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December 31, 2009

Top 2009 Stories: Bigger ideas for the future

Grand2010 On this final day of 2009, the 3000 community in transition or entrenched can look back on a year of actions that edged toward 2010. Software emerged that would keep the computer compliant with new auditors' standards, the kind predicted to end the 3000's life. At the same time, groups formed and re-formed to smooth the path of transition with information exchange.

No fewer than three software solutions emerged to support using the 3000 with the latest PCI credit card security standards. Paul Taffel released a fresh version of IDent/3000, a PCI compliance utility, in mid-year. He's been selling the solution to the Ecometry e-commerce customers, a group of online retailers who once represented the hottest growth of the 3000 installed base. The year before HP announced it was ending its 3000 business, Ecometry sites led the computer's market in growth.

Taffel's product was not alone in making a way to take the 3000 into a new decade and comply with standards an auditor will have to check to satisfy Visa and Mastercard. Minisoft also introduced software that would "allow a user to specify the PCI-compliant levels along with the type of encryption (Change Cipher Spec Protocol) required by an organization's auditor or compliance officer" using Minisoft's ODBC, JDBC and OLE database middleware drivers.

PCI is among the standards and technologies which HP did not engineer into the 3000's future. Independent developers have bigger visions for the system's future, however, views prompted by the needs of customers not ready to migrate. 2010 may bring more of these visions, just as the year is certain to contain ideas on doing your own migration work along with several means to connect with like-minded 3000 owners. As proof of both, the community saw the Connect user group reorganize in 2009 to stay healthy, while the e3000 Community Meet pulled together veterans for a second in-person meeting.

Community members can look to both of these groups for more chances in 2010 to learn and grow into a different future. The e3000 Meet attracted more than 40 attendees, on virtually no notice or marketing effort, to discuss and exchange 3000 experience in a one-day, single-track meeting that featured more than two solid hours of roundtable discussion. Expect more to come from the Meet's kingpin Alan Yeo and his ally Michael Marxmeier in the run up to HP's end in 2010.

At the same time, a more traditional user organization took steps to stay connected and relevant to a computer community that has stopped identifying itself by its systems vendor. Connect, which assembled itself in 2008 out of the HP Encompass, NonStop and Digital VMS user groups, changed its business model along with its leading link to HP computer professionals. The group mounted its fifth annual HP Technology Forum & Expo as an in-person gathering, reporting attendance of 4,500 total bodies at the Las Vegas meeting.

But at the same time as Connect served the traditions of face-to-face networking — at a meet managed by association management firm Smith-Bucklin — Connect was reaching for some newer ideas along with a more classic group operation model. Smith-Bucklin's annual contract was not renewed in June, and so the Connect operations will be fulfilled with volunteers, two paid staffers and some outside and sponsored partner help for marketing and communications. Nina Buik, the group's outgoing president, reported that while the group's Web site was gathering more page views than ever, the group's benefits to the community will include ample in-person events.

We will hold more events in 2010 than we have in the six years I have served on the board. Events, as you know, require a tremendous amount of effort in planning and execution. Our team is in position today to run these events efficiently with the support of volunteers and partners.

Among these 2010 events that were promised during 2009 were a gathering for a customer base served by a executive familiar to HP 3000 community members. Winston Prather, the last of HP's 3000 division GMs, is supporting a Connect NonStop Symposium and Expo. As the VP and GM of HP's NonStop Enterprise Division, Prather is lending his division's support to a conference scheduled for Sept. 26-29.

At the same time Connect was building meeting resources far simpler to attend than any physical conference. Next month the group will mark HP-UX Month with a Webinar from the Business Critical Systems VP Lorraine Bartlett, whose unit has seen severe challenges to maintain its Integrity server revenue growth. Customers looking toward a future with HP-UX -- a group that must include many migrating 3000 sites -- are invited to register for the Jan. 19 Web encounter. It's the kind of contact where Connect expects to show its greatest growth in 2010: on the Web.

We'll be back on the Web in 2010 as well, connecting the dots and users with partners in a year with the added interest of HP's total departure from 3000 business. We're taking tomorrow off to celebrate the new year and newest decade, while we calculate how well our '09 forecasts and dreams panned out. One decade ago your community was poised for problems in the drama of Y2K. Enjoy the relative bliss of this New Year's Eve. We'll see you Monday morning after we've shaken 2009's confetti out of our hair.

02:53 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 30, 2009

Top 2009 Stories: Open and extended futures

In reporting on the 3000 community during 2009, two top stories emerged that look toward the year to come. Owners of these systems who are migrating are searching for affordable replacement apps. The homesteading user hopes to extend the 3000's value for many years to come.

Opening up the solution we've called the HP 3000 is essential to accomplishing those tasks. During 2009, open source enterprise software gained notice and traction among community members, Meanwhile, the free utility and subsystem programs developed by independent and HP engineers -- many of which are open source modified by developers -- gained some fresh hosts.

• Several 3000 suppliers started to embrace cloud computing concepts during the year, but no company did more than the Support Group inc, and its Entsgo division, to promote enterprise open source. OpenBravo is on a path for the delivery in initial 3000 shops during the coming year, according to tSGi's Sue Kiezel and Donnie Poston. Enterprise open source is a good match for the cost of ownership the 3000 delivered for decades. Cloud computing plays a role in the tSGi OpenBravo solution, too, and Speedware, Hanover Direct and DST Health Solutions also offer some sort of Software as a Service (SaaS) solution. All want to host 3000s in a cloud service solution.

• On the 3000 open source front, two companies stepped up to give the software from HP's closed-down Jazz server a new home. Client Systems broke ground first on a new virtual location, while Speedware hosted both the Jazz utilities as well as migration training and command reference tools. These companies showed that the independents in the community will step in where HP has stopped delivering 3000 services. This is a backstop important to the homesteading customer as well as the migration site that requires another three years or more to leave the 3000.

In one of the more significant offerings for the system's future, Stromasys announced that it was starting pilot testing for a 3000 hardware emulator product this fall. While there's no guarantee such a product will be sold very soon, tests of a product at an alpha level are an encouraging signal for a smooth decade to come.

Stromasys, which as SRI announced its interest in creating an alternative to HP's PA-RISC servers, stepped through some technical and business hoops when it outlined the progress of the project. Another player in the emulator arena had to announce a project had been sidetracked. Creating a new product requires extra capital for any company, and Strobe Data has been forced to put its emulator on a back burner for now. The company is working on fresh customers for its DEC PDP and Vax emulators, which will fund continued work on a PA-RISC solution.

The 3000 community is still rich with used servers that provide upgrade options for sites homesteading or interim homesteading while their migrations complete. But the arrival of an emulator signals a longer lifespan, along with the promise of integrating new technology, for the 3000. Stromasys's move from alpha to beta and then onto a price list, in time to capture HP's MPE emulator licensing, will be one of the stories we watch closely in 2010.

10:39 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2009

Top 2009 Stories: Exits and Migrations

We're practicing the newsman's tradition of reviewing 2009 stories to select those most important for the year -- as well as the years to come. At week's end we'll look at our '09 forecast to see how well we predicted your year, as well as choose the most significant stories of this decade.

To start an '09 review, let's consider two items important to the future of the 3000 Transition: moving onward as well as away from the platform, both from an HP position as well as the view of the independent community.

HP exits lab business, leaves source license promises — in January the doors on the development lab for 3000 work got shut at HP, even though the lab itself doesn't have doors, and the engineers in cubicles remained employed at HP doing other work. But 2009 was the first year the vendor wouldn't deliver patches for the 3000, software development HP performed in its Cupertino offices.

At the same time that HP ended its creation of the MPE/iX heart of the 3000, the company outlined its conditions and restrictions to license source code for the operating system to third parties. A key software tool, SS_UPDATE, is not part of the license plan. HP's best offer was read-only source, to be used for support purposes and not for creating new MPE/iX features. The license terms were secret, negotiations were covered by confidential disclosures, and HP got unhappy when the OpenMPE advocacy group announced it was halfway to raising its money for the source code license fee.

A few weeks later, HP's Jennie Hou announced that the vendor will announce the winners of the licenses by the end of March, 2010. Support companies and software icons of the community will wait and see what difference seeing the MPE source might make, but source should simplify workarounds for companies both homesteading and doing long-term migrations.

Migrations were extended and restarted, as well as simplified — A colossal crash of a $14 million migration project at Washington State colleges came to light during the year, with HP's oversight leading a series of misjudgments from third parties struggling to move antique Transact and Protos source code. Oracle and .NET were the targets of the plan started in 2003 and declared dead by the end of 2008. The failed project illustrated the risks of attempting too much change. Word is emerging about a restart of the migration, with work led by different outsourced providers.

The most frequently successful migrations involved a lift-and-shift mentality, in terms of the numbers of customers moved away. Speedware talked about a project to get ING Australia onto HP-UX, with a report that the customer insisted even the bugs in the existing application be moved to keep auditors at ease.

ScreenJet's Alan Yeo echoed that experience at the e3000 Community Meet, saying that a migration poses less risk when it changes very little functionality. "We learned that the the bigger a company gets, the less they can afford to change anything," he said. "The cost of retraining staff, or changing the way a business function works, costs them more than doing the work of the migration,” Customers saw that re-engineering is Phase Two of a migration.

Speedware estimated at the Community Meet that it sees only about 1,000 customers left on the 3000 platform, based on its research into its customer and prospect lists. Other community solution providers felt the numbers could run up to 5,000 customers remaining. HP continued to be surprised that 9x7 customers were coming out of the woodwork. The Afterlife of HP's 3000 business carried on into an eighth year.

04:10 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 28, 2009

New entry emerges for 3000 encryption

A new product appeared under the data encryption tree for the 3000 last week, on Christmas Eve no less, when Brian Donaldson announced software which encrypts flat files.

The unnamed product uses the AES256 encryption standard for flat files, KSAMXL, circular and message files under MPE/iX. Spoolfiles can't be encrypted with the new product.

New software for the HP 3000 is a novelty all by itself, here in the shadow of 2010. Much of what you're likely to see in the year to come will emerge like this product: announced on a newsgroup, developed, sold and supported by an individual. Some of the greatest software in the 3000's history was built by teams of three or fewer engineers.

It might be enough -- if you're attempting to show an auditor how the 3000 can comply with a PCI DSS credit card standard, any encryption solution is better than none at all. Donaldson will provide more details via an e-mail contact

He included these details in his Dec. 24 announcement, starting with file types supported:

Flat file (file type=0)
Bytestream Files (Record Type=9)
MPEiX STORE files (file code=2501)
CMKSAM (file type=1)
RIO (file type=2)
KSAMXL (file type=3)
CIR (file type=4)
MSG (file type=6)
SD   (file type=0, 1084 file code)
Cognos 644 file coded files.

Spoolfiles cannot be encrypted.

It can be run via the VPlus application or by batch job and will process files stored in the MPE and HFS file spaces.

It can also decrypt files already encrypted on a foreign platform such as a Web site. The software can encrypt all of the data in a file, or parts of the file thereof (such as only credit card numbers, customer numbers, phone numbers, and more.)

01:57 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 24, 2009

Generous guidance still sits under HP tree

Even though much of the Hewlett-Packard expertise in the 3000 has moved on, users of the system can still find a few gifts of advice during this holiday. A show of goodwill and stewardship, admirable in its novelty, is on the Web and in e-mail readers this month.

CathleneMcCrae The giver is Cathlene Mc Rae, an HP Senior Response Center Engineer who's been making a habit of teaching the community about nuances of the 3000. There is no template for how HP will work its experts during this time of decline of the vendor's 3000 services. Mc Rae is giving away instruction on the 3000-L mailing list, answering questions with the experience of a lab engineer. (She also attended this year's e3000 Community Meet, as shown in the video snap above.)

During the last 30 days Mc Rae has posted advice and procedures to resolve a dead LDEV2 drive, secure the 3000's FTP services, follow IMAGE jumbo dataset rules and practices, and fix a customer's problem with a LISTFILE command and a KSAMXL file.

A more personal notice shows the intention of this remarkable HP resource. Mc Rae has posted the first online animated Christmas holiday card from HP to the 3000 community. "It's warming to know that HP still has a soul," said Ray Shahan of 3000 site Republic Title of Texas. When you visit the Blue Mountain card, you can reply to keep the holiday spirit flowing. Staying in touch with each other will be important in the year to come, especially to celebrate a message of peace.

Mc Rae's efforts are being lauded by the subscribers to the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup. Since the tech support is shared with the full 3000 community, rather than only HP support customers, you can receive it as a gift.

HolidayCard "The spirit of Christmas is not found under a tree," the card reads, complete with soulful soundtrack. Mc Rae's card is "wishing you peace and love at Christmas and always." These simple messages communicate the sentiment that remains in the hearts of HP's 3000 experts who never wished for an end to customer relationships.

The caliber of her advice shows the value of the gift, to the readers of the list. "Thank you for this info," said consultant Craig Lalley about the KSAM instruction. "It's nice to know I can still learn new stuff after 30 years of working with the HP3000."

"Cathlene does it again," said system manager Tom Lang. "The solution/answer is as much as 100 words. As I've said before, it's not just what she says, it's how she says it -- brief, succinct, clear and simple."

In the months to come, HP will empty its tree of official support resources. But homesteaders, and the migrators who remain on the server for now, might all gain comfort in the hope that this kind of goodwill will remain once HP ends its 3000 operations. Answers from the heart could well be gifts that don't have to appear on any financial report. Here's our thanks to the gift of shared 3000 experience that keeps on giving.

We'll be taking tomorrow off in celebration of Christmas here at the NewsWire, visiting with our new grandson Noah and his parents Elisha and Nick, practicing our tradition of seeing a movie on Christmas Day (Sherlock Holmes), and enjoying our big tree lit by our publisher Abby's hand -- just as she lit the candle of the NewsWire more than 14 years ago. We'll be back on Monday with a look back at an important year to the 3000's future, plus a look ahead at an active year to come for your community. Happy Holidays!

Ron Seybold, Editor
Abby Lentz, Publisher

12:35 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2009

Give an HP history for your holiday

HouseMemoir If yesterday's news from HP about looking into a charge of racist software has you shaking your head, wondering what has shifted in the world of computing, a new book can help recall the glorious, gritty Hewlett-Packard. This thick tome also offers a way to understand how HP has changed, while the company continues its habits of learning from mistakes.

HP 3000 customers should enjoy The HP Phenomenon, the new book from Chuck House and Raymond Price. It's the first company history written by an executive insider. House was an HP employee and executive for 30 years at the company, including a long tenure as director of Corporate Engineering. At last year's HP 3000 Software Symposium in the Computer History Museum, House had some of the best stories about the earliest days of MPE applications and utilities, along with the angst and ardor that surrounded them.

In a show of old-school Hewlett-Packard tradition, House picked up the check for a table of 30 symposium attendees at the closing dinner. House is just as generous with research and stories in his book, written along with his co-author, who worked eight years at HP after completing his Stanford PhD with a dissertation about the HP.

The HP Phenomenon would make a great holiday gift to take back to the office after your break. At more than 500 pages of narrative and another hundred of back-matter, notes and indexes, it's a value to rival the 3000 itself. Some of the book's greatest value lies in a reminder that HP's good old days were not as good as remembered -- and the company stumbled its way through misjudgments en route to its top status of today.

The HP 3000 section runs up through the late 1980s and the launch of Spectrum-class servers, and the book gives a good account of HP's entry into the computer business and business computing. If there's one thing to quibble about in this exhaustive history and analysis, it's the spartan index of just 31 pages. A company that marked its 70-year anniversary after being founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard 70 years ago, HP deserves more than a half-page of index per year. Readers might wish for more organization in the book, but that might have eliminated some first-person insights into what the book calls "what we might learn from the successes and failures of this company/"

Serious HP 3000 coverage starts around page 190, giving the computer its rightful place in HP's rise above instruments and calculation businesses. House and Price write that in 1972, after HP took Hewlett's risk of creating the HP 35 calculator,

...another landmark product would debut, backed by Hewlett but disliked by Packard -- the HP System/3000, a computer that put HP irrevocably into a business arena that both men had studiously avoided for nearly a decade.

But The HP Phenomenon is much more than the most detailed history yet of HP's workings on the 3000. The book starts with Bill Hewlett's grandfather and runs all the way through the transformation of HP to a services giant in the past several years. House is unique in his qualification to write this book along with his parter. The introduction points out that he is the first HP veteran who's written a book and also holds the company's Medal of Defiance, "awarded in recognition of extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty."

House earned his award pushing a product essential to the 3000's success. Like the HP 3000, the HP terminals used with the minicomputer were reviled by Packard in the labs. House simply pushed them into production while Packard was away, and even found customers for the products on his own by carrying a terminal in House's VW Bug, site to site. It might surprise the 3000 community member to learn that terminals surpassed HP 3000 revenues by the late 1970s.

To know HP is to understand its path into the future, even as the company changes over and over again. Carly Fiorina gets her share of ink early, but the writers chronicle the same kind of monarchy presided over by Packard. HP had a history of issuing Gold Badges for its most veteran retirees, a name badge that admitted the veteran anywhere in HP's empire. Mark Hurd, the current CEO, eliminated Gold Badges not long after he took over. This history book surmises that Packard also would have eliminated a tradition like that with the briefest of announcements.

There are elements missing from the 3000's history in this book, such as the notorious delay of the Spectrum project 3000s (a year when the computer lost its lead in the hearts and minds of executives to the HP 9000, finally ready to serve businesses); or the details of how the System/3000 suffered from trying to carry the golden saddle of MPE on the back of a hardware mule; or the exile of the 3000 from HP's product line in 2001 (overshadowed in the book by the mounting battle over merging with Compaq).

But in spite of the absence of the greatest mistake HP ever made with an established computing product, this is an important book. From the extensive applause for computer business kingpin Paul Ely to the praises for 3000 division GM Ed McCracken (who married IMAGE to the 3000 to innovate HP's business solution), this is a treat and a treatise for the reader who considers HP an important part of their future and their legacy.

02:21 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2009

After its pros retire, MPE remains employed

L-Class Mapper The greatest change for the 3000 marketplace during this year and into 2010 won't be the exit of HP support for the server. Yes, Hewlett-Packard is now renewing its last round of annual service contracts for the 3000. However, the more significant departures will come from outside the vendor, where some lucky IT pros head into retirement. MPE will serve beyond them.

Screens like the one above show how this departure of talent is not always in lock-step with decline in 3000 use. Customers continue to be creative at keeping their 3000s up to speed, running at limits far beyond HP's designs. Some companies have just begun long-term service arrangements to keep MPE/iX applications online. I heard another such report from Steve Pirie, one of the promoters and managers of the Generic "3000-REplacement" PA-RISC Box offer that he started in 2006. These GREBs are still keeping MPE/iX employed on low-end hardware that makes any HP RISC machine a potential 3000 replacement.

L-ClassAs3000 Last week I ran into Pirie in the Las Vegas airport while I was returning from a holiday visit with my mom. He seemed to have little reason to embellish the state of what he launched. Pirie's retired from the industry and the 3000 community but mentioned that GREBs, which employ PA-RISC servers to deliver unhampered MPE/iX performance, just added another customer. Although HP has full knowledge of this tech solution -- which lets 3000s use all the CPU power on any PA-RISC server -- the vendor has never asked that GREB sites be taken offline. Some of that tolerance, of course, is because GREBs customers resolutely decline to be identified.

You might almost be tempted to believe that such a Generic REplacement Box for 3000s, using HP's own RISC hardware, doesn't exist. But I saw one early in 2007, when Pirie booted up MPE/iX 7.5 on an L-Class PA-RISC server (shown above).

Did the GREBs concept, marketed for awhile as VM/iX, gain many customers? Clearly not, since HP's legal action never was even threatened. But HP did develop a new product, one of the first in the 3000 division since 2003, to give 3000 owners a means to pay for licensing MPE/iX on new hardware. You can draw a direct line between a GREB and the HP RTU, the Right To Use license for MPE/iX. In buying an RTU, a customer pays HP to put MPE/iX onto a newer, faster server. HP was explicit about making RTUs unavailable for any unofficial MPE/iX servers such as the L-Class.

I was surprised to learn from Pirie that a five-year lease for a GREB server just began this fall. You can't purchase anything like one of these PA-RISC L-Class unit, outfitted with the needed software to put MPE/iX into production mode on hardware HP never intended to host the OS. VM/iX is a lease-only, virtual machine solution.

Pirie and his technical partners employed in-plain-sight technology to command MPE/iX to boot on devices like an A-Class system, so this 3000 can run four times as fast as HP's designs permit. Low-end PA-RISC hardware is out there, waiting to have its employment contract extended. Just this week, 3000 reseller Bay Pointe Technology offered an A-Class 500 with two 140-MHz CPUs on board. Even though this A-Class might seem underpowered, the hardware in it has untapped potential. Consultant and integrator Craig Lalley of Echo Tech points out the CPUs in this A-Class server have a true speed of 650MHz -- once HP's software brakes are taken off the unit.

Is there a good case to be made for moving onto HP's latest RISC designs, the Itanium/Integrity servers for HP-UX -- and make the leap far above PA-RISC performance? Yes, if you simply measure performance numbers. But when the costs of changing environments, applications and retraining get inserted in the Transition formula, a different solution will appear for some customers in the decade that's about to begin.

01:41 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 21, 2009

COBOL moves upward with new Java client

Veryant, the COBOL provider which specializes in integration with the added networking of Java, has introduced an SP2 version of its app suite that can embed JavaScript into COBOL clients. These are the sorts of features which can motivate a migration off a 3000. Java/iX has become as static as the rest of the MPE environment, another example of HP's dropped developments.

The Veryant product is called isCOBOL, and its Application Development Suite (APS) improves the thin client performance by way of a 2.0 version of Web Direct and a retooled Indexed Sequential Access Method (ISAM). Veryant boosted the ISAM performance by taking the what it calls JISAM into an all-Java design.

Veryant is also targeting the users of Micro Focus products such as ACUCOBOL with this latest release, promising that the latest isCOBOL has "greater compatibility with outdated platforms such as ACUCOBOL-GT and RM/COBOL, further simplifying the move to isCOBOL from alternative COBOL compilers."

The ACUCOBOL approach to migrating COBOL has also offered extended COBOL features for the 3000 user who migrates from HP's COBOL. ACUCOBOL was built with the 3000-specific intrinsic calls of COBOL II in mind, so that ACU software can be used to lift-and-shift as an initial migration phase. Veryant's reps say that these 3000 nuances need to be rewritten for when deploying isCOBOL. But the latest Veryant solution adds much more for fans of Java.

The 3000 migration community has heard of Veryant -- Speedware's Nick Fortin listed it among a handful of COBOL options -- but so far there are no reports of a migration site choosing this COBOL over Micro Focus, Fujitsu or ACUCOBOL. However, Veryant offers a novel approach for the 3000 developer and architect who may be daunted -- or just short on time, for getting immersed in Java. Alfredo Iglesias made a case for isCOBOL not long ago.

The majority of Veryant customers find the idea of leveraging their COBOL and application expertise while deploying pure Java applications very attractive. They do not have to learn the Java programming language, Java scripting, Ajax, Web programming, etc. They are able to play in the Java sandbox using the COBOL programming language (including OO COBOL), a standards base COBOL compiler, a graphical, portable debugger with remote debugging capabilities and a COBOL friendly IDE based on the Eclipse platform.

Details on the SP2 enhancements to indexing and thin client performance are available at the Veryant Web page about the new release. A few ACUCOBOL-GT statements and the ACU report section are better supported if a customer is migrating (again) from ACUCOBOL to isCOBOL. There's an extensive data sheet to peruse as well.

Veryant offered a highlight in its press release about a independent software vendor who saw improvements in client-side performance when moving their ERP app to the SP2 version.

Integrated ERP provider Softwrx used the thin client approach to add distribution flexibility and enhance the appearance of its COBOL-based financial accounting application. The company moved 880 programs from ACUCOBOL-GT to isCOBOL in under a month. Today, Softwrx offers a modern thin client deployment model where customers can access COBOL applications directly on the desktop or distributed across a virtual private network (VPN).
 
“Implementing a universal thin client distribution model and browser-based access has enabled us to improve customer satisfaction and streamline operations,” said John Jackson, chief information officer of Softwrx. “Our decision to move to Veryant has lowered our total cost of ownership without resulting in additional complexity for our programming team.”


01:38 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 18, 2009

Misfortune paints a misdeed more accurately

Last week we paid heed to some late-night gnashing of teeth in the IBM world. There, in a part of the universe that mirrors your own 3000 community, editor in chief Timothy Prickett Morgan used the word stupid in an editorial to describe the choice of a 3000 over IBM's AS/400.

He's written to recant the word stupid, which "was not the right choice. 'Unfortunately,' would have been a better word. I said stupid flippantly on a late Friday when I was working too late, as usual." You certainly know about working too late, since you're probably from the generation of IT that needed late nights to get some new magic conjured up from time to time. Morgan also knows that generation, since he's got 21 years of time served covering servers like the HP 3000 and AS/400.

He adds that it didn't occur to him to look up the 3000 NewsWire when he quipped that things could be worse, and his own publication could be called The Three Thousand instead of The Four Hundred. Lots of things haven't occurred to IT analysts and chiefs about your platform since HP named the day of its 3000 business demise. Much of this dearth of awareness comes from a lack of looking at the genuine rate of an endgame -- no matter what the vendor or its largest partners predict it will be.

"It did not occur to me," Morgan said of the NewsWire, "to think that it might still exist after so many years of HP 3000 neglect from Hewlett-Packard." Just because HP is retiring from your community in about a year doesn't mean your platform is ready for its final toast. You decide when that day will occur.

Morgan is sympatico about how much more a vendor of any "proprietary platform" -- his term -- could do for its customers who are bound so closely to one company's designs. IBM is being accused of the same sort of neglect in Morgan's Web pages. Meanwhile, there are more than a few Fortune 500 companies who have diverged from HP's master plan to shed the 3000 in the wake of the Compaq merger. It's not that tough to find a CIO who'll take issue with the HP timetable. Endgames happen on a customer's terms, and the departure of HP's support on Dec. 31, 2010 -- which HP reminded us about yesterday -- doesn't shape timetables much.

In truth, IBM's day to state the demise of its AS/400 is just one boardroom meeting away from landing in Morgan's lap.

The late-night labeling, stupid or unfortunate, arises from frustration you have in common with any advocate of the AS/400. "If you want to dance on my retirement, I had it coming to me," Morgan said. "Hell, I will even send you a homebrew to make it interesting, and we can toast our respective proprietary platforms. If you are at all like me, you feel the HP 3000 is as much yours as it was HP's, just like I sometimes think of the AS/400 as my own to care for, which I could have done much better than IBM has done. For certain."

09:43 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 17, 2009

HP to unveil source licensees in Q1, 2010

The hallowed MPE/iX source code license, long the holy grail of the homesteading community, will be displayed next year by licensees. HP has agreed to reveal the names of the companies and organizations who have been approved and paid for the read-only license. Although the fee for the license has not been leaked by any applicants, discussion at the recent e3000 Community Meet indicates it's a five-figure expense.

Jennie Hou, the final e3000 business manager before HP closed up its development labs around this time last year, commented on a NewsWire blog post to add information about the release of license holder names. The Nov. 19 story updated the fundraising drive that OpenMPE is pushing to come up with the money for the license.

"HP is working with multiple third parties who wish to procure from HP the read-only source code license for MPE/iX and TurboIMAGE/XL to provide system-level technical support services," Hou said in her comment to our article. "HP intends to publish the names of the approved licensees in the first quarter of 2010 on the www.hp.com/go/e3000 web site."

The balance of the message reminds 3000 owners that there are many places to procure support for an HP 3000 when HP leaves the community on Dec. 31 of next year. What's more, the source code will be an asset that those independent support providers can use -- on HP's terms.

"Customers will have multiple options for MPE/iX assistance after HP exits the Worldwide Support business on December 31, 2010," Hou stated in her comment. "Regardless of when the announcement of licensees takes place, they will not be able to use the MPE/iX source code in the delivery of system-level technical support until January 1, 2011."

It's unclear at the moment how HP would be able to determine if a third party company was using the read-only source code to deliver support services. In the publishing business we sometimes use "seeding" of names in a licensed use of a subscriber list -- so if an issue of a publication arrives with a special name on the label  that includes a middle initial, we know who's used it.

HP will more likely rely on the integrity of the licensees rather than actual monitoring of support solutions from the independent firms. While the corporation's intellectual property arm HPDC is rigorous about intellectual property infringements, this kind of support solution policing would be nearly impossible without voluntary reviews of support fixes and workarounds.

That kind of review might be in the terms of the license, information that HP has not revealed -- and has no plans to share. We're just glad that HP has been reading the NewsWire's blog closely enough to come forward with new information about the date to celebrate the discovery of the 3000's holy grail.

08:55 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 16, 2009

ScreenJet eases migration into new generation

    HP 3000 migrations strive to change an environment that customers believe has a limited future. But a new utility aims to preserve as well as extend the most productive part of a company’s IT solution: the user interface. ScreenJet’s EZ View will reproduce an application’s VPlus screens using XML, even while those screens continue to run on a 3000 during fast-track testing for a migration.

    Alan Yeo, founder of ScreenJet (screenjet.com), said the product he introduced at the recent e3000 Community Meet operates on both 3000 systems and migration target environments. It’s designed to carry apps out of the VPlus development era while being faithful to the current look of a user’s screen.

    EZ View allows the screen migration to be tested while the application remains on the HP 3000. “It reduces the risk,” Yeo said. “We have the only VPlus migration product that runs on the 3000 as well. You can switch to our API and the XML forms files.”

    Yeo, whose company and products helped migrate 3000 customers since 2003, said that a successful migration minimizes risk while it moves user applications to an environment such as HP-UX, Windows or Linux.  Changes in a company’s application screens force retraining while they potentially introduce the task of reworking to fix bugs.    “The cost of retraining staff, or changing the way a business function works, can cost them more than doing the work of the migration,” Yeo said. “Re-engineering is Phase Two of a migration."

    One term for this type of migration is a lift-and-shift, deploying the identical functionality on a non-3000 system. VPlus is one of the oldest aspects of 3000 programming that continues to front-end apps today. When HP first developed the screen-building tool it was remarkable, Yeo said. 3000 programmers didn’t have to create a user interface from scratch, as they did with systems from other business computing vendors.

    “VPlus was one of the few products where you didn’t write the screens,” Yeo said. “All you did was call the high-level functions to drive the screens.” Formfiles determine the look and feel of a VPlus character-based screen. But only the HP 3000 understands the high-level functions and Formfiles wired into most 3000 apps.

   EZ View carries 3000 developers who work on migrations into the world of XML, an industry-standard meta-language used to define data and presentation to users. The product makes it possible to port screens to XML without learning the language. The object is to re-create the user interface so completely that users don’t know they’re working on a Unix or Windows version of the 3000 app.

    The seamless transformation of screens becomes crucial in companies where unions play a part in work practices. “We’ve been in migrations where the unions would demand retraining unless the interface was identical,” Yeo said.

Migrating it yourself

    Other suppliers employ automated tools for accurate transfer of 3000 screens in the migration or conversion marketplace. ScreenJet promotes the use of its tool for any company doing its own migration, as well as migration companies that are undertaking projects for customers. Some conversion software is used only as part of an outsourced migration. Application vendors are also a potential target for EZ View.

    “These kinds of tools are really out there by now,” Yeo said. “Migration is really doable by small and midsize companies.”    The conversion software runs on the HP 3000 to read the VPlus Formfiles layouts, attributes and processing. The information is stored in database on the 3000, so the 3000 can continue to present the user interface as always, even while a customer’s developers make VPlus changes.

    Whenever a Formsfile needs to be converted the developer can select it from the database to create an XML file. The XML can used on the 3000 or transferred to the migration’s target server.

    Like any conversion tool, EZ View has a few VPlus attributes it can’t move into XML. But these CONFIG Phase Statements are only used on the antique HP2645 terminals. “As we suspect that the number of 2645 Terminals still in use for applications can probably be counted on one hand, we have chosen to not implement this functionality,” Yeo said. CONFIG also drives display device lights, internal tape drives and paper tape readers, another array of retired technology.

    A replacement VPlus API allows applications to retain their existing calls. The API resolves the calls at run time and makes the appropriate calls using the new XML-defined screens. Yeo stressed that the combined ScreenJet toolkit and API eliminates coding changes to move screens.

    As ScreenJet’s third generation of screen transformation solutions, EZ View addresses the need to keep risks out of Phase One of a migration. Eliminating every possible rewritten line controls budgets, timelines and success.

    “What we’ve learned is that even if you convert to a GUI, you don’t change a line of code,” Yeo said. When we first worked at VPlus migration, in the first few years we wanted the interface to end up better. What we missed was that the bigger the company gets, the less they can afford to change anything”

06:36 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 15, 2009

Using Webforms to Convert 3000 Screens

By Mike Howard
Unicon Conversion Technologies

Second of two parts

    Webforms, like Winforms, are from Microsoft. They are created and maintained in Visual Studio, have full GUI facilities and are maintained completely outside the COBOL program. But that is where the similarity ends. Webforms are full ASPX .NET and therefore employ a completely different method of processing.

   With Webforms, the user PCs are not connected to the host through any terminal services software. The host server must have a Web server installed on it. User PCs connect to the Web server through a Web browser and the Internet or an intranet. The user typically has an icon on their screen that starts the app when the user clicks on the icon. This launches an instance of the Web browser and gives it the URL of the Web server and the name of the Webform to be displayed. The form displays on the user PC.

   Now remember we fired up a Webform, not a COBOL program. The form is presented onto the screen but there is no application program running on the server. The user enters the data into the form and presses a function key or screen button and the Webform creates an event request and sends it to the Web Server. The Web Server receives the request and the Webform’s “code behind” processes the request by calling an application program to service that request. When the application program has performed its function, perhaps to obtain account information from the database using the account number entered by the user, it terminates and returns that information to the Webform code behind. The Webform code behind populates the form with the information and sends the form to the terminal.

    The main thing to appreciate is that it’s the Webform that calls the application program to perform an event request. The application program performs the request and terminates. The program responded to the form. The form is in control, not the program. When the form is on the screen there is no application program running on the server. This is stateless processing. An application program cannot “call” a form to display on the terminal, it can only respond to a call from a form and return to that form. The form however can invoke or call another form to be displayed. This processing does not fit the procedural code of most HP 3000 programs.

   Basically there are two competing methods involved here, the stateless processing of the Webform and the instate processing of the application procedural code. In addition, in the stateless process the forms needs to be in control of the programs and in the instate process the programs needs to be in control of the forms.

Engineered to make it stateless

   To make it work, the HP 3000 application programs have to be re-engineered into objects containing the logic required to service a form request. This is a massive undertaking. To enable a Webform front-end to work with a converted HP 3000 procedural program back end, Unicon created an interface manager called the Procedural Code Interface Manager.

   We used to offer our tools for do it yourself projects many years ago. Although the customers were always very happy with their results, we knew that they had incorporated many items that in time would prove problematic. Most DIY conversions are done by people with no prior migration experience and they haven’t yet learned what not to do, or what fits together better for the long run.

     Today we only perform migration projects, although these are often very performed on a joint effort with heavy customer involvement. We do not simply present a predetermined shrink-wrapped option to the customer – we ask the customer what he would like to see his application system migrated to. If he doesn’t know, we provide him with a list for options with benefits and disadvantages. We then produce a migration plan specific to the customer’s migration needs.

06:31 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2009

3000 Screen Conversions to Windows .NET

By Mike Howard
Unicon Conversion Technologies

Before 1998, all of our customers were asking us to migrate their mission-critical applications to Unix. What a difference the last 10 years have made. Today our customers’ new platform of choice is predominantly Windows. This is true for migrations from the smaller DEC VAX systems though the midrange HP 3000 systems and up to IBM mainframes. It’s true that over 25 years we have migrated more customers to Unix than Windows. But today that ratio is changing fast.

The decision is purely the customer’s choice. So why do more of our customers choose Windows? Each has their own reasons, from finding it easier to recruit Windows-knowledgeable staff than Unix staff; to consolidating all systems onto one platform type throughout the organization; to wanting to establish a Visual Studio .NET shop.

So what does an HP 3000 application look like after it is migrated to Windows? To a large extent that question is answered by what method is chosen to perform the migration. But the most obvious distinction in appearance are an application’s screens. Let’s take a look.

    Screens are perhaps the most important aspect of a successful migration project, because this is the primary interface to the user community. It is imperative to ensure that the migrated screens satisfy the needs of the users. Screens can be converted to look and feel almost exactly as they did on the HP 3000. Or they can be enhanced with additional GUI functionality. Sometimes screens are migrated as-is for one department and with a new GUI for another department.

     For example, users in a department who are used to speed-typing data into the system may find it very detrimental to their job function to have to deal with the point and click of a mouse. On the other hand, some users may find it beneficial to be given selection list boxes or dropdown selection boxes to help them better manage their data input process. 

     On the HP 3000, a user logs onto the system and then, often through use of a menu system, calls the program that contains the screens the users want to use. The program presents the screen to the terminal and in the accept case waits for the user to enter the data, at which point the user will hit a function key, and the program will continue on to the next instruction in the logic path.

    Thus, the HP 3000 online application code is procedural code. Throughout the process the program is fully resident in the memory (in-state) and it is always in command of the processing, and the screens will be presented to the terminal by the program in the order determined by its logic path.

    Although screen processing can be performed by using COBOL and statements, most HP 3000 programs use VPlus intrinsic calls to perform screen functions. VPlus forms are maintained separately from the COBOL program.

    HP 3000 VPlus screens can be converted to three types of Windows screens: COBOL SCREEN SECTION screens, Winforms, and Webforms.

    COBOL SCREEN SECTION screens are the standard way of processing screens in COBOL. The SCREEN SECTION is a relatively new section that comes after the LINKAGE SECTION in the DATA DIVISION of the COBOL program. The screen is defined in the SCREEN SECTION, then presented to the terminal by DISPLAY screen-name and ACCEPT screen-name statements in the program. SCREEN SECTION screens are contained entirely in the COBOL program and maintained as part of the program.

    Winforms are from Microsoft. They are created and maintained in Visual Studio, using the standard Visual Studio IDE, and of course they have full GUI facilities. That means Winforms are maintained completely outside the COBOL program. When the program wants to use a form it invokes the form.

    The calling of a SCREEN SECTION screen or a Webform screen in a converted COBOL program is similar in concept to calling a VPlus form. The program is in full control and the screens are presented to the user terminal as the program executes along its logic paths. This is a normal procedural code process just like the HP 3000’s COBOL uses. And just like the HP 3000 system, the user logs onto the Windows server from a PC which is connected over a network. The only difference is that instead of using terminal emulation software to connect to the server, the user connects using a Windows Terminal Services connection or a Citrix WinFrame connection.

Next: Webforms in action, and stateless processing distinctions

06:27 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2009

A Quick Cheat Sheet for Reloads

When a 3000 drive goes dead, especially after a power outage, it often has to be reloaded. Dave Powell of MM Fab had his Logical Device 2 (ldev2) fail on him in such an instance. He asked for a cheat sheet on reloading a volume, something that our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper was quick to provide to Powell.

By Gilles Schipper

Assuming your backup includes the ;directory option (you’ve already said it includes SLT),

1. Boot from alternate path and choose INSTALL (assuming alternate path is your tape drive)
2. After INSTALL completes, boot from primary path and perform START NORECOVERY.
3. Use VOLUTIL to add ldev 2 to MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET.
4. Restore directory from backup (:restore *t;;directory)
5. openq lp
6. Perform a full restore with the following commands
:file t;dev=7(?)
:restore *t;/;keep;show=offline;olddate;create;partdb;progress=5 7.

Perform START NORECOVERY

I would suggest setting permanent and transient space each equal to 100 percent on ldev 2. The 75 percent default on ldev 1 is fine as long as you don’t need the space. And if you did, your solution shouldn’t really be trying to squeeze the little extra you’d get by increasing the default maximum limits.

The reason for limiting ldev1 to 75 percent is to minimize the otherwise already heavy traffic on ldev 1, since the system directory must reside there, as well as many other high traffic “system” files.

You won't want to omit the ;CREATE and ;PARTDB options from the restore command. Doing so will certainly get the job done -- but perhaps not to your satisfaction. If any file that exists on your backup was created by a user that no longer exists, that file (or files) will NOT be restored.

Similarly, if you omit the ;PARTDB option, any file that comprises a TurboIMAGE database whose corresponding root file does not exist, will also not be restored.

I suppose it may be a matter of personal preference, but I would rather have all files that existed on my disks prior to disk crash also exist after the post disk-crash RELOAD. I could then easily choose to re-delete the users that created those files -- as well as the files themselves.

Another reason why the ;SHOW=OFFLINE option is suggested is so that one can quickly see the users that were re-created as the result of the ;CREATE option. Purging the “orphan” datasets would be slightly more difficult, since they don’t so easily stand out on the stdlist.

Finally, it’s critical that a second START NORECOVERY be performed. Otherwise, you cannot successfully start up your network.

03:22 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2009

Strobe sidelines its 3000 emulator work

A decline in the amount of non-3000 business at emulator vendor Strobe Data has pushed the company's PA-RISC system emulation project to the sidelines, reports Strobe's Alan Tibbetts.

Strobe Logo The vendor was among three whose hats were in the ring to create a solution that would permit non-3000 computers to run MPE/iX applications and software. HP has made an MPE/iX emulation license available, but none of the emulator vendors has released the rest of the solution.

Allegro Consultants was mentioned in the early talks about emulation, but president Steve Cooper long ago put rumors of an Allegro-branded product to rest. Over the past five years Allegro has been mentioned as a partner in a project that Strobe would lead, since Allegro boasts one of the best stables of PA-RISC experts in the world.

Strobe's business revolves around emulating Digital minicomputers and the HP 1000 mini, systems which are used to control processes in real-time computing. The current economic lull -- HP was still reporting declines in all of its businesses except services -- has set the 3000/PA-RISC emulation work onto Strobe's back burner.

"We are just trying to survive the lull in government orders right now," Tibbetts said. "The trouble is that the sales of our [Digital] PDP-11 line are down. The PDP-11s became unreliable more quickly and we have sold a bunch of them in the past, but the easy ones have already been captured."

Stromasys, the emulator vendor whose labs are in Europe with sales offices around the world, announced this summer that it was putting its PA-RISC emulation solution into alpha testing this fall. The Stromasys product won't rely on hardware components, going to an all-software solution that provides cross-platform virtualization. The emulator will permit MPE/iX to boot up and run on Intel's Xeon-x86 processor family as well as AMD's PC chips.

Tibbetts said that Strobe has leaned itself up in order to weather the lull and it continues to meet with customers to secure new emulator sales in the 1000 and PDP markets. He added that he's traveling to New York State this week to install an emulation product at BAE Systems, which is testing US military jet engines using 1985-era minicomputers.

The sidetracking of emulator work at Strobe can be viewed in more than one perspective. HP 3000 community members have long wondered if competing emulator solutions could survive in the MPE/iX marketplace. The market has a strong inventory of used hardware, much of which could be considered an upgrade for owners of older 3000s. Companies have left the market which might have been emulator customers, had HP made technology licensing available sooner to the vendors' R&D teams.

But Strobe's Willard West, who was the first to announce an emulator product in 2002, has said his market has an extraordinarily long lifecycle. Just because a company didn't need an emulator in 2009 does not mean the requirement won't arise four years later.

The sales cycle of an emulator also depends on the durability of the computers being emulated, Tibbetts added. "The HP 1000s have remained reliable longer than the PDPs -- which is good for the owners of  HP 1000 systems, but that leaves us with a slump right now. The good news for us is that even old-style HP quality is not enough to keep disc drives running forever."

Tibbetts said that the 3000 emulator project, which would leverage some of the technology the company uses in its Kestrel HP 1000 emulator, hasn't been canceled at Strobe. The company competes with Stromasys in the PDP marketplace, where Strobe has been serving customers who saw system vendors give up on minicomputers long ago.

"In the minicomputer marketplace, DEC and Data General and HP fought valiantly for quite a few years," Tibbetts said. "Then they all just kind of went away, and here we are, supplying a solution to the people that bought into the minicomputers at the time."

A persistent viewpoint, expressed by 3000 owners who are migrating, asserts that emulators will never make a substantial difference to the lifespan of the MPE/iX marketplace. While Strobe and Stromasys don't believe their products will alter the end-date of minicomputer use, their solutions give companies and governments a way to contain costs and stay in command.

A decision to fly Kiowa helicopters another five years in the US military means that minicomputer test systems must stay online that much longer, Tibbetts pointed out. Projects to migrate to alternative solutions in the real-time computing world can deliver failure consistently.

"In the past they have tried to go to other solutions," he said of real-time system owners. "They've found that the realities are that minicomputers just worked differently than PCs. I've seen lots of money flushed down holes trying to get a PC to do what a minicomputer had done."

The system distinctions for HP 3000s versus PCs are not as pronounced, he added. While that makes the emulation's tech prospects healthier, the marketplace could be tougher than in the real-time markets. "What makes it a little scary in thinking about the 3000 [emulation] is that you don't have that same deep penetration of technology," he said. "You don't have your tentacles deep into the customer's processes the way the real-time system does."

The technical promise is profound, however. Tibbetts said that he's going to BAE to upgrade an HP 1000 that had no provision for standards-based network connections. A simple serial port on the computer will be transformed into a port for telnet protocol -- the kind of quantum leap that a 3000 hardware cross-platform virtualizer could deliver five years from now to hit a moving technology target.

02:00 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 09, 2009

Not a word from HP about extensions

We're well into the first full week of December, so customers are asking if HP will consider extending its support deadline into 2011, or even beyond. This has been the month of the year when customers, some running migration projects, have found a gift of extra time delivered by HP.

When we got this year's call about this perennial holiday wish, a podcast was born. Our 6-minute report might have no news from HP, but it describes the kind of deal to keep 3000 customers in a relationship once they migrate away from the server. Taking a page from HP, customer credits play a role. Have a listen and see if there's another place to look for stimulus to your support and supplier relationships.

02:52 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2009

Yes, things could be worse — for everyone

AfterlifeTShirt You could be using IBM's AS/400 servers to run your business, exhorting Big Blue to pursue the path to goodwill instead of profit.

In this holiday season I've stumbled upon a steaming pile of snark about your Transition. There's a shortage of goodwill in many places, but maybe nowhere as obvious as the Web site IT Jungle, where an editor in chief has called most of you stupid. He's even measured the folly of running a newsletter like ours, though he missed calling us out by name by one word.

Timothy Prickett-Morgan writes in The Four Hundred this week to exhort his readers, who love their AS/400s as much as you have adored your HP 3000, that things could be worse for his faithful. In almost 3,000 words of manifesto he chirps that no matter how dire the future looks for a return to IBM's hegemony of the 1980s, life under the ticking clock of AS/400 futures could be worse.

I think the first thing to realize is that things could be worse. Imagine if this newsletter was called The Three Thousand and all of us, seeing the incredible RISC technology that Hewlett-Packard had on deck for its future PA-RISC workstations and servers in the late 1980s, had banked our careers on the MPE operating system, with its own integrated database management system and COBOL applications.

None of us were that stupid, of course.

I can weather that schoolboy name-calling, because in an era of Photoshopped integrity, respect is in short supply. But only from the distance of a New York office could a man with a few decades of IT experience think your Transition arises from stupidity. You believed, like a lover or a disciple, to nurture your relationship. Now your life after the affair is different; your career may be better, perhaps worse.

While it was not Prickett-Morgan's main mission to hoot at your challenge, he did lead with this slapdash foolishness to start preaching to his choir. My aim is to represent your reality in about half as many words. The HP 3000 has been that kind of efficient -- which is why so many of its customers' applications will live on other environments in the decades to come. Precious few will ever boot up under OS400, though.

There's a saying in the IT industry about storage devices, one that applies to all technology choices. There's only two kinds of disk drives: those that have failed, and those that will fail. Nothing outlasts change. But so long as your choice stays in front of change for the lifespan of your career -- as well as the legacy of your decisions -- your choice isn't stupid.

Not a single technology will escape the day of its demise. The signs of IBM's disregard for the AS/400 are right inside Prickett-Morgan's sermon. "The point is, the AS/400 used to lead in technology development, and in a lot of midrange accounts, IBM was not embarrassed or ashamed to lead with it. I haven't seen that IBM for a long, long time."

Nor will you again. Things have changed too much for technology companies like HP and IBM to need to revisit swaggering, innovative behavior that both delighted and imprisoned customers. You were an IBM refugee, some of you, while choosing the 3000. But the unique technology HP created also kept you inside Hewlett-Packard's campus. It was a collegial life when you knew your HP rep no matter how little you spent, when an HP VP like Marc Hoff would pass out business cards with his home number on the back -- so you'd stay satisfied and not be tempted to live off-campus.

HP felt such nostalgia for those days that when the company absorbed Compaq and competing products, Carly Fiorina's team felt the desire to add the word "Invent" under a new logo. Eight years later, half of HP's invention budget has disappeared, making a migration from R&D to Mergers and Acquisitions. As former HP exec Chuck House notes in a new book The HP Phenomenon, it's hard to make acquired companies' inventions deliver like your own innovation.

HPStarbucks OS400, MPE: These were tools created and honed in an era when HP couldn't be seen, like it is today, with its third generation logo in every Starbucks store. HP needed invention to thrive in the 1980s. By the 1990s it settled for a reseller market. By now, it just needs customers for things other companies build. So it buys 3Com, or any of the other billions of dollars worth of R&D magic created in companies too small to have a truckload of flyers in Starbucks.

But to that matter of stupidity in a career: The Four Hundred and Prickett-Morgan are deluding themselves in thinking their own day of dunce-dom can be averted by passionate sermons. I reported on the day the 3000 community members built a football-sized advocacy poster a few miles away from a computer conference where top HP execs could still be expected to attend. The poster paper was recycled, the conference no longer exists, along with the defunct user group that mounted it. The HP execs are still around -- those who haven't taken retirement packages or migrated to companies where R&D is more essential than M&A. And those who remain are talking more, and listening less, especially to sermons. Forget about the home phone numbers.

It's an easier landscape to navigate while your vendor pretends to love your career choice. Once you're in  Transition terrain, the journey toward a secure future is littered with doubt and risk and courage and hubris. Alongside the rocky path, you sometimes see editors in chief and analysts and competitors saying that things could be worse. They could be you.

The truth is that they will be you someday. And once they're transported to Transition turf, they'll hope to have a map of how to land on their feet. They'll get to see what HP did poorly in its migration mantra, as well as how your community stepped up to fill in HP's gaping holes to plan for migration and homesteading. The AS/400 group already has an iManifest advocacy group, a canary perched in the mine shaft of IBM's futures.

Prickett-Morgan spends much time lecturing what IBM should do to revive AS/400 prospects. We have done as much here with the NewsWire, promoting the business choices that a $60-, then $70-, then $80-billion corporation should follow. Being prescient about the outcome of unheeded advice is easy enough. What is harder, and deserves more respect, is making a nourishing menu out of offal that your vendor serves you.

When your vendor's faith fails, like every disk drive, it might look like it did in the 3000 world -- but more insidious, because unlike HP, IBM has not yet admitted how little ardor it feels for the AS/400. To quote facts from our editor in chief, when your platform's division vanishes like the AS/400's has; when you estimate that only 20 percent of your community is investing agressively in your platform; when your Unix division feasted on a lousy deal offered to your legacy customers, then it's "a stupid way to play the midrange game."

If there's stupidity here, it's in HP and IBM overlooking businesses that produce profits. I had a lunch with a 3000 software vendor last week where he said, "I can't figure it. There was still money in the 3000 business when HP walked away. It's not like it was costing them to keep it running." But the bill that came due for HP was a sweetheart's promise to dump a competing product during the Compaq merger. MPE and VMS couldn't coexist in HP's shortsighted vision. But we see many of the same signs in the OpenVMS world that appeared in MPE and OS400 communities. Their members are all the Worried Well, to use a healthcare term.

Here at the NewsWire we hope to be able, with your support and continued interest, to dispel the needless worries and keep your courage up with facts, ideals and honest appraisals. It's an adventure making a career of enterprise IT these days, not a lesson that dispenses dunce hats from editors who know better than to be so smug about things being worse elsewhere. Yes, comparing is the most human form of writing the stories of our lives. But things being worse in a Transition community don't make the AS/400's world look ripe for a resurgence. Thinking legacy shouldn't be an epithet, or services will fund price-cutting, or a unique database will take back Oracle wins, or that new hardware sold under an old brand name (odd, that one) -- well, maybe all those ideas were just a wish for Father Christmas.

I wish Timothy Prickett-Morgan the best of luck in his upcoming business transition. I can be disappointed in this colleague's misstep, but you don't have to feel envious of not being an AS/400 customer. Everything in life is retiring someday, both systems and editors in chief. Until then I hope to spend very little time dancing on ground that I consider a graveyard, while I avert my eyes from my own plot nearby.

02:29 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 07, 2009

Does IA-64's future fail on emulation ability?

IPF It's a good question to ask when a customer is considering where to migrate 3000 applications. Common sense advice from migration service suppliers says "It's all about the apps," meaning that target choices are determined by which applications a migrator must choose. But often in the 3000 marketplace, the applications remain the same during a migration, as companies execute a lift-and-shift move of code.

When the app remains the same, then choosing via architecture and environment is the fork in the road away from the 3000. Towards the x86/Xeon world of Windows, or into the land of Unix and HP's IA-64 Itanium designs? (HP-UX and IA-64 are a matched set of solutions, since Itanium is the only host for HP's Unix.) An analyst said recently that only three architectures will survive the consolidation of solutions, and Itanium isn't one of them. Joe Clabby has promoted IBM's solutions before his latest report, which claims the z architecture of IBM mainframes and IBM's POWER architecture will be survivors, along with Xeon.

But the reasons Clabby dismisses any survival for Itanium don't fit the technical view of one of the 3000 community's best IA-64 experts. Gavin Scott, a VP at support and development house Allegro Consultants, says that Clabby's wrong about x86 emulation being the fatal flaw in the Itanium fabric.

Clabby, who once advised his clients that Itanium was a good investment of development dollars, now faces away from HP, if not Intel. x86 compatibility is so important that it keeps IT planners away because their 32-bit apps aren't welcome on Itanium.

“From a dropped features perspective," Clabby said, "one of the most important features dropped in Itanium design was the chip’s ability to handle 32-bit computing. During the course of its development, 32-bit  emulation mode was removed from the Itanium feature set, making it impossible for IT buyers to run their existing 32-bit applications on the Itanium 64-bit processor.”

Scott says 32 bits are a small matter in choosing IA-64, which he calls by its HP/Intel name, Itanium Processor Family.

In reality, virtually nobody cares about running x86 on IPF. The only possible users would be Linux, where software is typically portable and recompiled anyway, so Linux users probably don’t see it as a huge issue either way, and a Microsoft Windows Server Ludicrous IPF Version user who wants to run old programs along with Oracle or SQL Server or whatever other limited excuse there is for the existence of Windows for IPF. I would think that the software emulation probably got added to Windows too, making it a non-issue.

I suspect the Intel software translation/emulation is maybe even better than the old native hardware feature was.

The first few implementations of Itanium ran IA-32 (standard x86) code natively in the hardware, Scott explained, the dropped the feature in preference of "a software translation/emulation module that I believe Intel developed and made available for use with Linux, so just as Aries makes PA-RISC work, the Intel software lets you run 32-bit x86 code whether or not your IPF chip has the old native x86 support or not."

Scott is referring to the Aries emulator in HP-UX, software which permits apps written for PA-RISC to operate on an Itanium processor. HP says it has no plans to drop Aries support in HP-UX, something that app developers who don't want to rewrite HP-UX apps for native Itanium count upon. But serious computing gets re-coded for new architectures, not emulated, Scott says.

"Generally people seem to find that for important, CPU-intense programs, Aries is not fast enough," he said, "and they really need to recompile into native code."

There are better reasons that ermulation to show why Itanium choices cut across the tide of movement toward Intel Xeon solutions. The architecture hasn't developed a large critical mass of customers compared to what HP calls its Industry Standard Servers. That lack of mass makes development choices harder to fund at Intel as well as within HP -- although Hewlett-Packard shows a great deal more faith in Itanium's capabilities.

The truth is that every solution has a migration in its future. But if the major effort of moving away is years away, a company can do well with a niche solution if the architecuture is elegant, efficient and stable. That's what's given the 3000 such an afterlife, a design beyond HP's plans for the system's demise.

05:26 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 04, 2009

Securing 3000 FTP: Clients yes, servers no

When long-time 3000 customer Eveready Insurance asked if Secure FTP (SFTP) is available for the server, the short answer was yes. And no.

A client version of the software to secure file transfers has been available for the 3000 for some time. What the 3000 lacks for now is a secure FTP server module. This means that the HP 3000 must initiate each secure file transfer process.

HP's response center engineer Cathlene McRae has pointed customers to a 2008 HP white paper on the subject of securing 3000 file transfers, a document which is honest about how far MPE goes to support the FTP industry standard. McRae admitted that MPE/iX doesn't provide a version of SFTP in addition to the 3000's regular FTP/iX. Once the invent3k public access development server accounts are restored for the community -- a project OpenMPE has been working on since September -- a true SFTP server module might proceed toward a release. A volunteer for that project would have to step up, too.

HP's white paper reports that it created a script called crypt that can secure 3000 transfers. The good news is that even though HP has closed down its Jazz server, crypt is still available to the community. Speedware is hosting crypt (a tarball that can be downloaded) as part of its collection of Jazz programs.

HP's paper says in part:

HP has designed a script which will allow FTP/iX users to transfer files securely from MPE/iX to remote systems running HP-UX, Linux, MPE/iX etc. The script provides an option to encrypt files prior to the transfer. Depending on this “encrypt” option and a few other considerations, the file will be encrypted using the POSIX CRYPT utility, before it is transferred via FTP/iX.

Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies has explained the differences between full SFTP support and the state of secure transfers using MPE/iX 7.5. In a report from earlier this year, Edminster said "while files can be put to or retrived from other systems, since only the SFTP client is available, the 3000 must originate the transaction. This can make for some process redesigns if your existing applications are used to your 3000 being the ‘server’."

That SFTP server module -- the element that prevents 3000 managers from saying the system supports SFTP -- is in a double limbo this month. A first pass at creating a port of OpenSSH for MPE/iX is included in the invent3k files of Ken Hirsch. But invent3k, like the Contributed Software Library and the Jazz programs, is still being set up by OpenMPE. Speedware and Client Systems haven't signed up to host invent3k. OpenMPE's mission remains keeping the 3000 up to date, once these porting projects become available to the community once again.

04:20 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 03, 2009

Migrations lift, shift, exchange commands

Speedware announced the third phase of its online tool transfer from HP yesterday, as the migration partner rolled out the old MPE-to-HP-UX utilities on a new Web resource. The tools include a Commands Cross-Reference, an MPE to HP-UX Programming API Cross-Reference, as well as a cross reference for MPE to HP-UX System Administration Functions. All are in sync with the most reliable means to replace a 3000 application, something Speedware's Chris Koppe calls lift and shift.

At this year's e3000 Community Meet, Koppe related the story of how essential it was for a client to retain the logic and architecture of its 3000 apps in a move to HP-UX. ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, a provider for tools for do it yourself migration projects, said that some customers making a migration have asked "I'd like my bugs migrated, too."

In our video from the Meet, Koppe reveals background from the migration story of Australian insurance firm ING, which Speedware helped migrate during 2008. The alternative to lift and shift is replacement applications. The ideal situation for minimum change is the same third party app hosted on a new environment: more often Windows for the typical 3000 user, but sometimes HP's Unix.

Koppe said that ING's CIO didn't want to expose the company's data to scrutiny during the migration. Moving the data to Eloquence, the CIO said "if we have to look at the data, the project is a non-starter." Compliance issues would have risen up if the data had to be massaged in any way during the migration, Koppe said.

Further along in the video, after Yeo's lift and shift admonition and Koppe's peek at secret data, the Support Group inc's David Floyd made a pitch for ample migration of a system's documentation. If the expert on how a 3000 app leaves for whatever reason, including an untimely demise, "it's the people in this room who'll have to solve problems, because it becomes mission-critical knowledge at that point."

Interim homesteading, of any duration, precedes a migration. Engaging an offsite expert who's learned an application from an in-house system manager -- while transition proceeds using HP's cross reference utilities -- provides insurance for the lifting and shifting.

<> Cross-Reference

09:07 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2009

Snapshots form pictures for 3000 repositories

Official documentation for the HP 3000 has a lifespan, a period of time that's not measured like a book's bindings or any crumbling foundation of a library. Manuals and documents about how to operate a 3000 thrive upon the interest and care from the community. Speedware said at the latest e3000 Community Meet that it wants to be a repository for such 3000 knowledge.

Chris Koppe, the company's marketing director who is also the 2010 Connect user group president, reported that Speedware took snapshots of the documentation that was removed from the HP's Web servers last December. "If you're missing anything that was in HTML, some see us," he said at the Meet. Documents which used to be available in either HTML or PDF formats now only appear as PDFs. Koppe said that while Speedware still can't host official 3000 documentation, HP advised them to "take a snapshot of all of it last year -- early, just in case."

HP spread that advice around the user community about this time last year, when it had begun to issue its final communications with the community. The vendor's migration effort may be erasing some edges of HP's picture of documentation, so outside respositories are important to preserve 3000 practices. "As part of the migration," said Eloquence database creator Michael Marxmeier at the Meet, "some documents might just vanish, and it's difficult for a large organization to restore them."

HP gave customers that advice to capture any needed documents last year, then took its Jazz server offline for good to remove scores of documents and programs. Early this year the vendor struck deals with several companies to host white papers, training materials and free utility software. The 3000 system and software documentation was also a part of those deals, but it was licensed with a caveat. Outside companies can't offer these docs until HP stops serving them.

That kind of change can happen overnight, but at the moment HP has promised that it will remain the repository of 3000 documentation until 2015. The vendor's support business is scheduled to end five years earlier -- a point in time when the more repositories exist, the better coverage for the community.

Chris Bartram, the founder of the 3000's Technical Wiki and host of dozens of public utility programs at 3k.com, said he believes HP's long timelines for exiting 3000 services are part of a strategy. OpenMPE, which also wants to be known as the 3000's repository, endured years of delays and HP deliberations about the vendor's plans to hand off the stewardship of 3000 intelligence.

I wished OpenMPE good luck when they set off so many years ago, but I firmly believe that some at HP knew it was probably in their best interest to drag things on long enough -- without actually saying no and pissing people off -- so by the time anything was handed over, there would be so little demand left that HP could be sure they had milked all the "conversions" (and related new hardware purchases) they could. I guess it's getting close to that point -- so I'm not sure if I'm happy for OpenMPE, or sad.

The challenge in preparing for a far-off transfer of information like manuals, or moving support contracts by the end of 2010, is that any new resources must ramp up and then wait for their turn as stewards. Speedware, which contracted for hosting of 3000 manuals, must keep them archived and ready for whatever day HP decides manuals will not be online at HP anymore. "The idea here is to make sure that nothing gets lost over time," Koppe said, "so it has a home somewhere."

Whether it's Speedware, with its contracts, resources and HP data in hand, or OpenMPE -- trying to get its HP docs cleaned up to host on a new Jazz/Invent3k server -- any alliance of 3000 community members won't be earning much from doing this repository work. The only real profits come from showing love for the beloved server still at the heart of so many careers and companies.

"We're not really making any money in this market anymore," said Bartram, who sold 3000 e-mail application software during the 1990s and still supports it. "So it's still more of a labor of love -- or love lost."

02:06 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2009

Minisoft joins PCI compliance team

Penalties for unsecured commerce via credit cards run up to a half million dollars for companies using the HP 3000, Unix and other environments. The card industry's new PCI standards were supposed to leave the HP 3000 unprepared for the July, 2010 deadline to comply. But a few vendors have stepped in to add security that could satisfy PCI auditors.

And in a best-of-both-worlds development, the newest entry for PCI compliance tools runs with both the IMAGE and the Eloquence databases -- so 3000 users en route to migration can have encrypted connections now, and later.

Minisoft announced its database connectivity tools have been updated to include security that can help in PCI compliance. Starting today the company's ODBC, JDBC and OLE database middleware drivers incorporate the SSLv3 and TLSv1 encryption technology to secure connections. Minisoft says that its new options for the middleware "allow a user to specify the PCI-compliant levels along with the type of encryption (Change Chiper Spec Protocol) required by an organization's auditor or compliance officer."

In matters of PCI compliance -- important at the e-commerce companies where the 3000 was once strong in number -- those auditors determine what will escape the credit card penalties.

Visa and Mastercard set up the PCI security measures, and the card companies are requiring every merchant and processor to comply with thorough practices which include encryption capability. The HP 3000 was never adept at encrypting data, in large part because the system was secured by its unique OS architecture. Viruses, malware and hacks are not part of the 3000's pedigree.

But encryption is essential to passing a PCI audit, so the Minisoft products adopt three of the better-known modules for protecting data in transit. The vendor calls its software "compliant with the PCI Data Security Standard." The DSS is widely accepted as a crucial part of a total PCI compliance plan.

Earlier in 2009 the HP 3000 got another member of the encryption team to become PCI compliant. IDent/3000, a PCI compliance utility written, sold and supported by Paul Taffel, added features to keep some Ecometry sites in the running to gain PCI compliance.

Taffel created IDent when Adager's CEO Rene Woc put him in touch "with a couple of Ecometry sites who realized that there was no way to meet PCI requirements with existing MPE features. These sites fed me with requirements, and I came up with a collection of solutions to take care of each requirement."

Now Minisoft offers its PCI solution, an element that might be viewed as an essential tool in a box which IT managers will need to fill to satisfy certified PCI auditors. Minisoft's tool has a substantial added value. Its middleware operates with Eloquence, the database most like IMAGE. So when 3000 sites complete their migrations -- using lift and shift methodology for minimum risk -- the same middleware suite is waiting on the Unix, Windows or Linux target platform. It even supports the Mac.

One important point to remember is that PCI is a standard which can be interpreted in more than one way. A subjective appraisal from an auditor leads to certification. As Taffel said in our summertime story:

Most small companies can self-certify that they’re PCI compliant, but the bigger ones have to use external auditors, so they’re the motivated ones. The PCI requirements are not 100 percent clear. Everyone who reads them comes away with a different understanding of what they require.

The Minisoft ODBC, JDBC, and OLE DB middleware drivers support MPE's IMAGE, Eloquence 8.0, Windows 7.0, and Windows 64-bit SQL Enterprise Server. The drivers run on HP-UX, MPE, Windows, Linux, Solaris, AIX, and Macintosh operating systems. The PCI capabilities are available in an upgraded version for existing Minisoft customers.

08:18 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)