December 31, 2008
Top 2008 Stories: News Outta HP
The company which created the HP 3000 spent many months of 2008 quiet about the product and the 3000 community, until the final quarter of the year. As the deadline for ending HP 3000 lab operations approached, HP opened up opportunities and signaled its shutdowns of 3000 information and expertise. Nothing new will be available before the end of 2010, to the regret of OpenMPE and independent technical 3000 experts.
At the same time, more options showed up to motivate migrations, mostly in the form of new functionality Hewlett-Packard will never bring to its 3000 creations. Connectivity and efficient hardware design led the announcements.
1. HP said it will start negotiations for read-only reference licenses of the MPE/iX source code. The process will be conducted under confidential disclosure so the community won't be able to judge the HP offerings to the top technical experts. The value of source code to the community will be limited to creating workarounds and crafting object-level patches, and only for the community's companies with enough expertise to understand the code. However, new versions of MPE/iX won't be possible under the proposed source license.
2. Key technical information is being withheld in the form of locked-up configuration tools and technical manuals, all of which will remain inside HP even after its 3000 support operations end in two years' time.
3. Beta-test patches are staying inside of HP's support group for at least another two years, giving the general 3000 population no access to test completed 3000 enhancements and fixes. Only support customers will be able to use these patches, or test them, even while there's no development lab to modify any of the patches based on testing reports. But many other patches got their freedom throughout the year.
4. HP closed out its 3000 information presentations at the annual HP user conference with a farewell address at the HP Technology Forum in June. A pair of third parties, MB Foster and Speedware, continued to offer migration advice at the conference, but HP made it clear that it was time to thank the customers still using HP 3000s and move away from Tech Forum 3000 briefings.
5. HP acquired EDS, taking on a group of service and consulting experts as large as Hewlett-Packard itself in a move to make the vendor service-centric. The largest acquisition since HP swallowed Compaq, the deal will re-shape the vendor into a services powerhouse which will have to pare back slow-growing computer operations to keep high-salaried experts in the stable. The vendor announced a 25,000-employee layoff within weeks of finalizing the deal. Feeding the growth needs of EDS will push HP to evaluate products such as HP-UX which are showing minimal growth — if the vendor follows the same standards that pushed HP 3000s to the curb in 2001.
6. HP Support took on the remaining 3000 operations during the year, briefing customers but offering no clue on how much contact the community might expect from support. HP's community liaison to the 3000, business manager and lab experts depart this week. These final 12 months of 2008 included many with no information whatsoever from the vendor, which didn't appear eager to address much but the migration nuances still available to companies leaving the platform.
We're taking the New Year's break off to celebrate the start of the 15th year of 3000 NewsWire fun and independence. We'll be back with a look at what to expect during 2009 with our story of January 5. Have a great R&R break.
December 30, 2008
Top 2008 Stories: Homesteading
The year 2008 delivered changes and insights for the homesteading 3000 community, but it would be easy to label the top homesteading stories as those from HP's brain trust. We'll get to the HP top actions tomorrow, but the major stories for those staying with the 3000 revolve around independence, adoption and initiative. A computer that just completed 35 years of service requires no less.
1. On the task of adoption, as well as independence, OpenMPE took on the duties of software keeper for MPE/iX, housing the Contributed Software Library as well as the binary files for HP 3000 programs and utilities which HP created over the past 15 years. With HP closing its Jazz Web server dedicated to HP 3000 education, white papers and software, a new resource is available at openmpe.org.
2. HP 3000 conferences continued with MPE-specific content at the Greater Houston RUG in March and at the CAMUS ERP conference in August. While neither group has plans for a 2009 in-person event, these organizations showed that people will continue to travel to learn about 3000 administration and strategy, albeit in ever-decreasing numbers.
3. The community completed its fifth year of life since HP ceased building and selling the 3000. By this month, HP 3000 customers — still thousands of them — have spent more time creating an independent infrastructure than the years the community took to adopt Internet and open source tools before HP's Nov. 2001 exit announcement.
4. Small supporters continued to fill out the independent support network for 3000 hardware and software. One-person firms and companies with more than a dozen seasoned 3000 technical experts on hand now serve the majority of HP 3000 sites. From Pivital to Allegro to GSA and beyond, several dozen companies want to help extend the life of the durable server.
5. OpenMPE prodded HP into answers for the end-game operations from the vendor. The group elected new board members in the springtime and spent the fall getting HP to craft policy on how to transfer intellectual assets and essential processes. The final messages will show more work from the OpenMPE advocates, all volunteers who've worked for almost seven years to educate HP about how to leave a marketplace.
6. Technical discussions started among the community about emulation, ranging from ways to adopt non-HP-RISC processors for MPE to moving the operating system's strengths on top of other environments such as Linux. Emulation efforts such as these — which can use volunteers as well as benefit from OpenMPE organization — extend the utility, potential and lifespan for the HP 3000.
December 29, 2008
Top 2008 Stories: Migration
The news and changes of 2008 lay behind us today, even though the year isn't over just yet. But in the quiet week between Christmas and New Year's, let's look at the Top Stories of 2008 to see where your community has traveled. In a few days we'll take a stab at where the 3000 arrow will be headed for 2009.
Let's break this down into three important aspects of community events: Migration, Homesteading and the year's News Outta HP. No matter what your strategy and plans for this year, one or all of these areas held significant developments for 3000 owners, partners and advocates. We'll look over the top six events in each area.
Migration seems the best place to start our review, since it offers more change than either homesteading or HP news. Right at the top of the year's list is the pace of migrations, which maintained its moderation despite HP's end of the year deadlines.
1. Migrations stretched 2006 deadlines, we learned this year, as companies which believed their exits would be finished by '06 found themselves still working on their projects. Even more delay on the migration march took place once the economy hit the brakes. The companies we surveyed identified success with migration from the 3000 to Unix platforms and Windows. But some were hung up waiting on replacement software.
2. Software providers counted on migration business to help support their homesteading stability. From our Q&A interview with MB Foster founder Birket Foster, to the landscape described by Bill Miller of Genesis Total Solutions, to the mix of migration and homestead revenues at STR Software, many companies made their migration efforts a backstop for customers taking a long-term strategy toward transition.
3. Migration companies added support for existing MPE apps to their offerings, especially at Speedware. A deep knowledge of HP 3000 technology was even more important than experience with the target environment, the vendor added while it reported on the success and pace of migration business.
4. Independent vendors kept offering extension technology choices for 3000 sites making a transition. Micro Focus pumped up COBOL with support of Microsoft's Azure Cloud computing and standards support in the year. Eloquence kept turning up in successful migrations where IMAGE compatibility was vital, and the database suite added new features in an 8.0 release. IMAGE and COBOL remain the standard technologies which must be replicated in a many migrations.
5. Migrating sites moved beyond HP-UX, reporting more contact with Windows or non-HP *nix platforms. Windows experts are easier to find than HP's Unix veterans and usually cost less to retain. Oracle and Suprtool tended to steer the community toward HP-UX, but .NET potential and the omnipresence of Windows in the enterprise — and the value in Linux — kept HP-UX migrations in a slight minority.
6. HP user groups consolidated into an alliance called Connect, seeking an impact by gathering in greater numbers of members. Connect served up an online social networking tool to promote the learning around 3000 alternatives such as Unix and Windows. Connect put up its first European conference in November, even while the outlook for in-person meetings grew darker.
Tomorrow we'll look over the top six homesteading stories for 2008, some of which address similar trends as migration developments. The 3000 community has feet placed in both strategies as this year is ending.
December 24, 2008
What the Community Is Doing Now
In less than one day from this morning, much of the world will close up its commercial concerns for a little while. Hanukkah is already upon us, and Christmas is tomorrow. Year-end in the IT business is a quiet time. But there's action in the advent to this period, if you look for it.
Hewlett-Packard has taken leave of action for these two weeks. The company has put on a salaries freeze as deep as anything now gripping North America's weather. The supplier of the alternative solutions for 3000 migrators will be shedding jobs as soon as 2009 begins.
"We believe it is prudent and responsible to reduce costs where possible," the company said in a statement this month. HP will reward "high performing" employees with compensation. The vendor reported record profits for its latest quarter, all while cooking up plans on how to pare down a workforce of more than 320,000. Even IBM's employee roster does not dwarf HP's today.
Employment is a 2009 issue for HP 3000 experts and veterans, too. Dale Pepoon lost his job at Circuit City tending HP 3000s last month. "I am open to contract or full time positions," he told us. "I am currently in transition. I have not been able to locate very many HP 3000 job listings, so I am trying to focus on my analysis and management skills when searching. It would be great to locate a company that is in transition to a new platform and needs the HP 3000 skills, but would be willing to train on the new technology or at least be willing to endure the learning curve."
There's hope for Dale. The largest migration services company in the community said that HP 3000 skills are even more important than experience in the target environment of a migration. He's also wise to emphasize the fundamental skills of managing enterprise IT. HP 3000 pros know much more than just the vitals of MPE/iX.
Circuit City has had its downturns along with the rest of the world's economy, the kind of setback that freezes plans to move away from the HP 3000. Hewlett-Packard, better staffed than any of its customers, finally turned off the HEART system on its HP 3000 cluster this fall. HEART tracked every beat of HP's orders for most of three decades. HP claimed long ago it had switched over every crucial enterprise app to SAP. Perhaps it's more true now than early in the decade, when the claim was made while 3000 Transition began. HEART had outlasted migration attempts for two decades, according to HP insiders.
"Most of you have no idea how big this is," said an HP VP to the internal IT staff in a memo, "so you’ll have to trust this old-timer… it’s HUGE!"
Other HP 3000s were recently turned toward the exits. Robert Mills announced to the 3000 community members this month who read the 3000 newsgroup that Pinnacle Entertainment "went into 'administration,' and I am one of the casualties of the first round of layoffs. I do not see Pinnacle remaining in that state long before they fold. When they do, that means that two HP 3000 979/400s will lose their home." Mills, like some in the community, is working at consulting that relates to the 3000 while looking for a more permanent position.
Unix is on the rise at places like Pinnacle, although it's only a 50-50 chance that it's HP's Unix taking over. Sun's solutions, and even SUSE Linux, are replacing HP 3000s. Oracle is often the platform in such cases, rather than the operating environment.
Meanwhile, Shoreline Community College, West of Seattle, continues to use an HP 3000 for its student information systems. Despite the best attempts of both Amisys and Ecometry/Escalate, both companies will have a significant share of their customers still running 3000s during 2009. Customers are just now considering replacements for systems like Series 937s, computers which were built early in the Clinton Administration. A tiny Integrity 2660 will replace a 937 nicely, and the 2660 is very affordable. The cost resides in moving software and training for Unix.
And since the HP 3000 is a big player in the history of computing, the history movement for the computer is gaining help. After this summer's MPE software history symposium at the Computer History Museum, Paul Raulerson will launch a history project next month, a not-for-profit Web site "funded primarily out of my beer money funds." Raulerson wants to preserve stories from the 3000 community, "and make them available to other people to enjoy and marvel at. The goals will be conservation and preservation of the histories and stories that surround the HP 3000 computer and related items of interest, such as the MPE operating system."
There's more 3000 history to be written in 2009, even as the effort to capture the tales of the past gathers volunteers and momentum. But this time of year is well-suited for reflection and revising of career courses. As well as R&R, of course. We're taking a couple of days off from the blog to reflect on the big stories of this year and enjoy the gifts of family and friends. We'll be back on Monday with our 2008 Top Story list, along with a review of what we predicted for this year and how our forecasts turned out. Have a happy holiday.
December 23, 2008
Where they are now: Robelle founders
Robelle is a household name among vendors and leaders of the HP 3000 community, helping companies remain on the platform "until at least 2016," according to its Web site. Suprtool is also a key component in enabling migrations from MPE/iX to HP-UX. Good tools have a wide scope of functionality.
The company was founded by Bob Green in the late 1970s, and soon afterward joined and bolstered by David Greer. Early in this decade, Greer left Robelle for adventures on a two-year family Mediterranean sailing cruise, while Green took full ownership of the company and kept its offerings abreast of the community's needs, relying on the expertise of developer Neil Armstrong and the support team in the company's Vancouver, BC offices.
Green was at the birth of the HP 3000 inside Hewlett-Packard, writing for the company and documenting the launch team's work. During the 1990s he opened a branch of Robelle on the island of Anguilla in the British West Indies. Bob (at left on that beach) updated us recently on his development workplaces and Robelle's operations. Meanwhile, Greer rejoined the IT world after his sabbatical, taking on management and marketing positions outside the 3000 community.
Green said that island life in the Carribean still floats his boat. "Our permanent residence is still Anguilla. But we also spend time in St. Barths, and during Aug-Sept. we are in Asheville, NC for hurricane season."
While he praised us for keeping the threads of the HP 3000 community alive, Green said that Robelle's business has held on "much later than I ever expected." Armstrong long ago converted Suprtool to run on the HP Integrity servers under HP-UX -- and HP's Alvina Nishimoto said this year that the Unix version of this database tool has prompted many 3000 migrations onto Unix, rather than Windows. The future of Robelle's Qedit programmer development suite looks sound, too.
As for Greer, he's a prolific member of the Linked In online social network, and he just published a management strategy paper called "Thriving Through the Downturn: Eleven Strategies That Will Make Your Company Boom." He served on IT startup boards on his return to the industry, and now is a senior advisor to VanRx Pharmaceuticals and CEO Chris Procyshyn. His Linked In profile states that
David mines his decades of business and entrepreneurial experience to provide advice on corporate development, business plans, product strategy, and financing. He is excited at the potential for the company and its products to dramatically change and improve the manufacturing and production of aseptic drugs.
December 22, 2008
In HP's lee, solo experts keep up 3000s
This morning is the first of a two-week darkness at HP, the holiday time when the company has closed its doors. HP's labs are going dark for 3000 customers for good. It's a time when the independent wizards will rise up to create workarounds for complex problems. The wind of HP's changes for the 3000, even to aid support, has now fallen. The community is on the leeward side of 3000 Island.
Independents keep the breezes moving, though. These support sources can be small in staff. But compared to the number of 3000 lab experts who will work at HP from now on, the solo supporters still out-staff Hewlett-Packard.
Some of the slightly-larger independent companies are making strategic resources available by region, so a solo provider takes on support of clients across an area of a country. Jason Peel, who’s part of The MPE Support Group, said that the 3000’s reliability and stability keep support demands manageable for a single provider.
“I don’t really get that many calls at night,” he said. “It seems like everyplace I walk into now, instead of lights-out, 24x7 operations, it’s no lights on the weekends. After 5 o’clock, most of the [IT operations] people are gone, because the processing just runs.”
Solo supporters like Peel, or John Stephens of Take Care of IT, work on other platforms occasionally. But they report that their 3000 work keeps them busy nearly 100 percent of their available time. Stephens said he’s gotten an MCSE Windows certification, but it’s the 3000 knowledge which keeps him in the IT management business. Much of the work is available because companies have no more 3000 expertise on the payroll.
“More than half of the situations are basically shops where the last known expert on MANMAN on the 3000, for example, has retired,” he said. The one-man IT shop, so common among 3000 customers, lends itself to a solo supporter like Stephens, he explained.
“We have clients that have five people in an IT group, but we have super-small clients who don’t have anybody,” Peel said. “While we were doing a project with one client, we were getting status updates from the senior VP.”
The smaller support providers find ways to support one another in the community as well. Stephens said he’s got backup from another provider, but in the end, “I’m the last man standing. I have colleagues in the business I can ask to keep an eye on things for me. But realistically, month-long European vacations are not in the cards for me anytime soon.”
Vacations and holidays are already underway in Europe, and soon in North America for many IT customers. HP is taking its holiday away from development and sales in this quiet time, too. But it's a permanent holiday for the 3000 labs which back up HP's support from today onward. The virtual lab of allied independents is leaving the doors open and the lights on for the community.
December 19, 2008
Small supporters sprout up
The 3000 community has developed a preference for non-HP support of its systems. But in recent years, even single-manned support companies are keeping HP 3000s in production. The lightly-manned support firms are serving both homesteaders and customers who are working on migrations.
John Stephens, who founded Take Care of IT at the start of the decade, says his company not only takes up HP’s 3000 support work — he rarely sees HP support in a client’s picture.
“I think it was about four years ago,” Stephens said of his contact. “I can’t say I got a lot of help from them.” He counts all sizes of customers among his clientele, including Fujitsu and Schlumberger.
Large or small company size doesn’t matter to a solo supporter like Stephens. “In the actual work, it’s still a 3000, it still has interaction with other boxes and applications. The scale of the company doesn’t really change the scale of the project.”
Smaller vendors have been a big part of the 3000’s success. The most experienced software companies in the community are run at under 20 employees, for the most part. But support in the one-man range has been rare up to now. Gilles Schipper of GSA Associates stood for decades as a low-staff support shop with large clients.
The size of the newer support companies is giving rise to the number of choices for 3000 service. “In addition to the traditional experts,” said Adager’s CEO Rene Woc, “we’ve been seeing some new individuals doing most of the facilities management at some of our customer sites.”
December 18, 2008
Vendor shivvers timbers of user conferences
Apple has torn down the legacy of its annual user conference, axing the vendor's participation in the 25-year-old event after next month's MacWorld and leaving a computer community without a supplier's support for a massive, legendary conference. This event differs from HP's 2005 actions to compete with and hobble the 30-year Interex-HP World meetings. But the conference strategy is similar for these two computing vendors who, in all other matters, couldn't be more different.
The new vendor mecca for conferences is control, and the alternatives revolve around media coverage that is better-read than in the days of printed publications and no Internet.
In-person meetings have become a footnote to both vendors' saga that is shared with customers. Everyone acknowledges that the quality of conferences exceeds the vendor-controlled events and online communication, even down to the most recent social network opportunities. Things are discovered on an expo floor and inside training rooms that can't be replicated in any other way.
Connect formed up this year to keep up its voice with Hewlett-Packard, growing from 10,000 member of Encompass to more than 50,000 when HP Interex Europe and the Tandem/NonStop ITUG groups were allied. HP never did anything so game-changing as Apple ending its participation with a major user group meeting. Apple is known for tossing out the rulebook, though. In the long run, the HP community might see the same kind of departure as Apple's, even from a conference now called the HP Technology Forum & Expo.
At the moment, however, Connect is creating new ways for HP to participate with the community. HP is stepping up, too. But the vendor, just like Apple, will measure its return on the marketing investment from meetings like the HPTF (now held annually in Las Vegas, at HP's behest) as well as the new Community Connect Europe 2008 conference. The Euro event wrapped up last month with just 450 attendees on hand. Connect notes that in addition to 450 people on hand, the event had
More than 30 exhibitors, a dedicated German track, 12 hands-on labs, two stellar keynote presentations, numerous networking receptions, and an Executive Question & Answer Panel session
Mounting and hosting computer conferences is a business getting tougher with every year. Apple's exit shook the community to its bones. Apple CEO Steve Jobs won't even give his famous new product talk in next month's MacWorld, a black turtleneck-clad performance that defined the year for the most ardent Apple customers. Apple believes, according to a statement from PR, that it has so many other ways to reach customers, like the Apple Retail stores that see traffic of 3.5 million customers each year.
But the analysts speculate that Apple was tired of moving mountains to make product announcements in January, the ever-present date for MacWorld. The iPhone, Apple's conversion to Intel, the sexy but underpowered Mac Air — all were events I witnessed, with the buzz on the expo floor afterward set at High Roar.
However, the products were rarely ready at showtime, with delays between three to six months. The publicity was profound from an event that guaranteed headlines and a stock pop — even when, of late, the announcements were a disappointment. Apple wanted to announce on its own schedule, at other venues like its Worldwide Developer Conference or press-analyst events. In short, the vendor wanted control of its message, not needing a community effort to make a splash with big attendance and a wide range of third party rollouts.
Hewlett-Packard had the same aim in its changes to user conference participation, starting with its 2005 HPTF kickoff. The user groups dictated a good share of the content in the new format, but now the Forum was full of confidential disclosure meetings, pep talks on how to sell HP solutions, and scant regard for the marketing quotient of presentations. Interex, even in the days when it cast its lot as the HP World expo, prided itself on talks "marketing free" and conflict between customers and vendor, aired sometimes-politely right out in public.
Apple has set a new standard for a vendor's participation in a conference and expo for its customers. The 2010 pullout makes next month's MacWorld the likely site for quite a wake, although the conference organizers have already vowed to mount a 2010 show, sans-Apple.
The HP community faced this prospect only a few times for much smaller venues. A user organization called SuperGroup attemped a competition with Interex in the late 1980s, but HP stayed away from the SuperGroup floor and the show went nowhere, playing to small crowds for just one year. Hewlett-Packard scaled back its sponsorhip in a big way for the 2005 HP World conference, and Interex couldn't even keep its user group doors open on the reduced booth revenues. There were other problems at Interex, things that Connect and Encompass would never tolerate. Connect is as different from Interex as Apple is from HP.
The lesson and action to be taken by HP community members is to enjoy and utilize the Connect and HPTF meetings while HP supports them. Right now Connect is mounting its membership campaign with profound value. Just $50 gets a one-year membership for an individual. Here at the NewsWire we're members, gaining access to things like the presentations from the Connect Europe conference because of our membership.
As for Apple's exit, it might be a mistake for the top engineering stars, and the growing SMB and enterprise adopters who are helping that corporation grow in new markets. But Apple is killing off a darling in a swift stroke, something which HP 3000 customers will recall.
December 17, 2008
Retired 3000s pose problems of disposal
As companies migrate away from the HP 3000, some are discovering one last task which takes some extra effort to find a solution: How to dispose of a venerable computer asset by using the right salvage resources?
When you want to get that system out of the computer room, where can you take it? Like any computer system, specialized recycling companies need to be called. Christian Schneider of PIR Group has a Series 937 on hand the company hasn't powered up in five years. Disposal of about 75 pounds of computer and terminal is an unsolved issue at the development and integration company.
Schneider also noted that such systems are not lightweight, so shipping them off as a generous donation can require some freight expense.
Let's see, the SCSI SE drive weighs about 50 lbs.The 937LX is probably 20 lbs. The 12-inch terminal and keyboard are nominal. I was going to donate ours to a Chicago historical organization, but they already had one. Scrappers won't take it. The plastic housing is now listed as hazardous material. I was considering using it as a boat anchor, but it would kill the surrounding fish.
To be fair, there are many better options for disposing of an aged 3000 than being a boat anchor. There are scrappers which specialize in used computers. Like in Chicago, where there's Computer Recycling Chicago.com.
Depending on the model of HP 3000, many have value in their spare parts. An owner who's getting rid of a 3000 shouldn't expect much compensation for a system they're selling off for parts. But the operators in the 3000 community who are both selling used systems as well as supporting these servers need a supply of components. How much they need depends on the limitations of available warehouse space.
Governments are beginning to insist on responsible recycling. Purchasing a computer in California now includes a recycling fee built into the sale at retail and consumer spots like Best Buy. But Goodwill Industries' Reconnect takes on many computers, regardless of their working status.
Some vendors such as Apple have begun a free recycling program for systems which are being replaced by newer Apple models. You don't have to get rid of an Apple product, like an enterprise X Server, to use the free Apple service. You just need to buy an Apple product through Apple's Online Store or one of its retail stores. HP is not so generous, charging from $1 to $120 per item for recycling in the United States.
Just don't consider that boat anchor idea as more than a joke. You don't want to be a part of the Buy N Large movement that makes the movie WALL-E storyline a possibility.
December 16, 2008
MPE/iX source reference may help, Adager says
Adager Corporation, the company whose 3000 products are so omnipresent they held a spot on the Hewlett-Packard corporate price list, believes there may be potential in HP's MPE/iX source code offer to the third parties supporting and developing for the 3000 community.
But at this moment — while HP's offer consists of an invitation to negotiate a reference-use-only license agreement for MPE/iX — it's hard to be sure of any source value, said Adager CEO Rene Woc. HP reports that the source for the IMAGE database will be included in a read-only reference license. It's not the first time third parties like Adager have used HP's source.
"We haven't had access to IMAGE source code for a long time, since the MPE V days, but we have a feeling of what would be involved," Woc said. "I think that it all depends on how [the source] is made available. IMAGE is orders of magnitude more complex today, even though it hasn't had development in close to 10 years."
The source code "is probably a security blanket," Woc said. "In that respect, it's good that it will be available, that they're starting to offer some things. We'll have to see what kind of conditions HP will offer in their license agreements."
But having source access though a license will not automatically make a license holder a better provider of products and services, he added. "You cannot assume, even with good source code readers, that the solutions will pop up," he said. "A lot of the problems we see these days are due to interactions between products. So the benefit for the customer would be based more on the troubleshooting skills that an organization can provide."
Adager has built and maintained a reputation for such troubleshooting in the community, becoming the vendor called first, as well as a last resort, when HP 3000 difficulties arise — especially in database and data corruption crises. Many companies maintain a support contract with the company for the value of this troubleshooting as much as for the management power of the Adager software.
"The basic resources [of source] won't make things better by themselves. It's a matter of troubleshooting," Woc said.
The picture at enterprise sites can be complex, including the IMAGE Transaction Manager which is outside of MPE/iX, plus products such as NetBase for system replication which intercept IMAGE calls, then the IMAGE operations inside the database. This configuration is common to reasonably large shops "which have applications that start misbehaving, and then no source code will tell you what the problem is. You have to do a significant amount of troubleshooting first to know in which ballpark to look."
These kinds of support issues might involve multiple ballparks, something Woc says Adager gets involved in on a regular basis. "That's why our customers are happy to remain on their Adager maintenance, even though Adager is the tool to let them repair the database corruption. They actually get the time of people that can if not provide solutions, at least ask questions that eventually help the users find a way around the problem. And in this day and age if you're running one of those 24x7 shops, you're interested in getting your system back online, even if that involves a workaround."
Yes, he said, "source code is important whenever these kinds of organizations have support from HP, which most of them do." But HP engineers can look at source, just as third parties will do, "and the answers won't come instantaneously. In the meantime, you have to get your business back on track, and I think that's what the customer is eventually interested in. it will be nice to have that additional [source code] resource — especially in the sense that it will not be lost to the community."
HP's terms of license are crucial to determining the value of any release of source code, Woc stressed. "They may be too restrictive, to the point where you say that you are better off not knowing, because then I'm free to use all the methods we've worked with while we didn't have source." After getting a license to source, "you might have to prove that you got your knowledge through a difference source than HP's source code. We will see."
December 15, 2008
A generation grows proud of its grey
This month I went to a supper of congratulations to celebrate my advent of becoming a grandfather. My son Nick and his wife Elisha are expecting a baby in July, a mitzvah that will launch a new generation of Seybolds. When I first wrote in this 3000 market, Nick was just a baby of 2. Now he and his bride are having a baby of their own.
I don’t feel like it’s time to get a new job. This one keeps changing enough to remain fascinating and entertaining and enlightening. Change is most of what I’ve reported in this decade. The world of our industry has changed so much since Nick’s birth marked a new generation, the Millennials. Now his world doesn't even marvel at the Web, a word I hear less today as our online lives meld more into real life.
The transformation of communication has helped your community. This season saw an historic election aided by the influence of the Internet, technology that all of you helped to cement into the world of 2008. If not for your long nights over the ENK/ACK debugging, finding the X.25 cloud, planning the networking protocol stack and tuning those Ethernet LANs, I couldn’t check on the vote predictions (remarkably accurate) at fivethirtyeight.com.
Over this weekend, the NewsWire's co-founder Abby helped me celebrate my mom's 83rd birthday. Ginny Seybold has spent about as much time living in Las Vegas as the HP 3000 has spent on HP's non-strategic list, between the system's doghouse status as a non-Windows, non-Unix solution and the Transition Era of more than seven years and counting. Mom tells us she never figured to have a good run well into her middle 80s. Everything ends, but the matter of when is rarely something we know for certain.
It seems like every month there’s a new toy to be launched in a browser, another word that feels more like a throwback to the nascent days of the Internet. After my grandchild arrives next summer, I’ll have old toys that I’ll be eager to share, some like curious slot-car sets and others as redoubtable as Dr. Suess and Goodnight Moon.
Each time I share the news about becoming an expectant grandpa, people ask if it makes me feel old. The happy event has more of an impact of pride, accomplishment, and faith in the persistence and luck of parenthood. People may be asking if you’re feeling old now that HP’s given up on the 3000, a good run of 30-plus years. But HP cannot create the next generation of 3000 use, a time when the vendor will only stand by and watch what will be born.
I believe in the Afterlife, as I call it in another article this month, only because of the Internet. Were it not for the magic of file servers archiving across the planet, free advice delivered in minutes with detail, and the adoption of this technical chariot by your community, you would have declared your 3000s dead long ago. As it is now, the system that proves your accomplishments will go on further than anyone could have imagined in that year of 1984, when Nick was a baby himself. I consider what comes after HP’s 3000 time in 2010 to be a new generation of users, the ones who will toddle and then walk on their own without Hewlett-Packard to hold their hands.
Consider sites like Facebook and Linked In and even Connect’s myCommunity as your cradles in these times of growth — plus the older outposts of newsgroups and mailing lists, and yes, even focused blogs like ours. Out on Linked In, the HP 3000 Community Group is now more than 90 members strong, full of advice and experience and a link to making 3000 skills work in new opportunities. Being older doesn’t become an insult when you’re rebirthing the rules for elder-hood. You gotta grow to gain that grey.
December 12, 2008
HP offers museum pieces
As part of its exit from the 3000 community, Hewlett-Packard pledged to give the Computer History Museum a chunk of the 3000's heritage, from frozen code to hardware that can still heat up a room.
MPE/iX software will become part of HP's donation to the museum in Mountain View, Calif. sometime next year, according to HP's latest update on its end-game decisions about the platform. Museum docent Stan Sieler reports that there are already HP 3000s of varying vintages stashed away in the museum archives, although none are on display for the hundreds of thousands of visitors.
HP intends, but hasn't made a full commitment, to make a donation to the museum "to help preserve the history of the HP 3000 and MPE/iX," said Mike Paivien. The contractor has been brought back to his old HP division to help sort out the final decisions about what HP will leave behind for the community. MPE/iX source code is among the vendor's donations, apparently in a format far different from the one which requires an application for third-party support companies.
"There will be hardware and some level of documentation across the HP 3000 lifespan," Paivinen added. "As with most donations, it's things that are old. We're not necessarily going to try to create a complete view of everything. But we're looking at everythign that we have on hand."
HP still owns HP 3000 systems that are churning out data processing for the company, and the servers are likely to be performing even while the vendor decides what to send off to the museum. But the definition of museum materials can be artistic are well as legendary, and at the least the key components of a legacy.
At this summer's meeting at the History Museum of 3000 software pioneers, one founder of this legacy pointed out what makes the 3000 a distinctive stop on a tour of computing history. "The history of computing is not the history of invention for the 3000," said Doug Meacham, the founder of the Interex user group. "It's the history of people coming together, like at the Denver user group meeting in 1978."
Community made the difference in setting the 3000's place in history, he said. The Denver meeting, less than two years after HP made IMAGE a fundamental part of the HP 3000 systems, featured talks from Adager and Robelle founders on breakthroughs in 3000 data management. The 3000 had three things going for it at first that gave the minicomputer a way to win a place in batch-ridden computer departments. It had IMAGE included, something no other supplier could even imagine. Meacham said "HP knew nothing about software" other than IMAGE, "so there were a lot of openings for third parties."
And the computer had a user group dedicated to it in Interex, one that worked alongside HP to help mature the 3000 into a business workhorse powerful enough to last more than three decades.
December 11, 2008
Medford schools learning to migrate
The Medford, Oregon school district is taking the road away from the HP 3000 and into the .NET path, signing on with UNICON Conversion Technologies to migrate the district's custom applications to Windows servers.
The district (MSD) issued an RFP in July requesting proposals to migrate its in-house developed Student Information System to a native Windows environment -- and the solution needed to avoid using emulation. The apps run today on an HP 3000 N4000/200 across multiple sites within the school district. MSD’s applications are predominantly written in HP COBOL, using VPlus screens and IMAGE databases. UNICON says it got the nod for the work because it will engineer a solution that's all-Windows, according to the company's James Harding.
UNICON was selected over multiple bidders after offering its pure ‘native’ migration solution. This deliverable does not employ the use of system emulation or proprietary middleware; thereby it does not lock MSD into the project vendor after the migration -- a very important consideration for future operations where dependence upon third-party vendors can seriously compromise the stability and ongoing viability of such implementations.
UNICON will be using its in-house developed automated conversion tools to convert the HP COBOL to pure open systems Fujitsu COBOL for .NET and Windows. The tools will also to convert the IMAGE databases to Microsoft SQL-Server.
The migration supplier says there's an uptick in the number of companies which want a solution that's not tied to an environment as proprietary as the one HP's offers in its Unix. "At a time when many HP 3000 users are heavily researching migration options due to HP’s ‘end-of-life’ announcement for the HP 3000 platform, UNICON has seen a dramatic increase in the number of organizations seeking a non-proprietary approach to migration," the company's release said. "In addition, UNICON is no stranger to education, nor is it to state government, having performed many migrations for both sectors over the years.
UNICON will be performing MSD’s conversion at the vendor's main offices in Laguna Hills, California.
December 10, 2008
Testing takes a multiple-level drive
The most exacting part of migration projects does not appear as the code is created to mirror the HP 3000's work in another environment. Migration partners and customers alike report that testing consumes the majority of resource and time in every project. Only when the answers and operations are identical on both systems, measured over a reasonable amount of time, can a migration be considered complete.
Migration testing takes place on eight levels, according to Chris Koppe, the director of marketing at HP Platinum migration partner Speedware. There's Unit Tests, determining if the code runs; functionality, checking the results of the code against a known application; then performance, integration, interfaces, processes, holistic system tests and finally user acceptance.
Speedware finished up work on a migration at Tufts Health Plan this year. The customer took on the bulk of testing because they knew their business logic inside the application best.
“At Tufts they wanted to make sure the application worked, because they wrote it,” Koppe said. In this kind of “lift and shift” migration, no rewriting or packaged applications are employed. A migration customer with this goal simply wants the same level of functionality on a platform that, like Tufts, they can describe as having less risk and more business continuity than an HP 3000.
Technology choices come from the customer, too, but only after they’ve been briefed on the potential of all prospective choices. In the Tufts project, the HMO chose Eloquence as its replacement database for TurboIMAGE, and then worked through multiple deployments of migration drops. For more than six months, the new target database ran in synchronization with the still-functional TurboIMAGE database. The Imaxsoft utility OpenTurbo managed the repeated synchronizations.
Tufts was using NetBase, too, and it was replaced with replication technology inside the Eloquence database. “You have to educate the customers on all of the options,” Koppe said. “We train them in what they choose to use, and they select on the basis of what technology stack they want to live with for the foreseeable future.”
Migration business in the 3000 community still presents a growth period for Speedware during 2009, he said. HP’s announcement of an extended Mature Product Support period in 2009-10 created a lull for the marketplace, but activity is restarting. With a mean time-frame of 15 to 18 months for a migration, companies starting in 2009 may just make the deadline before HP ends its support altogether for the system.
One good motivator for the launch of migrations might be something which Koppe called a human resources map. “You have an aging set of programmers who are managing these systems,” he said. “If companies actually did HR maps, they’d realize that a lot of the people who know how to maintain their legacy systems are up for retirement in the next five to 10 years.”
December 09, 2008
Migration plan increases odds of success
HP 3000 migrations get compared to Y2K projects a lot, according to Speedware’s Chris Koppe. Not only for the complexity and crucial stakes of the multi-year efforts. When a migration project succeeds, users don’t even see a difference.
Koppe, who directs marketing for the e3000 Platinum Migration Partner, said his firm’s services team owns a 100 percent success rate in migrations so far, a period of work and research covering all of HP’s march to the end of its 3000 business. Staying perfect over more than six years boils down to three fundamentals.
“We leverage automated tools almost everywhere,” he said. “The next cornerstone is proven methodology and processes. The last one is resources — and if you don’t have enough deep knowledge of the legacy system, you won’t know what it’s supposed to do on the target platform.”
Speedware completed a migration recently of HP 3000 applications at Tufts Health Plan, an HMO running a mix of COBOL, PowerHouse and three dozen other technologies related to the 3000. At the end of a 30-month period, the HMO had 14 technologies running in concert on HP’s Unix, completed to move one batch and one online 3000 to HP-UX partitions mirroring each other.
Koppe said that Speedware is wrapping up four migration projects for 3000 customers this year. In a project that Tufts extended several times because of internal business reasons, the migration becomes “a non-event” to the company’s users, as invisible as any Y2K project.
The work at Tufts shared elements common to many such projects at a medium-sized 3000 site. A pair of N-Class servers hosted apps written in-house, with extensive utilization of NetBase replication and Omnidex optimization of TurboIMAGE. But the trick to success in these migrations is not mastery of the new technologies as much as melding the new mix. And the complete span of the necessary work doesn’t reveal itself on a first survey.
“We describe these as waterfall projects,” Koppe said, “where you’re not going to know everything that exists up front. You have to plan for a number of issues that will come up, and make sure your timeline has some flexibility in it.” Diving into the Tufts project revealed complex batch schedule dependencies, and “an application jumping between PowerHouse and COBOL at the user interface level.”
Migrations in the 3000 community usually mark a “code drop” as a fundamental milestone, “and the first code drop at Tufts was certainly a challenging one” because of the complexities. But most customers sign up for their share of the challenge to succeed, the portion they know better than any migration service provider: testing.
Speedware unit-tested its code for functionality, “and some customers want us to do all the testing for them. We have a very comprehensive testing workshop we do with the customers. It’s about a 50-50 split in terms of the work, because it’s not just IT people testing. Functional testing might be done by IT people, but user acceptance testing has to be done by the user community. The testing itself is very resource-consuming to an organization.”
December 08, 2008
Connect director slate includes 3000 ally
The Connect user group has offered its slate of directors for posts which start in the coming year. The organization that was created out of Encompass, ITUG and Interex Europe groups wants members to vote on the slate by Dec. 14.
A full profile of the lineup is available at the Connect Web site. The group is naming five directors to fill the board seats that expire at the end of December, and it offers its board of directors as a bundle because this year all three organizations needed representation. This is the first combined board for Connect. So members can vote to accept or reject, but not cast ballots for individual directors.
A face familiar to the 3000 community is among the slate of new directors. Speedware's marketing director Chris Koppe, a veteran of the boards of both Encompass and Interex, is on the track to joining the Connect leadership. Koppe has been instrumental in founding Connect and establishing the HP Technology Forum and Expo as a keystone for Encompass and Connect. He's currently chairing the user group's IT committee.
Connect members have received an e-mail to collect their "accept" or "reject" votes. Joining the group is affordable and a way to have a voice in HP's business decisions for its migration platform products.
A total of 17 people were evaluated by Connect's nominations committee to create the five-director slate. Taking on a volunteer job like this means two years of meetings, decisions and organization, Connect said in its request for member balloting.
Through the nominations process, the Committee determined that each candidate, having demonstrated exemplary dedication and service to the HP user community, is qualified to serve as a director of the organization.
By accepting these nominations, the listed individuals and their employers are making a substantial commitment of both personal and organizational time and resources for the duration of their two-year term.
December 05, 2008
Migrating data made easier
Bill Miller, founder of Genesis Total Solutions, runs his business to serve both homesteading and migrating HP 3000 customers. He's even looking for new business this year and next, by selling his company's suite of financials into HP 3000 sites which are thinking of migration someday but aren't his customers already.
Part of Miller's comfort with both sides of transition comes from his adoption of Eloquence as his database on non-3000 platforms. In a Q&A with him we asked why Oracle, much more of a perceived industry standard, was not as good a choice as the IMAGE-workalike Eloquence. Since the Genesis applications are included inside Ecometry e-commerce installations, we also asked Miller how Ecometry migrations are playing out today.
Since there’s been so much movement from the 3000 to Windows, why not go with a SQL Server database on open systems?
Microsoft SQL is a proprietary database. It just runs on one place. We liked the idea that Eloquence would run on multiple platforms, and it looks just like IMAGE. We had no learning curve to go through. There was almost nothing we had to do to get the Eloquence database done. We were happy with the new features on it, and thus far we haven’t had a single problem with Eloquence.
That was the smartest decision we made, because if I’ve got a Linux, Unix or Windows platform, I’ve got a database that will move. I sell it that way. To me, it’s not an open platform if you’re selling a Windows-only product. That’s a proprietary operating system. We offer an open system and an open database.
Selling an open system helps us with the new clients we have who’ve never heard of an HP 3000. We tell them we’ve got a solution that runs on all sorts of platforms, database included. Windows seems to be the hot product now, but it may not be in the future. Linux may take over one day, or something else.
HP gave the 3000 application vendors their marching orders early in 2002. How long did it take you to migrate?
We did it over a period of a year, but it’s not like we only worked on that migration during that time. We’ve got 10 applications and took our most popular ones and started moving them one at a time, all modular. The first one took an effort while we did our learning. The second was easier, and so on. Finally we were doing a whole application of 50 programs in a week or two, if we had to. The first one probably took us two months to figure out.
The developers doing the migrations — how did their training impact the success?
We knew every line of this code inside and out, tested and true. I’m not going to say there’s never been a bug in GTS software, but the same people who developed it were involved with the migration. That’s why it was clean. Because of the stability of our staff, it means that our stuff is still working after the migration.
Do you think the migration schedule for Ecometry sites is going to step up, now that the vendor says they will drop 3000 app support after 2009?
There is another solution. The Ecometry people are putting a lot of
pressure on their clients to move to other systems during this period.
Some clients are going to leave Ecometry. Some will migrate with
Ecometry to another platform. And some say, “I’m just going to stay
with my 3000, and I don’t care about support. If they don’t want to
support me, I’ll just going to keep using it and do whatever changes I
A guy will say he hasn’t had any changes [to Ecometry] in two years, so why would he want to do it today? But 90 percent of them are either going to leave or migrate with Ecometry. But I think some will either try to support it [on the 3000] themselves, or get some third party to answer questions as situations arise. And I think Ecometry may very well decide they don’t want to lose the money from those customers. They may say they’ll do nothing more than answer questions, and not make another line change of code.
So then you’re in a good position there, being able to support them on the 3000 even if they don’t migrate with Ecometry?
I’ve had one like that already. They’ve told us they like our systems and they’re going to leave Ecometry, and they’ve even looked at another system. Although quite honestly, I’m not encouraging anybody to leave Ecometry.
Are you prepared to support your 3000 customers for as long as they need to stay on the platform?
Sure. If they want to be on the platform for five, 10 years, and they’ve got somebody who can support the equipment, I’ll be glad to take care of our software. That’s because it’s the same code [across all platforms]. We generally compile the stuff and make changes on the 3000, and recompile it and stick it on PC in matter of a few minutes.
Since the changes cross platforms so easily, can new business for you in the 3000 community become a source for a migration opportunity?
I’m looking for 3000 people who will buy into my philosophy of “hey, how’d you like to stick with something you’ve known for years?” We’ll help them customize our stuff to fit their business, and when they’re ready, we’ll move them from the 3000. I’d like to find 3000 customers who are willing to do that. If they are, I’d like to be their supplier.
December 04, 2008
Q&A: Toting Up Transition's Tally
Bill Miller finds solutions that add up for 3000 sites, no matter where a client is headed. The founder of financials app vendor Genesis Total Solutions, Miller has a customer base that is both migrating and homesteading. His firm supports either choice with no end date for staying and no changes required for leaving.
The solution at Genesis was to build a work-alike version of the company’s application and then give the clients a choice to carry them into the future. As a 3000 community veteran of more than 25 years, Miller respects the value in a stable platform, but he’s also founding his future on the opportunity offered by moving to Windows, Unix or Linux.
The Genesis apps run standalone on many 3000 sites, and ever-more industry standard platforms, but they’re also embedded in Escalate Retail’s Ecometry e-commerce applications. This app-within-an-app perspective, bolstered by experience and knowledge of the 3000 customer, gives Miller a profile we couldn’t resist. It’s not easy to find a Founder who’s as facile in the world of open systems as in the homeland of HP 3000 users. We contacted him to tell us how the company has modernized the interface of its 3000 application with ScreenJet, but discovered a story even deeper.
What’s your mix of homestead and migrating sites now, seven years after HP’s pullout announcement?
We probably have at least as many HP 3000 customers, if not more, than we do on open systems. Most people who have the 3000 would just as soon not change. They’ve invested time and money in it and it works, or they’d be using something else.
I think most of our clients are facing the situation that a migration is going to have to be done. They’re looking at their options, but I rarely find someone who’s in a panic to do something about it. What we’ve told them, and the reason they may be going slower than some migrators, is that we’ve already migrated our software over. And with the Eloquence database that we’re using [for migrations], it’s basically a similar database to the one on the 3000, so we can migrate your data. We tell them if they give us a few days, we can migrate programs and data over to an open platform. They say that’s great, they don’t have to worry about it anymore. If they want to migrate next week, or six months from now, or five years from now, fine.
What technologies have you picked to make the transitions easier for you, as well as your customers?
We use ScreenJet, and AcuCOBOL from Micro Focus, and Eloquence. The conversion has been clean. Since we’ve done it and are ready to help them whenever they want, they don’t have to sweat it. We also don’t charge for our migration, other than the new runtime charges now in place. They don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money. If they buy our software one time, they never have to buy it again.
Is migration making business for you on 3000s, since you have the most 3000-like technologies in place?
I had one guy who wasn’t a current customer and wanted to migrate. I told him we’d get him onto our 3000 application and off his custom software. Then you know you’re only a few days off your migration to an open system. We use migration as a selling factor [on 3000s].
How did the migration become simpler for you and your customers?
We made it a policy to stick with vanilla HP choices. Yes, we use an Adager or DBGeneral for database handling, but when it came down to our processes we didn’t use a third party anything, for development or support. We used QUERY that came with the 3000, but the new Eloquence comes with a QUERY [for open systems] just like that one.
So what motivated the choice of ScreenJet in migration and modernization?
We were looking for something as easy to migrate with as we could get. We went with the easiest tool to get us as close as we could to what we were doing before the migration, because we had another issue — we’ve got a lot of clients. We didn’t want to come up with something entirely different that we’d have to retrain them on how to use the system. In all the systems we have migrated, I haven’t had to do one training session.
ScreenJet helped the migration process because we moved our screens over virtually identical to what they were before. I could use the migration tools and set up a screen just the way I wanted, using AcuBench’s ScreenJet conversion tools. I could do it in just a few minutes in some cases. For as many screens as we had over the 10 systems we have, I needed something as easy as possible.
December 03, 2008
Source code can help support rise above HP's
Allegro Consultants is the keystone of the Resource 3000 operation, and Allegro is coming up on its 25th anniversary. That's only a few years less than the HP 3000 has been serving businesses, and Allegro's services now trend toward support of the community, customers using both HP's Unix servers as well as MPE. Allegro is glad for HP's offer of a reference source code license.
"For most of those years, we have been offering premium MPE Operating System support for our customers," president Steve Cooper said of Allegro's mission. "We applaud HP’s efforts discussed in their latest announcement and intend to apply for the privileges offered."
"The availability of source code access will allow us, as support providers and developers of system-level software products, to further improve our ability to provide 'at least as good as HP' products and services to assist customers with their HP e3000 systems."
Cooper points out that anything which HP shares on such a deep technical level will lift independent supporters to a higher level. If your support team has people who can read MPE/iX source, the HP license is bound to help.
This access will further enhance our ability to create binary patches to the operating system, which will make it possible for us to address future needs such as critical bug repairs and security fixes. In addition, it’s possible that new functionality can be provided for things such as interoperability with new peripherals and communications standards.
While many HPe3000 customers have completed their transitions off of the platform, a great many others continue to run their most critical business functions on their trusty MPE/iX systems and will likely continue to do so for many years to come. Whether these customers eventually complete a successful migration or choose to remain on the platform indefinitely, HP’s decision to license the operating system source code should help allay many of their concerns. And as always, we stand committed to supporting them for many years to come.
December 02, 2008
HP lists what it will end this year
HP's announcement of 2009 plans included some subtractions along with the addition of a new source code licensing program. Software providers in the DSPP developer program won't be able to get HP 3000 software from the vendor starting in 2009. The number of DSPP members who only have an MPE/iX membership is few; many more have ongoing memberships for development under HP-UX and Windows. Plainly put, HP won't be shipping free versions of MPE/iX to any developers next year.
Another loss won't be missed much. HP held out the possibility that it would convert HP 9000 servers to HP 3000 systems if the marketplace needed hardware. But after more than two years of making the offer, the vendor said only a couple of customers were looking for A-Class servers and couldn't find what they needed on the used marketplace. HP is ending the potential for 9000-to-3000 conversions, starting immediately. 3000 hardware availability has kept pace with the market's needs.
Another activity is wrapping up as well, but this one might be more missed. The vendor's liaison to the OpenMPE advocacy group will stop. Jeff Bandle, the liaison who replaced Mike Paivinen, is ending his duties. Bandle talked with OpenMPE directors in conference calls every two or three weeks or so. The communication is ceasing because HP's lab efforts for the 3000 are at an end.
The exit of a 3000 liaison is the one development that might hamper a community which remains in transition. HP's support operations would serve the customers well by reaching out to OpenMPE during 2009. The installed base includes interim homesteading customers are well as sites which plan to run 3000 indefinitely -- alongside other HP products and servers.
The vendor didn't list a departing liaison among its decisions of Nov. 25. But the community would be a poorer place today without someone from HP to listen to the challenges of remaining devoted to the vendor's first business server. Bernard Determe of HP's Worldwide Support organization was the last official to communicate with the 3000 community. Determe could build a transition team -- a concept now crucial to change in America -- with a designated employee to hear the voices of HP's customers.
Hardware, software -- both can be replaced or supplied from other sources. An open ear needs an equal place in HP's plans to retain customer satisfaction.
December 01, 2008
Eloquence 8.0 boosts throughput
Marxmeier AG is releasing the 8.0 version of its Eloquence database, but the product’s improvements have already been in use for months. That’s because the vendor has been patiently rolling out the enhancements in patches for the many 7.10 users around the world.
The database continues to win high marks in migrated 3000 sites both small and large. In migrations such as the N-Class powered in-house apps at Tufts Health Plan and Summit’s Spectrum credit union software, this IMAGE work-alike combines a familiar database’s functions with a multi-faceted tool suite for Linux, Unix and Windows. Customers don’t need to change 3000 app designs if Eloquence is the target database in a migration.
The changes in 8.0 embrace a shift in computer architecture since the last major release, said Eloquence’s creator Michael Marxmeier. “When we wrote the last major Eloquence architecture, it was a point in time when the industry had less CPUs, but the emphasis was on faster CPUs every year,” he said.
Existing operating systems of that time had “abysmal threading support, to put it nicely,” Marxmeier said. “We were pretty much forced to write our own.” The 7.10 threading is good enough to run the largest business which uses MPE/iX, he explained, “but it doesn’t use the latest technology to the largest advantage.” Logging has also been redesigned in the database’s 8.0 version.
Renovating the technology to accommodate HP-UX is important to power issues as well as horsepower. “Just because you use more CPU doesn’t necessarily mean you get better performance,” he said of HP’s Unix threading designs. “Sometimes you just heat up the room because it takes more electricity.” Eloquence 8.0 works around HP-UX’s design shortcomings.
The two-year project also adds 64-bit server support as an option. Moving from 32- to 64-bit structures moves the database’s process capacity from 4,000 to 10,000. Some Eloquence customers use more than 3,000 concurrent connections today, and some sites have more than 1,000 active users accessing an Eloquence database. The 64-bit option also simplifies system administration of memory allocation for processors.
Rolling out features like 64 bits and revamped threading in phased-in 7.10 patches “was the best possible outcome for us and our customers, because there was no pressing need to have 8.0 available immediately,” Marxmeier said. The new Eloquence Replication delivers database mirroring functionality. Improvements such as these get better testing from the customer base if they arrive one at a time, he said.
“8.0 is a new release, but it’s not untested among the customers,” Marxmeier said. Customers who maintain a Marxmeier support agreement receive the 8.0 version at no extra charge. The two versions of the database can be run in parallel for existing Eloquence sites, so long as an HP-UX site is up to date with its patches for the operating system.