May 29, 2009
Used N-Class 3000s vary in price
A couple of months ago we reported on a re-boot of a migration plan at Washington state community colleges. A 3000 software vendor commented in the story that a used N-Class might be a smarter way to put a modern face on a system than a full migration. The vendor triggered some dispute with a claim about N-Class pricing, however.
John Ryrie of TAG Computing, a UK-based supplier of 3000 utility software, said that the N-Class could be purchased for "as little as $4,000." The claim, which we recently printed in our May 3000 NewsWire, drew this retort from broker Genisys' VP of Sales/Marketing Robert Gordon:
Gordon makes a good point. Prices for the N-Class servers are not uniform at all. The N-Class offer Ryrie mentioned was the lowest price we've ever seen in the broker community for an N-Class. To be sure, there are not anywhere close to 15 machines available at that price.
This doesn't make the $4,000 price a fake, but people who want to stay with the HP 3000 will usually quote the lowest system cost they've ever seen to bolster an argument. The other thing that homesteaders will do — just as 3000 owners have always done — is use a low-ball price to negotiate a better price elsewhere.
Negotiations often carry an uncertain outcome, and pricing for used 3000s remains in a wide range. The N-Class is priced higher than $4,000, sometimes a lot higher. The $4,000 offer was on the very bottom of the N-Class line, if memory serves. Upgrading to this bottom model could be a substantial upgrade from a Series 9x8. Or it could be just a speed bump up to hardware built in the current century, but not much faster.
I don't mean to mislead anyone about how much an N-Class will cost, but those who are shopping and can find such a gem also find the prices vary. Perhaps they vary quite a bit from $4,000, although it's hard to say unless you're ready to purchase. That's usually when the price can be quoted for any available systems. It's standard practice in the used business system market to keep pricing a matter of negotiations, rather than published like the cost of a Blu-Ray DVD player.
But I believe that whatever the price, a comment like Ryrie's helps to promote used 3000 system sales — as an alternative migrations. You will want to watch for the phrase "as little as." That's buyer-beware behavior that works for DVD players as well as HP 3000s.
May 28, 2009
IBM, packaged app to replace 3000 system
Not many HP 3000 migration customers choose IBM's iSeries systems, but the platform notched a convert this month from a 25-year site. GNM Financial Services, a Culver City, California-based services firm, announced plans to replace its HP 3000 and applications with the S2K Enterprise for Distribution suite. The software runs on a low-end iSeries server, a Power 520.
The replacement software rolled in as a result of work by IBM reseller VAI, which released a Customer Relation Management (CRM) system last fall tuned to work with the i Series and its integrated database. IBM has promoted the iSeries as a logical next step for 3000 sites accustomed to the MPE/IMAGE database integration. But few converts have been announced since the IBM efforts began in 2002.
GNM's IT director Pam Tucker, who was a 3000 NewsWire subscriber for a few years after HP announced its 3000 exit, issued a statement for the VAI press release that said the company needed a newer solution with a more comprehensive future. She described their 3000 as "aging." The IBM press inflated that assessment to "archaic." But newer apps to replace aged 3000 software is an old story in this community.
The news in this report is the win for IBM. Sometimes a transfer to Big Blue's integrated business platform results from a selection of an application. Other cases are triggered by a trickle-down from a mother-ship IT shop. Tucker said GNM did a thorough search for replacement software. The reseller reports that GNM wanted a solution designed for the i Series.
"We understood that GNM and Mytel needed a technology solution to replace our aging HP 3000," Tucker said in her statement. The press release added that the new application promises to provide
A modern CRM solution isn't available off the shelf for the HP 3000. Meanwhile, IBM has maintained its support for the i Series even in the face of an AS/400-Unix consolidation of the server line last year. (IBM calls the merged platform the IBM Power System, named after the core POWER chips at the heart of Unix and OS/400 solutions.) GNM describes itself as a supplier to small, independently owned office supply companies. The GNM services include "locating of merchandise; arranging for shipment of merchandise; invoice processing; financing of accounts receivable; collection of accounts receivable, and consumer assistance."
GNM must integrate data from an allied company, Mytel, one which didn't pop up in our NewsWire database. It's possible that IBM or the i Series is already installed at Mytel. We're waiting on a return call from Tucker to learn more about GNM's new migration project, and how the i Series became an important component of a replacement solution.
May 27, 2009
New HP exec forced to focus on servers
A Massachusetts court has ruled that new HP Enterprise Storage and Servers executive David Donatelli can work for Hewlett-Packard. But during his first year, Donatelli will have to focus on the latter part of his organization's solutions. Storage work is out until May of 2010.
That's because Donatelli comes to HP from storage rival EMC, where he signed a non-compete clause promising to forgo employment at any competitor. EMC filed for an injunction to block Donatelli's hiring as soon as it was made public. The suit took three weeks to clear the the Suffolk County Superior Court of Massachusetts. The result is that Donatelli will have lots more focus on less-familiar duties managing server business.
HP revised Donatelli's job title to executive vice president of Enterprise Servers and Networking, rather than executive VP of the larger HP organization ESS. He will report directly to executive vice president of the Technology Solutions Group Ann Livermore until next year, when the court's 1-year ban on storage work is lifted.
HP said in a statement the court order satisfies the vendor, since it didn't see Donatelli's hiring blocked, and he'll have an immediate job running HP's server business. Those operations, which include the HP 3000 alternatives HP-UX, Integrity servers and Windows systems, saw a 29 percent drop in sales during HP's second quarter.
"HP is pleased with the court's recent decision, and looks forward to the contributions Donatelli will make to HP's business."
California courts don't recognize non-compete clauses such as the one Donatelli signed. His lawyer argued that he should be able to move to California and escape his non-compete.
May 26, 2009
Tukwila chip delay slows UX speed promise
Intel announced last week that it's going to run at least nine months late on introducing the latest Tukwila models of the Itanium processor. The delay might put the brakes on purchasing HP Integrity servers until 2010. That will be a slowdown in addition to the one the market is already applying to HP-UX server sales.
HP reported earlier last week — not a great five days for HP's Unix alternative to the 3000 — that Business Critical Server sales have dropped by almost 30 percent against 2008's Q2. (Xeon-based servers did no better.) HP-UX customers might have been waiting for newer Integrity servers powered by Tukwila. Experts agree the Tukwila chips could be twice as fast as the latest Montvale processors.
At today's Intel media event, the vendor was hawking the speed advances of its other, more popular processor, the x86-compatible Xeon family. Intel is talking up the new Nehalem EX versus the current Xeon 7400 chips. Itanium-based solutions such as HP-UX will have to wait until sometime next year for a similar performance boost.
How HP reacts to the Tukwila delay — the chip was postponed in February, then again this month — might be seen in prices for the current Integrity models using Montvale. Given the sales dive and now this extra wait, Montvale-based models could see a healthy discount. Nobody, however, expects HP to announce a skunkworks project to get HP-UX ported for Nehalem/Xeon.
Rather than tout a chip that could revamp power consumption and performance for HP's Unix customers, Intel is boasting today about "the greatest Intel Xeon Performance Leap in History!" A downloadable PDF slide deck from Intel provides such highlights.
That Xeon family, of course, has nothing to do with HP's Unix, instead being the chip of choice for the Windows-migrating customer. Later this summer, AMD is uncapping a six-core "Istanbul" model of its Opteron processor. These announcements and shipments add up to seeing two new Windows powerhouses emerge in a year when the HP-UX Integrity servers will get no processor refresh from Intel.
But there's another way to look at this news for the customer migrating to HP-UX. A migration that's set to go live during 2010 might take advantage of extraordinary hardware pricing on Integrity servers over the next year.
Or, a customer investing in a system to run HP's Unix could have to accept the fact that any migration that goes online before 2011 is likely to get older, more power-hungry processors — which will have been well-tested over more than 18 months of field use.
Lower prices and better testing are both core values for the HP 3000 community. And that's as good a coat of paint as anybody can put on what the IT Web site The Register calls the longest delay in Itanium's history.
May 25, 2009
Get your printed memory of 3000 news
Our latest printed edition of the 3000 NewsWire rolled into the mails last week. Yes, we still do print, every quarter. Some might call it a memorial act to the old school of spreading news. We think of it as a memory device.
Each quarterly issue contains a broad selection of choice 3000 stories from the last 90 days. We also print a catalog of the articles which only appeared online since our last print issue. It's organized by category to make the articles easier to locate online.
You can receive your printed issue for free just by supplying us with your mailing address. Remember mailing addresses?
Here on Memorial Day in the US we're thinking about what we've lost and want to honor. (Along with a good cookout or a ball game.) Printed news is not lost, though. Journalists need print publications to keep offering their vital contributions in the community.
You can sign up to get your print with a simple e-mail to my desk. Have a happy holiday, if you're having one.
May 22, 2009
Developers debate what to learn next
As 3000 experts see their jobs eliminated, or their employers refocus on other platforms, they face a challenge. What should they study next to develop marketable skills? One answer is the transition tools already available in the community for migration. Some of these tools open a new world of learning to the 3000 veteran. They provide an easier way into new concepts, one which is related to existing skills.
Michael Anderson is one of these travelers through that world, having left the Spring, Texas school district to build up his J3K Solutions consulting practice. Anderson holds a contrary view to the accepted wisdom to learn as much as possible about Microsoft products such as .NET. Microsoft will not always hold the market share it's riding today, he says. Linux and open source and the Web, these all press Microsoft to the sidelines more each day.
Instead, he suggests a good place to start, even before open source, are tools like ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software's Eloquence. "Ordina-Denkart's WingSpan, and [creator Alan Yeo's] ScreenJet are both great products.They are both great models for software design. I have not found anything that compares to these that is in reach of the small companies and independent developers."
Anderson says that the caliber of tools like this, not available in the GNU/open source market, could change the future for the community's experts who are now at-large. But the expertise to build such wonders, for no compensation, is not on hand for the 3000 community. Free often falls short of expert.
ScreenJet employs Windows to do its interface transformations, while Eloquence delivers the IMAGE foundations to Linux, HP's Unix and Windows. These software choices earn a special note of commendation from Anderson.
But making the leap from commercial product to open source project, for tools like these — well, that flag flies from the same pole as the belief that bloggers can replace the analysis, resource discovery or concise communication of a dedicated journalist. (You can imagine how little breeze I see lifting that latter flag.) It takes a village to build a world of open source choices. A very savvy village is required to open-source the expertise in Eloquence, ScreenJet or Ordina-Denkart's MPE emulator MPUX. Consultants report that migration work is available using such tools.
Open source emerges from a need to reduce costs and tap a waiting array of expertise. Learning these tools is a better second step for the 3000 expert who wants employment or engagements. While there's lots of Windows in the world, leading a company along that path is not a choice that will deliver a better value in computing. Instead, consider the advice of James Byrne, a manager and developer at former 3000 shop Harte & Lyne Ltd.
May 21, 2009
Solid state drives for HP 3000s?
Drives that don't need to spin? These are the Solid State Drives (SSD), a wad of RAM big enough to act like a traditional (but small) storage device. SSDs are now the talk of the Windows and Linux communities, groups which float like butterflies among the diverse fields of hardware. The HP 3000 has prospects to gain SSDs, too.
A technical leap from SCSI storage devices to cutting-edge hardware would be a life-extender for the 3000 users. One tech wizard who's investigating it certainly has the chops to pull off the leap. Stan Sieler of Allegro Consultants has started tests on the behavior of SSDs. But he has the 3000 and MPE/iX in mind. Sieler created DiskPerf for 3000 users, a powerful utility which must comprehend MPE storage rules to do its performance measurements.
"I'm thinking about SSD and SATA/SCSI adapters to speed up the 'obsolete- but still world's-best business computer, the HP 3000," Sieler said earlier this month. "I'm hoping to do some tests in the near future."
SSDs have a heritage in the PA-RISC generation of 3000s. Early in the 1990s, RAM-based drives were on offer for the community. They were far smaller than the drives of that era (much like the SSDs of today) and cost a king's ransom — which makes them differ from today's prices for such devices in the PC market.
Sieler says that the SATA/SCSI adapters are a crucial part of putting this tech advance on its feet. "Few SSD drives have SCSI interfaces... hence the SATA/SCSI adapter component," he says. "An SSD with a SCSI interface would look completely like an SCSI disk drive."
This kind of design, to mimic the SCSI interface, would permit Sieler to avoid using the SCSI Pass-Through code HP engineered during 2007 for the 3000. The community has heard no reports of how the pass-through works, and HP has said that employing it is "not for the feint of heart." Sieler's heart of MPE/iX experience is strong enough to include work for HP on some MPE/iX modules. But the engineer in him wants to count on his own coding.
The IT news source The Register has examined the prospects and hurdles in SSD use in its Channel blog. The latest Windows 7 is a minimum for the maximum benefit of SSD. "Windows 7 will use SSD speed much, much better than previous versions, and avoid exacerbating SSD problems by excessive random [write] operations," the article notes.
Sieler is among those in the 3000 tech community testing drives such as Intel's 160GB Mainstream units, priced at under $700. Even though there's lots of room for discounting such devices (components cost far less than moving parts), these drives have been popular, even in a down economy. Sieler reported on the speed leaps from his smaller test SSD.
The hard drive has a faster transfer rate (55 MB/sec near the outside, down to 32 MB/sec near the inside), vs. 20.9 (constant) for the SSD. This means that for random reads of less than one MB, the SSD is faster than the hard drive.
Defragmenting SSDs will result in a performance gain, for the same reason as on MPE: The mapping of file offset to disk address is quicker when you have fewer extents, assuming “ordinary” file systems (i.e., not a file system with direct indexing of page offset into an extent table).
May 20, 2009
HP profits fall on flagging sales
Hewlett-Packard announced yesterday that its Q2 of 2009 continued a decline in sales and introduced a drop in profits. Even the company's vaunted printer business took a 23 percent hit in sales compared to the 2008 Q2.
In the Q2 report conference call with analysts, HP announced it will cut an extra 6,400 jobs. These cuts are in addition to the 24,600 jobs HP is eliminating as a result of its EDS acquisition. HP stock dropped 4 percent in today's trading, the first since the report was released.
Services, wrapped around support and the new EDS operations, offered HP its largest bright spot in profits. Services poured in an $8.5 billion quarter for sales, revenue which HP said came right out of the EDS acquisition. Toner and ink "consumable" sales were down in Q2 as well. Ink makes up about a third of HP's profits.
Enterprise Storage and Servers (ESS), the HP group where HP 3000 alternatives grow up and roll out, reported revenue of $3.5 billion, down 28 percent. Not even the Windows-friendly Industry Standard Servers could supply a bright spot; both ISS and the HP-UX Business Critical Systems posted 21 percent sales declines. The ESS blade revenue fell 12 percent as well. ESS operating profits fell by more than 60 percent over the prior-year period.
HP put its best face on the steep quarterly sales decline by touting cash flow, rather than sales or profits. "Disciplined focus on operational efficiencies and execution drove record cash flow,” said CEO Mark Hurd. "Our services business continued to deliver strong profitability with an increased deal pipeline and the EDS integration
tracking ahead of schedule."
Other upbeat news came from the geographic breakdown of sales. The Americas showed a 12 percent increase while the rest of the world's sales fell 10 percent or more. And that Printing and Imaging Group, while posting fewer sales, maintained its operating profit ($1.2 billion) versus last year's Q2.
The overall profitability picture for 2009's first half is not as bleak as the recent results. GAAP profits have fallen 5 percent from last year's Q2 numbers. But every HP business except Services and Finance posted weaker profits than last quarter. And the total earnings before taxes are down 17 percent for the first half of 2009 against last year's numbers.
May 19, 2009
HP, Microsoft ally for unified communication
Our intrepid at-large editor Birket Foster just called to point out a new alliance HP announced at today's Interop conference. The vendor will partner with Microsoft to spend up to $180 million (together) on Unified Communication (UC). If UC is new to the migrating HP 3000 user, HP summarizes it thusly in its press release:
Foster, calling from in front of the HP booth, sounded like he was awash in a wave of excitement. The solution runs, of course, using Microsoft Windows.
HP-UX training arrives free today only
Connect gives a taste of the HP Unix content from the HP Technology Forum & Expo today, a Webcast launching at 1 PM CDT. The conference begins in earnest four weeks from today in Las Vegas, where an expo floor has filled three more open booths since we last checked 10 days ago.
Today's free content is presented by longtime HP-UX expert Bill Hassell. This IT pro has been a fixture on HP user group agendas for more than two decades. I enjoyed sampling a seminar on HP-UX secrets and tips at the 2007 Greater Houston Regional User Group conference. Well worth the time; even those with everyday Unix experience could be seen taking notes and nodding their heads.
Attendance is free for today's "Sneak Peek." Register online with Connect.
In a glitch this morning, the Citrix meeting registration page is bouncing off to an error 404 Web page right after registration. You can rely on the confirmation e-mail for your unique Web address to attend.
Connect says that Hassell, who worked for HP many years ago before founding his own consulting company, will provide admin tips today in the Sneak Peak.
May 18, 2009
One man who's no fan of OpenMPE
I checked in last week with HP 3000 consultant Jim Rogers, who had called us earlier in the year to inquire about a user group meeting in our home state of Texas. While I could only report meetings being held to plan an upcoming meeting in the Houston area, Jim shared his views on what OpenMPE has accomplished for your community.
In his words, not much. There's more than one way to look at what winds the 3000's clock. I find folks with Rogers' point of view regularly in the community. Their opinion usually includes a note of disgust over what's been foisted onto the 3000 customer.
Last week I summarized what's been accomplished for the community off the "Gang of Six" list of requests that OpenMPE assembled in 2004. Rogers wrote up a rebuttal that says whatever's been accomplished is the work of the market, not volunteers. "All of the six items were vendor and market driven," he writes. "I would not attribute any of the items to OpenMPE and their work."
Rogers takes the gang on, one request at a time, making a case that money, not volunteer work, accomplished what you enjoy today. He writes:
2) Enable MPE licenses transfers, upgrade Hardware: This was simply a matter of HP not wanting to end up in court with potentially thousands of customers or previous customers who still had licenses agreements that were tied to HPSUSAN numbers. As for the upgrades, Hardware companies were upgrading systems and putting them under private support rather than pay HP to keep it in line with their Draconian practices, and dropping support. Well that and you could buy better Hardware and Software support from third party companies than from HP's staff, many who would walk onsite never having worked on an actual HP 3000. But a HP-UX is close, so they should be able to figure it out. Spent HUNDREDS of client hours cleaning up after these HP CE's.
3) Allow non HP access to and escrow of MPE. Still coming. And by the time it gets here, all five customers still running MPE will really appreciate it. Though HP did it for MM3000... for the right price.
4) Allow third party creation of a MPE emulator. This has existed for years from a company who has an emulator for VAX. It is a RISC emulator that runs under MPE and doesn't really care about MPE. They were actually testing and got scared away from the entire HP environment by HP and customers who wanted everything for nothing. Talked with this company less than a year after the HP Compaq takeover. They really couldn't understand why HP didn't let them do it like they did the Vax emulation since both owned by HP at that time.
5) Enable third party HP 3000 software support past 2006. Beechglen has been doing it for years. Who needs permission? I had multiple client issues fixed by Beechglen where HP Software support took weeks to get back to me. Standard response was "send in the dump tape". Beechglen worked it until we had a working theory. ALWAYS!
6) Enable availability of all public documentation after 2006. Most of the information you really want is on the hardcore third party vendor sites. The rest can be found in very through India-based support companies doing remote support. They downloaded that stuff long ago.
I'm sure that OpenMPE has been a thorn in HP's side over the years. Badgering for many things. What I dispute is that they made any of these things happen. HP has always responded to money, but kept a good public face to the User Groups. Don't fool yourself. The customer dollars are what drove most of this to happen. Mainly HP milking the HP 3000 market for as long as possible. And they didn't like all the money lost to third party companies doing it better than HP.
May 15, 2009
Google returns to a sound database design
This week we heard about Google's App Engine from ScreenJet's founder Alan Yeo. The free tool in Google Code "is sort of like a distributed computing environment that anyone can use," Yeo said when he called a few days back. "You can create Web applications and use Web-based datastores." Datastores for Google's App Engine use an SQL-like syntax, GQL. "See what database this reminds you of," Yeo asks.
The where clause of select statements can perform >, >=, <, <= operations on one column only. Therefore, only simple where clauses can be constructed. Switching from a relational database to the Datastore requires a paradigm shift for developers when modeling their data.
"I think Google has just re-invented IMAGE," Yeo said.
Google's Web-based guide to the app solution goes on to explain that the Datastore is not relational in the traditional SQL sense, like with DB2, SQL Server or MySQL. "What they've written is almost IMAGE," Yeo said. "You've got detail datasets you can access on a key with a bunch of operators. You can can only access one dataset at a time from the keys. And they've done it for mass volume efficiency."
Most 3000 developers take mass volume efficiency of IMAGE as an article of faith. The efficiency of IMAGE lets nearly-antique processors like PA-RISC 2.0 run even with the latest Itanium chips, given the right database design.
The App Engine datastore is not like a traditional relational database. Data objects, or "entities," have a kind and a set of properties. Queries can retrieve entities of a given kind filtered and sorted by the values of the properties. Property values can be of any of the supported property value types.
"Looks like it's time to dust of those IMAGE skills and get an instant head start on those other developers, who are going to have to learn about network databases from scratch," Yeo told us. "Now if HP had some foresight they could have been sitting on a database structure that could become the backbone data storage model for the Internet."
May 14, 2009
OpenVMS survives, but will it thrive?
When HP canceled its 3000 futures, the company was still acquiring tomorrows for Digital's OpenVMS. The two communities were similar in nature but wildly different in size. HP 3000 installations never reached 100,000 servers, and had declined to under 50,000 by 2001. OpenVMS could count more than 400,000 systems running worldwide that year. These numbers decided much of the future for the two multipurpose computer systems.
But each of these environments runs an OS built by a vendor. MPE's nuances made porting it to Itanium a longer shot to pay back the investment. OpenVMS was the darling of the Digital customer base, so cutting it some slack (in engineering time) to earn Itanium status also earned HP goodwill with Digital's customers. After all, they'd already been acquired in the late '90s by Compaq.
News broke this week about changes to the OpenVMS leadership at Hewlett-Packard. Sue Skonetski, manager of engineering programs for the OpenVMS software engineering group, will be "pursuing new opportunities." She's leaving HP after 15 years as the main advocate of the OpenVMS platform, but her tenure with VMS goes back to Digital founder Ken Olson's days. Imagine a GM like Harry Sterling departing the 3000 world and you get an idea of what OpenVMS is losing.
HP replaces Skonetski with Sujatha Ramani, an HP manager of 11 years "who will assume Sue's
responsibilities including Technical Customer Programs and Communications." HP businesses like OpenVMS have gotten replacements like Sujatha in the past, engineers who earned MBAs but arrived with experience in areas like printers and PCs — not the legacy of work in an environment designed before they graduated grammar school.
The OpenVMS community events in 2008 would remind a 3000 user of any MPE meeting 10 years earlier. Customers worry about their share of HP's attention, while the OS lags behind other HP products in adoption of new technology. OpenVMS now has an 8.3-H1 version to run with the Montvale generation of Itanium chips, and the 8.4 version is likely to be a full year behind HP's support for the power-smart Tukwila generation. (Intel is promising a mid-2009 Tukwila rollout, while 8.4 is coming in mid-2010).
3000 community sources have debated whether Skonetski's departure signals the end of the OpenVMS era, or more accurately, how soon that finale will arrive. A similar advocate exists for HP's Unix community. Sometimes there's no one left in a management tree with the same tenure to assume an evangelist's post. While HP engineering may not take a ding in the OpenVMS shift, this proprietary solution is losing someone to champion it from a perspective of growing up alongside the customers. At least the 3000 never had to weather that kind of separation: from Sterling to Winston Prather to Dave Wilde and finally to Jennie Hou, all had two decades and more of MPE in their blood.
OpenVMS veterans who post to the equivalent of the 3000 mailing list were skeptical and worried about the changes to their platform's top brass. That's the nature of a mailing list poster, someone who's often concerned about any changes the vendor unveils with a bland letter. But while a 3000 shop is considering whether HP's Unix is a safe haven for a migration, the customer would do well to see how OpenVMS fares in HP's plans over the next decade. It remains to be seen if HP learned anything from its disengagement with the 3000 community.
May 13, 2009
User group keeps 3000s in the game
HP 3000 user groups have grown uncommon and small over the past seven years. The demise of regional groups, as well as national organizations like Interex, has almost eliminated face-to-face networking opportunities. The 3000 community is learning to rely on virtual gatherings, but it does miss the chance to break bread and share stories and tips.
But OpenMPE, and to a lesser extent the Greater Houston RUG, remain on the scene. Nobody will mistake their efforts for the 1990s volunteering offered by the 3000 community. HP listened and got to work on requests back then, attending public meetings and speaking up. During 2006-08 HP was in the room among fewer users and saying even less. Doing more with less HP attention, OpenMPE remains a player for the 3000's future.
Users with broad-brush attention still say OpenMPE delivers next to nothing and keeps what it knows to itself. The meeting minutes of the group haven't been updated since November. But the groups' directors have spoken up about their tug of war with HP since last fall. Nobody else stepped up to host the Invent3k public access server when HP shut it down last year. As for what else OpenMPE has accomplished, you need only look at what the group asked HP to take on five years ago. It's a batting average an All Star might envy.
An OpenMPE board with a very different roster proposed a "Gang of Six" essentials to keeping 3000s viable at homesteading companies. (These kinds of 3000s are also in production at migration-bound sites, the ones with a shut-down date beyond 2010.) The list of the six essentials — none of which were in HP's early migration strategy — shows four outright successes, one that's in the hands of third parties, and another that HP's promised for 2011.
That's four hits, one walk and maybe another sacrifice fly (a base plus an out) in baseball terms. Batting .600 is never done on the ball field. The trouble with the stats is that HP gets all the credit, while it's been OpenMPE that's been going to the plate for you.
For the record books, the Gang of Six were
- Remove or publish passwords for MPE-unique system utilities no later than end of 2006.
- Enable MPE license transfers, upgrades and hardware re-configuration (add/upgrade processors) to continue after 2006; for emulator usage, changing user license levels, acquiring used e3000 systems.
- Allow non-HP access to and escrow of MPE source code
- Allow third-party creation of an MPE emulator
- Enable third-party HP e3000 software support after 2006
- Enable availability of all public documentation after 2006
You can tell how long OpenMPE had to work on HP by the "2006" dates in these. HP extended its exit date twice over the long years of conference calls. Number 1, passwords for diagnostics, will be removed sometime after HP exits the 3000 support business. One hit. Number 2 is still in question, but there's been no specifics on how you'll change things like HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME once HP support quits. Call it an out.
Number 4 is underway, once the market ever produces an emulator for the 3000 hardware. Two companies have announced projects. A walk, in baseball terms, an effort that gets the goal on base but doesn't bring it home yet.
Numbers 5 and 6 are clean hits; HP's agreed to release what's needed (with notable exceptions of HP's internal knowledge base and 3000 hardware config docs). That leaves us with Number 3, the 3000's source code, which was the first OpenMPE goal announced in 2002. HP will license read-only copies of the source, or at least as much as HP owns the rights to. Nobody got code to modify or extend or escrow anything. This is the sacrifice fly, to complete the baseball analogy: an out that moves along baserunners. Read-only MPE/iX source is much more than HP intended to share in 2002.
Some community members believe that HP would have done all this without OpenMPE's conference calls. That's as misguided as thinking a pitcher can throw a ball over the wall for a home run. You needed a batter, and for seven years more than 20 volunteers asked hard questions and kept their temper while the answers arrived slowly. Reading the tea leaves of OpenMPE meeting minutes is one way to try to measure what OpenMPE has done for 3000 users over the last seven years. But that measure is like thinking the Farmer's Almanac schedule of sunrises is what lights the eastern sky each morning. The proof is the new light you saw from HP, the prospects for the future that languished in the darkness.
May 12, 2009
HP-UX hardware rises on Itanium adoptions
HP 3000 migrations to Unix trip up on a few fronts, but one hurdle is declining of late. Sales of the Itanium chipsets used in HP's Integrity servers are on the rise, measured both by sales and by percentage of market.
"While the server business is certainly mired in difficult times, the multifaceted community that surrounds Itanium-based systems has special cause for optimism," said Joan Jacobs, president and executive director of the Itanium Solutions Alliance. For more objective markers of Itanium — which must run servers at any site choosing HP-UX — the figures from IDC and Gartner analyst houses back up the claims of the Alliance.
Gartner's report might be most important, stating that in 2008 Itanium machine shipments outgrew RISC-based alternatives. Itanium grew in both sales and shipments, although revenues have not kept the same pace as discounting becomes steep in the non-Windows server world. HP is responsible for most of the Itanium increase. The vendor also has reduced its RISC-based sales to the point where more than 80 percent of HP's non-standard server dollars come from Integrity sales.
This is good news for an HP Unix community that has seen declines in HP's new-customer success, as well as a drop in the HP Unix training at the Connect HP Technology Forum. Selling this Intel-HP solution was not supposed to be this difficult, so the better figures of adoption give HP-UX some breathing room.
IDC pegged the Itanium shipments at an 18 percent rise for the final quarter of 2008. Intel's marketing group in Asia Pacific claims that the processor's business grew while IBM's Power line (the Series p and Series i) fell by 22 percent.
As we've reported before, the fate of the HP-UX alternative to the HP 3000 rests in the good health of Itanium/Integrity. HP has chosen not to port its Unix to any other processor, including the dominant x86 successor Xeon. The vendor is often the first to introduce servers which use the latest in the Itanium family. Intel has queued up it quad-core Tukwila chip as the next-generation 64-bit Itanium processor designed for use in enterprise servers.
The chip maker will now release Tukwila around the middle of this year, Intel officials said. The chip was due for release early this year, but Intel delayed it to add new capabilities to keep the chip in line with future technology advancements.
The Itanium Alliance's statement of good health included notice that high-profile migrations from mainframes are among the sweet spots for Itanium in a world dominated by x86.
"Even as the performance and scalability of x86 architectures make great progress," Jacobs said, "the inherent strengths of Itanium-based technology will continue to prove irreplaceable for mission-critical enterprise workloads, including large-scale databases and data warehousing; for the inevitable migration away from costly mainframes; and for intensive applications that rely on parallel processing, large memories and complicated algorithms."
May 11, 2009
Secure transfers come out of open shell
The Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) is a suite of transfer solutions that's in a transition position for the HP 3000. Enough work has been completed to bring this software into use under MPE/iX.
Donna Hofmeister, an OpenMPE director, has reported that
When Jeff Vance was at HP, he wrote a FTP script that used the Posix program ‘crypt’ to encrypt/decrypt files leaving an MPE system. If the destination system was also MPE, the file would be automatically decrypted upon delivery.
An expert in open source solutions that run on the 3000 says that SCP clients already have logged work on HP 3000s. Server-side SCP components are still in the future, though, for MPE/iX.
Hofmeister added, "I wrote a very simple decryption shell script for Unix/Linux. If someone had a lot of time on their hands and had intimate knowledge of Unix/Linux porting, there’s a remote possibility, I think, of moving this to the 3000. If all that you're looking for is 'push' (from MPE/iX) functionality, sftpput should work for you."
Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies explained the biggest challenge at the moment is finding OpenSSH download sources, since HP pulled the plug on the Invent3k Web server.
SCP (and sftp) clients are available for MPE/iX and work fine on version 7.5. You can contact me if you’d like to discuss how to get a copy of your own. I’ve had extensive experience with the sftp client, and some with the scp client. Both work remarkably well, although there are some ‘quirks’ it helps to be aware of. I’d be happy to discuss those too.
The limitation here is that while files can be put to or retrived from other systems, since only the client is available, the 3000 must originate the transaction. This can make for some process redesigns if your existing applications are used to your 3000 being the ‘server’. And no, jinetd doesn’t need to be running for SCP or sftp to work.
There is a port (although technically not complete) of what is by now a fairly old but still workable version of OpenSSH to MPE/iX. It was done by Ken Hirsh, which he had gratiously made available to the 3000 community via his Invent3k account. Unfortunately, the ‘Invent3k’ community development server that HP had made available some years ago is, like Jazz, no longer online. [OpenMPE has plans to rehost the Invent3k programs.]
I don’t recall what version of MPE was used, but I’ve used the ported software successfully on 7.0 and 7.5. I suspect it’ll work on 6.0 or later, but as yet haven’t tested it myself. His port included the ‘ssh’ command line client, but it had very limited functionality due to technical issues.
It also included the client components sftp and scp, as well as an ‘entropy’ (random number) generator written in Perl. This last piece is necessary because the ‘random’ number functions under MPE/iX aren’t very random. At least, not as far as serious cryptography is concerned. This Perl script (modified by Ken to run on MPE) was originally written by others to get around not having a kernel-based entropy source for their systems either. Poor quality random number generation is not just a MPE/iX issue.
The ‘server’ components (sshd, sftpd, and scpd) were never ported for reasons that Ken could possibly explain. It might have been something as simple as he didn’t need them. From my perspective I’m thankful that Ken did the port in the first place.
I have installed his OpenSSH port many times, and even tightly integrated it with legacy applications. Sftp is still in use many times a day with those applications, and since first installed several years go has safely and securely transferred terabytes of data, with no clear end-date for this application’s life.
I did a presentation on this at the 2008 GHRUG conference. Look at the bottom of the ‘Links & Other Resources’ page at my Web site.
I’m currently in the process of adding even more use of sftp and scp to replace standard FTP in this client’s applications, at the insistence of their PCI auditors -- and so will have more stories to share.
May 08, 2009
Connect promos Tech Forum nonstop to HP-UX users
HP user group Connect is pushing this year's HP Technology Forum & Expo as "the HP-UX Gathering of the Year. But the June 15-18 Tech Forum counts fewer than 30 HP-UX breakout sessions on its current lineup. The 55-exhibitor expo also includes a 27-booth NonStop area, while HP's got more than 25 percent of total booth footage. HP, of course, will work its booth to illuminate the advances of NonStop, Windows and Linux along with HP-UX and so much more.
A check today showed 21 of the 100 exhibit spaces are still unbooked. This is a situation that generates deep discounts for vendors who have waited.
If all that sounds like a declining presence of HP-UX resources, Connect assured prospects this week that HP's Unix will never be covered better than at the HPTF&E. "Some highlights" included
- A Full-day Pre-Conference Seminar June 15: "HP-UX Power Tips and Techniques for System Administrator" (Connect hosts a sneak peek at the seminar this month in a Tuesday, May 19 Webcast)
- An HP-UX track kickoff session with HP's Brian Cox and M.J. Robinson June 16
- 29 breakout sessions dedicated to HP-UX technology
- HP-UX Showcase Demonstrations in the HP booth with access to HP experts
- HP-UX Special Interest Group Meeting
What else can a user migrating to Unix do with four days in the desert in Vegas? Track down attendees with Unix experience, or more likely, Windows expertise. Connect has always said that it books Forum sessions on the measure of how many attended a track last year. This is one of the reasons the HP 3000 has vanished from this year's talks.
Most conferences in 2009 will be smaller. The support of exhibitors -- crucial to a show's success -- is dialed back everywhere, it seems. In the publishing world, for example, major book companies have announced the conference effort is over, or at least pared down.
One of the largest publishing conferences of the year is the Frankfurt Book Fair. CEOs said this October meeting has slipped off schedules. Sterling CEO Marcus Leaver said yesterday, “I’m going to send a very reduced team to Frankfurt. The trade show is over.” The company has taken about $1 million out of its trade show, exhibition and sales conference budget.” Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah eliminated in-person sales conferences entirely as part of a larger revamping to “create the next iteration of business as usual.”
Large or small in the publishing world, companies are reducing travel. Simon & Schuster is "cutting back dramatically.” Now things are much harder in the book world than in IT, but the go for a show is dwindling all over the 2009 calendar.
May 07, 2009
Closed Circuit opens 3000s to market
The lights went out at Circuit City IT operations building last week, part of a bankruptcy action that closed the consumer electronics retailer. The IT building was a Virginia facility that has housed a handful of HP 3000 servers. These recent-vintage units were up for sale by Circuit City's liquidation contractor.
Connie Boyer of the IT group is taking a few months off and might retire, although she says "I can't imagine not doing something technical." It took quick contact to snag one of these fully-licensed HP 3000s at a liquidation price.
In today's challenged economy, closings and bankruptcies have a silver lining in them for the 3000 community. Low-cost systems can become available to the sharp-eyed buyer, ready for use in another enterprise. It's something like reading the obits to look for apartments, but fair game with a bit less mercenary practices.
Within 24 hours of IT closing, the City's servers were already sold. "Three or four HP 3000s are all up for sale now," Boyer said in an e-mail. "I don't know if you have contacted the Circuit City liquidators yet or not, but I would recommend doing it pronto."
Liquid Asset Partners of Grand Rapids, Mich. was named as the liquidators for the company's operational assets including computer systems. The company posted an extensive inventory in March. The computing devices included an Apollo 700 workstation and five racks of XP512 arrays.
Of course, HP's exit from the 3000 market had nothing to do with the failure of Circuit City. Analysts said the company was a victim of the credit crisis. It overheated based on easy money in the boom period, and could not adjust quickly enough when consumers pulled back. It didn't help that the retailer fired 3,400 of its most expensive sales associates and staff in 2007 to cut costs. Consumers said that move erased expertise from the stores, too.
May 06, 2009
HP's XP marches onward into new decade
This week marks a fresh decade for HP's XP, the StorageWorks disk array that Hewlett-Packard has been selling since 1999. From humble beginnings in an XP48 configuration, the storage units have grown to XP12000 arrays. The XP48 could take on 48 devices for up to 3.5 terabytes of storage. The XP12000 now acommodates up to 12 petabytes of storage, or about 3,000 times as much as 1999's XP48.
An HP executive of more than 18 years storage experience recalls this week that HP 3000s were in the earliest target market for the XP devices. But the storage arrays didn't even gain the XP name until storage competitor EMC sued HP. Hewlett-Packard landed on the "XP" years before Microsoft picked those two letters to stamp its latest Windows. The XP arrays are a homesteading solution as an upgrade to existing internal storage, and the latest models can serve multiple operating environments all at once in migration and transition environments.
3000s were one of the first two targets to sell XPs. StorageWorks Marketing Communications Manager Calvin Zito writes in the Around the Storage Block blog on HP's Communities site, "One of my roles was to work with our server divisions--our HP3000 and HP9000--about the coming XP Disk Array. Since HP was reselling [Hitachi's] high-end product, they needed to be in a position to integrate the XP into their offerings."
Zito goes on to comment on a "Five Nines" initiative for the HP9000 group, a clue that these big arrays had more initial targets in HP's Unix enterprise customer sites. But he had his start as an HP 3000 CE in the 1980s before moving into HP marketing and then storage.
The vendor called the XP arrays stress-free in 1999, and bullet-proof in 2006. A fun test followed. HP used 70 pounds of C-4 explosives to blow up an XP12000 array in 2007, along with servers, to show how fast enterprise systems could be switched over to hot sites. But the first explosion for this line was to jettison its initial name, once EMC learned that HP was launching the SureStore E Series MC256. HP reps and partners were calling it the array the Series E MC256.
The two companies parted ways in 1999's summer when EMC ended its resale contract with HP — once HP put its own brand on a competing disk product manufactured by Hitachi. The vendor's relations with EMC have slid to the point where the leader of EMC's storage sector jumped a non-compete clause to join HP, assuming the post of retiring executive Scott Stallard. Stallard led the HP enterprise server business, among other duties.
But the XP arrays have always been a compatible partner with the HP 3000. The latest editions of the devices require a management console which has nothing to do with MPE/iX, but that kind of controller is standard for arrays these days.
May 05, 2009
Buzz begins on low Tech Forum turnout
About six weeks away from this year's HP Technology Forum & Expo, the exhibitor community is fretting about show attendance. A post on Linked In's Connect HP User Group Community, from a VP at security vendor XYPRO, asks of the 2009 attendance "Will it be a record low?"
There's nothing new about the Las Vegas venue for the "HPTF&E," led by Hewlett-Packard experts and Connect user group members with its expo operated by the user group. The show has been in Vegas for the last two outings at the same Mandalay Bay resort hotel on the strip. But the current economy is going to drive down traffic at every meeting, according to Connect's Community Manager Kees den Hartigh.
Going to the HPTF&E is a fruitless journey if you don't have a migration off the 3000 in play. If you're finished that transition there's plenty to learn, at least from HP.
Compelling 2009 content, Connect's manager asserts, provides unmatched value in attending the $1,500 conference.
This kind of whispering about attendance is commonplace in the six weeks leading to a conference. Sometimes it surfaces as a sort of justifying act from a vendor who is considering a pullout. Other times it's dead-on, the unfiltered assay of how many technologists will sit in your row in a session room. People bet with or against the line just like on a craps table.
From the perspective of the press, I found no issues with the meeting's venue in Vegas in 2007 and 2008. I don't gamble, but the hotels can be nice. I had more problems getting into meetings that were not ultra-managed by HP. Both Computerworld and the NewsWire found the customer-heavy forums blocked off our access list. Third party PR reps got that repaired after a wait, but it took awhile for HP's Press/Analyst maven to see the value in our presence among customers. There's those pesky questions we ask, perhaps.
I'll skip the quip about not paying to be in that room and just report the show is on the bubble here in our offices, too. Making contact with HP is almost impossible to avoid at this conference. It's thick with HP managers and experts who reveal things you will struggle to discover anyplace else. You sign a no-disclosure agreement to learn, something we reporters can't do.
"Unfortunately we're getting a lot more 'no we aren't going this year,' " said Lisa Partridge of XYPRO. The VP of the NonStop security vendor added, "Perhaps the sunny side of this unfortunate circumstance is that we'll get some serious quality time with the people that are able to make it." Expect a lot of attention on the expo floor if you're attending.
If your object is to trod the casino halls to sit in rooms with other customers, however, that passenger manifest is still in play. No conference producer can guarantee a good customer turnout. That kind of attendance drives a richer level of networking. If contact with HP is your primary goal, then it's a good bet that being in Vegas next month will be worth your wages to attend.
May 04, 2009
Paper clip enables resets for disks
The HP 3000 was designed for satisfactory remote access, but there are times when the system hardware needs to be in front of you. Such was the case for a system analyst who was adding a disk drive recently to a A-Class HP 3000.
Central to this process is the 3000's Guardian Service Processor (GSP). This portion of the A-Class and N-Class Multifunction IO card gives system managers basic console operations to control the hardware before MPE/iX is booted, as well as providing connectivity to manage the system. Functions supported by the GSP include displaying self-test chassis codes, executing boot commands, and determining installed hardware. (You can also read it as a speedometer for how fact your system is executing.)
The GSP was the answer when Larry Simonsen asked
I need to configure some additional disk drives and I believe reboot the server. The GSP is connected to a IP switch and I have the IP address for it, but it is not responding. I believe I need to enable it from the console. Can this be done from the soft console, using a PC as the console with a console # command?
A paper clip will reset the GSP and enable access, says EchoTech's Craig Lalley.
Lalley added that a GSP reset is an annual maintenance step for him.
I find it is necessary to reset the GSP about once a year. It seems to correlate to when you really need to get access, and you can't get physical access to the box. Good old Murphy's law.
HP's documentation on resetting the GSP for the 900 Series 3000s, remotely through commands, is still online at the HP Web site.
May 01, 2009
HP nabs EMC storage exec as ESS chief
HP named a new top executive to its Enterprise Storage, Servers and Networking group this week, a new hire leading HP's business server group after he left EMC following mandatory pay cuts there in March.
David Donatelli takes the executive VP post at Hewlett-Packard on May 5 after leaving his job as chief of EMC Corporation's storage group. Donatelli, who saw his EMC pay cut by 10 percent in March, takes over for retiring Scott Stallard, an HP veteran of 24 years who oversaw the company's blade server success.
EMC's CEO cut pay for five top executives including Donatelli. HP's CEO Mark Hurd said “I am pleased to have David join the HP leadership team. He will be a key contributor in driving growth and innovation for HP.” Donatelli, who saw a pay cut from $700,000 to $630,000 at EMC, has filed a lawsuit against his former employer to protect his move to HP. EMC filed a suit against him that charges he violates a non-compete clause through his jump to HP.
Donatelli comes to lead HP's server business with significant experience in storage, but little current work in the server segment. The HP enterprise server unit, which develops and sells HP 3000 migration targets such the Integrity server line, posted the largest drop in revenues in the latest quarterly report. Donatelli heads to HP with detailed knowledge of EMC's new server-network-storage alliance with Cisco.
Pay cuts will also commence for HP's top executives this month. The company's numbers in hardware and enterprise products fell sharply in Q1 of 2009. HP reported sales declines in the ESS operations of Business Critical Systems servers (including Integrity systems) of 17 percent, along with a 22 percent drop in Industry Standard Servers (including ProLiants).
HP is hiring a executive to oversee its new BladeSystem Matrix, a combination of servers, storage and networking designed to create virtual computing resources. The blade-based virtual datacenters promise a new level of flexibility in deploying computing power across enterprises.
Donatelli worked at EMC from the company's earliest days, leaving the vendor after 22 years. Stallard announced his retirement last year and leaves HP after 34 years of service. Donatelli reports to HP's executive VP for all computer-related sales Ann Livermore.
“David is an experienced business executive with a track record of driving growth and innovation,” said Livermore. “I look forward to what the team will accomplish under his strategic leadership."