August 31, 2010
HP user group names new marketing chief
Former Connect president Nina Buik, who's made a career in sales and marketing in the IT industry, has been hired as the user group's Chief Marketing Officer. It's a move that the group's executive director and COO Kristi Browder says will bring on new partnerships and alliances, along with increased awareness of the group's education.
Connect restructured itself last year, stepping away from a management contract with user group services company Smith Bucklin and taking its operations in-house. But the group didn't create a raft of paid staff posts to replace the fees paid to Smith Bucklin. Volunteers from the group's board picked up some of the work. Contractors helped with graphics, web design, publicity. Meanwhile, Browder and one part-time administrative assistant comprised the full paid staff for Connect, until Buik joined the group's payroll.
"Now that we have contracted in terms of our operating structure, the organization is poised for significant growth," said Buik. "In order for us to grow, you have to add people."
Browder said Buik "has worked tirelessly as a volunteer from Connect’s inception to create a strong brand and organization that now includes more than 50,000 members worldwide. The ability to bring in Nina as chief marketing officer with her strong marketing and sales background, coupled with her unique understanding of the user community. will benefit the Connect community for years to come." Both women have served as presidents of the user group, Browder before Connect was created in a merger of Encompass and three other groups.
User groups, once commonplace in the IT world, have become a rare species of networking creature. IBM's Series i retains its COMMON group, which claims to have a 50-year history. But few have dedicated a full-time paid marketing chief when their total staff is just three employees. Connect says it sees opportunity to reach out to more sponsor partners as part of its marketing push. It's got a vision of more events during 2011, plus vendor participation in getting a message to the HP community.
"So much of our organization is marketing," Browder said."We've got to have a person in place to give us the visibility, and make us relevant in the marketplace." The team wants to expand the organization's resources "without getting too financially heavy."
As the head of Connect's marketing, Buik will be looking at the group's product suite and make sure these products are continuing to provide for members. In July she resigned her post as vice president of sales and marketing for 4th Source Nearshore IT Services and Solutions and toyed with the life of retirement. But like some executives leaving the industry, she said she found IT user contact calling her back.
"My vision -- and the reason I got so excited to be a part of this -- is to be on a continued track of growth and relevance," she said. The more relevant you are, the more growth you're going to experience." The group added a Special Interest Group this year for enterprise customers using HP-UX servers, joining SIGs for OpenVMS and NonStop systems.
The HP 3000 customers making a transition to other HP systems have education and networking benefits to enjoy as Connect members. But the homesteading customers -- by some estimates more than 1,000 companies and thousands more systems -- remain without a user group's resources to assist in training and networking. An HP 3000 Technology Group was formed last year in the Connect myCommunity website. The 27 members include about half in the vendor-consultant category, even while the group's benefits are aimed at migrating 3000 sites -- for now.
"If a few people want to step forward and take charge, we would certainly welcome their inclusion in our community," Buik said. The group likes to think of its human resources as having headed into the cloud, far from the brick and mortar, deep payroll model which Interex took into bankruptcy. "It takes two willing parties to create that kind of relationship," she said, adding that there is a virtual cubicle available for a volunteer who'd want to use Connect to help organize HP 3000 homestead resources.
"That would be great," Buik said. "The folks in the HP 3000 community should reach out to Connect, to let us know you're interested and available." Email to Browder's desk, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or a call to 512.592.7602, will get such group initiatives for the 3000 homesteader started.
In the meantime Buik is raising the message by posting a blog article on the Connect website every Monday, starting with insights this week about changes in HP's management. The group's vision is to drive its marketing message toward connection at the myCommunity web site, even though regular postings from community relations volunteer Kees DenHartigh have populated the Connect_WW feed up to now. Connect even hosted a "Tweet-Up" meeting at this summer's HP Technology Forum, packing the House of Blues with hundreds of members who wore buttons with their Twitter names.
"We're going to be changing our strategy a bit on the user of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn," Buik said. "All roads will point back to myCommunity. We'll be picking up on various conversations and content and pointing people back to the website." Buik said the group will be undertaking a new look for the site in the months to come, although myCommunity has included some notice of available jobs and spots for members to post qualifications while seeking positions. As a not-for-profit, Connect wants Buik to spread the gospel of help for HP users in need of education, or even just a job.
"The world has changed since the Interex days," she said. "We're looking to make sure that all of our members get something out of our organization. We're kind of like a church, if you will, where you go to get help when you need it. We're here to help people improve their skills so they can get a better job."
August 30, 2010
Mitigating Risks in the 3000 Environment
By Birket Foster
As a software vendor with licensed customers in the HP 3000 market, I am astounded by the number of IT shops that have not clearly communicated to their senior management the issues associated with HP's December 31, 2010 end of hardware and software support. You see, senior management is often more concerned with the budget than with the risks involved, since financial analysis is something the company is measured upon. However, for all the companies I visit every year (and there have been hundreds), I have yet to see a company where the Microsoft Windows budget is less than the HP 3000 budget (service bureaus aside). Windows always costs more, and yet that desktop environment does little to run the applications required to run the business.
Budgets are good to monitor. But you must also remain aware of risks, and monitor and plan for them, in your mission-critical 3000 environment.
So here's a little “end of summer” exercise – let’s think through a scenario for your HP 3000. Something goes wrong with a disc controller rendering your storage useless – what is your plan for getting things back on track? Yes, that would be called a Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery situation. What's more, you should not only have such a plan readily available, but also have a management-approved measure called Mean-Time To Recovery of Operation (MTTRO) associated with it. What this metric consists of are the costs for the loss or impairment of a critical resource as well as the time-frames involved for different kinds of incidents. Each scenario should be played out with the costs involved and a discussion of what is acceptable downtime for that situation. (For some ideas, see the Wikipedia entry on MTTRO.)
Think of the best possible scenario. The downtime occurs right after a backup, with spare parts and the right team members present on site to recover from the failure. How long will it take you to recover? What will the downtime cost you while the HP 3000 is not available? You will need to know if that cost and the length of downtime is acceptable to your senior management team.
Okay, so let’s look at the impact of a crash on Friday afternoon when the HP 3000 was backed up last Saturday (you do verify your backup tapes, right?) You have a full backup from last Saturday and daily backups from Monday through Thursday. The spare parts are not on site, and you have to contact your provider to get the parts and a skilled technician to the site, and then you can start restoring your hardware and application environments. How long will it take to restore all the data, applications and the whole system?
Is there a plan with priority order for recovery – how would you know what data was lost from today? How can you recover it -- are there any transactions or data likely to be unrecoverable (for example, Web transactions)? Was does four hours of downtime cost at the maximum -- and what about eight hours, 2 days, or a week? Think about what could you do to mitigate the risks. What does it cost to shorten your MTTRO? You need to determine the cost of downtime per hour or per incident worth “insuring” against. Are you making a conscious decision not to make provisions to mitigate the risk?
At this point in the HP 3000 market lifecycle, it is worth understanding such a roadmap, your plan for applications, and what the high-level picture is for maintaining your 3000 environment. At my corporation we call this a sustainability plan.The plan looks at the entire environment -- application, tools, people and skill sets (both users and IT personnel). It estimates the sustainability and the readiness for training and knowledge transfer capability that exists within the corporation. From this sustainability plan you can see where the risks might be mitigated. More information can be found in a white paper (PDF) at our web site. You can also use the plan to support the environment for an expected period of time.
I hope this made you think. If you have questions, I am at 800-ANSWERS extension 204. Or contact me by email at Birket@MBFoster.com
Birket Foster is CEO of MB Foster. He started his career selling software solutions to enable large enterprise customers -- such as Exxon, GM, Noranda, Bose, Wellington Management, Bombardier, Mass Mutual, American Airlines, Weyerhaeuser, Kodak, Xerox, Proctor & Gamble, 3M, and Boeing -- to obtain access to their application information. He has led MB Foster through more than 30 years of growth and numerous successes, including being awarded the HP 3000 Contributor Award from HP. Foster is involved with his personal and professional community as chairman or director of such diverse organizations as Rotary, OpenMPE, Storm Internet, and Friends in Sport Fishing.
August 27, 2010
HP front office falls to back of integrity line
A 20 percent error in behavior. That’s the bottom line on Mark Hurd’s ouster from CEO and chairman’s posts. HP’s stock has lost 20 percent in value over three weeks of trading after the company announced a sexual harassment claim and expense report creativity that led to the ouster. But as we finished our August issue of The 3000 NewsWire, to wrap up our 15th year, HP’s stock was sitting at a new 1-year low. My regard for its boardroom ideals has fallen lower.
Perhaps I’m an innocent in that way, but this is Hewlett-Packard we’re talking about here. One industry history called its founders The Aristocrats. HP may have gotten large by purchasing one company after another over the last decade, but it cannot purchase greatness. Not any more than its board chairman could buy profitability with research cuts and layoffs of tens of thousands of employees. It hasn't slowed, either. This week HP continued bidding up the price of buying a cloud storage company in a showdown with Dell. You can't help but wonder how much R&D could be bought with the current $1.88 billion HP wants to spend on 3Par. (And for the record, that company HP's chasing lost $3.2 million in its latest fiscal year.)
I can see a greater penalty levied on Hewlett-Packard’s industry prestige. Hurd becomes the third straight HP chairman forced to resign by a board of directors now looking skittish at best. Carly Fiorina was forced from her chair in 2005 over inability to execute much but layoffs and product cuts. Patricia Dunn, who took the chair from Fiorina, resigned over a pretexting scandal that spied on the media and their families to stanch boardroom leaks.
Now that Hurd has packed up his locked-door office, the fact that an HP leader gets bounced for sketchy behavior has less shock value. Except perhaps to Hewlett-Packard customers like the ones in our community, those who remember either Bill Hewlett or Dave Packard holding the chairman or CEO post. If ever there’s a stunner in HP history, it’s this: Company marketing now pounces so catlike that a sexual harassment claim and $20,000 in unauthorized payouts are board-level issues. HP's cold dead fish has been replaced by the sizzle of hot meat.
The 3000 community includes many partners and customers who recall the Bill and Dave era with nostalgia. That was a company era when the 3000 was a strategic business; Bill and Dave might have been kings, but they never had unmarried consorts, or contractors who’d be mistaken for harassed concubines.
However ironclad the old HP’s boardroom integrity,, the company’s now become one whose CEO pedigree has been in decline for a decade. It's a period that tracks directly with the decline in R&D.
Hurd was hailed as everything that Carly Fiorina couldn’t be for HP — focused on results, cool to public acclamation, serious about growing business, detail savvy. Hurd was too dowdy, thank goodness in an old HP Way, to be seen posing with Gwen Stefani or arranging a victory walk down the old Compaq HQ halls, one where employees were told to wear Western garb.
But now there’s his exit from HP’s stage, all to the tawdry fanfare of sexual innuendo about an employee labeled as a cougar in her other professional life as an actress, work still fresh when he hired her. That a HP CEO could hire someone to mingle with top customers, and potential acquisition partners, who’d have a Cinemax movie resume on IMDB shows something permanent about changes at Hewlett-Packard.
From an IT manager’s point of view — once you can pry them away from the YouTube videos and the sideshow of Jodie Fisher’s catwalks — whoever works as the CEO and chairman of this vendor is of modest tactical consequence. HP spent an hour convincing stock analysts that Hurd is just one player, not the man who makes HP’s $125 billion sales engine hum with record profits. Which is just the thing you’d say to a pack of stock mavens after you cashier your CEO over perceptions, claims of indiscretion and less money than HP’d spend on a 20x20 booth at the Technology Forum & Expo.
For partners in our community, it’s a tougher measure of this loss of HP front office integrity. It’s easy to hoot at reports of Hurd and Fisher’s intimate dinners after their days of schmoozing top customers. Harder to assess is the impact on future alliances HP might win to improve prospects of current partners. Sales wins come and go. A good friend who works sales in the reseller community says, “When everything’s equal, the customers buy from the person they like the best.” We’re human that way, because an investment is a relationship of desire. But alliances, at some level, track to a higher ideal of integrity.
There is not much to be gained in tracking Hurd’s mistake against the HP of Bill and Dave. That Hewlett-Packard is long gone, flushed out by Fiorina and then laid off by the relentless cutting of Hurd’s. The reports from today’s HP include longer hours for less pay. In a recession, you can demand a 5 percent pay cut across a workforce. Top management took a 10 percent cut, but only in base. Stock and benefits, as sumptuous as befit the top computer firm, rose to royal heights for Hurd and some of HP’s top VPs. HP CIO Randy Mott, one of Hurd's darlings, took in $28 million while sending several thousand IT staffers to consolidated datacenters across the country, or out of HP's employ entirely.
Hurd’s best play was to defer and delete spending. In more than a dozen briefings with the same analysts who heard why he was ousted, Hurd would tout cost controls. In product terms this meant less HP R&D and more purchases of technology. It’s great to own Palm and 3Com inventions. But technology managers from the Bill and Dave days like Chuck House shudder over the potential crash HP can make with a fraction of R&D spending. That’s Hurd’s handiwork.
Hurd will be replaced, and the company has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to do the job. The HP share price tumble has been tied to investor worries about a change in leadership -- even though HP said the company strategies were led by executives, not Hurd. But the next CEO may need to be a pro of indelible integrity. Or not, based on HP stock performance, market share and profitability. Many thought Hurd was cut of similar cloth as Hewlett or Packard. The reality of 2010: Any $125 billion company is capable of hiring an emperor who will shed such clothes. While Hewlett-Packard searches for a new top dog, its customers can adjust their expectations for a fresh decade of leadership.
August 26, 2010
Everyday patch needs surface for UX, MPE
Within just a few days of HP's paid-only patch announcement, a pair of needs for HP patches ran across my desk here at the NewsWire. While many managers don't want to mess with patching HP enterprise systems -- because workarounds do the job and don't create new problems -- two patch needs match up with everyday requirements: security gaps, and fresh functionality.
On the HP 3000 side, an IT administrator wrote this morning looking for TRACERT, the route-tracing utility that HP eventually ported to the the 3000 in 2002. The program lives in the HP TELESUP support account on most 3000s, the one that System Engineers and HP support staff once used on the 3000. But at this customer's site, tracert.prvxl.telesup was nowhere to be found.
"It would seem that the HP-or-nothing restriction on patch downloads has officially had an impact, as I can't get the tracert.prvxl.telesup program loaded," said the administrator, adding that they "probably would have requested it back in the day had we known it was going to be locked down."
There are other places than HP's patch site to get TRACERT, since it's been in wide use for years. A community of administrators has been downloading such included software, so long as a customer has a valid MPE/iX license, it doesn't matter how they get the authorized software that's missing from their systems. (This is a place where a 3000-specialized user group could really help the community, if one would just form up.)
HP-UX customers won't be so lucky, although the HP-UX security patches released several times a month might remain available next month without a support payment. HP hasn't immediately responded to email or phone inquiries about free downloads of patches like HPSBUX02552 SSRT100062, a new shield against internal vulnerability that was just announced today.
The 3000 world isn't getting these security holes, and HP hasn't created a new patch for the system since 2008. Back when they could purchase support from HP, "many customers would buy a baseline support contract from HP," said Birket Foster, CEO of MB Foster. "Then they'd buy their real services from a third party, because the third parties tended to be more responsive -- and could even make a site visit more readily than HP's remote response center team."
Foster noted that the customers buying HP's Unix servers "don't always buy a support contract with them. If you looked at all the other vendors in that marketplace, certainly Sun does [paid-only patches], and I would imagine that IBM would do the same."
HPSBUX02552 SSRT100062 addresses "a potential security vulnerability that has been identified with HP-UX running Software Distributor (sd). The vulnerability could be exploited locally to grant an increase in privilege, or to permit unauthorized access." HP-UX 11i v1, v2 and v3 are affected.
While many HP-UX security breaches are shared with other kinds of Unix -- hacks on Unixes from Sun and IBM -- this latest one looks like it hacks through an HP-specific tool. Of Software Distributor, HP explains
Software Distributor (SD) is the standard low-level tool set for working with HP-UX software packages. SD can be used for packaging, installing, copying, listing, removing, and verifying software.
SD is a central component of the HP-UX administration tool set used to deliver, install, update, and maintain HP-UX operating system and application software.
SD is delivered as part of HP-UX, and ongoing releases of SD are available from the Web, the Application Release (AR) media, the Operating Environment (OE) media, and as HP-UX patches.
Most of the hacks on HP's Unix come through the likes of Java, DNS software, Apache -- all included on every server. But the patching against these is at a relentless pace. In the 86 weeks since the start of 2009, HP has issued 44 Security Bulletins specific to HP-UX. In the same timeframe MPE/iX has had just one, a BIND/iX hack for Remote DNS Cache Poisoning. (HP never did write a patch for that January 2009 hack, but just told customers to migrate DNS to a non-3000.)
If HP's 44 patches now include some that are aimed at tools in HP's own flavor of Unix, then you might make a case that patch payments are essential to relying on this server that HP recommends as an enterprise replacement for the 3000. In contrast, patch payments are probably not required so much for MPE/iX. But as Foster says, "There's no such thing as free software. If it's open source, you're either supposed to contribute whatever you change back to the community -- which means you're employing programmers to do this. Getting software to run in an enterprise requires thought and intention."
Without those two essentials, the level of risk rises in the enterprise. Risk, of course, is something every software environment carries in varied degrees. While HP won't even patch a security risk of the level of DNS anymore, at least the server isn't being hacked at every other week like Unix.
August 25, 2010
Emulator's customers: Plentiful, says Pivital
Steve Suraci is the CEO of Pivital Solutions, a company focused on HP 3000 support as well as system sales. Pivital was one of the last HP-authorized resellers of the system and continues to sell used servers to clients. But Suraci, whose roots began with the GrowthPower and manufacturing communities of the 3000 world, sees great prospect for newer hardware to serve 3000 sites: The Intel-based emulator that's taking shape at Stromasys over the coming 12 months.
"I know a lot of customers who would be interested in an emulator today," Suraci said. He added that hitting the limits of existing 3000 system performance won't even be necessary. "Forget about the fact that hardware may run out of gas. I think they'd be looking at it from this standpoint: by running an emulator, you're putting [MPE/iX] on something they know."
Stromasys has said its product has run on Intel systems, under a Windows console, and has booted Linux already as if Linux was running on a PA-RISC system. That puts PCs and Windows in the hardware driver's seat, a familiar set of technologies.
The emulator customers that Suraci knows would "get away from this situation they have in house, where their programs are running on a proprietary HP 3000 that nobody wants anything to do with," he said. "You put it on a server they recognize. Yes, it still has its set of issues in the kernel where it runs, but now it's not the lame duck of the IT department."
There are issues to resolve for an emulator to satisfy the needs of the customers Suraci knows in the manufacturing sector as well as other businesses. The one he mentioned first was price, something that Stromasys has been looking for input on with core sponsors this year.
"I haven't seen anything as far as pricing goes," Suraci said. "Is it $1,000, $10,000, $100,000? What factor of 10 is in their pricing scheme?"
Stromays' CEO John Pritchard said the pricing elasticity, as business planners like to say, is still being determined. The company sells an emulator for the Digital marketplace that's priced from $5,000 to $200,000.
Another issue that Stromasys faces is the license transferal of everything except MPE/iX, which is already worked out. Vendors might transfer licenses to maintain their support revenues going forward; others might insist on extra license fees to cover the expanded performance an emulator is sure to provide, given enough revisions and boosts in Intel chip horsepower.
An emulator priced at 25 percent of the cost of a migration could be attractive, Suraci said, depending on other factors.
"There will be hardware costs (for the emulator's host), and installation costs; I don't know how seamless the migration is going to be," Suraci added. "But that being said, a threshold of 25 percent would be something to consider. What that number is, that 25 percent, is another issue as well."
"But being able to do something, and extend what they have -- well, I don't think a lot of 3000 customers right now are unhappy with what they have. Especially in this economy, I don't hear that very often anymore. Yes, customers are still moving off the platform because of acquisitions and mergers and the like. But I rarely see a customer moving off nowadays because it doesn't work. They keep getting what they expect to get out of their ERP system."
August 24, 2010
HP's customers push back on paid patches
Users of the HP 3000 have good reason to dislike the paid-only patch policy HP is sweeping into effect next month. But while those 971 HP 3000 patches disappear into HP's walled garden, thousands more go under the same lock and key for HP's Unix, VMS and NonStop servers -- all of which HP still sells and supports.
The 3000 community sees this as a problem, but how much depends on to what extent a user relies on MPE/iX patches in operations. Some large customers still use the PATCHMAN utility written in the 1990s to update 3000s as needed.
"We download patches with the PATCHMAN script, or go to the HP website," said Ray Legault, a systems integrator at Boeing. PATCHMAN relies on the free FTP access to deliver fixes to 3000 sites. HP is shutting down all patch access except via its website, the HP ITRC, on Sept. 17.
Consultants and companies which provide support already have many of the 3000 patches in their resource bins. The entire collection is 1.27GB, according to Craig Lalley of EchoTech. The patch code itself is small.
"Hey, it all fits on a thumb drive," Lalley said today. "I have already worked out the process where the files can be uploaded to an HP 3000, whereby PATCH/iX can determine which patches are required. Sadly, all patches (for each OS) need to be uploaded. PATCHMAN was a little bit smarter and only downloaded those that were not already applied."
Whatever the workarounds these 3000 users find to stock their repair kits -- downloading for free is still possible for another three weeks and more -- the HP cutoff, which makes a support contract mandatory for using a business server, is winning no friends with its enterprise customers. Some say the patch restrictions are acting to reduce the installed base of servers HP's still struggling to sellIn one bit of luck for the 3000 community, at least its patch inventory is not going to grow any larger. A thorough download before Sept. 17 will net everything that might be useful. But the issue goes beyond 3000 users' dismay. The OpenVMS enterprise customers, who can still pay HP for patch access after Jan. 1, see paid, website-only patch access as a dead weight on their servers.
"This is a very bad decision on HP’s part," said VMS customer Robert Jordan, "and it will negatively impact our remaining small OpenVMS customers, and therefore us as well. These customers do not have software contracts; they stay at the most recent version they had when either their initial contract expired, or what came on the system, but the patches have been critical on numerous occasions."
"My personal gripe about taking away the FTP functionality is that I will have to pass the patches through some other system, wrote "The Brit," a user with "ITRC Wizard" status on HP's support discussion website, "instead of dropping them directly onto my system. One has to conclude that the rumoured 'death wish' of HP towards OpenVMS may be more than just a rumour."
"They’re trying to retroactively change the terms of my purchase — free patches,” said one support expert who didn’t want to be quoted. “For me, I now want to nullify that purchase, which means I’ll return their hardware (at their cost for shipping), and they’ll return my money. Their ill-conceived changes alter the value proposition of buying an HP computer drastically.”
Brian Edminster, who supports the HP 3000s running the Host HMS duty-free shops in US airports, said, "HP's new slogan is 'Let's Do Amazing.' Well, consider me underwhelmed. HP's tightening the screws on patch releases, such that only paying support customers can get them anymore.
"Not that it matters to existing 3000 users -- I'd say 'customers,' but HP's definition requires having bought a system from them recently."
The business decision that HP says "brings the company into alignment with other industry support providers" was labeled a "failed alignment" by one admin on the ITRC Forums. "That's simply a false statement and damages HP's credibility," said customer Craig A. Berry. "No other vendor we deal with has anything like it. There is only one HP badge in our entire data center: a solitary OpenVMS system. There is already a perception that HP is too difficult to deal with and OpenVMS is too different from our other systems. This just fuels that perception."
Other 3000 administrators noted that HP's announcement was "conspicuously absent of any language implying you couldn't give patches to another user; or have one computer on support and distribute the patches to 999 computers you own."
HP will be distributing a new version of the HP Software Assistant, SWA 2.75, which has been required to patch the frequent security holes that appear in HP-UX. But SWA 2.75 won't be available until after the HP patch site locks up for paid-only use, so no testing will be possible by enterprise Unix sites.
Bob Campbell of HP tried to ease the dismay of HP-UX users by explaining that "version 2.75 is not being built to be dual-mode and would not be useful if pre-released," he said on the ITRC Forum. "The delay is in part my method to verify that the new ITRC is in place. The ITRC changes are not limited to SWA or even HP-UX. I can only promise that helping everyone through this transition is our primary focus."
IBM isn't charging for its system patches, either for the 3000-like Series i, or the HP-UX competitor Series p servers. Windows systems also get patches included with the purchase of the operating environments, for any customers who want to download or keep up with patches through third-party firms.
And it's the rise of these independent support options, a trend in the 3000 community, that poses both the best remedy to the HP ploy, as well as the reason for the lockup. HP's 3000 division said in 2009 that the MPE/iX beta-test patches which never made it to General Release would be available for download during 2011, after HP's 3000 support ended. There's no apparent way to fulfill that promise in light of the new patch policy. Lalley said he's hoping users will send him the beta-test patches they've got for safe keeping; a few have already done so.
"The bottom line is that this is an effort to close off self, and third-party support," said another HP 3000 veteran of more than 25 years who still works with HP systems every day. "All it will do is speed up the migration from HP-UX and other proprietary HP platforms to Linux and Windows."
August 23, 2010
HP scraps free-patch plan, demands support
Hewlett-Packard is ending a policy with decades of history for its enterprise computing users: The ability for anyone to download any patch for systems such as HP 3000s, HP-UX servers and other business critical systems. Free patches will be gone from HP's enterprise ecosystem by Sept. 17.
HP announced that a pay-only patch policy will begin on Sept. 17 "for Enterprise Servers, Storage, and Networking product lines. Products affected include Integrity servers, HP-UX, OpenVMS, Tru64 and any other products for which patches are available." HP's IT Response Center website will require a current HP support contract to download HP's repairs and enhancements for its systems.
The HP 3000 has no support contract option available from HP starting Jan. 1, so HP plans to make the system's owners deal with HP on a patch by patch basis. HP's been using the Time & Materials prices to make limited support services available starting next year. HP officials contacted for our story have failed to comment on how the change affects users of the server HP will not support in 2011.
An FAQ web page on the policy change mentions the HP 3000 in specific, but fails to offer detail except to contact HP.
Q. What happened to patches for OS releases which are no longer supported (MPE, HP-UX 10.x, etc)?
A: Patches for unsupported OSes are no longer offered via FTP. Please contact HP support for assistance (charges may apply)
Few customers who've weighed in on the change have been surprised at HP's intentions, but many don't see this as any good for a 3000 community just learning of the new patch practices. "This is not good," said Allegro Consultants president Steve Cooper, whose company supports HP 3000, HP-UX and Sun enterprise users, among others. "They are following Oracle's moves now, trying to put all third-party maintenance companies out of business. Starting a month from now, you have to have a current software contract with HP to obtain patches."
Cooper noted earlier this year that Oracle had turned the patch and software pricing model upside down, making the Sun Solaris environment free, but turning all patches into a paid-only commodity. HP explains its pricing change from all-free to all-paid by saying that it's moving to industry-standard practices.
This change brings HP in alignment with accepted industry practices for software patch delivery and ensures entitled customers and partners are provided with the most current software patches for their IT environment. In addition, standardizing on key patch availability services reduces structural cost and enables HP to provide better support on the standardized access points.
HP's policies cover all of its Enterprise Storage, Server and Networking product lines, including the HP-UX Integrity systems and HP ProLiant servers. The ESS group was the only HP business sector which continued to post lower sales in the company's latest quarterly report.
The revenue of a support contract has typically gone to HP's support divisions. HP 3000 customers complained to their vendor about this disbursement in the 1990s, when few HP 3000 problems generated a need for support expenditures, but the 3000 division had a severe need for enhancement and development funding.
HP is ending all FTP download access for the patches while it starts payment for access through the HP ITRC. "Customers should check their existing support agreements to confirm they are covered, or they may obtain a valid support agreement with software update support," it stated on the web page.
An email to users who get HP's critical and recommended patch notices says that "Patch access will be through the ITRC support portal. You need to have a valid ITRC user ID and password and will now also need an active HP support agreement that includes Software Updates linked to your ITRC profile to access Patch content and services. We urge you to review your current support coverage now to ensure you have valid coverage and can maintain uninterrupted access to Patch." A Web link takes concerned customers to a chat session with HP representatives.
A software media update level of support -- for the sites which can still order one for their server -- appears to satisfy HP's new need for support money.
Valid support agreements must contain at least one of the following Offers:
• HP Software Updates Service
• HP License Subscription Service
• HP SW Media and Documentation Updates Service
It's not clear right now if having an HP support agreement for any of the enterprise systems would enable a customer to gain access to HP 3000 MPE/iX patches. HP hasn't created a patch for the system in two years, and the company shut down its HP 3000 development lab at the end of 2008.
August 20, 2010
HP says everything's great on financial slate
HP entertained 40 minutes of analyst questions last night after it released its Q3 report for 2010. Good news all around, after more than a dozen stock watchers probed the news that HP had pre-released on the day it gave its CEO the gate. Profits are up, sales are up, and only one hand went up in the Q&A asking about Mark Hurd.
Hurd was not the point of the news that HP sold $30.7 billion in products and services in the quarter that ended July 31, or that its profits were $2.3 billion for the period, or that those numbers were up 11.4 and 5 percent from the 2009 quarter, respectively. HP talked about broad-based strength in the quarter, even though growth in Services (that's the EDS part of the business) stalled out at 1 percent.
The story over at the Enterprise Storage and Servers group was cheery in the Industry Standard Server business, the one that sells Intel-based servers like the ProLiant line. Sales up 31 percent there. On the Business Critical Systems front, of course, the message was the only fly in the one-hour conference call. BCS revenues are down 15 percent, including the business wrapped around the HP-UX enterprise systems.
Interim CEO Cathie Lesjak (not Lesjack, as you might be reading in a few dashed off summaries this morning) blamed a new HP server on the BCS decline. That's because the Superdome 2, which probably fits into less than 5 percent of the HP-UX installed base IT footprints, won't ship until September. The server does have a big price footprint, so knowing a better one is in the offing and places like Pella Windows haven't purchased yet could have an impact.
Aside from the BCS bad news, Enterprise Storage and Servers contributed $549 million of profit to HP's Q3 total. Last year, the Q3 business only chipped in $381 million for the same quarter. Blades are cutting the way to the higher numbers. HP said blade revenues were up 29 percent.
The only other place in the HP report that used the word decline, other than BCS, was over in the Technology Services arm of HP's Services group. Sales there down 1 percent. The upside to that services downside was the $1.4 billion in profits HP raked in over at Services for the quarter.
Like it said back on the day it fired Hurd, HP is raising its estimates for the quarter to come and full 2010 fiscal year. It got asked right away if it's investing enough in R&D, and so Executive VP Ann Livermore explained that the ProLiant G7 line, blade system enhancements, HP's smart grid, StoreOnce deduplication software and ProCurve switches are all a result of HP engineering and developing in-house.
HP's Imaging and Printer vice president VJ Joshi addressed the R&D question even sharper. In the space where HP is constantly building rather than buying tech, he said "from an innovation point of view, we are on fire."
August 19, 2010
The "Vaunted" HP WayBy John Wolff
In reading the opinion piece by Holman Jenkins, Jr. titled “The Mark Hurd Show” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, I was struck by his reference to the “vaunted HP Way.” The word vaunted means boastful or extravagant self praise; i.e., overdone. He went on to refer to the HP Way as “a set of admirable teamwork principles that nowadays is mostly invoked to resist unwelcome change.” Since I worked at Hewlett-Packard for six years beginning in 1968, this somewhat disdainful characterization of the HP Way bothered me. I would like to explain why.
In the last 10 years or so it has become fashionable in some circles to call the HP Way a quaint philosophy that no longer applies within a modern large scale business. I strongly disagree with that notion. As a fresh 22-year-old college graduate with a Computer Science degree, I interviewed several major and minor computer manufacturers in the spring of 1968. Even at that tender age and with limited business experience up to that point, the job interview with HP left a particular and lasting impression on me that still stands out in my mind today.
First, HP at that time had just entered the mini-computer industry by deciding to make the computers they used as a component of their automated instrumentation systems, rather than to continue buying them from Digital Equipment. In fact, HP did not really think of itself as being in the computer industry at all; they were an instrumentation company and their mini-computers were really considered to be just another kind of instrument.
Second, HP had a first-class engineering reputation revolving around the measurement and instrumentation business that it led. As a computer science graduate these facts were interesting but not impressive to me, so they did not rank the company especially high in my mind when compared to other more established computer manufacturers (most of which are no longer in that business). Rather, the take-away item for me from the job interview was the unmistakable observation that HP, as a company, believed its most important asset was not their technology, but their employees. So without knowing what it was called, I had made my first contact with the HP Way.
I did not sense this concept of company-employee mutual loyalty from any other company I interviewed -- HP stood alone in this respect. I had several job offers to consider and the HP offer was not quite the highest, but I knew that this was the company I most wanted to work for in spite of their relative obscurity in the computer field.
Whether by sheer luck or good management (I tend to think the latter), HP hired other high-caliber software engineers who must have also sensed that HP was a special kind of company. These folks were not content to just develop instrumentation programs, but had a vision of creating products that would put HP squarely in the computer business.The HP Way provided a limited freedom for employees to experiment and innovate. Products that evolved from this process included several Timeshare Basic systems used in education and the HP3000 Business Computer, among others. The marketing department was slow to support products that seemed to deviate from the division's formal mission, but as the success of these products became evident, the road to HP's future became clearer. This process was at work throughout the company. Indeed, I submit that HP would not even be in the computer business today if not for the HP Way.
Today the HP board of directors is again faced with searching for a new CEO after releasing its second outside CEO in a row in an embarrassing way. Up until the hiring of Carly Fiorina in 1999 HP had always grown its own management and built its business organically through internal growth. Perhaps the company needs to return to its roots when “invent” meant something and rekindle the magic and vision created by Bill Hewlett and David Packard -- by bringing back that sense of company-employee mutual loyalty called, The HP Way!
John Wolff is VP and CIO of Los Angeles real estate firm LAACO, Ltd. He served for seven years on the board of OpenMPE, including six as co-chairman.
August 18, 2010
Value of PowerHouse dev skills: $18/hour?
Not many HP 3000 programmer positions come onto today's general job board listings, places like Dice.com or Monster.com. Even though these skills are in scarce supply, companies don't want to hire for a server which they A) Haven't spent any money on in years, or B) Believe is on its way out their doors. The latter, of course, often takes longer than a company plans.
But when a listing does surface in the world of IT jobs, it's notable. The latest one drew my attention because of the correlation between salary and skills. CareersUSA posted a job on Monster.com that offers $15-$18 an hour, in a temporary full-time job, as a PowerHouse programmer.
That's $36,000 a year, before taxes, to maintain programs probably written in the 90s or even farther back in time. It's better than nothing at all, but not even close to what's being paid by the migration services companies for legacy 3000 expertise. Although PowerHouse looks more legacy with every month, the software is not yet in the Cognos/IBM support category of "Vintage Support."
But "vintage" matches the pay scale for what CareersUSA describes as 2-5 years of experience enhancing and maintaining an ERP system written in PowerHouse. The development tool has been around long enough that pros were probably making $36K to work with it -- back in the early '80s.
Alas, the state of employment in 2010 grinds down experience to lowest possible compensation, unless you're working in HP's executive suites. Imagine, for a post that could evaporate at any time as a temp job, you could hire this required skill set:
- Designing, constructing and implementing various business systems.
- Excellent testing skills.
- Network Administration for Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server.
- PC Help Desk support, responding to software and hardware issues.
- Knowledge of Oracle in support of Financial software.
August 17, 2010
HP's history revision restarts with Hurd
Ten days have passed since HP canned its CEO Mark Hurd, but the reasons why remain a mystery to most journalists including me. What's better-known is the pattern the Hewlett-Packard board has taken since the HP 3000 was excised from HP's futures. The journalists who know the old HP -- that one of beer busts, collegial career paths and a company shy about waving the best-in-class product flag -- can see the trend toward company leaders who always consider shareholder benefits first.
The last CEO asked to leave, Carly Fiorina, was a charter member of the Customer Second school of management. Customers were tossed overboard in the Fiorina era if they relied on HP's less flashy, slow-growth products. You didn't want to be a VAX user, have built a strategy around Alpha, or carry a tally sheet of HP 3000 purchases once Fiorina jetted in to jettison what HP happily called legacy products. She rubbed out seemingly indelible tenets of the HP Way while pointing the company at an outside-engineered tech future. Along the way tens of thousands of talented HP employees lost jobs. By the end of her reign, employees were sending thrilled emails about how a scourge had been lifted. Others mourned her, for reasons related to remaking HP.
Mark Hurd's ouster has been so lurid and swift that some journalists claim the Fiorina Era now looks much better in this summer's aura of change at the top. Nothing could be further from the truth of what happened to HP for more than five years that started the 21st Century -- and not any more true than the "best man" label Hurd was touting as HP's CEO for the second five years. Hurd didn't do anything to harm the HP 3000. That mortal wound fell off the sword of paring back product lines to accomodate Fiorina's HP-Compaq dream.
But Hurd's harm can come when the company casts about in the sea of competition for in-house R&D. Not Invented Here used to be the kiss of death for an HP partnership; outside innovation needed not apply. Now NIH is HP's norm, something that should concern the 3000 user who hopes HP's enterprise prowess can extend to non-MPE environments. How reviled was the man who collected a $23.9 million bonus for '08 while he froze wages across the company? Have a look at a 2009 blog called FU Mark Hurd to sample some of the vitriol.
Fiorina was lashed by the employees the same way internally. Then she had her legacy revised on her ouster. (She's attempting to whitewash her HP era while running for the US Senate.) Revising history at HP has become a boardroom-level act by now, starting with then-chair Patricia Dunn's "Pretext-gate" privacy sins in 2006 to flush out those who'd report on the true spots of a board clashing with Carly. HP paid $14.5 million in court fines after that chairman's ouster. The bill might be even higher in terms of Hurd's cost to HP invention, once jobs become easier to find.
The computer industry journalists with shorter memories are attributing Hurd's maniac axing of employees to his demise, as if Fiorina has no record of gutting technical labs and entire business lines. At The New York Times, Joe Nocera sums up Hurd's rep with the rank and file.
Then there were the company’s employees. The consensus in Silicon Valley is that Mr. Hurd was despised at H.P., not just by the rank and file, but even by HP’s top executives. (Perhaps this explains why [interim CEO Cathie] Lesjak was so quick to denigrate him once she took over.) “He was a cost-cutter who indulged himself,” was one description I heard. His combined compensation for just his last two years was more than $72 million — a number that absolutely outraged employees since their jobs were the ones being cut.
We've heard from a few employees too, ones more closely related to the 3000 enterprises which were still operating inside HP over the past decade. They don't pin the blame on Hurd alone. Instead, they indict a management mantra at Hewlett-Packard that has produced three chairmen of the board who have been hounded from HP's top spot. The problem is with the "management class," one said, not Hurd. Even inside HP's tech realm, the engineers understand the company is no longer the beacon of R&D it was when 3000 users adopted their systems.
Maximizing cash flow and profit are top of list, they say, seeing the focus flow away from what HP makes, and how it makes stuff, and where it makes stuff, all to drift down to pure dollar accounting. Where people get into trouble is to make an assumption that HP is an R&D company. Hurd's doing nothing that most other non-founding company managers are trying to do right now across America and the world, say the sharpest cynics -- at least those who still have a job tending HP's technology.
Hurd's maniac cost-cutting pleased shareholders and curried kudos from the financial press, but it's a house of cards ready to tumble as much as Fiorina's boondoggle of a mega-HP that couldn't expand the businesses it was buying. The board fired Fiorina over her inability to execute or share power. Her successor got himself canned with sketchy relations with an actress playing with him in a marketing role. But Hurd's departure was really due to pulling HP even further away from a company DNA -- some called it the Jedi Force -- that built a legendary firm relying on innovation and invention, and institutional devotion to employee careers.
Hurd had his acolytes throughout HP in executive positions, and these leave-behinds will continue his policies until an all-clear sounds from a new CEO. HP grew its business by $40 billion in the Hurd era, but it also bought EDS -- which generated $22 billion in revenue in 2007 and even more by '08. At the same time that PC revenues increased [nothing like losing IBM as a competitor, while it sold off PCs to Lenovo] the printer growth engine stalled out. Printers were a spearhead of HP innovation, and still are today.
HP 3000 customers sticking with the vendor need HP to court innovation because a mission-critical enterprise is best run, most efficiently, with leadership technology and devotion to those who can create it. HP didn't right its listing ship while it hired Hurd, but seems to have gained a captain who'd throw crew members overboard to cut ballast, even while hiring heavy talent like CIO Randy Mott [$28 million compensation] away from WalMart. Thousands of IT pros in HP received move-or-else orders during the datacenter consolidation of Hurd's era. HP wore out its "85 datacenters reduced to 6" boast at places like the Technology Forum big-tent talks. If your IT plans are to reduce spending and cut costs, then Hurd was a man for your season of slicing.
Meanwhile, the employees who built HP into its legendary state never shared the boardroom dream of leaving hardware innovation to other companies. The Superdome successor and the newest ProLiant line has got tech innovation to help you plan less accurately and scale up suddenly, yes. But as far back as 1990 HP's media reps talked about a company driven by software prowess, and integration expertise. "The vision of HP becoming a software and services company was never clearly spelled out to rank and file employees," I heard from one recently-separated tech staffer.
Once HP gets beyond the EDS acquisition lift of its business, and the economy recovers to enable employee escapes, watch out for roadmap plans in slow-growth segments. Enterprise Storage, Servers and Networking has posted grim quarters for about half of Hurd's tenure; this week's numbers will be notable. HP is struggling to sell its invented-here technology by now because so much else, not-invented-here
August 16, 2010
Products, programs push remote printing
3000 consultant Michael Anderson tapped a wellspring of advice over the last few days with a request about remote printing from an HP 3000 to multiple locations.
I have a need to support "Printing on printers at the remote locations" to multiple client companies from my HP 3000. Kind of like the old time-share paradigm. The client companies can access the HP 3000 using Telnet/iX, but they need to be able to print from the HP 3000 (Telnet session) to their own local printers. Does anyone know of any “canned” software that would help achieve my goal, or perhaps another network strategy?
Charles Finley of Transformix, a migration and software services company that's been working with Robelle of late, posted eight replies of considerable detail to solve Anderson's problem. But along the way the 3000 community which still trades 3000 technique at comp.sys.hp.mpe chipped in a few commercial solutions for the challenge, as well as one recommendation to use Samba.
The simplest resource to implement looked to be the ESPUL HP 3000 software written and sold and supported by Richard Corn. The creator posts rarely on the newsgroup, but Corn offered this detail on how to use the print management product.
You would be using our product ESPUL to print from the HP 3000 to a Windows box into printer queues set up on that box. If you currently have Windows printing in your environment and a Windows system that hosts or has queues for the printers you want to use, you can make use of that from the HP 3000. One other option is using ESPUL to print to a locally attached printer via Reflection or MS92 session.
Finley began solving with the advice, "It can be done with mostly off-the-shelf open source stuff. But someone still needs to do a little programming."
1) You need to create what the HP 3000 thinks is a network printer to which the HP 3000 will send its output. So, in this case you need to configure the Linux computer to look like a JetDirect box to the HP 3000. This means that you need a way to have something listen on TCP port 9100 and accept raw data from the HP 3000.
2) You need to strip out and/or convert CCTL characters to standard ASCII print controls. Therefore, you need an intercept program that processes the raw data you get from the HP 3000.
3) You need to alter your report programs so that there are some tags in each report identifying which customer it belongs to. Your filter program needs to read the tags in the report.
4) You need some sort of PDF conversion software that will take the HP 3000 reports and convert them to PDF. You need a PCL to PDF (not text to PDF) converter to do this. Otherwise, you will need to send the output to a printer instead of PDF.
5) You need either a web application that will restrict users to certain directories based on their login or you could even do it without a web application. This should be simple enough because you can give each user a unique Linux user account.
6) You need some sort of directory browsing application. You could even let the customers use Reflection with its file transfer capability.
Essentially, it can be done with simply having one program that:
1) Listens on port 9100
2) Does the CCTL conversion
3) Reads the tags in the report and places the report in a specific user account based on the tag.
4) Converts PCL to PDF
Once all of the print output is in PDF, you do not need to address their printers. Therefore, you do not need to print to their printers at all. They will be able to print from any printer at their own site.
Another 3000 vet suggested packaged software from OpenSeas, OpenPDF. Tony Summers said, "It is a product from OpenSeas on the HP 3000, and we continue to use it even though we’ve migrated onto HP-UX. The raw spoolfiles were converted in a simple two-stage process which we wrapped up into a UDC and the end result was FTP’d to the end user as a PDF file."
In the discussion that flowed across a Thursday afternoon and into Friday, Anderson was sparked by some of the ideas. "Having something that looks like a Jetdirect printer to the HP 3000 is key! My thinking is that something that looks like a JetDirect printer could be a CUPS print server. Then using CUPS in combo with Samba, and maybe SCP, will make the network connectivity issues easier to resolved, and enable the possibly of sending the output directly to the remote printer without any user intervention."
John Pitman added that he's used "an intermediate Windows box running BP FTP Surfer, with user and passworded access. Each HP user who directs printout to a specific device (that isn’t physically present) gets the output sucked off the HP to the FTP surfer to a directory specific to the user as a txt file. This is mostly to save paper and to provide data suitable for importing to Excel. Requires a job on the HP 3000 to move spoolfiles to a Posix directory, and an FTP job on the Windows system to suck them across every few minutes.
After reading Anderson's progress on the printing process, Finley summarized how available open source software and JetDirect gets the job done.
Since you are simply planning on using the Linux/CUPS machine as a store and forward message server. you could do the following:
1. Set up a CUPS server on each IP address you can give the Linux computer. There are ways to assign more than one. One way to cheat is to pretend you have a multiport JetDirect. I may be out of date, but the last multiport one I worked on had TCP ports 9100,0102, and 9103. If you can get enough TCP/Port IP address combinations to satisfy all of your printing needs you may not need to do any programming. For example 4 IP addresses = 4x3 separate “printers." I haven’t confirmed this, but if you can make each of those represent a separate Queue on the Linux computer you can assign one to each real printer.
2. Configure each Queue on the HP 3000 and print to it just as you would any network connected printer.
3. On the Linux end, simply configure each real printer to match each queue. Then I believe you’re done.
If you can’t do the above, you can send all of the output to one pretend JetDirect address and create a little intercept filter to separate the output to each real queue.
Anderson had enough advice by the end of Friday to go into a test "with two CUPS servers using scp, connected through the cloud, and setup a NPCONFIG device on MPE to print to it"
It is simple, and if addition massaging of print files is needed, the CUPS server is equipped with many powerful scripting tools, regexp, awk/sed, and tcl.
Using SCP to copy printfiles between the local CUPS server and the remote CUPS server should be very efficient, and the remote CUPS server can be anywhere in the world, anywhere that supports an internet connection. So, from the HP3000 spooler, you’ll be able to print anywhere in the world, after setting up local and remote CUPS servers. And MPE will just think they are normal JetDirect printers.
In Unix, you can use the |scp| command to copy files and directories securely between remote hosts without starting an FTP session or logging into the remote systems explicitly. The |scp| command uses SSH to transfer data, so it requires a password or pass-phrase for authentication. Unlike |rcp| or FTP, |scp| encrypts both the file and any passwords exchanged so that anyone snooping on the network can’t view them.
Less than 24 hours later, with the help of six 3000 experts, one solved problem. Independent support takes a lot of forms this year, but going to the remote network of veterans can yield a wide array of solutions.
August 13, 2010
Emulator company reaches out to partners
An HP 3000 emulator -- the software that will permit MPE/iX to boot on Intel's chips -- will require more than engineering to create cross-platform virtualization. The Zelus product from Stromasys will need licensing prowess, even more than HP's license to run MPE/iX on non-PA-RISC hardware.
To its credit, Stromasys is spending time with software and support companies which can enable the transfer of licenses from HP 3000s to emulated systems. One of the first contacts Stromasys made was with the Support Group inc, which supports users of the MANMAN MRP/ERP suites on the HP 3000. The Support Group estimates about 300-400 HP 3000s continue to run MANMAN, so the customer base is a good target for Stromasys.
But TSG is not in charge of the MANMAN licenses; that's the purview of Infor, which bought the app suite and its customers several years ago. John Pritchard, CEO of Stromasys, understands how crucial such license transfers will be to the success of the emulator, scheduled to start shipping next year. Stromasys operates a healthy business in the DEC emulator market, so there's some experience to call upon.
"We do a lot of business in our existing products with Oracle, and they have a licensing model for virtualization," Pritchard said in a conference call with TSG. "The 3000 was licensed by power rating, and we're still working through that. It's one of the discussions we want to have now that we've made the Zelus program announcement."
Pritchard, whose company has been selling such emulators since 2000, said they want to ensure software companies feel comfortable with license transfers to Zelus. "We want to make sure license transfer models are in place for the software vendors that are on the 3000."
"The dominant applications need to have a license transfer policy when they go to virtualization," Pritchard added. We'd also note that key utilities, as well as surround code tools such as PowerHouse and Speedware, will need to have such policies in place. Given the alternative -- a 3000 going dark because an emulator can't be an alternative, due to a lack of license transfers -- well, there's decent motivation for 3000 software vendors to work something out with their customers, as well as resellers of Zelus (firms like the Support Group) about emulation.
HP is in a different strategic position than these 3000 software companies. No more MPE/iX will be sold, as well as subsystems like COBOL II or TurboStore. HP's got no support or license revenue on the line anymore. It's trying to limit Zelus installations to HP's Intel systems, but that's going to be an honor system at best. MPE/iX can't check to see if the Intel chip booting it is inside an HP server or PC.
Pritchard acknowledges that some software companies in the 3000 space "may want extra revenue for the additional performance" that Zelus will bring to emulator users. The users won't find their CPUs crippled, like HP hamstrung its PA-RISC chips during the MPE/iX boot sequence. But the lessons of higher software prices for faster systems -- one of the things that cramped the 3000's growth -- can teach software companies a great deal about how to make this emulator opportunity maintain 3000 revenues. Capturing even more money from this market may not be a reasonable goal.
August 12, 2010
Welcome, FluentEdge Technologies
We'd like to welcome FluentEdge Technologies to our stable of 3000 Newswire sponsors today. FluentEdge has been serving the Ecometry e-commerce customers since that application was leading the way in new HP 3000 sales. In the decade since then, the company has developed and sold encryption software that not only serves the Ecometry site -- there are still about 50 of those running on 3000s, according to co-founder Cliff Looyenga -- but software for any other 3000 site that needs encryption for data or files.
Encryption is an important aspect to IT service in an era where hacks have become a steady threat to repel. It's good to have several encryption solution providers on the 3000 menu by now. There was a time when some in this community predicted the demise of the system, because it couldn't encypt credit card data to satisfy auditors. The FluentEdge software does that, during database calls or one file at a time.
Sponsors are important to the 3000 Newswire's service, the meat on the bone that lets us deliver news about this server during the Transition Era at no cost to our readers. By taking a sponsorship position in both our printed issue and blog, FluentEdge helps keep you informed, just like our other partner companies have done for 15 years. Sponsorship is a great marker of who remains engaged with your community, reaching for new relationships and caring for those in hand.
August 11, 2010
Old HP hand voices new hope on Hurd firing
Chuck House served HP for 29 years in top technical management, a period that included the birth of the HP 3000 as one of the company's best business solutions. This week the retired exec has been sharing his happiness for his old company since it jettisoned Mark Hurd. In 2009 House wrote his book The HP Phenomemon, and at his blog of the same name in an entry titled "Holy mackeral" he blasted the CEO best known for cutting HP down in size.
This guy was a thug, nicknamed Mark Turd by ex-HPites who worked directly for him -- stories that have circulated in the Valley for three years. He raped HP employees (figuratively, without violating the sexual conduct code at HP) by eliminating the 65-year concept of profit sharing, preferring to move to obscene bonuses for himself and his five top minions -- a mere $113 million payout for them in a year he chopped everyone else's pay by 5 percent plus profit-sharing. These were raises for some of the five people by as much as 400 percent -- a tidy uptick.
House was responsible for Software Engineering at HP during the era when the 3000's operating system was taking shape as a stable and productive resource. He's old-school Hewlett-Packard in the best sense, thinking independently back then and staying true to the company's roots. In his blog bio (and well as his book) the notes with pride that he "also holds HP's only Medal of Defiance, awarded by David Packard for 'extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty.' "
On a Bay Area TV broadcast about the firing, House said he "couldn't contain my glee on the 11pm news -- best news for HP in a very long time!"House has been no fan of Hurd's management mantra, cost-cutting above all, ever since it became plain that acquisitions would rob the company of its R&D resources. In a blog entry titled Whither HP Now? House explains why he believes HP has made a habit of under-investing in creating technology.
HP, after spending 9 percent of revenues for 60 years, almost like clockwork, cut that to 6 cut under [CEO] Lew Platt's regime, and from the midpoint of Carly's time until now, it has been reduced by a cool 0.5 percent per year, until now it is only 3 percent of revenues -- one-half of IBM's investments in its future. To cut R&D by two-thirds, to rework HP Labs to the point of only pursuing work that the divisions will market or that universities will support (huh, say that again?), is to sell out the future. Period.
One might confidently predict that the constant wellspring of "renewal" -- so long the hallmark of HP -- is running dry. The acquisitions had better work.
House thinks the future at HP looks a lot brighter now that Hurd's movie-star-struck outlook is part of the company's past. "He managed by fear, managed by ruthless, authorocratic style," he told KGO-TV in San Francisco. "It was take no prisoners. Cost cutting was his entire gig. I think that we are so lucky to have this happen at this time, because it gives us a chance to restore the morale in the company."
Aside from the $28 million it will cost HP to jettison Hurd, the damage to the company from five years of sweatshop policies could be a serious loss of top talent. While some industry watchers speculate that any upturn of the economy will trigger a serious exodus from Hurd's HP, House simply referenced real data -- a classic HP survey of its employee satisfaction. The numbers look grim and unprecedented, House said in his blog.
The Voice of the Workplace, HP's 35-year historic "measure" of employee feelings (done every five years) showed in April an astonishing finding -- more than two-thirds of HP's employees would quit tomorrow if they had an equivalent job offer. Not a raise, not a promotion, simply an alternative.
That number never used to be in double digits. Other companies in the Valley have reported an amazing rate of HP resumes being submitted; one large company saying, "we didn't know they had that many people working there."
There's more at the House blog entry, including an assertion that Hurd falsified multiple expense reports of $1,000-$20,000 each, and that HP paid him almost $80,000 in "tax true-ups" as compensation during 2008. That was a year with $243,000 of Hurd expenses he filed for "personal meals" paid for by HP.
It's those R&D cuts that stand to impact the HP 3000 customer the most, at least any who are making a migration to other HP technology that requires in-house innovation. HP-UX and virtualization some to mind immediately, along with anything else touted as better tech not purchased from a company that HP has acquired.
August 10, 2010
An Introduction to Encryption's Powers
By Steve Hardwick
Certified Information Systems Security Professional
Over the past 30 years the science of cryptography has been significantly influenced by computers and networking technologies. Not only has this technology driven the demand for solutions, but it has also fueled the ability to crack cryptographic algorithms. This has spawned various forms of encryption and encryption algorithms.
Encryption systems provide a fundamental function: to prevent unauthorized access to secure data. Put simply, you have to keep the hackers out. Standards are crucial to successful encryption. By defining an open standard, security communities can analyze it and look for weaknesses that may be exploited by one of the bad guys. Another benefit is that less-sophisticated users get the results of work by more educated user communities. Further, since the standard is made public, knowing the mechanism of how the encryption is accomplished does not help you break it. It is the key that makes it secure.
Evolution to AES
In the 1970s through the early 1990s several different encryption algorithms were in play. Through the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), the US government defined a common algorithm for encryption in 1976 called the Data Encryption Standard (DES). A second landmark FIPS publication was issued in1994 that detailed how DES should be used in a full encryption solution.
This standard remained in effect until the late '90s. Due to the advent of better and more widely available computer platforms, DES was considered hackable by 1999. In fact, the initial public crack of DES was done in 1997 by a network of over 14,000 computers working in parallel. By 1999, DES keys were being publicly cracked in about 22 hours.
A short-term solution was to use the DES algorithm three times over, called triple DES. This had its shortcomings. In 1997 the search started to choose a successor to DES, later named the Advanced Encryption Standard AES. (Ed. note: You hear AES all the time now when vendors describe their encryption engines.)
Not only does this standard outline how encryption should work, but there are independent labs to validate the implementation. Upon successful completion of a validation, a certificate is issued to the encryption product manufacturer to show it has been tested and validated. This gives a public seal of approval for the encryption implementation. Kinds of encryption
DES, triple DES (3DES) and AES are all examples of symmetric encryption. This means that the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt the data. The big advantage of this type of encryption is that it is very fast. Large volumes of data can be easily and quickly converted into illegible information.
There are other algorithms that are available for symmetric encryption. Twofish, created by cryptography icon Bruce Schneier, was one of the contestants for the AES challenge, but did not make it. Although the implementation, and that of it predecessor, Blowfish, are still around today. In some other cases, Elliptical Curve Cryptography for Smart Cards, have found specific uses due to their design.
One immediate challenge that all symmetric key schemes face is how to distribute the symmetric key. In the early days of symmetric key cryptography, keys were exchanged using physical, or “out of band” methods. For example, a password could be given to the end user over the phone and the encrypted message sent via a network connection. As the internet grew, the limitation of exchanging symmetric keys significantly stifled the growth of encryption.
In 1976 a scheme was published that allowed two different keys to be used, one for encryption and one for decryption. The initial goal of the algorithm was to create a way to securely pass information between two anonymous parties using an insecure communications channel. The two keys were labeled public and private key. A user would generate both keys and then distribute the public key. Anyone using the public key could encrypt data that could only be successfully decrypted using the private key.
There was one other problem asymmetric key cryptography solved, authentication. Instead of using the public key to encrypt and private key to decrypt (to preserve confidentiality of information), the private key can be used to encrypt the data. But of what use is this, as anyone with a public key can read it. Well the advantage is that if a message can be decrypted with a public key, there is a reasonable chance that it was sent by the owner of the private key.
By encrypting data with the sender's private key (for authentication) and then encrypting again with the recipients public key (for confidentiality) it became possible to have a system that the recipient could use to identify the sender of the message. Once the bond of trust has been established, then a symmetric, or session key, can be exchanged to allow for data to be securely exchanged. This is the basic operation of Secure Socket Layer (or SSL) information exchange that is the backbone of secure information communication in the internet.
Hashing and public keys
One more product of encryption technology is hashing. In this form of algorithm, the encryption is one-way. There is no attempt to reverse the process. The goal is to produce a unique value for a block of data. This results in a technology that can generate a small value, or digest, that uniquely represents the data used to generate it. This value is typically a small number of 160-256 bits. The recipient can then use the same hash method on the decrypted data and compare this to the hash value that was received. If they match, then there is a very good chance that its integrity has been maintained.
An alternative approach is to use a hash value that is encrypted with the sender's private key. The encrypted product is called a digital signature. The recipient can decrypt the digital signature with the sender's public key and derive the hash value of the message. A locally generated hash value is compared with the one decrypted from the signature. Digital signatures rely on public/private keys and do not need to keep a record for unique symmetric keys.
The final piece of the puzzle was how to determine if the public key you receive is really from a valid sender. An initial attempt at solving this problem was Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). In this method, a public key was initially obtained from a known second party. Then a public key of a third could be obtained from that second party as long as they had vouched for its authenticity. This was known as a web of trust and is still in use today.
But soon, trusted suppliers became established that would validate the authenticity of a public key and create a digital certificate, using their private key, for dissemination. These trusted third parties are known as certificate authorities (CA). VeriSign is a good example of a public CA. A standard, X.509, is in place to allow for the easy exchange of digital certificates to allow the transfer of public keys. This is more commonly called Public Key infrastructure, (PKI). Public keys of trusted CA's are widely distributed in browsers to facilitate the authentication process.
AES defines a system where symmetric keys are generated that can be used to secure bulk data. Asymmetric key exchange can be used to exchange the symmetric key between two parties. PKI can be used to ensure that the public key is authentic. Hashing, (SHA256) is used in conjunction with the private/public keys to generate digital signatures. Secure Socket Layer can be used to verify senders, exchange symmetric keys and transmit encrypted bulk data. These building blocks are used extensively throughout the information exchange industry to provide confidential, integral and authenticated communication.
Steve Hardwick is Partner Manager at Mobile Armor, a leader in federal and commercial data protection solutions. He's also led in security posts at Dell, VTEL, Infraworks and Message One. As a holder of a CISSP certification, he coordinates Mobile Armor's Common Criteria evaluation programs and leads CISSP training courses.
August 09, 2010
HP boots Hurd after compromising plays
Hewlett-Packard assembled a hasty investor briefing late Friday to report that its CEO was being dismissed because Mark Hurd's "professional and personal behavior that compromised his ability to lead the company." The behaviour includes $20,000 in fraudulent expense reporting; his personal payout to "cougar" actress Jodie Fisher who has a "close personal relationship" to the married Hurd; and an agreement tied to a $28 million golden parachute for Hurd that he won't sue HP over his immediate resignation order. HP guarantees him $12.2 million, with the rest expected in vested stock sales.
The flash-fire departure eclipses the Carly Fiorina ouster of 2005, and chairman Patricia Dunn's spygate "pretexting" resignation of 2007 over the company's last decade of management behavior. Fisher appeared as shown above in two episodes of the NBC reality series "Age of Love", one of 13 contestants on an 8-episode program that aired the same summer that Hurd hired her. The NBC web site for the show said Fisher was trying to "win the heart" of a 30-year-old tennis player as one of the "Cougars" dating Mark Philippoussis. Internet prowlers over the weekend discovered a demo reel of Fisher's acting produced for her and posted it to YouTube.
But HP assembles its troops today for a private webcast to debut the newest episode for the storied company. The story is that business as usual is the order of this day and each one to follow. Business, said HP's leaders on Friday, couldn't be better.
"Mark's resignation was in no way related to HP's operational or financial performance, both of which remain strong as evidenced in the earnings we pre-announced today," said HP General Counsel Mike Holston. "Rather, it was the result of his professional and personal behavior that compromised his ability to lead the Company."
Over a swift 48-hours after that briefing, details of Hurd's indiscretions surfaced about the 50-year-old Fisher, whose personal relationship to the CEO which began in 2007. Fisher, who's been an actress over the last 20 years as well as a sales executive, said she was hired by Hurd to work "at high-level customer and executive summit events held around the country and abroad. I prepared for those events, worked very hard and enjoyed working for HP." She also added in a statement that she's resolved a sexual harassment charge against Hurd privately.
Hurd's ouster was never her motive, she said. "I was surprised and saddened that Mark Hurd lost his job over this," she said. "That was never my intention."
Today HP intends to find a new CEO and chairman to lead a company that was at the pinnacle of computer industry revenues when the compromising behavior surfaced. Analysts are awash in wonder over how a Hewlett-Packard leader, credited around the industry with the company's turnaround, could be dismissed as just another executive player. HP said the board knew nothing of Hurd's relations with Fisher, and that it "found numerous instances where inaccurate expense reports were submitted by Mark, or on his behalf, that intended to or had the effect of concealing Mark's personal relationship with [Fisher]."
Hurd has been silent in the tale of the affair and wasn't part of the Friday HP briefing. When he joined HP in 2005, however, I reported in a podcast that he came into the job sounding different than the Carly celebrity he was replacing. "I will do everything in my power to live up to the leadership integrity that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard set up for this company," Hurd said during his hiring press conference.
Hurd set up several private meetings with Fisher upon hiring her three years ago. As an HP contractor for top-level summits, she was on display to hundreds of customers and HP's executives. Hurd personally filed expense reports related to Fisher's work, but only in the amount of $20,000. HP has paid Hurd $42 million in compensation over the past year; those expenses amount to about an hour's pay for the 53-year-old CEO.
"Mark and I never had an affair or intimate sexual relationship," Fisher said in a statement she released through her attorney Gloria Allred. "I wish Mark, his family and HP the best." Allred levied a sexual harassment charge at HP on behalf of Fisher in June. Fisher's probably been seen by the largest audience in her work in the cast (shown above) of Age of Love; her movie credits for titles like Body of Passion and Silk Stalkings 13 years ago are offset by what Allred described as "work for the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control."
Allred, a 69-year-old legal legend, was described in the June Harper's Baazar as a lawyer who "has also become the go-to attack attorney for celebrity scandal, a ferocious legal pit bull who defends women against the likes of Charlie Sheen, Eddie Murphy, and Rob Lowe." The magazine said Allred "reportedly helped secure $10 million of hush money from the disgraced golfer Tiger Woods" on behalf of Woods' paramours.
In the initial press release about his resignation, Hurd said "I realized that there were instances in which I did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect, and integrity that I have espoused at HP." The company said its board concluded, and Hurd agreed, it would be impossible for him to be an effective leader moving forward, and that he had to step down.
HP said at the analyst briefing that Hurd provided "strong leadership since he joined HP five years ago." But director Marc Andreessen said no single executive is a keystone at the company.
"HP is not about any one person," he said. "Let me tell you what HP is about. This company is more than 300,000 strong. The dynamic of these amazing people around the world working together as a unified team is the driver for the success of our business. We also have a broad and deep executive bench strength that will continue to lead this Company and drive our performance-based culture."
Andreessen is part of a four-member search committee that includes director Larry Babbio, a former Verizon president who settled a lawsuit in January over illegal low-interest loans to the Stevens Institute of Technology; Joel Hyatt, an attorney who founded the Current TV cable network with Al Gore in 2005; and director John Hammergren, CEO of drug wholesaler McKesson Corp. McKesson sits in the 3000's history as the owner, for a time, of Amisys, the healthcare provider software maker. Hammergren said when taking over rival healthcare firm HBO "We poisoned ourselves by acquiring a company that wasn't run on the same ethical platform that we've run our company on for 170 years."
HP's new interim CEO, Cathie Lesjak, has been a fixture on briefings with analysts for the past five years, serving as the company's CFO. A 24-year-veteran of HP, Lesjak has removed herself from consideration at HP's next CEO. At the briefing about Hurd, she said, "In terms of the initiatives that you asked that Mark is championing, Mark was a strong leader, but at the end of the day, he didn't drive the initiatives. It was the organization that supported Mark that drove those initiatives, and there will be no change in those."
Going forward will be feasible without missing a step, she said, because HP has reorganized itself since the Fiorina era. "Clearly, Mark had a level of leadership on the Executive Council. But, there is really no confusion. This is a huge company and people -- the top leaders of our businesses needed to know how to drive their own businesses. And over the last five years, frankly, we've really changed the Company dramatically."
"You think about five years ago, and you think about the diversity today of our profit pool five years ago, [our Imaging and Printing Group] was the vast majority of our profit. Today, the segments have -- we have balanced profitability across all of our segments. We've got market leaders leading segments and we've got very strong management teams that are driving those results. And so, I don't think you're going to see us miss a beat on this." HP's latest reports show far less balance between its enterprise computing segment and most of the rest of the company, but services and printers now contribute equally to HP profits.
Andreessen -- at age 39, the most recent board director named in 2009, and the founder of the Mosaic browser and Netscape Corp. -- said HP can't say much about what it's looking for in its next CEO.
"We are going to move as fast as possible," he said about the search group just formed. "But we are going to make sure that we get the right CEO for the company. We do not have -- not in a position to discuss detailed criteria, but we are certainly looking for somebody with very strong leadership capabilities, with both outstanding strategic and operational skills. We will be considering both internal and external candidates."
"And fundamentally, we are going to make sure that we pair a great CEO with this great company."
August 06, 2010
CEO Hurd resigns over harassment claim
HP today announced that Mark Hurd, the corporation's Chairman, CEO and President, has decided with the Board of Directors to resign his positions, effective immediately. HP also announced, in the same press release issued after the US stock markets closed, estimates of increased sales and profits for the quarter just ended.
HP appointed CFO Cathie Lesjak, 51 and a 24-year veteran, as CEO on an interim basis. She oversees all company financial matters and will retain her CFO responsibilities during the interim period. Lesjak is a frequent official resource during HP's quarterly analyst conference calls. HP reported these facts in a press release on its website this afternoon.
Hurd’s decision was made following an investigation by outside legal counsel and the General Counsel’s Office, overseen by the Board, of the facts and circumstances surrounding a claim of sexual harassment against Hurd and HP by a former contractor to HP. The investigation determined there was no violation of HP’s sexual harassment policy, but did find violations of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct.
Hurd said: “As the investigation progressed, I realized there were instances in which I did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect and integrity that I have espoused at HP and which have guided me throughout my career. After a number of discussions with members of the board, I will move aside and the board will search for new leadership. This is a painful decision for me to make after five years at HP, but I believe it would be difficult for me to continue as an effective leader at HP and I believe this is the only decision the board and I could make at this time. I want to stress that this in no way reflects on the operating performance or financial integrity of HP.”
“The corporation is exceptionally well positioned strategically,” Hurd continued. “HP has an extremely talented executive team supported by a dedicated and customer focused work force. I expect that the company will continue to be successful in the future.”
HP filed a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission that reports Hurd will receive $12.2 million in severance. He also has the right to sell his fully-vested stock options during the company's next trading window, Aug. 23-Sept. 7. Hurd is also entitled to performance-based restricted shares granted to him Jan. 2008, and time-based restricted shares handed out Dec. 2009. Some calculations put his exit package at as much as $50 million.
HP's shares took a 10 percent hit in after-hours trading once the resignation was announced.
Robert Ryan, lead independent director of the Board, said Hurd "has worked tirelessly to improve the value of HP, and we greatly appreciate his efforts. He is leaving this company in the hands of a very talented team of executives. This departure was not related in any way to the company’s operational performance or financial condition, both of which remain strong. The board recognizes that this change in leadership is unexpected news for everyone associated with HP, but we have strong leaders driving our businesses, and strong teams of employees driving performance."Lesjak has taken herself out of consideration as the permanent CEO but will serve as interim CEO until the selection process is complete. Candidates from both inside and outside the company will be considered. The selection of a new chairman will occur in conjunction with the CEO decision.
The company does not expect to make any additional structural changes or executive leadership changes in the near future.
In the same press release, HP announces preliminary third quarter results and raisesed its full-year outlook for revenue and earnings. Revenue will be approximately $30.7 billion, up 11 percent compared with the prior-year period.
In the third quarter, preliminary earnings per share were approximately $0.75. HP said the earnings were "negatively impacted by $0.02 pertaining to one-time charges relating to the previously announced U.S. Department of Justice settlement. Non-GAAP diluted EPS estimates exclude after-tax costs of approximately $0.33 per share, related primarily to restructuring, amortization of purchased intangible assets and acquisition-related charges."
For the fourth fiscal quarter of 2010, HP estimates revenue of approximately $32.5 billion to $32.7 billion, GAAP diluted EPS in the range of $1.03 to $1.05 and non-GAAP diluted EPS in the range of $1.25 to $1.27. Non-GAAP diluted EPS estimates exclude after-tax costs of approximately $0.22 per share, related primarily to restructuring, amortization of purchased intangible assets and acquisition-related charges.
For the full year, HP now expects revenue in the range of $125.3 billion to $125.5 billion. FY10 GAAP diluted EPS is expected to be in the range of $3.62 to $3.64 and non-GAAP diluted EPS in the ranged of $4.49 to $4.51. FY10 non-GAAP diluted EPS estimates exclude after-tax costs of approximately $0.87 per share, related primarily to restructuring, amortization of purchased intangibles and acquisition-related charges.
HP plans to release its final results for the third fiscal quarter on Thursday, Aug. 19, with a conference call at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT to provide additional details.
What's the 2011 value of HP's 3000 license?
Just as the final five months of HP's 3000 operations unfold, the community has started to ask itself what value remains in a license for MPE/iX installations. An HP-authorized distributor recently reminded users about the five-month deadline to buy HP's software, licenses and media.
But the veteran 3000 trainer, migration-development consultant and advocate Paul Edwards said the 3000 owners of 2010 should be thinking hard about license value. Last month a reseller offered an N-Class HP 3000 for $6,000. But that 2-CPU, 500MhZ system was selling without a license. "Yeah, $6,000 for a licensed box would be a great deal," said Cypress Technology's Jesse Dougherty. Resellers call these unlicensed 3000s "parts systems" for now.
Edwards said he's seen customers who are totally frozen on MPE and 3000 spending because of mergers. "They're trying to keep from spending any money at all on a system because they're trying to sell the company," Edwards said. He added that he knows of companies that maintain an HP support contract to get one set of tapes, then install the OS and programs on the rest of their 3000s.
That would violate HP's license agreements, which keeps some customers tied to license transfers and fees. "What is the value of an HP license these days?" Edwards asks. As a former Interex director and OpenMPE director, he's listened to a lot of customers over 30 years.
The license's value becomes more important as the Stromasys emulator product takes shape for a 2011 market entry. HP has said that only existing HP 3000 licenses can be converted to emulator licenses, and the HP 3000 hardware must be pulled out of service to comply with the license terms. It's hard to imagine a 3000 going out of service at every emulator user's site, but 2011 will be full of surprises.
But without support services in 2011, HP seems to have little more than an ownership badge to spark any licensing of a product it's described as at End of Life. Homesteaders can get caught in hard places at an end of service position, with little budget available immediately. Some HP 3000 customers cannot afford to make a migration in the near term; Edwards knows of two Ecometry sites in the Dallas area who cannot move to either the Windows or HP-UX version of the e-commerce suite.
Tight budgets, a vendor departing the market, ample used hardware availability: The elements don't seem to enhance the value of complying with HP license terms, especially starting next year. There's integrity of respecting a license terms, of course. But only HP's exclusive use of SS_UPDATE software to configure a replacement CPU board remains of any value to a customer's operations. A site manager wouldn't want to experience a CPU failure on an unlicensed 3000, unless they had the means for configuring replacement hardware with an existing HPSUSAN number. Third party apps and tools check HPSUSAN before running.
"There is software out there which will change HPSUSAN numbers," Dunlop said last week. "Surely HP would not be interested in chasing up anyone who used this software now, seeing as they have lost all interest in the HP3000?" Told that HP had just restated its forever-more control of SS_UPDATE -- the only 3000 support it will do on the record -- Dunlop replied, "I can't see why HP wants to retain control of this still, unless it's to try and milk a few more dollars out of the HP 3000 community."
August 05, 2010
Patch testing a ragged issue among 3000s
Despite concerns from some independent 3000 software providers, a new patch testing service to replace HP's may not be needed for the community. If there's any demand at all, however, it could surface from an HP action starting in 2011.
Hewlett-Packard said in late '08 it will free up the beta-test patches that it engineered but never general-released (GRed) to the 3000 customer base. Patch testing crawled almost to a stop in the last five years, mostly because HP couldn't get customers to try out most bug fixes and feature enhancements it created while HP's lab still toiled on behalf of 3000 sites.
HP said in a notice to users in the fall of '08:
We will release to the HP ITRC web site the majority of all remaining patches that are still in what we call the “Beta Test Phase." These are patches that have had little or no customer exposure since being developed. [Until 2011] only customers with a valid HP support contract may request beta patches. This strategy... may allow us to test additional beta patches and move them into the General Release Phase.
HP said any beta-test patches which remain untested will be marked plainly when they go into public release. Those extra tests for beta patches since 2008, from support customers? Only a handful of patches got GRed since that announcement. HP's lab closed down two months after the '08 notice.
But ah, there are some custom patches being created for 3000 sites today. Just none we could locate that will alter the system's OS.
One source of patch creation, Allegro Consultants, has been creating patches for Contributed Software Library programs, according to president Steve Cooper. These CSL tools are not usually the kinds of software that interact with independent tools and applications sold by third party vendors, however.
"The CSL is still used and should be hosted," Cooper said. "Changes we make [to the CSL contributions] are things like fixing:
• Check the OS level. If it is 5.0 or earlier, run. Otherwise, abort saying “this is too new a version of MPE, and we haven’t tested here.” We poke it to test for 7.5 or earlier, then test.
• Hardcoded table sizes. It might assume that a PCB entry is 16 words. When it changed to 20 words, the program would hose the PCB and crash the system. So, we would poke in the correct size for newer versions."
Cooper couldn't recall a single recent instance where a customer of his is running a 3000 with a patched OS, where that patch was created by Allegro. "I believe that we have not patched MPE directly in years," he said. "We have patched countless contributed library programs, and other applications, some with missing source code, to work around problems caused by new releases of MPE, by date issues, by larger disk issues, and so on. But I would think that no one is running an MPE system where we’ve patched the OS itself."
There are other support shops available for the smart companies who are planning on independent service for 3000s. But the most likely place to impact the stability of independent 3000 software and applications: HP itself.
A veteran of the community has concerns about the demise of comprehensive testing between patches and these independent vendors, however. "You have little companies that need a patch and have one put on," Paul Edwards said, "and maybe something like Suprtool or Orbit's software stops working. Then those little companies have no recourse." Not because of any lack of tech experience at companies like Robelle or Orbit, but because there's "no liaison between [custom OS patch providers] and the vendors."
Until the HP releases of the beta test patches, though, the issue seems to be a solution in search of a problem. The community has long considered patches a necessary evil; it prefers workarounds for OS problems, and is more likely to have adopted patches that add functionality when it does patch MPE/iX.
The last HP critical patch for MPE/iX came in 2007, when HP modified the OS millicode for the first time in 16 years. HP released a fix for sorted files which involve Large Files and did sorts which in rare circumstances could corrupt data on a 3000. The patch was only needed if a customer's applications accessed mapped files and utilized Large Files -- any which are 4GB or greater in size.
August 04, 2010
Homesteaders, migrators both tout trends
While service pros at migration firms point at the limits of the 3000 lifespan, homesteading customers are answering with snapshots of substantial sites using the 3000 beyond 2011.
Some of the discussion is surfacing at the HP 3000 Community Group on LinkedIn.com (You can join for free for such discussions and networking among 3000 pros.) More than 180 members subscribe to the group, a membership spread across 3000 migration vendors and established homestead shop managers.
"No doubt this is a difficult time for many 3000 users," said Transoft's Sonny Goodwin. "But the decision to finally do something may be the hardest part. There are many companies that have been through it already, so while it may be something scary to those of you that are doing it for the first time, there are vendors that have re-hosted/migrated these applications for hundreds of customers for many, many years. It will cost some money and it will take some time, but it has to be done sooner or later and no one can afford to wait until it’s too late."
Bob Sigworth of Bay Pointe Technology countered with testimony that large-scale IT shops remain devoted to 3000 use. "It's a great machine with the best operating system I've sold in 35 years of being in this business." Bay Pointe also resells Sun and HP's Unix systems among other platforms. "What is amazing is how many very large organizations are still using the HP 3000 and have no intentions of migrating. I am still selling quite a few e3000 N4000's and of course the 9x9s. Some are parts machines, but many are going into production."
Out on the HP 3000 newsgroup, the homesteading customers have been surfacing with reports of how many 3000s they use. The discussion was prompted by a user at SeraSoft, which promotes its 3000 expertise to move companies off the systems. At that migration company, Mike Serafin said they've got one 3000 left but are moving to the Microsoft AX business suite by year's end.
In reply Walter Murray of the California Department of Corrections reports the organization is using 45 HP 3000s. "There's an A500 at each of the 33 state prisons, plus several machines--some larger, some smaller--in our datacenter and test lab. "None of these machines will be decommissioned for at least a year."
Other homesteaders chimed in, but Scott Petersen of Speedware said "at some point the cost of doing nothing will exceed the cost of doing something. At that point, the folks that have not made a decision will likely make a hasty decision that may not have sufficient thought or planning." Petersen believes homesteaders include "companies that do not have any Information Technology folks left. The problem there is that the secretary is now running the computer and does know what or why things are done."
Craig Lalley of EchoTech, who resells storage solutions and consults for both HP 3000 and Unix companies, offered one of the best answers to the how-many-are-left query. "The answer is 'more than you think, but not enough for HP to make any money with it'," he said.
August 03, 2010
HP gets new ally in IBM AS/400 migration
HP 3000 migration provider Speedware has announced it's joining HP in the drive to get IBM customers onto HP's Unix, Linux and Windows servers. Speedware said it will provide comprehensive AS/400 legacy modernization solutions with HP. Hewlett-Packard has been working since 2003 to get this part of IBM's customer base to use Unix. HP has called the effort mainframe modernization at times. Lately Alvinia Nishimoto, who served the 3000 community for decades, has been a driver in HP's migration push.
The work might be harder to spark than 3000 migrations, since IBM is still developing new servers and improving the operating system for what it now calls the Series i. But the community that refers to itself as AS/400 has been nervous in the spots that are vocal. Like the 3000 customers of the late '90s, they're convinced that IBM doesn't see their platform as strategic any longer. Sales have declined, but migrations are not as frequent as HP would hope.
We have tracked the iSeries issues since 2002, including a couple of Special Issues of the NewsWire aimed at a community that seems to mirror the HP 3000 profile. More recent developments show a more sketchy picture of opportunity.
Speedware wants to increase that momentum. The manager of marketing alliances at the company, Christine McDowell, said the company already has tools and some experience in migrating what it calls AS/400s.
"This new alliance with HP is a result of several factors: our extensive knowledge of this market, our 100 percent success rate in legacy modernization projects, and our long and successful partnership history dating back to when we became members of the HP e3000 Platinum Partners Program," she said. "Our end-to-end modernization solutions, including products such as the ML-iMPACT code conversion tool, remain integral components of our strategy for success in the AS/400 market."
McDowell also pointed to "customers frustrated with the limitations inherent in the platform," adding that owners among the 200,000 servers are reaching out to Speedware and HP. The Series i community has far fewer technical hurdles to overcome than HP 3000 sites who've seen their vendor shut down the lab and put its support team on notice. IBM has been working for the last 10 years to integrate the operating system and hardware with its Unix and Windows enterprise servers. Long ago, an AS/400 shop could use a server inside a Superdome-like configuration alongside Unix and Windows. HP cut the 3000 out of that kind of configuration a decade ago.
But there's plenty of opportunity among such a large system base that is edgy enough to start its own "preserve us" advocacy program. There's also a lot of common elements between the 3000 and the AS/400 base. A meeting of the COMMON user group feels like an Interex gathering of the late 1990s, except that many in the room are even older now. Seasoned veterans running mission-critical business apps don't change careers quickly or often.
Speedware lists the challenges to this group as "the mounting cost for maintenance; licenses and support of legacy systems; limited access to platform-compatible software products; the complexity in integrating AS/400 applications with other systems; and the increasing shortage and high cost of resources with experience in legacy applications." These sound like 3000 issues to us, albeit among a group with more critical mass than the 3000 ever had, times two.
One recent tool that might assist in the Speedware migration effort is its recent adoption of StrongHold. The software moves PowerHouse customers onto Java. IBM is very strong in its Java support, something that HP has not demonstrated to the same extent. But StrongHold has a great target in the PowerHouse AS/400 installed base. That's a customer base at Cognos without a scheduled end of support date, however. Plans for a long-term future, rather than the exits of vendors, could well be the chief factor in getting Big Blue sites to adopt HP.
August 02, 2010
Large sites take big steps to 2011 futures
Large-scale HP 3000 sites are preparing for continued use of the systems in the year to come, the first one in four decades when HP won't support the system. Except that HP will still be supporting some 3000 systems, including a few the vendor itself has sold during the last year.
We've heard one recent report from a reseller about a rare HP sale of 3000s into a customer site. According to this story, the customer got a handful of N-Class servers directly from HP to replace older systems, cutting an independent reseller out of the deal. The reseller even said the systems had been transformed from HP 9000s N-Class systems. This transformation was a service HP offered a few years ago on customer request, if a customer couldn't find systems.
HP selling used 3000s, which were once 9000s, in 2010. We await the profuse denials from HP this ever happened. It only matters if you hear this platform is dead, or that this year is the End of Life. Maybe life as as HP knows it. HP once sent people to jail for turning 9000s into 3000s. HP has also left the door open for post-2010 support on a case by case basis. Here's language from this month's e3000 web page update:
Post 2010 e3000 Support
As always, customers that cannot 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.
Then there's a very public request for a quote to support a large 3000 installation during 2011. Mark Ranft posted the invitation to bid on the 3000 newsgroup. It's the first one we've seen so public, an RFQ that follows the trend of getting an independent company to take over for HP. Ranft is managing a network of more than 20 HP 3000s, and they're not small, old ones, either.
Last week, Ranft was looking for support on three continents' worth of 3000s and XP disk arrays.
Eighteen of them are the largest, fully loaded N4000-4-750 systems you can get. We have migrations to Windows in various stages, but there is also a very real need for legacy data access after the migration. The alternative is to migrate all the data and all the archival history, and that can be costly.
Since HP won’t be doing contractual hardware support after December 2010, we are looking for a company that can provide worldwide hardware support for our N-Class systems and XP disk arrays. The systems and arrays are located in Minneapolis, London and Sydney. We are not sure that one company will be able to provide support for all three of these locations; as a result we are willing to accept quotations from companies that can support any of these locations.
HP still provides support for the XP128 disk arrays, but we do have an XP48 disk array in Minneapolis that we may want under support. Later on, when HP drops support on the XP128, we will want the vendor to be able to pick up that support in addition to the HP 3000 servers.
Please reply if you are interested, or know of a vendor that you would recommend (or ask us to avoid.) Depending on the number and kinds or responses I receive, I may post the results on my website for others' benefit.
Vendor sales of N-Class servers, multiple-continent support contracts: If these are the signs of a dead server at the end of its life, perhaps the afterlife will be livelier than expected. 2011 is shaping up to be a year of the unexpected.