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October 29, 2010

MB Foster keys on 3000 application support

It's not a new practice, but MB Foster is shining its spotlight on supporting customer applications for HP 3000s. The company says it is seeing 3000 sites renewing commitments to using the server for another 3-5 years, so its experience in serving customers through applications can help companies extend the life of their systems.

"We have been providing application support services to clients for a few years now,” said Birket Foster, CEO of MB Foster Associates. “Over the last year, we have seen more clients commit to the HP 3000 platform for the next three to five years. We want to insure that these customers can continue to enhance their HP 3000 applications to meet their changing business needs."

Legacy app modernization has become another way to describe migrations when services providers talk about HP 3000 engagements. But these MB Foster services do not aim to move apps off a 3000. This is a homesteader's product, one that can be used to offset the brain drain which this community of four decades is experiencing. The goal is to provide 3000 expertise that a customer has lost through retirements of IT pros.

"It's very rare for someone to train up on the HP 3000 these days," said David Greer, MB Foster's VP of Marketing and Sales. In contacts with customers like the airline Westjet, for example, he's learned that the 3000 expert there has moved on to other technology projects in the company, using newer tools and architectures to expand career skills. From such HR moves come the need for application support. "The knowledge gap is widening," Greer added.

MB Foster notes that it's got more than 100 man-years of experience available to work in HP 3000 operating technologies, as well as COBOL, Cognos and Speedware experience. It provides its team to a client base that matches up with nearby geographical and operational profiles.

As one of the leading centers of excellence for the HP 3000 in North America, MB Foster operates in the same time zone and the same manner as what Canadian and US clients are used to. Many customers rely on MB Foster’s three decades of report writing experience to deliver their users needed reporting and application requirements.

Greer said he couldn't be sure yet that the 3-5 year plans for the 3000 customers is a trend, but he added that senior management at customer sites has been "very supportive" of continuing the use of 3000s while a longer transition plan evolves. "One customer was converting app by app," Greer said, while another was managing its own migration to SAP's Business One.

MB Foster will be doing a Webinar (on its usual Wednesday) Nov. 10 on using application support services, Greer added, with details and registration available on the company's website. The browser-based interface is well-designed and offers interaction via phone as well as messages in the webinar software. As we learned while visiting this week's webinar, the system will even call your number, rather than making you dial in.

 

02:51 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2010

New eFORMz adds XML, HTML for e-forms

Minisoft has released version 7.5 of its eFORMz software, a forms automator that including new capabilities to create HTML forms dynamically and accept XML data sources as input. It also integrates with Microsoft's RTF formats and can encrypt PDFs with a double password (user, plus creator) security.

PDF forms and files are also handled for HP 3000 customers by Hillary Software, whose byRequest software is in use to email and web-publish reports and files, too. Minisoft's eFORMz is Java-based, so Minisoft recommends that 3000 sites host the software on a non-3000 platform to avoid Java/iX performance issues. But it works with applications common to the HP 3000 community such as MANMAN or Ecometry/Escalate.

eFORMz 7.5 can add components such as paragraphs, boxes and tables to enhance data presentation. The vendor says its Dynamic Forms Technology can be integrated with an existing project without outside source technology. The new feature also enables a user to read-in multi-page PDFs or TIFF image files.

Minisoft's also added an emailing agent to its software, so a user could manage emails produced by eFORMz Direct. A three-page press release at the Minisoft website [PDF file] delivers more details.

The 7.5 version of the software now accepts XML input from database output, so an email to each customer can be triggered to review orders, for example. eFORMz also produces its own XML output to let one process feed another. A Conditional Logic Language uses conditions set on incoming data streams, spoolfiles or database queries; the new version adds an OR condition for forms.

Forms make up such a large part of the HP 3000 IT powers that vendors like Minisoft and Hillary are using their 3000 customer experience to design features that can then be deployed in other environments. Creating in common programs such as Microsoft Word, or capabilities to handle Excel files as byRequest does -- these are the features that extend the mission-critical data from the 3000 into a multiple-vendor environment.

 

12:20 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2010

More notes on 3000 SFTP, and HP's advice

We got expert response from the community for our Monday story about Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), something that UK-based Adrian Hudson wants to manage from his HP 3000. Hudson checked in with us after hearing from consultant Mark Ranft of Pro 3k as well as the NewsWire. It turns out Hudson is a contractor working at Europ Assistance, a company using an HP 3000 to "provide insurance and assistance (e.g. motor breakdown, travel) cover across the world."

They have a need for SFTP to transfer new policy details from the Internet. I have a feeling that if Europ Assistance can’t do SFTP from the 3000, or if there is a cost involved, they will simply use one of their non-3000 servers as a piggyback to do the SFTP on the 3000's behalf. But with me being a nostalgic old soul, I would like to see it done from the 3000.

So, last week I started to look around for a zero-cost solution and found a Beechglen web page about it. This web page all seems perfectly okay, so I started to see if I could source the components mentioned on the web page, namely Openssl, Openssh, perl and a GNU C compiler.

On the openssl list server, I also started to independently look for versions of ssl and ssh which had been ported to the 3000 and I also sent an email to Tracy Johnson of OpenMPE to try and get a logon to the invent3k2 server to see what I might find on there.

Hudson offered some career history, which includes a seven-year stint at HP. "I worked on 3000s and 9000s on and off from 1986 until 2003 and was lucky enough to work at HP between 1997 and 2003 as a 3000 ‘expert’ in their Storage Division. Since then I’ve spent seven years or so on lots of different flavours of Unix and Linux and, to be honest, until 7 weeks ago I thought I had done my last LISTF. It has been a strange but warming experience to get back onto a 3000, especially one with vanilla TurboIMAGE!"

Separately, Ranft got back to us on the specifics of running SFTP on a 3000, something he doesn't recommend as highly as getting the services from another environment.

I have recently completed the instructions for installing sftp on Pro 3K’s server and on a customer’s server. It was not easy, but I managed to gather all the files needed.  Some of the components were extremely difficult to track down. I have them all stored in a single 100MB store-to-disk file that can be transferred to [Hudson's] system and restored.

The instructions have you install the GNU C compiler and make the components needed for SFTP client to function. As with following any instructions, we ran into a few issues along the way with syntax and typos. Most of these were pretty straightforward caused by slightly different names for the newer digest files.

When complete, your system will be capable of acting as an SFTP client, but not as an SFTP server. If you are not familiar with SFTP and how it works, another issue is the key exchange. SFTP depends on a public/private key exchange for security. The procedure for generating the key and storing it on the server is another complex portion of the project.

After completing the SFTP installation and key exchange, I am confident that you will have a solution that will work. But this HP 3000 SFTP solution will not be ‘supported’. [Ed. note: At least not supported by HP; independent companies have an option to support it.] Basically, if you or your customer have trouble down the road, once again you will be dependent on consulting to guide you to the solution.

In truth, using a non-HP 3000 server to be the intermediary SFTP solution is an excellent choice. This solution can provide additional security. The server running SFTP can be both a client (to send files) and a server (to receive files). The SFTP server can be placed in the DMZ of your customer's network. (A DMZ, or demilitarized zone, is a physical or logical subnetwork that contains and exposes an organization’s external services to a larger untrusted network, such as the internet.) This is a good solution.

Ranft added that the secure FTP white paper that HP referred us toward doesn't really detail how to get SFTP working on a 3000. "It's about making regular old FTP/iX more secure," Ranft said. "It has very little or nothing to do with SFTP."

HP states in the 2008 paper that it covers the enhancements HP applied to FTP/iX for security, a request voted No. 2 in the final Systems Improvement Ballot.

Briefly, these security enhancements are:

  • Restricting unauthorized users from logging on to an FTP server,
  • Restricting unauthorized users from retrieving certain files on an FTP server
  • Quarantining certain FTP/iX users to single directory roots,
  • Logging all FTP commands and all file transfers from both the server and client side
  • Preventing FTP users from rename, delete, and overwrite file operations
  • Disallowing read access of the NETRC configuration file (which contains sensitive logon data)
  • Password hiding when running FTP/iX in debug mode.

Another section describes a few methods to enhance security of FTP/iX in addition to the recent security enhancements. Some of the alternatives discussed are

  • An envelope FTP/iX script that provides encryption of the data transfer between hosts
  • Using non-MPE intermediaries like HP-UX to facilitate secure FTP communication
  • Porting of Open SSH on MPE/iX to provide secure data transfer
  • Use of a firewall for sockisified FTP
  • Hardware solutions for enhanced security

 

03:23 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2010

Speedware kicks off HP 3000 migration for Top 10 insurance supplier

Nearly nine years after HP announced the end of its HP 3000 business, one of the world's top 10 insurance suppliers will be kicking off its migration away from the server. Speedware, which has already turned off about 730 of the systems in migrations, will work in a $2.5 million engagement for services and product licenses. Speedware calls the work it will supply "legacy modernization services" for one of "many organizations, including this insurance company, [which] rely on mission-critical enterprise applications and databases that run on the HP e3000."

Speedware needs to be circumspect about naming the company, which is based in North America. Such are the restraints of 2010, when technology choices and contracts are considered trade secrets by enterprise IT customers, executives who don't want their names in the press. But Speedware's marketing director Chris Koppe did confirm that the insurance firm has many other enterprise environments in operation already, and the company has been an HP 3000 user since at least the 1980s.

Accepted wisdom about who's migrated out of the 3000 community has pegged these largest firms as the earliest to transition. News of a Fortune 100 company just launching its journey away from MPE/iX runs counter to the concept that big IT shops could make their moves soonest.

“Even with the end of vendor support scheduled in December, this contract demonstrates that many large organizations are still finalizing plans regarding their HP e3000,” said Andy Kulakowski, President of Speedware. He added, "We know this market so well we would have been very disappointed had we not been awarded the contract. Our migration team is looking forward to helping this company achieve success as well." Speedware's migration pitch includes a message that every one of its projects has been a success.

The number of projects Speedware has completed is more than 130 by this year, after seven years of work. The engagements are often bolstered by the AMXW emulation suite, purchased by Speedware in 2004 for Automated Migration to Unix and Windows, and reworked and enhanced on a regular basis. As an example, AMXW includes software to transition a company's MPE-based job scheduling, Koppe said.

When Speedware completes its 15-month project for the insurance giant, "This will be the first piece, for these guys. They went for Oracle as a target database, and ScreenJet's EZV (a VPlus migration and enhancement suite from ScreenJet)," Koppe said. COBOL will be moved across to Micro Focus, a job scheduler must be migrated, and PowerHouse needs to be moved to HP's Unix servers from the 3000.

Of the $2.5 million in the project, only licenses for Speedware's own AMXW and ScreenJet's EZV are part of the total. The rest is services such as code migration and project management. The large corporation "has been looking at this [HP 3000] problem for as much as seven years," Koppe said. Inquiries to multiple vendors took time over the years, then commitments to projects which were then postponed -- a typical project profile for the largest of HP 3000 shops.

"This is actually our longest sales cycle for a customer," he added, going back to 2003. "They're a big organization, and there's always shifting priorities at those. You have to tackle things when the time is right. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Eventually the infrastructure becomes somewhat fragile, and the skillsets to maintain it get challenged over time. Those are the things that ultimately escalate the urgency of dealing with these things. For this company, it's gotten to the point where they have to deal with it."

05:59 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2010

Getting OpenSSL, SFTP Working on 3000s

HP 3000s can use OpenSSL, cryptographic protocols that provide security for communications over networks such as the Internet. SSL can encrypt segments of network connections at the Application Layer to ensure secure end-to-end transit at the Transport Layer. It's an open source standard tool, but deploying it on an HP 3000 can be less than transparent.

Consider the following question from Adrian Hudson in the UK.

Does anyone know anything about putting OpenSSL on a HP 3000? I've seen various websites referring to people who have succesfully ported the software, but with the HP 3000s being used less and less, I'm finding lots of broken links and missing pages. My ultimate intention is to try and get Secure FTP (SFTP) running from Posix on the HP 3000.

Several up-to-date support providers can help Hudson and others who want this security tool running on a 3000. Mark Ranft of Pro3K (612.804.2774) said, "I would be happy to assist. I recently did this for another client. I have all the pieces and instructions to do this." Beechglen's founder Mike Hornsby also has software and experience at hand. "Beechglen has OpenSSH_3.8.1p1, OpenSSL 0.9.7d 17, SFTP and SSHD versions for MPE/iX," he said.

HP placed the OpenSSL pieces in its WebWise MPE/iX software, according to former HP Internet & Connectivity engineer Mark Bixby (now developing at K-12 app company QSS). "When I left [HP's 3000 division], a fully functional OpenSSL was part of the Apache bundle. The last Apache/WebWise patch that I built contained all of the necessary source code and build scripts, and more."

However, Secure FTP is not provided in the WebWise bundle. A longtime friend of the 3000 community, still working in support, provided a white paper on how to set up SFTP for the HP 3000. The paper was written just two years ago.

Cathlene McRae, still working at HP in 3000 support, confirmed Bixby's report on SSL. "WebWise is the product you are looking for. This has OpenSSL." She shared a PowerPoint document of 85 slides written by Bixby in 2002, one of the last years that WebWise was updated for the HP 3000. (You can download these slides, a PDF file, from our site.) A few minutes later, she pointed us to the SFTP paper.

Finally, Keven Miller of 3K Ranger detailed his notes from installing OpenSSL on a 3000, aided by Craig Lalley of EchoTech. I'd be happy to talk with whomever has interest. I would like to do the "port" again with notes so others can reproduce; and place on my website or my Invent3k2 website, invent3k2.org/~GUEST.MILLER

I'm looking on my HP 918 (mpe 6.0 pp2)

Openssl 9.6a
OpenSSL> version
OpenSSL 0.9.6a 5 Apr 2001
OpenSSL>

I believe AFTP did build and run. That would be from OpenSSH. As I recall, the process is

1. install zlib
2. install openssl
3. install openssh

/OPENSSH/V00371P2/openssh-3.7.1p2#sftp
usage: sftp [-vC1] [-b batchfile] [-o ssh_option] [-s subsystem | sftp_server]
[-B buffer_size] [-F ssh_config] [-P sftp_server path]
[-R num_requests] [-S program]
[user@]host[:file [file]]
/OPENSSH/V00371P2/openssh-3.7.1p2#sftp hpux-1
Connecting to hpux-1...
Couldn't connect to PRNGD socket "/tmp/egd-pool": Can't assign requested address
Entropy collection failed
ssh-rand-helper child produced insufficient data
Connection closed

As I recall, I need to stream a job for this EGDPOOL. I hope to get back to this and other porting things.
But work gets in the way.

03:13 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2010

Meet with users on Nov. 11 CAMUS webinar

The CAMUS user group, still working after more than three decades of devotion to enteprise resource planning for HP 3000s, is hosting a two-hour webinar Nov. 11 to spread the word about emulators, OpenMPE and even the specialized commands of MANMAN administration.

The event starts at 11 AM Central time (by then we'll all be back on Standard Time), with webinar setup scheduled for 10:45-11:00. Send your contact information or questions to Terri Glendon Lanza (tlanza@camus.org, 630.212.4314) to get your registration started. Details of webinar phone-in and log-in will be emailed to registrants prior to the meeting.

The NewsWire will be participating, listening as well as offering any advice and news which can answer questions. What topics are part of the 11:20 to 1PM Talk Soup? CAMUS says

What’s going on with OpenMPE? Emulators for HP’s VMS or MPE platforms? What does that Comin Variable/System Flag really do? Bring your questions and comments to share with your fellow CAMUS and industry members.

Infor, the company which still counts HP 3000 manufacturing sites among its customers, is underwriting the connectivity for the webinar. Lanza, who's the CAMUS president, and vice president Ed Stein, a 3000 IT manager, promise a set of announcements about the user group itself starting at 11.

CAMUS recently asked the NewsWire to become its official organizational publication, which means we'll be glad to present news of the group, ERP and manufacturing solutions which once appeared in The Flash, the CAMUS online newsletter.

Michael Anderson, the Flash editor for several years, has been on the hunt for articles related to MANMAN. Anderson, who's been in the 3000 consulting and custom programming business for the same several years, has also volunteered for the Greater Houston Regional User Group when that organization was scheduling events that included the HP 3000.

User groups work when there's exchange like webinars (Connect participated in one yesterday) to share experience. We're glad to publish what manufacturing sites like MM Fab have to report about IT management. Tune in on Nov. 11 and watch the NewsWire's pages for shared experience. We'll work with you to help create an article or report, too.

04:19 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 21, 2010

Watch HP's New CertificationOne advice

Update: You can watch the full TV event in rerun at the Stream57 Archive web page.

Connect, the HP user group, has organized a streaming TV event to update its IT certification programs. It's being presented through Stream57, which had great bandwidth and video quality during an event that Connect's Chief Marketing Officer Nina Buik participated in earlier this year.

HP is offering its first Converged Infrastructure Architect certification, early next year, and a new Networking Certification Portfolio starts Nov. 1. The Converged Infrastructure Architect certification is at the Master ASE level, and cuts across the server, storage, networking and IT management specifics in the HP product line.

You'll need to have patience to parse some strategic HP marketing language like this, offered up inside the first 60 seconds:

We're here today to talk about the evolution in the datacenter called convergence that is becoming more and more prevalent in convergence-enabled companies -- to break down what have been traditionally been silos in the datacenter, networking and storage and servers management into a common set of flexible converged resources that enable IT to better respond to business. Yesterday's approach to IT professional certification and training focused only on one piece of the equation: solely on the network, or storage, or servers, and often within a closed, single-vendor environment. The shift toward the datacenter of the future requires a much broader skill set for IT professionals.

In plainer language, HP has finalized its purchase and assimilation of 3Com, and it's got to learn to teach IT pros about a whole new product line of networking solutions.

HP's trying to attract the majority of IT pros who aren't certified for network technologies. More than three fourths of the IT group HP aims at now use a mixed vendor environment. The event's speakers from HP are Susan Underhill, VP Global Certification and Learning; Lyle Speirs, Director, Sales & Marketing, Global Certification & Learning; and Mike Banic VP of Marketing for HP's Networking group. Connect's Buik will participate, showing how the certification dovetails with networking among the user group's members.

Connect, which has been promoting its expanded website content this quarter, explains that getting certified on Converged Infrastructure can improve IT assets.

As more businesses realize the benefits of making IT resources widely available and adopt a  Converged Infrastructure architecture in their data centers, they need IT managers who have a deep technological expertise to build such an infrastructure in a cost- and time-effective manner. As IT certifications help IT managers deepen their understanding of the technologies their businesses need to succeed, this webcast will be a must-see for CIOs and IT managers alike.

11:47 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 20, 2010

Tape data to disc files and setting Posix time

I have some information on a tape. I’d like to create a store to disc file with it — how do I do that?

Jack Connor replies:

There are several solutions. The first and easiest is to simply restore the info to a system (RESTORE *T;/;SHOW;CREATE;ACCOUNT=WORKSTOR) where WORKSTOR is an account you create to pull the data in.  Then a simple FILE D=REGSFILE;DEV=DISC and STORE /WORKSTOR/;*D;whatever else should create the disc store.

The second is to use FCOPY. You'll have to research the STORE format, but I believe it's FILE TAPEIN;DEV=TAPE;REC=8192,,U,BINARY.

The third (also easy, but you need the software) is to use Allegro's tool TAPECOPY, which moves from tape store to disc store and back.

John Pitman adds:

Do you mean copy it off tape to disk store file? I’m not sure if that can be done, as in my experience of tapes, there is a file mark between files, and EOT is signified by multiple file marks in a row... but anything may be possible. If you do a file equate and FCOPY as shown below, you should be able to look at the raw data, and it should show separate files, after a file list at the front.

FILE TX;DEV=TAPE;REC=32767
FCOPY
FROM=*TX;TO=;CHAR;FILES=ALL

Here is our current store command, and the message it provokes. MAXTAPEBUF speeds it up somewhat

STORE  !INSTOREX.NEW.STOCK2K;*DDS777;FILES=100000;DIRECTORY;MAXTAPEBUF

Why is the date/time in the Posix shell way off from the time on MPE, and what can be done to fix it? It’s over three weeks off.

Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper replies:

First, check to ensure your timezone offset is correct and there are no pending time clock changes.

:showclock

SYSTEM TIME: TUE, OCT 19, 2010,  5:46:38 PM
CURRENT TIME CORRECTION:            0 SECONDS
TIME ZONE:    4 HOURS  0 MINUTES WESTERN HEMISPHERE

If incorrext timezone and/or time correction is non-zero, you can fix both with the :SETCLOCK command.

Next, ensure that the TZ variable is appropriately set. This can be done with a system logon UDC that executes the following:

comment the following is for Eastern Time
SETVAR TZ "EST5EDT"
comment use the following for california
comment SETVAR TZ "PST8PDT"

02:26 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2010

MB Foster reports on emerging EIM program

While HP 3000 customers migrate from their trusty legacy servers to a new environment, the change permits them to embrace new concepts and architecture for their IT. It's a matter of "here's some forced change; after we do a lift-and-shift, we follow new practices."

I'll never forget the IT manager at a Houston-area manufacturer who was glad that HP cut off its 3000 futures. While listening to a Webinar organized by the CAMUS user group, he said the forced change would let him clean house of aging MPE/iX applications. Users' efficiency would have to take a hit, the fellow said, for a payoff of a better-designed operation.

Migration can offer the potential for more current management techniques, the carrot that follows the stick of that temporary disruption of retraining. One HP 3000 services and software vendor is offering a summary of such new thinking. MB Foster has posted a review of the practices preached at the 2010 Enterprise Information Summit. EIM, to quote the Foster report is not a technology. It's a program, as explained by summit speaker David Marco, which started with a formula.

Information = Data (content) + Meta Data (context)

For example, the number 2,765 taken by itself has no context. If we tell you that 2,765 represents sales in 000's for the last quarter, we have a context to take the content, 2,765, and turn it into information -- sales.

But EIM relies on technologies to support it. EIM starts with a way of thinking and goes from there to encompass an entire enterprise. EIM first requires discipline, which must be supported by technologies that manage information assets throughout the organization. There are many reasons for introducing EIM to an organization, Foster's report said; the sheer size and scale of data duplication alone can often justify an entire EIM program.

The MB Foster white paper on EIM goes into significant detail to introduce and explain EIM. The speakers brought experience with the new practice, according to the white paper.

The conference brought together leading practitioners of EIM from across North America. Much of the conference was focused on networking and building best practices. EIM is still new enough that everyone is learning by leaps and bounds.

Data management -- something that MB Foster has specialized in for more than 25 years -- is the foundation of EIM. Then data management is supported by seven focus areas:

• Process Management
• Data Architecture (Data Blue Print)
• Information Quality (Data Quality or DQ)
• IT Portfolio Management
• Master Data Management (MDM)
• Information Delivery
• Information Security

HP 3000 data architecture, as practiced in the majority of customer shops, didn't require such strategic design. The 3000 was the headwaters as well as all tributaries of information flow. PCs were adjunct. A newer world of multifaceted enterprise clusters -- all those other servers and network resources -- is driving the need to deploy things like EIM, or Application Portfolio Management. (The latter, which I was introduced to by Speedware's Nicholas Fortin, gives your applications a value that can be calculated as a company asset.) MB Foster's report explains how that 3000-based vendor, working in both homestead sustaining as well as migration engagements and new-target tools, sees its role in EIM.

The EIM 2010 Conference opened our eyes to the great strides that EIM has made in the last few years. While MB Foster has been working in at least four of the seven focus areas of EIM for many years, we still have more to learn about the best way we can help our customers derive more value from their information.

In his presentation Establishing an EIM Program, Herschel Chandler told us, "The value of information isn't realized until it is used." EIM is poised to define leaders who embrace the challenge of changing their organizations to be information focused.

The white paper suggests that an IT manager sign up for free membership in the EIM Institute to learn more.

03:53 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 18, 2010

HP's support data for 3000 cut to manuals

UselessHandle As promised, the HP support knowledge base, as well as the ability to download patches for the HP 3000 server, has been restricted behind a paywall this month. HP warned the community of a change by Sept. 18, but didn't have the barriers to support data in place until early October. As of this morning, all the gates are up. The key to enter is an HP support contract.

Still open, for the moment, is HP's documentation and manuals for the servers. The old doc.hp.com website requires a special suffix to find the documentation for HP 3000 servers and HP's software. You'll need to move to docs.hp.com/en/mpeixall.html to find the last of HP's online information about the server.

Another good 3000 resource remains alive at HP for a moment, but you'll need to bookmark the link that HP has well-buried. The IT Resource Center Forums are still alive and getting a little traffic and some answers. forums11.itrc.hp.com/service/forums/familyhome.do?familyId=119 takes you to the MPE/iX section of the Forum. There's a lot less help here than on the HP 3000 newsgroup (available in its easiest searching and reading format via Google's Groups MPE section.) But at least HP's ITRC Forum is still being operated by HP for free, even if the advice is supplied by the users rather than HP engineers in most cases.

NoAccessHP continues to send notices of its recommended and critical patch updates for the HP-UX servers via email. But even with an access handle which used to work on the HP support site, there's no information at the end of the web links in the emails -- just the "additional authorization" message shown above. The exception: HP's Security Bulletins, whose email links still deliver data if you've got an existing HP ITRC handle. To establish a support contract relationship, HP recommends a generic "Contact HP" link. Be ready to explain that you're not looking for support on the other HP 3000 products, an inkjet printer or a digital camera.

There's an extra level of older HP 3000 documentation still online at HP's website. Older, non-supported products can be found at docs.hp.com/en/archive.html#HP%20e3000%20Servers. (But then, all the HP 3000 elements will be non-supported by HP in two-plus months, right?) Some of these older HP online manuals will be useful for self-maintainers of 3000s, such as the HP PA-RISC Computer Systems Integrated Cabinet Installation Guide or the 9x9 Computer Systems System Upgrade Guide.

Customers are looking for this information, which might have only existed in paper when their servers were delivered 7 to 10 years ago or more. Even the MPE/iX System Software Maintenance Manual for release 7.5 is a treasure being hunted -- although the document was written more than eight years ago.

"Can someone quickly point me to the manual to upgrade to 7.5, the workbook?" asked Kim Borgman of National Wine and Spirits about two weeks ago. Mark Ranft, who runs the independent Pro3k support service as well as maintaining a large cluster of HP 3000 N-Class servers, supplied the link:

bizsupport2.austin.hp.com/bc/docs/support/SupportManual/c01682851/c01682851.pdf

The independent repositories of HP's 3000 tools and documentation, Client Systems and Speedware, open up access to the HP 3000 manuals until January 1. HP included these documents from the licensing agreements which the independent companies got from HP. Both sites point to HP's main web page for the 3000 documentation today.

Customers who are serious about self-maintaining probably have downloaded everything HP's still hosting at its website by now. But watching helpful information like knowledge bases fall behind HP's support paywall, along with the patches, should motivate everybody to get the manuals HP is still distributing.

 

11:53 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2010

Earning a Seat for Government Migrations

Speedware announced it has earned Canada's Task Based Informatics Professional Services (TBIPS) Supply Arrangement and Standing Offer, an award that will enable it to provide specialized IT professional services to the Federal Government of Canada.
 
Speedware's legacy modernization and migration team learned of HP 3000s still at work in the government, and the vendor has spent two years earning the status of approved supplier of services to organizations which need to move off legacy platforms. Marketing director Chris Koppe said that a recent Gartner research note shows the three leading migration sectors are government entitites, insurance suppliers and financial services firms.

"We hear rumblings of a few organizations that still have HP 3000s," Koppe said. He added that Speedware has been engaging in modernization projects around IBM AS/400 installations, also working in Canadian, provincial and municipal government entities.

TBIPS was established by Public Works and Government Services Canada to facilitate delivery of task-based Information Management and Information Technology professional services for the government. TBIPS is the newest form of procurement vehicle being used by the government and is the preferred contract procurement vehicle for many Federal departments and agencies.
 
Koppe said a recent Canadian auditor-general’s report states that the government’s aging computer systems pose a significant risk to Federal operations. Risks revolve around "the skill set retirement issue," among others, according to Koppe. "In some cases, these systems were written in the '70s and '80s. The people who are maintaining them today are coming up on retirement. They don't teach HP COBOL in schools anymore, or SPL or PowerHouse. They're very difficult skill sets to replace."

Speedware has already provided IT solutions to government departments and agencies in Canada and the US, including the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Department of National Defense, the Washington State Board for Community Technical Colleges (SBCTC) and Chelan County Public Utilities. The TBIPS award comes shortly after Speedware was selected as an Apparently Successful Vendor (ASV) by the Department of Information Services of the State of Washington.

Speedware's been leading the SBCTC migration project which started in 2009 with planning and is expected to complete by May of 2011. Koppe said the ASV selection wasn't required to win the business to move 34 technical college HP 3000s into a consolidated HP-UX server system.

The TBIPS award involves rigorous checks of a supplier's references for each service offered to the migrating and modernizing government agencies. "They go off and check those references, and that's what takes a long time," Koppe said. The certification also includes specific pricing schedules for every service. Pricing can eliminate a supplier from the TBIPS award process, "because your rates are too high compared to other suppliers submitting in those categories."
 
Speedware's president said the TBIPS award extends the company's reach into the public sector. “We are looking forward to continuing to help government departments and agencies overcome the obstacles created by outdated computer systems,” said Andy Kulakowski. “Qualifying under TBIPS helps us reach more public sector customers who are in need of the expertise we offer in legacy management and modernization."

These government certification awards are key to making it easy for organizations to engage Speedware in legacy projects. "It's kind of like stepping up your game," Koppe said. "If you want to be serious about doing business with the government, you need to [earn these awards]. We've talked to a lot of people who've done business with the government and done well with it, and it's a full-time job. We're now looking toward adding people to our organization who focus exclusively on government. It's not as simple as looking for an RFP and responding to it."

02:52 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 14, 2010

HP networked storage on view via Connect

The Connect HP enterprise user group is wrapping up its early-bird rate for the new Storage & Networking Symposium tomorrow, Oct. 15. The user group that took over for the now-defunct Interex promised to mount more conferences in 2011, and this event is being held in Europe to fit in the geographic slot where broader-scope Germany-based meetings have been in past years.

The meeting is three days, Nov. 16-18 in the Ramada Micador, located in Niedernhausen close to the city of Wiesbaden and convenient to the Frankfurt airport. The early bird price for Connect members is 100 Euros less through tomorrow (510 €) plus 19 percent tax for a 2-day conference. An extra day of deep hands-on education brings the total to (810 €) at the early bird rate. (Connect says the hotel is 4-star with rooms starting at 99 € nightly; airfares to Europe are at record lows right now.)

Why go? HP's storage solutions, especially the newest ones aimed at small to midsize companies, will have use for migration-bound 3000 customers as well as those who will operate homestead 3000s alongside other environments. HP's been buying plenty of third party solutions -- the multi-billion 3Par acquisition gets HP into advanced cloud-based storage. There's the new deduplication technology developed in HP's own labs, probably a better fit for the non-3000 elements of an enterprise. But the LeftHand acquisition gives HP an entry that can fit in a midsize enterprise environment.

Scott Hirsh, a former 3000 systems manager who's now an IT Infrastructure Architect at reseller Forsythe Solutions, said HP's acquisitions are being pitched as an alternative to EMC's and IBM's array solutions. Some of the new HP headroom and flexibility began with adding LeftHand, which Hirsh said was basically storage software. The storage solutions under 20 TB look like a good fit for a 3000 data profile.

"3000 shops typically don't have a lot of capacity," Hirsh said, "because the data is so ASCII-based. So it doesn't add up the way rich content does. It works for 1-10 terabytes, because those are really important terabytes."

Storage has stopped being pinned to compatibility with specific server environments. HP usually doesn't position its storage as "Unix-ready" or "runs on Windows." Solutions like the new D2D 4312 -- which offers higher capacity and performance, as well as StoreOnce deduplication -- are run by what HP calls "applicances." Those devices are just enough OS to control the IO and often hosted on a Linux mini-server. In short, matching drivers seems to matter a lot less than the classic 3000 configurations for networked storage.

HP talked up StoreOnce as a breakthough Labs-based technology for deduplication. This process to reclaim capacity and keep needs in check "isn't that important" in the 3000 environment's typical database profile, Hirsh said. "Dedupe is getting there, and people keep talking about it, but it's really not for primary data."

Regardless of how compelling the HP storage solutions can compete with non-HP systems, deep-dive analysis will be of help to the IT manager who's going to hear a lot from HP about new products.

Connect promises switch configuration classes and a workshop on the P4000 (LeftHand) iSCSI SAN solutions as part of the conference. Highlights offered by the user group include

iSCSI SANs
EVA, XP, X9000, Solid State Drives, ...
Virtual Connect, Flex Fabric
HP Networking (Procurve + 3COM)
Consolidation
Security, Business Continuity and Availability
Updates of Roadmaps (Hardware, Software, Technologies)
Tip and tricks for HP hardware, software, operating systems, databases, management software and networks

 

 

 

03:06 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2010

Low expectations forecast for HP's board

Many aspects of HP have become history, says a former HP engineer and current HP 3000 systems manager. It's true whether you're a migrating customer with a long HP history, like Boeing, or a homesteading company who's disappointed with the apparent changes at the very top of this storied system vendor.

John Wolff is in the latter category. His company LAACO Ltd. is a Los Angeles firm that manages fitness clubs as well as storage facilities and it's used HP 3000 as mission-critical servers since the 1980s. Wolff retired from the OpenMPE board this year, and while he was checking in on OpenMPE business mentioned how the HP board is driving business strategy wildly deviant from the HP Wolff served.

HP's new CEO Leo Apotheker will spend his first week testifying in court -- another first for the company -- as Oracle pursues damages for misappropriated intellectual property: engineering taken by SAP while Apotheker was CEO there. A check by the board on such background is another example of a major vendor falling short of its legacy.

"If Bill and Dave failed at anything, it was at installing the culture in board members that could be passed onward," Wolff said. "When I joined the company [in the '60s] there was an orientation process introducing new employees to the HP Way. "They should have a program like that for members of the board as well." Wolff submitted a letter to the Wall Street Journal, a customer's complaint about the mess at HP's top which has gone unpublished.

The disconnect isn't limited to business press profiles of HP. Not even a company using the 3000 and enjoying a dedicated HP rep enjoys a clear understanding of how HP's 2011 CPU support will play out. "It's not easy to find these things out," said Boeing's 3000 systems manager Ray Legault, while he researched CPU ID reset services.

Customers who are migrating to other HP platforms must endure this company's board decisions. A recent article asserts that Mark Hurd was ousted not for his sketchy relationship with a former actress, but because Hurd had cut out so much headcount and research that he was universally reviled -- by much of the company, except any who held shares and enjoyed continuing profits and stock recovery. Not all of HP operates at this caliber, but when boardroom visions have to pushed back by the rank and file, results can be uneven for the customer.

We've been in contact with the rank and file at HP through the tenure of this HP board which started with its first outside CEO, Carly Fiorina. Slashing R&D and considering shareholders first would never sit well with the 3000-savvy engineers and Business Response Specialists at HP Support. They can do little to impact such strategy, though.

Wolff puts the blame on the board. "The board's really been a failure. It's been a bad board for 10 years or more, and that's been the source of the downfall in my opinion." The purchase of EDS services business has made shareholders happy, but one high ranking consultant in what used to be EDS says that rather than learn from EDS, HP was on a mission to reeducate the new employees in the ways that made HP Professional Services less successful than EDS.

This is strategic behavior that's not going to sustain HP's Services in the long term, and so the company's financial health will impact product line R&D commitments. A customer can't do anything about a vendor's board when the vendor is a Fortune 50 firm. But the concept that the street-level ownership experience is unaffected by bad boards -- that's an outdated ideal. HP marches more in corporate lockstep than ever by now.

There's an outlook on the upswing that peers beyond the size of HP and its stock performance, now that the firm has its third straight outside CEO. Customer satisfaction and the employee loyalty -- two central tenets of the HP Way -- seem to be history in the eyes of IT managers who know HP's legacy. but some legacy systems deserve to be preserved. Perhaps, built on the ideals of those HP front-line employess (some of whom still serve 3000 owners), HP might find its way back to innovation, Customer First, and trusting its own managerial talent.

Hurd was quoted in the business press this week that the measure of his legacy would be who replaced him when he left. If an HP executive, then Hurd's work looked to be seeped into the firm's DNA. The latest outsider, Apotheker, will follow a board he doesn't know, one whose new non-executive chair Ray Lane used to run Oracle. That means a raft of top HP managers will now be courted by headhunters after being passed over, so company innovation will be tough for Apotheker to promote.

Lowered standards seem to be the best forecast for a company scuffling to find customer-driven leadership. Even by those who continue to use HP for systems and services, like Wolff's firm. "It's an ordinary company," he said, "and I've learned to lower my expectations."

02:04 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 12, 2010

Invent3K public server gains GNU tools

The public access HP 3000 called Invent3K2 gained new set of tools this morning, another improvement set up by OpenMPE secretary and system manager Tracy Johnson. After being offline for close to two years, the development server is now expanding beyond the original Invent3k capabilities.

Johnson reported that "Mark Klein's GNU tools have now been installed," open source programs such as gzip/bzip, autoconf and more. Klein was the founder of the 3000's open source feast back in the 1990s, when he ported the GNU C Compiler to MPE/iX -- opening the door for ports and development of every other utility and program such as Apache Web services, Samba print services, and those GNU package announced today.

Invent3K2 is free to use through the rest of 2010. The HP 3000 is online at 98.190.245.141, and a terminal window will get you an INVENT3K2: prompt. You'll need an account, which Johnson can provide once you're a member of OpenMPE. That's free, too.

You sign up for the OpenMPE membership by following instructions at the bottom of the OpenMPE membership web page. (That's an email to tracy.johnson@meas-spec.com with basic contact info, number of 3000s at your site and MPE versions.) Johnson pointed out that "a member of the OpenMPE list-server and a subscriber to the OpenMPE membership roll are not the same."

Some of what's happening to Invent3K2 is the community reclaiming what HP shuttered during 2008. The Jazz server at HP's labs went offline along with Invent3k, and Jazz had some utilties for the 3000 that didn't make the transition to the independent versions brought online by Speedware and Client Systems.

In addition to the toolset that open source developers use, Invent3K2 also has been set up with all the HP 3000 software from the vendor: BASIC, C, COBOL II, FORTRAN, Pascal, RPG, SPL and Java/iX.

The intention of Invent3K has never been to allow these HP programs to be downloaded; the open source programs as well are meant to be run from this HP 3000. Accounts that are free until Dec. 31 are meant for OpenMPE members to compile and test their own programs.

"It is not for the downloading of HP SUBSYS material, which is why FTP, DSLINE, PCLINK2, and WS92LINK are locked down," Johnson said.

This HP 3000 is also a service to members that needs management, something Johnson is volunteering. Last week he reported that "I found the machine crashed this morning when I came to work. This reminds me of the days of yore when a fun loving programmer can crash a system." Johnson brought the system back up, a common occurance on a crash-and-burn development HP 3000.

 

04:33 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 11, 2010

Discover the New World of 2011: HP Maybe

Christopher-columbus-6 In the US, a lot of business is on holiday as the country celebrates Columbus Day. Everybody knows that "Christopher Columbus discovered America" (not exactly a true historical account) and others know that Columbus discovered The New World. That latter belief has some bearing on your 3000 management, no matter whether your plan is to migrate or homestead your HP 3000.

The New World is the year 2011, the first year in 40 years when you can't order a stock HP 3000 service or part from Hewlett-Packard. HP's selling Time & Materials support on an official basis next year; it's one way to rescue a failed CPU board or reset HP's 3000 ID codes. You also might be lucky enough to qualify for HP's 3000 support -- if your management insists -- for next year. HP decides on a customer-by-customer basis. But this world of "maybe HP" or one-off support is a place as unknown as the Americas in the late 15th Century.

However uncharted, many 3000 users are going to have to explore this world of Maybe HP. And soon, too. HP's official 3000 operations end in about 10 weeks. Procurement and support managers are also looking over the horizon to see how to keep 3000s under support next year -- whether their firms are running 3000s while migrations start up or wrap up, or the systems continue to do mission-critical work.

Discovering the new land of HP 2011 support is a challenge while locating a support contract rep at HP. A good place to start is the HP IT Response Center, although those engineers don't handle contracts -- just support handles and fixes and patches. Less costly, more responsive alternatives to the "HP Maybe" new world lie in independent support firms. You can chart stops in your exploration at former HP authorized reseller Pivital Solutions, the ERP-grade mission-cricial experts at the Support Group inc., or our Homesteading Editor's Gilles Schipper Associates, among a few others. You'll want to know where you can sail to a safe harbor in the New World of 2011.

Blueline Services is partnering with the Support Group for hardware support and resale. Bay Pointe Technology is selling 3000 support contracts, too. Allegro Consultants or Beechglen come up a lot in support testimony among 3000 managers. Ideal Computer Services has been mentioned often in both US east and west coast reports from users seeking hardware support. The MPE Support Group serves clients around the US; it's even got a rep here in the NewsWire's hometown of Austin.

The there are the smaller support firms, one-man suppliers like Craig Lalley at EchoTech, or John Stephens at Take Care of IT. You can browse a growing list of these kinds of companies to get contacts at the OpenMPE News blog page for 3000 consulting. Some of those entries are old, and we're doing our own exploration to find out who among them are still tending to the 3000 ships still at sea.

The New World has ports populated with experience and personal service. Unless your top management insists on an HP alliance, there's no maybe out there in the non-HP 2011 course.

 

02:49 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 08, 2010

Independent support plumbs 3000 internals

HP will remain in the 3000 support business during 2011, but only in a limited role. Aside from the under-the-radar contracts that independent support vendors are reporting, there's a Time & Materials option for critical services like setting CPU name and HPSUSAN numbers on replacement or upgraded 3000 boards.

But is Time & Materials response -- which has no guarantee of any deadline or an established price list -- the only avenue for this work? We're getting reports from indie support providers that HP has engineered back doors into configuring 3000 PA-RISC hardware. There's been ample research around the world to document PA-RISC system use with Linux. Stromasys, working on the Zelus 3000 emulator for release next year, piloted the product by booting a PA-RISC emulator with Linux.

The indie reports indicate a better understanding of the 3000 server hardware's internals than you might expect. As one example, a dual-port SCSI card is part of the IO board on HP's A-Class servers. HP's own documentation details that, so a third party might leverage the information to introduce older SCSI to the later models of the 3000. HP, for the record, doesn't support this SCSI card in the newer models. But as 3000 vets like to say, SCSI is SCSI. The blend of newer server and older IO is one element in upgrading to later model servers.

That expense of going to the A-Class or N-Class servers from 9x9 systems can be justified. Aside from power savings, the ultimate generation of 3000s is younger than 9x9 or 9x8 predecessors, and some support companies say it's easier to find replacement parts for the newer models. HP has made parts that work in both HP 9000 (the rp line of servers) and HP 3000 systems. Other than a CPU name change introduced at boot-up, the systems are identical. Many parts on the market for the tens of thousands of HP 9000s will do the job inside the newest HP 3000s.

What's more, there's value in the range of performance available on the N- and A-Class servers. You need a expert support source, comfortable with experimenting on PA-RISC, to get to greater speeds or eight-processor HP 3000s. But it can be done. And the task apparently doesn't conflict with HP attempts to block 3000 internals configuration.

The companies who will offer an alternative to HP Time & Materials try to keep a low profile on the work. Nobody wants a demand letter from HP to halt a business offering, something that competing with HP's support might trigger. So they're coy about identifying themselves, either using an alias like "Captain GREB" in public messages from Immediate Recovery Systems, or keeping their company name out of reports. But in two separate interviews within hours of a single day, we've heard 3000 veterans say they believe HP doesn't care any longer about such services. HP seems only to sell this kind of support on demand, and only to customers who view HP branding as crucial.

There was a time not long ago when configuring HP CPU boards was considered HP's exclusive business, even by people who knew how to deliver that service. Hewlett-Packard's 3000 unit even modified its license interpretation -- not actual licenses signed by customers -- to proscribe modifying the 3000's stable storage. If you did this, you were outside of HP's license terms and couldn't even place a Time & Materials call.

HP's language was broad enough to try to cover engineering for the back door configurations. It's all hung on a Right To Use (RTU) license, little-used by the community.

Running MPE/iX OS on any hardware under the following conditions without explicit HP approval would likely violate the existing MPE/iX RTU:

Genuine HP e3000 systems with allowed hardware configurations but with modifications to cause the reporting of system attributes which are not equal to those actually present or configured on the system. For example, the number and type of CPUs present, System Model String or HPSUSAN by any method including binary patching, insertion of a system library or modification of stable storage values.

Notice the "likely" violation language. There's two reasons to make these modifications. The first is to replace a failed board, or write an HPSUSAN number onto new CPU boards so existing software will continue to run -- when the software vendor is out of business and can't reissue a release to match a new HPSUSAN number. Those HP 2007 and 2008 warnings might not matter, even in a legal sense. The latest reports reveal that 3000 configurations are being altered without changes to stable storage. A back door into the 3000's memory space gets the job done which HP will only do on T&M next year.

We hear a healthy share of off-the-record reports about these back-door successes. They arrive with enough technical detail to make us believe the independent support community can match anything HP will cut back on offering after Dec. 31, the work it will push into its T&M outskirts. "That doesn't work; best of luck," customers say they hear from HP's support about some configuration challenges. This work keeps 3000s running even while migrations are in play -- the budget dance that funds migrations while 3000s run at their superior price performance marks. Customers are asking indie support providers to step in with solutions where HP is reluctant to work during 2011.

01:51 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 07, 2010

Indie resets of 3000 system IDs still available

AClassIRS Independent support providers can still provide a reset of HP 3000 CPUNAME and HPSUSAN ID numbers, according to an online message posted for the 3000 community. The parameters are crucial to continued use of HP 3000s after upgrades or CPU and board failures. HP is not the only avenue to pursue for these specialized services.

Immediate Recovery Solutions offers this Processor Dependent Code (PDC) change for PA-RISC servers, reiterated in a message from a technical expert who's called himself Captain Greb for more than four years by now. GREBs are the IRS products known as Generic REplacement Boxes, PA-RISC hardware built by HP which can be assigned a 3000's CPU ID as well as the HPSUSAN string. Software vendors check the HPSUSAN to verify legal licenses for applications and utilities.

The "Captain" told the NewsWire that the company will not sell its SSEDIT software, the program which it uses to set identities for the PA-RISC systems. "SSEDIT is our proprietary service tool and is not for sale," he said. "Why would we sell a program that could be easily copied or hacked by unscrupulous types?"

But now IRS has announced hardware for sale for the first time, PA-RISC systems like the one pictured above, which looks much like an A-Class server from the 3000 line. The two-processor box has been listed for sale, although there's no mention of MPE/iX being installed in a message to 3000 users.

While IRS was allied with system and service provider Advant, Steve Pirie of Advant said that HP has had ample opportunity to examine SSEDIT. HP didn't find anything in the code that could spark any legal action to block its use, Pirie claimed back in 2006.

"SSEDIT's been around since 1995," Pirie said, "and HP has had a good look at it. Listen, why don't they go after the people who do MPEX? Anybody that writes their own program and runs it on an HP system — what does HP have to say about it?"

What HP has said is that third party resellers aren't allowed to reset model strings on HP 3000s. HP enforces this with a statement that its support engineers will not repair problems with 3000s that fail to because of errors induced by third-party changes. But the approach of the Dec. 31 end of HP's 3000 support will pull a lot of teeth out of that threat. Only HP's Time & Materials support calls would be withheld for a GREB system.

HP declined to make its SS_CONFIG and SS_EDIT software available to the third party independent support community after HP's support of the 3000 ends. The technology in those HP-written tools also works on HP 9000 servers, computer the company continues to support even after sales ended. Solutions like the IRS version of SSEDIT make those crucial board reset and recovery services available outside HP.

The power of such tools goes beyond recovery, however. With the correct strings supplied to SSEDIT (the IRS version), an A-Class or N-Class server can run at its full processor power -- not the crippled speed of HP's configuration.

IRS says, "We have agreements with select third party software support companies for system board initialization, and will work with self-supporting end users. We still offer custom solutions. We now offer machines for sale."

IRS only leased GREB boxes in the past, a business model that could assure customers about the license issues. But this week it posted a notice for a $5,000 system that it's selling, one with the same processors as an N-Class 3000. The system will report that it's an A-Class, however. From the Captain's email, and the IRS website:

Specs:
2 x 750mhz processors
8GB memory
NO disk (includes 1 tray)
NO power cable
NO console cable
NO front trim

This is a great little machine for hobby use, development, archiving, etc. Relative performance should be in the 40 to 50 range, or about that of a 989KS650.

MPE model string: RP2470/A500-200-75
Software capability: 0x10000001
Software ID: 891900600

If you were to install MPE on this machine, this is what you might expect to see:

HPUSERLIMIT = -1
HPSUSAN = 891900600
HPCPUNAME = SERIES RP2470/A500-200-75

So IRS has chosen to wave its flag higher for the 3000 customer who wants an upgrade but isn't worried about CPUNAME and HPSUSAN ID issues. 3000 budgets for homesteaders being what they are in a down economy (lean, for many), upgrade licensing fees from some software companies (like Cognos) would kill an upgrade. The movement to enable third parties do the hardware-level upgrading, outside of HP's 2011 time and materials contracts and software fees, shows how some customers are dealing with homesteading in the post-HP era.

While GREB users do exist, they have been shy about testifying to the goodness of their solution for us at the NewsWire. We'd love to hear from you if you're using GREB.

07:09 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2010

HP hugs Oracle with Unix v3 Update 7

HP-UX gains its seventh generation of improvements this month with the 11i v3 Update 7 release, which adds a range of enhancements to save time administering and integrating the OS with Oracle, among other technologies. HP's enterprise-grade alternative environment to MPE/iX has been already been updated for more than three years, and HP will carry the v3 banner well into 2014 according to its roadmaps.

HP and Oracle kissed and made up at last month's Oracle World conference in San Francisco -- held after Larry Ellison had scorched HP about firing Mark Hurd, then hired the ex-CEO to run the Oracle sales and marketing force as a co-president. HP filed a lawsuit and then settled, but there's another one between Oracle and SAP over copyright infringement -- which Oracle says took place during former SAP exec Leo Apotheker's watch. Ellison recently chided HP about hiring Apotheker, wondering "what ever happened to the HP Way?"

The improvements to HP-UX which hug the OS tighter to Ellison's Oracle were in development long before the current dust ups, of course.

The combination of HP-UX and Oracle's E-Business Suite is now promised to cost 93 percent less in dollars and time when the Oracle solution is clustered with 11i v3. Oracle's EBS stack of over 200 applications can be online in two days instead of the previous 30, HP says, and the cluster administrator can eliminate up to 12 hours of planned downtime a month.

Then there's better database manageability with "zero custom coding for Oracle Data Guard," a feature to enhance availability or disaster recovery for Data Guard. HP's competitor in Unix systems sales is its strongest partner in selling Oracle databases, and Data Guard maintains secondary standby databases as supplementary repositories to production databases.

Availability is such a crucial element in choosing Oracle and HP-UX that HP now boasts it's "90 percent faster to start up key applications after a failover."

The updated HP-UX now adds energy efficiency options for Integrity systems that were only available for the ProLiant G7 servers up to now. Migrating customers will need to choose the Superdome class of Integrity systems to get the improved power tracking. Graphical power and thermal monitoring of HP Superdome 2 can now be done through HP Systems Insight Manager and HP-UX Insight Control power management.

The OS release is needed to run the Superdome systems, but Update 7 also provides flexibility when doing security and patch analysis. Windows IT enterprises which use HP-UX have extended management capability with the new release.

Now customers with heterogeneous environments, and those HP-UX customers that utilize a Windows command management station, can now also utilize HP Software Assistant to allow security and patch analysis of HP-UX systems from a Windows console.

12:59 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2010

CEO Leo's prescription for healing HP's way

After six weeks of search, the HP board of directors chose a computer executive from outside the company to fill its CEO post. Leo Apotheker will start working in the fresh HP fiscal year starting November 1. A few articles have referred to the 57-year-old SAP lifer as wearing a name that translates in German to "pharmacist." But their prescriptions for him to heal the HP Way have ill-administered at best, as reported in the business press.

Apotheker Analysts have puzzled about why Apotheker was picked over HP's own "deep executive bench," to use the phrase HP offered while it was firing Mark Hurd. A sentimental favorite of some in the 3000 community, Ann Livermore, was passed over for the third time in about a decade. Livermore leads the HP operations which control the fate of HP's servers and software for enterprise customers. But Carly Fiorina seemed a better choice to the HP board, and about five years later Mark Hurd was fitted for HP's vacated crown. Livermore likely has little interest in leading all of HP, a company which has mutated mightily from the business where she cut her teeth selling HP's support products such as LaserROM -- an innovation of the industry's first collection of business system documentation on a CD.

So in an interview with Livermore I saw a view of one of two HP areas where Apotheker will try to reform the HP Way: support services. It's not the area analysts expect him to impact, software, but if he achieves that it will increase support business by extension. Customers can expect his continued pressure on the support business, where HP just raised its prices to increase the cost of owing an HP enterprise server. This is what you do when your innovation sags: boost the price to remain a customer of a complex product.

HP already opened the door for this impact with a paid-only patch policy for its business users starting Sept. 17. Apotheker has been profiled as an exec who worked to raise such costs at his last job leading SAP. Customers revolted and price hikes were pushed back. That kind of cohesive defense against higher costs will be tougher to mount against a company the size of HP, however, where thousands of products across many operating units will be probed for profit increases. Support revenues are the most lucrative HP operations other than lawsuit-driven licensing challenges. These revenues are also the final product that an enterprise customer like the 3000 user is likely to purchase before dropping HP.

The business press is examining Apotheker on a less tactical prescription: what he can do to improve HP's standing in software. Consider the bar he must try to carry the company over: a series of acquisitions that have increased HP headcount and drained off cash that could've been used for R&D, even while their impact has been meaningless to meager. Allbase is a great example of a software acquisition which few needed in the HP enterprise customer base, way back in the 1980s. (One large customer needed indexes that IMAGE couldn't do, and a serviceable third-party add-on for indexing was not HP's choice to please this customer.) The software track record hasn't gotten much better in the ensuing 25 years. HP OpenView has been a software exception to the rule of weak and me-too additions.

What I hope Apotheker will understand is that HP needs the kind of innovation which grows from inside the company's software engineering labs, rather than adding technical genius from small companies now ordered to perform on Battleship HP just like they did in their cruiser-class corporations such as Palm. A half-dozen key Palm engineering managers and creators fled HP once the merger was sealed this summer. There's little doubt about why. HP's internal measures show that two-thirds of its employees would leave if a better job was available. The job-slashing that got popular under the past two CEOs is a big reason to get away from HP if you can migrate under your own plan.

During the CEO search process, Apotheker must have hidden his record regarding SAP employee trust -- or had it discounted by the directors. After cutting 4,000 jobs out of SAP during the recession, only half of the remaining 46,000 employees had trust in top management, a drop from 75 percent. Watching cubicles empty out will inspire few people who are considered top creators and innovators.

But the Economist was not alarmed by a CEO choice that drove HP's share price down about 5 percent after the hiring news. "It may be a clever choice," read the article by "Babbage," one of the clever columnist names the magazine uses to cloister its writing staff. Babbage acknowledges that Apotheker "did not make many friends among SAP's customers, particularly the smaller ones in Germany." Such small customers make up the largest share of 3000 owners, even the ones who've stuck with HP and made the move to HP-UX (occasionally) or Windows-ProLiant (far more often). Small companies will get pushed around by HP policy changes which are tough to revolt against. A loss of teeth is not the worst thing to brave when you fight a big vendor to retain the value you were promised. Months of bitter complaints rolled back those SAP support hikes, just a few months before Apotheker was handed his hat.

What sparks this October's praise of the surprising Apotheker seems to be his different stripes as a human: Revolting against high school rules against smoking, and losing a few teeth in the skirmish; growing up the son of two Polish Jews who fled the Germans to avoid concentration camps (he's been labeled a son of Holocaust survivors, which fogs up the accuracy of "survivor" that usually accompanies tattooed forearms, starvation and worse); or his command of five languages including Hebrew, or being the first HP CEO born outside the US. All of this difference makes the Economist guess Apotheker might start as a good listener. He says he wants to start with a tour of listening.

One group of speakers who should earn his ear are HP employees who signed on to build rather than integrate, or to please customers rather than enrich shareholders who've been joyful since mid-decade -- at least until Hurd's undertow sparked his firing, then drew off $10 billion of HP's market valuation.

But Babbage's column acknowledges that acquisition is the standing order of HP's days. It draws hope from an acquisition Apotheker engineered three years ago, rather than any innovation initiative that SAP rolled off its own programming force. Innovation is not a part of the SAP experience. Purchasing Business Objects was a big SAP 2007 deal, at $6.8 billion, big enough that only a couple of HP's purchases have cost more. But the SAP future doesn't look better because of that buy.

SAP is software installed at very large companies, implementations that can take four years and more to complete. Some HP 3000s are still running at migration-bound companies, now becoming independent support customers, because fitting the 3000 ops into existing SAP infrastructure is more complex than expected. Integrators have been known to describe SAP as an ERP solution "with 15,000 switches to set" on implementation. A move to make this software better fit to small companies has not helped SAP much, not to mention some customers who hoped it would work as well as it did for HP.

Hiring Apotheker doesn't signal a new way of HP performance, nor does it offer hope of the return of the old customer-focused HP Way. The Economist called its column "The Leo Way." His new face on an HP board that has careened toward big earnings off smaller R&D budgets -- that's a way likely to cost customers using HP's unique technologies over the long run. 3000 owners have always invested for the long run. Once all the listening stops, I hope HP acquisitions and job cuts will halt, too. HP's grown large enough to let competitors like Sun or IBM get richer. HP's last CEO now works for the former firm, and SAP grew out of a hide-bound IBM that changed its ways long ago. Big companies change to improve the value of their products. The best we can hope for is that this fresh, multi-lingual voice can make his board hear the merits of creation, instead of hoarding the innovations of others. Leo will need to lead a new way to help a wayward HP.

04:14 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 04, 2010

Boosting 3000 Effectiveness with Experience

MB Foster is hosting an Oct. 13 webinar that promises to steer strategies for the present, as well as the future of 3000 ownership. While the community is full of homesteaders, many are evaluating the time and method to step into their transition path. MB Foster is serving both kinds of users.

Birket Foster leads a 45 minute webinar next Wednesday at 2PM EDT, one where he will share experiences in successfully working with HP 3000 sites in planning future strategies. "We have worked with hundreds of HP 3000 sites," he said. "Over and over we see the same challenges in rolling out application changes, managing source code, and integrating HP 3000 data with other platforms."

"There are several strategies that you can deploy today for your HP 3000 and business operations that will improve your business, reduce mistakes, and lower costs."

Foster says that "when you choose the right strategies, you can also greatly lower the risk and cost of any future migration of your HP 3000 applications and data to alternative solutions and architectures."

Registration is at the MB Foster website, www.mbfoster.com/events/register.cfm?On=34

11:46 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2010

Building Beyond Our 15-Year Foundation

It's our 15th birthday today, the first day of the first month ever printed under the flag of The 3000 NewsWire. We're celebrating far from our offices but close to the birthplace of our newsletter: The coast of California, where we first told Hewlett-Packard about a fanatic's plan to launch a newsletter around one of the oldest business computers in the HP stables. My 20th wedding anniversary with Abby Lentz, the NewsWire's co-founder, has led us to a fortnight in the Sierras and along seacoasts to celebrate.

After a decade and a half, we can still feel the surge of that beachhead. The NewsWire's debut happened over August (Interex '95), September (our first FlashPaper) and October's initial first issue. But it really took its first bow in Aptos, a coastal town where HP was holding a press event at a resort called Seascape. HP was a company as different from today's mega-corp as an eagle and an otter might appear beside each other. I came to Seascape to report on HP's Opening the Enterprise conference, where HP execs from the Computer Systems Organization talked up how the 3000 would integrate with Unix.

But we had news to deliver as well as gather on that weekend. We broached the idea with our press relations contact Michele Pritchard before we arrived, then pulled aside the 3000's general manager Olivier Helleboid to ask what he'd think of a 3000-specific publication. At that time, few paragraphs appeared in print about the 3000 any longer. There was no online press.

Olivier saw the potential to collaborate with a little startup that must have seemed to flash more moxie than show business sense. We even got an approving nod from the head of the business server unit, Wim Roelandts, who'd worked in the 3000 business at HP himself years earlier.

But armed with those nods and smiles, along with content from HP's Pritchard and the chatter of the 3000-L, we still had to produce a complete newsletter filled with articles and advertising. A simple pilot edition traveled to Interex '95 -- well received by some sponsors and our contacts of more than a decade in the community. HP was making a case for including the 3000 in IT strategies, a mission we were delighted to aid because we knew so many companies relying on the server.

But I remember Chris Sieger, a board member of Interex, wondering what in the world we could find to publish in the next issue -- beyond a 4-page pilot that talked up HP's new Bangalore, India labs and the Gnu C++ toolset just ported to the 3000. I smiled at his question on the Interex bus back to the conference hotel. We'd heard plenty to publish at the conference. There was just the writing, editing, design, printing, database and mailing to accomplish. Not much for two people. Oh, and the thousands of 3000 suppliers and customers who'd fill our pages. We had to believe we'd receive that much, if we were to keep smiling in the face of skeptics.

The NewsWire's pages, both printed and those we flung onto the fledgling World Wide Web, had to prove the concept of a 3000-only publication. We promoted the platform by highlighting the changes to its solutions. HP was already calling the HP 3000 a "legacy" system during 1995, even while people in the 3000 division worked to bring the platform up to date.

In October of 1995, HP was just starting to embrace the idea of serving small customers with the 3000's fastest technology. We called the Series 9x9 servers Kittyhawks in our Page One article, using HP's code name. (Click on the image above to read that front page.) System configurations were a major part of a 3000 customer's duty in that day, so we reported HP was finally adding an 8-user MPE/iX license to the entry model of the 9x9 line. HP said you could get the latest generation 3000 at under $50,000, we reported with an asterisk,"before disks, console and networking cards are added." Most customers needed to add one or more of these elements, but HP was still trying to improve the image of the 3000's value.

Another kind of image was important in that first issue, the 3000 database of the same name. We launched our first at-deadline issue of the FlashPaper with a report on the new leader of the IMAGE/SQL lab, Tien-You Chen. The vendor community was pleased with the move, since it looked like the database group was getting a leader devoted to results rather than policy.

Chen has a can-do style. In a meeting with several partners over TurboStore integration, someone in the meeting suggested that “an HP file system engineer would really help us here.” Chen excused himself, got up and came back with the engineer.

Of course, much of what seemed novel and important 14 years ago has aged into history. We looked over the first issue's story lineup to see that top HP executives (like CEO Lew Platt) were still praising the platform in public, when pressed. HP could show a wrinkled side of its image to the 3000 faithful, too: 3000 division executives made a show of taking off their jackets en masse at an Interex conference roundtable. Although roundtables and HP executive comments on the 3000 have evaporated, our first issue carried news that resonates in today's community. A powerful object-oriented compiler was being launched, C++, "which promised better products sooner" for the 3000. It remains a key tool to keep the 3000's future smooth, no matter how long you've decided to remain on the computer's path.

HP once operated a repository for the 3000 version of GNU C++ source, hosted on the Invent3k public development server. But when HP closed down Invent3k, the compiler had to find a public home. OpenMPE will include the compiler on its invent3k.openmpe.org resource, opening this month.

This open source tool will be needed to keep the more modern ports to the 3000 up to date in years to come. It's so essential, said our columnist John Burke, that

Without Mark Klein’s initial porting of and continued attention to the GNU C++ compiler and utilities on the HP 3000, there would be no Apache/iX, syslog/iX, sendmail/iX, bind/iX, etc. from Mark Bixby, and no Samba/iX from Lars Appel. And the HP 3000 would still be trying to hang on for dear life, rather than being a player in the new e-commerce arena.

And our first issue covered a new HP initiative to spark integration in the manufacturing sector, carried out by six North American partners.

The integrators will offer customers one of three strategies to assist them in examining their information infrastructure, with the goal of implementing Customer Oriented Manufacturing Management (COMMS systems):
    1. To retain systems while expanding use of software features and increasing processing power using strategies such as COMMS;
    2. To supplement systems such as MRP II with more comprehensive software on current computer platforms or additional environments; or
    3. To migrate manufacturing systems to newer “Choices Approved” software solutions such as Ross Systems' Renaissance CS or  Spectrum's PointMan.

So even while the first NewsWire was hitting the mailboxes of October, 1995, this newsletter was acknowledging that migration was one choice in moving ahead. Something else hasn't changed since that month. One of those six partners remains vital in the 3000 community: the Support Group, inc.

Like a lot of your world, tSGi is concerned with continuity. Today the company's president David Floyd, son of the founder Terry Floyd, celebrates his birthday while tSGi leads customers into both homestead and migration futures. We're happy to share a birthday with him, while we work toward "many happy returns of the day." Thank you for reading us for 15 years, and for the support of our partners and sponsors continuing into another generation, starting with today.

07:30 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)