the HP 3000 since 1976, from internal IT development through SE service and on to performance management.)
But the expo floor did display a torrent of information about HP destinations for migrations, as well as a few outposts where the remarketed HP 3000 gear was on offer. Baypointe and Canvas took out booths to attract buyers of used systems and prospect to rent HP 3000s, HP 9000s and more, respectively. DB-Net offered a look at a new interface which migrates 3000 databases in just two clicks on a screen. MicroFocus and Acucorp cozied up in a booth to show off the latest in COBOL technology, promising a July 11 Webcast update on merging their product lines. And most vendors said that if the show traffic was light, the quality of the contact more than made up for the quantity.
The innovation on the floor extended to entertainment, of course. Voodoo Systems, makers of the Superdome of gaming computers, sat attendees in a racing car with response of rocking a chassis as well as the high-grade visuals and audio blasts. HP conducted a tour of its vast acreage of systems, solutions and storage, 15 minutes that featured more than 20 stops, with a USB reader as a door prize. And Elvis rode a Segue scooter, then talked with Marilyn Monroe. Why not — it is Vegas, after all. The Smothers Brothers are headlining here in town, and the Commodores are coming soon, too.
Off in a quiet corner of the expo floor, attendees could shoot pool or shoot the breeze with each other at the Connections Cafe. The Cafe was a new element to the Forum, a place to follow through on contacts from the social networking software which Encompass made available to registered attendees in the weeks before the show. HP had dedicated spaces in the Cafe to meet with prospects and customers which they'd enticed to the Forum. Comfy chairs and sofas provided another kind of software. Rock-solid wireless access beamed to every corner of the show hall.
MB Foster's Birket Foster, our At Large Editor, chatted up veteran HP hardware planner Dave Snow (at left, but briefing a customer, not Foster) in the HP Integrity rx8620 station — where Foster mentioned that the electrical partitions of that mid-to-high end server might help with the compliance requirements of migrating 3000 customers. Snow, ever in form as the leading feeds-and-speeds guru, showed off the 8620's plum-colored pull-out boards to remove IO cards while the system is still hot. The server uses as many as four cells, each of which can hold two processor boards. HP also had 3600 and 6600 Integrity servers on display, systems that can offer a smaller, more affordable leap in performance for the migrating customer.
Along a prominent wall of the HP booth, the benefits of cooler and lower-power HP systems got the big headlines, with the new jet engine cooling fans on display. A Tech Forum show floor now only opens from 10 to 3 each day, a shorter and hotter span of time for the rare 3000 customer to do their next-platform exploration.
June 20, 2007
Conference debut now checked off Craig's list
HP's 3000 business manager Jennie Hou had just announced the latest e3000 Contributor Award winner. After giving hearty congratulations to Stan Sieler of Allegro Consultants (pictured at left), Hou introduced another new but seasoned element to the 3000 community: Craig Fairchild, selected to begin to fill the "very big shoes," as he said, of retired 3000 engineer Jeff Vance.
Fairchild (pictured below, keeping the faith at the HP e3000 booth at the conference), has been working on the HP 3000 since 1985. He rolled into his presentation like he's been ready for more than 20 years to communicate directly with customers. His first mission in HP's 3000 update meeting was to introduce the SCSI pass through drivers for MPE/iX, a bit of engineering coming to a 7.5 beta test patch near you.
Part of Fairchild's duties will be reminding the community about opportunities such as this driver, software which will let HP 3000s utilize storage devices that haven't been officially certified as 3000 peripherals. All support bets are off, but at least the lack of a 4GB drive from HP's parts list won't keep a 3000 offline, thanks to the driver.
Fairchild was introducing another example of the sort of technology Vance offered up often: designs for the future of using a 3000, no matter how long that future looks to a customer. He stepped to the microphone apologizing for a voice weak after ferrying schoolkids on a lengthy trek last week. But his ease and affability spoke even louder.
"It's designed to teach SCSI devices new tricks," Fairchild said of the driver to be in beta test during the second half of 2007. The device driver makes use of the Posix IOCTL command to send and receive data from the SCSI device.
In fact, the engineering is even more clever than that. Fairchild pointed out that the device file actually talks to the physical path of the device, not just the device itself. HP created an external use for an existing diagnostic interface to create the SCSI Pass Through, which it calls SPT for short.
Fairchild emulated Vance's candor, too. "Using the SPT is not for the timid," he said. "You'll need to know a lot about the device you're talking to." He was talking to a room full of IT do-it-yourselfers, but the caution took its deserved place in the afternoon. So did Fairchild, warming up for a long stretch run as the man to follow Jeff Vance and lead new HP efforts into the community.
HP turns up the jets to go green
I bumped into a bonus moment yesterday while I crossed the vast acres of the HP Technology Forum. Locating my last elevator, I held the door for an HP employee. He trundled an HP blade unit on a luggage cart behind him while he juggled a small metal component that looked like the service end of a blow-dryer.
"That's some pretty interesting gear you've got there," I began.
"It's our new cooling units," he explained, cutting across miles of PR and media relations tape with a friendly comment. "It's great." He beamed a wide smile. "My team helped develop it."
The engineer was holding a crucial component in HP's speed toward green computing: new cooling components that get rid of fan propellers to use a jet engine design instead. Runs quiet, draws less juice. HP is looking at many ways to keeping the power bill down in lots of IT operations, even its own. On Monday CEO Mark Hurd said HP's own datacenters will save enough electricity to power Palo Alto for a year, once all the new green engineering is in place.
Later that day I heard another story about the new jet coolers. An HP customer in the Bay Area had seen a video of HP's design engineers hooking the new cooling components up to model racecars with wireless controls. The new coolers were acting like afterburners on the racers.
Now that's cool.
June 19, 2007
HP flies security flag from florid stage
Before the anthems of a seven-piece band launched from behind HP's stagy podium, us journalists spent our Monday afternoon playing a news version of speed-dating. In blocks of 30 minutes, one atop another in a room packed with 10 other interviews going on at once, we quizzed HP executives on the latest in storage and security.
HP announced its Secure Advantage Portfolio, a new castle keep devoted to protecting data through advanced encryption, a new Identity Center dashboard and anti-phishing toolbar, servers, storage and services.
"This lets customers fine-tune their level of security commensurate with their appetite for risk," said Montserrat Mane, a security practice principal for HP Services. "This model is multidimensional, blending standards from industry, ISO and HP's own best practices."
During the afternoon's interviews, one HP official after another invoked the name of ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library best practices guidebooks. ITIL received its "V3 refresh," as HP called it, within the last year. The company referred to it often to explain how best practices are driving the HP offerings.
To nobody's surprise, the new security offerings have little to offer the HP 3000-only shops. But for a customer with more HP platforms than the ones which run on MPE/iX, the Secure Advantage can step up protection, for customers with an appetite for costs and little appetite for risk.
HP's appetite for costs appeared to have increased at HP CEO Mark Hurd's keynote speech, starting at 5 PM after the speed-dating ended. The Technology Forum hosted the meeting in the massive Mandalay Bay Events Center, a 10,000-seat arena with tiered seating. The Mandalay hosts concerts and prize fights in the Center, but no blows of contention were flying Monday evening. Where such arenas in the Interex era hosted combative questions, yesterday's presentation was the love-fest Encompass president Nina Buik had promised.
Instead of hard questions flying , acrobats flew up and down wires from the catwalks to the stage where Hurd stood, looking bemused and in command. Striking policy announcements and profound product introductions were not on Hurd's teleprompters. He told the story of how HP has been working to change its IT expense ratio from 80 percent maintenance to 80 percent innovation — and how HP could help its customers do that, too.
HP had one significant restriction, however. "We had to do it all with our stuff," Hurd said. "You all don't have that problem, although I hope you do."
"Our costs were increasing in IT faster than our revenues were increasing," Hurd added. "That's not easy to do, but we were managing it," he quipped. "The only way we knew out of this was to interrupt it."
HP spent considerable money and time to flip those numbers from maintenance to innovation. "Don't take anything I say about this to mean that this was easy or free," Hurd said.
The key to success in HP's endeavor "was not technology," he added. "It was leadership, process and governance."
June 18, 2007
HP finds it easier to be green
LAS VEGAS — Before a room full of international press and analysts, HP rolled out its update to storage solutions for the rest of the enterprise family. The advances aimed first at Windows enterprise platforms. Other operating environments will deliver what HP considers a unique advantage to storage management: the ability to control thin provisioning of (Logical Unit Numbers) LUNs, both in expansion as well as shrinking of the storage available on disks in arrays.
HP also touted its rating as one of the green vendors in disk storage at the press event at the HP Technology Forum. New LTO-4 tape untils cut the storage array power and cooling costs by 50 percent, the vendor said. New DAT 160 tape drives, aimed at small and medium businesses like those 3000 customers migrating off the platform, rolled off the press release line along with the first Storage Works tape product developed exclusively for HP BladeSystem c-Class enclosures.
"Everybody thinks tape is dead," said HP executive Mark Stalling. "The truth is that there still is no lower-cost way to store data than with tape."
StorageWorks EVA 4100, 6100 and 8100 midrange arrays use new software technologies such as EVA Dynamic Capacity management to optimize hard drive utilitzation.
"The most expensive storage is the storage you have to buy today," Stalling said. The new provisioning technology forestalls the need to add disk by letting customers dial back the capacity of a LUN on the fly. Windows enterprise systems, especially the blade servers, will be the first to receive the new provisioning software.
The solution starts at under $10,000 and runs up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement, HP said. Other HP enterprise environments will follow, HP said. MPE/iX is not among the environments to support the new array and tape provisioning.
So much to see, so far to go
The conference halls loom all around me here at the HP Technology Forum. Hundreds and hundreds — and hundreds — of yards in the Mandalay Bay complex spread out under my feet, the bright polished marble underneath, while the occassional casino-resort signs overhead beckon, leading along very long hallways: Events Center. North Convention Center. South Convention Center. Shark Reef.
No kidding. The Mandalay's signature attraction, other than the riches promised in the casino, is a shark exhibit. (Insert your own joke here.) The scale of the facility is vast, large enough to match the reach of the world's Number One IT supplier. The last time I walked this far between meeting rooms, however, the facility was ghastly: Detroit's Cobo Hall during the Interex 1986 show. (Back when the user group event was not tied so close as to be called HP World.) To be certain, that event — where the delay of PA-RISC was the top topic — was not organized with the military precision of the 2007 Tech Forum.
But it's been a twisty beginning to my 23rd North American HP user conference. The only way I can find the meeting room for my series of interviews is to enlist the aid of a kindly Mandalay Bay security cop. I am grateful enough to call him my guide dog. He replies with a grin that he has a doberman at home, but found the meeting room among a warren of them, hidden in a deep passage just on the other side of the staff break rooms.
Encompass president Nina Buik told me a few months ago that the user group was glad to have improved its curb appeal with a Las Vegas show. There are miles and miles of those curbs to walk along this week. The last time an HP conference for users was held in this town, the legendary Sands casino was still standing and Ronald Reagan was still president. Twenty years later a new mountain range of casino-resorts has risen in the hundred-degree town, poking up spires like so many HP business groups, built on the bedrock of the Compaq merger.
On a rack in one of the Mandalay's wide lobbies — so wide that a semi truck can pass unfettered — a stand of adhesive badges sparkles. RIBBONS, the display says. The array of small squares stamped with silver letters lays out the known future for an HP customer or prospect. From the CP of Channel Partner to the DSPP of a registered developer to the marginal marriage of "Windows on HP," each of these squares can be tacked under a name badge.
Alas, to no one's surprise, no "MPE/iX" ribbons. PA-RISC holds on, but has its days numbered, two decades after the world demanded its arrival in Detroit. This is a conference which looks to a new future with HP, instead of the past, or an ongoing tomorrow without the vendor. HP 3000 community members are coming here to make plans for something new from HP, or hear from fellow vendors and experts about how to make better use of something else from Hewlett-Packard.
A fellow does have to wonder why that ribbon rack offers both "UNIX/Linux" and "HP-UX" ribbons, especially in light of the questions HP continues to field: How long will you support HP-UX? How long will you enhance the company's most advanced enterprise operating environment? (More advanced, at least, among those HP still sells.) Is there a future in UNIX for the HP customer that doesn't include HP-UX?
Content here would suggest no. Today's pre-conference sessions include an all-day of training on HP-UX from the guru of that OS, Bill Hassell. $500 for the morning and afternoon, after which the HP CEO takes the stage for a half hour or so. Once Mark Hurd speaks, Ann Livermore follows, as she has followed another CEO, Carly Fiorina. Carly is long gone from the cast of HP players here. But assembled in such a mighty edifice as the Mandalay, Fiorina's empire never loomed larger.
June 15, 2007
Now serving 3000 news in our third year
We began our broadcast of weekday news on this blog in mid-June of 2005, and nothing has been the same since. Our time to deliver news has dropped from several weeks (compared to the monthly print format, plus e-mail updates) to less than 24 hours. This newsblog has extended the restrictions of space while it compresses the time to market for our product: what's happening, important or changing in the 3000 community can be written at whatever length the subject needs. All the news fits online, searched easily by the customer.
So today we celebrate entering the third year of this online journal, a record of HP's efforts and the community's advocacy, the advice from those who've left the platform and the reasons to remain from the homesteading citizens of Planet 3000. We began our online journey with a celebration of Bruce Toback, just then recently passed on after a legacy of 3000 advice and innovation, all delivered over the Internet.
During that first week we also wrote about Sun's treatment of operating system source code (a wide-open policy, quite different from HP's restraint of MPE/iX source) as well as the help Quest Software provided for migrating HP 3000 shops. HP-UX was rising as the target for 3000 migration projects, but still running behind Windows as a destination.
In no time, it seems, the blog drew its faithful support from the community, the tasteful ads with interactive links to the providers, all riding at a reasonable distance from the content — content that has always been king here and key to the 3000 NewsWire's 12 years of success. We thank our sponsors, who help us keep the electrons lit up to ferry the news into your laptops and onto your desktops. Many have left the community during the past two years, but our awareness of who's remaining has been extended by the blog format.
Among the departed, we recently noted three HP employees, men who either moved out of the 3000 group or retired from the company. Just this week we learned those departures were the 10 percent of the iceberg of retirements. We've watched and reported on the exit of all of the significant community players. Just this month Norco, the 3000 hardware broker based in Northeast Ohio, called to pull employees off our mailing list — because Norco is closing its doors.
At HP on May 31, several accounts report that more than 25 other veterans of the 3000 labs took their leave. In a group that was already drawing down its headcount, the end of last month marked a significant exodus via retirement.
The numbers in this market carry much weight even in smaller counts. More than two dozen experts in MPE, now available to the community outside of HP's halls: that's a good thing, should they continue to serve the server. Frankly, you'd be hard put to see that many HP 3000 customers depart the community in a single month.
All will be missed, but we do work to make sure we don't miss the news that they are gone. Hurrah for the only 3000 news service still tracking the choices for the future. We save our biggest kudos for the field reporters around the world who tell us what you need to know.
June 14, 2007
Got a turnkey DR solution?
Most HP 3000 installations have a disaster recovery plan, right? After all, the 3000s that are still in service do the enterprise-grade computing, handling mission-critical data for thousands of companies around the world.
But an HP 3000 DR solution usually needs to be a turnkey one — that is, the systems which feed the 3000 data from the outside, then deliver data back out, need to be protected, too. Linux is becoming a popular add-on platform for 3000 owners, managing everything from firewalls to EDI transactions. So the question a 3000 customer must face is, "What about the rest of your enterprise systems — can you recover them from a disaster?"
Matt Purdue, who also holds a seat on the OpenMPE board of directors, offers such a turnkey DR solution now. His Hill Country Technologies firm (210-861-3000) can manage Windows and Linux DR as well as supply whatever recovery plan a customer needs for HP 3000 apps. Turnkey, apparently, isn't very common among companies providing 3000 DR.
Sometimes national DR providers like Sunguard operate by giving customers travelling orders in the event of a disaster. Go to this city, they tell IT managers, where duplicate equipment and IT staff await. Hill Country's DR plan is triggered by a phone call, with no travel required. Not even out of bed, if that's where the 3000 manager learns of the disaster.
Purdue contacted us to spread the word that he's assembled a team to provide DR support across a complete array of enterprise systems. Linux was foremost in his offer, both because he's seeing more of it now, and it's got potential that matches up with Perdue's experience.
Perdue has been using Linux for 10 years, which puts him in pretty select company. Even at that level of experience, he knows that an outside expert on call is a required resource.
"We've pulled together a group that can handle all those different operating environments," he said, including HP's Unix. "The people I've got support some fairly large companies here in San Antonio they take care of; one of the guys is a developer of Gentoo Linux. If you need some kind of special [Linux] hook in there, he can get it for you," such as specialized firewall software.
"There are situations where I'm in over my head, and I know well enough to leave it up to them," Perdue added. Even a decade of experience with an operating environment can leave gaps. It's a situation many HP 3000 managers face while the systems carry vital workloads.
Linux, Perdue added, has a special role to play in the world of the 3000. The Gentu distribution — free, from Gentoo.org — has a tool Perdue uses to repair failed sectors of MPE/iX discs. HP's provided repair utility, SADUTIL, is more difficult to use, he said. The next HP option is using DEBUG, a powerful but sometimes dangerous option for most of the 3000 installed base.
Gentoo Linux runs on HP PA-RISC hardware such as the 3000 line, he explained, so his diagnostics and repair happens right on the 3000 server with a reboot into Linux. It's an environment full of potential for the company which can call on experienced scripting pros.
"The world needs to wake up," he said. "Linux can do more than you think, especially if have someone good at scripting." Linux DR support is something many 3000 shops aren't taking into account when building the legacy of reliability in a cross-platform age.
June 13, 2007
Satisfied or not, tell HP
Every year since the 1980s, the 3000 community's user group has conducted an HP Customer Satisfaction Survey. This year's poll is being handled by user group Encompass. One of its board members who leads the survey has asked for HP 3000 customers to take the survey — because last year's numbers kept HP 3000 questions off of the poll.
HP and Encompass are taking responses until June 28
"From its humble beginnings as an Interex survey for MPE users, it now covers all the current HP Enterprise product lines," said Steve Davidek, a board member who guided the Interex advocacy efforts before joining Encompass. Davidek needs more participation from 3000 sites.
"This year, we are again working with the HP worldwide user groups to get your opinions of HP and its current product line. I emphasize “current” as last year we only had 29 people pick MPE as their major system and we were not able to include questions on MPE systems (this response rate was down from 47 the year before). This makes the sample too small to be statistically valid."
Validation of the platform which started the survey — something of a bit of irony — is only one benefit of participation, a process that requires nothing but a little bit of your time. You can also tell HP how it's doing in making a migration plan ready, or sound off on something like customer contracts.
"We had a great response rate from almost all of the HP product lines," Davidek said in an Internet newsgroup message. He noted three of HP's responses regarding last year’s survey in his plea for more 3000 participation:
1) At HP Technology Forum 2006, Ann Livermore announced simplification of sales contracts, reducing length of terms and conditions by two-thirds.
2) HP NonStop education is supporting an initiative to develop a “Center for Excellence for Business Critical Systems” at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL that will include certificate programs for HP BCS technologies, including NonStop.
3) HP’s NonStop division decided to invest in improvements of development tools, including NonStop plugins for Eclipse that are scheduled for general availability for June 2007.
I’m asking that you pass the word among yourselves and your colleagues that also use HP Enterprise systems, to please take the time to fill out the survey. Your user groups and HP use the results of this survey to validate what we as users are saying about their systems. They do listen.
June 12, 2007
Encompass seeks new directors
HP's enterprise user group Encompass put out its call today for a new set of nominees to its upcoming board elections, as the organization reaches out to involve customers from every HP platform. The board already counts HP 3000 talent from Speedware's Chris Koppe and City of Sparks, Nevada's Steve Davidek. Both have been instrumental in the transfer of knowledge from the Interex user group.
The deadline for submitting an application for candidacy is Friday, July 6. The Encompass Nominating Committee will interview all applicants, and the slate of those selected to run will be announced on the Encompass Web site on July 25.
Nina Buik, the board's new president for 2007, has been profiled by the 3000 NewsWire in our latest printed issue, as well as in our blog. In our Q&A Buik makes a case for closer involvement with computer user communication organizations such as Encompass.
HP partners closely with the group, making a board seat one of the best ways to access HP executive strategies. Board service also makes a handsome addition to an IT professional's resume.
June 11, 2007
Spread out to max storage upgrades
Ron Keiper of the Nielsen Company asked how to maximize storage performance in his upgrade to HP’s XP series of disk arrays, linked to an HP 3000. This kind of upgrade is common in a site which is either homesteading or buying more time during a migration project.
We are in the process of migrating our HVD10 storage to an XP256 via FW-SCSI and IO Expansion (1828A) cabinets. Our performance testing thus far shows a large increase in CPU pause and disk queuing on the XP256 system. Job run time is similar, within 5-10 minutes on a one-hour job. I have seen many reports about the XP being a great deal faster, but we are not seeing that and have concerns about moving forward with our storage migration. I am wondering if it is set up properly for best performance.
The XP is set up Raid 1, I believe, (OPEN-9 in DSTAT) and are set up as HPDARRAY in SYSGEN. Is that the correct sysgen ID for the XP? There are a similar number of drives/LUNs on both of our test volume sets. The HVD is setup as Mirror/iX.
Craig Lalley of Echo Tech responds:
The XP256 is a decent box, but only half the speed of the XP512. The LDEV assignment within the XP is very important when it comes to performance. Did you spread your LDEVs across ACPs and raidgroups?
You didn’t mention how much Array Cache you have in the XP256. Keep in mind the XP storage array is cache centric, meaning everything goes through cache. With the XP256, I would max out the array cache.
Lalley, who specializes in this kind of configuration upgrade, adds
Remember, always spread your IO... across XP ports, XP cards, XP array groups, XP ACPs, host HBAs, Host System Bus Adapters and switch ports.
June 08, 2007
Early bird discount ends today for ERP conference
A host of HP 3000 experts, brandishing experience on manufacturing enterprises, will appear at next month's CAMUS User Conference in Nashville. A bargain at its full price, and including a free day of training, the July 16-18 CAMUS show offers an extra $50 discount which ends today.
The CAMUS early bird rate was extended from May 18 through June 8 for the conference, a meeting which will focus on both the homesteading and migration practices for companies that use ERP applications. MANMAN is the app focus for the meeting, but the advice offered — for only $400 to non-members, $300 to members, through today — applies to just about any manufacturing enterprise.
Online registration, at camus.org, closes on July 3. Speakers at the event include ERP guru Terry Floyd of the Support Group inc., Terri Glendon Lanza of ERP consultancy ASK TERRI, Chris Jones of Ask On Consulting, Michael Litz of the Lincoln Whitman Group, and Ali Saadat of Quantum Software Corp. CAMUS is announcing a raft of customers running 3000 enterprises who will offer advice, too.
Customer speakers will include IT and application executives: Terry Simpkins and Bob Andreini of Measurement Specialties, Dave Burrall from the Manufacturing Services Group, Bill Grisard and Janet Schmaltz of Yorozu Automotive-Tennessee, and Ed Stein of MagicAire.
Entsgo, Inc. is serving as the sponsor of the conference, which carries this year's motto:
How to Get the Most from Your Legacy System
How to Prepare for Migration
How to Survive in Between
June 07, 2007
Climbing HP's new 3000 chain of command
Jennie Hou is just finishing up her first week as the business manager for HP's 3000 operations this week. However, the veteran of more than two decades of 3000 experience is experiencing a different reporting chain than her predecessor Dave Wilde.
It can become difficult to determine what a change in an HP org chart means, especially in an era when every HP communique carries securities and investment impact. By the late 1990s, HP stopped distributing org charts to the press for the division and sector-level managers. Things changed too often. The saying inside the community: "If the ink is dry on that org chart, it must be out of date."
So understanding HP reorganizations has become something like Kremlinology, that old guessing game where the West's analysts would try to figure the Soviet pecking order by the leaders' relative positions in the May Day review stands. That said, HP's business manager now has a report within the 3000 "virtual division" according to accounts from those with internal access to the group.
Hou reports to Ross McDonald in the new organization. McDonald has been the leader of the R&D effort for the HP 3000 ever since Dave Wilde stepped up to the business manager spot in 2002. In terms of tenure in a single management position, he's got the record as near as we can figure.
HP's communiques to the community have been signed by McDonald for several years now, including the notice of how the Right To Use Licenses apply to the community's upgraded 3000s. He's also wielded the deciding word on many post-2008 issues for HP, according to those same insiders.
Like HP's replacement Craig Fairchild, who has stepped in for Jeff Vance, McDonald has lifted his public profile over the last three years. We approached him about a Q&A interview in the summer of 2004, but he declined respectfully. "We have an arrangement, Dave Wilde and me," he told me on the last-ever HP World expo floor. "Dave takes the public positions. I work behind the scenes."
Hou has latitude, we expect, to influence HP's end-of-product-life decisions about the 3000. But it's notable that she reports to McDonald, rather than an outside manager.
June 06, 2007
Encompass hosts a training fest with HP
In the final part of our Q&A interview with new Encompass president Nina Buik, we learn what it's like to work alongside HP to create a conference — like the HP Technology Forum, whose edition this month got created in 75 percent of the usual yearly time-frame. Buik tells why the moved-up schedule seemed like a good choice for the user group, which built the content along with the Tandem user group ITUG.
Buik, who's been on the Encompass board of directors since 2005, said the user group loves its relationship with HP, the vendor that gives the group a meaning and a constituency. With many other ways to connect to a vendor now, a user group needs to keep its ties to the system creators as tight as possible.
To make a user group viable and nimble, a cozy relationship with a vendor and volunteer help remain essential. We wondered how the HP 3000 community's volunteers and former Interex members have taken to the Encompass offering.
Does Encompass need the volunteer resource of the HP 3000 and Interex community, or is the resource of dedicated OpenVMS members enough for the group?
We want representation from all facets of the HP enterprise technology community. That’s what makes us whole, a user group that is truly an enterprise technology user group. A lot of people like to complain, but they don’t really want to be part of the solution. We don’t mind the venting, but be part of the solution.
How do you feel about the level of 3000 member involvement in your user group? Has there been good response to those offers of Encompass membership at a sizable discount?
Free is definitely a sizable discount. For the first year after Interex closed its doors, we offered former members free membership. Many took us up on that offer. Our membership numbers grew quite a bit, and we were thrilled at the results.
We continue to do surveys to see what our community wants from us. One survey participant who probably came from the Interex group wanted to know “what the Kit-Kats and Coronas are” for their volunteerism. Everybody who volunteers wants to know, what’s in it for me?
Give us an update: how’s the relationship developed between Encompass and HP since the last Technology Forum?
It’s grown quite a bit since I’ve joined the board. We continue to focus on improving, expanding and really creating a very cooperative relationship. I don’t use this term lightly, but it really has become a love-fest. We share the same values: To deliver the best for the HP enterprise technology customer. Since we all have our eyes on that goal, we can’t possibly go wrong.
How have conditions changed since you’ve joined the Encompass board?
The community has responded very positively to our joint effort with HP to produce a conference. This is somewhat rare; most independent user groups put on their own conference. Our model with HP is different than most.
This is our third year working together, and what’s happened is that our voice is an equal voice now in the conference. I think in the first year we were a participating factor, because it was the first year. HP knew who we were, but they hadn’t worked with us before. Now we’re partners. It really has amazed me. It’s been a joy to watch and participate in.
We’ve heard from another board member that the local user groups are facing the same kinds of challenges that Interex RUGs faced. What do you see?
You want passionate leadership and empowered leadership. It’s got to be more than just a hug and a thank you. We’ve got to figure out a way to provide a return on investment of time to our local user group leadership in order to see the value and sustenance of the program.
Being able to tie in your volunteering with what you do professionally is pretty important. Local user groups are so important today. You have technologists who due to telecommuting or virtualization or what have you, lots of people work from home now. There are fewer opportunities for them to network with other technologists.
There’s bound to be many more HP employees present during the week because of the concurrent HP StorageWorks and HP Software conferences. Is this a way for HP to use the conference as a training resource for itself?
Indeed that’s a benefit to HP. Certainly if I were HP and I were putting on this conference, it would be a huge benefit to bringing my own staff. However, as an HP customer as well, this can only be a benefit as well. It’s expanded to a broader audience. It’s one-stop information shopping.
You have to understand, most people spend $500 a day in tuition to go to just about any IT class. If they attend the pre-conference as well, they’re spending less than that to have access to over 400 sessions and 20 pre-conference sessions. You’re spending $1,500, if you’re an Encompass member, for four days of education. That’s a pretty good value.
What was the discussion like between HP and Encompass when HP asked for a June date for the conference?
The moving of the date was both a challenge and a blessing. Moving the date put us out of what HP called “the hurricane path,” moving away from September. Had there been any hurricane threat in Las Vegas, I’d question how long we all would have on this Earth. Moving it up also benefits HP, because they’re out of their fourth quarter sales push. They’re able to get more sales people, and ultimately those people are going to bring more customers to the event.
The biggest challenge for us was how to pull off a conference in less than a year. The early planning meetings for the ’07 event were held a few weeks prior to last fall’s Houston event. In that boardroom we were scrambling. We said, “We’re just going to have to do it.” Heads-down work, shuffling our priorities around to accommodate the date change.
At the same time we wanted to balance that work with our strategic goals for 2007. If you don’t do that, you become a one-legged stool that survives only on a conference. That’s not what we’re about.
How do you view the changes to the conference price and offerings for this year?
There was a slight uptick in the price, but compared to other conferences like the Oracle User Group, it’s still the best value in town. I think there’s a lot more curb appeal to Las Vegas, although Houston pleasantly surprised us. They rolled out the red carpet. Las Vegas always offers a little more excitement.
Was planning content the biggest pinch in compressing the conference's construction?
Indeed. We put our calls for papers out in November. It’s a bit like putting together a Rubik’s Cube; when you change one thing, it impacts all others. Then in post-mortem sessions, you want to ensure you’re aligning next year’s content with surveys from the previous year.
June 05, 2007
Encompass mission for 3000s: same show as '05's
One week from today, the Encompass user group opens up the third HP Technology Forum for the first full day schedule, including HP's 3000 updates and migration best practice presentations. Nina Buik, president of the only remaining HP user group, answered our questions in our May print issue Q&A feature about the changes in the conference and how the user group chooses talks to include in the training lineup. Buik, whose day job is Senior VP for education company MindIQ, took the president’s post at Encompass this year, all while the user group was in express mode, working to get a yearly conference completed in just nine months of work. HP had requested a 2007 conference date in June; last year’s Forum met in September.
The 3000 community, migrating or staying, will get to sample the collaboration between user group and vendor with preconference sessions starting June 18 in Las Vegas. In our Q&A we wanted to get an update on the Encompass relationship with the 3000 community, especially those customers who face several years of homesteading while they try to assemble migration budget, or work out the details of moving applications built on more than a decade of business logic. Buik took on the president's post from predecessor Kristi Browder, who we interviewed during the very first Tech Forum in 2005.
In 2005 we heard from your predecessor that Encompass sees migrating 3000 customers as its primary members. Has HP’s shift in support lifespan for the 3000 changed anything in the Encompass mission for the 3000?
Not at this time. We work closely with the board of OpenMPE that we are in line with the direction of HP, and so if we can’t provide resources, we know how to direct users. Our goal and focus is still on helping folks that are considering migration.
Even with the additional two years [of HP's 3000 support] added on, I think it’s clear that eventually people will make a transition. We just have to help maintain it. It’s not just the 3000 community. There’s a big shift in HP to look beyond the technology, and help technologists improve their business technology skills. They are going to need skills that are beyond the bit level to be competitive in the job market.
So a more modern technology conference, such as what Encompass is building alongside HP, offers skills to help these bit-level members handle the next transition, too?
You bet. You take something like the Information Technology Infrastructure Library; these are areas that are growing significantly, and they present a challenge to the technologist who purely was understanding their platform — and now they have management saying “We’re moving towards datacenter consolidation, it’s a business decision. I need you to understand it, embrace it and help us move our technology in that direction.”
What about this set of ITIL best practices handbooks — do you see promoting these kinds of transition skills as part of the Encompass mission to the HP community?
This is why we exist. It’s a shift, but it’s our responsibility to help look at the direction our vendor partner is taking and help our members get there.
June 04, 2007
Encompass works on curb appeal at Tech Forum
New Encompass user group president Nina Buik is pleased with appeals — the kind of “curb appeal” next month’s Technology Forum venue offers, the heeded appeals for cooperation between vendor and user group, appeals for volunteer work the user group’s local levels. Buik, whose day job is Senior VP for education company MindIQ, took the president’s post at Encompass this year, all while the user group was in express mode, working to get a yearly conference completed in just nine months of work. HP had requested a 2007 conference date in June; last year’s Forum met in September.
Hundreds of scheduled sessions and a dozen served platforms later, the 3000 community, migrating or staying, will get to sample the collaboration between user group and vendor starting June 18 in Las Vegas. This will be Buik’s first show as user group president. She has served on the Encompass board since 2005, taking the reins from Kristi Browder, who we interviewed in 2005.
Buik said she knew she could provide a fresh background to the board from sales and marketing experience. “In business,” she said, “nothing happens until somebody sells something.” And so the group pulls into the home stretch of selling the Technology Forum, along with Encompass membership, this month.
We wanted to talk to an Encompass leader about how the group’s relationship with HP has progressed, HP’s influence and presence in a week that now includes two other HP conferences in Las Vegas, as well as what more Encompass might do for the 3000 community. We spoke by phone in April, just a week before the HP Technology Forum session catalog went live online.
What impacts content selection for a conference, like getting more HP 3000 sessions in the catalog?
If you show up, you’re heard. A lot of people from the OpenVMS community were complaining, noticing that there were fewer sessions that were going to be available. I have to tell you, the highest ranking people are HP executives coming to this event and look at this data. If you don’t show up, those numbers are calculated and next year they determine what’s going to be included. The executives perceive those numbers to be a lack of interest in the technology.
Tell all the folks who are using the HP 3000 technology: Show up. Be heard. Let your numbers speak volumes to HP executives, to let them know what you want and need in your community. This is the event that you want to show up at, to be heard.
So the best chance of having an impact on 3000 content for the 2008 conference is to attend the 2007 conference, then fill out an evaluation that says, “I wish there would have been more for me here.”
Absolutely. If you’re on the planning committee and you see a session had only two or three people, logically you’d say, “I need that room for something else.”
Does it strike you as being expensive to attend a conference that is light on your content to create a subsequent one that has more of your content?
No one lives on an island anymore in information technology. When you look at the wide variety of sessions, this year we’re adding Leaders’ Day, soft skills for IT managers, there’s going to be so many sessions for you to attend outside of that particular niche technology.
There’s going to be the SIGs, and Encompass has a SIG-Migrate that’s active. We attract a lot of folks who are either considering or active in migration.
June 01, 2007
A news era after old departures?
A Paris waiter snapped the photo next to these words. The picture, taken on the first morning I brunched with my wife and NewsWire co-founder Abby, catches a look of sleepy, jet-lagged bliss. Why not? With a $28 breakfast before me on a sunny Sunday street, any other kind of expression would confound my memories.
But back here in Austin, I muse about departures rather than arrivals. By the time you read these words, two mainstays of the HP Transition Story will have made their transition to retirement. A third 3000 stalwart will have moved on to another HP pasture. All three were engines of the news and announcements of the Transition Era — those stories you see to the right on this page.
It is a unique view today to get up and realize that Jeff Vance will no longer be informing the 3000 community about policy, programs or promises. He tells us in our May print issue's changing of the guard article he’s served the 3000 customers for 28 years, his entire IT career. In that, he’s got something in common with some of our readers: two decades and more on the same enterprise system, knowing it like a good street map of Paris, aware of every hidden passage and double-named Rue.
June is also the first month without Mike Paivinen since HP made its 3000 exit announcement. I didn’t know Mike before November of 2001, except for a few glimpses of brilliance during technical meetings. But in the Transition Era, and especially in the first 18 months, Paivinen weathered every “what if” and “how about” and “why didn’t you” question that frothed from the mouth of a flummoxed 3000 customer.
And he fielded those questions — the kind that have sparked countless Web exchanges over 3000 newsgroups — with the same kind of spirit you see on our cover. Wry, knowing, parental, sometimes frustrating. But unflinching, the kind of steady hand you hope for in a turbulent time.
Finally, the departure of Dave Wilde closes a significant chapter of the 3000 saga. Wilde was left with what his predecessor and boss Winston Prather had created: a community thoroughly baffled and uniformly upset at HP’s business decision. HP’s management was reviled throughout Wilde’s tenure, but I never felt that emotion about him, through countless professional encounters. I often thought that one of the world’s worst summer jobs would be to work as the business manager of the HP 3000, post-2001. Wilde held that often-thankless job for five years, longer than any HP 3000 general manager, including Harry Sterling.
These men are replaced by others in the 3000 group who’ve been essential, though more behind the scenes up to now. Paivinen and Vance’s workloads are so diverse they will be split up among not less than five HP 3000 veterans, by our accounting. As for Wilde, he leaves his reins to Jennie Hou, a veteran so dedicated that she toiled in the hard fields of Oracle for MPE/iX. Some large customers appreciated the work she delivered. So many more seemed to wonder either 1. Why Oracle would ever be a good bet for the 3000, with IMAGE overwhelming all apps, or 2. Why Oracle wasn’t better on a platform with a tiny installed base, using Oracle’s yardstick.
That kind of determination, in the face of little thanks, seems to be a hallmark of the best HP manager still protecting the 3000 interests. As a teller of 3000 tales, I can hope the community will see as much communication and contact in the years to come as it got from Wilde, Paivinen and Vance.
The bromide I recall at these moments is that people of this caliber cannot be replaced. Trees with this many rings are among the most prized in any forest. I wish for as many rings in all of our futures — to keep the our stories in print and on this blog flowing for the many years of Transition still on our plates, reports steaming like so much fresh bread at a French breakfast.