March 31, 2008
Discount is departing for HP's Universe
HP will wrap up its $400 discount this week off its Software Universe, a relatively new conference about even newer HP-branded software. The Universe is held at the same time as the HP Technology Forum; the Universe meeting is just down Las Vegas Boulevard at the Venetian Hotel. Register by the end of this week (April 4) and the cost is $1,495. (An HP e-mail from this morning has the price at $100 lower than the cost on HP's Web site.)
HP called this mid-June week the Trifecta last year while promoting the conference, because it takes place in the same city and week as the HP StorageWorks conference and the Technology Forum. Even with all available discounts, attending all the conferences — and therefore maximizing your travel training time — will cost about $3,000. (Of course, being in two places at once might require more than one IT staff member, unless you're nimble or cherry-picking agendas.)
The Software Universe sessions and keynotes can be important if your company is taking a step into a large installation of HP's Unix, or an HP-based Windows solution. A very high percentage of what's showcased at the Universe as a solution is HP-branded, or from a close HP partner such as Oracle or SAP. Big-site stuff, some of this architecture serves. The standards tools can be a good bedrock for midsize companies, too.
HP created the Software Universe by combining its own HP Software meeting with an existing Mercury Interactive conference. HP purchased Mercury in 2006, when it paid $4.5 billion for the company. The most significant offering from what has become known as HP Mercury can be found on the HP Business Technology Optimization site. This is where the HP intelligence in the ITIL standards resides and grows.
HP is calling the discount which ends this week Winter Pricing, and the price tag is $100 below what you will find on the Software Universe Web site.
The conference runs concurrent with the Technology Forum down at the Mandalay Bay, wrapping up with another Thursday night party. As for the specific content, it's still being firmed up, with details expected by mid-April. Official sales of the sponsorship spaces are only ending today. But even at $1,495, HP says the price is a bargain.
Our informative Mainstage sessions, educational track sessions, and invaluable Solution Center are alone valued at more than $5,000. We estimate that an IT professional would need to attend more than a dozen webinars to be exposed to the amount of product knowledge attendees have access to during HP Software Universe. Add in the Partner Showcase, HP Roundtables, and Product Roadmap sessions, and the numerous networking opportunities, and the value is high for any person or team working to optimize the business value of IT.
HP adds that the Universe is recommended for "technical staff supporting their organizations' implementation of HP Software products," and that's really the long and short of it. If your enterprise is planning to use HP's software along with the vendor's environment, this can be a useful meeting to attend.
March 28, 2008
A new conference on the horizon
Three weeks from today, the HP Technology Forum becomes a little more expensive item on HP professionals' itinerary. The early bird registration discount ends on April 18, about two months before the mid-June meeting of HP and its customers, partners and employees.
Encompass and the ITUG user groups have been the driving forces for content in the conference, and the meeting's Expo floor generates revenues for the groups. The need to attend the Technology Forum will seem greatest to the HP 3000 site doing a migration, since almost all of the seminar content and confidential disclosure briefings address non-3000 solutions.
Some HP 3000 community partners will be exhibiting on the Expo floor. At the left you'll see (with an added click for detail) the overall agenda for the four days of meetings and networking, so you can start planning your travel. But at the moment there's no evidence of specific HP 3000 content scheduled for the June 16-19 conference. There's plenty to learn about HP's Unix, or Windows, or even OpenVMS — although that last environment isn't on the destination list for many 3000 users who are sticking with HP in their migrations.
Nevertheless, the June meeting presents the world's largest computer company in all of its enterprise glory, a meeting devoted to operating and improving computer user experience on the target platforms HP wants to sell its 3000 customers. The final word on the proposed consolidation of four HP user groups will also take stage in Las Vegas.
The discount for registering for the Forum by April 18 is "your choice of $100 gift certificate to HPShopping.com or HP's Logo Store." The HP shopping Web site offers desktops and notebooks among its most enterprise-oriented products (but nary a computer ships with anything other than Windows Vista, an OS gaining more problems with its first Service Pack release.) You can put your $100 toward a flatscreen TV for the executive boardroom, though. Joining Encompass earns you a discount off the $1,695 full conference pass, or off the $695 day pass, but the Encompass member discount doesn't have a deadline.
A new poll has popped up on the Encompass Web site about the top reasons which are luring people to the event:
Technical Education 65%
Networking Opportunities 52%
Hands-on Technical Labs 38%
Pre-conference Seminars 29%
The Technology Expo 29%
Advocacy Opportunities 15%
Keynotes by HP Executives 18%
Discounted Onsite Certification Testing 13%
Chapters & Special Interest Group Events 11%
Of all the attractions listed, the final one will reveal the new name for the consolidated user group.
Without much in the way of conference session specifics, we're left to learn that that Mark Hurd, HP Chairman and CEO; Ann Livermore, Executive VP TSG; and Randy Mott, Executive VP and CIO will be speakers. It's early in the registration process, so early that the space on the Expo floor is still being sold by Encompass user group management partner Smith Bucklin.
March 27, 2008
HP user groups crank up consolidation
Encompass and its allied user groups offered specifics on the consolidation of four groups, a move the groups have scheduled for April pending member approval. Encompass, the Tandem ITUG user group, HP Interex Europe and the Pacific Rim outpost of Encompass want to become a single entity.
As a single group, the entity that's being called Endeavor hopes to attract more notice and cooperation from Hewlett-Packard and offer a better package of benefits to its members. Encompass president Nina Buik hopes the consolidation will make Endeavor more attractive to younger members of the HP IT professional community.
But first comes the vote on the consolidation, scheduled for "soon" in a message to user group members. In order to inform its electorate, Encompass pointed to an "Agreement and Plan of Consolidation", a legal document that Encompass posted online for members to review prior to the upcoming vote. You don't have to be a current member of any of the user groups to look at the plan; just head to the new Endeavor site to review the document.
Only user group members will be asked to vote, however. But they'll have a clear view of what the user groups need them to approve.
The consolidated group's site also has recorded Webcast presentations and an FAQ file, but the message of this week highlighted several plans for the new group:
Board of Directors: The Board of Directors slate for the new organization will include current board members from each of the three organizations that were chosen to represent their respective members. These trusted individuals have demonstrated exemplary service and dedication to their communities and are considered qualified to serve as Directors of the new organization. The bylaws detail the Board positions and terms as well as the various committees and subgroups.
New Organization Name: There are name recommendations under consideration that are currently undergoing a trademark search process. This due diligence will have a bearing on the name that is eventually chosen. Therefore, the new organization's proposed name is not included within the Agreement and Plan of Consolidation, but will be finalized for the intended launch at the HP Technology Forum & Expo 2008 in June.
Membership Dues Structure: The membership structure and fees are detailed in the document for both basic individual membership and corporate membership. Basic individual membership will be US$50 and an additional fee for the Connection magazine subscription. Should the new organization be approved, current memberships with Encompass will be honored with the new organization.
March 26, 2008
The many views of your community
Adager's Alfredo Rego covered a broad swath of subjects at the recent GHRUG International Technology Conference. His keynote talk ranged from "parables" of Ford executives who had no user experience with the cars they designed and marketed, to the Bank of America founder — whose said his lending requirements began with "people whose character I trust."
Each story seemed to have some connection to the life of a 3000 user in the Transition Era, and one section of Rego's talk addressed the many ways to view HP's 3000 profile these days, as well as views of the community.
"It is something which can be viewed from many different angles," he said. "There is HP's high perspective. The lowly user perspective. The vendor perspective." Each segment went onto the chalkboard behind him in a room where students received instruction. At that moment, Rego could be viewed in a teacher's perspective.
"HP wants to send one message that won't confuse," he said. "There are also many perspectives of users, such as those who couldn't wait for HP to get out of the market in 2001, to provide a reason for them to move away from the 3000, using hired guns."
Rego drew a link back to his Bank of America parable, in which the founder knew his customer community from a "rubber meets the road" perspective. With the sub-prime debacle caused by outside management as a modern day allegory, Rego reminded the GHRUG attendees about the security of using a close-up perspective.
"Whenever you get hired guns, managing things they have no clue about, all hell breaks loose," he said. Not that HP has nothing but hired guns managing its relations with this community, of course. "I have had the pleasure of working with very technical people at the lowest possible bits and bytes level HP since 1974," he said.
The pleasure seemed to fade further up HP's management line. "I was frightened when I spoke to HP's managers some time ago and asked them, 'Have you run an HP 3000 application?' I said oh boy, this is the beginning of the end. That is something to keep in mind, because it is pretty predictable."
March 25, 2008
Migration: Not just a 3000 project
HP 3000 users are not alone among migrators in the Hewlett-Packard world. The top two alternatives to the system, from HP's point of view, also bear migration concerns. Windows and HP-UX environment customers both faced migration messages this week.
Users of the more popular target among HP 3000 migration sites, Windows, are listening for what Microsoft will do about the expiration date for Windows XP. The seven-year-old environment is being dropped by Microsoft in favor of Vista, an operating system which has had just 20 percent adoption in one year's time. A remarkably low number, considering how many new PCs ship only with Vista.
Microsoft has told large computer makers such as HP to stop selling XP as of the end of June. This deadline, like the one HP stated for its HP 3000 support, has already been extended once, from January 1 of this year. A CNET news article supposes that Microsoft is not far away from extending the sales deadline for XP once again.
Then there's HP-UX, the proprietary Unix which HP's Alvinia Nishimoto described as a popular choice for the migrating customers which HP tracks. Just today the Encompass user group, in cooperation with HP, started surveying about why users are "either planning or actively migrating your environment to Integrity or another platform." So away from PA-RISC Unix or MPE, but on to something other than HP's Unix? Encompass wants to know more.
The invitation to take the survey is entitled "HP-UX Migration Plan Checkpoint Survey," with nary a mention of HP 3000 or MPE/iX. This is about moving on from HP's Unix.
As you continue in planning and migrating your environment, we would like to check in with a quick 5-minute survey. As always we value your inputs which help us focus and prioritize on areas of importance to our customers.
HP 3000 customers might want to overlook the "As always" part of the last sentence, since at the moment the vendor isn't focusing on input from the OpenMPE advocacy group. But that's another issue. The HP-UX Migration Plan survey wants to know how many of the following systems will be the target of a migration away from HP 9000 HP-UX (HP9000) servers:
- HP-UX on HP Integrity
- Linux on HP Integrity
- Windows on HP Integrity
- OpenVMS on HP Integrity
- Linux on HP ProLiant
- Windows on HP ProLiant
- UNIX on HP ProLiant
- UNIX on non-HP servers
- Linux on non-HP servers
- Windows non-HP servers
At least the questions are ranked in order of HP's most proprietary solutions, and OpenVMS is included. The survey asks if availability of current applications meet a customer's needs in migration to Integrity. The number of Integrity apps, based on the Itanium architecture, were an issue while HP was ramping up its Integrity (Itanium-based offerings).
HP/Encompass asks "What are your primary criteria for selecting a migration target platform:
- Relationship with vendor
- Highest performance
- Best price/performance
- Lowest cost/price
- Availability of applications
- Compatibility with current systems
- Power consumption/footprint
Finally, the user group serving HP's enterprise customers wants to know which of these considerations will drive the choice of a target platform
- Application or data center consolidation
- Implement a Service Oriented Architecture
- Scale-Out deployment
- Implementing server virtualization
- Deploying blade servers
- Migration to HP-UX v3
You can take the survey yourself if you're moving off HP-UX on PA-RISC. Everybody who participates gets a chance in a drawing for "HP logo Travel Gear." We got a swell backpack with the HP logo during our visit to last year's Technology Forum, without even travelling away from HP-UX.
March 24, 2008
Talk to another machine to assure a future
We'll file this one under both Homesteading and Migration, because this advice from the GHRUG International Technology Conference can serve both those staying and those leaving the 3000 community. Make sure your HP 3000 talks to another server well — today. It can mean the difference between using newer technologies down the line for the 3000 as you transfer data, either for backup or transitions to new systems.
For the homesteader, long term use of the 3000 might be blocked by a change in something like Cisco networking protocols. This is a de-facto kind of standards shift, according to ScreenJet's Alan Yeo. And it's just the kind of change that HP, or any third party support provider, will find it impossible to difficult to address (depending on whether it's HP or the third party you use.)
"When people talk about long-term homesteading, and what's going to happen to the 3000, this is the one point," Yeo said. "If you've got a 3000 and it's isolated from the outside world, you've probably got a lot less problems. But if you're using a 3000 in an environment that's pretty related to other machines or other sites — well, if HP are no longer doing patches, next year when Cisco might change what they're doing with their FTP process, or somebody else changes something and it becomes a de-facto standard, the odds are you won't get the link between the 3000 and another device working."
One solution lies in another platform, according to Marxmeier's AG's Michael Marxmeier, who was also at the GHRUG talk.
"You should plan ahead to be able to communicate with servers in the rest of the world," said Marxmeier, especially for any company with governmental computing partnerships or requirements.
Yeo said his company was using an intermediate server as a workaround while setting up an FTP exchange of HP 3000 backup files with a Network Attached Storage device. An intermediate server can cause a tremendous increase in network traffic from a 3000 to another device, he added, so solving the direct link challenge is the most efficient solution.
And the migration connection on this advice? It's sensible to plan for a target migration server to act as the intermediary between an HP 3000 and another device. Makers of network devices such as routers and switches will continue to be able to communicate with Unix servers, for example, or even Windows XP systems.
March 21, 2008
More storage tips from Houston
ScreenJet's Alan Yeo had advice for 3000 storage solutions at this month's GHRUG International Technology Conference, counsel for those with limited budgets or no budget at all. Disk drive prices have fallen so far that a half-terabyte $600 RAID-class drive can be had for HP 3000 use, he said.
Even an HP-branded drive for the HP 3000 costs under $500 by now, although it will offer less than a tenth of that capacity. A 36GB HP drive is priced at about $400 on the community's market, "so long as you don't want it tomorrow. Getting enough disk space to do a STORE to Disk should not be a problem," he said.
Backup techniques can have an impact on costs to upgrade storage options, too. "You can always look at splitting your backup up, if you don't have enough disk space. Instead of doing @.@.@ you split it into chunks, if you don't even want to spend $400 for more disk."
3000 managers can get around the problem of backing up files of 4GB or more with some backup products "which let you specify extent size you want to use, so they won't go up to 4GB," Yeo said. "The other approach we've adopted with HP STORE is to actually split up the backup, so the backup runs in three or four steps, each one of them not exceeding the 4GB limit."
Breaking a backup into chunks also means "it's an awful lot quicker to get something back," Yeo added.
March 20, 2008
Making NAS work with the 3000
Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a powerful enterprise resource, full of value now that disk prices have plummeted. At the GHRUG International Technology Conference, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet shared his secrets for making NAS an HP 3000 tool.
"Like most HP 3000 shops we were looking for a cheap way to [store many gigabytes of data] — and there was no way we could afford a DLT," he said. Digital Linear Tape boasts massive capacities, but most storage these days is going straight to another disk.
Yeo said that fundamentally, the method to include NAS as an option is to create STORE to Disk files, "and then FTP those STORE files up to the NAS device. A simple half-terabyte (500 GB) RAID-1 NAS device is the equivalent of 40 12-GB DDS tape drives."
It's a little unsettling to learn how much HP 3000 backups still go onto DDS tapes. Even the DLT tapes are a pain to handle, Yeo added.
You need enough free disk space on your HP 3000 to do the STORE to Disk files, Yeo explained. "If you haven't got 50 percent free disk space and you're doing a complete backup in one hit, you're going to have a problem," he said.
STORE to Disk speeds are not significantly slower than STORE to tapes. One way to speed up the process is to have a few separate volume sets for these STOREs, sets that are two or more high-speed spindles. HP's got disks today which spin up to 15,000 RPM. Third party disks work with HP 3000s, too, in case HP hasn't got a certified product for your MPE/iX server.
FTP bandwidth can be a bottleneck for some older HP 3000s, sometimes as slow as 10 megabits per second. "You may have a protracted FTP process to your NAS device," Yeo said.
Using NAS is not a substitute for having a good SLT tape for your system in case of disaster. Yeo added that doing an @.@.SYS backup onto the same SLT tape, "so you'll have everything you need when you bring the box back up to get the networking started."
Devices available for HP 3000 NAS use? The Buffalo Linkstation Pro worked in one of Yeo's client projects, and the device starts at $650 and goes up for 1-4 TB. Another choice is the Infrant ReadyNAS at the same price point. Shop online.
It may seem crazy to be ordering HP 3000 storage devices from Amazon.com. But so much has changed for the HP 3000 customer, and some of the change opens up new opportunities to save money and make your server even more efficient.
March 19, 2008
What you own is not what you purchased
At last week's GHRUG International Technology Conference, HP reminded the community that nobody owns MPE/iX but HP. Owns it forever, even if you bought a server because you believed MPE/iX was bundled, added value of a great operating system and database. No, your money was spent on a license, not software.
At GHRUG, HP's e3000 business manager Jennie Hou confirmed the clear intention that HP will cede nothing but "rights" to the community after HP exits the 3000 business."The publisher or copyright owner still owns the software," Hou said when license requirements beyond 2010 were discussed. "You didn't purchase MPE/iX. You purchased a right to use it."
See the presentation slide below (by clicking to get a larger view) for the exact HP wording.
It looks like HP's statement about licensing, announced in the dark holiday week of December 2005, must be re-evaluated. Not that it was untrue, but consider what it amounts to. It's a mystery how HP can give any significant use of MPE/iX to third parties in the years after the vendor won't offer services for the 3000 community. A third party owns nothing under these rules, but should build a business model and employ experts on this basis? Risky business, that.
A third party will just have to hope to rely on access to MPE/iX source. And nothing else but hope. In any contract no better than a typical customer's, a support firm would own nothing but that Right To Use what HP owns. Support for the third party support supplier for MPE/iX from HP? Shut down, by 2010. Support suppliers could consider that deal a sketchy foundation to build a business upon.
The 3000 community can only hope that's not HP's intention for support providers: To make any alternative support for the 3000 community remain sketchy. HP retains its ownership, but the intention of this 2005 announcement was to "help partners" do support business. Here's that HP 2005 statement, as a reminder of Hewlett-Packard's intentions.
When HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties — if partner interest exists at that time — to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners.
If this sounds dour, the update was at least a disappointment for any community member bringing expectations to the GHRUG meeting. HP has refused, according to community sources familiar with the matter, to budget any monies for the source code project until at least November, 2010. That's right: the word we heard is that the work that only HP can do to put MPE/iX into the community didn't make it onto the 2008 budget, and won't make it into 2009's spending, either.
We would love to be corrected on this last point by HP, or at least learn of a change of its strategy. Because if the report is right, it means that Hewlett-Packard is not doing the right thing for any companies which won't be migrated by the end of October, 2010. Hundreds to thousands of companies, according to our reports from HP's partners. Despite HP's statement at the conference that migration activity is "now on the down-slope," we hear very different reports from customers both large and small. Something is on the down-slope in HP's 3000 view, to be sure, but it's not the work of moving off the HP 3000.
If HP gets to work late in 2010 on source code transfer, that's late enough to consider the project a non-starter — as well as a surreptitious turnabout from HP's intention in 2005 to enable your community to continue with MPE/iX servers.
To be clear, we heard that HP plans to shut down all of its public 3000 operations just 60 days into the HP 2010 budget. We're at a loss to figure who inside HP could do enough preparation for MPE/iX transfer in what will be less than eight weeks' time. By November of 2009, the HP 3000 lab will already have been closed for 10 months. Workarounds and site-specific patches are all that will be done.
Business sometimes includes no fairness. But conduct with a community should be built on justice. HP has long maintained that your money paid for support has no business funding any work inside HP's development labs. Forget if that is fair. Think about whether it seems a just act to receive revenues this year, with no regard for how a longtime partner — the customer — will fare after a supplier closes the doors.
Some people buy insurance for peace of mind, with no intention of using it. HP's support customers get access to untested enhancements and fixes for their money. By the end of this year, third party support gets better than anything HP offers to the customer at large.
Any community members who need HP to finish its end-game work, by beginning to reveal specifics now, should consider this kind of justice about maintenance. Especially when they consider the question of maintaining a relationship with a vendor who has one last proprietary environment — HP-UX and HP Integrity servers — which it means to sell you as a 3000 replacement.
Remember, you're not purchasing HP-UX, just a right to use it. And every vendor-specific product has an end-game. Watch what HP does right now with the HP 3000 and MPE/iX in the vendor's end-game.
March 18, 2008
What HP has to say for itself
In a little more than 40 minutes last week, HP's talked about the 3000 division's future for the remaining work on the system. We reported the math for HP e3000 business manager Jennie Hou at her talk. Less than 41 weeks remain before HP's 3000 development of any kind will end. That's scant time to finish so many tasks, like release of 3000 enhancements long-finished but untested, or HP preparation for turning over the care of MPE/iX to the community.
HP is going to release a PowerPatch 5 to its support customers during 2008. The company will also "provide clear guidelines for performing hardware upgrades." These were the only plans HP announced for the rest of this year. There will be no further PowerPatches for 6.5 and 7.0 MPE/iX releases. (The individual 6.5/7.0 patches can be downloaded by the entire community.) That's all HP plans to do.
Click on the slide at the right to see the sparse plans for the remainer of 2008.
Those unreleased beta-test patches are in limbo, unless HP has confidential plans it didn't share at GHRUG. A pledge to deploy "a very aggressive plan to put together a program for beta test patches" was entirely without details. HP still puts the plan in the hands of customers, a community loath to change much on frozen systems.
Customers and partners in the audience asked if HP would reduce its beta-test requirements to get dozens of fixes and enhancements into the community. Beta-test is a status restricted to HP support customers. No, HP did not report it would do this for the six dozen software projects that it has built and tested since 2004.
Instead, the audience got a repeat performance. Hou, speaking on behalf of HP management, repeated the "virtual" HP 3000 division was "investigating" one need or another. In HP's process of delivering anything to the community, "investigation" is only the first step of a process that includes "funding" and then "planning" and finally "development." Oh, and the testing, if needed. Many HP projects have never gone beyond investigation.
For a list of what's still in limbo, across three releases of MPE/iX, have a look at HP's roundup on what needs to be tested and released in 41 weeks' time.
March 17, 2008
Houston echoes community's streaks
While the Houston Rockets were winning their 21st NBA game in a row up the road, another streaking community held court at a campus known for its rockets. The University of Houston-Clear Lake boasted a legendary aeronautics program and hosted the Greater Houston RUG (GHRUG) International Technology Conference. The meeting marked the 38th straight year that the HP 3000 community gathered face-to-face. It was also the fifth year of meetings since HP halted its 3000 sales.
In Houston, another streak remained intact. For the sixth straight springtime, HP did not offer details for its 3000 endgame issues, such as source-code licensing and the elease of beta test patches. HP's 3000 labs now have less than 41 weeks remaining to complete work on the operating system before closing up.
However, HP did not confirm that the virtual HP 3000 will vanish at the end of 2008. The question was asked during an HP update session about the 3000 — a computer platform which wasn't the only system that GHRUG speakers addressed.
GHRUG maintained a two-conference streak on keynote speakers, hearing Adager's Alfredo Rego launch the second day of the meeting for the second straight conference. "I am not going to try to convince you of anything here, but just to tell some stories for your benefit," he said. But the HP 3000 advocate did arrive at the meeting with a copy of the latest Entertainment Weekly, which featured an older Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones on the cover, along with the headline, "Why He's Still Hot." Like the HP 3000, this is a story the audience won't grow tired of hearing.
Rego shared his research on Ford, pointing out a few things the star has in common with the HP 3000.
"I am like old shoes," Rego quoted Ford. "I have never been hip. I have never been enough in fashion to be replaced by something new."
Understanding chuckles rose up from the early morning crowd. "It reminds me of the HP 3000," Rego said.
Talk at the conference did not run to details on the latest Right To Use license language, or where the business model might come from for a hardware emulator. OpenMPE didn't even give a presentation, but HP did offer both Alvinia Nishimoto and Jennie Hou as 3000-related speakers.
And maybe most important, for the future of the event, was the 100-plus participants who arrived for two lunches, two breakfasts and one impromptu cookout. GHRUG is going onward with this event, bolstered by 42 talks across two days of networking.
Nishimoto detailed HP's view of the migration away from the 3000. HP-UX, she said, is the target platform most favored by migration sites. she chalked up the choice to one 3000 essential tool: Robelle's Suprtool. The software isn't available on Windows and is in wide use in the 3000 community.
HP's quotes went as far back as 1995 to cover satisfied customers who'd migrated. Windows is stable enough, too. Windows is being driven by packaged applications.
OpenMPE didn't update its plans or progress at the meeting, but asked pointed questions in the HP presentations. Emulator projects didn't come up, either. But attendees could learn more about using Network Attached Storage with a 3000, or a Baker's Dozen tips on working with HP 3000s. More on those tomorrow.
March 14, 2008
What can HP say today?
The Greater Houston RUG International Technology Conference opens today. HP is scheduled to give an update about its HP 3000 strategy and plans for 2007-08. Since 2007 is well behind us, it might be more productive to focus on what HP could report on its plans for 2008 and beyond.
I figure the news that relates to the customers will offer these highlights of HP's e3000 work for the coming year:
1. Deliver MPE/iX 7.5 PowerPatch 5
2. Produce continuity/connectivity white papers & limited enhancements for:
3. Provide market with clear guidelines and access to:
- Hardware upgrades
- MPE/iX RTU licenses
- Remarketed systems & parts
- Add-on software
4. Continue with partner and user communications & engagements
- Ongoing engagement with the OpenMPE Board and other partners
- Providing communications through appropriate forums or vehicles
Those clear guidelines in Section 3 may only be news to the 3000 site which is upgrading. Such sites may include the migration customer who needs several more years of performance from the HP 3000 installation. Or an upgrade customer could be a homesteader with no plan to migrate, or one who scrapped a plan. Some sites need a better deal for faster systems that HP cannot offer — because your vendor will not unlock the horsepower of the latest 3000 systems.
HP has many more hardware systems and environments to offer than faster 3000s or a limited enhancement to MPE/iX.. The vendor can hardly get all the replacement options onto one PowerPoint slide (see above, and click to get a larger, legible view.) But HP could say more today, about its end-game strategies (those were supposed to be done by now, until HP decided last summer to extend its business once more) and its intention to let the community take charge of the 3000's value.
HP has said something, in an FAQ file written about its Right To Use licenses. Those "clear guidelines" arrive in response to the recent SSPWD software from Advant/IRS, although HP won't connect its rewritten RTU FAQ language to SSPWD.
Let me shift into editorial mode here for a moment. This may get long, but I beg your patience.
There is one phrase in the new RTU FAQ document that speaks to the heart of HP's 3000 intentions, as I see them after 23 years of writing about the company. From the latest FAQ about the RTU licences:
"Possible violations of the MPE/iX RTU policy are not limited to the scenarios listed above."
There's nothing minor about that. It reads as a strong warning or a threat, perhaps. There's nothing in last year's RTU FAQ which comes close to this sentence. It deserves its own paragraph in the 2008 FAQ. HP could say more about this at the Greater Houston RUG meeting. A wide-open attempt at prohibition deserves explanation. How else to show the community the value in playing by HP's new rules?
See, SSPWD purports to give a customer access to the crucial ss_update routines in MPE/iX. These are tools to modify stable storage. You can change an HPSUSAN 3000 ID number with those tools, or make much more drastic revisions of a 3000’s personality. It’s little wonder HP wants a strong message about stable storage practices.
Nobody wants to see this FAQ sentence go into legal battles, but I believe the statement will not stand up in a court unless someone has signed a new license. Court was once a battleground for HP in similar matters. This community still remembers HP going to court over the HP 3000's stable storage, investigating by using public law enforcement officials, some of whom had close ties to HP Security, and then succeeding in having resellers and partners fined and convicted. Lo-jack bracelets, for some, went onto ankles of partners.
But with SSPWD now available for third party support companies to use, it looks like it will act as a lockword-breaking program to uncover passwords for ss_update. This is the community taking steps to get what it needs. I remember HP saying to the 3000 community that the vendor will unlock HP diagnostics software for the 3000. Making a promise to do that three years ago, and it's still undone. I assume that HP doesn’t consider ss_update as a diagnostic, of course
But really, how long should HP run out this clock with new licenses and FAQ warnings? Whose future is at stake here, other than the HP Services group, which continues to collect revenue for such services? It might be a small company's future at stake, one which cannot afford to migrate and then has an 3000 CPU board fail overnight. They'll need ss_update the next morning. It takes a very creative and business-toughened view to see these new licenses and "possible violations" as being in the interest of this type of 3000 owner.
While I visited the HP 3000 group one afternoon, former business manager Dave Wilde and I went to lunch — and he said the group wants to give the system "the ending that it deserves." It sounded warm and genuine. Consider that ending to be HP's, though, not the system's or the community's. The vendor's exit is just one more milepost on the 3000's highway. Large customers are going on beyond HP's end of support business, no matter how long HP Services wants to string it out.
Maybe we can leave it to the French to lead the way here. I just read today about an aspect of French law which does not exist in US law. It's called "droit moral," meant to protect the moral rights of ownership of a work of art. Even more than HP's support group, the 3000 community considers MPE/iX to be a work of art, I believe. From a story about using droit moral:
One notion of French law that doesn't exist in the U.S. is the ownership of "droit moral" or moral right. This is an intellectual right of an artist to protect his work. When an artist dies, the "droit moral" goes to his heirs unless he appoints someone else. For example, a John Huston movie was colorized in the U.S., and the movie is shown this way in the States despite the opposition of the Huston heirs who are trying to honor their father's artistic wishes. But in France, where the Huston heirs argued their father didn't want his film to be in color, the colorized film can't be shown because of droit moral.
To some HP 3000 owners, HP will die, in their eyes, once 2008 is over and no more patches are being built. There are HP's intellectual rights to the property called the HP 3000, but there are moral rights, too. This computer would not be the keystone that it still is at places like aircraft makers and airline ticket agencies without the community's contributions, many years ago and still today. In fact, HP recognizes this kind of help in the market with the e3000 Contributor of the Year Award.
I believe that to honor droit moral for the 3000 community, HP's increasingly restrictive statements of licensing need to stop. The vendor's support group needs to move on to other profitable markets and leave this group of owners and customers to continue using this computer, without extra payments to HP. I know Hewlett-Packard is still spending on the 3000 — but apparently so little that it cannot budget for a MPE/iX transfer project through fiscal 2008, and probably not through fiscal 2009, either. Those are budget choices which do not extend much good will, in my opinion, to such loyal customers. These companies signed on years ago for a value proposition and vendor faith which some of them cannot see anymore.
Some in the community understand how customers might be confused about who will have the moral right to what in a few years — the day when HP is finished collecting revenues in support and passing the profits down to HP's bottom line. I feel sad when I think of the good and loyal 3000 advocates, people who did as much as they could within HP's limits to help this system stay in HP's lineup. It seems that now they must make the corporate bottom line needs of HP come first. I am struggling to see this as "the ending the 3000 deserves."
March 13, 2008
HP Support keeps quiet about futures
To be accurate this entry should be filled under No News Outta HP. But at least we have located a source of information about HP's support plans for the HP 3000.
Last month Bernard Determe, HP Worldwide Support Planning Manager, spoke to HP partners about the 3000 futures. He was one of several speakers in an EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) briefing, and the only representative listed from HP's Services arm, where product support survives for the system.
We say survives because for two extensions now, the support business has been extended beyond original HP end dates for the platform. We wanted to interview Determe about HP's policy for creating and distributing patches for MPE/iX during 2009. HP's Jennie Hou has said the company will develop no more 3000 patches in about nine months' time. Determe's division is responsible for collecting revenue from the 3000 community for this no-more-patch service.
Alas, HP is holding back on its future support information until sometime in the future. Judy Erkanat, Public Relations Manager for the Technology Solutions Group Worldwide Marcom, wrote back to reply to our request:
We will pass on your offer of an interview at this time, but look forward to working with you in the future. We wanted you to know that HP is committed to continued support of HP e3000 installations. Limited HP Support for e3000 servers has been extended through December 2010 to best meet the needs of our customers and partners.
We're well-informed about that extension, but a bit puzzled on what purchasing HP support during 2009 will bring to a customer. It's a newsman's job to ask for interviews. Sometimes the answer is "not just now." That brings HP support into step with the 3000 virtual division, which has been saying "not just now" to requests for source code licensing schedules. Support, however, has been a primary motivator in that schedule, we believe.
It is disappointing to learn that Bernard and the Technology Solutions Group believes it must wait until some later date to talk to us. Here in the 3000 community there’s a growing belief, among customers and HP partners, that the Support group is now determining HP’s e3000 futures policy.
The belief only makes sense, since HP will cease creating patches for the community in nine months. Revenues and profits drive policy decisions. (There are liabilities to consider, too, just another aspect of HP's timeline. But legal exposure is probably less important than what HP continues to collect from customers for the corporate bottom line.) What else but support still generates dollars for HP from the 3000 community, except the new Right to Use License and those $400 license transfer fees? Support contracts continue to bring in millions of dollars, by our estimates.
Which services will be offered next year are on customers’ minds. A few days after we asked for our HP Support interview, we talked to an e3000 customer who is considering a 3000 migration to HP Industry Standard Servers. The customer called us to confirm if HP will use third party companies during 2009 to deliver support under HP contracts. The customer’s migration will not be complete by January 1, 2009.
I had no answer for this customer except, “HP has not made that third party plan public at this time.” He will continue to call around, since his board of directors wants the answer.
This is the sort of support topic that HP could let us all know about. We appreciate getting some answer to our interview request, however, even if it’s “not now.”
I look forward to hearing from the part of Hewlett-Packard which is still collecting revenues from HP’s e3000 customers. As 2009 approaches, our articles about HP will focus more on HP’s support policies with every passing month. We can only offer our space and access to the community. HP’s job is to offer the information, answers to questions such as "when will 3000 support from the vendor cease?"
March 12, 2008
Entering the state of readiness
Planning is the power behind readiness, that ability to respond to challenges and seize opportunities. In the 3000 community, few kinds of customers do more planning than manufacturers — that's why their software systems have been called Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) and then Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Both are a bulwark of the 3000's populace and power.
With MRP and ERP in mind, then, it follows that one of the most established advisors to 3000 manufacturing firms has started a new service: HP 3000 legacy readiness. Specifically, the Support Group Inc. is now offering HP 3000 sites Ready State Legacy Support, a service which lets an organization store its 3000 platform with tSGi at a new datacenter in Austin, Texas.
Although the Support Group's Ready-State makes a physical space for your HP 3000, the service's biggest benefit may be the care and feeding of the 3000. The Support Group gives the 3000 customer experienced managers to keep a system available, without the cost of headcount.
Loaded headcounts — the kind which include benefits and training — can run from $80,000 to $130,000 yearly for HP 3000 experts, according to the Support Group. These experts might be managing a migration by now, while the HP 3000 needs to remain available. Expertise is the creamy nougat of Ready-State.
HP 3000 and MPE/iX experience might be the most essential part of the Ready-State offering. As community members age and seasoned managers retire or leave their posts, the 3000 world is battling brain-drain. Even though applications inside companies can be up-to-date, man- and woman-power to maintain these systems is falling below needed resource levels.
Budgets to employ these
experts are shrinking, too, along with the capital costs to keep
upgrading HP 3000s in a homesteading environment — whether it's the
interim homesteader working on a migration, or a permanent homesteader
looking to reduce costs.
Ready-State is aimed at the migrating customer first, any company which is moving off production use of a 3000 but wants to keep their system ready for archives, reporting or regulatory compliance. Rather than move all the software and data to another system, Ready-State takes on the server altogether.
So the TSG Ready State service offers what's in shrinking supply to the community: seasoned 3000 pros to boot up a system monthly and ensure it can do month-end or yearly reporting, or access for a remote system which a customer once used onsite.
Your system will be prepared, validated, operationally tested, and then cocooned in a ready-system state. At anytime during your annual agreement, authorized users may request access (based on your security requirements).
tSGi system administrators will boot, load and verify application software. You'll have the peace of mind knowing that within four hours of your formal request, your HP 3000 or VAX will be up and running with modem/VPN /Internet access to your authorized users.
March 11, 2008
Software supplier extends new service
A growing number of companies have offered this application support services to the community, but Speedware's marketing director Chris Koppe believes Speedware's support for HP 3000 sites can call on more resources.
“If you walked around the Speedware offices you’d just find an army of HP 3000 programmers and experts, people who’ve either relocated here to Montreal or others who live on a more permanent basis. It’s almost like the retirement home for the 3000.” The company is always hiring or contracting with 3000 experts, he added, because it has “a huge amount of projects that we’re dealing with.”
Speedware has doubled in size over the past two years, Koppe explained, both at a revenue level and a staff level, while its services department “has quadrupled or more.”
Trailing apps in migrations
Another 3000 scenario where outside support can help is in a migration site, Koppe said, which has most of its applications moved to a new system. But a few apps remain on the 3000, apps which need supporting until they can be moved along with the rest of the system.
“A packaged system could cover 90 percent of the 3000 apps, but a customer won’t move the other 10 percent, “because they’ll die out naturally over the next three years or so.”
Some customers are using applications they took over when a vendor went out of business 10 years ago, while others have modified packaged apps so much that the application vendor “wants nothing more to do with it.” Outsourced support can help in either case, Koppe said.
Replacing support with new tools
Companies run HP 3000s which support 20 to 40 percent of the business without any more 3000 programmers around, Koppe said. In these and other cases, application support can be a part of a permanent engagement, where Speedware takes over for a company’s help desk, deploys Web-based knowledge base Speedware tools for support. “A lot of it tends to be remote, where we’re VPN connecting and handing requests for the application improvement. We can tailor it around a customer.”
Validating the quality of outside support can be an issue unless the support company submits to a Support Center Practices (SCP) certification, Koppe said. “We have either a full-time or half-time person whose job is to make sure we go through this certification process every year — and that we’re following the processes that we laid out.”
March 10, 2008
Familiar resource extends app support
A lot of HP 3000 customers need more time in the Transition Era. Besides preparing to migrate, or step away from HP as homesteaders, their duties include application maintenance and support. Speedware wants to help.
The company that was one of the charter Platinum Migration Partners and still counts many customers for the Speedware development language has started a stronger focus on a new service this quarter. It’s aimed at a broad range of the 3000 community, according to Speedware’s marketing director Chris Koppe.
“We’re considering the installed base and what’s happened to it over the years,” he said in outlining who could use independent support of their applications. “Some are actively enhancing systems, others that are business-as-usual kind of operations with no enhancements.”
Koppe said that through retirement there are 3000 shops which no longer have 3000 experts on staff today. “There’s not a huge surplus of 3000 programmers out there, and certainly they’re often not in the same city as the customer.”
Koppe described his company as “loaded with 3000 support experts” working at 24x7 pace, as well as combining off-site management with on-site presence. “We can give these sites what they need to keep the 3000s running as long as they intend to run them,” Koppe said.
Other target customers for the service include companies who are rightsizing staff, investigating packaged applications to replace HP 3000 apps. “Along comes the business with critical enhancements that will get them into new technologies, and in the meantime, who’s going to do the HP 3000 maintenance? Who’s going to keep the business running for two three years while those projects go on?”
Outsourcing applications support will be a growth business during 2008, with Speedware among several companies that want to step forward with the service. Pivital Solutions, which made the transition from authorized HP reseller to independent support provider, counted on supporting ERP sites which used the PowerBuilder application.
The Support Group, founded on the MRP and ERP expertise of Terry Floyd, has been supporting MANMAN applications since the 1990s for customer sites. Speedware offers a support service that broadens its scope to include nearly any application.
Data warehousing projects, analytics or a new Web presence can keep even a homesteading 3000 site busy, Koppe said, creating a need to outsource application support.
“One of the problems we see,” he said “is that the people who are currently maintaining the HP 3000 applications have been there a long time. They really know how the business works and how it interacts with the applications. Those are the knowledge workers have a critical strain on them. They are key resources for other projects, and [our app support] is a way to backfill the more mundane parts of their jobs.”
March 07, 2008
Setting hooks for migration via replacement
In a continuation of our Q&A interview with MB Foster's chairman Birket Foster, we asked what issues a replacement migration sparks for 3000 sites. His firm is one of two HP Platinum Migration partners still active out of an initial four (Speedware is the other). After six years of delivering advice on the migration, he had plenty to share.
What have you seen at the 3000 site which needs to replace an application, rather than adopt a system from a corporate parent?
We’ve been on many sites where we’ve helped customers through the software selection process. We look at what kind of items would be mandatory, then nice-to-haves, and build a matrix across software choices so they can compare apples to apples.
Does your company, as a Platinum Migration partner, give away to the community some of what you know and have learned?
We certainly help coach people through things, especially through our series of seminars and Webinars. Our basic criteria these days is to make sure the business side is involved. You have to have someone from the senior management team who can okay a budget. To give you an example of costs, in the small and medium businesses they think it’s $13,000 a seat all in. If you have 50 people, that racks up pretty quick.
You have to end up talking to senior management because there’s a business fit as well as an IT fit. In the absence of that, you’re just grading things against what IT thinks they should be. Frankly, the application runs the business, and IT just provides the wheels underneath it.
How many migrating sites consider the share of budget that Windows requires?
There are lots of people who have never managed where they spend their money. There is some consciousness-raising going on. There’s also the possibility that the senior management team doesn’t understand what their investment in IT should be.
So we’ve been doing some work in the area of application portfolio management, so people can understand how a portfolio of applications that run a company can be evaluated. So people can understand how to plan their investments in IT.
How busy is your migration service staff today? In the past the Platinum partners had expertise still on the bench.
Now they’re all actively working here, and in fact we’re hiring additional members into the team. Everybody’s busy, and we’re probably running a dozen migrations.
Does your hiring extend to people with 3000 expertise?
It’s more likely to be domain expertise, where somebody knows the healthcare industry or they know the manufacturing industry well. That’s more important than specific application knowledge on an HP 3000. Unless they’re the person chosen to hold the fort while everybody else goes off and starts up the new application.
In a case of someone who could look after an application and make sure that it ran smoothly, so it would free up the current staff so they could work on the new app, that might be a situation where we would hire someone on the 3000 side.
For a large part of this, the application is being replaced by something off the shelf. So quite frankly, the 3000 skill sets aren’t going to help. Things like understanding COBOL and how to compile it, FORTRAN, Pascal and C++, all of those things might be handy.
Replacement projects like that sometimes have to hurdle the use of very specific HP 3000 software, right?
Yes, there are tools that have been used in the HP 3000 environment in creative ways. The trouble with having somebody MacGyver something is that it’s really hard to find the equivalent in a new environment. Part of the process is always to survey how people used what third party tools, what they were using, what did they write themselves — and then understand how the entire environment works with the entire corporation. And perhaps with trading partners on the supply side and the demand side.
Do you sometimes have to encourage training in a new solution to get those MacGyver-isms replaced?
In some cases they have no idea what it actually does. The problem is that the guy who wrote it is long gone. The current folks don’t know what’s there, or why it’s there. They just pray that it keeps running.
You’re one of the most prolific presenters at HP 3000 conferences and community meetings. Would it be fair to say that the overall message of these presentations is “There may be many points to consider which you’re not yet aware of?”
We’ve been helping people move data since 1985. We’ve been in this business a very long time, and it only got formalized six years ago. We’ve learned a ton of stuff along the way for things that are going to bite people. It’s called wisdom, and wisdom comes from experience — and experience can come from doing it wrong once.
Is your business starting to trend toward services being the larger part of what you do for the community?
I think migrations, and the sale of migration tools which do include some of our own software tools, will be a bigger part of the business this year than they have been in the past. I expect they will cross the line and become the larger part of the business.
People are starting to recognize in their own organizations that the ability to support an application, do any major modifications, all of those things are becoming more difficult. The customers are doing an evaluation to see if their application operations are sustainable. “How will we train the next person?” When people start asking those kinds of questions, they’re quite surprised sometimes. Like finding spreadsheets which run a department, but have nothing to do with an IT department, but probably should have.
The informal stuff is what you need to find in your organization, these rogue applications. When we’re engaged to work with a customer, there is a mandate to understand the departmental applications and operations.
March 06, 2008
Landing new ideas for 3000 users
Birket Foster is not running for election this spring, but he is campaigning for some new ideas. The founder of MB Foster, he’s stood on both the homesteading and migration avenues for more than six years — and as he likes to point out, much longer when you consider moving data as a migration.
This week the OpenMPE group which Foster has chaired since its 2002 inception announced election results, looking for volunteer help to get HP’s agreement on source code licensing. But the scope of Foster advocacy and business reaches well beyond software, stepping into services in a big enough way that it will soon overtake software at his company. That says something about a supplier who’s been selling 3000 solutions so long.
With an election on hand and services heating up, we figured Birket — one of those community members known best by his first name — would have something to say about the new 3000 opportunities and persistent challenges. We talked to him in the week before February’s election, on his cell while he traveled to a customer site.
Some in the 3000 community are wondering why, more than five years into the Transition Era, OpenMPE is having another election of its board. Can your volunteers make a difference, so long after HP sparked customers to migrate?
Our work for now is to make HP realize there is going to be a presence of people who will be there, after HP leaves.
Are there enough members in OpenMPE for HP to consider putting MPE into the hands of the community?
HP will never put MPE in the hands of the community. They will only put it in the hands of someone who will be qualified to manage and maintain the source code — which is the whole purpose of OpenMPE, becoming that group.
Is there any chance of HP selecting OpenMPE as that group?
Absolutely. We’ve talked about doing a mini-project up front, like soon just to prove ourselves, so HP gets a fire drill on what it’s like to do a patch without people internal to HP. And they haven’t done a patch in the last little bit, right?
So what does a mini-project look like?
Oh, you’d find something that needs to be changed, you’d make a specification, and you’d sit with a contractor and say what you need them to do. There’s no reason why OpenMPE can’t be those guys. The talent that has put their names forward to be part of the group to do development is rock-solid.
So the OpenMPE mission will certainly consist of services. The 3000 community’s market seems to be turning toward services now, especially from the well-known vendors which the customers rely upon. What’s MB Foster doing today to expand services in addition to its product support and migration expertise?
For some 3000 sites we already provide some services in the area of our specialties, which are dealing with data. We have assisted customers in recruiting people for full-time employment for multi-year contracts in the HP 3000 space — because those people needed staff, and didn’t know where to find them.
This location service costs something for a customer?
It’s a courtesy for the customers. It helps them out, and they like us, they buy our products, and they get other services from us. In some cases, we’re hosting their data marts, because we do this every day. It’s a lot easier on the customer when they can rely on a data mart team that’s working on a bunch of sites, knows the tools inside out and helped develop them. Most of those are on Windows or HP-UX.
Hosting in this case means having a server running so the customer doesn’t need to run one, or keep staff busy?
That’s correct. In the long run, hosting is going to be a very important part of how small- and medium-sized business and departmental computing gets done. That’s because the cost for staff these days is five skill sets, although you might find them in as few as three people. That means your staffing cost is going to be $300,000 to $800,000 in order to get the right people involved. That’s quite a bit of money, so a lot of divisions would rather buy part of someone’s time, knowing that person is an expert and will do exactly what’s needed.
This kind of expertise, is it beginning to leave the industry?
Retirement is an issue, both the retirement of end-user experts as well as the technical experts. The end-user experts are as important, or even more important, than the technicians. Once the application is running, so long as someone can follow the script for daily, weekly and monthly processes, it’s not a big deal. But when they go in and lose an end-user, it takes awhile to train a new one. Many times what that end user who’s been there a long time hasn’t been written down anywhere.
By end-user expert, you mean someone who’s well-versed in how to run an in-house application?
Not just in-house, but any application that runs the business. Take a look at what’s happened to MANMAN. It’s changed hands four times, from ASK to Computer Associates to SSA GT, and now it’s gone to Infor. It’s had multiple owners and definite changes in the way that things are supported and maintained.
MANMAN is a pretty big manufacturing application for the 3000 community. People are still running it, although not as many as there were, but a lot of them. The challenge with knowing how many is that some of those customers are a division of a larger company — and that larger company doesn’t share the IT plan down to the division level anymore.
March 05, 2008
HP researches way to make Labs pay
Hewlett-Packard is one of the eldest statesmen in the computer community, a fact which bred the HP 3000 community's success with MPE/iX and the PA-RISC hardware. There was a time when HP took regular risks with basic research, the kind which does not always pay off in products. Computing was once driven by basic research to make leaps in technical ability.
Those risks are now rare among the major vendors of the computer community, but HP seems willing to steer its science toward enterprise computing more than it has in its recent past. Tomorrow the vendor announces a revival of HP Labs, the legendary research arm that created marvels such as cutting-edge ink technology and the chip designs which launched the HP 3000's current generation, as well as the latest HP Integrity servers.
HP Labs is one of few basic research groups still standing on the 21st Century computer landscape. IBM still operates the Almaden Research Center. Xerox's PARC center closed many years ago. HP Labs celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2006. Its Bristol, England arm extended HP's prowess in storage devices back when the HP 3000 was peaking at its largest installed base. Precision Architecture Reduced Instruction Set Computing — PA-RISC — grew up in the HP Labs.
The Labs need to be more product-oriented to survive the current bottom-line management scrutiny at HP. Projects which move to products are important to HP's migrating HP 3000 customers. Hewlett-Packard once relied on innovation first and standards second to capture and keep its customers. Some migrating customers who choose HP need assurance that the vendor will do more than the best possible integration of components for Industry Standard Servers. ISS provides the growth in HP's Business Critical Systems unit. But it's the Integrity line of RISC systems — which use HP's innovation of Itanium architecture — that must bolster the future HP-UX.
The revival of the Labs could be a sign that HP remains willing to keep up the innovation that an HP Unix platform is going to need. Without that kind of built-here-first engineering, HP's customers have to hunt harder for reasons to keep using solutions that lock users in HP's technology. CEO Mark Hurd is hosting tomorrow's event, a signal that Hewlett-Packard is willing to give its scientists room to run up bills, spending aimed at delivering knockout computing choices.
The Labs are now being run by Prith Banerjee, who left his post as dean of the college of engineering at the University of Illinois last summer. While the 46-year-old has earned scientific awards since those days when HP's RISC first became a product, Banerjee is said to have an eye on keeping the Labs pointed toward product-based research.
Soon-to-market products would be an innovation in the Labs. On the home page of the Labs' Web site, the group is promoting a science-fiction innovation: Painless injections using an HP skin patch. HP extended its printer designs several years ago to be able to create human skin with micro-needles that deliver smart doses of drugs. It's an alternative safer than being stuck with a needle, HP says, as well as a better skin patch which Irish firm Crospon hopes to sell by 2010.
The HP 3000 customers who stick with HP will want something less organic for their computing, of course. When HP introduced Banerjee as the Labs director, the vendor said his research interests "are in parallel and distributed computing, compilers, and VLSI computer-aided design."
All that sounds much closer to what the 3000 customer needs when choosing HP-UX and Integrity servers. Strong compilers are still crucial to the RISC computing process. Of course, as Labs director Banerjee won't be doing this work himself. But reports say that he's shelving some projects in the Labs in the reorganization that leads to tomorrow's revamp announcement. Pushing smart skin underneath the needs of a computer company would seem to flow from such shelving.
Banerjee has his own history of entrepreneur practices. In 2000 he founded AccelChip, a developer of software for building digital-signal processing (DSP) systems, which was sold in 2006 year to Xilinx. HP 3000 customers may remember that former HP business computing chief Wim Roelandts became Xilinx CEO after leaving HP.
The Labs still has some impact to deliver for the customer sticking with HP's computing. Recent projects cover developing computer chip circuitry to the atomic scale, software to automate data centers, and a utility computing center, where customers can get computing power based on changing needs.
March 04, 2008
OpenMPE seats two new directors
Candidates Alan Tibbetts of Strobe Data and Walter Murray of the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation have become new members of the OpenMPE board of directors, while the four incumbent directors who also ran earned a return to their seats. Except for Tibbetts, who will finish out the final year of retiring director Paul Edwards' term, all will serve for two years.
Seven volunteers ran for the six open seats in the election of HP 3000 advocates. OpenMPE has been dedicated to the continued lifespan of the HP 3000 since the group's inception more than six years ago. Keith Wadsworth of Orbit Software raised awareness and pragmatic viewpoints in his campaign, but fell short in the voting between Feb. 11 and Feb. 29.
Six seats were open in this year's election because of the retirement of long-time director Edwards. Incumbent directors all won back another two years of volunteering, a period which will nearly coincide with the end of HP's involvement in the 3000 market. But in the 2006 elections that was also the belief — when volunteers ran for their posts which were expiring this year.
OpenMPE secretary Donna Hofmeister released the vote totals about an hour ago to the OpenMPE mailing list and HP 3000 newsgroup:
Tracy Johnson 77
Walter Murray 70
Alan Tibbetts 67
Matt Perdue 71
John Wolff 70
Keith Wadsworth 43
In spite of the fact that the HP 3000 community is now more than six years beyond HP's exit-the-market announcement, the election drew 89 ballots, an increase of more than 40 percent from last year's voting. More important, the voting attracts new members to OpenMPE.
Organization chairman Birket Foster says that OpenMPE's impact goes well beyond the number of members. "You have to consider the number of systems represented, as well as the size of customer." In its earliest years, the advocacy group began with 125 companies, including "one major aircraft manufacturer," Foster added.
Murray, who worked in HP's 3000 language labs on COBOL II before leaving the company, is an end-user OpenMPE director, still a minority in the nine-member board. John Wolff, Tracy Johnson and Chuck Ciesinski are also end-user/customer volunteers; Wolff and Johnson were re-elected this year. Hofmeister, whose current job is at Long's Drug, and Matt Perdue also returned to the board in this year's voting.
Johnson, Hofmeister, Wadsworth and Perdue all responded to the NewsWire's candidate questions, which we posed on Feb. 21. All of this year's board nominees posted candidate statements at the OpenMPE 2008 election Web page for candidate bios. The page remains online today.
Tibbetts served on the OpenMPE board in the past, a term which ended last year. His employer Strobe Data announced an HP 3000 emulator project in 2004, a long-term effort for which Strobe has set no timetable for release. Emulation of HP 3000 hardware will become a viable option for a vendor only in years to come, according to Strobe's founder Willard West.
Wadsworth made a case for changes to the 3000 community in a February statement, calling out HP for what he sees as a mixed message from the vendor — focused on the Right To Use (RTU) licenses.
We all know the platform was killed six months [after HP's promise to support it in 2001], 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.
March 03, 2008
Ask A Migration Expert
A new Web-based service offers free advice and answers questions with direct e-mail replies to customers in the 3000 community
The community bristles with spots to ask migration questions, including the HP 3000 newsgroup, engagements with consultants, and even initial meetings with prospective migration suppliers. Speedware has opened several Web pages to gather and then answer questions for free.
The Ask a Migration Expert page is “another avenue to ask questions,” said Speedware’s marketing director Chris Koppe. The page at speedware.com/solutions/HPe3000_migration/ask-migration-expert.html, taps “an unmatched talent pool here,” he said.
The goal is to expose Speedware’s group of HP 3000 experts to the community, “and let more than just our customers benefit from it.” Questions are directed to the Speedware experts who provide answers through a separate e-mail contact. A link on the main Ask An Expert site opens up a list of community members' typical questions
An FAQ page pops up frequently asked migration questions, too. Speedware plans to build out the FAQ information.
Migration brings a lot of attention through the Web, Koppe added, and some questions arrive from misdirected but earnest people looking for advice on immigration, or emigration.
“We’ve gotten questions from a person in the Philippines like, “Is it open to Ireland government for Filipinos? What is the qualification to migrate in Ireland?’ Or from a person in Iran: ‘How can I take a visa from your embassy in Iran? is it possible for me to go to the Netherlands?’ “
Speedware will be enhancing the Ask a Migration Expert service over the next few months, he added. “Having it at our site is useful, but having it visible from other sites and allowing other people to benefit from it is a better use of it.”