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October 31, 2008

The Afterlife, Now Stalking Its Sixth Year

Cheated The sun has set on the fifth year of HP 3000 life since its World Wide Wake in 2003. Across the International Date Line in Bangalore, India, where a few HP lab engineers still toil until December, it's already Nov. 1. All Saints Day, we used to call the date back when I was a boy in Catholic school. Some community members probably think the 3000's survival through 2008 is a miracle.

There are many saints who could claim some credit for the survival of 10,000 to 20,000 HP 3000s. There are also many systems that have been switched off, scrapped or dropped into deep storage over those five years. The HP 3000 system populace could only decline from its census numbers of 2003. However, it's easy to assert that more 3000s will be running after today — and into the sixth year of The Afterlife — than Hewlett-Packard or its partners ever could predict.

A good share of the populace is running because migration was no two-year matter, or even four-year project at some sites. In these companies the HP 3000 is earmarked for a decommission, sometime in the future, near or far. The Afterlife is a land which is rich in the unknown. We cannot know for certain who's still running, who's making migration progress, and who has put their IT futures in limbo. For some customers, they live in the Afterlife because there's no place else to go.

Oct. 31 is one of two dates burned into the memory of the community, and its shadow is smaller than Nov. 14. HP told everyone it would cease sales and manufacture of the 3000 on Oct. 31, 2003. The date was so widely known that ScreenJet's Alan Yeo organized a World Wide Wake, which commemorated the service this server delivered since 1974. (Note that the service provider above our 2003 story did not outlive HP 3000's utility.) HP sold this system over more than 30 years, counting the ill-fated launch of the System 3000 in 1972. Everyone who calls on 3000 skills and experience, or makes a living in this afterlife, wants to know how many more years of commerce remains. Approximately.

Some people lifting toasts at that wake believed the 3000s worldwide would run into the next decade. Some systems will. Others will fall off when HP stops collecting support revenues and delivering support services. So many of the still-running have separated themselves from HP's offerings, however, that there's little HP can do to nudge them along.

"Most people who have a 3000 would just as soon not change," says Bill Miller, founder of financial app supplier Genesis Total Solutions. Miller's company has helped 3000 owners move to new platforms with several new versions of the financials running in other environments. But the customers who are left today — here in Year Six beyond HP sales and the Wake — could be moving slower than a zombie picking its way across a graveyard (to use a holiday-induced metaphor.)

"They've invested time and money in it, and it's been quite a while since somebody's purchased a brand-new 3000," Miller says in our upcoming November issue Q&A. "If they've had it and it's working, and they're pretty satisfied with what their situation is, every change they would have to go through will cost them quite a bit of money, time and effort. "So they're generally not pressed to do something. HP still has service, and they can find third parties who will service the machines."

"I had one guy tell me that they'll have to pull the 3000 out of his cold, dead hands," Miller added.

There is gusto for going, but not as much satisfaction in staying. Some would say that's satisfaction only for the short term, while the gusto grows opportunity for new skills and greater flexibility and connectivity. I don't mean to insult anybody who's remaining a 3000 customer by comparing their actions to a zombie. All in fun, of course, because every manager who's being responsible knows their own timetable to tomorrow, or exit plan for the Afterlife.

But today, nearing the end of the seventh year since HP announced its exit, nobody knows all the plans, or even a modicum of them. We try to track trends here, like any journalism operation, but the evidence is more anecdotal than exacting. We don't think it will take a seance to communicate with the community. The Linked In social network just reached its 80th member of The HP 3000 Community Group. (Superdelegates, I like to consider these members. Most count more than one decade of 3000 experience, but all are welcome.) A similar number of members, with much overlap, is part of Bill & Dave's Excellent Machine group on Linked In.

We're big on Linked In because it's a way to trade skill resumes and approach members for employment, even if most of the new 3000 work by now is assisting in long-term migrations. There's a broader future out there somewhere, a specter of change for some people and an ascent into advancement for others. These days change is in the air, and it's far from rare. The only thing uncommon is a 3000 owner who is unaware of their vendor's 3000 status: on ice, starting in the cold of January. If development from the creator is evidence of death in your estimation, you're digging out instead of digging in. It may take another five years of afterlife to run the populace down another 50 percent. Our crystal ball remains cloudy on that prophecy. Welcome to Year Six.

07:50 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 30, 2008

Micro Focus lifts COBOL to the clouds

Micro Focus operates many IT businesses, but its heartland is still COBOL. A couple of news releases from the vendor showed that this week, tying the veteran's business programming language with Microsoft's nascent Azure and preserving of the value of what some call legacy information systems.

In the more recent announcement yesterday, Micro Focus used time at the COBOL WG4 standards meeting to pledge

...commitment to current and future COBOL standardization and modernization. As enterprises increase their focus on ROI from IT spend, Micro Focus urges organizations to modernize COBOL systems and applications to maximize their investments in existing IT systems.

The vendor which acquired COBOL vendor Acucorp last year went on to remind the world that "In short – it’s time to start viewing COBOL as an asset. As COBOL evolves, it continues to thrive alongside the latest technologies to ensure that core existing applications can benefit from the interoperability of object orientation, XML and service oriented architecture."

This evolution of a tool first used in the 1960s can be difficult, but Micro Focus shows no hesitation. Microsoft announced its Azure Services Platform, the company’s new cloud computing platform, at the Microsoft PDC conference this week. Micro Focus was already demonstrating at PDC how COBOL and Azure work together. This is the kind of gusto that can drive a migration: the ability to embrace new tech that captivates business owners. (Whether the 3000's native COBOL II can be made to work with Azure is left to the community's forward thinkers to tinker with.)

Cloud computing might smack a little of the old time-sharing model when the HP 3000 was first introduced. After all, IT directors of a certain age might remember when offsite services, via the x.25 standard, were sent and received through "the cloud." And yes, the cloud was a part of the template when computing had flow charts.

But everything old can be made a little newer again. Micro Focus said in its Monday release from the PDC

Micro Focus will enable secure, reliable and scalable enterprise COBOL applications to run on the Azure Services Platform. As part of an enterprise modernization strategy, organizations will be able to harness cloud computing to deliver Micro Focus expertise as software+services on the Microsoft platform. This announcement builds on the Micro Focus / Microsoft relationship, announced in July, further extending their joint technology roadmap.

For the first time, and demonstrated at PDC, Micro Focus enables corporations to move existing enterprise COBOL applications into the cloud either as private cloud services, available only to that company, or as cloud applications available to the marketplace as a whole. As corporations move to a single global operating model, the immediate availability and scalability of Azure accelerates deployment of enterprise applications that support the business, and reduces the investment required.

11:08 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2008

Retaining 3000 value, by the letter

918block In recent weeks the 3000 community has heard from a new user who's discovered the HP 3000. The latest system which Paul Raulerson has been raving about to the 3000 newsgroup is a Series 918, the rock-bottom of the 3000 server line still considered modern enough to run the latest MPE/iX version. (Take a click on the block diagram at left to see the 9x8 design.)

Back in the 1990s, our good friend and ally John Burke was shopping for a personal HP 3000, something to support his 3000 consulting business. We talked when he had found a couple of systems, both used. One was a Series 917, the other a Series 918. The price tags, including IMAGE and MPE/iX, were both a bargain back in the late 1990s: $1,600 for the Series 917, $2,400 for the Series 918.

That same Series 918 system now sells, about a decade later on the used market, for $1,800. You might note that this computer which HP stopped building and selling has lost only one-fourth of its used market value over a decade. Try matching that with any other business computing system.

Retaining value has been a mantra of the 3000 community ever since it formed up 34 years ago. Systems built and during the 1980s are still running and working. A 14-year-old computer like the Series 918 is a relative newcomer — and more importantly, a system which can utilize the most current version of the MPE/iX operating system and IMAGE database.

Some say that this retention of value mantra was a death knell for HP's 3000 business. Not for the server, but HP's business. How much has HP forgotten about its system? Not so much that you cannot find an HP hosting an HP Labs article from the Hewlett-Packard Journal, circa 1995, touting "A Low Cost, High Performance Multiuser Business Server System." (Go ahead, download it from HP.)

Or if someday HP removes this documentation of its achievement, you can download it from us. HP recently advised the 3000 community that it should download the documents it needs, since the HP 3000 data will be pulled from Hewlett-Packard servers.

In seven years or so.

Journal918art HP called the 9x8 systems the E-Series in their HP 9000 incarnations. The Low-Cost, Higher-Performance Features introduction said "the principal reason for achieving high integration and low cost for the Series 9x8 servers was the development of the PA 7100LC processor chip, which was being developed at the same time as our servers."

LC was a designation for low-cost, since HP said its Series 9x8 priorities were short time to market, low cost, and improved performance. Make no mistake, comparing this system to anything HP sells as a business server today would not favor the 918. The system is so rock-bottom on the HP 3000 chart that its performance is the base for the "HP 3000 Performance Unit" which HP used instead of the then-industry-standard SPEC performance marks.

Put another way, the top of the line HP e3000 N-Class 750 4-processor system is 768 times faster than a 918. (Thanks go to Wirt Atmar's HP 3000 Relative Performance charts at AICS.) You can purchase either the 9x8s or a beefy N-Class on the used marketplace. But apparently the Series 918, with only about 40GB of disk, can only fall so far in value.

HP recognized that its business model for business server sales was out of date, a discovery the vendor made during the reorganization of HP following the Compaq merger. HP knew it was selling far fewer 3000s than Unix servers, but it didn't act on this knowledge while the customers remained loyal and retained servers — and more importantly, support contracts.

Come 2001, just months after the merger was unfurled, and the 3000 got its walking papers from HP. I use the colloquial phrase directly, because getting walking papers is akin to being fired. When you're fired you can still work, just someplace else. Which is precisely what this Series 918, a la E-Class, is still doing today as it's being discovered by a new user.

02:46 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2008

Counting the 3000 up, or out?

At the community outpost called the 3000-L mailing list, veterans and customers and experts are tossing around visions of the future for the system still running at thousands of companies. Numbers and figures can add up or obscure — and this time of the year when polls and counting are everybody's mind, it's numbers that are on this segment of the community's mind right now.

Pro3K consultant Mark Ranft reported at that community outpost that he's supervised more 30 post-2001 installations of HP 3000s for his client, a major airline transaction processor. I have heard from more than one 3000 community member about new installations of HP 3000s. So despite what some community members think, new 3000 installs since 2001 are a non-zero number.

These are, of course, systems new to a company or a site, since HP hasn't built a new HP 3000 for almost five years. But new or old, the 3000 retains some value, in major part because of its MPE/iX license.  This week, a Series 918 system with only 40GB of disk was valued at $1,800 — the very smallest size of "K-Class" HP 3000 which supports MPE/iX 7.5, almost 15 years after HP introduced this series.

But at this stage of the 3000’s life, these numbers are not what matters anymore, although they are a very easy metric to count.

I still see evidence that it’s too early to tote up the HP 3000’s platform value. For the few IT pros who haven’t noticed, the world’s economy experienced a reboot over the past 30 days, and people are revising their assessments concerning computers. The number of new systems is of far less importance than the number of old experts. From the looks of the traffic on the newsgroup/list, that group is retaining its critical mass.

Speedware has been making a business out of employing HP 3000 experts for several years. Next month in our printed issue, I’ll have interviews with a few one-man support suppliers, new to me and serving companies of all sizes, and Adager tells me they encounter new vendors like this while Adager works with its customers. Even while you're wondering what to do with your HP 3000 expertise, you can aim for success by learning new technologies. It will be good effort which will have value to a 3000 installation, should HP keep its promise to sell an emulator license for MPE — which will first require that some company release an emulator.

HP will not be doing anything more to support the 3000 with anything new, starting in 2009 — with the exception of whatever OpenMPE can wrest in promises for the intellectual property use of MPE/iX. That’s what happens when a vendor shuts down your development labs. The lights go out on HP’s 3000 creativity at the end of this year. “What’s new lately” is a question which HP answered for the last time in the summer of 2007, when the SCSI pass-through driver was released.

We're on the lookout for anyone who has experienced the value of that SCSI engineering. Craig Fairchild of HP said last summer that using this final engineering gift “is not for the faint of heart.” The experts on the mailing list have shown very strong hearts — older, yes, but still true.

11:10 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2008

Counting down to changes in strategy

Here in the US we have only seven more days of campaigning to endure before our country votes for new leadership. At the moment the polls and predictions tilt toward Barack Obama, but some pundits and experts say that the sea change in world finances are a prime motivation to help him in his quest to gain the US presidency.

That upheaval in seas is going to have an impact in most parts of most lives. We are all likely to be spending less, or spending smarter and slower, while companies trim back and chart courses of conservation. Yours is a community that's been exhorted to make immediate changes in its computing platform, almost entirely on the basis of HP's business choices seven years ago.

If just seven weeks ago seems like an eternity now, imagine how far back seven years must seem. It took several years for much of the 3000 world to even acknowledge HP was not joking about leaving your community. Now, with capital, cash and resources drawn down tighter than in most of our lifetimes, spending quickly on a big project looks like a larger risk than remaining beyond HP's business lifespan on the 3000.

We don't mean to say that the recession is reason enough to remain on the 3000. Migration makes business sense for a serious share of you, but the pace and price will now undergo serious scrutiny. As Alan Yeo, the founder of 3000 tool and migration supplier ScreenJet says, "What price Oracle, now? People do not spend such serious money, or even plan to spend serious money, if things are looking dodgy."

Yeo wants to know, as I do, what your community is doing and planning now in this new era of expanded caution. We have always made it our mission to be the resource for spreading experience and messages, as well as seeking information about the ownership, stewardship and advancement of HP 3000s. In seven days' time here in the US, we will all see even more evidence of the changes afoot in long-term thinking.

We would like to know what you're changing, or retaining, in your 3000 Transition plans. E-mail me confidentially if you prefer, or post a comment. Sign up to join our free HP 3000 Community Group on Linked In, the Web social network with the richest roster of 3000 experts and veterans. Ask questions, or offer answers, online on the 3000 newsgroup.

We're going to working harder than ever to tell stories of how the financial and confidence changes will have an impact on migrations. One fact continues to buck the established, old-story wisdom: many large companies are taking a very long time to migrate. "A couple of mega-huge migrations were just being touted this month," Yeo told me tonight, although he was bound to keep the company names confidential.

"I said to myself, if there are people out there who are that size and just announcing their migrations, how many more can there be?" he asked.

For several years now we've considered most migration sites to be homesteading at the same time, since the typical HP 3000 remains mission-critical until the weekend or month it's switched onto standby or ready status. HP will report, within a few weeks, a sobering outlook on the growth of its enterprises — just like so many other companies offering computing solutions. Things are going to slow down for a few years. That change of pace might be a good thing for the customer who needs more time to get a migration right, or assemble the best collection of homesteading partners.

Value will be measured differently if an asset is already amortized, since credit sources will shift and slow. A computer already running is one less thing to demand a thinning stream of capital. Choices to thrive in the long term are at hand in our country and so many others. "The current economic crisis will push some companies further down the pike," Yeo said tonight, and I agree.

I want to hear from you about what has been put on hold or fast-tracked as a result of the changes swirling through our new world order.

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

October 24, 2008

OpenMPE seeks new director for advocacy

News from the only HP 3000 advocacy group reveals an opening on the OpenMPE board.

Noisy volunteers with no sense of circumspection need not apply. OpenMPE operates with a nine-person board of directors, one Web site which costs $50 or less to host, and the experience of a community with three decades of development savvy. The group also operates under a simulation of a Confidential Disclosure Agreement that keeps any director from reporting what HP tells the group. The board has never signed a CDA, but "we have, however, agreed to work with HP under a 'gentlepersons' agreement," according to director Donna Hofmeister.

This virtual CDA is not news, nor is an open seat on the group. Directors have resigned before; just earlier this year Paul Edwards left these volunteers after more than five years of service, listening and advice. This month Chuck Ciesinski had to vacate his position when he went to work for a Maryland firm which had a strict "conflict of interest" policy, he explained. Later on he took a job in New York which limited any time to give to the group. Ciesinski has been managing HP-UX systems for many years, but had several decades of HP 3000 experience and ardor to bring to OpenMPE. He said still operates an HP 3000 in his basement for consulting engagements. His most recent news is that he's gone to work for Hewlett-Packard.

The group revealed a tacit announcement of the opening yesterday in a message on the 3000 newsgroup. John Dunlop simply noted that a new entry of meeting minutes from the Oct. 9 conference call meeting was posted on the OpenMPE site. "The Board will consider nominees over the coming weeks," said the minutes. (You can contact director Hofmeister to volunteer for the spot, or be considered.) Another director added that OpenMPE doesn't elect replacement directors, but names them.

HP's OpenMPE Jeff Bandle went into Executive Session, where those CDA-like rules apply, during that Oct. 9 meeting. On that same day around noon, HP released its first communique about the vendor's end-game strategies for its 3000 business. Conjecture about the timing can be understood, but we hope that more was discussed than a pre-announcement briefing of less than a few hours before HP released its info to the public.

Reading the tea leaves of a set of OpenMPE minutes can inspire the imagination of an HP 3000 customer, especially anyone who's going to need 3000 support and services beyond the end of this year. Director Matt Perdue "checked with the bank regarding its electronic banking capabilities. He reported that they offer a complete suite of services including international wire transfers."

Why ever could expanded banking capabilities, especially of the online nature, be required of OpenMPE — a group which has not collected $10,000 in its six-plus years of existence? Some time ago, HP wanted to be assured that any group which would get a license to develop MPE/iX would have an adequate business model. HP was not clear about what model would be adequate, but the ability to process monetary exchange would be a key process in any good business operation.

Or perhaps the bank services are just a way of making a low-budget organization more efficient. HP says two more messages are forthcoming to the community about the post-HP lifespan of the 3000. The content of these messages is a mystery to the OpenMPE directors today. There's a big issue still not addressed by HP: Turning over the MPE/iX source code under a limited license, a transfer of intellectual property between HP's 3000 labs and somebody, perhaps OpenMPE. Would starting that process in 2009 give anybody a chance at getting a virtual MPE lab running by the end of 2010? "We certainly believe this will happen,"Hofmeister said, "but also have no assurance that it will."

Filling a volunteer position that requires working in the dark with guesses could be an impediment to attracting some caliber of volunteer. The CDA agreement is only in place because Bandle is talking with OpenMPE on behalf of HP. The vendor hasn't told me if Bandle will continue in his work during 2009, after the development lab and the community liaison both retire. The board has not been told, either. No HP talks mean no more CDA for any new discussions. We might expect a lot more exchange at that point between third party firms in the community and OpenMPE.

The frustration with the secret talks remains easy to spot in the community. One former board director, John Burke, railed about the CDA but then accepted the yoke once he volunteered for the board. The meeting minutes are so terse that one 3000 customer, Robert Mills, said the secrecy seems inappropriate for a vendor so close to ending its development decision operations.

Must ‘everything’ that happened during the executive sessions with HP be kept secret, or would they allow you OpenMPE to say what ‘areas’ were talked about, and how much time was spent on it? A feel of how much effort HP were devoting and to which areas might give ‘those of us in the dark’ an idea of how serious they HP are in letting MPE go.

I'm not a party to the executive sessions, but HP will let MPE go once it is finished collecting support revenues for a receding level of services. I would guess the vendor is serious about retaining some measure of control indefinitely, but the date when the reins loosen up is in the realm of Bernard Determe, HP's Worldwide Support Planning Manager. HP Support is the only organization going forward in 2009 and 2010 with anything other than migration planning assistance.

07:13 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23, 2008

HP sets last liaison, constant migration for 3000

Fairchild07When the first of three HP communiques on the company's 3000 endgame appeared on Oct. 10, HP stressed that its development team for the 3000 will stop work on the system at year's end. Repairs to emergency, critical problems like the database corruption of 2007 are going to get workarounds at best. The extent of HP's departure will become more obvious in some non-emergency aspects, however.

Craig Fairchild, an HP engineer who's been speaking to the 3000 customer base since Jeff Vance retired from the vendor in 2007, is also taking his role with the community into the sunset, as it were. Fairchild said he's scheduled to be the last 3000 liaison Hewlett-Packard's 3000 group will have, and his duties end Dec. 31.

Some of the reason for that is the 3000 group itself — the veterans with the most tenure inside the vendor's walls — is disbanding at year's end. Fairchild has been a good source of information, working in Vance's stead. The final 3000 liaison told us:

Assuming that I don't get hit by a bus between now and December 31 (in which case a replacement would likely be selected) I may indeed be the last HP e3000 Community Liaison. As [Business Manager] Jennie [Hou] mentioned last week, the lab will be exiting after December 31, 2008, and lab work will cease at that point.

I'm sure that I'll still read the 3000 NewsWire for as long as you want to keep publishing it, though!

Thanks, Craig. We expect to be publishing the NewsWire at least as long as HP will be giving out 3000 migration advice. Which, as you might expect, is the kind of constant vendor information that has no end-date in sight. Many migrations are only announced as of today, with far fewer actually underway.

Alvina Nishimoto, a veteran of more than 25 years work on the HP 3000 and of more than seven years of HP 3000 migrations, will continue to be a resource to the community for migration information. "I will continue to be the contact for HP e3000 migration questions moving forward," Nishimoto said.

Nishimoto might qualify as the closest thing to a lab-level resource for the 3000 during 2009, depending on how you feel about HP support engineers' developmental skills. She is without peer in knowing what tools to consider while performing a migration project. And for the partners in the 3000 community who are still looking to interest HP in migration tools or services for moving off the 3000, she's the best place to start with questions or proposals. You can contact Nishimoto by e-mail, or at 408-447-5649.

07:36 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2008

Approaching .NET from VPlus

Medford, Oregon schools will be moving to the .NET architecture and Windows from their HP 3000 systems, according to Senior Programmer/Analyst Dave Vorgang. He asked the users who gather on the 3000 newsgroup to advise him about his project.

He said, "I have just began working on a project for converting our existing HP 3000 VPlus screens to use Fujitsu COBOL on the back-end and use .NET for the forms. What I plan to do is create routines to emulate the VPlus intrinsics.

"Our student system is homegrown. All done with COBOL/VPlus/IMAGE. I’ve been assigned the task of wrapping all the VPlus intrinsic calls to perform their vb.net equivalence — the idea being that we can simply take our existing COBOL apps, run them through a converter to convert them to Fujitsu, and then have my VPlus routines display the forms."

His first design demands 25 percent of the CPU resources to execute a Do Loop, "a routine which will perform the Vreadfields, which basically blocks execution of my application until _KeyEntered = True"

Advice from fellow users in the community arrived in short order, as contractors reported their .NET achievements and strategies.

Charlie Cookson, of Web Navigation LLC, told Vorgang

1) If you want to preserve your COBOL then you can create a .NET form and package up the data in the exact format the ViewRead would see it. On the HP 3000 you would have a listener program that would receive the data string. We used Minisoft’s Middleman to do this.

The receiving program would be a copy of your original COBOL where the string would be considered the return value from the View3000 Read. We used this method for several years.

2) We eventually took one screen at a time and did it completely in .NET. Again we used Minisoft for the connection. We did not use SlowDBC. We did DBFIND, DBGET, DBUPDATE, DBDELETE directly from the VB or C# code. This is very fast and allows all the features of a .NET application with the HP 3000 as a data server.

Then Paul Raulerson, a new 3000 fan but an experienced hand at Windows, gave a critique of the .NET code that Vorgang offered for examination:

Fujitsu COBOL has a WinForms designer that allows you to basically create the forms very quickly, and they of course run in .NET. You would need to recode small parts of your application to use input and output records (or some similar technique) to the screens. But honestly, you would find this far easier than trying to emulate the VPlus calls — albeit, it is not a terribly difficult task to do so.

However, I think you might be a bit unfamiliar with the Windows world, based upon your code. You never need to put the program in a loop looking for a keypress like you have; you would simply write a code “snippet” and attach it to the handler for the screen. Sounds a little weird, I admit, but quite easy to do.

Note that you don’t need to actually write the GUI screens in COBOL at all; you can do the screens very quickly in Visual Basic or some such and have then call the back-end Fujitsu COBOL programs. Visual Basic is easy to draw screens in. Very shallow learning curve.

Cookson then added

I have created CLASSES that my code calls that will update both the HP 3000 and my new SQL database. This allows me to dynamically keep both in sync. Eventually I turn off the H3000 update after all reports and screens have been converted to SQL.

By using .NET classes built to emulate the original HP intrinsic calls, you can do a mass change (usually with a little manual intervention) to convert your new calls. It still takes a little work and know how, but you can preserve your COBOL investment.

08:33 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 21, 2008

Where else can you get wired?

HP detailed in more than 50 slides this summer what the vendor is working on in the wireless and new network protocol technologies. Last week we took note of some of the innovative topologies. There's a lot to improve in networking, a technology which has become the keystone to enterprise computing utility. HP is engineering many additions.

For example, Senior Technologist Fred Worley of HP brought along a slide deck that described 802.22 – WRAN, a Wireless Regional Area Network that delivers broadband access over unused TV channels. Uses include Rural broadband support,  a disaster recovery link for remote data centers, rapid deployment of T1 to T3 level service, and a Last Mile solution for residential customers.

Datacenternetworking WRAN might not be in the near-term requirements for your enterprise networking. But if manufacturing moves to rural envionments in China, for example, requiring network links, now there's a purpose for such a standard. And Worley was not shy about saying that Hewlett-Packard's labs – the ones still working on enterprise computing in 2009, unlike the ones for the HP 3000 — can offer the best, most complete solutions.

"These are technologies that we are driving," Worley said at the end of his hour-plus talk, one where he spoke as rapidly as any auctioneer. "And if you want to find the people who are building this technology, and know not only how to design it and put it into products, but know it so deeply that we're inventing it, and can ensure that knowledge is out there as a standard, and can bring it back and build it into products, you're at the right place."

As evidence of HP's prowess in networking futures, he put up a slide listing the vendor's breakthroughs and participations. Toward the end of the slide deck, of course, HP hedged a bit by saying that the networking advances were going to come from the entire industry, not just HP. That is the only strategy that works; it does no good to engineer wizardry which other suppliers like IBM won't talk with. Is HP the best place to get networking on the cutting edge, the kind that other suppliers understand and implement less adeptly? Worley showed HP's mastery of the details as an argument in favor of making HP your networking supplier.

Your current vendor, he pointed out, was a founding member of the PCI SIG, RDMA Consortium, ICSC, and IBTA groups. As such, it provided lead developers, authors, and co-chairs of numerous industry workgroups:

  • Electrical and Protocol for PCI, PCI-X, PCI-X 2.0, SHPC
  • Protocol, Electrical, Graphics, Mechanical, Software, etc. for PCI Express
  • 10GbE, Backplane Ethernet, QoS, Encryption, etc. for IEEE 802
  • RDMA, SDP, iSER for RDMA Consortium as well as iWARP within the IETF
  • iSCSI protocol, SNS, etc. for complete storage over IP solutions, SAS, T10/T11, etc.
  • Interconnect Software Consortium – APIs for new Sockets and RDMA services

HP "sets the industry direction by focusing on customers," a claim which on the face of it does not sound all that unique an approach. But the vendor will deliver, or already has, on everything mentioned above.

These are industry-wide workgroups, though, which means that HP's competitors for your migration dollars also are also at work on supporting and implementing these technologies in products. Hewlett-Packard still doesn't look ready to re-embrace the "you can only find it here" flavor of technology which built MPE, IMAGE, Apollo's Domain networking or the flexibility and resilience of VMS.

But if proprietary advantages are a thing of the past, HP seems to have a plan for using everything that can be created as a standard to let networking improve existing technologies. RDMA services, for example, are Remote Direct Memory Access protocols which began with Infinband and have now moved into a new generation with iWARP, using RDMA over Ethernet.

Rdmanas HP combines RDMA with Networked Attached Storage (NAS), for example. The generations march forward once more this month with the expected Open Fabrics Enterprise Distribution (OFED) standard v 1.4. And here's where HP's networking futures look like they can be had on other vendor platforms. HP's own slide says that OFED features like IB reliable multicast, NFS-RDMA, and SDP zero copy have been "Adopted by major Linux distributions, with Linux iWARP and IB support in OFED v1.3, and Windows support for WinOF 1.2 and 1.3 expected by the end of this year."

Some HP 3000 customers will need to turn over Worley's details to a networking architect or guru, or a migration advisor (outsourced) if no such expert is on the company IT staff. You can download a copy of the Powerpoint slide deck he used — well, at least cruised through some major portions — right here. (Fair warning, it's a 12MB file. Not a download challenge if you have a state of the art network, eh?) It's worth considering that networking technologies will be offered by many suppliers, no matter where they were invented.

07:45 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 20, 2008

HP's very last 3000 Business Manager

Hou Last week I wrote in advance of a follow-up HP briefing to get details of the vendor's exit from your community. I called it the advent of a new season for HP's 3000 operations. Then I spoke with Jennie Hou, HP's e3000 Business Manager since Dave Wilde moved away from that post in 2006 to another portion of HP.

Hou confirmed that she will be the last Business Manager HP will ever have for its 3000 line. Her duties will end on December 31. Hou is one of a crew of 3000 experts who've been working with and developing for the platform since the 1980s — and for a few, even earlier.

She's not the only Hewlett-Packard employee to end 3000 duties at the end of the year. But as of January 1, the only HP personnel a customer can discuss the system with will be those at HP support Response Centers. HP is truly and completely closing down its 3000 labs at year's end. No surprise there, except perhaps in the extent of the shut down. The closure will be so complete that the Response Centers will be in charge of clearing beta patches for use in general release.

Today I heard back from Jim Hawkins at what HP used to call its "virtual" HP 3000 group. Hawkins was among the few HP development engineers who still spent the majority of his time on 3000 issues and development. He's been the MPE/iX IO and disk expert for HP, an area where there's still potential for the system to embrace newer technology, using software called the SCSI Pass Through drivers.

But Hawkins will be out of regular HP 3000 work at year's end, too. Just today he posted a good answer on the 3000L newsgroup to a question about an HP 3000 technical issue. In a reply to me, he said that his status is the same as Hou's for 2009 and beyond: Gone from HP 3000 work. But he added a little remainder to his subtraction.

My status is consistent with Jennie’s comments. I will continue monitor and participate in HP-3000L [newsgroup discussions] and [other online groups] as time permits.

There are more people to check on, asking them if they're "retiring" from the part of HP the 3000 group called "vCSY."  But the answer is only likely to vary a little from Hawkins' and Hou's, in my estimate. The group of people with the deepest HP 3000 knowledge in HP's offices are moving on, just as the vendor has promised, at year's end.

10:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2008

3000 enters advent of a unique season

Img_1115 It's an old sweatshirt, but the HP giveaway is more than just a guy's worn-down garment to me, not just a bit of cloth burnished to a perfect feel. Somehow the blue all-cotton shirt had just the right heft, not too heavy to wear here in Texas, or too thin to survive 18 years of no-fuss washing. The shirt is blue, royal blue in the hue that HP wore in 1990, not blended with Compaq red. The shirt bears the color of a company that still rode unique, proprietary technology as an advantage, racing to give customers a reason to keep Hewlett-Packard wrapped around their companies.

I pull on my sweatshirt this morning because I have left open the window behind this flat-screen monitor in my study. The new season of fall, brief and delicious, crept into Texas yesterday and brought cool evening air through the state. I wear one of my best sweatshirts from HP because I will interview 3000 People at Hewlett-Packard in a few hours. I want to remember the heart of their intentions, so I have pulled on a editor's gift to wear over my own heart.

At the risk of becoming too maudlin, this season feels like the advent of an ending. Not the finale of the HP 3000. No, the 3000 and its users are following their own calendars to play out a future of transition. But what remains in the legends of the fall is a closing chapter in a story of innovation, neglect and renaissance, and finally the procession through a recession, arriving at the day HP ceases to create for a system it created. HP now has a business manager and some engineers, a lab director and cloud of support workers which know the HP 3000. Few of them use their stellar knowledge full time. The vendor has told customers they will lose their 3000 lab at HP in 75 days. There's no changing that, not any more than there's a chance the "CIMinar by the Bay" and sailboat picture on my sweatshirt will last forever. But another 18 years? Only with loving care, the kind of attention to detail which 3000 customers carry as a credo over their hearts.

Whenever I wear this shirt and work on 3000 news, I recall what Charlie from HP Press Relations told me on a stranded tour boat in the San Francisco Bay. "We look toward the day when we are not in the hardware business anymore," he said. Services, along with software, was HP's target we discussed on that junket. The concept sounded radical that night, but not now in a world of computing that has been rendered, rewoven and colored anew with every passing season. Change is apace, and computers are now piece-work instead of masterpieces. When I look beyond my heart on the sleeve of this shirt, I see aging hardware and aging masters of the 3000 arts — but all still useful and vital, years beyond HP's expectation. Still, old compared to most everything else.

I cling to my sweatshirt like I cling to the typical guy's mid-life dream: mature can be attractive, maybe even sexy, but surely loveable. Maybe gray can be the new royal blue.

Gray can be something new because we communicate so much more easily. We live in a world of factcheck.org and Politico, where we are connected with reality and spin at the click of a mouse, where we share our lives in front of flat screens in offices and living rooms, watching and learning and teaching. The lessons of HP's 3000 labs will not ever be lost, not with today's technology tools. Data, information, knowledge and then wisdom outlasts people, politics and policies.

In the United States we are learning to respect elders, we hope. At least I hope so at my age. Because even through anyone on the windward side of 50 can "screw up," as John McCain joked at his own expense last night on David Letterman's Late Night show we can also Show Up, over and again, practicing the disciplines born from decades of training. Even with that chance to choose an elder candidate over a younger one, we in the US face a choice that seems to beg more than one solution to a single challenge. Youth and age can serve together, just as Barack Obama serves alongside his competitor — where I hope that the elders can repeat maverick acts and the youths bring new ideas and ideals.

And so the HP 3000 will start its own Legends of the Fall this week, following the first in the last series of policy announcements around HP's end-game. It's appropriate to be talking today with Jennie Hou, Craig Fairchild, Jeff Bandle and others inside HP's 3000 redoubt, coincident with the advent of baseball's Fall Classic, the World Series. As last night's classic game between Boston and Tampa Bay proved, nothing is ended until the last at-bat, with many an outcome earned more on desire and discipline than any dead-certain advantage in early innings. We love comebacks of all kinds, the victory snatched from those jaws of failure.

Img_1116 13 years ago this month, my wife and partner Abby started The 3000 NewsWire with me, a cranky and curious reporter with a passion for critique and analysis. Abby brought the crucial spark to an ember that much of the world considered as long cold and dead. In time we found your energy to lift up our steps, proof of a renaissance we had predicted with few assurances. Obvious ones, anyway. Just as Cal Ripken was setting an everyday playing record of legendary length, Abby and I began to revere and record a remarkable team of experts, and a group of creations of people who came to play good every day. She came with her best stuff, as pitchers say, like the subscriber card at the left that uses the words of Willie Mays. She is the only reason our dream, now in a new life here on your screen, became a reality, instead of just a good idea too scary to risk. Life is a chance to leave no regrets, because you took every risk you could — maybe like the risk many have claimed you take by using your HP 3000 beyond the end of this season, this decade, and perhaps another 18 years.

No matter how you count them, there are many days ahead to finish that migration of yours, or retain the world-class value of your computers. But since we are connected as never before, you can count on your community, brandishing its colors of wisdom like the leaves on trees during this fall. Stand tall but together like trees in a forest. Take a risk, to leave behind no regrets. Whenever our end arrives, it is certain we won't say, "I wish I did not take so many risks." Even when we fall, it gives us the chance to rise up wiser.

09:17 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 16, 2008

Newer networks spark reason to migrate

HP 3000 customers begin migrations for many reasons, ranging from a fear of being left out of a vendor's strategy to the loss of expertise required to keep an MPE/iX system running 24x7. One value that's falling behind, due to HP's decision to halt 3000 development, is a path to upcoming network standards.

Over the summertime in Las Vegas HP bolted through dozens of slides to outline the Networking Technology Roadmap for 2009. These net technologies might only be available to 3000s if OpenMPE or another entity is allowed to enhance the system; what's more, some of the needed hardware will have to come from an emulated system. That's a long road of waiting, although a good deal of what HP outlined won't be available for years.

Still, network advances promise much that the 3000 cannot offer. HP said that it's reasonable for a network to be expected to do the following

  • Virtualize everything, to use "Stuff as a Service"
  • Put compute anywhere, to "Use the data center to coordinate disaster recovery"
  • Take everything with me, including "All employees, all the data, all the time"
  • Leave everything at home, so "Nothing confidential leaves the vault"
  • Simplify an IT expert's life, to manage a datacenter from a handheld; use a single cable (or no cable) to the desk for all content / communications; and a single method for server connectivity within the datacenter

As one example at this year's HP Technology Forum, HP outlined what a 10 gigabit Ethernet, wired, could do for an enterprise.

HP is still tinkering with getting this faster Ethernet working on a value basis. 802.3an is 10GBASE-T
and defines 10GbE over twisted-pair copper cabling. Although HP says the advanced network still faces a "difficult problem – still working to reach price / performance / power goals," 802.3an will operate at lengths up to 55 meters over Cat6 and 100 meters over Cat6a UTP or Cat7 STP.

10GBit networking is so many times faster than the HP 3000's Ethernet it might make a case for migration all by itself. HP would not even bring 1GBit networking to MPE/iX. 10GBASE-T also has“Short Reach Mode” for Low Power, 4W max.

The 10GBit standard was completed more than two years ago, and HP's goal to support auto negotiation to 100/1000BASE-T. Early products shipped or demonstrated in the second half of last year.

Then there are Wired Ethernet Standards supporting the 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet. This standard

  • Provides 80 percent power savings for idle links
  • Uses a Low Power Idle, which negotiates idles using PHY/MAC/logic/queue quiescence. The link signal remains on with a rapid wakeup (max 3-4us)

802.3az will also have Base-T (Twisted Pair) and Base-K (Backplane) PHYs of 10Mb-10Gb. HP expects the standard and the first products will be ready by the time HP is ending its HP 3000 support operations. The vendor hopes for broad adoption potential by 2012-2013.

There was much more to process, more than 55 slides in less than 50 minutes, presented by Fred Worley , an HP Networking Technology Architect.

08:21 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2008

Experts inject value into eBay bargain

Picking up an HP 3000 on eBay has become commonplace today. Hardware brokers cannot justify selling any servers in the 9x7 Series which companies decommission. So too, HP has no interest in taking back these 3000s, even though every one has an MPE/iX license which comes at a dear price when an upgrading customer needs to purchase one.

Even the act of changing an HPSUSAN number will cost thousands of dollars, according to reports from the user community. Despite all these symptoms of a system with declining value, 9x7s still land in the hands of ardent computer customers as experimental systems, all the while doing everyday work in companies large and small.

So when Paul Raulerson purchased a Series 917 for a song on eBay, he acquired just the first in a string of valuable assets related to the HP 3000. Once Raulerson got a message off to the newsgroup devoted to the HP 3000, he learned how to bring up the system from a cold start, as well as the details of starting up a network. Veterans of 3000 management offered up the extra value, advice sent gladly and quickly.

I picked up what I think is a really cool 917LX from eBay, loaded with MPE/iX 6.0. I have successfully encouraged it to IPL and let me in, but just about the sum total of my MPE command repertoire consists of HELLO MANAGER.SYS;HIPRI and Control-A SHUTDOWN DTC. Oh, and my eyes glazed over and crossed when trying to figure out NMMGR. I’m not even quite sure what DTC means.

If a 3000 user has ever had to educate a new IT staff member on the 3000's networking, the counsel offered to Paul could be useful elsewhere, too.

The network was the biggest mystery to the self-anointed newbie.

In particular, if anyone could be point me to the information on how to configure the network card so I might actually be able to access it without being on a serial console, I would be most appreciative.

Craig Lalley of EchoTech, who supports HP 3000s along with Jeff Kubler, explained

(To get started, check out docs.hp.com)

As for NMMGR, I will give you the ‘Cliff notes’ version...

At the ISL prompt, where you type start norecovery... try typing ‘ODE’, for offline diagnostics... once in there type ‘run mapper’, this will give you an ‘ioscan’ type of listing. Look for the path of the ethernet card, you will need it for NMMGR.

Once the system has started enter NMMGR by typing ‘NMMGR’ after logging on as manager.sys.

F1 to open config, you may need to create it.

F3, I believe, is NS

F1 for guided config

Put the path and IP address in. Save it, on the way out, look for the F5 ‘utility’ key. Validate NS  and DTS subsystems... don’t worry about store and forward errors... just try re-validating again. If clean, go to the : prompt and type

NETCONTROL START;NET=name you just created

NETCONTROL START;NET=LOOP

and finally, NSCONTROL START

OpenMPE director Donna Garverick gave follow-on network startup advice

docs.hp.com/en/mpeixall.html -- you’ll want to bookmark this.

About NMMGR. You may already find that a network was defined inside of NMMGR. If so, there is a high probability that the path to your multi-function IO card (MFIO; which as I’m sure you already noticed, has many different ports/connectors on the back — hence the name) is already configured.

The really interesting question becomes — was this system ever configured to talk over Ethernet and TCP/IP or not? If all that you find is something call ‘dtslink’ — then there is some additional work to do. If you find ‘lan1’ then all that you should need to do is replace the IP address with <whatever> and start your network as Craig described. (Validating your network configuration is important.)

Finally, Karsten Holland of National Wine and Spirits offered confirmation of the value of the 3000 which Paul had acquired.

You have a very special new system to play with, unique in a lot of ways. One of the most profound things about the 3000 is its file handling. File labels carry a lot of information, including record length. Carriage returns, and line-feeds do not dictate your record size.

This is just one of the features that makes the HP 3000 valuable for transaction processing. Others include efficiency (a 400 MHz box could serve 300 users), database security (IMAGE has it’s own file-type “PRIV,” integrated with MPE, which implements security on database files at the system level). An excellent command-file shell that can be used online or in batch to link process steps together, (as well as a Posix shell and C compiler). A simple but effective screen handling system VPlus allows quick deployment for data entry, and integration with COBOL (or your language of preference) through intrinsic calls. The 3000 was (and is) a valuable component of many data processing centers around the world. (And will be missed in some.)

Feel free to call on me about any of these features, I’ll try and point you in the right direction too.

07:46 PM in Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 14, 2008

The 3000: Always New to Someone

Even a computer more than 15 years old can appear new. When this happens — like when a company's lone IT manager first takes on a 3000, still running critical apps — then MPE/iX and the PA-RISC hardware seem like unfamiliar territory.

But this server of more than three decades has a mature community of experts online, cruising the newsgroup for the HP 3000. In messages on comp.sys.hp.mpe, a team of veterans led a newbie through the fundamentals of 3000 use.

"What a blast the past couple weeks have been," said Paul Raulerson. "I have fallen in love with this little HP 3000. I've been coming home from work and playing with it, learning and having a grand old time. Even running RPG programs on it. Great fun! I've been having an argument with it about talking on the network, and just got it completely up and operating."

Paul had questions a-plenty about his 9x7 system — a generation of HP 3000, by the way, which is still running some companies around the world.

Raulerson said,

Tapes are a fascinating subject — how might one read the directory off a tape? I have a few tapes that were sent with the machine, and absolutely no clue of how to find out what is on them.

Also, the manual talks about labeling tapes, but I think it means actually physical labels! Do I need to to somehow initialize a tape with a standard, ANSI, or no label format?

And speaking of which, can I back up the entire system to a tape? Do I need to do that with an ISL utility?

Alternatively, can I attach some external DASD and back up the system volume to one of those?

Craig Lalley answered,

TAPEDIR displays the contents of CM STORE tapes. TAPEDIR is a subset of the TINDEX Tool, which handles NM and CM STORE tapes, TAR tapes, SLT/SYSGEN tapes, memory dump tapes, and others (LZW, std, plain text information).

This nice little utility is brought to from our good friends at Allegro. (Well known name in our little industry/)

You can download TAPEDIR from www.allegro.com/software/hp3000/stuff/TAPEDIR.std

But if you want to have fun, look at all the other “cool” stuff.

Gary Robillard added,

If the tapes turn out to actually be MPE/V format tapes, the VALIDATE program can list the files on an MPE V/E store format tape.

If you have the validate utility it would be in the PUBXL group in the TELESUP account.  To get information about the program, run the program with the HELP entrypoint (the command would be RUN VALIDATE.PUBXL.TELESUP,HELP).

There is also a utility in the ROBELLE account named TAPEDIR.QLIB.ROBELLE (to get info about it RUN TAPEDIR.QLIB.ROBELLE,HELP)

Finally, OpenMPE director Tracy Johnson explained,

Sometimes third party backups will appear as MPE/V format.  Backpack (a.k.a. Roadrunner) tapes may do this. Rather than belabor whether it is an MPE/V tape, it may be easier just to see if it is a third party backup tape. Just go ahead and do a RESTORE of two possible files:

FILE T;DEV=7
RESTORE *T;BACKREST.PUB.SYS,ROADREST.PUB.SYS;SHOW

If either one of these files appear on the RESTORE, then it is a tape made by a third party backup utility. Both Backpack and Roadrunner are programs (made by two incarnations of the same company) that will perform tape restore operations on these tapes only.

10:50 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2008

Yes, HPSUSAN, there is a transfer

When buying an HP 3000, how do you transfer HPSUSAN numbers legally?

OpenMPE director Donna Hofmeister replies:

I believe that you do not transfer MPE licenses. If you buy a 3000, you buy the license as well.

When another community member explained that HP transfers HPSUSAN numbers to new systems, Lars Appel, a former HP support engineer now consulting with Marxmeier Software, added:

Keep in mind, even if you arrange to move the HPSUSAN number from the old system to the new system... this might not solve all your license code issues with third party applications... because some of them might also check HPCPUNAME if the license depends on the system “size” as well... and your HPCPUNAME might be different when your new system is not of the same model and CPU count.

How should parts and entire HP 3000 systems be stored if stockpiled?  What ration of parts will be functional after being stored for 6-24 months?  What will be the level of workability for parts and systems after 2008?

Donna Hofmeister replies:

I’m not sure you (as a company) should be worrying about stockpiling hardware unless you’ve got some circumstance (like being based in the Yukon or something) that warrants doing so.  The hardware support vendor that you partner with should being doing this for you. This is an example of the kind of question you need to ask your hardware partner.

Hofmeister went on to deliver some supplemental hardware advice to help keep a 3000 running uninterrupted.

Having said that, I’ll urge you as strongly as possible to look at upgrading your disc. It’s probably the one component most likely to fail on your box — especially if you’re still running internal 4Gb or 8Gb drives. If your drives have been in service for more than 8-10 years (did you put in new disc to upgrade to 5.5 for Y2K?) in my opinion you’re skating on thin ice! It’s a matter of time before you’ll be changing disc in a panic instead easily over some weekend. So ask your vendor — do you have staff that can assist with a disc migration?

I’ll add in one other comment.  Do not even think of trying to homestead without hardware support. Sure, it looks cheap to buy hardware only when something breaks. However, if you come to your local hardware vendor five years from now wanting a replacement “x” and you’ve no previous relationship with this company, I wouldn’t much blame them for laughing uproariously after you get off the phone. On the other hand, by establishing a relationship (e.g., contract = spending money) with them now, you can jointly determine your best course of action.

08:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2008

An FAQ view of HP's news

Wednesday's Web page about Hewlett-Packard's 3000 decisions ran about 850 words long, but HP's message was dense with subtext and strategy. While we arrange a follow-up interview with HP's e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou about the announcement, I thought an FAQ on the developments would help clarify new positions and identify same-song strategies.

I'm migrating, but we won't finish by the end of HP support at the start of 2011. Anything changing in here for us?

A company which needs to upgrade a 3000, or purchase a bigger one, to tide them over during migration gets some help from the announcement. HP said it has cut prices for a Right To Use license 35-50 percent, although the document said HP did this as of July 1. There was no announcement of reduced pricing on these RTU licenses before Wednesday.

Also, any migrating customer who finds a 3000 without a valid license — and HP itself has stripped MPE/iX licenses off 3000s during trade-in programs — will be able to buy an MPE/iX license through a new "Lost License Replacement" policy and fee.

We need HP support to keep our top management satisfied with relying on the 3000. Anything change there?

No. HP still intends to shut off an ever-more-limited version of vendor-branded 3000 support on December 31, 2010. That date is key to several other announcements, but this Web page affirms the HP exit deadline. A few other points on the HP page will hamper third party 3000 support, too.

What has HP decided about all those patches for the 3000 that are not generally released?

They are going to remain not generally released until December 31, 2010. HP will keep these fixes and enhancements outside of general use — but available only to its support customers by request  — in the hope that somebody in the customer base will test a few of these engineered projects. HP said the patches have had little public exposure. But that's because only HP support customers could test these enhancements and fixes. On January 1, 2011, all the 3000 patches go into the public-access, free use HP IT Response Center Web site, whether the patch has been tested or not. So, no change in the patch status for another two years, with the exception of those patches which might be tested and general released.

This announcement was signed by the HP 3000 Lab Director Ross McDonald. Is that lab going to last until 2010?

Not in any way that HP has ever operated a lab. HP didn't announce any extension of its Sustaining Engineering for the 3000 through 2009 and 2010. This "SE," as HP calls it, provides the technical know-how to create patches and fixes for HP 3000 problems. In a customer briefing this year, the head of support for the HP 3000 said "we are losing our lab" at the end of 2008.

What's the point of keeping patches inside the HP test loop without a lab on hand?

This is not clear, in part because HP never reveals the size of its 3000 headcount. Nobody knows just how "lost" the 3000 lab will be, or who might be left on staff to do any 3000 work like this. But the vendor said that 2009 and 2010 "may allow us to test additional “beta” patches and move them into the “General Release Phase.” HP has released conflicting messages this year, ranging from "if you have a bug, we can only attempt a site-specific workaround" to "we might be able to test and release patches."

What are we homesteaders getting now that we didn't have up to this week?

A promise to make online diagnostic tools available to everybody is somewhat new, or at least restated. There's one new date, December 31, 2015, when HP will stop offering all 3000 patches and documentation through any HP Web site — a sort of reverse way of saying that both the MPE/iX docs and the general release patches will be downloadable through that date. HP advised customers to start downloading now.

What's gone off the table, or been refused?

Mostly the internal hardware documentation and crucial 3000 personality software tools for configurations. SSCONFIG and SS_UPDATE, needed to restore CPU boards in system failures or configure HP hardware to enable boot-up as a 3000, will not go outside of HP's support staff or labs. Third parties won't get to work with these, ever. A CE Handbook won't ever be released to the community, either.

Will these two things matter to using a 3000 in 2011?

It depends on a customer's ownership policies, really. The most thorough support providers have tools and workarounds for both of these missing items, although there's some debate over the customer's rights and HP's ownership rights surrounding the function of the personality tools. But nothing has been announced to reduce the ownership rights of companies using the 3000.

Anything else offered up to the community out of this?

Two things, one old and restricting, the other new but with some possibility. You still cannot turn any HP 9000 systems into HP 3000s, HP says, by "enabling the MPE/iX operating system on the HP 9000 platform." Buy used 3000s on the secondary market instead, HP says.

But HP's free Invent3K timeshare system will go to the OpenMPE advocacy group. The group doesn't have a server picked out yet, and the HP Web page doesn't say what software that HP has been offering for free use on Invent3K will be transferred to OpenMPE. But there's a deadline on the shift of Invent3K responsibilities — not resources — out of HP. Hewlett-Packard will shut down Invent3K at the HP labs on November 30, 2008.

08:38 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 09, 2008

First HP communique pens up patches 'til 2011

In the first of what Hewlett-Packard says is a series of announcements about the HP 3000, the vendor addressed a handful of issues regarding beta test patches, release of HP's 3000 tools and documentation to the third party community, and restatements of positions the company has already announced for the server's customers. Meanwhile, HP's Invent3k development server will be getting a new home outside of HP by December.

An e-mail message to the HP 3000 newsgroup yesterday drew attention to an HP Web page where the vendor has started to issue a stream of news about its end-game policies for its 3000 business. A plan to release beta test patches led off yesterday's announcement, but the news will keep any beta patch still inside HP's grasp until December 31, 2010 — in the hopes that somehow, some HP support customer will be testing this software up to that time.

Starting in 2011, "the majority" of these HP 3000 patches, in whatever state of beta test, will be available through the HP ITRC, a public Web response center which anyone can access. HP said any beta-test patches which remain untested will be marked plainly when they go into public release at the start of 2011.

The HP announcement also unveiled a "lost license" policy for any HP 3000s which emerge in the market without valid MPE/iX licenses — that is, no proof of ownership which HP requires to transfer ownership of the operating system from one customer to another.

There have also been requests for a process to replace a lost MPE/iX RTU license in the case where an HP e3000 system has no documented history, such as a PO, invoice, or a support contract... We have also created a stand-alone MPE/iX RTU license product (AD377A) that is not coupled with any secondary hardware system sales.

By adding a license policy that gives HP 3000s a way to gain a license, "HP hopes to make the HP e3000 hardware upgrade and software RTU licensing process clearer and more manageable." HP did not specify a cost for this equivalent of a "lost parking garage ticket." But related to that cost question, the vendor did announce that its prices for these Right To Use licenses, sometimes needed for upgrades, have been cut 35 to 50 percent.

HP's officials, from Business Manager Jennie Hou to HP e3000 Lab Director manager Ross McDonald, stressed that yesterday's announcement was one of several to come. "Since this is the first communication, not all the requests have been included in this release. We plan to have another communication release in the near future," said HP's community liaison Craig Fairchild. The vendor realizes, and wants customers to understand, that questions remain unanswered about HP's role after the vendor's 3000 business expires in about two years. Some questions, however, had negative answers yesterday.

No third party support company will be able to use HP's SS_UPDATE or SSCONFIG software tools to service 3000s which need changes such as modified or transferred HPCPUNAME or HPSUSAN parameters. This is a disappointment to the third party support companies who now serve the majority of HP 3000s. HP said customers, support vendors and third parties cannot use these programs to alter a 3000's personality "because of intellectual property leveraged" to protect other HP business servers which use  similar tools. HP also restated that it won't permit MPE/iX to be operated on HP 9000 servers.

As for the beta test patches, the dozens of enhancements and repairs will spend 2009 and 2010 stored on HP's exclusive servers for its support customers. Next year marks the start of Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering for the 3000, a status the vendor calls MPS w/o SE. The server's lab closes up at the end of this December, so any patches which have not been tested enough to release to the world will gain a new status: capabable of being tested, but with no clear source of lab resources to implement any changes based on the testing. Or so it would seem, knowing that HP's head of support says "we lose our 3000 lab" when this year ends.

Before December 31, 2010, only customers with a valid HP support contract may request “beta” patches. This strategy will help us keep track of “beta” patch distribution through the MPS w/o SE support period and may allow us to test additional “beta” patches and move them into the “General Release Phase. After December 31, 2010 we will release to the HP ITRC web site, the majority of all remaining patches that are still in what we call the “Beta Test Phase.” These are patches that have had little or no customer exposure since being developed.

After Hewlett-Packard support ends in 2010, releasing “beta” patches ensures that those of our customers remaining on the HPe3000 platform will have the most complete pool of remedies for any issue that may arise. All released “beta” patches will have additional verbiage added to the patch description indicating that they are “beta” rather than certified generally released.

It might be worthwhile to note that there's no promise to release all beta test patches in 2011, but only "a majority." On the other hand, a brief note reports that the CSTM online diagnostics, which HP protects with a password today, will be opened up through an unspecified customer process. The process to unlock CSTM tools will be available "after HP Support exits the Mature Product Support w/o Sustaining Engineering phase." Details on this process will only be available starting in 2011.

HP will continue to make its public documentation available through 2015 via HP Web sites, but a powerful support document is going to remain confidential and out of the reach of 3000 users. "Due to the level of intellectual property information in the handbook, a decision was reached to not release the HP CE Handbook to customers, third party resellers, or support providers." The book describes the 3000 configuration process, according to HP. Similar volumes remain available which cover HP 3000 hardware prior to the latest N-Class and A-Class servers.

The HP announcement also included a notice that the invent3K public access Web server will have its operations turned over to OpenMPE. HP describes invent3K as "a development system for 3000 software developers which contains a full suite of development tools." HP's invent3k goes offline on after November 30. Details on access and what will be hosted on the new invent3k, operated by OpenMPE, can be learned from the OpenMPE system manager at invent3K@openmpe.org.

10:52 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 08, 2008

New Euro conference aims early, again

With the backing of Hewlett-Packard, the world's largest HP user group, and a European economy stronger than the one in America, the Connect European conference of 2008 is offering early-bird discounts once more. The latest extension of early registration savings ends on Friday, the last chance to register at the lowest possible rate for the first meeting which Connect is hosting through its European ally, HP Interex Europe.

HP 3000 owners and community members will now find a familiar face leading the Community Connect 2008 speaker list: Winston Prather, who handed the 3000 its exit visa from the world of Hewlett-Packard while he was general manager of the 3000 division. Prather will speak at the event in his new role as HP Vice President and General Manager of the NonStop Enterprise Division.

Content at the conference, which begins Nov. 10 in Mannheim, includes everything except HP 3000 strategies, even the migration advice Prather and his successors have offered for close to seven years. In one bit of coincidence, Community Connect 2008 including Prather's address takes place almost seven years to the day as the HP exit announcement during 2001. Subjects include blades, HP-UX, Linux and Open Source, OpenVMS, NonStop, storage, and Windows servers running on Integrity servers.

Signing up by Friday earns a 400 Euro discount. As an added benefit, a NonStop Business Update and Roadmap session includes Prather; Neil Pringle, Director, NonStop Enterprise Division, EMEA; and
Fred Laccabue, VP NonStop Systems Development.

Extending early bird discount deadlines — this Friday will be the second extension for the new conference — is either giving a larger share of the customer base a chance to send the low-ball 1,100-Euro fee to the user group, or creating more time to build meaningful attendance. Nothing is harder than the first year of any conference for establishing attendance patterns, and the current economic meltdown can't be helping business.

Special Interest Groups will be meeting to represent Business Critical Systems (BCS) Education, Business Continuity, Integrity Migration, Linux, NonStop Operations Management, Security and SQL, SOA and Storage. BCS General Manager Martin Fink will be a speaker.

European 3000 customers doing a migration, or already arrived on HP platforms, can register online for a discount through Friday at the Connect Web site. A helpful second edition of a PDF brochure with even more session detail can be downloaded from the site as well.

09:22 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 07, 2008

Earning a select place on a best-of list

Abbyyoga The 3000 NewsWire was born only because of a heavy-lifting partner. Even though our readers hear from me all the time, the spark of birth for our news service arrived from Abby Lentz, my partner in business and life. Thirteen years ago this month she nudged out oiur first paper issue, a venture some said would never survive. She believed even before I did. Today she earned a place in a best-of list of health providers. Her new career, along with the continuting advice from a publisher's chair, is teaching yoga to the overweight and obese. HeavyWeight Yoga, she calls it, a practice that Fitness magazine honored today in its first list of Fit 50 for 2008. She's even got a DVD to spread her practice.

Abby has been working toward her goal since HP announced its 3000 exit strategy. Stubborn and steady folks that we are, neither of us have abandoned this community, even when it looked to experts like it was a dubious decision to remain. Instead, we both got to work in leveraging what the 3000 and publishing had taught us, creating new acts for the long-running show of 3000 support and communication with community.

What we're doing here is adding rather than turning to something new, the same strategy which IBM has followed for its midrange, SMB solution the Series i (AS/400). Many of the contacts we encounter in your community have added to their skill sets and business since 2001, but remain devoted to the HP 3000. Just this week we talked with John Stephens, whose Take Care of IT is a one-man support company serving HP 3000 sites in manufacturing and healthcare. Stephens does MCSE Windows consulting, too, but it succeeds because of experience from more than 25 years of 3000 IT work.

Health choices which support special communities can be noble work, or feel isolated, or as steady as the Maytag repairman (who rarely had a crisis to solve, so reliable was his product). Whether it's supporting MPE/iX when nobody else in your metro area can do so, or putting the benefits of yoga out to a populace that doesn't look like human pretzels, specializing can be rewarding. 3000 support companies tell us that's so, especially with HP leaving the customer base this year.

I'm proud of what Abby has accomplished over more than four years of study and work, getting her message out there in much the same way we both have assured your community that the 3000's end is only as near as you desire. When you take up what seems like foolish case-work, only to learn that your community is hungry for something they can't find anyplace else, the effect is like finding lost money while cleaning the house.

The HP 3000 is just as unique as HeavyWeight Yoga or the infinite future of IBM's SMB offerings. It's not for everyone, but for a customer of a certain size, this system delivers the benefits of business in a way nothing else quite can: though integration, value retention and a mature, stable environment and community.

Be proud of yourself for stretching your investment of the 3000 across a mat that many say you can't reach with this elegant architecture. Abby says Awareness, Acceptance and Affection form the core of HeavyWeight Yoga. Being aware of how to sustain a system, accept that nothing lasts forever, and express the affection for lasting value, can be the credo to carry you into the next decade.

06:24 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2008

What's Not So Hot with Java

HP 3000 owners are now considering what a 2009 without HP's resources will look like, since the vendor is closing off its MPE/iX labs at year's end. The demise of HP's 3000 lab efforts already has a precedent: the vendor's abandonment of Java on the 3000. The strategy could play directly into HP's migration desires, leaving MPE/iX software frozen while HP hangs on to the code which others could improve to satisfy 3000 sites. The biggest irony might be that Java is the most prevalent open source product in the world, but it needs HP to release its source to gain freedom again for 3000 sites.

This language promised a "write once, run anywhere" future when Sun first introduced Java in the middle '90s, a portable programming platform to deliver on the dream of "open systems." Even though open systems needed to wait until Linux and ubiquitous Intel hardware established the concept, HP leaped in by 1997 with a Java/iX implementation, and in later years touted a small number of 3000 customers making use of the language.

But once HP 3000 companies didn't swarm toward the solution, the vendor's diminishing lab staff had to turn away from the language as well as needed updates. Java/iX has been frozen by HP at version 1.3 for more than five years, a version which becomes less useful with every month HP hasn't touched it. Of course, that will mirror the hands-off future defined for HP's 3000 labs, a group of wizard-like MPE/iX engineers being put to work on other operating environments.

We wrote about this issue this spring, interviewing the last HP staffer to add something to Java/iX, Mike Yawn. At the time that Yawn "owned" Java/iX, he was passionate about reporting from the annual JavaOne conference, as well as presenting in 1998 the prospects of graphical interfaces on the cutting edge for the language.

Java, as it turns out, was one of the first projects which the OpenMPE advocacy group identified as a way for an outside lab to help 3000 owners. The language has a lot of momentum in the IT world. Today Charles Finley of Transformix, a migration company working to move 3000 shops to other platforms, said Java has become a lot better than what HP left on the 3000 years ago.

What Java is missing might not ever be recovered for the HP 3000 community, simply because the vendor did its own, proprietary work to create the Java Virtual Machine for MPE/iX. JVM is indispensible in getting Java to serve as an engine of commerce and transactions. Finley said

There are some native pieces to Java that are proprietary to HP.  It does not seem to be possible to port a newer version to the HP 3000 without access to those sources, and when it was last discussed in my presence, HP was unwilling to give anyone access to the code.

On that last point there may still be hope; HP might offer access to the proprietary Java modules as part of a third party licensing arrangement. But Finley's company has had engagements with migrating customers that show how far Java has slipped under HP's 3000 stewardship.

"There was never a decent version of X development tools available on the HP 3000, so the graphical tools are not available on the HP 3000," Finley said. HP tried to introduce Swing, a graphical interface tool, for the 3000 — but once again, in the late 1990s, HP 3000 sites were far more interested in getting code Y2K-ready than creating code in an emerging language. It's not as if Java is now useless on the 3000, but comparing it to any other version shows why HP discontinued support of Java/iX during 2007, even though the language is still included in releases of the operating system. Finley reported today on the relative utility:

We have used Java on the HP 3000 to do a few little tasks and the version that is there is still useful to an extent. That said, we use Java on Windows, Linux, HP-UX, etc. and there are many things one is able to do with Java that are not possible with Java on the HP 3000

Other issues Finley mentioned about Java, like being a resource hog on the 3000, or having still-Spartan documentation, or being removed the bounty of free applications that could "run anywhere," could be resolved with 1. A 3000 emulator running faster than any current HP 3000; 2. Giving the documentation over to a third party like OpenMPE; 3. Making Java/iX current with the world's release by releasing the source code.

Keeping an open source solution proprietary does appear to contradict the concept of open source, even if the reason for HP's decision is a disappearing 3000 lab. Perhaps Java/iX can become the test case for how HP will license for open development a piece of the 3000's Fundamental Operating System.

09:28 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 03, 2008

Important work proceeds under OpenMPE cover?

This week OpenMPE reminded the community about work with HP. The rules of engagement between Hewlett-Packard's 3000 group and the OpenMPE advocates are designed to reduce news. The advocates and an HP 3000 liaison enter executive session to talk about the most important elements of HP's end-game. It's a Cone of Silence, just like the one you may have seen in school board meetings, to discuss sensitive issues with no detailed reporting. This cone works better than the one Max and The Chief used on Get Smart.

While we don't know the details of those talks, we do know what is being discussed in general: licensing needed to operate a 3000 emulator. HP and OpenMPE have said as much during the summertime, although HP would never announce such a process before it was completed. HP was never keen to announce features in upcoming versions of MPE/iX before completion, either.

But it's safe to assume that when a conference call takes place in two successive OpenMPE meetings less than three weeks apart, between a half-dozen advocates and HP's Jeff Bandle, the groups are discussing more than football or fall foliage. OpenMPE's Webmaster John Dunlop pointed to meeting minutes of the group he posted online, minutes that show who's talking and when.

Reading the minutes of each meeting is a simple at finding them online at the OpenMPE Web site: www.openmpe.org/minutes.htm. The meetings of August 21 and September 11 showed an executive session with Bandle. More, Bandle is scheduled for the next meeting of OpenMPE on September 25.

HP does not participate in every OpenMPE meeting, so it's notable when the vendor dials in to talk about the HP 3000. Time is getting short in the lifespan of HP's lab support for the system, which ends on Dec. 31. (Vendor support without the lab continues through 2010).

Emulator licensing will require some lab experts, considering things like HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME information is going to be at issue. Keep an eye on the Web site at OpenMPE, and ours, to see what's on the new to-do list.

09:04 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 02, 2008

HP steps up Internet storage efforts

Hewlett-Packard has purchased Left Hand Networks, a producer of Internet SCSI storage solutions, for $360 million, a cash buyout that shows HP wants a better offering of iSCSI products. The iSCSI architecture connects SCSI storage devices — either drives or arrays of drives — using the Internet's protocol. These kinds of storage advances are unlikely to be available to HP 3000 customers until an emulator for the 3000 is offered.

Storage is an HP focus in its enterprise business, so much so that the company's business computing unit is inside a group called Enterprise Storage and Servers (note the order of computing device there in the name). The purchase of LeftHand will help HP extend integration between LeftHand's iSCSI networking and HP's business server solutions other than the ProLiant line.

It's not that ProLiant servers are left out at LeftHand; these Xeon-based SMB-sized systems are already supported in an OEM deal. What HP will offer through its acquisition is storage over networks to the smaller customer which is less complex than the Storageworks EVA products. "Customers need a faster, less complex, and more economical route to storage networking to protect critical business data," said Dave Roberson, senior vice president and general manager of HP's StorageWorks Division. iSCSI definitely has an overlap with existing HP storage solutions — so much so that the company's storage resellers will need to revisit which product fits best for an SMB customer.

Storage Area Networks (SAN) are an accessible technology for HP 3000 sites today, so long as an intermediate server is controlling network access and architecture. But iSCSI simplifies SAN, and simple design is a favorite with HP 3000 sites. Plus there's the fact that Dell purchased iSCSI provider EqualLogic last year for $1.4 billion. Since Windows and industry-standard solutions are favored among HP 3000 migrators, keeping up with Dell is important for HP to continue relations with companies leaving the HP 3000.

HP said that adding LeftHand will help companies move to SANs for a significantly lower cost, manage data more easily, and scale storage infrastructures incrementally as the businesses grow.

LeftHand deploys intelligent-cloning technology in virtualized environments, a setup which can reduce the amount of disk space required for storage by up to 97 percent, according to the company. Customers can stretch less storage to cover more servers using the virtualization, according to HP, which explained each of the iSCSI solution targets now in the company's sights.

With the addition of LeftHand Networks, HP will add midrange offerings to its suite of iSCSI solutions. Customer needs at the low end of the market will be met with the HP StorageWorks All-in-One Storage System (AiO) and HP StorageWorks Modular Smart Array (MSA) product lines. The high end will be addressed by the HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) line. Customers will further benefit since LeftHand Networks’ solutions are already certified to work with a wide range of HP products, including HP ProLiant servers, HP BladeSystem infrastructure, HP ProCurve Networking and HP Insight Control management software.

“The acquisition of LeftHand Networks significantly expands our storage portfolio," said Roberson, "enabling HP to deliver customers an expanded suite of storage functionality, scalable capacity and interconnect options for every budget and performance requirement. With our strong channel and leading position in the industry-standard server market, we are ideally positioned to deliver this technology to customers worldwide.”

03:58 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2008

The Coming Skills Crisis

It won't matter which environment serves your organization: In the next 5-10 years, there's going to be a drought of information technology workers on hand. Even in a rocky economy the world is likely to face through the rest of this decade, HP says IT has lost its sheen.

That's because of the retirement of the baby boomer workers, although recent developments could keep a lot more of the old-timers from easing into hobbies and arm-chairs. Micro Focus, which makes its living off a redoubtable tool of great worth in the 3000 world — COBOL — reminds us of this while it touts the durability of the language. The Micro Focus ACTION program gets COBOL back onto college curricula.

With more than 70 universities worldwide, the ACTION program has seen a new member university join each week. This will help balance the potential “IT skills crisis” that some expect as baby boomers retire.

The HP 3000 community sports plenty of gray hair and seasoned faces, but its members also possess a skill that seems in scarce supply these days: Application know-how, learned from the user base. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet took note of the lack of youth in the business world where he plies his trade, supplying migration tools and expertise and keeping 3000s modern by moving their apps out of the VPlus screen era.

"It's almost as if there's nobody out there under 40 who you can ask about a Bill of Materials system design," he said while checking in with us recently. "I'm not just talking 3000s. If we were talking 3000 application people, fair enough. But even when you talk to these people running apps on IBM, Unix, Linux — they're old, too."

Being old has been an epithet as long as people have counted birthdays, but the world is now counting on the older IT skills generation to steward the knowledge of how to count out inventory, corral materials and tally up trends in commerce. Coding and creating Web tools is one skill. But knowing your way around an enterprise application is something of a higher order.

"There aren't any young people in applications who are involved in business systems," Yeo said. "They're coding for Web sites, but most of them don't have a clue of what goes on behind them."

ACTION is proof enough that a select set of skills vendors want to preserve the value of skills the 3000 community continues to practice. There's even a COBOL Web ring — a durable concept that leads from one resource to the next on the Internet. You can keep up with all things COBOL at www.webring.com/hub?ring=cobol

07:39 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)