May 28, 2010
When Size Does Matter, for 3000 Owners
Yesterday we looked at the advantages of being big: When a 3000 user gets more from a company which sprawls with super size, in sales and scope of solutions. You get predictability, alliances and headroom from companies like HP (Number 1 in server revenues and units shipped in the most recent quarter.)
But the 3000 community member needs to understand that smaller is better -- not bigger -- when they need what the independent vendor lives upon. Small companies respond faster, polish relationships, and commit for life. Let's look at how a smaller partner delivers larger value. It's important to the 3000 user who's seeking new vendors to replace big ones who are leaving.
Faster response can mean software that is enhanced sooner, or answers that resolve problems more quickly -- because a smaller company has fewer layers for a customer to dive through. Relationship polishing is the personal attention to a company of any size: the kind of experience that HP 3000 managers, who may now be CIOs and CTOs, recall getting from a smaller HP.
As an example, the Support Group knows its customers on a first-name basis. The operations at this 3000 provider who's stepping in for HP this year include a hotsite datacenter located about 100 yards from the call stations. This integration of support and cloud services is natural, seamless, and won't require a special manager to coordinate.
You can get that kind of integration in an encounter from HP for a migration platform. Whether it makes it into the budgets of small to midsize companies is less certain. So much of the HP offerings don't come from Hewlett-Packard while engaging smaller customers. Independent partners deliver services in what HP considers a smaller marketplace.
Then there's that outside the product call that a 3000 user makes to a long-time supplier. This call is really about the 3000, not the product in the support contract. But that doesn't make a difference to a smaller company than HP. Adager answers calls like this from its customers all the time, according to CEO Rene Woc. For a large part of the 3000's history, Adager even answered this kind of call for a non-customer. Large IT vendors don't even have a coding category to let that call begin, let alone be resolved.
Finally there's the final chapter of a relationship between smaller customer and smaller provider. I call this "commit for life" because it represents the intention to maintain a relationship to the very end, not when a business strategy changes in a boardroom. Robelle tells the community it will support the 3000 until at least 2016. If there's still a customer around, STR Software will support them on the Fax/3000 solution. Commit for life means a smaller vendor's lifespan, most of the time, not the lifetime of its business plans.
We're closing our offices Monday in commemoration of the US Memorial Day. We'll be back with our blog reports on Tuesday, June 1. Have a safe and fun holiday over this weekend.
May 27, 2010
When does size matter?
Yesterday the business press reported that Apple has now passed Microsoft in tech company market cap size. In plainer terms, Apple is the biggest technology company in the world's stock markets. Yes, even larger than HP's share price times its outstanding shares. Analysts and editors called this a milestone for Apple. But being biggest of all -- when does it matter to the customers, and not just us observers?
This is a good question to consider in the 3000 community, because size is a changing aspect of your 2010. A very large company (HP) is leaving the 3000 market, at years' end, to much smaller independents. Meanwhile, other HP operations have retained 3000 customers' purchases, because the big company's tech portfolio is broader, with more IT facets to offer.
When does size matter to a tech customer? When they want predictability, alliances and headroom. Gartner reported estimates of HP numbers in server market share this week. During the most recent quarter, Gartner said HP was No. 1, passing IBM in system revenue for the first time since 2008. Choosing the solutions of a leader evokes comfort from some companies. That kind of customer is large, and large companies never comprised a serious share of the number of 3000 customers. So does size matter to the 3000 market -- and how much?
So, on to those size matters. 3000 customers wanted predictability. It's part of the biggest motivation for owning a 3000 in the first place. Belt-and-suspenders IT, we called it. Predictability doesn't sound alluring at first, until you're tasked with keeping a company running 24x7 and expecting a long lifespan for your product investments. Can an Apple customer buy a system that will run software written in a long-ago IT generation? Not anymore, thanks to the new Intel support. Unlike HP 3000 apps, those on a Mac now fall off the table after a good decade of compatibility. There's now an air of unpredictability for the long-time Apple customer to endure. You upgrade to stay with the vendor. Before you know it, the sales spur Apple's stock price to a record level and it's the largest tech company in the world.
Does that size matter to an Apple customer who's running a business with Mac and iPhone/Pad products? What most of them relish is value and durability. An iPhone of two years ago still works well. A Mac of five years back still supports a sales force's mobile needs. A big company can extend a platform's life. Well, sometimes, when it makes sense to the vendor's business desires.
Let's look at the other advantages to selling from the top position. Alliances come to mind because HP doesn't invent as much as it acquires by 2010. Suppliers are eager to become part of HP's offering because the vendor has such a large customer base. In terms of number of servers sold, HP has led IBM for a long time. When you buy an HP solution today, allied companies are key to getting what you specify.
Since HP's $114 billion in sales leads all US tech companies, all those allies are smaller. Some a lot smaller, some still very large. Top-line vendors like Apple or HP like to portray their alliances as if they were a marketplace, all in orbit with the vendor's strategy and product line. Few 3000 companies are making a transition choice based on HP's products alone. Most customers follow applications when choosing to move. And HP's not selling apps -- just the glue that holds the IT environment together.
Headroom is the big-vendor advantage that HP talks about the most these days. What if your business grows 40 percent in a month? How will a smaller solution -- with older hardware, fewer virtualized environments -- keep up? Being ready for overnight expansion means a vendor is ready to sell you more services or servers. The operations are standing by, to twist a phrase from the late-night infomercials. You don't have to wait if business opportunity demands immediate response.
This upgrade-overnight plum isn't so juicy for the small to midsize business. The 3000 customer base is not growing at a Global 400 pace. Large companies must plan for overnight growth. When you absolutely, positively must have it overnight, size matters.
Apple's customers cut across every strata of company size. The iPhone has delivered growth and product churn to make a CFO's toes twinkle in their dreams. Investors see a bright future for the company and bid up those shares. But being No. 1, in any measure, is of little use once a supplier grows too large to deliver the value that a smaller company provides. More on that value tomorrow, when we look at When Size Does Matter, if that size is smaller.
May 26, 2010
Shared 3000 Knowledge: Robelle
Well before the rest of the 3000 community discovered it, Robelle used the Web. Former president David Greer told us in an interview in 1999 the company posted its first Web pages in 1994. By the time the 3000 NewsWire mounted its first Web pages early in 1996, Robelle was already showing off its expertise delivering information on the Web. Much of the wisdom's presentation follows the Keep It Simple, Stupid mantra.
Robelle's site brims with 3000 help but never tempts you to watch movies, paw through a Flash presentation or prowl into a company photo album. Instead, the supplier of database language tools dishes out 3000 knowledge with the most straightforward of interfaces. Robelle taught us to keep our own Web designs simple enough that anyone would be able to access the knowledge. Robelle's been building these resources for 30 years by now.
One unique resource on the Robelle Website is its collection of consultants. The company has selected and screened these consultants for experience in Qedit, Suprtool and Suprtool-based applications. The providers Robelle has cataloged know the HP 3000 at an advanced level; Suprtool and Qedit were born and grew up on the 3000.
There's a modest list of 3000 consultants at the OpenMPE site, one that hasn't been updated in almost five years. But professional companies are providing 3000 knowledge resources which are more current. On the other hand, there's timeless 3000 information at robelle.com.
The Robelle site uses solid layout, but it also tells visitors how to create and maintain good Websites in Creating a widely accessible web site. (Most timeless tip: Myth 3, Everyone uses Browser X. "By using features that transform gracefully and by providing alternatives, your web site contents can be accessible to most browsers.")
3000-specific information in the Robelle Papers library includes Transforming TurboIMAGE Data for Eloquence, Oracle, and More by Bob Green and Living with 400 I/O’s per second by Neil Armstrong. If you're preparing for life with a new mission-critical database, or caring for a 3000 in homestead mode, these can be helpful. And you'd never have thought that papers written five or eight years ago could remain relevant.
Perhaps the most useful reference page of all on the Robelle site is its archive of the What's Up Doc? newsletters the staff produced during the years 2000-2007. An MPE for Unix users series floats through this shared stream during 2004, to get you started; Part 3 covers The Complex World of Files in October, 2004. For a dynamite collection of 3000 lore, try the On-line Encylopedia for HP Users. This was once called the Seldom Met Users Group (SMUG) Book, printed back in the day when there were few other options.
Today we have links, PDF files -- even PDF files of NewsWire articles which were once hosted by another company, interviewing the founder of yet another key shared knowledge resource, Beechglen. 3kworld.com is long gone, but as long as there's power running to a steady server, shared 3000 knowledge will remain compiled and ready. Where better than Robelle to find a concise definition of the MPE Deadly Embrace?
May 25, 2010
HP 3000 work migrates to India
Several HP 3000 development jobs have surfaced in Chennai, TN. But before you get your resume ready to send to Tennessee, or consider a contract for Chennai, take a moment to Google the city. It's in the Tamil Nadu state of India. There's a growing stream of HP 3000 jobs well offshore of North America. India is 11 time zones away from corporations on the US West coast. But the industrious Indians have been working to take on HP 3000 application maintenance for companies who have lost their 3000 developer.
Just look at the skill set requested by CMMi. It reads like a inventory of popular 3000 tools and environments. (We think that "VSAM" is really KSAM.)
Experience in design and development of HP3000 based applications. Experience in COBOL and VSAM. Good knowledge in various tools like SUPRTOOL, HPEDIT, QEDIT, HP Browse, Hpsearch, HP Link Editor, Query, FCOPY, Conman, Arranger and Maestro used in HP 3000 system.
Of course, a development company that is struggling to get the name of KSAM correct would be just learning the environment. Which could encourage a 3000 customer to look closer to North America at one of the many providers of application support for MPE/iX apps.
A few of the leading candidates? Speedware, MB Foster, the Support Group, and Pivital all manage 3000 apps of one sort or another. A couple of these companies also support transition and migration projects, while the Support Group has an allied company in Entsgo to help a company go to a non-3000 environment.
Indian technology companies have been working in the 3000 sector for more than a decade. Back in the '90s a development company called Blue Star -- which at least knew how to spell VPlus -- was exhibiting at the Interex conferences. That was an era when the offshore concept was still in a rising mode. HP established a 3000 lab in Bangalore in the middle of the decade. It featured hard-working Indian engineers who spoke some of the hardest-to-understand English I have ever taken down for a story.
But if the Indian resources are coming up short on comprehension and specifications, they can always compete on price. The Indian economy still operates on a 20 percent pay-scale of North American firms. A 3000 site with no budget for sustaining 3000 operations, and no one on-site to even inventory the applications -- they could do worse than hiring CMMi. But the value of any dollar spent with novice 3000 resources is deceiving. You can believe you're getting help that can dissolve into extra time spent communicating or specifying.
There's not really any jingoistic, xenophobic prejudice in keeping your app development and maintenance inside the 3000 community. 3000 homesteaders, even if they're of the interim breed, need to evaluate any candidate for hiring sustaining operations. The worst thing to do is delay that kind of sustaining plan. But offshore help might not be a lot better. TN is as far way from Tennessee as Arranger is from Adager. They sound similar, but there's a half-world of difference.
May 24, 2010
Familiar Face Returns to 3000 CommunityDavid Greer is charting a fresh course in familiar waters. The Robelle president took a break from the industry in 2001, leaving Robelle after more than 20 years. At age 43 Greer recognized that “My wife Karalee and I had an opportunity of a lifetime. Rather than plunge back into work we decided to do something completely different.” He let the lift of his flexibility propel him onto a two-year cruise in the Mediterranean on his sailboat with his wife and three children, a trip he blogged extensively and looked to be the envy of many an overworked IT pro. Greer separated from the 3000 community less than a year before HP announced its exit plans, but he says he has never drifted far from his contacts and friends in spirit. Several times we talked about ventures in growing companies as well as life practices. Now he's returned to the market as MB Foster's Director of Marketing and Sales, extending a longtime relationship with that firm's founder Birket Foster.
In the eight years he was away Greer explored other ports of call in the industry. Once he got his land legs again, he returned to work as a director on boards of small start-ups, gathering experience that's not easily found in the world of the 3000. He worked as VP of Sales and Marketing at eOptimize, an enterprise resource scheduling vendor whose Microsoft Exchange products were installed at very large financial services companies. He helped start up MailChannels, an anti-spam company and Backbone Systems, a Software as a Service company.
The work took him into boardrooms for investment and promotion while the strategic efforts led to study of cutting-edge IT issues. We wanted to hear what experiences from his time abroad had taught him about the challenges and opportunities of the 3000 market. We spoke in early April just after Apple's first iPad shipments, at a time when Greer had worked at his new post for about two months.What made you decide to re-enter the HP 3000 market?
Principally, my relationship with Birket Foster. It all comes full circle. Birket and I have known each other since we met at a conference in 1981. We've stayed in touch on a personal level: We met in London at the start of my Mediterranean trip, we've skied together, been in each other's homes. Then there were some things he wanted help with, so I did some projects for him over the past year. As we developed the relationship it seemed to make sense to take it to the next level.
I'm back after a significant absence, but I still recognize the 3000 market. I even recognize many of the company names I'm calling.
YOU HAVE DONE MARKETING and strategic work for years now. Are you also doing direct sales engagements with clients?
Yes. When I wear my marketing hat I'm working to drive engagement with all customers and prospects. I'm also looking at all of our communication and messaging. In my account management and sales role, I'm responsible for reaching out directly to customers, finding their needs and how MB Foster can help.
How does the sales work feel to you?
Great. Almost all of my roles since coming back from the Mediterranean have involved sales in one form or another. Even in my investments and my board work with young start-ups, in most cases I was in other people's boardrooms selling stock - to convince people to invest in companies I believed in. This is another sales process.
It's outside the technical role I did at Robelle, but even at Robelle I would say my role was more in marketing than sales -- it was still creating belief in the company.What has changed about this community in your absence?
The 3000 does what it does best -- run people's business. If I see any change, it's an ongoing one that I've seen for a decade, which is the clients' desire to integrate the 3000 into a broader IT infrastructure. I've been talking to a CFO, and she wants to take the data on her 3000 and replicate it to a SQL Server, because they have real needs there. She's crystal clear: don't muck up my data on my 3000 and don't impact my HP 3000 performance. The 3000 is still hosting her data and runs her business. That sums it all up.
Fortunately MB Foster has some intellectual property that replicates HP 3000 data in real time that has very low impact on the 3000. It makes sure the data is safe. What's driving this CFO is typical: they need the young people to come up and be productive in the fastest way possible. And that's not the HP 3000. By isolating them on an SQL Server it doesn't impact the main part of their business. For the senior leaders, this plan makes them feel more comfortable, because their 3000 is safe.Have you already seen these data warehouses becoming important to 3000 sites?
Yes, it's amazing how these periphery things, which are fed off the data that's living on the 3000, have become an instrumental part of the business. I talked to a MANMAN shop yesterday that started with a data warehouse application back in 1999. Their management was telling me how that warehouse has saved the company's bacon. The MANMAN app is still core there.
Part 2 of our Q&A with Greer covers the outlook on the 3000 community from a refreshed face.
May 21, 2010
Tech Forum adds 1:1 access to HP experts
If the keynote speaker events haven't changed much since the HP Technology Forum started, the June conference is adding a new connection to Hewlett-Packard. The meeting is now letting attendees schedule one-to-one time with HP experts.
Once you register for the show, you're able to request a meeting time with an HP "subject expert."
Discuss your unique IT environment and objectives with HP developers, engineers, product managers, and strategists during one-to-one meetings that you may schedule in advance. Schedule early to reserve time with specialists in your areas of interest. Once registered, you can access the list of HP participants and immediately request a one-to-one meeting.
The Forum has not expanded much on the concept of an HP executive giving a rally speech in a big tent event. But giving its customers a way to access conference-grade expertise is a significant lift. The conference organizers are showing off a big list of prospective expertise, although what's on tap remains to be seen. Registrants are the only ones allowed to look over the list for 2010.
The details of the big-tent events at the Forum have been easy to judge, for anybody who's still on the bubble about attending. We know that Roger Daltrey of the Who, plus comics Jim Gaffigan and Jake Johannsen, will be available. Then there are those keynoters.
As for the "might be available" list of technologies, with experts to cover then, the Tech Forum offers this list today of areas that have been available in the past. You didn't have the 1-to-1 scheduling feature, however, until this year.
• Business intelligence / data warehousing / data integration
• Client systems / OS / HW / FW / SSD
• Client virtualization / Thin Clients / Blade PC / Blade Workstation
• Clustered Gateway
• Enterprise storage products—XP, EVA, NAS, VTL
• Enterprise Virtual Array family
• Green IT
• Hard drives / memory / solid state / power & cooling infrastructure
• HP ProLiant ML/DL
• HP TRIM
• HPC and scale-out computer
• LAN / wireless LAN / LAN security
• MP servers
• MS SQL Server
• Power management / data center power and cooling
• Rack power
• Scalable NAS
• Storage and data management
If a useful meeting consists of 20 minutes, HP could schedule perhaps 20 of these a day. If the Tech Forum covers about three days of time, the best an attendee could hope for might be 60 slots worth of 1:1 -- unless the topic merits more than one expert.
This is technical pre-sales talk time, of course. But making that available from HP to the customer is a rare thing for the company buying less than $1 million. One HP reseller partner said that a customer company needs to be making at least $4 billion in revenues to earn a call from an HP direct sales enterprise rep. "Everything else goes through the channel," he said.
The $1,495 fee to attend and schedule a 1-to-1 seems like a lot easier accomplishment to get direct access to HP by comparison.
May 20, 2010
Donatelli keynote stands out at Forum
HP and the Connect user group are pushing for registrations at the HP Technology Forum & Expo, which starts June 21 in Las Vegas. The meeting's keynote schedules surfaced yesterday, a lineup that includes the new leader of HP's enterprise server business Dave Donatelli.
Recently arrived from HP storage rival EMC, Donatelli now leads the HP Enterprise Servers and Networking unit at Hewlett-Packard. This group includes the HP 3000 replacements suggested by HP, the Integrity and ProLiant models that host Unix and Windows, respectively. Donatelli is a computer industry exec with more than a quarter-century of experience with enterprise vendors.
The Tech Forum organizers have put his speech up for the first keynote of the conference's full day. If an HP executive's keynote speech is a motivator to spark your registration, you can look at a certain preview at HP's video Website. Two HP staffers, Louis Gombos and Becca Taylor, have been posting Twitter messages that outline the Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Tech Forum.
The HP video of Donatelli was taken from its Technology@Work customer event in Frankfurt, Germany during April. The event featured the introduction of the latest generation of Integrity servers. In years past, this kind of system announcement would have been featured at a user group event. But in some aspects the HP Technology Forum operates as a customer event, meaning that its messaging is aimed directly at the existing HP customer base, rather than the IT community in general.
Open events like Donatelli's keynote, as well as the networking that attendees establish during the Expo, represent the old style of user group conference. The many HP non-disclosure briefings and certification opportunities, as well as the majority share of speakers from HP, show the event's customer preference.
There was a time when an executive's keynote would generate news or clarify opinions at an HP user event. There's always a quote or three to carry away from 40 minutes of oratory. Training sessions are often of more benefit, from a tactical basis. Attendees can bring back HP's mission statements from the keynotes, plus some education from the Forum's HP partner keynoters. But the skills to implement the work behind those missions -- that happens in session rooms with a lot less multimedia splash than keynotes.
The keynoter schedule, as provided by the Expo's publicity arm, for planning purposes:
Monday, June 21
Tom Hogan - Executive Vice President, Enterprise Sales, Marketing and Strategy, HP
Jeffrey Katzenberg - Chief Executive Officer and Director, DreamWorks Animation
Diane Bryant - Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Intel
Tuesday, June 22
David Donatelli - Executive Vice President and General Manager, HP Enterprise Servers and Networking Business Unit
Diane Bryant - Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Intel
Jeff Benck - Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Emulex
Microsoft - TBD
Wednesday, June 23
Prith Banerjee - Senior Vice President, Research, HP Director, HP Labs
Ann Livermore - Executive Vice President, HP Enterprise Business
Sanjay J. Poonen - Executive Vice President & General Manager of Worldwide Business User & LoB Sales SAP AG
Tod Nielsen - Chief Operating Officer, VMware
Monday is a different kind of Forum day than Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday's keynoters don't include a executive VP of sales and marketing, but they do feature the enterprise server business leader and then the HP Labs director and Ann Livermore, who heads up all things enterprise at HP.
Registration (currently $1,495-$1,795 including discounts) for the 2010 event is at the Tech Forum's Website.
May 19, 2010
Shared knowledge: Adager frees 3000 riches
When the HP 3000 was in its market heyday (circa mid-'80s), a phrase rose up that's been plastered up worldwide while being misquoted. "Information wants to be free," ran part of a speech by Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand. What Brand was really saying addressed the cost of gathering information. From an article in the Guardian newspaper, Cory Doctorow explains, a note that also tags the true value of 3000 shared information.
"Information wants to be free" is half of Stewart Brand's famous aphorism, first uttered at the Hackers Conference in Marin County, California (where else?), in 1984: "On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other."
The cost of getting out HP 3000 information has remained low because of community resources. Last week we noted the technical expertise on the Allegro Consultants Web site. Another sponsor of that cost is Adager. These creators of IMAGE tools were among the very first to make technical papers available to the community online. (Before that, during the above-mentioned heyday, they printed and mailed tech papers to everyone who requested the information.)
The cost of dispersing the information is one aspect of the 3000 community's resource. But the other element is the knowledge itself. There are papers online at the Adager site, such as IMAGE/SQL Database Foundations, that teach fundamentals about the 3000's database you simply cannot access anywhere else today. Certainly not with the ease of a click on one of Adager's links. This knowledge isn't arcane, either -- especially if you need to teach an IT architect the nature of IMAGE/SQL with that paper, and so distinguish it from a relational database. Adager is the keeper of the IMAGE treasure. By extension, that's the heart of the 3000's riches.
Doctrow's article explains the "information wants to be free" summary in 21st Century terms.
The more IT you have, the more IT generates value, and the more information becomes the centre of your world. But the more IT (and IT expertise) you have, the easier it is for information to spread and escape any proprietary barrier.
The freedom of information ideal tracks the availability of content. But someone must generate the content, before they even address the work of cataloging and distributing the knowledge. When the knowledge is as specialized and vital as database techniques on a mission-critical server HP won't support by January, it's hard to put a price on its market value. But free doesn't describe the information's value -- just its cost to your community.
As examples of what's online at the Adager site:
There's another level to the resource available at the Adager site. White papers written by VEsoft's creator Eugene Volokh are online. A few examples include 3000 advice about What to do when your program aborts, as well as Security myths. There's also Burn before reading - HP3000 security and you.
VEsoft doesn't host these tech resources on its Web site, even though the company remains a solid tool provider to the 3000 community. Freeing up these allied white papers for community use is another way to serve the community with a shared resource.
May 18, 2010
HP notches second-highest quarter of profit
HP has reported its second-highest quarter of profits over the last two years, led by second-quarter 2010 increases in Windows servers, PCs and storage sales. CEO Mark Hurd led off his remarks to analysts by pointing to sales of the Industry Standard Servers, a product that enjoyed a rebound as recession belts loosened.
"After many customers diverted purchases in 2009, we are seeing strong growth in a number of our businesses," he said.
But the path to growth remains blocked for the Business Critical Servers group of HP, the unit that houses the R&D and planning for HP's Integrity servers. HP's suggested 3000 replacements saw their unit's revenues drop 17 percent from 2009's Q2. The BCS operates inside HP's Enterprise Storage and Servers (ESS) unit.
A brighter outlook came from the ESS's Industry Standard Servers unit, where the ProLiant and Windows solutions have been thriving. HP reported a 54 percent increase in ISS revenues. Storage solutions, and blade server revenues overall for ESS including the Windows solutions, rose to push the unit's total profit to $571 million on $4.5 billion in revenue.
HP added $3.5 billion in overall sales during the quarter ended April 30. Its profits also rose by 25 percent, to $2.9 billion for Q2. HP's Personal Systems Group, where the new acquisition of the Palm WebOS will be deployed, increased revenues by 21 percent. HP started to report "commercial client revenue" for the first time out of PCs, noting a 19 percent increase in purchases of HP's desktop and notebook systems by business.
Hurd said the company achieved this growth while investing in sales coverage as well as R&D," all while "absorbing 3Com. Our enterprise business had solid growth this quarter, fueled by ESS, which grew 31 percent over the prior year."
The CEO said that HP "now has the industry's premier arsenal of hardware, software and global services." The Services business grew only 2 percent in the period, achieving the slight growth through better sales of Infrastructure Technology Outsourcing -- running datacenters for the companies which can budget for HP's service rates. Services contributed operating profits of $1.4 billion of the company's total $2.9 billion, close to one-half of all HP income.
Business Critical Systems sales now have declined in a steady slide to $538 million, less than 2 percent of HP's total revenues. Hurd pointed to blade sales as a revenue growth engine for the full range of enterprise sales rebound. An HP chassis can be agnostic about what kind of blade it accepts, he pointed out, taking on mission-critical, industry-standard, storage and PC blades.
The Palm acquisition of last month is not a factor in HP's estimate of overall revenue growth of 8-9 percent. "HP has not included any revenue associated with the Palm acquisition in its revenue outlook, for either the third quarter or the full year fiscal 2010," the company's earnings release stated.
May 17, 2010
Changes swap Microsoft for HP in migration
When the wholly owned subsidiary True Value Canada made its migration away from in-house HP 3000 ERP, HP lost a customer to the world of Windows and Intel systems. IT manager Tim Boychuk said choosing Windows over HP-UX, or anyone else's Unix, was not difficult.
"We weren't very much of a Unix shop prior to our transition," Boychuk said. "There wasn't anything here that was was Unix-based, or even Linux-based. All of our file systems and print servers were Windows-based before we migrated. The only thing that wasn't Windows-based was the HP 3000."
True Value's story is typical of the 3000 migrator. HP announces its end of 3000 support and development, so there's a vision of no more life for the MPE/iX systems. The announcement triggers a plan to renovate the IT services in the company, fueled by more thorough use of the data. It all starts, of course, with the HP news of 2001, telling customers there was no more future in the 3000. As it turned out, this was the end of HP's future at True Value.
"There was an end-of-life cycle for MPE," Boychuk said. "We also wanted to improve our data access by going to a new ERP system, and that was one of the things that was most attractive. To this day I think that was a good move, because of data access down at the desktop. It's now very easy to do a lookup or a quick report on the data, because it's all integrated on one database." That's a Microsoft SQL Server database today, more than two years after the company completed its move away from both the 3000 and HP.
Hillary Software's byRequest has been one of the few constants in the IT architecture, however. The software that uses email to move reports around an organization, as well as distribute them over the Web, remains essential for communicating with more than 700 dealers across Canada. byRequest began its True Value service talking with the HP 3000.
ERP has been a fundamental application for 3000 customers over the years, but HP doesn't offer that kind of software integrated with its Unix systems. That kind of play is left to the database providers such as Oracle, which also operates in the Windows market. Boychuk said that Microsoft Dynamics AX, the Windows app that replaced the 3000 ERP system, makes it easy to come to analysis and make business decisions. True Value also engaged a services company we haven't heard about much in 3000 transitions: Big Four auditing and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche.
"They provided analysis on the front end of the project, and they were the prime integrators of the new system," Boychuk said. The migration took place over a period three years. There were many changes to be managed, but the largest one might have been installing a software company as the lead in the solution, rather than a system provider such as HP. In True Value's case, that software company was Microsoft.
"It was a lot of hard work, and we had many people involved with the project over that 2-3 year span," he said. "But it's a much easier system to manage. We walked away from [3000 tools like Suprtool and job management], but we adapted to whatever new tools were required by AX. Primarily, AX is pretty much self-contained in terms of needing any third party tools to manage it. If you want additional capabilities there's lots of software providers allied with Microsoft to provide you with add-ons."
The byRequest add-on was tested in conjunction with Dynamics in an end-to-end process, Boychuk said. The software even gives dealers the option of receiving reports by fax, in addition to the email and Web options. The IT manager said the add-on is driving 400,000 individual reports -- all maintained for dealers' current and historic business -- across the enterprise.
May 14, 2010
Shared 3000 Knowledge: Allegro
This week I wrote an article that counted the number of resources the 3000 community calls upon. But there's another aspect to the richness of help in this 35-year-old community. A handful of its most senior partners have shared their knowledge for decades. This series will take a look at the wealth that comes from using a mature computer.
Our first stop might as well be Allegro Consultants. When we say call upon in this overview, we mean it literally. All of these companies operate telephone help desks for customers. And they all host Web sites stocked with rich layers of instruction, tools, techniques and even some legend. Allegro's 26 years in the community has generated many white papers and free software.
Allegro shares more than the technical lessons relevant to the 3000. President Steve Cooper and his partners believe in sharing information, as do the other companies on this roundup. The concept was once dubbed "information just wants to be free." Like anyone who donates, he's found that the practice delivers rich returns, based on the deep relationships a service company can spark by giving useful things away.
"We've got customers who have been with us for 20-plus years," Cooper said. "We've been good community members with a wall full of plaques -- I'm proud of that -- and it's paid off in spades. Because we're still here."
Allegro's Web site has been expanded often and refurbished recently. A pair of pages bear special notice. (A tip of the hat here to Adager's Rene Woc for the page tracking.) Allegro's Papers and Books page reports on the Beyond RISC! handbook for the 3000's architecture (still a few available for sale from the company), as well as white papers on
- Comparison of Archiving Tools for MPE/iX
- ISL START Commands
- Learning MPE/iX
- MPE/iX and Performance
- MPE/iX Resource Utilization: Who Is Running?
- Classic HP 3000 Genealogy spreadsheet
The last item might fall into the category of legend, but even an old hand like myself was interested to learn about the specific date the 3000 became usable. (It's November of 1974 if you count from the CX Model 50 and Model 300.) The former bottom-end of the line was $129,500 list priced with 96 kilobytes of memory (insert wisecrack here).
But the point of respecting such lore is that it requires a fanatical attention to detail to keep such a spreadsheet. Knowing what's come before can help repair or support what follows.
Even more useful, and unique from the community's perspective today, is the free software available via Allegro's Web site. There's even a version of BOUNCE: A utility to bounce (logoff) idle users available for download. This one doesn't have the murky license problems of the BOUNCER program on the Contributed Software Library, either.
While OpenMPE figures out when to make those CSL programs available, Allegro has not only written a raft of useful utilities, but linked to the work of others who are also independents. This is one resource your community has counted upon since before the era of RISC -- to eliminate operational risks.
May 13, 2010
Oracle crucial to Windows Suprtool, for now
Although the recently-announced SuprtoolSQL does offer Windows users a Suprtool replacement, at the moment the product is only engineered to work with the Oracle database on Windows servers.
"SuprtoolSQL works with Oracle currently," said Robelle's developer Neil Armstrong. But he adds that Oracle isn't the only database the product is capable of supporting. "A good reason not to specify that you must have Oracle is that we still want to talk to customers and learn about their issues. Other SQL databases are possible. I don't think we know what the market will come up with in terms of who's left, but we want to keep the dialogue going."
Charles Finley of Transformix, whose engineering team developed the Oracle-based solution, says the most popular Windows database is just a matter of a few weeks' development away.
"We started working on the SQL Server version because we’ve had several people asking for it," Finley said. "Still, it’s a low priority until we get a customer to test it. We are estimating that it will only take us about two weeks of effort." Until the rollout of SuprtoolSQL, 3000 sites who migrate to Windows had to part ways with Suprtool, which often surrounds 3000 application code. The new solution requires a services engagement with Transformix.
The product is called SuprtoolSQL because it uses pure SQL to access the database on the Windows servers. Finley says the performance is the same or better than using the 3000's TurboIMAGE database.
"We use SQL to our advantage. It does not use the TurboIMAGE API. The use of SQL makes it possible to achieve performance that meets or exceeds the performance that one achieves on the HP 3000.
Transport is the software element which makes SuprtoolSQL possible, he expained. It works with Oracle, IBM DB2, SQL Server, Postgresql and Informix already. It has worked with Eloquence since 1998."
Armstrong said he loves Eloquence, and would like it to operate with more Big Endian environments such as HP-UX. At the moment, a Suprtool that tackles little endian platforms with a native design -- for direct access to Windows servers without intermediary software such as Transport -- is not on the market.
Robelle's developer has praise for the first solution that brings Suprtool within range of Windows migration sites. "Charles has a good piece of technology here that will significantly help customers retain literally millions of dollars worth of investment when migrating," Armstrong said. "Especially the Ecometry customers with their surround code."
May 12, 2010
Community Counts Homestead Resources
Homesteading sites in the 3000 community must consider resources when they plan a transition or a sustaining plan. The primary resource in deciding to homestead is knowledge and talent of 3000 IT pros. There's no clear way to measure the available brainpower in the community. Consultants come and go, but support companies come and tend to stay. Some migration-transition suppliers -- Speedware and MB Foster come to mind -- have experts on call to help homestead.
But you can count five kinds of software and documentation resources that can help a homesteader. HP's 3000 documentation is the easiest to count and has the widest reach. Speedware licensed that resource and can start to serve those docs and manuals next year. HP will also serve docs until 2015 on its current plan.
Second on the resource list are white papers and some programs from the Jazz server that HP closed in 2008. Jazz contents are hosted, and have been licensed, to Speedware as well as Client Systems. Only HP's white papers and its software are among the Jazz contents; independent developers' work isn't covered. In some cases, those open source programs have become unavailable, for the moment.
The third resource? That's the Invent3k public access development server. HP granted a license for Invent3k to OpenMPE. Speedware and Client Systems don't want to get into this resource, although you can make a case for how they might manage it with competence. After all, both of these companies have put Jazz online within six months of HP shutting off that server.
When you get down to resources four and five, among these assets, you find the longest-buried and most restricted items. Buried are the Contributed Software Library programs. Restricted are the parts of MPE/iX source that HP licensed to eight entities. Numbers 4 and 5 are different -- nobody seems to be releasing the CSL, while seven support firms and software developers have paid for that source license.
The eighth licensee is OpenMPE. It's being challenged to open a portal to the CSL as well as develop a means to use MPE/iX source. Until this group shows off a business and operational plan for source, and publishes access to a CSL portal, invent3K is the only resource the group might offer you can't get elsewhere. Instead of five resources, you've got three: docs, Jazz and source. All come from genuine, estabished independent companies.
Can you even count to three to number the homesteader's software resources? You can if you include the seven companies using the MPE/iX source. But resources Numbers 3 and 4? Not yet available. And that free resource looks to become a for-fee one, while the other is stuck in OpenMPE discussions.
About the free, soon-to-be paid resource: Invent3k was operated differently when HP ran it for more than a decade. Mark Bixby, who was HP's curator of invent3k and an "inventi2" Unix server, invited free use of these Public Access Development resources like this in 2004:
"If you'd like to get a taste of HP-UX on Itanium2 to help with your MPE migration planning, come and give inventi2 a spin. Simply register at the same place where you can register for the other virtual CSY public access systems, jazz.external.hp.com/pads."
Like a lot of what's on the bubble for OpenMPE, its Invent3k offering is in flux, unsettled, under-decided. We read from the revived meeting minutes that the server's future will be fee-based. For sure, OpenMPE needs some money from somewhere. It's gone house-to-house to collect its source code license fee. Even on a generous 60-day-net license, that HP bill is going to be due this weekend. All licensees received code no later than mid-March.
The CSL's future is in OpenMPE limbo altogether, too. The group holds a copy of one edition of these contributed programs. The full set of tapes is filed with Chuck Shimada and one other individual for safe keeping. Shimada, who worked very hard for free for Interex as an IT volunteer for years, reports that he's working to stay employed as a consultant. He could pass along the full set of CSL programs, if OpenMPE could arrange the exchange. Chuck might even be paid for his time.
Three out of five resources is a great shooting percentage, a fine passer rating, an extraordinary batting average. But the hits, passes and baskets are coming from companies, already lined up, holding the ball or in the batter's box, profitable for many years around the world. They pay experts to do the needed work, buy licenses out of operating budgets. They attract customers and communicate. Connecting with a customer base -- that's something OpenMPE needs right away. In the meantime, homesteaders can count on three out of five, and whatever 3000 brainpower they can find.
May 11, 2010
How much does XP's end of support matter?
Microsoft is in the middle of a migration, too. The service and software providers who migrate 3000 sites -- or just support homesteaders with a lot of Windows -- can roll their eyes at all the changes. But the shift from XP to Windows 7 is much bigger a deal than everyday security patches and product updates. Right?
Well, not so much. Over and over we've found that the 3000 site which has embraced Windows as a replacement doesn't perceive XP as a lame duck. At True Value Hardware Canada, for example, IT Director Tim Boychuk said the Microsoft announcements of end of XP life haven't changed his strategy.
"The majority of our production systems are XP," he said. "We're in the prototype stages of testing Windows 7 with [installed ERP solution] Microsoft Dynamics. If [Microsoft] does an announcement of end of support, they have extended it." The latest extension was announced last August; XP now has a 2014 end date.
This is practical and cost-effective IT management, the execution of "not broke, don't change it" strategy. Microsoft's latest announcement puts the third extension onto ending the life of XP Service Pack 2, with a new date of July 13. Online support is available after that, but extended support via Microsoft ends this summer. The simplest way to stick with Microsoft support is to upgrade clients to SP3.
This extension strategy from Microsoft doesn't change the fact that the desktop OS that links with server apps like Dynamics is well beyond Redmond's plan for retirement. (If that reminds homesteading 3000 managers of the string of HP support extensions for MPE/iX, perhaps it says something about keeping to your own schedule, rather than following the vendor's plans.)
XP still has hundreds of thousands of support experts available for hire, given that it was shipped with millions of PCs over the last nine years. That's a different picture than seeing the 3000's ecosystem pared down over the same period. Clearly, XP use can be a lower risk than MPE/iX deployment, until you look at browser support in XP. Explorer 6 has a long list of security deficiencies that require patches, and IE 6 has been an essential in the XP experience.
Boychuk's operations are moving to Windows 7 to address this, all the while keeping XP in mission-critical use. He's among the many 3000 sites that moved away from HP completely in their migration, following his shop's expertise. "We didn't have much Unix experience here," he explained. Today, IBM's servers power a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 environment. Add Microsoft's app and subtract the HP support contracts, and this becomes a customer who HP lost in its migration push. With 700 dealers and independent hardware suppliers to serve, this is not a small site, either.
One of the key elements of True Value's 3000 installation made the transition to Windows. Hillary Software's byRequest is still in use by those dealers, serving up 400,000 reports via email, fax or Web interface. Just like the Dynamics 2003 server app, byRequest doesn't care if a PC runs with the on-its-way out XP. It doesn't require Windows 7, but the more current Dynamics version will need 7. Risk always lies in the eye of the IT manager, beholding his choices independently.
May 10, 2010
OpenMPE drops a tea leaf to read, ripple
Is it go-time for OpenMPE? That go could mean time to get to the group's goals, or time to go into the community's shadows. Late last week we saw a tea leaf to read about the taciturn group.
The 3000 NewsWire contributed $500 toward the OpenMPE source code license, and our check was cashed last week. It has been in OpenMPE treasurer Matt Perdue's office since mid-March. We don't need any formal receipt for contributing, in contrast to what you may read in the group's March minutes. Despite the fact that several of our sponsor partners have paid for licenses on their own, it just looked like OpenMPE needed the help. Any receipt would be just another to-do item.
Based on our tea-leaf-read of Perdue's remarks in the Community Meet gathering last fall, the source code costs $10,000 or more. I've probably written three times that many words covering the group's meetings, desires and dreams, drives for membership and annual elections, since 2002. Enough writing that one board member figured I'd been a director already. Not the best place for this editor to sit, frankly. I want to report to help the community decide.
That OpenMPE copy of the source code for MPE/iX is unimportant to the many 3000 sites who rely on one of the seven other licensees who hold it. OpenMPE holds a more unique resource, more ready to share but still offline. No, I'm not talking about Invent3k, the public access development server and programs. Another contribution is in the wings, and it isn't offered by another entity or penned up by a secret license.
If you've read this far, or much of my 30,000 words prior to this, you know that unique resource is the Contributed Software Library. This collection of user-written 3000 utilities was gathered by the Interex user group, but it went underground when Interex went under in 2005.
This year there's a limited edition of these programs in Perdue's office, according to former board member Paul Edwards. He also noted that the full collection of CSL programs remains in the stewardship of long-serving Interex volunteer Chuck Shimada. Edwards has sent Perdue a yearly edition dated from just before HP canceled its 3000 plans.
I have some CSL program tapes. Chuck Shimada has the complete collection. I sent Matt what I had and he copied them. He is supposed to put them on [his] system. He sent back my tapes and docs. He also sent me a set of CDs.
Edwards went to to note that some of the CSL's programs have been under scrutiny since Interex shut its doors. One popular program was written by Boeing's 3000 experts, moons ago. Boeing's potential license concerns about BOUNCER, which kicks off idle users of 3000s, have been part of the CSL lore since the collection gained stealth mode in '05.
I read the OpenMPE tea leaves closely, and I haven't seen a report of any communication with the Boeing contributors to unleash BOUNCER. There are administrative details along with technical tasks to accomplish. BOUNCER is something useful. Edwards says he knows of sites still using CSL programs.
If the CSL is too wooly a project to mount and open up -- ready as it is to be a resource -- I must wonder what might become of Invent3k or the MPE/iX source code in OpenMPE's hands. I continue to hope for the best.
None of this is designed to put anybody on the spot. No, my desires with this report are to drill down on the state of the CSL and its release. From this chair, the CSL looks like the most real, most unique, and least restricted resource OpenMPE has on its treasurer's server. Speedware and Client Systems have posted no such collection, but they do have a raft of Jazz programs online. Jazz, Invent3k and the source code are restricted by agreements with HP.
Watching the tea leaf of our modest check clear our accounts may be a ripple in the OpenMPE waters.
When it comes to OpenMPE, the NewsWire can afford to be more patient than some of the 3000 community. We fish for news all the time -- and so watch the surface of the water for a ripple. Consider this 600-plus words another cast into those waters. If you're read this far, you might be hoping to catch something too.
May 07, 2010
A Listserv Doing More Service to 3000s
The 3000 NewsWire seemed possible to me in the middle 1990s once I read the 3000-L listserv mailing list. During that decade the list's traffic would swell with every passing quarter, passing more than 2,000 messages a month that traded technique, examined IT and vendor strategy, and yes, observed current events and a steady stream of Friday Humor.
What followed, over the back half of the decade just past, was far from funny. Off Topic posts overran the traffic in the years leading up to and just beyond our last Presidential race. "The L," as the community members called it, became a shouting chamber dotted with few 3000 reports. That's all changed now, thank goodness. It's become safe to use this resource for 3000 savvy.
We're not sure why. The mailing list membership is counted -- that is, those who receive the advice via e-mails, classic computer style. Where it was once more than 1,500 readers by mail, it's now less than 500. More IT pros than the 500 peruse what's up there, however, because the listserv's contents are echoed to the newsgroup comp.sys.hp.mpe. (Remember newsgroups? Well, Google tracks them these days.)
You can read the revived L of today without feeling like you need to shower off spittle from frothing politicos. In the last few weeks the list offered advice about how to create and expand tar and zip files; how to know if you're running in batch; managing the AutoRAID 12H arrays for 3000s; even the going rate for consultants. The L operates as a kind of open forum for consulting on tactical 3000 issues.
The OT's were such a plague that even to this day, some 3000 experts feel they need to include [On Topic] headers in their subject lines. The lowest point came when one misguided person wished for an attempt on the President's life. I scuttled all the Off Topic posts straight into my bit bucket from that day onward.
But what has popped up in the place of all that removed refuse? Useful nuggets of operational technique which are becoming harder to find. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet called the other day and mentioned that the L was returning to a technical resource for 3000 customers, and both of us marveled at the slow and steady transformation.
The list remains hosted at the HP 3000 site of the University of Tennessee at Chatanooga, where Jeff Kell established it (and many others) more than 15 years ago. You can search and browse it online through the UTC listserve Web interface, which includes a search feature, too.
One genuine treasure of the L, far removed from its current renaissance, is the writings of Bruce Toback and Wirt Atmar, both deceased but leaving large footprints in the community. Just type Toback or Atmar into the "From" field at the UTC interface and get ready to be entertained and educated. Their writings, along with the lessons from many others, make the L one of the foundational resources of your community.
May 06, 2010
Tape is not dead, HP says, with new LTO life
HP has started to make a case for the fifth generation of LTO, or Linear Tape Open devices. LTO-5 products from the HP StorageWorks line are emerging, like the Ultrium 3000 tape drive. HP is now saying that LTO-5 storage can help IT departments stretch budget dollars, because the tape can take the place of disk storage that is more costly to buy and maintain.
It does not make sense to spend on expensive disks to quickly get to data you are unlikely to ever access. When times get tough, many feel as though there’s nowhere left to make improvements. The latest generation of LTO tape drives, tape media and automated tape libraries illustrates how technology can fill the void. With proactive management, lower cost per gigabyte, faster performance and data encryption, HP LTO-5 solutions can help companies do more with less.
When it comes to storage strategies and IO connections, HP's 3000 alternatives make a significant argument for a migration. HP ensured there would be a wide gap in functionality once it stopped developing IO and tape technology for the 3000 around 2005. As for Ultrium support, the 3000 never had parity with its Unix and Windows counterparts in the HP labs, not even in the beginning.
Jim Hawkins, formerly of the HP 3000 lab and still working at HP, pointed us at an HP Communicator article he wrote which sums up the last generation of LTO support for the 3000. The server can work with LTO-1 devices, at least under HP's official support guidelines. "LTO via LVD-SCSI would be about as far as I would go," he said today. "FiberChannel connections were not even attempted in the lab." Not even HP's own TurboStore backup app will support LTO, however. Orbit's Backup+ gets the job done, according to the Communicator report.
As you might guess, LTO-5 is a lot more advanced than the first-generation of linear tape. HP's latest charts don't even bother to compare the two; the comparison is between LTO-3 and LTO-5. Latest-generation storage is one thing that a homesteading 3000 site must leave behind, or attach to other HP systems that are networked to the 3000.
The newest Ultrium 3000 compresses up to 3 TB of data on a single cartridge, transfers that data at up to 11 TB per hour, and encrypts using AES 256-bit standards. (Orbit's got that encryption ability available to HP 3000 sites doing backups, too.)
Ultrium support on the HP 3000 goes back to 1999 for planning stages, but support for the full transfer rate of the standard never made it past HP's designs. The initial full 320 Gbit bandwidth was available on HP-UX, but only 160 made it to MPE/iX support when it emerged with the MPE/iX 7.0 patches.
HP gave signals at the beginning of the Ultrium era that it would support the 3000 far better. In 1999 we wrote that "TapeAlert is not yet on the horizon, but LTO is" for the 3000. "We're working closely with our Enterprise Storage Business Unit to follow the peripheral roadmap," said CSY lab section manger Dave Wilde at the time. "As those products are developed, CSY plans to integrate those into the 3000 product line."The Ultrium line of HP tape products rolled out along with TapeAlert, designed to track errors during backups. SCSI tape devices don't track errors like the old HP-IB devices did in another 3000 era, so HP needed a way to ensure you wouldn't create a backup tape that didn't restore when needed.
TapeAlert has evolved into TapeAssure, software that's gone from reactive to proactive as listed on the LTO-5 offerings. TapeAssure is "a quick, easy-to-read dashboard that provides health, utilization, and operational performance data." Windows, Linux and HP-UX can provide TapeAssure readouts.
There was always a non-3000 host in HP's support of Ultrium under MPE/iX. Hawkins' paper outlines "limited support," and you can see how tight the restrictions were while looking over the support specifications. Only the N-Class and A-Class servers use the old generation of Ultrium, employing the LVD-SCSI ports.
Physical connections are to be made only to LVD-SCSI Host Bus Adaptors. LVD-SCSI terminators must be used for devices to function at rated speeds. HP recommends only ONE Ultrium Tape device per SCSI bus for maximum performance. No more than TWO Ultrium Tape devices per SCSI bus will be supported. An Ultrium device must never share a SCSI bus with any other SCSI peripheral type.
Even as it reported on Ultrium support for the 3000, Hawkins' paper reminded customers that a non-3000 host would be needed to maintain the storage devices. "Most diagnostic support for Ultrium drives comes from HP Storage Works Library and Tape Tools (a.k.a. LTT). LTT does not run on MPE/iX; therefore in some diagnostic scenarios the Ultrium may have to be removed from the HP e3000 and connected to a host running LTT." The design was so limited that only third-party software could communicate from the 3000 to the LTO units. Some diagnostics require that the tape unit be disconnected from the 3000.
MPE/iX support of Ultrium 215 and 230 devices is limited to parallel LVD-SCSI connections only. Thus, these devices may only be connected to HP e3000 A-Class and N-Class systems running MPE/iX 7.0 or 7.5 Release.
Only those HP Ultrium Tape devices sold for use with HP-UX PA-RISC server systems will be supported. There are variations in firmware for the many Ultrium devices on the market; only devices with the firmware for HP-UX server systems will be supported.
HP rolled out its first MPE/iX patches for LTO on the 3000 six years ago, but that work pretty much described the beginning and end of development. The latest linear tape products, designed for mid-size to enterprise-class businesses, offer four times the capacity as LTO-3 units and up to double the performance as their recent ancestors. The concept of using tape in place of disk storage is not new to the IT world, but support of a recent generation of LTO on the 3000 would be news indeed.
May 05, 2010
Reaching Out for Help to Touch a 3000
Last week we posted an article that proposed managers could touch 3000 administration far away from their console keyboards. Even though the system has had remote console capability for many years (the Web Console feature), touching a keyboard was a must.
Now some users want to know how they can dispense with their keys, using Apple's iPod Touch or even the nascent iPads. The marriage of 20th Century tech to last month's breakthough tablet is possible, but not well documented yet. Bob Schnelle of United McGill Corporation wants to know more. He owns a Touch and wants to reach his 3000s for remote management.
I received the latest 3000 NewsWire email and the article An iPad as a 3000 remote terminal? caught my eye. After reading the article, it was never clear on whether or not this can be done. If it can be done, is there someplace that details the steps necessary to accomplish this?
It's possible and has been done, but the details are as nascent as the iPad. We'll take a moment to plug that email that summarizes our stories; about once a week or so it does this. Send your email address to me to give it a try, with easy, automatic opt-outs via Constant Contact.
Apple's success at placing the Touch and iPad (35 million of the former sold, and a million of the latter after just 30 days) may be a spark for more detail on how this Touching has been done. A few 3000 experts are already helping to fill in the gaps.Just a few days ago, our friend and colleague Duane Percox at K-12 app provider QSS suggested more details:
At the moment there's one site that has reported accomplishing this using the iPod Touch. Craig Lalley of EchoTech chimed in back in the fall, when Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialties asked if Touch-ing a 3000 was possible. "It works for me," Lalley said. "With computers there are always several ways to accomplish the same thing, right? The terminal works okay (through Telnet). The free RDP works great, so it is possible to get to the desktop."
If you have one of the flavors of Windows that supports RDP, then you can use the built-in VPN of the iPad along with an inexpensive RDP client and establish a remote connection to a system in your network. All you need is a Windows system on your network (say your desktop) you can RDP to. Then you can run anything from that desktop system to connect to any server in your network. Better than worrying about a native iPad app that can connect to the HP 3000.
Last fall there was the Touch to consider for this task, but its virtual keyboard is just 3 inches wide. "The iPod Touch is a nice little tool, but its keyboard leaves a whole lot to be desired in terms of speed," Lalley added. Firewall configuration skills were essential to bring in VPN via a Cisco device. "I have even got the Cisco VPN client working," he said, "but it is very sensitive to the configuration of a Cisco firewall."
For Schnelle, a primer on those skills would be essential. He says his networking experience will require a guide to get Touching. He'd be grateful for the larger keyboard that's on the screen of the iPad, almost eight inches across in landscape mode. Standard physical keyboards run about 10.5 inches. There's even an app for the iPad to train you in touch typing on those virtual keys.
"I have an iPod Touch, though I’d like an iPad," Schnelle wrote us. "I’d like to use it as a management tool. If it is possible, which it sounds like it is, then I was hoping for a step-by-step document showing how to do it, as my networking skills are medium-level at best. Also, cost is an issue, so I’d like to get away with spending as little as possible."
There's some sensible, efficient strategy in his last comment, but it would appear the cost of Touch-ing the 3000's admin, even with a tablet, is limited to the cost of Apple's remote device. The Touch is as little as $270 and useful for tasks including Skype telephony; the iPad and its more spacious keyboard sells for $499; it's become an essential part of our information gathering practices.
Cisco's VPN client is included with ownership of the router; a guide to installation and configuring it initially is online at several Web sites. There's one to cover Windows 7, as well as advice on installing it on Vista. We assume that XP installation is possible, but that's Windows tech that's begun to look elderly, even if XP is still everywhere.
Before you dismiss these queries as attempts to remain on the 3000 indefinitely, you'll want to take note of the United McGill IT strategy. The 3000 is doing mission-critical work at the 59-year-old firm that engineers, manufactures and installs air flow products for the construction industry. But the privately-held company in its second generation of top management named McGill -- which has operations in 21 states -- is migrating.
"We are in the process of migrating off our HP 3000," Schnelle reported, "although it will be a year or more before we are able to transition off of it completely." In the meantime this 3000 manager is looking, researching ways to make his management more flexible through WiFi capabilities of Apple's mobile products. Such interim homesteaders make the most of their servers, until they must move away from them.
May 04, 2010
License and registration, please, for a 3000
Last week we spotted an HP 3000 N-Class -- latest in the server's line -- selling for less than $3,000. Zounds! The 3000 Discount Era has started at last, we figured.
Not so fast. Before you start your mind racing to calculate how many 3000s you might be able to upgrade at that price, be aware of what's being offered. Bob Sigworth of Bay Pointe Technology, which posts available system offers on the 3000 newsgroup, said the license status of a system can reduce the price.
Sigworth didn't want to toss rocks at another seller's offer. After all, these companies buy and sell from one another. The way that deal often works is a 3000 user approaches their favorite reseller, seeking a particular system. If the reseller doesn't have one in inventory, they attempt to procure it to complete the sale. Offering "an MPE license" makes him ponder, however.
"When I hear the terminology MPE license, it typically means that you have the HP paperwork," he said, "so that you can legally transfer an MPE license through HP's Software License Transfer to an end user or new buyer. All 3000s came with a MPE pre-loaded, so my guess is that for a low price, a system probably has MPE 7.5 pre-loaded and is a working machine."
He adds that the N-Class 220s and 330s (the numbers refer to processor speed) are coming down in price. But does "working machine" mean it has a valid MPE license? Perhaps not.
A reseller may quote a system by saying that it "qualifies for HP support." Drilling into the specifics of such an offer often requires a phone call. A "working machine" can mean it is a functioning machine, but without an HP license.
Sigworth's company offered one of these systems not long ago with full disclosure. His posting reported that the 3-processor N4000-550 "does not have an HP SLT for HP support. To comply with HP, I must list this as a 'Spare Parts' server."
But Sigworth is the first to report that "some of the smaller servers, 220s and 330s, are starting to really decrease in value. They only have one CPU, so they are really not worth much."
The value in a 220 or a 3000 N-Class comes from its IO connectivity and power consumption advantages over the Series 9x9 servers. Many Series 959, 969 or 979 systems are rated equal to or better than the 220/330's horsepower. The N-Class servers provide more options to connect to storage, as well as a smaller appetite for wattage. They can be a genuine leap up from a 9x8 system, however. Asking for proof of a license seems prudent for any company that wants to comply with HP's regulations.
May 03, 2010
New notices of a critical 3000 feature, cloned
In what might be a first for the 3000 community, a new tool has been announced first on Twitter and Linked In. MB Foster is rolling out MBF Scheduler this month, software designed to replicate the advanced streaming and scheduling features which 3000 customers have long deployed.
David Greer, the new director of Marketing and Sales at MB Foster and a 3000 developer since the 1970s, tweeted the notice of the new product over the weekend and a link to a new Web page at the MBFA site. We're working on gathering some specific details about the software's pedigree, but for now we can relay that the product proposes to "deliver the robust job scheduling features of the HP 3000 MPE operating system for the Microsoft Windows Server platform without the need of a separate Unix or Linux server."
We have heard from plenty of migrating sites that miss the built-in scheduling prowess of MPE/iX. Designed in the '70s as well, the 3000's OS always had scheduling as a high priority (pun intended) because the computer was launched to carve out business from the batch-rooted IBM customer base. Seems scheduling has become even more valuable in a world that wants to avoid deploying Unix or Linux.
The 3000's depth of scheduling was integrated into the environment from the early days of system delivery. MB Foster's cloned feature set reminds migrators of what they've learned to rely upon.
A master job queue, input priorities, job fence, job limits, and other MPE-specific job scheduling features are built in to MBF Scheduler. You can automate all of these features by using the MBF Scheduler command line interface. Command line utilities allow you to submit, control, and monitor your MS Windows Server jobs. You can even include MPE-style job cards in your Windows batch files.
Yes indeed, command lines continue to function as the power tools for IT, even more than three decades after batch ruled the computer world. A recent HP rollout of its latest Unix servers showed off how an administrator could monitor partitions that were not even online. That demonstration showed command line interaction.
This sort of command line interface was used to club the 3000 into a legacy category during the 1990s. At that time, character-driven interaction was the norm for users of the system. That's long gone now, at least in the customer sites that have shifted to Windows for users. Those who mean to take the Windows environment into the datacenter are among the target customers for MBF Scheduler. (And if you're still relying on character-based interfaces for mission-critical 3000 apps, we'd like to hear from you.)
It's a sign of the maturity of migration solutions that fundamentals like scheduling are still getting tools entered in the ninth year of the Transition. HP and the consultants all said that such tools would emerge while migrations ramped up. The timing of that emergence didn't follow HP's forecast, of course. And it says a lot about the integral offerings of the 3000 for datacenters that these features need Unix-free alternatives for the Windows world.
There's a message for the homesteader here, especially those who continue to use the 3000 while they build all the tools and support needed for a transition. Scheduling is a core benefit of keeping the system in a mission-critical role, even as an interim solution. "How can we be secure using our 3000, still?" You could reply, "Well, there's the scheduling that runs all our operations. It's been tricky to find a replacement for that, believe it or not."