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April 29, 2011

On HP's Operating Systems, Future and Past

A week ago we spouted off in a podcast about the future of HP-UX, and haven't heard a word over the seven days since about any Itanium and HP-UX recant from Oracle. HP is adhering to its Itanium server roadmap, mostly because the company still sells three OS environments of its own design. Each runs only on Itanium/Integrity servers.

To be accurate, only HP-UX was built by Hewlett-Packard. NonStop and OpenVMS arrived at HP via acquisitions, so HP-UX remains the only OS on today's price list with classic HP genetics. It's also the only Hewlett-Packard OS that HP 3000 customers have used as a migration target. A look back at the fate of HP's operating systems shows a quite of charnel house of OS bones. Only IBM has put down a comparable number of good dogs in bad business circumstances, and Big Blue still supports its business OS's created in the 1980s and even earlier, the AS/400's OS/400 and the System Z for its mainframes.

Alan Tibbetts, a user group director at both Interex and OpenMPE and a 38-year veteran of HP 1000s, reminded us about several of these environments that HP gave up for dead besides MPE. "I must admit that I was amused by the articles saying that HP is pushing a 'private OS' with the webOS product that they acquired from Palm," he said. "Considering that they have killed Rocky Mountain Basic, RTE, MPE, HP-RT, and (any day now) HP-UX, I will have to see how much allegiance they really give to the concept of a proprietary OS."

The difference between things like Rocky Mountain Basic or RTE and MPE is that your OS is poised to move into its second decade running enterprises after HP has quit. But the HP OS history will remind even long-standing HP-UX users that their vendor-supported days are numbered.

Tibbetts even called up a story about HP's proposed replacement for the RTE which drove the HP 1000 servers. HP 1000s were often embedded in other systems, so they didn't have much chance to develop a profile that many independent vendors could embrace. HP followed up RTE with HP-RT, hoping to sell it differently in a marketplace very different from the 1960s when RTE was born. To begin, HP-RT was like today's HP environments outside HP-UX: it was purchased instead of built from scratch.

HP-RT was intended to be a successor to RTE. It used the HP-PA hardware and a real-time operating system that was purchased from Lynx OS and modified at HP. It was marketed differently than RTE, looking for uses as an OEM platform where the sales would be in the thousands or at least hundreds of units. They tried for the set-top box market before that technology became mature enough to be a market. They did convince the Navy to use it, but I don't know how that wound down as they finally pulled the plug on the product.

The problem across the industry is that as microprocessors became ubiquitous, the trend was to push the real-time response much closer to the hardware that was being controlled, down into the first level chips, rather than trying to have a multi-processing system respond to microsecond events. If you have responsive enough chips and sufficient buffering (FIFOs and such) available, then even a system with abysmal response to interrupts (such as Windows) can provide acceptable performance for most tasks. It's only if you have the simultaneous requirements of microsecond interrupt latencies, repeatable deterministic scheduling, and multiple actions which must be tightly synchronized, that you are forced to use hard real-time systems.

So HP was trying to lift this OS into place where independent vendors tied into hardware from OEMs (Original Equipment Makers) to complete a solution. The HP 3000 became HP's first OEM success story, followed by HP-UX about 10 years after the introduction of MPE.

Now HP is saying that it's got a hunger for its own operating environments once more. The message might sound like good news for a 3000 site that plotted its future along the HP-UX course. But the numbers for critical mass might not deliver another 6-10 years of robust development of HP's Unix.

The numbers for webOS, the environment that HP's loving out loud, are not much better in market share. The webOS passion flows from Todd Bradley, HP's leader of its Personal Systems group -- and it's echoed by the new HP CEO Leo Apothker. This is not the sort of forced validation that Carly Fiorina stamped on MPE/iX right before HP announced its exit plans. Apotheker sees webOS as a great business opportunity for HP and its customers.

"We happen to have the greatest operating system currently available in webOS. It's an absolutely outstanding operating system," Apotheker said this spring at OnDemand 2011. "Our TouchPad [tablet] will be coming out in June, and then everybody will see first-hand how good it is. We want to use the webOS to bring everything together."

"We will be putting our webOS on every PC we ship in the next year, as well as on our printers. We see it as a legitimate alternative because it runs devices across the spectrum -- PCs, tablets, smartphones, printers, everything -- and runs them well."

This idea of bringing all of HP computing together started in the 1980s when the company designed the engine for today's 3000s, PA-RISC. HP wanted to drop the redundant development of IO drivers; at the time, HP 9000s ran on Motorola chips, the HP 1000s on another CPU, and the 3000s on a CISC design. Like webOS, PA-RISC was supposed to be a unifying technology. It was built inside HP, however, during an era when HP was fabricating its own chips.

Unlike chips such as PA-RISC, software does not need a manufacturing budget after design; managing yields from wafer platters aren't part of the lifecycle of webOS or HP-UX. HP needs partners for both of these environments, a troubling truth in the light of Oracle's forthcoming pullout from HP-UX. The fastest growing OS's today come from an open source model (Linux) and one built and controlled by a single vendor, Apple's iOS. Apothker believes webOS might give HP a status Apple has long enjoyed: cool.

"If you go back in history, Apple was the cool company with the first PC, the Apple II," Apotheker says. "Client-server was the new wave of computing in the 1980s, and it changed all that we knew about computing at that time. Things are changing again in IT."

HP has long promoted change as a good thing for your industry. It even pumped up an "Adaptive Infrastructure" as way to employ multiple OS's in a single system like the Superdomes. IBM has taken up this kind of design to protect the OS400 environment, letting one box serve that OS as well as Linux, Windows and IBM's Unix, AIX. HP-UX users won't be able to get much more guarantee of the future of HP-UX than they ever got about MPE/iX. However, promoting an OS to a brand and product level may be a promising seedbed for growth in HP's Unix development.

02:00 PM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 28, 2011

File transfer backup tips flow off HP's forum

Relying on HP for 3000 support is becoming a gamble and a gambit. One of the spots to place a bet is on an open forum run by Hewlett-Packard's support team. A recent quest for FTP techniques reveals yet another place where independent experts share MPE/iX answers.

The question was how to use FTP to ensure a safe backup of 3000 data. In this case it was a KSAM XL database, but the manager didn't know that his FAK files were HP's special Keyed Sequential Access Method database files. "What appears to be program files are moved over," he said, "but database files get left behind. How do I get these files over to our Windows server?" This 3000 is running MPE/iX 6.0, so there's more than just management experience missing from this server, since 6.0 is more than 10 years old.

One rule of 3000 operations is that database files act differently than all others in transfers. So FTPing them to a Windows 2003 server won't be a successful way to ensure a safe data recovery. (There are tools like Orbit Software's Backup Plus to do this, updated and supported in a way that STORE or HP's TurboStore subsystems will never be supported again.) But if a machine is stuck on 6.0, it's probably going to have only the budget to tap included HP software for file backups and transfers.

Donna Hofmeister, whose resume helping 3000 users occupies a vast chunk of the 3000-L newsgroup archives, suggests starting with mystd to store the files to disk -- then transfer the STD file. The advice arrived from a source that won't see a forced shutdown, or a portal migration, like HP's. The answers came from your community.

"First try this little experiment," Hofmeister began in her answer.

    file mystd;dev=disc
    store a@.pub.sys;*mystd;show

if it works, you just stored/archived all the files that begin with 'a' in the .pub group of the .sys account into a file called 'mystd' (my store-to-disc).  You can expand the number of files being stored into your STD file by modifying your store command to:
    @.pub.sys -- all files in .pub.sys
    @.@.sys   -- all files in .sys
    @.@.acct  -- all files in .acct (for example)
    @.@.@     -- all files on the system (and it's actually better to say '/' instead of '@.@.@')

Keep in mind that as you increase the scope of what your storing, so does the size of your STD file. In other words, to store the whole system you need 50 percent or more free space , which you probably don't have. So, break what you're storing into chunks (do one account at a time) and things should go smoothly.

If STD doesn't work, you might be able to get tar to work. The same space precautions apply.  One advantage of using tar is you should be able to verify the tar file on the destination system -- something you can't do with STORE without a 3000 in the mix.

Chris Bartram, who still operates an information treasure-house in 3k.com, added explicit advice about FTP and the 3000's files.

If you package all the MPE files up in either a store-to-disk (aka std) or a tar "wrapper" (disc file) you can transport that file around at will -- as a BINARY file -- don't try to transfer it as ASCII or CR/LF translations will trash it.

Once you get it back on the 3000, a simple file equation directing your source (tape) to the new (std) file name (and add the ;DEV=DISC to the file equation) will allow you to restore the files onto the 3000 preserving all the MPE specific file attributes they started with. Tar will work similarly for almost all MPE files, but can't handle database/PRIV files and probably not MSG (message) files and a few other very MPE-specific files.

tar works the same way on MPE as on *nix boxes. But is much more "familiar" if you run it from the Posix shell (sh.hpbin.sys), though that's not necessary. Treat the tar file just like you would on a *nix box.

For store-to-disc files, you use the same MPE syntax for storing files as you do normally; the only difference is that the output device is file-equated to ;dev=disc. As mentioned, be aware of the disc space required to store another copy of your backed-up files online.

Likewise, when you restore instead of pointing to tape, you point to the disc file -- and don't forget to add ;dev=disc to that file equation as well. If the store-to-disc files are going to be very large (several gigabytes) you can use some additional syntax to break them into chunks - but hopefully you needn't worry about that for now.

Treat a store-to-disc file just like a tar file. Record size and most other attributes aren't so critical, but if you move it around do NOT let FTP transfer it in ASCII mode or it will corrupt the file.

As for examples; I back my primary HP 3000 up to a disc file then transfer (FTP) it to a Linux server. Here's the gist of my JCL:

!FILE t=FULLB.PUB.BACKUP;DEV=disc
!CONTINUE
!STORE / - /BACKUP/ ;*T &
! ;SHOW=SHORT,dates,path;progress=5;directory;tree;&
! onvs=MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET,WORK;STATISTICS;COMPRESS=HIGH

!ftp.arpa.sys
open ftpserver
user userid password
del hp3000-full
binary
put FULLB.PUB.BACKUP hp3000-full
quit

Bartram hoped his answer helped the manager handling a 6.0-vintage HP 3000. HP's now got few unique resources to solve these problems. Most of these answers can be found on the 3000-L list, where both Bartram and Hofmeister have been regular contributors. HP's said this week that its IT Resource Center forums will remain open to everyone, even after the migration to the new HP support portal is enforced on June 1. If the vendor changes its mind, it's comforting to know there's a community resource to surpass HP's answers.

02:05 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 27, 2011

Tool Time for Information Veterans

RedRoyal Some tools don't lose their edge, if sharp users sustain them. An old colleague noted the certain demise of the manual typewriter, a tool I used to break into journalism when the HP 3000 was entering its first heyday. The death watch for veteran tools often gets taken up by those who don't need them. They might not see how something can be both revered and useful, even at an advanced age.

DSC_0250Another kind of manual, at the left, arrived in our offices over the past weekend. The Series II/III HP 3000 System Reference Manual came off the bookshelf of Francois Desrochers, one of the NewsWire's charter subscribers. "I'm sure you'll take good care of it," he said in a handwritten note. The cursive script he used may not be taught any longer in a school near you. But that cursive is another information tool still revered and used by those who grew up with it.

HP's 3000 software products may not be a current choice to start any project in IT, unless it's a re-creation of the working data processing shop of the 1980s at the Computer History Museum. But if you need it and don't own it, the software is still available. Like a manual typewriter, these programs considered antiques still do unique tasks. For example, a few can talk to the 3000's registers for clues about solving errors. DEBUG is probably not the average 3000 owner's strong suit. It can be a comfort to know that like the manual above, somebody cares about and continues to care for it.

You may know where this is all headed, but you may not know why. The old tools are still useful, just like those who wield them. Which is more impressive -- knowing how to program in Objective C, or being fluent in the nuance of Transact/XL? It's easy to guess that Objective C will earn a day's pay in the market of 2011. But on the rare occasion, Transact knowledge is the only kind that will let a business system move forward.

The typewriter's function is still easily matched, in most cases, by $49 printers bearing $19 ink cartridges. On the other hand, filling out a paper form with anything besides handwriting is still easiest when a roller and platen and ribbon are involved. You may not want anything to do with paper forms, a wise strategy when you can control it. But like dealing with the Social Security Administration, you might be forced back into older technology. (A recent request to our offices for a form yielded this exchange -- SSA: You'll need to send us the form right away. Me: Can I scan it and email you a PDF? SSA: No, we don't do email for our forms. You can fax it to us.)

What can you do but comply, in cases like that? Since we're into legacy tech here, the fax machine is still a step away from the iMac. Likewise, Transact is just an order away, because it might be the vehicle for business logic. Ah, got your attention there. Everybody needs business logic.

My colleague noted that he wouldn't shed a tear for the manual typewriter maker who's shutting down business this year. Only 500 units or so remain on hand at Godrej & Boyce, which The Register identifies as "the world's final old-school typewriter manufacturer. Godrej and Boyce's prime customers work in the defence agencies, courts and government offices, perhaps to prevent their employees wasting time on Facebook by forcing them to use a machine with one simple function -- to typewrite." Just two years ago, the company was building 10,000 a year.

Why anybody would bother to build a manual typewriter in 2011 might look like a mystery, especially to the IT pros who snort when they hear that DEBUG and COBOL II are still for sale. (The latter can be had for as little as $1,750, if OpenMPE survives the spring. If not, Client Systems will sell it, although not quite at that discounted price; HP's prices started at $3,500 as recently as last September.)

DSC_0251 The manual typewriter's actual demise is a little sketchy, despite the authority of The Register's report. It took only a bit of one day for the world to learn that 43 states in the US still have regular orders for typewriters, because their Departments of Corrections want something that inmates can use, but can't hide contraband in. Swintek continues to make typewriters, while the Indian Godrej & Boyce is quitting. Manuals from Royal are still being sold for $99 at typewriters.com. Like the System III manual above, the manual typewriter seems a silly tool until you need it, like a fax machine. Maybe the stack layout at left is of some use in maintaining a legacy system. Maybe not. It is good to know it's an option, and like software, this information doesn't need inventory tracking.

Also, there's many an entry for "electronic" IBM Selectric typewriters, ribbons, and font balls on Amazon. Somebody's out there using them -- which reminds me of the contrary view about the HP 3000 being dead. Highlander82 The system may be dead to some, but there are others who use it daily, as they have for many years. Perhaps they were as young as the reporter to the left when they took up these tools. By the time that photo was taken I was only 16 years older than the HP 3000. (And DEBUG was already a tool with 7 years of field experience.)

I earned my pay, just before joining the 3000 community in 1984, plugging stories off onto a Selectric. On deadline at The Williamson County Sun our newsroom right behind the plate glass windows, in an office on the town square, buzzed with the racket of those noble beasts.

One of my first editors, Jim Lindsey, hammered out his stories on a manual Royal portable he'd first used to cover the Nuremburg trials. He used teletype paper that he'd roll up from the box, then set his margins to match the line length of our columns. Chewed a cigar while he wrote, too. Like we were both taught in the newsroom, he ended his typed copy with "-30-" Think of it as an ENQ/ACK and you'll get the idea.

So for me, once the typewriter's end is finally here, there will be a tear. Up to now, there's no -30- for either HP's 3000 software, or the manual typewriters. If you need these tools, they're still as sharp as they ever were, especially in the hands of veterans.

04:36 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 26, 2011

HP to migrate portal for its system support

Migrations have been a constant concern for HP's enterprise system customers since 2001. Now the vendor is putting all of its computing customers into a transition with the upcoming shutdown of the IT Resource Center.

ITRC Icons This web-based portal is the primary access point to HP's support services, delivering forums, support case submittal, software and driver downloads, patch management, product pages, guided troubleshooting, top issues, warranty and contract details, and software updates. Hewlett-Packard notified its customers last night that all of these features will be in the new HP Support Center -- and the ITRC which it replaces is closing on June 1.

The transitions involve access IDs and interfaces; the HP Passport logins are now mandatory, according to early notes from HP about the new portal. Customers won't be able to use apostrophes in their IDs any longer, even if those characters occur in their names. HP has promised "in June 2011 a migration tool will be available at the HP Support Center to help you migrate with ease. This will help to ensure that your access to our support resources is not interrupted."

Some portions of HP's support information are available to non-paying users of systems like the HP 3000. Customers have been assured that the HP Forum postings -- a kind of bulletin board for system managers -- will continue to be free. "Some features and content are available on HP Support Center without authentication," said support rep Kevin Paul, "but other features and content may require signing in and having an active warranty, HP Care Pack, or support agreement."

HP's message to customers has keyed upon preparing for changes. The vendor sees change as an inevitable and constant part of system ownership, even though most HP 3000 managers do whatever they can to avoid change -- and therefore maintain stability. HP's notice sent to customers last night embraces changes.

Successful companies are learning how to anticipate and prepare for virtually any scenario. The HP Support Center, as a part of HP’s Next Generation Customer Support Experience, will provide access to HP experts and tools and help get you ready for anything, no matter how fast or furiously it comes.

HP's web portals have been winners of support-industry awards in the past. The service's most recent prize came in 2007. HP curtailed most of its support operations for HP 3000s at the end of 2010, even while the company pursued new 2011 contracts for supporting 3000 users.

However earnest HP's intentions are about the new Support Center, customers are already running into problems making a switch to HP Passport logins. "I discovered I have two HP Passport accounts," one customer posted on the help discussion for transitions. "I am trying to be a good steward of HP resources and get these accounts combined, but I am having difficulty identifying who in HP to contact about this. Any hints?"

HP's letter last night said the new Support Center "includes personalized support." HP's Forum has had some 3000 intelligence on it over the past several years, contributed by users from the community but far less than what's online in the 3000-L newsgroup. HP is changing the personality of its support forum, too. Participants earn rankings for answering questions, and one user was disappointed that "I think everyone will agree that 'Wizard, King, Pharoah and Olympian' sound way cooler than 'Collector, Advisor and Superuser.' "

08:43 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 25, 2011

Inventory subsystem programs, or buy 'em?

HP 3000 homesteaders have been cut off from buying HP's MPE/iX software or licenses for more than six months by now. But these programs -- tools written especially for the nuances of the 3000 -- might still be available to the community.

When OpenMPE emerges from its lawsuit challenge the group wants to resell the HP subsystem programs through an authorized deal with Client Systems. In the proposed arrangement, CS sells this software to OpenMPE, which marks it up 10 percent from half-off the price the HP was collecting. The deal would be one of the few ways the community might get a tangible way to support OpenMPE and receive something more than thanks for a contribution.

What's available among HP's subsystem products? HP kept updating things like the System Programming Tool (SPT) right up through its exit announcement of 2001. It patched the products in PowerPatches through 2006. SPT is a collection as well as analysis product, software that HP says "follows a collection-and-analysis approach to program tuning. During collection, sampling and tracing techniques are used to gather data. Analysis provides online reports used for evaluating the data."

SPT is among 16 products HP sold for development programmers on the 3000. The list includes the Architected Interface (AIF) tools required to hook into the operating system on the Privileged level. But some managers might already have some of this software on a SUBSYS tape for their 3000s, or on disk. Knowing where to look and what files contain the inventory is the first step in discovering what you might not need to purchase.

These subsystem programs may turn out to be important to companies who are building a sustaining plan for homesteading 3000s. A few of them have independent alternatives, such as Orbit's Backup+ instead of HP TurboStore. 3000 manager Mark Landin asked "How can I tell exactly which subsystem products are on my MPE/iX 7.5 SUBSYS tape?"

Jack Connor of Abtech and OpenMPE replied, "do a VSTORE and then look up the product numbers. There also may be a file called PRODLIST.PUB.SYS, but if memory serves me, that only has add ons."

3K Ranger's Keven Miller says, "The first file on the tape should be either PRODLIST.MIDBLD.SUPPORT or T#####.PROD.SOFTREP (or PRODLIST.@.@, T#####.@.@) It has a list of products in the SUBSYS."

Miller also offers his list of products available from the 6.0 version of MPE/iX subsystems:

Transact/iX
RPG/iX
TurboStore II
COBOLII/iX
FORTRAN 77/iX
HP Pascal
HP C/iX
Symbolic DEBUG XL
System Dictionary/XL
Business BASIC
AIF/OS
NS3000/XL Network Services
SPT/C
SPT/A
HP GlancePlus/iX

The names of these products indicate their age; those with an XL behind them go back into the 1990s. GlancePlus is a performance program well outstripped by Lund Performance Solutions products. To be sure, a 3000 homesteader would be unlikely to buy much of this software to begin a project. But maintaining a system -- a key part of a sustaining plan -- might require one of these programs.

And if you can't find these on a SUBSYS tape you own, and need them, that's when the Client Systems/OpenMPE outlet could be useful. If OpenMPE doesn't survive, of course, Client Systems can sell these on its own; the former 3000 distributor for North America bought a resale license for all of the HP software, except IMAGE and MPE itself.

HP's 3000 friends who still work at the vendor offer this advice on how to track down the subsystem software that might reside on a server. Cathlene McRae says:

Mount the MPE PROD/SUBSYS tape on a tape drive

Log on to the HP 3000 system as MANAGER.SYS

:FILE SUBSYS;DEV=TAPE
:RESTORE *SUBSYS;PRODLIST.MITBLD.SUPPORT,T#####.PROD.SOFTREP;CREATE;SHOW

One file will be restored and one will not be restored. Print the file that restored to your screen.

:PRINT PRODLIST.MITBLD.SUPPORT

or

:PRINT T45637.PROD.SOFTREP

Any MPE/iX 7.5 subsys tape should be able to be read by a 6.5 system. Not sure, however, that you can restore anything from it, since there may be conflicts.

02:38 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 22, 2011

HP-UX Gets Hot Blasts from 3000's Past

Does the future for HP's Unix sound like the 3000's past? No, it couldn't be the same. More than 140,000 customers use HP-UX and Oracle. The trouble is the second part of that recipe, now falling like a cake dropped out of an oven.

In our Weekend Podcast (11 minutes, 11 MB) we hear the sounds of the competition between Oracle and HP, which is getting hot as the summer hovers. So are the complaints from HP's Unix customers who need Oracle. Some of these luckless sites got shooed off MPE and the 3000, only to find that their new ecosystem on HP's Unix will be barren of Oracle before long. At least HP's got one stalwart database vendor to count on in the HP-UX environment --  a partner making a product that behaves like the 3000's IMAGE.

08:08 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 21, 2011

Oracle's support cut: nailing more HP OS's?

HP-UX customers who arrived at Oracle from HP 3000 migrations wonder if ceasing Itanium support will cost them their new OS. It wouldn't be the first HP operating system that Oracle has helped submerge, according to Terry Floyd of the Support Group.

The company Floyd founded is dedicated to a long HP 3000 lifespan. His son David predicts that MANMAN on the servers could last another 10 years, but the elder Floyd sees an Oracle cutoff as one of the forks down the harder road for MPE/iX.

"I think Oracle dropping MPE was one of the major nails in the coffin," Floyd said after a board of directors meeting of CAMUS, the user group dedicated to MANMAN on both MPE/iX and OpenVMS. That ERP software never made it to HP's Unix, although a rumor in the middle of last decade said its creators were considering such a port. Despite the nail, it was HP's exit announcement that stopped the vendor's 3000 future. But Oracle leaving MPE/iX probably contributed to a perception of a shrinking ecosystem for the OS. No one has made this shrinking claim yet for HP-UX.

Another 3000 icon has weighed in on the impact Oracle might have on HP-UX futures. Birket Foster of MB Foster said in a recent migration webinar he believes a sensible compromise might emerge as HP's customers push back on Oracle's plans.

Oracle wants customers even as small as the typical HP 3000 shop, Foster said. "Both Oracle and SAP are Tier 1 applications, and both of them are trying to come down into the small and medium businesses as well," he said. Oracle's manufacturing and ERP apps run via its database, so those programs will suffer under the same cutoff as Oracle 12g will under Itanium.

The Oracle announcement "is largely a red herring," Foster said. "A large part of it is posturing. If Oracle had its way it would be competing only with IBM and the DB2 database with their Sun and Oracle databases -- because HP doesn't have a database at this point. They're just trying to shut out HP from the high-end marketplace."

Foster notes that Oracle has sold more on the Itanium platforms, and reminds us all that "Itanium has a 10-year roadmap. Eight to 10 manufacturers make servers based on Itanium. Oracle will probably end up in the FTC courts over restraint of trade."

Connect's president Chris Koppe says the user group is reaching out to Oracle on several levels, but the group doesn't have a dedicated liaison with Oracle. Connect is focused on HP's enterprise environments, not a third party database which operates with HP-UX, OpenVMS and NonStop.

Koppe and Connect hold out hope that the anti-customer, anti-competitive move by Oracle has more chance of being reversed than the 3000 decision that HP made in 2001. Doing the right thing for customers who could see HP-UX futures damaged seems to be an important motivation -- no matter how that motive worked for the 3000 community. Oracle could shift its policy.

"We'd like to think so, but Oracle might just be playing hardball, saying the dust will settle eventually," Koppe said. "I'm not sure what to expect from them, but I'm hoping that they'll do the right thing by the customers. I would like to think that most companies that size would do the right thing by the customer."

Oracle's support tiers and policies include, at rock bottom, a Sustaining option that eliminates things like

  • New updates, fixes, security alerts, data fixes, and critical patch updates
  • New tax, legal, and regulatory updates
  • New upgrade scripts
  • Certification with new third-party products/versions
  • Certification with new Oracle products

Oracle makes these all unavailable at the highest support price point. Extended Support is scheduled to end in 2015 for version 11 of the database. Oracle has promised more information about specific environments, first outlined in a Lifetime Support Technology white paper.

04:08 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 20, 2011

Connect battles Oracle Integrity cut-off plan

AtWhatPrice Connect user group president Chris Koppe, a member of the 3000 community for more than 20 years, is leading a revolt of HP's Integrity server users against Oracle. The world's largest database vendor and the world's largest HP user group are in a fight over the future of customers' Integrity servers. Koppe reminds us that Oracle hit the customers first, and the user group wants HP's customers to hit back.

The dust-up between the largest vendor of enterprise servers and its biggest database partner began last month, when Oracle announced it was dropping support for the Itanium chipset -- and therefore, support for HP-UX, since that environment only runs on Itanium-based Integrity servers. The Oracle move is a competitive punch against customers who operate systems Oracle would like to replace with the Sun environment, Koppe said. Sites using HP's Unix -- as well as the NonStop and OpenVMS customers who also rely on Itanium -- need to push back to avoid needless expense.

"I don't think anyone at Oracle has thought this through from the customer's perspective," Koppe said. The Speedware marketing director has been part of Connect's campaign to rally HP customers against Oracle. Koppe's even posted a two-minute video address on YouTube to spark the customers' counter-punch. "The customer feedback we've heard has all been negative," he said. "I've heard a number of customers say they're going to do everything in their power to abandon Oracle."

Leaving an enterprise vendor is a stiff challenge, whether that company supplies a mission-critical database, or the server and OS that the database uses as a host. Oracle is in place at 140,000 customers running HP-UX, the environment HP has preferred that migrating 3000 sites target for their transition. (Windows is also a popular choice, and nothing Oracle has said will impact the ability to use Oracle on the ProLiant HP server line running Windows.)

The entrenched position of Oracle-plus-HP's Unix is what demands a customer revolt, Koppe explained. "People have to confront the reality of this and what it means to them. If this doesn't change, how do they plan around it? What does it mean to the future of my infrastructure?" Unless Oracle backs away, thousands of customers could be facing the shutdown of Integrity database servers. They can either weather the transfer of servers to Windows, or consider the future of Oracle in their enterprises.

"It's an active blow to HP," Koppe said, "and it's a thoughtless move when it comes to the customers and their hardware stacks and infrastructure costs. Look at the people who made investments in Itanium over the last 3-5 years. People bought Oracle technologies for those servers -- and even migrated from legacy platforms and upgraded to Itanium. Now they're saying, 'This hurts my investment.' "

That Oracle migration has included a significant number of HP 3000 sites who made a transition, as well as those who are still targeting an Oracle/HP-UX solution for a project in play. Koppe said that "Oracle wants to create trouble for HP-UX. They want to dig into that market."

Koppe does note that the larger customers using Oracle and HP-UX have already separated application servers from database servers. The impact of dropping HP-UX from Oracle support would sting less at those sites, since they're using Windows or Linux to drive their databases.

But Connect wants its members to sound their voices loud from a link on the user group's Connect-Community.org website. The group also wants to push the message to their senior management, a task that might require an organized strategy to present to C-level officers. For a look at the YouTube video where Koppe makes a reasoned pitch for a better deal for HP's Oracle users, check out the private link message online.

09:34 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 19, 2011

What might make dollars for OpenMPE

While some people in the 3000 community await word of today's hearing on the lawsuit against OpenMPE, others consider a path going foward for the volunteers. They want to sell HP's 3000 software that's not available from the vendor any longer, reselling compilers, storage utilities and the like by way of Client Systems -- which bought licenses from HP to sell these products legally.

Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies suggests that resource might become an earner for the volunteers.

I do hope that OpenMPE does get to a point where they can be a reseller of HP's subsystem software. I'd love to pick up Mirror/iX and Glance/iX for several of my systems, and possibly a number of other bits and pieces. I suspect I'm not alone in this.

I'd also suggest that OpenMPE consider 'corporate' memberships, as well as personal ones, but at a cost -- and with that membership receive some sort of benefits.  Not sure what those could be - but something along the lines of visibility to other members (advertising?), or some such.

Edminster echoes what everyone who still cares about OpenMPE has said. "The organization needs to build a funding model -- something that will be stable. Corporate membership subscriptions is an easy way to do that. The trick will be making the benefit of membership of comparable value to the cost of membership."

Notices to the account holders for Invent3K went out last week, the first efforts to collect $99 per member. "I'll be buying my annual access to Invent3K," Edminster says, "and will be sending them another $1,000 as soon as I can. 

"Perhaps OpenMPE could consider fee-based corporate access to Invent3K, for us pros who either need bigger and/or fully decked out (software-wise) systems to do development on."

 

10:29 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 18, 2011

Unix security hits just keep on coming

Hewlett Packard announced repairs to a pair of security holes in Unix this month. While nobody would call HP-UX holey as Swiss cheese, the alternative operating environment HP offers 3000 migrators needs something MPE/iX doesn't: Hewlett-Packard support. Both now, and well into the future.

The 3000's OS was left unimproved many times by HP over the last 10 years, even though more than half of that time it could remain under HP's support. MPE/iX didn't have this feature or that -- virtualization comes to mind first -- but it was always secure. If a customer chose to go independent of HP, you could count on less than two hands over a decade the times a security risk needed vendor intervention.

Once a month or more is the tally for HP-UX, an OS just as vendor-centric as MPE/iX. This time the hits to security came through both software common across vendors (BIND) and HP-specific (the Java in HP Network Node Manager i, or its NFS/ONCplus denial of service attack). There are patches online to use with HP's special patching software that's built-in to the OS. Every operating environment has these regular breaches. Well, except MPE/iX, which was stable enough HP never had to build a Patch-O-Matic designed to keep the system secure. That security device was called an operating system, back when HP sold the 3000.

The situation with things like SSRT100415 and SSRT100353 is important to this era while HP sells HP-UX to migrators, or doesn't, when a shop homesteads instead and sustains a 3000 operation. The homesteaders can pursue many years beyond HP's support life. Using Unix, or even Windows, is a dim prospect in any year after that OS vendor decides to leave the building. It's like the alkaline batteries we've all bought. They last a little longer, but when they quit, they're simply dead.

Security on Red Hat Enterprise Linux demands that a company not only find a source for security updates like the vendor, but that users keep upgrading RHEL. At the Red Hat site you'll find the future for the OS and its security. After four years, Red Hat stops issuing Service Packs for any specific release. That would be a signal that it's time to shore up any relationship with the vendor, and update.

Over in the 3000 world. it was common to see a site running an MPE/iX release more than five years out of date. By now, in the third year of darkness for any 3000 lab, thousands of sites are running an OS securely that is at least six years into its indie period.

Whatever the advantages that can be claimed about HP-UX, Linux -- or even Windows -- over the 3000, independence isn't one of them. Choosing to use these things in place of an HP 3000 means relying on a vendor to create things like HPSBUX02642 or HPSBUX02655. The first six characters in that notice stand for HP Security Bulletin for UX. Linux, being free of a single vendor, has its redundancy protected somewhat since it's open sourced. An OS like Windows or HP-UX, controlled by a single vendor, has an independent life cycle like that will look like the end-game for that alkaline battery in your smoke alarm.

04:36 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 15, 2011

Moving ERP data uncovers coding lessons

When the 3000 community started looking at means to move data from MANMAN systems to other servers, one advisor used a history lesson to remind managers about development fundamentals. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies was replying to consultant Chuck Trites' message about data mover services. (Trites started with a note about how he'll move MANMAN databases can to SQL Server.)

This sort of data migration is an everyday task for some 3000 sites, especially those who operate more than one environment for ERP processing. Software is on hand from MB Foster, Speedware, Transoft and others to make these transfers. Edminster said that the software which drives MANMAN, Fortran, was a choice that ASK Systems made when COBOL was too green to use on a 3000.

"When ASK wanted to start development on MANMAN, the COBOL compiler wasn't ready yet -- but the FORTRAN 66 compiler was," Edminster says. "It was a 'time to market' thing -- where the belief was that they couldn't afford the potentially many months of wait-time until a stable enough COBOL compiler was ready. So MANMAN development began in FORTRAN 66, and then many years later, was upgraded to use of FORTRAN 77."

Edminster said the MANMAN design choices became notable to him when he was called in to "splice on a small legacy HR subsystem written in COBOL to a recently installed MANMAN implementation -- to share MANMAN's report routing and database access methods." This kind of data integration evokes lessons from Adager's Alfredo Rego and even deeper fundamentals about 3000-caliber management and development.

Edminster said the earliest MANMAN's Fortran "did make extensive use of 'named common' in order to have structured sharable data, much like a COBOL does."
One little known fact about HP's implementation of FORTRAN77 named common and COBOL option external directive for '01' levels: They used the same mechanism for storage of data! That is, you could build a record structure in COBOL that 'matched' the named common's structure, and with the same name. This would make the data in the FORTRAN program's named common accessible in a COBOL subroutine, without passing it as a parameter. This is kinda like how named common works between FORTRAN routines.

Not a task for the faint of heart though, as it required being fluent in both languages -- plus their internal representations for various datatypes. Yes, converting 'reals' back and forth to fixed-point was a pain, but it worked. I know, I've done it: I once had to 'splice on' a small legacy HR subsystem written in COBOL to a recently installed MANMAN implementation, in order to share MANMAN's report routing and database access methods. In essence, I made the COBOL code into called subroutines of a new MANMAN function. Worked like a champ for many years.

I don't remember exactly where I learned about this -- but it was at least partially from taking Alfredo's guidance to heart (and I paraphrase here): "Read the documentation like a love letter, including reading between the lines, noting what it says, and what it does not say."

Better technical advice I've never been given -- except perhaps this:  Debug the code, not the comments.

 

11:03 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 14, 2011

3000 can listen for less to link with printers

We want to use a Ricoh Afficio printer with npconfig on the HP 3000. However, we do have an HP LaserJet that could be used. What I recall hearing is that the Ricoh can work -- but the HP LaserJet, not being a foreign printer, would be easier to use. True?

Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga replies:

If you are using real HP network printing without any third-party bells and whistles, the HP software is expecting to output something to a device along the lines of a JetDirect card or a networked Laserjet III/IV, and not much else. The 3000's MPE/iX generates fairly straightforward PCL output directed at TCP port 9100, has a rudimentary knowledge of SNMP status reports from a LaserJet/JetDirect. Later versions attempted some PJL handshaking in order to synchronize headers, print, trailers, and some error recovery.

So everything worked exactly as expected/planned, but for a very narrow window of time and hardware.

With that said, if you disable PJL (pjl_supported = FALSE), it eliminates many problems with earlier LaserJets and third party PCL-compatible printers, and now you're strictly dealing with fairly straightforward PCL.

If the print device isn't really an HP, it probably won't support the SNMP status requests either, so you may want to disable SNMP as well (snmp_enabled = FALSE). The combination of one or both of these should make any printer happy that "claims" to be PCL-compatible.

There was a later "turn off PCL" option (pcl_enabled = FALSE) but I never had a run at that one to know just how generic that made the driver.

We have some Ricoh multi-function devices on campus and have done some bulk printing to one before (not sure of the exact model.) But the 3000 had no issues with it after suitably neutering the MPE print configuration.

10:59 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 13, 2011

3000 app moves to Linux via experiments

In our latest email update on NewsWire stories we invited readers to share reports of Linux migrations, past or planned. While some say that larger migrations haven't appeared much for 3000-to-Linux, Ford Motors makes extensive use of Linux, and in a prior decade HP 3000s served at Ford.

We gathered more details from James Byrne of Harte & Harte Ltd., a 3000 site using the system in Canadian shipping brokerage. PowerHouse on an HP 3000 is a long way from the flexibility of Linux, but Byrne said the company has started a Linux rollout. The costs to experiment have been worth the journey, he says.

By James B. Byrne

We are presently rewriting all of our business application, currently implemented in Powerhouse on an HP 3000, to run as a web app on Linux-based servers. It has taken us far, far longer to get to this point than we imagined. But now we are actively rolling out functionality, albeit one small piece at a time.

We choose PostgreSQL for the backend store, Ruby as the programming language, and Ruby on Rails as the web application framework. We discovered that the most telling thing against using proprietary solutions is the ease with which we can experiment with -- and discard as unsatisfactory -- different software tools.

On the HP 3000 such things were hideously expensive to acquire and mistakes in acquisitions simply had to be endured.  More often, such tools were entirely dispensed with due to their acquisition cost.

In our present project we have deployed one full blown, web based, project management system (Trac) and then replaced with another (Redmine). Now we are actively contemplating replacing Redmine. We deployed a sophisticated version control system (Subversion) and subsequently replaced that with another (Git). We are experimenting with deploying the web app on virtual servers using KVM but even here we started out with Xen. Our present design is developed with Apache in mind, but our full deployment may switch httpd servers to NginX.

The significant thing is that most of these technologies have been put in actual production and used for periods ranging from many months to several years. This means our decisions are informed with significant experience obtained in "real-world" conditions, and not from some time-limited trial period using minimal resources.

If these types of trials were attempted using classic HP (or IBM) style "solutions" then our experimentation would be simply unaffordable and never undertaken. Even if we acquired any tools at all under such a regime, a doubtful proposition, then ditching and replacing some of them with better solutions after just one or two years of use would be unthinkable.

01:13 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 12, 2011

Always online system sustained 3000 site

Stories of uptime are the limbs of legend in the 3000 forest. Companies stick with these servers, years after HP has shut down its 3000 business, because a 3000 can run for years without rebooting. (In contrast a few generations of OS ago, Unix designers at HP were happy that those systems "reboot real fast.") Reboots are not quite as critical in these days of virtual CPUs and provisioning. As application plans trigger a move to other platforms, some long-serving 3000s are being decomissioned. But a recent report from the field shows 3000 uptime is still measured in more than months.

Craig Lalley serves companies who are keeping 3000s in production. He reported that one system, a beefy N-Class 750, has been online since before HP closed its 3000 labs.

I noticed that I was still logged on the console (my session name). So I thought I would look, because I certainly do not recall when I would have done that.  Now I know what I was doing on Sept 26th at 12:29 am -- in 2008. Nothing special to see here, though.

Lalley posted this uptime single-session record for the community to enjoy on the 3000 newsgroup. He added that "I logged into the console when the system was booted. There was no reason to use the console in the over the whole two-and-a-half years."

This HP 3000 was the height of HP's art in creating MPE/iX systems. The production machine is an eight-processor, 750Mhz N-Class. Lalley said it has been running with an average of "more than 750 users and 30 jobs running 24/7/365."

Another 3000 consultant, Olav Kappert, noted that the uptime duration might not set a record for an entire system. "Maybe not the record for the longest uptime, but maybe the longest session," he said.

 

12:40 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 11, 2011

Invent3K's users see end of free rides

There's not very much that's tangible about OpenMPE. No offices, no paid staff, no business model published to go along with its latest contribution drive. But a couple of HP 3000s running the mature Invent3K software suite -- well, that hardware and the accounts on it accessing HP's 3000 software, is as real as anything at the end of any IP address. What is Google really, but servers at an Internet address?

OpenMPE intended to give 3000 developers a place to create and test software for MPE/iX by hosting Invent3K. The servers at invent3k.openmpe.com will continue to do this. But as of April 30, the free trial accounts will be closed up. Access to the servers will be on a $99 yearly plan. The group is ready to take payments via PayPal, or "cheque or money order," according to treasurer Tracy Johnson.

Now that INVENT3K is up and running in production mode, OpenMPE's website now has a PayPal button so subscribers may send in their $99 yearly fee. For those that prefer to mail funds with cheque or money order, please send your $99 payment to: OpenMPE, Inc. P.O. Box 3524, Hampton, VA 25663-0524.

Johnson reminds users who have Invent3K accounts that it's been an extended free trial up until now. The group hoped to start charging (and earning its first revenues) on Dec. 31, but its domain got hijacked from a GoDaddy account adminstered by former treasurer Matt Perdue. The group was being sued by Perdue at the same time, so the volunteers decided a hiatus on collecting money was a good response.

Invent3K is an HP 3000 sponsored by OpenMPE (with hardware donated by Client Systems and hosted by the Support Group) including all the compilers HP made for the system, as well as "all the donated tools OpenMPE could collect," Johnson said.

11:20 AM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 08, 2011

Customers holding onto their system IDs

The precious HPSUSAN numbers, the IDs for all the remaining HP 3000s licensed in the world, are traveling into the future well. So reports Rene Woc, CEO of Adager and a 3000 icon who speaks with customers every day. The stability of HPSUSAN ownership is one measure of the community's ability to support itself sans HP.

Transferring HPSUSAN numbers, a unique one for each MPE/iX license, happens when a CPU board fails and must be replaced. Woc said Adager's client base is managing nicely, whatever means they're using.

"Over the last year I would say practically all customers have been able to keep the same HPSUSAN," he said. "So my impression is that the hardware providers or maintainers have [these transfers] figured out -- one way or the other."

One way to move the license numbers is to pay HP on a Time & Materials engagement, unless you're one of the few still paying for an HP support contract. The other way is to let an independent support company take care of the transfer as it supplies you the new hardware. Woc said customers are keeping their ways to themselves.

Software companies like Adager encounter HPSUSAN changes before anyone except the support providers. That's because licenses for bedrock tools like Adager read the HPSUSAN string to see if the customer system is valid.

The issue of managing HPSUSAN numbers is still on the table for the Stromasys emulator project. The company had a few models last summer on how to handle the replication of the HPSUSAN IDs for its Zelus emulator, scheduled for availability this year.

"In the past this licensing was linked to a hardware model," said Stromasys CTO Robert Boers. "Now that linkage is gone, and we need to understand what issues the software providers might have with that. We don't want to deprive them of revenue."

Boers mentioned an option of an honor system, where vendors rely on the integrity of their customers, or something that verifies a match between the HPSUSAN number from the 3000 and the software's ID. Every license of the Zelus emulator must be matched to an existing 3000 -- just like licenses for software such as Adager.

02:56 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 07, 2011

HP defends Itanium with Integrity census

HP 3000 managers who still have migration in their future might be considering which HP platform to choose for such a major project. (Or not; often it's the application that guides such a choice.) But for a lift-and-shift or a rewrite, platforms play a major role. Hewlett-Packard is now defending an Oracle slap at the HP-UX Itanium world by revealing a census stat about customers.

Oracle became the largest application partner to leave the Itanium world when it announced it will end its database developments for Itanium. In a letter to the HP-UX user, HP has replied, "We have over 140,000 customers that are running Oracle on HP-UX and Itanium based Integrity servers, and we cannot walk away from this installed base."

While it's hard to know if that's a large number these days, the 140,000 is a rare thing: HP quantifying how many customers use a platform. The HP-UX number can be larger in other ways, with non-Oracle sites or those not using Itanium hardware. (Pretty rare, that last one.) The number becomes important to a 3000 manager who'll migrate because of HP's credo: "We cannot walk away from this installed base."

Developers who got this letter are starting to see handwriting on the wall for a long HP-UX future. To a lot of them who still know the 3000, that handwriting is written in disappearing ink. As for walking away from an installed base, the 3000 community knows all too well how it looks when HP takes its leave. How soon this will happen to HP-UX is a matter of not if, but when. HP's latest support matrix, issued last month, has end-dates that run to "no earlier than" 2017 for Montvale-based systems. Many are To Be Determined. But that environment's lifespan won't be dictated by HP any more than the vendor could number the days of MPE/iX.

It's the low-hanging prospects from worlds like the 3000 community that make up the rare new customer for HP-UX. HP needs the business, especially in the face of Oracle's sniping about Itanium futures.

HP has been in the business of selling alternative environments for more than 40 years. RTE was a real-time OS when most customers were using PDP servers from Digital for that computing. The MPE environment was a radical departure from IBM batch. HP-UX was sold for a long time as a standard, instead of an alternative. Then Windows became the kind of choice that used to be reserved for Big Blue mainframes: "Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM," went the claim.

HP knows the longest OS is not going to be with HP-UX. It will survive into the 2030s, to be sure, but the vendor momentum behind it is going to disappear. HP won't call it walking away; that's a term Oracle-Sun will use. Hewlett-Packard may have learned a thing or two about presentation of migration after the 3000 experience. There might not be a need for an Open HP-UX group.

But we hear that the biggest projects are not benchmarked for Itanium like they once were. Customers want the Intel x86 family, Xeon and its progeny, if they're building enterprise-size IT. So the sniping swells over the last chip architecture that HP can call its own innovation. Most of the managers who read the claims from Oracle, or HP's counters, will not see HP walking from Itanium. It's just too easy to let Intel keep building the chipset, with all the profits coming out of a typical HP-UX customer. This is the same defense that was supposed to protect the 3000 in HP's plans. It didn't turn out to be true, because there was not enough system churn to support HP's models. HP built the systems too well, and then it muffed the timetable to release something better and faster. N-Class and A-Class units arrived too late after Y2K ended.

The 140,000 number for Oracle-plus-HP-UX is a marker of sorts, a scant fraction of the size of the Windows world. But companies like Apple have been happy to run alternative platforms on small fractions, so they get large profits. HP might become that kind of company. Or it might remain the HP of 2001, when one-quarter of that 140,000 was an HP 3000 census that didn't impress Hewlett-Packard while it chopped off products post-Compaq merger.

Migrating customers can bet against an early exit from Itanium. To use a baseball metaphor, it's the late innings for vendor support of this outlier, but HP looks like it wants extra innings. 3000 customers can swing bats to make some difference if they haven't migrated already. What makes a difference is the "6,000 applications on HP Integrity platforms today" that HP has always claimed for its special CPU. How many run on HP-UX is only one kind of hitter. You might need a lefty who hits curveballs, when all that Itanium offers is a right-handed fastball batter. At least you know now there's 140,000 people in the stands who want to see your swing.

02:02 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 06, 2011

OpenSSL advances arrive for HP's Unix

OpenSSL HP made a good faith attempt to provide 3000 sites with enough tools to keep OpenSSL working on the platform. The pieces are inside the WebWise security suite A.04.00 that's part of MPE/iX. What's more, Beechglen has the OpenSSL 0.9.7d version of this cryptography software available to customers.

Even more experience with open source (the "Open" in OpenSSL) is available from Applied Technologies, which specializes in open source tools that relate to 3000 operations. But when it comes to support from an OS vendor, HP-UX is the only way to go to get the latest 0.9.8 version of the software. HP made its implementation and the support of it available last month as part of its March 2011 version of HP-UX 11i v3.

HP's taken to naming HP-UX revisions by their release date; the previous upgrade came out in September of 2010. What difference can one trailing digit of a three-digit release number make? Consider that the 1.0.0 version of OpenSSL, just out from the OpenSSL project, prevents an attacker from causing a crash (denial of service) by triggering invalid memory accesses. 1.0.0c is six releases more current than even what HP's got written for HP-UX 11i v3 March 2011.

This cat and mouse for mission critical security moves fast. Some managers like giving the responsibility for security to HP, since they're paying the vendor for support anyway. HP's not keen on supporting open source, more secure SSL versions that it hasn't built, however. That kind of support is what you pay a third party to manage on an HP 3000. SSL is a technology carriage that needs an expert driver. But paying for HP's implementation is just one way to go -- like getting a black box that ties you to a vendor. With the rise of Linux, the open in OpenSSL is getting more traction.

Heading off to the OpenSSL Project web page reveals a community effort to break free of vendor-controlled security releases.

The OpenSSL Project is a collaborative effort to develop a robust, commercial-grade, full-featured, and Open Source toolkit implementing the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL v2/v3) and Transport Layer Security (TLS v1) protocols as well as a full-strength general purpose cryptography library. The project is managed by a worldwide community of volunteers that use the Internet to communicate, plan, and develop the OpenSSL toolkit and its related documentation.

HP released a document recently alongside HP-UX 11i v3 March 2011 (that's a mouthful) that goes into extensive detail on what a Unix customer gets for the price of staying with HP's Unix on its Itanium-based servers. Giving it a quick scan will let a systems architect or IT manager know if they've got enough experience to go outside the vendor-supplied SSL solutions and use open source. On the other hand, given that the OpenSSL Project is months ahead of HP-UX-supported SSL, perhaps open source is the more secure choice.

It's been seven years since HP first supplied source code tools in MPE/iX for OpenSSL in WebWise. The request was "the Number 5 technical vote-getter in the 2004 SIB, and all of the source code, tools, and documentation used to build the WebWise product have been included," then-HP engineer Mark Bixby reported back then. Years ago, HP 3000 managers cared about security tools; HP once sold WebWise for as much as $2,000.

Bixby, who left HP in 2008 to join K-12 app company QSS, said the 3000 pieces were last current in when he left the vendor. "When I left [HP's 3000 division], a fully functional OpenSSL was part of the Apache bundle," said Bixby. "The last Apache/WebWise patch that I built contained all of the necessary source code and build scripts, and more." Three years is an eternity in security-time, however. Third party expertise is essential to open source use -- or you can tie yourself to the OS vendor's release schedule, then guard that delta between your HP-UX version and more secure releases.

04:51 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 05, 2011

Linux a rising choice, says Speedware

HP 3000 customers are used to rolling their own IT solutions. Many adopted the computer in the days when an in-house application suite, bolstered by tools that were spawned by user requests, made the DP department mission critical.

For some prospects in the 3000 community, Linux is feeling a lot like that custom-technology choice. There haven't been a lot of confirmed migrations to this version of Unix that's overtaking the HP and IBM and Oracle environments. But Chris Koppe of Speedware says it's a trend gaining traction.

"We have customers that have gone from HP 3000 to Linux, but it has been pretty rare," Koppe reported, which he briefed us on the open source COBOL-IT solution. "Only a few ISVs have done this; no big customers. That being said, we are seeing that there is a more frequent appetite for Linux as a target OS destination. It is definitely being viewed as a mainstream operating platform."

05:11 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 04, 2011

Keeping a 3000 on the Network

With most HP 3000s more than 10 years old by now, the internal components might be subject to failures. It doesn't happen often to anything but a disk, but any electronic part can go belly up on you. We liked the advice applied when a seasoned manager found his Network Interface Card (NIC) unresponsive on his 3000.

I have a NIC that appears to be down (no blinky lights).  When I tried to restart the LAN configured to it, I got the console message in reply to my restart command below:

/SYS/PUB%>NETCONTROL START;NET=LAN3

Encountered one or more errors while processing command. (CIERR 4436)

/SYS/PUB%>** NETXPORT Control Process : BUFFER MANAGER; Buffer manager error
- Loc: 45; Class: 2; Parm= $FFE300C9; PortID: $FFFFF78E

Does this appear to be software or hardware related? In other words, if I power down the HP 3000 and bring it back up, will the card wake up or remain dead?

Donna Hofmeister of Allegro replied:

Using NMMGR, check the configured packet size for the affected link. In particular, look for a packet size of 8224, which may indicate the NMCONFIG file has been corrupted, probably by an incompatible version of NMMGR. If the packet size is configured correctly, then depending on the error, it is possible too much frozen memory is being used by the system, but this can change with time. Use GLANCEXL or a similar utility to check memory usage by the system.

Use of the LINKCONTROL command can at least show if the 3000 can see the apparently dead hardware.

Mark Ranft of Pro 3k explains:

LINKCONTROL @,all

Or more specifically...

LINKCONTROL LAN3,all

3000 manager (and Invent3K DR system admin) Tracy Johnson posed the question. Before he asked for the techniques to test, he explained his solution. "I solved the problem by swapping the IP with an unused NIC and doing a NETCONTROl START on it."

But if you're starting to solve this kind of problem with no unused NIC on hand, knowing the diagnostic process is the best first step to keeping a 3000 on the network

11:27 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 01, 2011

HP circles software wagons in Soul Group

HP Soul New HP CEO Leo Apothker's search for the company's lost soul has sparked a revival of the HP Way this week, when the company announced a return to the HP Way that created MPE, reskinned Unix, and bought VMS and NonStop. The four operating systems will enter a new group that's led by webOS, one that analysts are calling the Soul Group.

Apotheker, speaking at this week's America's Partners conference, introduced new vice president Bryan Humphrey as leader of the growth markets group built around HP's unique software environments. Even though nearly 10 years have elapsed since the company shucked off futures for the 3000's OS, Apotheker's drive toward an HP Way 2.0 will expand opportunities for the software so central to his company vision.

"HP has tremendous resources in its software intellectual property," Apotheker told a cheering audience in Las Vegas. "We've built the advantages a competitor cannot duplicate. We will eschew the mantra of Microsoft everywhere with millions of PCs and printers. Hardware comes and goes, but software lives forever."

One thunderbolt to the 3000 community came in the announcement of purchasing the SRNW emulator group, a skunkworks project that has been developing an MPE skin that runs on Intel hardware. Humphrey, whose background runs back to the HP Pinewood days of NewWave, said that PCs sit ready to take the 3000 OS into businesses. "Our CEO's search for the lost soul is over," Humphrey said from the stage of the Bellagio casino theatre. "There's nothing but opportunity left for our Deep Soul environments. We want to show the world what HP built, and then lost. We're driving these vehicles into the cloud and onto desktops.

Since marketing was always the weakest part of VMS and MPE product lines, this Soul Group has added just-retired Mich Matthews, head of Microsoft marketing. Matthews stepped down after 18 years of employment at Microsoft this week.

"It's time for something new," he said in a statement. "HP has software built to change business and enrich lives, from the cloud to the backoffice to computers you can touch. I'm delighted to help the company boot up HP Way 2.0."

Foulkes Matthews announced that a new streaming dramedy series, Soul Food, is already being produced to sell the soul concept. Tyler Perry will direct spokes-pitchmen and actors John Hudgins and Justin Long (the PC and Mac from Apple's commercials) as well as T-Mobile's darling Carly Foulkes in hour-long episodes delivered for free through HP's newest datacenter facility in Fort Collins. Foulkes, a Canadian actress who's been mistaken for a new star in the AMC series Mad Men, has been exploring her options since the ATT buyout of T-Mobile seems to have put her work in those commercials in jeopardy.

"This is one Carly who's going to deliver better notices for HP's inventions," Humphrey said. The 49,960 square foot 10-megawatt research facility in Fort Collins, which houses 10,000 servers and 10,000 sensors, is being tapped as the source for online streaming that uses Amazon's Brown Box cable, built outside of the recent bandwidth restrictions announced by ATT. Orders for the Soul Group systems will be managed by MPE, delivered via VMS, and security-proofed using years of breach-plugging experience via the new LockBox privacy suite from the HP-UX labs.

09:59 AM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)