« August 2008 | Main | October 2008 »

September 30, 2008

COBOL still stands in center ring

The most prevalent language on the HP 3000 is among the oldest in computing. But COBOL is still the glue that holds together the world's business computing. A language conceived in the 1960s remains the most often used tool for applications built in the 1980s, tested in the 1990s and carried through Y2K — and still out-executing anything else.

MicroFocus touted this fact this week when the company announced a milestone in its academic adoption program for the language. The firm's Academic ConnecTIONs (ACTION) program has surpassed 50 US academic institution members. The ACTION program focuses on COBOL and core IT skills training and provides member universities with free access to the latest technology and teaching tools for enterprise application development.

Micro Focus never released a version of its language tools for the HP 3000. But the company acquired Acucorp, makers of the AcuCOBOL GT development suite. Acucorp had begun to offer an enhanced COBOL environment for MPE/iX when HP announced its pullout from the HP 3000 marketplace.

No matter. COBOL applications continue to perform in the center ring of the IT circus, even as languages like Java and Ruby steal the sideshow attention. Putting COBOL into schools gives the center-pole of the business tent a chance to prop up careers of IT pros from a new generation. How popular does COBOL remain? Micro Focus reminds us that every day, businesses execute 200 times as many COBOL transaction than Google searches.

Micro Focus is making an effort to put COBOL back onto the curriculum of schools worldwide. Consider that IT skills are in decline across the industry, with far fewer college students choosing any computer career at all, development or otherwise. Computers were once cool in school, back in the days when COBOL didn't hear sneers.

The ACTION program "provides member universities with free access to the latest technology and teaching tools for enterprise application development. This helps connect enterprises with young developers equipped with essential COBOL and related skills."

In a release issued today, Micro Focus quoted the chairman of the Texas A&M University Kingsville Information Systems department:

We recognize that the majority of enterprise systems running today rely on applications written in COBOL,"said Dr. Richard Aukerman. "It is important that we offer our Computer Information Systems students a complete curriculum and focus on all the technologies they will need to work effectively within an enterprise. We continue to see a demand for COBOL-skilled workers, and the Micro Focus ACTION program enables us to provide our students with the skills that will be put to real use when they enter the business world.

07:21 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 29, 2008

Choose Windows, or Unix, or both

Migrating 3000 sites search for serious reasons to adopt a particular new platform. The solutions often revolve around an application, rather than choosing an operating environment. We examine this question often in our community, in part because the operating environment is what always set the HP 3000 apart, distinguished a company's initial enterprise choice.

But for a company that's moving its application, instead of trying to replace it, the environment itself becomes the major deciding point. Customers examine available expertise and existing environments in allied operations. Some of them recall a vendor's end-game when beginning another path toward enterprise excellence.

Windows is the leading choice of migrating sites, while others are picking up on Linux as a foundation for a migrated application. Paul Edwards, who worked for years until just recently on a customer's 3000 migration in the Atlanta area, said costs and history led the customer away from HP's Unix.

"[My customer] and others I know about choose Windows or Linux over HP-UX because of the lower cost of software and hardware, plus the friendly user interface," he said. "There is still a lot of animosity against HP for the way they badly bungled the end of the HP 3000 sales and support. Plus, there are a lot more applications on these platforms to choose from for the SMB HP 3000 user community."

HP won't make you choose between these environments if you have an appetite for a full buffet of operating systems. Putting Windows, Linux and HP-UX to work all at once, in a single server, is no big deal anymore. It's been offered ever since HP rolled out Superdome servers which could host multiple OS instances. By now an Integrity server from HP, a far less costly investment, can host all of these environments at once.

This month HP released version 4.0 of HP Integrity Virtual Machines, software which enables this multiple hosting on HP hardware as affordable as bladed servers. The latest version runs on HP-UX 11i v3, supports eight virtual CPUs, capped CPU allocation (in addition to CPU entitlement as in previous releases), additional support for accelerated virtual IO (AVIO), and a new VM performance analysis tool.

The Red Hat and SUSE flavors of Linux are supported by the latest Virtual Machine, as well as Windows Server 2003. OpenVMS customers are in line for support next year.

IBM also has a solution, in its Series i and Series p servers, which hosts multiple operating environments. Christian Schneider of PIR Group says that the company's new sports social networking application, www.playerreputation.com, "has a Linux partition on our iSeries [using the AS/400 environment], and the Windows server is running on a separate card plugged into the backbone. We didn’t need [IBM's Unix] AIX, but you can have it running in a partition if you want."

Oracle partnered with HP last week to release a "Database Machine" that didn't need any HP Unix to boost speeds up to 10 times faster, according to the unbiased Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. The situation says much about HP and its enterprise solutions. HP strategy does not poke one solution above others for its customers. This is one reason why so many HP 3000 customers are choosing Windows, rather than HP-UX, to replace their in-house applications. HP has always said that apps determine platform choice.

And that is true. But if you make no new choice of app on migration, then it must be the platform itself — and HP's track record of support — which has an effect on choosing Windows over Unix. This also has an effect on the growth of the HP Unix community in the years to come. When your vendor follows the marketplace's desires, it can lead away from vendor-centric solutions like HP-UX.

08:29 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 26, 2008

Linking Up to the Community

The community count is nearing 70 experts and veterans at the Linked In group that covers HP 3000 expertise and background. Some of the members go back to the fundamental days of the MPE/iX environment with their experience, while others are telling members in the free and open group about migration choices.

While Nancy Missildine joined up, she checked in with stories of integrating and testing MPE/XL 20 years ago at HP. Meanwhile Mark Ranft has been reporting on choices being made by his Pro 3k consultancy to move airline transaction processor Navitaire off a farm of more than 30 HP 3000s, carefully and with precision.

Asked why Windows and .NET is a suitable replacement for these MPE/iX operations that serve major airlines, Ranft said that Windows, like MPE or Linux or HP-UX, is "just a tool. The enterprise architect must understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the platform and design the application around them. Sometimes this may mean you have large pools of mid-tier systems/application servers to make up for the lack of resiliency in the operating system. This could be compared to using the RAID concept for disk arrays. However, I fear that most enterprises will find the licenses, care and feeding of the numerous mid-term systems needed is far from being inexpensive. Keep in mind that MPE was never exactly cheap."

Joining Linked In — a social network free of charge and important enough to warrant the Connect user group's participation — is as simple as browsing to its linkedin.com opening page. Once you're signed on, look for the "HP 3000 Community" group on the site and make a quick request to join. Then pose a question to the experts, or share what you've learned by answering those already online.

The group has attracted experts retired from HP like Missildine and Mike Paivinen, the latter having taking HP's early retirement package in 2007 after five years of liaison with the OpenMPE and 3000 advocacy community — and a legacy of MPE/iX engineering. Paivinen asked what we planned to do with the Community.

Frankly, that's up to its members more than me, even if I did create it with the new Groups software on Linked In. But I answered Paivinen by saying I hope the group "is up and running after I found several hundred HP 3000 users, owners and experts on Linked In. There's practically nobody like that in the Connect/Encompass user group. With some luck and prodding, perhaps these 3000 people on Linked In can connect for jobs and advice.

Linked In has a different membership than the HP 3000 newsgroup, for the most part, although what the newsgroup survivors call "The -L" still brims with answered questions about technical challenges. Exploring the membership on a network basis, with connections that can lead to new colleagues, is the advantage of a social networking outlet. I hope to see you linked up to the HP 3000 Community on Linked In.

11:03 PM in User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 25, 2008

HP powers new database machine

HP announced a new database solution for enterprise customers yesterday, a product co-created with Oracle called the HP Oracle Database Machine. The product marries a Linux version of Oracle with a rack of HP ProLiant servers, along with HP-branded storage.

Oracle said it announced the product in a keynote before more than 40,000 users at the Oracle OpenWorld conference. The Oracle press release didn't mention the ProLiant by name, calling the servers the HP Oracle Database Server. But both hardware and storage servers are actually eight ProLiant DL180 G5 servers and 14 DL360 servers.

HP's press release on the product, a bundle designed for customers who need "extreme performance data warehouses," touted the Oracle Exadata storage part of the solution, for which HP is the exclusive supplier. HP's language says that the product combo of HP hardware and Oracle will be sold by Oracle, with software support coming from that vendor and hardware installation and supporting coming from HP.

A database machine of another variety was once sold by Hewlett-Packard, although the company never used that term in a product name. The HP 3000 made its breakthrough as the engine driving the IMAGE database beginning in 1976, when the company first grouped IMAGE and the HP 3000 as a package. History was on HP's mind during yesterday's announcement, too. The vendor noted that the ProLiant servers have 15 years of industry service, so long as you count early versions of Compaq products installed at places like General Motors during the 1990s.

HP said of its hardware driving the Oracle Database Machine

The HP ProLiant server was  introduced 15 years ago this month and has been the industry’s leading x86  server brand ever since... Oracle’s new HP Oracle Database Machine is a full 42U rack system that includes eight HP ProLiant DL360 servers running Oracle Database 11g and Oracle Real  Application Clusters on Oracle Enterprise Linux and 14 Oracle Exadata Storage Servers.

Of special note in this announcement is that neither the HP Itanium-based servers or the HP-UX Unix environment are part of this data warehouse solution. Data warehousing is a commonplace use for large HP 3000 installations, especially those serving the insurance and retail sectors.

The Oracle-HP announcement sparked the echoes of the earlier HP database initiative, powered on the 3000 by HP-only technology. Paul Edwards, the retired OpenMPE director who worked for Hewlett-Packard during that IMAGE breakthrough era, said the package took off because of its tight integration and a rich third party toolset.

HP had a "database machine" with the HP 3000 and IMAGE. The reasons for the success were the close coupling with MPE and the ease of use by users at various levels of technical expertise. There were also good third party tools such as DBGeneral, Adager, and Suprtool that completed the environment and made it very efficient.

Oracle users who have installed large data warehouses up to now will have to consider the value of an upgrade to the new Linux-based solution. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said that "For the first time, customers can get smart performance storage designed for Oracle data warehouses, that is ten times faster.”

The product includes a grid of eight database servers with 64 Intel processor cores running Oracle Enterprise Linux; and a grid of 14 Oracle Exadata Storage Servers that can be configured to access up to 168 terabytes of raw storage with 14 GB/second data bandwidth to the servers. HP said it serves the largest installed base of Oracle customers in the industry. Much of that service is hosted on the ProLiant line, which HP reports has about a 34 percent market share among x86 servers.

10:28 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 24, 2008

Programming Made Easier

Usingcover Historic facts can expire, their sell-by dates causing what we know to become untrue. Take the history of the HP 3000's advances. In 2000, HP's pledge to take MPE/iX onto the Itanium architecture was already history, since the vendor made the promise several years earlier. Then in late 2001, well, that history became invalid, and to some customers, simply untrue. But some artifacts of history hold facts that remain true no matter what their date, especially if you own or operate a 3000 of any vintage.

Durable truth is hard to come by in the computer industry. So much is paved over every year that knowledge becomes arcane quickly in the name of advances. But consistency is also a value worth preserving, and so a good share of the 3000 community is still using the system HP built, then dropped from its 21st Century sales plans.

Hpterminals That constant use is what makes a recent addition to our archives more than a relic. Today we received a copy of the Using The HP 3000 "an introduction to interactive programming," circa early 1979. (Thanks to Roger Smith, IS Director of Tulare County Office of Education, for the addition; click on any photo here for a larger version.) In that springtime of 1979, the HP 3000 had two means of interactive access: the 2645A terminal and a hardcopy-only cousin, the 2635. But the commands from that MPE III version of the OS still run today, nearly 30 years later.

That's more than historic. It borders on legendary — but it's also why HP had to admit the 3000 business was too big for it to maintain. Too large in time-span, anyway.

Developingprog HP wrote this book for the "professional computer programmer" as well as "someone who has never seen a computer before. And we know from experience that both categories are well represented in the HP 3000 user base."

To be sure, the last part of that sentence will be viewed as history. You may not be able to find someone who has never seen a computer before. However, it's not that hard to find someone who has never seen a business server before, and that's what kind of computer the HP 3000 remains today.

Deleting The manual is fun, and full of reminders of how much easier programming has become in 29 years' time. The sections on how to delete a line or characters within a line make me wonder how anyone had time to compete a project. But then projects deadlines were measured in months instead of weeks for most customers. Plus, completing a project on the first attempt was a genuine measure of success. Still, all that control-X and control-H had to slow down the creative process. Maybe it was like learning to finger the keys before you compose the concerto.

Yellow This document had some unfortunate choices of layout, the worst being the use of yellow type to indicate the HP 3000 responses to commands. Like everybody in 1979, HP was learning how to teach its customers about the use of this new tool. Interactive computing was the reason that the HP 3000 took off in an era dominated by IBM mainframes, and HP probably wanted to show how lively the interactive experience could appear. Later on, you could actually see yellow letters in HP responses, on certain types of terminals.

Each year from 1979 to the present, HP has worked to ensure the largest number of HP 3000s could run the programs crafted with the help of this manual and successors. That makes the 3000-using universe unparalleled among any computer launched in the 1970s. Rogers said that the software written in the 1980s ran during this century.

When I started here 1985 we had a Series III and a Series 44. We then upgraded the 44 to a 48 and changed the III to a Series 70. The next step was changing both to a 960. The last one we got was the 969KS/200.

We still had software we wrote on the Series III that was still running on the 969.  Amazing.

When it adopted a go-go grow business mantra in the 21st Century, HP couldn't find the motivation to keep up anymore with its 3000 legend. Perhaps a dedicated base of users, full of expertise and experience, can carry on into a fresh decade of the 21st, starting in 2010. Whether it's a manual for an HP storage device, or a programming aid written before Ronald Reagan took office, nothing seems to expire altogether in your community. How many others can claim that kind of history?

03:26 PM in Hidden Value, History, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 23, 2008

How many 3000s, how long: why care?

I have answered one question over and over during the 24 years I've covered the HP 3000 marketplace: How many HP 3000s are out there? The answer has varied from decade to decade, but the query has also changed, too. The tone of the question has gone from proud (the 80s) to curious (the 90s), to dismissive (2002-2004) and more recently, hopeful.

David Evans Jr., Chief Systems Security Officer at the San Bernadino schools' Superintendent's Office, asked the question again last week, and with good reason from a 3000 shop making its migration. I answered,

Steve Cooper of Allegro, who's been in the biz forever, said at this summer's Computer History Museum symposium that he thought a minimum of 10,000 systems are now in use, perhaps up to 20,000. At its peak, the installed base was at least 100,000 — that point being before Windows had released a truly-working version.

I agree with both of his numbers and defer to his perspective, since I've only been in the market since 1984. Steve pre-dates me by 10 years.

Evans was researching the question to get data on the support viability of the HP 3000 in the years beyond 2010. HP's already said it will shut down its lab operations in 14 weeks from now. Evans explained

We know HP has posted the December, 2010 date. [Our organization] doesn’t think our migration from the HP3000 to a .NET application is going to be done by then. Our application is a home grown financial/HR and there really is no off the shelf solution that will work for a County Office of Education’s needs. Off the shelf would get us maybe 70 percent, and we’d still have to write the other 30 and make it integrate. Plus the cost factor.

So my boss was asking how many HP 3000s are still in use. Ideal is our hardware support vendor and they are saying they can support our hardware until 2015. I would think that their source of replacement parts is going to be surplus HP3000s. So how many more are their left, and at what rate will they be consumed, is the concern. And I would think the other HP 3000 support vendors, are scouring the landscape to find HP 3000s to acquire for their needs.

Shops like the ones where Evans works are commonplace, not rare holdovers. Much of this 3000 community has in-house apps doing the work of IT, and moving to off the shelf is a disappointing choice for a migration shop. Moving an app takes time to do it right, whether it's a Windows migration like the one at the San Bernadino schools or a Unix target. The HP 3000 will hold its value for these companies even as they invest in the tools and expertise to leave the platform.

At this point there's no clue about whether HP's 2010 exit deadline will be moved. But if shops like this California customer are still out there, it's easy to predict that HP will continue to write contracts which are very private in nature. These same circumstances — keeping customers mum with Confidential Disclosure Agreements while extending support beyond deadlines — were used by HP during 2005.

08:48 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 22, 2008

What a day to buy stock

Amid the muck of today's financial meltdown on Wall Street, Hewlett-Packard reached into its pockets to inject more confidence into its share prices. The company said it will spend an extra $8 billion on share repurchasing, a tactic that ensures a stock cannot go into free fall in conditions like those of the past seven days.

HP's flex of its financial muscle is a modest one, but a continuation of an earlier pledge to buy up itself. The figure pales compared to the Microsoft announcement of today: The maker of Windows and Jerry Seinfeld-Bill Gates commercials said it will repurchase $40 billion in stock. That Microsoft buyback, just like the one from HP (and Nike) will come in the form of cash, not borrowing. You can't do that unless you're earning healthy profits.

Not all of the US economy is in tatters, despite what trouble is being trumpeted today. HP and Microsoft and Nike still run operations which supply product that the world still demands, product which can't be easily swapped in some shadowy back-door schemes like debt paper or mortgage hedges.

Of course, the HP-Microsoft $48 billion would hardly even finance the interest on the $700 billion blank check the US Treasurer Henry Paulson demanded over the weekend. And that demand is borrowing, not a cash buyback. A Wall Street Journal article on today's buybacks called the moves "A Display of Strength." HP just wants to ensure its market capitalization won't take a pounding while the howling of the public and demands from Congress ensue over that blank check.

HP's stock dropped about two percent today in a rough and tumble trading session on the New York Stock Exchange. The company had already pledged to buy back $8 billion before this week, but had spent through only $1.6 billion of that as of July 30, the last quarterly report deadline. More than 22 million HP shares were traded today. As a point of reference, stock of the biggest savings and loan company in the US Washington Mutual traded more than 158 million shares — all bought or sold for under $4 a share.

Microsoft put another brace under its stock, raising the dividend to 13 cents per share. The company pledged to spend as much in stock buybacks as it was ready to spend on purchasing Yahoo. These companies can weather the hard times from their insides, having followed no Fantasy Island junket to impossible blue-sky futures. The rest of the world's sales — not just those from the US economy — will deliver the outside weather for HP and other tech giants to button up against.

07:13 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 19, 2008

Managing US easier than HP?

If you're feeling a little disconnected from the US Presidential campaign, good news: A former HP CEO has made it more interesting for you, the HP 3000 customer who has seen their system sent to the exits by that very same CEO's management.

Carlycampaign Of course, we're talking about Carly Fiorina, the only woman on earth who can be called a former CEO of HP. Naturally enough, her name surfaced during her campaigning for Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin. In what may first look like a joke at Palin's expense, the TV network Current TV said in its comedy show Campaign Update that Fiorina stepped out to claim nobody running for either party is sharp enough to run HP. Because it's so hard, she explained.

The layoff — oops, restructuring — of about 25,000 employees won't make running Hewlett-Packard any easier in the near term, now that EDS is a part of HP. But the acquisition of a $44 billion company fulfills one of Fiorina's dreams: To become a services provider on par with IBM, or better. Although she couldn't get the HP board to swallow up PriceWaterhouseCooper, her successor served up EDS instead. Like a Lance Armstrong of the Fortune 50, though, Fiorina isn't riding off into the sunset, instead popping up on TVs and comedy routines this week. Have a look at the last 45 seconds of the network's latest "Campaign Update" to watch a lighter look at the high-flying CEO's latest.

Fiorina was never appreciated for her candor while HP's CEO, and her comment put her in the McCain doghouse. She was booked for several TV interviews over the next few days, including one on CNN. Those interviews have been canceled.

Fiorina's legacy is being carried out by a corporate chief more similar to the rest of HP's CEOs: white male, up from the boardroom of a computer maker. And if you survey HP CEOs before Fiorina and the current Mark Hurd, you will find they have another common element: All were engineers with an affinity for technology. Not your Fiorina trademark, which might have contributed to the 3000 landing on the exit list for the company during the last major acquisition.

When HP's directors fired Fiorina less than four years later in 2005, the author of Perfect Enough, biographer George Anders, said HP might have been better served with a chief in 2001 who understood technology. From a Washington Post article:

 I think of her as a bull-market manager . . . someone who was very good at expanding the business in boom times, but who didn't really have good instincts for efficiency in tough times. When she'd cut, it was with lunges that didn't satisfy either the workforce or Wall Street.

And HP is in some very technologically complex businesses. I think a top executive at such a company needs a deep understanding of the tech to be effective.

It's easy to disagree with Anders, if the goal is to shed computer creations (such as MPE and Alpha) while getting more airtime for the chief executive. Young, meanwhile, left HP to sit as a director on seven corporate boards: Novell (vice-chair), Affymetrix, Chevron Corporation, International Integration, Inc., Lucent Technology, Smith Kline Beecham plc, and Wells Fargo & Co.

You might argue that no leader of a corporation of more than $100 billion would steward something like the 3000, an integrated enterprise solution with a specialized operating environment. And you'd win that argument, so long as nobody in the room could spell I-B-M. Why this matters to the HP 3000 customer, or soon-to-be former customer: Hewlett-Packard is making its biggest push to be a services company selling computer solutions, instead of the other way around. It's up to the customers to decide if they should vote their dollars for that leadership during 2009.


 

 

09:48 AM in History, Newsmakers, Podcasts, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 18, 2008

How 45 grand can create HP rogues

HP 3000 owners want to honor license agreements, but the current state of the 3000 community can make pirates of anyone with a corporate mandate to keep relying on the system. For some customers, HP's two-year-old upgrade pricing on beefing up 3000 systems — the Right To Use license fees — might be a roadblock, something to encourage off-the-books modifications to HP 3000s.

That RTU cost is an unfortunate fact of life for a 3000 customer who cannot afford to migrate, either today or anytime soon. But there's even more cost, also in the realm of usury, which a 3000 homesteader must weather — or navigate around. Creating a licensed new system as a hot spare in a disaster recovery site, complete with third party licenses to match a production box, will trigger a license fee from Cognos (for PowerHouse). The Cognos cost can be as high as $45,000 for a low-end 9x7 server.

That's the opening bid from Cognos, anyway. There's been a court of corporate appeal, as it were, inside the Cognos (now IBM) management. Charlie Maloney has taken ownership of these kinds of negotiations, sometimes injecting a dose of reality into a vendor price list that seems frozen in 1999. But if there's 45 grand in the way of a hot spare, customers who lose in the court of appeal will do their jobs to keep a 3000 always available. That's the fork in the road where a customer enters rogue status, duplicating HP model strings to enable their spare system to be a hot, plug-and-go 3000.

More than two years ago the 3000 community first heard about a program to enable this kind of 3000 modification. We say modification because that's how HP describes the process and its policy, as in "a customer cannot modify any information in HP 3000 stable storage. That's only HP's job."

Nevertheless, the 3000 is not a magic box which can keep changing its technology. The ss_update program inside PA-RISC servers of recent vintage is now in change of such changes, and earlier this year Steve Pirie and his partners opened up business to enable such modifications for support emergencies where HP doesn't support the 3000.

The magic codes inside of ss_update may or may not have changed. We don't find it easy to discover this kind of information, but back in 2006 we heard of examples which we documented once they were offered as proof. Earlier this year, we got an update on the gateway to this kind of process. We don't condone violating a license agreement. On the other hand, as a journalist I just report what I see and hear. This kind of thing has got to be expected in a market where the vendor is heading for the door in a hurry, and the third parties still want to cash in on customers struggling to keep computers online.

People can make judgment and adhere to their principles in situations like this, if they have the room in budget and understanding from their management. Obviously, HP has a solution: abandon the homestead notion and invest in a new HP system (a task not accomplished overnight, or even in a year for most 3000 owners.) However, some companies face $45,000 of new expenses for a system which they can purchase at eBay this month for $2,000. An injection of common sense pricing into the 3000 marketplace, from both system and some software vendors, could reduce a need to turn onto the road of rogues.

01:50 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2008

HP returns to the OS business?

A pair of reports in the IT blogosphere talk about Hewlett-Packard returning to the operating environment creation workbench. InfoWorld has a report which comments on a BusinessWeek article, both outlining an HP project to build a desktop OS which doesn't require Windows.

Linux will form the core of this HP project, which the vendor has dismissed as being a minor effort. For sure, HP sells millions of units of laptops, and fewer desktops, all shipping with Windows Vista, or downgraded to Windows XP. The HP project won't change much of the percentages. But it might point the way to a future strategy.

The BusinessWeek story suggests the HP effort is based upon the failure of Vista and Windows receding mindshare. Descriptions like "bloated" crop up in the article about Vista and Windows. It recalls the talk about NT's enterprise unreliability while HP was pushing HP-UX back in the 1990s. Hewlett-Packard got the Windows religion long after its rivals Compaq, Dell and IBM. Creating an environment of its own for desktops, based on universal services from Linux, almost recalls the Hewlett-Packard which built and fortified an OS like MPE/iX.

One HP 3000 veteran in the vendor community said HP's efforts would be better spent on porting HP-UX to an industry-standard architecture. Duane Percox of QSS, which is using both HP-UX and Linux in its migration strategies, said, "I would be more interested to hear them quietly assembling a group of engineers to get HP-UX to run on the Intel/AMD true commodity server CPU (Xeon/Opteron) and finally admit itanium is a bust."

For years now, HP has said that HP-UX is the enterprise environment it will continue to bolster with its own development. (And if a customer asks about OpenVMS, HP will add, 'Oh yeah. That one, too.') But the new project seems to say that Windows' current state of the art leaves something to be desired in the enterprise IT environment.

Shortcomings in Windows as an enterprise desktop choice may come as unwelcome messages to HP 3000 sites who are migrating — mainly because the majority of migrating sites are moving their 3000 apps to Windows-based environments. If HP wants to build an end-run around Windows, no matter how modest the project, what confidence does that generate for the Microsoft OS as a migration target?

Microsoft is reported to be making a quick push to get a Windows version 7 into the market by the middle of next year. Even through talk abouit the release is that it won't change enough to change the opinions about Vista, a Windows 7 in 2009 would emerge only about 2.5 years after Vista popped out of the development canal up in Redmond.

Given what HP is investing in services these days (see the EDS deal and its 44,000 employees), it's hard to imagine Hewlett-Packard making OS creation a key offering once more. The days of needing to build an MPE or an HP-UX are gone now. Google has even made its Chrome browser a neutral environment, another assault on the OS-on-hardware model of HP-UX and MPE.

11:10 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 16, 2008

HP announces largest layoff via EDS

Last night's analyst briefing about the acquisition of EDS gave HP a chance to raise a sweat from the largest number of its workers in the company's history. Hewlett-Packard will lay off almost 25,000 employees as a result of the merger with EDS, the services giant which the company bought this year for more than $13 billion.

That's a massive number of resumes about to float into the world. Compare Apple's total workforce, including retail, at 22,000. Or Google's staff at 20,000. The number of layoffs exceeded analyst expectations. HP shares rose 5 percent on the news, even though the company said it will take a $1.7 billion charge for Q4 to meet expenses for the acquisition.

While your vendor was quick to point out that about half of those layoffs would be replaced with new jobs over the next three years, the numbers set records no matter how they are parceled out. The EDS deal added 80 percent more staff to the HP payrolls, jobs which analysts have said are too heavily based in the US.

Those market analysts reacted favorably to news that about 8 percent of the new HP combined workforce would be looking for work soon. Head count today stands at more than 320,000. HP used the word "restructuring" to define the strategy, a phrase which has already meant layoffs this year in the once-booming Imaging and Printing group.

In a press statement, HP said that reducing the new services workforce will provide a better product.

Streamlining for growth: HP intends to implement a restructuring program for the EDS business group that will better align the combined company’s overall structure and efficiency with the operating model that HP has successfully implemented in recent years.

One analyst quoted in The Wall Street Journal said the massive layoff plan is a strategy to replace costly US services jobs with less expensive overseas positions. HP's stock slid on the May news that the vendor would buy EDS, even after CEO Mark Hurd assured the markets that the deal would improve HP's profitability and get services business growing faster.

10:36 AM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 15, 2008

Ike bypasses HP's datacenters

Datacenter HP delivered a lot of detail about its new corporate datacenters when HP CTO Randy Mott spoke at this summer's HP Technology Forum. From a high of more than 80 datacenters worldwide, HP has consolidated to six. But two were in the predicted path of Hurricane Ike this weekend, a storm which made landfall with 110 MPH winds east of Galveston.

The datacenters in Texas sit in Austin, 150 miles from the Gulf Coast, and in Houston, many miles closer to that landfall. At one point Friday the predicted path of the storm would have carried Ike across both centers. In a bit of luck for Texas HP operations, the hurricane swirled its most deadly eastern wall outside of the HP datacenter's reach in Houston.

Here in Austin, we didn't even get rain from the storm. HP's corporate media relations spokeswoman Emma McCulloch gave a brief confirmation that the hurricane had no impact on HP's Texas data processing. "HP Data Centers continue to operate normally, and no issues have been reported," she said. When we asked where the power is coming from to operate the facility, she added, "We are providing no further details."

The datacenters do contain a few HP 3000 servers, even after six years of HP's migration away from the server for its own IT operations. But stories of HP 3000s running in flood waters are already common, so long as the power survives. But it has not in the Houston area.

The power is out in much of the Greater Houston area even today, millions of customers with no electricity 48 hours after landfall. But those HP operations continue without interruption. The disaster resistance was not the focus of Mott's tour of the centers, however. Hewlett-Packard wanted to show the customers in Las Vegas how much more efficient and flexible a consolidated data operation could be for a company of HP's size.

Size matters in such consolidations, because like every rule of the economy of scale, there's more economy to be earned for more scale. HP completely exited 57 datacenters since the project began in 2005, Mott said. Dynamic Smart Cooling provided an energy savings of 10 to 15 percent all on its own. Overall, by closing more than 75 percent of its datacenters through this year, HP realized a 60 percent reduction in energy costs.

Mott didn't detail the redundancy operations for the massive datacenters which received thousands of data feeds daily using NeoView. But external disaster recovery sites always seem like a great idea here in the Gulf area between August and October. Ike traveled as far as Ohio to deliver damage.

A disaster recovery horror story unfolded right here in Austin some time ago, unrelated to Ike but a good example of simple investment sense. A healthcare customer running an HP 3000 and Windows servers had already built a pad and electric service for an external generator to back up local power. As it happened, the building was served by two distinct city lines for power, one to the Windows cubicles and another to the enterprise HP 3000 facility room.

Year after year, the IT manager would submit a relatively minor expense request to put a generator on the pad. Each year, the company's top manager would kick out the request. Then a storm hit and took out power to the building. Well, one half of the building, and by now you can guess which half had no service. Yes, the Windows desktops could run, but the HP 3000 holding all their data — information to serve thousands of subscribers and providers, lay inert after it exhausted its UPS.

The generator expense was approved the very next week. Here in Texas we're about 10 days short of the end of our hurricane season, which wraps up on the 24th of September according to weather history. With two major storms striking the national awareness this month, September might be a good time to ensure your DR is well-funded and tested.

03:06 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 12, 2008

3000 instruction survives in novice articles

Filesfig1 Long before HP decided to end its HP 3000 business, Hewlett-Packard wanted to teach the world how to use the system. One leading instructor wrote two dozen articles on the nuances of the MPE/iX system. George Stachnik created The HP3000 — For Complete Novices, a series first published in Interact magazine.

Interact is long gone, a casualty of the Interex bankruptcy three years ago. But 3000 users rave over these articles, which Stachnik wrote for HP and the Interact editors. He's been generous enough to share his originals, unedited, with us here at the NewsWire. We are working at getting these online, available in MS Word format just as he submitted them.

For this weekend we're passing along one article at random, an instruction on getting rid of HP 3000 files, both temporary and permanent. This is the kind of maintenance that can make an HP 3000 faster to the touch and demand less of its mass storage. The article is also a great example of the expertise which HP reminds you is on the wane in your community.

While HP 3000 owners work to migrate, plan their transition or remain on the platform, they need to pass on basics like those covered in these articles. It's a measure of Stachnik's devotion to the 3000 community that he's made these available.

Perhaps also, the articles show a resilience of the intelligence of the 3000 community. What was once lost, or relegated to paper archives only, can be recovered and distributed online with the help of the 3000's friends. Everything in life is temporary, but if you live in the now, it all looks permanent.

10:54 AM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 11, 2008

Annotations to Migrations

3000success HP has stopped talking to the 3000 community about migrating from the platform, at least in public forums. The last message we heard was at June's HP Technology Forum. In the PowerPoint slide set for an update on migration strategies from the vendor, we spotted a slide with migration successes.

Some 29 of them, to be exact, listed as HP's examples to prove a migration is possible. This list looks impressive in a single PowerPoint slide. But it deserves some notations, especially from a historic perspective. Migration is possible, happening, and an appropriate business decision for some customers. However, HP's list of 29 includes some very old projects, software vendors with deep staffing, as well as some companies carried to Unix or Windows by a third party app vendor.

About one example in three won't fit the majority of the 3000 community situations. Also of some note: not one example of home-grown to packaged app migrations at the HP migration success Web page. We didn't see that factoid in the PowerPoint slides at the Forum.

To get your annotated success list, just click on this link to have our PDF downloaded. And to be fair, we should point to the original HP slide set from that Tech Forum presentation (a much larger file, as PowerPoints usually are.) HP once listed a set of HP 3000 success stories right alongside the migration tales at its Web site: That is, reports about companies staying with the platform. Some of those tales were newer than the migration successes; the vendor's presentation at the Tech Forum showed a Web page snapshot with these stay-put success stories. Alas, they're now gone.

HP's message at the Tech Forum included a lot of migration counsel, from getting off of PA-RISC Unix hardware to replacing the IBM System i (AS/400) servers with HP's Unix systems. Since IBM has no plans to shut down that System i (AS/400) business anytime soon, you can expect a steady stream of advice on what HP calls the "Infinite" migration story. HP believes that "Companies are still using the [System i] because they don’t know there are other options."

HP said at the Forum that Infinite is for customers who

  • Have a full set of source code and core application functionality supports the enterprise
  • Are looking at a five-year plan to migrate to new application but need to support users in the interim
  • Want the flexibility / cost savings of AS/400 elimination but cannot otherwise replicate AS/400 functionality
  • Have a migration initiative with an opportunity to further solidify your industry position by replacing AS/400 systems as part of the project

The Infinite message was delivered by HP's Alvina Nishimoto, who also provided the success report on migration away from HP 3000s. Whether it's IBM's integrated business customers or the HP 3000 community, Hewlett-Packard needs to attract its HP-UX customers from somewhere.

03:44 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2008

Where are they now?

Geomug[Editor's Note: While HP dismantles its 3000 presence, the community spins off some of its best-known members in a process some call diaspora. In an ongoing series, we’re tracking down some of the notable people who were part of the 3000’s saga but have dispersed.]

     George Stachnik was an HP 3000 booster whose voice carried far. A series of TV broadcasts gave him a high profile in the modest 3000 community which could watch closed-circuit TV or order up VHS tapes of his talks. Stachnik narrated the infamous video where an HP 3000 was pushed off a two-story office roof onto a parking lot, and survived.

   That narration voice has survived while Stachnik has held a series of jobs since his HP 3000 duties came to a close. He reports that he does podcasts for Hewlett-Packard’s internal use, working from the Enterprise Servers and Storage (ESS) business, spreading the word on competitive analysis.

    Stachnik had left the 3000 group for the company’s NetServer division before HP announced its exit from the 3000 community. But he was invited to return just after the HP-Compaq merger was announced in 2001. His series of transition Webcasts, which examined issues around migration from the HP 3000, covered the years of 2002 through 2004.

   Now he’s using the voice that taught and preached the HP mission of migration to instruct HP staff.

 

“There’s one or two that have been made available externally,” he said, “but for the most part the podicasts are made for the sales force. They cover both the Unix servers and the Proliant servers.”

   Stachnik said he’s communicating analysis developed by an HP team. “I was able to build on all of the audio editing that I learned doing those transition Webcasts.”

   Podcasting is an interesting medium, he explained. “You can listen to this stuff in the car. You don’t have to be staring at a slide. It’s like talk radio.”

    Stachnik’s other contribution to the community came in a long series of HP 3000 instruction articles written for Interact magazine, the journal of now-defunct Interex user group. Nearly two dozen articles covered the processes and strategies of managing an HP 3000. Terry Floyd, founder of the Support Group consultancy for HP 3000s and ERP customers, says he gives all of his new hires the Stachnik articles to read as a primary education on the platform.

    Although Interact has disappeared from the Internet, Stachnik holds the original, unrevised copies of the articles. He shared these with the NewsWire after we talked, and we will be making them available through our Web site.
    Stachnik has made it back onto the Internet in a public forum, too, he added. HP tapped him to record the beginning and end of videos up on YouTube. Search on “HP Engineer Loses Bet” to find the video with the broadcast voice of HP’s 3000 loudest  outreach.

11:03 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 09, 2008

Migration advice — for HP-UX users

HP has scheduled a couple of Webcast briefings in September about migration for HP-UX customers: Moving from older HP 9000 hardware to Integrity systems, and upgrading to the latest version of HP's Unix.

The advisory on hardware issues takes place tomorrow, Sept. 10. HP's executives at the recent HP Technology Forum reported plenty of older HP 9000 systems still running companies today. Hewlett-Packard not only gains revenue when these customers move to newer, less power-hungry systems — the vendor also gets more buy-in for using HP's Unix, a solution every bit as proprietary as Windows or IBM's Unix. A new server means a longer lifespan for using HP-UX, instead of looking at Linux.

HP's Integrity hardware is the only new-generation technology which runs HP-UX. HP's Chuck Kausch, BCS Technical Evangelist, will make a case for migrating to the new server architecture — which might require changing some in-house HP-UX apps — at 10 CDT (US) tomorrow. Register, if you're making a transition to the HP 9000 or have some in house, at the Webcast's page on the Connect user group Web site.

Connect is also offering HP a chance to sell its Unix customer on the latest version of HP-UX, 11i v3. While this upgrade won't earn HP much revenue, the change could deliver some adjusting of configurations as a byproduct of its improved feature set. The HP-UX Webcast is Sept. 24.

Martin Whittaker, Director of Engineering in HP's Business Critical Systems division, will make the case for 11i v3 at 11AM CDT on the 24th. The Webcast's event page, also hosted by Connect, offers these reasons for migrating to v3, instead of using v1 or v2:

Ample capacity for exploding data requirements. For example, HP-UX 11i v3 enables 100 million zettabytes of storage (that’s zettabytes – ZB – with 21 zeros!). Management is simplified with next-generation mass storage stacks and the dynamic addition of memory and processors that support growth capacity without interruption, while the dynamic movement of memory across HP Virtual Partitions enables flexible reallocation to needy workloads.

The ability to virtualize servers is among the leading benefits of moving up to the latest HP-UX. This is unlikely to be much of an issue for the 3000 sites which are still in the process of implementing a migration to Unix; they'll get the newest version by default. But an explanation of how virtualization is better managed by v3 will be useful for any site still considering how migration will improve their computing capability.

06:02 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 08, 2008

Keeping HP up to date on 3000 history

HP’s best efforts to curtail rogue thinking led to the system’s database, Fred White reported at this summer's HP 3000 seminar at the Computer History Museum. “If I hadn’t been kicked out of the file system lab, Image would have never existed,” he said.

HP's founders had no ardor to create computers. HP killed off its Omega project, which would have created a mainframe competitor in the early 1970s, because Hewlett and Packard didn’t want to go into computing, said HP's Chuck House, director of engineering at the time.

But even when the 3000 first shipped, it was saddled with problems in its first two releases. The computer crashed every 24 hours on initial shipments, then every 24 days on a second rollout. Only by the time the System III was selling, said Adager's Rene Woc, could HP compete with IBM. “There was still the small matter of making it work,” he added. Rumbles of laughter rolled around the room.

HP benefited from its relations with these vendors in the days of 3000 growth. Harper Thorpe, retired from HP after his work in the channel, said that “There was no ecosystem for this system, and to a great degree, I think our partners led us there.”

The opportunities were exciting enough to drive brilliant engineers back into their college-day habits. Adager’s Alfredo Rego talked about how he took the bus as a university professor and “I had no money whatsoever, so [Allegro's] Steve Cooper and the AMS guys invited me to Thanksgiving. I packed some food, and it was all done totally informally with no financing whatsoever.”

Rick Berquist of AMS passed along the story that “they said that Alfredo guy came and fixed our database and slept on our sofa.” One pioneer after another confirmed that the HP Way and the excitement of leaping into a new kind of computing led them to the 3000 software world.

“The HP culture circa 1972 and for the next five years was impeccable,” said ASK’s Elder. “Dealing with HP was a real joy,” added Martin Gorfinkel of LARC Computing, “compared to dealing with almost every other company.”

Rego said a forced stay in Boston showed him that Data General and Digital isolated their engineers in a way that made Hewlett-Packard and the 3000 fascinating. “Bits and bytes have always been my focus, and I was able to talk to Fred White at HP in 1978 about them. So my reason for choosing HP was Fred White.”

The history museum intends to have complete transcripts and a video available of the one-day meeting — plus its oral histories with pioneers like Rego — in less than a year. Many pioneers remain to be interviewed — legends such as Orly Larson, Robelle’s Bob Green, Ed McCracken of HP and the leaders of VEsoft and WRQ and Tymlabs.

Nearly every story told in the history session about the 3000 had an HP angle or reference, an element which Allegro’s Cooper put in accurate perspective. “What bothers me is talking about HP in the singular,” he said. “You almost have to talk about which HP you were dealing with.”

Cooper's annotation of "which HP" merits special attention today, so many years after the system's launch. One familiar HP 3000 group still works, at least through the rest of this year, in HP offices on the last bits of sustaining engineering. Another HP, ensconced only in support contracts and services, controls the future of the vendor's 3000 business.

08:10 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 05, 2008

History flows full at museum

When 18 pioneers gathered this summer for the first HP 3000 software meeting at the Computer History Museum, stories showed how far the HP 3000 has advanced from its earliest, buggy days.

But some tales that were told at the Mountain View-based museum illustrated that HP often saw third party and independent companies educating HP on what the 3000 could do. A good example came in a story from Martin Gorfinkel of LARC Computing.

LARC's Fantasia software wrote  — and still writes — to the LaserJet family of printers. "The 2680 was a way different beast, than a LaserJet," he told us after the meeting. "The 2680 was designed to work off the HP 3000, but the printer had a relatively short life. The TDP/3000 software  — HP’s renaming of the LARC Editor/Scribe Word Processing Software  — wrote to the 2680. That interface was done by HP in England."

"The Fantasia software writes to the LaserJet printers," he said, "and for the first several years that the software and the LaserJets were on the market, HP insisted that the LaserJet printers would not work with the HP 3000."

The concept of a third-party solution extending the 3000 beyond HP's plans and designs? Commonplace during the first two decades of the computer's life. Even today, this is the mission that OpenMPE continues to pursue. The only thing that has changed is the do-it-yourself habit of the computer customer. HP 3000 owners from the 1970s and 1980s learned to help themselves, then teach HP what was possible.

The technical horsepower in the meeting room at Mountain View, along with the start-up muscle, could have convinced HP to decide another fate for its HP 3000 business. Adager's Alfredo Rego reported on his efforts in 2001 to persuade the vendor to sell the system business, instead of shut it down. That's a history lesson whose first part is well known, and now being documented at the Museum.

The second part, the conclusion and legacy, remains to be written once HP returns the HP 3000 book to the community's library.

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

September 04, 2008

3000 pioneers launch volley of stories

The talk in the room rang of software. For the cornerstone system of HP’s computer empire, the world’s Computer History Museum set up a ring of tables with two corners — and one open end. The HP 3000’s end may be neither near or clear, but a room of pioneers ringed those tables to talk not of an end, but all about beginnings.

This summer produced the first meeting of the HP3000 Software Special Interest Group at the Computer History Museum (CHM) in Mountain View. The CHM put out a call to the community to invite people who built the HP 3000 software foundation, the bedrock to the system’s — as well as HP’s — success.

Few in the room had begun their HP 3000 career later than the 1970s. The meeting table was flanked with pros who cut the cloth of the software garment which clothed mewling 3000 hardware. Some, like Marty Browne working for ASK Computer in the early 1970s, reported a miserable summer creating on a computer of dubious reliability.

Browne was one of 18 “pioneers” called to download the historic beginnings of 3000 software, with most of the tales told out of the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Chuck House, who become HP corporate engineering director in the early 1980s, gave insights from the higher echelons of Hewlett-Packard. One of his more riveting comments was that HP “never really understood” software during that period when the 3000 was growing its reputation and customer base on the strength of MPE and applications from its ecosystem of partners.

HP’s top-level ardor was never strong for the computer called the System 3000 on its first rollout. Phil Sakahihara, who led the development of the HP DeskManager suite which powered HP communication for more than 15 years, said that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard came down to the labs to see the 3000 underway “and they weren’t very happy about it.”

House and Sakahihara made up a handful of HP representation among the invitees; HP archivist Anna Mancini couldn’t make it to the June meeting, but Harper Thorpe brought the insights of a founder of the value added reseller chain he helped build. Fred White recounted his time in an HP “black sheep squadron” to build the IMAGE database before he joined Adager. Doug Meacham, also an HP alum, gave reports on the founding years of the Interex user group he headed up during the 1970s and 80s.

The symposium was moderated by Burt Grad, a 54-year vet of computing and CHM advisory board member. He asked the kind of fundamental questions only a 3000 outsider could to spark deep-seated examinations of how the computer became HP’s sparkplug for IT products.

The attendees were select among the 3000 community, ranging from Brown and Nick Elder of ASK, the largest software supplier in the 3000’s nascent days; to Grace Gentry of Gentry Systems, Steve Dennis of Smith Dennis & Gaylord; Steve Cooper of Allegro, as well as his colleague Stan Sieler; Adager’s Alfredo Rego and Rene Woc; Jack Damm of Cognos, whose roots ran back to the days when the company was called Quasar; Mark Klein, representing the early days of Orbit Software as well as Abacus; Rick Berquist of AMS, and Martin Gorfinkel of LARC Computing.

Nearly every pioneer had a story to tell about prodding the 3000 into impossible capabilities. “People were pushing the boundaries,” Mecham said.

07:39 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 03, 2008

SAP on the block?

The website ERP Software has filed two rumor reports over the past week which mention SAP as a takeover target. It's worth tracking for 3000 sites making the lengthy move to the massive ERP suite. We've heard stories of failed SAP projects for 3000 owners. There's always a fall-back position in the event of such a failure: keeping the HP 3000 ERP running.

A change of ownership could be a factor in redoubling any SAP efforts, especially considering the latest rumored suitor: Microsoft.

Unlike Oracle (which was mentioned in an August rumor), the Master of Windows has the financial muscle to embrace the leading ERP suite. SAP uses Windows 2008 Server today, but Microsoft doesn't have an enterprise-class ERP solution to call its own. Even if a more integrated Windows version of SAP is four years away, that timing would mesh with 3000 site plans which don't even have a start date until 2011. We have a confirmed report from an advisor to a big aircraft maker about one of those "SAP eventually" plans to replace 3000 apps.

Almost one year ago, HP surfaced as a potential buyer of SAP, but these rumor stories seem to accomplish little but underscore the value of SAP's customer base and solution. Rather than buy the most costly solution for ERP, HP reached much deeper into its pockets to acquire EDS this summer.

SAP has not been acquired in the more than 20 years of its existence, built up from a German application moved to the rest of the world's manufacturing concerns. Microsoft has put itself into the running with purchases of Great Plains, Real World, Solomon, FRX, Navision and Damgaard/Axapta, according to the ERP Graveyard Scorecard.

The scorecard lists SAP as one of the Twin Titans, along with Oracle in the ERP world. Microsoft, as usual, makes its own category in the scorecard, heading up "SMB and Below."

10:16 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 02, 2008

Numbers show change for HP

Simple mathematics can show the total picture of Hewlett-Packard is changing, even as the vendor advises its customers to look at other figures. We have found a few in the last week that multiply our interest in HP's future direction.

First, a 14 percent decline in HP's Printer and Imaging business, as reported in the Q3 figures released last month. In Idaho, kingdom of HP board director Dick Hackborn and his printer empire, reports are surfacing of layoffs in the printer business. Printers, ink, paper, cameras — of all these things were the HP profits built, more than half of the black ink in recent years. HP means to make those profits flow on lower sales — with fewer employees. From yesterday's Idaho Business Review:

In what one employee has called “Black Monday,” a round of job cuts is taking place at Hewlett-Packard’s Boise-based Imaging and Printing Group today, part of the company’s global reorganization of the division.

While HP officials wouldn’t comment on specific numbers or areas in which positions will be eliminated, the Idaho Business Review and its news partner KTVB both received confirmation from several employees - one a 31-year veteran of the company - that their jobs had been cut. HP employs over 3,000 workers at its Boise facility.

Second, the 140,000 employees soon to be given HP name badges in the company's biggest acquisition ever: EDS. Regulators have cleared the way for a workforce to join Hewlett-Packard which nearly equals the current HP headcount. Nary a one of these will create a product, innovate with software code, or invent an algorithm. HP Invent means something very different when you purchase the creations of consultants: processes, plans, libraries and experience. Someone must build innovation, and it could be a long road to convince the world that half your workforce will innovate with their ideas and anybody's hardware and software.

The impact of Unix provides the third number in the trio of HP changes. HP's Unix has remarkable numbers of acceptance for the 3000 community.

We interviewed a vendor today which has created new versions of its HP 3000 accounting suite, such versions running on Linux, Unix and Windows. These are the platforms which are supported by the IMAGE database workalike Eloquence. Bill Miller of Genesis Total Solutions reports that nearly all of his customers who have migrated off the HP 3000 are going to Windows. Nearly all, he says, of a group of companies which might be called mom-and-pop for their size. Some approach $50 million a year in run rate, but better than three out of four won't be using HP's Unix.

Let's be generous and say that a good quarter of the 3000 sites are not mom-and-pop. So 75 percent of the market isn't big enough to want to take on Unix-grade administration and management. Windows, flawed though it may be, is good enough to get the job done. It's the expertise, Miller says, the numbers of Windows experts on the market versus the numbers of Unix gurus.

We hear similar stories from other vendors of utilities and applications, and the numbers do not vary much. Even Ecometry, which has become Escalate Retail, is selling mostly Windows solutions to its 3000 shops. And plenty of Ecometry sites are brand names, not mom-and-pops.

These are not numbers popular with Hewlett-Packard's enterprise story, especially with the HP group which is trying to offer HP-UX as an alternative to the IBM world. HP must sell Integrity to those IBM prospects. HP won't even identify how much of its Business Critical Computing footprint has become Integrity server-based. Integrity is the only future for HP's Unix. Even 100 percent acceptance of Integrity among BCS customers will pale in the face of other HP server solutions. Industry Standard Servers, the other HP group calls itself, is having nothing to do with HP-UX. ISS is the growth engine in HP servers. Printers profits and sales are on the decline. Close to half of HP workers are in Services, not servers. You can count on it.

09:44 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 01, 2008

Skilled labor on 3000 takes work to find

Homesteading on the HP 3000 — whether it's the type until migration, or unlimited future style — takes labor to maintain. Labor is on our minds here at the NewsWire today, when much of the US has taken a day off from the office or away from the computer keyboard to celebrate the American labor movement.

Your community is experiencing much movement, so any tools to track the travels of skilled 3000 pros can be useful. Let me recommend LinkedIn once again. The HP 3000 Community Group at the site now has a couple of questions posted to start discussions. Again, the LinkedIn advantage is connecting to pros to share with specific work experience details, plus the chance to draw on others' networks through introductions.

Anybody can join, for free. We've got 35 members in the group, and many others in the LinkedIn network with 3000 experience. Michael Boritz commented on our Group question about who's doing what with the HP 3000 these days:

I’m still working on the 3000. I’ve been working on 3000s since the 1980s, at J.D. Abrams at that time. Since leaving JDA, I worked at Tivoli in Austin (i.e., Unison-Tymlabs) for a couple of years. Since then, I have moved four times — all for new HP 3000 positions.

This social networking stuff works, if you can keep at it a few minutes a day. Boritz tells of his stops along the way:

I am currently in the Cleveland area, working at a Law firm, Weltman, Weinberg, and Reis, supporting their two legacy 3000s. I’ve been here since December, starting as a contractor, and becoming permanent in March. My current position is basically a programming position, supporting the legal documents created for the courts. It’s definitely different — I've never worked in the legal industry before.

Like most other shops, they are talking about migrating off the 3000 platform, but that will probably take at least two to three more years, perhaps longer. That’s fine with me! It’s getting harder and harder to find 3000 jobs out there.

Put a little light labor into connecting with your community on LinkedIn. Staying in touch can make easier work of traveling between career stops.

07:51 PM in Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)