September 30, 2010
Restrict 3000 access, link web console, UPSIs there a way to restrict access to only a certain user within an account? For example, I would only like user OPERATOR.AIS to have access to everything in the FILES.AIS group and account. There are users within this account that have AL and or GL access.
Gilles Schipper replies:
If you wish to restrict the group FILES to be able to be accessed by only the user OPERATOR, do the following:
This will restrict any kind of access to files within the FILES group to only the user OPERATOR, with the following possible exceptions:
1. Any user in that account that has AM capability cannot be denied access to files in that group.
2. If any other user in the account has its home group as FILES -- AND also has GL capability -- then that user will also have access to the files in the FILES group.
So, in the specific example you cite, you only need to ensure that any other user that has GL capability does not also have FILES as the home group. (Of course, as stated previously, you cannot deny access to any user in the account that possesses AM capability).
Possessing AL capability does not provide access, since, as shown in the above ALTGROUP command, all forms of access are given ONLY to users with GL capability. And GL capability is negated for all users that log in to other than their HOME groups.
To repeat -- this technique allows you the proper file access restrictions WITHOUT the nuisance of group passwords, because if any user in the account (other than an AM user) logs in to this group (and does not have FILES as the home group or lacks GL capability) that user will be denied access to all files in the FILES group.
Can I make a Web Console work with my 959? The 959 has a DB-25 remote console socket, rather than the 9-pin of the N-Class.
Mark Ranft replies:
With the correct cable, the Web Console should definitely work on the 959. I had it working on a 989. I am not sure why you would compare the 959 to the N-Class. Anyone using Web Console on the N-Class should switch to using the GSP console.
For a better, more reliable, faster, more fully featured console on pre-GSP systems, I have set up remote console via DTC, using back-to-back DTC switching. It is very nice.
Craig Lalley adds:
Just use the 25-pin connector that is currently connected to the system console.
I have a system that I need to set up a UPS and Monitor/iX software. Is there a quick method to configuring and setting up the background job?
Gilles Schipper replies:
You'll need a straight-through 9pin-9pin serial cable attached from the N4000 UPS port to your UPS serial port.
You should already have the UPSUTIL.MPEXL.TELESUP software that you need to configure the UPS monitor.
The UPSUTIL manual, which is really pretty straightforward, is available at:
I am having an issue getting write access to the N-Class console after getting successfully connected. I have tried BREAK, and get the response [Read only - use ^Ecf for console write access.]
Craig Lalley replies:
The "^" stands for the control key.
So with three fingers Control-Shift-E take your fingers off and type 'c' then 'f' -- then hit return
September 29, 2010
Cognos hunts licenses as support recedes
At the same time that it's ready to end support of PowerHouse and other development products for the 3000, Cognos has revived its pursuit of companies to get extra license money.
The reports have come from both customers as well as third parties, although the latter group tells relates the stories without commentary. Cognos became notable -- some would say notorious -- in the 3000 world for its severe pricing of upgrades for its software. HP complained, on behalf of its customers during the 1990s, that the cost of upgrading PowerHouse was more than buying a new 3000 in some cases, killing deals and freezing 3000 expansion.
After a quieter period when the company's Automated Development Tools group dealt with customers and even extended support for MPE/iX PowerHouse, the upgrade force is back in the saddle. IBM purchased Cognos in 2008, in large measure for the company's business intelligence operations. But the ADT group is apparently still a revenue generating segment of this IBM colony -- and not just the lucrative support contracts.
Cognos has standardized on the same 8.43 version number for PowerHouse and PowerHouse Web across its platforms. But the letter that follows that number tells the story of a version's age. IBM's Unix, and HP-UX, bear a G in their versions. Those HP 3000 licenses Cognos is pursuing are frozen at version F, with Mature Platform Support set to expire at the end of December.
The fresh license bills are lower than those painful legenday levels, according to Pivital Solutions Steve Suraci. "They're really changed their price structure, going from tier-based to user-based," he said. "Much more realistic." A $50,000 cost has come down to $7-$10,000 on the deals he's seen. But placing a Time & Materials support call to Cognos on an earlier version "threw off the red flag" to licensing. "One customer had multiple license violations on multiple 3000s," Suraci said.
At least Cognos hasn't called its vanishing PowerHouse support for the 3000 "Vintage Support." That lively title is reserved, in a bit of irony, for IBM's own iSeries OS400. Cognos put that version on ice five years ago.
Of course, just because a vendor ends support doesn't mean its software stops working. What seizes up production use is when an upgrade is required because of a bigger 3000 being installed. PowerHouse sites in the 3000 world have been making do with even older versions of the 4GL to avoid the high upgrade fees, even while Cognos collects support money. With the support dollars set to expire, upgrade licenses are the new hot item.
PowerHouse still has a product manager with a public profile among 3000 users. Bob Deskin posts to the PowerHouse mailing list, representing a company that won't return calls from us for this story. He had to restrict what he could say about the future of the product on the 3000. But the Cognos outlook follows HP's official "3000-is-dying" mythology, with a little nod toward adding some features after HP's 2001 announcement.
"HP is ending all support as well," Deskin said of the end of PowerHouse 3000 support. "When HP announced the end of the HPe3000 in 2001, they gave it five years to end of life. We continued to produce versions for the MPE/iX platform including features specifically aimed at MPE/iX as well as at customers who wanted to migrate. Support for Eloquence comes to mind."
The Eloquence support surfaced five years ago, just about the time that HP was changing its mind about the end date for its 3000 business. HP led Cognos into a longer future once again, when the vendor extended its 2008 deadline to 2010.
As for the rest of the PowerHouse stable -- aside from the IBM iSeries -- Deskin said Cognos is working on new versions.
As for the other platforms, we have continually released versions with updated conformance, maintenance fixes, and new features. The 8.4xD version was released in 2004. Since then we have released 8.4xD1 in 2005, 8.4xE in 2007, 8.4xF in 2009, and our latest, 8.4xG in March 2010. And we’re hard at work on the next version.
September 28, 2010
Let Open Source Open 3000 Doors
A whole class of open source software -- tools and utilities -- can or can be made to work with the HP 3000, even if the software runs on other equipment. That's the advice from Brian Edminster, who owns Applied Technologies, a firm consulting to and managing HP 3000 sites both homesteading and in transition.
For example, Edminster says, the network graphing and trending tool Cacti can be feed by SNMP. "The 3000 has SNMP interfaces for quite a number of key statistics," Edminster said. Nagios is another tool that just needs a data-collection client to run on the 3000, allowing an MPE/iX box to be monitored just like any other piece of equipment in a company's network.One of Edminster's customers is using something similar to but simpler than Nagios: Xymon (formerly known as hobit) to monitor and trend server statistics, as well as issue alert notices when user defined thresholds are met. "I've got a prototype client for the 3000s here, so they can be monitored and alerts generated," Edminster said, "just the same as any of the several hundred other servers in this network. And yes, I'll be making the Xymon client for the 3000 available as soon as it's fairly stable; it's still being tweaked."
He says these free tools are a pretty good example showing how open source tools can be used to help a 3000 fit in with existing infrastructure, and draw benefit from those tools as well.
Solutions from open source such as Nagios need a data collection client to operate native on the 3000, and "I don't know of any third party collection clients for MPEi/X -- but that wouldn't preclude someone from writing and even selling one," Edminster said. "I'm also not aware of any open source collection clients for MPEi/X, but I'd expect that the clients available for various versions of HP-UX would be a good starting point if someone wanted to make one."
Nagios can be configured to monitor 'publicly available services' such as FTP, telnet or http right out of the box,' even when those services are provided by a 3000. "Anything else requires one sort of collection client or another," Edminster said. "There are both passive and remote invoked collection models in the Nagios design, and either could be made to work."
The development work to throw open the open source doors "isn't really rocket science, depending upon how deep the data you're seeking lies inside MPE."
Most of the time, Edminster explains, 3000 managers are interested in fairly pedestrian things, like user count versus limits, job counts, number of waiting jobs, free space, or service availability. All of which can be done either by native capabilities of existing monitoring tools, or via simple shell or CI scripting under MPE. It's even possible to get things like average CPU via use of SNMP calls or CI commands.
"It would be possible to write something more 'run-time' efficient if you had an MPE internals expert reading the internal data structures directly," he said, "versus using the 3000's Measurement Interface, which is notoriously inefficient. "But in most cases, that's really not necessary. I prefer to use the simplest, easiest to maintain method to get data. If that's not fast enough, then we get more exotic -- and only if absolutely necessary."
September 27, 2010
3000's CSL bounty bounds into new view
After more than five years of obscurity and outright disappearance, the Contributed Software Library will make its debut on a server in plain view of the community. CSL utilities will come online from an Sereis 959 system hosted by the Austin-based Support Group inc. But the re-emergence of these classic, tested tools is the result of a complete team of companies and volunteers.
This is community in action: Client Systems provides the A-Class HP 3000, the ultimate-generation small system. It's installed in a rack at the Support Group, while OpenMPE treasurer Tracy Johnson, aided by OpenMPE director Jack Connor of Abtech, arrange for the correct software to be installed on the server. A disaster recovery version of the server is hosted at Measurement Specialties, where Johnson manages 3000 resources.
Connor said the CSL is among those community-created assets that needs to resurface. "Invent3K, the CSL, Jazz, and other tools and collections of works by folks for the past four decades should be available to the community," he said. "It seems as we've formed a sort of ad hoc group to move ahead on getting done today what is realistically doable."
Paul Edwards, formerly of the OpenMPE board and currently working on a 3000 education contract, has delivered a CSL disk from the year before HP canceled its 3000 futures. Now it's up to the rest of the community to pitch in, so the hidden gems of the CSL can shine for the first time since the Interex user group scuttled its assets including the library. Edwards has the most complete version that's out in the open -- and since he's a former Interex board director as well, has as much right as anyone to share what the community created.
But the contents of the tape need some documenting. "Each CSL edition has its own way of accessing the catalog of programs." Edwards explains. "So getting a list of programs is not trivial in some cases. I believe most of the editions have an abstract or notes for each program." (Above, a sample of 3000 programs from a swap tape, the open source beginnings of the CSL shared at user group conferences. Click for a larger view.)
Some customers have already offered reports on what's working in their environments. "We still use a bunch of CSL programs," said Ken Thompson, including Bouncer, SOOT, Dirk, Conslog, Scanlog (I would love to see an updated version of that one), UDCUtil and Allowme."
Steve Thompson, IS Manager for Electronic Tele-Communications, reports, "We have been using SLEEPER to stream jobs at scheduled times of the day, week and for special occasions ever since the early 1980s. I would hate to have to replace it!"
"We would be totally lost without FINDTEXT for identifying COBOL programs which contain certain stringsof code or data elements or verbs," said Neda Bahrani, IS/IT Manager at Superior Dental Care.
If you're using a CSL program and can share a note on the name and what it does, you can help restore the contributed library to its former status. Send your summary to me at the NewsWire via email, or to the Support Group's David Floyd -- so they can verify your CSL program is on the contributed disk collection that's going back to the user community.
September 24, 2010
How Many 3000s, Once More
This year we've heard a question raised about a census, but it's not a query about the population of US cities or states. The population of the HP 3000 is on the minds of some companies still serving your community. As I explained to the latest person to ask this, just last week, the answer has drifted into the ledgers of lore.
HP announced that it had sold 10,000 minicomputers in the first 10 years of the system's life, a celebration marked in the fall of 1982. A few years later the company introduced the "Office Computer," capable of running in buildings without specialized cooling or floors suspended for extensive cables. This System 37 opened the door for another 10,000 systems sold within a few years. By 1987, HP said it had sold 20,000 units, even while the community waited on newer and faster RISC-based models.
The history grows fuzzy here, because HP stopped reporting its census of 3000s. Today's estimates range very widely. The Stromasys brain trust, which is now hiring a product manager for the HP 3000 Zelus emulator, believes there could be 20,000 HP 3000s still running around the world. That would be remarkable, considering how many systems have been replaced, even by newer models of 3000s. But since nobody knows the number of migrated systems either, no estimate is impossible. But another vendor, with far more history in the 3000 than Stromasys, believes five figures is possible.
Terry Floyd, founder and chairman of the Support Group, tossed off a guess of 10,000 HP 3000s running worldwide today. His estimate runs just about midway between the highest number we've heard and one of the lowest, 700 companies. When we shared that estimate with Stromasys, they admitted to feeling a rock in the pits of their stomachs. No one will ever know for certain how many systems still hum with 3000 applications this year, or next. HP lost track of its customers when it careened into reseller arrangements in the early '90s that were better suited to selling LaserJets.
What more, the census got even more murky when customers started dropping HP support in favor of independent companies, or even self-support. By the late 1990s more than a third of the estimated systems around the world operated outside HP support records. A few years later the majority of 3000s were being serviced by companies that didn't report anything to HP about client counts.
It's become a regular exploration for me to ask 3000-specific suppliers about the census. Pivital Solutions CEO Steve Suraci said last month that customers keep appearing that he figured were off the system. "A customer called who I figured was off the MRP GrowthPower product "for about 10 years. I found out they're now a pretty big company and they're still running GrowthPower."
Floyd's company is finding 3000 sites like this, too. "We called and called a company that we thought would have a 3000 running, and got the answer no," said TSG's Donnie Poston. "But then we finally got to the right person, who said yes, they still had a 3000 in production."
Support companies, we figure, have the best chance of finding customers and 3000s in our transition era -- because they still have a service that adds value to owning a system. "There's quite a few of them out there that have always flown under HP's radar to begin with," Suraci said. "Vendors that have relied on HP for their customer lists never saw those customers in the first place."
At one point in the last four years, more than 500 HP 3000 were still in production at State Farm Insurance. These were well off of HP's supply radar, since State Farm loved to buy upgraded servers from independent brokers. One rumor we've heard, however, reported that State Farm bought more than 100 N-Class servers in 2006 -- direct from HP.
Whether there are 4,000-5,000 HP 3000s running around the world -- a popular guess -- or more than twice that begs a larger question. What's the correct number to call the market viable? In 1982, HP reported the entire universe was 10,000 servers, including some that were already out of service. That was a market that supported third party software, a user group exclusive to the 3000, a bi-monthly magazine and a dedicated sales force.
The marketplace is absolutely transformed today, but Stromasys is looking out beyond a time when the question about how many systems is still asked. Once HP ends its 3000 operations in about three months, the number of 3000 licenses is static. But then Stromasys may see unknown 3000 sites emerge which need an alternative to a migration, like the Series 917 users, as Suraci said, "who want to clean up what they have with an emulator [on a PC], so it's easier for an IT department to support them."
That emulator is scheduled to be rolling into customer sites almost 40 years after HP got started selling those 3000s. That prompts a question about another number, based on that history: How many years will companies want to maintain a choice that's still serving them well enough? If the sensible answer seems "as many as possible," maybe that lifespan is what the census takers really want to know.
September 23, 2010
Bank marketer uses encrypted 3000 security
Software from an established supplier to credit card-processing firms is giving HP 3000s security audit features, including one vendor whose clients are banks.Driven by a July deadline from credit card processors, owners of HP 3000s are turning to a set of tools and solutions to apply encryption security for online e-commerce. FluentEdge Technologies has been offering a two-fisted product set to punch up the transaction security on a server that’s still processing card payments.
AES 256-bit encryption is at the heart of the software. FluentEdge has one solution designed for Ecometry e-commerce sites, but another set of tools is at work for a 3000 application programmer to apply to in-house systems. At banking services firm Harland Clarke, A Programmer’s Toolkit lets developers call an encryption routine on their own, if they prefer.Systems programmer Lance Nickles said the routines FluentEdge developed were easily modified by for his in-house 3000 apps.
“They were able to make the routines standalone for us,” he said, “so we could pick and choose what data we wanted to encrypt.” The operation, which serves bank processing, uses 15 databases and 25 different tables which are either partially or wholly encrypted. Harland Clarke was already PCI certified, meeting the standards required by Visa for credit card handling.The company sends marketing-based printed products with a credit card number printed on it, Nickles explained. “The account number is the way we identify that particular order.”
Encryption is notable for being a performance hog, and capturing IMAGE puts and gets presented the prospect for slowing the speed of an application. “We were concerned at first when we wrote it in COBOL,” Looyenga said. “But when we rewrote it all in C, we made the performance implications very negligible.”
Nickles said the encryption hasn’t slowed processing much, as far as he can measure. “There’s a bit of a hit, but it’s not drastic,” he said. An N-Class 4-CPU 3000 drives the processing at Harland Clarke.
FluentEdge initiates the implementation for a customer, a process Looyenga described as "very easy — we just put some XLs into the library and they’re good to go.
"They do their DBGETs, and then they call DECRYPT, and when they call a DBPUT, they call a routine called ENCRYPT,” Looyenga said. This version of the product can be applied to any HP 3000 application where data encryption is needed.
After 10 years of serving Ecometry customers with e-commerce enhancement, Looyenga has seen a good share of the 3000 marketplace concerned with PCI encryption. But non-Ecometry solutions such as the one at Harland Clarke represent even more growth to the company, since encryption software can be implemented in any system that needs security to pass an audit.
A stand-alone version encrypts and decrypts files via batch or command line, all running on the 3000. This Flat File Encryption Program gives the ability to an authorized manager to encrypt or decrypt files on demand. Even archival spoolfiles can be encrypted.
The FluentEdge solution is noteworthy for bypassing Windows, using HP’s C compiler written for the HP 3000, making the software an all-MPE/iX choice. That’s important to the clients using the FluentEdge systems. Nobody wants to send card numbers outside a 3000 once again — having first been gathered through web servers — and exposing more of the infrastructure to audit requirements.
They care about this, Looyenga said, “because if you were to push traffic off the HP 3000 to a Windows box, for example, now they have to secure their network. That Windows box that might be receiving the numbers now also has to be PCI compliant. They’d much rather have it all native on the HP 3000.”
September 22, 2010
3000 support firms still competing with HP
It doesn't matter what HP has told the marketplace about its march to exit the 3000 support business, says one independent 3000 support company. Hewlett-Packard is still taking steps to win support for 3000 installations large and small in 2011.
This is not an official worldwide HP position, notes Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. But all the talk of Dec. 31 being the absolute end of HP's maintenance for 3000 sites is a message that's not accurate in more than a few places around North America.
"It's very location-driven, but we're still competing against HP," he said. "Florida must be an area where HP feels they've got local resources, and can continue to support the 3000." His company specializes in 3000 support, so it's not like HP's bidding contracts which go up against Pivital's Windows and HP-UX support as well as MPE. The HP bidding extends to single-system, single-site customers, he added.
Other support companies confirm that HP is sending letters to 3000 sites to confirm 2011 support. It's a matter of inertia for HP to reel in the business it swears it will drop in December.
"For these customers it's easier to stick with HP, no matter what they want to charge them [for 2011], than it is to move to someone else's support. Like everybody else in this economy, HP is continuing to find ways to make money off the 3000." After "end of life" extensions in 2005 and in 2007, the reach of HP into the customer community continues. "To me, it's a little disappointing once again that they're finding more ways to complicate this." Suraci said. "I was looking forward to the day when I wouldn't be competing with HP for 3000 support. I'm still looking for that day."
HP said eight years ago that it would be supporting some 3000 customers after its official end of support date. But at the time, that end of support was the end of 2006. Brokers are also reporting that HP has supplied sites with HP 3000 servers, even cutting third parties out of deals with a competitive price for a server the vendor hasn't built in almost seven years.
"There are still a fair number of customers doing hardware upgrades these days," Suraci reported, "one more go at it for whatever the next number of years might be for them."
One official way to engage HP in 3000 support during 2011 will a Time & Materials call, something used to revive a fried CPU board or something as simple as download a patch. But a call into HP's support department for a 3000 has a good chance of getting misdirected these days, according to reports from Suraci and customer sites.
"Try placing that support call for a 3000," he said. "If you don't get into their printer support or their camera support -- those are products where they have 3000 models now -- you find that HP 3000 support isn't readily available anymore. The contacts that a customer would have used in the past are no longer there, and if they are at HP, they're doing something else nowadays."
Another support supplier and hardware reseller said answering a hardware call in 2011 would be easy for an HP tech, who could swap a part into a 9x9 or later and get the machine “working” from a hardware perspective. "They are all just Unix system parts," he said. "But what happens when a hardware problem causes an issue that is not related to hardware, like a corrupt file? Who's going to walk that end user through the process of getting their 3000 back online?"
September 21, 2010
First Flashes of 15 Years Ago
I cranked up the Rolling Stones' song Start It Up in my CD player 15 years ago today and wrote the 3000 NewsWire's very first FlashPaper. It was an era where CD drives weren't standard equipment in either PCs or my Mac, but the Stones song was everywhere that month on TVs, as Microsoft rolled out Windows 95 and its new Start button. Bill Gates' company hired a stuntman to rappel down the side of the CN Tower in Toronto as a kickoff stunt, a moment which attendees of the HP Interex show had watched just a month earlier.
The FlashPaper was our way of making a monthly newsletter feel more like a weekly. We wrote each one just before the NewsWire went into the postal bins. It was our effort at printing news more current than the monthly 3000 magazines which have all died since that day in September.
I wanted the FlashPaper to sound as sassy as Mick Jagger and hoped the theme music might help. I wrote about how HP had changed its mind, once again, about who should lead its IMAGE database labs. Then R&D manager Harry Sterling would pick Tien-You Chen out of what I called a "well-stocked technical pool." Chen held the position for more than a decade, even outlasting HP's manufacturing of 3000 hardware. Those middle '90s were an era of re-starting crucial 3000 technologies such as IMAGE.
I was eager to send this first news salvo into the information fray. Too eager, in fact, because that issue of the Flash was the only one ever to bear a specific date: Sept. 21, 1995. Once our printer finished our main issue, 10 days later, we could finally start up our FlashPaper tradition. Print led our news flow so long ago.
Fifteen years ago I reported the "new 5.5 MPE/iX release" would make 3000 databases better with a way to suspend users during online backups. HP was working with third parties like Orbit Software to help companies with large user counts keep 3000s online. Hewlett-Packard's 3000 division understood that large customers would renew support and upgrade their servers, so long as the uptime could be preserved. Orbit's still selling online backup, but HP ceases shipping 3000 subsystems this year.
Continuous service from the server was the 3000 hallmark. Within a year, we were calling the first version of our web site Always Online. We were still innocent about the Web's uptime, hoping for 3000 standards.
Windows NT was on the project charts for IT managers during that first Flash of writing. WRQ, now also disappeared (into Attachmate), was including WinNT versions of its Reflection terminal emulator along with a Win95 version. NT, developed by a former Digital engineer who designed a Windows which aspired to enterprise abilities, was one of HP's two alternatives in an era of 3000 co-existence. HP had missed the march of Windows into the IT shops by focusing on its own Unix. After 15 years HP's enterprise customers have trained their focus away from HP-UX, judging by HP's sales reports. Windows doesn't need New Technology to make its way into 3000 shops, and even Linux is stealing Unix business by now.
The first Flash of 15 years ago also carried reports of two programs that didn't survive the decade: Enterprint, for connecting 3000s to Xerox high-speed color printers via a Unix workstation network gateway; and Netwatch/3000, which promised a security watchdog over FTP and telnet access to HP 3000s. We advised our readers to contact the makers of Netwatch via fax -- still essential then -- as well as email. It was an era when most of the readership was not yet online with email. But our breaking news report followed the desire to link with color printers -- we printed the Flash on bright orange paper to stand out while we started up.
Thanks for keeping your eyes trained on the latest news about a server that's outlasted an era with few PC CDs, little email and faxing that was essential. We couldn't have started it up unless we believed savvy IT managers would have lasting interest in a computer that was already more than 20 years old.
September 20, 2010
Eloquence adds 64-bit Win, UX improvement
Marxmeier Software founder Michael Marxmeier has announced a release candidate for his company's Eloquence database which includes improvements for HP's Unix, and the Linux environments which need IMAGE-like functionality. Marxmeier is calling the software B.08.10 update 1, a fresh version of the software initially released in July.
Eloquence has long supported Windows, including the 8.00 release, but the 8.10 version has been working toward extending its support of Microsoft's environment most preferred by migrating HP 3000 sites. "32-bit and 64-bit Windows versions are supported," Marxmeier said in a message on Friday. "Selected Eloquence components are installed both as 32-bit and 64-bit binaries, such as the database server and the client libraries. On 64-bit Windows, the installation program allows administrators to choose between activating the 32-bit or the 64-bit database server."
Eloquence received kudos for its IMAGE-like design from HP's own IMAGE labs more than eight years ago. Tien-You Chen, the IMAGE Lab Manager, spoke at the 2002 HP World conference along with Marxmeier, giving a talk together to help anoint the database as a best successor for companies which must leave the HP 3000. Robelle relayed Chen's Eloquence commentary when the database was new to the 3000 world.
Tien-You has been the Database Architect at CSY for years and is sorry to see TurboIMAGE retired, but he is "happy to tell you we have found a perfect replacement." It was interesting to have Tien-You Chen give this portion of the talk, since he was an independent source to review how compatible Eloquence and IMAGE are. It is important to note that although all the DB calls are compatible from an application perspective, Eloquence is certainly a different type of database under the hood.
This version of the database which behaves most like the IMAGE/SQL can co-exist with the 8.00 release, so users can cut over on a schedule that permits reliability testing. It can be downloaded, with versions for all of HP's 3000 migration alternatives, at Marxmeier's website. Since it's a release candidate, Marxmeier is still labeling the version as beta.
For the database administration expert, a few notes about improvements to Eloquence:
- Improved database server HTTP status
- Added filter support to the HTTP status
- Changed dbkeyupdate function, to allow deleting data encryption keys from a database not using encryption
- Fixed a limitation in the decompiler ("LIST") that caused a problem with array member variables passed to a SUB/FN
- Improved DLL interoperability with 32 and 64 bit Eloquence DLLs. The new eloqcore can now use 32 and 64 bit Eloquence DLLs that are linked against the most recent libeqdll library.
September 17, 2010
IBM CEO calls HP's bluffed up growth deals
It's a rare event when IBM's leader makes a point of commenting on Big Blue's top competitor. But at a Wall Street Journal-sponsored event this week, Sam Palmisano identified the true cost of driving innovation with company purchases, rather than engineering. Deals like the mad bidding war for 3PAR are going to cost HP's customers in the longer term, he said in a Journal story.
Some of this is jousting between competitors, of course. Palmisano, whose company is just behind HP in total sales -- after shedding its PC business to Lenovo -- said selling PCs is so yesterday.
Those might be harsh words for anybody who wants to wander into a Best Buy or a Walmart or an Office Depot to scoop up the latest HP laptop. But by trying to be everything to every kind of computer customer, HP is risking becoming me-too at everything it sells by the billions. You can ask JC Penney or Sears how that "we sell it all to you" business model is working. A big company can always be outmaneuvered by innovation, or even the addition of invention to a just-smaller rival.
And you can ask the HP 3000 users what it means when a product's revenues drop off because sales have declined on the loss of innovation funding. You need to invent for durable growth -- or experience what happens in the barren aisles of Sears.
September 16, 2010
Today: last day to download free HP patches
The HP 3000 pulls even with all of the other Hewlett-Packard enterprise servers this week. All of these business systems are losing their free patch download service tomorrow -- which makes today the last day to download yours without charge.
Patches have been an included part of the HP computer experience since the 1970s. But like so many other aspects of Hewlett-Packard -- its R&D spending, boardroom ethics and morals, or the focus on products versus service-based business -- things have changed. Starting tomorrow, a paid support account will be needed to download fixes for bugs, enhancements to operating environments such as HP-UX, MPE, OpenVMS and NonStop. The charges apply to customers both migrating and homesteading. For the record, nobody else has the right to create an HP-branded patch, although there's been plenty of independent 3000 patches built over the last decade and more.
HP calls this move an "alignment with accepted industry standards for software practice delivery," but that's a canard that follows the wrong standards bearers. Oracle-Sun (Snorkle) has grubbed deeper into customer pockets for paid-only patching, to be sure, after rescuing the Sun servers from a steep dive. But IBM, which has outspent HP 2-1 over the last 10 years in R&D, does not charge for any patch repairs to its products, including those caused by manufacturer defects in coding. Calling these practices accepted is like telling an electric utility customer they're accepted higher rates. There's always going off the grid, isn't there?
Visit the HP IT Response Center website today, or download a full set using the Patchman utility, if you think you'll ever need a patch for an enterprise server. Patchman, created by former HP engineer Mark Bixby, is a script that uses the soon-to-be-defunct FTP patch portal to grab needed and recommended patches from HP's servers. Patchman is still available at Bixby's personal site, bixby.org, at www.bixby.org/ftp/pub/mpe/patchman-2.2.sh
Tomorrow starts the era of paying for downloads, even if your HP system will no longer receive official HP support starting Dec. 31. HP's allegedly not writing 2011 support contracts for MPE/iX -- more on that in a bit -- but its very special Time & Materials purchase prices will go into effect tomorrow. HP has also said that it is considering an extension of its faulty standards alignment to its enterprise products outside of the Business Critical Server unit -- looking at the Industry Standard ProLiant line. However, how HP would manage to charge for Microsoft's Windows patches, or those for Linux, is as baffling as how long-term business success can be a result of a 2.5 percent R&D budget. There are customers with unlimited support budgets who will pay extra to have a single point of support supply, of course.
Paid support for HP 3000 products is a keystone of the ownership experience. Companies pay about 15 percent of a software product's price yearly to third parties to be able to call for support and have problems repaired. Sometimes their issues are placed in a development queue, but there's always a direct link between vendor and customer. What's more, those support fees flow directly to development at the third party vendor. That's never been the case at HP, boneheaded business that helped kill the vendor's future with the server. The new HP policy applies a fresh fee on top of Hewlett-Packard's traditional terms of ownership, however.
From the perspective of any vendor whose policies remain as they always have -- linking R&D with support -- paid patching makes sense. "They're used to getting patches when they bought the machine," said MB Foster CEO Birket Foster. "Now they're being told [their purchase] is a License to Use. That's not unreasonable, because people have to pay for R&D while HP is making those kinds of patches."
However, Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci says the paid-patch era for MPE/iX tips HP's hand at its future with the server. "For a company who says they want to get out of the HP 3000 business supposedly, it sure seems like they don't want to get out of the business, doesn't it?"
Suraci adds that the paid-patch move lets HP "keep their finger on the pulse of people who are still using the platform." What good would this information do HP? Well, the company would still enjoy selling a replacement to a 3000 customer who's making a migration -- but has disappeared from HP's records. Thousands of HP 3000s have vanished from HP's view, even while they operate in corporations large and small. Tomorrow HP will start to stumble upon the community that's been so independent of the vendor that Hewlett-Packard doesn't even know their names.
September 15, 2010
Upgrade sales bypass extra HP licensesRight To Use fees are rarely being paid by customers upgrading 3000 systems. HP 3000 customers continue to upgrade their systems, even while some make progress toward migrating off the server. But the upgrade sales scheduled for next year and beyond, when HP ends all of its 3000 operations, don’t include a new license payment for most sites, according to resellers in the community.
HP developed the Right To Use (RTU) license in 2007 to cut off an end run to PA-RISC hardware not configured by HP for MPE/iX use. The RTU also included fees, ranging as high as $80,000, for upgrading older 9x8 systems to the ultimate generation of 3000s.
Upgrade customers are choosing not to pay the HP fee, a tax that the vendor doubted it would collect very often by now.
“With HP basically turning the switch off at midnight December 31, 2010, it looks to me that the RTU fee will be a non issue,” said Bob Sigworth, president of reseller Bay Pointe Technology. “HP will officially be out of the 3000 business, so I do not believe they will be trying to collect RTU fees.”
There are few places remaining where a customer could purchase an RTU license, and a dwindling number of days to do so. HP ends all sales of any 3000-related products Dec. 31. Client Systems, which served as North American distributor of 3000s until 2003 and still sells HP software and licenses, reminded customers on a newsgroup about the coming deadline.But another reseller in the community, one who says they’ve got good relations with HP and “are its biggest fan,” can’t see any reason for a customer to spend anything on any license, unless the customer insists.
“We recommend that if customers are comfortable not purchasing the MPE RTUs for their systems, then don’t,” said BlueLine Services president Bill Towe. “As for MPE as a whole, I find it hard to understand why customers continue to spend money directly with HP on a line of equipment HP has been trying to put in the grave for the past eight years.”
Like Towe, Sigworth believes HP is finished with the 3000 business. “I do not believe that HP wants any revenue stream from the 3000 world,” he said. “They simply want to be done with all aspects of the 3000.”
One aspect of HP’s licensing scheme that the vendor is expected to continue is license transfers for MPE/ iX. A Software License Transfer operation verifies a valid license based on ownership documents, then issues a new license to the new owners for a $400 fee. HP used to have leverage to control the SLT process because HP support required a current license. Since HP’s support ends Dec. 31, there are far fewer scenarios to require even an SLT payment.
“There have been a number of end users that did want the license transferred into their name, even if they were totally using third party providers for all aspects of their support,” said Sigworth. “These end users wanted to be compliant and wanted to make sure they had a legal HP 3000 server. Is there really a reason to transfer a license in 2011? BayPointe will continue to do so, but I am not sure HP really cares.”
Towe believes that HP’s dwindling 3000 resources show that a customer can better spend their budget than on RTU licenses. “They no longer employ or foster the expertise to service or support MPE except in very isolated cases,” he said, “and their primary plan for the future is to get customers off of MPE and migrated to another Business Critical Systems platform, Integrity or otherwise.”
Sigworth said HP needs to clarify its rules for 2011 about the RTUs, even while customers are skipping them. “All end users and resellers want to know what HP expects regarding RTUs and license transfers in 2011 and beyond. The last thing any reseller or end user wants is to have HP send a letter in the future saying ‘you owe HP X dollars because you did this.’ ”
Towe added that 3000 customers should be “spending hard-earned money on creative, smart MPE environment preservation concepts rather than manufacturer RTU licensing. The systems will operate and be cared for by very capable companies other than HP for years to come.”
September 14, 2010
Speedware offers time shifter for migrations
A software tool which helped 3000 sites during the last great migration -- the transition from 1999 to 2000 -- is being pressed into service for migration and legacy modernization projects, according to Speedware's Manager of Strategic Alliances Christine McDowell. Speedware is reselling Solution-Soft's Time Machine, a popular tool during Y2K work.
“The addition of Time Machine is a natural fit and a great value-add feature for our legacy modernization projects,” said McDowell. "Financial institutions, insurance and government are examples of industries where transactions occur that are event-based critical. Now Speedware customers can benefit from simplified and faster testing by using Time Machine."
The Solution-Soft utility was introduced in 1997, an era when adjusting the system time beyond Dec. 31, 1999 was a crucial test of application and system rewrites. It provides virtual clocks to facilitate app testing, what-if analysis and time zone adjustment.
Speedware identifies its mission as modernization of legacy apps, as well as migration. It notes that "as legacy modernization projects involve an organization’s business-critical applications, testing becomes an integral phase of the project, ensuring that the applications run seamlessly after modernization. Transaction events triggered by system time are one of many basic elements used in testing application validity."
Using Time Machine "lowers risk when migrating applications by demonstrating the actual performance of the application at whatever date and time is chosen." The deal between Solution-Soft and Speedware gives the latter firm worldwide reseller rights.
The director of business development at Solution-Soft, which has been selling HP 3000 products since the early 1990s, sees a link between Speedware's mission and the time-shift tool. "There is a natural fit and synergy between Solution-Soft's product and Speedware's customer base," said Michael Morrison. "We are excited to be working with Speedware to introduce our software application to legacy modernization and migration customers."
During the heavy IT demands of Y2K, Time Machine was popular among the customers who didn't want to create their own test suites in such detail. Testing is usually the largest part of a development project the size of Y2K. Many consultants and migration companies will report that migration off the HP 3000 is a much larger project than Y2K was for most companies.
Time Machine returns a specified date or time whenever the application gets the system time without changing the system clock. Only the applications designated by the developer are affected by Time Machine. Each application can travel to a different point in time by specifying a different date. SolutionSoft's founder Paul Wang said in '97 his utility makes it possible to simultaneously test a month-end application for the date 7/3/2009 and a year-end application with the date 1/4/2010, while normal system processing is running using the current date.
In a NewsWire review by John Burke when Time Machine was introduced, we summed up by saying the tool was likely to outlast Y2K needs. "Although Time Machine was probably first conceived as a tool to help in Year 2000 projects," Burke wrote, "it can do much more. Its usefulness will outlast any current and future Year 2000 compliance projects."
September 13, 2010
OpenMPE re-invents developer's resource
Ending its 18-month quest to restore a 3000 resource, OpenMPE re-opened an invent3k developer server on Friday afternoon. The new system, stocked with HP's 3000 software and patched with the latest MPE/iX, went online because the advocacy group set up invent3k2, a disaster recovery server in California.
The original HP 3000 server donated to the group for invent3k isn't online yet, but the arrival of the first tangible OpenMPE resource will render that disaster meaningless. HP first launched invent3k as a test of the power of open development tools in 2001, just six months before the vendor announced it would exit the 3000 community. The server's aim has always been to provide developer tools and account space to aid in 3000 porting and program design. Even in the years after HP pulled its 3000 plug, programmers tapped the free resource.
Tracy Johnson, secretary of the group, has marshaled an available HP 3000 at his employer Specialized Measurement for invent3k2. The server is a collaboration of volunteers' efforts, some still in progress. Johnson added that he can use help in configuring HP WebWise, the Web server that runs native on MPE/iX.
Johnson said members of OpenMPE (membership is free) can access the 3000 through a terminal window at the address 184.108.40.206, once they receive a user account and password from him via email. Requests for log-on information can go to any board member, he added. Accounts and passwords were being distributed before the weekend began.
HP's 3000 compilers such as BASIC, C, COBOL, FORTRAN, and PASCAL are available for MPE/iX users, as well as "Java from the MPE/iX 7.5 install manual and Perl," Johnson reports. "Use of invent3k2 will be free until December 31, after which time OpenMPE will start charging a fee."
That this group can offer any service other than advocacy and elections is a milestone in a year when HP is ending 3000 operations -- including a halt to distribution of MPE/iX FOS tapes and the software such as those compilers. The original system, a 3000 donated by Client Systems and hosted at Hill Country Technologies, never broke free of that host's firewalls, despite assurances provided to then-secretary Donna Hofmeister by Hill Country's Matt Perdue, another board member. The new 3000 resource arrives almost a year after original invent3k was reported to Hofmeister as ready at the 2009 e3000 Community Meet.
Johnson said he's tapped an extra IT resource of his employer, a manufacturer with 3000-managed operations across the world. He also reports late-night work to open the server to the community.
HP sent the group a tape of the developer's software package (DSPP) to load onto a DR version of invent3k. "It took a week’s work with DSPP tapes," Johnson said. "Then there was getting our facilities guy to lay a cable to a router outside the firewall, then configuring the router on Thursday night."
When HP closed its MPE/iX development lab late in 2008, invent3k was a casualty pulled offline on Nov. 30. Programmers and open source developers had established accounts on the server where they worked on projects such as the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) support for Perl/iX, or a port of text2pdf, a simple, small C program that reads text from 3000 standard input and creates a PDF stream as output. Such open source ports were high on HP's list of hopes when invent3k made its debut.
The computer was to provide an HP 3000 resource for developers and customers who want to create software and test programs. HP engineer Mark Bixby managed the original resource at the 3000 lab, and said Invent3K provides a place "to port new open-source applications, develop new closed-source applications, or just test-drive the HP software.
But when HP transferred the licensed software from invent3k, it purged all user accounts. "Users were supposed to get all their stuff before they closed it down," Johnson said. HP announced no plan to transfer the resource to the community when it announced its shutdown; OpenMPE had to win the software from HP. "Once the HP machine had already been cut off from the outside world, I don't recall an expectation of any type of transfer to OpenMPE until we talked them out of it," Johnson said.
September 10, 2010
3000 vendor's buyback leverages new efforts
When Speedware purchased itself for $12.9 million this summer, it opened the doors for new efforts in migration operations, ones which the company recently extended to the IBM market as well as adding a new tool that enables migrating PowerHouse customers to Java.
Speedware’s new ownership has already started to pursue fresh avenues. The company announced a major sales, marketing and support deal to use StrongHold software to migrate PowerHouse sites on 3000s to a Java architecture. StrongHold has sold the tool for more than six years, but the 3000 exposure will be new for the software. Speedware, on the other hand, says that PowerHouse has been an element in about 20 percent of the more than 130 migrations it’s completed.The company is also diving into HP’s mission to get IBM AS/400 shops to migrate to HP’s Unix, Windows or Linux environments. A well-known migration tool, ML-impact, will help Speedware get these older IBM enterprises onto .NET architecture for migration and modernization.
Then there’s the other prospects that internal ownership promises to Speedware. While the company cut loose its operations in the sectors of lumber and building materials, automotive aftermarkets, wholesale trade, and hardware and home-center retailing, Speedware has kept its OpenERP division in the transfer of ownership. This company offers an alternative to the MM II and eXegySys HP 3000 sites through migration to an OpenERP package that runs on a wide array of environments. OpenERP is run by some of the former management of eXegeSys, which offered a way off of MM II.The 3000 migration market continues to show significant business prospect for Speedware. Of three focuses the company’s taken on, “the HP 3000 community is a very strong focus,” Kulakowski said, “even more so now that we are allowed to invest in what we feel is appropriate. Activant always felt that was a declining market and was always very reluctant to add any cost to those efforts, in headcount and other areas.”
The company president said Speedware has already added headcount for migration work since the departure from Activant. “We plan on making sure we are very active, so that we can ensure the possibility of a acquiring every migration opportunity that is out there. We feel we’re the best-resourced HP 3000 skill company. If there are any interesting, complex 3000 migrations to be done, we believe we are the best organization to do that.”Some untapped portion of the migration business for 3000 sites lies in offers for do it yourself (DIY) software and advice. Many sites have wanted an outside services company to take charge of a migration, but many more need to migrate in-house to leverage internal resources and control budgets. Speedware’s marketing director Chris Koppe said he believes about 25 percent of the migration revenues at the company come from DIY today. It’s an area the vendor wants to expand with the help of partners. AMXW and DBMotion are Speedware’s DIY tools, but ScreenJet and Marxmeier’s Eloquence will have expanded roles to play.
The new ownership structure that includes employees may offer the deepest impact, Kulakowski said. “They didn’t just sign up for a job,” by owning a share. “They are signed up for a cause.”
September 09, 2010
Speedware launches revival with buybackA 34-year-old firm has returned to its 3000-savvy owners, including a share set aside for employees to invest in for careers serving customers in the community.
One of the top resources for 3000 migrations has taken hold of its own investment decisions again, as Speedware bought itself back from corporate owner Activant Corp. The purchase for $12.9 million opens the doors for new efforts in Speedware’s migration operations, ones which the company recently extended to the IBM market as well as adding a new tool that enables migrating PowerHouse customers to Java.
“For people who care about the HP 3000 and migrations, this is a great story,” said president Andy Kulakowski, whose roots with the system go back to programming on a Series III in the 1980s. The company sold itself to Activant in 2005 for $120 million, a deal that swung on the value of Speedware’s then-recent acquisitions of application customers in markets from automotive to building materials. Speedware's sold its entire group of operations -- including those units they'd acquired in places like automotive aftermarket applications -- to Activant.
Speedware has bought back its core 3000 business, along with the OpenERP application company which was once eXegeSys, and before that, MM II. OpenERP offers manufacturing suites on a wide range of environments.
Kulakowski said that soon after the company became part of Activant in 2005, “we felt somewhat orphaned,” being owned by a corporation that didn’t understand Speedware’s core migration and modernization business.
“It was clear early on that they were not going to invest in the core business,” Kulakowski said. “It was not strategic to them and never would be.” Speedware’s managers continued to approach Activant about buying back the company, but the profitable business returns kept the firm in Activant’s $200 million portfolio.While Speedware built the largest list of migration clients, Activant wouldn’t let the company buy Ordina, a software firm that sells an MPE-on-HP-UX emulation solution, MPUX. Speedware had acquired AMXW, another migration hosting suite, before the Activant deal closed.
The repurchase of the company that closed in late June was spurred by investment from Fondaction, a Canadian government fund built to keep Canadian companies owned by Canadians. Kulakowski said the buyback puts 82 percent of the ownership equally in the hands of Fondaction and the 7-member management team of Speedware, a group whose members’ tenure averages 20 years with the company.The balance of the company is owned by the rest of the Speedware employees. “We wanted it to be our legacy, pardon the pun, to get ownership opportunities for the employees themselves,” Kulakowski said. He added that the funding from the employee owners isn’t crucial to making the buyback work, but inviting the staff into ownership shares felt like the right thing to spur initiative.
Kulakowski said the Quebec investment fund differs from the classic venture capital group. “They’re not only interested in a return on their investment. They’re equally interested in stimulating the economy here in Quebec.”
September 08, 2010
HP, Oracle hurl claims of damage via Hurd
Former HP CEO Mark Hurd was scheduled to collect $12.2 million of his HP exit payout on Sept. 5. The very next day Oracle announced he was going to work for HP's rival in enterprise servers. The new job was announced one day after Hurd's payout was reported in SEC documents. Oracle plans to pay Hurd $950,000 in salary and a signing bonus not to exceed $10 million.
The costs to HP may go beyond a loss of face or the pillage of the company's R&D budget under Hurd. (The chart shows how HP's R&D budget fell at the same time company profits rose during Hurd's tenure starting in '05 -- and in Carly Fiorina's before him. It's easier to increase profits while you decrease R&D expenditures.) The day after Oracle announced its Hurd hiring, HP filed lawsuit 110-cv-181699 in California Superior Court to try to block the move -- sparking Oracle's Larry Ellison to issue a statement that paints the end of cooperation between the two longtime partners. Ellison said he cannot see how the companies can continue to work together in the face of HP's suit.
Oracle has long viewed HP as an important partner. The HP board is acting with utter disregard for that partnership, our joint customers, and their own shareholders and employees. The HP board is making it virtually impossible for Oracle and HP to continue to cooperate.
HP's sold tens of thousands of Unix servers with Oracle's help and software on the deal. Now HP asserts it's being threatened by Hurd's move to lead Oracle's sales and marketing force as a co-president.
The complaint says that "HP is threatened with losing customers, technology, its competitive advantage, its trade secrets and goodwill in amounts which may be impossible to determine." The suit accuses Hurd of breach of contract but doesn’t name Oracle as a defendant.
Despite the fact that HP's board insisted Hurd was not leading initiatives while CEO, and was just one of 300,000 employees, its suit says the man they ousted on Aug. 6 knows key HP trade secrets. HP wants the courts to assign a Special Master to review Hurd's employment tasks, monthly.
Hurd “was privy to the most sensitive of HP trade secret and confidential information,” HP said in its complaint. Legal experts contacted for an article in BusinessWeek labeled HP's suit a long-shot to succeed under California labor laws, which permit employee moves freely. HP weathered a similar suit by EMC last year when it hired the head of its enterprise business David Donatelli away from EMC. Donatelli stayed at HP, but the companies settled by isolating the lured-away exec from some of HP's enterprise storage business strategy.
HP's suit states that Hurd signed agreements in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that prevent him from soliciting HP customers or suppliers. Oracle has named Hurd as its president of sales and marketing. He has received more than $100 million in compensation over the years he signed those HP agreements.
Migrate or homestead data integration today
A webinar at 2PM Eastern today examines data integration on the HP 3000, a modernization process that both homesteading customers or interim migrators can employ. David Greer, the marketing and sales director for MB Foster, leads a look at replication to targets such as SQL Server databases -- as well as historical access to HP 3000 data after a migration is complete. Registration is at the MB Foster website (link above).
The company has sold and supported its UDALink data migration and integration tools for more than 25 years in the HP 3000 market, as well as versions for HP-UX and Windows. In a project completed earlier this year, MB Foster migrated the UDALink suite to 64-bit Windows, a format that Microsoft will be requiring more often in the months to come.
Data integration is another type of migration, one that both customers leaving the platform and those homesteading can practice. Archival HP 3000s, running apps that contain historical data, are a part of many a migrated site. The system managers don't consider these 3000s production-class, but the data is still mission critical -- especially if a governmental agency or auditor needs proof of access.
September 07, 2010
Hurd mentality slips into Oracle's boardroom
Ousted HP CEO Mark Hurd now has a new job title: President of Sales and Marketing for a mighty HP competitor. Hurd was named as one of two co-presidents of Oracle yesterday, less than a month after his unceremonious resignation from HP.
Update: HP has filed a suit to block Hurd's
appointment to the Oracle executive team. The suit was filed in Superior
Court of California
in Santa Clara, The lawsuit centers around a confidentiality provision in
Hurd's $28 million exit
agreement from HP.
Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison was vocal about the HP board's mistake in letting Hurd go, a departure triggered by Hurd's business affairs with a marketing contractor with a Playboy layout in her resume. Hurd assumes a co-president's post vacated by Charles E. Phillips Jr -- who has left after an illicit affair gone so badly the woman bought billboard space to advertise the entanglement.So as Hurd tries to slip into that already-warm seat at Oracle, HP enterprise computer customers face a new season of competition for their dollar. Not only can Oracle's new Sun unit bid for fresh Unix installations with a promise of extra-special system-database integration, but the deal will be offered by HP's latest CEO. The first part of that offer will sound familiar to a 3000 customer, even those migrating away. The HP 3000 found its first successes in the '70s with an advanced server-database integration design. And homesteading customers will continue to enjoy that integration, sans the moral dramas.
As for the second part of the offer -- a competing product, hawked by a just-cashiered CEO -- there's nothing remotely familiar to the 3000 user about that package. HP CEOs either retired to the likes of winemaking or politics, or found a place in venture capital or the graveyard. None of them have carried enough swagger or chops to step onto Larry Ellison's board, just 30 days after leaving with HP's $28 million resignation parachute. Ellison showed his admiration of Hurd with a tweet that called HP's ouster the worst move since Apple fired Steve Jobs in the 80s.
Hurd was admired by some segments of the HP enterprise customer and partner base. To be accurate, his results have been admired by those who did well to partner with an HP that boosted sales and profits during his tenure. Today that admiration needs to be extended to respect for a competitor, one who will surely take business away from HP's Business Critical Servers unit in the company's Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking operation. That's the group selling the non-Windows alternatives to the HP 3000.
Any industry event that makes an Integrity sale or re-investment tougher over the next two years will drag down the future of HP's Unix, OpenVMS and NonStop platforms. These are not parts of HP's portfolio which are growing. Oracle used to be one of HP's most trusted partners in the HP-UX space. With the arrival of an ousted CEO, selling a head-on alternative in Sun systems, that cooperation may be well and truly ended.It hasn't been quite the fortnight HP planned in storage or enterprise leadership. The company spent $600 million more than it estimated to win away the 3Par cloud storage company away from arch-rival Dell. In the process of that bidding war, HP ran up the 3Par stock to about 80 percent of the HP share price, all for a company that lost hundreds of millions on its 2009 bottom line. (Stock update this AM: 3Par up to $32.80 from $8.62; HP's stock at $40, off 20 percent from Hurd's exit.)
But cloud storage seems to fit well with HP's maximum-flex enterprise strategy. A company with considerable egg on its board's face couldn't afford to lose a war with a PC maker so troubled that Dell was rumored to be going private. But now there's one more HP acquisition, and technology, to integrate into HP's enterprise offerings. There's also one less place for HP to develop using its own R&D.
When added to the rapid snap-up of the man who approved such HP M&A stretching, a customer migrating away from HP's 3000 line might hear something from their own board about strategies of alternative environments and their vendors. Oracle loves to buy companies, too -- it recently took on Sun to grab an enterprise OS, the world's most concentrated Java expertise, and the open source mySQL database which drives the likes of Craigslist.
Considering the indiscretions of Oracle's Phillips, Hurd's business affairs slipping into Oracle's mentality, and even the recent removal of Adult Services from Craigslist, there's may be a theme running around Oracle's enterprise endeavors. A tech-only focus for migration targets will miss this aspect altogether. But with HP spending to buy an unprofitable company and the morals-aside boardrooms at HP and Oracle, Windows is looking like a cleaner choice to the migrating customer. Unless you count security dirt -- but at least the patches for Windows remain a free resource. You might think of them as free love for the customer, as opposed to another kind of love in enterprise affairs.
September 06, 2010
3000 Labor Plus User Group Management
Today we celebrate Labor Day in the US, a way to mark the advances organized workers have won from management of corporations in our country. Those wins are ancient history, given the current outsource-globalized-contract strategy of businesses, including your IT industry. But there remains a place where a labor movement of another kind could make a difference in the value of using an HP 3000: A user group.
The HP 3000 customer lost a resource dedicated to all aspects of the server when Interex died five years ago. The Encompass user group, and Connect which followed, have the 3000 on their intake polls, but little to offer a company that won't be migrating off the server anytime soon. Labor might change that situation. Connect seems ready to embrace volunteer labor for the homestead community. The group can supply management.
One project is ready for volunteer labor. The effort would benefit from the organization of a formal user group. The classic Contributed Software Library (CSL) could be shared as a community resource if this collection of open source tools could get some organization: names of what's available, a slight summary of each program, an easy way to download them. Interex made the CSL available to members, something Connect is eager to attract.
A former Interex board member, Paul Edwards, has several collections of CSL programs, but he's busy working on education for HP 3000 professionals. Is there a labor resource out there that can put the CSL back into the toolbelts of 3000 pros? There's management ready to offer organization, but a volunteer's labor seems needed to complete the collaboration and free these contributions.
I interviewed Connect's executive director Kristi Browder and their new marketing exec Nina Buik last week. Both reported they would be glad for the participation of 3000 homestead workers. They need volunteers; there were a few talks between Connect and the Greater Houston RUG in 2007 that produced little interest from that veteran 3000 group. "It takes two willing parties to create that kind of relationship," Buik 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.
"It would be great," Buik said, " for 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. The CSL project seems like a good way to win an advance for the labor force still tending thousands of HP 3000s.
September 03, 2010
Identifying Users for Next Year's Emulator
Second of two parts
The top management of emulator creator Stromays believes HP is washing its hands of the HP 3000. But Stromasys' Zelus cross platform virtualization software will need to resolve licensing issues beyond MPE/iX itself. Third party apps and tools have made the 3000 a great choice all along. In our Q&A with CTO Robert Boers and CEO John Pritchard, we talked about making Zelus look like a particular size of 3000 -- an aspect that impacts the cost of licensing for tiered HP 3000 software.
Boers: Unlike physical hardware, you can run this emulator on a number of different platforms with different performances. A lot of the third party licensing is based on performance. If we don’t do anything, then there’s no performance information there. I want to know from the third party software providers if that’s okay, or what we can do technically with ease, in order to provide information about relative system performance [of the emulator.]
We can emulate a system ID string as a standard. Every time you install an emulator you buy another license key. Whether to some extent software vendors want to link to that.We addressed this a couple years ago, when we did our first attempt. I didn’t really get information in that area — except for comments that it should really be HP, in their software transfer licenses [of MPE/iX], who should take care of that. But obviously, HP is pretty much out of the game by now.
You say first attempt — how far back does your emulator work go?
Boers: We built our first 3000 emulator in 2003, but we never we never got to the end of that, because at that point in time, HP didn’t want to give us the technology needed to make the MPE licensing work. And we didn’t want to reverse engineer that part of it.
Pritchard: But I think the fact that HP has given us the data now is a clear indicator that they want the customers to have some alternate paths forward.Boers: We’ve signed a number of CDAs, and Jennie Hou at HP says they’re trying to get us all the information we really need. They’re clearly committed to getting this to go.
We have all the HP 3000-specific processor dependent call specifications from them. We showed them that we had an emulator which would boot Linux. In a few weeks we can verify the way we emulate the PDC calls acts correctly on MPE.
Is your emulation going to get rid of the slowdown code that hamstrung PA-RISC processors on 3000s?Boers: We’re not using that. They’ve clocked them down to the equivalent of 55MhZ on the low-end models. They actually had a back-door to allow their support people to turn up the performance if they were in a hurry. We’re actually building an accelerator, but we won’t know what the final performance will be for a couple of months yet.
We’ve gotten this question from US customers: will you have support centers outside of Europe?
Boers: We have a development and support center in North Carolina. But I want to make a fairly clear distinction between virtual hardware and what’s running on top of it. Once we’ve done the virtual hardware, it’s the equivalent of the hardware. I don’t care what you run on it, even Linux.
But I would like to work with a number of the established vendors who provide support. I don’t see a need, or a desire in our business from our side, to build MPE-specific competence.Pritchard: And there’s a big community of support companies out there, and we’re going to reach out to that community.
Some in the community say too much time has passed to make this a relevant product. What’s your take?
Boers: To tell you the truth, HP’s been pretty slow. I feel concerned, because we should have been ready much earlier. We’ve been waiting about a year until we got an agreement on the PDC information, because their overriding worry was the ability to run HP-UX.
What concerns me is that there’s only about a half year left to get additional HP licenses. We might have a working beta by then, but not much more by the end of the year.
So how much of a market in production 3000s do you believe is left?
Boers: I know some numbers. In 2008 they called us up and said there’s less than 30,000 left. But we probably wouldn’t do this if we could only build an HP 3000 out of the technology. A lot of the code and the design is shared, and we’re working on more of these products.(Ed. note: Stromasys also announced a Sun emulator at the same time of its HP 3000 product announcement.)
Pritchard: We’ve already had conversations with customers within 10 km of our door here in Switzerland. Our estimate of the maximum size is going to be about 20,000 installations on systems.Your timeline shows you’ll be in alpha and beta tests in 2011. Do you need significant tech help from HP to complete the product?
Boers: Once we test that PDC call, I don’t need any help from them, so no.
You’ve said that you’re looking at pricing in the 3000 market, but not announcing yet. What’s your pricing in the VAX market?
Pritchard: Our price elasticity there is $5,000-$200,000. Some people just want to buy time [before migrating]. And so we can sell them time as well.
September 02, 2010
Emulator creators boot product in real time
First of two parts
A long-awaited 3000 hardware emulator appears to be on its way to market, as Stromasys this summer announced a development, test and shipping timeline for Zelus. The product is described as a “cross-platform virtualization system” by the company that was founded as a spin-off from the Digital Computer European Migration Center in 1998. Stromasys, which called itself Software Research International until last year, has thrived on an emulator for DEC customers, those who need to keep using Vax, Alpha and PDP-11 hardware to support legacy applications. HP put the 3000 effort at Stromasys on ice for more than a year while it cleared the transfer of MPE boot technology for the emulator.
The software has more to offer than making companies able to use 3000s indefinitely. Stromasys says Zelus will buy time for the sites which are migrating and need more connectivity and power for their interim 3000s during a migration.
Robert Boers headed up the company during 2009, but this year brought on John Pritchard as CEO so Boers could focus on the tasks of being the firm’s CTO. In the wake of the company’s announcement about Zelus at the recent HP Technology Forum, we interviewed the pair via Skype, bridging the gap between Texas and their Swiss headquarters -- even as the company works out details to bridge what will be an 8-year gap in 3000 manufacture when Zelus goes on the market next year.Your press statement on Zelus says the product “ensures continuity after the phase-out program of the HP 3000 hardware.” Do you believe that’s how your customers will view the situation: phasing out the 3000?
Pritchard: For people who have mission critical legacy systems, they believe all of their hardware are on life support. What we’re offering is to shift their focus away from worrying about hardware maintenance to giving them a software platform life that is independent of a hardware platform.
When it ships next year, will this product bridge the gap between 3000 hardware last built in 2003 and the newer technologies such as iSCSI?Boers: Things like iSCSI will work out of the box. We do that for our VAX and Alpha emulation routinely, because iSCSI is elegant and useful. You tell Windows to create a virtual disk which is an iSCSI disk. You can tell the emulator that this virtual device is your SCSI drive. You can map to new hardware, so if you have serial ports, for example, you can map them to an Ethernet-based remote serial multiplexer. Most of this stuff is mapped standards.
So does that mean that the controlling environment for the emulator will be Windows?
Boers: It can be anything. For the time being we typically develop under Windows 64 bits. But we provide these products under Linux as well. The customer only sees MPE. Basically, these things behave as virtual clients. From a usage point of view, you don’t have to know where they run. In Linux, we remove what we want, so you have something that runs on the footprint of VMWare. But for all of these choices, we need to know more about what the customer is looking for.Pritchard: One of the purposes of this announcement to start to invite a dialog with the community. We want to select a few sponsor companies who’ll say, “Here’s my application, I want to be one of the first to migrate. Here’s my configuration, and here’s what I need.” We want to focus our development team on just a few specific customer applications.
We’ve gotten far enough in our prototyping to know that it really works, and what we need is a lot more market feedback and a couple sponsor customers to work with, to get a few successes under our belts.What is being a sponsor customer going to look like?
Pritchard: We’ll select a couple of companies that will give us complete access to their environment for their 3000 application. The customers we’re looking for in early adopters should be lower-risk environments.Boers: Let me give you a couple of examples. In dealing with Hewlett-Packard, the issue they had the most difficulty with was the whole physical licensing process, their hardware-enforced licensing mechanism. They have given us two device ID strings which we can use in out emulators, a low- and a high-end machine.
The other issue is something that HP is washing it’s hands of: Unlike physical hardware, you can run this emulator on a number of different platforms with different performances. A lot of the third party licensing is based on performance. If we don’t do anything, then there’s no performance information there. I want to know from the third party software providers if that’s okay, or what we can do technically with ease, provide information about relative system performance [of the emulator.]We can emulate a system ID string as a standard. Every time you install an emulator you buy another license key. Whether to some extent software vendors want to link to that.
We addressed this a couple years ago, when we did our first attempt. I didn’t really get information in that area — except for comments that it should really be HP, as part of their software transfer licenses [of MPE/iX] who should take care of that. But obviously, HP is pretty much out of the game by now.
September 01, 2010
Whatever got conjured up about Invent3k?
The 3000 community marks an anniversary this September. A year ago this month, users and vendors were promised that the invent3k public development server, whose 3000 software HP had already shipped to an OpenMPE volunteer, was online and ready to use. At last year's e3000 Community Meet, about 40 people were on hand to hear that on Sept. 23, all you needed was to request an account to use something being called invent3k.openmpe.org.
What's invent3k? A novel experiment from the best of HP's 3000 team, a full load of HP software and disk space to set up development accounts. Considering that HP charged about $100,000 for this collection, making it available for public use was a pact with a community worried about the 3000's future. HP even went on to create an HP 9000 version of the concept. HP shut invent3k down in 2008, but then gave the software to OpenMPE.
Let's get back to last September. Three weeks went by, and then three months, and by the end of six months I'd stopped asking when invent3k would become a community resource once again. I stood in the room at the Hyatt in San Francisco in 2009, reading the slide (shown above) which told us the portal for invent3k was available "through the generous donations of Client Systems and Matt Perdue."
The 3000 hardware? Client Systems sent it. The invent3k software, a full collection of HP subsystem applications like COBOL II? Not online back then at that address, or now. My dismay at the delay turned to despair by this summer, as it became clear invent3k wasn't emerging as a 3000 resource, one managed as promised by Perdue.
It feels good to volunteer when the need is obvious. It can be a tougher thing to volunteer a promise and then keep it -- and perhaps even more of a stretch to describe something as accomplished, but then be unable to meet that pledge.
By a reporter's habits I was recording the events of that largely-upbeat September day. One talk after another fell through my video lens, a collection of proof that the system could still rally a community. But as you can hear for yourself on the 90-second video we've posted up on YouTube, we could only witness one report of invent3k's status. The promise comes from off-camera, but not as far offline as invent3k.openmpe.org has been during the past year.
Around the 23-second mark of our video you'll hear Donna Hofmeister (then a group volunteer), checking up with Matt Perdue offscreen, to verify if his invent3k server was ready to go. His answer, "available now; you gotta have an account" still doesn't fit what what's at invent3k.openmpe.org today: a "not found" as of this morning.
What does this pledge matter to the 3000 customer who's homesteading? Maybe not much, to many of them by now. invent3k was an HP service to the 3000 community, released in a time when having a fast 3000 loaded up with all of HP's development software helped create tools and programs. At the time, no vendor in the enterprise computing industry had hosted a Public Access Development server online. HP pointed with pride at the proof that it cared about the flow of software to the system.
The best use of the invent3k server was as a toolbox for companies that had a less-formal development environment. (Like no crash-n-burn box, or missing some of the HP software.) There's a few members of your community who developed on the HP-hosted invent3k.
Times have changed a lot since then. HP's decisions on its 3000 futures, the closure of the HP labs, departures of developers from the community: It can add up to a summation of "why care?" that invent3k is undelivered a year after we heard it confirmed. In 2010 invent3k is as dark as HP's 3000 lab, and we've never been able to get a straight answer about why.
But don't mistake the change in the community's resources with the legacy of invent3k in your community. Mark Klein started the 3000 open source revolution in the middle 1990s by bootstrapping the GCC development suite, something he built and later polished up using invent3k. Klein reports that his watershed piece of coding -- the keystone to Internet ability and modern networking on the 3000 -- grew up there along with a lot of MPE/iX open source development.Why bother to say that something is up and running when it's not -- or then later, that it will be real soon? HP's own history with the 3000 is marred with this kind of conjuring, dished out at one key point. Engineers in the 3000 MPE lab kept reporting during 1985 and '86 that MPE XL was running just fine, would be ready for scheduled rollout, even while the OS was keeping debugger screens lit up all over the lab. Eventually the truth about that project came out, like so many other IT project updates that sound good in front of a PowerPoint slide. Slide-ware, or the Foil Effect, we'd call it.
If HP can fall prey to this foil effect, why not the independent community of 3000 users? Anyone who takes responsibility for serving others can foil a pledge. But in 1986, HP had millions of dollars to toss into its lab to pull MPE XL out of such a ditch, then get the modern 3000s out the door plenty late. When an independent volunteer can't get a cart out of the ditch, any company watching from the transition fence might accelerate their exit plan. That haste might be the right response, too. Recoiling from the promises of a resource kept in the dark undelivered -- that's a shadow to beat back the bright light of any slide.