January 29, 2010
More Open progress toward MPE source
OpenMPE treasurer Matt Purdue has updated us on the organization's drive to earn a license for MPE/iX source code. The volunteer group will be using the source as a way to create patches for community members who are served by independent support providers. Those providers are probably writing patches from the source knowledge, too. But only those who win a source code license.
OpenMPE, on the other hand, wants to launch a business to sell patches. Through memberships, probably, to be collected from customers directly or the support providers in the community. While it's an untested business model, it's also a good option to buttress the homesteader's needs.
The update is that OpenMPE is in "the home stretch" to raise the HP fee for the license. As of late last week, "We have in cash on hand and pledges approximately 65 percent towards the license fee," Purdue said. "Of course, additional donations of course are still needed."
That's why the NewsWire is pledging a modest amount to the drive. We respect the businesses of the support providers who are earning licenses, too. OpenMPE seems to want to operate in the patch business as a non-profit. That kind of dream needs encouragement. You should pledge, if you're going to be relying on a 3000 during 2011 for any reason -- and don't have an independent support company that can write patches, or buy them on your behalf.
Come to think of it, even buying patches on your behalf could require a non-profit lab like OpenMPE's model.
The OpenMPE volunteers who call themselves the Board are hunting for more contributions right now. Purdue said the group confirmed its application to HP for the license to get read-only source that cannot be modified.
"Some of the discussion on the Board conference call was to go ahead with the final paperwork for the source code access license application," Purdue said. "I have e-mailed [HP's] Jennie Hou to let her know OpenMPE is proceeding with the next step in the process, and I should hear back from her shortly. I did a ‘read receipt’ on the e-mail, and it’s already come back that she’s read the message."
The source has no guarantee of being a useful tool to help the community. It will take advanced developers to make sense of millions of lines of code and find workarounds and create specific patches. OpenMPE at least has access to them, but it will need budget, too. What's troublesome is that there's no provisions for source code licensees to share information about what they learn. HP made that clear when it revealed its intentions about source licenses more than a year ago.
In November we reported:
HP has not factored in any coordination requirement among licensees. For now, making patches consistent among the community's sites is up to the licensees.
"We won't be imposing any kind of organizational structure on the community in terms of how they choose to operate," Paivinen said. "We're going to be creating agreements between us and individual companies."
Source licensees cannot report on the terms of their licenses -- and no entity or company has done so to make today's report. That's a sentence for HP especially to read. We wouldn't want anything to impede a license approval. That would make our own contribution meaningless, as well as those of others in the community.
In about two months HP will say who's made the source code cut. It will come at about eight years after the community started asking HP about source for MPE/iX. Like everything in the 3000 community, success operates on a longer timeline here.
January 28, 2010
3000 News for Some of Your Futures
A slice of the Austin 3000 community met last night at the County Line BBQ joint, where ribs and brisket hit the table to feed a brace of developers and sales experts. Everyone at the table had at least 25 years of 3000 experience, and almost everybody was still working on 3000 projects weekly. For many of us, the 3000 remains an everyday experience.
We didn't gather to share 3000 stories. We met to enjoy each other's company, prompted by a visit from Birket Foster. In places like Austin and elsewhere he swings through on sales and consulting calls and marshalls whoever can make time. (Seattle is his stop next week.) But even through the 3000 wasn't the primary topic, there were a few slices of fresh reports served up along with the meaty meal.
News that surprised me: one company counted its biggest sale of the fourth quarter as software and support of a 3000 tool. What's more, the software is being installed on four new HP 3000s. That's when Denise Girard, who worked for decades for Tymlabs and Unison Software, said, "There are new 3000s?"
Not new in a common definition of Just Been Built. But these 3000s were arriving where old systems had been, or none were in place. The better part of the story, from a homesteader's perspective, was the guaranteed end of support date for the new solution: 2015.It's a spot report, this promise of 3000s supported five years from now with a enterprise-grade solution. But it's not uncommon to hear the middle of our new decade as a support guarantee. Steve Cooper of Allegro Consultants said last year that 2016 will be a reasonable date to run a 3000. He based his estimate on a survey of parts and systems providers for the community. Robelle was quoting 2016, way back in 2004.
My analysis of these fresh slices of the future shows some promise for a measured transition course. Even though this kind of software and systems support will be offered for years to come, that doesn't mean a 3000 user should do nothing. The company installing four fresh 3000s made a financial commitment to sustaining their homestead. It doesn't work any differently than the homesteaders of the US in the 19th Century. They also invested their labor and resource to stay out on the prairie.
Transition means different things to different 3000 community members. For the company that wants to continue to enjoy the fiscal benefit of the 3000 model, in an era of no HP support, it means lining up agreements like that 2015 deal and paying annual support fees. Even for the interim homesteader, this kind of sustaining investment is essential to using a measured pace to step away from the system.
Some of your futures include an indefinite term for your 3000 service. You can take comfort in the news that some vendors are still working to keep the HP 3000 working into its fifth decade.
January 27, 2010
Cloud-bound users could be the unmigrated
While HP has been quietly building up its cloud messaging, the company is counting on another shift in its business server base. Hewlett-Packard would be happy if computer IT operations got to be something you'd rather not manage yourself. For the companies who haven't migrated yet, because of the cost of that journey, the cloud could be a way to save the search through replacement applications.
Nicolas Fortin of Speedware weighed in on the prospects of getting 3000 sites onto cloud enterprises. Speedware uses some cloud offerings itself, hosted by Activant, its parent entity. But the important part of the message is how the same kind of customer who can't find a replacement for apps could be served by a diligent cloud provider.
"In our experience with the HP 3000 migration market," he says, "companies who aim to replace their custom-built applications with packaged apps or commercial software are more open to consider cloud computing or an Internet-based software-as-a-service kind of model to serve their needs."
So if running your own DIY migration project might be years away, or out of your budget, the traditional migration project management can be used by anybody who can afford it. Or you can keep search the cloud in the meantime, if that HP 3000 simply must go.
Packaged application replacement was popular among 3000 migrators for awhile, but many companies hit the wall trying to find and customize software built for generic companies. Fortin explains the match between sites which feel they must buy and maintain their own computers and IT infrastructure.
Customers who use our migration solutions tend to aim for low-risk, lift and shift migrations of their existing custom-built applications and related supporting environment. They usually purchase their own servers, software and own the infrastructure that powers them, so they don’t really opt for a cloud computing or software-as-a-service model, since they host the apps locally. Some of them of course choose to “virtualize” their server environment to respond to their specific computing needs, stay agile and to aim for a lower Total Cost of Ownership, but that virtualized environment is localized and internal, not outsourced. Note: This also applies to the IBM mainframe and AS/400 markets.
Another migration services supplier, MB Foster, has a similar look at the longer-term future for the smaller 3000 shop. Birket Foster has said companies which once could afford to maintain and build out their own IT -- using the built-in value of the HP 3000 model -- will find that outsourced computing, from places as ubiquitous as their Internet/phone vendor, represent the future. "By 2012," he said, "we’ll be closer to the point where the hardware is totally irrelevant and the operating system is totally irrelevant."
Because the skills sets for those elements will be hard to come by, people who are going to manage and update security for systems will be working for the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOC) and ISPs. The larger hardware vendors want to do a virtualized farm for an RBOC. The servers you once spent half a million dollars on are being replaced by systems that cost $20,000. The vendors can’t sell the same number of servers, so they have to find a way of consolidating.
The remaining 3000 sites which feel like they must migrate are now tied up in budgetary concerns. Their next step is to employ the polished tools to move their customized apps themselves. They can do this, with enough staff time to spend on the task. Speedware is among many suppliers of the needed tools, Fortin said. "Customers who buy our software to do the migration themselves," he said, "get training and a jump-start service that installs the product locally on their servers -- so again, no perceived benefits for clouds."
Tools from a raft of other suppliers including MB Foster, ScreenJet, Marxmeier Software, Minisoft, Hillary Software -- the list has become so long and polished -- will make DIY happen. But the DIY site will need in-house expertise.
A decade ago, the 3000 division at HP bought a company called Open Skies to sell 3000-based software as a service to the airline industry. The division was ahead of its time. An alliance like the one HP announced with Microsoft earlier this month shows how the vendor is getting more serious about getting servers out of small shops. Not just the 3000s, but everything except the PCs that will climb up to the apps in the clouds.
January 26, 2010
Homesteading users count on contributions
For a homesteading 3000 user, the future promises more than they have today. Not from HP, of course. But the contributing community of experienced developers is still working on refreshed resources for 3000s. Free resources, to match the lean budgets of homesteading sites.
Contributed resources take more time to emerge. Development pros and consultants need to feed their paying businesses first before they spend effort on contributed software. That's where OpenMPE has been, up to today. The organization is an alliance of about 10 individuals who set up servers, meet with HP to negotiate better terms for post-2010 services — you get the idea.
What you will also get, sometime this year, is a pair of invent3k servers, one to serve OpenMPE's administrative needs while serving the community. (Client Systems is donating a Series 979-400 for this work.) The other, public server has been discussed and promoted since mid-2009. Matt Perdue of Hill Country Technologies is one of those working contributors. He's setting up these HP 3000s that will bring more to a homesteader's life, and he updated us last week on that project's progress.
Purdue said OpenMPE wants to know how you'd like those contributed programs organized on the public access server.
The Contributed Software Library's programs from the Interex days will live on the public invent3k HP 3000. CSL programs will be downloadable from this 989-650, Purdue said, "but the exact format needs to be determined. Presently the years 1988, 1990, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 are available as store to disk files (provided by former Interex director and OpenMPE director Paul Edwards) with the entire contents for each year in the store to disc file."
He wants to know if the community wants each individual year of these contributed files available as these store to disc files, or just mount and host the latest year's programs already online as STORE files.
Do we make available each year as the store to disc file it is currently, or do we restore the last year available and have that available for the community? Personally I’m in favor of having each year available as they are stored now, and people can download whichever year they wish, or all of them if they like, as it gives the user the ability to obtain earlier versions of CSL software if they have a need.
Invent3k will serve up these files (Purdue said last fall that invent3k.openmpe.org would be the access address).
Invent3k is the 989-650 that will take the same role as the invent3k system when it was provided by HP: A development and testing resource for the community. Personal access will remain free; commercial access for development, testing, as a reference point for the OS, etc. will be on a subscription basis to help defray operating costs.
What do you do with a CSL program? Earlier this month, a migration project would have moved a little faster with a copy of the SLS scheduling software, which was included on one of these CSL tapes.
Purdue adds that your inquiries for your accounts on invent3k, personal or commercial, should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also give your opinion at that e-mail address on how to organize the CSL on invent3k. We'll keep checking back with Purdue and the group to report when it goes online.
January 25, 2010
Itanium's static loss is Linux's growth gain
The NewsWire's offices got a call today from RedHat, the world's largest Linux distro provider. The fact that RedHat is calling HP prospects, especially any as modest-sized as ours, spells trouble for the growth of HP-UX.
Within the last month, RedHat announced its development of Linux for Itanium is being curtailed. Version 5 of the OS will be last supported with enhancements for Itanium servers. Linux is probably the fastest-growing enterprise environment this year. It can generate a lot of hardware sales. With the RedHat announcement, Linux won't be driving much more Itanium adoption. RedHat's Version 6 is proceeding with full support of Intel Xeon chip line.
What prompted the RedHat call here? We downloaded a white paper to research a story. Just a few fields completed in a Web form qualified us for real-human interaction. Any questions? Could they be of any help in our selection of an environment?
While it's not unheard of, few 3000 sites who are on HP's call list are receiving contacts about employing HP-UX. Selling an enterprise environment as extensive as HP's Unix, well, it doesn't start with a cold call. But maybe it should. HP's taking the chat method instead.These days, anytime you visit an enterprise-related page for a HP product, a box pops up that invites you to chat. The method is more comprehensive than a telephone call. But as anybody who sells will tell you, the phone call gets you closer to a purchase.
HP needs to push its HP-UX into new places with the same rigor that RedHat is slinging its Linux seeds. HP has even more motivation, really. HP-UX only runs on the Itanium server platform, while Linux runs on scads of environments. HP has a narrower plot to harvest, since it's got to sell both hardware and software for the solution. It's looking like HP-UX won't ever run on Intel's Xeon chips.
Installed base growth is the harbinger of an environment's lifespan. If a five-to-10-year active development window is long enough for your company, then none of the above matters. But considering that most companies are taking 18 months or more just to migrate to HP's Unix, that window seems narrow. The last time HP addressed the how-long question for HP-UX, they assured the world of 2016 development. That's six years away now.
HP won't report on the health of HP-UX growth for the quarter that closes at the end of this week. Few vendors do this kind of breakout. In lieu of hot numbers, a few cold calls could help reassure HP's Unix prospects about the future.
January 22, 2010
MPE memories grow from Busch's seed
It started out with a simple mistake. The popular IT news Web site The Register said engineer John Busch was pretty much the brains behind the HP 3000. Timothy Prickett Morgan, who's had some ill-advised sport with the 3000 before now, thought he'd located the head technologist for your server's magic. Busch, who worked at HP until 1987, "for a dozen years was in charge of the technology behind its HP 3000 proprietary minicomputer platform."
Some 3000 veterans mulled this over for about 15 minutes before they said, "Who?"
Busch sparked some important R&D in the life of the 3000, especially until HP released MPE XL. But IMAGE co-creator Fred White wrote us to say he never stumbled onto a Busch during White's era.
I don't recall anyone named Busch during my years (1969-1980) in Cupertino. Or even after I went to HP Corporate and subsequently to Adager. In any event, I can't see him (whoever he is) as "The Technologist behind the HP 3000." When did J. Busch join HP? Where and in what capacity?
Busch sprouted into view last spring, when The Register was working up his profile to add weight to a story about his startup's new Web caching and MySQL appliances. By this time last week, Prickett Morgan had elevated Busch to "the technologist behind the HP 3000 minicomputer line." We poked into HP's best technical archive, the HP Journal, to verify just how much this engineer contributed. (His official bio appears above.) Along the way in our journey we revisited the glory days of HP's proprietary, elegant innovations. MPE was chief among its software mastery, after a rocky start.
This story is part history and part caution, like so many tales of the 3000 today. The historic part chronicles the massive effort to carry a 15-year old OS into a faster architecture while protecting customers. That's the kind of effort HP performed with gusto for HP-UX, bringing it to Itanium and 64 bits. In 1987, the last time Busch made any mark at HP, the 3000 was getting the same tender loving care as its Unix cousin.
The December 1987 HP Journal issue contained two elaborate articles about the 3000's new MPE XL operating system. Busch was a co-author, along with Al Kondoff, and Darryl Ouye, of MPE XL: The Operating System for HP's Next Generation of Commercial Computer Systems in the Journal. (Yup, you can download the whole issue from HP as a PDF. A very large PDF.) His byline above the largest HP 3000 article ever run in the Journal might be why The Register thinks Busch was "the technologist behind the HP 3000." HP never had anybody called a Technologist on their business cards. It would've been redundant for anyone from the 3000 labs.
The articles from HP conclude out that no one person was behind the 3000's unique technology wizardry, MPE XL.
MPE XL is the result of the effort of over 150 engineers and managers over more than a five-year period. The unswerving dedication of these individuals resulted in the creation of this new production operating system base, which will serve as the foundation for the next decades of HP's commercial computer systems. Each individual who contributed over these years to this operating system should feel a sense of accomplishment and deserves recognition.
I love this secondary headline for the article, redolent of 1980s tech innovation: "MPE XL is a new commercial operating system developed for HP Precision Architecture computer systems. It provides fundamental advances in operating system technology and helps users migrate to the new systems by providing maximum compatibility with existing systems." Even in 1987, HP was working to migrate HP 3000 sites -- to the newer version of the 3000. That same sort of migration is underway today for HP-UX customers, a transition that HP hopes is just as transparent as its designs for MPE XL in 1987.
In that year, the technical theory of MPE XL was being sorely tested in the field. The OS included a novelty called mapped files. One of the engineers who wrote parts of MPE XL, as well as tested it on contract to HP, told us "John Busch and Al Kondoff did create Disc Caching. John was part of the kernel team, but I'm not sure I'd characterize his role as being 'behind the HP 3000 minicomputer line.' "
Some 3000 experts draw a line from disc caching to the MPE XL memory manager, just called "MM" back in the days when knowing such tech nuance could help improve customers' performance. Mapped files made the 3000's processing tap the potential of PA-RISC, another proprietary innovation from Hewlett-Packard. By the time the deadline of the December '87 Journal, MPE XL (1.0) was shipping at last, though to few customers. Many others were calling the deployment of 1.0 "a career decision" for any DP manager -- and they didn't mean a good decision.
But MPE XL survived its x.0 pains and ultimately thrived enough to take over the 3000 installed base, as well as win some new business for the vendor. This technology would have had a better second act if HP had protected the resources of the MPE lab, which grew to unheard-of size while the testing and delayed delivery took place. One rumor had the head count for 3000 development near 1,000 bodies at one point, counting contractors as well as HP's engineers. The rumor might have been preposterous, considering HP's total head count was under 50,000 at the time. But that was a time when business computers were the largest portion of HP's business, so it's possible.
Whatever the headcount, the HP that lifted MPE from a 1970s creation to a 1990s product -- protecting tens of thousands of investments -- now has retreated to the Business Critical Systems group, a suburb of the modest metro area called Enterprise Storage and Servers. BCS takes care of HP-UX, from extending its powers to winning it new customers. Most special of those newest UX users are the HP 3000 sites finding a refuge from HP's departure from MPE.
The caution lies in this part of the story. The glory of delivering that shiny MPE XL sounds about the same as HP's story about current HP-UX supremacy over Unix designs from Sun or IBM. Busch left HP and returned to his roots as a Stanford computer science professor for awhile, but eventually helped research Sun's RISC designs before he started Schooner Information Technology. The Register cares about Schooner because, like Prickett Morgan, it's got deep roots into IBM by now.
But allowing any IBM acolyte to tell the 3000's history in such inaccurate shorthand seems another underserved slight for such a storied system. The warning in this lesson about proprietary wonders like the MPE XL emulator: They're still proprietary creations. Anything proprietary needs a stalwart steward of a vendor, because the flame of faith about such a product's future burns hottest in the vendor's labs -- and management offices. As it turned out, "the next decades of the operating system's base" in that headline turned out to be less than two. Unless you win and protect enough sales to create a critical mass, there's no market to help pass a shiny proprietary torch to fresh generations.
January 21, 2010
What Size Is Your 3000 Community?
We fielded a question from HP 3000 customer Connie Sellitto yesterday, a query she was passing on to us from her manager at the US Cat Fanciers' Association. The CFA is the top cat when it comes to pedigrees of cats in the US. Sellitto's crew uses Macs to produce a fine online mews-letter (sorry, couldn't help it) called The Fanc-e-Mews. The head of CFA's IT operations was asking Sellitto, his enterprise systems manager, "What's a ballpark estimate for the number of 3000 installations worldwide?"
What a great question, I thought. I've thought so every year for the last 20-plus, as the size of the 3000 installed base gets prodded and guessed at by end users, vendors. Maybe even HP wonders. Hewlett-Packard doesn't have any numbers about how many 3000s it ever saw in use at any time. It could track its own support customers, but that was only a share of the community. Somewhere at 3000 Hanover Street in Palo Alto there's a figure of how many 3000s HP ever shipped out. It's easy to imagine that number at over 100,000. It's been a 35-year lifespan for devices called an HP 3000, after all, 35 years and counting for a business computer that first booted with under 1 MB of storage and now can see half a terabyte.
But at no point can we recall HP seeing an installed base that numbered above 50,000 servers, even in the system's heyday of the middle to late 1980s. By 2002, the analyst house IDC's Jean Bozeman thought there were 23,000 systems running. A year later they cut their estimate to 12,000-16,000 servers. That was more than six years ago, of course. Remember, though, Sellitto was asking about installations. If we interpret that as sites, instead of customers, then a few sources think there's 1,000 customers that make up the installed base -- and about four times as many systems.
But everybody admits they don't have a complete picture of the size of your community, even if people like Steve Cooper of Allegro Consultants concurs, as he did today, with a 4,000-server estimate.
Speedware's Chris Koppe, now the president of the Connect HP User Group, said last fall that his company did surveys of its customer lists, including the companies no longer buying support for the Speedware development environment software. "Someplace between 500 to 1,000 customers" was on his presentation slide at the latest e3000 Community Meet.
Birket Foster of MB Foster, also in the migration management and tools business like Speedware, thinks the 4,000 number is reasonable for an installed base count. Of systems, we'd assume. Everyone, even HP, can be surprised at encounters with customers who appear out of nowhere.
"We still miss some," Koppe said the Meet. "We've done these surveys and all of a sudden we get a call from somebody who says that they have this 3000 problem -- and we've never seen them before. For sure, they keep popping out of the woodwork." Speedware searched its support lists "from practically two decades ago," trying to reach out to installations no longer on support. "It's hard to keep track of everybody, for sure."
HP's Alvina Nishimoto, whose job has been to find the installed base and spread the news about HP's migration offers, said at the same Meet last fall that HP was also hearing from a few customers they never knew about. Cooper summed up the census uncertainty in his answer to Sellitto and to us.
"My guess was 1,000 companies still with production HP 3000s, and perhaps 4,000 systems still in use," he said. "We're all guessing here, from the tidbits of data we have, but together, we may have a fairly good picture."
Users who want to answer with a good number -- and what is good, anyway? -- should remember that there are an untold number of 3000s running that are not production 3000s. These are test and development servers, for example, inside companies with production servers. A "crash and burn" box was common in a 3000 installation. We also hear of another common 3000 system, the "archive server" of our Transition Era. That's a 3000 kept around and online for historical data searches, or the need to satisfy auditors or governmental regulations. Also very tough to find would be military-use 3000s, given armed forces security. Hobbyist boxes, more than a few, won't be a production 3000, either.
The census question is asked for a few reasons. In Sellitto's case, it's a way to learn, "How many of us are left in the community, to push along resource availability like parts, service, bug fixes, even product development?" The last event is not unheard of today, however rare. A few PCI DSS credit card security solutions emerged last year from small vendors.
The other reason to ask the question comes from the software, services, system and part vendors. This is the ecosystem, to use HP's 2001 term, that sustains the 3000 customer. The vendor's hidden question is often, "How large is the field of prospects for any commerce?" An archive system may only need the occasional replacement disk drive. A development server might need just an ongoing software support payment. Everything but a hobbyist's box should have a support contract from someone -- and after the end of this year that contract can only come from an independent, third party firm like Pivital, Allegro or Beechglen in the US, along with other providers worldwide.
When HP tacked on its next-to-last support extension for the server, we estimated four years ago the installed base was at least 8,000 strong. After 48 months there may have been a reduction of 4,000 systems in production use. Not so small for a server nobody's built since 2003 but continues to be sold every week, now at the best prices you could ever imagine -- especially if you've been fielding questions for a more than a decade about how big you imagine the 3000 installed base remains.
January 20, 2010
Filing deadwood requires community's help
Charles Finley, a stalwart member of the 3000 community whose reseller firm once moved thousands of HP 3000s, is now working on migrations at Transformix. He was searching for a fresher copy of the job submission scripting language SLS, rumored to be contained the Contributed Software Library (CSL). "I just received a CSL file in compressed format. Does anyone have software to decompress this? I was told that it's a cFA compressed file."
Getting a program to decompress cFA files pointed to SolutionSoft, a software supplier which was once a player in the backup competition of the 1990s. The company remains in business, but its Time Machine Y2K product is the only HP 3000 solution still being offered from its Web site. Compression Storage Manager, a late-'90s product which compressed the CSL file Finley received, is long gone from the SolutionSoft lineup.
The object here -- getting the free SLS job scheduler -- got complicated when HP closed its Jazz freeware server at the end of 2008. SLS isn't one of the Jazz programs that got rehosted by either Speedware or Client Systems last year. SLS was created by an independent third party and appears to have vanished since HP took its server offline.
Where to go from here? Finley and his crew at Xformix reported back that they've resolved the decompression issue on their own; SLS support is now a part of Transformix Tools package. While this problem got a workaround, it illustrates the challenge the 3000 homesteader faces. Freeware disappears, some suppliers go out of business, others simply bury their MPE/iX products to move on toward other markets. We'd like to track these deaths and the internments, but we'll need your help.
A recently reported casualty is E-Mail Inc. The company supplied a 3000-based e-mail program during the last decade and even migrated HP Deskmanager files to Windows, but 3k Software's Chris Bartram said he discovered nobody home at the company's Web sites or phone number.
INLEX/3000, an integrated library cataloging system developed for the 3000, has been dumped by its creators, even though it's still in use at US libraries. Consultant Jon Diercks searched for some expertise in INLEX used by libraries to manage card catalogs and check-outs. His need revolved around a migration of data. "I have a client wanting to export some of their old data," he reported. "I can see it's a mish-mash of IMAGE, KSAM and other files, so I could use Suprtool. But I don't fully understand the structure."
Thus his need for some connection with INLEX. The vendor Sirsi stopped development and support in 2003, shifting its efforts to Unicorn, which runs on platforms including Windows and Linux, IBM's AIX, Sun's Solaris, HP's HP-UX, and Digital's Unix on the Alpha servers.
HP's got a document that might help find equivalents for things like INLEX for the migration-bound. HP is still hosting a PDF file that reports equivalent products -- on other platforms -- but the chart is dated 2003.
Bartram's 3k site has many freeware programs that aren't hosted elsewhere, but SLS is not among them. He's also got a good starting point for the full list of 3000 software that was once sold and supported and is still in use in the community. "I have a list of HP 3000 vendors on the 3k.com site technical wiki which anyone is free to update, but I don't have the time or energy to do the research myself: www.3k.com/twiki/bin/view/TWiki/Hp3000VendorNames "
January 19, 2010
Lifting and Shifting Data for All
It's called a lift-and-shift, but that's a primary way of telling the user base that not much is changing. It's true from a user's perspective, although the internals of the 3 million lines of code are going through significant and interesting changes.
One of the most fascinating parts of the project is its order of execution. The reports -- the part of the system the users touch the most -- are the first milestone. 200 of them are written for MB Foster's DataExpress. Foster has moved its product onward to UDA Link, full of enhancements. The State Board of Community and Technical Colleges posted a document that showed how vital these reports are to the life of its systems. That's why the reports are going across to Unix first.
Inside the PowerPoint slide deck -- and I love the transparency of this project, being done with governmental funding and open reports to users -- you can see that having an HP-UX version of UDA Link, written for the latest Itanium generation of HP's Unix servers, was essential.
There's so much more to see and say about this project, and we've arranged with project overseer Speedware to get us updates throughout the 18-month timeline. But the PowerPoint document and the diagram above say so much about how to handle a big lift and shift.
It proceeds step by step, with all the details worked out to cover the 3000-isms of a system that's been running for a few decades. Starting with the data reporting is a great way to begin if you're working with plenty of existing reports. Finding a tool to carry you across that first step might be job one, if you're doing this yourself.
And if that tool already runs on the HP 3000 today, so you could get a head start and use the capabilities of a UDA Central? That's a bonus for a homesteader who might someday be a migrator. Some tools are built for the interim and beyond. Although you'll need to set a Code Freeze date for your existing apps in a lift and shift, there's a way to let a tool start earning its keep before the freeze sets in.
January 18, 2010
HP's return to familiar IT roots
On Friday we reported that Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft will partner a little more to integrate cloud computing with the needs of enterprise customers. Smaller enterprise customers are an untapped market for HP, which has announced major deals with large organizations. It's a migration strategy if you can manage to shift the responsibility for IT service outside your company -- and close a datacenter.
HP's CEO Mark Hurd noted that the $250 million the company will add to its expeditures with Microsoft is putting the profitable EDS unit of HP Services on the cloud mission.
This is aligning 11,000 HP Service professionals to this initiative. This is $250 million incremental dollars, alignment between engineering teams, services teams, go to market teams, all with the desire to make things simpler and easier for our customers, get the deeper levels of integration to optimize machine capability with software capability.
This sounded familiar to Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies, the HP 3000 consultancy and clearinghouse for open source solutions. At least HP is making a most retreat from its commodity rampage with such thinking, he says. It's almost as if the vendor is rediscovering its roots.
"I couldn't help but think back to the early days of proprietary computer system sales (i.e. HP 3000s)," Edminster says, "where there was 'alignment between research teams, engineering teams, service teams, and marketing teams' to make things 'simpler and easier for the customer,' providing systems with 'deep levels of integration' and software designed to 'optimize machine capacity.' "
"It's a shame they threw that all away in the name of commodity systems for so long -- only to rediscover this incredible new way to increase the value they provide to their customers!
Or perhaps they discovered (duh!) that you can only shave margins so far before you start compromising the quality of what you deliver, and that there will always be someone willing to sell for just a little bit less than you can....
How many MBAs did it take to 'rediscover' this, I wonder?
January 15, 2010
Finding the Hidden Value in Migration
Speedware's Chris Koppe briefed us this week on the large-scope migration project that's underway at the Washington State Board of Community Technical Colleges. We'll have updates throughout this year on the work to move an environment of 28 HP 3000s to the HP-UX platform, an effort targeted for a spring 2011 finish that's supported by ScreenJet, Eloquence, UDA Link and Speedware's project management. But one point of Koppe's report stood out: the value a customer can uncover while doing this unwelcome task.
"No one wants to do this if they don't have to," Koppe said of migration. "But if you're going to do it, these are some pros to it. One thing you walk away with is a more intimate knowledge of every piece of code in their entire environment than you've ever had at any point in time."
Customers talk about taking away this knowledge, Koppe said, "because they will have touched and tested and played with and tweaked and fixed everything: all streams, all JCLs, all batch programs, all user interfaces, system interfaces, FTPs. They will have touched and played with them all, all within one year's time."
This kind of exhaustive inventory is crucial and extraordinary for most 3000 customers. It's crucial because these 3000 customers bear the responsibility for their own IT services. It's extraordinary because many customers use apps and systems 15, 20 or even 25 years old. (A quarter-century of service from an app only dates it back to 1984, after all.) Elements that old have often outlived the developers and managers who built them.
And if you're the rare 3000 site that doesn't have to bear that IT responsibility? HP has a cloud for you. You just have to be able to float your heaviest computing on that platform.
Microsoft and HP announced a $250 million deal this week to extend cloud computing to enterprises. HP is going to earmark that much money in its EDS services group to shaping the cloud computing solution to include Microsoft's products.
"We are talking about here aligning 11,000 HP Service professionals to this initiative," said HP's CEO Mark Hurd. "This is $250 million incremental dollars, alignment between engineering teams, services teams, go to market teams, all with the desire to make things simpler and easier for our customers, get the deeper levels of integration to optimize machine capability with software capability."
Migration lies in the future for some HP 3000 customers who are not already en route to that target. For others, they'll be happy to remain on the platform with no plans to change. They already know every stream and batch job and module in their environment. At least we hope they do for their sake, no matter how mature their environment has become. It's the only safe road to sustainability.
There's a third group of sites that have an option to consider, one that's still unproven: offsite IT, using the cloud.
The things that won't move to the cloud are likely to be some applications and systems that have a strong following among the 3000 community. The Chief Technical Officer of Rackspace, one of the biggest hosting companies in the world, said ERP and big finance aren't among typical cloud apps.
"If you look at big manufacturing plants, those will probably never leave the datacenter," said John Engates in a Forbes.com interview. "There are also heavy financial applications that are run internally."
So heavy manufacturing and heavy financials bear too much weight to float on the cloud at Rackspace. HP will try to improve its cloud implementation to align this migration alternative with the most platform most popular with 3000 users on the move: Windows. Meanwhile, the work goes on in Washington State to get 34 colleges onto a Unix environment. More on that next week.
January 14, 2010
Upgrades still rely on some HP support
HP 3000 system upgrades have become genuine bargains by this year, with prices for things like extra CPUs and memory well below $1,000 from some sources. But purchases of full systems can still bring a five-figure price tag for the newest models of the 3000 -- even those servers that don't qualify for HP MPE licensing. What's more, HP's support teams still hold a critical outpost on the 3000 upgrade path.
Bob Sigworth of Bay Pointe Technology writes to remind us that HP's technical blessing is required to add CPU units for the 9x9 models of 3000s, as well as N-Class and A-Class servers. "When adding a CPU to any HP 3000, 9x9 or N4000 you are going to have some costs from HP," he said. "The first cost will be to have HP activate the CPU. MPE is not like Unix where you just plug in the CPU and off you go."
It gets more pricey depending on how much upgrade you've purchased, he adds. Although the Software Tier rating for a Series 979 is the same for 1-CPU through 4-CPU units, HP's crafted its "Right To Use" changes over the last three years to collect money for improving a system, if you're paying HP anything at all these days for your 3000s.
"If you go beyond the 979/200 to a third or fourth CPU, you could possibly have RTU charges from HP," Sigworth says. "The 979/100 and 200 are Level 2 RTU servers, whereas the 979/300 or 400 are Level 3 CPUs. You get the 'ability' to pay HP money just because you have extra CPUs."
HP doesn't have to be involved on one front of a system upgrade, advises Craig Lalley of EchoTech. The vendor won't have to bless a 9x9 just adding CPUs by using SS_UPDATE on system-specific IDs. Our article about the interim upgrade at Gilbarco Veeder-Root prompted Lalley to verify our figuring of costs.
"It is possible to add CPUs and memory to a 979 without changing the HPCPUNAME or HPSUSAN," he says, "The system will recognize the processors and run.They can effectively quadruple the system plus add memory up to 8GB for probably less than $1,000 and certainly less than $2,000."
The hidden costs that Lalley referenced in our original article came up for Sigworth during customer upgrades. "The really big costs are with the third party software products," he said. "I have had end users that simply could not afford the cost of these software products, thus not allowing them to add a single CPU."
Sigworth, who said he continues to sell 9x9s and N4000s worldwide, suggests that a customer check on the software licensing costs first. "Before you even get excited about a possible server upgrade or replacement machine, call all your third party software providers and get their costs first. If the third party software is affordable, then you will find the hardware to be fairly inexpensive."
January 13, 2010
Retail futures for 3000 tote up at NRF
The annual National Retail Federation conference, which gathers this week for its 99th meeting, includes exhibitors and talks that can help shape the future of 3000-based e-commerce. But nothing our Editor at Large has heard at the meeting in New York City adds up as much as what he says Ecometry's managers are reporting about their futures.
"Their [direct sales] division is selling Windows-based stuff," said Birket Foster from yesterday's show floor. "They're not selling any 3000-based stuff anymore." Ecometry has announced that its support of the e-commerce application for MPE/iX ends this year. "Unless that doesn't work out for you," Foster said, "and they'll spend some time helping, and so on."
"They don't want to lose somebody just because they can't afford to move off the 3000 just yet," he added. "They'd rather take some money rather than no money," accepting support payments while a customer moves. The troubled HP Business Critical Server group won't be getting much help from these 3000 migrators, who are choosing Windows more often as a replacement platform when they stick to Ecometry's solution.
Foster added that migration assessment bookings are up now during in the final year of HP's 3000 support. At last year's NRF, suppliers and the retailers were talking about the PCI DSS credit card standards -- and doubtful about the 3000's future to support the new security requirements. This year's NRF introduced another kind of solution to meeting the July, 2010 PCI deadline.
"PCI's still big on people's minds," Foster said, "but there's a huge contingent of suppliers offering 'why don't you let us do your credit card payment?' stuff, so you don't have to worry about PCI."
He added that he believes the solutions most likely to meet enterprise computing needs won't be coming from Windows-based environments, Ecometry's strongest replacement suit.
"They need to stick to [business critical-level] solutions," he said, "because you will not be able to get the kinds of products and services required to satisfy enterprise level without putting together a package that focuses on that. People are not going to know how to assemble the raw materials or know how to configure them all. They need somebody to be a technology advisor."
Fresh advice is at the NRF show from Google, Foster noted, with its biggest presence so far to school retailers on how to emerge at the top of searches.
Escalate Retail, the parent company of Ecometry, announced a new point of sale kiosk product based on HP's touchscreen computer systems. The Interactive Store Kiosk, built upon the ap5000 low-powered Intel PC from HP, is a product that hopes to keep a shopper's purchases in-store, rather than using a retail outlet as a window shopping experience -- with online retailers getting the purchase after a buyer shops in-store. Escalate's press release noted the HP hardware component is driven by Microsoft-based HP Touchsmart software.
Microsoft Multi-touch technology responds to multiple points of touch contact simultaneously and allows shoppers to “grab” digital information with their hands and interact with on-screen content by touch and gesture, without a mouse or keyboard. Customers can access the entire product catalog (“endless aisle”), browse video content that’s relevant to their shopping choices, view the retailer’s latest social networking stream, read customer reviews in-store, create, update, and shop wish lists and gift registries, and more.
With today’s retail market more competitive and consumers more discriminating than ever, retailers must continue finding ways to stay relevant and connected to their customers at all times. Shoppers typically cannot get substantial product information from the brief details available in the aisle and on the packaging. Without confidence that they are choosing the best option, many will window shop in-store and decide to do more research online at home before committing to a specific model. Then, they may very well choose to purchase online from a competitor.
Many of those online competitors who still use the 3000 for retail don't sell with both "bricks and clicks," as Foster called the combined approach. Catalog sales became Web purchases as the 3000 shouldered the growth of Ecometry's base. Even today the sale through a click is beating store purchases.
"Clicks do better than bricks," he reports. "Online retail did relatively better than stores in 2009. There are lots of green opportunities in retail, many retail offerings are in the cloud, and there's lots of mobile POS and security devices here."
January 12, 2010
Homesteading value flows at the pumps
Migration has become a project that demands persistence in the 3000 community. Cutting over to a replacement application that's as steady an MPE/iX program can take longer than expected, so customers are finding ways to make their 3000s last longer in production status.
That's the case at Gilbarco Veeder-Root, an operating unit of the $12 billion corporation Danaher Group. Gilbarco is a typical 3000 customer because it manufactures something, in this case petroleum retail distribution products. It would simple to call them gas pumps, but what the company builds is far more sophisticated than that. The 3000 manages the resources needed to build and sell "fueling and retail management systems for convenience stores, hypermarkets and service stations."
Simon Buckingham at Gilbarco reported not long ago that the company's transfer to a replacement system needs more time to step in for the 3000. Like a lot of customers, the site is working with a 3000 designed prior to the N-Class, a Series 979 with a single processor. Although the system is old, the business is new at this manufacturer. His 3000 has got to grow.
"It looks as it will be having to do a job for us for a while longer, as the delivery of a new ERP system appears to have been delayed," Buckingham reported. "The demands on the system are increasing and we are looking at installing extra memory to help cope with the load. Another option we might pursue is an additional processor. It is not an option I am familiar with; at previous sites as we have only had single-processor machines."
Memory is cheap for these 9x9 systems, and the extra CPUs are not expensive, either. The most costly element can be software that's not developed in-house: the utilities and tools that are licensed by HP's old tiered pricing structure. Getting familiar with hardware upgrades starts with the 8-page (PDF file) HP e3000 configuration guide of 2004.
"Beware, there are licensing charges," warns Craig Lalley of EchoTech, which does this kind of consulting to lift 3000 performance. The charges "can be many times of the cost of the hardware. Increasing memory is also easy; memory needs to be in pairs and there is an order to follow."
The hardware components are the least cost to consider and adding processors will not require an HP service blessing of the unit, since the HPSUSAN number doesn't have to be modified. This kind of upgrade, however, is going to need HP to activate the CPUs, as Bay Pointe's Bob Sigworth notes in his comment below.
But at Gilbarco that 979 could become a 4-way server instead of a single-processor computer. The memory is even simpler to bump up, and MPE/iX and its mapped file structure always respond to an increase in RAM. One hardware supplier posted a note on the 3000 Internet group promising half-gigabyte memory kits at $75 each, plus a $25 carrier kit. The CPUs were quoted at $450 each.
The best news is that in Buckingham's case, the upgrade to a full set of CPUs won't take him into a higher software tier and trigger license fees. HP lists the 4-way server at the same Level 330 as a single-processor unit. And going from one to four CPUs, for a total parts cost of $1,350, may give him as much as three times the performance according to HP's hardware configuration charts (24.4 versus 7.9 "HP e3000 Performance Units")
Of such ERP delays are the homesteading sales made these days. Customers make do while they wait for something non-3000 to emerge from testing. Or if they are not part of a $12 billion corporation, they decide to reach out for the performance headroom that's been built into the HP 3000 line. Until the last few years, you couldn't purchase three times as much performance for less than a Windows laptop. This is what the Transition era will buy those who homestead, interim or otherwise.
January 11, 2010
Emulating 3000 Bugs, As Well as Features
Creating an emulator is detailed work, development which can be tested in the market for years after release. That lengthy timespan of test was illustrated over the past week, when a discussion surfaced on the Internet about how the MPE Command Interpreter (CI) product behaves for HP 3000 emulation.
The discussion over the past 24 hours has opened a window on how the 3000 works at a essential tech level. JCL, which relies on the CI, can be used for programming on the 3000. But the chat also illustrates an issue of using an emulator for any 3000 system, whether it's hardware emulator like the coming Stromasys product, or a environment emulator like Speedware's AMXW. Customers need to rely upon complete emulation, even of features that work differently than they should.
Unlike the long-awaited product to mimic HP's 3000 hardware, AMXW works to re-create the 3000's operating environment on Unix or Windows. The software sold and updated by Speedware has been essential in getting a massive 3000 site onto Unix, when Expeditors International moved a network of more than 150 3000s using AMXW. This weekend a developer asked the 3000 community for help with an apparent expression evaluation bug in the MPE/iX CI. AMXW drifted into the 24-hour chat near the finish.
The CI in MPE/iX behaves differently than expected by several 3000 experts among the 10 who examined this bug. Some of them called it a bug, conjuring up the redoubtable phrase, "That's not a bug, it's a feature." In this instance, the CI's unique evaluation methods should be mirrored in any emulator environment. Please replicate bugs, said one expert with emulator development experience.
When Walter Murray, Keven Miller, Denys Beauchemin, Roy Brown, Neil Armstrong, Olav Kappert, John Pitman, Ken Robertson and Steve Cooper start talking about MPE/iX behavior, you can be sure you're getting a complete lesson. All of these men have developed commercially for the 3000, many of them for more than three decades.
Murray, who developed in HP's 3000 COBOL labs before he left the company, asked if he'd found a bug in the CI. He's running the latest release of MPE/iX; his employer is making a long-term migration away from the HP 3000.
Am I missing something really obvious, or is this a bug in the MPE/iX Command Interpreter's expression evaluation? Enter the following commands from the CI prompt (or execute them from a command file or in a job stream):
SETVAR A1 1
SETVAR A2 2
SETVAR A3 3
IF A1=999 AND A2=2 OR A3=3
ECHO TEST PASSED
ECHO *** TEST FAILED ***
I am running MPE/iX 7.5 PP 3. Interestingly, [Vesoft's] MPEX gets this right. Is this a well-known problem that we just now stumbled upon?
A detailed debate ensued over how IF statements should evaluate expressions. AMXW played its small part when one of the experts on the CI mentioned the formidable emulator. Ken Robertson, who wrote a dandy article on the CI in the NewsWire during 2003, reported on the emulator's binding in IF statements. He even worked in a programmer's joke into his report.
For what it's worth for anyone running AMXW in their shops, it uses left-to-right binding for IF statements. Under AMXW running under HP-UX:::SETVAR A1 1
::SETVAR A2 2
::SETVAR A3 3
::IF A1=999 AND A2=2 OR A3=3
*** EXPRESSION TRUE
::ECHO TEST PASSED
*** COMMANDS IGNORED UNTIL MATCHING ENDIF
::ECHO *** TEST FAILED ***
*** RESUME EXECUTION OF COMMANDS
The original example logic runs as I believe it should, but is not compatible with MPE! Whether this is a good or bad thing, the opinion seems to be divided.
I don't believe that we need parentheses to bind the order of our opinions correctly! Let our thoughts multiply or we can add our 0.02. Whoops... integers. That's zero that I'm adding. Hmm...
In addition to Beauchemin's quip about hurrying to submit this bug to HP (where 3000 bug fixes have ceased), Murray wondered if HP's docs describe accurately how the CI works. Parentheses look like a workaround to him. "It never occurred to me to use parentheses to cope with bugs in the expression evaluator," he writes. "I am not convinced that the CI is handling this expression as documented, but it's moot."
Not moot: How an emulator should handle such bugs. Replicate them, said Steve Cooper of Allegro Consultants, which sold an emulator to move the 3000's original SPL language to the new PA-RISC hardware. "If AMXW does not do what MPE does, that's a bug in AMXW, period," he writes. "Emulators have to be bug compatible, if they are to be good emulators. We certainly learned that with the SPLash! compiler, for instance."
Murray added advice for any site that's making a migration at this level, moving Job Control Language as well as program code to a new environment. Keep logic out of JCL. Since the JCL on many 3000s is being rewritten as Unix scripts, it's an option to consider.
This discovery reaffirms my uneasiness about putting too much logic in JCL. Where feasible, I tend to put more logic in executable programs, and less in JCL. I feel that the compilers are more reliable than the CI, and the programming language documentation is more precise than that of the CI.
Meanwhile, Cooper confirmed that HP's documentation does describe the CI behavior, so programmers of old systems may have written code that relies on the feature -- er, bug. "I don't like it either, but it is working as documented," he says. "We have exactly the case in that last paragraph of the documentation: a part evaluates to FALSE and is followed by an AND. Sorry, no bug here, just a weird design that I'm sure people are counting on at this point."
AND that's why a low-risk migration should follow the path of original design whenever possible. "We'd like our bugs migrated, please," ScreenJet's Alan Yeo relayed from a customer last year.
January 08, 2010
HP's new touch needs massive grip on apps
The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show has wrapped up, leaving the HP 3000 community with a reminder of how the industry deals with innovation so real you can touch it. HP's tablet computers made a fresh entry to the marketplace at CES, but the game-changing HP tablet running Microsoft's Courier was not among these entries. Some were looking to Microsoft and HP to release a product as unique as the HP-150 Touchscreen PC was in 1983 and 1984.
Sometimes, however, unique can be a dead weight instead of the balloon to lift innovation above the clouds. The trick to avoiding this dead-end is to provide critical mass on introduction. It's very slippery to grasp this brass ring, as HP learned with the architecture that drives all futures for HP-UX. The touch and tablet talk of this week is reminding me of the Touchscreen.
Among all the world's computer customers in 1984, HP 3000 DP managers knew the above product best. These were the years when a PC instead of a terminal was a gamble in the office environment, the place where the majority of computing dollars were spent. The Touchscreen was too far ahead of its time to change the game in personal computing (that's what PC stands for, by the way.) However, it was the Touchscreen's software partner plan that doomed the device that was popular in 3000 shops for its built-in terminal software. Hardware and OS were minimal roadblocks by comparison. What was missing was critical mass.
This disconnect between critical mass and computer wizardry remains a caution for your community today, even though HP's technology prowess and partnership skills have improved as much as the photos of these products show. When HP and Microsoft lure the markets into a forecast of changing the interface for computing, the language sounds a lot like the HP-Intel promises of domination by Itanium. HP-UX adopters, take note: your environment's critical mass rides on Itanium adoption. Not even two of the largest computer companies innovating together in the 1990s could make that mass appear.
Technical superiority is the least part of the success equation. The most important component is relationships with companies, partners who believe in the rising tide of Natural Human Interface. Shown here is the rolodex card replacement app that was running on the Touchscreen. HP wrote it, sold it, ran it on the 9-inch Touchscreen. Few companies chose to write software for this interface. NHI will replace GUI as the brass ring for leading user interface. Not the stylus of the Courier concept, mixed with human gestures touching the screen. All touch. Microsoft's attempt to change the game, powered by HP's technology, seems as sketchy as 1984's novel interface that was missing apps and critical mass from its opening frames.
The thing about new technologies, or computer solutions that include software plans, is that they get old. Some quickly, some not so fast. But some show up mortally wounded by a sound technical choice that strays too far from the herd. For the Touchscreen PC, the mortal wound was inside its OS. It didn't support the widest range of software in 1983: MS-DOS. That meant that "killer apps" like Lotus 1-2-3 or dBase were many months away from staying in touch.
More than a quarter century later, the rules haven't changed, even if the technology has made quantum leaps. A tablet computer is going to need something special to run on it, something that will make the market walk away from the herd -- in this case, laptop computers. Microsoft thinks that Windows 7 will bring the app providers to HP's latest touchscreen today. And at some tomorrow? That lure is the Microsoft Courier interface and OS. Microsoft assumes that the Windows 7 similarities will provide critical mass.
HP assumed that the similarities to x86 architecture in Itanium would bring along Windows developers. Not enough similarities emerged, in 1984, 15 years later with Itanium, and perhaps not in the future for the Courier platform. And just like the HP Touchscreen failure, the company is facing an outsider's challenge. Compaq was in the wings in the middle 80s to deliver the link to critical mass that HP had omitted, MS-DOS compatibility and BIOS emulation. This year it's Apple that will make a critical mass driven product to compete with Courier and HP's slate PCs.
History does not always repeat itself, but assumptions of instant critical mass need marketing and delivery chain ready on Day One. Apple's iPod took over with the iTunes store and its iPhone soared with an App Store. Itanium never got inside partners' plans in the same way, so now it's become a niche instead of a game-changer. Consumer markets behave differently than enterprise computer markets in most ways except one. They both crave critical mass, an element that HP 3000 customers needed HP to nurture and spark to avoid the vendor's exit.
January 07, 2010
Oklahoma teachers retire 3000 to Windows
Editor's Note: Four years ago we reported on the migration mission at the Teacher Retirement System of Louisiana, a Speedware lift and shift to HP's Unix. Conversion and migration supplier UNICON offers the following report of a mission from a similar organization, converting to an all-Windows environment after two decades of 3000 application use.
By James Harding
UNICON Conversion Technologies
The Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System is an agency set up to provide retirement benefits to Oklahoma’s education staff. Based in Oklahoma City, the TRS employs nearly 50 individuals and oversees a pension fund valued at approximately $10 billion. While the TRS’s active members are all located in Oklahoma, its retirees are located all over the world. The TRS has spent many years and dollars customizing its Client Accounting System for the HP 3000 and designed to manage pension funds for active and retired members. The system was predominantly written in HP COBOL, utilizing Suprtool and VPlus screens and accessing a TurboIMAGE database.
When HP announced its end-of-life decision for its HP 3000 business, the TRS was forced to review its options going forward. Finding a replacement package software product was an impossible task — even a package remotely similar would require heavy customization to bring it in line with current needs. Re-writing for a new platform was too costly, time-consuming and would introduce an unacceptable level of risk.
TRS wanted to retain its valuable investment in the existing applications and felt that migrating them to an open systems platform presented the best option. TRS reviewed two ways of doing this: emulation and native conversion. While emulation offered a way to run on open systems hardware, it introduced a proprietary emulation layer between the code and the operating system -- thereby locking TRS into the proprietary MPE environment and also rendering them dependent upon the emulation vendor after migration.
The alternative was UNICON’s offering — migration to NATIVE open systems without using emulation middleware — by converting the legacy COBOL to the pure open systems COBOL of TRS’s choice, running in either native Unix or Windows and conversion of the data to the RDBMS of TRS’s choice, by using UNICON's in-house developed automated conversion tools to convert the source and data.
“We looked at converting the legacy code to one of MicroFocus’s products,” said Rocky Cooper, IT Manager for the TRS. “We wanted our applications to run in open systems. UNICON offered a completion timeframe we were comfortable with and they didn’t require extensive and costly front-end analysis and preparation.” The non-proprietary approach was also particularly attractive from a budgetary standpoint, since TRS would not be locked into any ongoing fees to the migration vendor.
“UNICON provided for cost-effective, extensive on-site training,” Cooper said, “Of course, their fixed-bid price for the entire conversion effort was much more in line with our budgeting constraints than those submitted by other vendors.”
TRS chose to move to Windows on a Dell PE2900 server with Microsoft SQL Server as its database. They selected Micro Focus’s ACUCOBOL as the target programming language, due to its flexibility, ease of use and lower cost. UNICON converted TRS’s entire COBOL and copylibs code set, including VPlus forms to the screen section of the target COBOL. IMAGE tables were converted to SQL Server tables and KSAM files were converted to Vision (the ISAM file structure of ACUCOBOL).
Stream/JCL files and UDC commands were converted to Windows .bat scripts and a small amount of SPL was converted COBOL. UNICON also provided TRS with COBOL equivalents for HP 3000 intrinsics and converted the IMAGE IO intrinsics to embedded SQL. TRS had also been using the Suprtool data extraction facility on the HP 3000 and UNICON provided a COBOL equivalent for the converted system.
“UNICON was able to simply take our existing system and application code and migrate to the selected products,” Cooper said. “Reaction across the board was very good.” He noted that some TRS systems had been running for as long as 20 years. Conversion to ACUCOBOL will help match IT staff experience with the system design.
“The current programmers are not experts in the HP 3000 and had some difficulty enhancing the systems and applications prior to conversion,” Cooper said. “However, while the COBOL will be relatively the same, working with the databases has already proven to be much easier.”
The new features and functionality offered by the new COBOL now allows TRS to begin leveraging true open systems, no longer bound by the proprietary restrictions imposed upon them by the HP 3000 environment. “UNICON’s project was performed professionally, thoroughly, on time and on budget,” Cooper said. “During and after the migration expert help was and still is provided as soon as it is requested.”
The IT manager added that he’s been in computer programming for over 40 years and “has been involved inabout a dozen conversions or migrations, and I’m pleased to say I have never seen a conversion as smooth as this one has been. I have never experienced such a high level of customer service as we have with UNICON.”
January 06, 2010
What HP should bring to Identity Solutions
We'll take a leap into the language today to examine where HP's 2010 investment can go to best help its classic customers. That would you, our readers, companies who have built IT around HP's unique products like the HP 3000 -- as well as the migration sites choosing HP's Unix as a target in 2010 and later years.
Hewlett-Packard was built upon a credo of Invent It Here. During the 1980s and early '90s the Not Invented Here (NIH) prejudice kept the company apart from mainstream partners as well as powerful solutions built by independents. A small company would create a software product, and then HP would offer its own, less-worthy solution to compete. NIH was a protection plan for HP hegemony.
Now with a new decade upon us all, community members are looking at the opposite of NIH at HP: the shopping-happy corporation tossing around its No. 1 revenues to acquire. Today Nina Buik, who headed up user group Encompass and then Connect for several years, said in a Twitter tweet, "I wonder who is on HP's acquisition radar in 2010?"
Community members in Encompass should care where HP spends its revenues, since so many of the user group members use HP's unique products like HP-UX, VMS and NonStop systems. HP 3000 sites are only picking only one of those as an IT alternative. But HP's penchant for purchasing instead of developing unique products have a dim future. Let's call them Identity Solutions to keep track of their special value to you and HP's legacy.
One former HP executive has worried about HP's drop in R&D during the decade we just exited. Chuck House, who just released an HP history, bemoaned the rush to acquire that seemed to ramp up during Carly Fiorina's CEO reign. The crowning of Mark Hurd hasn't changed things. HP buys when it used to build, a symptom of Number One-itis.
I answered Buik's query with a suggestion of where HP seems headed, however adrift for its identity solutions users. On 2010's acquisition radar for HP: Just look for holes in HP's solutions where R&D is essential, costly, or long-term. As I've said, echoing House, HP is swapping M&A spending for R&D investments.
There are places to spend on behalf of a 3000 site that's invested in HP-UX. Mike Hornsby, who leads the Beechglen support provider serving both 3000s and 9000s, wondered about what the end might look like whenever it arrives for HP's Unix.
How do you think the former HP 3000 customers who invested in HP-UX/PA-RISC and Itanium systems are going to react to the end-of-life announcement for HP-UX? Just like MPE, I think it will come sooner than anyone thinks.
With Oracle taking over Sun, it is a sure bet that they will see the HP-UX systems as a target market. With SAP partnering with Microsoft, it is a sure bet that they will see the HP-UX systems as a target market. Both of these [solutions] put together make up a very significant part of the current HP-UX installed base.
Buik agrees that internally-developed solutions are business-critical to HP's reputation. "Without a return to some sort of organic growth and development, overall identity (internal and external) is at risk," she replied.
Hewlett-Packard ought to be looking toward its investment in Itanium in particular. This is an Identity Solution at the root level. Itanium powers all three of those HP unique environments. HP-UX runs on nothing else, except the other HP Identity Solution: PA-RISC, which powers the 3000s still running today.
The future of Itanium took more hits last year when Intel started putting "reliablity, availability and serviceability features of Itanium" on its industry-standard Xeon chips. Unisys, one of the few systems makers still supporting Itanium, began to question if the processor has a future.
And if you're into some rumor-ography, the Web site The Register reported late last month that Red Hat Linux has seen its last version that will support Itanium. The Register, often spot-on with its reports, quotes Red Hat statements that Red Hat Linux V5 is the end of the line for Itanium enhancements.
HP could step up and acquire applications that support Itanium as a way of investing in Identity Solutions. It could also make a stand and bolster its non-Industry Standard Server business instead of just following the critical mass. It's questionable how much help something like buying 3Com is going to be for a migrated HP customer -- especially those who have not chosen Windows or Linux running on HP servers.
January 05, 2010
Any HP service to survive to 2011 for 3000s?
In this month we recall the last official communique from HP about its 3000 support roadmap, issued during January 2009. These choices are determined by the Worldwide Support Manager for Business Critical Systems, Bernard Detreme. (The last time we made contact with the group to ask questions like this, in 2008, Detreme was in charge. You can ping him with 2011 support questions at email@example.com.)
2011 support for the 3000? It's easy to find among independent suppliers, but there is no such thing available from Hewlett-Packard, right? On a few important and pointed issues, that remains to be seen. HP's not showing up with answers yet to the two following questions.
First, when a 3000 owner transfers a licensed CPU board into a 3000, to replace a failed component, who's going to transfer HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN numbers to the board? Last January HP said this process would be delivered on a time and materials basis by HP Support. It's not clear to the customers or the independent support teams if HP will bless replacement boards in 2011. Time and materials projects behave differently than other HP support.
This might not matter so much if the independent support teams in your community had a way of blessing the replacement boards. They don't today.
Then there's Question 2, one that HP has answered -- but perhaps not well enough to satisfy its own liability needs. Let us suggest a rally cry to Hewlett-Packard support: "Free the MPE media!"
The question seems simple enough: How do I get MPE/iX 7.5 software (the OS), patches to the OS, and HP's subsystem software during 2011? Today the answer is, "You can't." At least not from HP. You cannot even get that software media after Q3 of this year.
The issue rose up today when Cypress Technology, a vendor of 3000 hardware, asked in an Internet post if anyone had a MPE/iX 6.0 release tape to swap, complete with PowerPatch 2 patches. Cypress offered to trade something of value in exchange for the use of the tape.
So the 3000 community has been presented with an opportunity to help itself out, simply by offering a DAT tape with a copy of the OS, assuming it's a fully-licensed MPE/iX release. HP won't be shipping any such media to its support customers after September. Yes, this September, less than nine months away.
The community has asked, and HP has answered: No 3000 software media. But it remains to be seen if legal issues may alter that answer. Back during the Y2K days, when crisis and panic were on the minds of the customers, HP made Y2K-ready versions of the OS and subsystems available to the world. You needed a license to run the software legally. But liability issues were on HP's mind in 1999 and 2000 when for a short time, anyone could get updated MPE/iX software.
We've observed extraordinary caution from HP on 3000 liability issues during the last year. The Jazz software, created for free for the community, got a 40-page end user license agreement yoked onto it in 2009. Nobody wants to suggest a suit, but it doesn't take a wild imagination to see an attorney for a 3000 user alleging that HP's liable for replacing licensed software that might have had a bit drop off during a backup. DAT tapes, the typical backup media for a lot of customers and the means of delivery for official HP MPE/iX releases, don't have a stellar record of durability over multiple years.
Right now, Store-To-Disk backups are looking like the only stopgap for tape backups. This doesn't solve the larger problem. It could turn out that an official HP SLT tape becomes a valuable commodity. Maybe even something valuable enough to swap.
Wouldn't it be easy for HP to make the 7.5 MPE/iX release available on software.hp.com as a download? As easy as the attorneys at the HP Development Co. make it. Someone in HP can help lift this rally cry. Right now it looks like Bernard is the best candidate. Again, that e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd be glad if you would CC: us on the request, but it's a lot more important to send the message to HP officials.
January 04, 2010
2009 predictions stock up 2010's to-dos
Welcome to the final year of HP's business with the HP 3000. Althrough much of HP activity around the 3000 will remain unchanged -- mission-critical pros like Bob Chase in the HP Escalation center and James Hofmeister of HP support will be around to service customers as needed -- the community will be edging closer to its enhanced afterlife. Whatever you're buying from HP this month for your 3000 will be coming from an independent supplier one year from today.
Edging toward this future means taking newsworthy steps. I took a gamble on some predictions for 2009 last year, forcasting on the first day of HP's penultimate year of 3000 service. Some were accurate and others not so much. The ones that didn't come true still have potential to shape this pivotal year of 3000 Transition.
"HP keeps a toehold in the community," I predicted, by announcing an ongoing licensing facility for MPE/iX. Some of this came true. In mid-January HP confirmed that Software License Transfers between 3000 systems sold on the used market will still be offered through HP’s SLT organization -- a group that serves more than just 3000 products. HP was candid enough to admit that only a portion of its customers will make any effort to have 3000 software licenses transferred during 2011 and beyond. HP made no references to what it could offer in exchange for a complying with license requirements.
Still to-do in HP's toehold: Arrange a process in 2011 to revive CPU boards that have been replaced by legit means. The HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN IDs can only be legitimately changed using HP's SS_UPDATE or SS_CONFIG software. Neither will be released to independent support providers. HP's got no process on how this service will be offered in less than a year, after its support ends for the 3000.
"An emulator for PA-RISC goes into beta test," I predicted. A pretty easy guess, considering the effort had been in play since 2003. Indeed, Stromasys announced it was putting a product into testing in the fall. What becomes of it will be one of the 2010 stories to impact Transition.
I missed the mark on user group forecasts with "Connect mounts its largest conference for HP users." Attendance was off by about 30 percent, a casualty of the economy and a shifting demographic that is trending younger and less travel-hungry. Connect is reaching out with even more events while it has reorganized around a more volunteer-rich staff; Speedware's Chris Koppe is now user group president. At the moment the NonStop community in Connect is showing the greatest desire to meet; the 2010 'big-tent" HP Technology Forum is scheduled for June 21-24.
"A majority of migrations shift from code-drop phase to testing." There's practically no way to check this one out, but HP did report its surprise at 3000 customers just getting into coding in '09. On the other hand, Speedware estimated that not more than 1,000 companies are still using the 3000 worldwide -- a long way beyond testing a migration. It seemed that for every Long's Drug or Luftansa that left the world there was a user report from HMS Host or multi-billion dollar Leggett & Platt that showed coding was either still in progress or not even started.
Indeed, "third parties did become the driving force for the community," from a group of vendors introducing PCI solutions, to the impact of enterprise open source on migration choices, to the steady business the independent support firms retained from 3000 customers. Client Systems and Speedware took over much of the HP Jazz Web site, while OpenMPE talked (at least) about a revival of the Invent3k public development server and hosting contributed CSL software.
When you toss in continued availability of 3000 hardware, and advice from consultants on maintaining systems, as well as outsourced datacenters for parking a working 3000, the elements HP delivered up to 2009 have made a clear shift outside of Hewlett-Packard. The significant exception is lab development to repair MPE/iX bugs. HP will announce by March 31 which third parties have licensed the MPE/iX source code to take over this work.
Software maintenance contracts did take some hits during 2009, as customers pared back on utility, development and app software support for 3000 servers still in production. These 15-percent-annually revenues have been the source of operating and development revenues for some software companies. Some vendors reported a smattering of new business on the platform. The servers going into archive mode -- a type of homesteading with no clear end -- led the community in this maintenance slowdown.
2010 is going to deliver a lot of shades of shuttering and slowdowns along with steadfast 3000 use at surprisingly large sites. Support companies don't expect the HP shutdown of support to prod customers toward the exits. After all, there's not much broken on the 3000 that keeps the servers from going to work everyday.
Overall, it's not a bad scorecard for such conservative forecasts. We'd like to report more do it yourself activity for companies who want to migrate, as well as stronger networking and resources from the homesteading suppliers during 2010. An emulator for sale would at least be a proof of the concept that the 3000's lifespan is in the community's hands during the year HP hands off the 3000.