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July 31, 2007

GHRUG postpones MPE/iX conference

After securing new dates in the same location, the Greater Houston Regional User Group (GHRUG) has postponed its September MPE/iX conference. Group president Richard Pringle cited a lack of time to prepare the kind of meeting that a 3000 community in transition deserves.

The group of volunteers needs more time, according to the GHRUG statement .

Our HP 3000 Conference scheduled for September 14-15, 2007, is being postponed.  "We have always wanted to offer the highest quality MPE/iX International conference," said president Richard Pringle. "In a community with such a wide range of transition and training needs, creating the best possible conference required more time than we first estimated. Our key sponsors and committee members remain fully engaged for our new conference dates. New programs and events are in process today for Spring, March 14 and 15 of 2008 — a year with critical impact for the 3000 community. Your patience and participation is appreciated."

The GHRUG, the last outpost of the once-widespread Interex user groups, is preparing a conference to provide both homesteading skills and migration tactics and techniques, according to its board. The group voted to name the conference after the HP 3000 operating system, planning four tracks and including soft skills in management.

The University of Houston at Clear Lake campus remains the site for the conference, with meeting dates secured from the university officials. The board is conducting an election through this week to lock in director seats and spark more detailed plans for the '08 conference.

08:07 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 30, 2007

HP list starts to list toward history

Even though the HP 3000 mailing list doesn't even boast 600 members, it's a barometer of what the installed base is thinking about. In the last week or so the list has been recounting history, looking back at accomplishments that seem crude and small in today's light.

They were no such thing during the 1970s and 1980s, when the minicomputer was winning share away from mainframes. HP led the way with interactive computing and a bundled IMAGE database. The latter was a result of the US government ruling against IBM, one that forced Big Blue to break up its offerings. At the same time, HP brought out a business server with a database wired into the operating and file systems.

IBM had to break out its software and hardware businesses as a result of the Federal decree. The HP 3000 got its opening to give programmers the power to create their own applications by driving an award-winning database. Datamation, long since passed in the market but a force in the 1970s, crowned IMAGE with the prize in 1977. HP only began to bundle it in 1976.

John Dunlop, who operates the fine 3000links.com Web page, started a thread on the 3000 list not long ago about the days of paper tape computing. Technology that goes back at least to the time of the 3000's inception. Dunlop outlined his challenges with IBM's 360 mainframe and its Job Control Language (JCL) cards. In part, he wrapped up by saying,

Paper tape also had nightmare qualities of its own. It seemed that it was always just as you got close to the end of a complicated program that the tape would break and you would have to start again. However, it was a slight improvement on the cards.

I expect others have similar nostalgic stories. I for one would enjoy hearing them.  Perhaps Ron Seybold could have a nostalgia corner somewhere.

Consider that corner to be right here, in the comments section below.

Vestiges of those accomplishments, and the remains of 360 programming, still run in the 3000 community. Gary Nolan reported that

I still have a COBOL program around that was written in 1974 on the 360, converted to HP 3000 in 1984 and ran in production until 2001 when the company closed down. Since it was an accounting program, it probably would be still running today if the company existed.

Crude tools? How about

In my time at an IBM shop, I remember that one had to keep track of your files manually; that is, there was no directory structure.

The earliest HP 3000s forced programmers to work inside a 64K "stack," making early programs in SPL an assignment only for the most elegant programmers. Why 64K? It was an early highwater mark for computing in general. Dunlop reminisces

Ah, the 64k memory box...  Memory was called “core” not “RAM” back then. Why?  Because every memory bit was a tiny magnetic donut called a “core”, hand strung at the factory with two wires -- one horizontal and one vertical. The refrigerator-sized cabinet not only housed this core memory, but a large oil tank and pump to keep the core memory cool.

Anyone seen the precursor to disks?  Magnetic drum storage.  The control hardware was much simpler because there was exactly the same number of bits, traveling at the same speed, no matter where the data was on the drum.

08:36 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 27, 2007

Why is Windows important, you say?

The platform most often picked to replace HP 3000 missions? That would be Windows, thanks to the "billions and billions," as Carl Sagan would say, of Windows desktops out there.

But what if that sea of piano-note-laden splash screens didn't surge up to sing "Microsoft?" Supposing the trend tilted toward Linux on desktops? How would the 3000-to-Windows migration choice measure up, if Linux gets critical mass on desktops, too?

Linux already powers much of the Internet. HP 3000 experts are reaching out to the Little Penguin That Could for migration server choices, but not anywhere near as often as HP's Unix, or Windows. HP's worldwide director of open-source and Linux marketing, Doug Small, said that the mass will become as critical as your missions for Linux on desks. This year, too.

"Of course," you say, "he's the director of marketing for HP's Linux. What else would he say?" The real question is what will Small do. In the face of a more complex and largely-on-the-sidelines Vista release, HP is likely to release a retail line of PCs bundled with Linux desktop operating systems. HP is already pre-loading Linux on desktops for 37 Latin American countries. (Who knew there were so many?) Retail. Talk about institutionalizing Linux in customers' minds.

It's a stretch to imagine that 100 million Windows desktops will roll to Linux in a hurry. But consider that a manager of HP 3000s and the desktops must roll these systems over every three years, to keep up with Windows' demands. On any of those rolls, a low-cost, high-function Linux could take over. Microsoft knows this, and markets against Linux with vigor approaching desperation.

Lots of programming savvy has built up in the 3000 community over the past 10 years. This savvy, and the ability to hire Windows experts cheaply, is more likely to keep the Microsoft mantra on the lips of your community. More likely than whatever HP will be bundling.

But that is a technical argument, the kind that HP 3000 managers, migrating or not, lost over and over during the past decade. Trends and buzz often rule top management decisions. For the 3000 director who can offer a lower-cost desktop across hundreds of desks, perhaps a big bonus awaits.

HP just announced it will be buying Neoware. For $214 million, HP will get a company provides thin-client systems. DesktopLinux.com says "HP is doing this because it intends to accelerate the growth of HP's thin-client business by boosting its Linux client software."

Yes, because Hewlett-Packard wants more market share of PC desktops. Which means fewer Microsoft outposts, making Windows look like a backward-facing choice to some decision makers. Is that you, who are now considering how safe a bet Windows appears?

08:21 AM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 26, 2007

Avert a disaster? Plan on it happening

HP 3000 managers, even the women, are "belt-and-suspender guys," to use a phrase from the 1980s. They are accustomed to knowing that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong — and being enough of an IT pro to recover. Quickly.

Oh, that the Internet's infrastructure should be so well engineered. On Tuesday a few blocks of San Francisco were without power, intermittently. Within minutes, massive chunks of the Internet was knocked off the wires and wireless channels. Big companies and famous sites. Good Morning Silicon Valley noted the popular sites that were shut down:

LiveJournal and Second Life went dead, AdBrite dimmed, Craigslist became unlisted, the 1Up gaming network went down, Facebook turned blank, Six Apart couldn't get it together, and Yelp was rendered silent.

The outage even hit our NewsWire offices, thousands of miles away, because we host with Six Apart for this blog. Our content is backed up locally, daily, but our performing platform sank into shadow for more than three worrisome hours. Only a story about the blackouts from an InfoWorld site — just a few blocks from the outage — allayed our concerns. Good Morning Silicon Valley noted that

A good-size chunk of San Francisco was powerless for several hours during the middle of the business day, including hosting service 365 Main, which powers many of the Web's most popular sites and which boasts of doubly redundant backup in case of blackouts

HP offered its latest disaster recovery solution in an entertaining video shown at last month's HP Technology Forum. Disaster recovery (DR) can become your only job if something so simple as power gets interrupted. Many HP 3000 veterans now offer this service to the community.

The Good Morning article quoted several Internet mavens as saying the blackout was a wake up call for the industry. HP 3000 managers are more awake than many, but plenty of sites have a DR plan untested, out of date or just missing in action.

We've run plenty of articles about the community's DR resources, ranging from discounts for DR systems to the turnkey approach across multiple computing platforms including the HP 3000. Have a look, and catch up if you need to:

Free and discount Client Systems offerings

HP blows up marketing real good

Got a turnkey DR solution?

Get that 3000 touch for disasters

Disaster Recovery Optimization Techniques

Storage Selections for Disaster Recovery

How to Do Something to Recover

Give the NewsWire's search facility (in the left-hand column) a try to dig out the rest of what we've run. Your community is full of leading lights to avoid the darkness.

01:20 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2007

What makes for a run-up

HP's third fiscal quarter closes in less than a week, and the company can point to a stock run-up of almost 50 percent in share price over the last 12 months. It's been a rate of rise to take pride in, at least among HP's employees and officers and the most loyal of customers. Like those who are staying with HP as they make their transition from the 3000. Choosing HP's Unix or HP servers is no slam-dunk sale for your vendor.

But even that performance is being out-paced by Apple today. The company dropped the "Computer" from its name last year, even though its Macintosh systems now rank at Number 4 in the US PC market share. HP often reminds us of its Number 1 ranking in servers of all kinds. PCs, of course, represent so many more computers.

Today Apple announced its quarterly earnings (profits up 73 percent) with news about the opening four weeks of sales of its iPhone. To some eyes, the iPhone is Apple's latest Mac. On this evening, the computer line that isn't Windows-based — but runs Windows alongside Apple's Unix, OS X — is sold by a company capitalized at $129 billion. HP's market cap is $118 billion today. Profit per employee is $45,000 at HP, and $173,000 at Apple.

And Apple's stock run-up? 124 percent per share in the last year, not counting the $13-a-share bump tonight on the iPhone news.

How Apple spins its profit from so few employees might be a trick only a BMW-grade company can perform. But HP can tout its Number 1 status in the whole of the industry. Getting to Number 1 obviously takes a lot more headcount. That musters the clout to deliver HP's Monday salvo, when Hewlett-Packard offered $1.6 billion to buy data center automation software company Opsware.

HP is offering $14.25 per share in cash for Opsware, a 38.6 percent premium over Opsware’s recent closing price. HP said it will fold Opsware into HP’s software business after the deal closes, another sheaf in your vendor's business technology optimization software portfolio.

Apple's release didn't say how many iPhones it sold during the product's first days. But the company reported it sold a total of 270,000 iPhones and related accessories, a number smaller than estimated by at least one-half. The markets didn't care, counting on Apple's forecast to sell one million iPhones by the end of the current quarter. CEO Steve Jobs said, "iPhone is off to a great start... and our new product pipeline is very strong."  Tonight after hours, Apple's stock is trading at about $150 per share.

Apple shipped more than five iPods for every Macintosh it sold this quarter. It would be interesting to have HP report how many printers it sold for every server this quarter, or maybe HP's combination of servers and PCs. These non-business-customer product successes produce the vaunted "halo effect" for a company's brand.

HP pursued the consumer segment hard, even with Apple's products rebranded, to little avail in Carly Fiorina's era. CEO Mark Hurd means to focus your vendor more on computing, even though the printer group provides the most profit of any HP business.

Expect the HP Q3 results to appear, as usual, in mid-August.

06:38 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 24, 2007

Backup pioneer Joerg Groessler dies

Joergpic Joerg Groessler, creator of breakthrough backup programs for HP 3000s, has died at age 55. The German computer scientist and creator of Online Backup, and the first released version of Backpack/3000, passed away quietly in the night of July 23, ending a battle with a brain tumor which had been diagnosed earlier this year.

Groessler celebrated life in his final months in the community, working until his final two weeks on development at ORBiT Software, the company he founded in the early 1980s. Stories describing his transition suite at the Clairmont assisted living facility where he spent his last days included a 62-inch flat-screen monitor to program on and communicate, fed by 2 MB Internet pipe, "because I don't have time to wait."

Groessler was more than an expert programmer, by accounts from community colleagues as well as co-workers in the ORBiT lab. Close friend and business colleague Jane Copeland, who knew him since his seminal HP market days of the 1970s and was in continual contact with Groessler and his family to the very last, said the man's brilliance was apparent.

"He was a genius," said the founder of API Software, a networking solutions provider to the HP 3000 community and beyond. Even while he was continuing lab work for ORBiT, Groessler contributed "very valuable work for us" during his final year, Copeland said.

Mark Klein, ORBiT's lab software manager for more than a decade and a 3000 star who still develops for the company as an independent, said that Groessler's design of Backup — which has stood up through three distinct generations of MPE, from CISC through RISC and beyond — was both an industry breakthrough and prescient.

"He wasn't the typical [lab director] who rides herd over his masses," Klein said. "He told us what he wanted and let us loose to create it." ORBiT's labs, under Groessler's direction, grew to include a star caliber roster of developers including Stan Sieler, Jason Goertz, Paul Taffel, Jacques van Damme and Klein. "A Joerg Groessler ORBiT was a lot of fun to work at," Klein said.

The design of the 3000's backup solutions came at a time when the fundamental concept of backing up computers was still in its infancy, Klein said. Later, the elegance of his designs paved the way for rapid development.  "We could proof a module even before the entire product was built," he explained. "In the late 1980s that was unique."

Groessler architected the design of Online Backup — which has become Online Backup+ in its latest version — employing such forward thinking that the software still has performance headroom, more than 20 years after it was introduced, Klein said.

Groessler created the 1.05 version of the first third-party tool for backing up MPE systems, software which became Tymlabs' Backpack after re-development by Tymlabs' Technical Director  Winston Krieger. Between the two products, Groessler's initial designs and architecture have dominated more than 90 percent of backup for HP 3000 systems, including those at Hewlett-Packard's own labs and business units.

His subsequent program, Online Backup, grew to an installed base of more than 6,000 licenses by the late 1990s, placing it among the top five for the 3000 market of its day. Groessler gave HP 3000 customers a more intelligent alternative to the HP-included STORE and RESTORE programs in the 3000's MPE operating system. The breakthrough was the ability to select files using rules, versus the blanket backup of STORE and RESTORE.

As the 3000 became more of a mission-critical choice, with its unique interactive abilities winning a place for the system against IBM in the minicomputer market, Groessler's work ensured the safety of countless gigabytes of corporate information.

Groessler is survived by his sister Margaret, who cared for him at an Oakland assisted living facility where he sped about on a customized wheelchair. His June celebration of life event drew more than 100 industry lights, taking over the dining room. "He was active to the end, and vital," said a co-worker. He set a wonderful example of celebrating life."

A story is being told this week about Groessler disappearing from the care facility one morning after an especially hard evening of struggle with his condition. While friends grew worried, he returned from a trip to Fry's Electronics, where his driver had taken him to buy a needed computer cable.

04:13 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 23, 2007

Update to keep the link to IMAGE open

Every HP 3000 contains an ODBC database link tool. ODBCLink/SE was engineered by MBFA, then bundled in with the HP 3000 operating system. The software has been available since MPE/iX 6.0, so that covers close to a decade's worth of releases. MB Foster has offered an upgrade to the 3000 community to expand the tool's power, an upgrade at a discount.

Keeping ODBCLink/SE running isn't complex, but it can require more than just keeping the 3000 plugged in to your building's power source. You have to keep up with some patches if things change in your environment. Current HP support customers can get updates, online, for the bundled software.

On the HP 3000 Internet newsgroup, one 3000 user was trying to keep the link tool from hanging up. HP's Cathlene McRae, Senior Response Center Engineer, offered a few solutions to the problem.

If you are getting a number of hangs from the ODBCLink/SE driver you may need  to do one of the following:

1) Update the version of the ODBCLink/SE driver. The current version is g04.05. Run odbcutse.odbcse.sys to discover your current version.

If the version is f.xx or e.xx,  you should update.  If you need a newer version  of ODBCLink/SE you will need to open a case with the HP Response Center. ODBC  patches are not available on the HP IT Response Center web site.

2) The problem may be network configuration.  emr_na-c01003546 documents these issues.  The hangs may be waits. 

It is possible by adjusting the values on your DBE or TCP configurations, the problems will go away.

06:18 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2007

Two years after the Interex implosion

It was two years ago this week that the HP 3000 community learned about the Interex user group's vanishing act. The technical and social resource for HP computer users went offline with no notice to the group's HP World sponsors, magazine and show advertisers, volunteers or members, leaving more than $4 million in unpaid bills and long-term debts.

After 24 months, the only remaining asset worth pursuit — the programs in the group's Contributed Software Library — remains in limbo. Members and sponsors have not seen their bank accounts reimbursed for booth reservations, membership dues or sponsor monies, not to mention the unpaid bills to hotels across the country or HP's loss (well over $100,000, for those who are counting.)

It was 60 years ago that Sgt. Pepper taught his band to play (the 20 in that Beatles lyric, plus the 40 since the song's release), but the song of Interex played only about half as long. HP 3000 customers founded the group in earnest in the middle 1970s, led by system managers working to find a way to maximize their investment in HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard engineers used those users to tune the HP 3000 product offerings, often by repair of the releases after they were already in the field.

Guy Smith, a contributing writer for the 3000 NewsWire in our earliest issues of 1995, posted a note in that week of 2005, noting that "It is no longer an HP World."

My first job in 1978 was for a Sunnyvale timesharing company that ran a HP 3000 Series I. Intel and Rolm ran their financial systems on our machine. The last Interex HP World I attended was the San Francisco blow-out with Circe d' Soliel. Interex promoted HP products until around 1994 when HP pulled its salesforce and subsequently anounced the end FIRST end of the HP-3000. With HP-UX dominating marketing and sales, as a Interex Regional Users Group officer I immediately saw a drop in attendance at the local level.

So many IT shops were losing the HP-3000 only mantle and becoming multi-vendor/OS shops. Windows, NT, Unix, HP-UX. The family HP way was gone, and then Carly Fiorina placed the final stake in the HP 3000 and Interex about three years ago.

What is Mark Hurd's golden handshake compensation? Only the CEO and board members get richer. The rest of struggle to live and have a sense of unity. It is no longer an HP World.

12:52 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 19, 2007

35 years of dropping names

It was a marketplace of names.

That is the sentence one man suggested for opening a history of the HP 3000. Birket Foster of MB Foster has offered it to me in many discussions, chats when the topic became, "When are you going to write that book?"

Letterone150001 Birket is one of those names, among the more unique of the cast members which helped produce the HP 3000 marketplace. Others come to mind like Alfredo, Vladimir and the more common-sounding Bob or Fred. (If you're keeping score, the last names are Rego, Volokh, Green and White, the founders of Adager, VEsoft, Robelle, and IMAGE respectively.) That quartet of creators of database tools, a turbo-charged MPE and 3000's award-winning database — their names come to mind first.There are many more, uncommon monikers like J.P., Gilles, Eugene, and a Potter from Quasar who offered the 3000's first QUIZ. 

However, before nearly all of those names rose in your community's ranks — in fact, 35 years ago this summer — were Hewlett and Packard, and the company named for two men who didn't really believe a business computer was in HP's business interest. Despite their reservations, several years of work on the first model of your system led to the summer of 1972, when the HP 3000 was already running late, beset with hardware problems.

Our archives here in the NewsWire offices now include a letter to the first customer to order an HP 3000. But not the first customer to receive a new system, perhaps a good thing. The initial shipments of HP 3000s only fulfilled Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard's doubts. Their H-P was stuck with a product which started as a disaster. It was up to another Bill to break the news.

HP put its best face on this first delay, telling Yale-New Haven Hospital that "When a first order comes from a hospital such as Yale-New Haven and from [Dr. David Seligson] a person with an international reputation in the field of laboratory automation, we are doubly flattered." But this HP 3000 system was going to ship late to New Haven.

"Although our development is remarkably close to the targets we set over a year ago, we find that we must slip our shipments to insure that our customers receive a computer system with the built-in reliability that HP is known for," read Bill Terry's letter to Seligson. "Your system will be the first shipped outside the immediate Cupertino area and is scheduled for December, 1972."

Letterone150002 The letter arrived in May, seven months before HP allowed the first 3000s outside of California. It was a simpler time with crude technology. HP offered the hospital a bonus for the delay. "We would like to donate an additional 8K words of core memory (part 3006A, $8,000.00) to your HP 3000 system. Additionally, our intention is definitely to continue with plans for the training of your people, both in Cupertino and New Haven, as soon as possible."

So even with the very first order of the HP 3000, the vendor was delivering its product by way of "intention" rather than guarantees. HP's founders had made a fortune with a practice of under-promising and then over-delivering by 1972. Conservative to its core, the company nonetheless would ship a system so crippled it had to be returned for a do-over, two years later.

And those 8K words of memory, at a cost of $8,000, are so small today that 125,000 of them are available for $8. Not core memory, specific to only one computer, but a 1GB memory stick  which can be used in 100 million computers, and millions more cameras, printers and phones. A small contribution indeed, HP offered, in the face of a delay.

But Bill Terry was doing his best with what HP had for the nascent 3000 community. He would survive the debacle of the first HP 3000 models to see himself and other HP computer founders honored with a documentary film, screened when HP's restored Palo Alto garage reopened. This week, Computer Reseller News posted a blog entry about that moment, a part of the "Bill and Dave" book by Michael S. Malone which made its way into bookstores this spring.

So to the 3000's history of names we can add a different Bill. We'd like you to offer any 1970s names you recall to help compose the 3000's story. Thirty-five years is long enough to wait to begin. We could well call the book Don't Trust Anyone Under 30.

10:51 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2007

When should you encrypt?

In yesterday's entry, we tracked the options available for HP 3000 data encryption. None looked simpler than the Orbit Software product, Backup+/iX, now engineered for 256-bit encryption of data during backups only. The backup-triggered encryption minimizes performance drain, a potential pitfall of encrypting data.

But the question of when to encrypt surfaced just a few hours after the discussion of product and freeware solutions. Tracy Johnson observed

Encryption of data on the host itself is really a waste of time. Why? Unless there is no access control at the host? Encryption during transmission between two computers is usually how it is done because that is when data is vulnerable.

Pete Eggers, whose name has been mentioned as a potential OpenMPE director, replied that the moment of encryption was not clear from the customer's question: how to encrypt a dataset in a TurboIMAGE database.

There is nowhere enough information presented to say that host data encryption is a waste of time — nor enough information to say that any form of transmission of the data warrants
encryption.

Johnson delivered an allegory to explain why host-based encryption appears redundant to him.

I just find it funny that all of a sudden after 60-odd years of computers there is a sudden need for encrypting data where it resides. It still begs the question of lack of access control. If the hypothetical HR department has its data on a host, and the hypothetical Shipping department has access to HR's data, what kind of access control is that?

I recall upon receipt of my set of rainbow books in the early 1980s and a discussion of the (then theoretical) "Class A1" trusted information system holding the highest levels of classified data:

"A blackboard with something written on it can be a Class A1 trusted information system.  All you need to do is put it in a locked room and have users sign in and out at the door where the armed guard is."

Taking away the armed guard and lowering the Trusted Criteria a bit, what I understand is being wanted here, is to require users to decode gibberish written on the blackboard after they have already been let in!

If you see my point, it is far more practical, (if not as efficient) to encrypt data as it is being transmitted, to and from a host and decrypted upon receipt. If a key is lost, you may always transmit again using a new key.

There is also additional risk if the data is encrypted on the host.  If you've lost the key, you've lost everything.

Encrypting data at the host does have its uses. On a PC where there is no access control and the hard drive can be compromised easily, such as at home or in airline baggage, host encryption makes sense and the user counts on it.  But that user also runs the same risk if he forgets the key.

I think the key here are differences between multiuser hosts and PCs. The line became blurred when they starting using PCs as multiuser servers and basic concepts of security became lost.

Eggers replied with another point, about the changes in computing — and how the new world demands a different standard, one that assumes the worst and demonstrates "due care."

Encrypting data is a tool.  Misapplying the tool falls under "due care," and not having proper and/or approved procedures in place to safely use it falls under "due diligence’.

The courts seem to be becoming the school of hard knocks for IT and executives alike as most consider security in a heavily networked society: Annoyingly time-consuming and complex; and/or are blissfully ignorant of consequences; and/or will cross that bridge when they come to it.

The world has changed a lot in 60 years, and at an increasing rate. Adaptability is essential to survive. The days of multiuser text interface database servers connected by simple serial lines to dumb terminals are gone.  Even when client/server systems begin to look like the old dinosaurs, the invisible underlying functionality and complexity is increasing dramatically. This hidden complexity needs to be secured.

With worldwide high-speed broadband interconnectivity increasing at a rapid rate, the bad guys are probing for holes in this ever-increasing complexity of our interconnected systems, making our systems harder and harder to secure.

Most of the government systems with highly-sensitive information or functions are disconnected from networks, or connected only to internal highly secured and controlled networks. There is no way to guarantee their safety if connected to public networks.  But business depends more and more on interconnectivity every year. Therefore, risk analysis is essential — even if it boils down to just purchasing insurance policy to cover a vulnerability.

But it's entirely likely that purchasing a commercial encryption solution could be less expensive, and preventative to boot. That's due diligence, if implemented with proper procedures.

07:17 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 17, 2007

Encryption: where and when and how

Regulations drive today's encryption needs, much of the time, for HP 3000 customers. Security and SOX, COBIT or PCI compliance go hand in hand. And even though HP has offered little in the way of MPE/iX encryption tools in recent years, the marketplace and clever administrators and developers know how to keep the mission-critical bits under wraps.

While OpenSSL routines offer encryption potential in the Apache WebWise free offering, these routines are now nearly seven years old. Even the latest OpenSSL versions date to 2005. Implementation is not for the faint of heart.

One commercial solution and some techniques emerged recently on the HP 3000 newsgroup and mailing list. A 3000 manager asked how to encrypt one field in a TurboIMAGE database. An easy-to-implement reply came from Orbit Software. Developer Mark Klein plugged Backup+/iX "that will do encryption only at backup time."

Sure enough, the 256-bit encryption key in the Orbit product stands as the strongest protection in the 3000 community. More bits in the key means a tougher challenge to crack it through a brute force method. Documents classified as Top Secret by the US Government require encryption keys of 192 or 256 bits. Orbit's software, available for MPE/iX, was driven by the needs of customers in the banking industry.

Klein, working as an independent developer for the Orbit labs, pointed out that HP 3000 databases are privileged, a step that offers reasonable security. But not crack-proof, unless good procedures to protect that privilege are in place. Without high-powered solutions, encrypting with open source software can have stiff penalties, he said.

Note that software encryption has large performance consequences, so you really need to be clear as to whether or not the data must be encrypted in the database or encrypted for other means. If your need for encryption is to secure your data transmissions, consider using a network link that itself is encrypted. These can be hardware-accelerated, which will mean the performance will be better.

Keeping up with changes and options became a lively discussion on the newsgroup.

SOX in particular forces 3000 managers to look at encryption options. Off site storage is an issue in this compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, a ruling that applies to many hundreds of HP 3000 customers (publicly traded firms, large ones using security or bond-based funding, those which desire to look secure to customers.)

But things have moved on since the DES offerings of the late 1990s which HP engineered for the 3000. "DES has been replaced by AES," Klein said when a customer asked about the OpenSSL software HP offered. A common question might follow the one this customer posed while investigating how to get started with encryption:

We came across the option of installing PERL on the HP 3000, as it has some encryption functions/routines readily available; for example, 3-DES is present as a module. The question we have is whether we could write a program / executable in PERL and call it from a COBOL program on the HP 3000.

Another option we were thinking is of going the OpenSSL route, but there too, we have little knowledge on how to use the functions present in those libraries.

Klein replied,

OpenSSL has been ported to MPE by others and it may also provide you with a solution, if encryption of the data is the only way you can satisfy your need. Your real issue may be in calling these from COBOL.

In an even more interesting development, some 3000 developers and managers wonder if encryption on the 3000 host level is even necessary. We'll recap the strategy of guarded classrooms and blackboard gibberish tomorrow.

10:28 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 16, 2007

Free and discount Client Systems offerings

For the next six weeks or so, Client Systems is giving away a Series 9x8 PA-RISC HP 3000 to everyone who purchases an N-Class HP 3000 (also PA-RISC, but a whole lot faster. Like the difference between a HP Relative Performance Rating of 39 for the biggest 9x8, and 499 for the smallest N-Class Client Systems is selling.)

That modest 9x8 — which still runs MPE/iX 7.5, if you're willing — isn't the only free offering from this former 3000 North American Distributor for HP. Client Systems reports it will do a free Disaster Recovery assessment, which will include

  • Inventory report
  • Components at risk (no longer supported or scarce in the market)
  • Suggested DR systems and/or components
  • Cost of suggested DR systems and/or components

Those free Series 9x8s sometimes come pretty cheap these days; a few have been offered on eBay for under $200 for the low-power models. But that's still a bit of a bonus "while supplies last." Client Systems is also cutting prices an extra 20 percent for 3000s purchased as Disaster Recovery systems.

The deals end on August 31. Prospects can contact Gary Marcove at Client Systems to arrange the DR assessment, discount, or the free-with-purchase 9x8 HP 3000.

Client Systems is also one of the few outlets for remarketed 3000s to put its pricing out there for anyone to see. We note: this doesn't mean that the prices are competitive, or the lowest on the used-3000 marketplace. But at least there's one marker for the value of a 3000 other than eBay.

Client Systems likes to remind customers these systems come pre-loaded with MPE/iX, a user license and IMAGE. Most used systems on the market show up with this software, too, and the license is a (usually straightforward) transfer deal. Everybody's N-Class and A-Class systems have unlimited user licenses, another a market-wide feature.

For the curious, the Client Systems HP 3000 pricing, discounted for DR:

N-Class Servers

N550/4-way $75,900
N500/4-way $95,900
N750/4-way $119,900

A-Class Servers

A400/150Mhz $ 6,000   
A500/140Mhz  $12,000

9x9 Servers 
(various user-level licenses are available)

929 $ 4,800
939 $ 6,400
969 $11,200
979 $14,400

06:33 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2007

Calculating the homesteader's future

At the most recent HP Technology Forum, the OpenMPE meeting began with a thanks to HP. For changing its course of business, away from the HP 3000 community? Not at all. Instead, the thanks came from OpenMPE's chair Birket Foster "for creating MPE, the only business operating system HP ever created. It has made all of us, over the years, a lot of money."

Foster's heartfelt thanks is also accurate. The prosperity starts with the earnings HP collected for its own creation; then to the product and service providers like Foster's MB Foster Associates, all who've built their successful businesses on the foundation of HP 3000 revenues; then to the computer professionals who've earned a reputation and built careers from the expertise they demonstrate managing a business server.

There's more money to be made off MPE, the heartbeat operating system of the 3000 success. "Over the next few years, there's going to be a lot of 3000s that will need to be, excuse the expression, baby-sat," he said. These business models, from individual consultants and companies, to do this baby-sitting are just now taking off.

Scratch the surface of any of the experienced consultants and you'll find resources to tend your 3000. Support companies serving the 3000 indefinitely — those who committed to 2007 services even before HP changed its exit date — do such babysitting. The list runs from longtime resources like Pivital Solutions, which transitioned its authorized 3000 reseller status into a support business, to the much-newer shingles being hung out such as John Bawden's Homestead 3000 service.

This kind of baby-sitting will be new to the 3000 community, a byproduct of HP's decision to discontinue sales and its support of the system. Migrations take years, a period that requires caretaking of a computer that's still at the center of much commerce around the world. Foster also made it clear that OpenMPE's directors are working to earn money from HP itself, and eager to turn MPE into a business if HP will ever exit the community — and hand over OS source.

"We're working on additional non-disclosure projects to support HP 3000 customers," Foster said at the meeting. OpenMPE has already completed one such project for HP, assistance on a review of the MPE build process. But that amount of money will pale compared to the revenues from a released MPE.

"Several people have said large amounts of money would be available if access to the source code would be available," Foster said. OpenMPE has been stalled on making money during the last few years, a time when HP's exit date from the community has been as unclear as its details about third-party OS licensing of MPE. Both must be cleared up before an OpenMPE business model can succeed.

In the meantime all of the OpenMPE work with HP, to create a homesteading plan which was never in place from the start of the vendor's migration march — sets precedents and processes HP will use in the future. If there were no homesteading movement, then owners of the Alpha-based servers that HP stopped building this year would have no template of what to expect.

"We've been the precursor for a lot of the process in retiring an operating system," Foster said. The end of HP's MPE days won't the last exit the vendor will make from an OS community. The missteps as well as the careful detail planning from HP offer lessons for the future, a curriculum created by OpenMPE directors and Hewlett-Packard's 3000 loyalists.

08:24 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 12, 2007

The new IT library that HP reads, and writes

At last month's HP Technology Forum, the company organized a speed-dating ring of interviews for me. In less than three hours I was briefed by five different company officials about the HP products and strategies in Hewlett-Packard's talking points for the Forum. Most of the conversations revolved around products and services unavailable to run on the HP 3000 — but that's pretty much what HP has on offer now for a computer that it first shipped nearly 35 years ago.

One of HP's proffered products seemed a better match for the HP 3000 customer who's moving their IT strategy to a new, larger scope. HP says this kind of move can make "IT become a strategic partner to the business." Compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and ISO standards, like the new ISO 20000, make this expansion of strategy even more complex. Those standards are not going away, and most companies continue to expect more from IT investment.

A group of documents has helped some companies organize and spark this deeper strategy. HP was talking up the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) in many of my interviews. HP's even got an on-demand video about ITIL. One HP manager said that Hewlett-Packard has 5,000 people certified in ITIL, adding that a handful of HP employees had a role in writing the Operation volume for the library — which just got a new version on May 30. ITIL was front and center alongside HP's "midsize getting bigger" IT offerings for networks, security and services.

Josh Buckley, Program Manager for HP Services, offered up one new solution, HP Best Practices for ServiceCenter. For any company that's found OpenView to be a useful framework for IT practices, HP's 2006 acquisition of Mercury Interactive has made that long-standing network and systems management software an even more comprehensive solution. HP has even retired the name OpenView, in lieu of something called HP IT Service Management (ITSM), the OpenView software, plus years of experience, "to transform your IT into a real business and competitive differentiator."

For the HP 3000 shop heading into deeper waters in the wake of a merger or an acquisition, committed to HP's Unix solutions, ITIL and ITSM options are a point of the IT compass to watch. ITIL is no cure-all set of practices, but it's a place to begin a resurgence of IT's structure. A first-rate summary of ITIL is available on the Web, explaining with an interactive guide how this set of practices born in the UK in the 1980s has become a key tool for some think-big IT managers.

Buckley said the HP product is a good match for the customer "who's struggling with regulatory compliance, so it helps mitigate risk — not only from a project implementation perspective, so they actually have a better chance of creating a more aligned ServiceCenter implementation, but so they can map their processes against their SOX or COBIT requirements."

Best Practices for ServiceCenter contains preconfigured fields, forms, roles and rules that can be uploaded from the HP Software ServiceCenter database.

Behind much of HP's best practices lies the accumlated knowledge of ITIL, an industry standard of advice on how to run service, support, help desks, app development and more. The five volumes are named Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement — because after all, IT lives to serve the corporate mission.

HP's service to the IT manager is to offer software that can look at the whole picture of IT services in a single view. Buckley said these best practices can help identity management practices align with, say, SOX and COBIT and ISO compliance.

CIO Magazine, which lives for this kind of high-tower policy discussion, breaks down the pros and cons of ITIL in a lengthy online article. "We help write these books," Buckley said, "but HP also expands on what ITIL has done."

06:55 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 11, 2007

Acucorp, Micro Focus sketch future together

After a springtime purchase of Acucorp by Micro Focus, the two leading COBOL suppliers for HP 3000 migrators joined hands on the Internet today. A one-hour Webcast over a Microsoft Live Meeting channel ran long on strategy and shorter on tactics about the product integration between the two companies. Gary Crook, VP of Software Development at Micro Focus, took on the task of explaining a product line merger that's only two weeks along.

"As everyone knows, the most important goal of any project is to give it a name," Crook said in an introductory quip. He went on to more serious details by reporting the integration of the Micro Focus and Acucorp product lines is called "Project Meld. A Vulcan mind-meld of the software would be great — if only it were that easy, we'd have something for you to use today. We'll have some challenging work ahead of us."

Crook said that the goal of the merger is to incorporate the major features of each product in a joined release. Acucorp's Drake Coker added that the intergration's success will be "based upon the ease each with which you all can upgrade."

Version 8 of the AcuCOBOL-GT suite will roll out as planned, with an expected release date of September. The two companies' first release of integrated technology will require the better part of two years, with a target date of May, 2009.

Colker and Crook answered the prominent question more than once: "Will my AcuCOBOL/Micro Focus code run on the new product suite without changes?" Even though the finished software is close to two years away, the answer was yes. Or more precisely, "That's our intention."

About the only setback to customers on both sides is the delay of the AcuWebServices, a product module so new that it's not mentioned on the Acucorp site. The services are included in the Micro Focus suite, Coker said, so Acucorp is dropping the product that was ready for beta testing.

An HP 3000 customer called into the Webcast to ask if they should proceed with AcuCOBOL GT in their migration, given the flux in the future. Crook and Coker assured the customer that AcuCOBOL was still a good choice. Any why not? At one point, Drake allowed that the product integration for Meld was so far from a finish date that a genuine deadline couldn't be assured.

"The truth is that we don't really know when these [integrations] are going to happen," Coker said. "But one of the best ways to get there is the ensure the users stay involved."

01:17 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 10, 2007

COBOL vendors unveil Webcast access

COBOL providers Micro Focus and Acucorp have shared their Wednesday, 11AM EDT Webcast access information with the world today, delivering on a promised e-mail with the detail.

At a Live Meeting Web address, HP 3000 customers with COBOL apps to migrate, plus the existing Micro Focus and Acucorp installed base, can access the news about the future of AcuCOBOL v. 8.0.

Regardless of your desktop capability, you can dial in for the audio of the briefing by calling 866-220-1452 in the US; 0800 953 1444 in the UK; and 44 (0) 1452 542 300 from everywhere else in the world.

The vendor's conference ID for the call-in bridge line is "Acucorp Prepares for Version 8" or ID# 6565093. Meanwhile, if you're new to the Live Meeting software, you can log in on the Web as early at 10:30 EDT — a good idea for any who need time to configure Live Meeting.

Acucorp's solution for COBOL apps recently earned praise from the 3000 user community. The AcuCOBOL-GT extend suite has a command line compiler as well as Acubench, a graphical interface, for development.

The magic code is "AcucorpPreparesV8" for the Webcast. The audio bridge will be available for dial-in 15 minutes before Webcast time.

Tony Summers of Smith Williamson in the UK said his company enjoys the use of both command line and graphical interface.

We’ve taken the decision to use Acubench for development and the command line compiler for production re-compiles. Acubench  really does make your life easier. (We have configured Samba so that the compiled objects get deployed onto the Unix server).

10:24 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 09, 2007

Register to learn your COBOL future

Two months after Micro Focus purchased rival COBOL maker Acucorp for $41 million, customers will learn this week how development plans will proceed for the 8.0 version of AcuCOBOL GT, the flagship product that's replacing many an application written in the 3000's COBOL II. Third party COBOLs were never very popular in the 3000 marketplace. Now they represent the only choices for the future — at least for those companies migrating from the 3000, and sticking with COBOL.

Wednesday, July 11 at 11 AM EDT, Micro Focus and Acucorp will lead customers through a Webcast to explain how the product line features will unfold. Much of the 3000 community relies on COBOL applications, and a good share of that community is headed toward platforms like Windows and Unix.

You must sign up for the Acucorp briefing. The company promises to e-mail details on July 10 to access the July 11 Webcast for those who fill out the form at

www.microfocus.com/promotion/NAWCACV80707/register.asp

The Acucorp Web site promises executives from both companies during the event:

Join Drake Coker, Chief Consultant, Integration Acucorp at Micro Focus Solutions and Gary Crook, Vice President of Software Development at Micro Focus to hear about the upcoming release of version 8.0. Learn about the new developments in AcuXDBC™, AcuXUI™ and AcuBench® and hear about the technology direction going forward.

The presentation will be interactive, so perhaps answers about pricing and licensing changes will come unprompted from the COBOL executives. HP 3000 customers have enjoyed a decades-long honeymoon without run-time fees for their COBOL apps. Acucorp used the same model for its licensing. Pricing is only one element of the product picture, of course. For the small to midsize HP 3000 customer, however, run-time fees might become another migration expense to budget for.

09:21 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 05, 2007

Celebrating before the holiday

Several weeks ago, the HP 3000 community hosted a beach party for members in the Bay Area. The June celebration unfurled on the Santa Cruz shoreline, in a spot where the old BARUG user group had met during the 1980s — an era when the 3000's fate at HP was sunny as any Pacific Coast beach.

OpenMPE member Donna Garverick-Hofmeister, who organized this Dodge-em Car reunion, reported the turnout was good, even though few of the just-retired HP 3000 experts made the time to drive "over the hill," as the trip across Highway 17's switchbacks is known.

I thought the whole BARUG went well, although not as many people came as I was hoping. I had some fair interest, but a number of last minute cancellations. I guess Chuck Shimada was a surprise, since he lives in SoCal (but he was in the area for another reason).  Jeff Vance was the only HP’er that came.  Mike Paivinen kept saying he’d come but — you know how the wild retirees are.

Allegroids_and_chuck_sThe community element that drew current and former 3000 experts, customers and managers represents the strength for a group that has its vendor leaving the market pretty soon. (At left are a quartet with more than 100 years of 3000 experience, and none have left yet: from left, Stan Sieler, Gavin Scott, Steve Cooper and Shimada. (Chuck maintained all those Interex HP 3000 show configurations for many years, and still has copies of the Interex CSL tapes, the last time we asked.) These people in your community remember one another, stay in touch, and have not forgotten the sometimes-arcane commands and knowledge to keep a 3000 running.

Some have suggested that the departed HP employees with 3000 experience might be available for third-party projects on MPE/iX, once the OS has been licensed to a third party. A modest retainer against billable hours could be just the backstop a homesteading OpenMPE member could count upon.

If you're interested in who's remained close enough to spend a day on the beach, older and wiser, have a look at Donna's Web page for the event. In a bit of irony, the pictures are hosted on an HP 3000 inside Hewlett-Packard, the invent3k public development server set up during the 1990s — when HP was still working to keep the 3000 a part of its future, as well as its past.

08:03 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 04, 2007

Maintain your independent path

Here in the US it's Independence Day, a holiday we celebrate to mark the country's trip down a new path independent of its founding authority figure, Great Britain. (I am told the British celebrate today as "the anniversary of the time we got rid of those pesky colonists.")

Which goes to show us how anything can be viewed from more than one point of view, so long as you have an open mind. While we take a bit of a break from the news beat today, I'll remind you to embrace your independence as an HP 3000 partner or customer, whenever that new course suits you. If you're migrating, your company's schedule will determine you new platform and when you will move, not HP's support deadline.

One major manufacturer's division will be on HP 3000 systems until 2013, we heard at the Tech Forum, waiting their turn to become the latest SAP installation. Recent news shows us that HP is slipping out of the support business in degrees, with 2009 being the Year of Custom Legacy Support.

If you're homesteading, you are building a new country, as it were, creating new states of supply and support independent of HP's. Or you may be looking for work as your longtime employer steps away from the HP 3000. Just this week we found notice of a need for 3000 experience, up in the Pacific Northwest at Bellevue Community College. Or a search for HP 3000 experience to support a migration from the Allbase database.

The Center for Information Services (CIS) is seeking candidates for the following position: Senior Analyst, SMS/FAS. Work as a programming analyst to solve or assist Customer Services representatives in resolving software, hardware, and procedure problems working with legacy applications written in COBOL and Transact for the HP 3000 environment. Qualified candidates will have 5 years total education/experience in the use of COBOL, Transact and contemporary software programming languages using an HP 3000 platform.

Then this one, forwarded by OpenMPE board director Paul Edwards:

Must Have

Strong C programming experience on MPE, HP-Unix and Windows
ALLBASE database Experience

Nice To Have

HP VRS / Validity  Experience
Batchnet / HPSB
Maestro / TIDAL Schedulers
Turbo DB / RDBMS
Java / Cobol experience on MPE is a plus.

The length of this assignment is a minimum of 6 months with likely
extensions until the MPE box is phased out. Location is Houston TX.

Contact:

Ron White
Business Development Manager
Adea Solutions, Inc.
(972) 354-3742 Office
(214) 287-1753 Mobile
[email protected]

If you're still using Allbase or Transact in 2007, it's safe to say you're on a path independent of HP. (By the way, a couple of third party firms would like to help you use Transact on a 3000 for years to come.) Sticking with Transact or Allbase might qualify as a future as unlikely as any the British imagined for the Colonies. Fireworks are a big part of this day here. Don't be shy about making your own bang by following an independent path.

03:19 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 03, 2007

Which RAID to recommend

By Gilles Schipper
Homesteading Editor, 3000 NewsWire

Yesterday I introduced the strategy of using RAID storage, starting a low-cost MOD20 array, to improve a 3000's performance. Here's a few other things to consider if you will be acquiring a MOD20.

Although possible, I would not recommend utilizing RAID5 LUNs in an HP 3000 environment — unless your greatest priority is to maximize disk space availability at the expense of performance.

RAID5 offers fail-safe functionality over a group of disks (minimum of three) by means of one disk of the RAID5 disk being allocated as a parity disc. The benefit of RAID5 over RAID1 is that it results in a greater amount of overall usable disk space than RAID1. However, it performs poorly in an HP 3000 environment, and cannot be booted from if specified as the system disk (LDEV 1).

Although the supported maximum memory configuration of each Storage Processor (SP) unit is 64MB, 128MB works best (although not all of it can be used).

Each SP has 4 memory slots. You can maximize the performance of the MOD20 by populating each SP with four 32MB memory SIMMs, 72-pin, FPM with parity, 60ns.

The NIKE MOD20 is a very capable and useful solution to the fragile environment afforded by a JBOD environment — particularly because most 3000 JBOD disk systems tend to be very mature and consequently relatively unreliable and prone to failure.

And, although the MOD20 disk system itself is also quite long in the tooth, it’s got built-in fail-safe mechanisms. Also, the MOD20 would appeal to those with very limited budgets, since the devices are quite inexpensive in the used-equipment market.

There are other, more advanced RAID systems available that also support the HP 3000 environment. These include the HP Autoraid12H system, various VA7nnn systems, some of the HP XP-family members, as well as EMC systems.

The list above are presents in order of increasing cost, for the most part.

The bottom line is that if you are not already utilizing RAID technology for your 3000, now would be a good time to consider it seriously.

07:54 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 02, 2007

Consider low-cost RAIDing for reliability

By Gilles Schipper
Homesteading Editor, 3000 NewsWire

In my last column, I listed the cost-effective options available to the HP 3000 homesteader to enhance the performance and reliability of the their aging 3000 server. Various opportunities related to backup, disaster planning, performance optimization, security and reliability were briefly described.

One of the most cost-effective ways of advancing the reliability of your legacy system may be to replace your existing “JBOD” disk system with a much more reliable disk system, commonly referred to as RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks). MOD20 units, now less expensive than ever, can provide a good starting point to implement RAID.

In contrast, JBOD is an acronym meaning “just a bunch of disks” — which would characterize the majority of HP 3000 systems as they were initially sold. JBOD disk systems comprise a set of independent — typically SCSI-connected — disks, which are each seen by the HP 3000 as a single logical device number or LDEV.

Each disk LDEV is associated with a “volume set” and the failure of a single disk renders the “volume set” to which it belongs inoperable and unaccessable.

Traditionally, most 3000 systems comprised a single volume set (specifically, the required SYSTEM volume set, with the brevity-challenged label “MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET”).

Systems comprising a large number of “JBOD” LDEVs increased the likelihood of system down time, since the failure of a single (old) disk effectively resulted in a “down” system — requiring a time-consuming disk replacement and system reload before the system could properly function once again.

To mitigate such delicate exposure to a single disk failure, many installations implemented the “User Volume Set” feature built in to MPE/iX, then constructed multiple volume sets so that the failure of a single disk affected only the volume set to which it belonged.

For practical purposes, the only real benefit to this approach was to reduce the amount of time required to replace the disk and reload only the data residing on the affected volume set. (In reality, it was usually quite unusual for a system to continue normal, or even mimimal operation with even a single unavaliable volume set).

To further improve system reliability and minimize down time an optional, additional-cost software  product was available in the form of software mirroring — aka “MPE/iX mirroring.”

This enabled the system administrator to configure non-system volume set disk drives to be associated with  identical corresponding “mirror” disks. The software was responsible for dynamically duplicating the contents of  both disk drive “mirrors” such the failure of one of the two mirror drives could be tolerated without affecting the continous operation of the system. The damaged disk could then be replaced and the dynamic disk duplication would resume.

Only if both mirror pairs failed would there be a corresponding system outage and data loss.

However, software mirroring was still far from ideal.

Since it was unavailable for the “MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET” failure of a system disk, unprotected by mirroring software, would result in certain system down time.

Further, software mirroring exacted a price in terms of CPU and I/O overhead that could otherwise be utilized for actual “useful” processing. 

And, as a wise person once said, given a choice, a feature is almost always better implemented in hardware than software. This certainly applies to disk mirroring and nicely seques with the the Nike MOD20 RAID disk system,  which is (one of the) HP 3000’s solutions to the compromises associated with software mirroring.

The MOD20 features dual controllers, duplicated (even triplicated) power supplies, and up to 20 disk drives housed in a single frame/enclosure that provides significant improvements over the MPE/iX software mirroring functionality.

Each MOD20 provides for a maximum of 8 logical units (LUN’s) to be configured — each of which appears as a single logical device no. (LDEV. no.) to the HP 3000. A maximally and optimally configured MOD20 will include 20 disk drives and be configured as follows:

14 disks to be defined as type RAID1, using up 7 LUNS, since each LUN comprises two separate mirrored disks.

RAID level 1 (or RAID1) is equivalent to simple mirroring whereby one disk is dynamically maintained as a duplicated mirror image on its mirrored twin disk, which must of identical size and model.

If one disk of the mirrored pair fails, the other disk can take over the responsibility of presenting the requisite data I/O to and from the host system with no preceived performance degradation. The remaining 6 disks can be cofigured as a single LUN comprising 4 RAID 1/0 disks and 2 hot spares.

A RAID 1/0 configuration takes an even number of disks and duplicates the contents of half of them (as a group) onto the other half.

The hot spares would act as dynamic replacements for any disk in the MOD20 that fails, such that even the  failure of one or two disks would not prevent the entire disk subsystem from maintaining its fail-safe mirroring capability.

Without the hot-spare feature, failure of a single disk would allow normal system activity to continue but without further fail-safe capability for the failing LUN only.

Chances of both disks in the same LUN failing are extremely remote and that is why I advise some  to forgo the hot spare capability and utilize a 6-disk RAID 1/0 LUN instead of a 4-disk RAID 1/0 LUN giving additional useable disk space overall.

Tommorrow I'll talk about a few other things to consider if you will be acquiring a MOD20.

06:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)