December 31, 2007
The Very Top Stories of 2007
Here on the last day of 2007, we have the advantage of 12 months of perspective to decide on the three biggest stories of the year just ending. Most customers will agree on Number 1, and we'll get to that in a few paragraphs. But what other two stories had the most influence on the customer base?
3. In my view, the overall behavior of HP in patching situations comes very close to being the top stop story of the year. Twice in less than six months time of 2007, HP released patches during the year which only the vendor could create, considering the timeframe of the patch development.
If HP has truly been working to kill off the HP 3000 — as some wounded customers and partners insist — it would hold fast to a deadly intent: Draw down the available resource to repair internal problems in MPE/iX. Even if the vendor supplied support, creating patches for the entire customer base to use demonstrated a subtle agenda, it seems. HP doesn't want to be caught leaving a critical problem unfixed, at least not while it continues to charge someone for 3000 support.
2. The ecosystem became richer and more complete than ever. Whether it was MB Foster taking over ODBC support from HP labs, a swelling inventory of available HP 3000s, or the SCSI Pass Through tool to add new disk support — not to mention a white paper that outlines open source development techniques from the HP labs, illustrated by a Samba port — the future of the platform has no firm end before 2027. Third party partners span both the migration and homesteading needs of the community; MB Foster, Speedware, Allegro Consultants and a fleet of independent advisors raised their profiles and maintained five years of momentum for either side of the 3000 mission. After all, so many sites are homesteading until they complete migrations, or can afford the switch.
Moreover, that prediction of migration expertise being as pricey and rare as Y2K consulting, well, it never came to pass, not even one year beyond HP's envisioned end date. People still misunderstand the support aspect of the 3000, and others showed they hadn't found everything that could make a migration affordable and faster. There's much to learn, beliefs and outlooks to change, and a growing host of experts to help.
Even in the face of the number one story of the year, the ecosystem of OpenMPE maintained its mission. Proof of this relevance? HP lost a liaison to the OpenMPE group and named another. If OpenMPE were irrelevant to HP, such a move doesn't happen in 2007.
As for the top story of the year, most of us can guess that it involved two letters and two years.
1. HP extended its support period two years, through 2010 for the HP 3000. And the announcement came in September, at the suggestion of OpenMPE, so customers could have time to plan for their 2008 HP 3000 resources. It's true, the vendor now supports no more than one third of the systems still in production, by our estimate. But the presence of HP in the market in any way — even in a period where the vendor promises little if any patch development — helps define the useful lifespan of the server.
More than six years ago, HP recommended that the risks on the system made getting off it critical, a top priority for customers. But HP itself hasn't shut down all of its own HP 3000s. Meanwhile, the HP Services arm of the vendor calls the tune for how much farther the vendor will move along the 3000 support path. The vendor continues to charge for license transfers, and there's no end-date for the HP Service counsel for migration.
Two more years will slow some migrations, but it will also allow the vendor more time to become a partner in the next platform chosen by sites. We can't be sure of what's in store for 2008, but it's one of three remaining years of the system's vendor-supported lifespan.
Have a Happy New Year, and check back with us on Wednesday for a look at suggested New Year's resolutions for 2008. It's been a fun and captivating year for us here at the NewsWire. Thanks for another 12 months of this wild ride.
December 28, 2007
Top 2007 Stories, Part 3
Halfway through our recap of the Top Stories of the 3000 community's 2007, we should pause to take note of the top story from 20 years earlier. Writing a history of a community like yours, where continuity is the 3000's credo, led me to back issues of the HP Chronicle, the newsmagazine I had the pleasure of editing from 1984 through 1992.
Halfway through those crucial eight years, the community finally saw the rollout of the first PA-RISC HP 3000 — the same technology HP created to run the systems still in mission critical service today. HP called its RISC project Spectrum. The first system was a Series 930, shipped to ASK Computer just before Labor Day. Labor was the key word to describe the new computer, which I wrote "was undermanned from the first day. HP sold so few 930s, [all to Bay Area customers] that it promised the Series 950 loaded with a more powerful processor on the same schedule."
The Year 1987 represented the high-water mark of the system's footprint in the world of computing. HP announced it had shipped the 30,000th HP 3000 system, moving from 20,000 installed to 30,000 in just two years' time.
But during 2007, 3000 hardware made a different kind of news. Reliability services became more widespread than ever, operated by independent HP 3000 veterans making use of low-cost RISC systems. Nothing as elderly as a Series 950, but systems with more horsepower and life left in them than you might expect.
6. A few blocks of San Francisco went without power on an afternoon in July, and massive chunks of the Internet was knocked out. Big companies and famous sites. Good Morning Silicon Valley noted the popular sites that were knocked out:
LiveJournal and Second Life went dead, AdBrite dimmed, Craigslist became unlisted, the 1Up gaming network went down, Facebook turned blank, Six Apart couldn't get it together, and Yelp was rendered silent.
The disaster lasted a few hours, a wakeup call for any 3000 owner who believes the system will never fail because it never has over years, perhaps more than a decade. We reviewed what we offered as a guide to DR services, including a new turnkey operation opened up for multiple OS environments at Hill Country Technologies. The story included Web links to many services who understand the mission critical needs of the 3000.
5. HP rolled out a crucial patch to disable the Large Files function for IMAGE/SQL's greater than 4GB datasets. The repairs were the first of two critical repairs for the database, both engineered in a hurry to give the customers assurance of the 3000's stability. HP later repaired Large Files with a binary-level patch and the first fix for the 3000's millicode in 16 years. Fast response, available to the entire 3000 community, regardless of a customer's support relations with HP. Surprising, during the sixth year after HP announced its 3000 exit plans.
4. Jennie Hou took the reins from Dave Wilde as business manager for HP 3000 operations at HP. She may oversee the exit of HP from the 3000 community, but the new manager said that HP doesn't have a confirmed date for ending its 3000 support. We asked Hou, "Does HP intend to exit the support business for the 3000 at some date?"
Of course. Eventually there will be no HP support of the 3000. HP will exit that support business completely. HP cares about our installed base and wants to help our customers in maintaining a stable e3000 environment while they conduct their migrations. Therefore, the support model evolves based on customer needs and balanced business approach.
Already in August, though, HP was talking about a conceptual model to extend its support business. Nothing official at that time, though.
December 27, 2007
Top 2007 Stories, Part 2
HP reached out for more HP 3000 relevance in 2007 with a Right to Use License, one of the top news stories of 2007. Outside suppliers made at least as much impact on the majority of the community, despite being only a fraction of the size of Hewlett-Packard. The news in 2007 showed that size can be measured in dedication as well as resource.
Continuing our 2007 countdown of top stories:
9. A third party picked up the challenge of extending an HP product lifespan. Not by actually taking on HP source code, but by returning to the source of HP Transact design — that's how ScreenJet offered a future for customers using Transact applications. Somewhere out there, people outside HP created the solutions HP sold to customers over the past 20 years. ScreenJet joined forces with Transact's creator David Dummer to offer Transaction, a vehicle that might carry a customer on a 3000 for many years to come, or help them move onto a new platform.
8. HP offered retirement plans that lured some of its most visible 3000 links out of the company. Community liaison Jeff Vance and OpenMPE link Mike Paivinen both took early retirement offers to leave the 3000 group inside HP. HP moved other experts into the jobs, but the exits showed a serious side to the composition of the 3000 expertise: advancing years crossing over careers. Vance took a post with a third party vendor who's still supporting HP 3000 sites, but also offering a vendor-neutral K-12 solution.
7. Independent organizations kept pushing at 3000 events. Encompass held its largest user conference ever during a week of June, where HP introduced its new community liaisions for the platform. Greater Houston's Regional User Group kept working to assemble a meeting that will include 3000 content. And in the biggest surprise, a 3000 meeting developed in just three months' time as the e3000 Community Meet opened eyes and meeting doors in San Francisco.
December 26, 2007
Top 2007 Stories, Part 1
You can argue that any year when HP extends its 3000 business is a notable year. And so 2007 was as notable as 2005, both years when HP moved its HP 3000 finish line back by two years. HP's actions, however, don't necessarily make the biggest news in a community that survives with less Hewlett-Packard resource every year.
HP did reach out to that community on several occasions during 2007. The company spent the back end of 2006 devising a new license it rolled out early in 2007. That story was one of several where HP was reacting to the 3000 community, rather than leading as it did during the 1990s.
Twelve months to a year, a dozen stories to lead the news and evolution of the 3000 community. Let's count them down.
12. RTU license program returns HP to 3000 vendor ranks. HP created a Right to Use license for HP 3000 owners, something a customer needs to pay the vendor for during some sales of existing systems. Ross McDonald, HP's 3000 lab director, said the vendor realized that customers needed a way to "create a valid system when purchased upgrade kits were no longer available."
To be sure, someone in the community needed something to justify the new RTU. HP was adding a 3000 product to the price list for the first time since 2002. McDonald said the process was complex, maybe just as complicated as discovering who needs to pay for an RTU. McDonald shed some light on the answer with one comment.
For the customer who cares about software licensing, and wants to do the right thing, I think [the RTU] really helps them.
11. Alliances and mergers continued on the 3000 stage. Cognos and Speedware went to work on a joint agreement to serve migrating 3000 sites, punctuating the policy that the rivalry between the companies is long over in the HP 3000 market space. Meanwhile, Ecometry slipped into the Escalate e-commerce organization, ending an era of independence for the company that started so many retailers on HP 3000 ownership.
10. The HP 3000 marketplace saw its two leading COBOL choices merge. Micro Focus purchased its rival Acucorp in a $40 million deal, combining the company wich had engineered a new COBOL for the 3000 with a company that dominates the COBOL market share. Both companies are continuing with their own development paths for the next two years. But the merger was a part of the Micro Focus emphasis on legacy opportunities — like a 3000 community looking for new places to run old COBOL code.
December 24, 2007
Love is the hardest, best gift of all
After we suggested some Christmas wishes for the HP 3000 last week, we got word of how tough it might be to deliver on one of them: expansion to 32GB of RAM on MPE/iX systems. While the HP 3000's OS was built to handle 64-bit computing, it didn't become a full 64-bit system. That's what the work was going to accomplish when HP moved the OS to the Itanium architecture and Integrity. A move that never got engineered, of course.
Discussion among community members has included some comment from both an HP expert as well as a third party engineering guru. Sad to say, the phrase "you could just tell them to migrate" came up after the candid talk about what the 3000 won't be re-engineered to do — at least on HP's watch.
A reply of "migrate" when the community customers ask for more from their 3000s, especially when the reply comes from a long-tenured expert, seems to show how much feelings can affect choices. Even technical choices. There is a way to extend the 3000's memory from 8GB to 32. But HP explains that it can't justify doing this kind of work any longer. Adding "migrate" after the explanation isn't a way to sell this decision, however.
There are people who have known MPE/iX just as long as HP's lab experts, and deeper in some places. I remember the book Beyond RISC. Copyright 1988, it says in my worn-at-the-edges copy. Third party experts wrote that book. HP bought thousands. That's being of one mind and one heart. Now the sides feel differently about MPE.
What's the difference? These two sides, inside HP and out in the expert community seem like a couple of steady beaus to me. They have both wooed and wrestled with that MPE gal, while she has gained weight (years) and lost her tone (customers, demanding updates) and shown more grey (elderly versions of Ethernet, SCSI, all the tendrils of open source). Yes, they've both had a relationship with her, still do. But the outside experts still love her. HP's experts can take her out, buy her dinner, even give a thoughtful gift that shows they know her. But the message seems to say that they're not in love anymore.
"I don't know what you see in MPE," HP seems to write, when the 3000 experts drift beyond good technical theory. "Why not just leave her at home to watch old movies? She's happy enough there. And there's younger people you could take out. They even know music written after 1992!"
"They do, those new ones," I hear the expert saying. "But MPE knows more song lyrics than those new women will ever learn. Remember when lyrics mattered to make a song a classic? Poetry, that stuff. Plus, I still see her beauty. It was striking when she was younger. Fellas swooned over her, even the big guys who pass her by now."
"You could do better."
"Maybe so. But what about my commitment to her. What's that worth?"
"Lock yourself in with her, if you want," I seem to hear from inside HP. "I just wish people would stop hitting her Web site. I gotta maintain that place, you know. It doesn't feel like anybody appreciates that work that I do — or what I've done for years, really."
"You could do more, I know. She deserves it."
"If my parents would let me, I could," HP seems to say. "But they tell me that I should be looking for a younger partner, one who can give them more grandchildren, not a load of medical bills and health issues. Shin splints, geez. Next it'll be something else. It always is with the older ones."
I admit it — there's more emotion and subtext in this commentary than I can report using facts. But feelings are not facts. They just lead to thoughts, and those can lead to actions. I'm not reporting from inside the community expert's heart, or from inside the HP experts' still working on MPE/iX — but you know, it's the heart that matters when people are advised, en masse, to "migrate away from that relationship, won't you?"
Or maybe this OS is just a tool that's worn out. But I don't think so, not for community members who still rely on MPE. I wish for two things under my reporter-writer's holiday tree tomorrow. Continued candor like those messages, and ample ardor for all. It's a pleasure to have the writing here show what I believe you feel.
Enjoy your loved ones during the holiday break — whoever they are, and whatever they have been or can become.
December 21, 2007
A holiday gift list to wish for
Since today is the final day in the office until after Christmas, we thought we could extend our holiday wishes to the community by passing along a wish list. We've heard these desires from HP 3000 customers, consultants and vendors during 2007. Some of them might appear to be like the Red Ryder BB-Gun that's at the center of the holiday epic A Christmas Story. As in, "you don't want that, you'll put your eye out."
If you're unfamiliar with the movie, the line means "I don't want you to have that, because I'll worry what you will hurt once you get it." See if you can find the wishes on the holiday list that seem like BB-Guns, and remember: Gift giving season is celebrated this week, but can be practiced the whole year through.
1. Unleashing the full horsepower of A-Class and N-Class 3000s
2. Just unleashing the power of the A-Class 3000s (since every models operates at a quarter of its possible speed)
3. Well, then just unleash the N-Class systems' full clock speeds
4. HP's requirements to license a company for MPE/iX source code use
5. A way to use more than 16GB of memory on a 3000
6. A 3000 network link just one-tenth as fast as the new 10Gbit Ethernet
7. A water-cooled HP 3000 cluster, just like IBM used to make
8. A guaranteed ending date of HP's 3000 support for MPE/iX
9. Freedom to re-license your own copy of MPE/iX during a sale of an 3000
Those last two items might seem like real BB-Guns. But I think they have a chance of helping the community see the 3000 more clearly, instead of putting its eye out.
First off, a guaranteed ending date for HP 3000 support is something that both homesteaders and migration experts desire. By moving the finish line twice now, HP keeps customers from finishing migrations, or even starting them, according to migration partners.
What's more, the "we're not sure when support is really done" message keeps the 3000's service and support aftermarket in limbo. Customers tell us that they will be using their HP 3000 systems until their business demands they migrate away. HP plans to change its business practices someday for the HP 3000. But nobody knows for certain what day that will be.
That brings us to No. 9, the freedom to re-license your own MPE/iX. Development on this software ends in one year. That's the end of changes to the operating environment, the genuine Freeze Line for the 3000. The only thing to protect with a Right To Use License during 2009 will be HP support contracts. It seems HP should be able to compete on a level field with the rest of the community. HP Services seems to need those special 3000 licenses.
Number 10? A wish for a long life and continued interest in MPE/iX from the HP 3000 gurus of the community, whether inside HP or outside. There's nobody to bring any of these gifts if nobody cares inside of Hewlett Packard about your community.
December 20, 2007
PDF news for perusal, or pursuing the past
While we lean our ear onto the rail to listen for news in this quiet holiday season, it seemed time to point out some online resources we've put into place to read print editions of The 3000 NewsWire. Issues are available both new (November 2007's print) and a few old ones as well.
Late last month we posted our full print issue for November, a new feature of the NewsWire as we entered our 13th year of listening and reporting. PDF is hardly a new technology, which actually makes it a good choice for a community like ours, so focused on reliable solutions. Since the issue includes our sponsors' ads, we advise that you use a broadband link to download the latest, since it's about 20 MB — with resolution enough so you can print a custom copy with pages for your own issue.
We are continuing to print and mail our quarterly issues, just so nobody in the community gets confused. This is extra exposure. PDF technology lets us push these printed pages even farther than postal delivery — just like this blog puts the news online faster than our old printed and Online Extras ever could.
We'll be back with more news to report for tomorrow. But ah, it's already the eve of what much of the world will consider a five-day holiday around Christmas. Or at least four, if you're finishing up projects tomorrow.
Today we also moved the location of the 2005 issues of our FlashPaper, the hot-news rundown we wrote and printed for 10 years, inserted just before our mailing date. There's nothing new in these documents, but keeping track of promises and plans more than two years later might be worthwhile for the advocates of the system's HP end-game.
The FlashPaper PDF are easy to track down, but we won't add more to that archive just yet. You can click on the links below to peruse stories already considered historic, in some quarters, about the story of the HP 3000. (These are modest little files that download in a blink, fast as the Flash, since it was only a two-page roundup.)
December 19, 2007
A Vegas date to save for '08
There's no Web site up for details, and the invitations have not gone out in the mails, but Encompass has already settled on a site for the user group's annual HP Technology Forum. Don't change your travel plans from last year — the conference song remains the same, venue-wise, and so will not be leaving Las Vegas.
Encompass user group president Nina Buik said in an interview this year that Vegas has plenty of "curb appeal" as a user group meeting destination. She did not say that the city is a major upgrade from Houston's curb, the last venue the Forum used other than Vegas.
But we'll say it, with no disrespect to Houston. People just don't say, "Hey, I'm headed out to a weekend in Houston!" Or if they do, it doesn't get the same response as "Let's hit Vegas for a weekend." Here at the NewsWire it was a short hop from Austin to Houston. Proximity is not curb appeal, however.
So what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, at least for 2008. The Forum is scheduled for June 16-19, 2008, the same dates as HP's Software Universe conference. While the two shows are separated by one mile of the Las Vegas strip, keeping the conference in Vegas looks like coupling up the user's meeting in a permanent way with HP's other customer and partner events.
HP's Universe doesn't have a user group attached to its content, but HP rolls out plenty of executives and demonstrations and 240 sessions, according to a summary from last year. Not that it matters too much, but this will be the first HP user conference since the Interex era of 1972-2005 where the meeting is no longer a movable feast, but instead stays put.
There are advantages to gathering in a familiar place. The Forum is even remaining at the same resort hotel, the Mandalay Bay, so the long winding walks from rooms toward talks will be less circuitous. I stayed at the Luxor last year, which looked like a nearby choice but turned out to be a quarter-mile away on foot — and only one stop away on the free inter-casino monorail.
Last year HP's Storageworks was also held in the Mandalay, so I'd be surprised to see it announced for anyplace else. The arrangement does make for a concentrated week of networking, especially for any HP 3000 shops moving into a final approach for a Unix or Windows landing.
Perhaps Encompass felt lucky in Vegas last year, or found it hit the jackpot on customer compliments for a mid-summer desert conference. Mom will be pleased, on my account. She's been retired in Vegas for more than 17 years, so I'll have a conference of another kind to precede the meeting with users and HP.
December 18, 2007
HP leads Cognos into extra support year
Early in September of 2007, Cognos announced it would support PowerHouse products in "Mature Platform Extended Support" beyond HP's then-announced 2008 date. Cognos was extending out to the end of 2009 with its mature support, but ending development support about 12 months from now.
Then HP released word of its own Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering for the 3000. Cognos has since updated its own support plans to match HP's timeline, according to the latest PowerHouse roadmap. Product manager Bob Deskin left word on the Internet forums about the changed (PDF) roadmap.
I have just posted an update to our Roadmap at powerhouse.cognos.com containing Cognos' commitment to Mature Platform Extended Support for PowerHouse on MPE/iX until December 31, 2010.
And so two of the largest providers of HP 3000 services leap together to the end of this decade with their plans to collect support revenues from MPE/iX customers.
A skeptic might say that the Cognos announcement was simply an extension of revenues, instead of help for customers who might have been left holding the bag on PowerHouse application support during 2010. Indeed, the development future for the product looks sketchy, what with IBM purchasing Cognos for the latter's Business Intelligence products, rather than the small group of the Cognos Application Development Tools operation.
But application viability sparks migrations more often than the functionality of the hardware or operating environment. One extra year to migrate away from PowerHouse, knowing some sort of lab-level support is online, might aid smaller companies who need more time to switch away from their HP 3000s. Customers need application support extended like this from third parties, as well as HP, to make a viable 2009 and 2010 operation — or rely on third party experts such as Pivital Solutions or id Enterprises for MPE and PowerHouse advice, respectively.
December 17, 2007
HP liberates some 3000 patches
Customers of all types, self-supporting and third-party supported, as well as those with HP support can now download new HP 3000 patches. Well, not exactly new, but tested long enough to gain the HP support labs' elusive General Release status.
An HP advisory has outlined a raft of patches which HP labeled as Recommended fixes for HP 3000s running MPE/iX 7.5, 7.0 and 6.5. The patches can be downloaded from the HP IT Response Center Web site by any customer running an HP 3000. According to HP support, a Recommended patch
should be applied at your earliest convenience. There is potential for sub-optimal performance, lock-ups or unwanted shutdowns. This will protect your system from a serious, but not unrecoverable failure.
More than a dozen such patches were identified as General Release fixes in an HP patch advisory from last week. None bring extra functionality to the HP 3000 customer, unless you count 7.0 patch MPEMXQ3B, which HP described as "Enhancement: Load PDC [Processor Dependent Code] into main memory on A- and N-Class systems." The patch is a fix for a problem which has much more serious consequence — a panic — on HP's Unix systems, according to HP's notes.
The advantage of this patch seems to be giving diagnostics software better performance. HP's details on the "enhancement" patch, from the HP Web page
Intermittent small system freezes and system software clock slips happen on multiprocessor A- and N-Class systems. The clock slips are not gradual, they happen in steps of several seconds each.
The clock slips occur when a CPU that tries to load and run PDC code from NVRAM has to block on a condition where the system bus is too busy. Loading (copying) the PDC code from NVRAM (EEPROM) into normal memory will avoid any blocking for PDC code and will also make its execution significantly faster.
MPE code using PDC calls (mainly diagnostics) will see increased performance.
This is a solution borrowed from HP-UX where similar issues were seen with A-, L- and N-Classes. Unlike the HP-UX code though, MPE will not ‘panic’ if it cannot relocate the PDC. MPE will fallback to execute PDC from NVRAM instead (just like without this patch).
HP explains that the patch applies the enhancement by reducing the amount of memory available for the OS and applications by 2MB.
Of such specific repairs and minute enhancements are the General Releases of 2007 made. Other patches now in GR, most to avoid System Aborts (SA):
MPENX08A - SA0 attempting to boost the priority of a completed disk I/O
MPEMXU5C - FSCHECK error header record main_rec count did not match actual count
MPEMXP3C - SA614 when POSIX app writes past limit of fixed-length record file
MPEMXC7C - SA 0 With An Invalid Virtual Address
MPEMX59B - Workaround For OCT Cornercase Involving SCANFMVAT CM Code
MPELXY8B - SA1350 during termination of a process with DEBUG breakpoints set
MPELXJ7C - Data Loss When Using TAR with MPE fixed ASCII Files
MPEMXW2A - SA5414 while running FCSCAN in a loop
MPEMXM7A - DAT fails to open Disc to Disc dump when limit is a multiple of 4096MB
MPELXT1D - Network Spooler: 2 fixes for PJL syntax errors, NMS 9621
INTHDH4A - General Fixes for Internet Services Products (such as INETD and REMSH) on MPE/iX 7.5
INTHD63A - General Fixes for Internet Services Products on MPE/iX 7.0
HP has moved some patches for the 3000 into General Release at a much faster clip, when the potential for data corruption loomed, even for just a few customers. While many sites will leave this list of patches alone, some might be a repair for a system which must continue to carry mission critical data for an indefinite future of homesteading.
Even with the GRs for patches announced in one massive e-mail notice, however, dozens more remain quarantined in beta test status. Genuine advances such as the brand-new SCSI Pass Through driver need to be implemented and tested by HP support customers — the only ones who can use a BT patch.
December 14, 2007
Questions good, no matter how late they're asked
Even while HP 3000 customer Korry Electronics is searching for HP 3000 expertise to fill a position, the company is figuring out its strategy for the rest of this decade. On the MANMAN user mailing list, Deborah Lester asked good, fundamental questions about the Transition Era.
Fundamental questions are often the best kind, even if they seem to be asked long after other people have heard the answers. I liked Lester's list of questions so much I'd like to share some of my answers, as well as ask for yours on few. Experience makes us all smarter.
1. Does any vendor refurbish HP 3000s legally without HP? What does this entail and how do we know those vendors from other vendors? Will others emerge?
If refurbish means upgrade, there are upgrade kits for sale on the third party market, as well as from Client Systems, which was the last authorized North American HP 3000 distributor. (With no official hardware resellers anymore, no distribution has taken place through HP since 2003.) The "legally without HP" part of the question gets more complicated. HP insists that every customer has a Right to Use License now for their HP 3000s. So an upgrade can involve a license transfer, if you're taking on a system from another customer.
This third party market in this community has the hardware which customers need to keep running. For a customer who recognizes the authority of a Right To Use (RTU) license on a 3000, HP's License Transfer process can make it simple to "know those vendors from other vendors" while doing a "refurbish."
2. Has anyone had a business case for HP to convert an HP 9000 into an HP 3000? What does it entail and how long does it take? Does anybody have a firm commitment from HP to create a HP 3000 from an HP 9000?
Many customers have had business cases for converting 9000s to 3000s, but HP has never recognized one. This "personality" of the PA-RISC server is set in Processor Dependent Code, which HP claims cannot be modified by anyone except Hewlett-Packard personnel. (Note: HP 3000 owners have done this kind of modification, aided by vendors, without regard to HP's wishes.)
3. When buying an HP 3000, how do you transfer SUSAN numbers legally?
Now here's an easy one. Or at least the answers are easy to understand, since HP has documented the transfer process in great detail at it Web site. The transfer costs $400 to precess, and you must provide proof of purchase from prior owner. The sticky part turns out to be The Proof, as HP calls it, that the 3000 had a legal MPE license to begin with. HP has several forms and elaborate instructions for this.
4. How should parts and entire HP 3000 systems be stored if stockpiled? What ration of parts will be functional after being stored for 6-24 months? What will be the level of workability for parts and systems after 2008?
We know of people who are shrink-wrapping old disk drives to stock parts. But nearly everything can be found on the used hardware market. Some of it really cheap. You could buy a similar spare system for parts alone. Keep in mind that these systems were built to last (more on that next week). Hardware breakdown, aside from power supplies and disk drives, is not the risky end of staying on an HP 3000.
I do wish others would report on how long a part might be useful when stockpiled. HP 3000 components don't have "sell by" date stamped on them
5. Will MPE emulators emerge? Will Infor allow emulators or have any control over what machine we run MANMAN on?
Emulators of HP 3000 hardware are being considered, even designed. But their marketability will be many years off. Strobe Data, if anyone, will be the company to offer that solution, really an emulator of PA-RISC servers. But the used HP 3000 hardware supply will stand in the way of any real market for an emulator.
As for Infor, the owners of MANMAN, the company hasn't stopped the application from running on any particular kind of HP system, unless that system runs Windows or Unix. A year or so earlier, there was talk of porting MANMAN to HP-UX, but it's only been talk. The emulator availability for HP 3000 hardware is so far off that Infor probably won't even own MANMAN by then.
6. Will new 3000 drivers be available or emerge?
HP has probably built its last device driver for the HP 3000. It's called SCSI Pass-Through, and it ws released earlier this month.
7. What will be the HP 3000 inventory after 2008?
You might as well ask, "where does the sun first start to rise on Earth?" The question puzzles all of us in the community, because HP has kept no inventory of how many systems were made, sold or resold. Nobody can even guess about 3000 inventory after 2008. Nobody knows how many are running now. Estimates run from 2,000 to 5,000 systems, but you can get a different number from anybody.
The real question might be, "Can I get enough inventory in 2009 and beyond to stay on my existing MPE/iX application?" The answer is "yes, if budget is not an issue. We haven't heard of any company who cannot find an HP 3000 this year, once they'd committed to buying one.
Lester also wanted to know how to safely move HP 3000s to a new facility. That's an answer for an expert we would like to hear from. If you have a "moved our 3000 recently" story, share it with us. It's a fundamental question about a complex process — something like being a 3000 community member during this Transition Era.
December 13, 2007
HP predicts declining growth
Twice a year HP meets with financial analysts, out along the West Coast in the summer and back in New York during the winter. The cold climate of the Eastern seaboard might have ushered in cooler forecasts for HP's 2009 year. The company predicted that its coming fiscal periods will only match analysts' predictions. Revenue growth, HP reported, will be no more than 6 percent over whatever 2008 figures turn out to be.
The numbers still mean that HP intends to sell at least $117 billion of product and services during the fiscal year which begins on Oct. 31 of next year. But posting growth below 10 percent is what got the HP 3000 eliminated from Hewlett-Packard futures.
HP remains the world's largest company by revenue, if not by profits. However, a report released on the same day as HP's analyst meeting shows the company's PC business is grower at a slower rate than Apple's. What's more, Mac sales improvements are outpacing Dell's, just like HP's sales.
Growth is an critical issue to stock analysts, but it also drives a vendor's ability to invest in future technologies. At the moment the biggest investment HP is making in its own technology is Itanium processors — largely ignored by the rest of the computer marketplace — and its HP-UX Unix environment.
HP's desktop and laptop business has turned into a good generator of revenues, if not profits. But a study by ChangeWave Research reports that between 6 and 7 percent of companies buying laptops and desktops in 2008.
The study found that 7% of companies buying laptop computers in the first quarter of 2008, and 6% of companies buying desktop computers, plan to buy Apple Macintosh machines. Both numbers are the highest rates for Macs since ChangeWave began its quarterly survey in May 2005. An additional 16% of companies said they weren’t going to buy Macs next quarter but are considering buying them in the future. Both desktop and laptop numbers put Apple at fourth place among business buyers behind Dell (35% of desktops, 33% of laptops), H-P (18%, and 16%) and Lenovo (7%, and 12%).
The number of Mac buyers is small relative to the competition’s buyer numbers, but impressive. Offices have long been dominated by computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating systems. (It’s now possible to run Windows on a Mac. But according to the ChangeWave study, seven percent of companies buying computers intend to use Apple’s operating system.) Apple seems to have some real momentum.
Just in case there’s any doubt where that momentum is coming from: The study found that more consumers will buy Apple laptops than any other brand. Twenty-nine percent of consumers who are buying a laptop next quarter said they’ll buy a Mac, ahead of Dell (28%) and H-P (21%). Among consumers who plan to buy desktops, Macs came in at 29%, just behind Dell (31%) and ahead of H-P (24%).
To be sure, 2008-09 is a long way off, but a forecast of slower revenues and profits cannot be encouraging to the parts of HP most connected to migrating HP 3000 customers.
An HP board director sold off more than 17,000 shares of HP stock less than 24 hours before HP released its 2009 news. Lucille Salhany sold shares for about $51.20 apiece.
December 12, 2007
No bad questions, no matter how late
More than six years beyond HP's exit the market announcement, customers are still just starting their migration plans. Up on the Linked In networking site, one member posed this question.
A relative of mine (who doesn't have access to linkedin.com yet) is taking proposals for migration strategies for his HP 3000 machine and all the software and data which resides on the machine. HP has recently quit supporting the HP 3000, so a new machine is required, and something needs to happen to all the COBOL and databases on it.
One bid received will cost 10s of thousands of dollars simply for a migration plan, with the actual migration being a separate bid. This particular migration will be to a Windows environment upon which the same or similar COBOL will continue to run. Any suggestions?
Software Engineer, APT Automation
The suggestions have been around for years now, but since we're Linked In members (you can be one too), we posted this summary reply for Mark's relative who's facing migration's challenge.
Since HP canceled its 3000 business plans in 2001, I've heard from hundreds of smallish businesses faced with this problem. We don't sell services. We interview and publish reports on how customers and service providers solve these problems.
Your relative needs to answer a question to decide how to proceed.
1. What is the primary reason for migrating off the 3000?
A) HP support is no longer available
B) The system cannot keep up with computing needs
C) HP's business strategy no longer includes new HP 3000 models.
D) A mission-critical application provider is quitting on you, its customer
Mark should know
A) More responsive and less costly independent support has been available for many years for the system. HP will support HP 3000s for another two years.
B) A 3000 system that cannot keep up with computing needs can be replaced for many dollars less than a migration plan. If the computer is a 9x8 or 9x7 server, a replacement system is especially economical.
C) HP changed its plans for the 3000 because of the small growth rate of the business -- not because of a flaw in the system. HP 3000s will continue to run through 2027. If purchasing a computer with a long future in front of it is the goal, I wish your relative good luck at finding something with an assured path of improvement. Critical mass determines business futures. Windows has more than any choice today, but it comes with its own hurdles to consider.
D) You've got to move away unless you can acquire and keep up source code for the application. This is the most compelling reason to migrate as soon as possible.
Windows is having its heyday now, Linux is on the rise, and the future of HP's Unix presumes to run through 2016. As HP 3000 owners know, however, things can change overnight. No guarantees.
Any migration plan is going to cost at least tens of thousands of dollars, and the execution and testing will cost even more. Assume that financial burden, or extend the use of the 3000 to a point where the migration budget becomes available, through setting aside part of the IT budget each year for the project. Assign the planning for your first expense, to determine the budget. This is an essential first step.
Migration makes sense once you have budget to spend wisely. Many HP 3000 sites have hurried migrations, at great cost, only to see HP extend its system support.
Another suggestion: Make sure your target for the project includes an improved database, system and operating environment, as well as a broader range of application providers. Migration simply because HP has changed business plans, doesn't make fiscal sense.
Specific solution suggestions: Consider AcuCOBOL for the target compiler, if the applications being migrated are in-house; it's most like the 3000's COBOL II. Assess Eloquence for the database, since it's gotten rave reviews and emulates the work of IMAGE, your current 3000 database. Luckily, both are available on Windows.
As for Windows, we hear that a common mistake is to choose Windows as a migration target on the basis of familiarity with the platform, and low capital acquisition cost. If either of these are the primary reason for picking Windows, think harder. Maintaining Windows is a budget-eating task, and the environment is changing all the time -- so whatever familiarity your relative's IT group might have with Windows is going to shrink, unless there's training and good Windows support in the picture.
There's no lack of good companies to inventory and assess your relative's needs in migration. Tell everyone to pursue the project with care, as well as tune out the "we gotta hurry" you will be told by some companies. Unless your application supplier is turning off 3000 support, the timetable to migrate is yours to choose. Major industry leaders plan to use their HP 3000s beyond 2010. The only entity that has quit supporting the 3000 is Hewlett-Packard's marketing and manufacturing departments. Even HP development resource, albeit pared back significantly, works to this very day for 3000 sites. HP still sells software for the 3000.
In 2001 HP predicted the end of the 3000's ecosystem by the end of 2006. Now the company is proceeding through 2010 with limited support. Judge wisely. You have time to make the right decisions.
December 11, 2007
Webcast shows off 10 gigabit Ethernet
Thursday afternoon (US time) HP will be showing off its fastest enterprise networking to date. In a 2PM Eastern Webcast, Network and Storage IO Manager Parissa Mohamadi of HP will give a tour of the features of the "10 GbE" offering on both Integrity and PA-RISC servers.
Sign up for the Webcast at the Encompass site; membership is not required for this program. Supply the password "hpencompass" at the start of the registration form, then choose your own password for the Webcast. The briefing is designed for datacenter managers.
While this networking advance doesn't operate on the HP 3000, the new technology is a selling point in advancing a migration strategy. Benefits of a migration need to go beyond the "we're getting off the HP 3000" target, and new technology like this can make better use of virtualization capabilities in HP-UX.
The Encompass Webcast is sponsored by Neterion, which has its XFrame II devices at the heart of HP's 10GbE. The XFrame II relies on Ethernet, which Neterion describes "the proven industry-standard for 30 years." If that sounds like the server in your environment which HP is stepping away from, well, Ethernet has had technology refreshes over and over again.
The fastest Ethernet traffic an HP 3000 can handle today is 100 megabits. Customers asked HP for 1-gigabit networking for many years, but the vendor always said the project was too large for HP's remaining MPE/iX development resources. The new technology is 10 times faster than the enhancement request HP declined back in 2004.
The Neterion device also has drivers for Windows and Linux servers as well as HP-UX, but it's a good bet that the HP IO expert will focus on the benefits you might capture using HP's Integrity servers running HP-UX. Encompass offered a pre-briefing interview (MP3 file, 90 seconds) with Mohamadi on the networking and clustering technology. HP says the technology can save costs, power, and bus slots while providing a "future-proofed IO architecture."
Full details on how to sign on for the Webcast (20 slots were open this morning):
If you have never participated in an Encompass/HP webcast, click on 'First Time Users Click Here To Register' and follow the steps below:
* Use hpencompass as your signup password
* You will need to create a User ID and password for yourself (this is different from your Encompass ID and password); it is important that you remember this information as you will need it when you log into the Web site on the day of the webcast.
* Once you have created your ID and password you will be logged into the system, click on 'course catalog.'
* Select the appropriate Webcast and confirm your enrollment.
* Please be sure to test your PC on the HP Virtual Room prior to the webcast. If you any have problems when you test, please call the HP Virtual Room help desk at (888) 351-4732 so that the problem can be solved prior to the webcast.
* Please note the RegonTap registration website will NOT work with Macs or Linux machines.
If you have participated in an HP/Encompass Webcast in the past, enter your ID and Password and then select 'Course Catalog' and click on the Webcast
December 10, 2007
HP releases SCSI Pass-Through, to some
Following through on a summertime promise, HP has finished its work on an SCSI Pass-Through driver for the HP 3000. The software makes it possible to connect and configure SCSI storage devices which HP has not certified for 3000 use.
HP announced the availability of the enhancement late Monday evening.
Full instructions on how to use the software are on the HP Jazz Web site (PDF file). But the software itself is being put on a the usual HP software improvements leash: only available to the HP support customer willing to take SPT, as HP is calling it, as a beta test version.
Patches MPENX01A, MPENX03A and MPENX04A are beta patches, required to make the SPT work on MPE/iX 7.5. Contact your HP support representative to get your copy of SPT — an HP 3000 enhancement which might be one of the last which HP will design.
HP has always described the SPT as a tool with many caveats. While the software has a wide scope of help for the customer who wants to add the latest SCSI disk to the 3000 in the future, HP has printed plenty of cautions such as these in its Communicator article:
Sending SPT commands to a device in use by MPE or other applications may result in data loss, data corruption and/or System Aborts. We do not recommend sending SPT commands to Disks with MPE/iX Volumes present nor should one access tapes devices which are used for normal back-up or data logging purposes. Rule of thumb: Don’t do SPT to tape or disk media you cannot recover at a time you don’t wish to cause a system outage.
SPT joins the six dozen or so HP developed enhancements and fixes stalled in beta test status. It's up to the customers still purchasing HP support to get SPT into the full community. Whether such cautions will encourage enough testing remains to be seen.
December 07, 2007
Still hiring after all these years
It's not a commonplace discovery, but we do see job postings for HP 3000 expertise and management in the IT world today. These positions can be nearly full-time, but rarely permanent. However, any employment that relies on MPE/iX savvy is worth a look, if you're an IT pro who wants to leverage many years of experience.
One such job we noted just this week is at CDI Corporation, a $1 billion "professional services company that offers Fortune 1000 clients a cost-effective, single-source provider of high-value engineering and information technology outsourcing solutions and professional staffing."
CDI has a need for a 3000 MPE/iX and IBM AIX administrator, which would be quite a mix in a single IT pro. The job listing is up on Gadball.com, where it says that "Data migration and software upgrades are key areas of this project."
The job is in Richmond, Virginia, but the important part to recall is that Google's alert service turned it up for us. What's more the migration process in play across your community can force open some employment doors, too.
These positions have decreased substantially in number during the six years since HP announced its exit from the platform. That's to be expected. But they haven't disappered. Another year's worth of work, in Chicago, came up on Gadball, where Phillip Bue, the Senior Recruiting Manager with Ajilon Consulting, offered a job taking care of a 3000 while the regular IT staff did a migration:
During this project term, Client's permanent MIS staff will be transitioning from the HP 3000 to another computing environment. Consultant will report to the designated Client MIS Project Manager.
Two notes of interest here. First, hiring a temporary 3000 administrator and manager can free up the experienced IT staff to move in-house apps to a new environment. Customers report that putting the experience on the target box problem provides a better solution, since the seasoned team knows the apps and the user base.
Second note: If you have managed an HP 3000, and can travel to the likes of Virginia or Chicago, take heart. There's still HP 3000 work out there for you.
December 06, 2007
How to do a final 3000 shutdown
A few weeks ago, a customer asked how to turn off an HP 3000 once and for all. While this is a sad time for the IT expert who's built a career on MPE knowledge, doing a shutdown by the numbers is in keeping with the rest of the professional skill-set you can expect from a 3000 manager.
Chris Bartram, who has launched and stocks a Technical Wikipedia (TWiki) for the 3000, offered all the details of turning off an HP 3000. "I have just performed last rites for a 9x8 server at a customer site," he replied, "and have been through the exercise a couple times before."
His steps did not include SOX requirements, but "might be useful," he said in his usual modest introduction. There are 10 steps Bartram details before switching off the 3000's power button.
Bartram reported that he first purged all accounts except sys, hpspool, and 3000devs (and had to log off all jobs, shut down the network, and disable system UDCs to do that). Then:
2) Reset/blanked all system passwords (groups, users, accounts)
3) Purged all groups from SYS account that I could (aside from in-use groups) as well as all users except MANAGER.SYS,OPERATOR.SYS, MANAGER.HPSPOOL.
4) Went through PUB.SYS listf (file by file) looking for anything that might be a job stream or contain user data (or anything not critical to keeping the system up) and PURGEd it
5) Went into VOLUTIL and condensed my discs
6) Created a group called JUNK.SYS (you would need to do this on each volset; this box only had the system vol set)
7) Wrote and ran a short script that copied NL.PUB.SYS (the largest file remaining on the system) into JUNK.SYS in a loop using filenames A####### and X####### until all disc space was used up
8) Typed the command PURGEGROUP JUNK.SYS
9) Went into NMMGR and changed IP addresses on the box to something bland/different; including the default gateway (also deleted any entries in the NS directory if there are any)
10) Sequentially PURGE @.GROUP.ACCT for all groups (leaving PUB.SYS until last)
11) Shut down the box.
I am reminded of the line from Citizen Kane, which I enjoyed on Turner Classic Movies this week. "Then, as it must for every man, death came to Charles Foster Kane." Nothing escapes death, but a proper burial seems in order for such a legendary system.
December 05, 2007
HP shares open source porting tips
At the last HP Technology Forum, HP's 3000 group announced the upcoming release of a Samba Porting Paper. The document, first promised in June, proposes to show the 3000 community the methods HP used to bring Samba from a 2.x version to a 3.026 version for MPE/iX.
The paper is now available as a PDF download from HP. It's been available since late September of this year, apparently, so we must have missed HP's announcement or notice that it was ready for use.
Not for lack of interest, either. Robert Mills of 3000 site Pinnacle Arvato was looking forward to it in September, searching for assistance to make open source Python/iX an up-to-date solution for his 3000. HP reports the paper has been online since Sept. 26. That is, by the way, the same day that HP announced it was extending its 3000 support to 2010, in a limited, no-patch fashion.
A document like this one is important to keeping an HP 3000 working as hard as it can. Open source was part of the renaissance of the 3000 community back in the 1990s. Samba came into the customers' tool kit as a result of an after-hours project by Lars Appel, an HP 3000 support engineer in Europe. Appel is now working for Eloquence database creators Marxmeier Software, but the Samba snowball he rolled down the slope is still moving for MPE/iX users.
Another open source resource for the 3000 community, Mark Bixby, told the customers that learning to update the open source solutions like Samba, DNS and Apache for MPE/iX would be an essential skill to successful 3000 homesteading. HP is helping with the education with this paper.
December 04, 2007
A Unix feature to move you
Six years ago, HP calculated that much of its 3000 community would move to HP-UX. Enterprise customers need an enterprise-grade replacement, right? Something with an HP badge on it, already tested in mission-critical environments. HP's Unix seemed to HP like a natural fit.
Not so fast, said a lot of the 3000 marketplace, the ones willing to migrate. Windows looks like what we already use on desktops, plus its costs less in capital acquisation expenses. (The operating costs are a whole other matter, depending on how good your Windows staff is.) Other Unix solutions knocked on the door of opportunity, too, the gate HP swung open with its "we're getting out of the 3000 community" announcement.
But HP-UX is more than Windows-calibre, as some migration sites can already attest. (Don't look for too many of them in the Ecometry e-commerce village, but the Summit credit unions are hip-deep in HP-UX.) HP-UX is deeper, richer, more tuned to a large-scale customer. So the HP-loyal sites got to work on HP-UX migration. HP has only made this solution better over those six years, but some of the improvement uses pretty old ideas, turned new again.
Remember Application Service Providers, from the 1990s? The ASPs were supposed to make 3000 ownership an infrequent option. HP even opened up its own ASP center, someplace in Idaho, for application firms to host upon.
Now the essence of ASP returns in Software as a Service (SaaS). Don't look for this in your MPE/iX bag of tools. ASPs never took off in the 3000 community, but SaaS might be a real reason to mount the big task of moving your computing away from a not-broken-anytime-soon HP 3000 environment.
HP says in its Is SaaS right for you? Web page:
Increasingly, organizations are turning to Software as a Service – a delivery model where applications are typically rented on demand, on a per-user basis.
IDC, the Framingham, Massachusetts research firm, estimates that the worldwide software-on-demand delivery model will reach $14.5 billion (U.S.) by 2011, representing a compound annual growth rate of 30 percent.
HP has always wanted to grow its business in services, but the costs have kept many a small to midsize business out of the range of that ramp-up. These solutions, however, keep getting pushed down to the rest of the IT customer base, the companies that are mulling Windows as an enterprise platform right alongside Unix.
Now that HP's Mercury Interactive and Opsware acquisitions are expected to generate sales, HP is giving customers a reason to consider their services. We first heard about HP's plans for these offerings in the summer at the HP Technology Forum. At the Speed Interviewing (think Dating) afternoon, HP's service offerings promised better and easier adoption of the ITIL standards. HP had a role in drafting these "how to organize an IT service" standards, which were just updated earlier this year.
SaaS is part of the new HP IT Service Management (ITSM) solution that "helps IT organizations continually monitor, measure and improve their business value while increasing the efficiency of IT service delivery." The eager HP press kit promises that
The solution includes major enhancements to:
- HP Service Manager 7.0 – enables automated service lifecycle management to manage business services from a user perspective to help deliver higher quality services to the business at a lower cost. Problem detection and resolution can be accelerated through integrations HP Universal CMDB and HP BSM solutions. This is also offered through Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, with which customers can use software “on demand” over the Internet.
- HP Decision Center 2.0 – helps IT staff manage and improve the quality of service delivery by helping IT organizations make informed decisions to improve business processes while minimizing negative business impact. It provides pre-configured metrics and analytics based on ITIL v3 to enable the business-centric measurements needed for continual service improvement.
There are ways to learn how to make use of this next-level IT design, via HP services and training.
- HP Blueprint and Training for Service Manager 7.0 – provides best practices for standardizing and automating processes to accelerate deployment of ITIL v3 and implementation of HP Service Manager. These services help customers improve the efficiency and quality of IT operations, ensure they meet regulatory reporting requirements and reduce operational risk.
- HP IT Service Management Assessment Services – helps customers continually improve the quality of service management skills and processes. With enhancements that include the new ITIL v3 processes, this service helps improve productivity and reduce reactive process changes. This frees IT staff to focus more on strategic projects supporting business growth.
Seventeen summers ago, I cruised around San Francisco Bay with a boatload of journalists, all on the HP teat, eating and drinking and listening to press and analyst relations staffers from Hewlett-Packard. They were talking Computer Integrated Manufacturing back then, but the heart of the vision was making most of HP's money in offerings well away from operating systems and hardware. "Frankly, we'd like to make most of our revenues off services," said Charlie, who was boiling down the talk to the sound bites we needed.
SaaS and ITSM look like promising reasons to make a move beyond the HP 3000, if your company can handle the budget to adopt HP's Services role. A manager might be able to argue that if you're spending the money to migrate, getting more than a Unix copy of what's still working just fine, well, that would represent a real return on investment.
Early next week HP will give a Webcast on Service Manager 7, another component in its Business Technology Optimization offering. The Webcast is likely to be high-level (C-level language), so getting a CIO or VP in front of a browser could be useful. Sign up for the Webcast at the HP page. I recall a manager at a Southeast Texas manufacturer being happy about HP's migration push, because he could finally rewire the company's IT to keep up with growth. If this sounds like you, maybe BTO, ITIL, ITSM and SaaS can take places in your new computing picture.
December 03, 2007
What was done in 1990
In a matter of days, two of the 3000 community's greatest icons connected with me, contacts personal and public which drew my attention back to the start of the '90s. To say that decade was a different time for the HP 3000 simplifies a much richer story. What's more, there are parts of that decade's accomplishments that continue to serve the community to this day, for some customers.
The year 1990 was galvanizing for the 3000 community. I heard about the year for the second time this past weekend, when Adager's Alfredo Rego asked on the HP 3000 newsgroup, "What were you doing in 1990?" In a brief message Rego noted that 1990 was the launch date for the world's first Internet browser, created by Tim Berners-Lee on a NeXT workstation. Rego pointed at a history page from 1990: www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/WorldWideWeb.html. Then Rego noted
Enjoy it (typos and all). Be sure to click on the links to the screen shots. Ah... Memories. Fortunately, the NeXT ideas have survived (and thrived). Just as MPE ideas have (not). Sigh.
But 1990 was a high-water mark in HP 3000 advocacy, a habit which works today to survive those 17 years. The HP 3000 has formed a community in way no other computer can claim, according to Wirt Atmar, founder of report solution provider AICS Research, creators of QueryCalc as well as QCReports and the free QCTerm. Atmar should know better than most about advocacy, for in the fall of 1990 he helped spark a charge that changed HP's business practices about the 3000 — changes which you might argue last to this very year. Especially if you're changing little about your HP 3000 stable environment.
In 1990 Atmar wrote an open letter to HP published in The HP Chronicle, the monthly news magazine I was editing at the time. In his letter Atmar chastized HP for the way it was relegating IMAGE to minor status among the 3000's futures and features, as well as the general treatment of a loyal customer base. Word was building in the community that HP had plans to separate the IMAGE database from the purchase of any 3000. The database had been included with the 3000 since 1976, a radical move at the time that sparked the creation of untold numbers of utilities and applications.
A programmer or development company could create an application or software for the 3000 community using IMAGE as the database, knowing that every 3000 out there would be able to make use of the creation. 3000=IMAGE was a formula close to being broken. The community reared up on its hind legs and castigated its supplier, using the Interex 1990 user group meeting as the forum for its dismay. SIG-IMAGE, a Special Interest Group of users gone dormant at the time, re-formed to organized the complaints and demand remedies.
In community lore, the protests around the meeting are known as "The Boston Tea Party," in part because they changed HP's course of conduct about customers. I recall Adager's Fred White as the most scathing critic of HP's myopia of the time, but a row of customers lined up behind and in front of him at the public microphones in a Boston meeting hall. This was a time when the HP Roundtable was the highlight of the conference, a chance to quiz the top executives of the company, right out in the open, about shortcoming and problems. The national IT press of Datamation, Computerworld and Information Week, all with HQ just up the road, were on hand that year to report the rebellious talk. HP looked chagrined and embarrassed fielding customer complaints — during a time when customer communities had a different impact on their vendors.
Atmar had contacted me to update a few links about him just days before Rego's message. The convergence felt profound. Atmar mentioned he couldn't help me in my current search for back issues of the Chronicle, because he had only one left on his shelves: The issue with his open letter, "which basically caused the  Boston riot."
In the fall of that year the users not only stalled the separation of IMAGE from the 3000, but launched a "Customer First" strategy that HP used to retain its 3000 customers — a strategy which HP modeled in its other enterprise computer operations at the time. Glory indeed, even at the end of a pointed stick of sharp criticism and some disgust. But as Atmar pointed out, "it was a glorious moment, yes, but as the Roman slaves told the Roman generals, 'All fame is fleeting.' "
Customer First became a mantra in a new generation of HP 3000 division managers, the idea of customer delight: unexpected features, beyond commonplace requests. But at the same time HP became serious about creating a steady stream of HP-UX customers, using the HP 3000 installed base as an easy supply of converts. At the time of the Boston uprising, Atmar noted, HP was easy to take advantage of, because the vendor was afraid of negative publicity.
Far different times indeed than today, when the advocacy group OpenMPE must operate under a confidential disclosure agreement which keeps all of its HP communication under wraps. But one lasting benefit of the 1990 uprising was that Customer First ideal. In a lunch today with another HP 3000 vendor, I agreed that many vendors have excised computer systems from their lineups. Few indeed, though, are making a business model for future cancellations like HP is learning from its departure from your community. When HP's virtual CSY managers say, "We need to give the system the ending that it deserves," that's a result of Customer First, the vendor's finish to the 336 years it has sold and supported your server.
What some of you were doing in 1990 has echoes over the next few years of those secret talks with HP. I believe those kinds of talks would not be taking place without the ideals of Customer First, sparked by the 1990 uprising. How significant those ideals remain now, in the face of a new set of interests and vision from the HP Support group, remains to be seen.
Keeping HP accountable is so much more difficult in this century than the last, however. Impossible, indeed, under the provisions of a confidential exchange with the vendor that OpenMPE must observe. More might be observed about OpenMPE's success with that Cone of Silence removed. I sigh along with Rego at that removal's prospect, given the leverage HP retains with its stewardship of MPE/iX.
But as I said at the top of this story, the 1990s were a different time for your community. In the era when the computer was increasing its customer base and celebrating 25 years of success, I asked Atmar what the birthday meant to the customers.
Maturity. If you were a business owner or manager, I can't think of a single word that you would want to seek out and celebrate more than a mature solution, one that can easily demonstrate that it can do what it says it does. Immature solutions, on the other hand, are going to cost you an awful lot of money — and a growing segment of the business community is beginning to understand that. You can only be lead down the garden path so many times before it begins to dawn on you what it's truly costing you.