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August 29, 2008

Link-In to your 3000 Community to discuss

Linkedinlogo Starting today, the professional social network LinkedIn adds new features to make it easy for HP 3000 customers to discuss problems, solutions and issues about the Transition Era. LinkedIn has an "HP 3000 Community" group with more than 30 members, one that's been growing slowly but steadily since we kicked it off last month. These numbers are very comparable to the myCommunity members at Connect who have posted an HP 3000 profile — and Connect has reached out to encourage LinkedIn members to join the Connect group.

Linked In also has a "HP3000 - Bill & Dave's Excellent Machine" group to join. Before today, these groups were a portal to other Linked In members, professionals whose background you needed to survey to find an answer to a question in a one-on-one message. But the new features promise much more collaboration.

Linked In is a free membership, and building a network of connections is easy and fun. Sign up at linkedin.com, or log in if you're already a member, then type "HP 3000 Community" in the Groups Search box at the top right. I'll do the routing to ensure you get into the group. LinkedIn reports that "Together you have made Groups one of the top features on LinkedIn." The social network explains the upgrades:

This Friday, we will be adding several much-requested features to your group:

  • Discussion forums: Simple discussion spaces for you and your members. (You can turn discussions off in your management control panel if you like.)
  • Enhanced roster: Searchable list of group members.
  • Digest emails: Daily or weekly digests of new discussion topics which your members may choose to receive. (We will be turning digests on for all current group members soon, and prompting them to set to their own preference.)
  • Group home page: A private space for your members on LinkedIn.

Linkedin The LinkedIn managers add, "We're confident that these new features will spur communication, promote collaboration, and make your group more valuable to you and your members. We hope you can come by LinkedIn on Friday morning to check out the new functionality and get a group discussion going by posting a welcome message."

I'll do my part to kick off a message today on the discussion board. I hope you will join Linked In, become a group member to learn and share what you know and what you're trying.

10:18 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 28, 2008

HP advises against replacing what you built

Vice President Lynn Anderson spread HP's message of change at the recent HP Technology Forum. I sat down with her to discuss HP's approach to replacement of 3000 applications during a migration versus the task of rewriting. HP prefers the latter to getting an off the shelf app in Unix or Windows to duplicate the years of architecture and development under MPE/iX.

We also talked about how nearly half of you will be retired from in three years, according to an HP study. Start planning your future accordingly if you're staying on board, she advises, by keeping your "fresh until" date well into the years beyond, with new skills. At the HP Technology Forum, I asked her about the replacement versus Linux or Unix rewrites.

3000 customers tend to fall into one of two categories: those who know more about their business than computing, and those who built their IT installations, doing it themselves, from the bit-level upward. What do you think about the prospect of Linux suiting the migration needs of that latter group? Or should they look to match up with a replacement app?

    Matching can disappoint. We say don’t look at what you want your application to do today, but what do you want it to do tomorrow. [For the DIY customer], do you have the personnel?

   I think back to when I was a programmer. We had a guy in our shop who liked to think of himself as writing elegant code. Then he left, and when we had to make a change to his code, we literally had to draw straws, because nobody wanted to touch it.

   You have to look at that when judging a workforce. We just did a study on datacenter transformation, and by the year 2011 45 percent of the IT workforce will be retired.

So how will this impact choices to move forward with IT?

    We tell these customers you will never get anything to replace what you had built. The question is what will you want to do tomorrow, and are you going to have the staff to be able to go into the code.

Why so few remaining in IT?

    I don’t think we have done a good job of selling the value of a career in technology. During the dot-coms it was a bit cool, but it was never about people doing the IT work. It was more on the idea side. And you know what? It still is cool, and it can be a great way to make a living.

Plenty of 3000 customers make a living that way. HP has started to call them “technologists.” Do you see technologists as typical influencers in the 3000 ecosystem?

    I do. And I think over the years companies — and I’m not saying this about HP — who have forgotten about these influencers. Technologists still play a big role in organizations. There are not too many CIOs that are going to make a decision diametrically opposed to their organization. Based on that, we need to get the information out there so the technologist can understand it.

    With me starting out in that technology environment, I understand. We got our stripes in the 3000, and it was “live free or die — MPE only.”

So how do you influence those technology customers to dig in to new concepts and processes like ITIL?

    No matter what technology you deliver at work, that doesn’t mean you should stop learning about other technologies. You can think of bread at the grocery store — what are you doing to reset your “Best Before” date?


10:35 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 27, 2008

HP says staying fresh maintains influence

Lynn Anderson came to the HP Technology Forum to spread influence, but she did it using utensils forged in early HP 3000 work. She’s an HP Vice President, but started her career working on an HP 3000 in the mill town where she grew up. A Series II system displayed her first MPE colon prompt.

Later on in programming and system engineering for HP, She was a network specialist for MPE, a job that included a high point of bringing up the first HP 1000-HP 3000 local area network: Two platforms HP no longer sells. Anderson laughed at the wonder of such a connection everyone felt then. “Real time meets all-the-time,” she said

With that kind of in-the-tech-trenches background, HP sends Anderson to briefings like the ones at the Technology Forum to make contact with influencers whose roots are like hers: at the byte level from years ago. Apparently I was such an influencer, even if the byte level is removed from my skill set. HP offered up Anderson for me to interview at the Forum, and we spent a half-hour talking about what has been in the 3000 customer’s community, and what HP hopes it will include in the future.

Your title says that you’re a VP whose job is Influencer Marketing. What does that mean in the HP of 2008?

   My team is responsible for media relations across the Technical Support Group, executive communications both internal and external. We bring pieces of our portfolio to deliver a solution to market, and we do some strategy and planning. That’s my team. We focus on those groups of individuals who ultimately influence end-user customers.

HP’s head of TSG Ann Livermore led off with an HP-UX question in her keynote today, assuring customers that the OS would be at HP a long time. What can you say to assure the 3000 customers HP-UX won’t meet the MPE/iX fate? Is Linux a safer long-term play?

    We sit down with our customers and help them select the best route, whether it’s into HP-UX, whether it’s into Linux, or whether it’s Microsoft. We’re the only vendor who can provide a single hardware platform that can run multiple operating systems.

    There are opportunities to move from the 3000 platform to all three of these operating systems. The goal is “what’s your business need? What kinds of high availability do you need?” In some cases, it’s picking the right operating system for an application. There are cases where companies do run multiple operating systems.
    It’s all about making the best the right one for the job at hand. We announced that our NonStop servers now have blade capability. NonStop is truly 24x7, where the mission is truly critical.

There’s another migration ongoing at HP. How are the customers taking to moving to Integrity from PA-RISC servers in the HP 9000 marketplace? Has Integrity’s domination become complete?

    In our latest quarter, Integrity revenues were up 35 percent.

So does Integrity represent more than three fourths of sales for what HP calls its Business Critical Servers which are not “Industry Standard Servers?”

    It’s not quite total dominance [for Integrity], but we don’t split up the revenues between our product lines. Integrity is still a healthy contributor to the top and bottom line for us.

05:24 PM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 26, 2008

STORE options you may not know

STORE is the default backup tool for every HP 3000, but this bedrock of backup has options which might exceed expectations for a subsystem utility. Gilles Schipper, the support guru of more than two decades on the 3000, told us about a few STORE sweet spots this year at the GHRUG conference.

To start, using the :MAXTAPEBUF option can cut a four-hour backup to three hours or less. Schipper says that increasing the buffer size default to 32K, from the usual 16K, speeds up the backup when STORE sees MAXTAPEBUF. "That's a pretty good payback for one option."

Backups don't need to be specified with an @.@.@ command to be complete. "People should really be using the forward slash," he says, "because it's easy to accidentally omit the Posix file structure if you're not careful constructing your fileset backup." The slash is so much better that a backup specified by HP's TurboStore will replace any @.@.@ operation with "./" Combining @.@.@ with exclusions can lead to omitting files which should have been in a backup.

Schipper says that including a directory on a backup is smart, but private volumes in use on a 3000 need more than :directory as an option.

"If you're using private volumes and the directory option, you'll only get the system volume directory — and you will not get the private volume directories," he says. The backup must explicitly specify the volumes through the ONVS= command, using the long name of the private volume.

The partdb option on a STORE command ensure that any 3000 databases which are incomplete will get backed up. Without partdb, if a root file "doesn't have its corresponding data sets, the root file won't get stored. It's silly, but partdb ensures they get stored." A privileged file can also look like a partial database, so partdb brings those files into a STORE backup.

A 3000 with HP's TurboStore, rather than just the default STORE, can take advantage of the :online command. "It will give you zero downtime, if you have that version from HP," Schipper says. But that begins to drift away from the no-cost STORE options available to any HP 3000 administrator or owner.

04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 25, 2008

Keeping up links to 3000 info

Freshair The Web is well-known for dead links, those Web addresses which return nothing but a "404 Not Found" message, or something more clever from some providers. The HP 3000 has been the subject of Web information for so long that its Web links bear some scrutiny these days, when parts of your ecosystem can go dormant. Some of the older information is on HP's Jazz Web server, where one dated page shows us how much has changed since the start of the century. (We'd like to see more "Not Found" pages like the comic one at left, an effort to spark vacating the chair in front of the keyboard.)

At a Web page titled "How to get HPe3000 information online, there's a good top half of the page with instructions on how to subscribe to the HP 3000 newsgroup/mailing list. But once you read beyond the link to 3k Associates' e3000 FAQ, the links get spotty. It begins with a reference to the HP e3000 Answer Line, an experiment hosted by the now-defunct user group Interex.

Another casualty that lingers in HP reference page is the 3kworld site, a venture started by Client Systems in the months before Y2K. 3kworld didn't outlive HP's first announced end of support date — but a major portion of its material was supplied by the NewsWire, so much of what was online is still available.

Perhaps a greater loss, still listed on the HP page, is the pair of e3000 vendor lists, solutionstore3000.com and the HP 3000 vendor directory maintained by Triolet Systems' founder Brian Duncombe. Of the former we know too much; SolutionStore was a NewsWire venture of the 1990s, until a Web provider went dark with all data. Duncombe checked in with a similar outcome for his labors, but his information survives at OpenMPE.

Duncombe did a cleaner exit than we managed with SolutionStore. He contributed the source of his vendor listings to OpenMPE last year at the request of director Donna Hofmeister and Webmaster John Dunlop.

The remains of the list are still online at the great Tech Wiki created by 3k's Chris Bartram, who still tends to the server hosting the archived articles of the 3000 NewsWire 1996-2005. You can look through a list by vendor category or vendor name at the HP 3000 Twiki site. Even update an entry, if you're so inclined to help.

Duncombe, who started his project in the 1990s and maintained it for nearly a decade, wrote several popular performance utilities for the HP 3000 during the 1980s and '90s. He then had to wage a lawsuit campaign against a series of companies to get paid for his most popular product, and finally prevailed several years ago after what seemed like a decade of court jousting and delays. Of his vendor list, cross-indexed and including hundreds of companies, Duncombe said

I was never able to generate more than an infinitely small interest in vendors keeping me up to date. The majority of the vendor list was generated by me from materials that I picked up at conferences or e-mail references. Most updates were likewise generated by me, although some were as a result of a complaint about inaccurate information by a user, and my [subsequent] research into the specific item. It was a labor of love that I had to end when I stopped going to conferences.

Google quickly finds Adager, Flexibase, RAC, QTP, MPE/iX 6.5, and so forth. The cross-referencing by subject was useful in my vendor list, but my suggestion [to OpenMPE] was that it is not worth the effort.

The path of my pursuit in this update of Web links turns out to be circular. I located that HP Web page that sports long-dead links (Interex expired three years ago) by searching with Google. To be precise, though, the HP page turned up in a search using Google Minus Google, an engine built around Google's that eliminates results from Google's Web sites like Blogger, YouTube and Knol.

As Duncombe says, Google turns out to be a great way to find HP 3000 vendors who you already know by name. He's retired from his labors to found a chapter of Habit for Humanity, volunteering as well as "keeping busy getting back into photography and woodworking. I still lurk on [the 3000 mailing list] and see the messages from those still on the platform. I understand that for a small company that is perfectly happy with MPE, it is difficult to migrate, and that is a business decision that can be taken with the known facts."

07:08 PM in History, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2008

OpenMPE keeps knocking on HP's door

Once a month, or sometimes twice, the OpenMPE advocacy group holds a meeting by teleconference. The group's directors discuss the big questions about 3000 life after HP leaves the market. They sometimes discuss these issues with Jeff Bandle of HP, where the details then fall under the confidential code of executive session.

This week the group posted meeting minutes from May and June discussions, where progress on a 3000 community resource was revealed. HP expressed a little interest in getting the programs and applications transferred from the Invent3k public development server — hosted at HP — onto OpenMPE's HP 3000s. From the minutes:

June 12: While there's been interest expressed, there's been little follow-up. [Director] Anne Howard is aware of a company that's retiring many MPE systems. Perhaps a system would come available that way. Another possibility is to formally ask for HP's Invent3k [server].

June 26: HP seems agreeable to giving OpenMPE a backup tape of Invent3k. There is an issue with third-party software that needs addressing.

While Invent3k and its assets are not yet outside of HP, this is a small victory of some note. HP will at least begin to transfer one 3000-related asset out of the company. And so, the vendor must create a process to do this, one that might pave the way for other transfers.

The complete listing of meeting minutes is available on the OpenMPE Web site. Reading them in order shows the efforts which nine volunteers continue to make on licensing issues, asset transfers and other work needed to keep 3000s running long after HP leaves.

This work will be done on behalf of some customers, including large manufacturers, who will be using 3000s for several years after HP's support ends. One major aircraft maker has no plans to turn off their HP 3000 until 2013 — working around an SAP implementation team schedule that has no regard for HP's 3000 migration timetable, or warnings of risks.

11:13 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 21, 2008

App supplier advances, holds line for 3000 sites

Software suppliers have made decisions during the past year or two on the future of their HP 3000 solutions. Even the most ardent do-it-yourselfers will be using such third party solutions on a 3000, ranging from utilities like Adager to languages like Speedware to helper apps to manage communication between servers. STR Software, which sells software in that last category, has been helping hundreds to migrate — but its founder says the company will never give up on a 3000 installation.

Ben Bruno of STR updated us on the company's migration efforts, which began in 1992 when a customer asked for a Unix version of FAX/3000 (as it was called at the time.) Over the years the 3000 software evolved into AventX MPE, which earned a spot on 581 HP 3000 servers. More than 100 still send support fees to STR, Bruno reports.

He also says that the company's single largest customer of all time, First American Home Buyers, recently completed their replacement of HP 3000s with Windows servers, and "they moved with our product, too." Combining a mix of migration targets to STR's companion products on Linux, Windows and Unix, along with unflagging support of 3000 customers, mixed revenues arrive for sales and support and "the entire company wins," Bruno says.

STR aims to make a stand with a goal of keeping half of its existing AventX MPE business:

We have 107 licenses paying an annual software and hardware (=fax server) support fee. We have another 40 who still use it, but don’t pay support because it is too darned reliable!  Our goal is to retain at least half of these remaining 107 active and 40 non-paying licenses forever on our other platform solutions. Although the number of active licenses continues to decrease, we also continue to “migrate” them to our companion products on Linux, Unix and Windows with a free license transfer. Unused support transfers as well.  Last year alone, we migrated nine MPE licenses to Windows free of charge. We see many of the Ecometry and MANMAN companies migrating to Windows.

The best news is that with enhanced technologies that include inbound and outbound desktop fax, OCR, advance routing, input into databases, and so forth, we significantly increase their use of our products, and that leads to increased initial sales revenue and recurring support revenue.  The entire company wins.

I can honestly say that 20 of our MPE customers will most likely never move from the HP 3000.  They simply don’t have the money to do so. For example, Measurement Specialties bought several [3000] spares to keep MPE alive. 

I thank one of my MPE customers, Boat America, who in 1992 said, “Ben, I can’t find a Unix (Sequent server) fax solution that has what yours has for me. Please consider writing it in UNIX.”  Well it took five years of a complete C++ rewrite on the core product, and another seven-plus years in the major ERP markets of Oracle and SAP, but we have been solidly selling in non-MPE markets post Y2K. I am certainly glad that we plowed the MPE profits into the development of the non-MPE products. Aligning our niche focus with Oracle EBS and hiring talented staff has been wise too.

Notably, for the 3000 user who intends to stay on the platform indefinitely, STR has the backing of its sales in the non-3000 markets — to keep MPE support online as long as a single customer needs it.

Finally, I have no intention of stopping support of our fax product on MPE.  We will support it until our last customer leaves the platform and stops paying support. Or perhaps, I die, which I don’t plan to do either!

05:56 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 20, 2008

Investing in IT, and ITIL

[Editor's Note: Migration as well as homesteading sites need to accommodate changes, a task which e3000 Platinum Migration Partner Birket Foster addresses in today's article. One key tool to keep pace with these changes — the loss of a vendor's support team, a fresh sustainability plan to replace departing 3000 experts — is ITIL, Version 3, an information library that outlines best practices for IT managers.

Even the smallest of HP 3000 customers should be getting familiar with ITIL. "If you get acquired by a company that knows and practices ITIL processes, you'll get run over," Foster says. He shared other ideas about managing IT as an investment in his article. You can leave comments at the article's end or share them directly with Foster at birket@mbfoster.com.]

By Birket Foster

The world has certainly changed since 2001 especially for HP e3000 users — it is not just the HP-supplied parts, services and support, it is the whole ecosystem. Folks who were the captains of industry, managing robust growing companies for their organization have retired. For some of you this will ring a bell. There are very few HP 3000-savvy folks under 40, and probably none under 30. That means as more members of the community retire the replacements just won’t be there.

Probably 75 percent of the companies we visit don’t have the HP 3000 resources to make major changes of their application or the operating environment any longer. This puts companies at risk. The risk that if something goes bump in the night, the team will not know how to recover. Is your 3000 in a tested disaster recovery plan? (It ought to be – it is always easier to catch something in test then during the real thing). Developing and implementing a plan is a significant IT investment goal for your community.

Investment in IT is always related to applications. I don’t mean Microsoft office, but the applications that make it possible for organizations to take orders, build, ship and bill; or reserve a seat on a plane; or register a student, rent a car, or build an aircraft.

Yes, there are real companies in all those businesses still running on an HP 3000s. Some of them remain there because their investment in IT is working through a 5- or 7-year cycle, and then if the business is in good shape then they will take on the project of moving to something new. Some have failed in their attempt to migrate at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. In other cases, corporate is sending in the SAP team in a couple of years, and it will be five more years till they can decommission the 3000.

Your organization ought to have a dashboard which relates to the current state of each application and the ecosystem around it. The ecosystem includes staff, surround code, support plans and pledges from your third parties. And your senior management team should be made aware of the state of your systems. This includes all the tools to design/change, develop, test, integrate, deploy, operate, support the application plus the documentation, and the HR required to support and train new team members for each of the phases in the application lifecycle.

In a one-sentence motto, if you can't measure what you're currently doing, you shouldn't be doing it.

I am a big frameworks guy, so my thought is that if you have a framework you should compare what you have against an industry neutral way of looking at things – ITIL. This framework ensures you stay focused innovate and do the changes every company needs. For example, if you stay on the HP 3000 you need a plan to replace people who leave and take 3000 experience along with them.

ITIL v3, published in May 2007 with a lot of input from HP volunteers, comprises five key volumes:

1. Service Strategy
2. Service Design
3. Service Transition
4. Service Operation
5. Continual Service Improvement

If you are serious about your organization’s IT you will need to have something similar. Colleges, universities and companies such as HP offer courses and certification in ITIL. You can build your dashboard once you understand the level of maturity your organization has in IT systems. Whether you buy commercial off the shelf systems or roll your own, you need a framework to make your systems supportable – plus something to help these systems focus on supporting your business goals and objectives.

Your HP 3000 can fit into an ITIL, and you will gather enough information to transfer the support of your applications to the next generation of employees at your site. I hope you are doing great work in the care and feeding of your HP 3000 based applications — and that this short piece has made you think.

02:17 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 19, 2008

Overseas biz, PCs spark HP quarter

Earning a profit is the first item in the vaunted HP Way list of goals. Hewlett-Packard met the goal in its most recent quarter — $2 billion worth — by relying on the surge in business outside the US.

A fiscal 2008 Q3 report shows the company increased its profits by 14 percent over last year's Q3, and Hewlett Packard increased its sales by 10 percent to more than $28 billion in the quarter. But analysts took note not of large servers or building blade business, but the 20 increase in unit shipments of PCs. Printers, meanwhile, have seen their growth in earnings and sales slow.

The report's details off the HP Investor Relations Web site show a company earning in every sector, by varying degrees. The Business Critical Servers group, home of some replacement solutions HP offers to migrating 3000 sites, posted another quarter of growth, still trailing the Industry Standard Server business that doesn't rely on the HP's Integrity servers running Itanium chips.

HP told analysts in today's call that BCS revenue was up just 2 percent year over year; Integrity revenue rose 18 percent from last year's Q3 and now makes up 78 percent of BCS revenue. HP-UX sites are making transitions away from PA-RISC servers to aid in this Integrity growth. Existing HP enterprise customers, such as the HP 3000 migrators, are a big part of why Integrity sales are increasing.

Many HP 3000 customers won't be moving to the Integrity line of servers, choosing to advance to Intel-based Industry Standard Servers such as the Proliant line. A Windows installation might not be the best long term choice to replace an HP 3000, given the state of Microsoft's innovation and the environment's enterprise capabilities, according to one leading 3000 migration company.

But 3000 sites are investing in such solutions to help lift those ISS numbers. New form factors are also contributing to the boost. HP said that sales of HP's blade servers — really just a new way to employ chassis for compact servers — grew 66 percent over the same period's sales last year.

"Customers are increasingly implementing HP's blade system to expand their IT infrastructure," said Cathie Lesjak, Hewlett-Packard CFO, "and this quarter we shipped our millionth blade."

Business was buoyed by the sales outside of the Americas during the period. Americas revenue growth came in at 5 percent compared to last year's Q3; growth in Europe, Asia Pacific and elsewhere increased 15 percent over the 2007 quarter.

HP Services, the last group in HP with any plan or authority to determine HP's  3000's end-game through 2010, enjoyed HP Services had a strong quarter with revenue growth of 14% over the prior year period. We "top-line strength in every business," Hurd said, "with technology services and consulting and integration revenue up 13 percent year-over-year and outsourcing revenue up 18 percent."

The quarterly report, which beat analyst estimates for revenues and earnings, might be the last one to show HP as a company grounded by its computer and print solutions. The $13.25 billion EDS acquisition is in play, and is expected to close by the end of this month, but it wasn't a part of the report. Once EDS joins the HP operations, the company will report on the work of an extra 130,000 employees and $44 billion in sales. This time around, HP Services recorded $4.8 billion in sales and $548 million in operating profits.

EDS will bring a wide range of services into HP's operations, ranging from the operation and maintenance of servers including HP 3000s to manning help desks. The company has mobilized a wave of its staff equal to the effort in acquiring Compaq in 2002.

"The [planning] is going well," Hurd said, "and we are confident in the benefits of this business combination will bring to customers, partners and to shareholders. We have over 500 HP and EDS people dedicated full-time to the integration team."

08:41 PM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 18, 2008

Don't fear the IPv6 reaper

Many technologies will emerge which don't have HP's MPE/iX blessing. That is, the vendor will not provide lab resources to support new tech on your 3000. As of the end of this year, HP won't even have a lab on call for its remaining support customers.

One technology which gets mentioned as a reason to migrate is the new Internet Protocol, IPv6. There's no support in MPE/iX networking for this new protocol, which is designed to expand the world's IP addresses much like the phone companies went to 10-digit numbers during the 1990s. By some estimates, more than 85 percent of the available IP addresses are already used up.

What will HP 3000 users do — some say by the end of 2010 — when these addresses run out? Is this the kind of "dead-air deadline" which US television customers face by early 2009, when no more analog broadcasts are allowed?

Not at all. Just like those TV viewers can buy a cheap converter to receive the new technology signals, HP 3000 sites won't have to change a thing about their existing networks and IP addresses. HP says that IPv6 is not a show stopper, but a new set of suburbs around the almost built-out city of networking.

From an HP update at the recent Technology Forum, the vendor's Yanick Pouffary, HP Distinguished Technologist, reports these timelines

  • 2008/09: Customers will start using IPv6
  • Will take years to upgrade infrastructure completely
  • HP Recommended approach - Dual IPv4/IPv6
  • Do NOT expect customers to turn IPv4 off any time soon
  • IPv6 will be deployed in conjunction with IPv4 for decades
  • Very few products or network infrastructure supports IPv6-only environment today

To be sure, any new IP addresses a company needs after the end of 2010 might be IPv6 protocol-based. Unless you can buy an IPv4 IP address, or a dozen, from someone who already has them.

And unlike the MPE/iX licenses which your vendor tries to control, IP addresses are not regulated by an organization trying to take out the old numbers. ICANN, the international IP address foundry, might have a lot of problems and blind spots. But it won't be in the business of keeping older technology from working alongside newer tech, or advising the world that IPv4 is risky.

That last point makes us wonder. If IPv4 can operate alongside IPv6, and the newer tech is designed to accommodate the older protocol, why can't Hewlett-Packard — the Number One computer company in the world — do the same thing with the HP 3000? After all, IBM has made its AS/400 servers operate in harmony with Unix, Linux, Windows.

IBM now calls that technology Series i, but HP calls it old, tech that the Big Blue customers should abandon. If that message sounds familiar to HP 3000 users, it should. A surprising number of former HP 3000 division staff are working to get the Series i "mainframe" users to switch to HP's servers.

We'll just take a wild bet that Series i will have IPv6 capability. After all, everything in the HP stable does. Everything? Perhaps the 3000 community should take HP CTO Shane Robson at his word when he said last year:

All of our platforms are IPv6 capable, everything from the handhelds and PCs to the servers. It's an exciting opportunity. It's an exploding growth area and we're right in the middle of it and have been for some time.

More time than than you might imagine. HP's Pouffary was a Founding Member of the IPv6 Forum in 1999 — yeah, two full years before the vendor decided to kill off its HP 3000 business. But "all of our platforms" means what HP's supporting now. Everything in the Business Critical Server stable except the HP e3000, as HP likes to call it. How's that for irony? HP renames your server with an "e" in 1998 to signal the 3000 is Internet ready. Then your business platform is only one that HP leaves behind in its 21st Century Internet plans.

07:42 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2008

Migration by steering faster

This week we reported on the migration of e-commerce companies from HP 3000 application Ecometry to an Open System Ecometry. Many are migrating to another HP platform or using the Windows version of the app. But some Ecometry sites are leaving HP solutions behind for a new app — the third option we mentioned, after homesteading on a soon-to-be-unsupported Ecometry 3000, or migrating to HP-UX or Windows.

Musican's Friend, a leading supplier of instruments and all things musical across a number of Web brands, chose to leave the Ecometry path some time ago — long before Escalate, the new brand and company for Ecometry, issued its 3000 End of Life edict this summer. (Ecometry on the 3000 goes unsupported Jan. 1, 2010.) Musicians Friend sometimes calls itself MF for short, we learned from its Application Development Manager Ray Sparks. MF is steering a new platform into the future, because the company's CEO needs the speed for this market leader.

MF considered a move to the open version of Ecometry, but then a once-in-a-lifetime chance arrived: to purchase a major competitor, The Woodwind and Brass Wind. "We had to jump on it," Sparks explained, right in the middle of replacing MF's Warehouse Management System. That's when things got complicated, and Ecometry dropped off the horizon, replaced by a Windows-based app called Dynamics AX.

Sparks explains that MF wanted a solution the company could customize. The situation slowed down development away from the HP 3000, even while it gave the company the flexibility to grab opportunities.

We had the option of going to Ecometry (Escalate’s) Open System platform but we chose the Dynamics AX platform because we wanted a customizable solution.  We have been running Ecometry since 1997 and were tired of running the business the way Ecometry thought was  best to run a direct mail company.  This new platform will allow MF to modify our business processes very quickly to adjust to marketing demands in the industry.

Sparks was honest and candid about the impact of acquiring a new company in the middle of a warehouse app update. The 2007 fourth quarter deliveries slowed down, and so risk tolerance at his company dropped. The replacement for Ecometry would have to be done with every I dotted and every T crossed.

MF considers Dynamics AX to be an ERP system, software to manage enterprise resource planning. ERP is among the most comprehensive and complex applications to run on HP 3000s. ERP touches every aspect of a company's business, so in most cases ERP is big enough to get direct attention from CEO-level executives.

This is what happened at MF, Sparks said. "Four years ago our CEO, Rob Eastman, challenged the IT organization to 'steer the boat faster,' Sparks said. "It was at that point I knew we would never use Ecometry for our ERP. We began an immediate search for a replacement and found Dynamics AX."

We have done a lot of custom development in the new ERP — mostly because the bells and whistles that are in Ecometry were not in the new tool. Things as simple as backorders and fraud verifications were new to the software. We chose this product as a development platform.

We are expecting to go live with two of our smallest brands in September of this year.  Other brands will follow in the early part of 2009.  We are really excited about this opportunity and will be sharing the results with all interested parties.

The exit from the HP 3000 will be gradual, and Sparks wants to keep in touch with the community, plus share his experiences with MF's new ERP solution. "Even though we are moving away from the 3000 world, I plan to keep up on what’s going with folks," he says. "There are a ton of people in this community that are very wise and knowledgeable, and I would hate to lose contact with those folks. I was brought into the 3000 world kind of late in the game (1994) but will always have the affinity that many of us share."

Sparks wants to give back to the 3000 community, too. "If you know anyone that may be interested in Dynamics AX, we would be happy to show them what we’ve learned and what we are implementing." You can contact him via his e-mail at Musician's Friend to learn how steering faster can send a migration to a destination with more room to navigate safely.

02:09 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2008

Measuring the 3000's Posix empire

These past few days have seen me working on a project to process files in the HP 3000's HFS Posix directory. My Series 917LX is running under 6.5 PowerPatch 3. What is the maximum size a 3000's Posix structure can be?

HP's community liaison to the 3000 world Craig Fairchild replies:

There are no system enforced limits on directory depth or absolute system path name. Most interfaces won’t gracefully handle pathnames longer than PATH_MAX which is 1024 characters. So pick a number (say 1024) and return an error if you ever see a path longer than that.

As an addendum, Fairchild revealed more about how HP set up Posix the interface most like Unix, on the 3000.

As an aside, even though the CI’s command buffer size is much smaller than PATH_MAX, you can still use relative naming to perform any operation on any file or directory, no matter how long its absolute path name. There is a limit on the maximum length of any one directory component (255 characters in an HFS directory, 16 characters in the root, account and group directories) which is well within the CI command buffer length.

I find that the ability to have names that are longer than eight characters, and a hierarchical directory structure that allows for a more logical structure, as some of the compelling reasons not to be limited to the 8.8.8 MPE namespace.

06:44 PM in Hidden Value, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 13, 2008

Two more ways to Connect with HP users

HP user group Connect has opened up two more avenues toward becoming part of the new HP enterprise user community. Connect promotes "community voice" rather than advocacy. The group also has only migration advice to offer HP 3000 users, as well as good training in HP's 3000 alternatives, plus a brand-new, just emerging social network application to connect with Unix, Linux or Windows HP users.

When you add all that up, it's not a bad deal for the HP 3000 community member who has chosen to move on to another environment. The first avenue Connect is opening up is the November Community Connect Europe 2008 conference. Connect has now opened up online registration for the event. The meeting on November 10-12 in Mannheim, Germany is the first of its kind for the European members of Connect. The group has announced:

Be a part of history and register today to join hundreds of other HP users, exhibitors, and HP associates on 10-12 November 2008 in Mannheim, Germany for the first-ever Community Connect Europe 2008 — the first European event presented by Connect, Your Independent HP Business Technology Community.

The Connect Europe meeting has announced an "early-bird" discount deadline (Sept. 22 to save 200 Euro) and keynote speaker Martin Fink, HP's Senior Vice President and General Manager of Business Critical Systems (BCS). BCS is the group which has control of the roadmap for HP's Unix and Linux solutions.

Connect promises Fink's keynote will feature a roadmap into futures for HP enterprise servers. His talk will be "an insightful session covering the BCS roadmap and the future of the technologies you depend on every day." Fink is the first announced content for the event; Connect advised the community to "check Featured Speaker page frequently for continuous updates on keynote presentations planned for Community Connect Europe 2008."

If travel to Europe's Connect conference isn't in your 2008 budget and schedule, you may want to take part in working on Connect's 2008-2009 Board of Directors. The organization is "governed by a membership-elected international volunteer Board of Directors that is responsible for establishing policy and setting the strategic vision and goals for Connect." HP 3000-aware members of this board have already included Speedware's Chris Koppe, and Steve Davidek, former Interex Advocacy manager and current HP 3000 administrator for the City of Sparks, Nevada.

Connect needs to see applications for candidates by Sept. 4, and it's got a form to be completed and submitted to the current Board of Directors. A nominating committee inteviews applicants next month. The group reminds the HP enterprise community that board members have the opportunity to:

  • Provide your insight to shape Connect programs and services
  • Help Connect provide a forum to share member knowledge across the entire community
  • Gain unprecedented access to HP executives through our in-person Board meetings

Users or their company must be a current paid member of Connect, and any candidate must have experience working with a not-for-profit organization, "either as a volunteer or in a leadership position. This can be as a volunteer with Connect or in another similar organization."

Scott Healy, the Nominating & Election Committee Chairperson, laid out the director commitment and schedule for the election, the first to be held by the merged groups of ITUG (NonStop/Tandem), HP Interex-Europe and the former Encompass:

Serving as a member of the Connect Board of Directors requires a time commitment of approximately six hours per month for monthly conference calls and any subsequent e-mail and telephone correspondence. In addition, Board members attend three in-person board meetings and may be asked to participate in ad hoc conference calls for brainstorming or strategic discussions. A position on the Board of Directors is a two-year time commitment.

The selected slate of candidates will be announced to the membership on October 6, when voting will commence online, continuing until October 31.

03:33 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 12, 2008

News from e-commerce customers

Earlier this summer the HP 3000's leading e-commerce community held its first-ever roundtable. MB Foster, one of HP's two North American Platinum Migration Partners, sat on the 2008 Ecometry Customer Round Table — and have posted a brief report with highlights from the event.

You can download this PDF report from the MB Foster Web site; as of today the link is on the main page of the site. A direct link will download the three-page file to your desktop.

Of note in the report, written by MB Foster's Karmin McKay, is the news that a little less than half of the Ecometry customers still do business from an HP 3000 server. At one point in 2002, Ecometry said it had 350 companies running its e-commerce suite. In raw numbers, perhaps, the still-on-MPE installations may number 150 companies. (The officials from Escalate, a company formed in 2006 by the merger of Ecometry with GERS Retail Systems, said 46 percent of Ecometry sites run HP 3000s.)

The number is notable because Escalate said the deadline for running supported versions of Ecometry on the HP 3000 is December 31, 2009. That is much closer than it seems when you know a little about how an average Ecometry customer looks at the calendar.

This month is pretty close to the end of change-and-migration season for 2008 at an Ecometry shop. These sites do a very large share of their business between October and the end of December each year, selling during the year-end gifting season. Many are loath to change anything already running as each year winds down — and their sales rev up.

Given the number of these sites still on the HP 3000, the Escalate End of Life date for Ecometry might push more than 100 customers into migration action — not planning — over the next 12 months. For many of them, they now have less than 18 months to move onto the Ecometry Open platforms, either Windows or HP-UX. (There's a third choice, of course: moving onto another e-commerce application. But these are risk-averse customers, so limiting change to a new platform might be as far as they're willing to go.)

Many are willing to go, too, by the looks of the roundtable report. One successful migrator, Indiana Botanic Gardens, said that running on MPE was like using Windows 3.1. The customer went live with its Windows-based version of Ecometry just about the time the roundtable convened in early June.

Migration expertise is in good supply at the moment, from the reports of the customers who are moving. But if 100 customers need to move forward on migrating their 3000 software that surrounds Ecometry, there could be something of a run on the marketplace of migration mavens. Make plans with next year in mind, if you're moving and will need some help.

08:20 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 11, 2008

Blade = Enterprise Server?

HP reported at this summer's HP Technology Forum that the company leads the world in market share of blade servers. IDC numbers at mid-year show Hewlett-Packard is selling almost every other blade server in a growing marketplace. HP said its blade business is up 68 percent from last year.

To be sure, the message from the vendor's marketing is wrapped around blades. Michelle Weiss, VP of marketing for the Business Critical Systems, said the compact servers show the way on the HP map to the future.

"In the next generation datacenter, the whole idea is much more modular, much more efficient," she said. The only press release HP handed out at the conference touted the arrival of bladed — yes, another noun become a verb — NonStop servers. The 24x7 mission critical environment which HP retained, after departing the 3000 community, was held up as an example of how HP could blade any IT need.

But is it true for the HP 3000 customer, the one who's moving a typical big box server onto one of HP's other environments? Riding the HP blade wave will mean following a brand new roadmap.

As it turns out, "blades everywhere" has some caveats. Yes, they are very good at matching the amount of horsepower your 3000s deliver, so long as you stack many of them in a rack. But what of the connectivity and expansion capabilities?

It depends who you ask. HP points to the C3000 and C7000 blade racks to report that they can take on whatever networking, storage and memory needs a customer would require. But ask for the Blade Server Total Cost of Ownership white paper from IDC — sponsored by HP, no less — and you don't have to get off the first page to see that "blade server systems are all about exploiting the economies of scale when deploying servers in volume."

"In volume" may turn out to describe the number of HP-UX "instances" you will need to run to replace an HP 3000 running one copy of MPE/iX. But "in volume" server installations don't look anything like consolidated IT resources of your existing enterprise server. For one- or two-server customers, blades won't map onto the IT architecture of much of the 3000 customer base. This is a marketplace where any count of servers above 20 is cause for notice. Not so, of course, in the Unix configuration, where it seems that every application had its own server to call home.

The hidden value in the blade offering, one which could benefit migrating 3000 customers, is the server management software which is built-in. Weiss said that "because we're all hardware people, what gets buried is the management story." Integrated Lights Out management software made the jump from HP's Proliant line as a result of the NonStop blade initiative. What's known as iLO on the HP product charts is making an entry into the enterprise.

HP says that iLO is a good match for a certain type of small to medium-sized business. See if any of these scenarios might use some help:

  • Where distributed servers sites are supported by either centralized or remote IT resources
  • Where diagnose-before-dispatch procedures for remote servers are being implemented or improved
  • Where budget pressures are forcing higher support deployed servers-to-support staff ratios
  • Where reduced response time and increased remote servers accessibility are part of the solution to increase server uptime
  • Where current travel cost and travel related productivity losses are targets for reduction

Can it come as much of a surprise that HP's vision for your enterprise IT datacenter is sliced into thin blades, or to put it another way, dozens to hundreds of individual hardware units? Yes, they take a fraction of floor space and an even smaller percentage of power. It seems that the blade advantage is greater for a customer whose IT architecture can be sliced into thin resources.

08:03 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2008

Users chat on license intentions

Up on the 3000 newsgroup, a gathering of customers and vendors is debating the merits and restrictions of MPE/iX licenses. The licenses to run MPE/iX are supposed to stay with the hardware forever, but somehow HP has managed to orphan some HP 3000s with no license at all anymore. A few of these top-line servers have been offered for sale by Brett Forsyth of CTS, a reseller based in Arizona.

There's no foul play going by trying to sell these servers. But it's notable that the MPE/iX license, stripped from the system by HP, can be replaced by HP — for a hefty sum by purchasing a Right to Use (RTU) license. As EchoTech's Craig Lalley said,

As with the Catholic church, if you pay a lot of money HP will do just about any thing you ask. One of them being give you an RTU.

Rumor has it they still support the HP 3000. And in fact you can ask for and get a quote for support. However, without an RTU, HP is not allowed to add it to a support contract.

But is there unfair intent in HP insisting on tens of thousands of dollars for reviving the life of an HP 3000? As Forsyth said, "the issue here is 'dead' 3000 systems  — what is their status, what is their purpose, and are they actually unusable just because HP says they are (this week)?"

Keeping 3000 systems out of the market with costly re-licensing fees (c'mon, 80 grand and more?) sure sends a clear HP message to the still-purchasing-3000 customer: Just don't do it. But several customers on the discussion believe the HP fee is what comes with a choice to buy an unlicensed 3000. These kinds of customers won't come near a 3000 without an MPE/iX that HP recognizes — even though HP will exit the 3000 community by the end of 2010.

Art Bahrs, a security consultant and speaker at HP 3000 events, says running with no license, regardless of HP's timeline to exit, runs risks he wouldn't be willing to shoulder.

Even if it is a low risk, if the moving of the software is not allowed under HP’s rules and the law, is it worth the risk? (Think disgruntled employee ‘dropping a dime’ about this to the BSA.)

Bahrs expressed the view of the 3000 customer whose life might include audits, compliance checks during an acquistion or more. "I know not having the appropriate paperwork for audit or due-diligence during an acquisition would present major problems," said Abtech's Jack Connor.

But Connor expressed another common view: Today's price of an RTU is out of line in a marketplace where the vendor won't ever offer complete support in a few months, a period more than five years after it ended sales.

HP’s RTU program presents a means of resetting the owner of record and attendant licenses for 3000s that have entered the market without any of the license transfer paperwork. I think this was a positive move on HP’s part; however, I feel the pricing is a bit out of line.

If there is no licensing information available with a box, there is no guarantee that the software hasn’t been pirated/cloned from other systems. In my opinion, this is a disservice to a purchaser, in that they may have to purchase their entire software complement at full price or close to it.

Forsyth weighed in this morning with message that outlines a business case for why HP's recognition of a license might not look like the most important item on an IT director's mission list.

Is a 3000 (with latest supported OS only) no longer valid just because a paper trail of ownership has been lost? And worse than that, since HP has all the docs on file as to who and where a 3K has been, is it fair for them to not be forthcoming with this information, and require an RTU to be purchased at  great expense?

The current policy shows that HP doesn't care what ownership paperwork you have for any system you already own. Buy one, though, and now there's the HP Software License Transfer group to deal with — at least if you care about HP support, or that audit-compliance scenario.

HP has been reported to be less than helpful in resolving ownerships, too. Some resellers report the HP SLT database, which tracks the last-supported customer for every 3000, is a one-way information street. Bring HP the ownership paperwork, and HP confirms it. But ask who last owned the system under support, to track down the paperwork, and you're driving the wrong way on that one-way street. So, it's on to buying that "revival" RTU license at $80,000. Forsyth posted 

From a $400 transfer fee to an $80K RTU — that’s quite a penalty for losing a  piece of paper that SLT still has on file. Nice chuck for profit for HP too, considering they have brought nothing to the table. How about if I pay HP for the time to track down this information instead? 

And then the kicker, from a frustrated Forsyth, who's been routed by HP's SLT department to Client Systems to get that $80,000 RTU. "Can you spell monopoly? Can you spell Sherman Anti-trust Act? C-l-i-e-n-t  S-y-s-t-e-m-s."

If I was in kindergarten, I would be stomping my foot and saying “This just isn’t fair” and probably most of my class would agree — probably my teacher too. (reference: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) There are things that make you go “hmmmmm”....

Right To Use: I bought the box, paid for it, keep updating the OS as per HP protocol, and now wish to sell it. HP has already been paid once for the right to use this machine and the associated OS. Why should they get to hit the  next guy (and the next), and if that is the case, where is my return on that investment? Surely not coming from HP...

One note: Software licensed to one 3000 can be transferred to another owner via the usual E36S form, independant of the OS. Many companies, such as Canvas Systems, make a good living properly moving software from one machine to another, and often purchase a machine for the software installed, as opposed to the hardware involved.

So to my 988 with 7.0 running on it - lost the SLT forms long ago, never had it on contract - totally bought and paid for the proper (HP) way. I can run it until the cows come home; no interferance from HP. I can put it online and even let you run production on it. Can I sell it to you to use without HP involved, or do I just lend it to you, charge you a monthly fee and keep it under my name?

If the rules are being changed midstream (constantly) where are the grandfather clauses?  The agreement I got when I bought this 3000 still applies, regardless of what HP does post-purchase. Again, use the GM car analogy: There are new EPA standards - do I need to put a new engine in my ‘64 Barrcuda to run it on the road? Arizona DOT may get involved, but GM has no right  — I bought the car's RTU upon original purchase and it travels with the vehicle from then on in.

In a coincidence, HP used that same "license plate and registration for a car" allegory when it laid down the law about tampering with a 3000 personality in 1999. Nobody in the discussion wants to defraud HP like that, since these 'dead' systems already has an "HP3000" nameplate on the front, not an "HP9000" plate. Maybe this year's increased traffic in selling used 3000s — and the outdated license policies built in an era when HP sold the system — are the reasons HP thinks it will reprice the RTU product, especially on the high end.

05:08 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 07, 2008

What will the RTU do for you?

At this year's HP Technology Forum, HP's Alvina Nishimoto said the company is thinking about revising its Right to Use licenses for the HP 3000. The RTU was first introduced in the spring of 2007, when HP said it didn't really believe it would generate much revenue for the vendor.

Flash-forward to this summer. We hear reports now that some HP 3000s are for sale on the open market, but these servers don't have an official, HP-sanctioned license for the MPE/iX operating system on the server. Such 3000s have seen their licenses removed, transferred to HP-UX systems by HP, leaving the 3000 hardware without any licensed version of the OS.

In this case, there's a way to return this hardware to the ranks of a licensed HP 3000 server. Simply purchase an RTU for the hardware, available from former North American HP 3000 distributor Client Systems. Customers and resellers report that an RTU has been quoted at between $80,000 and $100,000 for N-Class HP 3000s. This is a price in addition to the cost of acquiring the hardware from the broker, reseller or owner who doesn't have a license to go along with the box.

The RTU has another use in a case such as this, according to brokers, customers and owners. For a product which HP didn't expect to sell many of, it's bringing a windfall to HP and anybody who has permission sell the license. No license transfer document to satisfy HP? Buy an RTU, simply for the right to return an HP 3000 to the ranks of working systems.

But what the RTU's extra $80,000 expense will do to many plans to buy used 3000s is create a new market: "Good people going under the table," unable to afford anything but running a 3000 without a license. With HP leaving the support business by 2010, and closing its 3000 labs in a matter of months, this kind of ownership really won't have any operational or technical disadvantages. What is the RTU doing? Creating a new kind of 3000 user: customers going underground to stay within budget in a very tough economy. They can't afford to maintain any more contact, or contract, with HP.

HP has official documents on what the RTU does today, but the explanation provides little detail on how the license is used by HP on un-licensed HP 3000s. There's a lot of language about moving 3000s between tiers of performance, and upgrading 3000s.

None of this will trouble a customer who buys a 3000 if they can get the system's license transferred. HP's Software License Transfer group handles this process which can help avoid an RTU. If you think getting a license for a used 3000 system recognized by HP is simple and straightforward, you might believe differently after seeing HP's FAQ on SLT processes.

The licenses themselves must always remain with the HP 3000s, HP reminds you, unless you've found a 3000 with no valid license:

Q31: Can we transfer the User License from its original HP e3000 to another HP e3000?

A: Unfortunately, no. The User License can never be transferred from its original HP e3000 to another HP e3000. The Operating System, the User License, Image, TurboImage and Allbase must stay with the original hardware and can never be swapped between two systems. Other HP3000 application software can migrate.

CrosstradepageLet's see if this makes for complete logic. The Operating System must stay with the original hardware, HP states. Of course, being the inventor and IP rights holder to the product gives HP some unique capabilities in license transfers. For the better part of three years now, HP has allowed and encouraged its 3000 owners to transfer their HP 3000 MPE/iX licenses to HP-UX licenses. Here's a case where the Elvis of MPE/iX has left the HP 3000 hardware building.

Although some customers have asked for it, no such policy exists to turn HP-UX licenses into MPE/iX licenses. Who would do such a foolish thing? Who would run an HP 3000 without a valid license? Who would be interested in purchasing an RTU? The answer to all these questions is, "more customers, and bigger companies, than HP ever imagined."

10:31 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2008

Make choices to sustain ERP, with reservations

Camus_logor The ERP user group CAMUS is holding its annual conference once again, a two-day meeting in Kansas City next month. The group focuses on manufacturing application issues, with a majority of its members running ERP on HP 3000s, or working on a migration away from that platform.

The theme for the 2008 meeting is Sustain Your Chain. Highlights for the September 17-18 meeting include

  • Going Green — Environmentally Conscious Practices Save Money
  • Inventory Reduction  — Dollars & Sense
  • Systems Management Best Practices
  • Regulatory Compliance - SOX, FDA, RoHS, Europe & China
  • Migration Paths
  • Workshops for testing new ideas

The user group has extended its hotel reservation deadline by one week, so you can register for the conference and get a special rate by Aug. 16. A CAMUS meeting is an intimate affair; you won't confuse it with the throngs at the HP Technology Forum. But percentage-wise, this conference carries a much higher number of users and vendors with HP 3000 experience and advice. Plus, the group's current president is Terry Floyd, founder of the Support Group, inc., a mainstay of HP 3000 resources and services.

You can download a PDF document with details on this year's conference, or look up specific session abstracts at the CAMUS Web site.

CAMUS, like every other user group which mounts a conference, has reserved a block of hotel rooms. The group, which has been in the black all along and was established back in the 1970s, needs its conference users to fill up that hotel block. (IBM Common conferences insist on this, but it's an option for the attendees at the HP Tech Forum.)

CAMUS Attendees should call the Holiday Inn at the Plaza, the site of the conference, to make their reservations at 816-753-7400.

Presenters already confirmed at the conference include lots of 3000 experts:

Measurement Specialties: Bob Andreini, Terry Simpkins
Managing Regulatory Compliance in the US & Abroad
(Measurement Specialties has spent the last five years establishing IT operations across multiple manufacturing sites in China, all being run by HP 3000 apps.)

ASK TERRI: Terri Glendon Lanza
Advanced Planning & Scheduling with MANMAN

MagicAire, Ed Stein
Shipping – MANMAN vs. SAP

entSGo: Bob Corrigan, Sue Kiezel
How to Move from MANMAN to IFS in a step-by-step process.

Floyd was instrumental in getting non-MANMAN using members Associate status in the group, to extend the range of expertise available in this ERP-focused group. He notes in his President's letter for this year

CAMUS is still vibrant, thanks to a handful of volunteers, and we intend to stay involved with MANMAN as long as there are members supporting us.Membership has been stable and chances are good for picking up a few new members from the ranks of the homesteaders who understand the need for a “community.”  Interest in a nationwide CAMUS Conference in 2008 and in 2009 has inspired the Board to plan for continued existence through the end of this decade.
                  
In the last few years, a growing number of ISVs and resellers are also becoming more interested in the migration aspects of the MANMAN market.  As you continue to consider other ERP packages to replace MANMAN, pay close attention to the ones who have been active with CAMUS. They understand your interests and want to help you prepare for a future without MANMAN.
                  
We are confident that dozens of companies will continue to run MANMAN well into the next decade.  The current Board wants to make sure that even if we dissolve CAMUS in a few more years, there is a way for those who stay with MANMAN to carry on the CAMUS motto: “Users Helping Users.”

08:51 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 05, 2008

Leaving languages behind

Like the lumpy sofa you might have left in that apartment you moved out of, languages can lose their charms after years of use. Some HP 3000 shops moving apps to another platform would be good candidates to consider what language will be spoken in their new world.

A lot of the answer depends on who will be doing the speaking. When 3000 apps move to new environments, the software can end up being administered and developed by IT pros who don't speak a lick of COBOL, for example, or even know how to pronounce PowerHouse.

Unlike PowerHouse, COBOL isn't so costly that it sparks migration off of an HP 3000, but moving away from this business staple is sometimes seen as a nod toward the modern. A third-party compiler and debugging suite hopes to help COBOL programs become Java applications. Java is not a new promise to the 3000 community, but some ideas need years to pinpoint their promise. This latest concept means to do more than just make COBOL's appearances look more modern.

It has taken the better part of a decade, but Java is looking more ready to help HP 3000 users, so long as they're heading away from the platform. When a company says, "Web 2.0 applications can be developed entirely in COBOL,” it recharges the concept of Java. Veryant says its newest release is a COBOL compiler written in Java.

Veryant, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, is giving a Webcast tour of its isCOBOL compiler on August 12. The company says that the isCOBOL

Compiler and Runtime Environment are written 100 percent in Java. COBOL application designers can design one user interface and deploy it across many platforms, including AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, Linux, Windows and mainframe systems. Applications compiled with isCOBOL technology can even be deployed on hand held devices like PDAs or smartphones … any system supporting the Java Virtual Machine environment.

A product tour tells more at the Veryant site, where migrating 3000 shops can sign on for next week's Webcast. The company will take a sample of your COBOL code and "generate a Code Analysis Report that will tell you exactly how compatible your application is with isCOBOL APS before any investment occurs on your side."

Back in the late 1990s, when the HP 3000 had a Java Virtual Machine guru in HP's Mike Yawn, a company called Synkronix offered a Java interface tool for 3000 apps. Blue/J never took off in a 3000 marketplace that was working hard on Y2K, and Java was only proposed as a tool to make better interfaces for existing 3000 applications. But HP was so hyped about Java back then that the vendor announced a program called Visage, all about making old 3000 apps look newer.

Here's your community nine years later, looking back at the days of Hewlett-Packard Java/iX development as a fond memory of a promise unfulfilled. But none of that failure in the 3000 space should linger over Java, which proves itself over and over in IT. Given the massive penetration of COBOL in 3000 customer enterprises, perhaps Veryant's environment can help a migrating company leave behind a language considered lumpy by a new generation.

07:04 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 04, 2008

History in the re-making, even today

Once or twice up here I've noted that I'm researching a history of the HP 3000 which I will write. This weekend I spent time catching up with a few of the better sources for 3000 histories — all while I was muddling through audio notes of my visit to the HP 3000 Software SIG meeting, held this summer at the Computer History Museum.

I'll have more to report on that CHM SIG meet, the first of which I hope will be many more. But for today, I'd like to point out a few bits of history the devoted 3000 user and devout HP Way worshiper might not know. For example, in Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company, Michael S. Malone includes a handful of pages about the HP 3000 saga. Malone has written a great HP book with just a dash of 3000 specifics. He notes that your system was the first product which ever embarrassed Hewlett and Packard in public — because it flopped so badly. The first 3000

...only supported two users, not the 64 it had promised. The computer sent was a pile of junk. It wasn't even finished, missing some key components. [Hewlett and Packard] heard about the dead-on-arrival 3000 from an article in Computerworld. It was the first piece of truly bad press Hewlett-Packard had experienced in 33 years of business, and the two founders... reacted ferociously.

It's good to recall history while trying to make some, like the efforts of the OpenMPE group to get a license to fix MPE/iX once HP has given up that business. Bill and Dave took measures in 1972 with the 3000 to ensure HP's reputation would survive intact. Some in HP will stand firm today to ensure no history can be written of a 3000 living and working beyond HP's involvement.

Every HP 3000 (called the System 3000) that HP had sold was recalled all during 1975, to be replaced by a Model 2100 computer for free if the customer wanted one. HP pulled the System 3000 off the market for the better part of two years.

It was bad enough to trigger an upheaval of talent. Tandem Computer — now the homeland of the HP NonStop server line — was born because of the HP 3000 flameout. James Treybig, Tandem's CEO, and his co-founder Mike Green came right out of HP's Computer SYstems division (that's the CSY you'll hear the 3000 group being called.) The two men founded a company that idolized the HP Way and opened up shop just down the street in Cupertino.

At the CHM meeting earlier this summer, a table of 3000 pioneers (the museum's title for everybody) talked about the scant uptime for the early 3000s. The computer which made HP a computer company, instead of just one of the world's greatest instrument and calculator creators, couldn't remain up for more than 24 days. Malone says the flaw was in the design, which overflowed a clock register. At the core of the problem was a gaggle of engineers telling HP that everything would be just fine with the 3000, instead of reporting what was well off schedule of being fixed.

Something very similar happened at the 3000's next debacle, when the server tried to become a Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) and head toward 32-bit computing. HP responded in both instances with an enforcer. In the 1970s it was Paul Ely, feared by many according to Malone's book. In 1986, when PA-RISC was a 3000 bust, the muscle was HP's labs chief Joel Birnbaum, who said to us reporters in a conference at an HP user group meeting, "we expect that these problems will yield to engineering discipline."

Bad press prompted a fierce response once again, when the industry's journalists called out the woes of a long-awaited HP product. Like any good vendor, HP needs honest critique, told in public, to make the best products. If there had been only an echo-chamber with no stories, the 3000 probably never would have gone on to sell 200,000 units through the remaining 17 years of its HP lifespan, or become so durable that "between 10,000 and 20,000 of them" would still be running today, according to Allegro's Steve Cooper at the CHM meeting.

That's a message for HP to consider as it wants to control what can be heard and reported at the biggest meeting of its users. In a bit of irony, this summer Computerworld was being kept out of a Tech Forum roadmap meeting, along with the NewsWire. (We were the only reporters at the door.) The access problem was fixed, but I'm a little less certain about whether HP's intentions have been reset.

But it's useful to note that remembrance was not essential to this company's founders. Malone's book takes special note of the HP Way's devotion to sentiment, as in: None. Again from the book:

Hewlett and Packard had little nostalgia about the past unless it in some way enhanced the future. There were no sentimental stories about the HP 200A, the company's founding product [in 1939], by the 1950s. Once demand fell off, and all profits were wrung out of the product line, Bill and Dave jettisoned it with barely a glance back.

A generation later, the company would do the same with its most famous product, the HP-35 calculator. Had corporate publicist J. Peter Nelson not written, on his own initiative, a press release elegy of the device, its passing would gone unremarked.

Which brings us to a generation or two further along, and what seems like another kick to the curb for a foundational HP product. HP restored the founding garage in 2005 since the building was deemed the birthplace of the Silicon Valley by the State of California. Rebuilding a house and garage is one thing. Revering a product line is a step further, one HP's seems unready to take, or even chronicle.

HP Archivist Anna Mancini was invited to the CHM's 3000 meeting, but could not be counted among us. Perhaps at another gathering at the museum. But the HP Way was always dedicated more to profit as a chief objective, rather than undying devotion, as Malone says and the 3000's HP history echoes. A computer with enough history at HP to lead the company into the mainstream computer business — and from there to printers and PCs, and so to the Number One ranking among all makers — the 3000 didn't get treated any better than the 200A or the HP-35, once management calculated the 3000's growth days were at an end. And that too is the HP Way.

06:30 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 01, 2008

Support tied up with BIND

Computer vendors worked hard and fast last month to fix a glaring hole in Domain Name Services. The exposure allowed hackers to exploit computer systems with DNS services which use BIND, BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain), the popular open-source DNS software maintained by the Internet Software Consortium. A consortium of vendors worked together. Apple dragged its feet, releasing something yesterday which doesn't fix the problem.

It could be worse. The MPE/iX repair for this security problem is still being engineered into the operating system. HP's lab experts are doing the work now, and the project has high priority. But what kind of priority will fixing 3000 security holes have at HP on January 1, 2009?

These repairs will not be the kind of work typical of HP Response Center support engineering. After all, HP has said that 2009-2010 will be the era "without sustaining engineering." Which is exactly why the time has now arrived for Hewlett-Packard — and specifically R&D manager Ross McDonald — to finally start to un-BIND the system source code from those HP labs which close in about 20 weeks.

HP, starting with McDonald and perhaps moving down the org chart to business manager Jennie Hou, says that no more external reviews are needed to transfer the 3000's source code to an outside organization. HP will do an internal review, without the oversight of any third party experts who will actually have to build and release MPE/iX patches to fix things like security breeches.

BIND bit the Internet-using world in vulnerable places this week, after speculation about the DNS vulnerability essentially confirmed its technical details. Exploit code appeared. This week, attacks began against unpatched DNS servers. That could be an HP 3000 which HP supports during 2009. If it's not a DNS "poisoning" exploit, it will be something else.

HP will not be able to repair such things in 2009, according to its statement that extended HP's 3000 support until 2010. There's more repair trouble brewing on the horizon, like those new IPV6 Internet addresses that will change the address of every computer on any network. HP's lab won't deliver any 3000 support for that, either. And tossed-off answers like "well, just put a Linux box between the 3000 and the networks" won't cut it. Someone has to engineer the integration from that box into the 3000. In less than a couple dozen weeks, it won't be HP's labs.

When McDonald signed a 2005 letter saying HP would turn over MPE/iX source code, it didn't say when exactly. But his letter did say the source code would change hands

...when HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining HP 3000 customers.

There's no way that failing to fix a security patch can "address the basic support needs" of HP's 3000 community. So the clock is already running toward the transfer of MPE/iX outside of HP. It's just about time that Hewlett-Packard and McDonald look that clock in the face.

04:23 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)