August 31, 2011
Bridgeware 2-week data store: no throwaway
Taurus Software is teaming up with Abtech and Quest Software on a new SystemBridger bundle. The package includes a non-3000 database server, stocked with a relational database and expertise needed to implement it within a 3000 installation. Bridgeware drives the heart of the solution, which can help create an operational data store in as little as two weeks, said Taurus president Cailean Sherman.
While the software has its uses in migrations, too — Ecometry uses it exclusively for all of their customer migrations — it also enables a staged migration. “It allows them some flexibility,” Sherman said. “Should someone want to straddle the fence and have some of their business on the 3000 and some elsewhere, we can keep these environments in sync.”
But the Bundle is aimed at the customer who has no immediate plan to leave the 3000 and wants Windows, or even Linux- and Unix-based analysis tools. The design is to let the 3000’s production maintain its current pace, even while customers are using the data for advanced business intelligence.
“It’s the biggest need we see, to get reports built in the open systems environments,” Sherman said. “It’s just so much faster to create analysis with those tools.”
Over time a BridgeWare user who’s got a Bundle can begin to start porting data to new applications on other systems. Data from the new applications can be bridged back to applications that remain working on the HP 3000. The technology can get deployed with minimal work from a homesteader’s IT staff.“Our differentiator is that this is turnkey, and the customer doesn’t have to spend a lot of time deploying it,” Sherman said. “They don’t have to buy a server, get a database and figure out how to set that system up. And it does more than replicate to a like environment. It can do the more advanced data translation to build data warehouse structures.”
Homesteaders of today who’ve held off of migration “maybe don’t have big programming staffs or IT departments," she said. "To make it easier, they’d be more likely to need to rely on a solution using experts outside their company.” The alternative is spending IT budget to bring staff members up to speed on replication and data store technologies.
Open systems administration, for a customer who needs those skills on the relational database server, is the part of the bundle handled by Abtech. Database administration training is also on the menu for the Bundle. Most of the 3000 customers reach for Windows as the deployment environment for this kind of data store system, because of the breadth of experience available to manage that software.
The SystemBridger Bundle is more than an interim solution to precede a migration. “It’s not throwaway,” Sherman said. Getting the data, in real time, onto another environment gives the investment another way to pay for itself, whenever that day comes when the 3000 apps make a transition.
Ongoing support is a potential beyond the first year of using SystemBridger, but it’s not required. Abtech’s Miles Fleming, who heads up that company’s services area, came to Abtech from Ecometry.
Taurus estimates that about 30 companies remain who are using the MPE version of Ecometry’s software, but these homesteaders won’t give them up. For this kind of prospect, Taurus offers the fully-decoded Ecometry database that’s been normalized for reporting. “They won’t have to do any work to figure out where data lives when they create their reports,” Sherman said.
August 30, 2011
HP3000 Reunion opens ticket sales online
Reaching for a different kind of user group experience, the HP3000 Reunion is opening up "ticket sales," instead of registrations, starting today. The Saturday night party on Sept. 24 is $49, with sales of the tickets available through a portal on the HP3000Reunion.com website. Credit cards and PayPal are the means to pay, unless attendees want to bring cash to the door.
(To be clear, the NewsWire is handling these PayPal transactions and passing them along to pay the bills in mounting a party and meeting. But like everyone who's involved in making this Reunion weekend happen, there's not a penny of profit in it. Quite the opposite, but that's the reward of being a volunteer and booster.)
The party's menu is online, alongside the "Add to Cart" button on the website. There's even a "Bay Area Unemployed" price to help out people who want to attend but are on a budget. That's a $25 ticket. Keep in mind that either ticket includes access to the Computer History Museum, where admissions are $15 per person.
We're staying updated on the latest to fill out a schedule of events over the weekend, but we're certain the Saturday party is 5-10 PM, with supper service and the sparking wine toasts between 5:30 and 9:30. But the CAMUS group is already assembling a good overview of the Thursday-Saturday scheduled events. An FAQ is due out soon.
The Reunion begins with a Thursday event, the Eloquence User Group conference, open to all at the Museum. Friday is set aside for the Migration Training Day plus the briefing and Q&A with the HP 3000 emulator creators Stromasys. Click on the graphic above for a full-size agenda, still in development and created by Terri Glendon Lanza of the CAMUS user group. The leaders of CAMUS are revved up about the prospect of an emulator keeping the MANMAN sites in production for years to come. They note that the Charon DEC emulator from Stromasys has been powering MANMAN Digital sites for several years by now with great success.
August 29, 2011
HP shakes up its PR, sees its stock rise
An item at the Good Morning Silicon Valley website today notes that HP’s PR leadership has been, um, adjusted. Its chief communications officer has been reassigned and the PR team shuffled, according to Bloomberg, in the wake of a massive stock sell-off that drove the company's shares into the low $20s. The new PR leader is Bill Wohl, who worked with Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker at SAP. Wohl joined HP in January.
HP is facing many challenges as it seeks to shift its focus away from consumer hardware and toward enterprise software and services. Brandon Bailey of the Mercury News pointed out over the weekend that HP’s PC business, which it wants to unload, supports other important segments of the company. In addition, the tech giant’s other divisions are dealing with growth issues.
All of this is important to the HP 3000 owner who's sticking with Hewlett-Packard in a transition. HP's stock is dangerously low-priced at the moment, considering how profitable the company remains. It all has to do with a price/earnings ratio, and on Aug. 19 HP's was just 5.2. That number needs to be higher. Low share price and high profits can indicate a ripe takeover target, as unthinkable as that might seem.
In a story passed along by HP 3000 open source expert Brian Edminster, a Wall Street Journal columnist outlines a one-year plan to kill HP -- from the inside. (Until Sept. 5, you can read it for free online.) The column includes a summary of the last 12 months of HP missteps that's accurate but somewhat wrong-headed, because the Al Lewis article insists that Mark Hurd was running HP well during 2010.
From former CEO Carly Fiorina's spectacular flame-out, and former chairwoman Patricia Dunn's illegal spying scandal, to Mr. Hurd's alleged sex scandal that apparently didn't involve any sex at all, this sort of dysfunction has become "the HP Way." It has been a year since HP fired Mr. Hurd. Jack Kevorkian couldn't have devised a better plan for euthanizing a company. But like the good doctor used to say: "Dying is not a crime."
HP's shares almost made it to $26 today. In the 10 days since the sell-off, it's managed a recovery of about half of the 20 percent it coughed up overnight on its no-TouchPad, PC division spinoff news. You have to go out into 2009 to find the shares as cheap as $26, and HP wasn't stumbling over a tablet or spinning out anything in March of that year. Perhaps a better spin on HP's changes can reassure investors and analysts.
Data store bundles to speed report set ups
Taurus Software, Quest Software and Abtech Systems are teaming up for a product which plays by a 3000 homesteader's rules: Migration is too costly in a legacy environment.
The new SystemBridger Bundle combines the BridgeWare software from Taurus and Quest Software with systems and integration services from Abtech. The goal is to get a real-time operational datastore running in lock-step with a 3000 — and the hook is to accomplish it in as little as two weeks.
Taurus President Cailean Sherman said the Bundle allows 3000 sites to take advantage of homesteading by leveraging state-of-the-art reporting tools. The combination of the software and hardware is designed to bridge an open systems environment with legacy systems.
"Over the years we've been working with a lot of companies who are either homesteading, or taking their time migrating off the 3000," Sherman said. "But they also want to take advantage of all the open systems tools to perform ad hoc analysis."
This type of analysis wasn't feasible for some homesteaders, because the access took its toll on the production performance of IMAGE and KSAM databases, she explained. A combination of recent projects, BridgeWare enhancements and discounting led to the partnership with Abtech. The result is a data store, including the relational database license and hardware fully implemented, priced between $10,000 and $75,000.The alternative, Sherman said, is that a customer migrates from the 3000 and will "lose your investment in your existing system, and you have the added cost and complications of retraining staff and re-architecting your business process." Using the SystemBridger solution deploys a replica of production data quickly, then gives the homesteader time to add more sophisticated data cleansing.
The open systems tools which then become available to users could include Crystal or Oracle's Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. The Abtech services include networking the data store server to the MPE/iX system. Quest Software, the co-developer of BridgeWare, is also promoting the Bundle to 3000 homesteaders. The solution can be tuned to another robust commercial environment, the AS/400.
The newest version of BridgeWare replicates IMAGE files in real time, as well as MPE files, the Eloquence database, and the usual suspects in the relational roster: Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, MySQL, or any ODBC database.
A good share of the latest BridgeWare work has been supporting customers who want to stay on the server. "We've been building a lot of operational data stores lately for customers who want to stay on the 3000," Sherman said. "These people want to have their production data available real time in a relational environment for reporting and analysis. The data can be ported to open systems once a migration is over, to replicate data between databases and files on open systems."
August 26, 2011
Reunite the eggs of the 3000, pre-chickens
You are a social group. When I have tried to describe what’s unique about the HP 3000 world, the eyes roll as I begin with “computer people.” I stop. I explain that you’re a very social bunch, unlike most of the wizards and experts who tend to computers. “They’ve known each other for years, some even decades,” I explain. The stories I’ve heard and told are at least as much about people as their beloved machines.
So a reunion is a classic event for your social group. Many of us have attended reunions, usually from high school because as they say, “high school is never really over.” My only reunion before this fall was a 30th anniversary of the Class of 1974 at Central Catholic High. I hadn’t seen my former schoolmates in three decades, and hoped I’d reconnect to remember. I was disappointed at the small turnout that didn’t include my cohorts, or a lack of goofy awards and name tags with yearbook pictures like in the movies.
Then I walked into the gym alongside the class president and homecoming queen. We stood together in the quiet with the lights shining off the high gloss of the wooden basketball floor. Those years, the failures and triumphs and the curious notoriety of life as a nerd rushed at me. In that room my classmates heard a favorite teacher report at graduation assembly, “He’s an alternate to West Point, and he’ll keep trying until he gets in.”
Only a small bit of that impossible challenge came true, my Army enlistment. But the experience of a setting with more than 100 people, all who shared those rows of blue lockers where the freshman got stuffed and the chat-ups with our steadys went down, that was special. I took pictures of the setting and the characters on hand. In less than an hour that reunion touched me. “I’ve come this far, learned that much, become someone better through my mistakes,” I thought on the flight back from Toledo. Talked as an equal with the class president and the queen, woo-hoo.
Your Reunion, four weeks from today, celebrates that same kind of journey. The characters in the rooms of the Computer History museum will remind and refresh you about what you have learned in 15, 20 or 30-plus years of 3000 experiences. Some of that knowledge and experience serves you today, maybe like the ability to fix poached eggs remains with my partner and wife Abby.Abby was a cheerleader at Great Mills High in Maryland. After an all-night football practice, the cheerleaders made the players poached eggs for a breakfast, a skill she retains to this day. Some of those boys had their heads shaved as a coach’s punishment, she remembers, proof of days learning how to win.
Standing among your social group filled with that kind of common experience, you might call up stories of late night reloads or datacomm disasters or a world fueled by business cards with private numbers scribbled on the back. It’s possible, in just a few hours, you’ll meet someone you’ve never seen but relied upon to improve your skills. You might even talk to that person who first showed you how to poach some egg of DP promise and magic.
The durable lessons, like those from high school, didn’t always come off the blackboards, mimeographed handouts or vendor training. They also came from the people we knew, who knew us well and still do, or the ones who’ve slipped away during too-busy days.
August 25, 2011
Current events echo strategic thinking at HP
Commentary by John Wolff
CIO, Laaco Ltd.
The HP TouchPad (now effectively designated the OuchPad) enjoyed the briefest exposure to the marketplace that I have ever witnessed at the hands of HP management. Customers, especially IT managers, expect at least a little commitment from their vendors when they risk their dollars (and quite possibly their jobs) on a product or a product line.
Update: Bloomberg analysts identify HP, enterprise business as takeover targets
As if this wasn't bad enough, in one fell swoop HP management simultaneously calls into question their entire line of PC products by publicly airing their musings about what the corporate disposition strategy might be for the Personal Systems Group (PSG). The damage to shareholder value was nothing short of stunning; i.e. 20 percent in one day (I own no HP stock and am not short on it either.) This company seems capable of changing long term strategy on a dime with almost no warning and no real plan as to what the next move should be.
One cannot help but compare this shocking move (except for the compressed time period) to the decision that ended the HP 3000 line. In this case, however, HP was even the PC market leader and profitable. The sheer size of PSG provides parts pricing benefits to their other product lines, as well as a soup to nuts product strategy -- one which HP's CEO earlier this year hailed as a cornerstone of Hewlett-Packard's success.
The Palm purchase seemed to be a retest of this business model, but one wonders why HP would even bother to try it in such a compressed time frame. Didn't they conduct any focus groups? Why did they rush the product to market before it was ready?
HP seems to be obsessed with trying to be an IBM clone, but IBM does not abandon their customers and products. They sell the product lines that no longer seem to fit their future vision, and do it with class. They even did that with their typewriter division, not to mention the ThinkPad PC division. Their PC business was sold to Lenovo as an intact entity that sought to preserve as much value as possible for the IBM shareholder. (I own no IBM stock and am not short on it, either.)
HP, on the other hand, seems to damage their unwanted businesses through clumsy announcements that undoubtably confuse enterprise customers. Could this happen to them, too? Who knows, one day HP may wake up and decide they really ought to be in the farm equipment business, because IT products and services are just too difficult.
Speaking of IBM, perhaps HP should seriously consider hiring IBM's business consulting services to manage the company until some adult supervision can be found. It is just a thought, but they could do worse.
John Wolff is CIO of storage and facility provider Laaco Ltd. He served on the OpenMPE board from 2002-2009.
Jobs resignation shows different succession
Steve Jobs, 56 years old and on his third medical leave, has resigned from his CEO job at Apple. He also left the company with a heritage and credo that can only be compared to Walt Disney’s. Jobs did Walt’s exit even better, naming Tim Cook as successor to the CEO position. Jobs is also remaining as Apple’s Chairman of the Board and a director.
Cook doesn’t have to move anything into a new office, because he’s been running Apple as CEO in fact for much of the last three years. Cook, 50, has been performing CEO duties since the start of this year. He’s been a constant presence in the Apple analyst briefings about the spectacular quarterly results the company has posted for more than six quarters by now. As Jobs’ resignation letter confirms, Apple had a succession plan in place for this day. The succession was swift, unlike the last three changes to the CEO position of Hewlett-Packard. Cook’s election to the CEO post was immediate by the Apple board, based on instructions in the brief letter Jobs used to file his resignation.
As the news of HP's past seven days confirms, change is arriving on swift waters in this industry and in our world. In essays across the Web, Jobs is seeing his confirmation as an innovator who built, dreamed and lured talent over three-plus decades to leave his company in stellar shape. His name is being uttered today with tones like two that we know: "Bill," and "Dave." Jobs' impact on Apple is indelible by now, the result of 35 years serving in a time very different from the 1939-1978 CEO leadership of Hewlett and Packard. What's Different, an element Apple liked to promote, is Jobs' mark on computing -- which is likely to extend almost as long after his departure from the CEO office. In an essay on my Bites of Apple blog, I look back at a dark point in his life that crossed part of my journalism career, and how it showed hope for those who thrive on being different.
The HP 3000 has always been just as different as Apple was in the 1980s, and they both continue to be three decades later. Choosing a 3000 to run a company wasn't safe like selecting an IBM minicomputer or mainframe. But it was better, even continues to be so for some customers even eight years after HP built the last one. It feels like a lifetime since we've been hearing about Steve Jobs. That means the 3000 has a lifetime-plus in our memories, while the HP of Bill and Dave has become a memory. We'll have commentary on that later today, from a community member who's worked with and advocated for 3000s even longer than Jobs has been on the job.
August 24, 2011
HP3000 Reunion sparks visa for emulator
Veterans of the 3000 community have become some of the hardest-working men and women in the show business. With the HP3000 Reunion starting less than a month from today, the three-day event that includes the CAMUS user group show has snagged a speaker from so far away that he needs a visa -- and will cross 11 time zones
We're not talking the Visa credit card company here, but travel documents to transport the 3000 lead developer Igor Abramov from the Moscow officlink service providers with application providers, so customers can have application deployment alternativese of Stromasys, where the Zelus HP 3000 emulator is being built. Abramov, who's fluent in English while he's been learning the deep language of MPE, will be speaking and taking questions during the Friday CAMUS meeting at the Computer History Museum at 4 PM on Sept 23.
An emulator is a vital part of keeping some HP 3000 ERP operations in production. The Support Group's president David Floyd has said that MANMAN -- which is at the heart of CAMUS member sites such as Ametek Power Instruments, Crane Electronics and century-old Fasco Motors -- can be supported through 2020. Ametek has a shutoff date of 2024 for its 3000.
An emulator like Zelus appears to have a secure place in the future of MANMAN. CAMUS director Terry Floyd says, "I think CAMUS will be happy to dedicate the entire Technical Presentation part of our meeting to Stromasys. [Abramov] can have over an hour, including the Q&A with [Stromasys CTO] Dr. Robert Boers."This Technical Presentation will follow the Migration Day sessions being organized by Speedware at the History Museum. There's probably been other visas arranged for HP 3000 user group shows, but none have taken the foreground like the one being arranged by Stromasys product manager Bill Driest.
Our Moscow office is central to our advanced product development and is one of our larger and most established development labs. Igor has led the HP 3000 development effort over the past two years and no one is more knowledgeable than Igor on this subject. He is fluent in English and has presented at other technology conferences.
There's active interest in the homesteading community about the emulator. In addition to inquiries and reports from Cerro Wire & Cable's IT Project Manager Herb Statham, non-manufacturers are tracking Zelus. Just this week, software development manager Mark Beach of CompuPay was looking for an update. In 2005 CompuPay acquired PayMaxx, a payroll service supplier based in Tennessee. PayMaxx was one of the earliest adopters of the Channels on Tap initiative HP floated in 2000. The object was to link service providers with application providers, so customers could have application deployment alternatives. That sounds like SaaS of today, but so does time-sharing or Application Service Providers.
The emulator update at the Reunion will also include a WebEx discussion with Boers. Abramov will also be speaking on Saturday, Sept. 24 in a morning slot, before that evening's party gets underway. 3000 veterans will remember years ago when HP had to rent satellite time to do this kind of thing, and then broadcast it to their sales offices. Now it's just WiFi and WebEx and a projector, with Skype available as a backup (I've done a Q&A interview with Boers at his Geneva HQ, via Skype). We've still got VHS tapes archived to prove that HP TV did serve the 3000 community veterans who'll be attending the reunion. Even in this era of trans-global communications, however, there's still a special sizzle from a visa to enable what will probably be 16 hours of flight time for Igor.
Nobody's invoking the legendary name "Volokh" yet during these emulation plans. But even as Abramov is proving his mettle from Moscow, this won't be the first time that MPE was studied and probed by someone from the former USSR. The Ukrainian-style cooking of MPEX from Vladimir and Eugene certainly has supported and enhanced the 3000 well over the last 30 years. And as it turns out, Vladimir will be on hand at the Reunion, too.
August 23, 2011
Zipping Files on Today's HP 3000s
Although the code for compressing files on HP 3000s is more than a decade old, like a lot of things on the system, it continues to work as expected. A customer recently asked how to Zip and Unzip files to move things between the HP 3000 and other servers.
Tracy Johnson, who manages the Invent3K server operated by OpenMPE, noted he's using the MPE/iX Posix shell's compress and uncompress. "It creates a file that ends in capital Z. Seems the compressed format is compatible with both GNU-zip and Winzip programs or any other *nix machine."
Lars Appel, who ported the Samba file sharing tool to MPE, offers a comprehensive answer. He points to software that resides on his own development server, open to the public.
You can pick up the InfoIP zip/unzip programs (in a tar file) at www.editcorp.com/personal/lars_appel/WebKit2 The link in that webpage that contains the zip/unzip programs is
Transfer it to the 3000 in bytestream or (fixed) binary format and then unpack with :/bin/tar "-xvzopf FILENAME". Place the two programs where you like; I typically have them in /usr/local/bin or (with uppercase filename) in a group or directory that is part of my HPPATH settings.
The web page also contains a tar.Z file with /usr/local/bin/gzip
(gzip -d decompresses; creating a symbolic link gunzip is also useful)
Prescient humor hopped up around HP in '10
HP's TouchPad strategy has been the butt of plenty of jokes since the company announced it would stop manufacturing the product. The HP 3000 community got an early start on the humor, more than a year ago. In the very week when HP announced it would purchase Palm and the TouchPad's WebOS, HP 3000 developers and veterans cracked wise about how long it might take to give WebOS the same kind of demise that HP lashed onto MPE.
In April of 2010, the 3000-L mailing list veterans commented on the prospects for a new OS at HP. The company hadn't even announced a TouchPad at that time. But the skepticism seeped swiftly from a group of people who'd seen the worst happen to an HP product. "What a handy way to wipe out WebOS," started the comments. "Can HP actually go anyplace with WebOS?" Tracy Pierce asked. "The old HP could have, but the old HP seems to have been dead for at least 10 years."
Olav Kappert, who's now offering 3000 consulting at $35 an hour, lobbed out first with "Now if only HP could put MPE or Unix on them. Or should I say, when will HP discontinue support for the new OS?"
Duane Percox of K-12 software vendor QSS had a few more details to consider, all of which look crucial in hindsight, 16 months later. To start, Percox pegged the Old HP's spotty record in software.It's as if MPE was a success because it was built, not bought. "I never saw where the old HP acquired software assets and did anything positive," Percox said. "I’m not saying the New HP would do any better, but I know the old HP would have dinked around and let the acquired software waste away.
Regarding “What a handy way to wipe out webOS...”:
The best way to wipe out webOS was for Palm to do a lousy marketing job and to place the Pre with Sprint. Based on the numbers it appears that Palm already tanked, so no need to worry about HP messing it up.
So, why would HP buy something with so little market share that appears to be going backwards? The same reason Steve Jobs doesn’t like Flash on the iPhone/iPad.
Think about it...
* HP has mobile devices that are dependent on Microsoft...
* Android is technology that HP can’t control
* WebOS gives HP a platform to create a controllable solution that offers the best possible user experience vs the iPhone/iPad
Now, add to the mix the fact that ex-Palm and Apple heavy hitters now work at HP and you start to see some interesting possibilities. Can HP execute and pull this off? Only time will tell but it should be an interesting ride.
August 22, 2011
MBF Scheduler gets subqueues in v 3.1
MB Foster is announcing the immediate release of SUBQUEUES in version 3.1 of its MBF Scheduler. The Windows-based product was created at the company to give Windows enterprises -- especially those migrating from HP 3000s -- the kind of robust scheduling built into MPE/iX.
The Scheduler now gives administrators fine-grained control over queues and delivers the 3000-like robust job scheduling features required to automate daily, weekly and monthly processes for Windows Server customers. The product, which customers can try for free for 30 days, gives complete visibility and control over data processing jobs.
Such an enterprise-grade solution makes it easier for system administrators and operators to manage running jobs, view job output, schedule jobs, view the queue of scheduled jobs, and maintain complex dependencies and relationships between jobs.
"Ever since our June 20th HIPRI and RUN NOW release, we have been asked by numerous industry leaders for this type of capability," said Birket Foster, MB Foster CEO. "The Scheduler's newly added SUBQUEUE enhancements ensure that we're meeting our customers’ evolving needs to deliver a solution that fits their batch job scheduling requirements.”
The MB Foster website lists additional Scheduler enhancements. The company will arrange for a 30-day evaluation version, schedule a webinar, or deliver more information with an email to email@example.com.
That Hitler meme enters HP's history
The outcry and public lashing over HP's stock and its tech choices has been scorching over the last three days. After the company yanked the futures out from under the TouchPad and WebOS (the former is dead, the latter is looking for somewhere to recoup HP's $1.2 billion Palm buyout), HP sold off its own tablet stock on the Web this weekend at $99 a TouchPad. Sold them quickly, too.
But just as quickly, the Hitler-Tech-Ranting meme made an entry into HP's modern history. A great foreign film which won an Oscar, Downfall, has been used as a satire seedbed for so many technical mistakes and missteps like the one HP's committed. The crisis scene in the Berlin bunker, late in the movie, is swiped by tech world commentators and hijacked with fresh subtitles.
HP has now gotten the same treatment as Apple (for its iPad naming, and the iPhone Antennagate), Google (for the demise of Buzz and Wave) and other high fliers. This latest version (unsanctioned by either the filmmakers, or HP) includes a reference to Stalin using an iPad, plus some ominous cheer at the end about how Hitler still believes HP still makes the best PCs. HP is looking at every option for the future of its PC business, including "the potential of a non-transaction," according to CEO Leo Apothker. It's a mystery how any tech leader can announce its PC business might be for sale, and then not sell it.
YouTube has been diligent about yanking these off the Web, in due time. The Downfall clip has been used for everything from burger chain kids getting fired, to Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson's breakup, to Michael Jackson's death. (Largely because of the great acting; check out the film to see a fabulous performance by Bruno Ganz.) See the TouchPad version while you can, unless you feel nothing about Hitler could be funny in the least. Nobody can be blamed for holding that belief -- or that HP's got little future selling anything other than enterprise computers and their software, HP services, and its printers. Gone are the days of HP flatscreen TVs.
Investors are returning to the stock this morning, which is almost up to $25 with more than 20 million shares traded during the first hour. 128 million shares traded on Friday.
August 19, 2011
HP Q3 numbers no joke, TouchPad ads aside
HP made computing history yesterday. And only part of the legend concerns the brilliant-comet flameout of the company's killer -- and now dead -- HP TouchPad. The rest of the company report on its third quarter was tragic as well.
One possible headline out of the numbers HP reported yesterday: Hewlett-Packard Reports Higher Q3 Earnings. The Associated Press actually used that one, along with "Details on HP's businesses: drop, keep, sell?" There's a question mark on that second one because, unlike the swift sword dropped on the TouchPad and Palm line, HP hasn't decided on whether it will cut loose its PC business, PSG.
"Why not just spin off PSG right now?" asked analyst Shannon Cross at the quarterly briefing yesterday. "Why leave it with the overhang of some other potential strategic move? Since you're getting rid of WebOS, how do we consider that you were going to push WebOS further into your PCs?" HP's answers from its CEO Leo Apotheker started with the fact that WebOS is not dead yet. Moving into a Ralph Kramden "hummina, hummina" tone, the CEO said
We've decided to look at all of the strategic options around PSG. All of them. The announcement of today will allow us to look at it more closely, including all the synergies and aspects of that operation. Over time a decision will arise about the appropriate way for PSG to go forward.
The gallows humor of translation jokes -- "We need to find the talent inside PSG and offer it a chance to stay before we announce a sale" -- isn't the worst of a black Friday for the darkened HP futures. The company fell back to calling itself an enterprise computing firm yesterday, at the same time SFO Cathie Lesjak delivered "the most difficult outlook I've had to give" during a tenure that's lasted more than four years. The markets reacted by selling HP down by almost 20 percent over one day.(below). That won't help the Dow.
HP's other businesses are showing scant growth now, and the most enterprise-like of its efforts, the Enterprise Server, Storage & Networking unit, must carry the dead weight of Business Criticial Systems around its neck. PSG, the largest chunk of HP revenues and the only group to show any increase in operating profits, is now being examined like a weak movie from TouchPad spokesman Russell Brand. Does HP now take PSG straight to DVD? It outsold HP Services as well as servers, but posted the smallest operating profit share of any HP group. Meanwhile, sales of Business Critical Systems running 3000 migration target HP-UX have dropped 9 percent. The stock lost 10 percent of its price overnight on the report's numbers, and another 6 percent on news of the historic short lifespan of the TouchPad. WebOS looks like it's on life support.Although those Enterprise sales dollars are scarce -- only software and financing came in lower -- at least the ESSN business was posting 14 percent profit per dollar sold. HP's PC margins have been deathly thin for many of Lesjak's reports. Hewlett-Packard was happy to point at total PC sales instead. Now the TouchPad's flameout leads the CEO to report what Apple already knows: "Consumers are changing their use of the PC."
Apotheker splashed a bit of sunshine on the enterprise business quickly, saying that the ESSN unit had "good performance overall." The Intel-based blade servers and the storage products pulled their weight to counter the negative drag of Oracle. What? Yes, HP called out a specific competitor. Lesjak used the company where former CEO Mark Hurd scuttled off to, by way of explaining why there are no new-customer Integrity-Itanium sales these days.
This decline is sharper than expected. Our ability to close deals has been impacted by Oracle's Itanium decisions, and orders are being delayed or canceled. We are working diligently to enforce the commitments that Oracle has made to our customers and to HP.
"Them's fighting woids," as the Three Stooges would say, but it's no surprise while HP flogs a lawsuit to force Oracle to support Integrity, Itanium and yes, HP-UX. It's just that we've never heard HP explain any of it's business is sharply down because a competitor is killing off HP orders.
Any bright spots on the report? Collectively the company earned more money than Q3 of 2010. Making a profit arrives in a number of ways. The PC business increased its profits serendipitously, because parts were cheaper to purchase, for example. HP gave no details on recovering the cost of its TouchPad parts now they're not needed.
The seven-week meltdown of TouchPads -- cold sellers "which are not meeting our expectations" -- prompts some crowing from the Android OS crowd and hard cheese about WebOS, the operating system that held promise for HP's dreams about in-house software. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said
Now I wonder if it possible to remove webOS and install Android? might make it worthwhile for someone buying HP's 250,000 surplus TouchPad stock, and start shipping a sub-$200 Android tablet.
Sure they can do it. Such a mashup would give the world a tablet that looks just like an iPad and priced below $200 -- with all the lifespan of a comic-attempt TouchPad commercial. Nobody's laughing at HP's PC group this morning.
Thanks to the glory of Google, whose Android is becoming the last hope of an iPad alternative, those HP commercials live on, stashed away on YouTube until HP yanks the ads, too. All Things Digital -- the Wall Street Journal's tech site spinoff -- has a complete roundup of the TouchPad's ads. (We hear they all play real smooth on a TouchPad. Watch 'em while they're hot, and the tablet is not so hot.)
WebOS was supposed to be a triumph of software -- HP execs said yesterday that "the software was met by strong reviews." However, "the sell-through was not what we expected." In the end for WebOS, for all of the braying about multi-tasking being its strongest suit, it turns out that Palm Pre and TouchPad prospects didn't even want to do one thing at a time: buy the devices.
You might remember a time when an HP Touchscreen PC TV ad (complete with butterfly) was as rare as a TouchPad bulk order from IT. Sad, indeed when your computer gets lifespan can't match the paper-thin artistry of Glee. Its star Lea Michele might be delighted her face was hidden behind the tablet in 85 percent of her TouchPad commercial.
Like convincing us that 24-year-old actors are still high-schoolers, or comedy with a blistering English delivery, making a splash with software is hard. HP did it once, without TV in an era when its admitted "velocity of change" in the computer space didn't accelerate. There was time for the 3000 to recover and improve, so its golden saddle of MPE could carry business, and IMAGE could get employed as a database selling point. Oracle was once so uncertain about beating IMAGE it wouldn't release an MPE Oracle.
Now HP is pointing at a $10 billion acquisition of Autonomy, a UK software company it admires because it's "one of the few license-based software companies delivering Software as a Service" through the cloud. Autonomy made $850 million in sales last year, so HP is buying it at close to 11x trailing revenue. That admiration sparked a "we're back at the enterprise business" answer when one analyst called $10 billion a price built from fantasy. "That's at a time when your stock is at an all-time low in every single valuation metric, currently trading at about six times earnings," said Tony Sacconaghi of Sanford Bernstein.
Automony earns less than one percent of your revenues and it's going to cost you 15 percent of your market cap. Comment on the price paid and the rationale.
"Autonomy represents an opportunity for us to accelerate our vision," Apotheker answered, "to decisively and profitably lead a large and great space -- the enterprise information management space. It also brings us higher-value solutions that help customers meet the explosion of information." Lots of HP storage sales might come from the Autonomy purchase. That would be another flotation device for the enterprise group which includes Integrity.
There's little evidence that WebOS is going to make it to the third party or licensing markets that HP dreams about after a nightmare six weeks of tablet sales. So much for the power of true Flash videos, or a better way to push mobile notifications. The best news from yesterday's report is that HP seems to want to sink or swim on enterprise business computing now -- an outlook that might extend the lifespan of another HP OS, HP-UX.
August 18, 2011
HP WebOS, PCs: All to become history?
Hewlett-Packard will spin off its PC business, and the future of WebOS is now looking dark indeed, according to reports in the PC press. The sauciest headline so far has been "HP to PCs: Drop dead." As part of an HP press release about an acquisition of a UK software firm, the company leaked out early results from its Q3 (scant revenue growth, but beating analyst estimates on profits.) It showed that PCs are the biggest slice of the HP revenue pie (above, click for detail). Never mind that May-July action, though.
HP also reported that it plans to announce that its board of directors has authorized the exploration of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG). HP will consider a broad range of options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction.
In this karma-coming-home moment, the half of HP's shareholders who said in 2001 buying Compaq was bad business -- well, now HP believes they're probably right. What HP got out of that decade was Compaq's ProLiants, which probably will remain in HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage & Networks division. Even though they're Intel Xeon-based Windows systems, most of them.
What's dead looks to be WebOS, and for sure its hardware. "HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward." By the end of October that's the end of the HP TouchPad as we know it, and the Palm heritage of smartphones, too. HP hasn't had a flameout of a computer this quick since, well, never -- not even the crude launch of the 3000 in 1972, the one that made Dave Packard swear he was right about not needing to be in the computer business. At least the 3000 got 90 days or so before HP backed it out of the market.
(A swing through Costco today showed plenty of TouchPads on the shelves at $479 for the big-storage 32GB model. HP wanted to sell a TouchPad tablet with half as much storage at the same price just six weeks ago. You're glad there's an easy return policy at Costco, if you've shopped there today. Imagine the markdowns to come.) At least HP got to attempt comedy with its Russell Brand commercials. Nobody in financials was laughing at the silence of sales, however.
Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal were both guessing this morning that PCs will be a prior HP product very soon. As I pointed out yesterday, products like a laptop, a tablet or a printer can help an enterprise vendor get a foot in the door. That's what HP's been saying all year while beating the WebOS drum. The laptop world is working well for HP right now, and you can read about the TouchPad troubles in yesterday's story. WebOS still belongs to HP now. It looks likely to be licensed to anybody who'd want it. HP may sell off its PC operations, just like IBM did. Many years ago.
HP's printer and camera business was once the subject of spinoff rumors. In spite of the good logic that propelled those analysts' ideas, HP never pulled the trigger. Now the slowing growth of the printer line and its ultra-profitable inks has erased any good chance of a printer spinoff.
New printers cannot be presented as groundbreaking technology as easily as a tablet or a clever laptop. The HP spinoff would not include smartphones. So much for the superior advantage of Flash and "true" multitasking. Consumers didn't even want to do one thing at a time with the Pre/TouchPad products: buy them. So while HP's had a fabulous success in its last spinoff -- the release of instrument making into an Agilent that's a better performer than its ancestor -- it must now consider how a world where "consumers use of PCs is changing" will change the chances of duplicating that success.
HP's not the kind of company that would use a quarterly report briefing to announce such a big move. They'll be peppered with analyst questions, though. (And we've learned now that the company is exploring all options for its PC futures, including a nothing-changes decision. WebOS hardware is a nothing-doing future, and the software is under consideration for how HP might make back just some of the $1.2 billion it spent on Palm last year.)
There's profitability to improve if HP cuts loose its tightest-margin business. IBM, after all, doesn't need PCs anymore to compete and win in the enterprise. HP's stock is in obvious need of the rebound that never happened after the company outsted Mark Hurd last summer.
HP said its moving to close a deal to buy the UK software technology firm Autonomy for $10 billion, but there's no word on when that deal is closing. A spinoff of the HP PC business might be related to that acquisition, or not. $10 billion is a lot of HP M&A money. The last time HP uncorked a PC deal of the caliber of a spinoff was its 2001 buyout of Compaq. That deal that led to the departure of the 3000 from HP's product lineup. Maybe the opposite move -- cutting a business loose -- will have a positive impact on the hardware that remains under the PC badge, such as its Integrity line.
That would be good news for HP-UX sites, those migrated from the 3000 or those considering the future of the hardware. It would be a great counter to the Oracle argument that HP's got its eye on Intel Xeons, not Itanium. But cutting loose PCs might be a reason to drive WebOS into the worldwide market it needs to survive. An HP dedicated to software could license WebOS, beefing up a focus on software that would please CEO Leo Apotheker. Like every HP executive who talked at the recent HP Discover conference, the CEO has enjoyed saying that PCs helped HP offer a full IT suite to large business customers.
August 17, 2011
HP's quarterlies await after negative Touch
Under the heading of This Might Not Help, the HP TouchPad tablet has a take-them-back return order from retailer Best Buy. According to a story at businessinsider.com, 200,000 units of the newest HP computer are sitting on Best Buy shelves. The head of HP's PC business Todd Bradley is in flight to Best Buy HQ to talk the retailer off the ledge. HP's stock has dropped 5 percent today, perhaps in reaction to the news. The vendor has said that it will make the TouchPad's WebOS a serious part of its enterprise strategy over the next year-plus.
Hewlett-Packard at least needs to hope that's the reason for today's stock decline. Tomorrow the vendor will release and discuss its quarterly numbers at 5 PM EDT. A drop in a company's stock usually happens after negative financial news -- although there's no telling for sure if the Thursday afternoon news will be good or bad.
The vast majority of HP stock is traded by institutions, but these companies have a vote with dollars about what Hewlett-Packard does in the future. The HP 3000 never generated this kind of dip, or bounce, because that HP of the '70s and beyond didn't know how to draw widespread attention to that enterprise server.
Although HP has no link to the TouchPad on its main products page, a lot of shareholders will be paying attention tomorrow to see if the new CEO -- and his affection for software -- has the magic touch. HP needs it to lift its stock beyond $31 a share, while its enterprise rival IBM trades at $170 without a tablet.The HP 3000 had similar problems in its infancy, a computer that wasn't fully cooked when it was served to the market late in 1972. It took another four years for the computer to make a powerful impact on HP's business. The secret sauce that made the 3000 a savory byte? Software, specifically IMAGE. In this 1973 brochure for the 3000 (click for a better view) Hewlett-Packard didn't even mention IMAGE.
Some might say that comparing computer rollouts 39 years apart is a fool's errand. And while some things haven't changed -- software never goes away, while hardware gets discounted ($399 and falling for the TouchPad) -- other things are different, like the market's attention span.
What makes the shareholders hold their breath this August, one year after Mark Hurd was given the boot during the last Q3 results season? PC performance in a declining laptop-desktop market. During the era of the Hurd HP board, Hewlett-Packard wrapped its revenue growth around PC sales, squashing Dell like a bug. In 2011 an IT vendor needs a strong mobile offering to be taken seriously elsewhere in the enterprise. A colleague at a mobile security vendor says the customers look at OS infrastructure when choosing smartphones and tablets. HP would love to sell more of its infrastructure, from CloudSystems to more business for a Services group whose growth has stalled this year.
Tablets and smartphones and wireless printers -- these are the kinds of things that get a vendor noticed and brought into an environment. The HP LaserJet lifted Hewlett-Packard into more businesses than any HP 3000 did in the middle 1980s. The last PC pratfall of this caliber could be traced to the HP Touchscreen PC -- a bit or irony, considering that product featured a touch interface, in a crude introduction of the TouchPad's novelty.
August 16, 2011
Where to Go for the Manuals You Know
Hewlett-Packard was proud of putting out information digitally in 1988. By 2011, it takes some hunting and revising of browser bookmarks to keep track of HP 3000 documentation. The docs.hp.com website, well-known by the community, became www.hp.com/go/e3000-docs at HP two summers ago. (And that address redirects to an even longer URL today.)
Two years ago, HP licensed the 3000's documentation to Client Systems and Speedware for re-hosting. But Speedware's director Chris Koppe said during the 2009 Community Meet that HP won't permit these partners to host the manuals for public access until HP clears the materials from embargo. HP said at that meeting it will host the documentation through 2015. That is, if you can find it; HP's support website has been in a "pardon our dust" state since June.
While it negotiated for an "open" future of MPE, the community was adamant about the HP 3000 documentation flowing into third-party hands. The two companies above have a full set of manuals ready to host, and it's a good thing -- because the 3000 server manuals appear to have vanished from HP's web archives. Search for "HP 3000" at the above address and you'll get a long list of 3000 server links. Every link reports "There are no technical support documents for this product relating to manuals, guides, supplements, addendums, etc." (Tip of the hat to Donna Hoffmeister, former OpenMPE director, for the heads-up about disappearing 3000 documents.)
While those browser interfaces (above) still link up fine for MPE/iX 6.x and 7.x software, the elusive hardware manuals almost make you wish for the days of CDs -- when Hewlett-Packard boasted of "Delivering Information at the Speed of Light" with HP LaserROM. Those faster-than-ever deliveries couldn't disappear so easily. Today it takes ManualShark.com and the parisc-linux.org to shed light on the hardware docs.In 1999, HP was making its next step toward the manuals you couldn't touch in paper format or some kind of CD plastic. Over the past few years these paper manuals have been offered for free by managers who're leaving 3000 administration. The stacks of HP-blue binders used space inefficiently, but their physical format made them hard to lose. In '99, customers who received documentation updates on HP LaserROM for MPE/iX began to receive HP’s then-new Instant Information automatically.
Andreas Schmidt, the system manager for a CSC 3000 shop in Europe, reported in 1999 that the MPE/iX 5.5 and 6.0 set of docs were the first available under Instant Information. He added that sharing these documents using Samba/iX made them even more valuable.
Using HP Instant Information, you can look at a book’s table of contents or index and, with a mouse click, jump to a specific topic. You can search multiple manuals and documents quickly for matching keywords. Users no longer have to rely on paper manuals, although some still prefer paper in their hands!
With the new browser, you can view both document text and the table of contents in the same window. You will find an improved collection structure, now based on specific products (such as NS3000/iX) rather than on hardware platforms, the base used by HP LaserROM bookshelves.
Managers and support experts who complain today about documentation may seem like manual wonks, fixated on knowledge that's more arcane with each day. However, the business world still includes companies where a 15-year-old server is working in production, while others are being prepared to take its place. (Or not, for the most ardent of homesteaders.)
LaserROM seemed like magic in the late 1980s when I first saw it demonstrated. It didn't come cheaply; HP was charging $1,800 per year for the same information anyone can receive for free via PDF and browser today. Of course, 1988 was a year without an Internet, when HP DeskManager, Compuserve, or elm Unix mail were the prominent business server mail methods. HP LaserROM made you install a CD-ROM reader (more magic!) into a PC, load Windows software and then slip the nouveau discs into the reader, one subject at a time. The full set of HP-UX discs numbered more than 70.
HP called the information "available online" at the time. 11 years later, Instant Information took LaserROM away from the proprietary HP Tag format to an industry standard at that time, SMGL. This move gave the information a way to live beyond HP's stewardship. By 1999 it was obvious that the easiest place for customers to find manuals was on what we were calling the World Wide Web.
The release of HP Instant Information represents the critical first step of converting all necessary documents. With 6.0 many documents will also be available on the world wide web: http:/www.docs.hp.com. These new delivery media will dramatically change the way our learning community accesses technical information.
What's changed today is the ability to locate hardware references for HP's MPE/iX hardware systems. Manualshark.com is doing a fair job of finding hardware manuals, and the parisc-linux.org site has an FTP service that still knows how to deliver the Series 9x9 manuals. Docs for the N-Class systems that first shipped in 2001 have been more elusive than A400 and A500 servers, also known as HP9000 rp2400s at HP. Those ultimate-generation A-Class HP3000 servers have a listing at manualshark.com.
August 15, 2011
HP Support Center chokes up info delivery
The Grand Opening at the HP Support Center this summer is closing down access to entitled requests, according to users and support providers. Donna Hoffmeister of Allegro Consulting has been stymied on multiple occasions since HP's ITRC website got its makeover during June.
She reports that her particular rants on the Center include
1. My repeatedly getting locked out from entitled (knowledge base) documents. I'll go for weeks with no trouble, then “poof” I suddenly can't get in.
2. Access support for the Support Center is very hard to locate (it's buried under several non-obvious links). Plus, there doesn't seem to be a way to actually get a human to talk to, if you finally figure out how to ask a question. When you do, you get a boiler-plate reply (from some offshore person).
There's more -- but we'd like to know what your experience has been with the new website for HP support. Rants or just reports, we'd like to hear them all. We'll anonymize your identification, if you'd prefer.Other problems with the new support location -- one which 3000 customers still use, since HP's taking support contracts for MPE/iX and hardware, even from homesteaders -- include information that's vanished. At least it seems to be missing when you use a search engine like Google. Hoffmeister said that even HP's Unix information is hiding out from the search-bots.
Nearly all external (Google) searches for (even HP-UX) content are broken, because they point to old, non-functioning ITRC links. While HP claims all the old content was ported to the new support center, none of it has been "trolled" by the big search engines -- so you’re left to use the support center's less-than-robust search function (ugh).
Hoffmeister adds that the demise of the ITRC is the second major change to Web-based content from HP; docs.hp.com was the first. "The net result is that HP information is no longer easily accessible," she said.
August 12, 2011
Reunion nears 100 with bonus, hotel rate
Organizers of the HP3000 Reunion report that the pre-registraton is mounting -- quickly enough that a bonus is in order. For the 100th attendee to complete the form at the pre-reg site, the Reunion will comp that person for the Saturday night party. The Reunion has also selected a nearby hotel, reserving a block of rooms with a special rate for the event.
The Sept. 24 soiree is going to include some premium sparkling wine for a few toasts, according to Alan Yeo, head honcho of the event. A deal is being arranged to get sparkling brut rose from J Vineyards and Winery. The winemaker uses winery management software that was first sold for and developed on HP 3000s by AMS.
A registration code for a special rate at rooms in the Cupertino Inn, just a few miles from the event's Computer History Museum venue, is "HP3000REUNON." Friday-Sunday nights are available at $99 for Reunion attendees; Thursday night stays are $149. Call the hotel at 800.222.4828 (408.996.7700 from overseas) to get the Reunion rates and book your rooms.
As of this weekend, the hotel is booking at Reunion rates for its Standard Queen rooms, with two queen beds. But if you ask and it's available, you can get a Standard King with a single, bigger bed. Be sure to tell the reservation agent that you're booking a room in a Group, so they can find the exclusive rate.
August 11, 2011
Widespread COBOL still gaining technology
This just in: You're still working with COBOL. It's especially true for 3000 shops, migrated or not, who use their own applications. Even the apps that once belonged to third party vendors; some of that source code has been bought by companies years ago, modified and re-tuned to special business needs.
If you're working toward a migration of COBOL code, then the makers of isCOBOL have news for you. COBOL is still in vogue. Veryant reported to me today in a press notice
COBOL is still very widespread, found in thousands of corporate data centers and government agencies. It is estimated that there are still some 200 billion lines of COBOL code running. While new, user-friendly front ends have been added to COBOL, since 1959 it has been the corporate workhorse of behind-the-scenes data processing.
So there's performance gains to be had by using isCOBOL. Speedware's Nick Fortin has been tracking this compiler for awhile, although so far it's not a tool being adopted by migrating 3000 shops.The newest version of isCOBOL Evolve is "delivering up to a 40 percent gain in thin client performance, the company spokeperson Sue Meyers said. "This provides a powerful option for developers to continue programming in their familiar COBOL environment." A developer gets to respect and use COBOL logic with this solution, all while they "deploy updated GUI-based applications across multiple platforms in an open Java framework without rewriting code."
Then there's that powerful option of skipping any rewrite of COBOL into another language, or trying to make a replacement app do the same things your existing 3000 apps have done for years. Migrating shops look at COBOLs if they're maintaining or creating their own code. Micro Focus gets a lot of automatic consideration, AcuCOBOL somewhat less notice.
And there's even an open source COBOL, COBOL-IT, on hand as a replacement compiler. Speedware's got a line on that software, too. All of it is designed to keep a technology choice that was made in the '70s or '80s viable here in 2011.
August 10, 2011
Healthcare systems heading to waiting room
Bruce Conrad, a longtime HP 3000 developer working at Dell's Services group which was formerly Perot Systems, provided a check-up on the Amisys apps he's supporting for US clients. Oracle is making a beachhead at the 3000 shop, where Conrad works on an EDI claims system. It's been a long transition, but that 3000 will be making its transition before too much longer.
"Amisys is still the heart of the system, but it'll be headed to God's waiting room soon," Conrad said. "I'm sure the HP3000 will still be around for a while. We have so many feeds/extracts going in and out that it's going to take a while to dismantle them."
Conrad says the transition to Oracle Health Insurance is still underway, and will be for some time. "I think we are doing some major migrations soon, though. I haven't seen the app yet, but we use Oracle's database, eBusiness, FMS and other stuff, so we're becoming a big Oracle shop.Even though Linux is taking the place of the HP3000, Hewlett-Packard won't be getting server replacement installations of its ProLiant line. "I'm sure everything is and will be hosted on Dell servers, since most of IT, including yours truly, is part of Dell Services now," Conrad said. A Linux-based Oracle Real Application Cluster is being hosted on the Linux-Dell combination, and mostly Linux servers are being used for apps as well.
"We have many Windows apps/servers, but the heavy stuff is all on Linux, with some other big processes on the HP 9000/HP-UX," Conrad said. "But that is gradually being migrated to Linux as well."
The Dell Services team did a lot with Perl, "but I think we're mostly moving to Java + Groovy, and who knows what else." Groovy is an object-oriented programming language for the Java platform. It's a dynamic language with features similar to those of Python, Ruby and Perl. Ruby never made it to the HP 3000, but Python and Perl were ported to MPE/iX by volunteers during the 1990s. Not with enough customer attraction to ensure HP's support of those languages on MPE/iX, however.
August 09, 2011
ProLiant's speed, price spur 3000's exit
HP put a new model of ProLiant server on sale today at a starting price of $599. This isn't a laptop. It's an ML 110 G7 system which can run either Windows or Linux, and it includes a quad-core 3.10GHz Xeon processor and 2 gigs of memory. The total cost to acquire will run under $1,000, including drives and support. If you want to step up to a bigger ProLiant, the ML 150 (shown at left) running the prior-generation G6 chip, with Windows Small Business Server 2011 preinstalled, is priced at a shade over $2,000.
Comparing this HP hardware has never been fair to the HP 3000, because the ProLiant -- created by Compaq and so popular that the brand survived the 2000 HP-Compaq merger -- was built for the commodity market. A $2,000 Series 979 on Amazon is about as close as a business-grade 3000 will get to commodity status. It's also an unfair comparison because the 3000 gets some of its oomph from using an integrated OS-database, pairing MPE with IMAGE/SQL. Microsoft, of course, has been working with Oracle to capture some of that same kind of oomph.
But this analysis is one reason that companies to move on from 3000 hardware built before 2000: the hardware's hard numbers, in GHz and dollars. There's more to compare. Duane Percox of K-12 software vendor QSS compared COBOLs six years ago. Those performance numbers have gotten nothing but more persuasive for Windows- or Linux-bound migrators. (Percox will be on hand at the Sept. 24 HP3000 Reunion. He's helping to arrange the Reunion's menu -- just as he did for the first 3000 meeting outside of a user group, a few months before he benchmarked those COBOLs on 2005 Intel chips.)To the COBOL numbers: In 2001 Percox measured performance of a Dell PowerEdge 500SC Tower using a Pentium III processor. Against that Series 979, using the Micro Focus COBOL compiler, the Dell server of a decade ago posted a 4:1 speed advantage. The slowest A-Class servers came close to matching the Dell machine. Remember, that Linux server was running a Pentium processor.
Intel is the architecture that got away from the 3000 lineup, a wrong turn that signaled the end of HP's interest as far as veterans like Percox could see. HP's futures chart, posted seven years ago this month at the final Interex HP World, skipped any scheduled introduction of Itanium for the 3000. That omission was big writing on the wall for software vendors serving the 3000 community. Some say HP had already erased the 3000 from its plans; others contend the system was still on the bubble in August of '04..
If the 2005 Pentiums were four times faster than a Series 979, and about equal to an A-Class, what's the gap between a $2,000 Xeon system that's six years more modern? HP 3000 shops have chosen Windows more than any other environment when they migrate. Bruce Conrad of the Dell/Perot Systems EDI group has reported that the service group's "Amisys/HP3000 systems here are soon-to-be replaced by Oracle OHI applications." Oracle Health Insurance (OHI), formerly known as Oracle OpenCare, is just one more reason why that vendor is challenging HP's business-grade servers for sales. Well, challenging some of HP's servers -- the ones locked into any OS which is not Windows or Linux.
August 08, 2011
HP once had a system it would sing about
In the wake of the news that HP's newest computer has been marked down already (now $399 for a TouchPad), it's worth a moment's thought to remember that other nouveau HP systems had rocky starts against established competition. Like the HP 3000.
Paul Edwards, former board member of Interex and OpenMPE and an independent consultant since the 1980s, sent along a few songs that HP warbled about its business computer while that machine was still in its teens, less than half its current age. The songsheet at left, (detail if you click) and after the break, includes notes about New Wave, new technology that HP was pressing as hard as the WebOS operating system which drives that discounted TouchPad.
The HP 3000 weathered as rough a start in its launch during its first quarter 38 years ago. Not only was there severe discounting going on during fiscal 1973, HP was replacing the servers with 2116 units where they could, and pulling the computer back into the labs for better development. On that occasion HP's problem was not with the operating system -- MPE was called the "golden saddle on the back of a jackass." Big problems came from trying to fit the OS into a too-compact memory stack. There was entrenched competition a-plenty in those days, just like in today's tablet market where an established iPad is calling the tune to which the TouchPad must dance.Nobody's going to try to replace a business server with a TouchPad, but that newest HP computer might have a chance of stepping in for a laptop in some high-mobile environments. It's going to be given a chance at least as long as your HP 3000. But unlike the HP3000, the TouchPad is not suffering from doubts from the boardroom, like the HP 3000 did upon its release. David Packard didn't want the company bearing his name to be in the general computer business.
Wiser management prevailed in his company, eventually adding the IMAGE database to the 3000 bundle to give the server a leg up on competition like the DEC PDP-11 and IBM System/3. The initial name of the HP 3000 was the HP System/3000, something of a thousand-fold kick in the pants against a well-established Big Blue competitor. (This sort of stuff is the kind of lore you'll find easily in the halls of the Computer History Museum, where September's HP3000 Reunion is being hosted.)
By the late 1980s, when this songsheet was being crooned by volunteer customers at user group meetings, the greatest champion of that edgy IMAGE database was Orly Larson, who wrote and led the unaccompanied. An SQL interface had been added to IMAGE, so Edwards reports that "the HP song book that we, The Sequals, used all over the world to sing with Orly." Singing about the HP 3000 became something of a tradition, one that HP marketeer George Stachnik extended with a guitar and eventually a band at user group events. Larson led his choruses a capella, complete with ensemble kicks at the close of New Wave.
IBM had its company songbooks in the 1960s and 70s, the start of an era when computer managers identified personally with their systems. HP can hope for the same with its TouchPads, and need not be chagrined at a slow start or an immediate discount. It's possible that the greatest element of the TouchPad, like the earliest HP 3000s, is its OS -- even if the tablet's hardware makes far sweeter sounds than the braying of a jackass.
August 05, 2011
An HP 3000 on Amazon: How low to go?
The world's leading retailer has added a posting for a higher-horsepower HP 3000. Amazon.com has a page this week where a Series 979 is on sale by IT Equipment Express for a shade under $2,000. There's four processors in the system, so it has a performance rating higher than the more recent A-Class servers, or even a lowball N-Class.
HP 3000s have shown up on eBay up to now, some at far lower prices than this near-top-end Series 900. Four years ago, even an HP reseller was giving away Series 918s with a purchase of an N-Class. But when a computer shows up on an Amazon page, it's a sign that it may have passed into commodity status.
Years ago, while the HP 3000 community was lobbying Hewlett-Packard to push 3000s into new customer sites, a system of this price was proposed. In 1997 the software vendors of longest standing, such as Adager, QSS and AICS Research, were slashing license costs to the bone for a Series 908. This 3000 model was never released by HP, but it failed to scrub the concept from some marketing documents that got leaked. In those days, a 3000's price was tied to a user limit. The 908 would have been a just a 4-user system, but 14 years ago it still could have sold in the range of $5,000 and raised interest.
In contrast, the Series 979 listed on Amazon can accomodate hundreds of users. (OpenMPE's Invent3K server is hosted on such a system.) One of these servers was priced in 2007 on the used market at $14,000, including MPE licenses. This week that same piece of hardware is available from the world's online retailer, at a price below what the mythical 908 would have cost.HP never took the 908 seriously, thinking that it had priced the 918 low enough to attract serious business buyers. But in 1997 we reported that the 3000 community, encouraged by additions like an MPE-based Web server, started thinking that much smaller companies might employ a 3000 instead of a Windows NT PC.
Customer needs for a smaller HP 3000 system were in some evidence. Richard Gambrell, Associate Director of Xavier University's Information Technology Center, said his four-terminal cashier's application would be a good fit for a small system.
"A 908 with a one-board DTC would be just right," Gambrell said. "Without a small enough HP 3000, we'd have to do this with PC systems feeding our 967, but they must be able to operate stand alone to take care of planned downtime and loss of data communications to the site housing the cashiers."
Mark Klein, the VP of Technology for ORBiT Group International who ported the G++ compiler to the HP 3000, summed up the attraction of the 908 to the non-developer. "What if this machine could compete with and replace larger PC configurations?" he asked. "The higher availability that automatically comes with the 3000 -- and what would amount to lower operating costs than a comparable PC based solution -- could make this a real winner."
August 04, 2011
Old veteran console tricks for PCs
Got a wheezing PC someplace in your IT shop? Believe it or not, even the creakiest of desktops can still serve your HP 3000: as a console, a la the HP700/92 variety. This is the kind of PC where, as one veteran puts it,"the keyboards have turned to glue."
...Trying to type a coherent instruction (or even worse, trying to talk someone through that task remotely) where random keys require the application of a sledgehammer to make them respond, at which point they auto repeatttttttttttttttt.
It's enough to give a veteran manager a pain in the posterior, but hey -- some HP 3000s (of the 900 Series) demand a physical console as part of their configuration. Can't you just hook up such an antique PC straight to the 3000's special console port and let it work as a console? Yes, you can.Overheard among chatter between 3000 vets:
You can connect a PC via its serial port to the console port on the HP3000, and then run a terminal emulator via the serial connection, leaving it logged on as the console. That way, using free remote control software (VNC Free) on the PC, you could even have control of the physical console (as opposed to just taking the virtual console) so that things like Control-A/B would work.
You'll need a little physical cabling help to make this work. Even though those desktop PCs are old, most of them have not had serial ports in many years. Think about it. It's all USB by now. So you buy a USB-to-serial converter. You'll need a copy of a HP 3000 terminal emulator on the PC configured to connect via the serial port.
Just make sure the PC stays up and the emulator's window is open and connected. You don't need the console buffer filling up.
August 03, 2011
Being an Early Bird easier for 3000 alums
Hotel rooms up and down and all around the Bay Area Peninsula are booked solid for a fall computer meeting. No, it's not the HP3000 Reunion. It's Oracle OpenWorld, being held October 2-6 -- the weekend that follows the Reunion, an event also being mounted in the Bay Area. Whether you're attending either, the organizers would like you to arrange your lodging soon.
OpenWorld, we were told by Taurus Software's president Cailean Sherman, is now so big that the vendor who's battling HP in court and elsewhere rents out part of Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay for the weekend -- as just one venue booked by a company with an avid yachtsman for a CEO, Larry Ellison. Parties, bands, all are on offer at what's becoming the largest computer trade show in the industry. Good luck getting a good room in San Francisco in early October. Taurus, which has served the 3000 community since 1987, and a much bigger market since the 1990s, participates in OpenWorld.
OpenWorld is keeping its early bird registration open a bit longer, however, a sign that attendence is not yet what the organizers hope it will achieve. Until August 12 the price is $2,095 for the 2,000 sessions and 450 vendor exhibits, $500 off the walk-up rate. Now that Oracle has bought Sun, the JavaOne conference is held the same week. The website says, "An affordable San Francisco hotel? It's possible at OracleWorld." But that October weekend is starting to look booked.
Please be advised that Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne 2011 events will be occupying the majority of hotel space in the San Francisco area. We recommend that you book your accommodations and flights as early as possible.
A lodging location for the HP3000 Reunion is being organized this week, but your community's event won't require you ride a boat to travel from your hotel to the event.These are very different kinds of events for different kinds of computer experts. OpenWorld is all about embracing a future of hundreds of partners by tying yourself to the locomotive of Oracle. As we've said before, Oracle's databases (Oracle and MySQL) and its apps are the platforms in this world. The operating system is secondary, or even less important if you're running HP-UX. The Oracle-HP war continues in the courts and in the sales fields.
The Reunion is focused on a single, classic operating environment that has always integrated the crucial tools for enterprise IT. And to spotlight the point of the event, its focus is to reconnect with the veteran experts who hold the knowledge, wisdom and memories of four decades of computing. And more, for those moving forward.
You can pre-register for the Reunion for free, to let the organizers arrange how many hotel rooms to set aside, at the event's pre-reg page. Just about everything but a nice dinner is going to be free. You can save the same $500 -- in fact, more than $2,000 off OpenWorld's price -- by singing the early bird tune.
August 02, 2011
More COBOL than meets migration's eye
HP 3000 managers had it easy when they used MPE to develop apps. Nearly all of the work was done in COBOL, and the only COBOL with any serious use was HP's COBOL II. Now there's work to be done in choosing a replacement compiler, but there's more than just one flavor of Micro Focus or the new generation of AcuCOBOL to select.
For one thing, open source has made COBOL a fresh choice. Speedware started doing business in selling COBOL-IT. Although that product name is unfamiliar to 3000 sites, the technology leadership is pretty well known. COBOL-IT is run by former Acucorp managers. They've taken the OpenCOBOL source code, which is controlled by the General Public License (GPL) like most open source tools, and applied some nifty extensions to the compiler.
The GPL terms mean that the COBOL-IT work has to be made available to OpenCOBOL users. COBOL-IT, which has been integrated into Speedware's AMXW solution, is a commercial open source solution. That means that it is the support and the ongoing improvements you license, not the software. COBOL-IT is a free download.
There's an even more mature open source solution for non-MPE COBOL, one crafted by a former 3000 developer. From The Kompany, have a look at KOBOL.Shawn Gordon, who wrote many an Inside COBOL column for the NewsWire, started up The Kompany to latch on to the then-nascent surge of open source and Linux tools.
We had originally designed Kobol with support for the HP version of the COBOL standard but hadn't really decided what we were going to do with it. We started getting a lot of inquires about our ability to support the HP version and so we decided to release it as an optional plug in.
While this plug in is oriented towards people migrating from the HP 3000, there is one very cool extension to COBOL that HP made, and that was their macros. Macros allow you to make predefined code that can take replacement parameters, it is extremely useful, and mostly self explanatory, you can see an old article written by [Gordon] on the topic and some interesting uses of it here. You might want this plug in just to get access to the macros, they are extremely powerful and help make for some modular, reusable code.
Long ago (well, nine years) KOBOL was built to generate true multi-platform executables -- you just have to do it on the target platform. The result of this is that there are no expensive run-time costs associated with KOBOL as there are with most commercial COBOL environments.
The product has an integrated IDE for code development and project management, syntax highlighting, integrated compiler with status window, integrated CVS support, sophisticated text editor, and code completion. The MPE-COBOL flavors are processed using the plug in. The compiler works with Linux, Windows and even OS X from Apple.
"We do still sell it," Gordon reports, "and we do consulting gigs with it." And he would like to be able to marry it to a fine, but deceased, programming editor. "One thing I'd like to do is integrate it with the Programmer Studio IDE, but the WhisperTech guys [who created Programmer Studio] seem to have disappeared entirely."
August 01, 2011
Online community grows to 350 members
LinkedIn, the Facebook for career professionals, has logged its 350th member in the HP 3000 Community group this week. The last 90 days have seen a remarkable uptick in membership; more than 15 percent growth has propelled this social business website since the beginning of May.
It's not easy to say why there's a surge of members joining the group right now. HP has dropped off the radar of most HP3000 issues and activities. The robust 3000-L mailing list still boasts more than 600 members, and its content is pointed closely at technical issues and repairs for 3000 faults, often contributed for free by consultants who charge at rates that start at $35 an hour.
But LinkedIn is different in a very significant way. Joining the site (basic membership is free) helps you network, gives you easy, direct communication with members, and best of all, is a way to get your work experience and resumes into play. Your members include owners and managers of some of the most established support and consulting firms. Just this weekend VP Stan Sieler of Allegro joined the ranks. Steve Suraci of Pivital solutions has long been a member. There is also a subgroup of the HP 3000 Community, HP 3000 Jobs.News from the 3000 Newswire, the HP3000 Reunion and other sources are a regular part of the LinkedIn feed. You can learn from discussions about topics, or search for specific skill sets. One member, Ron P., is keeping the 3000 applications working at Estee Lauder. Mike Anderson, leader of the CAMUS ERP user group, just joined. For historic perspectives, Interex founder Doug Meacham is on the rolls.
The list of newly-joined community experts is long: Tracy Johnson, curator of the OpenMPE resources; President David Floyd of the Support Group. Consultants Brett Forsyth, Roy Brown, and Chuck Trites. Doug Greenup of Minisoft. Some, like Birket Foster of MB Foster, have hundreds of connections, ways to make your network grow and add opportunity to your career.
There's nothing to replace the 3000-L mailing list's technical focus. But an email-based community just cannot do all the things a social networking site can accomplish. Even if you don't Facebook or Twitter (and you should), LinkedIn is worth your time and your regular visits.