November 30, 2009
2009 edition of Meet shares practicesOpenMPE, represented by Donna Hofmeister of Allegro Consultants, wants to establish business relationships between itself, support providers like Allegro and a group of professionals it calls Patch Providers. "Basically, that's what we used to call the lab," Hofmeister said at the e3000 Community Meet this fall. OpenMPE also launched its pitch for $25,000 in funding to purchase and maintain an HP MPE/iX source code license. The information was the first to surface that indicates how much HP is charging some applicants for the license. The source code deals are sealed under a confidential agreement.
HP's Alvina Nishimoto, who attended the second half of the Meet, said HP is still observing customers migrating, and "migrating late, which is kind of surprising." But on the whole the vendor is seeing a very quiet picture of the community, she said. "We have 9x7 customers coming out of the woodwork," a data point that would seem to suggest more than 1,000 customers continue to use a 3000, since the 9x7s were first shipped 15 years ago. Nishimoto said these 9x7 customers were sites HP didn't know about. But a comment about the community having more than 10,000 customers drew sustained laughter.The afternoon was anchored by moving tables. The traditional seminar room setting got skewed when the long tables were placed in a circle, so all attendees could see one another in a genuine roundtable meeting. Among the customers which HP has encountered, the most common misunderstanding is that a migration is going to go pretty quickly. Speedware's Koppe estimates the average migration requires 12-18 months, although stories of longer projects are not tough to find.
Peter Anderton of Micro Focus said during the roundtable that his company, which purchased AcuCOBOL during 2007, is moving forward with a modernization project for AcuCOBOL to help customers get into cloud computing. "We're working hard to migrate the AcuCOBOL GUI into the cloud," he said. As for cloud demand, Anderton shared a typical briefing with a customer who said they didn't want cloud computing - but wanted virtualization, software as a service, thin clients, Web 2.0 and Service Oriented Architecture, all elements of the cloud concept.
"At the heart of it, the big change will be in billing," Anderton said. "When you can start billing customers by the click, the gigabyte, or don't charge them at all but show them an advertisement, that's when you'll see a difference."
The Micro Focus official also pushed back on observations that AcuCOBOL is dead, talk sparked by the fact that it's owned by a company selling another COBOL compiler. Six months into a one-year push to put COBOL into cloud use, Micro Focus "is developing AcuCOBOL again. We're putting enhancements in, and our roadmaps for it talk about a Version 9, and a lot of it will be based on the Acu user interface that's done so well on the HP 3000. We're thinking of keeping the Acu core, with the new cloud interface. We didn't know what we were doing with Acu, and so we said why sell it new if Micro Focus COBOL and it do the same thing?" The new bottom line look at the future of AcuCOBOL, Anderson said Micro Focus would be selling Acu to new clients as of October.
Michael Marxmeier, creator of the Eloquence database, made a case for some kind of clearinghouse that knows new technologies and could interface with smaller customers.
"You have large organizations that do migrations, and they're good for large companies," he said. "Are they a good fit for small companies? Maybe, maybe not. But if you've worked with a company on a 3000 for years, nobody can actually replace you. It has worked because there was a user community, and now it's deteriorating. The question is how can we all make a living from that as professionals? Consulting knowledge is all-important."
Birket Foster believes the future of the community is a generational issue. David Floyd of the Support Group inc. was the only attendee under the age of 40 - "and a long way from 40, thank you," he told attendees. Floyd is leading the Support Group in providing outsourcing and support services to help sites continue to use 3000 applications. But tSGi leadership aside, for Foster "the issue is that we're going through the end of the Baby Boomers in IT, and as we all retire the kids behind us don't know how to do any of this."
Foster's presentation included news that MB Foster has started to host data marts for some clients. A newer venture he's invested in, Storm.ca, operates co-located servers in addition to its core business of wireless broadband for rural customers and businesses around Ottawa, Canada.
He said Storm co-locates hosts because "I believe in five years you won't be able to support your small business without having a Rolodex of at least five people. The people in this room are the people who could be doing that IT service for you. The problem is that companies of that size can't afford to be in the IT business themselves."
Organizations large enough to manage mainframes will continue to work through IT issues. HP's Nishimoto updated attendees with a story about a migration not away from an HP 3000, but from an IBM mainframe to an HP-UX system. The customer could only satisfy its auditors that the migration wouldn't trigger a recertification by proving the app was the same code, line for line. An calculation error in the migrated system was tracked back to the mainframe app, she added.
Details on adding HP's 3000 software after 2010 remain to be worked out, Nishimoto explained in a response to a customer question. While there's a process in place to transfer MPE/iX licenses once HP leaves the support field, purchasing a product such as a 3000 C compiler or Glance doesn't have a clear path today. Walter Murray, who manages the 3000s at the California Department of Corrections, asked about adding the software to his environment. The state agency is migrating, but said the process will take years.
The next bang-up meet up
"There's a time to do something, or you'll never do it," Yeo said in closing the meeting. Yeo sparked the World Wide Wake to mark the end of 3000 manufacturing, and Birket Foster said that 2003 was "too early to do the World Wide Wake - but I said then that if we waited any longer, we'd lose contact. Look around you now, and see how many people we've lost contact with since then."
The close of the day's meeting included some proposals for a gathering during 2010 of 3000 professionals. Yeo said while the year doesn't mark the end of the 3000's life, the 2010 is "as far as HP is concerned, when the 3000 dies as a commercial platform." Yeo mused aloud about the first steps for a meeting that would give HP's 3000 ending a bang, rather than a whimper, by adding training in transition technology.
This year's attendees agreed that adding the educational component to the next meet will enable more customers to make room for attending the next meet,
"We'll kind of have a meeting event where we can do this kind of networking," Yeo said, "but then tail onto it some real training sessions again in available technologies," he said. The training would focus on migration targets and tools such as software from the community's migration solution providers to engage the smaller customer who's doing a migration in-house, with limited outsourcing.
When Yeo introduced the briefing from OpenMPE, he suggested some help in keeping the community connected could come from that group. The Meets could evolve into a conference of "people who were using things on the 3000 but aren't anymore. Some of those knowledge sets are applicable."
As experts like those in that hotel meeting room stretch their skills, "the question is how do we keep that knowledge base within a community that isn't purely HP 3000 based anymore?" Yeo asked. "We don't know. Hopefully in 10 years' time we can still meet up - because it's good to meet people - and there's a mechanism to keep people in touch."
November 27, 2009
Enduring risks to survive viral timesNewsWire Editorial
By Ron Seybold
We’ve been wrestling with risk at my house this month. The flu made its debut just as November started, and so a period of recovery and a return to health commenced, too. We’re not flu shot people, Abby and I, so we weather the risk of letting a virus have its way with our immune systems. Both beyond 50, we’re in the generation that drank from garden hoses, ate burgers that dropped to the dirt, and played for hours after we skinned our knees outside.
That’s all risky behavior, but so is rolling the dice on a flu shot, or deciding that it’s time to cut over in a massive migration. The shots and the migrations flow from sound advice, but they are solutions that carry a potential downside, too. A flu shot can give you a dose of the flu, and every virus has powerful evolution properties that let it evade a vaccine after just a few months, maybe weeks. (I’ve researched viral behavior for my just-finished novel Viral Times, but years of study that doesn’t make me an expert, just an informed storyteller. You can read more at viraltimes.net.)
We all tell ourselves stories as a way of surviving and thriving. Our story this month has been something like, “Okay, it’s just the flu. Here’s how you outlast the symptoms, and here’s how you protect yourself while your sweetheart gets through her bout.” We’ve developed our natural immunity for reasonable risk in our lives since we started the NewsWire together more than 14 years ago. Thanks to you, we survived the risk and thrived.
During more than half of that 14 years we have seen many of you managing the risk of 3000 transitions. Transition, as I’ve preached, describes the condition of nearly every member of the 3000 community: the homesteading customers who need new support providers and new DIY skills; the migrators, making a shift to a new environment and new apps; the solutions providers, shifting to new markets or shoring up their resolve to serve 3000 sites for another seven years.If you think of transition as a virus, then we’ve lived in viral times ever since events in this month changed our lives during 2001. You can reach for a vaccine if you feel the risk of homesteading is too great. Or you can rely on the immunity you’ve developed in your career and your company’s resolve to weather unproductive changes. Flu shot, or no shot, you manage risk and try to avoid a deadly illness.
Everyone has a flu story by this time in the season, either something they’ve heard or read, something a healthcare pro has told them, or the firsthand experience of staving it off and dodging infection. There will be no completely effective, permanent vaccine for viruses. We’ve lived alongside them for tens of thousands of years. The risk hasn’t eliminated our species yet, even while these viral times have culled out people with underlying conditions.
You can eliminate your underlying risks. Many people are taking risks now, during the months remaining until HP shuts off its 3000 interests, because they have no other choice. They pursue migrations that could fail and cost millions. They remain in lockstep with 3000s when they have nobody left on staff who knows the in-house accounting application. In both cases, the companies could get mortally ill. Perhaps they survive, like nearly everyone who gets the flu. In 1918 fewer than 2 percent died out of those who got the worst virus in human history.
You don’t want to be among the 2 percent of your community, or even someone who’s survived the flu and lost fitness, your savings, or contact with your friends and loved ones. We risk becoming distant when exposure means danger, cutting ourselves off to stay out of the risk pool. You want to stay connected during a risky time, relying on the herd of your fellow 3000 owners and partners to share practices to help maintain your IT health.
I could find no better example of this connection than this fall’s e3000 Community Meet outside San Francisco. The first day of Fall this year brought 40-plus IT pros, nearly all over age 50, into one room where they could exchange what was working and where they observed risky practices. Sharing our stories and contacts in that room was a booster shot of information and hope. We’re all old enough to recall booster shots, while many of us have parented enough to experience the gauntlet of immunizations our kids have endured. Precaution has always been good medicine.
Vaccines have enabled extraordinary lifespans in our generation, even in the US. But there are some bouts of disease that we’ve got to bull through, letting our bodies spin the magic antibodies while we rest, hydrate and pray for recovery. Setting a transition in play looks like a bout of flu season to me, here in a house where we’ve sanitized, slept late and downed chicken soup and juice. You might not understand everything in the steps of a migration, or building a sustainability plan for homesteading. But you can avoid being in the two percent by staying connected and learning what’s working, gathering the latest advice on how to pass through the fever pitch of “Change now.”
There’s no avoiding change, either. There hasn’t been a year in human history without a flu virus, and somehow we’ve survived up to now. You wash your hands, cough into your elbow, amass your gurus and sanitize yourself from undocumented critical apps. Take one of two paths, migration or sustaining homesteading. Call us in the morning, or your darkest night. Meet these risks during viral times head-on, with connections.
November 26, 2009
Serve Up Yourself - Connect to a CommunityIf you want to be connected, social networks will link you into whatever you need to know right away. The world’s wildest and widest social net, Twitter, can put you in direct and immediate contact with anyone who’s a member. Millions of people, posting all around the wide world, can make you smarter, funnier and richer. (Sorry, not thinner. There’s only so much an electronic medium can do.)
If only there were more HP 3000 community members on Twitter. I can see the eyes rolling for many of my readers at this moment. They believe don’t have the time to plug in to social networks like Facebook, Linked In, the Connect User Group’s community, or even others. “I have enough to do already,” they argue, and then might add a quip that they have a real life.
That’s a more current argument if your professional life doesn’t span a world any larger than your county, state or province. As an IT pro, your field is as wide as your ambition and desire to grow and learn. If you don’t network using the tools of the Web, you’d better be traveling to meetings and conferences.
I enjoyed the glee of mixing both in-person and online networking this fall. At the latest e3000 Community Meet I sat in the front row of a Hyatt hotel room to listen and ask questions. I also spread Twitter tweets in pretty-much live broadcasting. I get excited about that broadcasting prospect because of my dad’s work while I grew up. He engineered broadcasts for WSPD-TV. That was my first taste of being a part of the media. At the Meet I got to shoot video which is up on the NewsWire's YouTube channel. It's another way to podcast, one where the speakers are featured instead of your host/editor.There are light years between dad’s days lifting and mounting 6-pound videotape reels of news and talk shows, and my unreeling just-announced 3000 news from a laptop keyboard, or my iPhone. Today I feel grateful to have experienced this evolution of media. You might feel as fortunate to have survived the ENQ/ACK black arts days of enterprise computing management. Your journey has carried computing so far that now some experts predict a small company won’t be able to afford to employ enough IT gurus.
That last belief provides a very good reason to network in social and business settings. IT skills and practices are still valuable, both to your livelihood and to companies around the world. However, finding in-person daily employment presents greater challenges than ever. Working has become a world wide pursuit. Nets, wide like Twitter and business-focused like Linked In, extend and improve your reach.
So having presented this pitch to connect over social nets, let me pause to explain where a few favorite links lie. Follow us at our feed on twitter.com/3000newswire. Every day the stories at the right generate automatic notice as they surface. Get your experience posted on Linked In. Staying in personal touch can help partnerships, so Facebook plays a role. 156 members belong to the Linked In 3000 Community group. Join us. You can experiment just as you might learning perl or ITIL practices. Keep your postings as modest as e-mails, but share what you learn. Become a community source.
November 25, 2009
Community experts gather to swap intelligence
A hotel meeting room, filled with 40 men and women wearing Post-It notes, could be considered an unusual nexus of HP 3000 energy in the year 2009. But there's been little that's been usual or expected about the 3000 community's Transition since late 2001.
That's why the dominant feeling at this year's e3000 Community Meet was not shock, over seeing more than 40 IT pros on hand for a day devoted to the 3000, but delight over any reunion. Because the 3000 has been a business tool and commercial opportunity since the 1970s, most of the people in the room were well past 40 years of age.
The years of relationships between those developers, vendors and a few users made the event come together on the shortest of schedules. The organization was so tight that name badges were handwritten Post-It notes attached with large paper clips.
Chief instigator Alan Yeo of UK-based ScreenJet decided that a fresh edition of the Community Meet would benefit development plans and business strategy for his partners. Yeo contacted one of his closest, he said, to arrange to pay for a lunch, a room, and an invite to reconnect and share.
"I'd like to thank Michael Marxmeier," Yeo said at the start of a list of Meet supporters. "When I called him to ask, 'Are you up to pay half of this if nobody else is willing,' he said, 'Do it.' With that kind of enthusiasm, I could go and twist a few other people's arms."
In a reprise of the first Community Meet Yeo launched in 2007, this year's edition was sponsored and funded and supported by a raft of active 3000 community members. Yeo thanked Duane Percox of QSS for booking a Bay Area venue and offering wi-fi services for the day, the Connect user group which establishes a registration site, as well as Transoft and Speedware for kicking in support money.
The expenditures gave the community's transition suppliers a forum to connect.
"The chances to network with the people in this room are really difficult," Yeo said. "Some of you we need to meet for business, and flying back and forth over the Atlantic to have a meeting with just one person is a dumb thing to do. If we can put on something like this for the cost of flying over the Atlantic, it's a good deal for all of us."
"With a small group of people we can make these kinds of things happen," Yeo said, "provided there are people who want to get together. You have come because it's been useful to all of us in some way, so my biggest thanks is to you, for wanting to come."
News and views
Even though the event was wrapped around a system that HP stopped selling more than six years ago, there were solution developments and novel viewpoints during the day. Speedware's Chris Koppe said his company calculates there's 1,000 or less HP 3000 customers left using the platform. The estimate is based on Speedware's survey of some of its customer lists and others borrowed from other vendors. He said that the biggest 3000 customer lists from vendors such as Robelle, Adager and VEsoft were not part of the survey.
Speedware reported that it has migrated 106 of the computer's customers during the six years since HP ended sales. The migrations account for 729 HP 3000 servers.
November 24, 2009
HP Q4 results show business servers stalled
Hewlett-Packard reported its fiscal year and fourth quarter results late Monday, results that drew good news from services business, PC and printer sales, and little else. While the headline news showed an increase in Q4 profits over the same 2008 quarter, HP achieved its rise on cost cutting. Its total sales dropped 8 percent versus the prior fourth quarter and 3 percent for all of fiscal 2009.
That's a $114 billion year in sales, with HP reporting a total profit of $10.1 billion. The 2008 numbers hold the records for both categories -- and that was a fiscal year where EDS didn't contribute for two of HP's four quarters. Enterprise Server sales, part of the ESS group in the chart below, were off during 2009 by about $4 billion.
The numbers were brightest in the services sector which contributed most to 2009 sales. Once HP added EDS to its portfolio of acquired companies, the unit delivered both profits and sales that rose throughout the year. Services has kicked in upwards of $1 billion per quarter in 2009 profits, becoming the new printer group of HP's financial desires. The EDS unit came close to topping HP's PC business in sales, all while earning three times as much profit. Services now represent almost 38 percent of all HP profits.
PCs sat at the center of analyst questions in the briefing held after the US markets closed. HP is taking market share from Dell, but sales revolve around the least expensive products in the Personal Systems Group lineup. Wall Street and investment experts didn't ask about the Enterprise Storage and Server unit or the group's Business Critical Servers division. ESS generated more profits than in Q3, but its $481 million in earnings was 30 percent below the same 2008 quarter.
The latest numbers for the BCS products, such as the Integrity HP-UX server line and the ProLiant Windows servers, wouldn't inspire confidence in prospects for a renewal of former's sales growth.
The HP-specific enterprise servers which make up the Integrity line saw a drop in year over year sales of 33 percent. Even the arrival of blade server options couldn't show a rise, with sales off 8 percent.The results in enterprise servers looked like a situation where the small businesses led HP to better profitability while the HP-UX options for midrange and large companies brought up the rear. HP's CFO Cathy Lesjak had to point to incremental growth to assert improving conditions for the company's server operations. Increasing sales volumes for Industry Standard Servers (ISS) that run Windows drove up operating margins for ESS, she said.
"Although each business unit in Business Critical Systems was down year on year, each grew sequentially," Lesjak said. "Business Critical Systems and Storage improved 6 and 11 percent, respectively." Sequential comparisons are used to show overall sales trends, but business booked during a Q3 does not compare well with sales opportunities much deeper into customers' calendar year.
The newest G6 platforms in ISS, delivered during the summer, contributed to those Windows servers' 15 percent sales rise between a quarter ending July 31 and the one ended October 31. HP pre-announced these servers in the middle of Q3, tamping down demand for existing server sales that would then rebound when the new servers became available.
"With its compelling value proposition, we are seeing rapid adoption of this [G6 ProLiant] platform, with approximately 50 percent of ISS sales now coming from G6," Lesjak said.
HP made forecasts for its 2010 business, at least in the near term. It expects a quarter to start fiscal 2010 of about the same sales as the just ended quarter. Earnings will drop sequentially, HP predicts, while the full fiscal year should show sales of about $118 billion.
November 23, 2009
HP to roll out Q4 results this afternoon
HP's stock flirts with $50 a share today, as the company is set to release full details on its 2009 fiscal year and forecasts for business during 2010. The company will take questions from Wall Street analysts today in a Webcast which starts at 5 PM EST, after the US markets close. (Follow the link at the right, in our Twitter Updates, to find the Webcast page for HP's report.)
The financial condition and strategies of the world's biggest computer and services provider should matter to HP 3000 owners who are migrating. Business plan changes prompted HP to leave the 3000 market when the company decided revenue growth was not great enough to continue 3000 investments. Future surprises about support for non-standard environments could be impacted by financials.
HP took some of the surprise out of today's Q4 results by pre-announcing its financials on Nov. 11. HP said it earned 99 cents a share on revenue of $30.8 billion for the period, compared with a profit of 84 cents a share on $33.5 billion sales during the same period a year ago. HP trotted out those results along with news that it is buying the No. 2 networking equipment provider 3Com Corp for $2.7 billion.
But today's full report will include data on the performance of HP's enterprise server operations. The unit which develops and sells the Integrity systems that run HP-UX, as well as Windows ProLiant servers, is far from the spotlight for financial mavens. Performance of HP's PC business, the company's printer and imaging group, and the rise of the high-profit services unit are much higher on HP's hit parade.
November 20, 2009
Small migration steps shadow resistance
At this year's e3000 Community Meet, a roundtable discussion offered insights into why more migrations aren't completed by now. After all, it's eight years since HP announced its exit from the 3000 business. What's holding up some sensible companies? For the 3000 site accustomed to managing its own development and operations, one barrier seems to be in-house experience.
Rick Goldman of Spellbinder Systems Group shared a typical tale of resistance. Small steps can soften the blow of change, he said, but moving something task-specific into enterprise-wide design can throw up a hurdle. Spellman is consulting on Speedware implementations as well as migration.
"In some cases people don't want to move because they want to avoid risk -- not realizing the risk they've got in staying on the 3000," he said. "They're afraid of introducing some new mix to their technology." The reluctance to extending a point technology like replication is one example Goldman shared.
The consultant said at the Meet that a company he advised had put together a quick parser for Quiz reporting, and generated equivalent code using Crystal Reports. Now it had a poor man's replication monitor for the data, and periodically offloaded major databases. But up to date replication, where the data was fresh? Too much of a leap.
"The problem was that because they didn't do any formal, true replication, the data was always stale. That was acceptable. But the moment you start introducing something else, you need real time replication. This is where they get scared, because they haven't had to do that before. Even shadowed IMAGE databases, way back when, used to freak people."
Change, to almost nobody's surprise, is the fear that's acting as a counterweight to migrating away from a platform which HP promises to leave in about a year or so. "Doing replication onto another platform, despite the fact that we have much more heterogeneous environments with lots of platforms, there are still emotional limits to what people want to make their jump with," Goldman said. "They don't want to take the leap because it's scary and they don't have the expertise in that area."
November 19, 2009
OpenMPE's march to source halfway home
The treasurer for the OpenMPE advocacy group has announced that the drive to raise licensing fees for MPE/iX source is halfway home. Contributions have been trickling in since Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies kicked in the first $1,000 in September. The money can help connect customers to patches, as shown in the chart, so MPE can continue to serve companies, both those homesteading and those on a long-term migration schedule.
Although the group doesn't have an official deadline from HP to submit its fees for read-only source, the vendor's "Jennie Hou says the sooner the better," reported treasurer Matt Perdue. At September's e3000 Community Meet where the fundraising kicked off, Perdue estimated that about $20,000 would be needed to pay HP as well as manage the licensing process.
OpenMPE has applied for the license, and must be prepared to pay the license fee, upon approval by Hewlett-Packard. "We are now more than half way to the fundraising goal," Perdue said in a note to the HP 3000 newsgroup, "so please consider what you can contribute."
Specifics of the source code license terms are under wraps, thanks to a Confidential Disclosure Agreement that all applicants must sign. HP hasn't announced which companies have been approved and granted licenses. The program was first announced by HP in February.
Donors to the fundraising drive have been technical consultants such a Kevin Miller of 3KRanger who has contributed $500. Perdue said some donors wish to remain anonymous.
Once OpenMPE gains its source license, the group would assemble and administer the resources of engineers who have internal MPE/iX experience. Secretary Donna Hofmeister said at the Community Meet these patch providers "are more like [HP's] lab." The group will nurture and enable business relationships between customers of third party support providers and the patch providers.
The need for MPE/iX patches is both real and funded by HP customers, according to OpenMPE's president Birket Foster. Referring to "a very large aircraft manufacturer who will be on MPE until 2012," he said the customer anticipates changes in 3000 connectivity.
"They want to hedge their bets," he said, "so part of this [patching] is to make sure that if the standards for disk drive writes change over the next five years, or if IPV6 became mandatory, we could engineer to accept those changes." Any company or individual who wants to invest in the OpenMPE license can use the following deposit point to send checks (made out to OpenMPE):
c/o Matt Perdue, Treasurer
PO Box 460091
San Antonio, TX 78246-0091
November 18, 2009
Houston, we have HP-UX training, free
Even though many IT pros disregard the word free, and cull it from e-mail, the old-school HP 3000 community remembers genuine gifts to customers. Source Direct, a supplier of enterprise hardware, is sponsoring free training in the Houston area in three weeks. The source of the training makes it easy to identify the value you'll get on Dec. 9.
On that Wednesday from 11-5 you can receive HP-UX training from Bill Hassell, one of the best recognized Unix gurus in the HP community. Two years ago, the Greater Houston Regional User Group (GHRUG) included Hassell in GHRUG's user conference. Hassell has demonstrated enough HP-UX savvy and experience to fill a full day of pre-conference training at the HP Technology Forum. His training during that HPTF day was being sold at $495.
GHRUG may not have mounted a public meeting this year, but the user group has delivered notice of this free training to its membership list. As HP 3000 members of GHRUG have made transitions to HP's Unix, they need the kind of administration tips that save time. The cost of the training is already saving them money. There's a free lunch, too.
To reserve a seat and get directions to the event you can contact Dave Crawford, Regional Client Business Manager at Source Direct -- (713) 473-5368 or firstname.lastname@example.org
IT pros who've recently arrived in the HP-UX environment can also walk away with a CD of "powerful HP-UX tools" as part of the half-day at the Sheraton Suites (2400 West Loop 610, Houston 77027). As part of a Source Direct University program, the event promises power and discovery.
The presentation is intended to share little known but powerful tips and techniques that will enable HP-UX System Administrators to prevent mistakes that lead to downtime, as well as increase security and reliability.
The information in this seminar will increase Sys Admin productivity through streamlined administrative tasks, increase responsiveness to problems, and productivity tools that will extend a Sys Admin’s ability to manage a complex multi-system environment.
The event also serves as notice that Hassell has joined Source Direct, after 20-plus years of work at HP and more than a decade on his own as an independent consultant. His seminar is aimed at an IT pro who's moved beyond beginner status on Unix, "designed for intermediate and senior system administrators, and will cover many of the most common areas of managing single and multiple HP-UX systems. This seminar will present techniques for standardizing systems, advanced scripting techniques, managing user accounts, and common security techniques."
Source Direct and Hassell also point out that the half-day offers best practices and tools that do not exist on most HP-UX systems. System administration can present more of a roll-your-own experience in the Unix environment. Learning how to make HP-UX utilities and commands work to reproduce MPE/iX talents could ease a migration -- one already accomplished, or a transition still underway.
November 17, 2009
HP's 3000 legacy includes A, N-Class details
In our recent report on the seventh anniversary of HP's 3000 exit notice, we referred to a shining moment for the community. We captured the first-ever introduction of A-Class and N-Class HP 3000s on February 7, 2001. Although HP introduced its final generation of 3000s over and over for the next six months, that spring morning showed off the new design in extensive detail.
Product Manager Dave Snow is introduced by General Manager Winston Prather at the e3000 Solutions Symposium in our video, waltzing down the meeting room's aisle with an A-Class server under his arm. He's borrowed one of the few that were testing-ready that day from HP's MPE/iX labs. In a separate movie of 5 minutes, Snow leads a tour of the advantages the new design still offers over the 9x9 and 99x 3000s. HP pulled the covers and cabinet doors off to show internal hardware design.
HP hasn't manufactured these N- and A-Class models for more than six years, but they remain popular among community members who need to upgrade 3000s. They were built to a standard of reliability and durability that gives the computers a longer lifespan than many business servers. It's not easy to find this video's level of configuration detail here in 2009, even while the servers continue to be bought and sold
Snow discusses the length of that 3000 lifespan as he starts his advantages tour. The term of useful service of an HP 3000 gave customers an advantage in the short term -- but some say that that same service level contributed to HP's departure from your community.
Snow points to a missing future to start his tour. During his introduction he notes that "we do have a future beyond today's A- and N-Class server, in large part because we have a lot to talk about today." At least at the moment of the computer's introduction, HP seems to be intent on driving forward its 3000 business with technology advances. It was about to start reaping the years of technical work sowed to bring a 28-year-old server into the most current business server design.
3000s didn't wear out or fall so far behind computing needs as soon as other HP solutions. Useful life could easily be 10 years, a rate of churn that didn't fit with HP's new business model during 2001.
Many of the improvements in this ultimate HP 3000 came at the MFIO and processor board level. The servers used networking and peripheral support that provided speed and value that the server never had before 2001. The advantage tour video was shown to a room of 100 developers, 3000 partners and customers. HP hadn't changed the 3000 this much since its PA-RISC rollouts of the late 1980s.
There were to be even more striking changes to a 3000 customer's solutions and future about nine months away from that 2001 morning. By some estimates, judging from the first customer ship dates, these servers had only six months to contribute to division revenues before HP pulled its 3000 plug. No one can be certain how they might have succeeded for a customer base running 3000s 8-10 years old, systems hungry for power and cooling and falling short of CPU needs.
But those same distinctions matter today, even after more than eight years, to community members who need an upgrade before they finish using their 3000s. HP will finish its 3000 business before commerce ends around the A- and N-Class. Waiting for all these years to acquire one delivers a massive discount by now, in addition to the technical advantages.
November 16, 2009
Living a Long Afterlife
Eight years ago this week, your community lay in a state of shock. Some vendors were not surprised that HP announced the end of its HP 3000 business, but an overwhelming majority of customers and suppliers found themselves caught off guard. The approach of the 3000's afterlife began on Nov. 14, 2001. Like the horizon, of course, the complete exit of 3000 customers has remained out in the distance.
HP continues to find itself surprised at the pace of migration. Alvina Nishimoto, one of the few HP employees left who can help out with 3000-specific issues of moving to HP's alternatives, said as much during the roundtable discussion of this fall's e3000 Community Meet.
It's very quiet on the 3000 front at HP, she explained. But when asked what the surprises have been during the Year No. 8 of the 3000 Transition, Nishimoto said the unexpected continues to surface.
"They're migrating late, which is kind of surprising,” she said. “We have 9x7 customers coming out of the woodwork,” a data point that would seem to suggest more than 1,000 customers continue to use a 3000, because the 9x7s were first shipped 15 years ago. That's been a busy 15 years, since more than half of it has comprised The Afterlife.
We don't let this anniversary pass without reminding our community that HP predicted its demise with astounding inaccuracy. At first 80 percent of you would be migrated off 3000s by 2004. Then came revisions that put 25 percent of the community on the server at 2006, two years later with a larger group. "Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated," homesteaders quipped. HP didn't even have a term for the customers who would stay put, long-term or intermediate. We provided that homesteader title, which HP eventually started to use. It had to; the majority of its customers were not migrated three years out from the end of 2001.
But the reality is that a very large portion of the customer base of 2001 is now using other platforms.
There was always migration underway before The Afterlife began. HP 3000 customer attrition started in the early 1990s, and some in the community peg the highwater mark for customer base in the late 1980s. HP tried to grow back customers in the late '90s with long-overdue enhancements to networking and Internet features. But the very event which postponed migrations, Y2K, also worked to stall HP's drive toward faster and better-connected systems. What HP called the N-Class and A-Class servers only made their debut six months before the vendor pulled its 3000 plug into the future. HP promised these servers for the year 2000.
That lab-based delay came out of unit managed by Winston Prather while the work started in the late 1990s. The same HP employee moved into the general manager post for the 3000 division, shaping the headcount, as the labs were forced to extend the deadline to a year beyond division estimates. It's little wonder why HP 3000 sales came to a standstill after Y2K. Customers were waiting on a promised product better than those 9x7s. It was time to upgrade, but the new generation was overdue.
Once HP announced it would exit your community, those 9x7 owners couldn't justify buying N-Class and A-Class servers. So that glorious day in the spring of 2001 when Platform Product Manager Dave Snow marched down the aisle at the Solutions Symposium with the first A-Class server -- a marvel of reduced size with increased power and efficiency -- didn't arrive soon enough.
HP was doing its own migration to deliver the final generation of 3000s. The PCI peripherals bus, already running and selling HP 9000s for more than a year, proved to be a complex transfer to the 3000. Some have pointed at the differences between IO handing in Unix and MPE/iX to explain the delays. More likely culprits were two elements that were too numerous and too few. HP 3000s supported a wide array of peripherals, since the HP 3000 credo was "leave no customer behind."
At the same time the HP 3000 lab headcount was being squeezed too small to manage both Y2K repairs and tests to MPE/iX, as well as hardware development projects for the PCI servers. Add those elements during an era when HP's CEO was mandating revenue growth as a way to stick to the HP product line, and you get a formula which delivered a late upgrade, which stalled sales and kept the 3000 from growing. The same manager whose lab direction had to juggle two major projects got to pull the plug on the 3000. Winston Prather has always said he made the call to cull out the 3000. It might be one of the few times when a GM at HP erased his own division.
Prather engineered a safe landing for himself and some of the engineers and managers of the group. As for his customers, many were not so lucky. Having spent their careers polishing their HP 3000 expertise, system managers and programmers suddenly got motivated to learn technology on other platforms. They would compete for these jobs against younger and less-costly technologists. The lucky ones retooled themselves. Few community members can point at a career that didn't take a hit in November of 2001.
Companies like HP don't step away from 28-year-old businesses very often. Your community's contribution to HP's knowledge about ending business relationship is worthwhile for a vendor who will nurture in-house technologies. Except that HP doesn't appear to be in that kind of business anymore for computing, given developments like buying its competition in networking with an acquisition of 3com. One day the HP-UX customers will suffer a day like Nov. 14, and HP will be more prepared than it was eight years ago. The community of 3000 customers was always teaching HP something until the day the vendor pulled its plug. Learning how to estimate the pace and impact of churn and change -- those are HP's lessons that entitle you to help and accommodation from the creator of the 3000.
November 13, 2009
Command the 3000's Service General
It's a powerful part of your HP 3000 that runs whenever the server is plugged in. The General Service Processor (GSP) is the maintenance control console that commands the server to "reboot, do memory dumps and even fully power down the HP 3000," reports consultant and outsource support expert Craig Lalley of EchoTech.
Lalley has been on the hunt for a method to make the 3000's GSP as useful as the unit in an HP-UX server. "On HP-UX it is possible to reset from the host OS," he said. "I have not found a way from MPE."
Lalley explains that on HP-UX it is possible to issue the command
stty +resetGSP < /dev/GSPdiag1
to reset the GSP. From time to time a reset may be required for diagnostics services. If your 3000 gets loving care from outside your computer room, you may need a paper clip to keep service at HP-UX levels.
The gap between 3000 and HP 9000/Integrity GSPs is a common shortfall of HP designs. Even though the 3000's MPE/iX includes a Posix interface, HP didn't engineer enough Unix into the 3000 to enable some administration that HP-UX users enjoy. (That can be a good thing when a security breach opens up in the Unix world, however.)
But when a 3000 needs a GSP reset, pressing a magic recessed button on the 3000's back will do the trick if a Telnet command doesn't work. Matt Perdue of Hill Country Technologies and the OpenMPE board explains.
"I telnet to the IP address of the GSP, log in and do the reset that way," he says. "But you can get someone, to press the physical reset button at the back of the machine. If memory serves, it's recessed into the cabinet so you may need a 'magic paper clip' bent just so."
Lalley calls the GSP, which HP introduced with its final generation of 3000s, one of the most useful things in the A-Class and N-Class boxes.
The GSP is a small computer that is always powered on when the plug has power. With it, it is possible to telnet to and BE the console. While multiple admins can telnet in and watch, only one has the keyboard.
It is possible to reboot, memory dumps and even fully power down the HP 3000 from the GSP. Use the command PC OFF.
It is probably the best feature of the N-Class and A-class boxes. The problem is sometimes it needs to be reset, usually with a paper clip. Since the GSP is a different CPU, it can be done during business hours.
All of which begs the question of to secure these resets. He says the MPE/iX user/account structure provides the security.
As for security, users and passwords are defined, and there are two or three classes of users.
3) Perhaps even User
I only use Operator, i.e. I usually am the only one who accesses it. I do have one customer that allows operators. They can reply and watch messages, but not reboot and so on.
November 12, 2009
Battery up that 9x7? A project or a hunt
Vintage HP 3000s present some risks of hardware failures, but not many. Any computer's hard drive can fail, and will at some time in the future. Power supplies have been reported going AWOL. Memory can forget its purpose. Most of these failures can be planned for, so a site will experience little downtime.
Perhaps not so much with the 9x7 internal batteries. A few weeks ago we reported that a 3000 which forgets what time it is may have a failed internal system clock battery. Sad to say, this isn't an easy hardware failure to recover from, and a good reason to invest in spare parts server. Or arrange for complete hardware support.
Bob J. of Ideal Computer Services filled out the details on getting a working battery to replace what he calls "the Dallas Semiconductor DS1287 real time clock module. The replacement is a DS12887 and is available from components suppliers. The only concern is getting a replacement part that has been on the shelf too long."
"The battery is part of the IC’s package," Bob says, "so it looks like a tall IC. You need to remove the 3000's backplane to replace this soldered module. I don’t expect a battery shop or Radio Shack to be helpful.These modules were used in many early PCs, but haven’t been used in any new equipment for over a decade, so the replacements may be near the end of their lives too."
Bob said that a hobbyist has managed to mount an external battery on the module, to give the chip a replaceable power source. It looks like a workbench project at the hobbyist's Web site. Better to engage a hardware support provider. Better still, perhaps, to consider a newer 3000 if you really want to sustain your applications. Even homesteading has real costs.
November 11, 2009
Investing in 9x7s could be part-ly wise
A Series 947 HP 3000 surfaced on Craigslist yesterday priced at $400. Offered by Alan Cartwright of Gilroy, Calif., the computer was purchased at auction. Gilroy said the system is new to him and he'd like to resell it. He's not really certain how he should price this computer first released in the 1990s.
"I really have no idea what this is worth," he said on the day after he posted the item, "so any info you could give me based on the facts already at hand would be great." He did note that as configured, the server sold new for more than $150,000. So that would make his asking price a 99.8 percent discount.
Since he's not sure if his paperwork will pass HP's muster to transfer the MPE/iX license, Cartwright will have to wait on that assessment. But Bob Sigworth of Bay Pointe Technology took a quick look at the listing. The 3000 hardware reseller said it's been a long time since he's seen a Series 9x7 with decent license paperwork. The phrase "parts box" came up to describe Cartwright's offer.
Not that there's anything wrong with selling a 9x7 for parts, or buying one. There's a internal systems clock in a 9x7 that's a combination battery-chip. It's not easily replaced if it goes bad, which will happen to a 15-year-old computer. The 9x7's $400 might be worthwhile just to get the Dallas Semiconductor DS1287. (Tip of the hat to Bob J. at 3000 hardware support company Ideal Computer for the part number on the clock.)
The software could be worth a lot less. Sigworth said the MPE/iX license could be tough to qualify for a License To Use certificate from HP. "I have not seen a legit LTU on a 9x7 in years, I am sure it could be very well a parts box. $400 is a bit steep for a 9x7."
If you'd like to reel in the system from Cartwright, you can check out his Craigslist posting, or call him at 408-210-8185. At the $400 price, he says you'll need to pick it up yourself or pay to have it packaged and shipped.
November 10, 2009
Micro Focus extends ACUCOBOL future
For more than a year after Micro Focus acquired the ACUCOBOL family of products, Acu users had grave doubts about the merger. Micro Focus sold one of the most popular, competing COBOL compilers. It paid $40 million for the entire entity of Acucorp, its Extend development suite, even Acu's Chief Scientist Drake Coker. Buying your competition to gain prospects, while retiring their tools, is commonplace in the computer business by now. Just ask any of the customers whose ERP or CRM apps now belong to Infor. (MANMAN is among those put out to pasture.) Micro Focus announced Project Meld in 2008, in which two products were to do a Vulcan connection to become as one.
So it came as a surprise to the enterprise solutions community when ACUCOBOL regained its development future at Micro Focus this year. Peter Anderton of Micro Focus explained the turnabout at the e3000 Community Meet in September. "We told our customers we were merging Micro Focus and AcuCOBOL, and they told us we were daft," the Englishman said with British candor. "And we were."
Migration service suppliers had a hard time visualizing an ACUCOBOL that would survive. Mike Howard of Unicon Conversion Technologies pointed out that a customer couldn't purchase AcuCOBOL since the acquisition. Anderton said that's changing now, and his company has a roadmap available that visualizes an ACUCOBOL 9, created by Micro Focus.
ScreenJet's Alan Yeo passed along a copy of the roadmap. His product includes a module to migrate VPlus 3000 screens using the AcuCOBOL GUI, one of the strongest elements of Acu.
The roadmap also pledges loyalty to R/M COBOL, another competing product acquired by Micro Focus. Anderton's forecast for R/M sounded more pragmatic at the Meet than the language used in the roadmap.
RM/COBOL is a trusted and mature technology. Our primary objective for RM/COBOL users is to ensure that your existing applications continue to work at their best and are fully supported both in terms of the platforms they are available on (such as Windows 7), and to provide the high level of user support and fixes that you have come to expect.
If you are starting a new cycle of developing COBOL or mixed language solutions from scratch, we would recommend that you consider one of our other product lines: ACUCOBOL which offers the highest levels of compatibility with RM/COBOL, or Net Express/ Server Express which offer the ultimate in scope, functionality and performance.
HP 3000 customers might recognize the "trusted and mature" label from their days reading HP's tea leaves about the 3000 futures. Not good. (HP's software products for the 3000 gained that kiss of death regularly through the 1990s, until products like Business Report Writer, Transact and Allbase 4GL became antiques.)
The news that Micro Focus will sell ACUCOBOL for new projects offers some hope for the Acu future. It might be more impressive if Acu was sold into more places than R/M COBOL shops, but that could prove to be true in the year to come. Acu doesn't have its own sales force, and it's hard to judge how many products a Micro Focus rep can peddle. (Again, there's the 3000 experience, where a consolidated HP salesforce with both MPE and HP-UX to offer sold nearly every customer on Unix. Many sales came out of the hide of healthy 3000 shops.)
But like the 3000, ACUCOBOL has unique advantages that can be spread to COBOL sites moving away from the 3000's COBOL II. Acucorp took the time to give its compiler the understanding of MPE intrinsics, because Acucorp intended to sell the product to 3000 shops as a COBOL II alternative. Micro Focus COBOL simply demands you excise these 3000 directives before you can compile and run on a new platform.
Micro Focus lives and breathes .NET architecture, though, something a Windows convert will crave to get to "Native Windows," as Howard calls his company's conversions. At the risk of being too cheery, the new map seems to extend the boundaries of COBOL choices for migration projects. You can see a road that permits a "Lift and Shift" migration using Acu, especially if Windows is not on your trail.
November 09, 2009
A New 3000, to Mitigate Risks
At this fall's e3000 Community Meet, ScreenJet's Alan Yeo shared an unexpected story. His company helped to establish a new HP 3000 customer site within the past year. While there's a lot of talk about the risk of remaining on the HP 3000 due to the vendor's exit in 2010, this company saw a 3000 app as a way to avoid the trouble of falling behind.
In our 3-minute video (click on the embed above, or view it on our YouTube channel), Yeo related the case study. A 3000 solution beat out IBM iSeries apps and outlasted the promises of a migration too often postponed.
They were in a position where they hadn't been allowed to do anything for years — because the answer to everything they wanted to do was, “wait until the new ERP system comes in.” They said they needed to do something, so they looked in their group to see who was doing what. The best systems they had in the group happened to be HP 3000 systems. Even though they had IBM i5 apps running.
There's risk in any choice, because IT management never provides a foolproof solution. Tales at the Meet's Roundtable outlined the merits of migrating bugs (to keep auditors happy) and training a third party to manage an application that's understood by only one IT pro at a corporation.
Nobody can mistake a single 3000 startup as a trend, not as 2010 waits at the end of next month. But risk is in the eye of the customer. This one has good reasons for taking up with MPE/iX apps for the foreseeable future.
"The group's strategy was to implement a new ERP system," Yeo said, "but they hadn't gotten around to doing it for five years. Then the economic climate changes, and suddenly you haven't got $10 million in cash to do it."
It's the kind of story more easily shared when you can look your audience in the eye. That kind of contact makes a good case for more Meets in the years to come.
November 06, 2009
3000 shareware lives at 3k.com
Some programs from the former HP shareware server Jazz are online at Speedware and Client Systems hosts. But some are not -- especially the 3000 tools written by the user community. One of the best repositories of such 3000 programs is still online and serving software. 3k.com is, as its founder and curator Chris Bartram says, "a site with arguably the largest collection of public domain/shared software, or links to the such software on the Internet."
We agree, and want to note that 3k.com was always a Web resource with more scope than the now-defunct Jazz. The 3k Associates site hosts a 3000 technical Wiki, did a 3000 FAQ before that, hosts a raft of technical papers, has a link to the freeware from 3000/9000 support vendor Beechglen, points to another set of tools from Allegro Consultants, and has been home to the biggest directory of HP 3000 software products. How long has this resource been around? Well, 3k.com is a two-character Web address. You simply can't buy those anymore, having been snapped up long before the 3000 business was closed off at HP.
HP closed down Jazz one year ago this month, but the vendor did more than pull the plug on the freeware server. As we've reported before, the Jazz programs are now walled off by a 40-page End User License Agreement. At least the ones that HP engineers developed for free use by the community. The third-party tools that were hosted on Jazz aren't covered by the HP EULA. That's where 3k.com comes in, during a time when OpenMPE is still working to try to get its hosting site open to the public.
The OpenMPE initiative will add a new dimension to a 3000 Web resource, whenever it finally goes online. The servers will host the Jazz contents from HP, as well as the invent3k public development server facility. It's taking longer than expected to bring OpenMPE's Jazz and invent3k.openmpe.org online. The holdup is the state that HP left its Jazz pages in: full of HP logos and references that the vendor demands be excised by third parties.
It's been suggested that this kind of Web housecleaning is a straightforward process using perl or awk, but until recently the volunteer OpenMPE team didn't have this kind of experience. HP certainly knew perl and awk, but it just turned over Jazz in its unauthorized rehosting state. OpenMPE gained a new volunteer this week to help in its Jazz hosting. But HP could have spared the advocacy group, Speedware and Client Systems all the legally required exorcism work.
Shareware, by a popular definition, is software without restrictions for use or sharing, donated to a community. It's good that Speedware, Client Systems and even more so, 3k, have maintained the concept. OpenMPE will have to abide by that nettlesome HP EULA to keep the vendor's donated programs online. This release could have been done with more elegance and attention to the spirit of the free tools. While it's fair to appreciate the work that someone in HP did to free up Jazz's shareware, the delays in presentation by the new hosts illustrate another spot where HP "didn't think of that." OpenMPE directors say that answer was uttered frequently by HP while it responded to OpenMPE's requests.
We'd say "Free Jazz now," but that would involve OpenMPE ignoring the HP EULA. With the likes of 3k.com's wide array, as well as Speedware and Client Systems sites (both were delayed by the HP logo purge), the software is free now. Just not as free of the memory of HP's need for controls while it exits your community.
November 05, 2009
Links show the Way to SQL Server flexibility
A serious share of HP 3000 migration projects target SQL Server as an IMAGE replacement. The Eloquence database is a sleeker, faster, more 3000-friendly solution, plus it runs across all three major migration environments. But SQL Server is a Microsoft product, tied to Windows, the most popular migration target.
All those follow-the-crowd reasons show why a brief announcement from Computing Solutions Ltd. (CSL) could help migrating 3000 sites.The UK company sold Linkway an IMAGE-to-ODBC utility starting in the 1990s. Now the vendor is tossing its development hat into the SQL Server arena.
CSL's SQL Server Job Monitor (SSJM) software is on sale at launch prices through this month, according to Tom Moore of the company. The utility helps supply automated monitoring of batch work (SQL jobs) to the Windows environment.
Linkway earned good marks from the community in the late '90s, while IMAGE was still gaining tools like the company's founding product. The company continues to support some 3000 customers still using its products and services. Batch work under Windows merits special considerations while making a migration, according to Unicon's Mike Howard.Using a third party tool for batch management under Windows can be helpful, Howard says. "Windows has a basic job scheduler which is often sufficient for most customers, but if a more comprehensive product is required I would recommend Global ECS from Vinzant Software."
Drilling down into the database batch work is SSJM's specialty. The product can be used with SQL Server 2000, 2005 and 2008, Moore said. "It supports exception reporting of failures of SQL jobs that need corrective action, as well as an interface to other monitoring software as required." One unique feature of the product is that "it particularly supports a wall-mounted display as an operator's support tool, showing colored statuses of all jobs for the monitored server."
As for the link between Linkway and SSJM, Moore reports that it's all a result of evolution of fundamental database utility technology.
CSL has continued on in software development, particularly in Web application developments on SQL or Oracle as clients need, whilst still keeping services running from the HP 3000 for non-migrated clients. There are still sites that have not migrated, but they don’t want to invest now!
Details on the new product and an offer to download a copy for a free 14-day trial are at the product's Web site.
November 04, 2009
Education takes up broader set of IT causes
By Birket Foster
Special Report to the NewsWire
Whoever imagined a conference agenda with the discussions on the appropriateness of using iTunes to distribute e-learning content, or open-source versus proprietary applications? How things have changed!
This week I’m attending the Educause conference in Denver, where I will be taking a dive into the modern world of educational computing looking at these topics and more.
The world of computing for education used to be really simple. Early HP 3000 adopters included many higher-ed and K-12 organizations. There were consortiums that were formed to build common applications iN Washington state, California and other places. The HP 3000 market had several providers that sprung up – SRN provided fundraising software, degree audits and more. Bi-Tech provided financials and many customers flocked to conferences. There were even conferences within conferences, as there was a SIG-ED track at Interex.
But the modern campus landscape has evolved to include massive IT infrastructures – internet, wireless, servers, secure networks, mobile computing, peer to peer file sharing, High Performance Computing, and Learning Management Systems (LMS) dot the landscape of the modern campus.
It’s interesting to see the issues, ranging from defining what a department is to the percentage increase of Adobe’s latest licenses. (It’s up to 50 percent for some colleges). There’s also been a large amount of discussion about the support for office and Windows 7 for Mac devices, especially through Safari and Firefox.
I'll have more to share as the conference unfolds.
Birket Foster is CEO of MB Foster, supplier of HP 3000 migration services and tools, as well as data management and datamart solutions. You can also follow the Educause Twitter stream by using the #EDUCAUSE09 tag.
November 03, 2009
IBM midrange users manifest new activism
IBM made a gallant effort at capturing users who pondered an HP 3000 migration seven years ago, but the alternative midrange iSeries server has seen declining share of Big Blue attentions. Now a group of iSeries (and AS400) owners, vendors and leaders are mounting an effort to make the iSeries manifest a brighter destiny. The campaign bears a striking resemblance to the OpenMPE advocacy -- with the distinction that IBM hasn't canceled the iSeries futures.
The iManifest initiative took off in the spring in Japan. What does the iSeries need that IBM sales and marketing isn't supplying? The launch manifesto doesn't call out IBM's shortcomings, but aims to rally the users to recognize their systems' value.
More widespread usage of IBM i is the best way for corporations to strengthen their management capability and business power. We have started activities to add to the user community as many new companies as possible. We ask that users renew their firm confidence and belief that IBM i is the best infrastructure available to support managerial and operational innovation.
2009 is the 20th anniversary of the iSeries family, which started when IBM migrated its System 36/38 customers to the AS400. At the same time HP was moving its HP 3000 sites to the PA-RISC 3000s and MPE/XL. iManifest is trying to ensure that HP's 3000 history doesn't repeat in a fadeout of the iSeries. The initiative recently gained new members in the iSeries chief scientist Frank Soltis, as well as the top application supplier Infor -- which owns the MANMAN customer base in the 3000 world.
Much like PA-RISC, IBM uses its own chip design to power the iSeries (now being called Series i). This POWER architecture is in its sixth generation, and Soltis is the primary creator of the architecture used in IBM's Power Systems. He's also retired from IBM after decades of toil in the technical trenches for the community.
The users of iSeries systems will remind you of that huge share of the 3000 community: Small-to-midsize companies that chose an integrated IT solution in the 1980s and '90s, only to see industry-standard choices dominate the vendor's roadmap. IBM hasn't joined iManifest; that might be tantamount to admitting the product line is in need of a spark. Over in the iSeries press, Chris Maxer of iSeries Network reports that a vendor rep in Europe has received only non-official support from IBM.
LANSA's Martin Fincham notes, "While I have no official word from IBM, I want to go on-record and say that I have personally received enthusiastic and practical support for iManifest EMEA from a number of IBM'ers around the globe. I cannot thank-you by name here, but you know who you are."
HP officials in the 3000 division were not much impressed by the future of IBM's integrated business alternative in 2002 and 2003. The decline in IT sales during 2008 and 2009 hasn't been kind to these non-standard products, and the press reports a steady drain from sales of the Series i. HP said it would weather IBM's pursuit of the HP 3000 migration crowd. Declining share would put pressure on solution suppliers such as LANSA, a forecast we heard in 2002 from then-e3000 Business Manager Dave Wilde.
As the market share becomes smaller and the prices drop, it becomes difficult to fund the marketing and sales channel to keep a vertically integrated system in place. One thing that’s going to happen is the margins will drop for a solution like the AS/400. Their sales volume will drop because of the differences. The other thing that happens is that a channel partner doesn’t want to test on as many platforms, just one or two mainstream platforms that are an easier sell.
Since then IBM has renamed the system twice, pumped two new generations of OS and architecture into the computer. It's also consolidated the division with the Unix version of the iSeries, another move that has the customer base worried. In one view, Wilde's predictions have come true, though probably on a longer timetable than HP imagined. The same extended timeline can be observed for HP 3000 migrations.
But the iSeries community isn't going gentle into any perceived good night. It's raising funds for marketing in the US. Independent software vendors like Infor and LANSA propose to market more than just applications -- and fund that vertical system's sales where IBM has not.
"The match has been struck. It just needs a little gasoline to light the bonfire," said Dan Burger writing in IT Jungle. "The manifest is IT activism. It comes from a loyal customer base that is irate about the mediocrity of IBM i marketing and is fearful that the mediocrity will creep into research, development, and sales of an outstanding product."
Had this sort of activism -- you might even call it community organization -- taken place for the HP 3000 before 2001, HP's decision to depart might have had a different timetable. Or not, based on policy and marketing beliefs like those which make an iManifest or an OpenMPE inevitable.
November 02, 2009
Connect board election nears finale
The Connect user group for HP enterprise customers will close its voting for a 2010-11 board on Nov. 12. This election of directors is following a pattern HP 3000 customers will recognize from OpenMPE board voting. The number of seats open equals the number of candidates on the slate. For any company pursuing an HP 3000 migration, however, this organization has a lot to offer in networking opportunities.
In situations like an election without a contested seat, members understand their vote won't influence the outcome of the balloting. But voting will keep you engaged and more interested in what the board of directors will propose for the year to come. This year's slate of directors includes a candidate from the HP 3000 community running for re-election. Steve Davidek of the City of Sparks, Nevada is volunteering for a term that runs through 2011.
Connect members are the only people who can vote. Membership is only $50 for a year for an individual. You can cast a ballot after looking over the slate at the Connect site, then following the link to vote.
One of the best resources Connect offers is a lively Twitter feed, managed by Kees den Hartigh. The Community Manager and an officer of a Netherlands user group, den Hartigh posts news from the HP that's the destination of HP3000 migrations, offering Unix and industry standard system updates. Follow den Hartigh on Twitter via @Connect_WW.
Connect is also building a 3000 user group community online, led by its president-elect Chris Koppe of Speedware and Speedware product manager Nick Fortin. The 3000 NewsWire's Twitter feed is part of the page, which is working to gain momentum among members. The Connect site has introduced an upgrade to the user interface for the group just last week.