May 26, 2011
Making a Market for a 3000 Emulator
The boot process for the Zelus HP 3000 emulator takes about four minutes in the present version (screenshot at left; click for detailed view). But the time to market for the product has extended much longer than predicted. "We'll take ourselves another year," said Stromasys CTO Dr. Robert Boers, citing the complexity and limited documentation of the 3000's system internals. HP gave Stromasys the technical access required to build Zelus, but working through the details was harder than expected.
The extra time will carry into field testing, too. The software company with operations in both Europe and the US has plans to work with 3000 customers to polish the details of Zelus. What's uncertain is whether Zelus will have a life as anything but a custom-order product, a kind of bespoke emulator.
"We have a number of large and small companies, who don't want to be named, who will work with us on building the first versions just for them," Boers said. "We haven't made a decision yet on making it commercially available as a general product. We'll make that decision by the beginning of next year."Boers described the market for 3000 emulators as a small one, which may have an impact on the cost of Zelus. But some customers who face roadblocks on performance using HP's 3000 hardware — and need to homestead to preserve in-house applications — could find even a six-figure product to be less costly than migration.
Zelus began its life as software that could boot a virtual PA-RISC server running Linux in November, 2009. The product's engineers moved on to the task of getting MPE/iX booted and running on the emulator. Boers shifted his role from CEO to CTO around that same time.
The initial schedule from Stromasys had the company arranging test partners — software vendors and customers — through the end of 2010, then testing a prototype through mid-2011, followed by a release sometime after July. Debugging this emulator for use under MPE/iX has extended that plan.
Stromasys said it has now been able to use Zelus to tap PA-RISC hardware diagnostics to get the bugs out. "The way we had to debug this was just looking at the code instruction by instruction," Boers said, "to figure out what it does. That took us a long time." Compared to the emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."
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