February 29, 2008
OpenMPE answers from some candidates
By this morning, less than 24 hours are left to cast a vote in the OpenMPE election. This year's balloting has already topped last year's voting, but there's still time to make your voice heard. (You should vote at openmpe.org, where you must join first. Membership is free.)
Last week we posed questions to all seven candidates by e-mail, as well as posted them to the OpenMPE and HP 3000 mailing lists. As of yesterday, we had four candidates reply: Keith Wadsworth, and incumbents Matt Perdue, Tracy Johnson, and Donna Hofmeister.
We'd like to tease you with our final question, since it gives the candidates a chance to say what they believe OpenMPE should do right away to let the advocacy group help the community:
Should OpenMPE go after the mission of testing the dozens of beta test patches still stuck inside HP’s 3000 labs? What can the group do to convince HP that the expertise is in place to do that independent testing, and so release HP's improvements and engineering to the full 3000 community?
Keith Wadsworth’s answer: This raises many questions about the needs of the users, and the OpenMPE organization as well. For example, is there any hard data that strongly indicates that a large number of remaining users, or even a small number, need these patches? I believe the OpenMPE board needs to raise, explore and answer such questions thoroughly. Addressing the question of testing, although the OpenMPE board members and members at large command considerable expertise, it does not seem apparent that OpenMPE as a whole has the ability, let alone the infrastructure, to conduct such testing.
Matt Perdue's answer: OpenMPE has discussed this issue many times and offered to host the beta test patch distribution and result reporting process for HP. Paul Edwards has suggested that HP offer the beta patch test process to the DSPP community, and OpenMPE has the access to the machines necessary to perform this task and the expertise as well. OpenMPE has asked [HP R&D Lab Manager] Ross McDonald to consider having OpenMPE administer the beta patch test process as a “proof of track record” for OpenMPE, and it would help with the business relations between HP and OpenMPE as well.
Tracy Johnson's answer: That would be a perfectly fine goal. I believe the one accomplishment that OpenMPE needs to put under its belt is to get HP to work with us, and not be at odds with each other. Everything else hinges on this.
Donna Hofmeister's answer: The question on everyone's lips! (see the NewsWire blog story about this).
HP -- we need an answer, we need action. It's time!
Answers to our other four questions:
How soon must HP make a decision about its source code licensing for the 3000’s operating environment? Is it acceptable for the vendor to wait until the start of 2010, as it plans to do now?
Hofmeister: How soon? Yesterday... a year ago... two years ago! I want MPE's transfer to be a success for all parties. The sooner this process can begin, the better for all concerned.
Wadsworth: It occurs to me that this “decision” belongs to HP and that it is not the purview of others to presume to tell HP what they must do, let alone how soon. Having said this, is it possible that HP could well have already made this decision? And that the decision is the source code will not be released? I believe that the OpenMPE board needs to take this real possibility under consideration and re-evaluate its goals and purposes to best serve the community should the source code not become available.
Perdue: HP in the person of Ross McDonald has made public statements to the HP3000-L and the OpenMPE-L that HP will release responsibility for MPE/iX at some point in the future. I and others on the Board have been holding HP’s feet (well, Ross’ anyway) to the fire on this issue and that’s one of the main reasons I’m running to remain on the Board - I want to continue to press Mr. McDonald to follow through with his (and HP’s) commitments to release MPE/iX to an “outside of HP” company. Mr. McDonald may feel uncomfortable when I “put him on the witness stand and cross examine him” but sometimes that’s necessary.
As to 2010 - no, that is not acceptable. I’ve expressed to Mr. McDonald that the transfer needs to begin NOW, while HP still has the people in place that deal with the processes involved every day, and can pass on that knowledge in a business like and timely manner. I don’t mean the technical ability to do the work, that already exists outside HP; I’m talking about the build and test processes that HP has created over the years that actually create a build or patch release.
Johnson: As a organization with nine people on its board with with little or no funds, I don’t believe it is in our power to tell HP a that they “must” make a decision and have them listen to us. It is apparent HP cares not one wit whether OpenMPE declares any decision “acceptable” or not, and making such declarations isn’t going to gain any friends at HP. We’re more like a Public TV station that needs a telethon every once in a while to keep us going. But there’s only one donor with the currency (MPE) to make it worthwhile, and that is HP. If we want HP to make that donation, we need to convince HP (our viewership) the donation is worth their while. Otherwise MPE stays permanently on Pay Per View.
What is the one achievement for OpenMPE which the group must accomplish during 2008 — the mission which the group must not fail at?
Hofmeister: The MPE emulation project is gaining traction. OpenMPE will be playing a critical role in this. I’m hopeful that HP, OpenMPE and the people looking to bring an emulator to market will jointly work out all the details in the coming year.
Wadsworth: To properly serve the community I believe OpenMPE needs more than one singular achievement goal, and this needs to be more than wishing and hoping to acquire and maintain the MPE source code. It would seem that supporting a 30+ year old operating system with a shrinking market would be financially very challenging; especially for an organization that publicly states it has no money, no income, and no source of revenue other than limited contributions. Addressing questions below might be a good place to begin discussing and outlining 2008 target achievements.
Perdue: Getting the license issues for an emulator “in cement.” This has progressed quite well up to this point, and I’m waiting to hear back from Jeff Bandle on a time for a joint meeting with all the interested vendors (U.S. based and Europe) to discuss license issues. Working with Birket Foster I’ve been leading the effort from the OpenMPE side to get the emulator into production, and that process has started. We’ve got a long way to go, but I definitely feel there will be at least one, and I’d prefer two, emulator products for the future.
Johnson: Given the current status of OpenMPE and HP relations, I believe the one accomplishment that OpenMPE needs to put under its belt, is to get HP to work with us, and not be at odds with each other. Everything else hinges on this. Although it is a cliché to say “Failure is not an option.”, a failure in 2008 is not a death knell, to parapharse Scarlet O’Hara, “2009 is another year!”
Should third party support providers have access to HP's diagnostics, especially stable storage tools such as ss_update, in case of a system board failure, or the closing of a software company which cannot update licenses (with HPSUSAN numbers) any longer?
Hofmeister: This is another area where I'd love to see some productive conversations occur with HP. I just can’t stress enough about how quickly time is slipping away. These decisions can’t wait until the last minute.
Wadsworth: Third party companies already have offerings and new offerings are being openly discussed. OpenMPE needs to be evaluating what can be offered should HP not provide additional access.
Perdue: As others have said, there already exists third party software to address this issue. Prior to things like IRS and “Captain Greb” coming onto the scene, OpenMPE has had many discussions with HP regarding this extremely important issue. HP will not release ss_config for use outside HP, but HP has stated that their field engineers will be able to use ss_config with the guidance of the response center to service customers. HP has also stated the charges for this service is on a time and materials basis. Personally I’d like to see some way for HP to streamline this process to minimize the time it takes to recover a customer to production status when a CPU board swap is necessary. Perhaps one charge for 4 hour response time and another for 24 hour response. Presently it’s only available (as I understand it) on a 24 hour response.
Johnson: HP would have to change its modus operandi to lease those tools. Since such decisions aren’t usually made on a whim, I think the onus would be on the third parties to negotiate such any contract. In the worst case of a post-mortem software company, copies of such tools should be put in an escrow vault that can be purchased by one or more bidders. OpenMPE should encourage such a such decision without being demanding.
HP has expanded its “permissible upgrade” language in its RTU licenses. Does the vendor need to offer anything to the community to prohibit the movement of MPE/iX from system to system? Something perhaps like unlocking the horsepower of the 3000s in the A and N Class?
Hofmeister: Hindsight is 20-20. If times were different, I would like to think that stronger MPE licensing might be something that HP would have done. But at this point, i don’t foresee hp making this change or doing anything about CPU horsepower.
Wadsworth: “Prohibit the movement” and “unlocking the horsepower” seem to be separate topics, so I will address unlocking the horsepower.
On first blush this seems like a great idea – making it easier for the remaining users to increase server performance. And I am all for it. However, first we might ask why would HP do this at this time to a product line that has less than 24 months of HP support? If delivered by HP proper, this type of change would not only add new breath to the e3000, it would add new life to a platform that is being shut down. So because of the unlikelihood of this happening I do not think it is a direction that OpenMPE should concentrate resources on at this time.
Perdue: OpenMPE has tried numerous times to get HP to consider unlocking the available CPU cycles on A and N class machines. The issue involves the third party software vendors licenses and sales on tier levels, and HP has stated they have no plans to unlock the extra CPU cycles because of third party software license concerns. I’d propose a way should be found that if a site can certify they have only x, y and z third party software and get a certificate from their software vendors, that HP allow the unlocking. After all there are sites that don’t use any third party software that would have tier license issues, and these sites should be able to use their machines fully.
It’s questionable now if HP really could do anything to prevent the movement of MPE/iX to other machines, as they’ve not enforced their copyright literally hundreds to thousands of times, and any good lawyer is going to be able to beat them over the head with that issue and HP would stand a very good chance of loosing their case. In the case of copyrights, if you don’t aggressively move to protect it, you lose it.
Johnson: My first response is “Whaaa?” “Offering” a “prohibition” seems like a contradiction in terms. It is like driving to a toll booth, and paying the attendant to keep you off the bridge. If you know you can’t get on, why drive there?
Unlocking the HP 3000 systems is another subject entirely. Once you acquire a vehicle you should be able to make mods to the hardware, same goes for computers. Using the same metaphor, some mods may be only allowed in racing venues and may not be street legal.
February 28, 2008
Becoming big: a task to grab by the tail
I can’t imagine a world where the Web doesn’t play a big role in success. But as IT pros, you know better than to believe any computing tool always delivers as expected. Downtime, mistaken design; these life lessons become experience and then wisdom. Somehow the Internet seems to escape this skepticism, since it connects us in innovative ways. We’re all counting on the Web like gravity, government forms, and mergers designed make organizations bigger and better. Smaller is supposed to be weaker, in that last model.
This month a few bigger-is-better alliances have been put in play. Microsoft and the HP user group Encompass both want to be bigger, adding allies. Microsoft made a $44 billion bid for Yahoo, a deal nearly double the size of the HP-Compaq merger of 2002. Microsoft might have sledding ahead of it just as tough as Hewlett-Packard's merger. HP CEO Carly Fiorina battled an angry, nearly equal share of stockholders to push through her merger back in 2002. It looks like Yahoo might push back with as much force, saying the record-breaking offer is undervalued for an information content provider.
Much has been made about this deal being a way for Microsoft to keep up with Google. A few years ago Yahoo was compared to Google in the pages of Wired. That was long before Google was trading above $500 a share.
The merger tussle reminds me of the days when HP was working to adopt Compaq, a company which had fallen from its heyday as Yahoo has now. At least Fiorina had Compaq’s board in her pocket when HP did its big grab. Yahoo is pushing back already, so expect another messy fight. Not so with the Encompass alliance and its new user group partners.
It took HP CEO Fiorina’s firing and more than three years to make the HP purchase “a good earner,” as they say in the wiseguy movies. I wonder what Microsoft will need to succeed.
Mergers can be delicate operations, attempts to embrace each other which the Web is expected to enable. Encompass and its two new partners, Interex Europe and the ITUG group, see the Web’s social networking tools as a way to attract younger members. The new Endeavor group wants to create community instead of an association. The latter sounds aged, while the former sounds fun.
One Encompass director pointed out that the merger of corporations is very different from making allies out of user groups. Chris Koppe talked of mergers “being one of those things where somebody decides to buy somebody else. User groups don’t come together as quickly, but I think this [association] is getting close to where we want to be. Individually it was very hard to get HP’s attention, and that model now changes going forward.”
Being big is within reach when you can stretch across the Wide World of the Web. Using the Web as a lever to connect can deliver benefits, especially if you can be in the business of delivering the hard to find. That’s the Long Tail theory that’s made Amazon and Netflix work. Neither claims to be the biggest. But they succeed by specialization. Specialization, plus the Web, has let the NewsWire connect with your community. Perhaps social contact through the Web will let user groups, maybe Microsoft, grab you by the tail.
February 27, 2008
Homesteaders remain in place, sound off
The HP 3000 homesteaders remain where they expected to be working when we polled them in 2004, meeting challenges of support but counting on few changes. The community checked in on the OpenMPE mailing list in recent weeks. Terry Simpkins, IT Director of Measurement Specialties, said his firm is using HP 3000 systems for “general ledger, accounts payable, inventory control, purchasing, production scheduling, order entry, and invoicing. With 11 locations around the world, we have a substantial investment in its continued operation.”
Simpkins, who has established manufacturing IT operations in China over the past five years, was a customer spokesman in ads for HP 3000s in the years just prior to HP’s exit plans.
Zelik Schwartzman of Estee Lauder Companies said “We are actively installing SAP; however as far as the HP 3000 is concerned we anticipate this system will be around for many many years to come as we use it as our MRP engine.”
Catherine Litten of Valley Presbyterian Hospital said even through another information system has replaced its 3000, “it doesn’t look like the HP 3000 will be going away, as it has become our data repository for historical reporting.”
Even a successful migration won’t turn off a large 3000 installation. Mark Ranft of Pro 3k said that “My largest client has over 30 HP 3000 systems. Most of these are N-Classes with a few large K-Class systems tossed in. They are hard at work trying to complete their migration. The time and effort required to migrate will continue until at least 2011. After that, the systems will remain for historical purposes.”
Several customers who sounded off on the OpenMPE list hailed from large installations such as Ranft’s client, and they pointed to the 3000’s extraordinary lifespan.
Peter Martin, the IT Operations Manager for Chubb Electronic Security Systems, said his company runs three HP 3000s “for the foreseeable future.“ Although all systems have HP support through 2010, Martin plans to use the independent support market to keep the 3000s running, in spite of HP’s strategy.
“I think the problem is the 3000 was too good, with no built in obsolescence,” he said. “That’s why HP killed it — no future revenues outside of support.”
February 26, 2008
Migrations remain in play; 2006 targets slip for some
In the shifting world of the 3000 community, the status quo has been easier to predict than the wave of the future. Among our survey of companies which planned to leave the platform during 2006, two out of three have hit their target.
Migrating off the platform has been an effort that has fallen behind, but not for lack of trying. Meanwhile, the 3000 owner who’s homesteading until forced off the system spoke up over the Internet in recent weeks, identifying companies which are sized both large and small.
The migration companies reported to The 3000 NewsWire in 2004 that they planned to be off the system before the end of 2006. The companies we surveyed identified success with migration from the 3000 to Unix platforms and Windows. But some have been hung up waiting on replacement software.
These customers haven’t been caught unaware of how a migration deadline could slip. More than three years ago, Diana Wilson of Roanoke County, Va., said “The only reasons we would continue the 3000’s use beyond 2006 would be that we cannot find a vendor that can offer replacement applications or we are behind schedule in implementing the new apps.”
Those are the classic reasons for a migration delay, and both turned out to be slowdowns for the county, Wilson said in an update. The county is following a replacement application strategy.
“We lost about a year of time when one of the new software vendors went bankrupt while we were in the middle of implementation,” she said. “This caused us to have to start all over with the bid and award process for those applications. We’ve now selected vendors for all of the remaining applications and have implementation and deployment schedules for each. Our schedule is aggressive, but so far it looks like we will be able to meet the 2008 deadline.”
Several of the companies have migrated all but one or two 3000 applications, systems they are keeping online for archival purposes or just running with no migration date.
Greg Barnes of Media General reported that “We’ve migrated all apps to HP-UX and Solaris, but we’re keeping two around for archival info lookups. One for lookup, one for disaster recovery at a different location. I’m the last HP 3000 system administrator in the company, and possibly in the city — so I’m always on call.”
While about a third of the companies were running late, few companies reported that they had changed their decision to migrate. “Our plans fell through in 2006,” said Pedro Gonzalez of the health plan Dr. Leonard’s Healthcare. “We decided to homestead with no plans for conversion at this time.”
At another site, the migration has stretched from a 2006 deadline into 2009. “Our Web Wise and Data Warehouse software modules are functional on Linux, while our batch reports and back office screens are still functioning on the HP 3000,” said John Wardenski, president and CTO of National College Management Systems. “Batch reports will go live this fall on Linux, with our back office screens the following summer.”
Summit Racing Systems, whose migration has been publicized by several migration suppliers, remains behind schedule. “We are still in the very slow process on migrating off the HP 3000,” said Ron Pizor in IT Operations. “The current migration date is July 4, 2008. Not sure if we will make it. Later in the year would be more realistic.”
For every delayed migration, however, two more said they just about hit the end of ’06 plans offered to us during our poll in 2004.
“We did make it off the 3000, but later than originally planned,” said Lane Rollins of Boyd Coffee Company. The organization migrated in July, 2007 rather than by the end of 2006.
“Some of the delay was due to also replacing our handheld computer system that our route trucks use,” Rollins said. “We had health-related issues pop up on the core team, and that slowed us down.”
Rollins’s company originally planned to have a go-live date of Fall, 2005 for its replacement applications. He told us during his 2004 reply that surveying business processes was invaluable in making a successful migration.
“I can’t say enough about value of doing the process mapping. We are a 104-year-old company and there is a lot of baggage. I knew we had some broken processes, but until we got into it I didn’t realize how bad some were. We’ve done a little future state mapping, but for the most part that is waiting until we have selected the vendor.”
Jennie Rethman of Mac Equipment reported that Oracle’s E-Business Suites replaced the company’s 3000, “and Oracle is working out great for us.” MANMAN was running the manufacturer’s data operations until 2006. IT manager Will Bauman of Kato Engineering checked in to say that “we have migrated all the applications except for one. That migration should be done by the end of the first quarter of 2008.”
Some delays revolve around end-users in a company’s base. “We did not stick to the 2006 date, but the primary application was converted to HP 9000 in July, 2007,” said Paula Brinson of Hampton Roads Sanitation District. “We’re still suffering conversion pains and the users have chained themselves to the legacy system to prevent my decommissioning. They are using it for various data validation activities.”
In one case, a migration has been delayed because the customer is waiting on a Linux version of their current HP 3000 application. Sutter County, California Schools plans to migrate once its vendor’s Linux version is ready for them.
Even Unix can be an environment left behind in the process, however. Ken Williams reported that the Azusa Pacific University already moved its 3000 applications to Sun’s Unix — but it’s leaving Sun’s platform by 2009, “and we have buyers for the Unix boxes, also.”
The IT managers of some companies expressed the usual regrets about switching off 3000s. “The HP 3000 application was replaced with a Windows-based package, said Byron Youngstrom of Weyerheuser. “I miss the HP.”
February 25, 2008
How little has changed in more than 3 years
Many HP 3000 community sites have stopped time since 2004, locking down configurations and implementing little change.
In this strategy, they are much like the user group conference speaker lineups and HP's own software releases for the 3000. What has changed since 2004 in HP PowerPatch releases, or in the list of speakers and topics since that year? Not very much.
In 2004 HP released PowerPatch 2 of MPE/iX 7.5. A PowerPatch is a collection of tested and released patches, shipped to HP's support customers exclusively. HP was predicting that it would release a couple of PowerPatches a year across versions 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5, starting in 2004.
Let's do the math here. Three years elapsed, to be generous, since the last 7.5 PowerPatch. So six more to be released. Two each for 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5, right? Wrong answer. Just about four years later, MPE/iX 7.5 is on PowerPatch 3, shipped in the summertime of 2006. Sometime in 2008, the release will get PowerPatch 4, according to HP reports. Not much has changed, because so few patches have passed beta testing. One more element of change might be the head count at the HP 3000 labs, or in HP Support, which distributes the PowerPatches. You can find changes in that number, to be sure.
HP has come out with two critical fixes to the IMAGE database, the SCSI pass-through driver, 300GB disk support, a new Samba release, all in that time. But no new PowerPatch since then, one of the tangible benefits of buying your support from HP instead of an independent third party firm.
As for the user group conference lineup, I was organizing my conference proceedings the other day and found the CD of proceedings from the very last Interex/Encompass conference, HP World Chicago of 2004. Only nine HP 3000 talks made their way into the content of that show:
- Practical Migration Options: What Will Your New Environment/Community Be Like?
- Tools to Make Your HP COBOL Applications Migration Easy
- HP e3000 Migration Case Study: Y2K Was Just a Dress Rehearsal
- An Introduction to .NET for MPE People
- The TurboIMAGE to Eloquence Migration
- HP e3000 Transition Alternatives for Moving to HP-UX
- HP e3000 Transition Alternatives to Windows
- Improving Your HP e3000 System Availability
- e3000 Business Update and Feedback Session
The Practical Migration Options roundtable was moderated by Jeanette Nutsford and ScreenJet's Alan Yeo in 2004. Panel members? Jeffrey Douglas (PIR Group, IBM iSeries), Charles Finley of Transformix, Michael Marxmeier (creator of Eloquence), and HP-UX expert Christine Wong. What did they discuss?
The aim of this presentation is not to tell you where to migrate. To demonstrate the practicalities, however, a sample system will be migrated to a number of different target environments. The main aim of the presentation is to explore what you will find in those target environments.
In addition to the main presenters, a champion for each environment/community will present the reasons for choosing that particular environment as your application's new home. The session will focus on the new environment rather than the technical migration details and will look into the future to see what opportunities each environment/community can provide. Since the HP e3000 EOL announcement, the presenters have investigated and demonstrated many different migration options. This session brings together much of their experience to help you choose where you go next.
If you look over the lineup of speakers who discuss the HP 3000's issues in 2008, you will find most of the same names as 2004's: the above-named experts, plus Birket Foster and Speedware's Nicolas Fortin, all speaking then, nearly all speaking now. HP had Ross McDonald and Walt McCullough speak at the Chicago HP World show of 2004, as well as Dave Wilde. All have moved out of speaking for the 3000. McDonald gave us a rare interview by phone last year on the RTU project, but declined to speak on the latest critical IMAGE fixes. McCullough lost his spot in HP during a reorganization in 2007. Wilde moved on to another non-3000 part of the company. HP has changed its spokespeople, but not a lot else since '04.
(I found it interesting that the one speaker who has left HP, McCullough, delivered the only non-migration talk of 2004, "Improving Your HP e3000 System Availability.")
So many of the voices, and so much of the software available only through HP Support, remain the same. Companies have migrated, or gotten closer to leaving the system, to be sure. Changes to the community, however, are not easy to find. We'll have a closer look at the results of 2004's migration plans in tomorrow's entry.
February 22, 2008
Do expiring certifications cost community?
A few days ago I wrote about the benefits of certification as a trained HP 3000 professional. I thought that being a "CP," as some of the certified pros call themselves, entitled a 3000 pro to the HP PowerPatch tapes for MPE/iX, and other software.
Not so. You earn those tapes by joining HP's DSPP program for developers. Paul Edwards, the education expert who corrected me on those tapes, said he gets his hand-addressed from HP's Alvinia Nishimoto, "so I'm pretty sure those are custom tapes" that HP's putting out.
But the certification benefits? Edwards says that they are in the eye of beholder, most of the time. A CP can get mugs, shirts and hats from the HP Certified Professional store, things to carry or wear to client visits. Edwards says that since the 3000 certs are going dormant on June 1, he has until the end of May to shop.
Any certification is no better than the person who carries it; that's to say that passing a test and knowing how to solve a support problem are two different things. Incentives for taking the tests and keeping up should be the vendor's mission. Passing these things can be a real challenge.
Finding HP's benefits for remaining certified is something of a challenge, too, once you get beyond the HP CP brand store. HP summarizes them so:
HP Certified Professional Connection portal and knowledgebase
Software download tools, including:
ProLiant Software Maintenance Pack (SmartStart)
Onsite Agent's Reference Set (OARS) Active
Onsite Agent's Reference Set (OARS) Archive
Commercial Software Support
HP Parts Reference Guide (PRG)
Access to exclusive training events and online training
Discounts to training events and certification exams
Free course material download for select certification training courses
Regular "Tech Talk" webcasts providing updates from product engineers and other key personnel on the latest in HP technology, product and solution advancements
Participation in Confidential Disclosure Agreement(CDA) sessions at HP events
Invitations to regional, large industry events such as the HP Technology Forum and Expo, HP PartnerTRAIN, HP Tru64 UNIX Bootcamp and many more
Local "relationship events" and knowledge transfer events with HP field personnel
Certification Program Office information line (toll free in the United States and Canada), including "Cert Alert" outgoing recorded phone messages with program updates
Regular communication from the Certification Program Office, including program updates and alerts via e-mail
Discounted HP Product Purchase Plan (United States and Canada only)
Certification website and certification news items
Access to HP Certified Professional Logo merchandise store
The right to use program logos and branding to enhance your image in your company and with your customers
February 21, 2008
Candidate questions for OpenMPE
Ten days of voting have elapsed in the OpenMPE elections this year, a seven-candidate for six-post race that will end on Feb. 29. Much like the voting in the US primaries so far, the turnout has been higher than in past years. As of tonight 53 ballots have been cast with nine more days left to vote. The entire ballot total in 2007 was 63.
It doesn't cost anything to join OpenMPE and have the right to choose the people who will make the post-HP era of 3000 ownership easier. While we wait out the results, I'd like to pose a few questions to the board candidates. The responses might have some impact on how many community members will vote over the next week-plus, as well as who wins.
1. HP has expanded its "permissible upgrade" language in its RTU licenses. Does the vendor need to offer anything to the community to prohibit the movement of MPE/iX from system to system? Something perhaps like unlocking the horsepower of the 3000s in the A and N Class?
2. How soon must HP make a decision about its source code licensing for the 3000's operating environment? Is it acceptable for the vendor to wait until the start of 2010, as it plans to do now?
3. What is the achievement for OpenMPE which the group must accomplish during 2008 — the mission which the group must not fail at?
4. Should third party support providers have access to HP's diagnostics, especially stable storage tools, in case of a system board failure, or the closing of a software company which cannot update licenses (with HPSUSAN numbers) any longer?
5. Should OpenMPE go after the mission of testing the dozens of beta test patches still stuck inside HP's 3000 labs? What can the group do to convince HP that the expertise is in place to do that testing, and release the HP improvements and engineering to the full 3000 community?
We'll post these questions to the OpenMPE mailing list, an idea forwarded to us by candidate Donna Hofmeister — with the hope of some answers about what our volunteers want to do for the future of the HP 3000.
Be sure to vote at openmpe.org by next Friday. Don't let March arrive without being heard about the future of using the HP 3000 past 2010. That's not all that unusual, even for companies on the move away from the platform.
February 20, 2008
HP Q1 results impress analysts
HP reported that it earned solid profits and posted record sales during the first quarter of its 2008 fiscal year, led by solid performance in the company's laptop sales and an 11 percent sales climb in services. Services is the arm of HP which is still collecting revenues from HP 3000 customers as well as posting profits. While the 3000 totals of both represent a tiny fraction of HP's $28.5 billion in Q1 sales and $ 2.1 billion of profit, the server for which HP canceled its plans for during 2001 still drives money straight down to HP's bottom line.
HP announced that it shipped its 500 millionth printer during the quarter, a sales total that goes back 24 years from the start of the LaserJet era, and even farther back if you count the line printers of the 1980s connected to the HP 3000, such as the massive 2680s. HP said its printer and imaging unit posted a 4 percent sales increase, while PCs, enterprise servers, services and software all grew faster. Much of the Q&A with market analysts explored the future of the printer business. But overall, the market mavens were impressed with the past 90 days of HP's operations.
In a discussion with analysts after the market closed yesterday, HP updated its datacenter consolidation project, an effort which includes the MPE/iX servers which continue to service HP's needs. CEO Mark Hurd said that the magnitude of HP's data operations put the project about at the halfway point, after three years of work.
We were running the company in early 2005 on roughly 6000 applications. [CFO] Cathie Lesjak and I looked at this about a week ago; we’re running the company right now on a little more than 3000 applications. So we’re about halfway through the application consolidation. It really starts with us with a process change, then an application consolidation and application modernization process, and then that allows us to consolidate infrastructure, and therefore close data centers.
HP had planned to get most of its consolidation completed during this year, but it appears to be running behind plans. HP expects, as do many HP 3000 migrating sites, to increase the amount of innovation it gets from every IT dollar spent by 2009. But HP isn't counting on advancing technology as much as reducing maintenance costs. Lesjak said HP expects to have a run rate savings of $1 billion by that year for the company which runs at a $110 billion rate yearly.
Maybe even more significant for the 3000 customer who's sticking with HP's Unix solutions, the vendor is turning toward an in-house sales force to bolster its distribution. HP added 2,000 salespeople to its ranks, and Lesjak said "We think we have a just superb lineup of products and capabilities. And it's frustrating to us because we, obviously, know we come to work every day and then under-distribute them in the market."
HP 3000 customers who recall the 1980s model often mark the rise of the resellers as the start of Hewlett-Packard's customer service decline. The results have been a success for the company's overall financial picture, however.
With 144,000 partners and resellers helping HP, the reseller-based model which started with those HP printers might have been maxed out, given HP's frustration with being "dramatically undercovered." The new focus on salespeople could benefit 3000 sites. For specialized solutions such as Integrity and the HP-UX environment, an HP salesperson could be the best way to ensure those products enjoy a growing base of customers, and so protect an HP-UX investment.
Much of the success in such enterprise servers appears to be coming from HP systems running Intel's Xeon processors and using Windows. When pressed, Hurd reported that unit sales growth for its Industry Standard Servers — not its Integrity/Unix solutions — was in the "high teens" of percentage for Q1.
Business Critical Systems revenues, in contrast, posted only a 1 percent increase from the first quarter of 2007. Integrity revenues were up 37 percent and now represent 75 percent of BCS revenue.
Hurd was upbeat about the quarter to come for HP. The company is increasing its prediction of earnings per share for the 10th consecutive quarter — a period which is entirely inside Hurd's tenure as CEO. "HP had a strong quarter, he said. It was characterized by balanced growth across all regions, share gains in key businesses, margin expansion, expense discipline, strong cash flow from operations, and significant share repurchases."
HP has created more than $50 billion in shareholder value during Hurd's term. Results from the period pushed the stock above the $47 per share mark, about 10 percent under the 52-week high. The HP numbers pulled up the technology sector's trading overall for the day, countering less-sunny to gloomy forecasts in recent weeks from Google, Microsoft and Cisco.
February 19, 2008
HP 3000 group tightens upgrade licenses
The Right to Use (RTU) MPE/iX licenses which HP created last spring just got tougher terms. On Feb. 18, without notice on the HP 3000 community's newsgroup or to OpenMPE list readers, HP added an upgrade policy statement which gets very specific about what HP hardware a customer can run MPE/iX upon.
In summary, only the hardware which MPE/iX was originally purchased for is a permitted target, unless a 3000 customer purchases an RTU. The statement, available from the HP e3000 Web site as a PDF file, addresses the transfer of MPE/iX to other HP servers "without prior written approval from Hewlett-Packard."
MPE/iX Fundamental Operating System (FOS) and HP database right-to-use licenses on the HP e3000 servers allow customers to use that software only on the system for which it was purchased. FOS and HP database software may not be transferred to other servers without prior written approval from Hewlett-Packard.
The most specific changes to the HP policy come in a new version of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document about the RTU. HP has even left open possible and likely violations which any customer might engage in — violations which HP's 3000 group has not yet defined. In that FAQ HP says while explaining its "permissible hardware path:"
Any configuration not expressly allowed under the MPE/iX RTU should be viewed as a possible violation of the policy. To be more specific, running MPE/iX OS on any hardware under the following conditions without explicit HP approval would likely violate the existing MPE/iX RTU:
1. Any system not sold as an original HP 3000 or HP e3000.
2. Genuine HP e3000 systems with modifications to hardware, system settings, OS software, or other system attributes which are outside of HP’s published allowed Upgrade Paths or Supported Configurations.
3. Genuine HP e3000 systems with allowed hardware configurations but with modifications to cause the reporting of system attributes which are not equal to those actually present or configured on the system. For example, the number and type of CPUs present, System Model String or HPSUSAN by any method including binary patching, insertion of a system library or modification of stable storage values.
Possible violations of the MPE/iX RTU policy are not limited to the scenarios listed above.
The language tightens up HP's permission to boot up a new server with a copy of MPE/iX purchased along with an older one. Moving MPE/iX to a VM/iX server, an upgrade solution available from Orbit Software, may be the target of the new policy language. Orbit said in a statement last week that the company believes HP's RTU terms do not apply to customers who hold their original HP MPE/iX licenses.
Just as in its 2007 introduction of the RTU, HP hasn't named any single vendor whose upgrade business practices would be prohibited by the policy. A VM/iX server requires a copy of MPE/iX provided by the 3000 customer to complete the installation.
The word "illegal" has not come out from any HP representative on the RTU matter so far, and the new policy statement only says that using MPE/iX upgraded or modified hardware systems is "prohibited."
When HP introduced the RTU in 2007, its first HP 3000 product in more than four years, HP e3000 R&D Lab Manager Ross McDonald said HP believes that its new license, including the restrictions on moving MPE/iX from one system to another, will be respected by a subset of its customers.
For the customer who cares about software licensing, and wants to do the right thing, I think it really helps them. And those are lots of good customers that we want to keep. This [creation of a new product] was not an easy activity to go through on a product that we’re winding down. The partners we have discussed this with also really appreciate that we are trying to ensure clarity and consistency in terms of licensing in the HP e3000 community.
February 18, 2008
HP intends to take down 3000 certs
In the latest evidence of HP's exit from the 3000 community, Hewlett-Packard has included two HP 3000 certifications among a list of credentials which the vendor plans to cancel on June 1.
HP 3000 advocate Paul Edwards convinced HP to revive these technical certifications during 2006 and 2007, winning back a way to measure MPE/iX skills in a market that is still weathering a loss of expertise. But as Edwards retired from OpenMPE's board, he reported that HP has announced a long list of discontinued certifications for its enterprise products. A lack of desire to achieve or retain a cert may have led HP to its decision.
"The response I had from the certified professionals in the MPE community was very weak when I was working this issue with HP in 2006," Edwards said. "Sad to say, apathy has appeared in many more places in the HP 3000 community. I don't think HP will change the demise of the two HP 3000 certifications as before."
HP is canceling its Presales HP e3000 Technical Certification and MPE/iX System Administration certificates among a host of cutbacks scheduled for June. In all, 32 certifications will drop off HP's training rolls, including testing and validation for skills in StorageWorks, Alpha servers, and even Superdome consulting and configuration. The retirement of the MPE and 3000 certifications could even impact sites leaving the platform but seeking interim expertise.
Fewer than 60 HP 3000 professionals still held any HP MPE/iX certification as of this year, by Edwards' estimates. HP says all of the credentials will be expired as the end of May, with no other 3000 options open from HP's Americas HP Certified Professional Program. As it has since late 2001, HP labels the servers still running in key companies as "outdated."
These HP credentials are obsolete; either a more up-to-date version exists, or the technology is outdated and is no longer considered valid. If you hold an “Expired” credential and no other valid credentials, you will no longer receive the benefits of being an HP Certified Professional.
For HP 3000 Certified Professionals, these benefits extended to a complimentary MPE/iX release tape — such as the upcoming PowerPatch for MPE/iX 7.5. The benefits at large to a 3000 site, in addition to those from HP, can impact either a homesteading or migrating community member, Edwards said.
I think it depends on their internal technical staff expertise. And, if they need help then a certified person or third party software support would be needed if they don’t have the expertise and need a qualified person. A big problem is the rapidly shrinking MPE talent pool for support people. Also, many HP 3000 people were applications oriented, not internals or highly skilled system managers.
Encompass president Nina Buik said earlier this month that the emerging Endeavor alliance of user groups could take up the HP 3000 certification issue as an advocacy item with HP.
February 15, 2008
Four weeks away, so register today
It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to mount a user group conference. Even a brief one requires the work of dozens of volunteers. Clearly, meeting in person must have extraordinary benefits.
HP believes this is true of the upcoming conference in Houston. In just four weeks, the Greater Houston Regional Users Group (GHRUG) will host a two-day meeting, March 14-15. This event will meet at the University of Houston Clear Lake Campus, just down the street from the front gates of NASA. There will be two tracks dedicated to the HP 3000 community. The conference also offers three other tracks dedicated to Blade Systems, Unix/Linux, and Best Practices and Emerging Technologies.
HP's 3000 business manager Jennie Hou has checked in with us and says HP will be at the event as well, briefing customers on the platform updates. You can never be sure what will change in HP's policies or forecasts. We know, for example, that another PowerPatch is being released this year, a collection of the patches for MPE/iX 7.5. There may be other news, too. A vendor exhibit area at the meeting will let you make face to face contacts with other community suppliers and partners, too.
We believe this is an important meeting, one that you should make a strong effort to attend. Since the resources and strategies of the 3000 community are changing, with third parties playing a larger role than ever, it’s a smart choice to get updated at the GHRUG event. The user group has even added a feature new to conference registration: you can pay the $175 fee online at the event Web site with your credit card or PayPal.
HP 3000 conferences have always played a strong role in keeping the community working together. That kind of work is an HP 3000 tradition.
This meeting provides good 3000 training from some of the most seasoned experts, other technologies which complement your HP 3000’s mission-critical role, as well as a chance to network with IT professionals. The cost is nominal, while the benefits are easy to count upon. Training. Strategy. Networking. News.
We urge you to attend this conference and connect with your community, especially in a time of change for the 3000 manager. Please visit the GHRUG conference Web site at www.ghrug.org/ghrug.htm to register and reserve a hotel room (at discounted rates). Alfredo Rego will be the conference’s keynote speaker, and we hope to see you in Houston next month.
February 14, 2008
Quiz gives no more answers for some
3000 community members reported in November, December and January that their Quiz 5.01 report writer, a mainstay on thousands of HP 3000s at one time, warned them it would expire on Feb. 1. True to its warnings, the software for some customers has quit running, as well as QTP and Quick
Tom Combs of Telalert alerted the community on February 4 about his Quick and Quiz applications
On January 1 2008 they started issuing warnings that they were about to expire; on February 1, they did expire. These were supposed to be perpetual licenses.
Cognos product manager Bob Deskin, who shepherds the PowerHouse line of products, confirmed that these 3000 customers are coming to the end of a 20-year license. Their option is to call a Cognos sales representative — which may lead to some fee to pay to the company which IBM announced in November that it would purchase.
"PowerHouse 5.01 (QUICK/QUIZ/QTP) on MPE was licensed for 20 years," Deskin said, "as was clearly stated in the terms and conditions of the sales contracts. We did not start perpetual licenses until later releases. Anyone still using PowerHouse 5.01 should contact their Application Development Tools (ADT) Sales Representative."
John Pickering, a PowerHouse consultant to the 3000 and DEC communities, characterized the license as " a 20 year 'test drive' without paying any license fees!" Deskin said these 5.01 versions will be expiring as of this month. Many operate in 3000 shops with little remaining HP 3000 budget.
Customers who are still paying support to Cognos might have options within their service contracts to get Quiz running once more. The software became omnipresent in the 3000 community as MANMAN rose in popularity, since Quiz was bundled with earlier copies of the MRP package.
Deskin said, "Contacting the ADT sales rep is our best advice for customers so they can clarify their support coverage or determine what next steps if any need to be taken. Versions 5.01 and prior were sold with a 20-year license and subsequent versions were sold with perpetual licenses."
For the record, Cognos and IBM closed their $5 billion deal to make Cognos part of Big Blue one day before these licenses expired. The official release about closing the deal made no mention of the ADT group:
Through this acquisition, IBM and Cognos will become the leading provider of technology and services for business intelligence and performance management, delivering the industry’s most complete, open standards-based platform with the broadest range of expertise to help companies expand the value of their information, optimize their business processes and maximize performance across their enterprises.
While the acquisition releases touted partner acceptance of business intelligence products from Cognos, at least joining the IBM fold has uncovered a more direct link to the PowerHouse products Web page. What used to be available only by going to powerhouse.cognos.com is now on the main Cognos products Web page, albeit in a drop-down menu.
February 13, 2008
Holding the line for & against RTUs
It's nearing springtime once more, and once again the HP 3000 community is exploring ways to flesh out new options for the systems HP builds no longer. Yesterday we reported here that Advant and Immediate Recovery Systems (IRS) have now partnered to give third party support companies the means to use HP's stable storage utility, ss_update.
The software lies behind an HP lockword, one which Advant, using the IRS software, will decode into a password for any support company (or any other self-supporting customer, we assume) for a fee. HP does not approve of this; the vendor has always insisted that 3000 stable storage is a system configuration which only HP can alter. HP believes that stable storage methods are a part of its intellectual property.
Last time around, HP created the first HP 3000 product in three years, an MPE/iX Right To Use (RTU) license, whose purpose was to clarify what could be changed on PA-RISC systems and still remain inside HP's license. This year, HP seems to be working on a reply to the Advant/IRS development. The only reply which HP could give us, when we sent the story into print within a whisker of our February deadline, was "HP continues to be concerned with protecting its intellectual property," from business manager Jennie Hou. That's the kind of placeholder statement Hewlett-Packard uses while it prepares something more formal and complete.
Which leads us to the latest option in the license arena. Orbit Software has offered VM+/iX since last year, its solution to increase horsepower and make PA-RISC server ownership more flexible. How this flexibility becomes a 3000 owner's option, considering HP's licensing intentions, has been discussed already, although VM/iX hasn't been mentioned by HP.
Let me take a moment to explain. Orbit describes VM+/iX as a server, according to the copy from the company's Web site. Orbit personnel install this server at a customer site, and in addition to your 3000 backups they need print-outs from SYSGEN and NMMGR off a customer's current HP 3000, along with a DSTAT ALL and DISCFREE C listing.
Orbit's Keith Wadsworth weighed in today with a statement about the current HP RTUs. "Our goal with VM+/iX is to offer MPE users adequate hardware performance and support options so they can continue to run their IT operations economically for the present and foreseeable future, while they plan and execute their migration plans."
More to the point regarding the HP concerns, Wadsworth stated, "We believe that original MPE software licenses do not prohibit using MPE on any computer hardware configuration that it will run on."
The balance of the Orbit statement included a reminder that HP told its customers about a five-year plan for 3000 development — which Wadsworth remembers HP stated less than a year before Hewlett-Packard started its public pullout from the 3000 community. He said,
However, recently questions have arisen regarding HP’s newer RTU “policy” scheme. It is our belief that the RTU policy and any possible future restrictions are an attempt by HP to retroactively redefine the MPE software license. However it is generally believed that the RTU policy is not applicable if users do not sign them.
Many will remember a flyer in May of 2001 in which Ann Livermore of HP stated, “So, are we committed to the HP e3000 platform? The answer is absolutely, yes! And how do we demonstrate this commitment? By having a 5-year roadmap for new product development. By bringing many of the latest Internet technologies to the platform. And by gaining new customers through vertical applications running on the HP e3000.”
We all know the platform was killed six months later and therefore users and third party application providers began developing new business strategies and plans for the remaining life of MPE.
Yet today many of us find ourselves very puzzled. On one hand HP keeps insisting (for over six years now) that the MPE platform is being made obsolete. On the other hand HP seems to be handling MPE as on ongoing business offering with a future by again extending product support and the RTU policy scheme.
So we now have more questions and fewer answers. Questions like: How do the remaining e3000 users plan? How do third party vendors plan? What will HP do next? And what do these RTUs mean to OpenMPE’s plans and other third party vendors plans and hopes for such things as binary patches and emulators?
The last sentence in Wadsworth's statement draws extra interest from me, since he is running this month for a board of directors seat with OpenMPE. Since the Orbit VM+/iX option is meant to improve performance and make support more flexible, this solution might be used at a customer site without migration plans firmed up. Yes, that's you, homesteaders.
We expect more on this story, perhaps from community members and partners as well as HP, soon enough.
February 12, 2008
Program opens access to HP tools for third party support
In a story which we squeezed in just hours before our February print deadline, Steve Pirie of 3000 hardware support provider Advant reported that the company’s software partner Immediate Recovery Solutions (IRS), has developed a program to transform HP 3000 lockwords to passwords — the character strings needed to operate HP’s ss_update configuration program.
The new SSPWD takes an HP lockword — designed to limit use of ss_update to HP’s support personnel — and delivers the corresponding password to let a support provider start and use ss_update.
HP developed ss_update as a follow-on tool to reset 3000 system board information after its SS_CONFIG software had its passwords removed. Pirie said the ss_update software, which Advant will unlock at the request of third party support companies for a fee, doesn’t start with any warning that HP restricts ss_update use to HP employees. (See the printout at left for a sample of what ss_update can modify on a PA-RISC server, be it an L-Class HP-UX system or a K- or N-Class HP 3000. Click it to enlarge)
“We’ve seen copies of SS_CONFIG which had a disclaimer, but it just so happens [ss_update] doesn’t, or HP didn’t really care,” Pirie said. The ss_update program can be a key service tool for a support company which needs to configure spare HP 3000 SPU boards. This kind of configuration is only available through HP’s support group today, he added.
The ss_update software resides on every HP 3000, he added, a theory which might prevent HP from generating another follow-on program for 3000 diagnostics, as it did when an unlocked SS_CONFIG was used by some resellers during 1990s. HP sued and filed criminal complaints against Abtech, Hardware House and others in 1999, claiming that SS_CONFIG was used illegally to switch the personalities of HP RISC hardware, from HP-UX booting to MPE/iX booting systems. HP prevailed in those suits and had California officials plea bargain with resellers in some criminal cases.
HP's ss_update program contains commands to do this kind of switching, but Pirie said it’s not the intention of Advant or IRS to enable this. SSPWD is an MPE/iX program. “It seems to be fair game for anyone to use ss_update,” he said, “since HP decided they didn’t need any disclaimers. HP’s always been particular about this.”
Pirie confirmed that neither Advant or IRS has discussed SSPWD with HP. The vendor’s exit plans prompted the creation of the IRS program.
“HP announced in 2001 that they’re out of the  marketplace,” he said. “We’re developing tools that we need. Once you announce you’re leaving the marketplace, HP should be careful. What happens if HP is in there trying to manipulate their options, and they didn’t leave the marketplace? Then they could be liable for a lot of damages. It might be better if HP just left the market.”
An example of the jobstream from a SSPWD unlock, then subsequent ss_update operation, is available at the IRS Web page www.irs4hp.com/sspwd.html.
February 11, 2008
Seven vie for six OpenMPE posts
Today voting began for the 2008 OpenMPE board election. At press time we received the full list of nominees for posts on this year’s directors. As in the past several years, the number of nominees exceed the number of seats up for election by exactly one.
Nominees new to this year’s election are Keith Wadsworth of Orbit Software (top left), Alan Tibbets of Strobe Data and Walter Murray of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (below). Tibbets, Murray and Wadsworth are among the seven candidates competing in an election which runs through 5 PM Pacific on Feb. 29. Voting is held through the OpenMPE Web site; a current membership ID number is required — but being an OpenMPE member is free, and the group will accept memberships during the election period.
Paul Edwards has retired from the OpenMPE board in mid-term, and Speedware’s Jennifer Fisher declined to run for another term on the volunteer advocacy board. Incumbent members Donna Garverick, Tracy Johnson, John Wolff and Matt Perdue are running for re-election. That makes six seats up for grabs among even candidates, with all voting to be done only by OpenMPE members.
February 08, 2008
New Endeavor hopes to create community
In our podcast (5 minutes, 5 MB) for a February weekend, we look at election season and the alliance of three HP user groups. There's good reason to join forces in 2008, but the benefits might extend to more than just a louder, more representative voice to Hewlett-Packard. Take five minutes to listen to our podcast and hear what the alliance wants to do — maybe for you.
HP always wanted a single group to talk with and listen to, and the new alliance — which might be called Endeavor — wants to leave nobody out of the bigger picture. Encompass president Nina Buik even said the new group could advocate for the 3000 homesteader. There's interim homesteaders, like the customers who won't migrate until 2013, and the permanent ones. Endeavor wants to help both. It's a good reason to join this now-free group, even if you're part of the 3000 community whose voice is fading in HP's ears.
On Monday we'll survey the field for another election, the OpenMPE board of directors. That group of volunteers has survived six years on virtually no budget and plenty of roadkill. A larger user group needs to encompass, as it were, what OpenMPE has been seeking for some time. Licensing HP's source code, or just being able to patch it, is a good mission for the new Endeavor.
February 07, 2008
One user group ring bands them all
HP user group Encompass took a big step toward the ultimate alliance of HP enterprise computer customers this week, when the largest North American HP user group announced it will unite with two of the others. Now Encompass, the Tandem group ITUG, and HP-Interex Europe/Middle East/Africa will all work together, bound under a single group which will have a new name announced sometime this year. HP-Interex EMEA was allied with the now-defunct HP user group Interex, but Interex EMEA survived Interex North America's 2005 bankruptcy.
This week's move nearly completes a consolidation of at least six user groups which existed in 2005. Encompass and Interex North America had worked on a few annual HP World user meetings together prior to that date, but when Interex shut its doors suddenly, Encompass took on some Interex members. Still, groups from the NonStop/Tandem base, OpenView, overseas Interex groups and Asia/Pacific membership still remained as separate advocacy and information points. HP had to listen to all, but wished for one group to represent everybody.
Board director Chris Koppe, a former Interex North America director, alerted us of the new assembly, which now is only missing the OpenView users group Vivit to complete the group roster. Encompass brings 16,000 members, ITUG 2,500 and Interex EMEA 33,000 — but increasing the size of the group is not as important as the membership's scope. HP's liaison with customers will grow more focused in a single, larger group.
"In the days when I was working at Interex, this was something was all wished would happen, that the user groups would follow HP's path," Koppe said of the merger. "Corporate mergers are one of those things where somebody decides to buy somebody else. User groups don't come together as quickly, but I think this is getting close to where we want to be. Individually it was very hard to get HP's attention, and that model now changes going forward."
Users of all the groups, which include Encompass Asia/Pacific, will receive a free one year membership to the combined group.
Encompass spread the news through a press release on its Web site (PDF file), plus a blog entry from Encompass board president Nina Buik which defined the new association. Merger, she says, is not the right word to describe what's bringing together thousands of members.
Buik said in her entry from Tuesday,
The word merge implies that someone, or rather a group, is giving up something and that’s not the case here and couldn’t be further from the truth. We are uniting from positions of strength and equity bringing the best of our complementary skills together in the new organization.
She added that Encompass will be "putting this before the membership for a vote this spring." Koppe said Hewlett-Packard has been hopeful this kind of consolidation would happen among user organizations.
"Today, all of these organizations have a much higher level of sponsorship in HP than they had in the past," he said. "HP has been quite supportive of the idea of us doing this [unification]. They've taken and back seat in it and don't want to be pushing it, because it's not their organization."
Combining the groups into a single unit "has the ability to carry more weight within HP as an advocacy source," Koppe said. "If HP wants to know what their customers are saying, here's the largest group of their customers, and they're all highly organized. The ability to effect change on HP will be much bigger than it's been before."
February 06, 2008
Old habit protects from new risks
Ever since computers were created, one element has been essential, reviled and incomplete.
It can save a company, though, especially in a dire case where the 3000 experts suddenly leave — through accident, or acquiring a new employer. Or even getting lucky on a Lotto ticket. MB Foster's Birket Foster says that when a key employee disappears, one thing is the initial key to survival: Documentation of the systems and tools which carry an organization's business. A rescue might be possible if your 3000 expert veers into the wrong freeway lane.
"A lot of it depends on how much documentation is available," he said. "You can reverse engineer it, but it can become a very costly process."
But possible, at least, and probably less costly than the interruption of starting from scratch with a new packaged app.
Bringing in the experts for off-the-shelf apps is an option. "You can have people who are very familiar with the application, and you're paying a good rate for those people [in a rescue]," Foster said. "But they actually know what they're doing."
Now, Foster adds, is a great time to go back and look at your documentation, "so if an IT expert won the lottery [and retired], there be enough documentation for IT and your end-user department to be able to survive."
Why is it a great time now? For many homesteading customers, very little is changing in their configuration. Lots of sites are locked down, or making few application changes. What's not broken doesn't need fixing.
Documentation, the last thing anybody wants to do, is the first thing you'll be reaching for when an unexpected risk surfaces. The sudden loss of expertise and 3000 experience qualifies as one of those risks.
Complete documentation practices can be learned from the experts who consult and advise in your community. Ask your support provider or software partner where to find good documentation assistance.
February 05, 2008
What is your 3000's retirement plan?
Much has been said about the demise of the HP 3000. We take issue with the word demise, unless a 3000 community member is truly unplugging their system, scrapping backup data they now host on another server, then getting somebody to haul off the trusty 3000 iron. (We've heard stories about HP's reluctance to do such hauling, even when the vendor sells a replacement Unix or Windows server.)
But if that data remains needed, even required by government rules, there's no demise or death or even hospice going on. Instead, some companies in your community are retiring their systems. If you're of a certain age, or have worked in a company of a certain heritage, you understand retirement: Still alive, still near enough if needed to answer questions about the past, or explain what's still working in the present.
A number of 3000 community providers are thinking about retirement support. That system of yours may not have as much MPE/iX administrative expertise on hand, but the 3000's applications are still vital, even critical. What do you do when the last 3000 expert leaves your organization? Does that signal the migration deadline, or is there another idea?
Off-site hosting of your 3000, as well as outsourced administration, gives a homesteading company a way to stay the system's demise. Even keep the server working, sort of semi-retired. A migrating site could find retirement a good strategy as well. If that backup data needs a working server for government regulations, then there's help for that scenario, too.
We think of the HP 3000 independent support suppliers for this plan which assures readiness. Support is already proven outside of HP's realm for the 3000. Outside support locations are a natural place to retire a 3000. In the months to come, we will see more companies willing to relocate a 3000 system, whether the computer is still a day-to-day resource or simply a willing and accurate repository of sensitive, essential information — data which needs to be archived.
More to the point, we expect more community members who own HP 3000s to find these retirement homes when they need to step away from day-to-day administration. Sometimes the MPE/iX crew members have ended their duties. At other locations, these seasoned IT pros need to focus on a migration, because they know the in-house application better than anybody on the IT team.
Delaying an action plan on migration until the time and price and resource fits your company is acceptible. Not having a retirement plan for an HP 3000 is risky. The lottery winners in IT or the highway accident could force a transition without planning. Expensive, unproven transition.
Several kinds of retirement are laid out in front of community members, and their systems. There's the government or company pension, which is more rare today than ever, and less capable in its strength. There's the self-funded retirement, if you've been lucky investing and diligent in saving. Then there's the refusal to retire, because doing what you love isn't really work.
HP 3000 community members might consider how these options line up against their use of the system. Pensions are an option if you'll pay in now to a third party, which can care for the system for years to come. Self-funding may line up with self-support, which requires as much system savvy as the kind of luck you need from your investments.
Refusing to retire might work for some community sites. If the 3000 work is a task which IT enjoys, and the results are loved by the owners, no retirement is needed. But plans for retirement ought to be in place anyway. Joy and love can be fleeting. Having a plan lets you sleep better.
February 04, 2008
Bay Area 3000 education, now online
Training and advisories are now online from last year's e3000 Community Meet, Bayside 2007. Some of the news from a full day of presentations from experts and advocates, which explored both homesteading and migration strategies, is available at the event's Web site:
What you'll find is a way to collect the wisdom of the seasoned professionals who met all day on a Saturday just before Thanksgiving. HP's 3000 updates on its 2008-2010 plans is included, as well as slides on Migration Solutions, moving MPE to HP's Unix and Linux, and even a photo album. (We've reported on homesteading strategies from Allegro Consultants in a prior blog post.)
On the event Web site you can also read a certain newsletter editor's after-lunch speech, for those who might have nodded off, as well as those who couldn't attend.
Here's some direct links to the papers, if you'd like to pick and choose.
- HP e3000 Business Update
(Jenny Hou, HP)
- HP e3000 Migration Solutions Overview
(Chris Koppe, Speedware)
- 2008: Feeling an ledge, or an edge?
- MPE to HP-UX (and Linux), a Case Study
- COBOL Update
- Communities and User Groups: Worlds of Opportunity
- Powerhouse Update
(Jean-Pierre Fortin, Cognos)
A few other presentations filled the room of 3000 customers and partners, but they aren't yet represented on the event Web page. As the only HP 3000 event of 2007, the Web page notes, "Your attendance ensured that 2007's only event resulted in a successful opportunity for networking, exchanging new information and renewing acquaintances and friendships."
February 01, 2008
Allegro extends user count with BFree
Allegro Consultants is one of the strong arms of the Resource 3000 alliance, but the legendary company continues to create new solutions for the 3000 community as it has for more than two decades. Allegro's Stan Sieler reports that a new BFree tool is giving customers an additional 25 percent user capacity — which could postpone 3000 hardware upgrade requirements.
We've released our BFree product. Our first customer reports:
> Below is the latest BFree with 1,650 users logged on:
> BFree: STATUS
> Extent B-tree status:
> # in use
> entries Table size %full #saved
> -------- ---------- ----- -------
> 129,691 199,728 64% 28,255
> BFree has saved 14.1% of the Extent B-Tree table
Homesteaders need a developer who knows the b-tree capabilities of IMAGE very well to do this kind of magic. Allegro was rumored to be deep inside the b-tree project when HP released the database feature during the 1990s.
Translation: they were maxing out at about 1700 to 1800 users — they can now get another 400 users online!
The initial version of the product description page is at www.allegro.com/products/hp3000/bfree.html