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May 30, 2008

Stages of Keeping a 3000 Living Onward

JeffkublercolorsmFirst of three parts

Jeff Kubler is making a living out of keeping HP 3000 customer computers living. The life might be as another platform, a different application or a longer existence as a key computing resource. The 25-year veteran of the 3000 community opened his own consulting practice in 2000, just one year before HP announced its 3000 business would be at an end in five years.

So Kubler, whose background ran to many years at Summit Information Systems (credit union applications) and Lund Performance (a broad array of the 3000 and 9000 users) found his future filled with both migration and homesteading prospects. Like the best of the 3000 experts out there, he’s engaging both the customers who are leaving as well as those who have good reasons to stay.

Kubler has made a career out of training, too, in tools and utilities such as Suprtool and Speedware, as well as general 3000 advice like system and database optimization. Last month he stepped in for me at the MANMAN Virtual RUG meeting to deliver a talk that spanned both homesteading and migration advice, pushing across information to a group of 3000 sites facing a large migration: the ERP manufacturing customers. With his diverse background, independent practice and constant customer contact, I wanted him to share what he’s teaching and what he sees in the 3000 community of 2008. We spoke on May Day by phone.

Which application users are in good shape for their final pushes of migration these days?

   Well, the majority of Summit [credit union] customers have already migrated, and part of the reason for that was that Summit chose Eloquence. It made the harshness of that migration step a lot less. They didn’t have to take the big step to re-engineer their application to work with SQL Server or Oracle.

   With Amisys and Ecometry, they did bite the bullet and take that big step. It made it a lot more complex. But those Amisys and Ecometry sites were also big users of Suprtool. That made it so they could get though their biggest production nights without buying bigger boxes.

   The Summit folks were never big users of Suprtool on the HP 3000; because of that, they missed out on a lot of things that would have made their operations a lot more efficient. Now they’re getting there with Suprtool on HP-UX.

   Amisys folks still have a huge amount of surround code, stuff they did on their own, so there were a lot more challenges there. Just identifying surround code is a challenge. The move to any Windows or HP-UX versions became an opportunity for clients to check out competitive solutions. HP might have thought users would remain with HP

   Because they don’t have the source code, on the Amisys side they might go to Amisys Advance, they might go to Facets (on IBM Unix]. They say, I’ve been on Amisys, where do I go next? There’s no allegiance anymore to Amisys as there might might have been if they weren’t being forced to make some move.

   If Amisys Advance or open systems Ecometry is competitive price-wise with functionality, then they end up staying. I’ve actually seen some people who have migrated the Amisys data to another legacy application in their environment.

Are there applications out there that seem to have a reasonably bright future for the 3000 user?

   MANMAN is about the only one that comes to mind. Most others are involved in some migration step; it doesn’t have a direct migration path. MANMAN’s provider [Infor] has other applications in their stable, and tries to get you to go to those. There’s nothing that says it has the same look and feel, so you’d have to retrain everybody if you migrated. MANMAN might be around for awhile, because people are happy with the functionality, and can’t afford to move to something new.

   There’s also some educational sector software, like the SRN application for smaller colleges education and the QSS solutions for elementary schools through high schools.

    Some applications have HP-UX versions, like PSSI for 911 dispatch. But you don’t just go out and buy new safety software for state police force or a fire department just because it’s the new and greatest thing. You have to look at budgets and bond measures to replace something like that.

HP says Suprtool is the top reason migration sites choose HP-UX?Agree?

     Lots of people have found that Suprtool working with Eloquence on HP-UX is a driving force, because they’ve done so much with Suprtool that it becomes challenging to rewrite it all.

11:26 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 29, 2008

A Thursday to plan toward

It will happen on a Thursday morning, a day when most of the world will not be at work. Perhaps your HP 3000 will be finishing its year-end reporting, or month-end, or quarter's end, but on January 1 you won't be able to call HP and ask for a patch or lab assistance to support your 3000 system.

That day is exactly 31 weeks from today. Many HP 3000 sites will still rely on HP 3000s on that day. Many others will be migrated, but there will be some community sites where the HP 3000 stands alongside the newer and faster and more extensible Unix or Windows system. Even at those places, the users will decide when the migration will be complete.

Paula Brinson at the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia is migrated already. Her IT group has built a new Customer Service application, Oracle-based, using a Web browser front end. The new system runs in the HP-UX environment at HRSD, a long-time HP 3000 customer. The users are less ready to make the change than Brinson.

The Data Center Operations Manager at HRSD reports:

The HP 3000 is still chugging with the legacy Customer Service system, to which the users are clinging.

Build something better, test it and deploy it. Congratulations. In some places the user base will still have to make a schedule to adopt the migration-based replacement. These departments leave behind what they know well, so training becomes an issue for them resolve. This is where top-level support of management, as well as directives, can be helpful.

For Brinson and the staff at HRSD, that 31-week deadline could mark the end of the legacy system use, just because HP is not there as a backup support resource to backstop the third party providers. Customers clinging to the legacy application on the 3000. An IT pro needs to discover why do they want to stay on it. The answers may provide a way to set a agreed-upon deadline to get them off the older app.

People sure do avoid change, don't they? This is where benefits can sell a transition, advantages experienced on the user level.

And for those who are looking at HP's ultimate exit from the marketplace and community, at the end of 2010, that is 135 weeks away. The last 104 will provide workarounds only, unless you can negotiate a better level of support from HP.

08:06 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 28, 2008

Migration era extends beyond 2009

    HP tells its customers that the company's HP-UX environment is the preferred platform for migration destinations. Reports from the community show us that Unix is just one of several choices 3000 sites are making about migrations.

    And then there's the sites that are choosing not to migrate for at least another two years or more. There may be a good share of migration projects ramping down, but the majority we've heard about are in mid-project or just getting started. Yesterday we related the story of a 3000 site which won't be finished before the end of next year in a best case.

    If that report sounds like a project far from the down slope, healthcare billing firm Quadax is at least able to use Speedware to speed up part of its migration. The company chose both Windows and HP-UX, and its HP Unix application written in Speedware “has been completely migrated for some time,” said Gene Calai. But “a separate application that is COBOL, using IMAGE and flat files is being migrated to Windows, VB.Net and Microsoft SQL. This migration should be complete by the end of 2009.”

    Companies like these, who plan to use HP 3000s as mission-critical servers through 2009 and beyond, are the reason HP has extended its support business deadline for the 3000 twice. Is it homesteading when your company relies on a 3000 beyond HP's support-including-patches period? That era begins in 32 weeks.

Other migrating sites are doing specific testing on HP-UX component parts. John Boyd, IT Manager at gm2 Logistics Limited, said “We are just starting a trial of Eloquence on HP-UX to see if this will deliver the same functionality and performance as we currently have using PowerHouse as our main application development language.”

    A similar “homestead until 2010” plan is in place at financial trade service company Cannex. Steven Waters reports “Until 2010 it will be business as usual for the HP 3000 at CANNEX. We are developing applications for major insurance companies and brokers in the USA and Canada.”

    Windows is serving as a replacement at the Northwest Textbook Depository, but an HP 3000 continues to work for now as an archival system.

    "We moved all our production effective 1/2/2007 to Windows 2003 and SQL Server 2005, running an ERP package called Business One from SAP,” said IT manager Lou Cook. “Our HP 3000 has been used as an archive machine to lookup historical data since then. I predict that we’ll shut it off in two or three years.”

    But some 3000 customers who were asked about their migration plans reported they will homestead for the foreseeable future. At Quest Diagnostics, Senior Programmer Jim Gerber said the company has no plans to migrate.

    John Wolff, who manages the computer enterprises for a chain of health clubs in California, said any migration target looks like a lesser choice for his company.

    “We have no migration plans for the HP 3000 application.  It is running just fine and is stable. We get good hardware support from Ideal Computer. Why would we want to downgrade to something else?”

09:04 AM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2008

Migrating sites choose both Unix and Windows

    Hewlett-Packard officials said this spring that migration efforts are on the down-slope for 3000 community, and its sees the HP-UX platform is the most popular target. Community members report a migration effort still well away from sloping downward, an effort aimed at an even array of destinations.

   The most common answer to the question of “what are you doing with your HP 3000?” is “migrating.” But consultants, suppliers and customers say that delivering the answer and doing the work still stand months apart.

   “We’re really doing nothing yet,” said Kim Borgman of National Wine and Spirits. “I’m guessing we’re going Linux, using Eloquence, and keeping the existing COBOL programs.”

   While it’s not hard to locate an HP-UX migration — one of the biggest shares of our migrating readers say they’ve targeted HP’s Unix — the choices include as much Windows migration. Many still have not begun to work on their transitions.

Customers are aiming to keep their HP 3000s running beyond HP’s end of support date, with some only starting the real planning in 2010. Some homesteaders were once migration-bound, pulled over to wait, but don’t plan to restart their migration until after 2010.

    “Two years ago, we had plans to move to a Windows server environment and use Eloquence with  MicroFocus COBOL,” said Connie Selitto of the US Cat Fanciers Association. “However, this was tabled due to the cost of the code and data migration. Our plan is to remain on the HP 3000 for perhaps 2-3 years and then move to a Windows system, using SQL Server or Oracle to replace (if it were possible) the 12 TurboIMAGE databases which we now maintain on the 3000.”

   Customers have followed package application vendors, such as IBEW & United Workers credit union taking on HP-UX with Summit. But customers with their own applications have made close study of options. Few seem to have migration deadlines earlier than sometime in 2009. Harlan Clarke Marketing Service is moving to Windows and SQL Server.

    “We have had four different assessments completed by three separate potential partners over the past two years,” said IT Director Gary Stewart, who’s selected a migration partner to assist in the effort. The company will begin a detail planning phase next month through September, then do pilot test between November and December 08.

    Next year, “We will begin execution of the migration project in January, with a plan to be completed by the end of 2009,” Stewart said.

03:27 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2008

Community turns to Web as archive

    We consider the question often: “How did we ever get things done without the Internet?” The obvious reply is “much more slowly,” but that measure can describe many aspects. There’s the finding, then there’s the knowing. Finding an answer to a problem is one task the Web speeds up, especially for HP 3000 community members. While your vendor drains away its expertise on the 3000 internals, this vital information remains “online,” as those of us from the 1980s call Web access.

    As a case in point we offer the manual for a HP SureStore Autoloader tape library. The device is a decade old, which puts it in the same age range as the Series 9x8 and 9x9 servers. But HP’s storage business considers this library a relic, too old to have its manuals mounted on some disk in the HP empire.

   Not to worry: An enterprising customer tracked down the needed documentation, filed away on a system at a university in Ireland. How long will it be there, compared to a vendor’s Web archives? Not a fair comparison this time — because only the paper documentation was ever created or preserved by HP. The SureStore PDF file, which helped to resolve a configuration snag, could enjoy another home as well: a server operated by OpenMPE.

    For years now, the community has wondered what benefit OpenMPE can provide to 3000 users. Being a bank of data about aging-but-able computer devices is an obvious answer. Impossible, however, without the wonders of the Web.

   Earlier this month, OpenMPE board member Tracy Johnson placed the Interex Contributed Software Library online, cataloged and ready for anyone in the world to download. The CSL was lost to the community for the better part of three years, at least in cataloged form. Some of its value has fallen away; there’s a real limit to the durability of utilities written during the 1980s. On the other hand, HP’s PA-RISC servers provided the most durable enterprise systems in the history of computing. Plenty of vintage HP 3000s still support businesses of today.

    The PA-RISC generation of HP servers will see the end of its manufacture next year, including HP 9000 models. The latest HP-UX servers don’t even go by that number any longer, although the customer community still refers to them by that name. HP stopped building PA-RISC HP 3000s in 2003; the HP-UX versions of the PA-RISC line lasted just six years longer. By January 1, 2009, the only HP 9000 PA-RISC servers on the market will be used, just like HP 3000s of today.

   The announcement of the HP 9000’s demise didn’t arrive in a customer letter or through phone calls from HP Customer Engineers. HP put the information on a Web page rather quietly during May. A customer sometimes needs to search out such notices by now; HP assumes you’re looking for updates on your own. As an example, the HP XP512 and XP48 disk arrays have slipped off HP support, a development that some customers discovered only when they tried to renew HP support contracts.

    HP seems to be developing a habit of making its end of support notices on the Web, expecting the community to locate the vendor’s schedules. (A customer letter went out to announce the demise of the 9000, no doubt in part to spark sales of replacement Integrity systems.) Perhaps the largest of HP customers still receive their updates in other ways, independent of the Internet. I think the technology is called the telephone.

     Just like the old days when we had no Web to search, customers still need to do their own poking around to find the facts on the future of HP products. We recently asked if the above-named disk devices had gone off support. The HP 3000 group replied gamely that the best answer would come from the HP Storage group, not the server’s experts. It’s a good thing we’ve got the Web to bring these dimming points of light together.

06:46 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 22, 2008

HP moves away from HP 9000s

Hewlett-Packard has announced its exit from another of its enterprise server lines, ending the life of the HP 9000. The process mirrors the departure of the HP 3000 from the vendor's product line: Ending sales orders, then all shipping in 2009, with parts and support no longer available from HP after 2013.

As part of the transition to HP Integrity systems, HP has announced the retirement of the HP 9000 server line. As of December 31, 2008, HP 9000 servers will no longer be available for purchase. Support for these product offerings will continue to be available through 2013.

HP has now moved on completely from its PA-RISC server architecture, after delivering generations which ran from 7000 to 8900 covering the years 1986 to 2006. Two decades is an extraordinary run for any design, but especially notable for one like Precision Architecture, which made a business success out of Reduced Instruction Set Computing, a radical break from CPU designs of the 1980s.

The departure of the HP 9000 completes the takeover of HP's newer enterprise architecture, Itanium. HP continues to sell that technology as Integrity servers, the only units which run the HP-UX operating environment. The PA-RISC systems were popular among the HP 3000 migrating sites, especially in the four years when Itanium was working to surpass PA-RISC. HP had a goal of eliminating its PA-RISC sales in favor of Itanium, and by this year the company was more than 70 percent of the way there for new sales.

The older servers are still in use, of course, which makes the elimination more important to HP's business than that of its customers. Something like HP's decision to drop the 3000 and MPE/iX. The issue that migrating customers must consider: How long will HP support HP-UX on the PA-RISC 9000s?

HP will address the end of the 9000s, and the vendor's support for Unix on them, at next month's HP Technology Forum. The conference session catalog promises

HP explores the future roadmap strategies for the HP-UX Operating Environments. Planned future directions seek to improve flexibility, simplify software deployment and sales, add new functionality and greatly improve the customer experience. Both PA and IPF plans will be part of the presentation.

The end of the HP 9000 will sound confusing to some of the 3000 community, a group which for more than two decades has viewed the Unix counterpart in terms of a number (9000) rather than a brand name. HP still has plenty of numbers in its Integrity lineup, more than it ever had while selling PA-RISC servers. Each Integrity server number is unique, it seems, upon every release of a new generation of the hardware.

PA-RISC was unique for another reason. The architecture was the last great computer design created and manufactured entirely inside HP. The company practiced a Not Invented Here prejudice for all of the 1970s and 1980s, a viewpoint that anything built outside of HP would have to prove itself to be embraced by Hewlett-Packard's IT strategy for customers. NIH officially gave its last gasp when the Itanium designs to replace PA-RISC rolled off the HP manufacturing lines. The Itanium design was HP's first joint effort with Intel, and it was always portrayed as a replacement for PA-RISC. HP began Itanium work by turning over its own internal designs and tests to a joint HP-Intel team. HP was building a VLIW successor to PA-RISC, but by the early 1990s the vendor believed that fabricating chips and testing the silicon aspects of a circuit were jobs for Intel.

The HP 9000 end of life — sounds as serious as the 3000's when you use that phrase, no? — will spark migrations over the next five years. They won't be big projects like moving off of an operating environment, like leaving MPE/iX. And only a subset of customers who use HP-UX will face any extra work. Those who have built their own HP-UX applications are going to need to test on the newer Integrity line; perhaps they'll need to make changes in their code, although HP has worked hard to ensure such a thing is uncommon.

As for HP-UX, the unique version of Unix which can only call HP hardware a home, it has an unlimited future according to HP. Hardware dies, but software lives forever, according to a bromide from the industry. The statement means that parts and silicon break down or slow to a crawl, but it takes much longer for any software to fail to do its assigned work. HP, its 3000 community and its 3000 partners can report that's true. By the time the HP 9000 ceases its sales life, MPE/iX will still have two full years of support from HP — and lord knows how many more from the 3000 third party suppliers

06:34 AM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2008

Where to optimize and find help

In our upcoming printed issue of The 3000 NewsWire  we interview Jeff Kubler, a longtime 3000 expert who's operated his own consulting business for more than eight years. Since much of that has been in the 3000's Transition Era, we chose Kubler and his Kubler Consulting experiences for our Q&A feature in that quarterly issue, mailing this week. (If you'd like to receive our print issue free of charge, e-mail me a postal address and I'll put one in the mails to you.)

To offer a sneak peek at the feature — which we will post up here next week, after our issue arrives in readers' mailboxes — I offer a few questions and answers which didn't make it into print.

Can you think of an engagement project that most 3000 customers don’t ask for at first, but turn out to need once you see their environment?

   They haven’t been doing database optimization. Maybe they don’t realize they need to look at performance and capacity. They need to look at upgrading since they’ll be on their 3000 for another five years. People are not looking at things clearly, thinking they’ll be off their 3000 in a year.

Some of the best information about the HP 3000 is in the Jon Diercks' MPE/iX System Administration Handbook. Published early in the Transition Era, it's the best roundup of how to perform things like optimization, or consider capacity, although the latter is best performed with the help of an expert like Kubler, who worked on capacity management for Lund Performance before he launched his own company.

Kubler liked Diercks as a person worthy of the e3000 Contributor of the Year Award, given by HP for more than a decade now.

If you had to nominate someone for this year’s HP e3000 Contributor Award, who would it be and why?

    Has Jon Diercks ever gotten anything for writing his MPE/iX system administration handbook? I think he’d be a good nomination. It’s handy resource, and I’ve got it right here.

07:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 20, 2008

Overseas business bolsters HP Q2

HP products are popular the world over. It's a good thing, too, because the company's growth in the quarter ended April 30 relied almost entirely on overseas sales.

The mix of growth and profit in Q2 of 2008 was just one of several notable changes to HP's financials, released in full detail today in a conference call with investors. US-based sales growth was nearly flat at 2 percent, a number that prompted one analyst to call the rise "the lowest rate growth we've seen in more than three years in the US."

What's more, HP's growth of profits was flat from its lucrative printer and imaging group — the sector that generates more than half of HP's earnings on the strength of ink and paper supplies which complement printers and cameras. The business changes explain why now is the best time to take on the 144,000 employees in the EDS services company, along with its $22 billion in business. HP will buy the company for $13.3 billion, pending shareholder and regulators' approval.

The challenge in the acquisition lies in making EDS profitable once more to grow HP's earnings. Reducing expenses still takes a major role in keeping earnings up. CEO Mark Hurd vowed today to continue cost cuts at the vendor which sells alternatives to the HP 3000 for migrating customers. He may have better prospects of selling services, software and the servers outside the US; 70 percent of HP revenue now comes from overseas.

HP's overall Q2 numbers were impressive, posting a 26 percent increase in profits and 11 percent growth in revenue. The company rolled up its highest sales total in history for the period at $28.2 billion to fuel profits of $2 billion during the period.

Enterprise Storage and Servers, the group which makes the HP Integrity and HP Windows enterprise servers and allied storage, saw sales fall by $450 million from last quarter, but stay about $180 million ahead of Q2 of 2007. Services continued to grow its revenues and profits both from the prior quarter and year over year, and HP Software also posted gains in in sales and earnings. Hurd said the company wants to make a bigger part of its business footprint from its steps into these non-system solutions.

"Software and services are a strategic thing for us," he told analysts. HP Services controls the fate of the Hewlett-Packard lifespan in the HP 3000 community. The group is the only recipient of revenue from all HP 3000 sites, whether migrating or homesteading. But the revenue contributions are a tiny part of the overall HP picture, however profitable the sales are for the vendor.

Imaging and Printing came in at number two in the HP profits report for the second straight quarter, being overtaken by the Technology Solutions Group, which includes Services, Software, Storage and Servers. Technology services sales, which include support for HP 3000s and HP Unix systems, grew by 10 percent during the last year. Services is now just 35 percent behind sales of all of HP's enterprise servers.

Revenues from the HP Industry Standard Servers, those which do not support the HP-UX operating environment, outstripped the Business Critical  Systems 3-to-1 during Q2.  HP announced it will end its PA-RISC based server sales in January, switching to an all-Integrity lineup.

06:17 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 19, 2008

Database recovery delivered

All databases can become useless. That is, they suffer some kind of corruption or acquire an unwanted flag. The latter problem came to visit an HP 3000 site over the weekend. The solution to repair a 3000 database ultimately arrived from Adager, the resource the 3000 community calls when trouble needs fixing pronto. James Dunlap called out to the community, via the 3000 newsgroup:

I was increasing a dataset’s capacity using DBCPLUS and thought my (remote) session had hung after already doing PER COM, so I aborted the session.  The bad news was that we don’t have a current backup of the database, and now the “restructuring” flag is set and the DB is “bad.”

That's HP's DBChange Plus utility that Dunlap is using, a tool HP obsoleted. In this situation, DBCPlus played a part in making the database bad. Old tools might be better than no tools; HP tried to put its customers in touch with third parties in 2000 when it dropped DBCPlus.

Dunlap tried to make a copy of the database too, and the copy was also “bad”. He reached out to the community through the Web, although finally the solution came through a call to Adager.

Resetting the database flag advice came from Craig Lalley of EchoTech:

You can reset the "restructuring" flag. There are several ways to do it, none come to mind here in the airport, but I would start with DBUTIL. Do you have Adager, or [Bradmark's] DBGeneral? It is a two bit marker that you should be able to find with DEBUG.

But if you're not familiar with running DEBUG on an HP 3000, the tool can become a tar pit. You'll want expert advice to fix a database problem using DEBUG, a tool on every HP 3000. Custom programming might have solved the problem, according to Brian Donaldson. But he couldn't resist fundamental advice on database procedure: "I don't mean to sound unfeeling about your predicament, but you are getting everything you asked for -—"

1) Not having a backup copy of the DB prior to making structural changes
2) Not using Adager for structural changes to begin with
3) Doing these structural changes across a remote line is just asking for trouble!

You can write a quickie Privileged Mode program to FOPEN the Image root file, read label zero and reset offset zero to a value of "FW" (which means database okay and accessible.) Definition of the root file is in the blue Image/3000 Handbook.

Donaldson's fix carried three notable pieces of information. First, there's the use of a Priv Mode program, written to work in the deepest level of MPE/iX. A process not for many a 3000 owner. Then there's the Image/3000 Handbook, a community resource long out of print but on the shelf of savvy, seasoned 3000 experts.

Then there's that FW flag. The FW stands for Fred White, co-creator of Image. After leaving HP, White worked at Adager for many years before retiring. And so Dunlap found his answer at Adager:

Rene Woc at Adager walked me through the necessary steps to fix via Debug.  (FW did the trick.)  That was not only kind of him, but downright gracious, considering that we don’t have Adager (yet!). Thanks to all who helped.

HP 3000 help remains available through the Web. It is likely to be around long after HP closes its support doors for the system, delivered by way of third parties like Adager. "We remain surprisingly busy," Woc told me in a call last week. He monitored HP's Webcast last week online, staying up to date with HP's plans to curtail 3000 support.

Dunlap reported his repair process, a resolution via Adager expertise:

12:48 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2008

HP raises hopes, profits and revenues

Hewlett-Packard intended to release its full Q2 2008 fiscal report yesterday, but a little event like spending $13.9 billion on EDS has pushed the full report back to next week. A full quarterly report is always enlightening, a bit like Kremlinology of the 1970s — watching which business sectors stand shorter or taller on the company's dais. The health of HP's Services business is one of the leaders we watch, since Services is the sector where HP still collects 3000 customer revenues. HP's Services growth was flat during the last quarterly report, which might explain why the HP board swallowed the EDS deal just now.

EDS wasn't generating much of a profit when HP announced its intention to buy the company, but that didn't push HP's stock down for very long after the announcement. By Thursday HP shares had recovered about half of what they lost on the EDS news — a loss of more market cap than EDS is worth altogether.

But HP reported good preliminary news of its finances that may have helped allay any uncertainty about EDS. The preliminary results reported revenue of $28.3 billion compared with $25.5 billion one year ago. The vendor also raised its "guidance" (estimates) for business in the rest of fiscal 2008.

In the second quarter, preliminary GAAP [Generally Accepted Accounting Practices] diluted earnings per share (EPS) were $0.80 and non-GAAP diluted EPS were $0.87, compared with second quarter fiscal 2007 GAAP diluted EPS [Earnings Per Share] of $0.65 and non-GAAP diluted EPS of $0.70. Non-GAAP diluted EPS estimates exclude after-tax costs related primarily to the amortization of purchased intangible assets of approximately $0.07 per share and $0.05 per share in the second quarter of fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2007, respectively.

HP felt compelled to add in its preliminary notice that business was good across the board. "The second quarter results were highlighted by solid performance across HP's business segments and strong cash flow from operations," the company said on the same day of the EDS announcement.

HP estimates full-year FY08 revenue will be approximately $114.2 billion to $114.4 billion, up from its previous estimate of $113.5 billion to $114 billion. FY08 GAAP diluted EPS is expected to be in the range of $3.30 to $3.34, up from its previous estimate of $3.26 to $3.30

One of the tenets of the HP Way has always been "maintain profits," so the motivation for HP's product and service decisions can be read in a corporate balance sheet and the PowerPoint presentations that accompany the news. On May 20 at 5 PM EDT, the company will present the full picture. An audio Webcast of the conference call will be available at www.hp.com/investor/q22008webcast. HP usually releases a PowerPoint slide deck (in PDF format) at its financials Web site at the same time.

09:19 AM in News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2008

Nothing much new, said by new speakers

About two dozen HP partners and customers took less than a hour today to log into HP's latest update on the system which it calls the e3000. The event was aimed at partners in the Europe, Middle East and Africa HP region (EMEA), but was accessible worldwide. By the time 45 minutes had elapsed, HP had presented less than three dozen PowerPoint slides to the partners, nearly all of which contained zero news.

At least none to our eyes, since we had seen presentations by HP about the platform and migrations at the March GHRUG International Technology Conference. In fact, the e3000 partners got less information from the vendor than GHRUG attendees received, as HP skipped the "Who owns MPE/iX" section of its March presentation. (Download your own copy of the GHRUG slides, as presented by HP e3000 business manager Jennie Hou.)

But we heard a new speaker or two. An uncounted number of partners listened on dial-in phone links to Bernard Determe, whose presence on the HP e3000 EMEA Customers Webinar served as the only new voice. Determe is HP's World Wide Support Planning Manager, a name and voice the world's e3000 users can attach to the vendor's decisions about how long HP will remain in the 3000 community. We say decisions in the plural because, as Determe pointed out today, HP has made three 3000 decisions in all, one following another until "we lose our lab."

HP's speech was not without "color," as we journalists like to call "more speaking about a fact you have already been told." Determe noted that the vendor discovered twice that people are still relying on the 3000 — a point that has sparked two revisions of its support plans.

HP has changed its timeline, but never its intentions, he said. "Since early in the 2000s, we've been pretty consistent in the message we have delivered," Determe said. That is, HP intends to exit the 3000 community and curtail its support, the event the vendor insists on calling "end of life" for the HP 3000.

Life has gone on, he added. "In 2001 we announced the platform would be obsolete in five years, but we were still doing full support and limited development. History has taught us that migrating from any platform to another is a pretty significant endeavor," Determe said, "and many of our customers were still on the e3000 by the end of '06."

Despite HP's discovery of continued 3000 life in 2005, and then in 2007, the vendor seems serious about ending its support in 2008. Well, some kind of support, especially any which requires HP lab development to fix problems. That's what "Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering" means, he said.

"We still offer the same level of from the front line engineers, but we lose our labs," Determe said, "which means there won't be any more PowerPatches [in 2009] there won't be fixes for newly-discovered bugs. We won't be offering new MPE/iX versions so we will stop charging for update services."

As long as customers only wish to call HP for workarounds and fixes to existing problems, "nothing changes [through 2010]," he said. "The only thing that changes is that HP will be unable to provide you with fixes to newly-discovered problems."

Nobody should interpret the extensions as a change of HP strategy about the 3000's lifespan in the vendor's business. But "if some of you feel that what we will offer in '09 and '10 does not meet your needs, I strongly encourage you to get in touch with your HP contact, and we can see what type of custom solutions or transition plans we can build together, to help you migrate to another platform."

Liz Glogowski of the e3000 labs in HP presented the information about HP's Right to Use license (RTU). She called it "a new product that allows for upgrading to different levels [of HP 3000s]. As we've matured we've stopped selling the upgrade options, and yet people still needed to move, to do things like go from a 2-way to 4-way [CPU] on a system."

Glogowski reviewed a list of upcoming deliverables (one remaining PowerPatch 5 for MPE/iX 7.5, to be released "in the next few weeks" by Determe's calcuations) and deliverables for 2007. The accomplishments she listed "from the R&D lab" are

• Samba Porting white paper
• SCSI Pass-Thru Driver Enhancement
• Two critical data integrity patches
• MPE/iX7.0 PowerPatch 5
• Samba Release 3.0.22
• Securing FTP White Paper
• 2007 Daylight Savings Time Changes

Glogowski said that R&D lab engineers are working on peripherals, storage and networking white papers during the remaining 31 weeks of 2008 before the lab reaches its end of life.

11:49 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 14, 2008

HP to present 3000 report

HP 3000 community members might want to have their browsers tuned to the Hewlett-Packard Virtual Rooms Web site tomorrow. At 10 AM EDT (4 PM CET) the vendor will present a 90-minute Webcast on its view of the 3000's future and the past:

    * Review last year activities for MPE
    * Discuss latest announcements
    * Discuss migrations and transition tools and partners

You can dial in to the conference to hear HP's audio presentation. Call from the US at 866-832-0714, Germany at 069 2222 3190, the UK at 01452 555 574 and Canada at 866 530 4984. Other countries throughout the world have dialup numbers as well (listed at the end of this posting); the main number is the UK-based 44 1452 555 574. The conference code to supply at the prompt is 50 63 65#.

HP will present the PowerPoint slide deck for the Webcast at its Virtual Rooms site. The meeting key is EPAAPKCNJ9. Testing your browser and PC/Mac configuration beforehand is a good idea; links to do so are available at the site. HP's software won't use the Firefox browsers on either Windows or Mac PCs.

The Virtual Rooms technology from HP is also for rent by the hour, so the Webcast will offer one way to assess the potential for using this tool for your own company communication.

HP has an FAQ page on the HP Virtual Rooms, which are available for both meetings and training sessions:

Used by hundreds of thousands of users worldwide, HP Virtual Rooms provides a highly collaborative environment for small to large groups. Our products help you implement a cost effective, secure, and flexible solution for your current business needs while positioning you to take full advantage of future virtual training and virtual meeting functionality.

Our outstanding, reliable, and easy-to-use technology, deep knowledge of distance learning, ability to develop content, and worldwide, round-the-clock service allows customers to get important work done-in entirely new and better ways. We use this technology ourselves, throughout HP, giving us first-hand knowledge about our user needs.

At $180 per seat for a minimum 10-seat license, Virtual Rooms is not priced to compete with WebEx. But we've seen the technology used several years ago in an all-day OpenMPE meeting, hosted at HP's facilities back when Interex's HP World conference had gone belly-up. Even in 2005 it looked slick and complete for an audience of advanced technology users.

The full list of dial-in phone numbers for the conference:

Australia     1800 679 161
Austria     019 289 550
Belgium     024 003 450
Canada     1866 530 4984
China North     10800 712 1523
China South     10800 120 1523
Denmark 032 714 925
Finland     0800 117 112
France     01 70 70 07 60
Germany 069 2222 3190
Greece     00800 126 056
Hong Kong     800 963 831
Hungary 06800 15312
Ireland     01 4319 647
Israel     180 921 3988
Italy     023 600 3762
Malaysia     1800 805994
Netherlands     020 713 2968
Norway     800 18430
Poland     00800 121 0132
Portugal     211 201 811
Russia     8~10 800 2230 1012
Singapore     800 1205 507
South Africa     0800 990 918
Spain     914 146 117
Sweden     08 566 184 84
Switzerland     044 580 3457
Turkey     00800 1420 38506
UK     01452 555 574
USA     1866 832 0714

03:09 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 13, 2008

HP, EDS to serve as one

HP announced its largest acquisition since the company purchased Compaq, buying services and integration provider EDS for $13.9 billion. EDS, founded by former US presidential candidate Ross Perot, still manages about 200 HP 3000s, according to a CEO of a software company in the 3000 community. One community member who knows both EDS and HP from earlier times said the two firms are more alike today than they ever were in the 1970s and 1980s.

"The corporate cultures at HP and EDS were totally opposite in their treatment of employees [in the 1970’s]," said former OpenMPE director Paul Edwards, "when I was an employee of each company. HP has now the attitude toward their employees that EDS did back then. After watching my new DVD Origins from HP, which shows the way they valued employees and the HP Way, I really miss that environment."

Edwards sent us the message today from Dallas, which is the EDS headquarters city. He pointed out that EDS has been "a very IBM-oriented company." This might make an HP enterprise customer, mostly the ones who will stay with the vendor through their 3000 transition, wonder why HP wanted to spend so much for a consulting and integration company. The deal more than doubles HP's Services revenues; that sector billed $16.6 billion last year. EDS generated $22.1 billion in revenue in 2007 and has approximately 140,000 employees in 65 countries. HP's headcount has nearly doubled immediately to a total of 312,000, with more than half of its workers now dedicated to services.

The markets dealt out a sharp sell-off of HP stock in their immediate reaction. HP lost more market cap during the first 24 hours after the announcement than the total value of EDS.

Services is high profit, so much so that HP will create a separate EDS group as part of its strategy. The only HP businesses which generate more profits are systems and HP's ink sales. Services is long-term money, not the constant battle of printers and imaging or the tough sell and churn of enterprise servers and storage. Services is lucrative, which is why HP has been after this kind of company ever since the Compaq deal's ink was dry.

Not long after Carly Fiorina engineered that Compaq merger, fighting back half of HP's shareholders, her executives reached out for Price Waterhouse Cooper, the largest of all independent "C&I" firms, as they're called in the industry. The PWC deal didn't make it out of an HP boardroom vote, a harbinger of the dissent to come about HP's style of growth. At the time, the PWC deal was a $16 billion purchase. Since HP is getting EDS for $2 billion less, four years later, this is a much bigger value at a time when HP needs to maintain revenue growth.

Purchasing massive competitors is becoming a favorite HP strategy to grow. The Mercury Interactive purchase of 2006 clocked in at nearly $7 billion, and it was aimed at enterprise users, too. HP considers the services sector an important part of its enterprise strategy. This is clearly not a deal aimed at the PC buyers or customers who toss an ink cartridge into their grocery carts once a month. HP said of the purchase,

This acquisition fills out a part of our portfolio that we consider to be strategically important. This acquisition will strengthen our ability to compete in the important services segment. By using our technology to automate, we will be able to drive greater efficiencies for our customers on a global basis while expanding our offerings in key segments and extending our reach in important vertical industries.

HP has an extensive press kit on the deal, announced just two days before the company's Q2 report. Purchasing the number one services provider will make waves and perhaps tilt HP toward services as a hedge on printer and imaging revenues.

05:55 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 12, 2008

Escaping an HP 3000

We’re having trouble entering an escape character in MPE’s editor. Is there a trick to it?  We’re trying to change the instructions it sends to a printer.

Lars Appel replies:

I typically use some form of change or changeQ command when texting a file that contains escape characters and before saving it again.

:editor
/text myfile
/changeQ ‘27 to ‘126 in all
... edit file ...
/changeQ ‘126 to ‘27 in all
/keep
/exit

Using something like ~ (ASCII code 126) during the edit session. Of course, it only works if there is no ~ normally in the file.

Dave Powell adds:

Nowdays I keep permanent human-readable env files in a separate group, so conversions are one-way only and I never have to change esc back into ~.  When I got tired of changing ~ into esc I wrote a simple COBOL program to do it. It also knows how to filter out my comments, so I can make my human-readable env files even more readable.

Craig Lalley adds:

Turn on display functions first.

06:13 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2008

The Software Library opens for lending

An OpenMPE volunteer has presented the first full catalog for the legendary Contributed Software Library on his own server. Tracy Johnson reported that “The programs can accessed at 198.212.189.111. You may log in as USER.CSLXL and it will run the old CSL Catalog system.” The CSL has been in stealth mode since the Interex user group went bankrupt three summers ago.

The CSL catalog system is the easiest way to search out gems for 3000 adminstration such as ALLOWME from the Interex CSL library, or DBSAME, which makes extensive use of the DBINFO intrinsic to compare two databases.

You could get any of this, one program at a time from Charles Shimada, a volunteer whose hard work kept Interex computers running at many a conference. Shimada was holding the archives of the CSL when Interex melted down in 2005.

Now with the catalog back online, it's simpler to pull off your own utility after doing some shopping. Interex once made the CSL a benefit of site membership, but users who brought utilities to a conference got a Swap Tape with all contributions included. Most were placed on the next edition of the CSL tape.

Johnson says the 3000 community can use popular connectivity programs to grab programs. “After exiting the catalog, USER has access to the colon prompt, then can run Reflection or Minisoft file transfer if desired.”

More than two years have elapsed since Interex passed away. The user group's assets have been dissected, calculated and disbursed, but the CSL was not on any trustee's list. Interex never owned these programs, only the collective catalog of them on a single tape or selected from one data store.

To eliminate any problems of ownership, the Boeing contributed software, including the popular BOUNCER program, has been removed from the catalog.

05:16 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 08, 2008

To-do list for documentation

HP 3000 veterans preach on the merits of documentation. The practice is especially important for any enterprise system like yours, one which has information slipping away from the vendor every month, through retirements, revision of Web resources, and a declining support capability.

When a vendor support call to HP can be greeted with "what kind of printer is your 3000 anyway?" it's time to ensure you know as much about your server as you can. You might be teaching it to a support engineer. Only a System Manager's Notebook can keep a site going forward safely as a homesteader.

One of the most experienced 3000 experts on the planet, Paul Edwards, offers a free homesteading white paper on the Web which includes a contents list of his Manager's Notebook for 3000 sites. His Web-based paper is available for download, which is more than you can say for HP's availability of some of its 3000 peripheral documentation.

Edwards' advice includes a long list of what to document, as well as keeping up with the Gold Book, that logbook HP sent customers along with the HP 3000 hardware. Gold Book entries always were the customer's responsibility, a place to take notes on what a Customer Engineer did during a site service visit as well as record the site-specifics of a configuration. Russ Smith, a 3000 system manager for a California credit union, detailed the Gold Book's tabs as a list of what you should be documenting, as well as what went inside each section for him.

The tabs in the Gold Book binder and what we suggested be kept in each were:

    • Available Services
        - copy of HP user license (one of the many pieces of paper that was always floating around in the boxes when we unpacked and setup the 3000).
        - sheet containing name, telephone number and brief description of procedure for logging calls for hardware, OS, and each installed software program or utility (not covered by OS support).

•  Hardware Historical Records
        - hardware maintenance for the 3000’s cabinets, processor, processor board, mother board, power supplies, UPS, and modems.

    •  Software Historical Records
        - software maintenance for the operating system, patches, and third party software installations and upgrades.

    •  System IO Configuration
        - printouts of ODE/MAPPER run, SYSGEN/IO/LP, SYSGEN/IO/LD, DSTAT ALL and SHOWDEV after any change to the system configuration.
        - printout of SUMMARY CONFIG from NMMGR.

    •  Preventative Maintenace
        - schedule of PMs for the system and peripherals
        - instructions for maintenance of each piece of hardware on the system, as covered in the accompanying documentation when purchased.

    •  Computer
        - system inventory of hardware (using “System Equipment List” form), where the description and serial numbers are the items not found elsewhere.
        - copy of packing slips for all the hardware that was unpacked during installations.

    •  Terminals and Personal Computers
        - custom spreadsheets used to document terminal configuration and groupings.  This was specific to the Summit credit union software running for credit unions.  For each terminal/PC (virtual and serial), we tracked device numbers for where receipts and reports printed, DTC numbers, branch (location) names, user names, etc.

   •  Printers
        - hardware maintenance records of system line printers.

   •  Tape Drives
        - hardware maintenance records of system tape drives.

   •  Disk Drives
        - hardware maintenance records of system hard drives.

   •  Plotters
        - never used plotters, so we used this section to hold a printout of SYSGEN/MI and SYSGEN/LO setups.

   •  Installation Records
        - copies patchset loading instructions for the current release of the OS, and software loading and enabling instructions for the version currently in use.  This data was rotated out to another binder when appropriate.

•  Customer Support Service Agreement
        - copy of our hardware contract.

10:25 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 07, 2008

Document your homesteading

In a world where the wealth of digital information now outnumbers that on paper, printed documentation can still be important to homesteaders. Actually, all documentation is important for homesteaders. An experienced storage and networking guru made a comment about this on yesterday's HP 3000 newsgroup.

While I want to ensure I don't quote Denys Beauchemin out of context, he noted that securing documentation on older hardware — the sort you might use to replace devices like external tape drive libraries — can be "a fun issue."

Another fun issue for those who are considering homesteading; make sure you have all the documentation available for all your hardware.

Nobody here is talking genuine fun. A 3000 user was striking out while searching for documentation for his SureStore DLT Autoloader, apparently purchased used. I suggested that documentation is an issue, but it pales before some others — and plenty of issues also loom large for the migrating customer. I said, "Really, manuals as a reason to migrate?"

That was too much for Denys, and we had misunderstood one another. Manuals are important for a homesteader, no less so than the migrating customer. It's just that the documentation for older hardware can be harder to locate. That's an issue for any IT manager, experienced or otherwise, no matter what HP platform they're using. It's hard to imagine that every HP-UX system manager has all the manuals to all of the hardware in their shop.

The autoloader user got a 3000 community member to dig up the needed manual, online at a university in Ireland, since those docs have been pulled from HP's Web sites. HP has plenty of manuals online. So does the rest of the world — and sometimes more than HP can provide, online or otherwise.

You might find HP's manuals at docs.hp.com, as well as other places around the world. The autoloader is an eight-year-old device, so it's aging fast as a storage unit. But since HP has chosen to cut off its peripheral extension development for HP 3000s, you might have no other choice when you need to replace something like the C1745-8000. The customer was just swapping in another autoloader for a device that was working until recently.

Denys makes good points, but you can supply your own context and filter.

To me it sounds more like an excellent suggestion: “If you’re in for the long run, make sure you have all your documentation now.”

I do not believe that over time we will have more documents dealing with old pre-2000 hardware/software. I kind of think that whatever is available right now as documentation for that will probably diminish over time.

I looked at the HP Web site for DLT documentation for this device and it was not to be found there. This device is about 8-10 years old and HP no longer offers the documentation. It was found at a university in Ireland. That’s very reassuring, I’m sure it will be there next year and three years.

Just in case you were not reading closely, Denys was kidding on his last point, about finding the documentation at the Irish university in 2011. "Actually, this is one of the big issues with the Internet," he added, "a lot of older information disappears."

I might be confused here. But it looks like HP, which built this product and sold it to customers for the long haul, has let this information disappear. (There's ancient MPE/iX documentation online at HP, more than 12 years old.) Meanwhile the Irish university hung onto the information — and also made the docs available to the rest of the world. So who's taking care of the community better?

When an IT manger at the Phoenix Police Department can dredge up a manual off an Irish server better than HP, it says a lot about what to expect from HP as a homesteader. As Denys said, "A lot of older information disappears." The Phoenix Police tracked down the manual Monday morning; the user put a call out on Friday. I'm not sure HP even sells that level of 3000 response time, or if it does, you won't be able to buy it after December.

OpenMPE director Donna Hofmeister, now at support provider Allegro, agreed with Denys. "Manuals are important!" she said.

I strongly recommend getting local electronic copies of the manuals you feel are important to what you do. And having a second electronic copy on another machine is a good idea, since one of the fundamental laws of computing is when you really, really need <that file> the server it’s on will be unaccessible.

01:01 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 06, 2008

Encompass, Euro Interex, ITUG Connect users

Four user groups became as one this week when the Encompass, Interex Europe, ITUG NonStop and Encompass Pacific joined hands as Connect. The new name is a result of the research required to acquire Web addresses and trademarks, according to president Nina Buik. But the user group alliance, now 50,000 strong, took its name as part of its primary mission.

"That's what we do," Buik said. "We connect members to each other, we connect members to HP and HP's partners, we connect members to education — so we thought it was a very appropriate name for the new organization." She invited members and the HP IT community to visit hpusercommunity.org to get "the feel of the new networking tools." The HP Technology Forum employed user networking tools in its 2007 conference.

It took 27 directors of the allied user groups to decide on things like names and committees, but only a dozen will be serving on the Connect board. Board representation includes members from each of the founding users groups. Buik, former president of Encompass, will lead the board as president. Margo Holen will serve as vice president, Glen Kuykendall was elected secretary/treasurer, and Scott Healy, former ITUG president, will serve as immediate past president. Newly elected directors include Steve Davidek — formerly of the Interex advocacy committee, and an HP 3000 site manager — Bill Johnson, Jay McLaughlin, Henk Pomper, Joe Ramos, Dr. Michael Rossbach, Gerhard Wedenig and Brad Harwell (HP).

Buik said that seating a vendor official on a user group board is not new to the ITUG members, but it's a novel appointment among most user groups' leadership. The HP user group Interex never had an HP employee on its board in 30 years, but had an HP liasion each year.

"We maintain numerous executive relationships," Buik said. "Brad Harwell is an HP executive and was named as the liaison to the new board. For clarity, David Parsons is a director." Parsons is an executive VP of Hewlett-Packard and ran point for the Technology Forum in its first year, when Interex had folded. Harwell is director of marketing in the Technical Solutions Group for the Americas at HP.

Advocacy efforts will be "stronger than ever" for the Connect group, which calls HP its strategic business partner. Encompass embraced the enterprise customer base as "an independent, pre-eminent worldwide community of users of HP enterprise technologies." The Connect advocacy to HP on behalf of the 3000 enterprise community might not be able to reverse HP's decision to drop MPE/iX certifications next month.

Buik has been on several conference calls to discuss the certifications, she said. "HP is aware of the expiring HP 3000 certifications, as I have been on several calls discussing this very issue.  As you know, certifications change as the technologies change. It's not always a popular decision."

Joining together to create a single user group has been HP's desire. "We congratulate the groups on this significant accomplishment," said HP's Harwell. "It will provide HP a direct, unified customer forum representing the greater HP user community interests worldwide.” Harwell said the combined groups will help customers worldwide "access an expanding portfolio of HP technologies."

However much ease HP has gained in working with a single group, the amassed customers will be working on raising the user voice to the vendor. "We look at multiple ways to get our voice 'Hurd,' " Buik said. "Please see my [Encompass] blog for more on this. There is an Adocacy Committee and the chair of this and all Connect committees will be volunteers! Board members will serve as liaisons for each committee."

Committee leaders were not decided when Connect made its alliance announcement yesterday.

Members of each user group will have complimentary membership in Connect through the end of 2008. The official launch celebration for Connect will take place at next month's HP Technology Forum & Expo, which kicks off June 16 for four days in Las Vegas.

06:16 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 05, 2008

When COBOL heat lights up the future

One year ago this month, Micro Focus announced its purchase of its most prevalent COBOL competitor for 3000 sites, Acucorp. The Micro Focus juggernaut was righting itself after a discouraging era that saw profits and revenues falling. Acucorp had built a successful solution of a COBOL compiler for HP 3000 sites in migration. AcuCOBOL is built to mimic the 3000's HP COBOL II as closely as possible with something created outside HP's labs.

After that $40 million purchase of Acucorp, Micro Focus reported today that is has gone on to set a record for yearly revenue, beating its "Drive to $225 (Million)" sales goal. Now the owner of two-thirds of the COBOL choices for HP 3000 sites will be purchasing NetManage, another $25 million spent to get into a business allied with IT enterprise operations. NetManage sells software "to transform core applications into new Web-based business solutions."

Two years ago, Micro Focus pursued an old, familiar business solution as its new management's goal. In simple terms, stemming the loss of business revenue was Job One. Legacy platforms were the primary means for the solution.

"The primary focus of the new management team is to continue to restore the business to achieve significant, sustainable, profitable growth and to enhance shareholder confidence over time," CEO Stephen Kelly said back then. After two years of buying businesses at a cost that's almost 50 percent of 2006 Micro Focus revenues, it looks like Micro Focus is making progress on the business it desired: Restoration of the Micro Focus operations. Stock traded about $250 a share on May 5.

It took COBOL revenues to make this restoration a reality. Clearly this is a compiler technology that still produced heat, since billions upon billions of lines of COBOL run the world's business. Buying ownership of newer technology is one thing that a company can do with its success in legacy offerings. COBOL for 3000 migrators comes from individual suppliers like Micro Focus. But a move away from it is just as possible as the Micro Focus drive to solutions not tied to COBOL. An HP 3000 software vendor is working on a design that not only leaves Micro Focus out of the picture, but in time erases the need for COBOL altogether.

The other one-third of COBOL choices, Fujitsu NetCOBOL, differs from both Micro Focus products. AcuCOBOL and Micro Focus are interpreted implementations of compilers. According to QSS founder Duane Percox, whose company is migrating its K-12 HP 3000 application to other platforms, "we felt we had less control with those compilers than a compiler like Fujitsu NetCOBOL, which is a native compilation."

Maybe even more important to the migrating customer, Fujitsu's COBOL has no run-time fees.

But even while QSS is using NetCOBOL, its longer-term goals include eliminating as much vendor-controlled technology as possible. Ruby is open source. "Ruby is a standalone object oriented program scripting language," Percox said. "A goal of our Ruby exploration is to begin to replace the COBOL with Ruby wherever it makes sense." QSS has COBOL in all of its software implementations, from the MPE/iX version to HP-UX to Linux.

A former HP 3000 lab expert, Jeff Vance, joined QSS this year for just this kind of technology exploration. The aim of the project is similar to what Micro Focus is buying with $25 million in cost cuts and COBOL growth: a Web application foundation. QSS is employing "the use of Ruby as a general purpose language for any number of things (not necessarily Web based)," Percox said, "and when I say Rails I am really saying 'Ruby on Rails' which is the framework for Web applications."

Cutting down lagging products is important in the Micro Focus kind of business formula, because you need the money from somewhere to make the big purchases. It can be the kind of model where design elegance and customer loyalty can't hold a candle to growth's bright light. HP 3000 customers might recall how vital growth was to an HP that had to cut out the 3000 from future plans. Kelly remains at the CEO desk at Micro Focus, a UK company which trades only on the London Stock Exchange. Two years ago he said

Tough action has been taken in regard to costs, the benefits of which we expect to flow through to operating profits in FY2007. Returning to sustainable revenue growth is the key factor that will determine the long term success of the Company. And while I believe we have broadly arrested the decline, our revenue outlook remains cautious as we stabilise and focus the business.

01:59 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2008

HP's 3000 voice sounds like silence

We could almost call this entry "A lack of news outta HP," but even no news is notable. It's not good news for 3000 customers that HP's gone so quiet, the subject of our podcast for this month (6 MB, six minutes of 'cast.)

Notice how quiet it has become out there? When an advocacy group for MPE hears no HP answers to the big questions, when the vendor speaks up only in a room of 50 people or less, when the messages in forums show up less than a handful a month, you get the picture HP wants to deliver. “We’re curtailing our 3000 work,” the vendor says to anybody in earshot. Been saying it for some time now.

The voices which know the answers sit very still inside the HP Services group. More often than ever, the HP 3000 group at Hewlett-Packard issues increasing sounds of silence.

12:32 PM in News Outta HP, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 01, 2008

A bleak Vista faces a mature OS sibling

Some veteran HP 3000 developers and consultants are taking note of how unloved Microsoft's Vista has become. The newest generation of Windows got an ugly reputation from its first month of release, kind of like that stain that lands on your dress shirt as soon as you step up to the buffet table. Windows is the leading choice for HP 3000 sites who are migrating, but apparently not many Windows users are choosing Vista on purpose.

What's more, Microsoft is in total denial of the OS warts and birth defects. Vista is so bad that PC users have begun to cheer for its older sibling, XP. You could have gotten good odds that an XP cheering section was a fantasy five years ago. Now XP fans are not only legion, but Dell will now scrape Vista off a new PC to get you to buy it. HP and Lenovo, Numbers One and Three in the Windows platform derby, also give customers a way to avoid Vista.

Microsoft has begun to treat XP like MPE/iX has been treated by HP. That's to say, XP had a deadline for its demise (dead from the vendor's point of view, but like MPE/iX, still living and working well outside the vendor's marketing chambers.) Microsoft extended the deadline. Still, the vendor is curtailing its XP support since it has delayed the Service Pack 3 for XP. These moves are all in the hopes of making Vista look like a better choice for companies. Individuals are forced to take Vista on a new system, but enterprises can push back.

Bruce Hobbs, a veteran of HP 3000 development and a consultant to 3000 software supplier ROC Software, keeps passing along notes from the outside world about the demise of Windows. The collapse of something that's installed on 90 million PCs could take awhile to ripple through the IT world. But the analysis shows that getting deeper into Windows than XP — and drinking the Vista Kool-AId — is a decision ripe with possibilities, many of them immature.

At the moment, the talk is about how much Vista will need to grow up to be as reliable as XP. By reliable I mean "able to perform without fail for a computer pro who is not a Windows guru." You can get Vista testimonials from the surgeons who've had their hands inside Windows' heart cavity for years. But the summary score for Vista is Not Ready Yet. That has not kept Microsoft from pushing it, even to the point of cooking the books on how many copies are being installed.

Dell, for one, "is installing Vista on your new machine, then cleaning it off and putting on XP, all in a little charade that lets Microsoft keep counting up the new Vista sales even among those who refuse to use it," according to San Jose Mercury News blog reporters on Good Morning Silicon Valley. HP and Lenovo will include an XP Pro recovery disk, on request, with qualifying systems.

Nothing starts out perfect, or even close to it in the computer business. MPE/iX had such a spectacular failure at first that 3000 users said that using a 1.x version of the OS was "a career-defining decision." (It was called MPE/XL in those days, but by any name it took two years-plus before the market began to trust it.) And the 3000 itself, powered by MPE, fell so flat on its face that HP yanked the system off the market at the end of 1972, before the smell of crashed programs could fill the minicomputer town square of the day.

The point to take away from the Vista false start is that staying with a mature solution can mean doing your own dance of denial. To keep using and getting support for XP, a company with designs on Windows must tune out the Vista snake dance. Windows is a logical choice for a company with PCs already using the OS on desktops — and a crack Windows staff or consultants on call — at least any company which must migrate. Migration to Vista, though, still looks like a leap too large to generate anything but a pratfall, unless an IT group has Windows gurus on payroll.

The Ars Technica Web site has a story on how Dell and Lenovo will be extending XP sales beyond the Microsoft deadline for the mature operating environment. Mature is a relative term there, of course, compared to the 34 straight years of MPE/iX field use, upgrades and development. Microsoft might promise a brighter future in its Vista, but the reality of today makes the new Windows a murky migration choice.

11:58 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)