November 30, 2007
Why we were there, and are still here
It has only been two weeks since the first HP e3000 Community Meet, but I already miss the mates I met there. We were all serious about being in that hotel meeting space on a Saturday morning, a time when soccer games and family activities could call lots of people away. Keynote speaker Jeff Vance had to duck out after lunch to coach a game. Donna Garverick and her husband James Hofmeister had similar Saturday duty, but the well-known couple of 3000 advocates showed up the Friday night before for supper.
Many people might wonder what we were all doing in one place, talking about a computer HP canceled so many years ago, with a serious share of its community already migrated or on its way. We gathered to be thinking together, learning and sharing ways to steer the future forward, toward our desires.
See, through that sharing we could hope to transform that ledge the community feels — even now, more than six years after the worst November news most community members would hear — to turn that ledge into an edge, and see what might be, to grab the advantage of imagination.
People misunderstand each other easily these days, especially in the enterprise computer business. Early on in the weekend I saw a series of pictures of shoes, taken in a factory which uses HP 3000s, snapped by Birket Foster. Then we saw our commemorative shirts, handsome with a nerd-style pocket on the front. I must have been putting the shoes and the shirt together, because when somebody climbed into the car on the way to the supper, they announced that "now we have a socks expert on board."
I was delighted to be confused. "Hey, socks," I said. "Now that's a great commemorative for the next Community Meet." Imagine the howls of laughter when I realized out loud it was SOX standards, not the footware, where our newfound expertise was riding.
After lunch I asked those who remained at the meet to imagine the first day they began with the HP 3000. (I'm still after those stories for the history book.) That first day, I noted, was also the day when your 3000 career began to end. The ending has taken decades, really, with enough time for legacy and legends. I entered this marketplace when running an office computer on carpet, rather than a raised floor, was a new feature. The Mighty Mouse System 37 didn't even need special AC, something new for 1984.
Even then HP was pushing toward its Spectrum project to implement RISC, a technology IBM had already given up on. Meanwhile, Digital had 32-bit computing that Spectrum was still years away from giving the 3000 world. "Digital Has It Now," crowed the silver ads in the trade weeklies of the era. Now HP has Digital. You never do know how things will turn out.
Later we saw the Multiple Operating System Technology take its first turn as an HP 3000 project to put Unix and MPE together on a single system. HP never finished or released the project, at least not until the Superdome systems emerged to deliver the same kind of multiples — minus MPE. At least at the same time the 3000 was entering a renaissance with open source and network and Internet capabilities, plus a general manager in Harry Sterling who was serious about making a stab at new business. The end of the 20th Century still found HP as a vendor that wanted more 3000s in production.
HP's effort at attracting the new and retaining the current community culminated in the PCI-bus systems. There's still video in my archives of HP's Dave Snow waltzing down the aisle at an IPROF conference with the first A-Class server under his arm. He walked with the grin of a bridegroom escorting something lovely.
At the end of this November I am more certain that ever that yours is a community unique among the computer world. HP's exit announcement in November was anticipated, but still as unscheduled as the indictments against baseball's Barry Bonds. That's another controversy with an undefined conclusion, although like the 3000's future, attracting lots of forecasts of doom.
Jailing a baseball legend might prove as difficult as keeping people away from a meeting room on a Saturday. You are a curious, connected community, not an ecosystem. The difference is that a community has more intelligence and more heart than an ecosystem. It can be more enduring, too.
We are clever in the face of unsolved problems. A week after a tanker dumped 60,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay, we were reading about how the Oiled Wildlife Care Network was helping in the cleanup. Maybe as disrespected as OpenMPE, but the Network was surely as unforeseen as OpenMPE too. A network dedicated to cleaning spills off birds and sea mammals? A group of volunteers who talk with HP about the future of a product the vendor has already canceled?
But there are always going to be new solutions appearing to solve old problems even better. The march to migration has made great strides in products and services, not withered away according to some promises. Besides, a good deal of time remains before every migration must be completed. Twenty years and one month, as of today, the moment the CALENDAR intrinsic will render the 3000 incapable of knowing what day is today.
So we gathered in that room and connected in our community to bet on the value of those future years, whether we go or stay, homestead or hope to move away. In the next several months we will hear more about HP's new SCSI-pass through driver and how hard or easy it might be to use; HP's new business model, being crafted with every OpenMPE meeting, for retiring HP's other proprietary products; and what HP has to share about open source updating methods, to keep the late 1990s renaissance from growing stale.
One of the longest-tenured solution suppliers in the market believes in 10 years time most of the world's computing will be done from server centers far removed from the companies using them. Owning a server will be rare, as rare as owning a telephone switching system is today. It's hard to tell what will be "survivor technology." People might have figured radio would be dead by 2007, but in fact it's the entertainment and information source most used by most people. All that time in the car, listening. Maybe even more waiting at a railroad crossing, as those other survivors, rail lines, still do their service.
Could we gather in San Francisco to promise a 3000 future? Yes, but no promises on how long that future will run. Keep thinking for yourself, I told the post-lunch attendees, to turn that ledge into an edge. Then I stole a departure line from Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac" to make my exit from the speaker's stage: "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." All three were reasons for why we were there: to show we were well, share our good work, and keeping in contact as a community.
November 29, 2007
IBM sends PowerHouse users a signal
Not long ago IBM announced its purchase of Cognos, the creator of the development language PowerHouse. The language continues to drive HP 3000 applications in places too diverse to track down, but there's a lot of PowerHouse still running out there.
David Ivey of id Enterprises says that the IBM purchase is a clear signal that the 3000 customers who use PowerHouse need to get serious about moving off their 3000s. The acquisition is both "an opportunity and a spark" for his company which has specialized in HP PowerHouse development through the past two decades, as well as its more current offerings of migration, Ivey says. Primary targets for migrating PowerHouse sites are Windows solutions, especially employing Visual Basic and Visual Studio.
"IBM's purchase once again emphasizes that the 3000 has a limited lifetime, and you need to make preparations to move off it," he said. "You need to have a plan and get busy."
"I love Cognos and PowerHouse, and it's been fabulous for my company," he said. Large complex systems could be churned out "so much faster than in Business BASIC or COBOL. "But PowerHouse's time is gone now."
He added that PowerHouse "doesn't just quit working" to prompt a swift and emergency exit from the platform. But when one of the largest software companies in the world takes in a company for millions in cash, it will look closest at the biggest earner among Cognos businesses. Not the best of prospects for looking after PowerHouse's future.
Most community observers and experts such as Ivey agree that IBM has little interest in the Application Development Tools (ADT) segment of the Cognos business. The group which still releases updates and minor upgrades to PowerHouse generates less than 5 percent of the Cognos revenues. No, IBM wanted to acquire the Business Intelligence customers and products in the Cognos stable.
Ivey said he sees little chance for any company to extract the ADT group from PowerHouse. Negotiations with IBM are a complex matter. More to the point, there's the limited prospects of a new owner increasing the PowerHouse user base against more modern solutions. This would be essential to buying out the PowerHouse business to turn a profit.
"I don't see how anybody [who purchased the ADT group] could survive in a world with Microsoft and those tools that are out there now," he said. "Why should I go to a proprietary [development] platform that nobody's ever heard of, — whose software costs are expensive — when I can go to platforms that everybody knows about and there are programmers all over the street who can code in them?"
Ivey added that his company, which supports PowerHouse sites as well as helps to migrate them, "has customers on the 3000 who haven't taken an update in 10 years — and I wouldn't let them, because there's no point to it." Locked down PowerHouse apps are the most common kind in the 3000 community.
One unique benefit of the PowerHouse offering is its QSCHEMA, a repository of data dictionary items which all PowerHouse apps call upon. Ivey said even when moving away from the dictionary, he doesn't believe much will be lost. His migration strategies for clients often replace the IMAGE database with Microsoft's SQL Server.
Moving the schema to Windows can be done with some third party tools, "but the database structure differences that you don't gain a lot. I recommend bringing the schema over as a text file and then just cut and paste some of the names. It's almost better to type in a lot of that directly than to try and convert it."
The data dictionary "is a big deal, and I have looked for a similar on the Microsoft side, and I haven't been able to find one that was satisfactory," he added.
But PowerHouse is not a graphical environment, and "a screen that I can do in a minute with Visual Studio, or C+ or S-Sharp lets me import graphics with a drag and drop."
November 28, 2007
XML makes its entry into the 3000 workflow
[Editor's note: XML is an important data exchange technology that can use a focused tool suite for HP 3000 customers. The entry that follows explains how the latest XML solution gets the job done in the MPE/iX enterprise. Making a business case for using XML is detailed on our Nov. 27 entry.]
By Peter Prager
XML, which is a self-documenting, flexible data format, should give organizations an edge by providing reusable and repeatable standards which can be utilized throughout their business processes. XML Thunder, an XML suite from CanAm Software, visually enables all data mapping, conversion and error handling required for reliable XML-processing. This frees up developers to focus on business issues — a time-saving advantage when compared to compiler-dependent solutions.
XML has many benefits, but it is a complex technology featuring hundreds of rules. XML program development is an ideal target for automation as the rules are numerous, but very well defined. An XML handling program must implement all relevant aspects of the W3C rules with stable, efficient code. This code has to provide appropriate handling of simple and complex types, XML structures, features and error processing. More importantly, it has to be robust and reliable in order to handle mission critical data that organizations rely on for their business.
How does it work?
XML Thunder generates COBOL and/or C sub-programs that can be invoked from a main business program. These sub-programs are referred to as XML Handlers. XML Handlers do the actual XML processing on data received from the main program. The mainline interfaces with the XML processing sub-programs through a special data area called the Interface Data Structure or IDS.
There are two types of XML Handlers, XML Readers and XML Writers. An XML Reader is used when the content of an XML document needs to be made available to and processed using traditional COBOL or C data structures. When using an XML Reader the mainline may obtain the XML document in any manner which is suitable, e.g. MQ, RDBMS or a sequential file. Once the XML document is held in memory, the mainline will pass it to the XML Reader subprogram that was generated using XML Thunder. The XML Reader will parse the content of the XML document according to the design time rules and will pass the content back to the mainline in regular data structures for further processing.
An XML Writer is called from the main business program. Then an application needs to create an XML document. The main program will pass data using regular data structures to the XML Writer, which will construct the XML document from the data based on design time rules specified.
The generated code is entirely ANSI COBOL/C source code, without any hidden runtimes or executables.
Think of XML Thunder’s flow as consisting of three major steps: Select, when files are selected containing the XML schema/DTD and/or COBOL/C structures; Bind, when COBOL/C variables are mapped to the desired XML nodes; and Generate, when COBOL or C program code is generated implementing the XML Reader/Writer design.
XML Thunder allows developers to import existing files to assist with the creation of the XML Handler definition. These files can be either from the COBOL/C or from the XML world.
COBOL/C files could be COBOL copybooks, a COBOL program or a C header file. The COBOL/C (known as IDS) data structure will be created based on the XML information.
Document Type Definition (DTD)
Derive from IDS
The XML data will be created based on the COBOL/C (IDS) information.
Or still, a combination of the files above, or no files at all (the XML Handler will be created from scratch by the user)
Once the XML Handler definition is created based on the files imported, the developer needs to map the COBOL/C variables with the XML nodes. This is easily done using the graphical interface, through drag-and-drop.
XML Thunder will try to create the mapping, depending on the combination of files used in the selection step. If the imported file is an XML Schema (XSD) or DTD, then the corresponding COBOL/C data structures (IDS) will be automatically derived. XML Thunder creates all necessary IDS fields based on the XSD/DTD, and then maps each XML node to its corresponding COBOL/C field.
XML Thunder can also derive the XML Schema (XSD) from an existing COBOL/C data structure. To simplify things further, a wizard assembles an IDS from an existing COBOL program’s working storage by simply pointing and clicking. When deriving an XSD from existing data structures, XML Thunder also performs automatic mapping of the XML nodes and COBOL/C fields. Of course, these mappings can be deleted or easily changed if desired.
When both the COBOL/C data structures and the XSD/DTD are provided, then developers can perform manual mapping.
These features of XML Thunder maximize automation yet preserve flexibility, resulting in developers’ complete control over the XML Handler design. Once the XML Handler is designed, the next step is source code generation.
During code generation the actual COBOL or C sub-program, implementing the design time mapping rules, is generated. The generated XML Reader or XML Writer subprograms can then be integrated with the main business program to parse or create the appropriate XML documents. An Integration Wizard makes the task of integrating these handlers quick and easy.
With a few exceptions, the same XML Handler definition can be used to generate COBOL or C language code and as either an XML Reader or an XML Writer.
Once the appropriate XML Handler is generated and the mainline program changed to call it, they can be uploaded to the appropriate target platform, compiled, linked and tested.
Peter Prager is Director of XML and Reporting Solutions for Canam Software Labs. For more information about XML Thunder and to download a free trial, visit the Canam Web site at www.xmlthunder.com. The company also offers an online walkthrough of the solution at its Web site.
November 27, 2007
Integrating Benefits of XML for HP 3000s
By Peter Prager
Data exchange between different platforms, such as HP 3000s and Windows workstations, is complex, requiring significant knowledge and investment.
As vendors have tried to further protect their intellectual property with proprietary data formats, the challenge of exchanging data in a heterogeneous computing environment involving a variety of platforms has been growing over the years.
This issue has been substantially heightened with the B2B use of Internet technologies, where a large number of different platforms need to share data. This is especially true when considering the increased requirement for national language support.
XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language and was defined by the World Wide Web consortium in mid-1996, based on the SGML meta language. As XML’s main purpose is to enable any data in any national language to be shared across different computing platforms, it has increasingly been a natural solution of choice.
Similar to Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards, XML is fully text-based, and its most important unit is the character. One major difference is that XML is a self-describing data representation language, including both data and meta-data, which results in platform independent, ubiquitous self-documented data that can be used on any computing platform
The benefits of having one self-describing data format administered by a central organization, and that can be used by any information system, have caused many organizations to shift their own policies towards proprietary data formats. Even large standards organizations, such as SWIFT and ANSI ASC X12 have moved their respective standards toward XML.
An example of XML’s strength and its effect on business can be seen in the public sector in Denmark. Mandated by law effective February, 2006, all public sector organizations can only send/receive invoices in XML format (through the UBL Invoice standard). The estimated savings from the use of one standardized document type has been approximately 100 million euros per year.
While XML is a mature and well-established standard, the reading and writing of XML messages using standard procedural languages — like COBOL and C — is a complex task. It traditionally requires intricate understanding of both the programming language and XML itself.
To help developers overcome the complexities of XML and its complex programming requirements, Canam Software has developed a solution, XML Thunder, that bridges the two worlds of XML and procedural languages. This also empowers software professionals to take advantage of the benefits of XML without going through the usual steep learning curve.
This solution creates a level of abstraction between the COBOL/C program code and the rules of an XML document, allowing a highly productive, agile, low-maintenance, and repeatable programming model.
XML Thunder is a visual development tool that generates COBOL and/or C program code that creates (via the XML Writer) or parses (via the XML Reader) XML documents based on their specific and unique design.
The business case
While XML integration on various platforms has been a costly and time consuming task with alternatives that have included changing development languages, production platforms or both, XML Thunder is a solution that allows organizations to retain their existing production environment and development language.
XML Thunder shields COBOL and C developers from all the rules and restrictions of the XML technology. It enables them to create XML-processing programs in their familiar computing environment without having to learn a complex new technology. The objective is to enable organizations to use XML within their existing applications and platforms while minimizing the risk and cost associated with application enhancements, rewrites, or platform moves.
Existing production systems are the workhorses of organizations. They are mission critical and represent a significant investment in development and maintenance resources. Using XML Thunder, mature and mission critical production systems can be modernized with minimal risk and cost, utilizing existing resources.
This results in the best of both worlds: The opportunities presented by XML and the proven reliability of existing systems such as the HP 3000-based applications. From a business perspective, the lifespan of the existing system can be extended, thus increasing its overall ROI to the business area using the application.
Details of how XML Thunder works will be covered in tomorrow's blog entry.
Peter Prager is Director of XML and Reporting Solutions for Canam Software Labs. For more information about XML Thunder and to download a free trial, visit the Canam Web site at www.xmlthunder.com. The company also offers an online walkthrough of the solution at its Web site.
November 26, 2007
Leaves and information fall faster here
The fall months brought far more than a change in weather and the colors of leaves. This season has served up many a transition for your community and the computer world as a whole, but none was so profound as the 3000’s Extra Two Years.
I was glad to have this online vehicle to keep up with the news all through October and into November. Not a bit of irony escaped me as I noted HP’s announcement date for a critical data corruption patch: Oct. 31, the day celebrated as a Worldwide Wake for the 3000 four years ago, the last day HP sold the system.
So now 48 months have passed, a full year of them beyond HP’s first “we’re getting out” date, and the community remains on the system in large numbers. About a third are already departed from your community, their migrations or replacements or re-hosting complete. But the rest of the user base needed those critical patches, those that HP announced primarily over the Web on newsgroups, Web sites and mailing lists. HP has sent word by way of the postal system, too. Quaint but comprehensive.
HP gave the NewsWire a cordial pre-announcement access to both news items. A full week in advance of the Mature Product Support announcement, I got a thorough briefing and a good while to ask questions. The patch releases were revealed to me just two hours before the rest of the world learned. Afterward, I got to pretend I was a newspaper reporter once again, working with a 90-minute deadline.
The best part was refreshing the HP Web page, minute by minute, on Oct. 31 to see when we could uncork our own coverage up on the blog, staying in tandem with HP's schedule. On that same afternoon we sent more than 2,000 e-mails to announce the story, a total maybe higher than the 3000 newsgroup and OpenMPE readership.
Not that I’d want to boast about all of our handling of the excitement. In a few days after HP’s critical patch announcement, I’d stumbled on the assumption that these binary-level patches had been less tested than the fully-integrated repairs HP usually General Releases. A friendly HP e-mail netted an hour of work to fix the errant stories, which were only posted to the blog on the prior day. Not a lot of community scrutiny surfaced over HP’s patches, but when Alfredo Rego and Stan Sieler pose queries, everybody in the community should listen up.
The news of the Mature Product Support came with an assurance that no patches will be developed after December 31, 2008. So your risk of running an HP 3000 will increase, HP figures. A month after the support extension, I asked if this kind of corruption patch, in binary form, would be among the kind that HP won’t develop during 2009. Nope. You can still expect this kind of critical repair, even during the “Without Sustaining Engineering (patches)” era of the Transition.
Those questions for both announcements, well, I got to ask them old-school over the telephone. Quaint, but comprehensive procedures. There has never been a better time to be a business and technology journalist, even with access drying up to companies' employees, officials and execs. Talk it up over the phone, add e-mail polish and review, then publish rapid over the Web. Information has never flowed faster here.
November 23, 2007
Golden, Open opportunities in '08
OpenMPE is not some government entity with a roster of voters to look up and scrutinize. I saw a membership roster in 2003. Only 125 names back then, but not even half were vendors. Consultants, some. But also customers.
As for the voter names, I get a list of those each spring to oversee the annual election. I cannot share those, but yes, even in their limited numbers, they represent the viewpoint of a customer trying to get a workable solution for the near term.
No tax dollars are not at work at OpenMPE, any more than they are inside HP. Member and voter identity is protected on a privacy basis, just like customer lists at HP and third parties. Insisting that this group of volunteers mimic the government’s information revelation is not an unusual request. But it’s just not going to happen, until these volunteers get support contract monies from 3000 sites. That will make OpenMPE accountable to their customers, in some way. That may never happen, given these HP extensions to its support business. On the whole, the extensions look sensible until you consider their impact on OpenMPE’s desires.
As for what the organization is doing right now, several times a month the board meets by phone conference with HP’s Jeff Bandle, as they did with Mike Paivinen before him. Projects such as OpenMPE review of the HP MPE/iX build process investigation — “hey, what does it take to create a new MPE/iX build, or a patch?” — that’s the kind of project OpenMPE is involved in. One such project has already taken place. OpenMPE wants the 3000 group in HP to be involved in two more such reviews.
Also, OpenMPE got HP to announce the extension of support earlier in 2007 than HP had planned. You may recall that the 2005 announcement — where 2006 didn’t mean 2006 anymore, and the companies who hurried and spent plenty learned they should have waited and spent more gradually — that 2005 announcement got dropped on the community and customers during the holiday hiatus. Bad publicity, awful exposure.
This year’s announcement came much earlier, during the period when 3000 sites were planning 2008 budgets. The OpenMPE calls are all covered under executive sessions. HP insists. HP holds all the cards in this relationship.
The flaw in approaching the 3000 market from a spot of selling mostly migration solutions is that the solutions and viewpoint becomes a hammer, the kind that makes every 3000 problem look like a nail. “Just migrate,” people say, “and it will all get safer and easier.” But the migration experts who are ready to help, they know — a migration is the most complex IT project a shop will undertake. Some take a matter of weeks or days. Others take years. They are fraught with pitfalls and learning. Most of them make the Y2K work seem simple by comparison.
Homesteaders have limited budgets, operate systems often frozen down, don’t test patches, take few upgrades. This has always been a belt-plus-suspenders marketplace. Homesteading is the easy path of no change. Shifting a 15-year-old application suite to new code, new compiler, new database, new OS, that can feel like cowboy stuff to a 40-plus 3000 director.
And there’s no hurry or firm deadline, especially if HP support has become a thing of the past for a customer. By my estimate no more than 1 in 3 HP 3000 customers now take MPE/iX support from HP. This is a marketplace accustomed to a decade or more of value from an enterprise server purchase. The current generation of HP 3000s, the A- and N-Class servers, are only finishing their sixth year of active service in the market.
So what’s Open about OpenMPE? There’s an open dialogue with HP about how to make the homesteading, whether interim or for an indefinite future, easier and more affordable.
Maybe OpenMPE will have no future with HP, in the long term. But nobody else in the community is taking up the prospect of how to create patches during 2009 and 2010, when HP quits. And to think that nobody will need a patch for a 3000 in that period is a bit innocent, if you ask me.
So who is OpenMPE? The directors, almost exclusively, people whose pictures and names and bios are up on the Web site. As well as those who have served on that board in the past, for free. If OpenMPE went away tomorrow, how would the 3000 community, which will be working at least through 2010, benefit? The group’s executive conference calls help HP plan the details of its end-game. HP says so, and says the group has impact. And after the disgraceful melt-down of Interex, the 3000 community needs some kind of HP advocacy.
At least OpenMPE gives the homesteader a rally point. The organization intends to create a community to help customers continue using HP 3000s. The system will be running until 2027, when the CALENDAR intrinsic goes out of date. The future of post-Hewlett-Packard 3000 use: that’s OpenMPE’s mission.
The coming year shows great promise for anybody still a-foot in the 3000 world, aiding in migrations. or creating a new infrastructure for their 3000s, sans HP. Many are happy to be going onward, grateful for what they’ve learned. This month the keynote speaker for the Bayside e3000 Community Meet, former HP-er Jeff Vance, will talk of the exciting new technology which fills his day. Vance migrated away from 3000 work after 28 years.
On the other side, I got an e-mail the other day from a system manager at Health New England. Jonathan Hale was reporting on the departure of the group’s HP 3000s. “I now regularly quote from the Unix-Haters Handbook,” he said, a volume that can be read for free online, after a healthy life in printed form.
People have left the 3000 (more than a third), or are considering and planning migration (another third and more). But a significant chunk of the customers are homesteading for this year and next, staying in place for that duration. All of these groups offer us all more months of opportunity, even the homesteading sites. I heard last week from a vendor who’s been in the 3000 market since 1988, “there’s still gold in them thar hills.” Here’s to a golden 2008, no matter where you are prospecting.
November 22, 2007
Spelling thanks with an "e"
On this day in the US, we give thanks for what we love in our lives with a big meal, connecting with family and friends. It's a rare thing for Abby and I to be away from our Texas home and NewsWire's offices on this day. We're usually hosting holiday guests, but this year we're on the road, visiting my family in a little town on the leftmost edge of Lake Erie.
As I sit here in an Extended Stay Suites room, waiting for all the feasting to come, I am reminded of that E in Erie. The lake's name still draws sniggering, maybe the same kind you've heard about the HP 3000 in your shop. Yes, it is that system older than all of the rest, but as vital as a Great Lake with freshwater. Something common but essential, and yes, something to be thankful for.
That E also reminds me of something Alan Yeo said about the HP 3000. HP started to call the system e3000 back in the year 2000, a marketing move to prompt a new look at legacy technology. Yeo wrapped up last weekend's 3000 Community Meet by saying that e stands for enduring. It's one of the many e-things we can give thanks for as 3000 community members:
- Extensions, of support by HP to keep the vendor officially in the 3000 business, and of support from the third party suppliers and 3000 gear from resellers. About the only thing really missing now is new systems.
- Exploration, by the OpenMPE board, still seeking a way to extend the problem-fixing patch process once HP leaves the community
- Excellence, from the 3000 solution suppliers who have built products with durability and rugged design, like Adager's Alfredo Rego says, as if they are deep space satellites which must operate for years without need for maintenance, so your IT duties are more manageable
- Enthusiasm, from the vendors discovering new ways to migrate several decades of business logic to new environments. Everybody tells us that the application makes the most difference in choosing a new platform. The platform makes the most difference, however, when the application is already written and reliable on the 3000 — and it requires patience and innovation to carry it into the future.
- Exactitude, from those caring for a 3000, either by proxy or at your site, as well as the exacting development of solutions to mirror the talents of IMAGE, MPE/iX on other hardware, and more. Excellence is required.
As for Abby and I, we give thanks for the Excitement of covering a vendor's End-game, to chronicle the Evolution of your community to an independent Entity. Enjoy the holiday.
November 21, 2007
More beyond than behind
Another two years, HP says, and it will be closing up its HP 3000 support business. Will that 2010 date mean the end of migrations, or homesteading, or the community? Not by my figuring.
I like to do some fun figuring here when I glance at the calendar. By December 1, The 3000 NewsWire will have pursued 3000 news and delivered issues and blogged reports longer in the post-cancellation period than before it. And 2008 promises to be a fun year to keep telling stories. After all, HP’s still going to be in the business, supporting us and you.
After all, why give up now? HP’s 3000 support business is a profit center. Until its resources retire or shift to other HP projects, keeping those doors open in a limited way is an easy choice — or easy if the decision-maker works in the HP Services group.
But this makes the OpenMPE initiative worry, concerned that yet another two years will elapse before HP must keep its promise and turn over the keys to the MPE/iX kingdom. That move would give OpenMPE a chance to become more than advocates. Right now, some community members see OpenMPE and homesteaders as worn-out horses, thoroughbred but as blinder-ed as any aging racehorse relegated to harness racing.
This is a short view, by my analysis. First, OpenMPE isn’t any less open than HP’s 3000 business group, which cannot say how many engineers still work there, what number of customers continue to receive PowerPatch tapes, how much business the group books, and a host of other details. Millions of dollars are sent to HP on behalf of 3000 customers, but the business is no more open than HP decides it should be. It’s a profit-driven operation, just as it should be.
But oh my, put OpenMPE in the same harness and its critics revile the volunteer effort. How can it be open when the member list is unknown? What are the group’s true objectives? Is this group just a handful of vendors clinging to the past, hoping to continue to make money off MPE?
In order, the answers appear to be
1. It can as open as it wants to be, just like HP and its 3000 group.
2. Its objectives are the same as they were nearly six years ago — to make a life for the 3000 beyond HP’s business schedule.
Please note, HP’s extensions of its 3000 support now total almost as much extra time as HP first allotted to the system’s lifespan (five years promised, now four more years extended.) Or as Gavin Scott put it at last weekend's e3000 Community Meet, the extension period now represents 20 percent of the entire HP 3000 lifespan.
As for the final question, it’s the most important query. Yes, the OpenMPE volunteers (exactly nine) and supporters (perhaps a few hundred, including The 3000 NewsWire) are hoping to continue to make money off MPE. Yes, profit motives are afoot in business here, and elsewhere. That’s capitalism and initiative and looking out for yourself. People who have been around this community a good while — I’m 23 years in here now — have always embraced thinking on their own. They had to, once HP decided the 3000 was going to be a minor player in the enterprise strategy, say about 15 years ago.
Homesteaders are not kooks or luddites, and migrators are not lemmings or budget-busters. We believe they both have a place in our community, like liberals and conservatives and yes, even libertarians, to get a little political.
One migration and homesteading vendor (maybe that would be a libertarian, to stretch the metaphor) thinks that not more than 35 percent of the 3000 sites in the UK are already migrated. This month, six years after HP’s “we leave you” announcement, about two thirds have not finished the job. Some will retire before that finish line arrives for them.
We believe that homesteaders make up about 25 percent of the 4,000 or so our estimated HP 3000 installations. These are companies unable to afford a move away from the 3000. The cost they don’t want to bear is disruption. A major backup vendor said in 2004 that one of their homesteaders had a run rate of $50 million. It’s not all small companies.
I heard another migration story about Interstate Brands this week, and not a pretty tale. Seems the company has had to go into Chapter 11 — and part of the foolish spending was an SAP conversion project, a vehicle which hit the wall trying to migrate away from the 3000. A $60 million project. The 3000 is still doing day to day work there. It appears Interstate could have used some help.
But yes, I think someone, and more than anyone, will stay on the 3000 for years to come. You are homesteading until your migration is complete. Temporary is a word that probably doesn’t fit for a 3000 still in production in 2008.
Some users have given only this much consideration to a migration plan: “Sometime in the future, I won’t be able to buy a part, system, upgrade or service for this server. When that time comes, I will be forced to migrate. But not now. We cannot afford the disruption and the budget. We will investigate and keep up to date.”
No, not everyone on the 3000 is in the form of some migration status. Everyone in the 3000 community still running the system is keen to keep some 3000 expertise on the payroll or on call. And they will all need upgrades, eventually, if their business is growing.
November 20, 2007
HP revenue growth shatters quarterly marks
HP on Nov. 19 posted results from its latest quarter which broke its single-quarter revenue numbers by nearly 30 percent. HP promoted the push as led by the software gains in the company's operations, according to CEO Mark Hurd. A $28 billion finish in the final 90 days of sales for the the year gave HP a total of $105 billion for its annual sales. Q4 netted $2.6 billion in profits. Year-long profits for 2007 were $7.2 billion.
“Strong performance across our businesses was highlighted by sharp improvement in our software segment,” said Hurd. Overall, he noted, “We have added over $12 billion of new revenue this year. While we still have more work to do, HP is well positioned to make further progress in the marketplace.”
In comparison, Apple's last four quarters netted $3.5 billion in profit on one fourth of HP's revenues. IBM has posted $12 billion in profit over its last four quarters on $118 billion in revenues.
HP also announced that its board approved the repurchase of $8 billion in its common stock. This would represent about six percent of all outstanding HP shares. HP started the trading day at a price of $50.87 per share, about three dollars off its 52-week high.
Highlights from the report, released after the markets closed, showed that the Enterprise Systems and Storage Group, (ESS), the parent group where the HP 3000 alternative systems such as Integrity and NonStop servers are created and sold, posted a 10 percent revenue growth over last year's Q4.
The Business Critical Systems group, heartland of the Integrity alternative, increased revenues by 5 percent in the final period of fiscal 2007. Integrity sales grew 59 percent in the quarter, but HP lost ground in the PA-RISC and Alpha sectors, places where the vendor has already promised an end to the server lines built upon those chipsets.
BCS profits rose over last year's Q4 to $693 million, 13.5 percent of revenues. But industry-standard server sales dominated the ESS increases for the quarter. Overall these Intel-based systems sold 14 percent more than in last year's Q4, sparked by x86 (Xeon) blade revenue increases of 78 percent.
However, BCS numbers paled when compared to the HP Services operations, where the vast majority of HP 3000 customers still do business with Hewlett-Packard. HP Services grew to $16.4 billion on the year, an uptick from the 2006 results of $15,6 billion. Services covers nearly every HP product line, but the BCS yearly revenues fell for 2007, down from $3.6 billion to $3.5 billion.
The HP Software operations, a nexus of acquistions over the prior year and half, doubled its revenues over the prior-year period to $698 million, led by growth from the businesses acquired in HP’s purchase of Mercury Interactive. HP said that on a year-over-year basis, HP OpenView grew 24 percent excluding Mercury. Operating profit was $177 million, or 25.4 percent of revenues, up from $60 million, or 17.2 percent of revenue, in the prior-year period.
Printers and Imaging surrendered its largest share ranking among HP's businesses, with HP's Personal Systems Group taking the lead in revenues. Operating profits in the printer group were flat compared to last year's Q4, but still contributed a hearty $1.1 billion to the quarter's profits, about 40 percent of the quarterly total.
Some reports showed that HP increased its sales of PCs in China during the period to lift up the Personal Systems Group numbers.
November 19, 2007
Community Meet's network links full house
They came on a soccer day, kids's sports day, a morning for extra sleep. The Saturday of the first e3000 Community Meet dawned with a filled room of the who’s who of the 3000 community. Or, as QSS application founder Duane Percox joked, “who’s left.”
Who was left had lots to share and report. At left, Rick Gilligan (standing) of bank app vendor CASE shared his MicroFocus COBOL experiences with Bob Cavanagh of Acucorp, now part of MicroFocus
The meeting reached its 50 attendee target, a larger share of partners and consultants than customers. But for each seat of the 50 which were filled at the Doubletree Hotel on San Francisco’s bayshore, a few, a dozen or a hundred other HP 3000 customers were represented. The nine hours of networking, counting breakfast, lunch and the after-meeting supper, offered a view of the future with several destinations — and no certain end of life.
HP was well represented at the meeting, a full table of engineers, managers and experts sitting on the front row. Jennie Hou, HP’s e3000 business manager, updated the crowd on the vendor’s new offerings during 2007, a talk she delivered to far fewer 3000 community members during the summer's HP Technology Forum. Of course, back then, HP's limit to its 3000 business was the end of 2008, not 2010.
The brightest sparkplug of the meeting, ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, (second from left, along with Transact creator David Dummer, Eloquence's Michael Marxmeier and Cavanagh) concluded the meeting with an insight. "I've often wondered why HP placed the e in front of 3000," he said. "Now I think I know. It stands for enduring, because the 3000 has lasted a darn sight longer than HP expected."
HP's contribution to the day was hard to overlook. For all of its IO expert firepower, community liaison connection and even Ross McDonald's lab director oversight, the most moving expression of the day from HP came through a former employee who kicked off the meeting. Jeff Vance had lived in the HP mountaintop, and literally worked from there in his most lauded and productive years developing from home, before retiring in May.
Just six months after his HP exit Vance stood before us to testify about how alive the future feels for him, all while a collage of 3000 division team members flashed on the screen behind Vance. The photos celebrated the retired and departed while making a case for how the end of life of work cannot be calculated when you love what you do.
Lunch delivered the biggest torrent of networking, the brightest benefit which attendees could carry away from a surrended Saturday. A room buzzed with revivals and reports. Some of the brightest lights in the community exchanged updates of the future outside of the 3000 extension, as well as the personal reports on migration tricks that make networking such a solid extension of online relationships.
A surprising amount of the day’s talk mapped paths and options for homesteading. Maybe not a surprise, considering that half of the community's customers are still using HP 3000s, even while some are prodding along migration projects. Gavin Scott of Allegro Consultants, and Stan Sieler after him, identified a short range of risks in remaining on the platform. (Below, Speedware's Chris Koppe looks on as Sieler, the latest e3000 Contributor of the Year, explains how customers can avoid "Planning for Failure.")
Most likely among the homesteading risks, Sieler said, was that an MPE/iX vendor would go out of business unexpectedly. The irony of knowing that HP has been going out of its 3000 business, ever so slowly and carefully, but at first unexpectedly — well, that wasn’t lost on me.
New ideas and updates on migration news arrived in crisp 20-minute talks. Each presenter seemed to understand that to run overtime would be denying the crowd a chance to hear more on a different solution, whether it was the emerging IT tool of Application Portfolio Management, explained and outlined by Birket Foster, or the advances in migration techniques and strategies, detailed by Chris Koppe.
Very little of the day would have been possible without the generous sponsorship of companies like Foster's and Koppe's. The registration Web site was popped together, over a matter of days and including online payment options, by Speedware's Marketing Manager Dani Knezevic, who was on hand at the registration table to sign us in and distribute badges. Some attendees paid on the morning of the Meet. Other sponsors to help make the Meet happen: Yeo's ScreenJet, and Eloquence creator Marxmeier Software AG, as well as Micro Focus, now the focal point for migration-bound COBOL solutions.
Absent from the room? The veiled dismay and outright anger at the vendor which sparked all this transition. The OpenMPE advisory sounded upbeat and hopeful, as well as full of new opportunities to network. Best wishes got passed along to the GHRUG user group conference, still scheduled for March 14-15 in Houston's suburbs. Birket Foster and Matt Perdue drove through the slides that continue to make a case for an independent lab to on the MPE/iX source code, once HP is ready to transfer the software for patching. As we have said before, HP'S Service and Support sector has more to say about the licensing timetable than any other portion of HP.
News came in modest amounts, like the explanation of COBOL enhancements to AcuCOBOL, offered by Acucorp whic now a part of longtime COBOL rival Micro Focus. Both companies sent representatives to the meet. While AcuCOBOL’s manager Bob Cavanagh fielded some pointed questions about licensing changes once the two companies merge to a single product, the intent of the answers seemed clear: the combined firms want to do what’s needed to speed and clear the path of migration of all those COBOL apps you run on 3000s today.
November 16, 2007
OpenMPE letter draws HP response
HP 3000 advocates at OpenMPE believe the transfer of source code to the volunteer group should begin now. But HP’s 3000 group officials continue to keep their calendar deadlines intact for MPE/iX licensing. HP intends to license, but scheduling is another matter, HP officials report.
Jennie Hou, the business manager for HP’s e3000 operations, said that the open letter from OpenMPE’s board has been read and discussed by HP’s 3000 management team. However, HP will not be following any proposed November announcement of a timetable to license MPE/iX source in 2009.
That process is not being accelerated even though HP will halt patch development for the HP 3000 during 2009. The availability of Hewlett Packard support for the 3000 customer, in any form, will determine the start date for any licensing of MPE/iX to third parties. HP recently extended its support for MPE/iX through 2010.
“Other than altering the timeline to 2010, our intent [to license] stays the same,” she said.
HP announced in December 2005 that it intends to license parts of MPE/iX to interested third parties when basic support is not available from HP any longer. But just because HP calls its 2009-10 support “Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering,” rather than Basic Support, doesn’t change the timeline. The transfer clock still starts when HP exits all of its 3000 support business, according to HP 3000 community liaison Craig Fairchild.
“The intent has always been that when HP is no longer in the MPE/iX or HP 3000 support business,” he said. “That’s when we would proceed with this licensing endeavor.”
OpenMPE volunteers made a case in October for a rapid start to source code licensing arrangements. The board said in a letter to HP that by the end of December, only one year will remain until HP will not develop new patches, even for critical bugs. HP and OpenMPE agree that one year will be required to transfer the knowledge of source code and build processes. OpenMPE wants to ensure patches can be created starting in 2009.
But HP said its lack of patch development during 2009 and 2010 will still meet HP customer needs.
HP’s own business needs play a part in the timetable, too. HP’s 3000 support business — the contracts with the customers who continue to rely on the vendor for MPE/iX and HP 3000 hardware fixes — require the vendor to stick to its licensing timetable announced in late 2005.
“That is the main driver for that [business decision],” Hou said of maintaining HP’s 3000 support business. “We believe that these [licensing] triggers have not been initiated at this point in time — that is, HP remains in the 3000 support business.”
Even the Mature Product Support to begin in 2009 will be enough to meet the needs of “the vast majority of our customers,” Fairchild said. “For the customers for whom MPS without SE doesn’t meet their needs, we would encourage them to contact HP to explore structuring a customer-specific support package.”
Fairchild added that even during the current 2007-2008 support period, when Mission Critical Support has not been for sale from HP, customers can contact the vendor to attempt to arrange more extensive 3000 support.
“This is a very consistent message that follows the model we presented at the HP Technology Forum,” he said. “There is an expectation that customers should have of an overall declining HP 3000 ecosystem over time. Part of the reason for sharing this model with customers is to reinforce and recognize the recommendation that customers migrate off the 3000 and onto other HP platforms as quickly as possible.”
Even though HP is willing to try to maintain Mission Critical or customer-specific support arrangements — which could include critical patches — the vendor sees a term through 2010 when 3000 parts availability will decline and MPE/iX expertise will become more scarce.
The support extensions just announced doesn’t trigger any acceleration of HP’s plans for transfers, the vendor says, because the extensions were sparked by customers whose migrations need more time to complete.
“This extension is to offer the customers another layer of services that will be adequate for that extra two-year timeframe,” Hou said.
November 15, 2007
App Portfolio Management: Get IT in the boardroom
By Birket Foster
It’s not just about the 3000. Like a facilities manager, an IT manager has many kinds of budgets to consider. A new strategy, one that treats applications like they are corporate assets, can deliver valuable benefits to help a company using HP 3000s move forward.
IT people have been notoriously bad at getting their place at the boardroom table. An IT budget needs to follow the business direction. The Application Portfolio Management (APM) strategy ensures a good business fit for all of a company’s programs.
Studies show that managers spend 80 percent of the IT budget maintaining their current assets. If you are forced to do anything radical you run into real issues, then overrun your budget. At most companies, the IT budget is set at operating level.
Migration can be a radical step. But the duty of an IT manager who oversees a 3000 is to keep track of what is productive. It’s not about the migration, it’s about the whole portfolio. You must assess the 3000’s risk versus the rest of the applications in the portfolio.
At M. B. Foster, our team has been doing migrations for the past five years. We actually started with data migrations in 1985 — but once HP announced its phasing out of the HP 3000, we began working on the methodology for migrating applications as well.
Our typical discovery process is to look at a company’s business, both today and where it is going. We then evaluate the viability of each application in supporting the business going forward. Many customers have applications on different platforms and in different stages of supportability and business fit.
What do we mean by business fit? It is how well the application supports the needs of the business. We ask each department using an application to explain how they use the system and what is missing. Is there a formal wish list for application changes? In a typical situation there may be two years of backlog needed on the application.
The issue is that 80 percent of the IT budget which you must spend on maintaining the current apps. That leaves only 20 percent for innovation — not enough budget for major projects. Windows and desktop application support often takes the majority of the maintenance money, so there’s little left over to apply to application servers like the HP 3000 and applications that run the business. Just as any facilities department must budget for work beyond day to day, so should an IT department be prepared when a major renovation needs to take place.
APM helps managers assess value to application assets. To begin, take an inventory of applications and clearly understand the current business and technology fit for each application. Publish the application portfolio so it can become a budget item visible to the management team. I know, at first it may not be where you would like it to be, but it is what it is — there is nothing that can be done about the past. But when you start the process of APM, you can start managing a budget with the objective of aligning business needs with IT’s, with options for The Three Rs of Applications – remain, replace, or rehost. This way IT can get included at the management table and get the budget needed to renovate when required.
A business fit gets determined from things such as management needs vs. what they get for management reporting and measurement of goals. Consider how the operational users interact with the system and how easy the system is to use; how well documented the system is; how new users at all levels get trained on the system. Assess how easy is it to adapt the system to new business requirements, and how well it supports the different departmental workflows.
Getting on the agenda
A whole new way of looking at IT is to look at what innovation can be done to improve the company and then calculate the ROI – which in this case means “Return On Innovation.”
Once the portfolio is assessed, you can make plans for individual applications. The plan will include a work breakdown structure that details the tasks to be done, the people to do the tasks, and the timeframe and resources required.
This step will help with getting budget approval and communicate the involvement from each department. The APM strategy solves a business problem, not an IT problem, and you will need a team effort to get IT on track so it can be managed as an investment. Getting an application portfolio organized will help your planning and risk mitigation. Ignoring applications for too long will create a crisis, and a much bigger investment will be required.
Birket Foster is CEO of M. B. Foster, a software company offering cross-platform data access and delivery solutions in the HP , Unix, Linux and Windows markets. Contact him at 800-ANSWERS, ext. 204 or email him at Birket@MBFoster.com.
November 14, 2007
The Anniversary That Won't Die
Only once in the history of The 3000 NewsWire has a specific date appeared on our pages. The day rattled through your HP 3000 community six years ago on this very day, when HP announced its exit from three decades of the HP 3000 business.
Four years ago, HP 3000 customers and friends around the globe held a World Wide Wake for the system, gathering to raise a glass in toasts and revive the memories around more than 30 years of success using this computer.
Three days from today, 50 or so of the community's most curious and connected members will network in San Francisco over a weekend. The fellow sparking the e3000 Community Meet, 2007? That would be ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, who also inaugurated the idea of a wake for your system on that 2003 day when HP stopped selling the 3000. (There's Yeo helping at a conference, showing a way to migrate COBOL apps.)
On this day in 2001, the badge of "homesteader" was born on our pages. We had to call the majority of the community something, and "non-migrator" just didn't feel right. Neither did the decision to cut off a good product line that wasn't growing as fast as the HP CEO wanted. But we've all moved on from that day, haven't we? You're learning what's next, or gathering your independent resources to homestead awhile — through 2010 and beyond, by all reckoning.
Just today out on the 3000 Internet newsgroup, a hardy soul offered a bit of gallows humor about returning to the 3000 community. "Welcome to the bread lines," he said, as a 3000 veteran announced his return to the newsgroup's membership.
We don't want to get too religious here. But if the life of the 3000 customer in 2007 takes place in a breadline, it might be one forming behind the "loaves and fishes for all" kind of line. The ecosystem looked shocked to get its early obituary in 2001 from HP. Today it looks like a long line of companies ready to help you go or stay. This was my fervent hope in that dark week of 2001 — that you all would rally and keep your own counsel about the right time to move along to new horizons. It's much harder to break up a community than to take a product off a price list.
I've told my story before about hearing the HP exit news a few days early during an HP briefing. I was on vacation in Europe with my son Nick, about as far out of position as a newsman can get when a story breaks. A trans-Atlantic phone interview delivered the patter about HP's shutdown. I got back to the office to see a host of "Have you heard this" e-mails sitting on my Mac.
(Being a Mac owner of more than 14 years at the time, I was used to hearing the world report an obituary about beloved computers. Even with results that HP will announce this week, Apple has eclipsed Hewlett-Packard in market value. You never know.)
I didn't have to wonder what I would write after hearing two hours of talk from marketing manager Christine Martino and general manager Winston Prather. HP had not thought enough about the practices and faith of its 3000 base. It would take much longer than five years to move mission critical programs to the Next Great Thing. I suspected that there would be plenty of debate on what exactly the Next Great Thing would turn out to be, aside from how to get there.
HP proposed its Unix. HP bought Compaq, and then Windows really took off as a migration destination. Now the world is turning toward open source solutions, and Web-based systems. Who can say what the options will be by 2010 for a migration destination?
Six years ago, HP predicted an ecosystem would rise up to aid the customer in migration. Responding to my report of this statement, Wirt Atmar, a scientist and as ardent an advocate as the 3000 ever had, replied with his view of who'd be left in your community, doing business, through 2006:
As a card-carrying, board-certified evolutionary ecologist, let me say for the record that the part of the “ecosystem” that will spring to life and look at the death of the HP 3000 as an opportunity are technically called “carrion-feeders.”
That’s not to say that they’re not a necessary part of the ecosystem. It’s just that most people rarely aspire to the role.
But just as in many a calamity, there's been the chance to do great help throughout this period, along with the stubborn head scratching we've seen. Not much carrion, though. Mostly help from those in the know who remain in your community, ideas offered and products and companies built up. There's been the fun in spreading the reports on this endgame, one which has gone into double overtime now, two extensions' worth of support from HP — support that has ceased to be a migration motivator, or even a majority choice for the community members who remain.
But on this day — and this weekend if you're in the Bay Area — raise a glass and toast the uncertain nature of the future. Tell a story to somebody about the days when HP boasted of 70,000 HP 3000s running worldwide, headed full tilt toward RISC hardware which both IBM and Digital had discarded. Now HP owns Digital, and IBM builds its own RISC processors.
You just never can tell who will live, who will die, why, or when. It was a rainy, cold night in Europe when my partner Abby shared what seemed like dark news about our community. HP seemed certain a storm of change was already massing. But keep your head up, looking around, and remember that having a community makes it possible, like Rogers and Hammerstein wrote, that You'll Never Walk Alone:
When you walk through a storm
hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never, ever walk alone.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never, ever walk alone.
November 13, 2007
Alternate horsepower for new Windows steeds
When HP advised you to migrate from your 3000 — on that fateful day we all mark tomorrow — it might have had something like the latest Windows-Intel hardware system in mind.
There's a new line of quad-core servers based on the Clovertown version of the Xeon 5300 chipsets. If you recall, Xeon is that other processor that Intel manufactures. It outsells the Itanium, well-regarded by HP and the 3000 customers who've migrated to Integrity server, by a wider margin than anybody can calculate.
But popularity is a poor measure for anything except market longevity. (You don't need to tell HP 3000 owners about that.) The new Xeon systems will be 50 percent faster than their dual-core predecessors in what HP calls its ProLiant line. (Extra processors never add 100 percent more performance per addition, another fact that's not new to a 3000 community that operates many 2-way and 4-way servers. Quite a few of them drive mission critical applications, but that's not the point today.)
HP will ship nine of the quad-core models in all, and like much of the ProLiant line, the hardware acquisition cost is often lower than buying used HP 3000 systems. There's also the cost of managing a Windows environment to consider when making a migration. But lots of 3000 sites are already paying their Windows resource surcharge, albeit on the desktops of their workers.
In this case, cost of ownership includes the factor of popularity. People who gather comfort from building up their enterprise on industry-standard platforms choose Windows to replace HP 3000s. They do this in your community more often than they select HP-UX and Integrity, which is why the newest round of ProLiants is significant.
Xeon is less costly and more popular than the Itanium systems, but HP isn't standing still on the less-preferred solution. Integrity servers and server blades are now powered by the Intel's Itanium processor 9100 series, code named “Montvale.” Integrity servers run lots of operating environments. Well, not the one you know the best. On the other hand, Integrity support is important to the HP-UX community. Integrity will soon be the only chip where HP's Unix can operate.
But the new Wintel solutions won't be hemmed in by market acceptance. Dell and IBM both announced servers using the Clovertown chips. HP's new servers include three pedestal, three rack-mount, and three blade units. All come with one processor and at least 1 GB of memory but have no hard drive in their base configurations.The servers also have a socket for a second processor. (Remember, cores and processors are not the same thing.)
Servers with a 1,066MHz front-side bus began shipping today, and 1,333MHz versions are expected to become available in January.
List prices for the new quad-core pedestal servers start at $2,039. The rack-mount models start at $2,239 and blades at $2,629.
November 12, 2007
IBM to purchase Cognos
Reports across the Web today say IBM will tender an offer to purchase Cognos, the maker of PowerHouse development software for the HP 3000 as well as Windows-based Axiant, the development environment Cognos offers to migrating HP 3000 sites.
The deal will put $5 billion on the table to acquire Cognos, a company whose product line and IT focus has settled squarely in the business intelligence marketplace for many years now. SAP and Oracle recently snapped up BI providers, and the Cognos stock moved from the middle $40s to above $50 a share since Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion Solutions.
IBM offers to pay $58 per share in cash for Ottawa-based Cognos, a 9 percent premium over Cognos' $52.98 closing price on Friday. The stock settled in at a closing price of $57.15 after today's trading. In an IBM press release, the company said that
Following completion of the acquisition, IBM intends to integrate Cognos as a group within IBM's Information Management Software division, focused on Business Intelligence and Performance Management. IBM also will appoint current Cognos President and CEO, Rob Ashe, to lead the group, reporting directly to General Manager, Ambuj Goyal.
With HP announcing its exit from the 3000 market, Cognos recently offered a mature product support plan through 2009 for the MPE/iX version of PowerHouse. HP followed suit about six weeks later with its own Mature Product Support deal for the 3000 and MPE/iX, through 2010.
Reaction from the PowerHouse mailing list about the acquisition has been limited to customers and long-time consultants as of this afternoon. But one Canadian user of PowerHouse tipped his hat to an historic partner in the 3000's legacy. Cognos, after all, began as Quasar Systems in the middle 1970s, selling the first independent report writer for the 3000 as its only product. Quiz made Cognos possible.
"Mind you, quite a success story," said Guy Werry, Senior Systems Analyst of Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting Co. Ltd. On the mailing list he posted, "From a smallish consulting company with an in-house report writer to a $5 billion company in about 30 years? Not too shabby."
The PowerHouse and Axiant operations are a small part of the Cognos business, but the company insists that the products and their customers are a profitable segment. When consultant Robert Edis speculated on the fallout from the late 2006 Cognos-Speedware alliance, Edis said that development was likely to cease. PowerHouse product manager Bob Deskin replied that "Eventually everything comes to an end. But we have a while to go yet."
IBM, to its credit, maintains products much longer than nearly all other vendors. The AS/400 server business, rooted in 1970s systems, has morphed several times during the last decade to include the latest in IBM hardware and software technology, the i5 series. Charles Finley of Transformix, an HP migration solutions and consultancy, pointed this out today on the PowerHouse list.
The saving grace is that IBM does not seem to “pull the plug” on any software product that produces recurring revenue. My guess is that they will do what they have done with [the database] Informix. They keep supporting it but they do not enhance it much. At the same time they offer substantial migration paths to other IBM offerings.
What I mean is that they offer a comprehensive solution including tools and services to help customers change to some product and technologies that IBM considers sustainable in the current software markets.
The PowerHouse mailing list is visited often by Cognos product manage Deskin. In the near future it's possible that Deskin will weigh in with a "no changes in the immediate future" message, a communique that's common in the weeks after an acquisition announcement. As these consolidations become the norm for the larger 3000 partners — Speedware and Acucorp come to mind — the results of the deals take years to surface. Change sometimes does not surface at all, even if everything does end eventually.
November 09, 2007
Encompass board returns single 3000 member
HP enterprise user group Encompass announced the results of its annual election, a vote that resulted in just one 3000-experienced director on the new staff of volunteers. This is not necessarily a setback for the 3000 community, since former Encompass directors stay linked closely with the current board.
Chris Koppe of Speedware is not on the board any longer as a result of the election. Koppe was instrumental in keeping the 3000 community ties to a user group alive during 2005. Interex went bust in that year, and Koppe was on that group's board at the time, and he and then-president Kristi Browder found ways to attract Interex members — many of whom were left as unpaid creditors in the Interex bankruptcy.
As an example, the attendees at this weekend's e3000 Community Meet could purchase a 1-year Encompass membership for just $35.
Steve Davidek, former Interex advocacy committee member and a manager of the HP 3000 shop at the City of Sparks, Nevada, remains on the Encompass board. Davidek helps to oversee the community survey which Encompass uses as a measure of its productivity.
Other Encompass board members who have arrived at the directors' table are (current president) Nina Buik, Tony Ioele, and Bill Johnson.
The full slate of directors include Davidek, the three directors above, plus Browder, Glen Kuykendall, John Maynen, Clyde Poole, and Dena Wright. Encompass focuses its 3000 community activities on assisting customers in migrating to other HP 3000 platforms.
November 08, 2007
Is Forever 20 more years?
OpenVMS got all the breaks back in 2000. The operating system has been around since 1977, just a few years younger than the HP 3000. But at the turn of this century Compaq decided to bring VMS into the Open realm, re-engineering the OS for the upcoming and then-much-derided HP Itanium architecture.
It was so early in the Itanium game that the servers running the architecture were several laps behind Alpha processors (on the Digital side, owned by Compaq) as well as the PA-RISC systems (powering the HP 3000s and HP-UX servers). None of that mattered to the Digitial brain trust. They could see the advantage in getting their customers a new architecture for VMS to run on. That's what you do for an OS that at the time was 23 years old.
MPE was nearing its 30th year, if you count the aborted release of 1972 which ran for just hours at a time. HP, which created Itanium along with Intel, considered making MPE work on the newest computer architecture. But at the time, the VMS community had something that MPE's customers did not: About 10 times as many sites.
Critical mass, the tipping point for computer vendor business decisions, did not spark HP to proceed with the tough engineering to get a new vessel for an OS nearing age 30. Digital did make the leap, than found itself acquired by HP within a year or so. (The irony was rich, if you were around long enough to recall the wars between DEC and HP in the 1980s. Hewlett-Packard was struggling to get out of the 16-bit processor family with something called RISC. But it was still a few years away. DEC crowed, "Digital Has It Now." Fifteen years later, Digital had it again, while HP didn't give Itanium to MPE.)
Now, an article in Information Week celebrates the 30th anniversary of the VMS operating system, adding that "Hardly anyone noticed."
Thousands of VMS fanatics noticed, but a group much smaller than the Unix devotees or the Windows warriors. Perhaps hundreds in the MPE and HP 3000 community took note, if only because that 30-year celebration, as the former SIG-Sysman chair Scott Hirsh noted, "coulda been the HP 3000." At the least, because the 3000 has 20 more years left in it, until the CALENDAR intrinsic rolls over in 2027 and quits working.
But the HP 3000 isn't dead, or even lagging behind OpenVMS in longevity for now. HP has not stopped supporting your operating system. The current HP contract runs through 2010. HP will not confirm that's the end of the line, either.
The Information Week article talks about Amazon, the Deutsche Borse stock exchange in Frankfurt, and train systems in Ireland running on OpenVMS. Well, how about the largest ticketless air carrier in the world, Southwest Airlines? Customers in your community can point to some pretty large sites still running an OS on a server that hasn't been sold in four years. Let's see OpenVMS manage that.
HP made a mistake — although it might have been grounded in costly engineering challenges — by not porting MPE/iX to Itanium. The company made an even bigger blunder, in goodwill, by withholding that decision until more than a year later, in 2001. I had one partner tell me, just weeks before the November 2001 announcement that HP was exiting the 3000 biz, that it didn't surprise him.
"They stopped talking about getting MPE onto Itanium," he said. "What else could we conclude but that the 3000 was dropping out of HP's lineup, sooner than later?"
After 30 years, the Infoworld article asks, can OpenVMS go on forever? After all, HP killed off the Alpha hardware that VMS was re-tooled to run on. The wrap up of the article sounds familiar to the 3000 user who can't justify a migration yet off the 3000. The VMS fellows — whose meetings at HP Tech Forum sound just like the old Interex SIG MPE gatherings, full of worry about HP's long-term interest — say they will move only when something better comes along.
We add that they'll move when something breaks down which cannot be fixed by a community of 400,000 customers. That reminds me of the repair and rejuventation cabilities of the 3000 community, less than 5 percent of the size of OpenVMS, but determined to get all they can out of their investment in Hewlett-Packard. What is forever in computer years, anyway?
November 07, 2007
Who cares about HP's endgame?
Okay, we admit it. We went off on a bit of a rant today in our podcast, letting off steam about the stream of sniggering at OpenMPE. A few sniggers, maybe, but deserving of some response. After all, who else is taking care of the relationship between HP and the 3000 customers who will remain, relying on the system, once HP exits this community?
Maybe another vendor in the community, one that hasn't raised its hear. But for now, OpenMPE is the best you've got. Listen to our 15 minutes on the subject (its download time probably takes a fraction of the download as the latest Vista Service Pack). This is still a good market, for the homesteaders using the system as well as the migration experts who want to help a good share of the community exit. Going into 2008 with an incomplete migration, well, that qualifies as a homesteader.
End games need to have plays drawn up, and this game has been going on for more than 30 years. The 3000 deserves an end at HP as admirable as its success for the vendor which created it.
November 06, 2007
Binary patches: third party support today
HP made it very clear last week: Binary patches created for the HP 3000 are a common Hewlett-Packard repair for a 3000 bug. HP doesn't consider a binary patch any less reliable or more poorly engineered.
How interesting, then, to hear last week the comment from Allegro Consultants' Stan Sieler that his company, a Resource 3000 partner, could have produced a binary patch to fix the Large Files corruption problem. Sieler took note that Allegro could do so, but held back to wait on HP to produce a patch that could be tested more completely — and perhaps integrated more closely with the rest of the patches HP is developing for the MPE/iX environment.
HP had to reach down into the millicode that drives the move_fast_64 call in MPE/iX to repair the problem, for those of you who want to know every detail about the 3000's internals. The HP fix was better, Sieler noted, because it could be plugged into the rest of MPE/iX more easily. By HP, for now, and until the end of 2008. What happens beyond that date — even if HP creates more binary patches like this one — is a matter for OpenMPE to negotiate with HP.
HP worked quickly to find and patch the problems, and added a procedure that a customer can dynamically load to see if the current system has the patch. But Sieler noted in a message posted less than an hour after HP's announcement:
In this case we (Allegro) determined that we could independently produce a binary patch for the problem, but we realized that the community would be better off with an HP-provided patch, because it would fit in better with any subsequent HP patches.
In the future, that might not be the case ... source code access is critical to the ability for the community to develop patches!
That would be the source code access that OpenMPE has been campaigning and lobbying for with HP for the past three years. When using an HP 3000 is in your plans beyond 2008, source in any third party's hands will help an IT manager breathe easier.
November 05, 2007
A dozen days and dozen places left
With 12 days left until the e3000 Community Meet, Bayside 2007, only a dozen spots are open for the free lunch and priceless networking opportunities in San Francisco. The community members who have signed on are among the most expert and senior. Solutions to improve homesteading reliability, or avoid unnecessary costs and delays in migrations, will be on hand Nov. 17, a Saturday.
Registration is open at www.hpmigrations.com/sfevent. In addition to the modest $20 collected for a commemorative shirt, the attendee can get a budget $35 one-year membership rate to Encompass, the only remaining user group for HP enterprise customers.
Migrating customers will find the most use from the Encompass membership, especially if they plan to attend next year's HP Technology Forum. Frankly, nothing of this scope has ever been assembled in so short a time. It was only August, scarcely three months ago, that the Meet was being dreamed up by ScreenJet's Alan Yeo and Marxmeier AG's Michael Marxmeier.
Attending offers significant benefits. No one can be certain which experts might move on to new technologies or new companies during 2008, but they will be on hand in less than two weeks to share what they have learned.
Change is the one constant in the 3000 community. Those 5-minute slots are booked up by now, surrounded by content running from 9 AM to 4 PM. Lunch and breakfast are provided, and any out of town attendees will be glad to know the Doubletree Hotel, nexus of this confab, will transport you from the SFO airport for free.
What's more, the Bay Area has already had its earthquake for the year, a 5.8 tremblor that shook up books in the area libraries but caused no serious damage. Earth-shaking news might not be certain on this upcoming weekend. But the savvy customer should be moved to attend and see what accepted wisdom has moved along.
And what better way to celebrate the six-year anniversary of HP's "exiting the 3000 market' announcement? Dress is casual, but black humor could break out at any time.
November 02, 2007
HP reports its critical patches are GR'ed
HP responded to our Nov. 1 report with some corrections and clarifications about its new patches to avoid data corruption while sorting Large Files. In summary, the patches in question have passed beta testing and are now general released (GR), the sign that their quality satisfies HP's requirements.
What's more, HP recommends that customers install both the millicode repair patch as well as the patch to address issues with MPE/iX SORT processes. Craig Fairchild of HP wrote me this evening.
HP's strong advice is for customers to install both patches. You are correct in asserting 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.
What my initial report got wrong, according to Fairchild, was calling a binary patch testing status into question. Binary repairs like these cannot "skip steps," as I wrote in the Nov. 1 blog headline. If anything, HP says these critical patches got extra testing.
The first is the blog title, “Binary bug patches can skip steps”. This simply isn’t true.
There is a repeating of this theme throughout the article:
“...but the nature of the problem... might require more than binary patches.”
“these fixes will present a challenge to application developers who will need to integrate them into MPE/iX at some point.”
“HP didn’t do the usual testing for these repairs, it appears.”
“Binary patches like yesterday’s don’t have to cross the user testing and MPE/iX source code integration hurdles.”
The nature of HP's patches was called into question by Adager's Alfredo Rego and Paul Edwards of mpe-education.com — veterans of 30 years each in the 3000 community. I have one excuse that the words "general released" didn't come up in my interview notes, but I probably misunderstood what was said. I did have good notes from HP on "we've done as much testing as we can."
In a weak defense, it appears my confusion was shared by a couple of experts who were reading HP's very detailed report on the repairs. Edwards said, “There’s some strong issues here. I’m concerned that these binary patches were not done in the source code. So HP didn’t generate a General Release patch, which means it may or may not be tested on all three of the supported versions of MPE/iX. There was no beta patch, or anything.”
HP said the binary patch process is not new to the labs' development of bug fixes.
Patches MPENX11 and MILNX10 are General Released (GR) patches. These patches have undergone a more rigorous testing process than normal. Furthermore, HP has used binary patch technology when called for during the entire lifetime of MPE/iX. It has always been one of the patch technologies available and successfully used many times over the life of MPE/iX. There is no difference in quality between a General Release patch that includes binary components and those that don’t.
The abiding issue, according to the OpenMPE advocates, is that these binary component patches must be integrated into the MPE/iX source code. HP has announced no plans to do this kind of integration after December, 2008. OpenMPE wants to do this kind of integration, should HP give the group the green light to start working with the OS source code.
Rebooting can be optional on new patches
While we call down the creative thunder of the promised podcast for this week, we decided to update the process to apply the latest HP patches, software the vendor has labelled critical for all HP 3000 customers.
OpenMPE's director Donna Garverick-Hofmeister clarified the need for reboots to apply those Large File fixing patches HP released on Oct. 31. One patch won't need a reboot, she says, while the other needs a reboot but can be staged.
Oh, and the no-reboot patch, to avoid data corruption in very big files, cannot be staged, according to Donna.
The HP 3000 millicode patch (MILNX10A), the first in 16 years, is needed to repair access to any in-house applications that have used Large Files, or do a sort with a temporary file that can exceed 4GB. If your app has not been modified since March 30, 2000, it's safe. That's when HP introduced the Large File feature.
Large Files has been engineering which HP has been trying to remove from customers' 3000s. A November 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the system converted to Jumbo files, much better engineered.
Donna says that HP's advice that both patches will require a reboot, and that both can be staged, is not what she understands as a 3000 administrator of several decades.
MILNX10A is NOT stageable because it requires a installation job. in my opinion, this patch is best/fastest/most easily installed by using ‘autopat’. autopat, at its conclusion, will say ‘stream this.job’....which you do....and a couple of blinks later....milli.lib.sys (and friends) is joyfully updated.
On the other hand, MPENX11A is stageable and is the patch that requires a reboot. this time, use patch/ix to get this patch staged and schedule a reboot.
dig out your notes about how to download patches. pay attention when you run ‘unpackp’ and the rest is all pretty easy.
November 01, 2007
Critical bug patches raise experts' concern
Article revised Nov. 2, based on HP responses
Yesterday's report on a critical patch for HP 3000s sparked immediate response from the user community, especially those experts in the 3000's internals. These experts believe the nature of the problem might require more than binary repair patches, to serve the long term needs of 3000 customers.
[HP disagrees, and its response is available in a Nov. 2 report]
HP intends to create these binary patches through 2010, as it said yesterday. OpenMPE advocates say they are concerned that these fixes will present a challenge to application developers who will need to integrate them into MPE/iX in the future. OpenMPE wants to do this work.
"We've done as much testing as we could get done," said HP's community liaison Craig Fairchild. "There has been some field testing, and a lot of in-house testing." He added that HP scanned its internal 3000 applications to test the abilities of FILECHEK, which finds Large Files.
Our report of yesterday may have been too cheery about the chance of hitting this corruption bug. Our Oct. 31 story estimated that in one case, users risked just an 800 million to 1 chance of hitting one of five bytes at the end of a sort of a 4-billion-byte file that could corrupt data. Stan Sieler at Allegro Consultants, a Resource 3000 partner, said it's not that rare.
We found it fairly easily. 133 file sizes from 2 to 32,766 bytes per record can directly encounter the problem ... but only for Large Files. (As it happens, 256 bytes isn’t one of them, nor is any power of 2.) We stumbled over one while doing a large sort.
Files of about 2 GB or more, and of any record size, can encounter the problem while being sorted, because HPSORT creates a scratch file whose record size isn’t identical to that of the input file — if it happens to create a file with one of those 133 file sizes, and that scratch file is 4GB or more, then it can run into the problem.
Most people don’t have Large Files ... they could be affected only if they happen to sort files that are bigger than about 2 to 3 GBs. (And, even then, there are only a about 152 file sizes out of 32,766 that might trigger the problem.)
Systems without Large Files are safe. Adager's Alfredo Rego posted to the HP 3000 newsgroup about an hour after HP announced the critical patches. Rego said his lab found the problem in August, after an earlier HPSORT patch introduced a new problem while not solving the initial bug.
Rego's exploration also raised the question of a more serious issue in the nature of HP's repairs, one echoed by MPE/iX veteran and MPE-education.com co-founder Paul Edwards.
"There's some strong issues here," Edwards said. "I'm concerned that these binary patches were not done in the source code. So HP didn't generate a General Release patch, which means it may or may not be tested on all three of the supported versions of MPE/iX. There was no beta patch, or anything."
[HP said in its Nov. 2 reply that the patches have both been beta-tested and General Released.]
While Rego congratulated HP on the speed of its 'tremendous efforts" in creating the patches, he also took note of the lack of notice about third parties' assistance in isolating the problems.
It appears that HP continues its policy of not acknowledging any of the help it has obtained from its hard-working partners. That’s okay, because I have reason to believe that this is forced upon our vCSY friends by HP’s corporate legal department. Boy, how I miss the days when I used to walk the floors of HP’s buildings while chatting with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in the early 1970s.
The Adager team described the problem with move_fast_64 to HP on August 8, 2007, after we discovered that the first HPSORT patch not only did not solve the problem but introduced a new one by using move_fast_64.
Craig Fairchild implies that only non-HP applications might be affected. What about HP applications? I believe that the “move_fast_64” procedure is used extensively by HP within MPE/iX. Has HP taken care of all the possible problems within MPE/iX?
Adager calls HPSORT programmatically. We detected, analyzed, documented, and reported the initial problems to HP during tests on our own HP 3000 systems as well as on some large customers’ systems.
The problems encountered by Adager customers were not caused by Adager code, but by HP’s code. Once the “latest” HPSORT patch was applied, the problems went away. The patch ID we tested is MPENX06, which is different from the patches mentioned by Craig. It seems that patch MPENX11 includes the fix for HPSORT.
Craig does not mention that the problem can exist while using simple calls using FREADDIR on files with bug-exposing characteristics. He does provide a nice technical description under the section on “MPE/iX OS millicode handling of long pointer access to large files.”
It’s not clear (to me, at least) whether the patches identified by Craig are already available as General Release or still in beta. We have not received either one of them, even though we generated the original bug report. Is HP confident that the problem has been completely resolved without any user testing?
Adager users are safe. Even when they may experience the problems that Adager exposes when calling HPSORT without the patch, Adager will leave the databases unchanged after reporting the problem.