September 30, 2009
Reading Potential in the 3000 SectorNewsWire Q&A
Lalley has been active in the HP 3000 community for over 25 years, and he's worked on every model of the HP 3000 from the Series III to the largest N-Class servers. For more than a decade he was the senior technical support manager at Stone Container in Chicago, managing 60 HP 3000s around the country. When not busy reading memory dumps, he is busy chauffeuring his five children, who are not socially-deprived homeschoolers.
Lalley also consults on performance enhancement for business systems that go beyond 3000 installations. He's managed migrations as an outsourced resource and even maintains a replacement system for a company that hired him to help move off its HP 3000.
In his work as a veteran who both expands and replaces 3000s, Lalley sees the full scope of the transition choices your community faces today. We asked him to talk about the technology to extend homesteading as well as the realities of moving away from the 3000. We traded email for our interview in August, just after his return from a cross-country family vacation, during the week of the Twitter and Facebook outages.
What technology offers the biggest opportunity to improve the performance and value of an HP 3000 today?
For those considering homesteading on an HP 3000, the single best way to increase performance and reliability is to add a high-speed RAID array. The VA7410 will allow 2*2Gb per second fibre connections. The VA is rated at 45,000 IOs per second, which is well above the limits of an N-Class 750 4-way system.
Another option, given that a discontinued HP 3000 is relatively inexpensive, is to buy a second HP 3000 for reporting reasons. A second HP 3000 would make it possible to offload the reporting aspects of the system, thus reducing the load on the primary computer. Of course, the costs of licensing the software may make this option unavailable. A second 3000 could also be used for parts.
Are the 3000s built with PCI peripheral architecture capable of using more modern disk and backup storage? How do they compare?
Yes, the A-Class and N-Class products using the PCI bus are capable of 2Gb per second fiber connections. Compared the 2Gb/sec to the sustained throughput of 20Mb/sec on the NIO bus (9x9, 9x8 and 9x7 systems), the performance improvement is drastic.
How does the mix of 3000 and non-3000 consulting work shake out for you this year? Are there clients who engage you for both?
Clearly the HP 3000 user base is disintegrating. At the same time, there are quite a few companies that have not even started a migration.
I believe the main reason for the lack of those migrations is that there is no business requirement to migrate off the HP 3000. The second reason would be the economy. Most companies don't feel comfortable with the capital requirements for a migration at this time.
What is keeping the remaining companies from migrating off the system? Is it a roadblock that can be lifted with know-how?
I think which the faith in the economy is at an all time low, the costs for a migration are quite high. The tools to migrate off the HP 3000 are quite good, and there are several options available. I believe cost is probably the deciding factor.
Do you see a useful future for the 3000s out there more than three years from now?
I am old enough to remember the pending “Death of Mainframes.” I believe the death of the HP 3000 has been greatly exaggerated.
The HP 3000 is a powerful machine for its time, and its maintenance cost is an order of magnitude less the other products. A well-configured Linux box could probably give the HP 3000 a good run for the money.
What's the oldest HP 3000 you know of that's still in production use? What's the risk that a customer runs by identifying themselves as users of older hardware?
I know of a couple 918s and a 937 that are in production. I think the biggest risk is the availability of parts. FW-SCSI hard drives are going to be hard to find.
What are the top skills you've learned outside of 3000 techniques that pay off best for you? What have you added that's enhanced the value of your career investments?
I can think of two skills that have really helped me. First, my understanding of requirements for storage, which are growing at exponential rates. My experience with HP VAs (Virtual Arrays), along with HP's XP enterprise storage solution, can be reused in all data processing shops, regardless of OS.
I think the second skill set is to be able to communicate with the customers in their language Most customers don't really care about memory, MHz and IO throughput. Customers care about orders processed, credit card throughput and management barometers.
September 29, 2009
Deciding Between COBOLs for Migration
[Editor's Note: Conversion and migration supplier Unicon Conversion Technologies sent us a white paper recently that outlines decisions to enable 3000 conversions to Windows. Unicon's Mike Howard attended the latest e3000 Community Meet, where I heard plenty of COBOL discussion. Here's Howard's take on COBOL choices if you're headed to Windows.]
By Mike Howard
When HP announced it was discontinuing the HP 3000, there were four main Windows COBOLs: RM COBOL, ACUCOBOL, Micro Focus COBOL and Fujitsu COBOL.
But in May 2007, Micro Focus acquired ACUCOBOL when they bought Acucorp. Shortly after they also acquired RM COBOL when they bought Liant. ACUCOBOL is very similar to RM COBOL but has more features and functions. Micro Focus immediately incorporated the RM COBOL product into ACUCOBOL and stopped selling RM COBOL. Micro Focus is now incorporating ACUCOBOL into the Micro Focus COBOL product.
So today, for new Windows COBOL customers there are two COBOLs -- Micro Focus and Fujitsu. In summary, Micro Focus is an all-embracing, all-platform COBOL with excellent support, but it is expensive. Fujitsu is a Windows product with limited support but an extremely attractive price. We have found that both products are very stable and very fast in production. Both charge the same for support, 20 percent per year. The differences lie in cost of ownership vs. response time of support.
A new customer buys both development licenses and runtime licenses. Each programmer needs a developers license and each application server needs a runtime license. In very rough figures a developer license is $5,000 per developer and a runtime license is about $20,000 per CPU per server. So five developers would be $25,000 and a 4 CPU dual core server would count at 8 CPU’s for a runtime license cost of $160,000.00; for total cost of $185,000.
Fujitsu COBOL: This is a very good COBOL which is fully supported by the Fujitsu Corporation in Japan but sold and supported outside Japan by a small company (maybe 10 employees) in Bend, Oregon called Alchemy Solutions. Alchemy Solutions rose from the old Fujitsu COBOL Software department – I think Fujitsu decided to close it and the department management created Alchemy Solutions with all the staff of the old department. Although Fujitsu has compilers for Unix (but not IBM’s AIX), this is really a Windows-based COBOL. Customer support is essentially limited to an online question submittal process; which may not sound very supportive, but the guys who provide the service do an excellent job. Support requests are normally answered within 24 hours.
It is an excellent Windows .NET Visual Studio product and highly integrated into the .NET framework. The compiler, runtime and debugger are excellent products as is the support of relational databases. Each programmer needs a developers license, but there are no runtime charges. Developer licenses at about $5,000 per developer. So a customer with five developers would cost $25,000 for the developer licenses — but remember, there is no runtime charge of any kind.
September 28, 2009
Partners assemble at Community Meet
In another era we might have called them vendors, but the attendees at this month's e3000 Community Meet came together as partners. The 40 people who assembled at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt have been working together, or have that potential in the years to come when the terms users and vendors don't fit like they once did. Only three of the group could be called "users" in the old term. But those terms are "being deprecated," as old software like Java/iX has done. When HP steps out of the 3000 room in about 15 months, the phrase third-party won't even be accurate to describe the companies and experts who talked and listened all day on Sept. 23.
In a unique beginning, the master of ceremonies Alan Yeo invited everyone present at the start of the day to introduce themselves. We got almost everybody on our hand-held video camera to record the players who were taking the stage. We're introducing this video resource via a fresh 3000 NewsWire channel on YouTube, the world's steaming pile of entertainment, advertising, comedy, and frothing dissent. Of those four, only good humor was on tap in the e3000 meeting room. (There was dissent, but of the kind that doesn't end discussions or ruin chances to partner.)
Brian Duncombe started off the introductions, traveling out of his retirement to attend after he created performance and clustering software in the 1980s and '90s. Consultant Bruce Hobbs in his trademark beard was also on the front row, along with consultant Jim Snider. Then we caught up again with Michael Watson's introduction. Watson reported he's still developing in COBOL, as were several others on that front row.
HP was present in the back of the room, as support engineer Cathlene McRae attests at the end of the intros. After lunch, HP's Alvina Nishimoto sat in the back and offered some insights during a roundtable session of more than an hour. James Hofmeister, working in support of Linux customers for HP, was also on hand.
Some people in the community hope this Meet might gather as many users than vendors. At this stage of the 3000's legend, those are the same attendees. Putting people together in a room all day sparks plans and renews trust. As the evening winked out, a sketch was emerging for 2010 Meet that focuses on training.
September 25, 2009
Social nets can narrow-cast to wide group
A healthy slug of video, audio and photos rode back in my laptop from this week's e3000 Community Meet. I also took away the warmth of connecting with friends I had not seen in years, people who made important contributions to the life and growth of the 3000. But one part of that rich day, unrecorded, was my own attempt at humor and inspiration, urging everyone to connect through social networks.
Social Network Harm and Help: Advice & Wisecracks
Do you tweet? (All feathered creatures need not try to answer in English). Or share your life on Facebook? Or Digg your Web discoveries, or pile them up in a Delicious box? Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?
If not, you're in a big group. Maybe not the 70 million people rumored to be using one of these social networks. There's so many more, like the unique one that user group Connect operates, or the public Linked In site. Or Plaxo. Or something new, Cummerbund. (Sorry, just making that last one up.)
That fact about Cummerbund shows a little of the harm in this powerful new tool. You can make something up, and if it's not easily checked in a Google probe, it can get traction. The shorter the report, the easier it becomes to disguise or mistake. Take this tweet from Twitter, posted by @AngelaAtHP:
I witnessed a woman squeal and clap when she test-drove this new HP web-enabled printer at D23
This “tweet” on Twitter then included a link to a Web site. If you noticed Angela's Twitter name, you wouldn't be surprised where her link took you:
Not that there's anything wrong with that, as they said on Seinfeld. But when a message that short gets re-tweeted, it's lost all of its context unless you dig for it. You gotta admit, a woman squealing over a computer is pretty compelling. You either want to know something more about the computer product, or about the woman. Angela would rather you poke into what's cool about that Web-enabled printer.
Get used to it: There are many people in the generation behind us in this room who are paid to spread this stuff. You might even enjoy it, so long as there's nothing at stake. Information seems to have less and less at stake as we hurtle out of the Ought years and into the next decade.
Angela -- I know I'm picking on her, but all in sport, I love tweeters -- tells us “I'm in the storytelling business. How can I help you tell yours?” I felt so with-it when I heard this. (Does anybody even say "with it" anymore?) I've been in the storytelling business for a few years myself. But longevity doesn't matter so much in storytelling, not even in journalism. Nobody cared much that I was 27 when I edited my first HP newspaper. (Good thing, considering how little I knew.)
And we didn't have social networking to check up on the likes of me, thank goodness. Just like they used to say, “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog,” I could say back in 1984, “On the telephone, I hoped nobody knew I was a callow “yut,” as those fellas called themselves in the film My Cousin Vinnie.
So I learned enough about the 3000 to stop being called an imbecile, “and no one was the wiser,” I thought. That wouldn't happen today, because we have social networking to check up on each other. And even though I started HP reporting in 1984, that Big Brother-esque checking up is a Good Thing. If you know how to use it to filter and add context.
Information is all about sources, to begin with. “Consider the source,” your mom might have told you when you said something about wearing this, or jumping off that. There's no better time than now to consider your source. The Internet disguised all the dogs. Social networks go further. They've hidden the sources behind personality. "How could that be a dog? He has such a rich baritone on the phone, and funny wisecracks." (Here I'm hoping that's what people said about me.) I fetch on command, though. I even point.
Back to the point. Social networks can help you fetch lots of information you didn't know you needed. Or even understand. They broaden your world. Just like a bigger map of where you need to go. But big maps, with lots of detail, need lots more charting skills.
You can do this. You crawled through the muck of ENQ/ACK sequences and pin-connection maps and even what the heck were the differences between Q-MIT and T-MIT. (Here's a hint; only one of them was a MPE release tape that an HP manager offered to eat.)
Detail is you, or we wouldn't have a world of computers tight and high flying enough to spread stories of women squealing at Web printers. (I know, you might be thinking, “and we really need this?”) You can do the detail of social networking, so long as you don't let it suck up all your real life.
There's the sin of over-sharing to avoid if you start to post to the social networks, too. People will tell you their lunch was a double swirl cone. (She didn't say where she got hers, dangit!) They will also report on more weighty topics. What you're looking for is facts, supported by real experience. It's not just enough to hear somebody say, “We gotta have this kind of health care or that.” Better to hear, “My mom is in the hospital and she can't get released soon enough, because her health plan doesn't pay for enough physical therapy.” You can say all that in less than 140 characters, so you could tweet it. I might ask, “What plan is that?” Or even offer some facts to help.
I bring up all of this nonsense because you are a group of IT pros who are renowned for community. A social network is a glue to keep you informed. I wish we'd all get a Twitter account and start following each other. Hey, you don't even have to tweet. Just being in the forest to hear the bird calls can help.
But only if you look for context, like who's sharing in the society. What their mission is in real life. (Google helps a lot in this kind of spelunking, but it's even better to ask around. Web pages can deceive. Remember those disguised dogs, now.)
I have become a real hound about social networks over the past year or so. I have accounts on all of these playgrounds. Some are more useful than others. You can look up my Delicious page of bookmarks, tweet or follow me personally or at 3000newswire, Friend me on Facebook, look me up on the new Connect myCommunity network for e3000 users. I started a Linked In group for the HP 3000 Community. There are also groups up there for the HP Way, 3000 Appreciation Society. I love it all. I find Twitter to be the biggest and woolliest universe, with Facebook a close second but richer in content. The more hurdles you need to clear to get into one of these, the better the caliber of the source.
Information is my job, though. I can float and find it rewarding to soar. If you find yourself flying too high to the sun, oh Icarus, and you feel your wings melting off your wax -- or maybe like Luke Skywalker, diving his X-Wing fighter too close to the Death Star -- pulla away, pull up, take back your time. Some say limit your social networking time, like you'd cut back on Splenda or See's Chocolates. Enjoy it, but make sure you have enough real life to share something new with the network. Contribute real content. Content will help you be heard, and that leads to giving you good stuff to listen to. The only way we learn anything is when we're listening
So the next time you hear the sound of squealing in a computer room, you'll know to look up from that browser, and listen for that drive in that RAID array going out. And ensure the storage device gets excluded and swapped automatically. And when the magic subsides, you can share a tweet if it all worked, or if not-so-much, then get some help. Because society is supposed to grow to help more of us, even though in each message we say less. Thanks for letting me say so much. In Twitter messages, this would have taken me more than 150 postings. And you still wouldn't have gotten in your message. I hope to hear from you out there soon, and often.
Making Jazz a Third-Party Presentation
Meanwhile, an N-Class server donated by Matt Perdue will host the Jazz contents from OpenMPE. Hofmeister outlined the work still to be completed.
"Just like Speedware did, we have to de-HP-ize all the HTML pages," she said. Webmaster Paul Raulerson is currently working on that. So that's why it will take a bit longer before OpenMPE's Jazz is available." Client Systems brought out its version of Jazz this spring, while Speedware's made its debut this month.
September 24, 2009
HP shifts location of manuals
HP support engineer Cathlene McRae, who attended this week's e3000 Community Meet, reports that the HP 3000 and MPE/iX manuals have moved from the docs.hp.com location on HP's Web site. She said the new link is www.hp.com/bizsupport, a new HP Business Support Center Web site.
The HP 3000 manuals are among the first wave of documents to move off the old Web address, according to an HP notice.
The migration is being conducted in stages over the next year and the MPE/iX content has been migrated as part of the first phase. You will see a redirection link under the MPE/iX section of the docs.hp.com homepage. It will take you to the landing page for the MPE/iX docs on the Business Support Center.
If you're plugging in a revised Web address for docs.hp.com for the 3000, it's www.hp.com/go/e3000-docs
HP has reorganized and standardized the presentation of the manuals for the 6.x and 7.x versions of the 3000's software and subsystems. The documentation is now available only in PDF documents; HTML versions existed on the HP site in the past.
McRae pointed to an HP document that explains, "To achieve a look and feel similar to docs.hp.com, all the manuals will be organized by categories within each group and in alphabetical order." Documentation for HP Linux systems, OpenVMS, and Tru64 Unix has also been moved in the first phase.
The 3000's documentation has been licensed to Client Systems and Speedware for re-hosting, but Speedware's Chris Koppe said during the Community Meet that HP won't permit these partners to host the manuals until HP clears the material from embargo. HP confirmed at the meeting that it will host the documentation through 2015. HP recommends that customers download patches and documents from the HP site for themselves before Dec. 31 of that year.
McRae also posted links to other HP documents which answer some questions posed during the Community Meet:
- An October 2008 communique on post 2010 beta test patch and manual availability, Invent3k plans and Right to Use license policies.
- The final January 2009 communique covering source code license initiatives, emulator availability and guidelines on receiving MPE/iX and subsystem media.
- The one-page FAQ from January 2009 about HP's 3000 "platform emulator" licensing policies.
OpenMPE announces Jazz, Invent3k portals
Perdue said at yesterday's e3000 Community Meet that the two services are available with a free account and now reside behind a firewall. OpenMPE will be the first organization to host the public access development services of Invent3k, a 3000 HP once operated for developers to test and create MPE/iX software. OpenMPE director Donna Hofmeister said that invent3k.openmpe.org will include the GNU development environment used to port open source software to MPE/iX.
Developers can request their free log-on account for Invent3k by e-mailing OpenMPE's Tracy Johnson at email@example.com
The resources the community is migrating from HP's Jazz Web server are still in a growth mode, Hofmeister added, just like those already online at Speedware. HP's licensing agreement restricted its software exchange to only the HP-created freeware off of Jazz, so freeware from third parties is being pursued for inclusion at the Jazz rehosting sites.
The relicensing partners such as Speedware and OpenMPE have made the third party programs available through links to authors' sites such as the one Lars Appel maintains for Samba. Other third party freeware still coming online include ports from Mark Bixby, the C++ tools ported by Mark Klein and other contributions. "We're in the process of getting permission from these people to put their software on the OpenMPE site," Hofmeister said during an update at the meeting.
OpenMPE also made an opening bid for a role as repository for the MPE/iX read-only source code which HP has been licensing this year. The vendor announced a license program for the 3000's source in February, but little else can be discussed by organizations and companies applying for or receiving a license. HP will not announce who the license holders are, but said this spring that it would consider ways that licensees can inform customers about receiving a source code license.
OpenMPE wants to act as a repository for the code, although other companies have also applied for licenses. The source licensing process is a black box, with all terms, lists of applicants and status of applications shielded under HP's Confidential Disclosure Agreement.
According to HP's CDA, OpenMPE can't even reveal the cost of the source code license. Perdue said at the meeting that purchasing the MPE license, "plus some start up cash to manage it" will require $25,000. The group has its license application ready to file for the source, but it needs a check for HP, and so kicked off a fundraising effort. One attendee, Applied Technologies' Brian Edminster, was ready to write a $1,000 check to spark the drive for the OpenMPE license.
September 23, 2009
Get connected today for Community Meet
In about six hours, at 10 AM PDT, close to three dozen veterans, experts and members of the 3000 community meet in San Francisco. The event has gathered momentum over a very brief three weeks, and the turnout will rival any head count in any HP 3000 conference meeting room over the past four years.
Some community members who can't be in the room at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt wish for a live streaming feed, or some kind of a Webcast hookup. That's not going to happen today, but there's hope for future meetings. For today, Twitter might provide the best real-time blurbs. You can follow what's happening through the NewsWire's Twitter feed. Go to twitter.com, and just "follow" our account, 3000newswire.
Those tweets, as the Twitter messages are known, will be brief. (Despite what my writing might suggest, I know brief, since tweeting requires the same kind of skill I've employed in writing headlines for the last 30 years.) I enjoy the challenge of saying something meaningful in 140 characters or less per Twitter message. For a community that knows how to stay within the bounds of 132-column screens, Twitter will have a familiar feel. You can tweet back, too. If you're versed in Twitter's "hashtags" (think of them as database keys), I'll be using #3kmeet for today.
There will be more, as battery life, memory cards and concentration provide. We'll have recordings (podcasts on this site), video (on YouTube) and photos to share, some more real-time than others. If you don't Twitter, consider signing on today (it's free) and following the feed. It takes an real-life event to spark a stream of tweets. We're glad to have an audience.
There's also time to participate if you're within a short drive of the hotel in Burlingame. In person, as we all know, is the richest experience.You can register online (with details at the link), or just show up for the dinner in the evening at the hotel. I hope to see you there, snap your picture, and share an update or a story. Stay tuned, as we TV-era folks used to hear.
September 22, 2009
Speedware opens doors to Jazz rehosting
Speedware has announced the latest phase of its rollout of re-hosted programs from the HP Jazz site, a software resource that HP relicensed to two vendors this spring. Client Systems made the first effort at supplying a Jazz site earlier this year, followed by a set of migration training modules that Speedware put online. Now Speedware has extended its 3000 training resources to include freeware created by HP for the 3000 -- plus access to programs supplied by the community.
One notable addition to the 3000 Web resource family is this Third Party Utilities section at the Speedware site. Speedware's Nicolas Fortin explained these are links or files that were once located on HP's Jazz site but not provided to licensees by HP. This software includes shareware files created by Mark Bixby and Lars Appel, the two most prolific authors of open source, shareware utilities for the 3000. Speedware pursued the programs from these developers, linking to Appel's software and hosting the Bixby programs.
Fortin said that hosting these programs, along with what he calls the largest set of white papers for 3000s, requires more than hosting and creating links. There's an ongoing stewardship required to re-host the resource which HP once maintained as Jazz.
"Sometime in the near future, we’ll add a few more files to the Third Party Utilities section from Mark Bixby," he said. "Although the Jazz content is mostly static, in reality from time to time we might find ourselves improving it based on specific user requests, if it can help the community. For example, already a user e-mailed us to report that one of the tar files in the HP Software section was corrupted (the file was given to us that way). We managed to re-create that tar file by finding the content and re-packaging it, so now it’s available."
Fortin said that both Appel and Bixby "say they were happy to see the site go live." It's important to keep the work of these two engineers in the orbit of Planet 3000, since their contributions linked the platform with modern networking and Internet services. Bixby's Apache port and Appel's Samba port probably qualify among the more important software releases for the 3000 during the late '90s.
The launch that went live last Friday is the second phase of Speedware's HP site material relocation. HP Transition courses went online at Speedware this spring, and the MPE-to-HP-UX cross-reference tools will appear next. "It took more time than we expected," Fortin said, "but we decided to spend some additional effort to provide the community with some extra value-add, in addition to the content provided to us by HP."
September 21, 2009
'84 computing recalls conventions of 3000s
Editor's note: In late summer of 1984 I started my career covering the HP 3000 marketplace. To help commemorate those 25 years, I asked more than a score of community members from that era to recall what their 3000 careers looked like back then. This is the second part of their reports.
Jason Goertz, HP support engineer, Orbit Software developer, Chronicle columnist, consultant and HP engineer - I remember Vesoft's Eugene Volokh speaking at the Interex conference in Anaheim, a newly minted UCLA graduate at age 16. I remember going to a talk about the latest COBOL standard. I also remember going to Eugene's talk and realizing that he could barely drive but had graduated with a degree. I left HP in May and started my job at Generra Sportswear as Manager of IS. Around that time the Response Centers were going into operation. As I was leaving HP, there was talk of this, and people started to go down to California to work a shift there, and the regional PICS phone support centers like the one we had in Bellevue, Washington were being shut down.
The Series 64/68 was out at this time, as we had one when I went to Generra in 1984. I remember a problem that we were having at this time. The microcode was loaded at boot time (unlike any other machine up to that point) into fast memory. There was a class problem with the machine that every so often, at a totally random interval, the microcode memory would glitch and bring down the system. They finally figured out that it was some sort of background cosmic radiation that interacted with the molecules of the memory, and caused effectively a parity error. HP never solved the problem, as by that time they were working on PA-RISC (which of course had no microcode) and that attrition would solve the problem.Jeanette and Ken Nutsford, consultants and developers, software resellers, Interex SIG chair volunteers - 1984 was a year of continued great fortune in working with the HP 3000 and enjoying the comradeship of so many wonderful HP 3000 users and HP 3000 staff. We were running a Timesharing Bureau in Auckland, New Zealand on an HP 3000 Series 33 (configured as a desk) with a number of charities as clients. We had written a software package for Fundraising and Direct Mail Marketing for Charities, using COBOL and IMAGE, and were the total DP staff for a number of charities.
In February we flew to the US to attend the Anaheim HP 3000 Users Conference. This was the fourth Interex conference we had attended, with the first being in 1980. We especially remember that this was the last time we saw [SuperGroup founder] David Brown before he disappeared. He used to run a toll-free call center using HP3000s in Ogden, Utah.
Ken Sletten, SIG-IMAGE chair, developer for US Navy, OpenMPE director - I ordered one of the first HP 3000s at what is now the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Keyport. It was a Series 42 and we thought we were really getting a powerful machine, because we ordered it with 2 MB of memory (he says sitting at his MSI laptop with 2,000 times more memory), and two of the old 404MB Model 7933 ''washing machine'' disc drives (he says as he contemplates the tiny 500GB Seagate FreeAgent Pro external drive for my laptop, and the mirrored 1TB drives in my new quad-core desktop that I just had custom-built for me).
In 1984 the consolidated data systems team that I worked on for 23 years took delivery of a Series 58. That was the 3000 that was not a ''desktop'' machine, but rather literally an entire desk in itself. It was ordered with four of the then-brand-new 571MB Model 7937 discs. Since four of these didn't take up much more cubic volume than one of the old 404MB 7933s, we thought this was a big step forward.
The above was the start of a LONG run for HP e3000s at Keyport. We ran a string of HP 3000 model computers continuously from 1982 all the way up through the early part of 2005, when our production shop data system was successfully ''migrated'' (i.e. completely re-written) off our last PA-RISC box, using C# on MS SQL Server. The 3000 gave us just a couple years short of a quarter century of service.
Mark Klein, independent developer and consultant to HP, manager of the Orbit Software lab team, OpenMPE director - I'd already started consulting full time by 1984 and I know I started writing DBCHANGE for HP around that time. I spent most of 1984 consulting to the database lab and think that was about the time that DBRECOV introduced rollback and start/stop recovery. I had a hand in both those projects based on my work for Abacus Systems doing their database recovery system called Recovery/3000.
Vision had been canceled by then and the PA-RISC work was under way as I started working on portions of the initial TurboIMAGE CM wrapper (I think it was called something like Onion Skin at the time) around then. I do remember all the excitement in the labs in those days and looked forward to going down there to be part of it. Besides, HP still served donuts and coffee on the house each morning.
Rene Woc, co-founder (with Alfredo Rego) and CEO of Adager - It certainly was a busy and exciting year. Lots of user conferences all over the world, in addition to all the user group meetings in the US. The Anaheim keynote in February was, of course, a great beginning for the year. Alfredo gave talks in many user groups; among them were New York, Cupertino, Vancouver, Ottawa, Exeter, Paris, Innsbruck, and Johannesburg. Also, by 1984, Adager was already an HP-supported product, listed in the Corporate Price List. News of the cancellation of Vision was soon overtaken by the news of the Spectrum Project.
Dave Wilde, HP's 3000 lab manager, e3000 business manager - Having worked with the HP 3000 (and other systems) doing data entry at a department store in Chicago during my high school years in the late '70s, and having used HP calculators and some HP workstations and VLSI design software (PIGLET) at the University of Illinois, I was thrilled to have just graduated and joined HP in June, 1984. I was working at the HP Santa Clara Division on a new IC test system HP was developing. That system was later cancelled, and in 1986 I moved over to HP's ITG group to work on the databases for HP's soon-to-be released first PA-RISC systems (then called Spectrum internally). Those were indeed exciting times in Cupertino, and it was then that I was re-introduced to the HP 3000 that I had worked on during my high school years.
Terry Floyd, ASK Software account rep, independent 3000 application developer, founder of the Support Group inc MANMAN consultancy - In 1984 I felt like HP was doing great as Big Brother, the middle of the glory years. I was working for ASK in Houston and we sold a lot of HP 3000s that year. Compaq was our big account and they were demanding a lot more from MANMAN than any of our other customers. My son David and I won the egg toss at the Compaq annual picnic that year. The only Interex Conference I ever missed, since my 3000 start in 1978, was in Anaheim that year. Life was good.
Shawn Gordon, 3000 software developer, NewsWire columnist - I was 21 at the that time, just graduated from a computer trade school and got my first job on a Series 44 for four months as a temp for a woman who went on maternity leave working for the city of Santa Fe Springs. I was just doing operations and data entry and then started BASIC coding on another Series 44 for an electronics component manufacturer, but also had to do operations. It was a one-man shop. Just before the temp job I worked for Pleion in marketing and they had a Series 44 and we were one of the first Speedware clients. That's also where I first played Adventure on the HP 3000.
Bob Green, Robelle founder - In 1984 The IMAGE/3000 Handbook was published, written by myself, David Greer, Robert Green, Alfredo Rego, Fred White, and Dennis Heidner. Marguirete Russell edited another project that I was working on , so I asked her to take on the Handbook as editor. Turns out it was quite a handful for her, but we got it done in about nine months. Then I turned order fulfillment over to her, since Robelle was busy. While she wasn't really that great at selling books, the book sold itself, and since the price was $50 each and we paid for the printing, she had a nice extra income for the next few years
September 18, 2009
3000s can track time, even update with Unix
Even while network testing 3000s in HP's Cupertino lab were being powered down last month, customers are working to employ network services on their own servers. NTP, the network time protocol, was ported and patched for MPE/iX years ago. A developer wanted the latest patched NTP version recently, software that consultant Craig Lalley sent him across the net in a 4 MB attachment.
Tony Summers of Smith Williamson, which migrated last year, said implementing NTP on the company's 3000 was disappointing, but suspected the install wasn't done properly. NTP itself is popular among all environment managers. "Our systems team are wanting to implement NTP on our Unix systems," he reported, "but I’m asking them (for technical reasons related to our own internal applications) that they only invoke NTP synchronization on a system reboot, rather than having it run constantly."
There are some reports that NTP can help manage 3000 operations, but not hosted on a 3000. Mark Ranft of Pro 3K says a corporate NTP server is assisting HP 3000s he manages, triggering an MPE/iX client."The NTP client executable that I have is called NTPDATE," he said. "I use it in a command file to compare the system date and time to the server. If it is more than 30 seconds off, I automatically use the same program with a different parameter to adjust the time. If it is more than 45 seconds off, I send a message/page, as something is up (like a time test or a reboot and someone forgot to set the hardware clock.) I have my proactive HP 3000 monitor doing this on all my systems every 10-20 minutes.
"Before a patch," he added, "I had seen heavily loaded systems experience time drift. This routine was a life-saver."
These NTP executables are scheduled to be part of HP shareware offerings on the Speedware Web site, as well as on the OpenMPE server. There's also a way to synchonize a 3000's clock with routines written into MPE/iX, as opposed to the open source add-on of NTP. Jeff Kell, whose expertise in networking included a stint as a Networks Special Interest Group chairman, offered this advice:
NTP may have issues as a server/daemon. If you just want to keep your 3000's clock periodically synchronized, try something like this:
> !job timesync,mgr.xntp;pri=cs
> !ntpdate "a.b.c.d w.x.y.z"
> !stream timesync.pub.xntp;in=0,12,0
Substitute your favorite time servers addresses for a.b.c.d and w.x.y.z. This is an "on-demand" synchronization every 12 hours (adjust to taste).
September 17, 2009
New clouds conjure up established IT needs
Cloud computing will require just as many sound IT practices as anything operating at an internal datacenter today. But a pair of key offerings should be at the top of the list for any HP 3000 customer who's considering a shift to the cloud when their datacenter goes virtual, hosted and maintained by outside resources.
Security becomes essential in the cloud picture to a degree far above everyday operations. A company's sensitive and competitive data, from HR profiles to sales reports, will all pass through a network more easily exposed to breaches. A cloud computing resource needs to pass muster on elements such as datacenter door access, or security of any wireless networks at the datacenter. Donnie Poston of the Support Group inc, a vendor that's moving toward more cloud services in the 3000 community, outlined the top three elements tSGi considers important in providing cloud computing.
"The top three things that anyone has to provide are security of access, a 24x7 uptime and access to data, and adequate bandwidth," he said. If a customer is putting its critical applications into the cloud, these elements can be guaranteed with a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
SLAs with outsource agencies might be new to the 3000 customer still operating in a localized datacenter environment. Connectivity guarantees are part of remote hosting services from vendors such as DST Health Solutions. DST is a Business Process Outsourcer, the type of supplier that hosts servers and systems for clients in the healthcare industry. In 2006 DST purchased Amisys, the largest healthcare software vendor in the 3000 community.
3000 customers who face migration as an inevitability could shop patiently for cloud services and get more value than moving next year. An SLA signed in 2011 is likely to have more offered for less subscription fees than a deal during 2010. The hard deadline for HP support customers arrives on Jan. 1, 2011. The more traditional a cloud based solution's software — SAP, QAD, IFS for manufacturers, for example — the more there's to gained from waiting.
Those solutions will have to work hard to compete with open source cloud services, according to tSGi's Sue Kiezel. "If you look at open source, we already have a way of getting a low-cost entry into this environment," she said. "Open source is one of the things that's making cloud computing as viable as it is today."
The Support Group is working on a complete open source cloud computing offer, she added, including Customer Relationship Management, Demand Management, analytics to serve Business Intelligence needs, tools for Business Process Management. Desktop tools will be available that "look just like Word, and just like PowerPoint, so you can't see the difference anymore."
The tSGi team envisions specialization in sectors such as geographical location, business sector and even service to government agencies. In the US that last category got its first dedicated cloud provider from a surprising source: the government itself. Apps.gov opened for business this week to supply business apps, cloud IT services, productivity apps and social media apps to US government customers. The Federal government has a CIO in Vivek Kundra who said in a press release yesterday
Apps.gov is starting small – with the goal of rapidly scaling it up in size. Along the way, we will need to address various issues related to security, privacy, information management and procurement to expand our cloud computing services.
September 16, 2009
Will we see you one week from today?
The plans and processes are in place for a lively HP e3000 Community Meet one week from today. I hope to talk with many of you at the one-day event being held at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt Hotel Sept. 23. There's still room in the room, including a lunch and networking, as well as updates and a dinner afterward. You can register online.
The program has been firmed up with updates from Transoft and OpenMPE. But aside from these presentations, there's a value in the $30 that 30-50 attendees are paying for a day with breakfast and lunch provided. If you're at the Meet, business and engagements can get green-lit.
"I just made time and registered for the HP e3000 Community Meeting," reported Ralph Berkebile of Data Management Associates today. "I look forward to the research discussions, briefings and socializing with the associates remaining in the HPe3000 community!"
Other 3000 professionals will be on hand to explore ways to work together, either offering their services or talking of engagements where they'll need help.
Long-time 3000 pro Bruce Hobbs is justifying a trip up from the LA area to do "mainly networking. I may take a run at [promoting] my interest in Ruby, Rails, PostgreSQL, and see if anyone needs any COBOL folks." There's a mix of classic skills and new technologies that's a good blueprint for a valuable future.
Hobbs said that he's learned personal links earn nearly all new jobs. "I came across something recently reporting that only one out of nine positions is obtained through any of the job search Web sites," he said. "Seems like the overwhelming majority of successes occur through personal contacts."
The meeting is also going to include some discussion, at the end of the day, about organizing a "Bang and Not a Whimper" event for next year when HP closes up the remains of its 3000 business. The complete schedule as of this week:
9.30 Registration (Breakfast provided)
10.30 Welcome (Alan Yeo)
10.40 Chris Koppe (Speedware)
11.00 Michael Marxmeier (Eloquence)
11.15 Donna Hofmeister (OpenMPE)
11.30 Networking Break
12.15 Birket Foster (MBFoster)
12.30 Alan Yeo (ScreenJet)
01.45 Rene Nunnington (Transoft)
02.00 David Floyd (The Support Group)
02.15 Ron Seybold (3000 Newswire)
02.30 Homesteading Roundtable
03.00 Networking Break
03.45 Migration Roundtable
04.15 HP User Group (Chris Koppe)
Even though networking is scheduled, attendees will step out of the room to connect even while presentations are on offer. Starting at 6 PM, says organizer Alan Yeo, is an "Open Invitation HP3000 Social Gathering in the bar at the Hyatt. All are welcome, and we understand that the bar does a reasonable selection of food." Some of the community is likely to show up only for the networking and gathering in the evening.
With every passing year the virtual networking tools improve. But no Twitter feed, live streaming of a panel discussion or Webcast can offer all the depth of an in-person talk with a colleague, partner or supplier. I'll have my own 15 minutes to share more about the online community offerings and how to use them more skillfully. I hope to see you in person at the year's largest 3000 event.
September 15, 2009
Counting on clouds to save green?
You have to go back to the veterans of timesharing with 3000s to find reality about cloud computing potential. Hewlett-Packard is pitching this concept -- sometimes called Software as a Service (SaaS). But companies of an average size may not see much savings, according to the Support Group inc's Sue Kiezel.
We talked with tSGi after we asked 3000 partners how much cloud they expected to cover the community with in the year to come. A few companies reported they'd spread a few clouds, tSGi among them. You'll want to have an extensive IT operation to count on the bottom-line greenback savings. And if you're not a Fortune 1000 company? The services will get updated on the big boys' schedule.
"They roll out the upgrades and inform you that you will be going to the new release," Kiezel said. "They'll probably schedule the upgrade based on what a customer the size of GE wants." You may be able to push back if you're of a certain size, but that size is big.
Not upgrading is a common choice, especially for the ERP customer like the ones that tSGi serves. Too much customization of an app makes a careful IT manager look hard at the work it will take to catch up to an upgraded version.
This disconnect between traditional app management and the easy promises of the cloud will keep skies pretty clear for HP 3000 sites -- even those that are migrating and can get a better match between their local hosts and the ones up in the cloud. ERP has been more fraught with customization than most other business segments.
The flip side of the cloud question is how much those SaaS clouds will save the big customers that are running the release schedule. "You won't get the cost savings at that level if you're the size of a GE," Kiezel said. "If you go into the cloud what you're usually saving are capital expenditures, which are very small."
HP counts some pretty large wins in cloud computing, organizations like the US Department of Defense. The adopters are few in number at this point. Clouds operate under subscription-based payments, and "the subscription fees are going to be way up there for a General Electric," Kiezel said. That outlay might even offset the savings of reducing local headcount in IT, which is another cloud promise.
tSGi operates another aspect of a cloud offering, managing HP 3000s installed at the firm's datacenter and operated on behalf of remote clients who connect over networks. This removes the 3000 from daily maintenance, and in the case of tSGi even gives the customer extra support for the ERP applications on the hosted systems. It can even give a company more time to complete a migration. That's important for some, now that HP's 2010 support deadline is only about 15 months away.
In a relocation of host model, a customer can benefit from access to the IT talent they can't afford to get, Kiezel said. "I can afford it as a provider because I have 100 customers," she explained. "My little 10-seat customer can't afford that talent because he's a small business."
Consolidating many small IT operations through a cloud-like service gives the planet a boost, to be sure. A massive footprint of a large IT shop is easy to target. But the combined carbon footprints of computer rooms dwarf the footprints of autos, Kiezel said.
"You might say that you have a small footprint, and what can you really save. But if you put 100 companies together, and you have a bottom line that depends on how efficient you can run your [cloud] services for them, you have a chance of minimizing the footprint for a lot of people. That's computing green."
September 14, 2009
HP celebrates '84 alliance with Canon
Even while we're exploring the 3000 community circa 1984, HP looked back at that year in a press conference today to announce new printer ventures with Canon. When the 3000 "Mighty Mouse" systems were rolled out in 1984 -- the first office-ready minicomputer for HP -- another Hewlett-Packard breakthrough surfaced that year: The HP LaserJet, powered by print engines built by Canon.
HP and Canon have become more competitors than allies in the 25 years since that rosy honeymoon. But today HP announced it will sell Canon printers to HP enterprise customers. HP held a press conference today and issued a press release on creating the sales alliance along with a Managed Enterpise Solutions unit inside its printer/camera business group.
That IPG unit at HP looked less healthy than in prior years when the Q3 numbers for FY 2009 were reported last month. HP wants to leverage its presence inside enterprise computing to sell computers, a chestnut of a strategy. If you're an enterprise-grade customer, expect more HP offers about managing your printer needs. At the heart of the business is that so-rich ink and supplies commerce, of course.
Industry veterans mark 1984 milestones
Editor's note: In late summer of 1984 I started my career covering the HP 3000 marketplace. To help commemorate those 25 years, I asked more than a score of community members from that era to recall what their 3000 careers looked like back then.
Alan Yeo, ScreenJet founder - In 1984 I had just gone freelance for a contract paying “Great Money” and spent the whole year on a Huge Transact Project. Actually it was the rescue of a Huge Transact Project, one that had taken two elapsed and probably 25 man-years and at that point was about 10 percent working. A couple of us were brought in on contract to turn it around. We did, and we used to joke that we were like a couple of Samurai Coders brought in to Slash and Burn all before us. (I think Richard Chamberlin may have just starred in the hit TV epic Samurai at that time.)
We were working on a Series 70, configured as the biggest 3000 in our region of the UK (apart from the one at HP itself). We used to have lots of HP SEs in and out to visit -- not because it was broken but just to show it to other customers. That was the year we started hearing rumors of PA-RISC and the new “Spectrum” HP 3000s. It unfortunately took a few more years for them to hit the streets.
I have lots of good memories of HP SEs from that time. HP employed some of the best people, and a lot of them were a great mix between Hardware Engineers, Software Engineers and Application Engineers. Great people to work with who sort of espoused the HP Way, and really made you want to be associated with HP. Where did they go wrong?Doug Greenup, Minisoft founder -- In 1984 Minisoft was just one year old. We had just begun marketing our first product, a word processor for the HP 3000 known as Miniword. At that time a lot of HP 3000s only did 2400 baud, so typeahead was pretty important. Users were losing characters because they typed too fast. Typeahead helped to solve that problem. Because the HP 3000 did not have typeahead we had to manufacture a little box that sat between the HP3000 and the terminal we called a “SoftBox.” One of our best moments was when we were able to get 9600 baud on a serial connection.
Also at that time we were timesharing on an HP 3000 Series III with another company called Western Data. The spinoff of that company became Walker, Richer and Quinn, the makers of Reflection. Marty Quinn came into my office one day complaining that he couldn't develop from home. He had this piece of hardware called an IBM PC. I remember laughing at the thought of making this IBM PC look like an HP2622 block mode terminal. Marty went on to develop PC2622 which became Reflection.
Minisoft 92 came about in 1986 when a fellow from England named Peter Gofton called me up and wanted to know if we would be interested in marketing his HP Terminal product. We saw the WRQ success and thought there might be an opportunity to sell a less expensive connectivity product. It turns out there was a nice market for a HP terminal emulator for around $95 per copy, the price we sold it at back in 1986. Reflection at the time was about three times the price.
Denys Beauchemin, MIS manager, backup vendor, developer and Interex chairman -- By 1984 I had been working on the HP 3000 for over seven years. I was at Northern Telecom in Montreal with a pair of Series 70. The Spectrum project was announced by HP at the same time as the cancellation of the Vision project, and the Series 70 got an upgrade to keep it viable for a few more years waiting for Spectrum.
Donna (Garverick) Hofmeister, SIGSYSMAN chair, Longs Drug developer/analyst, OpenMPE board director -- By 1984 I was two years out of college and working for the Army, tracking equipment readiness on a 3000. It was replaced by a Series 70, just about as soon as the 70s came out, too. We were very proud of that system, because at time of delivery we were told it was the biggest 70 ever made.
Over the years we pushed that box pretty hard. It was very much a case of “if you build [the application] they will come.” We gave weapon system managers on-line access to their data - something they had never had. And when we started graphing the trend data - oh boy! You'd think we had built a better mouse trap! I was particularly fond of the DSG/3000 decision support graphics application. By the time the Army and I parted ways, I think we had a grand 6GB of disc attached to the system.
Chris Bartram, 3k Associates founder, NewsWire Webmaster - In 1984 I had just taken a fulltime system programming job on the 3000 after deciding to give up on college for a while. My work there inspired me to start 3k a few years later in 1987. That was the year when I bought my first 3000, a 3000/37 Mighty Mouse which cost me about $10,000.
Gilles Schipper, founder of third party support firm GSA, NewsWire columnist -1984 was one year after I left HP and started out on my own. At that time, MPE/VE was starting to be out in full force after HP had just announced the 42 (as well as the 48 and 68). Shortly thereafter, as regular contributor to The Chronicle, I wrote an article entitled “The HP3000 Series 41?” in which I suggested that lots of HP 3000 users were being shortchanged by HP with the Series 40 to 42 “upgrade kit,” because it did not include the necessary CPU board replacement that actually made the upgrade complete.
Guy Smith, Chronicle columnist and founder of Silicon Support Strategies - Wow, where the hell was I in 1984? Who the hell was I in 1984? I was running a couple of boxes at Canaveral Air Force Station at that time. 16-bits and many megabytes of RAM were considered serious hardware (which my laptop that I'm writing with mocks, smugly superior with its two 64-bit CPUs and 8GB of fast RAM).
Important at that point in time was the growing number and sophistication of HP Users Groups. The Florida Users Group was particularly vibrant and was a great feeding ground for young and hungry bitheads like me. They were small, intimate and high powered, allowing me to meet and discuss HP 3000 innards with the likes of David Greer, Vladimir Volokh and other gurus. Interex later became the locus, but regional groups were the launching pads for most of us in 1984. NASA at Kennedy Space Center and neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station had many HP 3000s. I know the concentration of machines and talent there influenced FLORUG.
Jeff Vance, HP developer for MPE, community liaison - In 1984 I was working in the MPE XL (probably really named HPE at the time) lab. It was the year that Spectrum (which became PA-RISC) won the battle over the Vision architecture, and we re-wrote much of the low-level OS to Spectrum, while simply porting the higher level code.
The “HPE Cookbook,” written by the late Chris Mayo, was “published” May 15, 1984. The table of contents shows: Development Environment Map, CookMOM - How to Build “Hi Mom,” CookHPE, Useful Directories, User Information, Spooling, Customizing Makefiles for HPE, and RDB - The Remote Debugger.
September 11, 2009
HP retires docs link while experts retire
A computer system like the HP 3000 has been changing for the past eight years, even though the vendor is tugging at its plug through this decade. HP resources are edging out of the community's picture, even while the experts running systems in companies are retiring themselves.
One link customers will need is a Web connection to HP's 3000 documentation. Once printed in countless reams of bound paper, the knowledge is stored online. The location of the links has gotten more elusive. The most comprehensive start point recently edged off the docs.hp.com main page. This connection to HP manuals for supported products and HP engineer white papers is now at docs.hp.com/en/mpeixall.html
One example of the latter retirement is Greg Bell, a developer/analyst who's leaving a 37-year IT career this month at International Paper. Bell works at the Savannah, Ga. plant, where 3000s have been working since the Series III systems of the 1970s. Even as he exits this month, a pair of 3000s continue to work for this major corporation. There's no migration plan for two key applications there; new apps will move in, or the old ones will be mothballed.
Currently we have one Series 957 in Savannah running our last legacy applications, and one at our Prattville, Alabama mill doing the same. No migration to any other platform is planned -- the applications will be retired or replaced. I and another IT person here in Savannah provide support for the one system here and assist with the system in Prattville.
Bell says the 3000s have been static at International Paper over those past eight years, and that one at Savannah needs little more than a shutdown and reboot once in awhile. HP's exits from development and support have represented changes to the community, but not at this company.
With the exception of having to replace various parts -- which we do ourselves with third-party vendors providing those we’ve run out of from scavenging pieces from the other HP 3000s -- and the standard user setups/deletes, we have not done anything as far as the OS is concerned. We shut it down and reboot it every now and then to clean it up, but otherwise it just sits there and does its thing.
Bell has been at International Paper since the year the 3000 was first introduced. In 1972 the company was an IBM shop, but the 3000 made its footprints in the 80s and 90s running International Paper's financials. "We worked our way up from the Series IIIs to the 957/987 models. At our high point we had seven HP 3000s running all of our financial applications, and DEC servers running the production applications."
Working in IT long enough to call Digital "DEC" gives a hint at the scope of Bell's career. He's moving away to more personal projects after more than three decades that included midnight-oil challenges he met on the 3000s. "I wish I could say I will miss those 8-12 hour system upgrades in the middle of the night, but I think I can "migrate" to something more challenging, like my ever-expanding honey-do list."
The departure of experts like Bell opens opportunity for third parties to serve homesteaders. But knowledge drain has been on the community's list of issues for more than six years. That HP documents link includes a white paper from Mark Bixby, a former 3000 engineer who's now part of the development team at K-12 app company QSS. Bixby's April, 2003 paper, Is Your e3000 Environment Secure? still brims with valuable expertise. Even though the homesteading advice was written before HP stopped selling 3000s, the deck of more than 100 PowerPoint slides is full of good practices. Near the end, Bixby said that retiring expertise could pose security questions.
"Employees with MPE OS and local application skills may leave to seek a different career path," he wrote. "Will the employees who are left have sufficient skills to ensure good MPE and application security? Make sure critical knowledge is written down somewhere."
HP is still hosting the MPE knowledge on its servers, and the vendor is licensing the content to third parties. Unless a retirement path like the one Bell describes is the plan for apps at homesteading sites, you should marshal the critical, tribal knowledge of your apps as part of a sustainability practice.
September 10, 2009
Community Meet assembles members, polls
The HP 3000 Community Meet is now less than two weeks away, but the Sept. 23 event is gathering its content and taking $30 registrations for the free lunch -- along with what's becoming a full day of talks and networking.
Organizer Alan Yeo reports that the code to snag a discounted room at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt is "HP3000 Meeting", which he says will be activated at the registration desk no later than Friday morning. Call hotel reservations direct at 650-347-1234 and mention the code to get your rate. (After 25 years of travel, booking through the hotel is a habit I practice to assure the very best stay.) You can also register online at the Hyatt's site and use code G-SCRJ to get the $109 rate.
A 6:30 dinner will follow a day that looks to be starting before 10 AM and wrapping up late in the afternoon. Speakers now include the Support Group inc, which is assembling cloud computing services for the 3000 community, both homesteading and migrating sites. Connectivity software supplier Minisoft reports that it's sending its chief developer for middleware products to the Meet.
There's also a way to participate in having your voice heard. An online survey, prepared by MB Foster's Birket Foster, asks eight simple yes-no questions. But you can also add your comments along with a quick response, if you're interested. I hope you'll speak up at the Meet's survey page soon.
The Connect HP user group is accepting credit cards to operate the registration process, support from an organization that will be helmed by Speedware's Chris Koppe starting next year. Speedware's got updates to share at the meeting, as does MB Foster and Mike Marxmeier of Marxmeier Software (creators of the Eloquence database and co-hosts). Migration supplier Transoft is also on board as a sponsor and presenter.
These updates will be brief -- 15 minutes or so -- to keep the day open for informal networking, reports Yeo. The organizers were also working to arrange brief talks from Allegro Consultants, providers of support for homesteading 3000 sites as well as HP-UX users.
Roundtable discussions are set for the afternoon to cover both homesteading plans and migration issues. And by request, I'll be making a short update on community trends in the afternoon, too. I'm taking the bullet of talking just after that lunch, so I'm practicing my showmanship by calling on long-ago theatrical moxie. (That all means I'm trying to keep things lively enough to ward off naps in the audience.)
September 09, 2009
Speedware illuminates endings for 3000s
Hewlett-Packard calls 2010's last month the "end of life" for the HP 3000, and community partner Speedware is carrying the term forward to 3000 customers, too. The vendor that supports HP 3000 migrations also supports 3000 applications for homesteaders, but 2010 is sparking a discount in the cost of both its migration and support services.
Marketing VP Chris Koppe says there's more than one way to view what will happen at the close of 2010, but end-of-life (EOL) is a valid definition for some customers. He adds that community members are counting on another HP support extension.
"It's time to raise some of the alarm bells for those who haven't acted yet," he says, "and say there's no more extensions." Speedware believes the hardware still working at 3000 sites is physically aging — because HP hasn't updated servers since 2003 -- and it puts a lot of weight behind the end of HP's support services in December, 2010. A discount off future migration or app support engagements with Speedware is underway through the end of 2009.
Like others who are serving customers in the community, Speedware knows of large companies still working with their 3000s, despite business continuity and risk management issues. "Some are just slower to act than others," he said.
The exit of an HP support option at the end of 2010 means more to larger customers, Koppe admits, than smaller sites. Companies that homestead don't rely on HP as a central IT resource the way these larger, brand-name organizations do. Homesteaders are moving to third party support firms now, he says, "since it's wiser not to do that at the last minute."
For the migration-bound site, time is growing very short to meet an end of 2010 deadline. Although migrations can be accomplished in under one year, 15 to 18 months is more of an average. Testing of migrations -- either the lift-and-shift of proven apps, or kick-starting replacement programs in a new environment -- takes more than half the time of a migration. Companies might be tempted to compress their test cycles in order to start later than this fall. That's another risk than an earlier start can help avoid.
Koppe says Speedware wants to offer a migration solution that fits all sizes of companies, not just those with deep pockets. "Companies that have tighter budgets tend to be more open to combinations of outsourcing and in-house resources," he said. Speedware's offer is to discount its Detailed Modernization Analysis, a first step in what it calls modernization rather than migration. A Detailed Modernization Analysis (DMA) and earns an investment credit worth up to 50 percent of the cost of your DMA, applicable towards the cost of a Speedware migration.
The investment credit offer is only available through December 31, but a reduction in costs could start some migrations moving. "There are five different tiers of resource offerings geared to every level of budget," Koppe says, "because some people don't have the financial budget to outsource everything, but they can get the physical resources to do it. They're looking for a more cost-effective or cheaper solution."
While every migration manager wants to be successful, there's two levels of accountability to that success. Quality of migrated code is one level, and then there's "being accountable for the outcome of the project: managing it and guiding the customer in their testing activities," Koppe says. Managing preparation for deployment, preparation for transitioning an organization, embedding staff onsite -- these are on the high end of Speedware's five levels of engagement.
Low end modernization might include teaching a customer how to use transition tools. "It's do it yourself, but with some education on how to do it," he says. Then there's mass migration of code, handed back to the customer. Both of these levels put the accountability of outcome on the customer's shoulders, "and I've seen customers very successful with do-it-yourself projects," Koppe says.
September 08, 2009
Matching UX Servers with 3000s
As some 3000 customers migrate, their planning turns to accurate replacement of HP 3000 servers. An application leads to HP-UX, and the next step can be sizing the replacement server to meet or exceed the 3000's performance. This exercise may lead to some surprising values.
HP created its PA-RISC servers for both MPE/iX and HP-UX in families, named with letters such as D, E, F, G, I, K, L, N and A. While the last two letters are familiar to 3000 customers, the rest of the alphabet can be tricky to translate. If you've been getting along on a Series 937 3000, how high a letter of HP-UX server is required to keep processing power on the upswing?
"A customer isn’t really interested in hardware equivalency," said IT manager Mark Landin, "they are interested in performance equivalency. As I [learned in performance class many moons ago,] the answer to every performance problem is, “It depends.” For instance, the disk IO available on “modern” 9000 equipment far exceeds the FW-SCSI limitations of the 3000 systems. How much that impacts your perceived performance depends on if your workload is IO-intensive or not."
So what's the letter equivalent of a Series 937? Support provider Gilles Schipper of GSA says a G-Class HP-UX machine would be a equal match, but finding such a relic would be pointless. Why bother, when an rx2600 server, far faster than the 937 or its UX equivalent, can be bought on eBay loaded with 12GB of memory for $200?
For those looking into the history of comparable HP-UX and MPE/iX servers of the past 10 years, Schipper explains it all.
Within each lettered sub-class, there are numbers to designate the various models within, such as: F10, F20, and F30; G30 through G70; H20 thru H70, I30 thru I60 The difference in the letters and number designations are associated with differences in CPU speeds and chassis sizes, respectively.
The 3000 family chassis size was designated with a model number suffix, as in 937LX, 957RX, 957SX. (The LX was small body, RX was medium size body, SX was wide-body). The E-class of HP-UX machines would be equivalent, roughly, to the 9x8 HP 3000 family. The K-class is equivalent to the 9x9 HP 3000 family.
Schipper went on to note that RX means something very different in the current HP server nomenclature. The x stands for Itanium-based architecture, while something like an rp7420 denotes a PA-RISC-based server. Even though HP stopped selling PA-RISC Unix systems at the end of 2008, former 3000 customers who have migrated are running these systems as 3000 replacements. At the American Airlines Credit Union, business continuity coordinator Jesse Davis reports that Summit Information Systems migrated the credit union into an rp7410.
Choosing a modern rx server for HP-UX, driven by the Itanium chips, nets plenty of advantages over those rp units. Schipper notes that "Unlike PA-RISC, Itanium offers multi-core capability, among many other more advanced features. In general, they are smaller in size, significantly faster than the PA-RISC CPUs and consume less power."
Moving to a rx2600 can seem faster than the 15-year-old 937 technology, depending on database performance. An rx 2660, 3600 or 6600 are considered the entry level of HP's UX server line. As Integrity servers, they have the full confidence of HP, at least for a future of more than five years.
Hardware replacing and investment is no longer the long-term relationship that it was while the Series 937 was in its heyday. Landin suggested a try before you buy plan. "I recommend taking a good guess, lease or rent it for a while, put a production load on it and see what happens," he said. "If it’s not stout enough, rent something bigger. Repeat until you are happy."
September 07, 2009
Viewing the IMAGE of Community's Labors
Ed. Note: We're running a series of remembrances from members of the HP 3000 user, vendor and advisor community, each marking the year 1984. Today in the US we mark Labor Day, a holiday that celebrates the earliest efforts to build a working-class labor force. On this day it seems fitting to share the state of the 3000's world in '84, a time when the deepest roots to serve your labor, IMAGE and the tools to wield it, were taking hold.
By Charles Finley
By 1984 the accepted definition of best computing practices had evolved into using systems that employed interactive terminals and databases. Applications were usually written in languages like COBOL, RPG, PASCAL, PL/I and FORTRAN. In mainframe environments, the most widely used applications were batch, datacenter-oriented applications. For mainframe users, online interactive database-oriented systems were extremely expensive.
The datacenter structure for these mainframes consisted of developers (programmers and systems analysts), network and database systems programmers, data entry (keypunch) personnel and computer operators. These systems required paid staff in attendance at all times.
Smaller and medium-sized companies during that time, who would only purchase what IBM offered, were mostly relegated to the IBM System 32 and System 34. which were designed to replicate the kind of capability that was available to mainframe users. However, some IBM customers were using the System/38, which had something like a database and was somewhat more terminal-oriented.
For medium-sized customers, there was another class of minicomputer such as the HP 3000, Prime, Perkin Elmer, or Data General Eclipse that offered terminal-oriented applications with languages such as COBOL, BASIC, FORTRAN and RPG. These were mainframes competitors. However, the HP 3000 was the only one of these systems that included its own database, IMAGE.
What the HP 3000 offered, in addition to this built-in database, was a number of tools and utilities and a style of operating that did not require traditional mainframe staff. Compared to the IBM mainframe environment, it also offered a relatively simple means for application development. I came from a mainframe background and noticed that a developer without much experience could develop an online interactive database application, in some cases in maybe as little as one hour. A similar mainframe application would take much longer. Also, to this day I don't believe I have ever met a TurboIMAGE database administrator.
By 1984, the HP 3000 had been around for long enough that it had an established third-party software community. This included companies such as Cognos, Robelle, Vesoft, Adager and, also importantly, it had attracted applications ISVs such as Smith Gardner Associates (Ecometry), ASK (MANMAN), and more. By 1984 many companies who were formally thought to be only candidates for mainframes - such as State Farm, 3M, Ford Motor Company and Rolm - were using the HP 3000 in very business-effective and cost-effective ways.
I heard one story in 1984 that illustrates the value and sharing in the community 25 years ago. I overheard it at lunch at a SCRUG conference. One developer was talking about a dog licensing system that he developed for a local Southern California city in one afternoon. He offered to give it to another city. I had been involved in the mainframe development of a CICS/IMS dog licensing system that cost a local city $200,000! The developer described an afternoon when he had no assigned tasks, and he had heard a user request the dog licensing system -- so he just built it in his spare time.
Charles Finley founded HP 3000 reseller ConAm and headed the Southern California Regional User Group (SCRUG) for 3000 users
September 04, 2009
Quarter-century on, 3000 gurus recall
As part of a celebration of my first 25 years of HP 3000 coverage, we invited community members to talk about what their 1984 experience felt like while working with the 3000. Here's our first installment to show how far the community has evolved -- and what sorts of challenges we've left behind.
User groups plus the press lifted the 3000
By Steve Cooper
I started my career on the HP 3000 in 1977. At that point, the Series II was mature enough to build “real” systems on, but reliability, performance, and bug-free software were attributes we could still only dream about. Much of our dream did slowly get realized, and by 1984, we reached a point where the HP 3000 family of computers truly represented a viable platform as a general-purpose business computer. Now an actual family of computers, one could select from small to large systems, finding the price-point that one could justify (and afford). Systems that used to only stay up for days were now staying up for months at a time. And, one could build complex business systems in COBOL and Image on top of MPE, and not run into insurmountable bugs.
But equally important was the emergence of the rest of the infrastructure necessary to confidentially choose that platform for your company. Third party software companies continued to spring up, but now they were showing the strength and perseverance needed to convince companies that they were in it for the long haul. “Maybe we can actually trust this Guatemalan with a privileged-mode program that manipulates databases,” we believed, “and maybe we can trust this Canadian company with an editor that makes the 3000 so easy to use.”
Of course, an essential part (perhaps THE essential part) of this infrastructure was an active and vital user community. This took shape in two forms: First was the User Group, eventually called Interex, and the affiliated RUGs (Regional Users Groups). Now, kindred spirits could get together and meet face-to-face, to share best practices, horror stories, and programs they had written, to learn about these new third party products, and to present a common front to advocate to HP on the direction we hoped they would take the 3000 and MPE.
Second was the press. The 3000 and its community had reached a point where things that happened here were actually “news” and we had “reporters” reporting on them. And not just snippets in ComputerWorld. We had entire publications devoted to the HP 3000, and journalists like Ron Seybold, reporting the news and sharing their observations on it. These two additions to the community gave a legitimacy and empowerment to the community that can't be underestimated.
1984 was also the year that Stan Sieler decided to leave HP and join me in forming Allegro Consultants. I wanted to keep doing what we were doing at my old company, even though that company now wanted to go in a new direction. I thought we had an understanding of “things 3000” that would allow us to tune systems around the world, and produce software products that could make the 3000 do things that had it had never done before. We must have done something right; we're still doing it 25 years later.
September 03, 2009
SFO Community Meet firms up its program, sparks new Transition survey
The HP 3000 Community Meet on Sept. 23 is shaping up quickly, considering the event was only a gleam in the eye of organizer Alan Yeo in mid-August. The one-day event at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt is gathering steam because an independent management pace speeds its growth. A larger organization might take months to assemble such an event.
There's less than a month left before the 10AM start. But sponsors and supporters are pitching in. Speedware's Chris Koppe has engaged the Connect HP user group's Web services to register attendees. (Koppe is the president-elect of Connect). By this afternoon, a visit to the Web address from the '07 Meet, hpmigrations.com/sfevent, should include a link to a registration page at the Connect servers. Credit cards are accepted for the nominal $30 fee.
There's also online polling in place today in support of the event. Birket Foster of MB Foster has set up a survey that anyone in the community can take -- reporting on whether they can attend, plus taking answers to fun questions like "Have you been able to establish a sustainable homesteading plan?" The e-mail and communications outsourcer Constant Contact has a method to keep the polls from being gamed, even while the answers and comments can be anonymous.
It all seems in the spirit of good cheer and dedication to realistic Transition that will propel the Meet. Oh, and there's a sports bar/restaurant at the Hyatt for an after-Meet dinner to help raise cheers, too.
A $30 sign-up fee is in keeping with the 2007 meet, just a nominal charge to get a little skin in the game for the event to lock in attendance. The free lunch is hosted by Alan Yeo of ScreenJet and Michael Marxmeier of Marxmeier Software. In addition to Speedware and MB Foster, K-12 app vendor QSS's founder Duane Percox is among the event's supporters. The one-day affair will have brief (10-15 minute) update talks from leading 3000 community resources such as Allegro Consultants and the Support Group, inc. These are resources who are assisting both migration and homesteading customers.
The meeting will give 3000 users a place to network and catch up on the latest details and stories of Transition. There will be that talk about sustaining homestead plans, too.
You can get on board by making your hotel reservations at the Hyatt for a $109 room rate for the meeting, if you need to stay overnight. Call hotel reservations direct at 650-347-1234 and mention the 3000 Meet to get your rate.
We'll have more details on the day's program, but a major attraction is meeting to network with 3000 resources face to face, be they customers or consultants or suppliers.
September 02, 2009
Emulators will arrive too late for some
Even as several vendors move into testing for an HP 3000 hardware emulator, the product will arrive long after it could have helped some sites. Edward Berner of Yosemite Community College couldn't hold out, even though he said as far back as 2006 he could use such a product.
Fortunately (for the college, but unfortunately for the emulator companies) we've finally managed to retire our HP 3000. It's been powered off for about eight months now (and was inactive for a while before that). Once it's been off for a full year, I'll start advocating that we sell the hardware to a vendor or something. After that we can rent a system, or use a service if we need to refer to something from our backup tapes.
The delays in emulation made up the dread that 3000 advocates and advisors felt about the solution. HP had a change of heart, according to one emulator supplier, about creating a license mechanism for emulation. After awhile Hewlett-Packard began to see a large share of the migrating 3000 sites were choosing a replacement system without an HP badge. That's what happened at Yosemite, where the Sun rose out in the west.
Berner said the college made a transition to Sun Microsystems servers from the 3000. (We know, there's a bit of another migration issue in that environment as well -- depending on what Oracle decides to do about the Sun server business it will acquire along with Sun's software.)
Berner said HP's exit announcement in '01 didn't spark the rise of Sun at the college. "Our decision to migrate was pretty much independent of HP's announcement," he said, "though I guess the announcement probably did provide additional support for the decision." A Series 979, running one CPU and two in-house apps, was powered off at the start of 2009.
I probably shouldn't get into comparing the different applications.
The migration was largely done in-house, Berner added, and retraining was necessary.
An emulator wouldn't have kept MPE/iX and those applications in production use at Yosemite. "Our main use for an emulator would have been for running the HP 3000 software for a couple years after the migration was mostly done, for historical data and while the last few stray things were migrated," Berner said. "The attraction being that a 1- or 2-processor Intel system is a lot smaller than a 979 -- and the HP 3000 A Series always seemed too expensive to me."
A price point for emulators will be difficult to set at first. Some companies homesteading on the 3000 report they don't migrate for budgetary reasons. Berner said a price point of "less than the 3000 hardware support contract" fee would have worked for him. That might be a lean business incentive to launch emulator products.
Even while a couple of companies have pledged upwards of a $1 million to invest in an emulator for their 3000 operations, the IT managers who understand the value of emulation are sometimes moving on before their 3000s migrate. Paula Brinson, the datacenter operations manager who we quoted in our Monday story as saying "sorrowfully, I might have to use an emulator," won't have to oversee such a step. She's now retired from the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia after 30 years of IT service. As of this spring, a 3000 application very popular with the users remained online at HRSD.
September 01, 2009
Generating your Legacy to Improve
This summer has been a season of celebration for me. I finished my first novel, Viral Times, and I marked 25 years of writing stories about the HP 3000. But between those highlights arrived the sweetest event, our first grandson. Baby Noah Seybold was born into his grandparents' lives on July 19. Noah, a marvel in miniature as elegant as any RISC chip design, is a chip off this old block, a generation I think of as Seybold 3.0. (From the left in the picture, there's Seybold 1.0, Noah, and Seybold 2.0, our son and new father Nick.)
Noah's beaming dad was not yet two years old when I started making HP my life's career. I might say that journalism has been my life's work, but the tender cries and hummingbird heartbeat of a newborn boy that I heard once again give me perspective. My partner Abby and I -- well, all grandparents -- might see their life's work as generating a legacy, improving one generation at a time.
Technology is as different in the birthing room as it differs in your computer room, comparing the mid-1980s (Nick's birth) with Noah's 2009 debut. Being born is improved in its integration of family (like your networking), where the whole clan of Noah's mom Elisha's folks and Nick's family could visit the little boy within two hours of his arrival.
There was the in-room warming table, the more precise monitoring (not an HP instrument anymore), the in-room staff chosen for emotional coaching as well as medical savvy. A midwife and a duola coach brought this boy into our world, with nary a doctor needed (but one on call).
After our glorious tears on Noah's first afternoon, Abby and I floated back home (a car was involved, I think) to embrace what sparked the pride and joy of the day. We brought up Nick with attention and ardor to hope for this day when a new generation would join us. Our lives have swelled with a new understanding of the word legacy, a word used as an epithet during the years of my career.
As leaders, creators and devoted humans we all strive to leave a legacy. It must be something of great value if so many pursue it. But as you may know from either grand-parenthood or a life working through change, a legacy must contribute to whatever follows. After 25 years of learning computing, and teaching it through stories, I understand how we build a legacy one bedtime story, program design or midnight support call at a time. Generations grow stronger when they're lifted onto an older shoulder. Older clears a path for newer, which enables the latest.
The meaning of accomplishments long past can elude any of us, until we grasp the long view. What sounds like Geezer IT Talk -- with fables of punch cards, tiny baud rates, or 11 platters to make up just 74MB of 3000 disc, is one kind of promise from the past to the future. We created those solutions, the veterans say in this issue, and you will solve similar problems too.
Perhaps as the grandparents of new tech we have some fundamental to pass on for consideration. Abby and I visit the tiny lad in his nursery and relieve his mom, change him with practiced hands. We believe his little cries will subside because we remember our own success with babies. The greatest legacy we can leave, it seems on those days, is the certainty that life will work out alright even when it's an unfamiliar puzzle to be solved.
Seeing a family into a fresh generation is more profound than carrying computing from into cloud services. Those machines don't have souls or hearts or dreams, except for whatever we vest them with while we grow wiser using them. In time, the technology advances on a pace outside our control, just as independent as any young adult seeking love and adventure through scrapes with trouble and life lessons learned. My generation and yours believes we started the life the world's youth will know. But in truth, we too grew from a legacy left to us from elders loud, stubborn or wise.
It was that word "wise" that made my voice shudder and my tears flow on our first afternoon in Noah's nursery. While he cooed and napped and stretched in my arms, I found a cherished story written by Margaret Wise Brown on his shelf. Her book The Runaway Bunny has never been out of print in 67 years, a continuing lifespan as remarkable as the HP 3000s. The story's simple words echoed while I read them to our grandson for the first of many times to come.
Words, the fundamentals of any storyteller as well as basic units of data in the earliest 3000s, connect legacy with life or technology just unfolding. Believe in the value of your ability to learn while you practice sharing what you know. Such faith might form the older, steady shoulder that can help newborns grow.