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January 30, 2009

3000's BIND broken for good, says HP

HP transmitted a Security Bulletin for MPE/iX yesterday. Such a bulletin is a rare thing for the HP 3000, which is often protected by its unique architecture and design. But adopting an open source standard for Domain Name Services (DNS) has cut off the system, now that DNS caches are at risk.

The HP bulletin reports a security breech of BIND/iX, the software that has provided DNS for the 3000 since 1998. HP reports that the DNS cache poisoning of last year is permitted by BIND/iX 9.3.0, which is inside MPE/iX 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5, HP says. (You'll need a login and password to read the text off the HP IT Response Center Web page.)

DNS is not a widely-used service hosted on HP 3000s. When HP rolled BIND/iX out more than 10 years ago, it called DNS “a basic Internet service that’s been lacking from the HP 3000,” and noted that the addition will help sites bypass Unix or Windows systems and create all-3000 intranets.

But even if BIND isn't that important to the community, there's news in the Resolution part of the bulletin, which says,"The resolution is to discontinue the use of BIND/iX and migrate DNS services to another platform." This is as clear a message as any that the HP patch era for the 3000 has ended. Last year HP announced that it would not create any more patches for the 3000, starting in 2009 — not even patches for security risks.

The company is capable of closing this security hole. HP created a patch to fix BIND on HP-UX back in the summertime. By August 8, Unix users could apply a patch to BIND 9.3.2 or BIND 9.2.0.

It's good fortune this time that the DNS services on 3000s are not used much in the community. Despite HP's Internet and Inteoperability endeavors of the late '90s, most customers now devote a Windows or Linux box to this Internet duty. But no HP patch will deliver HP 3000 users from this "bind." And so one part of HP's MPE/iX feature set goes dark, for want of HP patch engineering.

The good news is that BIND came to the HP 3000 through an outside effort. Mark Bixby, the former HP engineer who's now working at QSS, created BIND/iX from open source repositories. HP adopted his work to place in MPE/iX 6.0, to start. Whatever HP has done to secure BIND on HP-UX might be accomplished for BIND/iX by a third party.

Bixby, in fact, counselled the community to get educated about open source tools like BIND when he was still working at HP. Someday HP would stop patching open source portions of MPE/iX. Then it would be up to the community to carry the open source tools forward, just as he did while working as a volunteer to craft BIND/iX. He need the software for his work as a system manager for a California college. The community got a donation of his work.

That same kind of volunteerism is still a possibility for the 3000 community. It might have to begin, however, on an open source module that's more business-critical than BIND.

06:06 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 29, 2009

HP gives ball to third parties

As HP leaves the baseball field that is the 3000 community, it’s handing the ball over at the pitcher’s mound to some well-known, respected or dedicated third parties. These independent companies will dish out what the post-2010 user needs.

HP has been negotiating license agreements for hosting HP-written programs in the Jazz lineup of 3000 utilities, as well as the HP 3000 documentation. The vendor announced that Speedware and Client Systems have become HP licensees of 3000 materials from docs.hp.com and HP’s Jazz content.

Jennie Hou of HP says the vendor only recognizes a customer’s right to personal use of HP’s Jazz programs. HP says it has copyrights associated with HP-created Jazz programs. Re-hosting these Jazz files will require an HP license.

“We are talking to third-party providers that are interested in hosting some of the HP Jazz content on their servers,” she said. “In this scenario, [the content] is no longer a personal download for personal use anymore. Therefore, a license agreement to post this set of information is required, and it is a standard practice.”

In addition to the docs and the Jazz programs, Speedware is also hosting the Web-based migration training classes that have been offered on HP’s sites. HP is working to take the Web classes off the HP site now and expects the transfer to Speedware’s site to take place shortly. HP would like to have no gap between availability on HP’s site and the Speedware site.

HP believes that the Jazz contents will be best served to the community from multiple licensees. “If there are multiple places where our user community can access the HP e3000 materials, I think it’s beneficial to the community,” Hou said. HP does not disclose licensing terms, she added.

But an HP license agreement need not carry a cost. That condition, should it turn out to be part of the Jazz agreement,  would make it more possible for OpenMPE to host HP’s Jazz programs, along with the community-contributed software off Jazz.

Other Jazz, migration and documentation licensees will be announced as agreements are concluded. While HP said that it wants to provide the migration classes to multiple companies, it would not comment on any other companies or organizations it contacted to adopt and host the migration materials. As an example of non-class materials, one such training resource is a MPE-to-Unix command converter lookup program which has been hosted on HP’s site.

The Web-based cross reference utility has been available to any HP 3000 customer at no charge up to now. HP offered those Web-based MPE-to-Unix classes for a fee — but the vendor introduced a coupon, which never expired, that the community used to take the migration classes for free.

10:59 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2009

HP transcribes Jazz, sounds final 3000 notes

Now that the HP 3000 Jazz Web server has been switched off at the HP labs, the dozens of technical white papers and documents created by HP 3000 engineers have gone to live inside other Hewlett-Packard Web sites, mostly in the support organization. HP is providing a guide to track down some of the content by name.

Customers can download a three-page PDF file, which includes live links to docs.hp.com and HP ITRC pages, at the following address:

docs.hp.com/en/15001/IndextoHPe3000-MPEiXContentFormerlyonJazz.pdf

HP was continuing to fine-tune the locations of Jazz documentation and information. Not all of the Jazz papers had an address at HP sites, according to the first release of the map. HP’s Jennie Hou reports that “Transition and Migration: Choosing the Best Tools and Services,” along with a paper on the latest Network Printing enhancement for MPE/iX 7.5, will be getting public access links in an updated version of the map. But most of the papers listed in the current PDF have an active link.

HP said it is negotiating with third parties who want to host some of the Jazz content on independent servers. HP has already negotiated licensing agreements with third parties to host the content. When an agreement is completed, HP will post the information on the new download location to the hp.com/go/e3000 site.

OpenMPE said it has been negotiating the hosting of binary programs which were created by HP’s engineers for use on 3000s. Some of these kinds of programs survived in a gray area: created by engineers before they joined HP, or off of official HP duty. They already reside on servers outside HP, such as Mark Bixby’s www.bixby.org/mark, which hosts the popular patch tracker PatchMan.

HP said its go/e3000 site will also provide the best way to contact HP about 3000 issues if a customer has no HP support agreement, or once the post-2010 period is underway. An e-mail link on that page will send messages to be screened by 3000-trained staffers. However, through 2010 the main contact links for 3000 matters will be HP Support — or in cases of migration questions, HP’s Alvina Nishimoto or an HP customer rep.

HP’s final 3000 advisory concluded with a belief that it has responded to and addressed all of “the HP e3000 end-of-life requests” from the community in recent years. “We hope we have created an environment for customers that need to use their HP e3000 systems beyond 2010” through the programs and processes sparked by requests from OpenMPE and user groups such as Interex and Encompass. As usual, the document ended with the stock disclaimer that “The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.”

The vendor signed off with a wish of “our sincere thanks to our valued customers. HP looks forward to continuing to provide our customers the best-in-class services and the opportunity to serve you with other HP products.”

01:47 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 27, 2009

HP to report on source licensees

Even after the vendor gave the green light to source code licenses for MPE/iX, Hewlett-Packard refused to detail many specifics of what a licensee would receive from HP. At least a list of licensees will be released by mid-2010 for the source code agreements, the vendor now says.

“Given the successful negotiation of agreements with one or more third parties, HP will publish the names of those licensees in the first half of 2010,” it said in a statement on Jan. 22. The source licensees, who will get read-only reference access to some portions of the HP Fundamental Operating System (FOS), IMAGE and other subsystems, will be posted at the www.hp.com/go/e3000 Web page. But only when HP finalizes agreements with the companies.

HP said it hopes to “assist customers in making decisions about how to meet their technical support needs” once HP ends its 3000 support operations.

Even though HP will announce these companies which have negotiated read-only reference use of MPE/iX by mid-2010, the licenses forbid third parties to use the source-level MPE/iX information for support services until January 1, 2011.

The end game for requesting any 3000-related software from HP will arrive even sooner.

Customers won’t be able to order working media for FOS, PowerPatches or a System Load Tape for a 3000 after September 2010, even though the vendor will work to deliver the media to customers on Mature Product Support through the end of 2010. “Processing and delivery time may vary,” HP said in its statement.

09:08 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 26, 2009

Why Emulation Doesn't Compute For Us

[Ed. Note: We asked the 3000 community to tell us if a 3000 hardware emulator, powered by the last release of MPE/iX, would be of any use in the years to come. Many said yes, or perhaps. But one 3000 customer from a Canadian shipping brokerage makes reasoned points for why strapping MPE onto new, faster silicon, plus carrying MPE-based solutions along, is a poor fit. We'll have more emulator responses in our February print edition, and on the blog afterward.]

By James Byrne

Here at Harte Lyne we have two HP 3000 918LX systems, primary and a hot spare at our off-site location. I have read the articles and commentary of last week and, even allowing for my profound dissatisfaction with HP, my reaction to them is “more of the same old-same old... divert, deceive and delay.” We are not considering using an emulator for our HP 3000. This decision is based on three considerations:

One, as pointed out, there is no such emulator. It is more than seven years since the EOL announcement for the HP 3000. If an emulator was going to appear then one reasonably expects that one would be produced by now. Two, HP has demonstrated an intractable institutional resistance to admitting that the HP 3000 was a viable platform despite their own 2001 assessment to the contrary. This has had, and cannot but continue to have, a baleful influence on efforts at cooperation with HP by those producing and intending to use said (non-extant) emulators.

Three, emulation is not enough. The world has moved on considerably since 2001, while MPE/iX has not. Basic FTP and Telnet are inherently insecure and increasingly discarded methods of data transfer. SSL with SHA2 or SHA512 encryption is a de facto, and in many instances a de jure, requirement for business data communication between hosts and even for inter-process communication on unsealed servers. Compiler-driven languages are all but completely replaced in new business application development by interpretive, and processor intensive, virtual machines (IVM) such as Java, PHP, Python, Ruby and so forth.

An MPE/iX emulator, given the OS’s dated capabilities, would be a hard sell for most company’s IT departments, even if it and the license transfer were free. Having to pay for either, and no doubt facing considerable third party fees to transfer licenses like Cognos and such, makes this path a non-starter in all but what can only be a very few extreme cases.

Consider the device that I am using to compose this message, in a browser window. The host I am using has multiple CoreDuo2 64 bit processors with 4 MB of L2 cache and FSB. It has 16 GB of 64-bit memory, 1 TB of disk storage and a DVD RW-RAM multidrive. It is a generic Intel “whitebox” and its total cost was $800 CAD.

It is running a Linux OS, CentOS-5.2, which is FREE. On this device, which also acts as my desktop PC, I am developing the application software that will enable the last of our business systems to migrate off the HP 3000. This project uses PostgreSQL as the DBMS (FREE), NginX high performance httpd (FREE) as the service interface, together with the Ruby programming language (FREE) and the Ruby On Rails ORM framework (FREE) for the application software. We are also using Redmine project management software (FREE) and GiT distributed version control system (FREE) to control and document this project. When deployed it will use the Firefox browser with the xforms plugin as the client software (both FREE).

What would the equivalents of these products cost on an HP 3000? Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousand of dollars? For each separate host? Will any MPE/iX emulator be permitted by HP to run on an open source OS and commodity hardware? Or, will it be constrained to HP-UX on HP 9000s, with commensurate licensing fees for that OS and inflated prices for the hardware to run it?

How can an emulator of an operating system whose entire support structure is rooted in an outdated, and increasingly irrelevant, price per incremental feature marketing philosophy compete with the reality of commodity-priced hardware and open source free software? Whatever its value might have been five or six years ago, in my opinion desire for an MPE/iX emulator is principally driven by sentiment at this point. Sentiment is not a sound basis for making decisions.

I do not agree with HP’s decision to terminate the HP 3000. That said, without a revolutionary overhaul of HP’s marketing, product positioning and pricing with respect to this technology, then the outcome nonetheless would have been the same, the demise of the HP 3000, as will happen to HP-UX and the HP 9000 eventually.

Such a revolution had no chance of happening inside HP. For years, decades, prior to 2001, HP was advised by many, far more knowledgeable and influential than myself, that it was HP’s own internal policies that were strangling the HP 3000. As the song goes, “They would not listen / they’re not listening still / perhaps they never will.”

We no longer employ HP products, save for equipment that we already owned prior to November 2001. HP has taken its own path and we no longer travel in company with it. It is rather doubtful that they will ever notice.

08:50 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2009

Emulating the HP end-game

Emulating HP 3000 systems on non-3000 hardware has cleared a checkpoint. Hewlett-Packard will use its Right To Use (RTU) license to enable the 3000 community to run MPE/iX on non-PA-RISC hardware. The company will also offer a $500 license, for customers who don’t have licensed MPE/iX, to put the 3000’s OS on a system such as an Intel-based high-end server.

HP plans to use its existing Software License Transfer process to move RTU licenses from HP 3000s to non-3000 hardware for emulation. The SLT transfer carries a $400 fee today.

HP says that that platform emulator products  — if any emerge — need to run on “HP licensed products.” These products will provide a new platform to host the environment that runs software designed to operate on an HP 3000.

The vendor hasn't worked out the agreement terms between itself and potential emulation vendors and did not want to discuss what's still in play. HP won't comment on which companies it is negotiating with, either.

HP said it’s been in recent talks with emulator companies — which it would not name — and believes that work is underway to create these emulators. HP’s statements released this week say that any emulator developers, such as SRI or Strobe Data and its partners, “are solely responsible for the emulator products they may develop and market at their discretion.”

HP's language on emulators is available in an FAQ at the company's e3000 Web page, www.hp.com/go/e3000.

The restriction of running an MPE/iX license on a “HP licensed” hardware platform can’t be enforced with any technical checks. HP said it will rely on the integrity of the customers’ practices to keep the emulator licenses limited to use on HP’s licensed products.

“Throughout the history of the 3000 there’s a lot of faith put in customers that they don’t do things that are against licensing agreements,” said Mike Paivinen, the special contractor to HP working on post-2010 issues. “That’s because they conduct themselves in a matter that follows standard business principles.”

The strategy suggests that the emulator licenses will include the “HP licensed products” clause as a method of binding customers to HP’s selected hardware products. This prospect remains unclear, since HP hasn’t negotiated any agreements with emulator companies yet. But the emulator makers might not be bound to check through any software process for “HP licensed products.” Such technical checks don’t keep today’s 3000 users from practices that violate current licenses.

“You’re not supposed to be able to copy MPE from one system to another,” Paivinen said. “Is there anything that in MPE that prevents you from doing that? No. Do customers do that? Some do, but most don’t, because they understand that’s not the practice the license agreements define.”

As long as the licensing terms allow 3000 emulator users to meet business needs, “we don’t expect customers to violate those terms. The MPE/iX RTU license for platform emulators only licenses MPE/iX to run on HP licensed products. The emulator vendors are aware of this licensing policy.”

HP has been providing limited technical assistance to emulator vendors already, but “these vendors are very knowledgeable,” said e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou. “We’ve been working with them for a while now.”

Emulator vendors can also request a MPE/iX source code license. While support companies have been told they cannot use the source before 2011, HP hasn’t yet set the same requirements for potential emulator vendors. Software development would need to follow an accelerated timeline to be ready for use in January, 2011.

Having the source code, Paivinen said, can aid an emulator vendor “because you can see how the operating system is using the hardware and what the source code says the operating system is expecting out of the hardware. That can give you a leg up successfully creating an implementation that meets those needs.”

HP said it answered a technical question from an emulator vendor as recently as the first week of January. HP’s liaison to OpenMPE  Jeff Bandle said the vendor can’t speculate with any accuracy if any of the emulator companies will succeed in creating a product that can establish a market presence.

Bandle said that “we have a lot of experience out there, and some [companies] who have done it, but I don’t know what it takes to make an emulator so it’s hard for me to judge. If they believe it will be a viable business I would think they’d have something out there.”

07:00 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 22, 2009

The HP that won’t go away

Hewlett-Packard has released its final advisories to the community members who will continue using the HP 3000 after HP’s support for the 3000 ends. A trio of HP documents are available today at the vendor's e3000 Web page. While HP's support ends Dec. 31, 2010, there are a few HP services that will continue well beyond that date.

Most important to the community is the CPU and system rescue service, that software-to-hardware blessing which can change HPCPUNAME and HPSUSUAN numbers for replacement 3000s. When a CPU board dies, or a system needs to be updated at a fundamental level, Hewlett-Packard still owns the only software that can transform replacement hardware into your hardware, complete with reinstated numbers that allow third-party programs to run unfettered.

This use of SS_CONFIG (for the system up to 900 Series vintage) or SS_UPDATE (for the ultimate models of 3000s) will cost a customer on a time and materials basis, but HP plans to offer these reconfigurations of stable storage for an undetermined period. The services will be performed by HP Support. No pricing has been announced for this effort that keeps a 3000 running after a failure.

HP now considers its customer communication to the post-2010 community complete. "We at HP believe we have responded to and addressed all of the HP e3000 end-of-life requests our customers and partners have made in recent years," one document states.

The other portion of HP which will touch the 3000 community in perpetuity is licensing operations. Software License Transfers between 3000 systems sold on the used market will still be offered through HP’s SLT organization. This SLT operation serves all of HP’s licensed products, not just the HP 3000.

HP was candid enough to admit that only a portion of its customers will make the effort to have 3000 software licenses transferred in 2011 and beyond. HP made no references to what it could offer in exchange for a complying with license requirements.

Mike Paivinen, the former HP 3000 project manager who’s been brought in to assist with these end-game projects, said customers who have a requirement to operate business on a correct basis will be transferring software licenses.

HP will also provide the MPE/iX RTU license for any 3000 hardware emulators which emerge, although the emulator vendors won’t be issuing certificates. “The emulator vendors can’t distribute MPE/iX RTU licenses, but we expect them to assist the customers with the license purchases if needed,” said Jennie Hou, the outgoing business manager for HP's e3000 operations.

The licenses will cost $500 for any customer who doesn’t have a running MPE/iX system transferred to an emulated hardware platform. Moving licensed MPE/iX through the Software License Transfer (SLT) process to an emulator will incur no charge for the license. However, “if the SLT process is used, while there is no licensing cost incurred, the standard SLT administration fee will apply,” Hou said. HP charges customers a flat $400 fee to move licenses when 3000s are sold.

Finally, HP will continue to recognize the MPE/iX licenses as a valid document, with no end of term, regardless of whether HP still builds, sells or maintains a particular version of MPE/iX or a model of the 3000. These licenses protect intellectual property in perpetuity, HP said — a duration that might describe some of the 3000 lifespans that will go beyond 2010.

There's more online, in brief, about HP's final decisions — the vendor says it believe it's responded to all outstanding issues about using the platform after HP ends its support. We'll have an analysis and more details about the 3000 hardware emulator decisons tomorrow.

12:20 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (3)

Check for HP's announcements today

HP has given us an advisory that it will post new Web pages today about its post-2010 HP 3000 practices. During October and November, the company gave the community notice when these pages went live through messages to the HP 3000 newsgroup and OpenMPE mailing lists.

Hewlett-Packard has been posting these post-2010 communications at the www.hp.com/go/e3000 Web page, usually through a link at the top of the page. These January announcements will be the last of three communications HP promised about end-game issues for the platform. The vendor closed down its lab and development operations for the server on Dec. 31.

Check back with us here later today for a report on what HP has decided.

10:20 AM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 21, 2009

Visa's practices nudge commerce off 3000s

At last week's 2009 National Retail Federation Show, a former 3000 application stalwart poked forward with a new year of e-commerce enhancements, such as processing all transactions as XML exchanges. Ecometry/Escalate was at the show and was "continuing to roll out their merchandising products" at the expo, according to MB Foster's founder Birket Foster, who attended the New York City meet. But while those new Escalate products won't operate on HP 3000s, the most crucial commerce development might be best practices, Visa's new rules that Foster noted in a report after the show.

Visa announced a new set of Payment Acceptance Best Practices last fall, a code of conduct that will be much tougher to accomplish using the HP 3000 version of the Ecometry retail/commerce applications. Existing businesses will be grandfathered in for a time by Visa, Foster said, "but if you wanted to start a new business and wanted to use Visa, you'd have to have software that's doing things BAPB-compliant. You have until July 2010 to have moved [to the new practices]. Given that it takes six to 18 months to move, most of these [Ecometry] people need to start thinking how they're going to move off the 3000."

These customers will find that their HP 3000s won't be certified by Visa in 2010, "and they'll just revoke your license," Foster said. Once again, there's an escape path that involves third parties, as is common in the 3000 community.

"You can outsource your credit card processing to escape the problem," Foster added. Outsourcing raises logistical issues of how to process returns, exchanges and altered credit card transactions, the kinds of details which have been solved by the all-in-one design of Ecometry/3000.

"People who are staying better have their plans together," Foster said, having taken a customer to the show to talk about a transition plan and options. "That's regardless of what industry they're in, but especially if they're in the credit card industry."

09:08 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 20, 2009

Time for inauguration, independence and changes

In the US we're making history today by inaugurating a black President. History has become a major part of your community by now — HP has shuffled all non-support 3000 operations to its history books, customers manage 3000s used only for historic look ups, and volunteers work on a historic transfer of information.

Today might be a good day to rededicate your strategy for HP 3000 ownership. The companies who have migrated still face the enhancement phase of their transition. Moving away from a working, stable platform was sparked by HP and its exit from the market. Asset mangement firm ING Australia moved off its two HP 3000s because of HP's termination of support. ING wants to get more from its suite of applications than a new platform, though.

Homesteaders can be working on aging infrastructure, just as the US needs to do starting today. There are more companies still running HP 3000s than you might imagine. "Many dozens if not hundreds of clients are still on the platform seven years later," reports James Mulcahy, formerly of Ecometry/Escalate, suppliers of e-commerce and retail apps. "They have not made the migration to Windows-based systems."

Meanwhile, the thousands of files of programs, reports and instruction that were hosted on HP's Jazz server are working their way to an independent home at OpenMPE. The free public development server Invent3k is making a transition, too. "OpenMPE is working on making our own Invent3k available," said director Donna Hofmeister this morning.  "Much of Jazz's contents will be available via this system."

Independence is easy to spot in your community. One consultant reported that he downloaded 1.3 GB of programs and information on his own from Jazz before HP switched off its server Dec. 31. HP advised customers to take this kind of independent action when it announced Jazz was going dark.

It's a bright day this morning in Washington, DC, but it's a cold one, too. If it feels chilling to wake up today in the minority of 3000 owners — HP claimed in 2008 that most customers are already migrated — you might take some warmth from the close shoulders of remaining Ecometry customers using 3000s.

"Examples of clients still on the HP 3000 are Northern Safety, American Musical Supply, Galls, Casual Male, and Overton's," said Mulcahy. Some clients that have migrated to Windows, both using Fujitsu NetCOBOL, are Brookstone (using Oracle) and Suresource (using SQL Server).

HP seems to be offering a more stable target for these migrating customers, Mulcahy observes. But Windows still dominates as the destination for new system administration.

"Among the clients that migrated to other platforms while I was still at Ecometry (through 2005), most were moving to Windows," he said. "I can only think of one that went the HP-UX route, Ross-Simons. In fact, [leather goods retailer] Coach was moving to Windows at the same time as Ross-Simons was moving to HP-UX. I was in R&D at the time and specialized in porting between the platforms. Windows systems were the nightmares. The HP-UX rendition [of Ecometry] was remarkably more stable."

We'll have more tomorrow on the latest motivations to migrate away from 3000-based Ecometry, even as these dozens-to-hundreds of companies remain tight and stable running MPE/iX. 2009 is a year for serious, crucial and critical work for your community. Changes have already arrived, and more are on the way. Inaugurate a year of sustaining or migrating action, if you have not already, starting today.

12:00 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2009

Re-connect with Connect renewal

An HP 3000 customer finds fewer user group choices in this era. In addition to a host of regional HP groups, Interex operated for three decades before self-destructing in the shadow of a new HP Technology Forum conference. The VMS group Encompass took HP's offer to organize the content of the new Forum — with HP's steady influence — and then the user group took the reins of the Joiners and Meeters among the 3000 world.

Demos Then last summer Encompass allied with two other user groups to form Connect. The aim was to increase membership ranks, and with that increase hold HP's attention. That's a hard mission to proclaim as accomplished. It's easier to see how the Connect spirit started a new Euro conference last fall and revamped its Web site. As you can see from the form at left, there's still a way to show your 3000 colors to the Connect online community.

This week I got my membership renewal notice for Connect, perhaps like some other HP 3000 members who earned a free year of membership by attending the November 2007 Community Meet by the Bay. Encompass gave a free year to every attendee. Midway through my year, the group had created a social networking experience as part of new Web focus.

As a way of staying in touch with experts who know target platforms and technologies for migration, joining Connect seems like a good strategy for me. You might find that you want technical content from the group, too. There's a discount to attend the annual Tech Forum and some other benefits of membership. But in an era when more people than ever network online, you might judge the value of Connect in its Web pages.

That's one of the things which makes the renewal notice an anachronism. Even from the Web site, you must fill out a Word document and fax it to the Connect offices to remain a member. (Perhaps because the form holds a space for credit card information.) It's a minor point, perhaps, when you consider that the membership is only $50 a year. But an online renewal seems more in style with a mission of connection.

PeopleWMPE I've checked; there are people inside of the Connect online community with HP 3000 experience, if not current jobs related to the system. Joining the community lets you establish a profile, and one of the tick-boxes is MPE. You get a map of those with similar interests, as shown at left. When I remove the people who have ticked MPE as an interest, you can see their absence in the map underneath.

PeopleWithoutMPE Connect membership is unlikely to deliver much 3000 detailed content. But people in the group have left or are leaving the 3000, and what they know might help a migrating customer. The Connect group is still working on creating dynamics in the online social networking community. It's a long process for such a focused group of people: IT professionals. Group president Nina Buik posted her 2009 goals in her blog on the site.

I look forward to making our social media site a robust and thriving center of HP content and member interactivity, and I want us to be ‘in the black’ and profitable at the end of '09.

Connect's challenges come from serving such a diverse community. A vendor-focused community like Apple's customers is easier to assemble than trying to create a coalition of members using six operating systems, three hardware architectures, and a range of HP experience from "I manage our Windows networks" to "I lead a software company with my two decades of industry background." This is a big tent that these user groups have created.

Some members acknowledge as much on the six blogs you can read on the site. One share of the Connect mix is the NonStop (Tandem) users. One of their bloggers, Richard Buckle, Goldengate Software, said refining Connect's focus is a priority for this year. Buckle said in a lengthy blog post (outside of the Connect site) that he wondered if "big tent" events were worthwhile these days. Later he commented on the diversity of interests.

I do believe we need to take a good hard look at the best options for all community stakeholders, and to continue to fine-tune our organization to best reflect all of our interests.

$50 is a small amount of money compared to what you might spend at a coffee shop over a week or two. Connect is worth at least that much, and maybe more if you want a spot under that ever-spreading user group tent which is HP's.

07:54 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 16, 2009

Emulation reclaims its time

PA-RISC-clock It's been seven years since HP announced there would be no faster 3000s. Early in the transition era the homesteading advocates in the community pumped up the ideal of an emulator, hardware that would make up for the 3000s which HP would be stripping out of its product lineup. At the time the talk served little more purpose than to give the homesteaders a cause to rally around. The new generation of 3000s was twice as fast as the Series 900 predecessors, fast enough for a good while.

But more than 80 months have passed and computing power requirements have rolled upward. The market learned that the newer generation of 3000s was better connected and faster, but few in number. HP's late delivery of the N-Class and A-Class hampered production. If you needed a faster 3000 than the top-end 900 Series, you hunted for N-Class servers that customers were returning once they migrated.

Now the climate and demand has changed for faster 3000 compute power, but there's no relief from HP on the horizon. Staying with MPE/iX solutions means a customer needs to keep planning for more connectivity and speed. An emulator that can leverage the latest Intel chip designs, rather than flog the familiar PA-RISC architectures of HP, might find a market by next year.

Why next year, rather than, say, 2004? The used 3000s of five years ago ran fast enough to replace MPE/iX systems and justify the investment. Now only a rare, 4-way N-Class offers that kind of power leap. And there's nothing built upon PA-RISC that can network and integrate like an Intel-based server. The irony of that reality is not lost on the 3000 customer, who saw the Intel/HP generation of 3000 first promised, then denied to the community.

Back in the first years of transition the OpenMPE meetings revolved around assembling an emulator coalition. Nobody could make a market out of selling such a product, the community reasoned, if they had to compete with one another.

In time, however, grabbing control of MPE/iX and its prospects overtook emulation on the OpenMPE issues list. Source code licensing was on the list of six key needs for a homesteading community. The challenge was unlike emulation in one significant way: HP held all the cards for the MPE/iX project. PA-RISC, however, was once a hardware standard promoted to the community. HP called the group the Precision RISC Organization and tried to get major hardware makers to adopt the architecture. As a consequence, the specifics of PA-RISC internals are not the top secret that MPE/iX has always been.

Emulator vendors need MPE/iX expertise to make a product of any use to the 3000 market. That's why the likes of Allegro Consultants has been among many discussions of emulators. The consultants there are the hands-down most experienced in PA-RISC, and some have written modules of MPE/iX.

In recent months, the deeper thinkers of the 3000 community have kicked around what a 3000-on-Intel MPE/iX would need to deliver the 3000's business advantages. Roy Brown, a developer of more than 30 years on the platform, said this in October:

The paradigm here must be the PA-RISC machine’s HP 3000 Compatibility Mode (even if HP can’t spell it properly), which let users of Classic systems port them, at the binary level and with the absolute minimum of change, often none, to PA-RISC.

For an MPEmulator to attract existing HP 3000 business users, it must aspire to that level of compatibility, and even if the underlying processes handle things quite differently, the goal must be that every invocation of an openly documented MPE process is accepted, and produces effectively the same results as it would have on a real HP3000.

An emulator vendor can take advantage of what's been built to emulate PA-RISC to make a two-step 3000 emulation product. First, the product must boot up a Linux distro to demonstrate its capabilities. Then a seasoned MPE/iX development team must test the hardware design with MPE/iX tasks to give it HP 3000  capabilities.

The rising tide of value in a 2010 emulator will be interconnectivity. HP will take no more steps to link advanced storage devices and networking protocols to HP 3000s. We're heard no reports of anybody using the SCSI Pass Through driver, one of the last lab projects finished for the 3000, to connect bigger and faster drives to the 3000. But a honking-big Intel-based server which already has those connections ready can deliver more than horsepower to a 3000 homesteader. That kind of emulator delivers the future. With the economy in a stall and migration plans stretched out in some places, selling an emulator to extend a 3000's life looks like a better offer than it did seven years ago.

08:31 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 15, 2009

Contributed tool spools 3000 output to Word

Michael Anderson, one of the independent support providers and contract developers in the 3000 community, posed a question: How can you get the 3000's spooler output into shape for use in Microsoft Word?

There's an answer among the third party tools, yes; Hillary Software’s product, ByRequest. The product will pick up spoolfiles from the HP 3000 and convert them into Word or Excel format. But what if your 3000 budget is as tamped down as the stock market? You'd be looking for something created by the community.

Dave Powell has your answer. He's built a command file called hp2rtf, tapping the Rich Text Format that's a little-used but powerful bridge for Word document exchange.

Powell recently said

My “hp2rtf” command file will convert spool-file reports that aren’t too fancy into rich text format on the HP 3000 side. Then you can FTP or e-mail to almost any machine with any semi-civilized word processor. Rich-text support is pretty universal. It converts HP page breaks, and more, and has a parameter for font size, which defaults to a size that will let you fit 132 columns on a  page in landscape mode.

You can get hptrtf from Powell by e-mailing him. The software is another candidate for finding a home on that community software server that OpenMPE is assembling.

08:34 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 14, 2009

Future reconfigs at issue in end-game

Sept 06 HP roadmap It's the middle of January and the final update from Hewlett-Packard about the 3000 end-game is due. Regardless of how much help a source code license might provide, customers are going to need something more crucial to keep 3000s running in the period beyond the end of the PowerPoint chart at left. HP showed off the chart in the fall of 2006, and the vendor seems certain to cut off its 3000 operations by the end of 2010.

For many 3000 owners, HP's exit from the support legions has little impact. We estimate that a majority of the long-term users of the system are already signed on and happy with their third-party providers, many of whom have deeper knowledge of most issues than the HP support staff which is now the steward of all things 3000 at HP.

There's one tool, however, that HP has withheld from its post 2010 release: The software to reconfigure HP 3000 CPUs and system boards. In the event of a fry-out or similar disaster, or just an upgrade, the legitimate HP software will need to be available to the customers in 2011. Not just homesteaders, either, but the migration sites still moving off the platform.

ScreenJet's Alan Yeo put it succinctly: This kind of change to HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN numbers needs to remain on HP's price list, regardless of what the vendor wants to charge.

It's a big question for HP to address whenever it finishes off its communications with the user base. This month's message will be the last from what's left of the 3000 division/labs.

Yeo said:

The big issue isn’t the source code. It's the stable storage HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME issue. Until I hear how HP intends to address how people can get these changed post-2010, I won’t believe they are serious about helping customers until these customers eventually migrate. I personally don’t care if it's still a service that HP provides, or if they subcontract it. I don’t even care if it costs $500, $1,000 or $2,000 — if someone is broken and they need it, “they need it,” and it’s then something that you could tell people to budget for, just in case.

03:27 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 13, 2009

Micro Focus takes new step into computing clouds

COBOL vendor Micro Focus announced that it supports the Amazon Web Service Elastic Compute Cloud Platform. Micro Focus calls the support Enterprise Cloud Services, and it said the support continues a "cloud agnostic strategy" for COBOL apps.

This strategy allows customers to choose how and when they want certain applications to reach the cloud. Micro Focus previously announced support for Microsoft’s Azure Platform and will continue to partner with key cloud vendors to maximize customer choice.

Amazon's EC2 platform is another means to implement a cloud computing infrastructure, a solution that can save money on implementation. Micro Focus said being "cloud agnostic" could save millions as cloud adoption grows. Cloud support is a function that homesteading HP 3000 sites can't access through a COBOL suite.

Micro Focus said its new services "require zero rewriting of code, saving customers millions of dollars in comparison to alternative options." The services use an enterprise’s existing encryption keys to secure mission critical data while in motion (over the network), or while stored on persistent cloud storage.

Micro Focus CTO Mark Haynie said the cloud services provide a means to stay inside leaner budgets in the year to come. "“To innovate in today’s tough economic climate, enterprises must embrace flexibility and cost effective modernization strategies. We will be alongside every customer as they navigate the cloud with tighter IT budgets and an increased focus on fast results.”

09:59 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 12, 2009

Reasons to delay a migration

The economy's swoon has had an effect on spending everywhere. IT is no exception, and the impact manifests itself in scheduling and milestones. A project which was going to take 18 months is revised for twice as long, or a start date is pushed back by a year to use funds from a different and more robust fiscal period.

The good news is that a delay in a migration might not be such a bad idea, when you consider the value proposition. So long as that HP 3000 is still working well enough, then Micheal Anderson of J3K Solutions, another single-expert solutions and support provider, has made a case for later rather than sooner.

Anderson has been working on migrations for 3000 sites. But right away is not the right schedule for everybody, he said.

You could benefit from waiting to migrate if you are not dependent on a Application Software Vendor and all is running well, using third-party hardware and OS software support. Some argue that by saying; “The longer you wait, the less likely it will be to find the expertise to do your migration.” I think there will be less expensive solutions available down the road; Independent contractors like myself will most likely be able to do things with less overhead; and maybe even develop user friendly inexpensive software that will do most of the migration for you. I’ve already developed some of these tools for my own tool bag (aka Flash Memory) — they’re just not user-friendly right now.

Anderson has worked on a COBOL/View/IMAGE migration to HP-UX using AcuCobol, SP2 thin-client, and Eloquence. Given his own choices, rather than those of the customer's, he'd prefer Linux/Fujitsu COBOL, SP2 and Eloquence with supporting/optional technologies like C, Java, PHP, Perl, and MySQL.

The reasons for his personal choices lie in adhering to independence. "Migration plans should include applications built on technology that will run on any hardware, operating system, database, and one that will be available for decades to come. Look at technology that stands on its own, technology that can’t be taken out by one choice from one company."

His technology choices, once you do proceed to migration:

1. Posix/Unix type operating systems (Linux).
2. Hardware that is high quality and generic enough to be updated easily without needing to repurchase the entire machine.
3. Databases like Postgres, MySQL,  Oracle and Eloquence that will run on most anything.
4. Compilers/Languages: C will be around forever, but not a first choice for application coding. For applications, COBOL still fits into the “Run on any hardware, and will not be taken out” category. Java also is a great choice for new development. I would not rely on any of the “Visual” languages because they seem to tie you to one Integrated Development Environment.
5. The IDE should also be language independent and OS independent.

 

07:11 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 09, 2009

Alliances alter mindsets about Mac

All across a MacWorld that even the New York Times described as strange, I saw an unusual trend on the expo floor. Dozens of companies were offering products that could only be used by businesses.

No fewer than 10 suppliers offered RAID or networked attached storage solutions. Backups into clouds and offsite storage even came from Iron Mountain, a company pretty well known for serving Unix and Windows customers. Iron Mountain arrived here in San Francisco for the show with its first Mac OS agent for its encrypted backup and data retrieval software.

IntlMail And not a single supplier of mobile computing has the breadth of apps that Apple's solution offers. CRM pushed down to a phone with expert synchronization has emerged on a device with an Apple on its face. Yes, the iPhone. Postage and shipping options included a solution (at left) that prints labels ready for overseas shipments, so a mailroom staffer could skip the post office lines.

An alliance of a half-dozen companies pulled together in one 40-foot booth to sell administration and system management, backup, virtualization and more. One of the companies' VPs said he hoped that next year's conference would include some segregation, because he wanted a business section of the show floor to make contact with enterprise customers and medium-sized businesses.

In the HP marketplace, and in the 3000 community in particular, the Mac and its Unix-based OS may never escape the "not-Windows" ghetto where it lives, courtesy of outdated views. Apple is the company which makes billions off of music and phones. But on the other hand, HP makes billions selling ink and cameras and even flat-screen TVs. What makes a vendor a serious choice for serious business computing is the selection and standards available. Migration candidates in the 3000 market would do well to come here next January and see business exposed. Perhaps not directly alongside the booths selling iPhone cases, though.

Windows interfaces were easy to find on iMac screens out here. VMWare is getting serious competition from Parallels for virtualization solutions, and both companies have enterprise-grade products in their suites along with desktop offerings. Most of the larger vendors have been in the Windows business along with Mac sales for more than four years by now.

People say that the Mac architecture has been a closed environment, but it's more open than Windows, because the Mach kernel of Unix is underneath OS X. Managers say its much easier to find Windows-trained staff than Mac-savvy pros, but the range of Mac-trained IT workers is growing faster than Unix experts. Apple has been adding millions of business-ready systems to the market every year, along with all of those phones. Neither HP or IBM can say as much about their Unix businesses, which have been treading water in market share for some time.

In the beginning of the HP 3000's lifespan, choosing the Hewlett-Packard product as a business computer was a rogue move. As the saying went, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Apple is a similar kind of business choice today as the HP 3000 was in the late 1970s, a marketplace -- and an expo hall -- filling up with the third party suppliers serving companies like Rand and Nike. Forward thinking, early adopting enterprises, looking for a wedge into that "ubiquitous computing" HP dreamed of back in the 1990s. You could be one of those companies, thinking different, and your story could be "We're going to migrate to Unix."

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

January 08, 2009

Keep up with the 3000, and Vladimir

From our "Where Are They Now?" series

Vladimir Volokh has maintained his pace of travel through the HP 3000 community, even as this legend of the computer's software field turns 70 this year. The founder of VEsoft called to remind us that the HP 3000's date intrinsics will outlast those in Unix, so long as a program uses HPCALENDAR — correcting a detail he spotted in our printed 3000 NewsWire issue from November.

This month Vladimir will start his 30th year of travels through his base of customers. He carries printed copies of the NewsWire on the regular maintenance consulting which remains the backbone of his business life. He loves to visit a site for a single day of instruction, repair and maintenance of the 3000 and its administrators. January will find him on the road to North and South Carolina for three weeks.

Logfiles are his latest target for cleanup. "Either they always have too many of them, or they have too little. The customers never know what they log, or how to read them. I would say they lose millions of sectors of space to logfiles, but nobody looks at them, so they don't know." But last month, for the first time, Vladimir found an HP 3000 which didn't have any logfiles. Logfiles are useful for 3000s, especially to assist in security. And it's difficult to erase all of them. But as the saying goes, you can make a system foolproof, but not-idiot proof.

"They managed to screw up the system so the last file was shut, so even it couldn't have a logfile," he explained. He laughed, because his visit helped the customer understand and employ logfiles. "After 30 years I am still enjoying it, because there is one single way to do it right, but there are a hundred ways to do it wrong. With every visit I say, 'What now?' I asked them, what's worse than not having any log files? Not noticing it."

Like a patient professor, Vladimir makes the day of his visit entertaining and enlightening. Because the HP 3000 has not changed much over the past decade, he finds many of the same oversights and blind spots in administration and management, peppered with surprises like zero logfiles.

11:36 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2009

Apple community grows Unix alternative

 IWorkMacsThis was the month that Apple left its community to accomplish the work. At this year's MacWorld Apple talked very little about its hardware and operating environment. For a conference that VP Philip Schiller said was "all about the Mac," not much was revealed about hardware or the operating environment, those things that make up the heart and soul of a computer. The news at this annual show from the vendor revolved around software suites called iLife and iWork, as well as the cost of music and a new laptop. It was the first MacWorld without a Steve Jobs address in 10 years, and the lack of dazzle could be felt and found all through the halls and the media reports.

But just because the vendor here is focused on other business opportunity doesn't mean the Mac world isn't growing its enterprise abilities. Apple's attitude toward enterprise Mac use has been a lot like HP's approach to using 3000s through the 1990s. "We know the customers use our products for these classic business needs, but we're more involved in products that touch millions." Consumer is the siren call, both then and now. You could have said it about HP as it pursued the PC business during the late '90s, or about Apple today, shining its light on games and mobile applications that can run on millions of iPhones.

Meanwhile, back in the deeper reaches of the Moscone Center, Apple's third parties serve the needs of business owners and large organizations using the Mac. It's easy to forget that under its skin, the Mac OS is Unix, the same base environment HP promotes for business users. You get a peek at that Big User community when you see something like Network Attached Storage vendors offering complete RAID 5 implementations. Promise Technology rolls out a new NAS unit with 4 TB of RAID storage for $700 here, and one of the two major implementations is for site backups.

The other side of the Promise user base is media producers and consumers. At a HP trade show you wouldn't find a 50-inch flatscreen running a movie delivered off a 4-bay Direct Attached Storage unit. Product manager Billy Harrison said the company was proud to have solved the challenge of showing video at speeds that match the movie-in-a-theatre experience.

So is MacWorld for music and movie freaks, or admins who need to steward a corporation's licenses and configurations across dozens to hundreds of client systems? It's both, but Apple's gaming and media focus and phone-pumping message just shows the vendor can only embrace one kind of customer at a circus like this one.

There are business tools a-plenty out on this floor. Ipevo, the communication device arm of Skype, showed off new Skype phones and conference call devices — right alongside a pair of 5x7 digital displays which use your Mac to fetch photos and news headlines and blog updates, so you can keep up with information without stretching open another browser window. There's a Wireless Digital Frame, the Kaleido R7, that updates itself with RSS feeds from Web sites. Ipevo has been behind the scenes at Skype, but when the company rolls out a USB digital display for Internet Widgets -- a device that pushes data without interrupting workflow on the desktop client -- it expands the concept of tools a company needs to make its users productive.

The expo floor here bristles with offerings to promote the iPod and now the iPhone. HP takes space at MacWorld to tout its printer offerings. But there's also a company in the small developer mini-booths, Widget Press, offering ModelBaker. It builds Web, iPhone, iPod and Google Android applications with minimal programming skills required. ModelBaker takes the back-end app data of an enterprise and gives it a conduit to the most mobile of computers, the iPhone. Years ago companies experimented with tablet computers as a way to empower sales forces. Widgets on iPhones and Android phones prove that concept, using the fastest growing mobile devices in the industry, handheld phones.

HP makes it clear to the 3000 customer that relying on MPE/iX is, in the vendor's opinion, not a viable option compared to the riches of Unix or Windows. Maybe HP is correct in a way the vendor doesn't intend, like Apple is correct to make this conference the last one it will attend. Marketplaces and communities have visions that grow beyond a vendor's intentions. If Unix is good, why not a Unix with a polished interface and programs as powerful as The Casper Suite from JAMF Software to manage Mac clients: Patch mangement, software distribution, settings and licensing management tools?

07:16 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 06, 2009

Who's to mind the CALENDAR?

Last year we took note of the HPCALENDAR intrinsic and its ability to create accurate timestamps for decades to come on the HP 3000. The intrinsic isn't new, though, even though HP advised its customers in November to begin using it on HP 3000s.

No, HPCALENDAR harks back to version 5.5 of MPE/iX. Its power lies in the 3000 for use by programmers who want accurate dates beyond 2038 for application files. But the operating system itself? It continues to use the old CALENDAR intrinsic, which only gives an accurate timestamp to 2027.

Is it foolish to be considering the timestamping ability of a 3000 some 19 years into the future? HP must have thought so while it made technical decisions for this system over the past seven years, knowing the vendor would step out of the 3000 community. You see, HPCALENDAR was never integrated into the operating system itself.

Now, with the 3000's development labs closed down, the community can wonder who'll keep the calendar functions up to date for MPE/iX.

Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh called to update us on the CALENDAR mistake, based on an error we made in our November printed issue. Although I carefully reproduced all of the HP technical details about using HPCALENDAR, a "display quote" on the page didn't get the facts correct"

The newer intrinsic extends the 3000's date accuracy for more than 30 years beyond 2008. 2038 will be the last year to accurately store timestamps.

Actually, it's Unix that's going to lose the ability to store timestamps accurately by 2038. Volokh explained that since HPCALENDAR uses 23 bits to store timestamps, there are 8.3 million places to store a date. If only HPCALENDAR had been wired into MPE/iX, instead of just available for application programmers to use as an intrinsic.

08:00 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2009

Stories to expect in 2009

Many of us in the 3000 community are adjusting calendars today. Jan. 5 might be your first day back at work, whether that's in an office with a company or returning to your independent desk in whatever room you designate at a workplace. With 2009 already upon us, and a journalist's penchant for looking ahead, I'll make a stab at predicting some trends and developments our the new year.

HP keeps a toehold in the community. It seems logical to imagine that HP announces an ongoing licensing facility for MPE/iX. Even though the vendor's support operations will cease in less than two years, companies will continue to need to revive CPU boards in the event of failures. HP won't let SS_UPDATE (for the newer 3000s) or SS_CONFIG into the third party supporters' shops.

An emulator for PA-RISC goes into a beta test. SRI, based in Switzerland and a producer of Digital emulators, has had a project in play since 2004. Strobe Data, based in the US, has also announced a emulator project. 2009, perhaps late in the year, might be a likely target date to start gathering field test data. An emulator becomes important to any customer who needs 3000 horsepower increases or support (via Intel host CPUs) for peripheral or networking stack elements.

Just a few more, as a tease into this year's calendar.

Connect mounts its largest conference for HP users. Not exactly a real leap to imagine a new Connect event, since the HP Technology Forum and Expo is already moving toward its June date. But with three allied organizations now promoting a single North American conference, the number of exhibitors and attendees should surpass the 2008 figures. Trade shows might be off the radar for the younger generation of IT professionals, who'd prefer a good Internet experience for social and professional networking. But the Boomer Generation of IT pros are used to face-to-face community building.

A majority of migrations shift from code-drop phase to testing. Not by a significant margin, but by the end of 2009 the community should see more migration sites doing testing on reworked, lift-and-shift code rather than the actual programming and tool selection. Migrations are subject to business demands rather than HP support timetables, but a lot of migrating sites are now serious about tooling up and coding in the new year.

Third parties become the driving force for the community. With HP's lab closed down, there's little for the vendor to introduce or influence among 3000 owners, regardless of homestead or migration strategy. We won't predict another extension of HP support, because the vendor will study its business closely before deciding how many MPE/iX experts to retain. Headcount has got to come down in HP by 25,000 jobs through 2009 and 2010. It will be harder than ever to keep 3000 expertise inside HP when most of these pros are in the upper echelon of HP's salary schedule.

By third parties, I mean the migration companies and support staffs for a firm already serving HP 3000 customers, whether the company is focused on moving sites away from MPE/iX or keeping production running through support.

Market pressures of a recession will test the resolve of maintenance contracts. I'm not predicting a bad year for business in the 15-percent-yearly maintenance fee operations of software suppliers — but customers are going to plead budget cuts when the renewal notices go out to bolster the 3000 software stalwarts.

Staying in touch with a network takes more effort, but yields new rewards. The economy is going to send people to new employers, out on their own, or searching for jobs in other fields. If you have an expert or an ally or a colleague in this community, 2009 will be a good year to employ the monthly tickler e-mail to them. The year will also make surprising opportunities for hiring and alliances when companies downsize, outsource or go dark. Money in the world has gone into hibernation in CDs and savings and long-term bonds, but retirement is an option even further away as a result of the declines of last fall. That knowledge can't sit on the sidelines like all the money.

If you ever wanted to work alongside somebody you've admired, or go into partnership, 2009 should be a good year to propose something new. Keep in touch, do good work, and be well.

12:07 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 02, 2009

Emulation reclaims its time

PA-RISC-clock It's been seven years since HP announced there would be no faster 3000s. Early in the transition era the homesteading advocates in the community pumped up the ideal of an emulator, hardware that would make up for the 3000s which HP would be stripping out of its product lineup. At the time the talk served little more purpose than to give the homesteaders a cause to rally around. The new generation of 3000s was twice as fast as the Series 900 predecessors, fast enough for a good while.

But more than 80 months have passed and computing power requirements have rolled upward. The market learned that the newer generation of 3000s was better connected and faster, but few in number. HP's late delivery of the N-Class and A-Class hampered production. If you needed a faster 3000 than the top-end 900 Series, you hunted for N-Class servers that customers were returning once they migrated.

Now the climate and demand has changed for faster 3000 compute power, but there's no relief from HP on the horizon. Staying with MPE/iX solutions means a customer needs to keep planning for more connectivity and speed. An emulator that can leverage the latest Intel chip designs, rather than flog the familiar PA-RISC architectures of HP, might find a market by next year.

Why next year, rather than, say, 2004? The used 3000s of five years ago ran fast enough to replace MPE/iX systems and justify the investment. Now only a rare, 4-way N-Class offers that kind of power leap. And there's nothing built upon PA-RISC that can network and integrate like an Intel-based server. The irony of that reality is not lost on the 3000 customer, who saw the Intel/HP generation of 3000 first promised, then denied to the community.

Back in the first years of transition the OpenMPE meetings revolved around assembling an emulator coalition. Nobody could make a market out of selling such a product, the community reasoned, if they had to compete with one another.

In time, however, grabbing control of MPE/iX and its prospects overtook emulation on the OpenMPE issues list. Source code licensing was on the list of six key needs for a homesteading community. The challenge was unlike emulation in one significant way: HP held all the cards for the MPE/iX project. PA-RISC, however, was once a hardware standard promoted to the community. HP called the group the Precision RISC Organization and tried to get major hardware makers to adopt the architecture. As a consequence, the specifics of PA-RISC internals are not the top secret that MPE/iX has always been.

Emulator vendors need MPE/iX expertise to make a product of any use to the 3000 market. That's why the likes of Allegro Consultants has been among many discussions of emulators. The consultants there are the hands-down most experienced in PA-RISC, and some have written modules of MPE/iX.

In recent months, the deeper thinkers of the 3000 community have kicked around what a 3000-on-Intel MPE/iX would need to deliver the 3000's business advantages. Roy Brown, a developer of more than 30 years on the platform, said this in October:

The paradigm here must be the PA-RISC machine’s HP 3000 Compatibility Mode (even if HP can’t spell it properly), which let users of Classic systems port them, at the binary level and with the absolute minimum of change, often none, to PA-RISC.

For an MPEmulator to attract existing HP 3000 business users, it must aspire to that level of compatibility, and even if the underlying processes handle things quite differently, the goal must be that every invocation of an openly documented MPE process is accepted, and produces effectively the same results as it would have on a real HP3000.

An emulator vendor can take advantage of what's been built to emulate PA-RISC to make a two-step 3000 emulation product. First, the product must boot up a Linux distro to demonstrate its capabilities. Then a seasoned MPE/iX development team must test the hardware design with MPE/iX tasks to give it HP 3000  capabilities.

The rising tide of value in a 2010 emulator will be interconnectivity. HP will take no more steps to link advanced storage devices and networking protocols to HP 3000s. We're heard no reports of anybody using the SCSI Pass Through driver, one of the last lab projects finished for the 3000, to connect bigger and faster drives to the 3000. But a honking-big Intel-based server which already has those connections ready can deliver more than horsepower to a 3000 homesteader. That kind of emulator delivers the future. With the economy in a stall and migration plans stretched out in some places, selling an emulator to extend a 3000's life looks like a better offer than it did seven years ago.

06:30 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)