October 31, 2007
HP releases critical patches to prevent corruption
HP released critical patches today which repair problems in the HP 3000 file system, a fix for any Large Files — which in rare circumstances, can corrupt data on a 3000. While the odds of the bug corrupting data in one case are technically 800 million to 1, HP is recommending that all customers who use MPE/iX 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5 install one or both of the patches at the earliest opportunity. The patches can be staged, but they will require a reboot of the 3000, an event that is rare at many sites.
The HP repairs, announced today just after 10 AM Pacific time through the HP 3000 newsgroup, the OpenMPE mailing list and HP Web pages, include the first fix for the 3000's millicode in 16 years, according to Bill Cadier of HP's MPE/iX labs. The millicode patch, which replaces the MILL.LIB.SYS file, is only needed if a customer's applications access mapped files and utilize Large Files.
Large Files are any which are 4GB or greater in size. HP introduced the feature in March, 2000. Applications which have not been modified since March 29, 2000 should be safe from the potential corruption. The possible corruption can occur if any one of five of the last six bytes of a Large File fail to transfer correctly.
Customers who sort these types of files, using calls to HSORTOUTPUT or SORT.PUB.SYS, are at risk according to the HP notice for the patches. The potential risk and the repair surfaced when an HP 3000 customer notified HP of a data corruption issue.
Some customers will have applications which must be recompiled and re-linked to eliminate the problem. An application that uses the HPFOPEN intrinsic, and creates or uses Large Files, is a candidate for this kind of repair. In some instances a customer must locate and use the application's source code for this kind of re-compile. HP defined the procedure as an install of the millicode patch, then a recompile of the application in some cases.
The majority of the 3000 community will be installing patch MPENX11, which is available to all 3000 sites at HP's IT Response Center Web site and also through telephone support. Customers with applications using Large Files will install patch MILNX10. But the millicode patch is important, too, because a sort of a Large File of 2-3 GB will create a temporary Large File of more than 4GB, where the risk of corruption is at hand.
HP's strong advice is for customers to install both patches. [There is] a high priority for MPENX11, since it is the patch that addresses the issues with SORT and the MPE/iX OS. However, MILNX10 is also important to address the possibility of continuing to use the millicode in question. Even if a customer is not using Large Files today, there is no guarantee that they won't experience growth that will cause their files to cross into the large range at some later time.
The primary link to details of the critical process has been posted at HP's e3000 Web site, www.hp.com/go/e3000. At that page, a customer letter link as well as a link to the HP Jazz Web server provides a detailed page with explicit instructions — as well as a new HP-built utility to detect Large Files on an HP 3000.
HP's announcement takes place four years to the day that the company ended sales of the HP 3000. The development of this type of patch, a binary-level repair, will continue throughout 2009 and 2010, according to HP's 3000 community liaison Craig Fairchild.
While it might be easy to overstate the crucial directives for the patches — HP has rarely announced this kind of bug with repairs and white papers already available — the data corruption is very rare, Fairchild said.
In our evaluation, we've been looking at this problem and analyzing HP's [own] code to try to determine what's at risk," he said. "It's very uncommon to be working with Large Files. It's even more uncommon to be working with Large Files using user-mapped access to those files. It's even more rare yet again to be doing these very small data movements that happen to be at the very end of a space."
Fairchild explained that what an application is doing IO to a large file, "you're not doing it in six-byte chunks, or five bytes or four bytes, three or two." Most common is IO one page at a time, which presents no risk for corruption at a minimum of 4,000 bytes.
HP has a FILECHEK utility, just developed, to scan for the Large Files on a system. But the LINKEDIT tool, already on every 3000, can help assess the risk to customers with home-grown or in-house applications.
"LINKEDIT can provide a list of all the external procedures, calls by a program, or an XL or RL library," Fairchild said. "If when looking through the procedures, HPFOPEN is not called by a program, then you know that application is not at risk."
October 30, 2007
Clock up patched support's value
HP still has about 48 hours to go before it might reply to OpenMPE's request to open up the HP 3000's source code. Only one value stands out as the chief benefit for such a license of MPE/iX to a third party: patches, and the ability of a non-HP entity to create or modify such modules of the operating system.
As of this morning, patch delivery and creation looks like the most obvious difference in service levels between HP's 3000 support and that of third parties. Even then, patches that are already released — beyond beta testing — can still be downloaded and used today, even if HP never begins its source code transfer for MPE/iX.
OpenMPE wants HP to announce something by Nov. 1 about starting the source code handover. The transfer should take about a year, by everybody's estimates. The OpenMPE advocates say that patch creation will be important to the 3000 customer who operates the system beyond December of 2008, when HP ends its patching operations. That means getting ready to patch should begin by the end of 2007.
But this weekend illustrates one of the few instances where a patch is necessary to run an HP 3000 safely. On Saturday evening around much of the world the clocks roll back, away from Daylight Saving Time. On a new weekend, for most countries. This is what passes for a critical patch in the days when many HP 3000s are locked down, frozen with few changes allowed.
Many third party support companies refer to patching any 3000 as a last-resort strategy. This is no slam against HP's engineering capability, but the belt-plus-suspenders credo which built the 3000 into the industry's most reliable business server. Any workaround, support companies say, brings a lot less chance for disruption than a patch.
HP was careful to note in its announcement last month that not even security-related patches will be developed inside HP labs from 2009 onward for the 3000. Those patches are rare, too. Many of the Denial of Service kinds of exploits won't cripple an HP 3000 like they might an HP Unix system. HP built things like Domain Name Services on a different OS architecture, so the many security alerts for HP-UX just don't have MPE/iX counterparts. A security breach is never impossible, but the 3000 comes closer to being safe by design instead of protected by patch.
HP support does offer experienced engineers and lab-level advice, but these are values that a third party could equal, given the right personnel. Former HP lab engineers are already at work in many third party companies, some supplying support. For a system like the 3000, which is pretty much frozen in time at HP, there's not very much to keep abreast of that would be impossible outside HP's labs.
Corner cases and corporate requirements carry much of the HP support value in the days to come. The right sized customer will be able to have patches created, once a services contract for the project can be worked out, so a corner case doesn't crater a corporation. And those corporations that demand that the HP badge appear on a mission-critical server's support agreement? They will be needing HP's support value as long as the vendor is willing to sell it.
But while the time rolls back this weekend on the world's clocks, the 3000 community should be looking for the commonplace, everyday value in patches for the system. HP seems to believe that patches are a key value in support. OpenMPE's efforts to assume patch operations looks like it backs up that HP belief. 3000 customers who look at their clocks on Monday morning might want to recall how long it's been since any MPE/iX patch has been so crucial.
October 29, 2007
Comparing next solutions for 3000s
When a 3000 utility goes dark — because its creator has dropped MPE/iX operations, or the trail to the support business for the tool has grown faint — the 3000 community can serve up alternatives quickly. A mature operating system and experienced users offer options that are hard to beat.
Such was the case last week when Walter Murray, a former HP development engineer now with the California Dept. of Corrections IT staff, wondered about an alternative for Aldon Computing's SCOMPARE. That development tool has compared source files for more than 15 years in the HP 3000 world. There was no record of a valid license on the Murray's server for How now to compare, Murray wondered.
Not for long. Within 24 hours the experts on the HP 3000 mailing list offered six alternatives to the now-defunct SCOMPARE. Resource 3000 partner Allegro Consultants offers a free MPE/iX solution in SCOM, as verified by Allegro's Steve Cooper:
And, it's free, too!
and scroll down to "SCOM."
Other candidates included a compare UDC from Robelle, GNU Diff, diff in the HP 3000's Posix environment, DiffDaff on Windows, and more.
Bruce Collins of Softvoyage offered details on using diff in Posix:
run diff.hpbin.sys;info="FILE1 FILE2"
The file names use HFS syntax so they should be entered in upper case. If the files aren't in the current account or group they should be entered as /ACCOUNT/GROUP/FILE
Donna Garverick-Hofmeister, after verifying that Aldon is still in business, but not the MPE/iX business, offered a tip on using Robelle's compare UDC:
Regarding Robelle's compare. Being a scripting advocate, I strongly recommend adapting their UDC into a script.... and take a few seconds to add a wee bit of help text to the script, to make life more enjoyable for all (which *is* the reason for scripting, yes?)
In Microsoft's Visual Studio lies a tool called windiff, reported Larry Simonsen. Another former HP engineer, Lars Appel, brought up a Linux option in the KDE development environment:
On Linux, if you are using KDE, you might also find Kompare handy...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kompare (see screenshot)
On MPE, as others mentioned, there is still the Posix diff in two flavours: the HP supplied in /bin and the GNU version that lives in /usr/local/bin. The former allows two output formats (diff and diff -c), the latter also allows “diff -u” in addition.
Oh, regarding /bin/diff on MPE... I sometimes got “strange” errors (like “file too big”) from it when trying to compare MPE record oriented files. A workaround was to use tobyte (with -at options) to created bytestream files for diff’ing.
Appel was even able to address a concern of Murray's: "Then there’s the problem of comparing numbered files, like COBOL source files, when one or both files have been renumbered."
With Posix tools, one might use cut(1) with -c option to “peel off” the line number columns before using diff(1) for comparing the “meat”. Something in the line of ... /bin/cut -c7-72 SourceFile1 > BodyText1.
Murrary reported back at the end of the 24 hours to say that Aldon knew of HP 3000s and the licensing mechanisms, "and it sounds as though they are still willing to sell SCOMPARE and support contract for it." Which says something about the vigor of the 3000's ecosystem, six years after HP predicted its demise.
October 26, 2007
Ubuntu option opens for Linux
Pete Eggers, an MPE/iX veteran looking toward the next best operating environment, describes himself as a Linux bigot. Not long ago he echoed another 3000 expert in recommending Ubuntu, a distro of Linux as a newly-polished tech tool.
Vista got you down? Slow on last generation hardware? Canât load it on old hardware? Just need the basics including a full featured office suite? Or, a bunch more applications (18,000), but donât have money to burn?
Give Ubuntu 7.10 a try! Comes in a LiveCD version (runs completely from a bootable CD without need of even 1 disk).
Earlier this year we interviewed Matt Perdue, Hill Country Technologies support specialist and an OpenMPE board member. Ubuntu was on his list of tools to assist in 3000 administration. He'd even gotten the Linux distro to boot up on PA-RISC hardware.
Eggers offered an outside look at the Linux distro, along with a note about the 7.10 release.
Here is an OâReilly review link:
Yes, I know CentOS distribution is great, ultra-reliable (just repackaged RHEL), and easy to setup as a server. Not bad as a programmerâs workstation too. But it is really dull, uses old reliable software versions, missing features as desktop as delivered, and time consuming to setup and configure as a full blown jazzy end-user desktop. If you are a disgruntled Vista user, Ubuntu is the Linux distribution to try first.
October 25, 2007
Doubletree rooms full, but Meet has space for now
A few days ago we reported that the Doubletree Hotel, San Francisco Airport, was now full — and so anybody headed for the HP e3000 Community Meet, Bayside will have to stay elsewhere.
But we didn't mean the Meet was full up, just the hotel where the meetings take place. At last check, about 20 slots were still open for the meeting that will connect HP 3000 customers and partners for the only time in 2007. In person, anyway. There's a 50-person limit for the event.
The Meet's organizers only needed to reserve a 12-room block in the hotel, and that's now full. That hotel is convenient to the SFO airport, and the Nov. 17 Meet date falls over a weekend — so now the Doubletree is full. That's not the case yet at the Red Roof Inn, across Anza Boulevard from the Doubletree. See our entry from Tuesday to get Red Roof contact details.
More bonus for the attendees: Jon Diercks, author of The MPE/iX System Administration Handbook — best book ever on managing a 3000 — will be leaving some copies for attendees to win, I suppose. Somehow we'll get the books to several attendees.
Phone calls and e-mails are starting to come in now about attending. We've even heard that Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh will be in the area that weekend. It's bound to be a productive and fun networking event.
Because make no mistake, that's what the meet is all about. Yes, there will be some opportunity to promote a solution to a site — or a partner. But this is about the community aspect of the marketplace. In a year with no 3000-focused user conference, or any other kind of MPE/iX experts event, this weekend is as good at it gets.
And you'll get a t-shirt, too. How many HP 3000 t-shirts have been released since 2004? How many HP 3000 systems have gotten a performance upgrade, or had their horsepower restored to its full PA-RISC potential?
We think the answer to the first question is at least one. As for the second question, that has been "none" even as OpenMPE has asked HP to liberate the A-Class and N-Class processing cycles. Maybe something to discuss at the Meet, or over a supper afterward.
Hope to see you there. There may be no room at the inn, but there's still room at the Meet.
October 24, 2007
What 2008 means to migration
HP told customers last month that it will extend its product support for the HP 3000 through 2010, although the two years beyond 2008 will not include any new MPE/iX patches. One reason for the extension: Customers need more time to migrate. Sometimes those delays are completely unavoidable.
The County of Roanoke in Virginia is moving its governmental applications off their HP 3000. Just about a month before HP extended its support date, 2008 was looking like a very rigorous deadline for IT director Diana Wilson. She had reported back in 2004 the county expected to be all migrated by 2006. We checked back in with her and several other migration-bound customers.
Our current schedule puts us out to 2008. We lost about a year of time when one of the new software vendors went bankrupt while we were in the middle of implementation (we are purchasing vendor applications to replace all of the HP 3000 apps). This caused us to have to start all over with the bid and award process for those applications.
Yesterday's story about delays due to vendor changes offers counsel on what to do when a new app provider leaves your radar screen — or has its flight pattern changed by an acquisition.
Wilson reported the county's plans to us a month before HP's most recent extension of support, making reference to the 2008 deadline the 3000 community understood at the time.
We've now selected vendors for all of the remaining applications and have implementation and deployment schedules for each. Our schedule is aggressive, but so far it looks like we will be able to meet the 2008 deadline.
There are other customers who see HP's extension of support as a reason to keep the 3000 on the support price list indefinitely. There are no firm numbers to examine about HP's 3000 support revenues or profits. HP doesn't release these figures, so the rumors of $100 million annually in service contracts and more than $20 million in profits will just have to remain rumors, unverified. HP Services is one of several HP operating groups who have a say in how long HP will stay in the 3000 business.
But one customer who replied to our story about the extension of HP support made his case without referencing what might be in it for HP's bottom line.
"I think they should do it indefinitely," said Michael Caplin of Aero Corporation, manufacturers of safety products. "HP can freeze software updates and software support, but what's the harm in supporting the hardware? It's the least they can do after abandoning the very customers who put them where they are today."
October 23, 2007
Rooms filling for Bayside Meet
HP e3000 Community Meet organizer Alan Yeo reports that the $99 rooms for next month's 2007 meet at the Doubletree Hotel San Francisco Airport have sold out — but there's still an alternative nearby that's just as affordable.
And we do mean right nearby. The Red Roof Inn, just across Anza Boulevard and next door to the Doubletree, has $80-$90 per night lodging available as of this evening. Reservations can be made at 1-800-REDROOF or 650-342-7772. Or online at the hotel chain's Web site, www.redroof.com/reservations/index.asp
The Meet takes place in meeting rooms at the Doubletree, starting at 9 on Saturday. Both hotels have free shuttle service to and from the San Francisco airport.
To register for the free Nov. 17 lunch and the all-day talks and networking, browse to the Meet's Web site at hpmigrations.com/sfevent. Stick around after lunch and get your free copy of the HP 3000 Evolution handbook, compiled and published by Robelle.
October 22, 2007
What you should seek after a merger
HP 3000 customers migrate through a field of choices these days. And these are days of consolidation in the applications industry, especially on the platforms of Unix and other enterprise-only solutions. We keep hearing stories about the gap between promises and performance, between deadline and delays, while 3000 sites search for replacement applications.
This kind of disconnect rears its head highest when a prospective supplier gets acquired. Terri Glendon Lanza, one of the ERP community's top consultants, used the MANMAN mailing list to share an article from the APICS News about what to expect and what to ask when your new app provider, creating a replacement application, suddenly gets a new parent.
Lanza quoted the article Does Anyone Care by Al Bukey, founder of ABCO Engineering
The client asked me to provide advice on how to handle the situation when mergers and acquisitions cause the recently acquired vendors to respond late and have their decision-making capabilities interrupted, despite repeated assurances. The comforting words and assurances from the vendor that everything will be for the better should be taken cautiously.
Support is promised for every acquired product, at first. MANMAN, the ERP solution of longest tenure in the 3000 community, even got a "we'll support it until the bolts fall out" pledge from new owner SSA Global several years ago. SSA is now part of Infor, and we're not sure where all those bolts have gone today.
Bukey summarizes this kind of situation and tells what to expect:
Eventually, this new software vendor will ask its customers to move to the new platform or encourage them to do so by increasing the cost of support and maintenance. Sometimes the support will be completely cut off, or some other impediment will arise. While support may continue to be offered in some form or another, the cost will reach a point where most companies will have to decide to change from the current situation.
In some cases, when the acquired or merged company has a strong offering and a satisfied user community, a slightly different approach may be taken. As a client, you will get support regardless.
No company is immune from an eventual merger or acquisition, therefore, no decision is safe today. This is one of the reasons end users steadily push concepts such as open source and standards. It is also a strong driver of new technologies such as the new service-oriented architecture (SOA) where the hope is that any new functionality needed in the future may not necessarily have to come from the original supplier.
October 19, 2007
Observe who paints the 3000's past
The City of Brownsville is leaving their HP 3000, walking away from a 13-year HP partnership to join the ranks of IBM IT customers. Big Blue scoops sites away from HP all the time, and the opposite is true, too. But the motivation for moving off the 3000 platform often has more to do with its applications than the operating environment, or the hardware which hosts it.
Brownsville is being profiled in this month's issue of Texas Technology, a mailed and online information source that promises to be "the leading magazine providing solutions to Texas government in the information age." A freelance article by an Austin writer gave Brownsville's MIS director the article's leading role in moving the city off its 3000 and onto an IBM solution. But Gail Bruciak might have been repeating what IBM had to say when she assessed the future of the 3000 which is still running at the city.
"We're running everything for the city, with the exception of emergency services, on an HP 3000 from 1994. The software is COBOL — it's old. Of course, there's no maintenance for it, we can't get parts for [the system] anymore," she said. "So we knew we had to migrate off."
I remember 1994 pretty well. In the year before we founded The 3000 NewsWire, HP was working on the Multiple Operating System Technology (MOST) that would've put MPE/iX and HP-UX on a single system. (Never released, but MOST was years ahead of the Superdome designs that eventually offered several server environments in one box. Just not MPE/iX.) RISC systems were the norm by that year, DDS-3 tape backups were rolling out, and 100 megabit LAN technology was just hitting the streets.
A peek at the 1994 technology of the 3000 shows some solutions that are rather elderly to be running in 2007. HP released MPE/iX 5.0 that year — five generations behind the current OS — and the brand-new 3000 systems of the day were the Series 9x8 servers. But unsupported? Not in the community we cover. Even today, HP will write 9x8 service contracts, and those servers will run the 7.5 MPE/iX release HP will still support (sans new patches) through 2010.
What seems to be unsupported is the idea that it's the 3000 getting too old to count upon at Brownsville. Every new vendor plays this card, coming in to convince a customer their system is historic instead of strategic. Something else is probably aging there, an element completely unmentioned in the Texas Technology report. My bet, sight unseen, would be the applications.
And parts for Series 9x8s? Just about all you want out there now, and almost at no cost. Disks, power supplies, boards — you can get it all from the independent market. I wonder why it comes as a revelation to smaller customers, however, that hardware a dozen years old may be harder to support, run slower than an application requires, and feels old in a presentation by a competing vendor.
The crazy thing about COBOL on the 3000 is that HP is still offering its COBOL II compiler for sale. Has the vendor sold many of those licenses? Not with the likes of Acucorp's extend Version 8.0 out on the marketplace, or the Micro Focus COBOL solutions that have carried HP 3000 apps to migration targets like Windows, Linux and Unix systems. But unsupported alongside "still for sale," that doesn't match up.
As for considering COBOL old, that's a viewpoint popular with application companies which write products in something else. The truth is that COBOL still powers the largest share of applications around the world.
I'm sure there are some other, good reasons why Brownsville's city IT servers will have IBM badges on them sooner or later. (It might be later, because the article mentions delays in getting the nascent WiMAX technology up and reliable in the border city.) "Give us what's best for Brownsville, not what everybody else is doing," Bruciak is quoted as saying in the article.
Best included costs outside of city budgets. Brownsville had to borrow money to get into the IBM and WiMAX alternative, a $4.2 million deal for a city whose populace numbers under 200,000 today. The city is growing, but borrowing that IT migration money was no small matter, by the MIS director's account.
Float a loan to upgrade a 12-year-old server to a new platform and leave COBOL, add powerful wireless networking and hardware built in the current century? Sure. But don't be thinking that strategy would be any less appropriate for another environment — even one sold by IBM.
October 18, 2007
Java: Useful business tool that needs updating
Customers were chatting this week about Java in the business environment: whether this language has a place in creating applications and clients for enterprises. The consensus on the HP 3000 newsgroup is that the language once touted as "write once, run anywhere" has already earned its stripes across the world.
That's the biggest reason, perhaps, that Java is in sore need of updating on the HP 3000. In yet another project where HP's forthcoming open source white paper can help, Java needs to be rejuvenated from a 2000 version last updated by Mike Yawn, the 3000 division lab expert who was the Java go-to guy for years.
Yawn even made it a point to report on the Java One conference for several years. HP laid him off, more than once, until finally this superior technical resource landed at Quicken, expanding his reach beyond your venerated HP 3000 system.
Even though Yawn is probably out of reach now, Java improvements are another mission that an independent lab effort could tackle if interest and income could be tied to the technology. It's easy to see how this language that HP announced with great gusto for the 3000 in 1997 can make development easier a decade later. Mark Wonsil, a sharp developer with XML and Web savvy reported on Java's bounty
I have written Java programs for database access across multiple platforms. Type 4 JDCB drivers require no licensing on the machine that you’re on, so I was able to access SQL Server and Oracle at the same time - without using ODBC - very cool.
Using Java opens the door to many of the more recent technologies. Charles Finley of Transformix, a migration consultancy working in the HP 3000 community, says Java is pervasive.
The simple answer is yes, Java is widely used as a business language. What makes the real question complicated is the number of different ways it is used and how it expands the definition of business language. In order to really understand how pervasive it is you need to delve into such variations as J2EE, the various languages that run in the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) such as Jython and Groovy, Rich Client Architecture, etc. as well as the same kind of conventional applications that a language such as COBOL is used for.
Here is one resource that talks about the popularity of Java:
October 17, 2007
The hard work of the next 3000 lab
OpenMPE might have fired a flare this week with its open letter to HP, but that action may not light the way to new opportunity for keeping MPE/iX patches available in 2009. Nothing good comes without the pursuit being difficult in places, unless you're Kosmo Kramer in Seinfeld.
There are people in your community who have allowed the 3000 to get inside of them, so they love it, cannot let it go out of their lives. But to some others, the effort to keep MPE/iX maintained for another 10 or 20 years seems like it's getting hard. But the hard is not necessarily a reason to stop trying.
It's baseball playoffs season right now. I'm reminded of a few lines from the movie A League of Their Own. Dottie Henson, the best player on the all-female baseball team, wants to quit, and she argues with Jimmy Dugan, the manager who believes in her, and in the game.
Jimmy: Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that.
Dottie: It just got too hard.
Jimmy: It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great.
Just to start, here are some hard things that OpenMPE and HP will need to work out to get your HP 3000 operating system code onto the volunteer group's test benches — indeed, into any lab other than HP's.
1. Indemnification. Might as well start with the legal hurdles here, because this is a license that OpenMPE is seeking. Once HP puts the code for MPE/iX into anyone's hands, the license must protect HP from any problems caused by engineering created by the licensee. It's like, using patches built outside of HP's lab should have nothing to do with HP's responsibility. While that seems obvious, threats of legal remedies to bugs and downtime need to stop outside HP's doors.
2. Caliber of the licensee. HP gets to measure this to grant its license, because MPE/iX belongs to Hewlett-Packard. And unless the company surprises everyone and sells the source code, the OS will always belong to HP, so the vendor gets to set terms. Up to now the company has said that HP intends to license the source code — but the specifics have not been announced about terms for the license. Private or public company, non-profit or for-profit, track record or none in the 3000 community: these are all up for HP's examination.
3. Portability of process. MPE/iX has been built inside of Hewlett-Packard for more than two decades. (And MPE goes back another 15 or more years.) This work has been shared in no place except HP's labs and at a few outside contractor labs — but the latter has only seen pieces of the OS. Nobody has proved to the world outside of HP that MPE/iX patches can be built and integrated anyplace but HP. Outside contractors have created features and functionality, but that work has been done with HP's help. This help is not likely to be available after 2008. After all, HP itself says it will stop doing MPE/iX engineering in about 14 months or so.
4. Pricing for value. Whoever HP licenses MPE/iX to will need to make money off the process. Revenues at the least, enough money to pay the developers and keep servers and software utilities up to date. A test bed of customer sites will have to be administered, too. Two years ago, OpenMPE gave a "wild ass guess" that a virtual lab would need an annual budget of more than $1 million a year. How much of the budget will go to HP to pay licensing fees, and what HP needs to charge, still haven't been discussed.
There's more, so much more, that has not been hammered out or even etched between OpenMPE and HP. The vendor has gotten a lot of free benefit from the advocacy and advice OpenMPE creates with its questions and concerns. That benefit has kept many HP customers better off while they make a transition, or try to decide what's next. OpenMPE can argue that this hard work has kept some HP customers on the reservation. It must be worth something, and HP seems to understand and accept that fact.
Even if HP can't announce a license plan in two weeks' time, or even set a date for the source licensing, perhaps the vendor can release a list of conditions any licensee must meet to be considered. The only candidate for this license now, the only organization who wants this business, is OpenMPE and the engineers which it can contract.
October 16, 2007
OpenMPE opens up request to HP
Advocacy group OpenMPE has endured some slings and arrows from impatient 3000 users during the last five years. Too much talk, too little action, say the critics. The complaints look unfounded when HP's trump cards are considered. The vendor needs to do only what it sees as vital to the 3000 customers. OpenMPE cannot insist on anything.
Meanwhile, HP retains the ability to dictate terms on the license: what kind of company, what kind of staffing. The source code is, after all, HP's intellectual property, locked up behind a generation's worth of legal restrictions.
But these volunteers are trying to crack open the HP vaults on behalf of the community this month, firing off a letter that says the time is now for HP to share the MPE/iX source. OpenMPE even suggested a deadline for the decision. The deadline could be useful to HP to help budget and fund the transfer process in its upcoming fiscal year.
Reminding Hewlett-Packard of the vendor's promises to share the operating system internals with a lab outside of HP, OpenMPE says in a letter released today that pruning away patch creation for MPE/iX in 2009 starts the clock on an outside organization's patch development effort. OpenMPE wants to be that organization.
The letter signed by the board's nine volunteers, asks HP to permit OpenMPE to take on engineered support of MPE/iX in 2009, since HP won't do the "sustaining engineering" of patching anymore.
With HP’s September 26, 2007 announcement, HP effectively split hardware support from software support and has left some customers in the position of requiring engineered software support after January 1, 2009 that will not be available from HP.
In light of these statements, OpenMPE calls upon HP to begin the transition of MPE source code responsibility to OpenMPE. Then OpenMPE can, in a timely manner, prepare for and deliver engineered software support to the members of the MPE community that require it beyond HP’s stated end of engineered software support, December 31, 2008.
HP said earlier this year that it is still considering when the transfer of the source code, or parts of the OS, to OpenMPE would be appropriate. OpenMPE makes a case that "the time is now."
Both HP and OpenMPE say that 12 months is an acceptable period to give OpenMPE time to learn the building process for patching, as well as bring the OpenMPE virtual lab up to speed. Most important: a real benefit to sell to a community that has not been ready to pay for the OpenMPE engineering. No one is sure, at the moment, what that engineering will entail or when it will be available.
A transition period of one year should be sufficient to properly complete the documentation and transition process of MPE source from HP. OpenMPE stands ready to provide engineered software support for our members after HP no longer provides this service as of December 31, 2008.
OpenMPE’s Board and the members of the MPE community look forward to HP’s announcement by the start of HP’s new fiscal year on November 1, 2007 fulfilling their public commitments to the community, that is – completing the software review process and the transition of MPE’s source code to interested third parties.
The open letter from OpenMPE reminds us all that Ross McDonald, MPE/iX R&D Director of Engineering, told the community in late 2005 that an outside license for MPE/iX is a matter of when, not if.
Quoting from Mr. McDonald's December 20, 2005 message:
"1) HP intends to offer basic reactive support services for e3000 systems through at least December, 2008."
"3) When HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties -- if partner interest exists at that time -- to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners."
By November 1, OpenMPE says in its letter today, HP should follow though on its intentions.
October 15, 2007
Python snakes toward migration prep
Years ago, when HP did not yet offer an MPE/iX 6.5, 7.0 or 7.5, the company's engineers ported the open source tool Python to the platform. The fast, extensible, object-oriented scripting language is more self-describing than its better-known cousin Perl, with fewer add-in modules. Python also offers good support for XML, a technology that has been well-linked through the XML Thunder solution from CanAm Software.
The Python software never made it to "supported portion" status on MPE/iX, but Joseph Koshy's work has been pressed into service on some HP 3000s. Back in 2002, a 3000 NewsWire contributor offered a Python cookbook for the HP 3000 user.
More than five years later, some customers can benefit from a Python that could brought up to date. HP has said the user community needs to take charge of this kind of revival of open source elements. Robert Mills of Pinnacle Arvato tried to contact Koshy about getting Python ready to play on the HP supported versions of MPE/iX: 6.5 through 7.5. Alas, Koshy had moved away from the 3000 group in Bangalore.
Mills sees a use for Python in his company's steady and careful transition away from its HP 3000. PowerHouse portable subfiles at Mills' firm could make their way to CSV or tab-delimited format files — if only the Python interpreter was up to date on the HP 3000.
Mills seems ready to roll up his programming sleeves to help do the work. He's waiting on the white paper HP promised for 2007, a document that will assist in porting open source software onto the HP 3000, or forward an existing solution to a more modern version. Pinnacle Arvato plans to be off their 3000 before HP's support of the system is ended. Taking the PowerHouse subfiles into a more common format would cut down on migration development.
So here, in HP's forthcoming white paper, rests a resource that might make the DIY migration shop more efficient and cost-conscious about getting onto a new HP system. Mills reports that the need for a modern Python has immediate application at his site.
We create hundreds of extract files each week that are sent to customers/suppliers — and the list is growing all the time. Our main language here is PowerHouse ,so any utility that can take a subfile and convert it into CSV/Tab/Semi-Colon would reduce our development workload.
Mills took note of a forthcoming program in the PowerHouse community from Vaughn Steward, PSConvert. The utility in beta testing converts PowerHouse Portable Subfiles to CSV and other formats. Steward plans to release PSConvert as open source to the PowerHouse community when it's passed testing. But there's a hurdle for PSConvert to overcome to be MPE/iX-ready.
The only problem with this utility is it requires the Python interpreter (unless you are on Windows or HP-UX; there are EXE builds for these OS's). Python on MPE/iX is version 1.5.1, and according to its page on Jazz only works on iX 5.5 and 6.0, which is not much help if you're on 6.5 or higher.
Python has many uses for an HP 3000 shop that is looking toward an open source future. Mills said, "As we will be moving off of the HP 3000 within the next two years, I’m trying to make any new applications we create as non-MPE/iX specific as I can — trying to reduce the headache caused by the move as much as possible."
October 12, 2007
Audit-proofing IMAGE databases
Since HP 3000s work as mission-critical servers, the systems must weather IT and regulatory audits. The 3000 is capable of passing, of course, even in the era of HIPAA and SOX challenges which are more stern than audits of the past.
But establishing a database update procedure can lead to a gap in the security of an MPE/iX system. A discussion this week on the HP 3000 newsgroup identified the problem and searched for a solution. But many HP 3000 managers must take a hard look at how their users employ System Manager (SM) privileges. In the most strict accounting, SM privileges can expose a database.
Privileges can become a neglected aspect of 3000 operations, especially if the system's admin experts have moved on to other companies or duties. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen explained that the SM users which his support company serves have disturbed the integrity of 3000 databases. It's easy to do accidentally. The SM user can also update a 3000 database — a capability that can run afoul of some audits.
The database's security might be compromised through SM privileges, Hornsby explained, but it depends on the meaning of "update."
This term can be construed to be as restrictive as using DBUPDATE to change an entry. It can also refer to UPDATE access DBOPEN MODE 2. Very rarely seen. To get very specific, update can mean that the modify date [has been] changed in the file label of one or more IMAGE related files. To get very general, of course an SM user can ‘update’ the database via a restore from tape.
Auditors sometimes ask broad questions, the sort of inquiry that fits better with the everyday use of HP 3000s in an enterprise. But for an expert like Hornsby — who wrote The TurboIMAGE Handbook — update means any kind of modification capability.
So you can answer "no, SM doesn't permit a user to update a database in another 3000 account." This answer is truthful to the extent that an auditor's concern is changing data, it appears, not just making a minor date change or using DBOPEN MODE 2. Auditors without 3000 expertise, well, they might not go this far in their examinations.
As for the SM user's ability to muck up an IMAGE database, Hornsby said this mistake is not difficult to make.
As we have unfortunately seen, it is not uncommon for an SM user [who has obtained a database password] to corrupt an IMAGE database using the restore command ("Oops, I thought I was signed onto the test account.")
October 11, 2007
Storage improvements for a 3000
The Transition Era for the HP 3000, years 2002 and onward, heralds fewer changes each month for plenty of 3000 customers. Many sites are frozen on a current release of MPE/iX. Others have locked down applications, adding only critical features to keep programs useful and productive.
But the cool climate of stability — no changes to something still working — has not frozen out storage upgrades. Some HP 3000s are linked to HP's virtual disk arrays. Others are plugged into the vendor's XP series. Storage is the only spot in HP's hardware lineup where the 3000 gets connected to later-generation devices.
Evidence of this: The XP10000 and XP12000. These storage devices, called StorageWorks units, continue to serve MPE/iX systems. HP describes the XP10000 as "An entry-level enterprise class storage system in a compact footprint that increases business agility and decreases the stress of running applications where downtime is not an option."
The XP12000 is built for the more typical 3000 customer, one who cannot afford downtime. The array is aimed at "organizations that demand always-on data availability, seamless scalability, and cost-savings through data center consolidation."
HP 3000 hardware resellers in your community continue to sell these devices. In fact, storage represents the largest share of 3000-related hardware opportunity for many resellers.
HP 3000 customers, especially those who have way-out-there migration deadlines, or the homesteaders, can ask for these HP devices by name. These are Storage Access Network products, with the XP12000 capable of carrying up to 32 petabytes — yes, the 1,000 times-as-big-as-terabyte measure — of disks.
The StorageWorks products have deep Web sites at Hewlett-Packard, full of Flash presentations, success stories and even a "request a CD" option. HP likes to point out that its XP arrays, which use Hitachi hardware, are a cut above similar products from Sun and Hitatchi. HP says it has a development arrangement to improve on the XP technology, in partnership with Hitachi.
These HP devices have support contracts which HP will fulfill, and well beyond 2010. Not in a Mature Product status, either. Storage is a sensible upgrade for a system that may well be frozen, but needs a warm-up for ever-expanding, ever-archived databases.
The XPs like to tout flexibility, too. "With the XP you can add disks, processors, cache, disk racks, and host interfaces as you like while it is running with no application downtimem" HP reports. The cost is not for the faint of budget, but an XP array can serve multiple operating environments simultaneously. HP charges enough for these workhorses that the installation, performed exclusively by HP Global Services, is free.
And free HP Services engagements are rare indeed. In the years to come, it's reasonable to imagine that XP arrays like the 10000 and the 12000 will gain a spot in customer sites still running HP 3000s.
October 10, 2007
Fiorina and HP finances now in the news
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina has landed her first job since leaving HP in 2005 on the heels of an ouster off Hewlett-Packard's board. Fiorina will become a "contributor" on the new Fox Business Channel, a cable-only enterprise set up to compete with the likes of CNBC and Bloomberg TV. Fox Business News will be available to 34 million homes.
The former HP leader, the last person to hold both CEO and board chairman roles at the company, headed a 2001 campaign to prune out slow-growing Hewlett-Packard business lines. The effort accelerated in the wake of the September 2001 Compaq merger announcement, as analysts speculated which of HP's lines would be dropped to make room for Compaq businesses. The HP 3000 business received its termination from HP's futures, leaving the OpenVMS and HP-UX server lines as the only HP-designed enterprise environments.
Fiorina, whose role on Fox Business News broadcasts is still unclear, advocated an HP with fewer businesses which were growing at a faster rate. In the two-plus years since her exit, the company has acquired a handful of large corporations. The latest of these mergers, closed within the past 30 days, cost HP $1.7 billion for Neoware and Opsware.
Fiorina left HP with a $21 million severance package in 2005, then was in the running as a candidate to lead the World Bank, but was passed over. She said in a statement that she is
"pleased to have the opportunity to continue to speak out on issues of vital concern to our economy and our nation." Her name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for US Senate in California.
Now you can argue that even on its best year in the last 10, the HP 3000 business would have to work hard to earn that much in revenues. By 2001, HP wanted to invest differently than it had in products like the HP 3000. Or so it appears, since the vendor's appetite for new companies continues unabated.
Opsware cost HP almost $1.5 billion alone. These companies represent a way for HP to enter markets where it doesn't have a footprint yet, as well as acquire technology it did not invent. Not invented at HP sits very well with Hewlett-Packard in the 21st Century. MPE/iX, created and matured and nurtured by HP for more than three decades, does not fit this business profile.
As for Fiorina, she's done her best to raise her profile beyond The Fired CEO yoke she had to wear through the balance of 2005. The next year, her book Tough Choices landed on bookshelves in both the US and Europe. (I know of the worldwide spread, because we spotted her book as shown above in a Paris bookseller's front window.)
Now with a pulpit to preach from at Fox — whose News Corp. recently acquired the Wall Street Journal for $5 billion — she will have some measure of rebuttal for the media machines which reported her demise in 2005, and then danced on her career gravesite.
October 09, 2007
Acucorp leads COBOL users to AcuXDBC
Tomorrow, October 10 at 11 AM EDT, Acucorp will offer the fourth in its series of customer Webinars. These free programs outline the details of the latest COBOL offerings from Acucorp, which became a part of the Micro Focus organization in a merger this summer.
The two companies have sketched a view of how ACUCOBOL Version 8 will evolve over the next two years. A July Webinar outlined dates for releases of Version 8 along with an overview of the new features in AcuCOBOL-GT. Version 8 and Beyond is available for download. Tomorrow's program describes and demonstrates AcuXDBC, a database connection module that specializes in feeding data to AcuCOBOL applications.
To reserve a Webinar seat, point your browser at www.acucorp.com/event. The events are broadcast using Microsoft's Live Channel, and they include a question and answer period. Acucorp will send an e-mail with connection information. The company is archiving its Webcasts as well, in case the timing for watching live doesn't fit with your schedule.
The next Acucorp Webinar is scheduled for October 24 at 11AM EDT: New Productivity-Enhancing Features of AcuBench
Acucorp has broadcast two other Webinars (in addition to it's July event) about its latest version of the ACUCOBOL-GT line, on September 12 (What’s New with ACUCOBOL-GT) and September 26 (Introducing AcuXUI)
Tomorrow's Webcast includes
How to apply SQL and relational database concepts to your COBOL data files - making it possible to manage and access them in much the same way as today's popular relational database management systems. In addition to providing an overview of AcuXDBC, AcuXDBC Server, and AcuXDBC Enterprise Edition, customers will receive an update on the new enhancements to the technology since its first release this past March.
A complete list of the available Webinars and Webcasts from Acucorp is at the company's Web site. The Webcasts include an address by Micro Focus CEO Stephen Kelly in June about the goals for the merger of the two leading COBOL suppliers in the HP 3000 community.
October 08, 2007
3000 Community Meet opens registration
The only HP 3000 meeting of 2007 opened up its registration Web site this week, giving the 3000 community a chance to meet and exchange reports and expertise on managing the systems through the remainder of the Transition Era — no matter how long that might be.
The Web site at hpmigrations.com/sfevent gathers fundamentals on attendees, including the request for a $20 fee to attend the weekend event Nov. 16-17. The charge is to keep attendees on the roster, explained organizer Alan Yeo.
As we only have 50 places on a first come, first served basis, and we have no way of vetting anyone's real intent to turn up, we thought that a nominal registration fee might sort the wheat from the chaff. The idea is that the $20 won't be used on the event — but we are going to organize a memento of the event for the attendees. So the Event is Free, but you pay for the memento.
The meet's roster of speakers spans the 3000 community's experts, from keynoter Jeff Vance, retired from HP this spring after 28 years of MPE development and liaison, to MB Foster's Birket Foster on APM, Chris Koppe on migration lessons learned from the field, Gavin Scott of Allegro on modern-era support options, and Donna Garverick-Hoffmeister on the plans of OpenMPE.
Perhaps most interesting are the 5-minute speaking slots available to any attendee, starting Saturday morning after Vance's keynote. The registration site reports that "These slots have been made available to attendees who need to initiate contact with vendors of a particular service; would like to network with peers sharing a common migration challenge; or to communicate with any other group or individual."
The slots are also being offered on a first come, first served basis; to reserve your five minutes, contact the slot scheduling organizer by e-mail.
The program begins with a Saturday morning keynote on Nov. 17 at the Doubletree Inn outside of the San Francisco Airport, where a block of $99 rooms awaits. Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh has sent word of his interest in attending, too. But attendee spaces are limited to 50, with several HP 3000 experts already signed up this evening.
Dinners on both Friday and Saturday evenings will be informal, birds-of-a-feather affairs organized on the spot. The final slot in the Saturday schedule — which includes a free breakfast and lunch — is set aside to plan dinner meetings for networking.
HP will be in attendance as business manager Jennie Hou arrives with "some small
commemorative HP e3000 tokens for souvenirs" as well as an HP e3000 basic scientific calculator as a door prize.
The 3000 NewsWire will be represented on the program too, helping attendees fight off any post-lunch snooze with a brief talk, Feeling an Edge, or a Ledge? by yours truly. It's our report on the Hearty Advantage of Thinking Ahead.
October 05, 2007
HP sells 3000 software, today and tomorrow
HP told the world it would remain in the 3000 business an extra couple of years in an announcement last week. All of the focus was on the obvious 3000 business of support contracts, with emphasis on what HP won't do anymore: create patches. But in the process of learning what the vendor continues to do, through 2010, I stumbled on a product list.
These are HP 3000 products still for sale from Hewlett-Packard. Yes, software, much of it well-proven in production around the world.
The HP e3000 Web site has some twists and turns to it these days, but tucked away in a cozy corner is a list of what MPE/iX products the vendor will support until 2010. Turns out this list is two-thirds full of software products you can buy from HP during the next three years. Thirty-two of them, to be exact.
And while HP may sell precious few of these products through 2010, it hasn't turned away from any potential revenues from the 3000 community. (We've even heard of a brand-new HP 3000 customer going online this year in the education sector. Perhaps they will need a few of these HP products.)
We are not talking about legendary software on this product list, unless you count IMAGE/SQL, which arrives with every HP 3000 operating system. But you can purchase the HP COBOL II compiler, which is still the one most compatible with 3000 database intrinsics. (Acucorp's AcuCOBOL is a close second, and still sold for MPE/iX by Micro Focus, as well as integrated with the Micro Focus extend product suite.)
But back to the HP product point. You would think that almost five years after Hewlett-Packard made its announcement about the end of its 3000 business, the corporate price list would be clear of things like RPG, Transact, X.25/iX and Inform/V.
That last item is a fundamental IMAGE report tool, one step up from the free QUERY. Is it seasoned? It has the /V in its name because it was created for the 1980s-generation MPE V operating system — the OS that powered the 3000 Classic line. Inform V last got documentation updates for MPE/iX, 5.0.
So while lots of these products are long in the tooth, they are not worthless to HP. That makes them a little bit like your HP 3000s, tools with overlooked value. The value is in the eyes of the owner, like a rare coin or a abstract painting. Just because HP has halted the sale of chestnuts SNA/iX for Token Ring, well, that doesn't mean there's nothing left on the vendor's shelves. Here's what's for sale:
BRW/iX Report Writer
Business Basic/iX Compiler
HA Cluster/iX For Primary Systems
HA Cluster/iX For Secondary Systems
NS Point-to-Point 3000/iX Network Link
RJE Remote Job Entry/iX
Software Revision Controller
Sys. Dict. COBOL Definition Extractor/iX
TurboStore/iX Ii & TurboStore 7x24
October 04, 2007
Application measurements for more comfort
Most HP 3000 customers could use more help, or more budget. They can develop a compelling reason to get more room on their tight-fitting IT suits, even if they are simply staying put on their application platform. (Migrating customers have many, more obvious reasons to increase resources.)
Whether staying or going, however, the 3000 customer is like a fisherman floating in a well-stocked lake: sitting on top of a deep pool of assets, the company's applications. Most HP 3000s still run mission-critical operations, doing the work with applications. There's an emerging process to measure how much applications are worth to a company. Hiring a guide to use the process makes as much sense as taking a good guide to locate the biggest fish.
The process is Application Portfolio Management (APM), a topic that will be explored at this fall's HP 3000 Community Meet Nov. 17. MB Foster's Birket Foster has turned in an abstract of his talk to explain what benefit APM can offer to the 3000 enterprise — really, any enterprise — as well as a list of things to examine to establish the value of critical business applications.
Inventory is the first step in executing APM. Some customers have a fuzzy tally of what's on their HP 3000s. HP a rudimentary tool on its Jazz Web site to get started on a 3000 inventory, software included with the MPE/iX operating environment: the System Inventory Utility (SIU). (As a coincidence, HP's supported SIU was written by the November Community Meet's keynote speaker, Jeff Vance.)
Most important in the APM strategy? The concept of getting executive buy-in on IT projects by showing the applications' asset valuation. Just like a portfolio of stocks, or a stringer full of fish, the applications running HP 3000s can be assayed and then assigned the resources to maintain them — or tossed back to start over again.
Migration partners like MB Foster, as well as Speedware — two key supporters of the Community Meet — are using APM practices in the 3000 customer community. These are real assets, proven over many years. After all, some HP 3000s run apps with longer lifespans than many dot-com businesses which have issued stock.
Perhaps the best aspect of APM is the process's ability to work in both homesteading and migration environments. Speedware points out on its APM Web page that 76 percent of IT resources go to maintain apps, according to a study. That means keeping apps in place and running, even if they don't contribute as much as they should to an organization's bottom line.
This is a pitch to the business side of a company. As Foster says in his abstract, "Your investments in IT can be made visible and on the same footing as other corporate infrastructure investments. Total costs of ownership and the return on investment will come from the process so that the investments in IT can be tuned to the needs of the business."
APM even has a Wikipedia page, to help understand the concept's fundamentals. (I recommend Wikipedia as the start point for such Web research, because the site is peer-edited, full of articles and jointly written to establish accuracy.) Toward the bottom of the APM Wikipedia page are key links for more information; Speedware has a link there as of today.
October 03, 2007
3000 luminary lights up luncheon weekend
November's HP 3000 Community Meet gained a gem in its crown of speakers for Nov. 17. Jeff Vance, winner of the HP e3000 Contributor of the Year award and an HP 3000 veteran of 28 years, will give the keynote speech on that day at the lunch. Oorganizers say that only 50 attendees will get the free lunch, plus the time to network on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Vance will offer his first keynote after countless talks about HP 3000 expertise as well as briefings from the vendor over the past two decades.
Vance retired this year from a 28-year career in HP's 3000 labs, one of the longest MPE/iX tenures of any IT pro anywhere. His contributions to the 3000 community have been lauded by HP as well as countless user groups and customers, from his work as liaison to users and customers to the brilliant work of system enhancements — some cooked up in the span a rainy weekend. HP and a panel of HP 3000 gurus have honored Vance with the HP e3000 Contributor of the Year Award. His software runs on thousands of HP 3000s around the world.
But the HP 3000 pro has moved on to new technical tools and project challenges, working for Quintessential School Systems (QSS) as a senior developer. While his keynote is certain to spring off of all those years of 3000 history, Vance will talk about crossing the bridge to The Next Thing after MPE/iX — and getting a job doing it.
He has already landed a new post as a Senior Developer on the team at MPE K-12 application vendor QSS since his departure from HP The QSS lab is giving Vance a chance to experience new tools and possibilities beyond the 3000, including leading edge features such as Ruby on Rails, Ajax extensions for seamless Web, and the wonderful world of Linux and open source.
An IT professional's career management is part of Vance's keynote as well. He will talk on the strategies and experiences of seeking the right post after several decades of MPE/iX specialization. The keynote will blend topics of legacy systems, careers, reports about job searching — including recent interview experiences — and what really matters when you write your resume.
October 02, 2007
An archive includes an HP 3000
HP 3000s may have a longer lifespan than even homesteaders can kindle. Being such a different system from its replacements, this computer might even continue to do useful duty as an archive device.
Mike Hornsby of Beechglen took note of this in a message on the HP 3000 newsgroup. "Given the complexity of recovering and rebuilding an HP 3000 system from tapes only, many HP 3000 shops are continuing to run the HP 3000 in archive mode or contracting the hosting of their HP 3000 out."
Hornsby's company is one of several in the HP 3000 ecosystem offering a hosted home for archived data. "We have seen many HP 3000s converted to other applications/platforms, only to find out that they have ongoing issues requiring access to the data," he said. He reports that companies are keeping data on their 3000s for periods that run from 10 years into the future to an indefinite period of time.
"These requirements tend to be concentrated, but not limited to, payroll and healthcare records," he added. "One recent urgent case for historical data access from an archived HP 3000 application came from a school district that needed to produce a high school transcript to satisfy a very political and public request."
If the customers are large enough, this archival backup can influence even a supplier as large as HP in planning its future of 3000 support. A platform so stable — because so many are frozen now, barring changes — is less costly to support.
This may not be the afterlife that Hewlett-Packard imagined for the HP 3000s still running. But companies and strategies of the 21st Century tend to be cautious. A 3000 in limited duty is a better mechanism for archives than tapes, Hornsby says.
One aspect [of archiving] besides life expectancy of the media, would be the availability of the exact tape device, backup software, and OS version combination that originally made the backup.
From a long term view, it is important to consider the backups as an archive consisting of:
- the backup media (tapes)
- backup listing
- the HP original OS media
- any third party software installation media
- SLT/OS on bootable media
- at least one of the original devices
October 01, 2007
The ticking clock of releasing source
HP's big news last week extended its HP 3000 business by two years. But the announcement of the new Mature Product Support, without Sustained Engineering, didn't sustain HP's patch development business. That's the part of the new '09-'10 plan that remains the same as the support plans announced in December, 2005. As scheduled, Hewlett-Packard engineers will halt writing, building and testing patches for MPE/iX on December 31, 2008.
This unchanged date brings up a question from the OpenMPE board of directors. When does the 12-month clock start for the transfer of MPE/iX source code to OpenMPE? HP engineers have said HP believes that 12 months is enough time to transfer MPE/iX to an outside licensee. OpenMPE thinks that one year cuts it close. But the amount of time to transfer is HP's decision to make.
But when to make it? If patches stop on December 31 of next year, then January 1 of 2008 might be the time to start the hand-off to let OpenMPE offer patches in 2009. After all, when the patch lab closes, that's the end of that HP support service. OpenMPE directors are hoping that the 3000 business extension over at HP doesn't extend OpenMPE's waiting time a couple of years, too.
So does MPE/iX take its first steps out of HP's labs next year? HP isn't saying yes or no to the question, for now. The 3000 group has always timed its announcements closely, in order to take advantage of shifting customer requests and opportunities in the ecosystem.
But community liaison Craig Fairchild gave us a wait and see reply to the OpenMPE patch in '08 question.
We are still evaluating the impact on the source code access timeline due to this extension. If anything else changes, we'll be sure to let you know.
Tea leaf reading, anyone? If anything else changes could either mean
1. HP will stick to the original plan and behave like 2008 is the end of 3000 support, or
2. The extension is one change, and something else (like source code access) could change, too.
I'm glad they will let me know. I'll let you know here, if I know anything new. As with several questions surrounding the support extension, HP is evaluating before answering.