November 30, 2010
A Sterling Example of R&D Innovation
This month marks the 15th anniversary of our printed issue of The 3000 NewsWire -- we mailed copies of our November 2010 edition at the start of last week. Just as those copies (with print-first exclusives) landed in mailboxes around the world, I got a LinkedIn connection invite from Harry Sterling, the last general manager of the 3000 division to engineer a bigger market share for the server. When we first spoke with Sterling he ran the group's R&D, an aspect of today's HP that analysts and veterans believe needs a renaissance.
I caught up with Sterling to learn he's still pursuing and loving his new career after HP retirement in 1999: real estate, selling residential property in his adopted hometown of Palm Springs. After he retired, Sterling spent a year off in consulting and renovating a house in New Orleans, but reports he's now pursuing what he loves -- contact with people. The sales have been hard in the recent market, a feeling he probably remembers from selling the 3000 in the '90s.
I have always been interested in Real Estate so I decided to give it a try. My technical skills have given me an edge with web marketing. Most of my new clients come to me via my web sites. I got my license in December of 2002. It is a tough market now with lots of foreclosures and short pay sales. Hard work – harder than I thought it would be. But I do love it, especially sleeping in my own bed every night and meeting new people all the time.
I was surprised to see our very same November, 1995 issue included our first Q&A with Sterling, back when HP still had executives who could speak about the HP 3000 as something other than a dead product. With the HP campus where Sterling led a rejuvenation now sold to Apple, it seems worthwhile to study what a manager can pursue when customer delight is the goal. The interview with him revolves around Customer First and how it was practiced down to the lab level of the division, a group that once worked in a building HP owns no more.
Unlike the HP which devolved after his retirement, Sterling was willing and able to make moves that didn't follow the company's stock messages. In 1998 he engineered the purchase of OpenSkies, a company built around HP 3000 use which had a lively business processing digital airline tickets. The object of the purchase, which some senior execs questioned, was to establish an application service provider -- HP called it Apps On Tap -- who'd use more 3000s to open up the customer base for the computer.
I place Sterling in a special category because he was the final GM to believe and work to make the server attractive to new customers. Ecometry sold a pile of them to power the emerging e-commerce market on his watch. And when he retired he told his story of being the highest ranking gay executive at HP, doing a "reader's theatre" presentation with fellow gay employees to educate Hewlett-Packard about engaging with a workforce still uncovered by company benefits. A few months later, HP changed its policy and extended its family benefits to all of its workers.
With HP's R&D efforts gaining a bit of hope in the report from its new CEO, what Sterling said 15 years ago stands as an example of how R&D needs motivated, compensated engineers to reach out to customers and put them first -- even, at times, in front of bald demands for profits. We asked Sterling back then if he'd found the Customer First changes were most profound at the R&D level. He referred to the low point of HP-customer 3000 relations at the Interex conference in Boston five years earlier, and how listening changed the future.
The management team had to really change the way we think about what we were responsible for. There's a cartoon of a tightrope walker who sees a fire climbing up the pedestal, and he's hesitant to go out. That's what it was like for us. In Boston [in 1990], the customers set fire to our pedestal and we had to move.
For the CSY engineering community in particular, it was very hard. In our culture, that [customer communication] was somebody else's job. We had compartmentalized the whole value chain, and tossed it over the fence to the next person who was responsible. When our customers said “The whole sales model has changed, we're not happy with what's going on, you're not hearing our needs,” our immediate reaction was, “The field has screwed this up. They've got to fix it. Or marketing has the problem.” We had to change philosophically, and realize we're responsible for all of it, whatever it takes. If there's something wrong in the value delivery system, it's our responsibility to fix it.
We're delighted that Sterling is enjoying his next chapter as a Palm Springs realtor, taking what he knew about technology and talking into a new field. Even though the HP of 1995 is long-ago dismissed, that doesn't make Customer First any less effective. For any HP group with customers captive to its technology (clearly, that's the customer base migrating to HP-UX), listening right down to the R&D level is essential to keeping proprietary products afloat in a time with so many chances to drift from HP's ways.
HP's got some of its R&D managers in the Business Critical Systems group selling advantages of new Integrity server solutions. At least it's communication from a BCS lab, if not between customers and engineers. We'll have more to say about that fresh start in a story for tomorrow.
November 29, 2010
Apple buys HP 3000 campus to return home
The home for development and management of the HP 3000 business has been sold to Apple Computer, putting the 98 acres between Pruneridge Ave. and Homestead Road back into the hands of HP's rival in the consumer computing business. That "return to home" view is being promoted by Steve Wozniak in an interview about the $300 million sale of HP's enterprise computing campus.
The Woz started his computer industry career on an HP campus back in the 1970s. The legend is told that he pitched the design and concept of a personal computer to Hewlett-Packard but got turned down, then left the company to found Apple with Steve Jobs. On the Cult of Mac website, The Woz commented on the site's story about the 98-acre sale, a transaction first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.
Woz worked for the most innovative HP group of the time, the Advanced Products Division, until HP wanted to move APD to Oregon. Woziak then logged about a month working at DSD -- home group of the predecessor to the 3000's General Systems Division, which finally was organized as a separate Computer Systems Divison. The General Systems Division contained the HP 1000 and HP 3000 operations during the years Woz worked at HP, the late '70s when the computer gained IMAGE as a bundled database as well as stole market share from IBM's batch mainframes.
Apple purchased the land and buildings where the 3000 gained its PA-RISC design as well as the creation of a 32-bit MPE. In the Mercury News coverage, its John Boudreau contrasts what Apple has done in 2010 against the cutbacks and acquisitions common at places like HP. "What most distinguishes Apple is the way it has climbed these heights," Boudreau writes. "While other tech titans spent 2010 cutting costs and acquiring new technology through mergers, this $65 billion company is innovating like a startup."
With the purchase of the HP campus, Apple's jammed main campus can now expand to the buildings where its co-founder did research that led to Apple's first product. Woz remembered when HP was his benefactor.
Apple really is returning home. Actually, almost all of the Apple ][ development occurred in the HP calculator division (APD) which was located in the section acquired earlier. When this HP division moved to Corvallis, Oregon, my wife did not want to move so I transferred to HP’s Data Systems Division (HP 3000) across Pruneridge and I worked there for about one month, at first choosing not to start Apple due to my love for HP.
Apple paid HP $300 million for land and buildings that it's probably years away from using fully, while HP was glad to tells analysts about making a 4-cent a share profit for its 2011 Q1 off the sale. The transaction shows two companies heading in different fiscal directions. Maybe that's why Apple's stock is trading at seven times the price of HP shares. HP said in its latest quarterly briefing that it's the only company strong in both comsumer and enterprise computing, to give it opportunities no competitor can access.
HP's strength in consumer computing pales to the Apple business, however. Apple will sell more than 13 million iPads thhis year to launch the tablet computer industry. HP's Slate tablet began being sold last month as an enterprise solution, after the company first pitched it in May as a consumer product. Meanwhile, iPads are surging as an enterprise computing solution, injected into IT groups by executives much the same way iPhones were by 2008.
Apple has also bought up parts of HP that it acquired when Hewlett-Packard merged with Compaq. In 2006 Apple purchased the old Tandem campus across Pruneridge from the Cupertino site -- and Apple hasn't fully moved into that, either. The company believes that it will be easier to earn city permits for renovation of the properties with the combined acreage under one owner. Apple is now the largest taxpayer in the city of Cupertino. On Cult of Mac, the HP campus is reported to have a connection to Apple’s earliest computer, the Apple I.
HP rolled out the HP 3000 about four years before Apple began selling its personal computers. Each hawked a concept new to computing -- the desktop computer for Apple, the interactive minicomputer for the 3000. (Ad image below courtesy of the HP Computer Museum website -- a superior Web resource for Hewlett-Packard history, right down to the 30-year-old price lists in the archived copies of HP's Computer News internal publication.)
“This is also the division of HP that had the PROM burners I used to burn the 256-byte 'monitor' program of the Apple I," Woz said on Cult of Mac. 'It took two PROM chips – not much memory in those days. I had previously learned how to burn these PROMs to display 4-letter words when you missed the ball on a Pong game I’d built for myself,” he wrote on the website's comments board.
New HP CEO Leo Apotheker said in last week's FY 2010 financial briefing that the company's operations in enterprise computing -- a new phrase pushed in the presentation -- are moving to a more productive space in Palo Alto, where the original HP campus is being expanded for occupancy by 2012. While Apple expands its presence in high-cost, high-value Silicon Valley, HP is trimming back its footprint in its birthplace. HP expects cost cutting to remain a significant part of its 2011 fiscal strategy. Few of its Silicon Valley properties would fetch anywhere near as much as the 3000's birthplace, however.
November 26, 2010
Thanksgiving, wherever you are in Transition
No matter where your HP 3000 experience is this week, you can give some thanks whether you're migrated, homesteading, or in transition someplace between the colon prompt and an open Window. A few of the more recent blessings come to mind this morning, the day in the US where we follow overeating at holiday feasts with conspicuous consumerism at Black Friday sales.
Solutions built from pioneer arrows: A long time ago HP said there might be a renaissance in 3000 software because migration was underway. That was a 2002 prediction that continues to be correct eight years later, a lot longer than anyone but 3000 IT managers expected. One example is ScreenJet's EZV, a product that's moved into its third generation of modernizing VPlus user interfaces. Like some of the best of these products, EZV can be used to sustain a homestead site as well as move a few dozen colleges' 3000s onto a Unix system.
Deals delivered to beat back competition: The 3000 Transition has gone on so long by now that big parts of the ecosystem outside of MPE/iX have morphed as well. Open source solutions like Linux have grown fast enough that HP's got to make much better deals to sell Unix gear. Free blade servers until April of next year, just for trying out HP-UX, toss up to $12,000 of incentives onto the table.
Renovation of resources: HP 3000 advocates -- okay, some might call them fanatics -- are taking the future of their shared software into new hands. OpenMPE spent six years arguing with HP over what the vendor would leave unlocked on the 3000, but now the group has its first tangible resource: a donated server relocated from HP's source code labs, serving up contributed software during the year to come at a $99 price.
Experience in exchanging resources: With every passing year it's evident that the companies who waited to migrate their systems got better deals than the early birds. Not only have many more questions been researched on how to keep production systems running in nouveau environments, but the answers have been tested. In one case, a migrating customer had great test suites ready for their migration -- because they'd already built them in a previous attempt to turn off their 3000s.
Wide range of 3000 experts: It may be a challenge to hire someone as deep as the fellow in the City of Sparks, Nevada shop who's worked with the HP 3000 for 32 years. But contracting with a consultant is easier than anyone would expect. One of the many lists of consulting resources is online at the OpenMPE blog.
Cross-platform tools: By now, several HP 3000 vendors have polished their products to operate as well on non-3000 systems as on Windows or Unix. MB Foster's UDALink got a renovation onto the latest HP Unix hardware earlier this year. Electronic forms and distribution products like byRequest not only have versions ready for post-Transition use, but they usually have licensing crossover deals to limit the cost of continuity.
Independent 3000 internals resources: HP is leaving the support business in about a month, but the experience you need to keep system boards alive and shuffle licenses isn't confined to Hewlett-Packard Time & Materials contracts in 2011. More than a few experts have found the expected back doors to reconfiguring 3000 hardware and are selling this service. It's not advertised, but you can find it by asking around.
You might not consider these developments as much of a deal as the Black Friday "Doorbusters" on offer today around the US. The Transition away from HP, or from the 3000, is a bigger challenge and project than any Y2K endeavor. You might recall that Y2K sparked a massive wave of tools and expertise while 3000 owners solved that problem. But these solutions for Transitions -- finding steady alternatives to HP, or tools that can modernize as well as migrate -- these answers are going to fit many more problems in the years to come. R&D innovation has well declined, by share of revenues, at HP. But just the opposite has happened in the 3000 world, where revenue spent to create something is a rising percentage of what's spent around the system.
November 24, 2010
Advocates tracking down contributed gems
Now that OpenMPE has opened up its own Invent3k 3000 development servers, the group is tracking down utilities and programs that have slipped out of the community's toolbelt. In specific, the search is underway for HP 3000 software which was once hosted by individuals on the HP public server for the 3000, Invent3k.
HP closed down this Series 9x9 HP 3000 in December 2008. The vendor notified customers who'd created accounts and built software -- items like an MPE/iX version of an open source tool like Perl -- before HP pulled the Invent3k plug. But when the server went dark, the only copies of the customer-created software dropped out of sight. OpenMPE wants to stock its Invent3k servers with these programs. It needs to find contributed software.
"HP told us if we could get the [creators'] permissions, they're willing to find an old Jazz backup and send it to us," said OpenMPE secretary Tracy Johnson. "We're looking for abandon-ware or demo software that people are willing to put up on Invent3k." These programs would add more value to a 3000 that is the first tangible asset for OpenMPE. The group will be charging $99 a year for membership to use all of Invent3k starting January 1. Since the Invent3k servers went back online in September, there's been eight new members signed on, and a baker's dozen returnees to Invent3k programming.
The creators of some of these programs are among the more profilic help resources in the community. Johnson said that accounts existed for Applied Technologies' Brian Edminster, Keven Miller of 3k Ranger, Craig Lalley of EchoTech, consultant Jeff Kubler, and Jon Diercks, who wrote the most comprehensive MPE/iX administration book. Johnson believe there may be many more programs. The goal is to make Invent3k an irresistible resource for the homesteader.
Developers can contact OpenMPE through an email to Johnson to give permissions or contribute programs.These programs were available via more than one protocol when Invent3k ran at HP. Some were accessed via the Web plus a link, while others were delivered through a telnet connection. Johnson also said the Invent3k server will be merged with HP's software that was once hosted at HP's Jazz server. These programs -- at least HP's own developed or revised versions -- are already on the Jazz websites operated by Client Systems as well as Speedware. But other very useful parts of Jazz, written by individuals, have fallen into the cracks of 3000 experts' servers.
OpenMPE wants to revive the links to all of the Jazz resources and host or point to everything on Invent3k. But it needs to find the creators of these tools and get permission to host the software. It's not the collection of Contributed Software Library tools; OpenMPE already has those. These are Contributed Commercial Software programs, according to Johnson, who defines the programs as one of three types.
1. Software vendors that wish to offer a permanent “DEMO” to experiment with.
2. Software vendors that would like to contribute a limited licensed product for an “Advert” spot on OpenMPE’s website or just because they believe such a contribution would be helpful marketing.
3. Abandonware. Software products that are no longer being sold. Software vendors who are no longer offering a product may consider it like a contribution to a museum.
1. and 2. above could be handy for users on INVENT3K who could need software tools. Competing backup demo products could also be interesting, operationally I would have to use different backup products on alternating days. (Naturally, licensing for any of the above should be as appropriate.)
So many ingredients could make up the tasty “Stone Soup” that can be Invent3k!
Lastly, this is also call for former Invent3k and Jazz contributors (of the non-commercial variety). To any former contributors to Jazz and/or the original Invent3k machine: If you contact OpenMPE and give us your release, it is possible we may get HP to provide the old backups for your former Jazz or INVENT3K contributions and we can reinstall them on the new INVENT3K machine. But we need your release.
Alternatively, if you retained your own Invent3k or Jazz backups, contact us at OpenMPE and we can reinstall it also.
We'll be taking a holiday break tomorrow from our reports to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US. On Friday we'll return with a list of what every HP 3000 customer, current and migrated, can be thankful for and how to track it down.
November 23, 2010
HP to share wealth, per Leo's words on call
HP CEO Leo Apotheker spoke and took questions for nearly 20 minutes out of a one-hour broadcast on HP's fiscal year 2010 and fourth quarter report yesterday. He delivered some of the best promises and news that an HP 3000 migrator, or anybody still buying HP gear and services, might have heard across 60 minutes. The promise is that HP will be starting up pay increases for employees in annual reviews, a move that will return levels to the salaries received before HP cut compensation 5 percent company-wide and froze increases.
HP's employees were surveyed during 2010 by the company's own measure this year -- and 65 percent said they'd get out of HP if the job market were better. To counter the unrest, HP's going to match 401K contributions as a fixed benefit. E-Award bonuses have broader eligibility and better funding. And a new employee stock ownership program might be approved by shareholders next spring. HP shares would be available for purchase at a 5 percent discount.
Catching up to competitive pay could retain more HP staff, one of the best chances for the company to revive its R&D innovation. What's more, the company will fund bonuses once again, another way to retain those blue-chip creators. The changes are effective immediately. It's not likely that Apotheker had much influence about the timing of these changes, but they could have a lasting lift for a company which maintains about 13 percent of its enterprise operations in proprietary technology business.
The raw numbers on the report -- HP posted record sales of $126 billion for 2010 -- showed more good news for the users of such proprietary products such as HP-UX and Integrity servers. The Business Critical Systems group which manages these products posted its first increase in a half-dozen quarters, reversing slides in sales and profits. Revenue slides at BCS, the smallest part of the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit (ESS) had been the fly in HP's otherwise admirable reports since 2008. BCS revenues were up 10 percent over those in 2009 Q4. The news was even better on ESS totals for fiscal year 2010. ESS revenues were more than $5 billion, setting a record and a 25 percent increase over Q4 of 2009.
Blade servers contributed a hefty share of the HP enterprise business, a business designation the company used frequently during the call. Revenues for the servers which reside in C3000 and C7000 chassis were up 50 percent for the quarter. HP also attributed the BCS rebound to sales of the new models of Superdome Integrity systems. Multi-million price points for Superdome 2 refreshes are a common level of deal.
Apotheker said he was speaking from Palo Alto HP headquarters, ending talk that he might still be evading Oracle's subpoena in its SAP lawsuit. The overall news of increases in most of HP's business ticked the stock up about $1 a share at today's opening bell. By the day's close, the rise fell back to about a 1.1 percent increase over yesterday's closing price. More important to HP 3000 migrators was the report of a $250 million increase in operating profits for the ESS unit. It's a source which can fund R&D increases which Apotheker said are already underway.The new CEO said HP's R&D improvements will come in part from new tech talent out of its acquisitions. The company has had a mixed record of retaining these top creators over the last two years of cutbacks and pay freezes. Apotheker, who said he set a record for travel during his first three weeks of CEO listening and learning, found his employees "very focused on our customers and their businesses, and they have terrific ideas. They also know how to drive operational efficiency," being code for working while spending less to maintain costs.
But cost containment will fall into a healthier position for HP futures under Apotheker. "You need to invest to create sustainable operating leverage. And you need to do this on a continuing basis as well. And we will use some of the savings that we generate from our efficiency initiatives, to continue investing in more R&D and into more sales."
Customers, he said, have told him that they're asking for a business partner that has technology and can solve business challenges. In spite of the closed path that HP-UX offers to its customers, Apotheker said that "they want choice, not proprietary lock-ins. Our strategy is to different from our competitors -- ours is to give our customers choice."
On the growth of intellectual property at HP, the IP future looks to be getting its long-overdue revival. But Apotheker said this renovation would be a mix of organic (invented in HP) as well as acquisition innovations. The company may have lost a little of its taste for acquiring firms. Apotheker noted that R&D and sales expenses would grow at a faster rate than sales revenues for all of 2011.
On the subject of returning employee pay to a point that might retain talent, "HP employees want to be rewarded for their performance. I believe in a performance-driven culture, and our employees have been performing. Therefore I am please we will be re-instituting salary increases in fiscal year 2011 as part of our normal annual review process. It's well-deserved.
"We have a secret sauce which we can bring to bear to our advantage," Apotheker said. "We are the only company in this industry that is equally good on the consumer side and on the enterprise side. If we manage -- and we will work very hard to do so -- to leverage the rapid innovation cycle of our consumer side back into the enteprise side, making it more robust and scalable, it will be an immense competitive advantage."
HP Services posted flat numbers for growth of profits and sales for the most recent quarter, as well as yearly totals. The EDS-driven consulting wave has crested, but HP's EVP Ann Livermore talked about product "pull-through" as being a rising bonus of services business. When HP moves in to take on operations or refresh technology, servers with the HP badge, networking and storing, all these get a lift.
Overall the company raised its forecast for 2011 business, predicting about $133 billion in total sales, while its earnings per share will rise to about $5.20 per share, up about 17 percent from the fiscal year just ended. About 4 cents of that profit will come from the just-completed sale of the HP Cupertino campus where HP's enterprise servers are designed and engineered. The work is moving to a "more productive" workplace at the HP Palo Alto HQ campus.
Apotheker said HP is working to do "way more business in emerging markets" even while "technology trends are morphing quickly. Our strength is in our opportunity."
November 22, 2010
Attachmate assimilates Novell in acquisition
Several years after swallowing up HP connectivity vendor WRQ, Attachmate has announced a deal to make another brand vanish: Novell, the once-groundbreaking supplier of networking and workplace collabortion solutions. At the same time that Attachmate was paying $2.2 billion for Novell, a consortium of tech companies led by Microsoft was buying up $450 million in patents from the former owner of WordPerfect and Notes.
Acquisitions can submerge brands, but well-established technology sometimes manages to retain its profile. Compaq created ProLiant servers before HP bought up the company in 2000, but ProLiant remains the top enterprise server brand among HP products. For awhile Attachmate called itself AttachmateWRQ when it purchased the largest vendor of HP 3000 related software -- by number of licenses anyway. At the time of the 2005 merger, WRQ said it served 6 million PC desktops across a wide range of host operating environments.
Within a year WRQ was dropped off the company name at Attachmate, as well as out of the lexicon of the product names at the firm. Attachmate maintains the Reflection brand for its Terminal Emulation product line, the Reflection for HP product is on Version 14.1 today, but the latest release of Reflection for 2011 doesn't have the 3000-specific protocols included. Attachmate does offer a limited time evaluation of Reflection for HP.
Novell has a product lineup that will provide a rich bed of technology for Attachmate: server operating systems, identity management tools, plus collaboration products including e-mail; a virtualization system called ZENworks and directory services. Novell also owns the SUSE distro of Linux, the most popular version of that OS after Red Hat's. The acquisition spells out Attachmate's intention to run SUSE Linux as a business separate from the rest of the company.
The deal will probably have the greatest impact on migrating HP 3000 shops which are choosing Linux as their MPE/iX alternative. HP offers a value-add for customers who choose HP's SUSE implementation plus buy the all-important HP Support service. HP adds in the SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension an integrated suite of open source clustering technologies "that enable enterprises to implement highly available physical and virtual Linux clusters." HP says the Extension "helps organizations maintain business continuity, protect data integrity, and reduce unplanned downtime for their mission-critical Linux workloads."There was a time when the HP 3000 was in its heyday that Novell sparkled as an innovation hub for network technology. Before the TCP/IP stack had migrated to the world of PCs and Windows, Novell's networks linked millions of desktops and gave many users a mail system and collaborative work tool in Notes.
The rise of the cloud computing strategy, as well as Google's Apps, has put Novell on the defensive in the business application space. The company put itself up for sale earlier this year. In contast, Attachmate was acquired by the holding company which had already purchased WRQ in 2005; Golden Gate Partners merged the two firms after WRQ founder Doug Walker retired in late 2004.
Investment firms Francisco Partners and Thoma Bravo have since joined Golden Gate Capital in Attachmate's owner lineup. Elliott Management Corporation, one of Novell’s largest shareholders, will become an equity shareholder in Attachmate Corp. Once the deal closes, Attachmate will manage a brand portfolio consisting of Attachmate, Novell, SUSE and NetIQ. That last brand was acquired by WRQ before the company was merged with Attachmate; the new management decided that NetIQ would be the surviving brand going forward, rather than WRQ.
Jeff Hawn, who became WRQ's chairman upon Walker's retirement and then chairman and CEO of the combined AttachmateWRQ, remains at the helm of the company five years later.
"We are very excited about this transaction as it greatly complements our existing portfolio," Hawn said. "Novell has an established record of innovation, impressive technology and brand assets, and a leading ecosystem of partnerships and talented employees. The addition of Novell to our Attachmate and NetIQ businesses will enhance the spectrum of solutions we can offer to customers. We fully support Novell's commitment to its customers and we look forward to continuing to invest for the benefit of Novell's customers and partners."
November 19, 2010
HP's CEO may speak up next week
After three weeks of the trial between Oracle and SAP, HP's CEO Leo Apotheker appears to have won his bid to stay off the stand in the lawsuit. The former CEO of SAP has been subpoenaed as a witness in the trial, but Hewlett-Packard issued a statement that it would not permit the subpoena to be served. The announcement was timed with a listening tour Apotheker took of HP operations. Evidence testimony wrapped up today in the suit. Oracle didn't even bother to show the taped deposition Apotheker gave two years ago about SAP matters.
It's poor timing for Oracle, or maybe HP's calculation of the lawsuit scheduled, but next week might have found the new CEO within the reach of a process server, if one could get near the executive offices of the company. HP's year-end and Q4 report will be released and discussed Monday, Nov. 22 after the markets close. Nobody can be sure where the HP executive team works when it takes this reporting call for analysts. But 3000 Hanover Street in Palo Alto, is as good a guess as any, since it's HP's HQ.
The company announced today that it will pay its usual dividend to shareholders for the quarter, typically about 8 cents per share. Many tech giants no longer pay dividends, but HP shareholders have enjoyed one continuously for more than two decades. What's different about this period, compared to recent quarters, is that HP is not pre-announcing numbers for the quarter and fiscal year. The announcement is also later than ever, coming just three days before the US Thanksgiving break.
Any impact on 3000 sites making a migration is yet to be determined, but the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit will be watched to see if a string of declining quarterly profits and sales can be reversed. HP has extended a get-a-free-server offer for Integrity blades and enclosures when a customer adopts HP-UX and signs a support contract. Adding that can't be good for the bottom line on hardware sales of HP's Business Critical Systems unit.Apotheker, who's only been exposed by way of a press release after HP hired him, is expected to have some impact on the ESS business -- eventually. His term at SAP selling enterprise solutions prepares him for boosting HP's enterprise software sales, and by extension, the hardware and operating environments which host them. "Leo is a strategic thinker with a passion for technology, wide-reaching global experience and proven operational discipline--exactly what we were looking for in a CEO,” said HP board member Robert Ryan in the press release about the CEO's selection.
Some say that looking for Apotheker during a quarterly conference call is a mistake. He's an operations expert, not a front-row marketing rep like Carly Fiorina was, the analysts say. The same was said of Apotheker's replacement Mark Hurd, focused on operating cost cuts and bringing a low profile into the HP job. However, eventually that CEO's presence was so essential in customer meetings that his top aide hired an actress to steer the best customers his way. The new CEO already has one thing in common with the man he succeeded. Both have been asked to leave their CEO posts by their boards. Apotheker resigned from SAP in February, ousted by SAP chairman Hasso Plattner.
The Monday conference call will be accountant-grade dry in many long stretches, covering the nuances of cash flow and materials availability, along with share repurchases (now an HP constant, it seems, with the stock having recovered more than half of its lost value since the Hurd ouster). Having been on the HP payroll for none of the quarter or year being reported, he can't provide any color on what's happened during fiscal 2010. But a pep talk for 2011's business, where he's pegged to improve HP Software fortunes, might be part of the roll call. Unlike Sir Paul McCartney at next summer's HP Discover show, however, Leo's not "scheduled to appear."
November 18, 2010
Beatle to bang keys at HP's Discover show
Once only including the HP Technology Forum & Expo, the big-dog conference that HP mounts each June just got a legendary headliner. Sir Paul McCartney, one of the two living Beatles, is "scheduled to appear" at the "closing ceremonies" of what's being called the HP Discover Americas conference in Las Vegas.
The 2010 meeting that was HPTF touted a big name for its finale this year in Roger Daltrey of The Who. But Daltrey's 40-year-old catalog of music didn't make the same splash as The Beatles' hitting the Apple iTunes store this Tuesday. We didn't know Sir Paul was performing at corporation events like HP Discover these days. There's always the "scheduled to appear" disclaimer upon a spartan HP web page for the event, but there are contracts involved here, since HP's involved. There's also a partnership between McCartney and HP.
We also didn't know the conference's title had been changed, but it appears that HP is doing more consolidating than just its datacenters. What was once three conferences -- storage, enterprise systems, and the Software Universe -- just a few years ago has become one mega-event, now moved into the home of the Software Universe, the Venetian-Pallazzo Casino & Resort with its indoor canals and resplendent ceilings painted to appear like skylight at dusk. The Mandalay Bay home of the HPTF was high-end for a Vegas venue, but far to the end of the Strip. The Venetian was the venue where HP laid out the dinner for press a few years back, dead in the center of the Strip. HP customers who wanted to attend the migration-tilted, non-3000 events once had to spread themselves across a mile of the Strip to see both software and HP's enterprise offerings. Everything's gotten bigger, and as Paul could sing on June 10, "getting better all the time."
But the names of the user groups who have built content and brought customers to HP's show in the past are missing from a no-frills press release about HP Discover Americas, an oversight that might indicate, as John Lennon would answer, the groups' profile "can't get more worse." We can't assume that's true, though, and Connect would be the first to say HP Discover wouldn't exist without the hard work of its many volunteers and presenters. HP says it's producing the Discover Americas show. It's doing this "in cooperation with participating independent user groups."
For now we can attribute this "what's my name?" absence to HP's ardor over a much bigger name at an event headlined by the music industry legend -- a fellow whose concert receipts far outstripped the average cost of even the biggest 3000 migration during 2010. The artist's shows earned $31.6 million over just the first half of the year.McCartney is playing next month at New York's Apollo Theatre "saluting Sirius XM," part of promoting his Band on the Run channel on the satellite service. You can only get your shot at one of the 1,500 seats at the Apollo if you're a Sirius XM subscriber. It's an extravagent example of branding a band with technology and remaking the concept of a live concert experience.
At HP Discover, HP will take some credit for Sir Paul's business ascent. The tickets for his appearance are likely to be easier to come by than the ones at the Apollo -- although there's that $1,300 conference pass to add into the IT budget. HP is sure to show off the content and fellow headliners long before you'll need to pass on the justification letter to top management.
HP is using the combined event to promote its Instant-On Enterprise strategy for large customers. How large? For Discover Americas, HP will show how McCartney Productions Ltd. (MPL) are in a partnership "under which HP technology and services will ultimately reinvent how the artist and his fans interact."
There's a lot to reinvent, in looking at a customer the size of MPL. It owns 25 allied companies as well as some of McCartney's songs, plus those of Buddy Holly, Broadway legends Jerry Herman, Frank Loesser, Meredith Willson and Harold Arlen. Sir Paul's mega-firm, represented at HP's mega-show, now owns the rights to Lennon-McCartney's "Love Me Do", "P.S. I Love You", "Please Please Me" and "Ask Me Why."
That last lineup makes us pretty sure of the range of Sir Paul's Beatles playlist for June 10. HP Discover Americas starts June 6.
November 17, 2010
HP shrank its base, so you grew experience
Second of two parts
We don't let a November pass without insight into the HP 3000 exit announcement which HP GM Winston Prather pulled out like a motley magic rabbit in 2001. Prather and HP have stuck to their story over why it's ceased development and sales. But while the exit of much of the 3000 business at HP is only weeks away, it's taken years to understand another story, told by more than HP and then parroted by the Interex publication, HP World.
2001 was a time when the user group was courting HP's alliance in radical ways, like branding its conference as well as its monthly news publication with a name that HP owned. Ever the lapdogs of casual journalists, analysts were called in at HP World to confirm the pullout was good business. For somebody, anyway. A Gartner analyst said in the HP World opening story about the migration, "If HP moved MPE to Itanium, they'd probably lose most of the [software vendors] anyway. It's a fine line between taking care of customers on the one hand, and making money and staying in business on the other."
If you can hold off on the horselaughs for a moment, try to understand what the Editorial Director Mike Elgan was printing, without any opposing viewpoint. HP needed to stop taking care of these customers, or it was going to go out of business. Even back in 2001, you couldn't find the total sum of HP's 3000 R&D plus sales of the 3000 without a microscope. The company was doing $45 billion in sales that year overall. If the 3000 group represented even 1 percent of that total, we could never find the company saying it. Those kinds of product line numbers were HP's secret back then.
Those partners who were deciding the 3000 wasn't strategic? One, the exclusive North American distributor for the 3000, reported in the NewsWire that it broke all of its previous monthly unit sales records during October -- doing all that during a weak IT economy. "Dan Cossey, Senior Integration Engineer for Client Systems, said the pace of rolling out new systems has been good for reducing waistlines, “We’ve been so busy building systems that we’ve got to force ourselves to take a break just to eat,“ he said.
That's the same Client Systems that HP World predicted "will likely be busy over the next five years with migration work." Another HP voice assured us that Client Systems was "stepping up to take a large role in the mass migration." As it turned out, the years 2002 through 2006 had large roles for software companies and HP Services, but not much software stripe moving at Client Systems. HP's experts presided over a $14 million meltdown of one migration that resulted in a multimillion settlement and a restart by software experts.
Like the 3000 vets fingering the architects of this mess with a clever mascot and shirt motto, who ever knew about the 3000's future? The customers, the engineers in HP who had to follow orders or leave jobs. If HP had moved the 3000 to Itanium... if the new hardware models, just six months old when Prather swung the axe, got a chance to gain converts... if the hacking away HP products wasn't in full flay in the months before that November nadir of news... things might have turned out differently. HP might still be migrating customers away from the 3000, but it would have uncorked an announcement with full-staffed programs, tools built for system and app experts — a way to take care of customers who'd had no intention of moving away from a server built to keep a smaller firm from building a massive, churning IT datacenter. They'd grumble and have to learn quick, but the vendor could help retrain them, then retain them with goodwill. Today, more than half who've left won't even boot an HP operating environment at gunpoint.
In short, it would have been a novel story to tell about ending a business that supported tens of thousands of companies and turned HP into a computer company. Those thousands, that was a number provided by analyst house IDG one year after Prather's decision. Instead of dreaming up policy and education and engineering, playing catch-up as it went, HP could have been stewards of responsible change for anybody who could afford to put change into practice. Finding a big chunk of surveyed customers "planning, or partially implemented, strategies for migrating" in the HP World story meant very little to anyone -- except a system vendor who needed to end a business line not as large as some of its others. Including one owned by the company that HP wanted to acquire. Whoever really signed off on the 3000's HP fate, no Compaq exec was ever nudged to put OpenVMS near the chopping block.
Prather and the HP upstairs boys were guessing that the company's failure to sell 3000s was going to continue and accelerate. He had to make a decision, his decision, so HP could bail out looking like that was its forecast all along. It just didn't sound like the plan he offered just two months earlier in Chicago, at the user group's convention.
He asserted the A-Class e3000s were more of a success than even HP projected. “We project what we’re going to sell, and the A-Class systems are selling at a much higher rate than we anticipated,” he said at the HP World show. “We’ve seen the new systems taking off much faster than we projected, a more rapid switchover.”
Six weeks later, somehow, the system had stopped being strategic to the partners that Prather brought onstage to thank for being so special, as well as the customers he reported were buying up the servers rapidly. The slide below from August 23 shows how HP spoke in 2001 and yet didn't address the real future, the system's software. These "platform" plans were all about hardware, already in the pipe.
So in this week you might as well go ahead and admit it. You know it was your fault that Prather, and the HP brass jamming a merger down shareholders' throats already rattling with resistance, had to make this decision. A "difficult decision not only from a business perspective," he said, "but also for me personally." Well, maybe not so difficult personally by now.
As we noted awhile back, Prather — who retired the 3000 GM post when he left the group -- enjoys a GM position leading the NonStop computing products from HP. Lab people inside the 3000 division said his exchange with the HP leadership was to get a transfer or some HP work for everybody in the 3000 group, in exchange for swinging a sword he claimed to own. But of course the HR blood-leeching kicked in pretty swiftly at HP before much more than hardware deals and Webcasts could be produced. What was promised could never be delivered to protect many MPE tech pros inside a vendor gone crazy for PCs and printers. Retired, some; released, others. A few still reach out to help you, after hours.
This month we are thankful for the brilliance of independent 3000 pros who are mucking out those stalls which that 2001 decision filled up. The tools are on hand, the experience is finally available, and hardly a lick of it comes from HP. At the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, its migration project leader was plain about it. "HP hasn't given us a lot of support here," he said. "We had to locally hire our own HP expertise." We couldn't find any adoption of HP-UX applications for the City of Sparks, either.
Despite that rugged road, this week you've moved into the 10th year after that Prather decision, or about twice as many as he predicted HP would take to get most of the community onto its other computers. Things have turned out differently over 10 years. Back when this mistake was made, Palm Computing was king of what we called PDAs. You might know them now as smartphones, but few were smart enough to swap data across the air. The D stood for Desktop.
Their reach into a booming Internet world didn't matter; these were going to be important tools of the future, according to Editor Elgan. "The mighty Palm organization has been dethroned by the HP Jornada," he wrote in a column just two pages after announding the Exodus. "I still believe Palm organizers are for novices and cheapskates." This, after he reported he'd once published a newsletter called "The Palm Reader." Like Elgan and his cheapskates, you might have heard of this Palm place, the one HP now owns and whose former CEO leads HP's PC group. Again, it's the software, Palm's WebOS, that shapes the future.
Elgan's Palm obituary was only about 30 percent shorter than the parroting about the 3000's exodus. People still believe the 3000 was a doomed product during that fall nine years ago. But it was more like damned by HP than doomed, milked out for its enterprise strategy innovations and then branded as bereft of a future as today's Jornadas. Or any further insight out of Interex, a group whose PR director advised me in 2003 we'd better get a fresh business model to survive, if covering the 3000 was our only business. She wasn't available for comment in our story about Interex's overnight bankruptcy two years later.
I'm not even planning, let alone starting to implement, any strategy to act on her business advice. There's too much good work to be done "Helping IT Professionals Manage Change," as HP World proclaimed on its banner. Someone has to get the work done to make changes, instead of waiting for HP tell even more Amazing Stories of the future. There are some things that have died out here in the future, yes, but your ability to make a 3000 support a business isn't one of them -- unless you tell the tale with your own facts from the field, instead of a corporation viewpoint.
Happy Anniversary, 3000 community. Perhaps we'll all gather somewhere next year to raise glasses as we did in 2003, and so celebrate the Eighth Anniversary of the system's World Wide Wake. That will be in the 39th year of MPE service, and the first year of its survival after the end of HP's 3000 life. Cue the scary organ chords. It's the afterlife, after all, where IT professionals managing change are the most genuine source of stories. From what we hear out of them, they're the ones making the decisions, working out the number of their 3000's days for its future.
November 16, 2010
The Day Your Futures Did Not Die
We haven't forgotten the anniversary of one of the worst decisions HP ever made for its computer customers. This week nine years ago Hewlett-Packard broke the news to customers that a few third parties had known, and some had feared, for awhile: The HP 3000 was not going forward in the vendor's business strategy for enterprises.
There are two tales told about how we all got pushed into the 10th year of the transition this month. One casts you as the rebels in retreat. The other shows a battlefield that HP vacated behind the smoke of strategic slogans.
Strategy usually concerns some act in the future, but HP's Winston Prather used strategy to defend HP's act by pointing to the past. Looking for a friendly forum that wouldn't ask prickly questions, the HP 3000 GM crowed in a user group publication "It was my decision" to kill HP's 3000 business, then blamed the customers for a lack of HP business to meet his employer's desires for the mission-critical server.
In this HP world from down the rabbit hole, a column in the Interex user group monthly HP World slung marketing spin to make HP's lack of 3000 sales something that the customers chose all by themselves. HP had no role, apparently, in releasing refreshed hardware nearly a year late. Or expecting its Unix blitzkreig to do anything but feed the sales ovens with 3000 sites waiting for long overdue tech parity with HP 9000s and Windows. Or pruning back division labs in the mid-90s so sharp that the GM's overboss, Glenn Osaka, told us in a NewsWire interview he couldn't really recommend that a big company adopt a 3000. Imagine how robust the lab funding was after he spread that 3000 edict.
Some in the HP 3000 group tried, with clever ideas, to keep the faith up in the customers it still could hold. Even though there was even an e3000 bathrobe giveaway to a lucky few, the year to come hasn't become the time to say goodnight to anything but HP regarding the 3000. HP's strategic support for the server was always extracted like a barber pulling a miner's tooth. The leaders all wished it were different, even if few could locate a genie's lamp to rub. GM Harry Sterling gave the best effort, even put his own career on the line to do things like buy an application company, OpenSkies, to win new 3000 business.
Others had far fewer ideas. "I wanted HP to be able to continue to enhance and support the HP e3000," Prather claimed in his headsman's note. "But in order to do that, HP needed more revenue than we were getting from the business. The HP e3000 had ceased to be strategic — not to HP, but to its customers."
Prather — or whoever was writing down this gem of jabberwock-speak — went on to pummel home this concept. HP's muffing of its sales goals somehow proved the system was not strategic to software partners, many of whom still pinned the 3000 in the center of their business plans on Nov. 14, 2001. A few of the clever ones got an HP sneak-whiff of this stink, but only by a month or less. Meanwhile, HP's unbaked loaf of logic got sliced and served out to companies.
Some students of corporation calculation saw the HP act as a matter of when, rather than if. But there certainly was no "Huge Customer Exodus Already Under Way" that November, even though HP World's Editorial Director Mike Elgan brayed it like a scientific conclusion. If there was an exodus, it was away from responsibility to the majority of customers who didn't give a frack if there were more applications eked out of the commercial market from HP. The in-house apps were running fine. HP was the company that needed those commercial apps, unable to sell 3000s with any other strategy.
See, there was this survey Interex conducted, went the tale explained in HP World. "Tellingly, about half of those surveyed said they were planning, or partially implemented, strategies for migrating their e3000 applications to other platforms." And that tale's insight flowed from just two people quoted as a source about the exodus. Yup, Prather, and HP's own George Stachnik, who "received fewer than 40 messages about the demise of the platform."
HP's retreat from reason got plenty of help from the user group publication during that stark winter. The pages of HP World brimmed with parroting of the vendor's tale, right alongside the no-stats-needed references to surveys. HP's solution specifics, a month after the pullout, were only sketched out to sell replacement Unix boxes at a discount. The hardware, sure, that was what HP World and its sponsor figured was the primary issue. Like telling a Bengal tiger you've got a great new ecosystem for him in Antarctica. MPE/iX and IMAGE were the true stripes of the 3000s that HP was now labeling non-strategic. Hardware dies often, but software lives forever at places like the City of Sparks, Nev. or Ametek.
Two months of Interex telling this fable produced not a single customer in its print pages, relating their story. Why bother? These poor minions must have already been well along on the adventure of managing change, and too busy to explain how well their 2001 plans had worked out for them. It certainly appeared they had already put their migration into full gear — although few tools existed to transfer databases, revise app code, replace surround utilities or anything else that a real customer knew to be strategic. These hoards of migrators were apparently carving their own magic wands, drawing from a wishing-well of experience.
Tomorrow: What happened to the tale of HP's shrinking 3000 sales effort, and why you had to grow up your experience to survive into 2011.
November 15, 2010
Resources meet some 3000 training needs
One of the sharpest prodding-points that gets customers moving away from HP 3000s is brain drain. MB Foster's Birket Foster said it well at last week's CAMUS user group meeting. "It's not the software, it's the wetware," he said of the departure of 3000-savvy IT pros. One such staffer at the City of Sparks, Nev. has been in the city's IT shop for 32 years, preserving the knowledge of in-house apps.
Even more basic knowledge of the 3000 can be needed today, too. How to log on, manage accounts, administer disk space (represented in sectors, rather than GB, for example) — all these have unique techniques. Finding a place to train new IT staff on your 3000, as well as guides to teach them in a few hours — both can be elusive.
Jack Connor of Abtech, who serves on the OpenMPE board of directors, needed this kind of class content in a hurry over the weekend. He was asked to give a day-long tutorial to "a group of operators that have never worked with MPE as they are outsourcing replacements. There used to be a Computer Based Training program on HP's site, but it's no longer there."
Connor was on the hunt for HP's basic "Here's a 3000 and here's how to drive it a little" info. "The set I remember started out with describing the accounting structure using file cabinets as accounts and drawers in the cabinet as groups, and so on."
Through the magic of the Web, Glenn Cole dug up Understanding Your System Concept Guide for the HP 3000 Series 9X7LX. The eight chapters which include that filing cabinet tutorial are still online at HP's docs.hp.com website. (It would be a good idea to download these pages to support your plan of succession for yourself — a vital component of sustaining a 3000 into the new year and beyond.) The fact that the training was written in the 1990s for MPE/iX 5.0 makes it no less fresh for teaching 3000 skills.The place to train for these kinds of basics might be a crash-and-burn HP 3000 on your site, or on one from your garage. But if you're not that well stocked in 3000s, the new Invent3k server from OpenMPE would be an ideal place to practice with your new operators. You can sign up for an inexpensive 2011 OpenMPE membership at the group's website.
There's even better, deeper training available to the community from the source of the latest 3000 training materials. Paul Edwards and his training partner, Frank Smith, "are the exclusive licensees of all of the HP MPE training materials. The [web page] you mention is in the Fundamentals class. I still do MPE training
on-site. I refer you to my website, www.peassoc.com for details. There were two self training modules available from HP, too."
November 12, 2010
HP's Instant-On to light largest datacenters
HP chose little-known executive Leo Apotheker as its seventh CEO this fall, confounding analysts who expected an in-house candidate to take the job. But while Apotheker spent his first week far away from HP headquarters, his "listening tour" might have picked up the sounds of HP's enterprise marketing roaring. The message from the new HP Instant-On Enterprise is being barked at a pitch better suited for the big dogs of the IT world: airlines, worldwide delivery services, or multinationals.
These sectors were the examples of how an integrated solution for business and government helps enterprises tun on new ways to serve customers and citizens. Citizen are being served today by HP 3000s, but Instant-On offers new ways. "The best mix of traditional, private and public cloud environments" is being called HP Hybrid Delivery. Then there's Application Transformation (think legacy modernization for 3000s), Enterprise Security, and Information Optimization.
Apotheker is listening to customers on his worldwide tour this month, a trip scheduled to keep the new CEO out the grasp of a subpoena. Oracle wants HP's new leader on the stand in a lawsuit to win billions of dollars from SAP, the last company Apotheker served as CEO. An SAP company stole Oracle programming and products, and Oracle would like to prove Apotheker was involved. He killed off that alliance now long after he took the reins at SAP, and he was deposed about it all during 2008.
Instant-On is targeted to compete with Oracle -- now hectoring Apotheker after hiring the ousted Mark Hurd to sell Sun's hardware -- as well as IBM. It's a new way of trying to tie HP hardware, software and services business into a bundle for the big customer which Oracle, HP and IBM battle for.
Unlike court testimony under oath, Instant-On is at the other end of the new CEO's communication tasks. His job, along with the thousands of HP enterprise marketers and engineers, is to push a plan that leads to HP managed services and cloud computing. But at the moment the CEO's message will only be scaled to the kinds of customers an HP leader would hear in person. That's not the City of Sparks (serving citizens) or maybe not even the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (modernizing and migrating IT that serves 100,000 students and 10,000 users of its 34 HP 3000s.)This month's message Apotheker gets to deliver is a vision. It's probably best that he doesn't need to report details, since they seem to be out in the future -- the same place Apotheker's track record sits during his first month replacing the ousted Hurd.
The SBCTC project -- very big by 3000 standards -- isn't labeled as an Instant-On enterprise, but manager of the effort Bob Adams knows he'll be moving away to some kind of managed services solution after seven years or less of the just-installed HP-UX replacement for the three major apps. Not all of them will move out of his consolidate datacenter. But SBCTC looks like the first 3000-related candidate we've seen for Instant-On. The vision might be matched for HP's biggest clients, however.
HP's splashed out lots of marketing pizzaz over the week to launch this vision that Apotheker is assuming. None of Instant-On was concocted under his HP watch, which only started Nov. 1. But there's a few movie shorts to buck up the sales troops and eager beaver IT managers, like Demystifying the Cloud or executive VP of Enterprise Sales and Marketing Tom Hogan telling CIOs to Seize the Instant. "Today's consumer expects immediate gratification," goes the mantra. "Our world has become mobile, connected, interactive, immediate and fluid. The Enterprise and IT must work together to create value for customers and citizens. HP has a vision for this world: Instant-On. Do you have what it takes?"
Customers grounded in strategic specifics and operational designs may wonder what it takes, however, based on HP's admittedly marketing-heavy rollout. See if you can spot any details in its component parts from the press release.
- HP Application Transformation solutions: HP transforms applications and processes designed for another era. HP helps enterprises gain control over aging applications and inflexible processes that challenge innovation and agility by governing their responsiveness and pace of change.
- HP Converged Infrastructure solutions: HP breaks through traditional, rigid IT silos with a converged infrastructure specifically engineered to drive out costs and provide the foundation for agile service delivery. Through the integration of server, storage, networking and management resources, HP delivers the data center of the future.
- HP Enterprise Security solutions: HP secures the entire IT infrastructure by addressing all aspects of security – people, processes, technology and content. HP’s portfolio of products and services aligns security to meet ever-changing business and government demands without losing flexibility.
- HP Information Optimization solutions: HP helps organizations rethink how information is gathered, stored and used – harnessing the power of information and ensuring its integrity and protection while delivering it in the context of the enterprise.
November 11, 2010
OpenMPE resource revives source server
The CAMUS manufacturing user group held a phone conference meeting today, an event I chronicled at the offices of the Support Group inc here in Austin. The one-hour confab of questions and presentations was well worth the time spent, and you should sign up for the next meeting this legacy group schedules in the spring.
But I needed a much shorter amount of time at the TSG headquarters to find a legendary resource up and running once more. TSG has volunteered its datacenter as the host for the official Invent3k public access development server, something HP hosted for the community until the end of 2008. For close to two years Invent3k was dark, but starting this week the primary host burns with a light that may seem everlasting.
The server that's up and running, with a fresh master password, came from HP's labs by way of a Client Systems 3000 contribution. This Series 959 4-way arrived with HP's name for it labeled on the rear access panel. The yellow sticker reads MPESOURC. Those eight letters -- it's an MPE system, after all, and is so limited to those characters -- suggests to TSG's founder Terry Floyd that this is the HP Labs server where the 3000's source code once lived and grew.
Those millions of lines of code have been wiped off the 54GB of SureStore disk arrays attached to MPESOURC. HP shipped out major parts of that code to eight licensees this year, an accomplishment that OpenMPE takes a reasonable share of credit for sparking. But the whole MPE/iX enchilada once coursed through the same PA-RISC processors and memory which just started serving OpenMPE and its members. Another part of the day's news was an affordable offer to use Invent3k during 2011 and beyond.Chairman Birket Foster used about 20 minutes of the meeting to update the OpenMPE membership offerings. Invent3k will be the first asset to generate money for the group, but access won't cost much more than the free trial membership of 2010. In 2011, a $99 per year fee will get you access to working with Invent3k. (A DR version of the system runs at Measurement Specialties' 3000 shop, managed by OpenMPE director Tracy Johnson.)
"You'll have an Invent3k box where you can log on and develop and test things," Foster said of the system maintained by TSG's David Floyd and Johnson. "You can use it to train, so in your succession plan you can show a person how to log on and manage an HP 3000, without affecting your own production machine," he offered as an example.
And the fact that Invent3k, fully patched up on the 7.5 level of MPE/iX, once housed the source code that drives the heartbeat of 3000s worldwide? If you've got any sense of history at all -- and many homesteaders do -- you might sign up for the $99 plan just to tap the resources of the very same machine where MPE grew up into its ultimate version at HP.
OpenMPE's going to get a link to its PayPal account posted up at its website to collect these $99 memberships. Before too long the user-built utilities of the Contributed Software Library, just arrived at the TSG datacenter this week, will also be online. The hardware may be legacy-grade, and the software will remain stable and static. But those are benefits of working with a solution handed down from its creators to curators, for extend the use of the 3000 for the community.
November 10, 2010
Veterans resign their skills to transitions
In a pair of interviews with 3000 veterans -- IT pros who total more than 55 years of MPE experience -- I've learned that even the most embattled managers employ a surprising tool. It's a sense of humor, reflected in the tone of their descriptions of mothballing the likes of 25-year-old third party apps during migrations. They have to laugh, and get to do so, because their attempts to advance might seem like folly at first look, or even in a second attempt.
Really, putting Transact code into an HP-UX environment? Or working around financial application software from Bi-Tech -- who "really stopped developing it for the 3000 10 years ago," said Operations & Systems Administrator Steve Davidek -- to keep the city of Sparks, Nev. finances running? There's some really old stuff still doing everyday duty in HP 3000 shops, but the age of the applications is usually in line with the tenure of the project management. Davidek counts his experience from the days of the HP 3000 Series III, while Bob Adams of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has 40 years of IT experience, 30 with the HP 3000.
These pros typify the definition of veterans, a term we'll use liberally in the US tomorrow on the day that celebrates their sacrifices and courage. Facing battle and bullets is not at a par with understanding aging code and logic. But they have something similar at heart. Veterans have been tested and know how to improve the odds of success in a conflict. Youthful passion is important to bring fresh energy to any engagement, military or technological. What earns the peace is experience, however grey-haired it looks next to Windows warriors.
With each mission accomplished -- from what looks like a relatively simple Y2K effort of 10 years ago to embracing Unix in place of MPE's integrated toolset -- the veterans move forward in their careers. "Our knowledge base is renewed with this work," Adams said. "We're on the latest products."Davidek, who's going to become the Connect user group president in 2012, will probably have all of his city's applications cut over to Windows by that year. "Not that we wanted to," he said, "but we had to move forward." Getting IT talent into the town near Reno meant hiring for Windows experience, a move that took Sparks away from HP operating environment alternative HP-UX.
Leaving a familiar environment means enduring risks. But a tone of "yeah, that'll happen, but we'll manage through it" is what I hear from the 3000 pros marching into the dark of 2011 and beyond. Thank a veteran tomorrow for serving, if you encounter any. (I had a thrill of being thanked last year in San Antonio by a passer-by in that military town.) Some of us were only standing by in cold war service, waiting to be called into hotter conflict. Others flew, marched or sailed into genuine crisis.
And if your migration is happening during this year and next, or the years beyond, you might want to thank a colleague -- anyone whose IT battles have promoted the knowledge that creates veterans, marching in the ranks of both managers and vendors alike.
Les Vejada worked with HP 3000s for more than 20 years at HP, then moved on to HP's other enterprise platforms until the vendor cut his job. "I don't work with the 3000 anymore," he told us while joining the Linked In HP 3000 Community. "I also was let go by HP last year along with the thousands of others, and have been wandering around looking for a new job. I know the 3000 is dying, but it brings back a lot of great memories, I probably would still take something on a MPE machine if offered."
Whether it's in-house, or in-community, the motto remains as valid today as it did after any conflict: Hire a Vet.
November 09, 2010
Hurd's aftershocks emerge in two reports
HP CEO behavior looks overdue for a clean-up, but it's not certain that new company leader Leo Apotheker can scrub up the image anytime soon. Former CEO Mark Hurd's flings keep tarnishing the office, based on a pair of reports released last week.
In stories published by Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, reporters are pulling back the rug tossed over Hurd's behavior with sexpot actress Jodie Fisher. HP's rival Oracle made a stink about Hurd's firing; Oracle CEO Larry Ellison hired Hurd as soon as the ex-CEO's HP parachute opened up. Ellison, who's gotten to be 66 somehow, doesn't turn a saintly profile when it comes to female relations himself. (We don't know who this woman is who sits between Hurd, at left, and Ellison during an Oracle event -- but the most hopeful story might be that she's Ellison's granddaughter.)
This story runs far afield of the technology reports that occupy everyday IT managers at HP 3000 shops. But those who are migrating might care a little about the company's leadership choices, as they impact decisions about product and technology futures.
HP 3000 owners, and the vendor's partners, may have shrugged or scratched their heads over Hurd's booth-babe hijinks. If your IT strategy is based on bottom lines and sharp pencils, or the data sheets that glow brighter than legacy highlights, then Hurd's ouster doesn't matter much. If integrity and honesty -- elements that are rarer than ever at Fortune 50 suppliers like HP -- figure into your partner formula, then maybe these Fortune and WSJ stories make you feel a little safer about HP.
People want to know why there's probably no more than 10,000 HP 3000s running today. At its most strategic level, the vendor has been angling for sweetheart deals with pinups like Fisher, while its smaller customers-next-door were faithful to a fault.
When you read these stories, dotted with off-the-record comments from inside HP, you might see the board of directors had little choice but to fire Hurd in what seemed like an overnight act. But nights were at the heart of Hurd's ejection. Specifically, the nights he met with Fisher for personal, private dinners expensed to HP. Or more seriously for a married fellow of 20 years, the two times he met with Fisher in her hotel room, just the two of them. HP's executive integrity was ushered outside the room during those evenings.
Seriously, should a man earning more than $20 million a year need a Jodie Fisher to talk to the right customers at what HP called CIO Executive Summits? Hurd's right-hand assistant Caprice Fimbres, program manager in the office of the CEO and a fan of reality TV, thought so. According to Fortune's report, when Fimbres saw the little customers tying up Hurd's time during these meetings, an attractive blocker was needed. "The Age of Love" looked like a good place to recruit for this talent, as such people called in the film business. Fisher was hired to reduce the time smaller sites could win with HP's top executive at summits. That might sound familiar to the typically-small HP 3000 shop -- customers on the fringes of the massive corporation's attention for two decades by now.
Fortune found some fault with the logic of pairing up HP's CEO with an actress who was then-retired to managing an apartment complex in exchange for free rent. The magazine interviewed Nadine Johnson, a publicist for some of the other cougars on "The Age of Love."
At least two other contestants from the "Age of Love" discussed an HP role with Jolson. But the tech giant ultimately hired a 47-year-old divorced single mom from Los Angeles named Jodie Fisher to act as a greeter at events where Hurd met top customers. Her job was to gracefully steer clients, ensuring that Hurd spent the right amount of time with the right people.
By this time, Hurd was so frustrated at meeting HP's biggest pinups that he started tracking his time on a spreadsheet. He was hired by HP's board for such focus on details. These Executive Summits weren't well known around HP. The privacy was the largest fault in Hurd's ethics. A CEO might feel like he's entitled to work out of bounds at some companies; Oracle comes to mind. But this was not the first time Hurd got caught evading the rigors of public disclosure.
Remember the HP Pretexting scandal? Serious enough to earn Hurd some face-time testifying in front of a Congressional committee, that affair revealed that Hurd had approved some level of spying on board members and the media. Hurd made contrite explanations, and $14.5 million of HP fines tamped out the fire.
Just like Apotheker, Hurd had little reputation in the CEO recruiting world. One question never would have been imagined on the checklist when they picked a replacement for Carly Fiorina. As Fortune put it at its worst, "Why would the CEO of the world's largest technology company hire a failed B-list actress to greet the company's most important customers?"
There are seven members of 10 on the HP board who were hired by Hurd. After a steamy letter about the CEO's relationship with Fisher, the board couldn't take a chance on customers linking Hurd's pretexting ethics with even more private behavior, all unbecoming of Hewlett-Packard. The ouster happened so fast that a replacement took more than six weeks to name and nearly two months to start working. Once again, it was an executive not on anybody's short list.
HP was insistent that Hurd's misbehavior didn't include violations of HP's sexual harrassment policy. It didn't interview anyone but Hurd, his bodyguard and Caprice Fimbres to make that conclusion. Oracle has been fingered by some in Silicon Valley as having done just as little due diligence in hiring Hurd. The new HP non-executive board director Ray Lane has accused Hurd of lying to the board. Lane's got Oracle in his pedigree, but now he's running the HP board.
If there's any silver lining in the current array of HP players, it might be the battle between Oracle and Apotheker. If HP is lucky, Apothker could be the anti-Oracle element. This week Ellison testified in a suit that accuses HP's new CEO of being a party to the theft of Oracle secrets while working at SAP. HP helped Apotheker avoid a subpoena to testify in that suit as one of his first acts as CEO. HP wanted him to stay on the job -- in Europe, where HP "refused to accept service" of the call to testify. Harrassment is what HP claims is behind the summons. An interesting claim, considering that Apotheker got his job when harrassment created an opening at the top of HP's empire.
November 08, 2010
Unix Xserve line gets a rapid Apple boot
Talk about sudden migration plans. HP 3000 customers might have been stunned to learn back in 2001 that HP was halting manufacture of the servers in two years. But Apple has announced it will cease producing its Unix Xserve systems in three months, ending manufacture on Jan. 31, 2011. The move gives a stinging meaning to the proposition that Unix boots quickly.
Ending product line investments is never announced without cries of suffering from the companies who invested in IT environments. In an odd twist on the HP exit plans and migration hopes for the 3000, Apple is not dropping a fundamental environment so much as its hardware. Unix, in a much modified and improved version, drives every Macintosh system running today -- the reason it's called OS X, just like HP added the "iX" when it added Posix commands to MPE in the '90s.
The website The Register -- not a shrinking violet when reporting on HP's Itanium hardware plans -- had similar invective in its article about Apple's Unix server pullout.
To put it bluntly, this bites.
According to the Xserve Transition Guide that Apple put out last week, the company will sell Xserve machines through January 31, 2011 with the standard one-year warranty. The company also pledges to honor any and all warranties for Xserves and will ship 160GB, 1TB, and 2TB disk drive modules until the end of 2011. When supplies run out, that's it. You'll be hunting around the Web for second-hand dealers for parts.
The Register goes on to figure that Apple was never serious about selling Unix to enterprises (not at all a mirror of HP) and that the company has many other ways to make a profit aside from beefing up an IT shop Unix solution (probably right in line with HP's situation, so long as Services and printer ink continue to perform at a profit.) But the demise of any Unix solution, or even a decline as in Sun's fortunes, is important to any company's transition situation. Every technology gets "sunsetted," as the most gentle CIOs call the end of building a server. The enduring question becomes when the end arrives, and will an IT pro have to manage the transition.The Register's writers figure the handwriting was on the wall for the Xserve line when Apple didn't announce a new lineup of the machines sold since 2002, a refresh that would incorporate socket-compatible Intel CPUs. The latest six-core "Westmere-EP" Xeon 5600 processors that would offer a "huge performance boost" at limited technology re-engineering costs.
It was easier to understand, if not business-justify, why the writing on the HP 3000 wall was apparent to some software vendors when HP didn't include the 3000 in the 2001 futures charts for the Itanium processor line. Nothing at all was socket compatible in there -- and then there was the matter of rewriting MPE/iX to run on a processor that was better at emulating x86 software than anything else.
HP handled this kind of a rewrite four years later when it made the first announcement of OpenVMS running on Itanium. But along the way HP also killed the best hardware for running VMS when it axed futures for the Alpha chip. At the time of HP's 3000 exit announcement, the company had to shed similar products to justify a merger with Compaq, owners of OpenVMS.
Apple's got no such justification to prune the Xserve out of its lineup -- more than $40 billion in available cash, the record stock prices above $300 a share, leaping profits and other business defining a market where HP will be playing catch-up in the mobile OS market. What the Xserve does share with the HP 3000 is its unique status in the Apple lineup. No matter how well the computers served their customers -- an Xserve cluster ranked in the Top Ten of supercomputers just a few years ago -- Apple didn't sell anything else quite like an Xserve.
HP is positioning Itanium and Integrity as a specialized processor and server line today, one that gets outsold by many millions of ProLiant/Windows-Linux solutions. A company larger than HP just cut out a specialized business server that didn't run Windows. Thinking Different, as the Apple mantra used to go, could be a less-certain way of computing for companies of HP and Apple's size.
November 05, 2010
Vladimir spreads 2011 news to 3000 sites
If you're wondering who Vladimir is and what he's done for HP 3000 customers, the founder of VEsoft would be glad to educate your IT pros. Mr. Volokh's been on the road visiting his customer sites in Texas since Nov. 1, one of numerous two-week trips he makes in modest rental cars across the US. A very limited number of 3000 solution vendors still do this sort of personal contact. It's especially notable considering the size of VEsoft's 3000-only customer base.
"We have 1,700 customers today," he told us as at lunch in San Marcos, just after a consulting visit at a manufacturer in the city. And so the debate and estimates about the size of the 3000 market just got a fresh, first-hand data point. (We'd like to point out that if one vendor can count 1,700 companies, the total number of users has got to be a lot bigger than 2,000 firms worldwide.) Volokh, whose company has sold MPE/iX extension software for 30 years, says the majority of his customers do business on 3000s in North America alone.
As for his news that he's spreading, this 72-year-old dean of 3000 vendor firms was most effusive about his sons. The most famous is Eugene, another 3000 icon known best by this first name only. By now this 42-year-old has become a professor at the UCLA School of Law and often-quoted expert in the media about First Amendment matters. The most senior 3000 IT pros remember Eugene as a precocious, brilliant developer who with his father founded VEsoft (the first two letters stand for their name), cutting a wide swath by extending the 3000's OS with MPEX.
Vladimir still consults at a reasonable rate to teach security and management (also using his Security/3000) as well as lessons on MPE/iX built-in features. He doesn't see much use of any of these products' manuals, however. His honesty in evaluating the 3000 market spills over to its future. "Luckily for us, if it's dying, it is dying very slowly," he told my partner Abby and I over grape leaves and pita at the Cedars Greek restaurant. "But when they laugh at this, I tell customers, 'We are all dying very slowly.' "
He reported updates on the new life in his realm, the growth of three grandsons, one by his son Sasha (also a law professor, at Emory University) and two from Eugene. The eldest grandson is 7 years old, or just five years younger than when Eugene worked as an intern over the holidays at the Hewlett-Packard 3000 divison in 1980. (Photo and text above, including Allegro's Stan Sieler peering just over Eugene's shoulder at HP's labs.) Vladimir brought this copy of HP's January 1981 The News newsletter to prove it. It may seem like ancient history, but almost 30 years later, Eugene still consults on MPEX development matters when he's not teaching law or writing papers, or editing the third edition of his First Amendment law textbook.
With 1,700 customers mostly in the US, has Vladimir been contacted by the creators of Zelus, the 2011 HP 3000 emulator product? No, he reports. He believes the timing of that product -- delayed by HP's legal manueuvers, in part -- means it will make little difference in that rate of decline.
"The customers who are left, they don't make up a market where [Zelus] could be sold in hundreds of copies," he said. "You need thousands of users for that, and one in 10 might be interested." Eight years ago in an interview with the NewsWire, he reminded us, "I said that emulation might work. And Allegro [Consultants] might do it." The HP delays and legal issues kept Allegro from participating, he believes.
But Vladmir also has faith in the ability of 3000 work to keep its users vital. One customer he visited had marked down the remaining weeks to retirement, 59 by his count. "He was like marking off days and month in a prison cell," Vladimir said. "I tell them, 'If you retire, you become an old man. If you don't retire, you are an old pro.' "
November 04, 2010
Oracle support makes case for open source
Back in July we looked at the potential impact of Oracle's ownership of MySQL, the database at the heart of migration-bound sites who want an open source alternative to Microsoft or Oracle databases. "Oracle's history of tough contracts, however, indicates that Sun's paid-only patches could become a MySQL bug -- er, feature of relying on MySQL."
We guessed right during the summer. Oracle is embracing and extending the support mantra that's spreading through enterprise vendors: support is not an optional item any longer. Prices are going up at Oracle for its small-company solutions; this week it doubled the entry-level support costs for MySQL. Industry watchers were wondering if Sun might ignore MySQL to death after Oracle acquired Sun. It's just the opposite: Oracle has decided that the open source alternative will now become a "better earner," as the gangster movie phrase goes. Support is high-profit, built to fill high pockets.
These are issues to consider for any company moving out of the known world of HP 3000 ownership. Some small-customer alternatives, acquired by larger vendors, will have stark changes waiting in the future for small companies investing in them.
The alternative to such price hikes is third-party support, while you can still get it. For MySQL users, SkySQL opened for business this summer, peopled with engineers and staff from MySQL AB, creators of the database. "Growing big business’s bottom line has once again taken precedence over ensuring that MySQL software, services and support is readily accessible to customers that need it. Fortunately, you have an alternative," the company said in an open letter this week. Unfortunately for the open source fan, even this kind of independent company is falling into the gunsights of Oracle. The latest evidence of that aim is in the courtroom next week, where Oracle's CEO is trying to make HP's new CEO testify in a lawsuit.
Leo Apotheker has only been on the job for HP since Nov. 1, but Oracle's working to get $2 billion in damages from a company once owned by Apotheker's prior employer, SAP. HP said that Oracle only wants to harrass its CEO. The offending SAP company, TomorrowNow, was already flushed from SAP by the time Apotheker took the helm. TomorrowNow was in a business familiar to HP 3000 customers, though: Providing service for products sold by much larger vendors like PeopleSoft. Oracle bought those larger vendors, and its march toward winning damages began.The Oracle behavior is stark enough to make a case for building an IT solution out of open source software entirely, from Linux right down to the applications such as OpenBravo. With IT budgets as tight as they are in a weak economy, nobody wants to learn their support prices have just doubled because of an acquisition.
Five or 10 years ago, open source solutions were considered risky to employ in the enterprise, because nobody could vouch for support and development resources. The vendor-supplied software was a safer bet, went the old thinking, because there was revenue to make a vendor responsible for responding to trouble calls. Only "the community" could support open source.
Not only has a third-party, independent roster of companies now emerged to support open source, but those big vendors have become a wild card about support. You can't be sure when the prices will double, or their support fees will become a mandatory part of the cost of ownership. HP's already moved free patches into paid-only status, for example.
Earlier this year we made a case for working with smaller vendors whenever possibile for a smaller customer. Database alternatives are available for the migrating customer which have a steady record of relationships instead of shakedowns. At the massive SBCTC migration in Washington State, Marxmeier's Eloquence is in place, much to the satisfaction of the college collective's IT director. The HP 3000 was not considered a large-firm solution by HP; that's why other environments survived. It can serve a small company better to be partnered with capable and experienced small vendors -- companies who can appreciate the special needs of a small business.
November 03, 2010
HP gives away servers to sell HP-UX
For customers who want to begin training on the hardware and system configurations of the latest HP-UX servers -- part of a responsible migration project, don't you know -- there's a free HP deal that's been extended through April of next year.
When a customer purchases licenses for HP-UX, as well as an HP support package, the vendor will throw in a new BL860C blade server -- as well as the c7000 BladeSystem enclosure with two power supplies, a power module and four fan. HP is loading the blade server, one of the best ways to stay on the leading edge of Integrity hardware, with 8GB of memory.
HP calls the deal the Integrity Blade Starter Kit, but it appears that starting an HP support contract as well as HP-UX use is the primary revenue point for the vendor. There are fine print points to observe in order to qualify, and HP is enabling the free blade and enclosure through a credit of what the vendor calls "up to $12,000."
Hardware capital costs are not a major part of the expense of making a migration. HP 3000 customers rarely mention the price of the iron while they make a transition; often the replacement software package (off-the-shelf) can cost at least as much. For example, there's database expenses to shoulder (Oracle or SQL Server license seats, as well as the third party tools to replace built-in 3000 functionality like jobstream management, for example.)
But any five-figure HP discounts on hardware are welcome in an era where 3000 migrations are proceeding more slowly due to budget constraints. We haven't seen a hardware giveaway on the enterprise level in a long time from HP. As you might expect, this freebie comes from HP's proprietary systems line. There doesn't appear to be a complementary industry-standard server giveaway for ProLiant systems running Windows or Linux.The fine print conditions offer the free enclosure and server to customers who have not bought HP-UX hardware since 2008.
To qualify for this offer, a customer may not have purchased any of the following products in the three years prior to offer redemption, as demonstrated by invoice history and service contracts: HP 9000 servers, HP AlphaServer, HP NonStop servers, HP Integrity servers, and the HP ProLiant DL785 or DL980 servers.
You can also use your Starter Kit credit against the price of any other Integrity server system, configured any way you need. If your reseller discounts that Integrity hardware, the savings comes off the HP giveaway credit. (You refer to credit product number AM348AS if you're doing your own procurement, without a reseller involved.)
The credit amount may be applied to alternative HP Integrity server blade configurations, which may differ from the Integrity Blades Starter Kit configuration offered under this promotion, at the choice of the qualifying customer. Any discounts applied to the purchase of the Integrity Blade Starter Kit will be applied as a reduction to the credit amount.
HP's offer seems to be aimed at the Sun and IBM Unix customer base, mentioned specifically in the extension notice of the giveaway. The Sun group at Oracle now has former HP CEO Mark Hurd at its system sales and marketing helm, doing his new job while Oracle works to prove that new HP CEO Leo Apotheker had oversight of SAP's admitted theft of Oracle intellectual property.
These companies, Oracle and HP, are competing in a serious way for the alternative Unix system purchase. If the 3000 site has held off from introducing HP 9000 or Integrity systems up to now, why not profit from this price war to get started with a very capable Integrity blade system and enclosure?
(Tip o' the hat to the Connect user group's volunteer community manager Kees den Hartigh for tracking down the giveaway extension. Follow his Twitter feeds (@Connect_WW) to track more HP-UX deals, for any 3000 sites which are migration-bound.)
November 02, 2010
NonStop note flows from 3000's eliminator
November is a month filled with memory for many a 3000 owner and user. Some of the sting of watching HP stop its futures for the 3000 is sparked by the enthusiasm offered by HP's NonStop general manager, Winston Prather. NonStop enjoys its first exclusive conference this fall, the same year that Prather is finishing up his fourth year as GM of the server's Enterprise Division.
Prather held the very last post of General Manager for the 3000, a job where he said it was his decision alone to announce the "end of life" (as HP loves to call it) of the server still running many a major organization. You can pretty much see the retread from his 3000 talks in his message in the NonStop bimonthly magazine, The Connection, from his fall issue intro (pictured above; click for details).
With all the changes we've made... we've stayed true to the what NonStop has always done best: delivering the scalability, availability and integrity you rely on to run your business. It's a NonStop, not a Tandem. The difference is real, the fundamentals remain.
Fundamentals remain on duty at many HP 3000 shops which Prather predicted would be long ago migrated. But the struggle continues to eliminate an IT asset as quickly as he eliminated 3000 futures. One customer wrote us -- and didn't want their name used, for fear of risking a severance package -- about a second attempt to replace a custom-built application. "The packages we’ve been sold, complete with rosy allegations of full asset management functionality, simply don’t have it," the manager said.Some kinds of applications are custom-written all over the world, the manager added, and "whole concepts of our line of business are obviously brand new to the programmers."
This manager retired a month ago, only a few weeks after the organization's “conversion staff was only now asking for descriptions of the old database. They’re obviously not converting anything; they’re just going to archive the data and hope they can refer to it later."
In the meantime, the company's management dropped all support for the HP 3000s, even though one lost a disk drive and failed to boot from it. Other than a daily full backup, there's not even a shadow of support for the systems. Without a tool like Adager to rely upon any longer, "the database will overfill (workorder lines keep on coming!) in about four weeks." Which would have been sometime last month. Of such high-level organization's decisions -- running a 3000 until it careens into a ditch, or over the side of a bridge -- are a system manager's nightmares conjured.
"I’ll return to the fray seeking work," said this 3000 pro. "But what I’ll do is in the air -- obviously not much 3000 development going on, but I may be just the ticket for maintenance projects, or I can probably be valuable in a conversion. I know I’m employable and there are a few 3000 community residents who know I’m reasonably smart; I’ll be okay."
There's no point in trying to learn why Prather decided in 2001 to kill off his company's future with such specialized organizations, while he saw the Tandem customer GMs move into HP's Itanium future. HP's hubris hovered on the dream that any 3000 app could be moved or replaced. NonStop made it and the 3000 didn't -- but along the road, the scalability, availability and integrity relied upon by some businesses is now in the hands of migration and conversion companies sent in to muck out the mess.
Perhaps the product name of the NonStop line will keep its customers from looking backward at the last business decision which HP put in Prather's hands alone. That's his story of your November history, even to this day. The buck stops at his GM's desk, right up to when he decides to dismantle the furniture of the future.
November 01, 2010
3000s' IDs protect independent SW vendors
With HP now leaving your community in less than two months, extra focus is turning toward the protection and transfer of HP 3000 ID strings. In particular, the HPSUSAN numbers for 3000s are getting fresh attention. These are the numbers reported from your system to almost all of the server's independent software, from tools and utilities to off-the-shelf applications.
Some independent providers and supporters of 3000s -- companies that will be the primary source of 3000 aid in just 60 days -- have been noting that HPSUSAN numbers can be transferred to fresh systems without any help from HP. (Hewlett-Packard would like to prevent this, but that's a matter that cannot be controlled by technical restraints; HP thinks you're bound by a license, but it's changed the terms on that without customer consent.) Customers consider these servers to be an asset their company owns. It's listed as such for federal tax entities, so reporting it as a "licensed" product won't fly very high in the accounting offices.
But that HPSUSAN is in place for better reasons than to satisfy HP's Development Company (holder of 3000 license rights). This unique string is checked by just about every third party piece of software on the 3000. That fact seems to fly in the face of a bald question posed to the community on the 3000 newsgroup.
Does anyone know what one of these softwares [sic] are SUSAN-number-specific? I have an end user that wants to buy a better 3000 box, but wants to know which ones are locked to his old box via the SUSAN number: Speedware, Suprtool, DBGeneral, TurboIMAGE, Omnidex, Vesoft.
Reseller Jesse Dougherty of Cypress Technology asks this question because a customer wants to know how much protection is on these tools and utilities which are essential to the 3000 experience. These are important numbers to protect an endangered species: Reasonable revenue for the software and support licenses paid to 3000 vendors who will outlive HP's interest in the server. Cracking these numbers -- which so far nobody has advertised -- would harm the very companies still dedicated to keeping the 3000 productive.However, there have been "we can re-configure like HP" claims out in the community from Independent Recovery Solutions (Captain GREBs) which could be used to eliminate fresh fees for software. Move an HPSUSAN number from an older 3000 to a new and faster one and you might be able to overlook that call to the vendor who can charge you at a different license or support rate.
To answer Dougherty's question, only HP's own software included in the Fundamental Operating System doesn't check HPSUSANs. From the list above, "I believe all but [HP's] TurboIMAGE are looking at HPSUSAN and, in at least some cases, HPCPUNAME," said OpenMPE director Jack Connor of Abtech.
Another OpenMPE director, who's maintaining the new invent3k2 public development server, was even plainer in saying this question is between the customer and their software partners. "Aside from TurboIMAGE," said Tracy Johnson, "it sounds like a project for the customer to pick up the phone, call the vendors, and ask."
Johnson adds, "I know of one piece of software (not shown) that cares whether your clock is wrong. I know of another (also not shown) that checks the number of CPUs. For example, if you lose one CPU, but you have an N-Class and the N-Class doesn't care."
Our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper, whose GSA firm is also in the post-2010 support business, added that "Some also require HPCPUNAME. And I believe Omnidex also requires HPUSERLIMIT."
Some 3000 vendors have been even-handed about upgrade pricing, recognizing that five-digit upgrade fees are going to force some companies to try to get around reporting their upgrades. But other vendors still have hopes of pulling a last few tens of thousands of dollars right at the end of their customer relationships. (Like the reports of Cognos license tracking, which might be compared to a $300 dinner you'd buy just before your girlfriend or fella meets to dump you.)
As this community moves into the New World of HP Maybe in 2011 -- when Time & Materials engagements are the only way to let HP adjust HPSUSAN -- a new wave of ethics and relationships will seep over the community still using HP 3000s. Many vendors are learning that 3-5 more years of 3000 use -- all beyond HP's business lifespan -- are a common strategy among those who haven't already migrated.
Customers can redouble their respect for any vendor still selling, supporting or enhancing a 3000 solution like those mentioned in the Cypress question, along with so many others. Taking responsibility for using a server means owning up to what you owe, within the realm of a healthy relationship. A growing number of suppliers will have identical tools waiting on the day that you do migrate from that 3000. Technology that might skip over revenues to these most responsible 3000 vendors -- well, that's dark magic indeed, something to consider on this day after Halloween.