November 28, 2008
HP to curtail Software Update Services
As part of its November advisory to the community, Hewlett-Packard announced that it's ending its Software Update Services program for MPE/iX core software and subsystems. Starting January 1, 2009, these materials will only be available through HP Support resources.
Patches will still be available to the 3000 community via the IT Response Center mechanism working today. HP says the General Release patches will be available through Dec. 31, 2015.
The HP 3000 group at Hewlett-Packard had been supplying engineering for PowerPatch updates, the 3000 operating system tapes and other software materials to HP's support customers. Next year that work shifts entirely to the company's support operations. HP warned customers that delivery times may be extended as a result of the shift.
"People who have a support contract with us today should be contacting HP now to get updated media, versus later," said e3000 business manager Jennie Hou. "In 2009 there will be a different process to do that. It will be easier to use the existing process if they need to get additional software media."
We are saying to the supported customers that if you want to order your updated media (7.5, PowerPatches, etc.) to which you are entitled through the Software Update Services (SUS), we recommend you place the order now. You can still get them post-2008, it's just that the delivery time will vary, as the Software Update Manager (SUM) will no longer be available on the ITRC. For the other customers not signed up for SUM entitlement, the ordering process will remain the same
November 27, 2008
Give thanks for each other
In a year that is marked by the loss of HP's labs, the 3000 community can give thanks for the resources which remain. Community members can be thankful for one another, the ability to connect with experts, and the continued efforts of OpenMPE and advisors trusted to empower transitions.
HP's announcement of a licensing program for read-only source code might spark some gratitude as well. The level of thanks at the moment hovers around hope, since no deals have been struck yet or code distributed. The vendor is opening up its intellectual property to possible license. The magnitude of the offer will be determined next year, but it's a start.
The generosity that you can count on today, this week, and this year flows from your community. This collective of wise, patient and seasoned individuals and companies supplies real value to your 3000 experience. An independent support team, or the honed skills of a migration services provider, or the resolute business plan of a software vendor which still offers maintenance contracts: This is what you can give thanks for today, this day when the US celebrates Thanksgiving.
You can ensure there's just as much to be thankful for next year, too. As of today, there's one under-thanked organization which has earned more respect. HP told its customers that OpenMPE played a vital part in the plan to release MPE/iX source code as reference material. HP's e3000 lab director Ross McDonald said that "We also want to take this opportunity to again recognize the OpenMPE Board for their continued advocacy on behalf of the HP e3000 customers who are continuing to use their systems through this end-of-life period."
OpenMPE is built of volunteers, but the organization will need to make ends meet soon if it's to continue to do the work it has accomplished up to now, plus shoulder the loss of HP assets like Invent3k and Jazz.
User groups and charities talk of volunteering, but a community needs unselfish support to maintain its vitality. HP is leaving the software business for 3000s this year, opening a spot for others to contribute. While nobody will be able to collect the same kinds of fees for products or programs, the accolades will be no lower.
Perhaps HP's source code plan will spark some business for a support company or a software vendor. If it does, then the Hewlett-Packard view toward your future will yield good will. In the meantime there's a lot of 3000 code in beta test patches that HP support customers could test on crash and burn systems. Such 3000 hardware has become cheaper to purchase than to ship — and the testing could liberate some MPE/iX patches. Count on each other, as you have for so many seasons in the past, during this season of hope and gratitude.
November 26, 2008
HP's Jazz lab server plays final notes
Launched in an era when the Internet was new, HP's Jazz lab server for HP 3000 training, technique and tools will go dark on December 31. Third party resources are rising up to replace the hosting point, but HP's has ended its contributed software efforts, the MPE/iX programs which will not find a new home inside HP.
Jazz was named after Jeri Ann Smith, an HP engineer whose contributions and enthusiasm for network tools supplied a spark to the 3000's nascent offerings. By the late 1990s, "It will be up on Jazz" had become a common refrain from HP software engineers when they reported on the location of new tools and technical papers. HP reported yesterday that the documents will be re-hosted on other HP support systems. But the downloadable programs — more than 80 projects created by HP as supported software, or by community members in volunteer efforts — must find a new home by year's end.
HP said that Jazz is going dark because its 3000 labs will end operations on Dec. 31. Since the server is maintained by HP's lab staff, halting the lab's engineering means unplugging the Series 900 HP 3000 which has been running for 12 years. Bootstrap development fundamentals such as the GNU Tools, the open source gcc compiler and utilities ported by independent developer Mark Klein, have had a home on Jazz for a decade. More than 80 other programs are hosted on the server, some with HP support and others ported and created by HP but unsupported.
Fortunately for the 3000 community, OpenMPE is already working on a new home for the treasures on Jazz.
HP reports that the staff-written technical white papers and presentation slide sets hosted on Jazz will be available in the vendor's support system after Dec. 31, although pointers to the new locations have not yet been revealed to the community. HP stressed that 3000 customers should begin downloading what they need from Jazz today.
"Most of the content will be preserved," said HP's Bill Cadier, an HP 3000 engineer who's been managing the server's contents. "After the end of the year Jazz will go away, and some content will remain on other HP internal servers. We're also exploring third parties picking up ownership of the Jazz role."
OpenMPE can make that exploration a quick expedition. "OpenMPE is in the process of making Jazz's contents available on our new server," said OpenMPE director Donna Hoffmeister. The advocacy group is already taking on the duties of hosting a public access development server, the former Invent3k project which is closing up at HP this Sunday night.
HP cannot move the downloadable programs "onto the ITRC servers, nor to doc.hp.com," Cadier said.
"Anything that people will need they should download before Dec. 31, 2008," said business manager Jennie Hou. "That's our recommendation."
A brief list of some of the programs available for downloading from Jazz:
Open source software produced/ported and "supported" by HP:
• Many command files
• Porting Scanner
• Porting Wrappers
• The System Inventory Utility
Open source software produced/ported as unsupported freeware by HP:
Open source software produced/ported by individuals:
• TIFF library
Binary-only software produced/ported and "supported" by HP:
• LineJet Utilities
November 25, 2008
HP creates first MPE/iX source license
Tomorrow: More, on the closing of HP's Jazz lab server
Hewlett-Packard has reached into its recent past to develop a future tool for the 3000, a document to work after the company's end-game in 2010. The vendor still calls this period "end-of-life," but it is devising a means to assist 3000 survival after the vendor leaves the market. Many details of HP’s first third party license of MPE/iX remain under the wraps of what HP calls simple business ethics and commonplace confidentiality.
HP has turned to a resource which left the company, the retired HP engineer Mike Paivinen who heard OpenMPE requests from 2002 to 2007, to help shape this long-sought MPE code license. The license will cover "most of the core operating system, most of networking, and TurboIMAGE," according to Paivinen.
HP hired Paivinen at the end of this summer to work on the licensing project, bringing him back to the company as a contractor. What the vendor is creating will not give anyone enough license to build new versions of MPE/iX. Instead, a license for a read-only reference copy of the source will be available to some companies supporting 3000 users, as well as software suppliers. HP has not capped the number of licenses.
"There is no predefined number of licenses," said Jennie Hou, the e3000 business manager at HP. "We're trying to balance the need for HP e3000 customers to get technical support with the potential downside of having a large number of patch developers." HP didn't say why a large number of developers would be a downside. The company is licensing the use of the source as-is, with no support.
The source code is aimed at companies offering support or products related to the 3000. "The source code is going to be available as reference material for third parties whose business is providing technical support to HP customers," Paivinen said in a briefing. "The way we define technical support is investigating problems, developing workarounds and creating instruction-level binary patches that modify the object code."
A 3000 customer's status as an HP support customer has no bearing on anyone's suitability for a license, HP said.
The source code license is targeted at three types of third parties: 1. Those whose business model is to provide technical support on HP e3000 products; 2. Software providers whose products have an intimate knowledge of MPE/iX internals, and 3. Software providers whose products emulate one or more aspects of MPE/iX and the HP 3000 on other HP products.
The license will not be sold as a typical HP product. "We're creating a limited number of fee-based licenses," Paivinen said. "This isn't something that's going onto the HP Corporate Price List, something anybody can get. It's a limited licensing arrangement between us and third parties. Therefore, it's not something that's going to be broadly available."
The license goes beyond the "intentions" that HP offered in statements of prior years. "This project is well underway," Hou said, "and we're working on making this possible. The details still need to be worked out, but we are moving forward. This licensing agreement will be made available."
But potential licensees are urged to move quickly. "The longer someone waits to express their interest, the less likely that they would become a licensee," Hou said.
HP will be looking for people who are likely to be capable and responsible licensees of the 3000, and have a track record with the 3000 community. "I don't think you could say that everybody who is supporting 3000 customers is necessarily going to be granted a license to the source code," Paivinen said.
Starting Jan. 1, 2011 - after HP ends the last of its 3000 support - outside vendors can start using source as reference to create patches which modify MPE/iX object code. As such, this license does not enable changes to the operating system source. "It's for use as reference material, that the key," Paivinen said.
HP would not identify, in a discussion with the NewsWire, which parts of the MPE/iX core and networking code will be omitted from the license. Paivinen confirmed that third party intellectual property rights are an issue in releasing some parts of MPE/iX. During user group discussions, members at all levels of the 3000 community identified MPE/iX's streaming module (written by Mentat) and the Posix interface (created for HP by MKS) as third-party portions of the OS.
While not naming these segments as specifically missing from the source license, Paivinen said "We have to honor the agreements with people who have licensed us source code."
HP would not identify what parts of the company will be involved in establishing licenses with third parties. Getting a license established with HP starts with a query. The e-mail requests, aimed at a new email@example.com address, will arrive in Hou's mailbox to start screening and negotiations. But HP would only say that the rest of the process "will begin on the back end."
HP said it expects OpenMPE to request to become a licensee, but the vendor will not comment on the suitability of any potential licensee. OpenMPE falls outside of both HP targets for a licensee as defined on the November Web page. OpenMPE does not supply either support or a software product for 3000 customers -- although the organization has an extensive, and some might say impressive, record with the community.
HP will not make information public on when the source licensing process will be finished, although it is considering how it might allow licensees to tell the community about their status with HP. "Internal workings like that are typically not something we talk to the press about," Paivinen said.
HP has started the process of accepting e-mail queries from interested third parties. HP said that the license terms are nearly complete. "The development of the license agreement is nearly complete and we are ready to begin reviewing requests from potential licensees as they come in," said Hou. The vendor says that the project is funded and staffed and moving.
The timing of the release of source - the start of 2011 - is later than some have requested. OpenMPE has been pushing for an immediate pass-off of MPE source, but HP's timeline will be farther into the future. The advocacy group has tried to ensure that when HP's lab services end next month, an alternative from OpenMPE would be available.
HP is more focused on doing what it can to prevent a gap in support, rather than MPE/iX development. "We're trying to make it work so that [the support] transition is as smooth as possible," Paivinen said. "Our intention is not that there be a gap between HP providing support, and third parties taking over that responsibility."
The license may help support companies and software suppliers to service clients "on what we call a binary patch level," Paivinen said. "They'll be using some sort of mechanism that directly edits binary object code, at an instruction-by-instruction level."
HP has not factored in any coordination requirement among licensees. For now, making patches consistent among the community's sites is up to the licensees.
"We won't be imposing any kind of organizational structure on the community in terms of how they choose to operate," Paivinen said. "We're going to be creating agreements between us and individual companies."
HP intends for the licenses to be uniform, however, at the onset of this process. Negotiations will be under Confidential Disclosure Agreements, a common HP condition for contact matters. HP would not promise that every agreement will be the same once negotiations conclude.
The vendor is now looking at the community-wide aspects of multiple licenses. "There's some questions that have come up recently about how people might choose to cooperate in the community once these licenses become effective," Paivinen said. "Some questions have been brought up that we hadn't originally thought of, that we need to go back and think about and try and understand."
HP is still "strongly recommending for people to transition off the 3000." HP's e3000 Web page will continue to provide information on transition services and materials.
November 24, 2008
HP touts Q4 figures in report
HP considered the last two months of its fourth quarter as a tough stretch of road. But today the vendor put a bright face on strong financials from that period, toting up record sales for Q4 as well as for for fiscal 2008. CEO Mark Hurd stressed ongoing cost cutting and confidence in the future. But HP's leader said the vendor had to do its work to make sure that Q4 would deliver extra profits as well as the sales increases buoyed by new acquistion EDS.
"These results demonstrate our ability to execute in a challenging market," Hurd said in a conference call and financials presentation with investment analysts. "Great companies excel in tough times, and in tough times customers turn to great companies. "I'm confident in HP's ability to gain share, expand earnings and emerge from the current environment as a stronger force in the marketplace."
While the HP services and support sector is expected to withstand the downturn in the economy, analysts show concern over the hardware-based parts of HP's business such as business servers. Figures from the report show Enterprise Storage and Servers, which delivers HP's 3000 alternatives such as Industry Standard Windows systems and the HP Unix Business Critical Server, saw revenues down 1 percent year to year. The Business Critical Servers revenue dropped 10 percent overall, while Integrity systems sales rose 6 percent.
Integrity now represents 83 percent of BCS revenues. HP blade server revenues, which includes some Integrity systems, rose 33 percent from the same period last year.
HP's services doubled revenues from the prior Q4, figures which in large measure were the result of adding EDS business. Meanwhile, Enterprise Storage and Servers saw its quarterly operating profits fall $31 million from the past year's final quarter. ESS was the only HP unit to show a decline in profits compared to Q4 of 2007.
But earnings per share overall for HP reached a record high at $1.03, when calculated outside of the Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP). Despite the falling profits at ESS, Hurd said that HP believes it held or gained share in each of its segments.
Hurd said he's confident of HP's financial position, in spite of what he called "macro-economic challenges," for reasons that include continued cost-cutting. "Our company is leaner, and more flexible than ever, and yet we still have more work to do [on cost structure], which is actually good news," he said. "We will be tightening discretionary spending given the environment."
HP also feels confident because one-third of its revenues and more than half of its profits come from "recurring sources such as services and supplies," Hurd said. While the company may be selling fewer systems in the year to come, support contracts for installed hardware look stable, and printers will always need ink and paper. HP is also running the company on 65 percent fewer applications, a simpler platform on which HP can innovate, Hurd said.
"This is a big deal for us. The market is getting tougher and less predictable. That said, an environment like this provides an opening for a company like HP to improve its competitive position. We have every intention of taking advantage of that opportunity."
Now playing, our November print issue
Last night we posted the pages for our November printed NewsWire issue online. It's a 20MB PDF file, so it may take a little while to download. But the issue contains five articles which we have not yet posted to the blog, so you can read them in advance. We will have them up here over the next week or two.
And if you'd like your own mailed copy of the November issue, send an e-mail with a postal address.
Don't forget to check back here early tomorrow for breaking news about the HP advisory, concerning the vendor's end-game issues around its 3000 operations post-2010. It's the second of three communiques on how HP means to resolve what it likes to call "end of life" issues.
We also expect to have a brief report later today -- within a few hours after the markets close -- on the full release of HP's Q4 financials.
November 21, 2008
OpenMPE approaches Invent3k services
As Hewlett-Packard prunes back its HP 3000 operations, opportunities are blooming. OpenMPE will be re-planting the Invent3k public access server, a resource that HP will turn off by month's end. The project will represent the first benefit the advocacy group offers which all 3000 owners can enjoy.
Donna Hoffmeister, an OpenMPE director and part of the technical support team at Allegro Consultants, explained that the organization will do more than HP was doing with Invent3k, a 3000 where programmers and developers have been creating software for any use, public or private, since the summer of 2001.
OpenMPE has additional plans for the Invent3k that include hosting Telamon’s freeware collection as well as the [free] Contributed Software Library software [formerly hosted at Interex]. We will be working with HP to retain both the gnu and perl development environments that exist on the current Invent3k system. The third-party software vendors are invited to have accounts on the new Invent3k server just as before.
Third parties hosted copies of their software, to support development projects, on the public server while it lived its life as a Series 989 3000 at HP. Mark Bixby, who was managing the server while he worked at HP, said interest was strong when the resource went online in 2001. "A lot of the long-time porters have signed up," he said then, "because it’s a lot bigger machine than we’ve had access to in the past. It helps experienced porters do their work faster. There’s also been quite a lot of sign-ups of people who just lurk on 3000-L. It’s nice to know that lurking community is eager to get involved."
OpenMPE is answering questions via e-mail about the new life for this community Web resource.
The server will be moving to Matt Purdue's Hill Country Technologies labs, where "the new invent3k system is a 2-way N4000 and will have over half a terabyte of storage attached," Hoffmeister said. Perdue, alson an OpenMPE director, "owns the system but has generously told OpenMPE that we may use it." Perdue demonstrated his eye for value on the 3000 hardware line last summer, when he purchased one of the largest systems in the 9x7 line for under $300.
3000 community members who have accounts on Invent3k today should contact OpenMPE to make sure their work moves to the new home of the server. OpenMPE's goal is to replicate HP's Invent3k as much as possible," Hoffmeister said. "People with existing Invent3k accounts have been notified to contact OpenMPE if they're interested in migrating to the new system."
HP has also gotten on board to help Invent3k start up in Perdue's lab. "HP has been very cooperative in this effort, Hoffmeister said. "They've given us commitments of time and human resources to help migrate from one system to the other. OpenMPE is grateful to HP for their help in this project."
November 20, 2008
HP sets work, reports schedule into 2009
HP has confirmed that its second advisory to the 3000 community will be posted next week. These reports will address issues about the vendor's end-game for active 3000 operations. Support continues through 2010, but the 3000 labs, as well as nearly all operations unrelated to support or migration advice, go dark next month.
What's more, the dimming of lights will begin early in December, pretty much on the Winter Solstice. By the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, HP will be off for the year-end holidays, not to return until the week of Jan. 5. The company notified employees last week it would extend its normal week-long shutdown for the holiday to two weeks, to "achieve significant operational savings." Employees can either use vacation time or take the days unpaid, but the company will shut down for the back half of December.
The shutdown may be playing a role in the timetable for what HP's e3000 business manager Jennie Hou has called the final communique on 3000 matters other than support. Hou targeted January as the date for the third of three advisories about HP's disposition of post-2010 issues. MPE/iX source code licensing remains un-addressed.
The HP 3000 advisories are being posted on Hewlett-Packard's HP e3000 Web page, and the vendor has also been known to include an e-mail to 3000 newsgroup readers around the world when the news breaks.
Migrating 3000 users will also want to track this news, since HP's decisions about operations and intellectual property will have an impact on unfinished migration project time-lines. Interim homesteading, a step for many 3000 sites on the move, may be affected by HP's policies. Homesteaders, of course, will be most interest in any developments on HP's release or licensing of 3000 materials.
HP's told us we'll have a briefing soon on this month's advisory, so check back on here to see our review of what the vendor has decided, once the news goes public.
November 19, 2008
HP predicts stable '09 business
HP's stock rose more than $4 a share yesterday on a company report that Hewlett-Packard total revenues in 2009's Q1 will remain unchanged from the current quarter's numbers. HP floated a preliminary report, one week ahead of its full Q4 and fiscal 2008 statement, which said the company's revenues were $33.6 billion for the period ended Oct. 31. Net revenue rose 19 percent, but that figure included sales from newly-acquired EDS.
HP's business other than the EDS services revenues grew, too. "Excluding the impact of the EDS acquisition, HP revenue grew 5 percent year over year, or 2 percent when adjusted for the effects of currency," said HP's release on the early figures. Fourth quarter net revenues in total rose $5.3 billion from a year earlier. The company finished 2008's fiscal year with record sales of $118.4 billion in net revenue, up $14.1 billion from fiscal 2007.
Earnings rose slightly in HP's preliminary report on the quarter, up 4 percent. HP's CEO said the company increased market share in some businesses. He added that Hewlett-Packard will get to the other side of the current economic downturn in better shape.
“HP delivered another solid quarter as it continues to benefit from its global reach, diverse customer base, broad portfolio and numerous cost initiatives,” said Mark Hurd, HP chairman and chief executive officer. “Our ability to execute in a challenging marketplace differentiates HP, enabling it to increase share, expand earnings and emerge from the current economic environment as a stronger force.”
But analysts said that it was HP's fiscal 2009 outlook that triggered the shot of investor confidence.
HP sees a first quarter with sales and profit numbers similar to Q4's, no small feat considering the swoon of sales across the board in worldwide businesses. Since the full Q4 report has been scheduled for about a week later than HP usually reports, the preliminary news was released in the usual week after mid-month of November.
In a swirl of Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) and Earnings Per Share (EPS) figures, HP made a case for keeping its pace of revenues and earnings.
In providing its outlook for the first fiscal quarter and the full fiscal year 2009, the company has taken into consideration the current economic environment and the relative strength of the US dollar. Based on current currency exchange rates, the company now expects an unfavorable year-over-year currency impact on revenue of approximately 5 percentage points in the first quarter and roughly 6 - 7 percentage points for the full year and this impact is reflected in its outlook.
For the first fiscal quarter of 2009, HP expects revenue of approximately $32.0 billion to $32.5 billion, GAAP diluted EPS in the range of $0.80 to $0.82, and non-GAAP diluted EPS in the range of $0.93 to $0.95. Q109 non-GAAP diluted EPS estimates exclude after-tax costs of approximately $0.13 per share, related primarily to the amortization of purchased intangibles.
For the full fiscal year 2009, HP expects revenue of approximately $127.5 billion to $130.0 billion, GAAP diluted EPS in the range of $3.38 to $3.53, and non-GAAP diluted EPS in the range of $3.88 to $4.03. FY09 non-GAAP diluted EPS estimates exclude after-tax costs of approximately $0.50 per share, related primarily to the amortization of purchased intangibles.
HP will provide more detailed information about its fourth quarter and full year results in its previously scheduled Q408 earnings announcement and Webcast on Nov. 24. HP is providing this preliminary earnings information due to the current economic environment and its year-end earnings announcement being scheduled to occur later in the month relative to most quarters.
November 18, 2008
HP pulls Polymorphic Computing out of garage
By Birket Foster
Special to the NewsWire
The CommunityConnect 2008 conference in Europe last week featured Martin Fink, the Senior VP and GM for the HP Business Critical Server group. Fink gave a talk on Polymorphic Computing. What is that, you say? Well, Fink used an analogy from the car industry, one where you have different cars with steering wheels, engine, chassis and tires that can be changed on demand. Think of the object-oriented programming concept of late binding, he suggested.
Here’s how it sounded to me, a software vendor sitting in an audience full of software vendors. Your polymorphic car would assemble itself in your garage for the purpose you need – so you could have a sports car one evening for what Fink called “a hot date with the wife,” then the next day you could order up a minivan to go shopping, and in the afternoon the polymorphic assembly garage would deliver a pickup truck so you could pick up some lumber for a do it yourself project.
The current world of virtualization will allow computing resources to be configured for different tasks. The workload will be profiled so that the CPU, memory, disc space, and network IO matches the requirement. Once you get to that stage, you could be buying your computing in a metered environment. Utility computing will finally become a reality just in time for a change of name – the current moniker is “Cloud Computing,” where your computing services get provided by a large company like HP, or Amazon or Google. In the cloud, the applications as well as the whole environment are built around the concept of a flexible billing system.
The issue that I have with all of this is the billing system.
There is no current billing standard for allowing a hosting company (ISP or RBOC or a Google) to charge for the individual utilities that complete the application environments. Not everything that will be required as a “completer app” will be done in “free” open source – there is still going to be a need for mashups and a way to pay the creators of the intellectual property.
If HP could figure out how to do the billing system for micro-cents, and offer that back to the software vendor community, they could get the brightest and the best to flock to helping HP take a lead in the innovation of cloud computing. HP will get a piece of the action as they bill customers on behalf of the developers, the developers get a check —while the customer only has to deal with its cloud computing provider or application services provider who uses cloud computing. The strategy helps avoid licensing agreements and purchasing from lots of little vendors.
By the way, most of the really good innovation in software comes from small, high-performance teams. HP discovered that when the SAP/Oracle port to Itanium was completed. The top customers used about 150 applications to complete the environment – things like development and test solutions, along with deployment, operations and support software: things like spoolers, schedulers etc. Cloud computing needs a high-performing team at HP to step up and help produce a standard billing mechanism, one that will be the differentiator for the ISVs choosing to partner with HP. Then Polymorphic computing will be headed your way.
November 17, 2008
Moving Remembrances, Moving On
ScreenJet commissioned editorial cartoons in 2003 about HP's migration push
The HP 3000 community is moving onward this week, the latest one to follow the annual Nov. 14 celebration of HP's exit announcement about its e3000 business. But the news that changed the community's world first broke on November 5, 2001, when the vendor community talked openly about the rumors it heard during October of that year. ScreenJet's Alan Yeo shared his story of what receiving the news felt like.
I heard on Monday the 5th of November 2001. Interesting date, since in the UK it's Guy Fawkes Night, "Gunpowder Treason and Plot" as the rhyme goes. It is the day we English celebrate the attempt to blow up our Parliament. To be honest I'm never sure if historically the people celebrated "the attempt," or that it failed.
I started ploughing through email that day when I opened one from Wirt Atmar [of AICS Research]. It was an "open" letter to [HP's e3000 General Manager] Winston Prather (so I'm sure he won't mind me quoting an extract).
I have heard on Friday and Saturday through the grapevine the same basic story a sufficient number of times now that I believe it to be true:
“HP will announce on November 14 that the HP 3000 line is dead. Last sales of the system will announced to be November 2003, with support through November 2007, with some migration assistance to HP-UX being offered.” I can say that I am deeply shocked, saddened, and angry, but I’m not surprised.
Yeo answered in a reply on that Monday, "We have until the 14th to prepare for the Tidal Wave that will hit us from customers. And I know of several customer sites where just this hint will be all it takes to undermine people that have fought long and hard to keep their HP 3000s." He added this:
Representing a relatively small organisation, one of the questions that potential customers always ask is “How do I know you will stay in business to support us?” My answer is “You don’t, but as a small company we need to keep your business, and unlike large organisations we are very unlikely to arbitrarily drop a product because something else looks more promising.” I believe very good vendor support is one of the reasons that the HP 3000 has survived so long and has developed such a reputation for robustness. Little did I suspect that this would happen with HP itself.
So where to from here?
The 3000 community reported on its reactions to and directions from that day, as well as how members are moving on. Some have moved away from the computer, but only recently. Andreas Schmidt, CSC Computer Technology Specialist reports
Yesterday we switched off the last three HP 3000 servers we ran in Europe for DuPont: a 997-800, two K-Series 9x9s. Two containers of documentation went away as well... and an eye-full of tears with this stuff. We had a small lunch together with the few remaining people who know MPE (including one guy from HP).
Others are still using the 3000 while moving. And a significant number of customers are moving away from HP as a result of the vendor's exit. That away-from-HP transition usually starts with a new support source from the third-party market. Connie Sellitto, Programmer/Analyst at The US Cat Fanciers’ Association, reports
Hard to believe it’s been seven years! I was basically right where I am now — at the Cat Fanciers’ Association, still coding COBOL programs for use on our HP 3000 A400. We have just switched hardware support from HP to a third party vendor — feels like I’m cutting the umbilical cord!
Al Nizzardini reported from his current job, as Director of Technical Services at Amtek, that Nov. 14 found him in the Windows camp, but still managing a 3000.
I was at a Windows boot camp. Like many others I knew this day was coming. A buddy on mine, also a "3000 guy" called and told me of the news flash. It was like I lost a family member. It became my version of "The Day The Earth Stood Still."
John Hurt of Baseball Express remembers only skepticism that HP would ever leave the market completely. He has also heard from a support supplier about US Defense Department 3000s which seem unlikely to migrate. The DOD still has vintage disk drives in these systems.
I can't remember what I was doing last week much less seven years ago, but if I could, I probably thought to myself... Yeeeeaaah, riiiight.
The Department of Defense has bunches of still-running 3000s, and as long as they do, HP will keep an eye on them. My hardware guy with Datagate tells me about having to go someplace in Georgia to service and preventative maintain a DOD 3000 that still has Coyote drives.
But whether HP moves away or not, customers report they've gone, just now, in the next two years, or some time ago.
Add Trinity Health to the list of former HP 3000 sites. We are decommissioning our three HP 3000s this month.
It's a bittersweet time as a large portion of my career revolved around the good ‘ol HP. Made a good living off of it and met a lot of pretty cool people. The last couple of years have seen my HP 3000 involvement dwindle as I made my way back into the 'wonderful world of Windoze' and client server applications. Nothing I've ever worked on was as rock-solid as our HP 3000s. I’ll definitely miss them -- Pat Shugart
I had to leave HP 3000 work February, 2008. Primary Health in Idaho is still running AMISYS on the HP 3000. The new CIO refers to it as the old dinosaur. It still does the bulk of their business, with no replacement in sight.
I am now doing Microsoft applications now. I have learned a new phrase, “Best Practice.” It means the Microsoft way. The bulk of our work is done on a HP Unix box -- Kent Wallace, Business Intelligence Developer, Healthcare Management Administrators Inc.
Some community members report they expect to leave their skills behind, but they've been working on the system steadily since 2001. A classic reply came from Joe Dolliver, who had his own consulting practice at the time.
I remember exactly where I was standing. I was just outside the Amisys headquarters talking to my former employee friends about a potential deal I was getting in Virginia Beach when my phone rang. I got a message from my longtime friend Frank Kelly, who had an inside track to the news that was about to be delivered by HP. Amisys was just three days from its client conference in Bethesda MD for its user base. There were going to be many Amisys clients in the area in three days and I had to just sit and not tell anyone. It was hard for me then to see what the future was going to hold, since I had made the bold jump from full-time Amisys employee to my own business in 2000.
I knew my business was going to be a short-lived business.I kept thinking in the back of my mind that I had heard rumors of the HP 3000’s demise before and we just let it pass because we all knew that this system was not going quietly and business would still be good for many years to come.
I am still working on HP 3000 systems running QSS software, but times have changed. We will be migrating sometime in 2009-10, and my prediction of living on the HP 3000 through my retirement is just not going to happen.
John Burke, our technical editor at the NewsWire at the time, saw his plans to survive on his 3000 skills dashed, as well as his faith in that year's 3000 leadership at HP.
I remember exactly what I was doing. Wirt spilled the beans early — I don’t think HP ever forgave him — while I was working on my business plan for life as an independent consultant. I will probably never get over my bitterness toward the HP executives who lied to us about the future of the HP 3000 at HP World (or was it still called Interex in August of that year?). Another thing I will always remember is the hubris of those same executives who were certain everyone would just move on over to HP-UX .
I was very fortunate. I had another career path I could follow. Many were not as lucky.
Some independent vendors, however, are still on the job, like John Stephens of Take Care of IT.
I had to dig out my Franklin Day planner entry for what seems to be a normal Wednesday for those times. I was temporarily not a consultant, as one of my clients had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to be their IT Director. So my day planner notes for that day are things like “Do Hugh’s review”, “Fix end-date in QUKGNBH”, and a reminder to clean the DDS tape drive on the HP 3000, a 927LX, if I remember right. Six months later and the company would be gobbled up, and a year (and one “successful” SAP conversion) later, I was released back to permanent consultancy.
But no mention of HP’s bombshell announcement in my notes. I do recall the event though, and remember thinking something like, “Wow, I guess someday soon I really am going to have to find a career.”
Seven years later, I’m still waiting on that career, still muddling about in more or less the same way as I have for 26 years now. Meanwhile, I’m making a living, and not finding too much to complain about.
November 14, 2008
Anniversary week winds down, goes onward
This has been a remarkable week for anniversaries. First HP's Unix — replacement target for Hewlett-Packard's favored path for 3000 migrations — celebrates its 25th anniversary. Two days later, Microsoft toasts the 25th year of Windows, the less-favored but more-often-chosen target from the 3000. Today your community commemorates the 7th anniversary of the pullout that changed our working worlds, HP's notice it would quit the 3000 business.
As we've noted in years 2005 through 2007, the exit date for HP isn't certain, although this year's lab closing makes it inevitable. Hewlett-Packard will never re-open its development center for MPE/iX, so for the few of you who've been holding out hope, the SS Return to Business will never make port again. You're porting your systems and apps, or steering a course away from HP — or at least its support business.
We asked around the community yesterday, looking for a few remembrances of that chilly November Wednesday when HP froze out its futures in your market. The stories had an air of acceptance in them. On the Kubler-Ross Steps of Grieving, Acceptance is the last. It gives the survivor the permission to move onward. You've moved, even if many of your companies still rely on the HP 3000.
Doug Greenup, president of connectivity supplier Minisoft, gave us one of the best stories of how the pullout played out for him — days in advance of Nov. 14.
I was at my desk here at Minisoft and a Hewlett-Packard corporate type called me and said she was faxing me a non-disclosure, and that HP wanted me to sign it ASAP. I got it about 20 minutes later and signed a faxed copy back. A different HP corporate type called about an hour later and said they were exiting from the HP 3000 business. They made the official announcement to the HP community a week later.
To be honest, it was a really sad day for us. A lot of “what do we do now?” And a lot of other emotions that I won’t go into here. I hope everyone is doing well. We still have a large number of HP 3000 customers happily running on the platform today. It was and is a great hardware platform!
In contrast, one of the most placid rememberances came from former Robelle VP David Greer, who was already retired from that company and travelling on a two-year family journey through Europe, sailing the Mediterranean. He even incuded a link to his pictures.
I was in Arles, France where the Mistral wind was blowing down the Rhone Valley. I doubt that I heard of the announcement that day, but I know that I heard the news from Birket Foster and you within a day or two.
We got a message about the fallout, the work that followed to move away from that day, from Ed Harms of the Florida FRSA Self Insurers Fund.
Since the announcement we have gone through three vendors to rewrite our software. We are doing it in-house and should be done next year.
And one community member, Donna Hofmeister (who was Donna Garverick at the time), talked about being on the IT staff at Long's Drug, one of the biggest 3000 customers ever, and seeing the inevitable end for HP's Unix as well.
I was at Long’s of course. I have vague memories, since this was more than yesterday ago,of rumors circulating before the actual announcement was made... but can’t attach them to anything more substantial. I do remember saying that HP-UX was next. I still think I’m right — it’s just going to take longer.
We'll have more on Monday, the start of the eighth year since HP called off its 3000 futures. Many community members are going onward, beyond HP's now-firming exit at the end of 2010.
November 13, 2008
Measure HP's relative value of 3000 models
There's nothing to be bought in the 3000 marketplace now but used systems. HP has not built or delivered a new HP 3000 since early in 2004, which makes every computer sale a transaction that can be negotiated and calculated. HP has a tool to help with the calculation, an official measure of the relative performance of every HP 3000 system ever made. It's a four-year old PDF file, but it reveals a lot more than any Web-based calculator.
The figures in HP's 2004 e3000 Business Servers Configuration Guide reveal some surprising comparisons in horsepower. HP has laid out the speed ratings in a matrix, a choice which simplifies judging the horsepower of the 9x9 Series against the newer and allegedly faster A-Class and N-Class servers. The figures show why the Series 9x9s are such a great value these days. There are many more of these available 9x9s in the marketplace than used N-Class servers, since HP only built the N-Class for a couple of years at most.
As for the A-Class, almost all of it is outstripped in performance by a wide range of 9x9s. Not to slag the A-Class 3000s, but buying one of these will be influenced in large part by the age of the hardware and its ability to take on newer disc.
For example, I didn't know that the N-Class single-processor 220MHz systems run at just about the speed of a Series 959. Finding that N-4000-220-100 might be the challenge, since it was the lowest end of the N-Class line. But laying your hands on a Series 959 is easy pickings. And HP's chart shows lots of blank spots where the 9x9 servers run faster than an N-Class. Even a three-processor, 440Mhz N-Class can be matched by a Series 989-650. You will get fewer options on peripherals and greater power consumption with the 9x9s, but availability and price are swell trade-offs.
Like many documents which HP continues to host about the 3000, the Configuration Guide is a little buried. We're putting it up here on the NewsWire's blog site because HP advises everybody to download what they need for 3000 documentation. (A great alternative to the HP data, laid out in chronological fashion, is the AICS Relative Performance page on that vendor's Web site. You might use them both to judge how much bang you're buying for your buck.)
Tomorrow marks a grave anniversary for this community, a date that will spark some memories as well as congratulations for surviving as a 3000 user — even for those who survive while they find their migration is taking longer than HP predicted back in that year. But then HP has been surprised by the 3000's value and durability over and over. Understanding that a large enough Series 997 — Emerald-class systems built in the middle '90s — can beat about half of the N-Class systems shows how surprising the future can be to a Hewlett-Packard which underestimated its potential to retain customers through forced migrations.
The vendor clocked back much of the N-Class 3000 line, or we wouldn't even be talking about how a 10-year computer can still outperform one built five years ago. When the older systems run faster than the new ones, the full measure of a 3000s worth jumps outside of accepted knowledge. This community knows more about a 3000's value than HP has believed since 2001, if not before.
November 12, 2008
CORE Webcast offers PowerHouse, Transact options
One week from today, CORE Migration is hosting a 30-minute Webcast on legacy migration from the HP 3000 to Windows. The company is offering a speedy migration plan: It will demonstrate how CORE migrates a PowerHouse application during the span of the Webcast. The Microsoft .NET platform is CORE's target.
CORE also has its sights set on the HP 3000 sites using Transact. This Hewlett-Packard language continues to run in some surprising places, although most of the surprise is that Transact is installed at all. The language introduced in the 1980s is a great example of a software solution that HP abandoned years ago, while its customers did not.
Whether the 3000 site is moving PowerHouse or Transact apps, CORE says that "lift and shift" is too low a goal to set for a migration. "The migrated solution must fulfill user expectations, address real needs and do more than just replace the existing solution," said the invitation to the Webcast set for 11 AM EST on Nov. 19. You can sign up for the WebEx presentation at the CORE site.
CORE will show off its president (Rolf Christensen), business development VP (Garry Whitworth), manager of delivery services (Stewart Melvin) and R&D manager (Chris Vanmaele) during the 30 minutes. The target audience is broad, from C-level executives down to business managers and project managers. CORE will take questions after the half-hour from attendees.
Migration success is hard to come by, according to CORE. Success is defined at the company as "Solutions that meet the stated needs of the clients and are adopted and embraced by their user base."
November 11, 2008
HP toasts its Unix quarter-century
By Birket Foster
Special to the NewsWire
Mannheim, Germany — Yesterday at the Connect Europe user conference, the 25th anniversary of the HP-UX operating system was celebrated in a special session hosted by HP's Juergen Probst. It marked a milestone, not as many years of service as the HP 3000, but over a million copies of HP's Unix have shipped across the four processors that provided the operating system's path – an impressive history in the world of computing.
Guests who dropped in on the anniversary party included Brian Cox, Director of Software Marketing for Business Critical Systems, and Martin Whittaker, director of engineering for BCS. Connect's conference included a separate track on HP-UX. HP gave a good review of the history of HP-UX, then shifted into detailing gains that customers were getting in moving from HP-UX 11v2 to HP-UX 11v3.
Since HP-UX futures are limited to operating on the Itanium processor, the Itanium roadmap was rolled out, and a roadmap for versions 4 and 5 of the OS was outlined. It seems HP has done quite a bit of work on virtualization, and a discussion of the guest operating systems showed off the flexibility of the new HP-UX environment.
Business taken care of, ever the ready host Juergen had 25th anniversary mugs and beer to fill them. A trivia contest yielded prizes of 2GB memory sticks and the handing out of 25th Anniversary pins.
November 10, 2008
3000 goes in an open direction
More than 11 years ago, HP was teaching HP 3000 skills to the world. George Stachnik, an HP employee who communicated 3000 advantages to customers, wrote a series of articles for HP 3000 newbies. In an early part of his series that started in 1997, he summed up HP's view of the system's future (Where's the HP 3000 Going?) as the company saw it back then.
The evolution of the HP 3000 has been driven by the open systems revolution that swept across the IS industry beginning in the 1990s. By 1990, most new computer applications and technologies were being developed on (and for) Unix computers. This trend threatened to leave proprietary architectures like the HP 3000 out in the cold.
In response, HP began bringing industry standard interfaces from the HP 9000 to the HP 3000, focusing first on functions that were standardized by IEEE’s Posix committees. Version 4.0 of MPE XL was renamed to“MPE/iX” (the iX stands for “Integrated PosiX”). The Posix functionality made it easier than it had been to port software from Unix to the HP 3000. Other industry standards (BSD Sockets, SQL, ODBC, Java) have been brought to the 3000 by HP in subsequent OS releases. All this open systems functionality has continued to be enhanced on subsequent releases.
Of course, that Posix functionality remains in MPE after seven successive releases. HP has not eliminated much from the 3000's feature set after more than 30 years of development. Posix makes the HP 3000 behave like Unix systems. HP was betting in 1997 that this similarity could preserve the system. Even though HP shifted its bets four years later about the 3000, using the Posix shell is a way to get an IT staffer introduced to the 3000 from a Unix perspective.
Consider that this weekend starts the eighth year of 3000 survival after HP changed its bet. Adding Posix may not have had the effect HP intended for the vendor's 3000 business. But it edged the system into open source, which could be a key to surviving another seven years.
It's good to remember how much hope HP projected, as well as how much effort the supplier made, here at the end of the seventh year of The Transition. Keeping the system in growth mode was a challenge too complex for Hewlett-Packard to meet. HP had failures in the past with the 3000, like the abortive System 3000 introduction in 1972.
Stachnik explained how Posix would change interfacing with a 3000 in his article. But he underlined the design choices that make this computer a lasting value for those who are staying with it, as well as those taking longer than expected to leave it.
Many computer vendors say that their systems software is “tuned for transaction processing” but in the case of the HP 3000, this is no idle claim. A tremendous amount of R&D work was done at HP to understand exactly what kinds of stresses are placed on computer systems by commercial transaction processing workloads. And the payoff from this R&D was an HP 3000 that was tuned for the best possible performance.
HP got its payoff in open source applications not long after Stachnik's article, earnings that continue to deliver today in DNS services harder to hack than any "industry standard" system, Samba file sharing and more. It all began with an integration of Unix into the HP 3000, differences Stachnik explained in an accompanying article. Have a look at what he wrote, one of the "3000 for Dummies" lessons which continues to teach, here at the end of the seventh year of migrations. HP was directing this system out of the cold in the 1990s. It's still warm to the touch today.
November 07, 2008
Keep the CALENDAR up to date
The year 2027 has been notable for customers who don't plan to leave the HP 3000. That's the year when timestamps stop being accurate, because the CALENDAR intrinsic in MPE/iX only uses 7 bits to store year information.
If your HP 3000 apps are using CALENDAR, HP advises that you use the newer HPCALENDAR. The newer intrinsic extends the 3000's date accuracy for more than 30 years beyond 2008. Yes, that's right; 2038 will be the last year to accurately store timestamps.
HP's advisory, which got referenced by its support and patch tracker today, explains the differences. At least in part:
The original MPE timestamp format was that used by the CALENDAR intrinsic, a 16 bit quantity allowing 9 bits for the day of the year and 7 bits for the year, added to 1900. Since the largest number represented by 7 bits is 127, this format is limited to accurately storing years up to 2027.
The newer HPCALENDAR intrinsic uses a 32 bit quantity, allowing 23 bits for the year, since 1900 and the same 9 bits for the day of the year. This format provides a significantly longer period of timestamp accuracy.
When HP began to talk about a Posix timestamp function that works on the 3000, the advice needed a bit of explanation from HP's 3000 lab engineer Bill Cadier.
If, for example someone needs to store the maturity date for a 30 year mortgage started this month, neither the traditional CALENDAR format nor the time() format will work as they are only accurate to 31 December 2027 and 19 January 2038 respectively. The HPCALENDAR date format provides 23 bits to store the year added to 1900 — and since one can store 8,388,607 in those 23 bits, this format provides the best accuracy for storing future dates on the e3000.
The advisory, which you can read for yourself at the HP IT Response Center Web site, says in part
Certain POSIX applications may use the time() function as the basis for timestamps; and may therefore, store timestamps in the format used by time(), which is a 32 bit quantity representing the number of seconds from the epoch 1 January 1970. This format is limited to accurately storing timestamps up to 19 January 2038.
If your applications have a need to create and store future transaction timestamps, HP recommends using HPCALENDAR, HPDATECONVERT, HPDATEDIFF, HPDATEFORMAT or HPDATEOFFSET to ensure they are created correctly.
HP built MPE to an extraordinary level of durability. Not even Unix, which relies on the time() function, is going to be able to handle dates as long as MPE/iX, using the invented-in-HP HPCALENDAR intrinsic. This is a good example of why vendor engineering, beyond industry standards, gives "legacy" platforms a longer life — sometimes longer than even the vendor estimates.
November 06, 2008
OT = Outta There
The 3000 community has been knit together over the past 13 years through the threads of the Internet. I mean threads in a literal-technical sense, because a mailing list and newsgroup — 3000-L, or comp.sys.hp.mpe — has spanned those years and served thousands in your world with news and views.
There's too much of the latter of late. Much of the time, this communication channel has been overturned like a box of apples and used as a bully pulpit for half its traffic. If you've ever tried to find out something about the 3000 using this group, you'll be stepping around steaming piles of opinion and "facts" and unfettered banter about killing a newly elected President. (I kid you not.)
See, the Internet has no filters for such fetid stuff. But to see it rife in a reasonable community's channels is reason enough to set your own filters beyond stun. As in "Erase without reading," now that the US had an election and there's reason to complain. Generous community members who share skills also spare us no foam from rabid opinions. The lone bit of civility is to slap "OT" for Off Topic on their subject lines. Perhaps it's just me, but asking "So no comments about the price of fuel?" seems a waste of someone's time, unless this passes for social discourse.
Good and helpful and seasoned 3000 people have sworn off this channel over the years, some leaving the 3000, others leaving the rough trade of epithets, slurs and puffery. Few of these doing the posting would say the same things in your community at, say, a user group meeting, face to face. The Internet makes rebels of us all, hidden behind the safety of that screen.
The help from the 3000-L, in providing a communications channel, was a big factor in starting our newsletter in 1995 that expanded to this blog. I started getting these messages by e-mail, and 544 other people take in this chatter the same way. There's nothing harmful in any message without an OT, and much to be learned. But this week I'm setting my filter differently for the OT. On my system I already store more than 14,000 OT messages from 2001 onward, all of which are never backed up. Every one, for good or ill from the past and into the future, is getting flushed today. Unless your skin is thick, your time ample, your social network thin, or your sense of humor brooding and prone to insult, I'd advise that you shift all the OT to Outta There.
Of course, what else could we expect from subjects like "Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator" or the latest, "So who won the election?" The former pretends to humor while the latter has sparked a schoolyard mudfest. It makes me wonder who's paying for all these minutes of mayhem and the too-rare chuckle. Probably the independent 3000 veteran, one unfettered enough to suggest an assassination will happen, ought to before January 20 — and not have another human say, "What are you doing in there, hon? Promoting anarchy?"
See for yourself if you must, but this is the end of OT for me. So as of today, I'm setting my e-mail to "Direct to Trash" when any OT post comes in, so that I need never see the clever savagery of schooled minds. If I get a dose of insanity, I can always read this stuff on the group's newserver, still dutifully maintained by the saintly Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Kell keeps out of the fray and should never be associated with this traffic; he's been maintaining an interstate route where highwaymen prowl. He's also among the doers of good, dispensing tested network lore. First Amendment rights extend to the Internet, of course, so no one should be deterred by this rant from posting their views, short of any capital crimes they wish would be committed.
Sad to say, reading through these howls of opinion has driven away help for this community, a greater loss than the undesired result of any election. People unsubscribe or stop reading altogether, then can no longer help on a 3000 problem, in a world losing its expertise already. You cannot ban OT. Yes, you can, however, stop reading it.
There's enough to do in this community in the coming two years without reading this stuff, even with an accidental glance. Luckily, the pile of OT messages on my disc, toxic as any nuke-you-lar waste, can be flushed with a single mouse drag and one key combination. Let the disintegration commence, while our 3000 Country creates wellness and health for our futures together.
November 05, 2008
The people have spoken
And in 3000 country, your community, they have been speaking about this all year: Yes, you can count on using your 3000 until your migration is finished, even if HP will be finished with the 3000 business much sooner. In our post-election podcast (7 Minutes, 7 MB) we listen to the voices of those who chronicle 3000 changes, establish new resources, and work for the hope of more development tomorrows.
No matter what your values for your 3000, either migrating or homesteading, anyone who still has a 3000 running is in this together — and we have at least that much in common. Working together with new ideas and resources is the key to a can-do future. There's plenty of help to hear about in our changing world.
November 04, 2008
The Security of the No. 2 Pencil
By now, all of us are are voting for President today in the US, a process that has many different methods. For our choice within The Big Choice, we have Diebold touchscreen voting machines, e-Slate thumbwheel systems, mail-in balloting, even the ageless paper and Number 2 pencil. While there has been a lot of talk about this election being gamed or somehow manipulated through less-secure, more advanced technologies, the majority of Americans will be using paper today to elect their politicians.
This is the way it should be: The most reliable and toughest-to-crack technology should be the standard for anything so important. The pencil, the paper, these are the tools that humans have been using for hundreds of years. It's been hundreds of years, in computer-industry-time, that companies have used the HP 3000 and MPE. When the stakes are high, like in mission-critical computing where you can't afford outages or incorrect results, simple is a good choice.
What your 3000 community has been campaigning for this year is the right to make their choice. Today, the voters in my country can't choose which tool to vote with; state by state, it's been made for them by politicos who didn't put the choice of tools up for a vote. Nobody wants to deal with hanging chads, just like nobody wants an HP 3000 to be ghettoed off to an isolated node of a network. But there are compromises that can be made while retaining the most fraud-proof tool.
And after all, if the HP 3000 was as broken as Hewlett-Packard told us nearly seven years ago, then the constituency of 3000 Country would be much smaller than it is today. The years have not added to the populace, but they have not been unkind to those who must remain for awhile, or for as long as they possibly can stay.
(And if you have read this far and live in the US and haven't voted, go vote. We'll wait right here until you can come back and read something far less important than what US citizens need to be doing today.)
Migration is a matter of fact in this marketplace, and that's not only true because every company leaves a computing platform eventually. Withdrawing a vendor's sales and development teams accelerates migrations. But those who are staying with their pencils and paper can still participate — and often worry less about interference from disruptive outsiders.
I mean viruses, and how no 3000 has ever had that kind of security breech. Frankly, not a security breech of any consequence in the decades I've covered the system. The open source tools ported to the 3000 needed to get special engineering to slip into MPE/iX, because the OS is special, unique in a way that protects the 3000. A worldwide Denial of Service threat in 2005 couldn't jump the walls of HP 3000 file systems. Just like there's a paper trail of pencil-plus-paper for balloting in democracies all over the world, the 3000's simplicity protects results.
No matter what the result of the elections today, my country is making a gradual migration into new politicians and new governing. I wish for a future which ensures our assurance about our voting results, using plenty of paper and pencil, antique though they may seem. They may look like tools as old as COBOL, but that kind of classic technology retains a value which innovations must campaign to establish.
November 03, 2008
Connect delivers 21st Century handouts
The collection of this year's HP Technology Forum slide sets arrived in our mailbox this week. Connect, the HP user group, calls the DVD the Conference Proceedings. Back in the days when paper ruled and presentations came out one foil at a time onto overhead projectors, speakers at meetings like the HPTF called these "handouts," a literal term since they handed them to attendees in the room. They were very tough to acquire after the conference.
HP 3000 veterans remember returning from conferences with pounds of paper in their bags, or picking up handsome bound collections of papers of technical talks. It was a disappointment to get a talk which only had a set of slides, but now that's the standard. Without personal notes taken on paper, of course, the value of these presentation slide sets waned with every passing week.
Hewlett-Packard and the user groups who ran these shows had an interim period between paper and electronic files, a conference or two early in the decade when you could print a presentation on demand at the conference. Now these bullets arrive by mail, five months after the conference in this year's case. They're sent on DVD to every Connect user, regardless of attendance at the conference. It's a bonus of a Connect membership that can be had for only $50 yearly.
But the slides arrived in PDF format, rather than the genuine PowerPoint which attendees can download from the Tech Forum site. Sending PDF files via DVD seems pretty 20th Century, considering how many such discs (albeit CDs) the user group Interex mailed after its conferences. Or at some shows, had available for pickup before you left. Time matters here; the five-month gap can be a barrier while trying to make sense of all this PowerPointing from the past.
There is some value in the disc, especially if you're a migrating community member who didn't travel to the Las Vegas show. New concepts such as integrated Lights Out (iLO) management for Integrity servers, environment choices for x86-based HP blades, and ITIL management are among the slide sets. For example, ITIL uses Services as its fundamental coin of the realm, so a good slide (above) helps get the new concept across.
But across 24 years, I've used most technologies to take notes at conferences, and PDF-only slides arriving five months post-conference carry less value to me than taking notes on printed handout slides, old-style. Most 2008 Tech Forum presentations got displayed on a screen, with a promise to make the slide sets available after the show.
Some slides from HPTF have an even more limited distribution than this DVD. HP e3000 expert Alvina Nishimoto offered a pair of presentations at Vegas, but only one made it onto the Proceedings DVD. The migration updates for HP 3000 users are available only from the Tech Forum attendee Web site (and you will need your registration ID and password to get at them). Nishimoto, who remains one of the few lab-trained HP employees to work during 2009 regarding 3000 (migration) matters, appears on the Connect DVD with a "migrate away from the IBM iSeries" slide set.
But the DVD will hold some surprises and a lot of HP-inspired information. For example, the management capabilities of the very dense and infinitely-flexible blade servers came alive in a session on SIM Integrity Management and other tools. If you're an HP 3000 loyalist who doesn't even know what to ask about blade management, this slide set is one way to get a primer on the possibilities. After all, iLO is included with every blade server, although the better parts of the tools are extra.
Then there are HP's pitches on the DVD to steer others onto its servers. We didn't know much about the HP recommended iSeries migration and modernization tools from Infinite Software until we attended the conference. Karim Raad of HP Worldwide Alliances and Nishimoto talk about a solution which will
- Recompile iSeries applications to Windows, Unix or Linux
- Migrate data to Oracle or SQL Server
- Redesign User Interface (UI) with graphical screens, deploy via browser and integrating legacy applications with the enterprise.
- Delegate and redesign reporting functions and implement business analysis using the Business Intelligence (BI) tools
Some of these strategies will sound familiar to HP 3000 customers. At least the 3000 folks haven't been labeled as "companies still using the AS/400 [iSeries] because they don’t know there are other options." It's a little more complicated than that, when you don't bolt for the vendor's newest technology. There must be some value there that HP cannot see. But at least the DVD lets you see HP's view and another migration suite.
There's a delicate balance going on here in protecting a conference's training and education. You don't want to undercut attendance by making much of the meeting's teaching available online. And to be frank, the greatest value members find in Connect is its training, according to the group's own survey. Advocacy barely makes it onto the list. There are few places, outside of a sales meeting for a large customer, where you will see a detailed slide like the one above mapping the solar system of wireless capabilities, now and in the future. It's on the DVD.
But the current state of balance from Connect — while a lot better than today's departed Interex — is running behind other conferences. In 2007, the MacWorld training sessions could be had for couple hundred dollars, video and audio, about 45 days after the show. But this year MacWorld's organizers made a major portion of these materials free, in multimedia QuickTime format, to anyone who was at the show in any capacity, from lowly free expo pass to full-bore registration.
A $50 individual membership is a bargain no matter what you can pull out of it, so the DVD makes joining Connect worthwhile. But perhaps in a year or more the user group can follow the lead of the Mac community and make multimedia — just slides in real time, with audio commentary — available to the full HP community. They can always save the choicest bits of information for a Special Edition DVD. That sells for $149 from MacWorld.
It's okay; we can grow up and accept that paper has become a poor training medium to keep up with the change critical to IT in the 21st Century. Perhaps the DVD potential can take the same kind of leap, to give the only HP North American user conference more virtual reach with spoken words to go with the pictures.