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October 18, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions on the Emulator

LalleyatDemoOne rousing surprise from the HP3000 Reunion was a demonstration of the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator by Craig Lalley, a veteran MPE/iX and consulting expert called in to smooth the emulator onto the 3000's OS. Lalley ran the emulator off his laptop. In the weeks since that late-September demo, Lalley has been answering customer-posed questions. Here's an in-progress FAQ on what CHARON will offer by the start of next year.

(ScreenJet's Alan Yeo has also answered questions based on his study of the demonstration; one reply is included below. A longer discourse from Yeo examines prospects for license interpretations.) Lalley began with an overview.

The emulator recreates PA-RISC architecture in software. What this means is that I take a raw disk image (bit by bit copy) of a working HP 3000 system. I then transfer that file to my laptop. If the disk is 9GB it will be a 9GB image. If it is an 18GB disk, the end result is an 18GB file. Currently the system needs to be running MPE 7.5. The version of 7.5 we've used is current on patches.

The emulator starts at an ISL> prompt. It takes approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds for MPE to boot to a colon prompt. From that point on the system is solid. I can compile, run FSCHECK, stream jobs, and block mode works. I have worked on every model of HP 3000 from the Series 3 to an N-Class 750 8-CPU system. Now, I can boot MPE on my laptop. I find that amazing.

Does the emulator support HPSUSAN numbers?

It does indeed support the HPSUSAN number. It is the number that exists on each Stromasys USB license key. The vendors I have talked to have been very excited about the emulator. Several have offered demo copies, so I can test them in the new environment.

Can I run an emulator with an existing MPE/iX license from my old system?

HP is supporting a license transfer of MPE from the retiring 3000 system to the new emulator.

Is the current performance closer to A400, or a dual-core A500-200-14? The emulator needs a Core-i7, so would the best comparison would be the RP2600? Or does it run faster than a 99x?

The first release will only support a single processor. I would expect the first version to be around the performance of a 979 single 180-MHz processor. I am  running performance tests and will be happy to share the results when they are more complete.

In the prior Stromasys emulators (for VAX and PDP) it takes two cores to run a single emulated processor. One core is doing real-time direct instruction translation, to support the emulated processor (in this case, the PA-RISC processor). The overhead may indeed be 3:1, considering peripherals, because the SCSI bus is also emulated in the software.

The move to multiple processors will happen, but reaching the performance of an N-Class 750 is going to take some time.

Would a good SSD storage device get you beyond A-Class performance?

My guess is an SSD would only really help at boot time. My bet is there would be some slowness to the emulated SCSI interface.

What number of users would this PC architecture handle?

That is a question that can only be answered by heavy stress testing. I will post my results. Currently there are some issues with the network that need to be resolved.

(Alan Yeo) Theoretically, as many as MPE will -- as it's running MPE and the architecture being emulated is PA-RISC. However, I suspect you mean how many concurrent users will the horsepower of the emulator support. In which case the answer is "it depends on what applications you're running."

It will be a growing number as the emulation is tuned and moved from the current A-Class performance towards that of an N-Class. By the time it is ready for deployment, I would expect it to be significantly quicker than it is today.

However, if you are on a maxed out N-Class you may have to wait a long time. One tidbit I picked up at the Reunion is that whilst the software has been migrated and is running perfectly, the current biggest HP-UX Itanium server can't quite handle the maximum number of concurrent users that an HP 3000 can.

What are the requirements for the PC?

Stomasys will have its own PC as an option. The goal is to minimize configurations in the beginning. This will probably change as requirements/performance goes up. Currently a core i7 chip is required, because the emulator utilizes the SSE4 instruction set.

If your PC dies (anything that would have been a reload situation on a real HP 3000) do you get up and running faster on the Stromasys emulator than a reload would have taken on a real HP 3000? 

The emulator works with VMWare, so snapshots are supported. There is a plan to fully support ESXi 4.1. Stromasys is very committed to VMWare.

Are private volumes and big disk arrays supported?

I have not tested private volumes yet, due to an issue with the SCSI interface. But I intend to.

Is the architecture compiler-agnostic: BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, SPL, etc ?

In theory, you could compile on the emulator and move the object code to a real HP 3000.

I've written 99 percent of the software at my site, mostly in BASIC. Has there been any testing with Apache and CGIs or Samba?

I have not tested Apache or Samba due to some current limitations.

How are printers addressed?

Printers should work just like today: 1) through a DTC, or 2) through network printing.

Is the emulator freeware?

No, the Stromasys Charon HPA/3000 is a product for purchase from Stromasys.

Stromasys has an NCE (Non-Commercial and Educational) version of RSX-11, OpenVMS and Tru64 UNIX for hobbyist and educational use (which doesn't include their proprietary acceleration technology). Have they said if there will be a NCE version of HPA/3000? If 'yes' have they mentioned a likely price?

I am absolutely looking into that. I don't have an answer yet, but I will pass it along as soon as I know.

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