July 30, 2010
Java migrations spin outside Oracle visions
With the recent announcement that the StrongHold tool is getting fresh opportunity to migrate PowerHouse 3000 sites to Java, we wondered if Java's new owners were a part of the solution. After all, earlier this year the Oracle acquisition of Sun completed, and Sun is the creator of Java. By one way of thinking, a move to Java could be seen as edging into Oracle's command and control structure.
Chris Koppe of Speedware, which signed a 7-year deal to market and use and support StrongHold, doesn't see it that way at all. Neither do other analysts, who believe that Java is a platform well outside of any vendor's control in 2010. The HP 3000 certainly hasn't had a Java option for production use since early in the last decade, but the prospect of the language carried an allure that has materialized for many commercial sites. Open source solutions are at work in the enterprise, and the awareness of Java pre-dates Linux.
"The option of Linux in the enterprise world has done a lot to support the adoption of Java in the enterprise world," Koppe said. "In the large to mid-size organization, Java does really well."
Oracle may theoretically own Java, but "from our perception, Java is an open standard," Koppe added. "I don't see Oracle changing that. Oracle buying Sun and Java makes a lot of sense, and I think it's going to be a big part of the Oracle program as well. I don't see how changing the game on a mainstream standard would help that."
But if Oracle is a player in the Java space, third parties have long since stepped in to help decide what happens with the popular platform and language. Java's father James Gosling, who left Sun after the acquisition, gave Oracle a mixed review of its stewardship so far; the company "may not even be the major driver behind Java innovation," according to an InfoWorld article.
Java was once looked upon as a magic wand to transform the 3000's development experience. Adager's Alfredo Rego devoted a major part of a 1996 NewsWire Q&A to the praise of the then-fresh language that was called write-once, run anywhere software. "Java began with two guys in a cubicle," he said back then, "just like IMAGE did within HP." What makes a computer system open, he added, "is being able to run the Java Virtual Machine." (HP ported the JVM to the 3000, but cut off Java/iX development while it canceled its 3000 plans.)
The newer reach of the StrongHold tool, taking 3000 sites to Java from PowerHouse, echoes some of that optimism. Java seems to have developed a life independent of any vendor, even one the size of Oracle.
July 29, 2010
What do you want OpenMPE to do for you?
Later this morning, another meeting of the volunteers of OpenMPE takes place on its usual conference call. If the group is fortunate, all eight members will be on the call. More likely is that one or two will have a conflict or a vacation week, so a half dozen is a more likely roll call.
This group is looking for something relevant to do for the 3000 community. This question -- what can we do for you? -- has lingered before OpenMPE for close to two years now. After six years of pursuit of the 3000's source code, there's been a void. It's a gap the group wants to fill. You might email your requests for action to new board member Keith Wadsworth, pushing for a business reorganization, or to mission statement committee member Connie Sellitto, another new board member.
We promised we'd only offer OpenMPE coverage if something happened. (The meeting minutes that say "Executive Session," sans any detail, don't count.) Perhaps by the end of today, a new host for the invent3k development server will be decided. We can't tell, because OpenMPE doesn't even post an agenda for any upcoming meeting. But this week the group sounds more serious about finding something you want it to do.
"We'll take the next six weeks to develop a mission statement," board chair Birket Foster told me this week. That statement is going to need response from your community. Just yesterday, a 3000 reseller said OpenMPE might do something to help everybody upgrading a 3000 over the next three years: Get clarity from HP on RTU upgrade license policies. The reseller suggested this because the OpenMPE of years past was always asking HP to clarify policy and procedures regarding the 3000.
One criticism of OpenMPE's board is that it spends much energy looking at the group's past, instead of ahead, toward help in the post-HP era. It's a swell past, yes. Advocacy established policies to license MPE/iX for emulators, and the group pushed HP hard enough to release source code that can help support companies create patches.
But getting answers to questions is yesterday's work. Replacing HP services and shaping the management of 3000s in a post-HP era -- by coordinating those new patches to identify which will break third party software, for example -- that's work needed by anyone installing a patch and using such software. That's a clearinghouse which might also do testing. Foster said he believes 3000-only software organizations don't run as many active labs as they once did. There are notable exceptions, leading the market with tests of HP's database changes, for example. But if he's correct, that's a gap in testing that a community organization could fill.
"First of all, they need a product," said former board member Paul
Edwards. "With the advocacy gone, they don't have a product anymore."
Nearly in the same breath Edwards sees a prospective need to fill.
"Right now there's no way to do comprehensive testing for the community,
and that's scary to me."
Then there's a service a community organization could do for software companies shutting down, but whose product is still in active use. Upgrade a 3000 running defunct-company software and you'll see the gap: nobody around to update activation codes for new HPSUSAN numbers.
One significant event over the past few weeks has been raising funds from community solution suppliers. Gathering assets is a more significant sign of a heartbeat than "Executive Session" meeting minutes. "It's a hard thing," said one board member, "to take a club and turn it into a business." That challenge will be easier if the customer community can add requests and a voice to the suggestions from 3000 vendors.
"We're getting a lot of input from vendors," Foster said. "But the other side of it, people running applications on 3000s, not as much."
Foster said he believes if the senior management of companies using 3000s were to ask their "3000-literate IT people, ask them what they'll next in the next five years, we might get a really good list" of how OpenMPE could help 3000 managers. "I believe a lot of 3000 people are busy doing their jobs, and haven't paid attention to this."
July 28, 2010
Eloquence beefs up data security, encryption
Marxmeier Software has announced a version 8.10 of its database Eloquence, the software for non-3000 platforms written to understand IMAGE/SQL structures and designs. The newest version, available for HP-UX and Linux systems, adding database encryption and item masking. A Windows-ready version will be available later this year, according to the product's creator Michael Marxmeier.
"If you are working to meet the PCI DSS requirements or exploring how to improve protection of sensitive information with a minimum of changes to your application and procedures, you are likely interested in this new functionality," he said in a note to subscribers on the Eloquence mailing list.
Encryption is a must-have feature to pass the Visa credit card processing rules that kicked in this year for online merchants. Encryption is also a feature that provides good IT practice to every system manager.
Data encryption is an add-on feature in the 8.10 release, while the data item masking is included.
* Database encryption. Sensitive information may be encrypted in the database. This helps protecting database volume files, forward logs, as well as dbstore output files or backups against unauthorized access to sensitive data. Encryption keys may be updated periodically with no downtime.
* Item Masking. Sensitive information may be masked or blanked upon retrieval, depending on the user authorization. This allows to enhance the security of existing applications with no or minimal code changes.
For more information on the new Eloquence version, including release notes, download links, and documentation, visit the Eloquence 8.10 web page or contact the company's sales or support teams: 49-202 2431440
July 27, 2010
UDALink expands access to 64-bit databases
MB Foster has announced the release of a 64-bit version of its UDALink data access client. The new version will give HP 3000 managers a fast link into the expanded data spaces of SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008, as well as a way to pump 3000 data into the Eloquence 64-bit database.
The versions of the Windows enterprise tools are becoming more common in the strategies of the user base running HP 3000s in homesteading, or those planning to migrate to a Windows environment. While many applications don't need the vast headroom 64 bits provides, CEO Birket Foster said the latest generation Microsoft products represent the future for Windows.
"Microsoft has been pushing toward 64 bits in their operating systems and databases," Foster said. This matters to the MB Foster customers because the most frequently used configuration is having UDALink extracting data from IMAGE for a SQL Server database. The biggest value in using a 64-bit version of the database or the Windows OS is handing much more data in memory. Foster described the capacity as the power to identify "2,000 unique things for every person on the planet.
The new version means the same client can work with Unix, Windows, Linux and the HP 3000. The client talks to IMAGE, but also to Eloquence in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of that database.
64 bits has provided this kind of prospect for a world that hasn't demanded it yet. Microsoft originally said it would only sell a 64-bit version of the SQL Server 2008 database. But so much of the Microsoft customer base, including HP 3000 sites also employing Windows, is rooted in 32-bit applications that a 32-bit SQL Server '08 was eventually released. A SQL Server Express version is free with limits on database size.
Microsoft is so far out in front of demand on 64 bits that its own Office 2010 isn't completely ready to support the expanded memory space.
But 32-bit versions of the software can only address items in a memory space of up to 4GB. "Part of this is how much application ability can you put together for really fast access inside a database," Foster explained. He added that "99 percent of the world doesn't need it," even though it represents Microsoft's roadmap direction for OS and databases.
Customers who'd be likely to need 64-bits today might be detecting real-time fraud in Visa or phone company transactions. "Or putting together an application that tracked every airline flight's data going forward for a year," Foster said, down to passenger data, on-time arrivals that could add up to more than 4GB of objects.
But he said some customers are buying 64-bit capability and want to employ the UDALink tools with the full capacity of a 64-bit data space. (IMAGE/SQL addressed the 4GB dataset limit with Jumbo datasets at first, then with the Very Large Datasets release.) 64 bits "is good because you get to address very large sets of memory. You can do a lot of transactions without ever writing to disk. The bad news is that unless you've just posted that data to disk, a failure of database memory or power flushes all the transactions sitting in that memory space."
By using the large memory stacks and posting in background, a customer's app can operate at the speed of its memory, rather than the IO speed to disk. "A large number of customers are building 64-bit-ness into their architectures, because the default Microsoft ships you is for the 64-bit database," Foster said. "You can have a trillion-row table and not sweat it. You can sort the whole thing in memory."
The Microsoft changes toward 64 bits "are a big favor for all the hardware vendors," forcing larger storage and more network bandwidth. "It breaks everything again. Lots of these things are done to deliberately break your infrastructure, so you have to buy more. The channel will love Microsoft because they broke it one more time. But we as users are starting to hate that. Unless you're American Airlines trying to track every passenger, you don't have that much data."
But MB Foster must support the customers who take Microsoft's 64-bit defaults, just as the company has kept pace with every other Windows change in database and OS designs. "64 GB of RAM was probably the right amount anyway" for a Windows environment, he added. The churn from bigger memory spaces is pushing software companies everywhere to accomodate Windows that open wider than ever.
July 26, 2010
Encryption tools enhance 3000 security
Driven by this month's deadline from credit card processors, owners of HP 3000s can turn to another set of tools and solutions to apply encryption security for online e-commerce. FluentEdge Technologies has been offering a two-fisted product set to punch up the transaction security on a server that's still processing card payments.
The Visa/Mastercard PCI security standard kicked in this month for most companies that accept credit cards in web transactions. Encryption of credit card numbers and user data is a non-negotiable feature to meet auditor requirements. Visa insists on compliance to maintain the ability to process sales. Companies must show a passing audit grade or send transactions to a more secure platform.
FluentEdge co-founder Cliff Looyenga said the encryption takes place while the data is en route to IMAGE. "We intercept the DBPUT or DBUPDATE database calls, after the customers define which datasets and in which positions have credit card numbers. Our software encrypts that portion of the record, and likewise, when we see DBGETs from those datasets, we then go and decrypt. This allows the customer to implement encryption without making any changes to their software at all."
AES 256-bit encryption is at the heart of the software. FluentEdge has one solution designed for the Ecometry e-commerce site, and another set of tools ready for the 3000 application programmer to apply to in-house systems. There's also a stand-alone version, shown above, that encrypts and decrypts files via batch or command line, all running on the 3000. This Flat File Encryption Program gives the ability to an authorized manager to encrypt or decrypt files on demand. Even archival spoolfiles can be encrypted.
Encryption is notable for being a performance hog, and capturing IMAGE puts and gets presented the prospect for dragging down the speed of the application. "We were concerned at first when we wrote it in COBOL," Looyenga said. "But when we rewrote it all in C, we made the performance implications very negligible."
All encryption comes with some kind of speed price to pay. But Visa won't pay merchants without seeing proof of encryption. 18 months ago, some analysts were predicting that the July 2010 PCI deadline would be driving all e-commerce off 3000s, but encryption solutions have been emerging to let stable 3000s continue to transact business over the Web.
The FluentEdge solution is noteworthy for using HP's C compiler written for the HP 3000, making the software an all-MPE/iX choice. That's important to the clients using the FluentEdge systems. Nobody wants to send card numbers outside a 3000 once again -- having first been gathered through web servers -- and exposing more of the infrastructure to audit requirements.
They care about this, Looyenga said, "because if you were to push traffic off the HP 3000 to a Windows box, for example, now they have to secure their network. That Windows box that might be receiving the numbers now also has to be PCI compliant. They'd much rather have it all native on the HP 3000."
A Programmer's Toolkit lets developers call an encryption routine on their own, if they prefer. "They do their DBGETs, and then they call DECRYPT, and when they call a DBPUT, they call a route called ENCRYPT," Looyenga said. This version of the product can be applied to any HP 3000 application where data encryption is needed.
HP3000 CC Encryption uses one of two approaches.
1. Intercept database calls to keep credit card data encrypted in the HP 3000 database without any changes required to the application software. This requires a custom version of the encryption software that has knowledge about your database and where credit card numbers are stored The main features include:
- Transparent to users: No changes on the application screens or reports, except those that use Suprtool)
- Strong encryption using AES 256 technology
- External tools such as Query and Suprtool will only extract encrypted data out of the database.
- A conversion program that will convert all transaction history.
2. The application software can also be modified to call the encryption software directly. This provides the best performance. It does not require a custom version of the encryption software.
FluentEdge does the implementation for the customer, a process Looyenga described as "very easy -- we just put some XLs into the library and they're good to go."
Installing the product is easy in an Ecometry test account, but it's no more complex a demonstration process for the non-Ecometry site. Looyenga gives the customer the code to test out, and says he'll "take their word that if they don't want it they'll delete it off their system." After 10 years of serving the Ecometry customers with e-commerce enhancements, Looyenga has seen a lot of the 3000 marketplace that is concerned with PCI encryption. But the non-Ecometry solutions represent even more growth to the company, since encryption software can be implemented in any system that needs security to pass an audit.
July 23, 2010
Deadlines loom for few system upgrades
HP announced a few new deadlines this week for its wrap-up of 3000 operations. But the HP dates won't have an impact on how soon you'll need to upgrade a 3000 that's still running mission-critical apps for your business.
The issue rose up yesterday on the HP 3000 newsgroup after HP reseller Client Systems urged customers to hurry up and act on purchases for 3000 systems. "Be ready for ‘the end’ and beyond," said Dan Cossey. "The clock is ticking on MPE/iX software, upgrades, SLT’s, support, and e3000 hardware. The time to act is now."
How much time is left to upgrade? For nearly all customers these deadlines are in-house, not tied to HP's policies. Plans are independent of HP's timelines, unless you need an MPE/iX license upgrade or HP's software media.
"Our plan is to acquire an A500 with NS, move the COBOL and FORTRAN from the 928 to our 939, and retire the 928," said Mark Landin. "If we can't get this done before the end of 2010, what's the impact to our plan?"
We've talked with HP about this several times over the past 18 months. (At such length that a 2007 Q&A seemed to cover the RTU over two articles.) The impact will be zero, unless your MPE/iX licensing needs demand you buy a fresh HP Right To Use (RTU) license. According to resellers who've sold licensed MPE/iX systems, the need for these has been rare since HP introduced them early in 2007.
HP reported that Dec. 15 is the last day its support customers can order tapes of the 3000's Fundamental Operating System, System Load Tapes and subsystem software such as TurboStore. Non-support customers must place their orders for the media no later than Sept. 30.
Do you need an RTU license to upgrade? Most customers have not, but HP cooked up this product to give customers a way to pay the vendor to prove their license is valid on newer systems. The product rolled out in spring of 2007 and got a policy update in 2008. HP in '08 revised the policy with stricter language.
A Hardware Upgrade and Software RTU Licensing Policy Statement has been generated to clarify possible confusion in the marketplace. We have also created a stand-alone MPE/iX RTU license product (AD377A) that is not coupled with any secondary hardware system sales. With these two deliverables, HP hopes to make the HP e3000 hardware upgrade and software RTU licensing process clearer and more manageable.
We don't know about how clear or manageable the RTU looks to customers, but it's far from clear to us. In Landin's case, his shop wants to replace a Series 928 with an A-Class 500. That's a change in the supported hardware upgrade path from Group 1 to Group 2. Does he need an RTU? That's a decision he might run past HP's Software License Transfer operations, which are going to be working long after 2010 ends and HP support halts. If the SLT group says sorry, you needed an RTU to keep your license valid -- and Client Systems doesn't sell them in 2011 -- then Landin might have to schedule that upgrade while he could buy an RTU.
But the language in these policies -- not a license agreement signed by customers, by the way -- is showing its age. One phrase in the RTU info sheet that invokes a need for HP support will have no meaning at all starting Jan. 1. "After the upgrade is complete, it is important that all pertinent support contracts are reviewed to verify that the proper level of support is valid with the upgraded system." There's no HP support on Jan. 1 onward for 3000s.
The RTU license level uplift charge is among HP's ways of ensuring nobody can legally put MPE/iX on a non-3000 piece of PA-RISC hardware. HP said in 2008 that the RTU hasn't sold much, and it's difficult to imagine that 9x8 customers have been paying much attention to this revenue grab. But HP must stand by the licensing process through the years to come, just like it needs to approve transfers. If the vendor ever stops being a traffic cop for licenses, customers can start to make a case that MPE/iX has been abandoned.
One special type of license seems to be needed. HP's got a "lost license" document that it will confer on hardware once the customer can prove the system was licensed in the past.
Lost MPE/iX RTU License Replacements will only be authorized on HP e3000 systems with a clean license history. An HP e3000 system that has had its MPE/iX RTU license transferred to another HP platform as part of a trade-up or trade-in program will not be eligible for a lost MPE/iX RTU license replacement.
The lost licenses -- HP considers this a software reissue -- will be sold only until Dec. 31, 2010. Unless you need fresh HP software, or learn from HP Software License Transfer you're not holding a license valid for you upgrade, you can buy whenever you want.
The impact of these policies in 2011 -- after HP cuts off all manufacture, upgrade, emergency patch and support operations for the 3000 -- remains to be seen in the post-HP era for the system. If HP can find a way to encourage you to pay an RTU fee of five figures for an upgrade license, some sites might pay it to comply with the vendor's licensing. But some won't, and sometimes they're very bona fide corporations which find it better business to detour from new HP licensing cooked up in 2007 and applied to existing systems, rather than to fight it in court. It doesn't seem to be about the money, but rather about control of licenses for PA-RISC servers.
Here's what the former e3000 business manager Jennie Hou and R&D manager Ross McDonald said to me in 2007 about the RTU being aimed at new HP revenue for a server it has obsoleted.
Would it be going too far to say the RTU is once again a revenue stream
from the 3000 community, now that HP has made this announcement?
McDonald: Theoretically it is; however, this was not an objective and we are not looking to make money on this.
Hou: The main driver is what we can do to help our customers, to enable them to continue to do upgrades in the used system market.
So HP’s motivation is to help customers adhere to HP’s licenses?
McDonald: For the customer who cares about software licensing, and wants to do the right thing, I think it really helps them. And those are lots of good customers that we want to keep. This was not an easy activity to go through on a product that we’re winding down. The partners we have discussed this with also really appreciate that we are trying to ensure clarity and consistency in terms of licensing in the HP e3000 community.
July 22, 2010
MB Foster sets Web training schedule
A 3000 software provider with a busy migration services arm has rolled out a busy September webinar schedule. MB Foster will be giving three straight Wednesdays of webinars, including a tour of the new MBF Scheduler which the company developed in its own labs, aimed at customers moving to Windows.
The company notes that the Scheduler is a good fit for an Ecometry customer who's making a transition to the Windows version of that e-commerce app. The Ecometry community has been choosing Windows in significant measure when sizing up environments to take over HP 3000 operations. MB Foster's Scheduler tour, showing off the weekly and monthly processing possibilities, takes place at 2PM EDT on Sept. 22.
Ecometry sites running on an HP 3000 today -- still prospects for migration -- number about 150, according to Cliff Looyenga of Ecometry experts FluentEdge Technologies. In the meantime, MB Foster's also delivering training on data replication, archival data migration, and even education issues. Registration for all the web training is online at the MB Foster site.
A Sept. 8 webinar at 2PM examines data integration on the HP 3000, a modernization process that homesteading customers or interim migrators can employ. David Greer, the marketing and sales director for MB Foster, leads a look at replication to targets such as SQL Server databases, as well as historical access to HP 3000 data after a migration is complete. The company has sold and supported its UDALink data migration and integration tools for more than 25 years in the HP 3000 market, as well as versions for HP-UX and Windows.
An Identity Management in Education webinar on Sept. 15 helps define strategies and productivity options for log-ons in the education sector. MB Foster signed an exclusive distribution and support center deal for identity management software EasyIQ in March. 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. Greer will teach an overview of the challenges in identity management and the best practices for solving them today and into the future.
July 21, 2010
3000 moves five years beyond Interex
Five years ago this week the HP Computer System Users Group, best known as Interex, locked its doors in a sudden bankruptcy. A Chapter 11 resuscitation was never attempted by the group's managers; a total overnight shutdown, direct to Chapter 7, was the only remaining option in the face of $4 million in debts.
Two questions remain relevant for the 3000 community after half a decade. Did Interex reduce the computer system's life resource for users by failing? More to the point, is there another user group resource to aid them -- or do 3000 users even need such a thing by 2010?
The chaos and turmoil of the July shutdown became our first big story for this news blog. You can revisit the highlights, or low points.
Interex closes its doors
A retirement, or a death?
The lights are off, the bankruptcy filed
Contributions frozen, one summer later
Interex customers may get auctioned
Two years on, Interex still being sold off
User group bankruptcy ends with pennies
Dust of Interex demise suggests virtual meetings
There's proof enough, in that series of stories, that a nexus was lost and millions of dollars were spent for naught. Over the same five years, Encompass became the Connect user group for HP 3000 users -- especially the ones who are choosing another HP enterprise to replace a 3000.
With these migrating sites in mind, the Connect user group is important to one slice of the 3000 world. Migrators have a successful user group to call upon while making contact with new HP worlds. Connect has made changes in the user group model, ones that go beyond a non-confrontational relationship with the vendor who spins the HP world. This group doesn't pay Bay Area rents, or employ several dozen managers and staffers. There's a lot of volunteer labor drafted to make Connect run -- much like Interex once used in the days when a Regional User Group hosted the conference each year. At my first Interex in 1985, the Mid-Atlantic group was omnipresent in snappy red blazers. HP felt like the guest in Washington DC.
Interex began making some of these vendor accommodations, starting back in 1996 when it allowed HP to control the name and brand of the group's biggest profit center, the annual conference. What was called Interex 1995 became HP World in 1996 -- and HP started to look toward an era of leading the users, rather than following a volunteer group of its more ardent customers.
Whether the rest of the 3000 community, homesteading and independent of HP, needs such a group today is debatable. In the five years since the Interex meltdown the Web has become a lightning-quick resource of knowledge, even of 3000 lore and arcana. Finding a manual for mothballed HP storage gear can be a matter of email queries combined with the pack-rat practices of belt-and-suspenders users. What has been lost, however, is a generational asset: a yearly event to meet comrades in person. But the whole HP 3000 experience feels generational by now, considering how many homesteading firms have their systems managed by Boomers.
Connect puts up a very good conference every year in place of HP World, so there's an ample event to feed the need to network. But as the late summer blooms on us Boomers, we recall how July was a month full of work on marketing and product plans, readying for the Interex show of summer (August '88 in tropical Orlando) or the fall ('02 in LA, home to the infamous roundtable stonewall). This kind of calendar compass point still exists for the Encompass/Connect member. The homesteaders need to point at their own compass over a year of IT management. Perhaps there's still room for an annual event in the 3000 World. (Say, there's a name HP doesn't have the rights to, I'd bet.) HP's new world has been drifting away from the 3000 for much more than five years.
July 20, 2010
HP expands on post-2010 policies
Slipped onto the HP e3000 transition website quietly this month: updates on the support, firmware updaters, RTU upgrade licenses and software distribution programs starting in 2011.
Some of the information on the HP web page expands on previously-announced company policy. "Customers with a valid Right To Use license [for MPE/iX] will be able to perform a valid  upgrade without incurring an additional licensing cost" after December 31, 2010. HP is ending the sale of RTU licenses -- a product HP says it has discounted since introduction -- at the end of this year. Get yours now if you expect to need to upgrade a 3000 and want to comply with HP's MPE/iX licensing in 2011 and beyond.
Changes to a 3000 for such an upgrade may require the SSCONFIG or SS_UPDATE software magic wands. HP repeated its policy decision of 2009: "Because of intellectual property leveraged on other HP hardware platforms, the decision was reached to not license SSCONFIG and SS_Update tools to customers, third party resellers, or support providers."
Short answer: "Not for you, customers and support companies; some of this stuff works on HP 9000 (PA-RISC) servers." You contact a local HP office to arrange updates to HPSUSAN numbers (like after a CPU burnout) or other operations that require the magic wands. HP will sell this service on a time and materials basis.
The good news: HP says "There is currently no end of support date scheduled for these tools." This is one of several post-2010 services HP's maintaining beyond its "end-of-life" date in about five months. But life goes on at HP for 3000 board swaps and upgrades. There's hope for limited HP support in 2011 too, for the long-term migrator as well as a homesteader.
HP has said since 2004 that it would consider post-2010 support for a 3000 on a region by region basis. If we have parts, who's available from the Support Center, and so on. So the offer stands for those who cannot migrate by the end of this year.
As always, customers that can not migrate to other HP supported solutions by the announced December 31, 2010 End of Support Life date should feel free to contact their HP representative to discuss alternatives or potential local custom support solutions that might be made available.
Finally, the distribution of HP's 3000 software -- the Fundamental Operating System (FOS), System Load Tapes, and SUBSYS products like TurboStore -- has gained two separate deadlines. You can buy any of the above media, with the proper HP license in place for your 3000, if you order by Sept. 30.
The customers who still have an HP support contract can receive these products' media, plus the last of HP's PowerPatches for MPE/iX 7.5, if they place an order by Dec. 15. HP calls this final, public support contract "HP Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering (MPS w/o SE)."
HP reminds the community that the information on its web page is subject to change without notice. The July 2010 update of the page seems to have arrived without any notice, either. Thanks to Google Alerts for the notices.
July 19, 2010
Speedware tool migrates PowerHouse apps
Speedware has announced a relationship with a company that's been selling a migration tool for PowerHouse sites, a deal that will extend the reach of StrongHold into North America and beyond. Through the agreement, Dutch software house Brains2B grants Speedware exclusive worldwide distribution rights to its StrongHold software. The arrangement also puts Speedware in charge of marketing and sales, as well as joint development.
StrongHold acts as a tool for what Speedware calls automated migrations. As Speedware announced the agreement this week, it reported that it will use StrongHold in situations where a company needs to move applications away from the Cognos PowerHouse language and into Java.
Speedware will become a solution provider for customers interested in modernizing their legacy PowerHouse applications by converting the code to an enterprise Java solution. Legacy modernization projects are performed to resolve the current challenges facing organizations operating critical business functions on legacy platforms.
StrongHold first emerged at the end of 2004 as a solution for PowerHouse migrations -- but both Speedware and Brains2B also refer to the end-result as modernization. When we first covered the entry of this tool in the 3000 community, a Montana school district was evaluating StrongHold as an alternative to finding more PowerHouse expertise for its 3000 apps. Three PowerHouse experts were retiring at the Great Falls School District.
Speedware's announcement today reports the company will provide "all-encompassing solutions that address data and databases and third-party technologies as well as providing worldwide support." The partnership also covers marketing, sales and joint development efforts to support automated migrations. Speedware has acquired such tools at a steady pace since the 3000 Transition Era began, such as the AMXW environment emulation suite.
The StrongHold software will continue to be developed and updated by its designer, Dennis Groenendijk of Brains2B. "Speedware’s expertise in the process and methodology of modernization is what makes them such a valuable partner," he said in a statement. "Their ability to deliver end-to-end modernization solutions that are integrated into the customer’s IT environment adds real value to our automated software."
For more than two decades in the 3000 market, Speedware and Cognos competed for business in what were called Fourth Generation Languages. But the companies took very different development routes once HP announced its exit from the marketplace. Cognos last released a major version of PowerHouse in 2004 with the 8.4 release. The company was purchased by IBM in 2008, and the Automated Development Tools group accounts for a small fraction of Cognos sales today. Cognos announced it will end active support for PowerHouse on Dec. 31.
Speedware has maintained and enhanced its ADT suite over the past five years. Some of fastest 3000 migration projects have been Speedware-to-Speedware transfers, moving HP 3000 code onto the HP-UX version of Speedware.
When StrongHold was first announced, Groenendijk told the PowerHouse community that the tool would automate about 90 percent of a transfer to Java. At that time, Cognos pointed at the remaining 10 percent of a move as being crucial to success. But that was before any professional services firm like Speedware held the distribution and support rights to the software. Speedware said the PowerHouse customers have become more active in looking for a way to leave the Cognos product behind.
“We have seen an increased demand from the PowerHouse user base for solutions that can modernize PowerHouse applications to Java,” said Christine McDowell, Speedware's Manager of Strategic Alliances. “The StrongHold automated software can do this with reduced risk and less cost when compared to other options such as rewriting the code or replacing the legacy applications with packaged applications."
Speedware has posted a web page with more information on the PowerHouse modernization strategy. The company said that by using such a strategy, PowerHouse customers are able to adopt leading-edge systems and technologies without losing the investment in their legacy systems.
This was the prospect for Great Falls Schools when Stronghold entered the field more than five years ago. Systems analyst Georgia Miller said that although Cognos offered the Windows-based Axiant at the time, "but do we want to go in that direction, when there are so many great tools out there for the PC? Our skills in PowerHouse will be going away."
July 16, 2010
HP to shut Cupertino campus, shuttle to HQ
Yesterday's email at HP included some watershed news about the company labs. The buildings that cooked up the ultimate generation of the HP 3000 and MPE/iX, as well as much of the company's current enterprise systems, are being closed down in Cupertino.
For decades, Cupertino was the heartbeat of HP's business computer operations, but by 2012 the entire staff now working across a lush campus will be relocated to HP's facilities in Palo Alto. The new Building 20, being constructed as a shining example of a green, efficient workplace, will house thousands of employees who've spent their entire careers inside places like Building 47.
HP's memo to the workforce came out yesterday and was reprinted at VentureBeat.com. So the migration of HP's servers will include much more than HP's 3000 operations. Entire business units are moving across Silicon Valley to reside in Building 20, as well as into some buildings where HP grew up in the 1960s. In a bit of irony for 3000 users, HP is vacating a campus whose northern perimeter is Homestead Road.
HP believes that 40 percent of its Cupertino campus -- which includes sites such as the Maple Room, where HP 3000 meetings and customer presentations are still held -- is going unused. The consolidation of HP's Bay Area operations is sparking the relocation. HP offices on Pruneridge Avenue, the physical address for the HP 3000 since the 1980s, will be closed within two years. The Customer Briefing Center will be relocated to the Palo Alto campus.
HP will boast a world-class headquarters that better reflects our brand, better supports the way we work today, and improves our impact on the environment.
We need to improve efficiency and utilization of the Cupertino and Palo Alto sites. Recent analysis shows current utilization of both sites is low, with only about 60% of workspaces in regular use – our goal is to have 90% of workspace in regular use.
HP has been facing mandatory upgrades to the buildings whose parking lots once hosted release bashes for HP 3000s. Redwood Grove, where retiring 3000 staffers commemorated their exits with a party, will become a memory itself. The short walk across the campus to Wolfe Road and its Asian restaurants will disappear. HP acknowledges this migration is a major change -- a sentiment the company might have better expressed and stressed when it cut its 3000 futures short.
Building 20 in Palo Alto will be fully upgraded and improvements will be made to Buildings 1-6. Older infrastructure will be replaced with new, more efficient technology, using green solutions such as energy-efficient lighting and equipment and sustainable materials.
Real estate in California is priced and taxed at a level far above HP's operations in Texas, where the old Compaq once headquartered. Dave Packard's office, now preserved as a shrine complete with pocket change left on his desk, is still inside the Palo Alto campus. It will be interesting to see just how much of HP can remain in the Valley within a few years. Change is the one constant at the company that's built itself into the Number 1 supplier of PCs and enterprise servers worldwide.
July 15, 2010
Data integration offers archival off-switch
Above, a demonstration of DBIntegrate, from a 10-minute YouTube video. You'll need Flash capability in your browser to watch it from this page.
Transoft, which has made its bones in the 3000 market doing modernization and migration of 3000 systems, is offering another way to transform an MPE/iX enterprise. The company is introducing sales of a stand-alone product for database integration, DBIntegrate.
Although the concept has been served already in the marketplace -- MB Foster's got three products to migrate databases to targets, including real-time transfers -- Transoft is now offering software that it's been using with customers for more than 12 years, according to its Sales and Marketing VP Bruce Kopkin. The company, part of the Iris Software and Services corporation, took a closer look at a tool that's already proven itself in customer engagements.
"It was working but we hadn't done much with it," Kopkin said. Formerly called Enterprise Join Engine, the new DBIntegrate takes data from multiple data sources "and allows it to be viewed as a single data source. Over the last year we recognized this thing has a lot more power than what we've used it to do. It does database integration, data migration, and some cleansing of data using rules as you're doing an integration or migration."
Transoft's goal with DBIntegrate is to capture some of the 3000 marketplace which is using systems as archive machines. This archival market is likely to be the last outpost of 3000 homestead users -- companies that find it simpler to keep historical data on 3000s and use the reports and databases there for lookups and business intelligence. DBIntegrate, which Transoft intends to be also used by application vendors for their clients as well as the sites running home-grown code, is a means to shut off archival systems at the end of their lifespans.
This could be a long-term solution for an HP 3000 site that invests in DBIntegrate, in part because the product is platform-agnostic, Kopkin said. Data migration is a strong measure for any company's enterprise, whether it's moving business-grade database contents to personal desktop report tools, or emptying the data out of a server that will be decommissioned soon.
This kind of tool has often been sold as a part of a professional services engagement; Transoft said it has sold DBIntegrate a few times in that manner. But it's also been sold to companies like a charity that buys customer lists, cleans them up and transfers them to a centralized data warehouse. A couple of companies which Transoft has migrated, but have left data behind on some 3000 servers, are now in the queue for use of the product.
The database administrator, or the IT director or developer at the customer's site, is often the best person to use this software, Kopkin said -- which makes it a better standalone product than a services tool.
"People that know the application are much more powerful with it than us, who only know the tool," he said. High-structure databases similar to IMAGE, such as ISAM, have been moved into Oracle, SQL Server and MySQL with DBIntegrator, he added.
Licensing for the software depends on the scope of use, Kopkin said. A simple deployment has started at $5,000 in other markets, while a systems integrator "moving lots of data, with runtime licenses afterwards, with integrated data sources, and those have run in the low six figures."
Data migration can be a cost-effective path to shut off a production 3000, once the business rules are in place in the replacement application. Transoft, which has sold the software and done the work for under $10,000, plans to structure the licensing in functionality sets of simple, more complex, and enterprise use for the 3000 marketplace. The levels would translate to moving only, with rules for checking; moving with cleansing the data; and enterprise level with real-time migrations repeated as needed, either in batch or interactively.
"We'll be fine-tuning that as we move along and find out what the HP 3000 customers need," Kopkin said. "Our overall philosophy about migrations is that our customers can do it in pieces, not just big bang. You can migrate part of your application or your data, while the other part is still running as it was, That makes it a low-risk process. That's one of the neat things this product allows you to do."
July 14, 2010
Discount expires soon on Eloquence training
A $100 discount on two days of training for the Eloquence database expires tomorrow, according to the training's host MB Foster. Users of the IMAGE replacement database and replication tool must register with MB Foster by the end of Thursday, July 15 to receive their discount off the $500 list price.
The Eloquence training is the first offered in North America, in Ottawa, Canada, in several years. That period has seen a lot of installation and implementation of Eloquence. Creator Michael Marxmeier will lead 9-to-5 days on Thursday and Friday in concepts, TurboIMAGE compatibility, security and encryption, optimizing and even using the MBF-UDALink data extraction tool with the database.
Four hours of the training is offered by Marxmeier, including an explanation of new PCI requirements for encryption. The rest of the program explains enterprise databases such as IMAGE and Eloquence, led by MB Foster's experts. "We discovered that most programmers don't know the semantics of what IMAGE does," said MB Foster's Birket Foster. "Someone else designed the database. We're going to help set the scene on those topics for databases.
Eloquence runs on HP-UX and Linux, as well as Windows. MB Foster has a complete agenda, including lodging details at a discounted rate, in a PDF file. Training from the creator of such a migration platform is pretty rare in enterprise computing.
Registration for the training is through MB Foster's offices, 800.ANSWERS (267-9377 x204). A summary page about the event is available at the MB Foster website, too. "You'll get to evaluate what Eloquence actually does," Foster said, "how simplified it is to use Eloquence as a replacement as opposed to Oracle or SQL Server."
Marxmeier, founder and developer of the Eloquence database management system is also offering an update on what's new in Eloquence 8.0 and 8.1. The organizers say this
event is designed for existing customers of Eloquence, as well as for those HP
3000 IMAGE/SQL customers who want to target an IMAGE-friendly database as part of a migration project -- and need to know more about its capabilities.
July 13, 2010
OpenMPE pays HP's bill to notch a milestone
It's been two months since I've written about OpenMPE's doings. There's been a good reason: the volunteers stopped doing anything since HP issued them a license to use MPE/iX source code. Writing about the potential for an organization gets stale after a few months.
Now there's news from these volunteers, however modest. They've paid the bill for that 3000 source code license they received in March. Group treasurer Matt Perdue called over the weekend to report he was sending the check for HP's invoice. Although OpenMPE has paid some bills out of its own coffers, they've been for the likes of tax preparation or website hosting. HP's bill ran somewhere in the neighborhood of five figures, though the group cannot report the exact amount.
Perdue said that "not very much of that payment was in bridge loans, either." The loans have been extended by Keith Wadsworth of Orbit Software and Birket Foster of MB Foster. The two volunteers represent the bookends of experience for this group that talked HP into making 3000 source available to independent companies. Foster's been on board since the start of the group. Wadsworth joined this spring.
Wadsworth and Foster have been at the tip of the spear to snag contributions from the 3000 community. Pivital Solutions and Abtech have contributed to the organization in recent months. Steve Suraci of Pivital served on the board until 2006, and Abtech's Jack Connor is a current board member.
The migrating HP 3000 shops could benefit from some new OpenMPE accomplishment. In one way, they already have -- since those source code licenses might help independent companies support customers in transition. Four support companies hold a license. One migrator after another reports using a third-party support contract while migrating a 3000. Migration is tricky and detailed work, even compared to Y2K projects. Doing it right takes time, and these independent support companies buy time for the migrators.
What we don't know yet is whether MPE/iX source will make any difference to the independent support companies. They can't even start to use it until January 1, 2011. Neither can OpenMPE, even though it has now paid for the code.
Paying HP's bill is one sort of milestone on the road to relevancy for OpenMPE. While it's a laudable step -- organizations that can't pay invoices cannot conduct business -- it's a modest beginning. (Another step came when HP paid OpenMPE in 2008 for consulting about operations to build an MPE/iX release.) When I last wrote about these volunteers, I said
Until this group shows off a business and operational plan for source, and publishes access to a Contributed Software Library portal, invent3K is the only resource the group might offer that you can't get elsewhere, either sold or supplied for free.
Let's be clear: Nobody's seen a business plan for OpenMPE yet. As for the CSL, it's a useful resource -- but not as useful as a repository of 3000-ready open source programs and utilities, something that Applied Technologies has been at work on since last fall. That's the same period of time since OpenMPE said invent3k was almost ready to go online. To be frank, such contributed software already exists online at allegro.com, at beechglen.com, and at 3k Associates' 3k.com. The CSL might not be a significant value anymore.
Unique value, supported by a business model in operation, is a crucial goal to make OpenMPE matter. Reading two months of board meeting minutes, it seems the group is examining what it can offer that the community can't already count upon. (In another note, volunteer Anne Howard resigned from OpenMPE last month. In addition to frustration over a lack of activity, resignations have been triggered by a lack of time, too.)
The programs and development environment of invent3k, the 3000 public access development server, are one such unique value which HP gave to the group, gratis. But invent3k is unlikely to generate much revenue -- at least not enough to make OpenMPE relevant to a community in transition. The MPE/iX source, now an asset at OpenMPE, could present a genuine resource to generate operating revenue. But only if independent source code holders, or individual companies, want to pay OpenMPE contractors to develop patches in a lab setting.
The group's treasurer said he believes that's going to happen, because he says few of the other source license holders want to operate a lab. That might be true because a lab isn't necessary. Beechglen, one of the best-represented support providers, has said that patches are not popular with 3000 managers. "Three things can happen when you apply a patch, and two of them are bad," said Beechglen's founder Mike Hornsby.
Two months ago I wrote an editorial that asked if it's go-time for this group -- time to go away, or time to go into business. Conference call meetings of May 13 and 27, and June 10 and 24, are about all that OpenMPE can show the community. Structure and mission look like they're being examined. But as of today, there's just that milestone check to HP to count for OpenMPE's business enterprises.
July 12, 2010
Years remain until latest MPE date concern
The HP 3000's operating system is turning the pages toward a day when it will need date repairs. But the far-off approach of 2027 won't even be a concern to the most seasoned MPE/iX shop for a few more years to come. Allegro Consultants president Steve Cooper said that contracts and maintenance agreements will take a few more years to run into a bug similar to the Y2K issues of a decade ago.
The MPE/iX shortfall will take place sometime in 2027, when the 3000's internal date representation runs out of bits and wraps." Our report on the Ametek Chandler Engineering Group's plan to run a 3000 until 2023 sparked a warning about 3000 dates from MB Foster's Birket Foster.
"The date issue will happen if a loan or mortgage is put into the system that has a due date past the 2027 mark," Foster said, or a contract, warranty or best-before date. "You have a date this will happen in your application -- if is just a matter of your date range of your planning and activity. It is only 17 years away."
Cooper and Foster both know that date representation issues have been addressed by the 3000 development community before -- in an era when many companies were still engineering for the system. Cooper, however, sounded confident that if any 2027 date repair is needed, it will be available on time.
Cooper can sound sanguine about the issue because his partner Stan Sieler has engineered date repairs for the 3000 during Y2K work at the end of the '90s. Allegro sold a Y2K utility as part of its 3000 development toolset. "If anyone cares by then, one will need to do remediation similar to what was done for Y2K," he said. "Each program will need to be inspected for vulnerabilities, then fixed to use an alternate method of date storage and manipulation."
And, yes, as you suspect, this could arise before then. If, for instance, you are manipulating contract expiration dates in your COBOL program, and are using a 2027-sensitive format, then you will not be able to correctly handle any date past the 2027 cut-off.
If you don't mind, though, I'm not going to lose any sleep over this issue for another several years. Remind me again toward the end of the decade, and I'll ask Stan to look into it. If I ask him now, I will lose a few months of productivity out of him, while he solves next decade's problems.
The issue is not limited to the HP 3000, even though the 2027 date is unique to MPE/iX. Unix has got the same kind of deadline approaching 11 years later. Cooper pointed to a Wikipedia article that explains the "Year 2038 problem" as an analogy to the 3000's.
July 09, 2010
Series 42, from '80s, heads for 2010's net
HP built its 3000 servers well in the 20th Century, a fact that a former HP division engineer is proving from his California garage. HP's first products came out of a famed Palo Alto garage, of course. But Lee Courtney isn't trying to make a living with his 1980s server -- he's just putting a past tool onto today's technology.
Courtney has been working with a Series 42 HP 3000, a server first sold in the 1980s. The 42 was the 3000's middle of the road workhorse before HP turned to RISC chip designs in the late 80s. They called them Classic 3000s, once the PA-RISC servers went on sale. I toured HP's US disk drive assembly plant in 1988 -- when the vendor was still building indestructible disks, and making them in North America. I saw a rack of 42s in the Boise, Idaho factory's test bay, hard at work. HP was doing burn-in testing with the servers for its brand of drives, more than 20 years ago.
Even in that summer, the 42s seemed like relics. Imagine how refreshing it will look if Courtney can get his system onto the Internet. He's just one network card away from doing it, he believes. If you've got a LANIC for one of these, a system built before the Internet can make an appearance, you can help. It might also prove something about 3000 hardware supplies.
Courtney might be lucky to locate the Local Area Network board in someone else's garage in California, Ohio or Washington. It's a lot easier to sell and swap things today than in the 80s, when faxed price sheets and phone calls, plus hardware ads in printed newsletters like The Processor, were among the best ways to find parts. Courtney, who worked in the 3000 division and its labs for years, formed his own company to sell security software for the 3000 once he left HP late in the '80s -- after 13 years of HP service.
Courtney wrapped up his HP time introducing the replacements for Classic 3000s, the PA-RISC line. He said his current work schedule has given him time to refurbish the Series 42.
"I decided to work on the some of the projects in my computer collection," he reported. "I have three Series 42s, peripherals, a couple sets of spare boards from my Monterey Software days; trying to get a Classic 3000 up and running. Having some problems with old mag tapes and a balky tape drive. But have a SPU that runs fine. If I had a LANIC (for both a 42 and 37XE) I'd love to put the system on the net. Can you think of any sources for parts (or software) for a Classic system?"
We can think of some resources for HP 3000 parts, but a 25-year-old LAN board might be outside of the inventory of a modern 3000 hardware provider. On the other hand, this may be the acid test for availability of parts in your community. If you've got this missing part, you can contact him by email. His address is through the Association for Computing Machinery, one of the chief historical resources for your industry.
Bringing an '80s-era 42 online for 2010 net use is something of a parlor trick. It's not clear what a Classic 3000 like this would do online except maybe host an interactive game -- and prove a point. There's always talk about how systems must be disappearing, either from production use or into the scrap heap. 3000s have been headed to scrap since the 42 was a workhorse. But that trail of iron and silicon is still being maintained, even if its oldest servers are becoming parkland trails instead of Internet superhighways.
July 08, 2010
HP flashes UX futures on freshest roadmap
HP has started a Twitter feed for its news about HP-UX, the operating environment recommended for 3000 sites that have no passion for opening more Windows servers. While following a Twitter feed from @hp_ux might not be the most comfortable way to get news from HP, the enterprise server group is pointing to some strategic documents through the feed, like this year's futures roadmap. (Click it above to expand for easy reading.)
Even though HP 3000 customers have learned the hard way that a roadmap isn't a promise, planning the lifespan of a server is not an easy task. HP's PowerPoint slides for the future of HP-UX help. The vendor is extending the sales life of the HP-UX 11i v3 generation an extra two years, until 2014. HP will have been selling the same enterprise release of its Unix for more than seven years by this end-of-life -- a lifetime in Unix years. 11i v3 support continues through 2017, according to the HP document.
Flashed as a footnote early in those slides is a link to PDF file that warms the heart of a hardware jockey. The Hardware Support Matrix for HP-UX hardware reports "expected support continuation" end-dates, as well as end of sales dates, system intro dates (not easy to find) and a column called Final End of Support Life. That's the "Dec. 2006" date that HP has moved up twice for the 3000. As you might expect, there's a lot of To Be Determined notes in that column for HP's Unix servers. No news can be good news.
The newest May 21 version of the Support Matrix shows HP is ending support for some Montecito-based HP-UX servers no earlier than March, 2013. These are the rx7600 lines, but many of the rx2600 and 4600 models will be supported at least through 2014. That's more than 10 years of HP support for some of those Itanium-based systems which were popular with early migrators, a lifepan which indicates HP's dedication to the support relationship with customers. Oh, and devotion to the support revenues, too.
HP-UX and Itanium hardware support is available from many of the same independent companies supporting the HP 3000 and MPE/iX, so the vendor's support is no more crucial for operations and workarounds that it has been for the 3000. There are more similarities in the HP process for developing patches and extensions to a Unix operating environment. End of sales signals the end of enhancements. After all, HP wants a customer to move up to the newer environment, a move that usually makes HP sticky again as a player a Unix enterprise.
If your choices for migration include using HP's new Integrity server blades, then the March 2010 Update 6 of 11i v3 is the minimum you must install to deploy that low-impact, high performance server. (HP assures all 11i v3 customers that going to Update 6 lets you apps unchanged on the latest servers.) Packaged software customers don't need to manage any of this, of course. The support and license fees they pay to suppliers such as Amisys or Summit, for example, are funding app vendor resources to keep all of this in harmony at their sites.
This kind of advice, delivered one-on-one, can be hard to locate from HP directly. That experience you enjoyed with an HP rep phoning or visiting your site is a bit of nostalgia by now. It's also useful to note that the longer HP supports an OS release, the more resource it must devote to all of the HP-UX line. This is the kind of backward binary compatibility that got the better of HP when it managed it across 20 years of MPE/iX releases. You want the compatibility, but you also want the vendor to keep its business in line with corporate objectives. The alternative delivers a nasty, unexpected end of support.
Any company that manages its own in-house apps, moved from the 3000 to the HP-UX environment, needs to monitor these 11i release maps -- or pay a support supplier to do it for them. Considering that most key pages of the HP roadmap include the phrase "Dates and content subject to change without notice," independent support can provide more planning options. Or you could just follow that Twitter feed from the HP-UX team, and hope you get wind of changes in dates and content.
July 07, 2010
Last Half Looks: News beats future guesses
We're in the last half of HP's 3000 adventure, the final six months before the 3000's creator turns off its lights on the system. But just because HP's interest is gone soon doesn't mean the community's exits are steaming with customers. Not any more so than at any point during the last eight years, anyway.
The debut of business plans and negotiations -- and a product name -- for a 3000 emulator is just one fact you'll want at the ready if you're being squeezed into a rush migration plan. Stromasys has been in the "cross-platform virtualization" business since 1998. The company was formed when Digital was spinning off assets after its merger with Compaq; Stromasys was the European Migration Center for DEC and bought itself away from the systems maker.
The good news is that there's news, not just assumptions to follow from old information. For reference, here's a list of accurate replies to the mis-information people believe about the 3000 community.
Sources of systems in good condition are in short supply
Not from our latest reports. We've talked with customers who are adding systems to their 3000 stables, ranging from very large companies to those much smaller. Just last week, a supplier of migration and 3000 tools needed storage upgrades for a customer. The advice he got? Look into MOD 20 HP disk arrays. HP hasn't built a MOD 20 in more than five years. You can still get them, though. Ditto the 3000, according to the system resellers.
"A couple more years yet" is the best report you'll get on current 3000 customer plans
No, not the way it's scheduled now. At many sites they talk about a couple more years' use of the server. But at manufacturing sites in particular, a couple more years behaves like the horizon -- the closer you get to it, the farther away it appears.
Right now I'm hearing about the same couple of years I heard in 2002. A closer guess would be "a couple" defined as "however long it takes to get an alternative budgeted, coded and tested." Current range would be 2-13 years from today.
The shutdown of the last 3000 production system must be getting pretty close
Like any computer system, 3000s are shut down regularly. But the last system will have its console attached for many years. Robelle's in business through 2016 on the 3000. Oracle is set to replace a manufacturing system 3000 in 13 years. How many 3000s could be shut down per year, considering how many do mission-critical service, depends on how much migration resource is available, and how many remain in service. Which leads to the next guess.
There couldn't be many 3000s and customers left by now
Although nobody will ever know, many will hazard a guess. The emulator company Stromasys believes their software will have a target of 20,000 systems. (Their CEO John Pritchard said when Zelus was announced, companies within 10 km of the Geneva HQ came out of the woodwork.) Meanwhile, one 3000 service and software supplier thinks about 700 customers are left. That's a wide enough range to stop guessing and begin to assess why the question is being asked. What's the magic number, anyway?
The 3000 needs super-technical wizards to keep from being left behind
Any computer platform needs business value to keep from being left behind. Ask a Sun customer how much super-techies helped them. This industry stopped being driven on technology long ago. One crazy analyst, Rob Enderle, has dubbed the Oracle-Sun hookup "Snorkle," and thinks the merger has more chance to fail than succeed. (Lucky for the Sun customer, Stromasys just announced a SPARC emulator for Sun Solaris users.)
There are few caretakers for the 3000 by now, since HP's shutting down
There are customer caretakers a-plenty for the 3000, companies small and large supporting MPE with ex-HP engineers, better than HP did in many instances -- value for money being top advantage I hear over and over from 3000 sites.
Today, more than eight years after HP introduced "migration," and I cooked up "homesteader" on a PC in London at an Internet cafe (remember those?) the community still has the two precincts. Still migrating, still homesteading. The precinct numbers have changed. But the thing about communities that I learned while reporting about small towns is that they so rarely un-incorporate. They do grow smaller, but you need a census to see how much. That's difficult to accomplish without direct contact with a customer, a vendor -- contact with people. Stay in touch with more than just the keys in front of your PCs.
July 06, 2010
Last Half Looks: Oracle's Sun-ny value flip
Welcome to the final half-year of HP's 3000 enterprises. Six months from now Hewlett-Packard will be out of the 3000 marketplace after 38 years of solution releases and support. Migration-bound companies might be away from the 3000 by next year, but some will not. Those still choosing alternative tech platforms should know the rules of value in the next world.
Oracle purchased Sun more than a year ago, but the dust from that acquisition is only settling now. Even if your target is neither Oracle (like manufacturer Ametek -- in 2023) or Sun (like Expeditors International, which moved by 2005), the business flip of Oracle might have a bearing on your open source alternative. MySQL, an open source database so popular and powerful it drives Facebook and Wikipedia, is now owned by Oracle.
And Sun-Oracle (Snorkle!) has an upside-down strategy to deliver software and support for Sun products. "In the Sun world, the [Solaris] operating system is freely downloadable from its website," said Steve Cooper, co-founder of independent support company Allegro Consultants. "But Solaris patches are only available when you have a maintenance contract." That latter wrinkle keeps a customer tied to the vendor's support, unless they learn to live without patches.
A patch-free environment is what 3000 users are facing, since this is the last half of any HP patches, even the remaining workaround code. But a migration to an environment that uses MySQL -- popular among open source migrators -- could land you in the same lifetime support corral.
At the moment, patches for MySQL -- named after its creator Michael Widenius's daughter My -- are as free as the database itself. MySQL AB, a Swedish for-profit corporation, sells support just like Red Hat offers distros and support for Linux. Oracle's history of tough contracts, however, indicates that the Sun paid-only patches could become a MySQL bug -- er, feature of relying on MySQL.
Cooper, whose Allegro Consultants has been entering the Sun Solaris support marketplace, said the Sun model "is the HP model on its head. Now Oracle has come out and said you can download [Solaris] for free, but you can only use it for 30 days. After that you're in license violation unless you register it -- which means you must have a maintenance contract with them."
It gets better (or worse, if Sun runs your enterprise). Sun only has one support contract level left. No next-day, or 9-5 Business Day. "It's Premium, 24x7 support," Cooper says, "and they won't sell you that contract unless you sign an agreement saying that every Sun box that's supportable in your enterprise is under [Sun-Oracle] maintenance." If any system is on independent support, Snorkle won't sell the customer any new Solaris licenses.
Oracle has inserted clauses into contracts that forbid customers from discussing relative performance of the database. Now the company has keyed on the resilient value in a platform: support and maintenance fees. Considering how successful Oracle has been during a time of contraction in computers, it's amazing that HP didn't think of this as an endgame for its 3000 business. Amazing, and fortunate.
But Oracle has nothing else to sell, hardware-wise. HP's got HP-UX, got Linux and Windows servers. All of which, by the way, support MySQL. The database has a hearty alternative in PostgreSQL for open source. Now it's getting an alternative for support, too -- maybe just in time to avoid that Sun-ny vendor-only support edict for MySQL.
This week SkySQL is opening up support operations for MySQL customers. This is a brand-new venture that's run by former MySQL employees. If MySQL is on the horizon in your open source Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) plans, looking for independent support might be a good idea.
But that's been a good idea for a long while for the 3000 site, migrating or homesteading, too. Your migration solution would be more durable with independent support, which is unlikely to try to corral your other servers' support.
July 02, 2010
Untold technology carries MPE toward 2023
We're celebrating the US Independence holiday with a podcast. This is just another of the list of technologies and designs we didn’t have 13 years ago, but ours for this weekend is only five minutes worth of listening (MP3 download, 5MB -- about the size of some of the early thumb drives, ones that didn't exist in 1997).
When we're done thinking of what we didn't have back in 1997, roll ahead to 2023. There’s still an HP 3000 running a factory in Oklahoma 13 years from now. Technology just emerging today is going to help the customers who want to carry their MPE computing deep into the second decade of the 21st Century, even 13 years beyond this weekend.
We're taking Monday off to celebrate the US holiday, but we'll be back with our reports about the 3000's future on Tuesday, July 6. If you're celebrating, have a safe and glorious Fourth.
July 01, 2010
A Baker's Dozen More Years of 3000 Use
I may be at full US Social Security retirement age, 66, when Barbara Nimmo retires her HP 3000. The IT manager at the Chandler Chandler Engineering unit of Amatek Process and Analytical Instruments, Nimmo is in charge of an Series 918 -- smallest system that can boot MPE/iX 7.5 -- and says the company plans to migrate to Oracle.
"I hope it's still running by then," she reported today as we chatted about the longest-range IT plan I've ever seen. She only got the migration date this week.
For the HP 3000 customer, long-range plans never used to include a date for changing a platform. For Amatek, this server could well have no effective changeover. After all, MPE/iX itself is supposed to have a date problem that could stall the environment in 2027. Nimmo is doing her own MPE/iX maintenance and using BlueLine Services for hardware support.
Don't be thinking this is a tiny customer site, either. Ametek is a $2.5 billion manufacturer of aerospace components and assemblies. There's a massive array of Ametek business units around the world, a field of companies that looks as big as the solar array above, one of the company's markets. Just today Ametek announced it bought a manufacturer of linear actuators and lead screw assemblies. Ametek paid $270 million in cash for the new subsidiary. Nimmo says there are four other HP 3000s running in the company besides her 918. But that little 3000 is more than proof of the lifespan of MPE/iX.The reason this matters is not to prove the 3000 is never going to expire. Instead, it seems that Ametek is a candidate for an HP 3000 emulator, because it doesn't matter if such a product surfaces next year, or in 2012. It's the applications that never die, not the hardware. Just imagine how much business process detail needs to go into software that manages the manufacture of these products -- at Nimmo's Broken Arrow, Okla. site alone.
High pressure and high temperature (HPHT) cement consistometers, ultrasonic cement analyzers, fluid property instruments for drilling, fracturing, stimulation, and reservoir fluids, phase behavior PVT systems, damage testers, drilling fluid simulators, testers for drilling penetration rates and Quizix pulse-free, high precision, metering pumps.
There's always been a lot of curiosity about the size of the HP 3000 universe. What's known is only a portion of what's running out there. Third party software makers with popular tools have data points. Nimmo's 3000 runs Minisoft and Bradmark's software, plus some tools from Cognos. Since Ametek does its own MPE/iX support, BlueLine knows they're a 3000 site.
Third parties and support partners are the best and most current resource on how many HP 3000s are running -- except for data on the customers who are doing all their own hardware maintenance, plus no software support contracts. To accomplish the hardware task, you need to order and store components. That makes the 3000 hardware resellers, a few of which we mentioned yesterday, another place to measure the breadth of the 3000 world.
I don't have retirement plans for the 3000 Newswire, not even 2023 at the moment. As long as it remains this much fun to uncover stories like this one, I hope to be writing about Ametek's plans to leap beyond the MPE/iX 2027 date hurdle. Somebody is bound to work up a workaround for that one, so anybody who needs to avoid retirements can keep working on a 3000.