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March 31, 2010

Training becomes a critical commodity

HP 3000 expertise is a crucial IT element at some companies, but that doesn't mean that it's valued. A recent lively discussion on the OpenMPE mailing list showed how how the demand for MPE know-how might not be outpacing supply -- but only because there's no evidence of budget for training.

The 30-message stream on the list starts when Vindoh Kumar of L&T Infotech asked OpenMPE list readers for training in MPE/IX commands, SUPRTOOL, QEDIT, QUERY, Powerhouse, VPlus, TurboIMAGE, KSAM, JCL -- even Allbase, which probably wasn't installed on more than 100 customer sites in 15 years of availability. The list was large, the company based in India had testimonials from Freescale. What an opportunity.

Not to some MPE experts reading. "HP community, please don't do this," Janet Hiller replied. "It just takes away American jobs. I was just outsourced from my job of over 20 years and it was to IBM in India. The more we teach them, the more jobs we will lose."

This was not the first request for MPE training from a manager in India. One of the most notable came from a company with a lot more 3000 experience: HP. The community's last training business entrepreneur had a story to share about that, one that didn't include a budget.

More than a year ago Paul Edwards & Associates, along with Alden Research, Inc. reported they couldn't even offer virtual Web training for MPE/iX on any basis but custom contracts. Edwards reported in February 2009 he and partner Frank Alden Smith "are the exclusive MPE/iX training partners with Hewlett-Packard. We have modernized the training materials for the HPe3000 classes formerly offered by HP."

The materials were stronger but the budgets were weak from 2007 onward. "A lack of any company to commit funds for training" was the first reason listed. Edwards said this week that HP wanted to train its India staff, but not enough to get a PO cut. IBM asked for, but didn't reply to a proposal from Edwards this year.

None of these companies have wanted to pay for the training and travel costs. They seem to have no HP 3000 systems with the required software installed in-house to use for the training and their ongoing education. I believe these companies answer bids for offshore work and then need to train their people in a hurry to fulfill the contract.

Edwards added that "as long as the companies in the US allow this situation to continue, they will get poor quality they have paid a lot for. I want to see more US companies get the training they need for their IT staffs, or contract for MPE consultants that are local."

Not every 3000 expert reading the list agreed that an offshore training request was aimed to steal jobs. John Dunlop, who from 2006-2008 was the Webmaster for OpenMPE, expressed surprise at the overwhelming responses to shop local, rather than global.

Where is the traditional support from the HP 3000 community for others interested in the HP 3000? Isn't the OpenMPE organisation dedicated to spreading support for MPE/iX? The guy just wants to learn about the HP3000 Operating System for heaven's sake.

I would have thought that in this climate of diminishing resources for the HP 3000, the community would welcome a chance to extend knowledge of MPE/iX to other areas, wherever they may be.

More than one migration project has been outsourced to India since 2003, with the result being a system mothballed and jobs eliminated, others noted. Training enables migration as well as homesteading. Whatever the outcome, it's clear that knowing the HP 3000 is worth something -- although how much, and for what tenure, are still up for grabs.

07:52 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 30, 2010

3000 batch transition offers some solutions

Migrating HP 3000 sites face multiple tasks and challenges to duplicate the system's ability. But reports from customers making transitions show that the MPE/iX batch and job-stream functions are being duplicated in a wide array of solutions. It's not unusual to see such job control replacement require some customized coding of scripts.

However, Speedware's product manager Nicolas Fortin said his company's clients make commercial scheduler software work for the appropriate size of company, if manual scripting is not in a migrator's skill set.

"Some migrators are either using their own supplied concept/software for batch scheduling, or we are recommending that companies to use commercial job scheduler software with their job-converted code," Fortin said. He adds that for companies which are doing a migration themselves, he's seen them either retain the MPE JCL on the target platform (using a product like Speedware's AMXW) -- or convert the JCL to target-platform scripts. This scripting is being done manually, or aided by a tool provided by a migration solution provider.

FORTIN SAID THAT larger companies tend to use enterprise-grade job scheduler software running in the target environment.

"Either they already own one and it is their corporate standard for job scheduling, or they take advantage of the migration and modernization project to invest in one," he said. Some of these large solutions include Tivoli (while once owned the MPE/iX Maestro product) UC4, or BMC Software's CONTROL-M. Large companies own such software because they have a wide range of servers, but these solutions are usually not used with the HP 3000 job environment. MPE/iX batch and job work is unique and proprietary, so these high-grade scheduler solutions don't support 3000 job management.

The above-named solutions include Windows versions, alongside Unix and Linux options. It's the Windows aspect of job transitions that seems to spark the most manual or tool-aided scripting, among the reports we've received. The enterprise job scheduling software, if it's in place, can be extended to the system taking on the 3000's work.

"When we help them plan their migration," Fortin said, "we remind them that they could extend the use of their existing enterprise software to the new target environment -- thereby consolidating job-related functionality with one standard specific software solutions, method or process. They are usually pretty receptive to this, as it makes sense to maximize the use of existing software and standardize job-related processes across all applications."

Smaller companies can look over some commercial solutions for scheduling, too, options priced more in line with a typical 3000-only site's IT budget. Tidal, Xi-Batch, Maestro and Job Queue were among those Fortin pointed out. Tidal and Maestro already run on the 3000, although some would say these are not small-scale solutions. But Fortin notes that sites adopting AMXW can employ a default scheduler as part of that suite.

"Some are content with using AMXW's default MPE job scheduling functionality (to retain most MPE job concepts), but others choose to use part of AMXW's job functionality (so the SUBMIT jobs still work) while utilizing the native job scheduling features of the target-OS."

If that target is Windows, the native feature set provides less help than that of Unix, but it could be enough for some companies. Mike Howard of UNICON, one of the community's conversion resources, said that using a third party tool for batch management under Windows can help to fill in gaps. "Windows has a basic job scheduler which is often sufficient for most customers," he says, "but if a more comprehensive product is required, I would recommend Global ECS from Vinzant Software."

The AMXW software is designed to permit a combination of the 3000's JCL with Windows or Unix script code, "to get the best of both worlds," Fortin said. This gives a migrating company a way to retain some key MPE concepts while they employ the native target-OS script commands. He added that this can ease a gradual transition to target-OS native concepts. Like many migrations, this aspect happens in steps, sometimes needing customization.

"We encounter all kinds of scenarios, which is just another indication that there is no one solution for everyone," he said. "The solution needs to meet the unique needs and preferences of each customer, and we're fine with that; we adapt, we customize."


01:10 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 29, 2010

Redmond reader exaggerates 3000 greatly

The world of Windows is wide, but some of its pros have narrow views. A recent column in Redmond, the "independent voice of the Microsoft IT community," aired a view of the HP 3000 that praised the system while distorting its condition.

Like Mark Twain's famous reply to an errant obituary, Redmond's rumors of a total 3000 demise were greatly exaggerated.

Editor Doug Barney invited readers to nominate their favorite dead companies in the magazine's March issue. Digital, now pumping out the successful ProLiant business servers as alternatives to the HP 3000, led Barney's list. (Commodore was No. 2.) Not satisfied with sticking to facts, Barney then invited readers to nominate their favorite dead product, or as he quipped, "products that have gone the way of the dodo." You just know where this one is heading, and it's not in the direction of independent thinking.

ONE READER named Roger somehow put the 3000 into a tomb at the same time he noted the system is still doing business computing for enterprises.

If I had to choose my favorite dead product, I would vote for the HP 3000. We had one at our office when I started in 1985. We went through five different versions over 20 years and the original software written would still run. The product line is dead now, but there are still people using it.

Analysis like this often flows from a relative perspective today. Compared to the overwhelming torrent of development and experimentation in the Redmond community, the 3000 might seem dead. However, the other products among the readers' lists point to a far less exaggerated state of demise: the Wang VS100, Commodore VIC-20, 8-track tapes, WordPerfect, Kaypro 2x, Radio Shack TRS-80.

Barney says he's been writing about computers since I have, 1984. "If my career were a car, I'd be an antique. I guess that makes me nostalgic, and so, from time to time, I miss our fallen vendor brothers. A lot of Redmond readers feel the same way. You might love these new days of netbooks, iPads, social networks and electronic everything, but you also admire the pioneers."

While it's hard to control the opinions of readers, 25 years of journalism experience might help excise such misinformation. When a vendor is still selling source code licenses for $15,000 to third parties (my estimate), it's a little early to be running news of that product "going the way of the dodo." A little more red-lining at Redmond would help readers sort the living from the dead. At least they got one thing right: the 3000 remains a pioneer.

07:45 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 26, 2010

Get specific about access from IPs

Is there a way to force a particular user ID to use a specific IP address? In other words, I want to give a machine a static IP and only allow this person to access the HP 3000 from that PC with the static IP.

Tracy Johnson replies:

A simple logon UDC should suffice:

IF HPREMIPADDR = "aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd" then
  ECHO Welcome.
ELSE
  ECHO Evil message here.
BYE
ENDIF

Bob Schlosser of the Support Group inc adds:

You can set up a logon UDC that checks that the var HPLOCIPADDR is equal to the device (PC) that you want them to use. Something like this:

LOGON
OPTION NOBREAK,LOGON
IF "!HPLOCIPADDR" <> "123.456.789.321"        change "123.456.789.321" to
your IP address
  BYE
ENDIF

Using this we verify that the user is on the correct (assigned) IP address, and log them off if not.

Chris Bartram, who's created e-mail solutions for the 3000 and hosted Web servers since early in the 1990s, adds:

The following is an excerpt from system UDCs I use on my HP 3000s that might give you some ideas.

The "VALIDATEIPADDR" call in the UDC calls another command file that actually does a validation of the logging-on user based on data in a control file to determine if he/she is allowed to log onto the system from the specific host/IP address they are coming from.

The variables the UDC sets will work whether the logging on user is coming in via Telnet or NSVT (or hardwired or modem).

The TELLOPs also leave a nice log on the system console (and log file) of the login, including where they came from and what protocol was used to access the system.

***
LOGON
OPTION LOGON,NOBREAK,NOHELP

setvar _network_node ''
if bound(hpstdin_network_node) then
  setvar _network_node '!hpstdin_network_node'
endif

setvar _na ''
setvar _at 'HARDWIRED'
if bound(hpstdin_network_addr) then
  setvar _na '!hpstdin_network_addr'
elseif bound(hpremipaddr) then
  setvar _na '!hpremipaddr'
endif

if bound(hplocport) then
  if !hplocport=23 then
    setvar _at 'TELNET'
  endif
endif
  IF BOUND(HPSTDIN_ACCESS_TYPE) THEN
    SETVAR _AT "!HPSTDIN_ACCESS_TYPE"
  ENDIF

IF BOUND(HPSTDIN_TRANSPORT_TYPE) THEN
  SETVAR _TP "!HPSTDIN_TRANSPORT_TYPE"
ELSE
  IF "!_AT"="TELNET" THEN
    SETVAR _TP "TCP/IP"
   ELSE
    SETVAR _TP "SERIAL"
  ENDIF
ENDIF

IF BOUND(HPVT_CLIENT_VENDOR) THEN
  SETVAR _VND " (!HPVT_CLIENT_VENDOR)"
ELSE
  SETVAR _VND " "
ENDIF

TELLOP LOGON VIA !_AT USING !_TP !_VND

setvar _node ups(ltrim(rtrim("!_network_node")))
setvar _addr ups(ltrim(rtrim("!_na")))
if '!_node'<>'' then
  tellop !_at, IP: "!_addr" Node: "!_node"
else
  tellop !_at, IP: "!_addr"
endif

setjcw cierror=0
continue
VALIDATEIPADDR
if !cierror<>0 then
  echo
  echo ************************************
  echo **  NODE/IP CONTROL FILE CORRUPT  **
  echo ************************************
  echo
  bye
endif

11:54 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 25, 2010

3000 hardware pricing a classy affair

Homesteading customers have been finding a wide range of prices for used HP 3000 hardware. (It's all used by now, since HP hasn't built a new system for more than six years.) But there's one clear demarcation on the price line: systems sold with a license, and those with just software.

The difference, as HP has insisted, is the legal nature of the 3000. Unlicensed HP 3000s don't refer to the iron, but instead to the MPE/iX operating system needed to define a box as a 3000. A few brokers who don't want to be named report that even N-Class systems can be bought for under $10,000, if you don't need to prove to anyone the server is licensed. One such server moved in the UK last year for $9,000.

On occasion, a company will part with a licensed N-Class for under $20,000, although it generally will be on the lower end of the line. One system manager checked in with a story of winning a server at auction at that price.

The 3000 market has retained the premium price for such late-model 3000s, according to the lucky system manager.

"I paid $14,000 for an N-Class N4000-200-440 -- which included no disc though, other than an internal one for MPE/iX," said this veteran of more than 20 years. "I bumped that way up to two 143Gb drives. Market value when I bought it a little over a year ago was $89,000 with transferable license."

Some segments of the market do not flinch at the prospect of owning a 3000 without a license for its operating system. It's a matter of integrity rather than capability, because HP has been the leading stickler about supporting systems with licenses. In less than a year when HP leaves this field, the value of an MPE/iX license may go down in the coming era of total independent support.

These days, resellers are candid about the nature of these system licenses, because HP has pressed these attributes to the surface. The Software License Transfer operations will probably be among the very last to shut down at HP, in part because customers continue to draw a line between licensed and unlicensed purchases. Some resellers simply won't offer an unlicensed copy of MPE/iX, or the server to run it. Keeping the 3000s in two classes, licensed and not, is a sign of a market not ready to fade away.

11:35 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 24, 2010

3000s exit emergency solutions with dispatch

Sentinel Once upon a time, HP 3000s dominated the 911 dispatch sector. In 2000, while it announced that it would call its server the e3000, HP boasted that the computer directed emergency calls for 90 percent of US cities of more than 100,000, tapping an application from PSSI.

But some cities with smaller populations have taken a shine to other solutions for routing fire, police and medical calls. Sumter, SC had its city council approve the funding to move off its 3000 earlier this month, and officials in the IT group there felt they were among the last to make a change. An article from the Sumter Item reported the council gave a green light to changing the system that controls emergency lights.

The new server, which is a Sentinel system, is used throughout the state and is a replacement for the current HP 3000 platform being used. Sumter is the last place to make the switch, which will cost about $118,683.87. But that money will come out of the E-911 fund rather that the city's budget directly, and $47,473.54 of that cost will be refunded by the state.

The Sentinel replacement is sold by a Motorola division, but its description shows how a computer platform is the least element in a small county's migration considerations. The words PC, Windows or even the phrase "the computer" don't appear in the Sentinel data sheet. 911 has become computer telephony.

All those unmentioned elements are a vital part of the Sentinel solution, but the software-hardware bundle is more focused on a much more crucial part of 911: the telephones.

The Sentinel Patriot E9-1-1 Call Taking System includes a PBX phone exchange embedded in a Windows server, an option that also exists in products from Public Safety Systems Inc. The PSSI solution started with HP 3000s in 1984 and has migrated to Windows since HP pulled the plug on its 3000 futures.

But the public's understanding of the need to upgrade is not wrapped around PSSI's relative features. Instead, the HP 3000 and the Hewlett-Packard pullout is the driver to trigger a $118,000 purchase, as well as the retraining and implementation costs. PSSI still serves more than 150 municipalities with its Computer Aided Dispatch solutions. But the software company doesn't take the ding for missing the cut on a replacement.

Some IT managers point at older hardware as a reason for adopting a solution where the server isn't even part of the discussion. Applications drive IT changes, as always. But in some cases, the change needs a kick start from hardware to get new software in place. Changing the subject sometimes works to trigger change.

Homesteading solutions are surviving in sectors where the awareness of the hardware and operating environment remain high. Reducing the hardware's profile can be one of the warning signs of an impending desire to migrate.

10:48 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2010

Connect posts hot Tech Forum sessions

The Connect HP enterprise users group has posted session descriptions for its June HP Technology Forum. The online catalog lists hundreds of talks that comprise the HP-centric content which makes the conference a unique value for managers of HP business-class systems.

The sessions are HP-centric in a way beyond their subject matter, focused on HP's solutions. They're delivered in very large part by HP staff members, although some are presented by HP's partners, too. (The catalog lists a few customers leading sessions; there's a strong OpenVMS and NonStop contingent providing that kind of content.)

But the three-plus days is one of the best ways to meet HP, especially the company that has changed so much since the last HP 3000s rolled off the line in 2003. "The Triple Bottom Line of Green Data Centers" is a talk to be given by William Kosik, HP's Green Technology Director. If you didn't even know HP has such a director, or wonder where Green might be paying off for HP, a bottom line session could bring some green to an enterprise.

HP CALLS this strategy Sustainable IT, built upon the technology in systems like those Integrity servers HP offers as a replacement for 3000s being migrated. Instead of pushing feeds and speeds like performance or detailing how many apps run on a server, HP wants a customer to consider cost of ownership. Engineers like Kosik have been designing smart facilities for HP with the likes of the Integrity. HP talks about the Integrity's thermal designs as a product advantage -- because cooling a business server has become a more prominent part of ownership.

A decision to attend the Tech Forum this year, for a 3000 IT pro, needs to be sparked by a change rather than polishing crucial skills. Community members recently migrated, or those with a plan and a need for training, won't find a broader set of sessions than what Connect and HP have put together for Vegas June 21-24.

HP may not be presenting any more migration sessions related to the HP 3000, but the company is still talking about how to migrate to its products. Alvina Nishimoto, the redoubtable manager who still fields questions about migration solutions, will be giving a talk aimed at another legacy community -- companies which use IBM's Series i servers.

HP's System i (IBM Iseries/AS/400) Alternative Solutions allow you to transition your System i environment to HP platforms with HP and ISV solutions. Join us for a review of the critical business initiatives that are driving this transition and how HP and ISV solutions can address these issues.

Hear about HP's roadmap for migrating from legacy environments, review solutions that help companies successfully transition to open platforms, discuss industry-standard alternatives, such as HP ProLiant and HP Integrity systems, operating systems, storage, and services. Learn how tools and services from HP partners can be key components of a successful transition to more agile, cost-effective alternative solutions.

Nishimoto and HP alliance manager Karim Raad should present an interesting roadmap for migrating, considering that IBM hasn't shared any timelines on canceling the iSeries. That map might offer options that HP has cooked up based on its experiences migrating HP 3000 customers.

Connect is touting a $200 early bird registration price that expires April 30. Oh, and the meeting has a pretty well-known closing night act on the entertainment slate: Roger Daltrey of The Who. The user group is selling a Connect You-niversity uplift that promises seats close to the stage for that one.

This VIP program (a $50 uplift for Connect members) includes a "Closing party exclusive area close to the stage" and access to the scheduler for booking sessions a few days before it opens to the public. There's a backstage pass included, too -- but we're not sure if Roger is included on that tour.

09:16 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 22, 2010

Migration pace prompts older system value

Economic experts peg the start of the Great Recession as 2009, but it hit even earlier than that for IT managers in the 3000 community. About 2007, says the Support Group inc. founder Terry Floyd, who has watched migration projects stall out. As a result of the stall, his clients across two companies -- the allied Entsgo unit sells MANMAN ERP alternatives -- started upgrading 3000s.

The 3000 upgrades didn't start up because migration projects died or failed after implementation. However, a failure to fund an established project made newer 3000s a better value. A purchase of a 3000, more powerful but not the latest, gave his clients some time to homestead longer -- whether that is their long-term plan, or just an interim step.

Another support company which sells 3000s reports that the popular upgrades haven't been the ultimate generation of 3000 models, HP's A-Class and N-Class systems. Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions said the A-Class servers don't make that much sense to a company using the 9x8 Series of 3000s, for example. The A's don't offer enough of a jump in performance to justify the price premium still attached to the newer model.

SINCE THE end of last summer, resellers for 3000s have seen an uptick for sales of the hardware. However, "very few of them are moving to the A's and N's," Suraci said. "If you're a low-end customer, an A isn't a great box to go to anyway. The A-Class was meant to the be the low-end in that class of servers. The performance of most of those boxes is in line with the performance of their current hardware."

David Floyd, CEO at the Support Group, noted a new value-role for the A-Class. The box that HP established as the new low-end is being treated as such. "One of our customers just bought one," he said, "for their disaster recovery and development system." Not so long ago, the community called these crash-and-burn systems, the ones which were not responsible for daily mission critical operations.

That an A-Class system could land in this value spot, or the plentiful 9x9s remain attractive as an upgrade option, shows the enduring proposition of the 3000. This situation turns out to be of benefit to the migrating customer, too.

Suraci says, "What I hear from these customers is this: 'We've been saying for so long that we're going to something else. Number 1, we're not there yet, and we're so far behind now that we have to do something [to upgrade.] We need a performance increase today.' Or they say, 'We've been saying we're going someplace else [off the 3000], but like everybody else, we still don't have a plan to do that. Three years ago we were saying we're 18-24 months away. Today, we're still saying we're 18-24 months away.' "

We chronicled another example of this earlier this year, when an IT manager at Gilbarco Veeder-Root was looking around in November for a newer 3000 to step in while the company's ERP migration was being completed. For that manager, a few more CPUs in a 9x9, or some memory, was going to bridge the migration timeline's gap.

This is not a set of reports that will inspire gusto in a company that needs migration business to remain in the 3000 marketplace. It helps if you can have two ways to engage a customer. Even though Floyd's enterprise is among the 3000 vendors that does business in both homestead and migration camps, it approaches the dual role with two badges. The Support Group inc. and Entsgo, the latter helping companies migrate complex ERP systems off 3000s. A hardware element of an Entsgo project is likely to be a ProLiant or an Integrity server.

The systems sold to a Support Group client, or one at Pivital, will be one of those better-value 3000s -- their value improved because the market now has many replacement systems, more powerful than existing 3000s, available for a price just as changed as the 3000's proposition over the last eight years. Meanwhile, the changes of migration are only now on the uptick from that recession.

11:33 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 19, 2010

Support partners bundle performance tool

PGG Lund Performance Solutions is partnering with the MPE Support Group in a new alliance of players with a long history working together. Lund is adding a cross-platform analysis tool to the new MPESG customers the companies will sign up.

A press release from Lund, which says it's been offering performance guidance to 3000 sites for 27 years, highlights the addition of the ClearView Gallery tool, which collects statistics from HP 3000, HP 9000, Linux, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, Windows and XP hosts.

Today’s IT organization is under enormous pressure to reduce costs while improving performance and response. The ClearView Gallery tool will be included in all new MPE Support Group contracts for support, service and maintenance. This will allow MPESG to offer the full spectrum of professional services that respond to clients’ immediate technical challenges. Also, it will give MPESG and their customers’ access to the 27 years of MPE and HP-UX performance expertise offered at Lund Performance Solutions.

Support and management services offered by MPESG for HP 3000 and HP 9000 systems include application management, secured hosting, onsite support, remote system monitoring and system health checks

Lund will introduce MPESG to its consulting and performance customers, while the support firm will show its clients the consulting and integration services of Lund. The companies report that they've been partnering on projects in the past; MPESG has been led by founder Ralph Bagen for 15 years.

12:01 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 18, 2010

Supporting More by Doing Less, But Better

2010 will turn out to be a year of opportunity for part of the HP 3000 ecosystem. Support providers will be taking on new clients, the customers who have followed HP faithfully -- some might say blindly -- ever since their first systems switched on 15, 20, or 30 years ago.

Suraci-04May But those decades of support from HP end in about nine months, a turn of events that will turn those still running a 3000 -- but faithful to HP -- toward independent support. Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions sees good prospects to add fresh clients for support companies like his.

"There's a bunch of customers that will stick with HP until they can't anymore," he said, "and that's a group that will need to find another alternative. Hopefully at that point they do their homework and can separate between the good and bad providers -- and we become one of those who are given an opportunity to be in their plans."

Pivital specializes in HP 3000 issues and support, including hardware, software and applications. Suraci's company, which has been in the community for two decades, is practicing a mission that narrows its focus to expand its client base. Like a few others serving homesteaders, they want to deliver better results by sticking to what they do best. That strategy is all about level of service.

THE PIVITAL SPECIALTY is supporting 3000 enterprises, rather than taking on all server environments along with a 3000 in the mix. Although independent support always includes the tag-along question about the likes of Windows, it takes determination and integrity to stick to the service level promises you're certain to keep. Pivital made its bones in the ERP world as it grew its staff, working in a business sector with a need for detail-driven support.

"What we have strived for over the years is to forgo the opportunities where we don't think we can be successful," Suraci said, "the support that would require us to have too many partners, and just isn't in our sights." As an example, he recalled a municipality where the HP 3000 was the main enterprise system, but there was a lot of Windows server work that the city wanted along with 3000 support.

"We told them it would be great to get their HP 3000 business if they chose to separate that out," he said. "But it would be better for us to walk away now, than to get their business and not do a good job going forward." He says that Pivital is "a big stickler for the commitment to response time," something that can require elite partners who can solve an issue without being talked through technique over the phone.

It can require confidence and experience to maintain a sharp focus and aim at well-chosen targets. The 3000, being a special environment with special value, is likely to require sharp providers in the years to come. HP's departure creates challenges as well as opportunity. Extra outreach from support companies to new homesteaders will become more common over the next year or so. Homework will be required.

01:58 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 17, 2010

2 Ways HP Eats Its Own Dog Food

When a system supplier touts a product, it's one level of endorsement. When that supplier uses the same system to run its own operations, that's a more significant marker. HP's Unix and Integrity spokesmen are talking about Hewlett-Packard eating its own dog food: The HP-UX server environments they'd like to see replace your HP 3000s.

The Web posts at communities.hp.com are written by spokesmen like Jacob Van Ewyk, who works in Business Critical Systems Marketing. He reported that HP's own internal IT ops use Integrity and Superdome servers in two ways: to service specialized mission-critical applications, as well as providing a smaller footprint for company-wide apps. While such stuff is written to promote HP's servers, it's also an insight into new technology terms and insider IT organization. A customer asked Van Ewyk if HP had its own dog food on the IT menu.

One of topics I addressed is whether we use HP Integrity servers and HP-UX 11i in our internal infrastructure. Indeed, we do. While it may also be used for exception types of projects (ex. Mission critical environments that can't use our standard services), both our Shared Application Server and Shared Database Server environments utilize application stacking in HP-UX 11i, Serviceguard (and Serviceguard Extensions for RAC in the database environment), Virtual Server Environment, and more.

Application stacking, you might ask? A new term for a familiar concept. HP 3000s have always hosted many applications on a single server. This was often not the case in the Unix environments of the early 21st Century, though. It was often one app to a server, with many instances of HP-UX -- running multiple points of failure.

TECHNOLOGY BUZZWORDS spring up when a vendor wants a fresh look from established customers, even though the concepts may be a little stale. Application stacking is not quite the same as multiple apps running on a single 3000 server. The element of virtualized servers makes the stacking a little different. But consultant Stephen Hoffman of Hoffman Labs believes the differences are not so great, even if he does work with them in his OpenVMS Integrity and Mac OS X Server projects.

Application stacking is simply terminology used to discuss server virtualization. For running multiple applications on one or more virtual machines. For using Xen or VMware or HP-UX and HP-VM, or other such. For stuffing — stacking — both existing and new applications onto the same or fewer hardware boxes. For server consolidation.

The stacking concept does help HP IT maintain its top-notch green rating, since it eliminates servers that were once needed to support an enterprise-grade computing operation. HP is all about saving money on power to its datacenters these days, enough to impress Newsweek in its Green Rankings of America's 500 largest corporations. HP earned the Number One spot in the environmental survey. (This may not be a favorite topic of some of the most veteran 3000 gurus, but Newsweek was impressed that HP reports reduced greenhouse gas emissions related to its supply chain.)

HP 3000s continue to do many things well at corporations much smaller than HP, as well as a few much larger. But a Series 9x9 3000, or one even older, draws a lot of power compared to newer technology. Application stacking, or multiple apps, don't have to consume so much wattage. You might be able to get greener by way of migrating, a result that could add two flavors of green to your bottom line.

01:27 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2010

No contest, some skeptics on OpenMPE vote

Connor One team of people who have been pushing back HP's retirement for the 3000, OpenMPE, have announced a new board of old members and fresh faces. Three volunteers chose not to continue as directors for 2010-11, which brings the fresh blood of Jack Connor, Keith Wadsworth and Connie Sellitto into a group that operates without a building, sales and revenue models, or much respect from some community corners.

SellittoThe last two elections for the board's open seats have been held with no opposition: candidates equaled the positions in play. The group's secretary Tracy Johnson said "a voter asked why not just acclaim the candidates, since each was guaranteed a seat on the board? My simple reply was that OpenMPE’s By-Laws don’t have an acclamation procedure." He said even an uncontested election was a necessary step.

Our next board meeting was scheduled for after the election, so we might as well let the election take its course. A Candidate might have decided at the last minute to drop out of the race. Then we’d have to draft someone again. Besides, it was an incredible adventure to log into our hosting provider and update OpenMPE’s Candidate and Balloting Web pages! As some have noticed, some of our Web pages have not been updated since May of 2009, so I was able to fix many of those.

WadsworthThis year's voting through the Web site netted fewer than 50 ballots, including those from some current board members. One support provider in the 3000 community noted that several firms with new MPE/iX source code licenses service more current 3000 customers than the total of 2010's OpenMPE voters.

 "The reality is that at least four of the US-based licenses already have support operations with more paying customers than OpenMPE will have voters in their election," the CEO from a support company shared with us via e-mail. "How about an article targeting the realities of their situation? They have no business plan, no operations, no investors, and more importantly no income: yet they aspire to be a support provider?"

THAT'S AN IDEA for an article whose time has arrived. The clock has been started by the arrival of MPE/iX source code in the OpenMPE group. This is the first durable asset that this collective of volunteers has been able to count upon. But those millions of lines of source may need almost as many operational dollars to make an impact in 2011, when HP leaves all support to independents.

OpenMPE chair Birket Foster has already arrived at that same formula while the HP source code was arriving in an independent engineer's office for validation. But the organization doesn't propose to provide support like a Pivital, Beechglen, Allegro or Abtech, he said.

"The first thing we had to do was to get a source license, so we could determine what we could do a patch plan for," he said. "The license is for selected pieces of the source code," meaning that a source license holder didn't even know for certain which parts of MPE/iX they were purchasing.

"People need to come up with suggestions for what they'd like [OpenMPE] to do, and then those projects need to be funded," Foster added. "A suggestion can come from a free membership, but those projects won't happen unless they're funded."

When OpenMPE explained this model last September, the concept was to build patches funded by members, then make those patches available to other 3000 support companies. A few support companies have talked to OpenMPE's directors about this model, but no alliances have been announced.

In a custom-patch model, Foster explained, once acclamation of interest arrives around a patch idea, "you can get an engineer to put together a rough cost model over a half-day of work." This pre-development might also include a preliminary investigation and proof of concept. This is the point where the revenue generation needs to kick in, a process that pays for enough testing "to be able to put the patch in a common source code repository."

Revenue models have never been a strong mission initiative among OpenMPE's volunteers. A pair of drives to raise development capital fell short of goals in the middle of last decade, and the group hasn't pursued anything but contributions to purchase a source code license over the last three years. There's been talk of paid memberships solicited over the year to come, where a company subscribes to a patch creation service in addition to support fees they'd pay to the established 3000 support provider of their choice.

One of the new members of the board has long considered OpenMPE's pursuit of commercial gain and sustainable operations. Keith Wadsworth joins the group in a similar role as previous board member John Burke: skeptical and pragmatic about the current resources. In 2008, Wadsworth submitted his answers to our questions posed to candidates in the group's final contested election. We asked, "What can OpenMPE do to convince HP that the expertise is in place to do patch testing, and so release the HP improvements and engineering to the full 3000 community?"

Wadsworth, who takes his seat this month, said two years ago that infrastructure looked like a key issue.

This raises many questions about the needs of the users, and the OpenMPE organization as well. For example, is there any hard data that strongly indicates that a large number of remaining users, or even a small number, need these patches? I believe the OpenMPE board needs to raise, explore and answer such questions thoroughly.

Addressing the question of testing, although the OpenMPE board members and members at large command considerable expertise, it does not seem apparent that OpenMPE as a whole has the ability, let alone the infrastructure, to conduct such testing.

OpenMPE needed volunteers from all viewpoints to fill five open board seats. Johnson said that "Up until the last day of the Call for Candidates phase, there were only four candidates, until Connie Sellitto stepped up to run." The hard work of moving from advocacy to operations remains ahead of OpenMPE. Terry Simpkins, the IT director at Measurement Specialties, posted he "would like to thank in advance the new board members for stepping up to help." EchoTech consultant Craig Lalley replied in another posting that "I would like to publicly console the incoming board members. You don't have to sell your soul... It is okay to disagree."

03:28 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 15, 2010

It may be later than it looks, to a few 3000s

Daylight Saving Time started in the US early Sunday morning, and your HP 3000 should have kept up with the forward progress of the outside world's clocks. But if it didn't, then independent consultant Keven Miller has shared a repair.

"My DAYLIGHT job was still on the old TZ dates," he said of the list of trigger-dates for changing the 3000's clock. "I checked my TZTAB file (which was correct), and fixed my job."

HP supplied a new file for 3000s in 2007, when the US government and a few others changed crossover dates for the spring and fall time shifts. Miller shared an updated job stream to keep the 3000 on time.

THE TZTAB file was complex enough to merit more than one attempt by HP to revise it. Miller's job slows down the 3000's clock in the fall, but jumps it ahead right away in the springtime.

55.1 !COMMENT 2010-03-04 2nd Sun Mar, 1st Sun Nov
56 !COMMENT
57 !showclock
58 !if hpday = 1 and hpmonth = 11 and hpdate >= 1 and hpdate <= 7 then
59 ! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W7:00
60 ! ECHO SETVAR TZ "MST7MDT" > TZ.CMD.XSI
61 ! TELLOP *********************************************
62 ! TELLOP Changing the system clock to STANDARD TIME.
63 ! TELLOP The clock will S L O W D O W N until
64 ! TELLOP we havev fallen back one hour.
65 ! TELLOP *********************************************
66 !elseif hpday = 1 and hpmonth = 3 and hpdate >= 8 and hpdate <= 14 then
67 ! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W6:00
68 ! ECHO SETVAR TZ "MST7MDT" > TZ.CMD.XSI
69 ! TELLOP *********************************************
70 ! TELLOP Changing the system clock to DAYLIGHT TIME.
71 ! TELLOP The clock jumped ahead one hour.
72 ! TELLOP *********************************************
73 !endif

HP once hosted the new TZTAB file on the Jazz Web server. That means it's now available at the Speedware host for these HP files, as well as the Client Systems Jazz host. You will need to click through HP's standard, 40-page end user license agreement to get to the download page.

03:15 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2010

See how to seed MPE's future via OpenMPE

Mar12 Webcast-1 You can watch our first video broadcast online this morning, six minutes of screen time that sums up what the numbers mean this month at the OpenMPE brain-trust. The group's board of directors election ends today; vote if you are a member, and join for free if you're not a member. The directors running will be seated later this month, and we will report the tallies next week. There's not much mystery about who will be a director for this year -- five candidates, five open positions.

What's unknown is another count, the total of money received as contributions for the MPE source code license which OpenMPE has been granted. It's a matter of paying HP's bill this month, and the group needs corporate and individual monies to pay HP for this license. As we've said before, we're stepping up with a modest check. We invite you to do the same, and I make a case for why you should during my six minutes of close-up. (Click on this link to go to the NewsWire's YouTube channel to watch.)

If you're got a bit of budget on hand, in checks as small as ours or even bigger, this revenue for OpenMPE could make the entire eight years of its work matter so much for the future of the system. Any company or individual who wants to invest in the OpenMPE license can send checks (made out to OpenMPE, Inc.):

OpenMPE, Inc.
c/o Treasurer
PO Box 460091 San Antonio, TX 78246-0091

If you've pledged already, today is more than a deadline for casting votes. It's time to get your investment working if you plan to use the 3000 into 2011 and beyond.

06:51 AM in Homesteading, Podcasts, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2010

MB Foster adds auto-magic sign-on solution

MB Foster has announced a partnership with education software provider Systemtech, a Danish company extending its single-sign-on solutions into North America with an exclusive support center and distribution deal. The EasyIQ software will be integrated for university and K-12 customers across the US and Canada. Birket Foster said Systemtech sought out MB Foster.

While the new solution operates solely in the Windows environments that are popular among higher education clients, it's a logical next step for Foster's HP 3000 enterprises. "We've been helping people integrate stuff for almost 33 years," Foster said. "This is merely an extension of our normal integration mission."

Single sign-on is a mission-critical requirement in education systems, as students and faculty need secure access across a range of applications that share data between the apps. The HP 3000 didn't offer such a range of services -- unless you count the unsecured power of Vesoft's GOD program that granted absolute access. "Your background is actually checked with EasyIQ, so you get access to the systems you're allowed to access." Foster said. "With GOD, it was never checked."

As customers have moved off single-system 3000 environments into "a multitude of specialized application platforms, they need to have a way of identifying who their users were," Foster said. Systemtech has evolved its solution over time, "so what this does is consolidate the identity management issue. It allows identity management to come from a single source, and get it delivered to where it's needed." This gives the software more than simple sign-on capabilities. EasyIQ provisions data based on the same identity across the environments that are replacing the HP 3000.

BY THE TIME an education computer user gets exposed to as many as a dozen systems, "that's a lot of passwords to try to coordinate," Foster added. "EasyIQ just makes it auto-magic."

EasyIQ is being used by K-12 and secondary education institutions throughout Denmark to provision single sign-on identities for over 650,000 students, teachers, professors, and administrators. The company has been visiting MB Foster customers across North America for the past year in seeking a partnership to migrate its solution outside of Europe. Systemtech president Simon Christoffersen said his company was looking for experience, reach, knowledge and infrastructure in a partner.

"I have worked with Birket Foster for the last year to define the market strategy for EasyIQ in North America," he stated in a press release. "MB Foster’s extensive experience and connections have given us introductions to accounts who will pilot EasyIQ. We are confident of significant North American growth by working with MB Foster’s sales and technical teams to lead our North American expansion efforts."

The Microsoft-based consulting and software company was founded in 2004 and specializes in the IT education environment. Windows environments can be built on top of Microsoft Active Directory Services, or use a standard identity management system together with EasyIQ.

"The closest the HP 3000 came to multiple login management was a CHANGELOG process here and there," Foster said. "Once you were in an application, you could pick something off a menu and switch you across to something else. This is similar to that -- but because of the nature of Windows and multitasking computers at the desktop level nowadays, plus browser-based technology, you'll be able to have more than one application connected at the same time."

As for MB Foster's multitasking connections to new markets, this is the first solution that goes beyond an product or service evolved from HP 3000 or 9000 software. EasyIQ is rooted in the company's integration heritage, however.

"We spent the time to investigate the marketplace, looking at our customer base and as well as potential customers," Foster said. "It turns out all of the colleges and universities we visited have a problem: trying to integrate things consistently, on a long-term basis. While they may have a graduate student who's brilliant and makes integration happen right now, two years from now when they need something integrated with a new release from one of their many vendors, they've been forced to go back to the drawing board. The grad student probably moved on, and nobody knows where the documentation is for that student's integration work."

12:49 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 10, 2010

Europeans see the future of HP's invite-only technology conferences

If you are wondering what the Hewlett-Packard plans are for the future of the in-person conference, you can look no further today than the Realise the Future HP Technology@Work 2010 event next month in Frankfurt, Germany. The April 27-29 event is by invitation only, sponsored by some of HP's biggest vendor partners: Oracle, Intel, Citrix, Microsoft, VMWare and more. One of the Silver Sponsors is HP enterprise user group Connect.

A conference controlled entirely by HP, Technology@Work will include 22 talks with the word "Integrity" in their title. This is a view of HP's future enterprise and work computer planning, considering that there are 174 sessions scheduled across three days of talks. HP isn't shaping its view of the future around servers or environments. Probably not news to the large-scale HP customer, but this approach might surprise the HP 3000 pro who's continuing with HP beyond a migration.

Rather than organization around environment, HP has shaped its Technology@Work briefings around tracks such as Cloud, Virtualization, Sustainable IT (energy efficiency), Innovation and Elasticity/Converged Infrastructure. There is a track on Industry Standard Servers (the HP ProLiant line, not Integrity) and Storage Solutions. But the days of understanding systems as an edge in business computing are over, by the looks of HP's conference lineup.

HP is calling it the most significant technology event of 2010.

WE WOULD ADVISE Euro customers, or any who will be in Germany next month, to attend and catch up with HP's visions. But you should have already been invited if HP wants you to be on hand.

We’re inviting: CIOs, IT Directors and Heads of Department, IT and Technical Managers, Solutions Architects and Data Centre Managers, amongst other professionals who have been tasked to use technology to make a difference to their organisations.

It’s a select group of people, and you can take the opportunity to share your experience, learn from others, and network to your advantage. You’ll also get to talk to analysts from one of the world’s foremost research and forecasting companies.

That would be Gartner's Research Senior VP Peter Sondergaard, giving a keynote while Gartner leads some breakout sessions. Connect, while being one of the event's sponsors, mounts a more egalitarian event this June in the HP Technology Forum. While a significant share of the Tech Forum is out of bounds to the press or companies which can't pass through a Confidential Disclosure Agreement, or won't qualify for HP staff product training, the event is open to the full customer base.

HP has been developing a different approach to meeting their customers in person ever since the company acquired Compaq near the start of last decade. Customers want HP to be frank and answer hard questions with specifics -- that much has not changed in more than three decades of HP 3000 history. By 2010, however, HP has become most comfortable with selecting who's asking the questions, and who will be listening to the replies.

Technology@Work is bound to be useful for the CIO or top-level manager using HP equipment in their company, and a modest share of the 3000 community will be getting invited to this event. But they probably can't say they're going, or repeat much of what they learn outside their own organization once they return.

03:29 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 09, 2010

Of safe names, and safer 3000 documents

I've read about that Florida site where the system manager passed away without much notice. It sounds like documentation is pretty important in that kind of crisis. What do you recommend as a minimum?

Paul Edwards of Paul Edwards & Associates replies:

There are a couple of papers in PDF format that can be downloaded that deal with documentation that
every HP 3000 site should have on hand for these kinds of situations. The contents of a System Manager Notebook include hardware and software information that is vital to recovering your system in any type of disaster. The rest of the company’s busines operating procedures has to be combined with the IS plan to form a comprehensive corporate disaster recovery contingency plan.

The Notebook contains hardware model and serial numbers; license agreements for all software and hardware; a copy of all current maintenance agreements, equipment warranty information, complete applications documentation of program logic; data file layouts and system interaction, along with system operator run books and any other appropriate documentation. There is a wealth of information contained in each HP 3000 that can be printed and stored offsite that is critical to a recovery effort.

I'm trying to figure out what characters are really safe to use in file names in the HFS namespace. I was recently surprised to learn that the percent character has problems in MPE.  If I STORE and RESTORE a file with a percent sign in its name, it seems that the percent sign and all following characters are dropped from the name. To be completely safe, do I need to restrict myself to uppercase and lowercase letters, digits, and underscores? 

Cathlene McCrae of HP Support replies:

The help file for the build command in the HP 3000 reports incorrectly that file names can begin with or contain any of the following characters: a-z, A-Z, 0-9, _, ., ~, `, $, %, ^, *, {, },+,|,:

THE HP 3000 manuals and the online file command’s help have the correct character set, which is:

a-z, A-Z, 0-9, underscore, dash and period.

This a-z, A-Z, 0-9, underscore, dash and period is the character set that I would recommend, since it is compatible with  most of the other operating systems -- including Windows.

01:27 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 08, 2010

Connect opens Tech Forum sign-up doors

TechForumLogo The Connect HP user group opened registration for its annual North American show on Friday, the earliest opening I can recall since the event launched in 2005. Although this conference has little to offer the HP 3000 homesteader, any company who's considering HP gear as a replacement for their 3000 should find plenty to justify a trip between June 21-24 to Las Vegas.

HP's needs have helped to plant the show in the desert during the summer, since the vendor has always provided thousands of attendees to swell the crowds. Professional certification on HP solutions is offered throughout the conference, for anyone who needs to show proficiency in HP's Unix, NonStop, Windows or networking products. It's not a bad idea, if you're adding new skills to your IT resume, to aim for a certification.

The other advantage to HP's heavy involvement in the event is the HP Confidential Disclosure briefings. If knowing about coming product release specifics will help you plan that HP-UX server buy, then signing up for one of these is a unique value for a small or medium-sized customer. (The bigger ones get these briefings without having to travel.)

But being onsite at the Mandalay Bay Casino and Hotel mid-week wins you more than HP's peeks. If you're diligent and attend the right meetings, you can expand your network to extend your base of experience. There's nothing like forming a contact who's trying out things you haven't yet implemented. In-person meetings make that develop faster. Then there's the Expo, which managed a healthy show floor population among vendors even last year, a period when travel budgets were slashed all around.

IT'S PROBABLY a little early to send in a registration, since the group hasn't even posted session details to help plan and justify a trip. But since this will be time away from the office during family vacation season, making flight and hotel arrangements could benefit from an earlier start. Connect has an attractive three-day-minimum rate at the conference hotel of $433 for the whole three days. Vegas hotels can be very inexpensive, but the daily trip to the hotel from bargain lodging could cost more time than the savings are worth. I've stayed at the nearby Luxor on my trips, but I didn't save that much. Of course, the less-costly airfares are available now, and less so as vacation season arrives.

Connect is starting with early-bird pricing before it switches over to pre-show fees for attending. A full conference package costs $1,595 until April 30 -- but joining Connect (for $50) will earn you an extra $100 off the total show package, to drive down the fee to $1,495. Booking a $695 one-day-pass (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) could save you half the attendance fee, but that might not be the best way to maximize your travel costs. Day passes aren't being discounted. However, if a limited amount of out-of-office time is a better fit, a slice of the show could justify itself.

In past years the lower pricing extended through May, but Connect is saying the registrations will cost $100 extra starting April 30. HP 3000 users need to know that the content at the Tech Forum has a strong NonStop flavor, with a definite nod toward OpenVMS -- these are the user volunteers most involved with Connect at the moment. However, HP-UX has been well-represented in content, HP experts and attendees. A user group that glues together five operating environments can only slice its loaf so many times, so sessions that span environments are becoming more popular.

You can follow Connect's content and marketing updates on Twitter at twitter.com/HPTechForum, or up on Facebook at the same name. There's even a free iPhone app for the conference, a tool that might be genuinely useful if it could feed attendees updated information about talks and expo booths. (The latest Macworld Expo did just that with an app, giving me a way to plan on the fly. The Tech Forum is very spread out, in terms of walking.) An IT pro could do this conference well during June 22-23 in the Vegas summertime. If adopting a non-3000 skill set is a 2010 priority, this can be two days and three nights well spent.

11:34 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2010

Voting remains apace on uncontested ballot

OpenMPE is holding an election this month that amounts to a confirmation for the community. The eight-year-old organization, which Connect user group president Chris Koppe says is carrying the advocacy torch for the 3000, names and selects its directors each spring. This year five seats are up for grabs, although the reaching comes from the candidates' commitment to stretch themselves.

Sitting directors Donna Hofmeister (secretary) John Wolff (vice-president) and Walter Murray (ex-HP, customer) are not seeking another term. Hofmeister resigned late in 2009. Filling their places will be three new volunteers, Connie Selitto (customer), Jack Connor (Abtech support) and Keith Wadsworth (Orbit Software). The voting continues through next week.

Why bother to vote? This week in Texas we held a primary election, and many of the candidates on both Republican and Democratic ballots had no opposition. Abby and I voted because it was our responsibility as citizens. If you don't participate, you can't carp about the condition of your community. We're voting today from the organization's balloting Web page. (You will need your membership number.) Candidate bios are up there, too.

More companies than HP ever imagined will be using the 3000 starting next year, when there's no HP around to offer even the peace-of-mind support you rarely used. Independents will serve the community, HP partners former and present (if they do non-3000 business). An independent council with a source code license is a good organization to join, and this election is the first tangible thing a homesteader can participate in if they're new. The membership is even less than Connect's value-priced $50. It's free, this year.

IN PRIOR YEARS the voting rarely topped 80 ballots cast, but those were years when OpenMPE had nothing but questions that it demanded HP answer (some, it did) and plans for building a development lab out of independent consultants' contract time. This year the source code HP licensed to the organization is headed to a top MPE guru for verification, the first step in creating patches to solve problems.

Joining is as simple as a visit to the OpenMPE Web page and filling in a few fields. If you're a member and need your membership number, you can e-mail the current secretary Tracy Johnson for a reminder.

10:41 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 04, 2010

Independent free training hits road for UX

While HP toasted a debut of a multi-million dollar US-based support center, an independent service provider is spreading business system intelligence at a more affordable cost: free.

Source Direct has hired HP-UX guru Bill Hassell, after his many years of self-owned consulting services, and this spring Hassell is on the road. He says he's happy serving the HP-UX community from a new position. "I joined Source Direct in November 2009 and loving every minute of it," he said. After more than 20 years teaching and training in HP's Unix, Hassell is giving one-day seminars for Source Direct in eight US cities between now and May 26.

His classes in Unix administration and power tips run 11-5 at his stops, usually at a hotel in a major city. March 10's class is in Pittsburgh at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel (RSVP to Andrea Ditillo at 412-951-5009); March 11 in Philadelphia at the Sheraton Society Hill (Kath Cropper at 610-643-4655 x143); and March 17 in Phoenix at the Marriott Courtyard, Scottsdale Downtown (Bob Mariner at 602-943-4649, x132).

These are the kind of talents that can help established 3000 pros retain jobs in a changing economy. HP has been doing some hiring in the support community for its part, but the latest round of new jobs came at a price in Arkansas.

THE SOURCE DIRECT seminars promise to improve the techniques for companies managing IT operations as small as one HP-UX server.

The presentation is intended to
• Share little known but powerful tips and techniques that will enable HP-UX System Administrators to prevent mistakes that lead to downtime and increase security and reliability.
• Increase Sys Admin productivity through streamlined administrative tasks and increased responsiveness to problems, and
• Share productivity tools that will extend a Sys Admin's ability to manage a complex multi-system environment.

This seminar is about presenting best practices and sharing tools that do not exist on most HP-UX systems. Each participant will receive a CD with these powerful HP-UX tools.

Other cities on the Hassell best practice tour include Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Houston, New York and Dayton.You can contact him for more details via e-mail or at 770-499-5007 x142.

In a much smaller community than those tour stops, HP on March 3 unveiled more than 800 new jobs to support the company's consumer and business customers. HP employs more than half of its workforce in the US, but the $144 billion corporation required a $28 million support center to be built by the Conway, Ark. economic development organization. The town of 50,000 kicked in another $8 million in infrastructure, according to an AP story, in exchange for up to 1,200 jobs.

One way to analyze the HP service expansion: divide the $36 million Conway paid into the 1,200 positions. Only $30,000 per job, including the building. (To be fair, HP doesn't own this building, the town does. Plus its infrastructure supports a new business park.) Conway has a rudimentary Web page for HP employees interested in moving to Central Arkansas.

While one free Source Direct class won't equal a job, the tour stops include a meal, a CD with administration tools -- the kind of free lunch that can help 3000 pros gain admin skills quickly they need for a new migration environment.

12:35 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 03, 2010

A 3000 Link to Connect Leadership

Koppe Chris Koppe is now in his third month of presidency of the Connect user group, but he's clocking in many years of volunteering on behalf of HP customers including the 3000 community. Koppe, who's been involved with Connect since the group's days as the Encompass enterprise user group, looks to the 3000 as his own foundation.

"It's where my roots are," he said when we talked after the user group had named its 2010 officers and explored this year's goals. User group work has given him about 20 hours weekly of extra duties, something he's managing along with the life of being a dad and directing Speedware's marketing operations. But he considers the user group as a means to illuminate the 3000's future.

"I was always trying to be the torchbearer for the 3000 community during those transitions," he said, reflecting on the middle of last decade and the Interex demise. Koppe got approached by Encompass president Kristi Browder while he was still on the Interex board, as Encompass reached out to connect with the 3000 crowd. The Connect group is reaching for more 3000 leadership for next year, too. Steve Davidek, who's still managing a 3000 for a Nevada municipality, is the president-in-waiting for 2011.

CONNECT SELECTS its presidents one year in advance, when the board chooses its vice-president. Koppe explained that the presidency is a three-year experience: one as VP, another in the office, then a third as past president.

Davidek, he said, is well-known for his advocacy committee work in the final years of Interex, having pushed for customer survey programs to speak to HP. Surveys have been a primary means for advocacy for all of these user groups. An HP-UX customer survey is underway now at the Connect site. Koppe believes HP processes user group communiques differently than other customers'.

"The community has a larger voice to HP," by speaking as a group, he said. "User group customers tend to be more passionate." He added that he has his own passion for the community of HP users, including the 3000 customer who will remain on the system indefinitely. But he knows the direct advocacy for these customers comes from another group.

"OpenMPE is carrying the homesteading advocacy torch these days," he said. "Our social network creates a place for people to engage, and we have an MPE community page that acts as a meeting place." Speedware's Nick Fortin has been a sparkplug at that Web location, and Koppe talked it up during last year's e3000 Community Meet.

As for the HP-UX customers, newly arrived from their 3000 experience, Connect has plans for their services already in motion. A January Webcast from HP was a highlight of the HP-UX Month for Connect. While Connect already has committees for OpenVMS and NonStop, HP's Unix does have one -- yet. "I wouldn't be surprised if one develops during this year," he said.

Connect has goals for 2010 that go beyond staying healthy financially (it's in good shape, Koppe said) and keeping the tradition of in-person meetings alive with new events and the HP Technology Forum & Expo. The group wants to establish five new chapters this year to add to its 36 in place, as well as create newsletters delivered online that are targeted at its distinct memberships.

Connect operates on the glue that every member uses HP gear. While the members look at HP-UX as if it's an open system, the group needs to balance services for mixed and specialized environments. The HP enterprise badge on gear and solutions brings it together.

"I think that in order for us to remain relevant as an organization, you need to be able to serve our mission: to be the association of HP's enterprise customers," he said. "Whether you use enterprise storage products, the Unix or Windows platform, blade servers, security or networking products, our goal is to be the user community that supports those particular segements of HP's product line. In many respects user groups become the home of the users of the older technologies. This is where the OpenVMS and NonStop communities congregate. We have programs that we're developing to replicate that formula with HP-UX." 

12:17 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 02, 2010

OpenMPE legacy: Knowledge door now ajar

Although the OpenMPE advocacy group isn't going away -- far from it, during its eighth annual election this week -- these volunteers already have a legacy. The HP source code license for MPE/iX and TurboIMAGE will improve the customer experience of those lucky sites that have a relationship with a license holder.

Last week I used the word lucky in describing the license holders as well, a miscue that Adager's Alfredo Rego noted almost as soon as I told the community about our source code license stories. Rego said in part, "Even though I am under strict non-disclosure on this, I can assure you that 'luck' had nothing to do with HP's decisions. Hint: 'Decades of hard (and meaningful) work' is more like it."

I should have used the word fortunate rather than lucky, but Rego talked more about that required hard work the day after the license holders were announced. Any such holder will need advanced technical skills to make something out of the millions of lines of source HP ships this month.

"The source code by itself is a dead entity," he said. "You have to know how to bring it alive." Adager's know-how goes so deep that one of its former lab engineers, IMAGE co-creator Fred White, has a database flag named after him inside IMAGE called "FW." With that kind of insider skill inside the third party community, Rego wondered why HP needed to limit the use of MPE/iX knowledge at all during 2011.

OpenMPE always believed that HP would need to grant permission to know more about MPE/iX. HP probably consulted with vendors outside of the OpenMPE orbit, but that group put the vendor on record during source negotiations. Knowledge of the OS now has a crack to slip into the customer base after HP exits on Dec. 31. Some license holders already know more about the 3000's operating system internals.

"HP has all these requirements [for source licensing], but I really don't quite understand how they can limit knowledge," Rego said. "Because if you know something, of course you can use that knowledge. But especially in that [license] document, they have all of that legalese at the end." As he said, he's under strict non-disclosure about the contents of that document — but HP's announced intentions have been to limit the utility of source code to maintenance and support needs among the 3000 sites still running a system in 2011.

So these license holders -- who may not have been able to apply for any license without OpenMPE negotiations -- must work inside two challenges: HP's scope of use, as well as technical skills. "Source code is a living thing if you know how to read it, how to interpret it -- and mainly, how to find bugs," Rego said.

One of Robelle's technical experts, Neil Armstrong, concurred that read-only source, limited as it is, can be helpful. "Seeing the source and reading it is certainly a large part of being able to develop patches and potentially avoid any issues," he said. "It may not be perfect, but it helps."

Those bugs Rego mentioned are the system-aborting and data-corrupting mistakes made by HP over 30 years of enhancing the OS and database. The 3000 community will have a living document for such experts to consult while resolving the aborts and corruptions, even while HP has turned over the marketplace to independent entities like Adager and the seven others granted licenses.

These companies now hold the rights to a powerful tool for the 3000's future -- and any organization that worked as hard as they have ought to feel good about the years to come. HP had a chance to review everyone's application for source code. Not a single company would even have gotten to HP's decision point without showing years of proven work and a raft of satisfied customers.

However, there is always the potential for such merit to go unrewarded. That's one of the sad lessons of HP's treatment of the 3000's prowess. This computer never deserved its business fate, dished out by an HP that was shedding innovation in 2001 while it groped for acquisitions. HP has taken too many years to come to this licensing point, and I have seen its top managers turn away from business decisions that would have helped the 3000 community even more than this read-only license. You need only go back one step, to the lobbying for source code that a top-notch licensee could use to make an enhanced MPE or IMAGE. HP turned away from that goodwill gesture, an un-lucky moment for the system's advocates.

Then there was the effort to rescue the entire 3000 business from HP's slippery grasp, something that Rego worked at tirelessly during 2001 and 2002. HP chose not to even consider his business offer's merits -- at least not how it would merit those customers who needed a division and sustained development momentum, rather than a sketchy HP plan to drop their computing platform. Because MPE has always been in HP's intellectual property chest, this year the vendor could have chosen even fewer licensees, or none at all, in the bleakest outcome.

So the community is lucky in that sense, fortunate to have so many licensees crossing such a wide range of experience and expertise. This time, merit has been rewarded; the fair outcome prevailed, although life is not always fair.

Any benefit from these licenses will demand that even more hard work emerge from these companies. OpenMPE will be holding its next election before we start to see any benefits MPE and IMAGE source will bring to the community from the licensees. The group might be able to produce a few patches of its own, given a lively alliance of 3000 gurus it will call upon.

04:46 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 01, 2010

FTP may fail both migrators, homesteaders

Unix history Some HP 3000 sites use FTP everyday, but others found the stale support for MPE's FTP one more reason to migrate. Recent news indicates that the File Transfer Protocol, secured or unsecured, has had freshness problems of its own, regardless of your hosting environment.

One of the world's biggest hosting organizations, Google, is ending support for FTP and SFTP this spring. If you're unaware of Google's FTP support, it's no wonder. The only way this venerable standard enters the Google customer base is through Blogger, the blog creation and hosting tool that's pushing up on its 10th birthday soon. Early bloggers used Blogger, a tool that was simple and quite a value (at free).

Before there was a 3000 NewsWire blog, I tuned up my blogging skills at Blogger. And right up to this day, my writing workshop blog The Write Stuff has been created using the Google tool. I chose to transfer my content files to my own host some years ago (at least four), while FTP didn't have the cracks in its armor that Google points out now. If you're using FTP or SFTP, Google wants you to reconsider. I didn't know it, but FTP is one of the oldest protocols on the Internet, nearly four decades old by now. That's older than the bedrock for HP-UX, whose System III roots were born in the middle 1970s. FTP was almost 15 years old when HP-UX hit the streets, as the chart above shows (click for an expanded image).

Standards are good, but few have can claim the tenure of MPE's design. If a 3000 site would rather not trace their file transfer's roots back four decades, then both the homesteader and migrator will be in the same place: looking at more secure ways than FTP to shift data.

Google and its Blogger Engineering Tech Lead Noah Fiedel do more than point to the age of FTP, however. They compare its functions to the Web page protocol HTTP, while they explained why I'll need to migrate to a newer protocol if I want to create in Blogger, then post elsewhere.

Unlike nearly all other Internet protocols, FTP uses two insecure and unencrypted ports simultaneously. This makes securing FTP effectively impossible on both the server and network levels. FTP servers at ISPs are therefore vulnerable to attack, and your password can be 'sniffed' by anyone with access to the traffic to or within your ISP. sFTP, while more secure than FTP, still requires us to store your user credentials — which itself is undesirable from a security perspective.

Compare this to the HTTP protocol, drafted 20 years later in 1991: FTP doesn't have a mechanism to discover whether an FTP server is up, down, slow, or temporarily unavailable. HTTP supports all of these and more, and is now the basis for nearly all activity on the Internet.

Due to FTP's weaknesses, many ISPs restrict access to their FTP servers. They do this by limiting your FTP account to a list of approved Internet addresses.

You can substitute "HP enterprise servers" for "ISPs" in the sentence above. These days, the security requirements for IT operations are a matter for auditors, rather than technology enthusiasts. It's not optional to keep data secure, so the likes of SSLv3 and more are well-established for HP-UX, Windows and Linux.

The HP 3000 has some support for encryption, especially through three vendors (Orbit Software, Minisoft and even Paul Taffel), but this is a feature that wasn't popular with the 3000 user base while the important groundwork was being crafted for today's standards. That might have been because HP had already dropped its exit-the-market 3000 news in the same encryption growth era. But the end-result is the same: file transfer security looks better in other environments.

We may not need to remind migrating sites how weak SFTP or FTP look today, since the auditing community is glad to do that after the fact. But planning a stronger path than "supported by HP SFTP" is the prudent way to transition for the future.

I'll be migrating The Write Stuff very soon, working to ensure that the Web address doesn't disappear into the maw of Google's host servers. Few of the Blogger customers use FTP posting by now, about one in a thousand. (Lucky me, to be so special; I'm headed to WordPress instead.) Unless your files are meant for that kind of public consumption -- like a blog article or multimedia -- you'll want to reach for something more secure than a standard launched in 1971. Some IT tools don't age as well as others.

02:08 PM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)