December 30, 2010
3000 sites proceed toward new year of life
We're taking Dec. 31 off in celebration of the New Year, one that will usher in the first days of a new era in 3000 management -- the demise of HP's support for the server, although one HP engineer reports that he recently took his first support call for MPE/iX and the 3000 in a year. We'll see you in the coming new year of afterlife.
HP's Mature Support for 3000s ends in less than 48 hours here in North America. While the vendor still wants some business from 3000 owners, the 2011 HP services are limited at best. Hardware support? Yes, some parts of the worldwide support arm are seeking a renewal of existing contracts. Why not — the 3000 hardware failures are rare, and parts are plentiful.
For operational purposes, HP's going to pass away on Friday night if you're not using anything but 3000s and PCs in your enterprise. This is the "End of Life" Hewlett-Packard has been warning the world about for the last two years. Many customers simply don't have Dec. 31 on a calamity calendar, however.
Some are migrating (like the January go-live for a college data processing firm in browser-Linux-Eloquence technology, whose after-before screens are shown above -- click for detail). Others have no plans to move. But most customers checking in during this last week of HP's 3000 operations are working on their own schedules. "Two HP 3000s continue in use here," reported Mike Mayers of The Andersons, a grain processor and network of retail stores in the Midwest." One will more than likely be around 3-plus years, and the other at least another year or more."
Mayers used to support applications on another Andersons 3000 "that went out early in 2010. I sure like the 3000, but I now support Baan ERP on HP Unix."At Smurfit-MBI, the HP 3000 "will still be running in 2011, and probably in 2012," said Ken Thompson of the IT group. An SAP migration is underway at this corrugated packaging manufacturer with dozens of locations across North America. "We don't anticipate any issues with that 2011-12 timeline."
Some 3000s remain in use as support systems for vendors who continue to tend to installed sites. "I have no plan to migrate," Martin Gorfinkel of LARC Computing reports. "I keep two HP 3000 machines: one sits at home and is turned on only when I need it. The other sits in my office, which I rarely visit.
"The machines are used only when needed for software support. I am not about to try writing code for any other system -- so when there are no more HP 3000 users I will complete my move to retirement. Until that time, I will continue to support the Fantasia [page formatting] package."
Next month marks the first 30 days of live operations for National College Management Systems. Our Student Information System CAPSTONE has run for 25 years on the HP 3000," said president John Wardenski, "and this January we go live with our new product, CAPSTONE Backoffice."
NCMS moved from IMage, COBOL, VPlus and the Reflection connectivity software to Eloquence running on Red Hat Linux, Micro Focus COBOL, with its interfaces run completely through Web brower technology (Apache and Firefox).
"We did the move in three phases," Wardenski said, "and it took three years to move our product from the 3000 to its new environment."
1. Convert five databases from IMAGE/SQL to Eloquence
2. Convert 66 background (batch) reports – HP JCL to XML, and HP COBOL to MF COBOL. All reports are launched from the browser.
We'll be tracking the reports of the 3000's afterlife -- if you want to stick with the HP metaphor of end of life -- closely in the year to come. But tomorrow night will come and go with little concern compared to the drama of Dec. 31 of Y2K.
December 29, 2010
Fresh binary patch fixes 3000's diagnostics
HP announced last week that its CSTM diagnostics tools will run on January 1, 2011 without any HP support-supplied password on 3000s. But the HP engineer who enabled this homesteader's exemption reports that CSTM won't run as promised without a binary patch.
CSTM replaced the SYSDIAG tools for 3000s as of the MPE/iX 6.5 release. HP patched CSTM in 2008 to free up the use of these diagnostics starting on this Saturday, but patch ODINX19A/B/C. But Gary Robillard said that diagnostics stop when started up, failing because the Diagnostic Monitor Daemon (DIAGMOND) looks at a system's license level.
Robillard says he is "the engineer that last worked on CSTM for MPE/iX when I was still a contractor at HP back in 2008. I cannot say whether HP will want to generate an official patch for this problem or not." Robillard added that his patch corrects the problem -- and gives 3000 managers access to the system diagnostics -- for servers running the 6.5, 7.0 or 7.5 versions of CSTM.
A “STM INITIALIZATION FAILED” message occurs is because it checks the license level and now determines that an “HP” license is installed. There is a code path to stop DIAGMOND if the session has an HP license installed because the expert tools will all be enabled. Since that is not the desired behavior, I have worked out a binary patch to solve the problem.
Robillard provides detailed instructions on how to apply and install the needed patch, as follows.
It's safest to create an input file to SOMPATCH.
Add the following three lines EXACTLY (note that sompatch will not change the instruction at offset 268 if it does not match 86a020c2. The message "Error: Old value does not match" is displayed and no changes are made)
Hint: You might want to cut/paste them from this message.
~~~~~The 3 lines are below~~~~~~~
; Fix problem in DIAGMOND after 12/19/2010
modify ms_init_manage_sys + 268,1 86a020c2|08000240
~~~~The 3 lines are above~~~~~~~~
Here are the instructions for installing the binary patch:
1. Logon as MANAGER.SYS. Make sure DIAGMOND is not running. If it is, it is not likely to restart Without the patch anyway...
2. Run stmshut.diag.sys
3. Copy /usr/sbin/stm/uut/bin/sys/diagmond,DIAGMOND
4. Run sompatch.pub.sys;stdin=BINPCHIN;INFO='DIAGMOND'
Output should be:
Sp>; Fix problem in DIAGMOND after 12/19/2010
Sp> modify ms_init_manage_sys + 268,1 86a020c2|08000240 86a020c2|08000240
Total number of patches being applied 1
END OF PROGRAM
5. Copy DIAGMOND,/usr/sbin/stm/uut/bin/sys/diagmond;YES
6. Run stmstart.diag.sys
After a few minutes, a "SHOWPROC 1;TREE;SYSTEM" should show the DIAGMOND process. and either the mapping processes, or the memlogd, diaglogd and maybe cclogd (A/N Class 3000s only).
December 28, 2010
How to Train Newbies on an HP 3000
Several migration and sustainability experts have noted that the biggest risk in staying on a 3000 is the community's brain-drain. The answer to replacing more fundamental skills is to train for 3000 use and administration. John Archer of 3000 site ThermoLink needs training materials.
I need to put together some training for one of my employees that will be working on the 3k. He knows nothing about the box. I have been trying to find material on the basics and I can fill in on the specifics and more technical issues that I deal with day to day. It looks as if all links to HP's material (training wise) is gone and I can't find any self paced or tutorial material.
HP's Cathlene McRae replies:
Some 3000/MPE/iX training material can be found at HP's website. [Editor's note: This is a comprehensive set of links to dozens of training manuals and whitepapers written by HP, ranging from Using FCOPY to a comparison of several IMAGE maintenance tools.]
Marc Cordeau of Speedware offered a link to the HP 3000 Series 9x8 Computer Systems Task Reference, hosted at docs.hp.com.
Paul Edwards of Paul Edwards Associates notes:
All the links [to training materials] are gone because HP shut down MPE training and licensed Frank Smith and me as exclusive MPE instructors, and had the HP training linked to our website. Our website was shut down last year due to the lack of interest in MPE training, except for in India. I still do MPE training on-site and have the details listed on my web site, www.peassoc.com. I don’t know if the old self-paced training modules are somewhere in the HP archives. Let me know if I can help.
Several other 3000 pros would like to help train newbies to the system. Mark Ranft of Pro 3K would be glad to assist.
But I get the impression that John was looking for self-paced training for free. With that in mind, there are options like the Guided Tour manuals that make very good starting points for learning MPE.
Lars Appel, the former HP support engineer who ported Samba to the system in the '90s, pointed to several of the training web pages.
* Performing System Operation Tasks
* Performing System Management Tasks
* Getting Started as an MPE/iX Programmer
Reviewing at the least the table of contents might be helpful to see if they have information useful for you. Some sections of the programmer guide, for example, do have nice overview- style info that might be useful for a more than just a person aiming to become a programmer.
December 27, 2010
Website's silencing adds to holiday quiet
Although the days around Christmas and New Year's Day ring with the silence of vacation time, one community website has had its signal stilled with a planned misdirection. A visit to openmpe.org now directs readers to the hp.com website front page. This redirection cuts off the OpenMPE site from visitors, an effective denial of service.
But instead of bombarding openmpe.org with requests, the site has apparently gone offline through an inside job. Matt Perdue, the board member voted off the board in November due to his failure to issue an authorized payment, made a change to the website's domain name services registry on Dec. 23, according to the public records of whois.com. Perdue is the only person with access to changing the DNS information for the group.
Perdue didn't respond to our requests for information about the change, either through email or by phone. A call to his DNS registry contact which he lists for the URL rings a phone number which reports "it is not set up to receive voicemail."
The move that made openmpe.org unreachable came about one week before the group planned to start taking membership monies for the first time through its website. A $99 yearly option would make the Invent3K's shared 3000 programs and development space available for one year.
Not all of OpenMPE's web resources have been cut off. An OpenMPE News blog hosted at WordPress.com remains in operation today. What's more, the group's Invent3K servers just gained technical papers from the proceedings of the HP World conferences of 1998 through 2004.Tracy Johnson, the treasurer who took over for Perdue and also acts as secretary, has been a leader in putting resources online via the Invent3K servers hosted by volunteers. In a message on the OpenMPE mailing list on Dec. 16, he announced the availability of some classic tech resources.
Just a few months back, Paul Edwards sent OpenMPE the Interex Proceedings that were put on CD on past years. After some programming effort, OpenMPE’s backup Invent3K machine now has these Interex Proceedings online.
It is now the third button on the top left. Keven Miller volunteered the majority effort on this one.
There may be a few articles unavailable because the original file names were not POSIX compliant. Not that the file names weren’t changed to compliant ones, but the original index has to be modified to point to them. Those are needles in a haystack.
At the moment, the papers (mostly PowerPoint slides) can be downloaded from a central web page. The group can communicate using these Invent3k hosts (the primary server is at the Support Group offices in Texas) while it sorts out the website misdirection. There's also an OpenMPE listserv for announcements and discussions, the spot where former HP 3000 division engineer Mike Paivinen -- who was HP's liaison to OpenMPE for years -- first took note of the misdirection. The DNS records show a change to the openmpe.org domain exactly one week after the conference papers came online.
December 23, 2010
HP opens patch, diagnostics door for 2011
We're taking Dec. 24 off this year in celebration of the Christmas holiday, but will return to our reports on Dec. 27. In the meantime here's something of an unexpected present from HP's support group.
Hewlett-Packard has posted a fresh web page for 3000 users who'll run their systems on Jan. 1 and beyond, identifying a procedure for obtaining free patches, using 48 beta-version MPE/iX patches and employing the 3000's built-in system diagnostics.
However, HP is requiring users to contact the company's phone-in support center (which used to be called PICS) to get these system patches, both those in beta and those HP has general released. In September the company terminated access to its patches on its online ITRC website, unless a customer purchased a support plan from HP. The vendor explained the 3000 exception in its update, posted during this week just days before HP's Christmas break.
It is recognized that in the case of MPE, HP intended to make patches available through December 2015, even after the Worldwide End of Support on December 31, 2010. Therefore, an exception process has been implemented for users requiring MPE patches after December 31, 2010. As of January 1, 2011, MPE users should contact their HP Call Center to make their patch requests.
Reading these tea leaves -- HP didn't provide any phone numbers in the announcement -- it appears that after the end of the month, patches can be obtained by calling PICS and reporting that you're a 3000 site. The need for a support contract requirement is being waived, according to HP's message. The company included a reminder that customers can contact HP to request 2011 support for the 3000, but the service is not available worldwide.HP has used this period of the year -- one of the quietest for IT professionals -- to announce 3000 developments in the past. The extension of HP support for the 3000 was announced on Dec. 21 in 2005. This year's news was distributed to the community by way of a HP support pro's message to the HP3000-L mailing list, about 550 subscribers.
But the pointer to fresh content on www.hp.com/go/e3000 by Cathlene McRae illuminates the 2007 intentions of the 3000 group in HP to serve users by releasing tested patches, beta-level fixes and enhancements, as well as the means to use 3000 diagnostics without a password. HP 3000 advocates, including OpenMPE, campaigned for all of these developments during the years HP said it was marching toward the system's "end of life."
HP described the 48 beta patches as "the majority" of what was built and tested inside HP, patches which are also available from the phone-in support center. A spreadsheet with limited descriptions is also available from the HP web page. HP hasn't published a list of what's on offer for more than three years; the beta test list of enhancements once included more than 60 fixes.
HP wants to be certain the 3000 user understands the nature of these fixes and enhancements which HP built by user request.
After [HP's] worldwide MPE support ends in 2010, releasing “Beta” Patches ensures that those of our customers remaining on the HPe3000 platform will have the most complete pool of remedies then currently available for those issues that may arise. Since support will have ended and the release will be “Beta” Patches, Hewlett-Packard (i) will be providing these patches on an “as is” basis without any representations or warranties of any kind and (ii) cannot guaranty the performance or results of these Patches.
As for unlocking system diagnostics use during 2011, HP has already provided the means for this in updates to the CSTM online diagnostics. If a customer has the General Release patch ODINX19A (for MPE/iX 6.5), ODINX19B (for 7.0) or ODINX19C (for 7.5) installed, CSTM use won't need a password for use after Dec. 31.
HP said these CSTM patches were released in 2008, but at that time it failed to mention their ability to unlock CSTM for 2011 and beyond. The company only said in the fall of 2008 "HP will put in place a process that will allow customers to access CSTM without requiring passwords after HP Support exits the Mature Product Support w/o Sustaining Engineering phase."
December 22, 2010
Ways to Boost the HP 3000’s Effectiveness
By David Greer, MB Foster Associates
Many customers decide to stay with the HP 3000 because of its extraordinary reliability and the low cost of ownership. When working with both homesteading and migrating customers, we see a number of practices around application and data management that can provide benefits now and in the future.
HP 3000 applications have been developed over many years. This makes the applications highly effective to organizations because they accurately reflect the business rules of the organization. Any application built over time faces challenges matching all source code to all running production code. Many HP 3000 sites do not have a formal change management process for their applications.
Change management typically is implemented in two parts: version control and governance. Did you know that you can put your HP 3000 source code under the control of a version control system such as Microsoft Visual Source Safe? Doing so allows an organization to identify and document all component pieces of each application. The effort and knowledge gained reduces the risk to the organization, by formalizing the knowledge that is often scattered around many individuals.
A governance process for the release of new versions of HP 3000 applications further reduces the risk of changes. A version control system helps. It causes organizations to assign version numbers and identify all specific files that need to be changed to implement an application change. A formalized development, test and release governance process makes sure that IT, users, and management are aligned when it comes to releasing new versions of the software. Not only does this reduce organizational risk on numerous fronts, it sets up an organization for future change. We have yet to see a successful migration that did not have strong change management and governance.
A second area where HP 3000 sites can improve performance is in data management. Redundant data can cost organizations millions of dollars every year. As many HP 3000 databases have been developed over decades, they often have large amounts of duplicate data. We have observed and participated in cases where rationalizing both duplicate data and the amount of historic data has resulted in large space reductions while speeding up batch processing by over ten times.
Another major focus area for HP 3000 improvement is cleaning up data. We advocate that you set up simple job streams to check for bad data nightly or weekly and report it directly to affected users. At a recent conference, the Registrar of a major Canadian college reported they now check all data nightly and mail suspected bad data directly to users responsible for entering it.
Removing bad data reduces the amount of data in your database and insures that people who depend on this data make the right decisions. In our migration work, it is common to have to spend a lot of time cleansing data before migrating it — much quicker if your data’s already clean.
We have seen many HP 3000 sites leverage a data mart. A data mart provides an alternative view of your HP 3000 data in a popular SQL database such as SQL Server. While introducing redundant data, the benefits outweigh the costs, especially when the data is transformed as part of the replication process. Using SQL Server allows HP 3000 sites to hire and train experts in the latest technologies speeding delivery and lowering costs.
Some sites are building all new functionality on top of MS SQL Server using bidirectional database replication technology. Over time the business becomes less dependent on the HP 3000 application. It also ensures that if you do migrate, the majority of your interface points are to SQL Server.
Many of these ideas can be introduced as a project or one application at a time, letting you spread out the implementation cost. The biggest hurdle is making the commitment to change the way you do things now, to increase your ability to execute in the future.
December 21, 2010
University's migration aims at simple goals
Bob Adams, director of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical College's Portfolio and Project Management Office, has planned his 18-month migration off of 3000s with basic goals. Moving the apps intact, without changes, has been his aim since September 2009.
Some third party solutions used at the colleges were ready with a version for HP-UX, the SBCTC project target. One solution which moved from the 3000 to the Unix environment was Hillary Software's byRequest e-forms and PDF report solution. The software is used by the colleges in varying processes. “It's been pretty transparent,” Adams said of the tool that's been serving the colleges since 1999.
Hillary engineered byRequest to work with a bedrock technical solution, Speedware's AMXW environment emulation tool. AMXW takes the place of SBCTC's home-grown job scheduler, for example. But some 3000-specific pieces will be replaced with new software, created by 3000 developers. Adams pointed to the Dictionary/3000 data repository, which feeds the colleges' reports.
“We didn't actually replace Dictionary/3000,” “[UDA Link] still uses that database to get its file and database structures," Adams said. The TransAction replacement for the colleges' Transact supplies the needed replacement for the repository.”
Speedware's Didem Chatalolu said that the company had five full-time staffers at one time dedicated to the Transact/TransAction issue of the project. The migration vendor said it's been able to apply resources as needed to accomplish the code migration within schedule.
“ScreenJet's team worked to make their product 100 percent compatible with the customer's code,” Koppe said. “The onus was on ScreenJet, to make the product work flawlessly. That makes the cycles a bit longer than patching up code here.”
Transition redux, sans servers
About 100,000 students attend the SBCTC colleges, and 25,000 employees work in the system, Adams said. “Scale-wise, this is huge. It's in the billions of dollars that we are processing.”
The work that Speedware, its partners and the college IT staff is doing will move the organization onto HP-UX next year, Adams expects. But he only sees some parts of the shifted solutions as having a 5-7-year lifespan before they move again, probably to a managed services platform: the cloud.
Speedware had to work within the colleges' budget throughout a project that saw a 20 percent cut in overall expenditures. All of the SBCTC servers are now relocated into a central datacenter where the HP Integrity server will do the work begun in 1982 by HP 3000s. But a hosted ERP setup without servers onsite, is the ultimate goal, in Adams' view.
The bottom line is that this project was our last chance to get this thing done right,” he said. “We weren't going to change technologies. All we wanted to do was extend what we have.”
December 20, 2010
HP-UX to serve 10,000 college users by 2011
Speedware is leading work from four vendors to enable the migration of a 10,000-user HP 3000 site to HP-UX servers in Washington state. The State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) has relied on Speedware for management of the project since the September 2009 inception. The vendor promotes a “lift and shift” approach for many of its projects that move complex 3000-based systems to newer hardware. Sometimes that means recreating tools and technology that wasn't broken on MPE/iX, just hosted on a platform the customer wants to leave.
ScreenJet's TransAction, as well as its EZV screen generation tool, are two prime examples of this kind of recreation. While exploring the programming behind hundreds of application user interfaces, ScreenJet's Alan Yeo documented VPlus anomalies and bugs in the UI. To keep the coding straightforward and the project basic, the EZV replacement for VPlus recreates all of the known and discovered UI behaviors.
“We had to find out what's going on” in the VPlus interface, Yeo explained, “and then we have to replicate the bugs and the undocumented features, because we don't know for certain how many times they're being used.”
A system with thousands of programs, using tens of thousands of reports across more than 30 servers is simply too complex to succeed at anything but this lift and shift strategy. The key is to put all the pieces back in their places on a new platform, so an interface behaves exactly as it did on the HP 3000.
Yeo said his work on the project and EZV taught him a great deal about the number of bugs in VPlus. “The stuff we have found this year has been unbelievable.” EZV accounts for all that ScreenJet discovered and documented during the project.
Packaging for migration
Speedware's senior project manager Dedem Chatalolu said the migration moved quickly because the SBCTC staff packed up its application code adeptly.
“We were able to walk them through the process of how to package the code, group the executables together so we could deliver things back to them in phases,” she said. “They really helped and supported us in that.” She added that the 9,000 test cases from the colleges helped Speedware test its migration code work.
Chatalolu pointed to ScreenJet's product TransAction, which after refinements made it possible to run that code on non-MPE systems, as essential to the success so far. ScreenJet leveraged a version of TransAction under intense deadline pressures.
“There were some crunch times along the way where we really needed to double down,” said Speedware's marketing director Chris Koppe, “to hit the targets on time.”
One essential element of the migration was already polished: Marxmeier's Eloquence database, replacing TurboIMAGE. “It was nice was going to Eloquence, which has enabled us to take TurboIMAGE databases and port them over with very little work,” Adams said.
As the migrated code arrives in the IT group for testing, Adams credited MB Foster for making the crucial Data Express reports a carry-forward tool for the colleges. They retrofitted their product so the existing catalogs and reports work with their new UDALink product,” he said. Each college runs 1,000 to 2,000 versions of the fundamental reports.
December 17, 2010
34 colleges start testing 3000 migration code
A team of four vendors led by Speedware has been helping 40 IT staffers at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges wean itself off 34 HP 3000s around the state. After the first year of planning and work, the principal delivery of millions of lines of migrated application code has been accepted.
The vision of moving this three-decade HP 3000 customer, a plan first conceived in 2003, is becoming real enough to test with users on the college campuses.
SBCTC now goes into user test mode for the next six months or so before it starts to power down the major 3000 applications that have supported higher education in the state since the 1980s. Bob Adams, director of the SBCTC's Portfolio and Project Management Office, has been managing HP 3000s since the start of that decade. He's now leading the group's efforts to move away from hardware HP will stop supporting in less than two months.
The biggest risk that prompted the move off the 3000 was parts availability, according to Adams. Several of the colleges use the Series 9x7 generation of servers, for example, hardware which HP stopped building in the 1990s.
“We're in the process of mentoring our staff,” Adams said, “having them attend HP-UX training, and we contracted to hire someone very familiar with the HP-UX production environment.”
While the colleges' IT staff has been focusing its critical mass on the project, 3.7 million lines of code has been migrated by Speedware and its allied firms. MB Foster, ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software took significant roles in moving SBCTC away from a mix of Transact, Protos (a COBOL derivative), TurboIMAGE and older versions of Data Express reports. In place of each of these technologies came Transaction (built by ScreenJet to run Transact on non-3000 platforms), Micro Focus COBOL, the Eloquence database and MB Foster's UDALink reports -- the last re-engineered by the vendor in a new version to run Data Express reports on the latest HP Integrity servers.
Adams said that 50,000 of the reports run across the 34 campuses, multiple instances of similar reports customized for each college. More than 1,450 programs have passed testing by SBCTC, and the project is on schedule for complete implementation by May of next year.
SBCTC is moving swiftly to the point of testing because it already had 9,000 test instances created prior to starting the migration. IT staff had prepared the cases for a previous project which the colleges decided to restart. A new strategy was among the fundamental changes between migration efforts, Adams said.
“If the project is well-conceived to begin with , it has a good chance of being successful,” he said. “If you have the right team of people, if you have the right vendor it will be successful.”
Getting too ambitious in a first attempt will prevent that migration success. “It's got to be basic, simple, understandable,” Adams said. “Risks have to be determined and be realistic. Project management is common sense.”
The colleges' IT group will be converting 600 fundamental Data Express reports among its project tasks. 180 were converted at the start of this fall.
December 16, 2010
User advice: have a spare CPU board ready
At the most recent CAMUS online user group meeting, Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialties shared advice about getting a 3000 CPU board configured by HP in a downtime crisis. Don't do it, he advised. You can be ready for this with a on-site spare, just like his worldwide manufacturing company does for its 3000s.
Regarding the change HP will do for a Time & Materials fee to copy an HPSUSAN number to fresh hardware, Simpkins said, "It baffles me about why anybody would get themselves into a situation where they had to react like that -- why they wouldn't have a spare processor board already set with their system name and SUSAN number sitting on the shelf. Unless, of course, you're paying Hewlett-Packard to provide your hardware support."
HP won't offer that kind of hardware support full-time in about two weeks. (Well, for much of the world, although the vendor wants to retain support business on a selective basis.) Simpkins said creating this kind of hot spare is an easy thing to do. "I wouldn't have anything to do with HP when I'd get my extra board set to my SUSAN number. They are not the only people in the world who can legally perform that service."
Measurement Specialties is a $230 million company with operations in North America and China. It's not a firm that would fly under a legal radar just to have its 3000s supported independently.Providers of this kind of service -- Independent Recovery Services (irs4hp.com) comes to mind, but other indie support companies do this, too -- "have been vetted by HP's lawyers," Simpkins said, "and have been given a clean bill of health. To my knowledge, they will not do something untoward. But if you're sitting there with an HP 3000 running with an HPSUSAN number and an CPUNAME, I can't understand why anybody would not have a spare CPU board sitting in their closet, ready for that eventuality."
It's interesting to note that Simpkins called the CPU failure an eventuality rather than a possibility. Every bit of hardware can fail, and even solid state portions of a 3000 have this somewhere in their future.
There's an important distinction to observe about the setting of an HPSUSAN number. Applying this ID to a non-3000 board doesn't sit well with HP, although there's nothing the vendor can do about this, either. IN the past, entire PA-RISC systems have been turned into MPE-ready servers when they were sold as HP-UX devices. That's not the same sort of configuration as being ready for a board failure on your 3000. The downtime for an in-house replacement is a fraction, of course, of an HP response under Time & Materials contracts.
Customers are interested in finding satisfied users of the IRS services. Mark Landin, a 3000 system manager, posted this request on the HP 3000 newsgroup on Dec. 13.
I'd like to speak (voice, or by email) with anyone who's using a Capt Greb / IRS system in production. All such dialog to remain confidential.
The IRS solution, promoted by an engineer who calls himself Captain GREB, doesn't have public recommendations. But the solution is in use in the community, and Landin may find a manager willing to share experience with this alternative to HP support.
December 15, 2010
Transitions include community's headcounts
As the year 2011 draws to a close, we're taking note of some changes in company and organization lineups that affect the 3000 community. Groups and firms sometimes take the year-end to revamp rosters, even in a community with so much continuity.
• David Greer reports that he's seeking new clients after a year of full-time service for MB Foster as director of marketing and sales. He may contribute further to Foster's 2011 efforts. Following up on his broad message to prospects, Greer told us that "Birket and I are talking about my doing some project work as I transition out." Greer said in his letter that "In a change from the past, I am looking at both non-technology as well as technology businesses" to help. MB Foster's 2010 was busy and full of new partners and product rollouts such as the company's Windows-based job scheduler. Greer's note summed up both this year and the one to come.
I have spent all of 2010 working full-time at MB Foster Associates helping my long time friend Birket Foster and his team to engage with his markets and generate sales, while focusing MB Foster on the critical next steps needed for business success. I'm wrapping up at MB Foster this week and am now turning my attention to the next business I can help.
• Connect's board of directors has gained a fresh slate of three extra volunteers, but the terms of its officers have been extended to two years instead of one. That means that Speedware's Chris Koppe will remain group president through 2011, and vice-president Steve Davidek, system admin for the City of Sparks, Nev. -- also a 3000 community member -- will be in the wings waiting for his 2012 term to lead the group. 172 members voted to approve a slate of directors, rather than cast ballots for individuals.
• OpenMPE also has announced a change in its group of directors, effective last month. Matthew Perdue was voted off the board by a unanimous vote of the six remaining directors. Perdue, who as treasurer was charged with the stewardship of the group's accounts, servers and the Invent3k revival, was taken off the board over a matter of non-payment of a check, according to minutes approved late in November from a Nov. 12 meeting. Tracy Johnson has taken over treasurer duties.
December 14, 2010
CAMUS user reports on emulator's value
The HP 3000 community is waiting on development and testing of its first PA-RISC hardware emulator. At a recent meeting of the CAMUS user group for ERP applications, one member testified about the emulator's predecessor, Charon -- already working in Digital shops running the MANMAN app.
Tim Envy of Peer Systems said Charon "gives you better performance" than customers get under native OpenVMS hardware, "especially because of the IO dependency you get under Windows." Stromasys has reported that Windows will be the controlling environment for its Zelus emulator for the HP 3000. "The system sometimes delivers many multiples of performance improvement. You have more configuration capability on the Windows platform in terms of optimization. Solid state drives fit nicely into the Stromasys configuration for OpenVMS."
Envy added that Stromasys told him the release date of the Zelus product has been pushed back by a few months. The original plan had the emulator selling in the second half of 2011. The new date is during Q3 of next year, which might be a matter of few extra months. Stromasys has hired a product manager for Zelus, and the company is on the hunt for HP 3000 software vendors and customers who want to participate in the 2011 pilot and alpha testing.
The CAMUS group met via a conference call rather than gathering in person. Peer said that Charon is a very stable platform for OpenVMS applications, plus it adds options such as hosting a tape drive as a virtual device. The Charon product has the advantage of being developed by Stromasys' staff which worked on the Digital migration team in the 1990s. Stromasys founder Dr. Robert Boers has said HP's delivered the technical information to let his company create a product as strong as Charon.
Boers also said in a recent newsletter that the boom of 1980s enterprise systems is creating an ever-larger field of customers for companies like his, which sell "cross-platform virtualization" solutions."The phenomenal growth of the IT industry in the 1980’s will soon create a surge in obsolescence," Boers writes in the newsletter. He spoke to "a group of people interested in how to replace older computer systems. "It was a surprise to many -- in spite of the convergence to the X86 architecture -- that the volume of legacy systems is still increasing."
In other words, legacy systems remain in production roles while customers look for ways to transfer their workloads to other hardware platforms. In the 3000 community there's been a lot of talk about how the Zelus emulator will arrive too late to survive in the homesteading marketplace. But Stromasys has been selling emulators for a decade now in the Digital marketplace, long after that vendor ceased production of early-generation VMS computers.
When the talk of emulators for the 3000 hardware first came up in 2002, the head of Strobe Data explained the extra longevity of any emulator in a market where platforms are dumped by their vendors. Willard West said in our Q&A that an emulator's business plan is designed to outlast even used hardware.
Our major competition has been the used market. We’ve out-survived that. Yes, we often lose sales opportunities to people buying in the (Digital) PDP-11 world. When people take those offline, they’re often worthless. Eventually you will need used equipment fixed or repaired, and we expect to outlive that situation.
Strobe has since sidetracked its own HP 3000 PA-RISC project, leaving the market field open for Stromasys. But that decision was not based on prospective sales base. Strobe backed away because of a recession that was crimping its Digital emulator sales, and so tightening R&D funding for new products.
December 13, 2010
Sparking 3000 Changes through Transition
A veteran of 26 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek is looking toward a different future in his IT career. He’s the IT operations and Systems Administrator for the City of Sparks, Nev. But sometime in 2012 the last HP 3000 app will step out of production mode at the city that’s not far from Reno. Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks; he chuckled repeatedly even while telling stories of revisions of management plans. In Friday's interview we talked with him about how the 3000 came to a turning point at Sparks. We also wanted to know where he's networking to stay current on migration issues, and the potential for user group Connect to help the 3000 homestead community.
It sounds as if your migration was never approached as a calamity. How are you able to weather all this change of the situation, given all your 3000 work?
Well, I took the city from a Series III. But then we started with Windows NT, and before that an OS2 LAN manager. We started going in the Windows direction for a few things. I did HP-UX OpenMail for a number of years. We’ve kind of evolved over the last 26 years. I watched us go from terminals to where we are today. It’s moving forward, and you’ve got to keep moving forward.
You can’t block modern technology just because it might be hard to manage. That’s always been my thing: what’s the next step that can make our jobs easier?
When you say hard to manage, do you mean the way the new tech is designed compared to the HP 3000?
Let me tell you — you just can’t beat the way the HP 3000 runs. You can do so much more with the MPE operating system. It’s so much move robust than people ever realized.
But you can’t just keep looking at that. The city manager wants to use his iPad, connected to our network. We can’t just tell him no. We’ve got to look at the future, these handheld devices. You have to be able to look at your data from that level and at the desktop, laptops or whatever the next great thing is out there, but look at it securely.
What’s going to happen in the shutdown during 2012?
The 3000 will be there for looking at older records. The plan is to do a last dump of the payroll data for the last couple of years into a SQL Server database, then figure out how to write an interface so if we have to do lookups we can. Beyond that the 3000 will just be sitting here for history until we don’t legally have to keep the data around.
Did you need to hire an outside provider to help move the apps off?
We really didn’t need to. We had totally new systems. We looked at HP-UX but didn’t really get bids we liked. We wrote the links to pull the data out of our IMAGE databases into the SQL database for our current financials, both times that we did it. We’re not migrating the system, we’re going to something fresh.
How did your involvement with the user groups, and Connect, help you with this transition?
Ever since I first got involved in a local Interex user group in 1985, talking to other members, seeing what they’re doing, and then trying things out has probably been the best thing that has happened. The other thing that’s helped is that as our training budget has gone down, we’re been able to have local meetings for Encompass and now Connect, where we’re able to pass on information you couldn’t get for free, if you weren’t involved in a user group of some kind.
You found them on a social network, or a chat group?
When we started with this, those things weren’t there yet. A lot of it is that we’ve all been involved with it for so many years. There even used to be a Bi-Tech user group. The thing they liked the most is that they were able to interact with people who were doing similar things.
So you’re one of two officers of Connect with extensive 3000 background. Were there things you found at this year’s HP Tech Forum that helped you in your migration?
Not really. Connect hasn’t had a huge presence with the 3000. I know with both Chris (Koppe) and I you’d think there’d be more. I’ve been hearing a lot of rumor about doing something with the old CSL. But it’s like [3000 customers] haven’t really needed much. The 3000 community has been working with the 3000-L and communicating through that for years. OpenMPE, same thing. The real vocal people have been involved there.
You’ll be president in a little over a year. Is there a role for Connect to play for the 3000 by then?
I still watch 3000-L every day. But I think Connect can be a place where they can help each other. Especially if they’re looking at migration issues. Or even keeping things running, I’d love to have face to face meetings with 3000 users like we had in the OpenMPE meeting in Vegas this year.
December 10, 2010
Warming to Sparks of Change for 3000s
A veteran of 26 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek is looking toward a different future in his IT career. He’s the IT operations and Systems Administrator for the City of Sparks, Nev. But sometime in 2012 the last HP 3000 app will step out of production mode at the city that’s not far from Reno. During that same year, Davidek will take another step, into the chair of president for the one remaining HP user group, Connect. He’s been serving on the group’s board of directors since 2008, volunteered in Encompass user group advocacy programs before then, and even worked in Interex local and regional user groups for 20 years, until the group went bankrupt in 2005.
Davidek is managing HP 3000s which were supposed to be offline already, but homesteading has a way of occupying more of the future than managers expect. For all of the devotion and experience he’s developed for the server, however, it’s time for his shop — where he started as an operator and now manages a staff that handles two 3000s, hundreds of PCs and several dozen Windows servers — to move into the world of Windows. Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks; he chuckled repeatedly even while telling stories of revisions of management plans. It’s the sound of humor you would expect from a man who’s an Honor Society Order of the Arrow award winner as a Boy Scout leader, the kind of leadership that seemed to fit into a story of transition, told by a pro whose first HP IT chapters were written on Series III HP 3000s.
You work in IT at a US city that’s cut back in a big way. How did that affect moving away from the HP 3000?
Just before they started cutting things we signed on the dotted line for a new financial system and get us off the HP 3000. Not that we wanted to, but we had to move forward.
We went live with that part of the project last December. After our HP 3000 died in April, they decided this July to give us a little money to get the payroll system moved off, too.
The payroll 3000 died? What happened?
I just came in one day and the system board died on the 969. We’d moved that 3000 in here in September of ‘96. We’re at 7.0 MPE/iX. Every time we tried 7.5 we had issues with it not reading the second CPU in it.
Did these failures present the first reason to move away?
We were supposed to be off the 3000 five years ago. We did another upgrade to our financials, Bi-Tech, something we’ve been running for 18 years. We realized after we got going the system couldn’t handle the city’s finances.
Back then the finance department decided they wanted a new system that didn’t involve IT. But what they picked out couldn’t handle the job of General Ledger. We ended up going back to the 3000 after being off it for a year with GL. It was still running payroll.As HP was slowly ramping down, we realized that we needed a more modern system. Plus, finances are really important to the city. Bi-Tech quit developing on us 10 years ago. They were like others; if HP’s not going to support the 3000, they weren’t going to move forward.
The system to handle the courts was running on the 3000, too. It was written in-house in the late ‘70s. We turned that system off six months ago. They put the new cases on the new system and just kept the open cases on the 3000 until they got them all. They access that 3000 almost daily, just for history. They’ll do that until we’re off the 3000s totally — there’s a 928 development machine — about 18 months from now.
Has that development staff been able to embrace the new Windows environment?
In Nevada’s economy, we’ve laid off a lot of people. The city went from 760 to 450 people. IT was literally cut in half. We’ve got one person who’s been with the city for 32 years, and he was the development support person for years. We have a newer person who’s the reason we’re using SQL Server databases.
Why did you decide to turn away from developing your own systems, or modernize the systems you already had?
We realized the resources weren’t here. I talked to people in the user groups, my connections from Interex and Encompass and now and Connect. It’s one of those things where we just had to bite the bullet and move away. They all pretty much said the same thing.
Has training in the new systems presented problems?
Not really. But let me tell you, the new financials — I’m still trying to figure out how to pay bills part of the time. I’m learning things about finances that I never had to do before for my bills in IT.
December 09, 2010
Community LinksIn faster to pursue futures
We've been leading a LinkedIn group for the HP 3000 Community for two years now, but the last 30 days have seen a 15 percent increase in membership. It's not always easy to figure why Web interest rises and falls, but one theory is that 3000 community members are creating a new set of alliances -- the Transition away from an HP-centric world.
HP's been spinning off talent for years by now, with regular layoffs and exits of some of its more senior tech experts. They're a good example of one slice of community member -- technical resources still in a community, looking for engagements, the next job in their career saga, or just a way to help answer questions.
While the numbers might seem modest, 240 LinkedIn members have joined the HP 3000 Community since we kicked it off in 2008. LinkedIn is free at a very useful Basic level. Recruiters look for experts, while members keep in touch with opportunities and comment about community news. There's a regular feed of articles to spark discussions. And it revolves around more than just homesteading 3000s.
One new member, Michael Tilford, worked in HP's support division up until this year. His last day with HP is Dec. 31, when he'll be available to anybody who needs more than three decades of 3000 experience."I would love for the 3000 to be part of my next job, I'm just not sure that will be the case," Tilford reported. "I have been working with the 3000 in one capacity or another since 1977."
LinkedIn is a good place to make networking contacts, to find people to hire or make contact with potential employers. "That is partially why I signed up for LinkedIn," Tilford said, "to network and job search. I had not looked for a position in many years, was comfortable in my job role at HP, and reduced my networking as well.
He added, "I'm glad the 3000 still has some life out there. From a proactive services standpoint in HP, I did not have any remaining customers in the MD/DC/VA area," when his work ended at HP.
December 08, 2010
One Genuine Dec. 31 HP 3000 Issue
HP's been telling the community that 3000's life ends on Dec. 31, but there's plenty of evidence that's just a point of view, or a vendor's wish, rather than a fact. (Selling HP support for 2011, and no HP software or hardware failures wired to occur on January 1 are a couple of facts contrary to "end of life." This isn't Y2K, this time around.)
But one HP 3000 software supplier has announced a real 2010 deadline for running some of its products on computers including the HP 3000. Lund Performance Solutions has sent a message to customers to explain why Dec. 31, 2010 is a hard stop for running ClearView -- at least until Lund sends out a revised version of the product. The problem: A "permanent license" for the software expires on that day.
Lund Performance Solutions has become aware of an effective expiration date in our software licenses that affects your Lund software. Unfortunately, “permanent” licenses that have been created to-date will actually expire on December 31, 2010. Your Lund software will not continue to run after this date without a correctly updated license.
We are preparing a new software release for all of our ClearView-supported platforms that will be released with a new product code which will truly be “permanent.” Revised license codes for all of our MPE customers will also be sent to resolve the issue on the MPE platform.
Lund adds that it's using email to contact its customers about the issue. Those who are still on support can head to a Lund web page to make a formal request for an updated license code. Software written for the HP 3000 -- some of it crafted 15 years ago -- can run into end of life, but it's less of an issue for customers if the creators have remained in business. Funny enough, but that "remain on support" choice for customers makes it more likely that a vendor can remain in business to look after show-stoppers like this.ClearView is performance management software, not as mission-critical as financials, ERP suites or any of the other dozens of applications sold off the shelf for 3000s since the 1980s. If this package stops running because a customer overlooks an email that might be sent to an old address -- or they're off support -- it probably won't halt a production line or stall sales.
Other 3000 applications, however, might be written in-house and rely on third party tools to keep running. Dec. 31 is only an HP confection for moving 3000 customers away from the platform, given that something like "Limited Mature Platform Support" is now an official term at Hewlett-Packard. But it's a good idea to stay in touch with your software suppliers, even if you've drifted away from support. A warm relationship can get you climbing over hurdles faster than explaining from scratch who you are (former customer) before looking for the path forward. Lund likes to call its non-support customers "loyal to using our performance products." Recognizing loyalty has been a distinguishing trait in this community.
Lund is being proactive in its updates, even supplying one extension right away. A default “Holidays” file (used within the software for trending purposes) is only good through 2010. All customers, supported and non-supported alike, may go to the Lund website for an updated Holidays file and instructions on how to apply it.
December 07, 2010
HP tries to retain some 3000 support deals
In the early response from the community, it looks like HP is continuing to ask customers to keep their 3000 support deals with the vendor. But in many cases, HP is learning that the support business has already moved on to independent providers. In some cases, third party companies have partnered to provide both hardware and software ends of support.
Customers are still reluctant to identify themselves by name, but the reports of HP extensions are consistent. "Our HP 3000 System Manager got a renewal notice this week for HP 3000 support," a contractor said today, working at a Georgia-based manufacturer. "The System Manager called the HP sales office, who confirmed they are still offering HP 3000 support though 2011. Unfortunately, they gave no advance notice, and our company had to make other arrangements."
HP's support levels haven't been uniform enough to retain some customers who would prefer to stay with the vendor. In one case, a snarl in getting a part reconfigured led to more than a week of downtime.
Until an incident last year when HP took over a week to fix a hardware issue on a corporate critical system, HP would have been the preferred vendor. HP’s problem at that time was in getting parts -- a lack of willingness to modify an in-stock backplane to our needs. After that incident, it was perceived that we can’t do much worse.
After that case, a backup hardware onsite was negotiated with a new hardware support vendor. A separate company is working with the hardware firm for that site. Meanwhile, some HP support customers just want to know how they can ensure they've got the final HP MPE/iX release tape before Dec. 31."My main concern is that I can get the latest software tape before the deadline," said Tom Thompson of WinCup, the disposable container manufacturer located in Phoenix. "How do I go about doing that?"
If a customer hasn't maintained an HP support contract, they will need to set one up. "The only thing I know to do is to call HP," said Donna Garverick of Allegro Consultants. "They’ll have to establish a (software-only) contract to get the tape."
Third party suppliers of support have raised their profiles in the last six months, presenting cases on how to step in and take over HP support duties. Source Direct and SMS are a pair that have cruised across our radar recently. In the meantime, HP's official notice of 2011 efforts for the 3000 sounds different than the vendor's repeated "end of life." One engineer in HP Support passed along this language.
Worldwide MPE/iX support will not be extended past December 31, 2010. Customers that cannot migrate to other HP supported solutions by the announced December 31, 2010 End Of Support Life date are encouraged to contact their HP representatives to discuss potential local support solutions that might be available, such as local Mature Hardware and limited Mature Software Support.
So not worldwide, but not an isolated offer to continue support next year, either. We'll keep listening for your reports on what the end of this year means for your support plans.
December 06, 2010
Will Apple scuttle its legacy like HP did?
Apple's been held up as an example of what HP once was: an innovator and powerhouse that built its own successes. The iPad has become so popular so quickly that it's now outselling Macs. And so the mavens of the Apple world now consider how much longer the Mac can survive Apple's own clever creation: the iOS environment, now driving 70 million iPhones and 15 million iPads. It's the new nirvana. Those ideals are promoted by the people who have little invested in the Mac OS X. They forget to nurture their ancestors' wisdom.
Exhibit A: A column from new contributor John Gruber on the back page of MacWorld. He seems to wonder if Apple is as typical as HP, because "At typical companies, 'legacy' technology is something you figure out how to carry forward. At Apple, legacy technology is something you figure out how to get rid of."
There's some problems with that thinking. First, enterprise legacy only gets carried forward at a big customer's insistence. At typical companies like HP, legacy technology is something you figure out how to marginalize and push into the boutique shadows. Much of the decade before HP's announced departure from the 3000 world -- just four weeks from being complete -- was spent pushing MPE aside to trumpet Unix. (How's that choice working for you now, HP? Those footsteps you hear are Linux, not WebOS.)
It's always easier to sit in a developer's chair and say the future lies in the newest design, especially if it's growing more popular by the quarter. But customers -- millions of them using Macs today, even in business -- sit in different chairs and see investments they want a vendor to protect. A great company learns to balance protection with the innovation. Disney didn't stop making cartoons just because it discovered live-action movies and amusement parks.At MacWorld's back page, Gruber chronicles the demise of the non-Intel Mac OS. "The 64-bit Carbon application programming interface died. It’s not that these technologies were no longer useful. It’s that continuing to support them would have slowed the company down. Time spent supporting the old is time not spent building the new."
You can just substitute MPE for Carbon in that sentence and hear the argument to axe the 3000. In a strident tone straight off his sharp, iOS-cheering blog Daring Fireball, Gruber seems to forsee how Apple might want to pave over the past to save its future.
Apple’s cultural aversion to legacy technology isn’t about a lack of seriousness, or a short companywide attention span. It’s not about being attracted only to the new and shiny. It’s about fear—the fear of being weighed down by excess baggage. Fear that old stuff will slow them down in their pursuit of creating brand-new stuff.
The question isn’t whether iOS has a brighter future than the Mac. There is no doubt: it does. The question is whether the Mac has become "legacy."
The underlying question is whether Apple is about to become as typical as HP. Because HP has been getting rid of the "excess baggage" of legacy technology for the last 15 years.
Ever since 1984, I have reported on plenty of sound technology re-indexed as Legacy. While the vendors are usually keen to tear this stuff away from their product futures, the customers part with it much more slowly, if at all. HP hasn't even built an HP 3000 since 2003, but Fortune 100 companies still use the server, even as they plan to migrate. HP dumped on the 3000's OS futures in favor of Unix, which somehow was tagged as "brand-new stuff" at enterprises in the advent of Open Systems. (Remember those systems? The computers that ran on environments all the same? Turns out we all had a hard time finding those snipes of computing.)
Legacy is an epithet to a customer who's invested in it, and a millstone around the neck of a company that wants to move onward. The future of the new, if it's well-built, always looks brighter to a vendor who thrives on churn. I've used Macs to run businesses and bought an iPad (tres useful) on Day One. But I hope Apple hasn't become that kind of scuttle-happy supplier.
If anyone should be careful of wishing for something, it's the cheering iOS developers and blogging friends. The Mac has become a stable choice of both high-tech developers in their 40s and 50s in the 3000 community, as well as the choice of millions of common users buying Macbook Airs. iOS maturity today is at about the 1993 level of the Mac's OS, even allowing for a a new-gen rate of evolution. It's madness to consider that Mac OS is going to the grave, or even whistling past a graveyard, by even 2020. HP figured you'd all be migrated by five years ago. Um, not so much.
At HP, the Unix enterprise business never would have taken hold without the track record of the HP 3000 success. Let's hope that Apple won't listen too hard to the iOS cheering and scuttle what made the company a serious force in computing -- all because mobile is sexy. The iPad outsells the Macs now, but you can't accomplish some serious productivity tasks on a 10-inch screen. Try creating something of great scope, or even of modest size.
Back in the days of those mid-80s, I worked at a publishing company where we produced tabloid-size trade newsletter layouts on 9-inch Mac Plus screens. Such torture is no way to grow a market. Apple needs both OS choices; let the HPs of the world cast off good technology. And Gruber gets to this, eventually, in his column.
Long term—say, 10 years out—well, all good things must come to an end. But in the short term, Mac OS X has an essential role in an iOS world: serving as the platform for complex, resource-intensive tasks.
And then the 10 years becomes 15, just like the customers are taking more than a decade to drift away from the 3000. Welcome to the world of computer success, Mr. Jobs. You gotta feed your ancestors, not set them adrift on ice floes.
December 03, 2010
HP lets Hurd battle its own Unix business
Under the heading of Things We'd Never Expect, how about the news yesterday that Sun -- er, Oracle -- will be making leaps to give the Solaris OS a way to attack the HP-UX? Chief soldier in this Solaris 11 assault via technology and R&D? None other than HP's ousted CEO Mark Hurd, now leading the charge to take Business Critical Systems customers off the HP rosters.
Oracle has big plans for its Unix alternative, the "free" Solaris Express, too. With the Nov. 15 rollout, "Oracle is preparing for the planned availability of Oracle Solaris 11 in 2011 by releasing Solaris 11 Express, to provide customers with access to the latest Solaris 11 technology." In its Solaris 11 Express it's using a business model similar to HP's own now, the new era when Hewlett-Packard will be selling HP-UX but makes you buy a support license. (To be fair, you could always buy this "enterprise-class" HP environment without HP support. Good luck getting the patches you will need to survive security holes, or the ones that add functionality that's not strictly security-related. Independent support firms can help in that challenge, however.)
Oracle offers this new non-commercial version of Linux, but its Unix environment is only licensed if you're a Solaris support customer via Oracle. None of this barracuda competition can be good news for HP, which has been scratching for new HP-UX installs for a long time. The sale of 400 Superdome 2 servers made a nice spike in the report for the BCS group in Q4 2010, but that might be a limited-scope success. Superdomes are a long way from the typical server capacity for the classic HP 3000 shop migrating to Unix.
Hurd's new work is a genuine surprise, not the winemaking or politics that the last two CEOs drifted into as they left the industry. It's among the reasons you want to keep an eye on your HP market, even if you're just making your Transition toward options that don't include HP.Life in the world of the 3000's 2010 includes events that should keep you reading for many years to come. Some occur as “I never would've expected that,” and others drift into “who knows how long it will be before I see that?” Surprise enriches any story, whether it's a tale of travels, the innocent drama of sports, or an IT career around a computer no longer made or sold, and soon, not supported by some. Yesterday we noted a late-starting Fortune 100 migration, Texas baseball in November, and free HP-UX servers - that's unexpected. Here's a few more.
Ex-HP CEO selling against HP weeks after ouster: This one took even HP's lawyers by surprise, and they're an anxious bunch of anticipators. Mark Hurd got himself fired by HP on Aug. 6, then hired up by HP competitor Oracle - Sun's new owner - on Sept. 7. Right, just one day after the deadline for HP to withdraw a $12 million golden parachute from Hurd. Sun's now got a new sales leader to barracuda-bite HP's sagging Unix business. Hurd becomes the first ex-CEO to retire to something other than winemaking, writing or politics. HP got back $16 million in stock options, but will lose a lot more in Unix sales to this fellow embracing Larry Ellison's barracuda behavior, after B-actress-bounding during the year before.
Elephant seal rookery and drugstore ducks in Cambria: If that sounds like an epic poem title, the afternoon of our last full day of a 20th Anniversary vacation looked like an epic nature safari. This little village halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles boasts a drugstore with the world's biggest collection of themed floating toy ducks - something that a couple floating in their 50s and 60s, with two new grandkids, could scarcely resist buying out. Add in the only active rookery of elephant seals, endangered, majestic and playful, right up the road on a protected beach, and our choice of B&B became a revelation of a destination. We had no idea of either bonus treasure.
Fresh CEO dodges subpoena in first week at HP: After a search which took the board more than six weeks to skip over in-house replacements for Hurd, Hewlett-Packard refused to accept a court subpoena for its new CEO. Leo Apotheker was a surprise to nearly everyone in the world to take over the planet's largest computer company. But so little diligence was done that HP couldn't see an Oracle lawsuit scheduled over damages from Apothker's last CEO stop, SAP. “Where in the world is Leo Apotheker?” the wags joked in his first week, with sightings around HP offices well outside the venue of Oracle's suit.
(We'd pause here to add that HP boardroom scruples don't really surprise us any longer, but that would be undercutting the surprise - which is really that HP can't seem to hire for its top spot from inside anymore. Never knew we'd miss Lew Platt, rest in peace.)
NewsWire enters 16th year: This month marks HP's sayonara to sales and support of the server. It's been nine years since that day that HP announced its exit, 50 percent longer than our publishing period pre-exit. We never expected this to be a 15-year ride back in 1995, but much longer odds were given for those extra nine years after 2001. Our readers have been cautious, patient and still proceed at a pace we predicted when the last decade was new. As we pass into 2011, we expect more unexpected stories. It's a good reason, as with any saga, to keep turning the pages.
December 02, 2010
News feed flows with unexpected events
Among the things that make life interesting are those things you never expected. After 15 years of publishing The 3000 NewsWire (thanks for your support) Abby and I took a 20th anniversary vacation to sunny California. Starting with afternoon highs in the 90s in Yosemite Valley, the trip and this fall broiled with such unexpected events.
These are the things that keep a couple reaching out together, as well as events that should keep you reading for many years to come. Some occur as “I never would've expected that,” and others drift into “who knows how long it will be before I see that?” Surprise enriches any story, whether it's a tale of travels, the innocent drama of sports, or an IT career around a computer no longer made or sold, and in less than a month, not supported by its creator.
A gourmet lunch at a gas station: This one is attached to that Yosemite vacation above. Abby and I lounged in the luxury of the Ahwhanee Hotel in Yosemite's valley, but we also took a day-trip across the highest road pass in California, descending to the shores of Mono Lake. Aside from the three-times-saltier than the ocean lake waters, the unexpected was fabulous fish tacos and buffalo meatloaf at the Tioga Mobil gas station on the lakeshore. We ate at the Whoa Nellie Deli, food as good as a four-star eatery, and it wasn't because we'd just come down off a 9,900-foot mountain summit.
A Fortune 100 migration starting in 2010: Speedware announced that one of the world's top 10 insurance firms is only now starting its move off the HP 3000. The company, which doesn't want to be named, has a profile of the customer most likely to be long-ago migrated. Such companies have lots of IT money, but as Speedware put it, the insurers believed “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” You might continue to be surprised at who's still in the un-migrated roll call next year.
Baseball in Texas in November: This one falls under the heading of sports dream come true for me. A baseball team I’ve supported since marrying Abby finally played in a World Series in this state. The Rangers were not even favored to win their division at the season’s start. After 49 seasons without even a try at the Series, they rolled over the top two playoff teams from the regular season, even though the Rangers then fell in a swift World Series that silenced Texas sluggers. No matter; they won the only Series game so far in the history of Texas Major League Baseball. “We’ll always have this season,” said my pal Tom and I, as we attended games wearing Ranger red and wide smiles, even richer for the surprise of the long-dreamt-of Series.
HP gives away servers to sell Unix: Falls under the heading of “who knows how long” until this one, but there’s a deal to give away $12,000 of hardware if you’ll just buy an HP-UX license and support to get started. The new CEO Leo Apotheker is expected to boost HP’s software business, but I didn’t think this freebie would emerge so quickly. Not that HP-UX needs the new customers, of course. But we hear that Sun’s got a new hardware sales guy who knows HP’s Unix vulnerabilities. (More on that one tomorrow.)
As we take the clubhouse turn into 2011, we expect more unexpected stories. It’s a good reason, as with any saga, to keep turning the pages on the printed issues, or clicking here to read about things you'd never expect.
December 01, 2010
HP engineers connection with Integrity R&D
Hewlett-Packard launched another communique from its R&D labs to customers with the recent introduction of the rx2800 i2 Integrity servers. We first saw this approach to using HP engineers to speak to customers this spring, when the newest generation of Superdome 2 servers took a bow at HP's European enterprise customer event. That Web-based package included a pair of videos starring R&D leaders. The rack-mounted rx2800 -- a good fit for SMB-sized customers -- got the same treatment at its rollout.
Matt Harline, HP's Integrity Servers R&D Lab Manager at the Business Critical Systems unit, introduces the rx2800 in an HP video. Even if Harline's presentation is an obvious read of a script, there's a certain kind of customer who'll be more impressed than if an HP exec VP is doing the pitching. For one thing, Harline is somebody who knows what they're saying when they report "this means any 2D RAMs on the DIMMs will fit well, and your system will continue to run without error."
HP 3000 customers making a switch to HP-UX hardware might have to dig deep into their own memory sockets to recall an R&D chief being visible to customers. Once Ross McDonald took over the 3000's R&D, he made it a mission to let managers like Dave Wilde talk to customers -- once reporting this to me with a bit of a smirk at a user conference, as if it was an accomplishment to lie low. For Harry Sterling's R&D unit of the 90s, it wasn't that way at all.
Harline's news talks up the 2U form factor of the rx2800, with technical feeds and speeds (PDF datasheet) including "more cores, more memory, more IO, more storage, more bandwidth than your other legacy servers." He might be talking about legacy HP 9000 servers inside customer sites, built upon PA-RISC rather than Itanium, or even less modern Integrity boxes. But even compared to the rx6600 systems, the new boxes look like a significant upgrade. What's more, they're one of the few new products introduced as something other than blade servers. The Superdome 2, also not a blade solution, probably offers too much cost and power for the needs of the SMB customer so common in the 3000 community.It's refreshing to see HP's BCS group reach into technical ranks to deliver these "great deal" messages. This doesn't qualify as the one-on-one communication the 3000 group pioneered among R&D in the Customer First initiative of the '90s. But the 3-5-minute videos ring with more authority, even if Harline has to say, "Go ahead and run your mission-critical applications in a 2U footprint. You’ll get scalability, performance and reliability in your mission-critical environments, your legacy rack-mount installations, and your branch offices and other remote sites."
The rx2800 also has redundant hot-swappable power supplies and redundant hot-swappable fans, to allow you to service the system without taking it down.
The rx2800 is in the field to serve customers not quite ready for blades, even through analysts believe the blade is the likely refuge for Integrity by 2013 or so. HP takes a hit on profits while selling blades for HP-UX, especially when it does things like give them away in the HP-UX promo running through April. But any rack server is going to have a higher cost than a blade device not much bigger than a couple of hardback novels laid end to end. Even bigger servers mean bigger sales and profits. HP said in contrast that it sold 400 Superdome 2s in the quarter that just ended, giving BCS its best sales period in several years.
The entry-level rx2800 has three times as many DDR3 memory slots as its rx2600 predecessor -- plus it's got the punch of a rx6600 which takes up the space of 7U. That's a three times improvement in compute density.
HP undercuts some of the technical authority of this R&D manager's message when they have him lead off with a tale of tech terror. Harline said he was "speaking with a customer, an IT manager with a datacenter that is maxed out. He spends all of his days working trouble tickets, trying to keep his systems up." That sounds dire for "a business with zero tolerance for downtime," but the downtime needs are a situation familiar to HP 3000 owners. We can only hope that the IT manager's "legacy systems" don't have an HP badge on them. But with the rollout and the video, it looks like the low end of the Integrity line -- as well as the profile of the BCS R&D staff -- is getting higher.