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December 30, 2011

A Peek into the Next Year for You

The NewsWire will take January 2 off to celebrate the New Year, the start of our 18th calendar year of publishing and spreading 3000 news. We'll be back to our reports on January 3.

CalendarPageThere's not much that you can count upon in the shifting world of enterprise IT. Costs are declining for many expenditures, of course. Even original HP 3000 hardware has dipped in price and continues to do so. What to spend your budget on during 2012 is going to be a shifting target. We'll talk here about three ideas that seem pretty clear for a forecast.

Emulation and virtualization: The coming year will feature new hardware-software combinations all designed to eliminate old concepts of servers. We expect to report a sale of the Stromasys Charon HPA/3000 emulator by the end of February, if not before. It will be a custom project with plenty of consulting, but this will open the door to references and polishing for the broad-scope market of software-only emulators. If you're already looking at a new style of iron to move 3000 apps onto, unless you want to stick to simple and certain operations on used 3000s, there's little reason to cast an eye beyond an Intel processor. HP's been using the x86 Zeon family for a long while in ProLiants for Windows and Linux. The i7 Core PCs drive the HPA/3000 and MPE/iX. HP cannot emulate processors that drive HP-UX; you'll need Itanium for that. But at least there's virtualization still soaring for the HP Unix customer via Integrity blades.

Analysts say that if you don't plan to virtualize the majority of your servers by the end of 2012, you'll be in the minority. Some companies are being even more aggressive. In one study, 25 percent of IT managers say they'll virtualize 75 to 90 percent of servers during 2012. Consolidation, high availability, better disaster recovery, plus improved flexibility and agility are making people serious about virtualizing during the next year. What's more, there's no better way to give specialized hardware (like PA-RISC) the freedom that it deserves from vendor exits. Once HP drops new Itanium designs, it won't have the impact that ending support for MPE/iX did in 2001.

Decommissioning: Some HP 3000 hardware will get turned off during 2012, so the full-bore decommission is going to be commonplace -- but not numerous in its reach. By now, HP's gotten just about all the switchover business it can expect. Homesteaders of today will look in greater measures for a way to decommission data -- the tasks that drive a migration of an app or data off a 3000, even while the server remains an available asset in IT. That data decommission will drive you to find great Extract, Change, Transform and Load software with superior reporting. Or you'll look for the turnkey database transfer solution, like the one that Abtect, Quest Software and Taurus put together. Nobody was promising a lot of hardware shutdowns in that solution. Finding a reseller to accept a 3000 server that's 10-15 years old will involve pitching it as a spare parts resource.

Rising to the cloud: When a 3000's data is decommissioned, or the hardware becomes something that can be virtualized, offsite servers connected through secure networks will do the service far more often in 2012. That means that a homesteader can use cloud services to put an HPA/3000 server in place of in-house hardware. Or in some cases, a classic MRP or ERP system can be moved to something like the Kenandy Social MRP service from force.com. Cloud is another way to virtualize a server, regardless of the OS that must be supported. But in 2012, for the first time, there's a legitimate way to make that cloud server run MPE/iX, or the apps that have had their data moved off of old-school iron.

01:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2011

2011's Leading 3000 Stories: Even More

Yesterday we followed news tradition by pointing to the top stories for the 3000 community over the last year. Today we're adding to that list with a enough more topics to give you a baker's dozen, stories you will want to track and add to your research if you're concerned with anything related to the greatest business server: homesteading, migration away, or just the archival and inventory of enterprise computing assets.

Community needs upgrades to open source essentials: Open source software broke open the door of opportunity for the HP 3000 in the 1990s. The server gained file sharing (Samba) Web services (Apache) Internet abilities (DNS) and more, all though ports of open source solutions to MPE/iX. Some of that flurry of work hasn't been altered or updated much since then. A new public resource for free open source software packages went online this fall at MPE-OpenSource.org. It's a signal that the 3000 community's tech resources are still available, through the right portals. The needs for security software can be met with these kinds of solutions, too.

DSC_0804Reunion gives 3000 vets a loving linkup: Hosted in the apt setting of the Computer History Museum, the first HP3000 Reunion collected customers and veterans and friends of the 3000 from three continents during a weekend that included training, new product introduction and a community of old friends toasting their past and future. The three-day event was well-supported by a vendor and user group community that seems intent on repeating the Reunion.

Database alternatives advance beyond Oracle: With the world's largest database vendor declaring the HP enterprise hardware dead on its feet, Hewlett-Packard started telling its customers about Oracle alternatives like Mimer and EnterpriseDB. Meanwhile, the Eloquence database kept expanding its feature set while it continued to support both Itanium and x86 servers, ramping up to Linux popularity.

Robelle moves Suprtool into Window, Linux environments: When a bedrock IT management solution like Suprtool makes the jump from HP's Itanium and PA-RISC chips to the x86 support of Linux and Windows, it's a clear sign that enterprise solutions have started to embrace The Penguin for business needs.

Customers holding on to their HP 3000 system IDs: Rene Woc of Adager confirmed that among the many HP 3000 sites his company continues to serve, there's been no problem with customers maintaining control of their HPSUSAN ID numbers. The identifiers remain a crucial element of upgrades and replacements of 3000s and CPU boards. But HP is not always a crucial element of the ID management -- which shows us that the community is taking full ownership of the systems it has purchased and continues to homestead

A Family Member Leaving the Lights on Longer: The Support Group's David Floyd is the youngest member of the top management of 3000 vendors club. Not yet 35, he represents a company that's likely to be one of the last to turn out 3000 lights, even while it works to embrace cloud computing alternatives and enterprise-grade open source apps.

Community counts into second decade of post-HP era: It's not exactly news when a state of success continues to exist, but we marked the end of the first 10 years beyond HP's 2001 exit announcement in a two series of articles, printed in both our blog, as well as in our separate printed issue. The HP move changed the community and its members for both good and ill, pushing developments while it edged veterans out of their jobs and comfort zones. The survivors shared great stories of their post-HP lives.

 

 

 

01:43 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 28, 2011

What You Might've Missed: 2011's Biggest

News tradition calls for a yearly roundup this week, and we're the kind of resource that loves community tradition. Here's a few stories that made 2011 an important year for 3000 managers, migrators and more.

NewsIconEmulator taxis at Reunion for January take-off: We talked about it ever since the spring: the first and probably only software package that lets MPE/iX boot off Intel's hardware. HP couldn't even do that work while it was developing 3000s. The vendor skipped the migration of the 3000 to the Itanium Intel chips, and the x86 line wasn't even considered. It changes the lifespan of the 3000 from 2012 onward.

HP's Unix systems to get x86 transition path: Hewlett-Packard doesn't like to call the future of HP-UX a migration. But November's announcement that the best enterprise features of the OS will be migrated forward to Linux assured 3000 migrators they'd have a path to better performance, no matter what the future of the their Itanium-Integrity systems in 2016 and beyond. Not that anything like an end of life has been announced for HP-UX by HP, mind you. We're just saying, watch that space for what you might need to replace.

Customers taking support needs to independents: 2011 started the clock on indie-only support for about 98 percent of the 3000 market. There were still HP efforts to sign up some sites to contracts, but what we used to call third-party support became second-party service, now that HP won't establish new business for 3000 sites. What's available is cheaper and in many ways better than the caliber of 3000 support from HP. One consultant and support supplier said there are fewer than 12 people in HP who can still address a support question. Even if he's off by 100 percent, it's a number that's sparking uptake in non-HP service.

HP opens up diagnostics, patches for 2011: For a community that's practicing self-support as well as indie service, these 3000 resources were a vital part of unbroken uptime. HP closed up its free-patch pipeline to charge for HP-UX patching. But MPE/iX managers, who got a promise of free software way back in 2008, enjoy an exemption -- even if they still needed to patch the CTSM utility themselves for diagnostics. At least HP's engineers shared the steps on how to fix the tool.

HP ousts its CEO, retains its PC line: There seemed no end to bad news from the HP boardroom from mid-2011 onward. Its board lost confidence in Leo Apothker's software vision, even while the new leader expressed nostalgia for an HP Way 2.0, restored profit sharing and unfroze pay raises. After a disastrous August announcement of killing off the new TouchPad tablet and dropping or spinning off the $40 billion PC unit, Apotheker got replaced by Meg Whitman and the PC business was pulled close to HP's enterprise strategy. The stock hasn't recovered yet, but it seems to be out of the range of takeover by the likes of Oracle.

Connect battles Oracle's Integrity cut-off: User group president Chris Koppe led a charge against the makers of the most-installed database in HP's enterprises after Oracle said it will drop Itanium support. Koppe said the members of the enterprise user group view the Oracle pullout as "an active blow to HP, and it's a thoughtless move when it comes to the customers and their hardware stacks and infrastructure costs." Lawsuits followed from both sides while HP said the Oracle move carved away sales from the Business Critical Systems unit that makes Unix servers.

There's another half-dozen stories, some no less important, that shaped the landscape of the community's 2011. We're recapping those tomorrow along with the reasons why they made a difference.

02:52 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 27, 2011

Decommissioning 3000 Application Data

MBFAWebLogoWhen companies decide their HP 3000 will not serve the same role as it has for many years, there's a decommissioning along that path. MB Foster's latest webinar took note of the two types of pulling a 3000's contribution offline. The most obvious one, and perhaps the hardest, is hardware decommissioning. Everything must be moved away by the time the plug gets pulled and a reseller or recycler is located.

But a preliminary decommissioning is a much more common occurance. It's also a step that doesn't signal the total shutdown of a 3000, although it can contribute to that. MB Foster calls this application data decommissioning. The company's UDA Central product can help. But that's information MB Foster only shared after a half-hour of discussing the issues everybody needs to be aware of, regardless of tools used.

Data decommissioning typically occurs when

• An application is being replaced – by a new application or an upgrade.
• Hardware or an application no longer has support
• When a OS vendor obsoletes a platform or chipset
• When an operating system has reached its usable lifecycle
• When a company has a change in status – being merged into or acquired, or an insolvency — and the application will no longer be used.

In order to begin such a decommissioning, IT managers should determine owners and key stakeholders. With the patience and savvy that 3000 managers are known for, discover the data owners' requirements for the movement and maintenance of legacy application data. "It's not only important from a compliance perspective, but it may be critical to a line of business or department," said MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster. He advises that IT managers adopt a business process and legal view of the long-term requirements, rather than just a technology approach."

During this ID phase, understand that data is indelible. "They say there are two things to count on, death and taxes," Foster said. "Now there are three -- let's add data to the list." When you plan to migrate data to the new app as required, you separate data into transaction categories. For active data, figure out a data migration. For inactive data, determine a historic data plan. A single plan doesn't fit both types of data very well.

Because the company has specialized in data and reports for so many years, MB Foster reminds managers that reporting requirements are a key element of both kinds of plan. Longer-term reporting requirements are often not considered during a data decommissioning process. When you need that kind of information, how will it be presented back to the users who need it? One best practice is collecting line of business and departmental-level reporting requirements -- before you decommission legacy applications and data. The apps and platform may change, but the reporting needs are likely to remain the same.

In some cases, HP 3000 apps are part of a larger, global IT structure. It's a good idea to document corporate data retention policies with the global perspective as a guide. Factor in rules according to individual countries, and remember that specific industries will sometimes dictate compliance policies. It's possible to reach out to corporate internal resources which deal with records management to address their policies.

Once the policies and processes have been established, it's time to standardize on an archiving system. This is the time to work on unifying data and content. That's a process that will proceed smoothly if you can provide a complete view of the archiving system to the data stakeholders and departments. Rules for access to the data will include the issues of security, privacy, and compliance with regulations such as HIPAA for health care, or PCI credit card transactions.

A plan and schedule for decommission will impact plenty of departments and people. When presenting the plan, be prepared to address questions such as "Where will the information go once it's decommissioned?" and "What new application replaces the legacy system?" You'll want ask questions, too, like "What is an acceptable decommissioning timeframe?"

Like any good project that impacts a company asset like data, yours will demand that you create a plan for data integrity validation and auditing. Articulate what quality data means, and share it across the enterprise
"The integrity of your data is vital," Foster said, and there are many threats to data quality." For example there are hardware problems, old tape archive issues, data entry errors or carelessness.

Decommissioning legacy data often must consider who owns it. Issues of regulatory and governace have got to be met, including access to historic data over required periods of time. Some alternatives in these instances include moving the data, providing searchable formatted data, and having an auditable instance for the "system of record" -- the retiring HP 3000 application or server.

MB Foster's interest in this, apart from serving its customers, is the Extract, Cleanse, Transform and Load abilities of UDA Central. The software does ECTL to and from Sybase, Ingres, Informix, Oracle, DB2, MySQL, SQL Server, Progress, PostgreSQL, CACHE, Eloquence and MPE. There's a success story online, the company adds, that outlines data decommissioning at the Health Plan San Mateo, where the 3000 systems have moved offline.

03:54 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2011

Holiday Gifts and Promises for All

On Wednesday we took note of some of the first response we received concerning the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. One former OpenMPE volunteer said that a $25,000 emulator wouldn't serve his needs. Martin Gorfinkel said he doesn't have his Series 9x9 3000 turned on much anymore, and he'd like to have an archival replacement.

Cloud-computing-for-dummiesJ.P. Bergmans of Stromasys added his reply. "He is absolutely right," Bergmans said. "But I would say that almost whatever the price of the emulator and the equipment would be, a better answer to a need like this is a cloud-based HP 3000/MPE compatible service, billed on usage. This would be a far better solution, and we are indeed looking at that service model."

So we think of that as a present for the new year to come: a brand-new usage-based 3000 solution for our community. Maybe not so brand new, if you want to think of time-sharing of the 70s as the same idea, but certainly refined and turbo-charged for 40 years later.

Here at the NewsWire my co-founder Abby and I are taking the next three days off to celebrate Christmas; even the banks aren't open Monday. We count as our gifts for this year, and the ones to come, our faithful sponsors who make these reports possible: at present, Adager, MB Foster, Speedware, The Support Group, Pivital Solutions, Robelle, ScreenJet, Marxmeier Software, Hillary Software, Genisys, Applied Technologies and its MPE-OpenSource.org web resource, and Taurus Software.  We'll see you all on Tuesday.

12:58 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2011

Making Resource Management Social

The Support Group is preparing its first app to fit into the new Kenandy Manufacturing Cloud. The company's founder Terry Floyd is convinced this cloud software solution, which can eliminate a lot of onsite IT, is capable of replacing traditional MRP/ERP applications written for HP 3000s over the last 30 years.

Kenandy CloudFloyd calls it Social MRP, built upon the Force.com application which is a cloud computing version of salesforce.com. Kenandy is the company that is using Force.com to create a manufacturing cloud. Manufacturing has been noted as one of the toughest apps to put into the cloud. Social networking gives companies a reason to make the leap up there.

Kenandy's foundation includes a feature called Chatter. "Between forms and reports, I can use Chatter to follow a product on a big order," he said. From engineering, through purchasing and including the interaction with vendors, Chatter gives insights and control that email notifications cannot deliver.

Chatter looks like Facebook, only better, Floyd added. Chatter in Social MRP would connect 25,000-seat installation at companies as large as Dell and Google, but it also scales down for useful implementation in much smaller, 3000-sized enterprises.

With over 82,000 customers and more than 2 million users, salesforce.com already has a big footprint on the more traditional IT enterprise. Using Salesforce as the introduction should make it easier to spark a migration onto a cloud solution with social spark.

"All the pipes are built for an app," Floyd said. "That's what the developers say about it. So a Social MRP user would just do the app part of their customization." The Support Group will develop its Kenandy Manufacturing App for free use over the customer base.

03:15 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 21, 2011

Early Comments on Emulator's Pricing Plans

In the first few days after Stromasys rolled out its emulator strategy for 2012, the commentary has been sparse. You'd think it was a holiday week, and many people have stopped paying attention to anything but the threading traffic to the shops in time for this week's celebrations.

From our view, going for the kind of higher-dollar home run sale will net a lot more strikeouts in the first half. The technology is evolving, of course. In the longer term Stromasys looks to be taking a cue from Taurus-Quest-Abtech. They put together a software-hardware bundle for $25,000 that's a turnkey data migration solution. All based upon proven and existing technology Even at the lower end, however, $25,000 (or less) is a hefty number for the customer who remains on MPE.

HPA/3000 could be a successful product in our market space, given the right entry. Based upon what we've heard from CEO J.P. Bergmans, the company would rather not be supporting dozens of customers using a new product right away, rather than just a handful.

Martin Gorfinkel, whose 3000 experience includes service to OpenMPE, said the pricing of the product won't be of personal benefit to him. OpenMPE pushed for a emulator as its first mission. He took the software-only less-than-$25,000 figure very literally. "I have little or no need for extra power and capability, he wrote us. "I have no HP 3000 running most of the time. About once a month it would be handy to have access to programs and files in order to help with a support issue. $25,000 is far out of the range that would make sense."

The challenge presented to the 2012 emulator market lies in the available replacement hardware that still has an HP 3000 badge. One consultant said that a customer could get a multiple-processor A-Class system with Fiber Channel attached storage in a 7410 array for under $15,000. What's more, those HP-branded boxes are now finding ways to escape their processor shackles after an indie vendor installs them.

But the earliest adopters for the product will be companies facing a much more expensive alternative in a migration, Bergmans said. "You go for the people who really need it and whose other choices are very expensive migrations. You learn with them and from them, by doing the implementation with them. Then you release it in the open world."

For an emulator maker, the longer the fresh hardware market goes unserved, the more value their product gains -- per customer, anyway. While the higher-priced entry fee will slow down the uptake, but they'll find somebody. Bergmans said the company already has customers waiting for a production release. We even heard a rumor that HP's got the emulator installed on its campus.

"Prices of emulators are something you could argue for hours about," Bergmans said. "We still have people paying significant money for our emulator for VAXes, and you can buy second-hand VAXes very cheap. Buying another new-old VAX is not necessarily the kind of solution you want for the next five years."

Nothing has been announced yet that changes the potential for this software. The new emulator sounds like it has incredible potential, once it gets its sea legs" said developer and consultant Eric Sand, "and we know what user loads it can hold up under in different configurations — especially under VMWare. It's a whole new future, and the investments that shops have made in MPE will be around for a long time to come."

06:06 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 20, 2011

Emulator Promise, 3000's Security, Invent3K

Print-ExclusiveConsultant, developer, and advocate for the HP 3000 and open source software Brian Edminster has combined those last two items into a new resource. MPE-OpenSource.org is collecting public, free-use software that can improve 3000 health and longevity, a single porting contributor’s portfolio at a time. We interviewed Edminster for our latest printed issue of the NewsWire and talked about the promise of a 3000 emulator, OpenMPE’s Invent3k server, and the state of PCI security for the 3000.

What is your understanding of how the Stromasys emulator will help a 3000 site? What’s your hope?

It provides new iron that MPE/iX can run on, potentially long past the point when original peripherals are available. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the technology that the Stromasys emulator is built on will have ways of virtualizing disks too – so we won’t always be limited to processor hardware systems that support standard SCSI-2. Some of the newer SATA and iSCSI drives have remarkable performance.

Do you see the emulator as a solution for the migration-bound site, too?

It depends on how long their migration horizon is. If it’s long enough out, or if they’re having reliability issues with their current hardware configuration –- yes, most definitely. Something that few people consider is: What about data archives? Depending on regulatory requirements – it might be necessary to keep the application and it’s data available for review by auditing authorities for many years beyond migration.

For migrations that are really replacements rather than just re-hosting, it could well be much cheaper to keep a emulated instance of the application at time of conversion, rather than try to mothball a server — and hope it’ll come up okay later.

Is there enough security on hand for companies who need to meet PCI requirements with a 3000?

If properly administered — best practices for password changes, no shared login IDs, ‘application’ users for batch job logins, no insecure file transfer protocols, and so on — MPE/iX’s natively-present security features could be enough. They need to be used in conjunction with secure file transfer protocols (sftp or scp), and if the system has credit card data on it, you need third-party encrypted backup tools. Since there’s not currently a working ssh command-line available, I’d recommend that such a machine be segregated in the application domain, so that session user logins aren’t allowed.

I’ve had systems that were technically ‘in’ the CDE (Card Data Environment). But because the actual card data wasn’t handled on the 3000, and because session users were ‘locked’ into the application without ‘CI’ access, FTP and telnet were disabled, and only SFTP was used in machine-to-machine communication, we were able to pass PCI audits.

Something people should be aware of: No two PCI audits are the same, so your mileage may vary. Something sorely lacking is a working ‘ssh’ login capability – so we don’t have clear-text passwords (and application data!) from our workstations traveling the network.

Few people have paid for an annual subscription to the OpenMPE Invent3K server. Why did you?

Two reasons, although only the second one was a conscious choice. 1) Because it’s an inexpensive way to support OpenMPE, and 2) It’s a bargain as a way to ensure I’ve got a fully loaded MPE/iX system to work/play on. Come on, there’s no cheaper way to go! Even with a Series 918 sitting on your desk, you’d spend more in electricity than the $99 costs (and that’s not even considering wait-time: a 918 is painfully slow compared to the multi-CPU 989 System of Invent3K). And on top of that, Invent3K has a full compliment of development tools.

I can't help but wonder why the other 16 Invent3K subscribers can't come up with their $99 subscription fee, even if they're not using their accounts. That's less than 30 cents per day for access to a 9x9 system with a full compliment of development tools! The electricity to run (and AC to cool) a 9x9 system costs more than that, even if you had one of your own. I know first-hand; I have several 3000s of various vintages, but they're rarely online these days, for just that reason.

What’s the most special moment you’ve had in this marketplace since you starting working with 3000s more than 30 years ago?

Actually – there were two standouts. First: During my early days with Gary Green at AIMS, Inc., I got a chance to meet D. David Brown of Nice Corporation and his lovely fiance Nancy. It was on one of our trips through Salt Lake City on our way to Seattle to make a sales visit to Wayerhauser. Little did I know that I’d get to sit in the co-pilot’s seat of his Cessna 310 during the out-and-back trip from SLC to SEA/TAC! I love flying, and this was most awesome.

Second: The 2008 GHRUG Conference, where I presented my first paper at a conference, got to meet some of the remaining big names in 3000-land in person, but mostly — Having the ever so gracious Alfredo Rego be so nice to my fiance at the start of his keynote address. Not being a technical person at all, she was clearly out of her element, and he went out of his way to make her feel more at home. You don’t see that kind of class nearly often enough these days. The memory of that single act of kindness will live with us both for the rest of our days.

02:11 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2011

Stromasys unveils emulator's price points

CHARON-HPA3000-roadmapDec11

Colorizing the Future: In the chart above (click for details), the versions of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator are priced by color. The initial release of the virtualized server solution that puts MPE/iX on Intel chips will be sold as projects until mid-2012, with prices running between $25,000 and $100,000. A software-only version, sold without an Intel i7 Core PC, hits the market in July, priced below $25,000. N-Class sized emulators will be sold for more than $100,000.

Stromasys has unveiled a product pricing and rollout plan for its HPA/3000 emulator, a strategy that is designed to give the vendor a six-month period to polish the product by working closely with early adopters. These companies will be spending between $25,000 to $50,000 to create A-Class caliber servers with performance from two to 10 times that of a rock-bottom A400-100-110 server.

Hardware as well as installation services are included in these 3410, 3510 and 3520 models. By April, according to the released plan, one- and two-processor A500-class servers can be emulated using 8GB of RAM. The larger of these configurations will provide 10 times the performance of the two-CPU A500s on the market today. CEO Jean-Paul Bergmans of Stromasys said that the emulator is running with FiberChannel connectivity in the labs today, a key element in replacing the N-Class 3000s where FC is almost universally used.

Bergmans said that the "Son of Zelus" package running under $25,000 can have adopters who want a 3000 they can operate in archival mode.

"There's a different opportunity for everybody, which is to provide them HP 3000 archival services based on a cloud implementation," Bergmans said. "It's something for people who want to store off the data and just access it occasionally. They probably don't even want to keep a live system anymore."

Stromasys products all run with VMware, he added, and the company releases "appliances" which come fully packaged and come with the supporting operating system -- in this case Linux. "We would prefer not to run on VMware before July" with the HPA/3000 Charon, he added. "But there is no technical reason why you couldn't do this with the very first release of these products."

The initial release months for the product give Stromasys the chance "to be very closely in touch with our customers directly," he said. Starting in mid-year some kind of reseller channel will be available, probably focused on the software-only implementation at first.

Until July it's quality, rather than quantity that's the goal of the rollout. "We don't expect to have hundreds of customers by the middle of the year," Bergmans said. "We're really looking at working hand-in-hand on the reasonably-sized systems, probably multi-systems. We'll have our engineers on site and do this in an in-depth, fully controlled way."

"The last thing you want to do is pre-release a product prematurely, and then have negative feedback," he added. "To be able to afford to give such close and intensive support, it needs to be worthwhile for both the customer and for ourselves." He said this is how Stromasys started marketing its VAX and Alpha emulators, which have been available for six and three years respectively, and now emulate the work of more than 4,000 of those Digital servers.

 

02:30 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 16, 2011

Opening Resources for a Long 3000 Future

EdminsterMug4BlogBrian Edminster makes an open secret of his sharing practices. The consultant, developer and advocate for the HP 3000 and open source software has combined those last two items into a new resource this fall. MPE-OpenSource.org is amassing a collection of public, free-use software that can improve 3000 health and longevity, one porting contributor’s portfolio at a time. His first contact with a 3000 was in high school on a Series II, hacking over dialup using an HP2640A terminal. He started programming on a 3000 in 1978 for an HP Value Added Reseller, going on to work with a 3000 graphics software vendor, with MM II Customiser software, computer administering for the UPI news service, developing and managing an Amisys healthcare system, as well as jobs managing the HMS retail apps used in airports — plus diving outside the 3000 to rewrite and rehost to AIX, Informix, Windows Server, SQL Server, and Oracle.

It’s not common to find a 3000 pro of 33 years who still has the gusto that Edminster displays. He’s been a fulltime independent contractor and consultant for the last 10 years, operating Applied Technologies. Some of the work involves using open source tools to extend 3000 ability. He’s a proponent of the idea that HP 3000s can still pass PCI security audits. And he’s also sponsored OpenMPE with contributions, a very rare profile in the community. We emailed our questions to him after his website just got publishing permission from Lars Appel — an open source porting legend who moved Samba to MPE/iX, among other projects.

What prompted you to start a repository of open source software?

Well, at the risk of being flippant – because no one else was doing it. With the demise and only partial reviving of Jazz, much of the free content was dwindling. Yes, Chris Bartram’s www.3k.com site has some open source apps, and so do some others – but many of them cheated and only linked to the software on Jazz. So when Jazz went offline, so did availability of that software.

Also, www.MPE-OpenSource.org focuses on just that: Open source software. I’m working to host software when I can get permission, and link to it (with backup copy kept) in other cases. I’ll host scripts and freeware (code that’s free but not open source), but that’s not the site’s primary focus.

I am still actively looking for contributions. If you haven’t talked to me yet, and you’d like to host software on my site — even if you have no intention of supporting it — drop me an email.

What would you say are the three most useful open source tools for a 3000 site doing its own administration?

One of my short-list projects for MPE-OpenSource is getting MPE/iX clients published for management systems like XYMon. I’m also playing with some Perl scripts that are designed to make managing disk space easier. “Which 3 tools” is not as important as just making sure that MPE/iX can play nice with whatever an enterprise is using to monitor/manage their other systems.

What non-3000 experiences and engagements have helped you in managing 3000 site issues?

That’s almost funny. If anything, it’s the other way around. Even though the system is nearly legendary in its robustness, I’ve come to the conclusion that the real reason that the 3000 has served so reliably for so long is because the people that manage it are careful. I call them the Belt and Suspenders crowd. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

What’s the non-3000 technology that you have found most fun to use?

I’d have to say use of PCs as workstations, in spite of the love-hate relationship I have with them. All kidding aside, we’ve come a long way since the days of DOS and Windows 3.. Using workstation-based IDEs (like ProgrammerStudio) have revolutionized programming productivity. Even something as simple as having a terminal emulator with a display longer than 24 lines makes a remarkable difference. Also, use of data analysis tools on the workstation (even tools as simple as Excel) have changed the way we follow the data. It makes identifying trends and patterns in data significantly easier to recognize.

Why did you donate to OpenMPE during its fundraising drives?

Two reasons: Because I could – and this was primarily because of the 3000. MPE/iX’s been Very Very Good to me. And like my website, it’s a way of giving back to the community.

Secondly, because I want this platform to live on, until the ease of administration and robustness in operation commonly found under MPE/iX application systems is so common as to be taken for granted in any other system.

In many ways, the 3000 was quite a bit ahead of its time, and can still lead by example with regard to how robust a system can and should be. I believe in what OpenMPE was trying to do in those efforts, regardless of where it is now, or ends up in the future.

How far would you estimate, in years, an HP 3000 site can take a production system?

There’s a lot of comments along the lines of “Running them until the wheels fall off.” So I guess you’re asking how long it’ll be until that happens. The answer is: it depends, but from a practical perspective, quite a long time. The parts that wear out are mostly the moving parts (disk drives, tape drives, and cooling fans). It’s already getting difficult to find SCSI disk drives under 9GB.

Ultimately, we’ll have to start using interface adapters, and unless someone gets clever and figures out how to partition a large physical disk into multiple smaller logical disks, we’ll end up wasting the majority of the drive’s capacity (the maximum space addressable by MPE/iX version 7.5 on a single drive is 512GB, and under v 6.5 only 300GB). Really, the only thing we need a tape for is using SLT/CSLT tapes, when replacing a system volume set. Backups will become nearly completely store-to-disk or equivalent with FTP or some other transfer method to an external storage mechanism or provider.

The next software gotcha is the limit of the date intrinsics (at the rollover from 2027 to 2028) but I trust we can deal with that in a similar way to how Y2K was addressed. From a practical perspective, I’d venture to guess that the hardware will outlive the business need for some homegrown software systems, unless they continue to grow — and that’s an especially exciting possibility with the new Stromasys emulator coming available.

Something I’ve discovered is software/systems are like sharks. They’ll die if they stop moving. Even when a businesses’s needs are relatively static, technology isn’t. Eventually, there’ll be a ‘better’ way to solve the business need with newer technologies – unless the software integrates new technologies, as appropriate.

07:57 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 15, 2011

Renovating Links for the 3000 Community

Hp3000linksLong before HP decided the 3000's future would be limited at that vendor, the computer had plenty of Web attention. Interex, HP, Client Systems' 3kworld.com website -- all were delivering 3000 web resources right alongside the 3000 NewsWire web efforts.  All of these have gone dark by today. Interex.org now belongs to an insurance firm in Germany, 3kworld.com bounces to a vague "Computer Training" page that looks like a placeholder. Former magazine HPProfessional.com now lands in Japan without a trace of English on the page. HP's links to Jazz specialties have survived in part on the Client Systems and Speedware web enterprises. There are still holes remaining to fill in those resources, however.

Then there's hp3000links.com, the one-stop webpage created, cultured and nurtured by John Dunlop. Filled with pop-up boxes and dozens of links, the site was a destination for the 3000 user in the 1990s, and then became one for those who wanted to bypass the slanted results of Google searches. New links appeared and a raft of 3000 vendors and suppliers had their own pull-down addresses. They still do, because hp3000links is still operational. It's just in need of renovation. Dunlop's done a tremendous job of hosting this and keeping it up for many years.

Along with IT consultant Olav Kappert, we've chosen to help spruce up and weed out hp3000links.com. The concept is still pretty sound: One Internet domain where a bookmark could help you locate that HP 3000 Relative Performance chart created by AICS, or the Perl Programming on MPE/iX slide set [thanks to Client Systems] from developer Mark Bixby. The former link is right where hp3000links says it should be. But those Perl slides have now slid to a newer HP address -- a PDF file of a master directory which tracks such 3000 resources [which you can download right now from our files, if you need it].

A Google search might do the trick to circumvent these shifty links, but why let Google know even more about your desires than it already does? Doesn't the 3000 still deserve its own landing page?

Speedware's posted a nice chunk of the Jazz contents on its site, thanks to the rehosting license the company signed with HP back in 2009. But the route is twisty to get to something called "PDF and HTML versions of many of the MPE manuals." One click takes you to a PDF file that HP is still hosting. Then you search for MPE/iX on that PDF page, and then click on a link that takes you to the 6.0 or the 7.0 manuals fork along HP's documentation road.

Would you like a speed-dial to the current location of those manuals? It's the kind of thing that hp3000links did with selected resources. Dunlop acted as an editor while he maintained the site for more than a decade. Now it's becoming a community project to clean out, like that pretty neighborhood park that got overgrown until those peculiar old fellas started to come by to weed and hoe and plant.

We'd like to see our readers visit hp3000links.com to check out the renovation, offer some catcalls and heckling, and suggest alternative links. The webpage, which is hosted by 3000 IT manager James Byrne for at least a few more months, even has a submission box for suggesting links. You might drop us a note on updates inside that box -- which is at the bottom of the very busy webpage. We'll be busy awhile, too.

07:09 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2011

Stealing or Scrapping Older HP 3000s

Owners of older HP 3000s have an end-of-life issue in front of them, sooner or later. Sometimes, as is the case at Cygnus Publishing, a 3000 is going offline to be replaced by a Windows server. What to do with the remaining hardware, usually so old that using it as a production box is not an option?

Subscriptions won't be processed any longer using the Datatrax app on the 3000 at Cygnus, said Eric Sedmak. He's been put in charge of moving the system out the door. The company is based in Wisconsin, and Sedmak wasn't sure which model was being turned off at the end of this month. We suggested contacting support providers in his area. Someone like Preferred Systems in Minnesota might pick up a box in neighboring Wisconsin for spare parts.

(MB Foster has developed a program and practices for decommissioning HP 3000s. The company held a webinar this afternoon on its practices. We'll have an article here soon on the advice that was given.)

Series70On the other hand, if you're collecting old HP 3000s, a Series 70 HP 3000 Classic is on eBay until next week. Refresh Computer in Orlando is trying to get takers for this "vintage and loaded" system. As 3000 vets know, this is a beast of a piece of iron, one that might be placed in a garage to aid in heating during the winter months. To be certain, HP engineered the 70 to survive such harsh conditions. Hey, it's got four 4MB RAM modules (probably LP-sized boards) for 16MB of main memory, plus it includes an HP 150 Touchscreen PC for a monitor. (That's Touchscreen, not TouchPad. The Touchscreen had a lifespan of at least three years of sales, instead of the TouchPad's three months.) the Touchscreen alone is a steal, since there's just as much vendor software coming for the 1980s PC as that TouchPad.)

We're not sure if you can call a Series 70 a holiday gag gift, since some support companies might want one of these to test against customers' systems. But as the first Series 70 we've seen on eBay, you might think of it as a steal.

The comment stream on selling this item -- it's on offer for the third time -- reflects how much has changed in 3000 ownership and stewardship. It also shows some realism as well as nostalgia.

• Can anyone in Florida save this HP 3000? Not mine but I would love to see someone with the space grab it and at least store it and save it from the scrapper. I know there are/were a few big iron HP fans here. This is the third time its been listed. Cheap enough now for a local scrapper to profit from it. Probably won't be a 4th listing.

• I've been watching this too, along with the 7937 hard drives and the 7978 tape drive, simply because I used to work on these systems. The Series 70 is a beast of a machine, and requires 220V for power. I'm not in a position to rescue it though, either in terms of proximity or space.

• Honestly, to me, these machines have no real value beyond what I could auction it for, as they're nothing that I have a personal connection with, and they're too archaic for me to enjoy recreating the past. I think that the retro-computing/emulation things are ways for people to wax nostalgic and enjoy the things that they used to enjoy.

• I'm really tempted. I'll actually be in the area around Xmas. Is it worth renting a van? What would I even do with this?

• Just Do It. The opportunity won't come again and you'll be kicking yourself for years to come.
"Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone" (BANG )

• Pretty neat server. You'll have to get a few friends a few beers to go along with ya when you pick it up, though. I can only imagine the weight of that thing.

• Not too many people that have that much space in their house. It would be just as bad for someone got it and put it in a shed or garage with no climate control. You would probably need a forklift to move it around. Could you even fit it through the front door of a house?

• Besides the power requirements, you'd still have to find a copy of MPE to run on it.

On that last score, the HP Computer Museum website can provide a copy of MPE V/E for use on this Series 70.

02:32 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 13, 2011

Emulator makers add tweaks in final tests

Stromasys has mailed a final thank-you to the band of field testers who've been probing the features of the HPA/3000 model of the Charon emulator. The software project that will ship with certified Intel PCs and HPSUSAN numbers on a USB stick is on target for a first release by January 15, according to Chief Technology Officer Robert Boers.

Although some earlier reports of floating point performance were not inspirational, the company now told its testers that the PCU acceleration is stable. Floating point deficiencies may not matter much to a 3000 community not used to relying on FP.

PA-RISC CPU acceleration is now stable enough to be included. In this first version it provides already more than twice the CPU performance of the original field test release. The acceleration method is similar to that of one of our Alpha emulator products (CHARON-AXP/SMA). It is a proven design, and we know that we now can further improve the performance for the individual PA-RISC instruction groups, if there is a need for that.

The developer says it will provide a final update to field testers "with some bug fixes and CPU accelerator improvements" before Jan. 15, Boers said. "As I announced last September, product shipment of the first CHARON-HPA/3xxx version will start shortly after. We plan to introduce two additional models within a few months." There's been no announcement of pricing for the product.

The 0.4 release of the hardware virtualization product will include PDC boot console features, added to make operation more familiar to the HP 3000 community. The vendor has also completed the design of telnet connectivity to the console, expecting to implement the design in a week or two. The feature provides remote management of a virtual HP 3000 in a lights-out datacenter, in VMware, or in the cloud.

05:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2011

How a Database Keeps Apps from Stalling

Print-ExclusiveThis fall Michael Marxmeier put his continued 3000 support behind the first HP3000 Reunion, one of three gatherings he’s co-sponsored along with ScreenJet since the first in 2005, when Interex canceled HP World. The creator of the Eloquence database, he migrated the internals of IMAGE with a TurboIMAGE Compatibility Extension, while including expensive tools such as replication and high-powered indexing to Eloquence, a product priced for the budget-wary 3000 market. We wanted to check back eight years after we first introduced him in a Q&A to a market which didn’t know Eloquence well, but could already see value in migration to a solution which understood the HP 3000’s database.

Our first part of this year's Q&A addressed the changes in the Itanium market for databases, especially in light of the Oracle conflicts. We spoke to him via Skype on 11-11-11, the Friday before the 10th anniversary of HP’s pullout from the 3000 marketplace.

You’ve talked about an application stalling look like to an organization?

At some customer sites, they get through the migration. But after they’ve had all this effort to move, they don’t do anything more. The application is basically frozen at the point where the migration happened, rather than evolving. However, applications don’t exist in thin air; they’re there to fulfill a business need.  As the business requirements and technology are evolving, if the application is unchanged, its value is reduced over time. If you just let it stall, in a few years it’s not longer viable to run the business, you can’t change things easily anymore, people have retired — all the typical things you see as problems in a legacy environment. Although you’ve migrated, you’re forced to replace the application with something off the shelf. That’s got its own pain to endure as well.

Evolving and continuing to provide value to your company’s applications is important. Most businesses are not stalled, and the technology environment certainly hasn’t. For example, tablets are becoming extremely popular. So the questions come, “Can’t we just give tablets to some of our employees, or make it accessible from the outside?” It’s a difficult question, one that is the responsibility of the IT team to respond to — mobile needs like that. PCI is another change you need to react to, and there are more coming down the line.

You have to have somebody to think a bit ahead, and be aware of what’s the industry is moving to, and find a way of incrementally moving your platform – instead of replacing it, or waiting until there’s nothing else to be done.

You usually move some enhancements into your Eloquence product with a public beta test period. What impact do such regular improvements make on the ability to keep an application climbing?

To get it right, you must have a few customers playing with this stuff before it’s released. Some enhancements are available for the current release as a patch, at the moment. The idea is to make these as public as possible, because we gain quite a bit of feedback from our existing customers.

We’ve found most customers have a small team running their shop, and it’s most beneficial to make incremental changes to their applications. This is something a small team can do, and it’s easy to find immediate use for these things.
   
What is the most desirable target for Eloquence in 2012, now that you’re beyond the adoption by ISVs? How do you make a case for an un-migrated 3000 customer to choose this to replace IMAGE?

We want to show — with technology like the full-text indexing of release 8.20 which will be our major 2012 release — what value makes sense for applications. What’s important about this full text indexing in Eloquence is that it will look like Google, where you it gets you a million results within a fraction of a millisecond. And we’ll have another release to provide this kind of major functionality.

For a customer on the 3000, our strategy is just as it has been before: Eloquence is a problem-solver, proven technology that covers every detail of a database and application migration, and it’s working in hundreds of sites everyday. It’s inexpensive, and it’s certainly the least painful migration option for a database. In going to Eloquence you don’t have to be afraid of getting stalled — because there’s something you cannot do which you did on the 3000.
   
What problems does Eloquence solve for a migrating customer?

If you stay on the 3000, you’re frozen in time. Eloquence keeps evolving. Even for emulator users, there’s a good question to be answered. There might be some workarounds to implement some of the technology changes like PCI and encryption, but does it make sense? Can you afford to miss all those changes the outside world might be demanding on your business and your application?

I think it will get harder and harder to get those working sufficiently well on the 3000. You not only have a stalled application, you have a stalled environment.
   
What’s the magic inside the TurboIMAGE Compatibility Extension? Is it essential to deploying Eloquence in a former 3000 enterprise?

There’s no magic involved, just engineering and attention to detail. Eloquence was always designed to support IMAGE applications. Our original customers used IMAGE, too. Eloquence is a second or third-generation IMAGE, I think. In the ‘90s, everybody was talking about moving to Windows. So we canned our first IMAGE implementation and rewrote from scratch, and we made sure that it uses the same technology or similar approaches we learned from relational databases. It was critical to us that IMAGE just worked, just as it did before. The core things the 3000 customer expects are already there. Then there were more engineering enhancements, to make sure we had things that turned out to be important in the migration scope. We found a solution to move a large amount of data around, for example.
   
How has the relational side of Eloquence evolved since 3000 customer migrations began in earnest in 2004?

In the past, relational had its own value, although few customers could tell you what it means. It’s a way the database is structured, and completely unrelated to the technology below it. What it means in practice is that relational is a mainstream database: SQL Server or Oracle. Using that definition, we are not a relational database. We are using a similar technology to a relational database, transactions, locking, so most of what runs in Eloquence is relational. But it doesn’t make sense to have another second-tier SQL database on the market.

Fortunately perception has changed, in that not everything needs to be relational. If your current 3000 database were emulated on top of a SQL database, would there be any value to it? Most likely, the answer is no. What is important is interoperability — that our customers can access their database like they would through a relational database like Microsoft Access, or though Java. We have a major customer running Visual Basic on top of Eloquence.

We think of what our customers actually need from us. There’s a relational view for Eloquence, an ODBC and JDBC driver. We’ve seen customers enhancing their applications by making use of SQL access to their database. But that’s not the primary way our customers interact with their databases.

09:16 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 09, 2011

Database supports Itanium, Intel, Linux

Marxmeier MugMichael Marxmeier wants to make migrations more than an exit from using HP 3000s. His company has sold the closest replacement for the IMAGE/SQL database for more than 12 years, as Eloquence moved into software vendors like Summit Technologies when their apps shifted to HP-UX or Windows. HP was touting his product as the cleanest and most adept choice for migrations nearly 10 years, when the vendor first started to advise customers about tools to make your massive IT shift possible.

Marxmeier has been studying IMAGE a long time. When the product was called HP Eloquence – it’s now an independent solution – it was employed by HP 250 business users who were being ushered off their super-PC business systems, where IMAGE was their database and the hardware cards were the same as those on the 1980s 3000s. Eloquence was born of an HP transition similar to the one the 3000 community has begun. That small business machine had a customer community much like the 3000’s and Marxmeier wrote a work-alike system to help his company move its applications onto HP’s Unix systems.

You’ve been one the earliest advocates and developers on Itanium. Does its future in the market, especially in light of the Oracle conflict, or its ability to compete on a tech basis, worry you?

We are not worried at all. HP uses Itanium as a viable option for businesses, and it works just fine. We certainly will continue to support it for the future. Unlike Oracle, it’s easy for us to make a commitment to it. We didn’t find it hard to develop for Itanium or to support it. We even support some exotic implementations like Linux on Itanium.

Itanium certainly has its users, and it’s hard to tell if it will make it or not. However, this shouldn’t be a concern to the customer. But if they’d like to move to something else, the proven technology of Linux is readily available. About half of our customers are using Linux these days.

The good thing about these open environments is that moving from one box to another is typically easy. Like in a COBOL shop, if you get another compiler and recompile your application, you’re pretty much there. Everything else works the same. Unix is a Unix is a Unix. If you’re familiar with HP-UX and you come across Linux, you will feel at home immediately.

When you first entered the 3000 migration market you said that Eloquence might have a role at a company as a bridge technology, before a migration to Oracle. Has your view changed, now that Oracle is battling with HP over support of Itanium servers?

Eloquence has a history of being a temporary solution that becomes permanent. Yes, we thought customers would use Eloquence as a temporary solution and move on to something else.  But we have not seen customers moving to Eloquence, then subsequently moving to another database. It seems there simply was no need for it. When we released the first version it was designed to work for two or three years to bridge the gap, while they re-wrote their applications in native Unix. But that was almost 20 years ago, and we’re still doing fine.

It’s certainly not getting easier going to Oracle. But HP was convincing customers that it was a business advantage to go to Oracle. They thought they needed it to be successful, but that’s and idea that’s become less popular recently.

We have two markets that we cater to. One is our existing Eloquence users, because we have a decent-sized user base. It’s most important for us that they have what they need to be successful.  By now the majority of that migration business is over, and that’s okay. ISVs have settled in place; they’ve probably already moved on. At the beginning they had to come up with a solution to keep their customers successful, and quickly.

But there also are quite a few end-users out there, and with all the knowledge we’ve gained we’ll address the needs of those users specifically. They will benefit from almost a decade of successful migrations. Things have become easier than they were at the beginning.

Customers are moving to other application packages. When they migrate and do nothing else, they can find out five years later it’s the end of the line for that package. This is even harder than the original migration. They are looking into heaps of hardware to do it, lots of consultants. Replacing a package with something that is standard like Oracle is not as easy as it sounds. Moving to something complex, just because it’s newer, is sometimes not worthwhile.

3000 people think of Eloquence as a database to stand in for IMAGE, but what other features and modules do such architects and developers overlook about it?

It has lots of interesting stuff beyond the database: a programming language, a user interface tool, patch integration and more. However, I think most of these functions are something 3000 customers will not use. Of more interest would be the PCL utility coming in the next version, which allows converting PCL output on the server to PDF or Postscript. Of most interest should be the database enhancements.

The continual improvements to Eloquence go beyond HP’s IMAGE functionality: replication, item masking, database encryption, auditing, FWUTIL [to access forward log file that holds archived committed transactions] — all integrated in the product and ready to use. Most of this stuff incrementally enhances existing applications. It works for migrated applications just as well as for Eloquence applications.

Next time: How a database can keep applications from stalling

09:07 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2011

Alas, Oracle, you've blown off HP's Unix

HP-UX sites which run Oracle have no idea if Oracle's 12G database, scheduled for next year, will run on their Integrity hardware. HP has said on its last two quarterly conference calls that the uncertainty about Oracle has driven down sales of the Business Critical Systems group.

This one risk that a vendor takes when it decides to partner closely with a third party, instead of the old-school model of including a vendor-built database like IMAGE. This isn't meant to slam any third party database maker, because there are some good ones out there. Even Oracle has lots of fans.

SpinnakerBut Oracle has used its database as way to sell its own Unix, Solaris. And now it appears there's saucy language about the man leading the sales charge for Solaris servers, Mark Hurd, inside Oracle's dramatic lawsuit language. We know, "dramatic lawsuit language" are not three words usually found together. But Oracle led by Ellison has always filled its sales with lots of breezy boasts. To the point, one stretch of the lawsuit against HP claims there are lies, and the truth, about Integrity servers.

The contrast between what HP was discussing internally — the truth — and what it was telling the market and its actual and prospective customers — blatant lies — could not be more stark.

It's not often you find marketing prose in a lawsuit, which might start hearings in April -- after HP has closed two more quarters. That will make a full year of Oracle pullout messages for HP's Unix customers.

HP says Oracle is contributing to the decline of HP's Unix line. HP's started to fall back on EnterpriseDB, which is extending its product line to include a new Postgres Plus Cloud Server. A webcast one week from today will include a demo -- but first, an outside analyst will explain the differences between cloud databases. The analyst is unlikely to compare lawsuit language between these warring vendors, both of whom are aiming to capture HP 3000 migration business. (And there's a more focused webcast for HP 3000 users one day earlier, on Dec.14 when MB Foster explains 3000 Decommissioning plans.)

IT managers who register for the EnterpriseDB webcast on Dec. 15 will hear

Matt Aslett, senior analyst enterprise software, 451 Research, examine the difference between databases running in the public cloud, and databases that will be used to power private and hybrid clouds. He will provide an overview of the functional requirements that separate database running in the cloud from true cloud databases.

It might not matter as much as you'd think if Oracle stops supporting HP-UX. That's the view from Michael Marxmeier, who offers the IMAGE alternative Eloquence for HP-UX, as well as Intel-based servers. (He says he's doing lots of Linux business by now.) More on that tomorrow.

12:10 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 07, 2011

3000 emulator cost queried, speeding certain

HPABootupSept11Yes, that's the total footprint of the emulator, sitting between Craig Lalley and the flatscreen TV monitor showing bootup of the beta-test Charon HPA/3000 emulator. 2012's releases could use VMware to simplify that boot screen to look identical to a 3000's, but in less than a tenth of the time the PA-RISC 3000s take to start up.

By now the expected rollout date for the Stromasys emulator for the HP 3000 is less than four weeks away. But the vendor who's promised to release the 1.0 version of CHARON HPA/3000 in January hasn't released any pricing for the product -- the kind of information that can get in the way of early-adopter sales.

New products need early adopters to bring news to the rest of the market. It worked that way for the 3000 NewsWire when we launched the first newsletter for the community in 1995. Our early adopters for advertising and subscriptions were able to report how effective we could be in campaigns and information access.

While an impatient group of hard-core 3000 experts and customers awaits the pricing, the speeds of the software appear to be following a much more certain path. The magic element in boosting performance of this virtualized server comes in a Dynamic Instruction Translation module. We've heard it's being tuned to match the performance of an A-Class 3000 by first release. This is one of the reasons why the HPA/3000 is being sold as a hardware (PC) and software bundle: an i7 Intel processor is needed to deliver the speed that will make a suitable replacement for a Series 9x9 or earlier 3000. That's the heartland of the marketplace for this product: companies with older servers and not enough budget or desire to move away from the 3000.

What's a reasonable price for the first edition of a product that will only get faster? Every price in the history of this kind of software-hardware solution might be different, kind of a Built To Order (BTO) model. BTO reflects the diverse environments that remain in the MPE world. Everybody deserves a fine-tuned implementation as well as price. Many of the smallest of 3000 sites are in most immediate need of an extension to the MPE application lifespan. Since they clearly don't have budget or plans in place, pricing under $25,000 seems a better early fit than higher entry points. When you go beyond that price, a ProLiant and Linux start looking to be worth the pain of doing a lift-and-shift of existing MPE/iX code.

Stromasys is aiming at full support utilizing VMware, too, according to its Chief Technical Officer Robert Boers. That goal was echoed by Craig Lalley of Echotech, who's become the go-to guy for Stromasys' MPE/iX experience. Lalley believes the product is "moving forward, and things are looking promising. This first release will do what some of my customers need it to do today."

The beauty of using virtualization for emulators is that they will always be able to leap across performance gaps. Not only does VMware have a product that lets an emulator be a guest on a host system like Linux, there's an even faster and more native option. VMware's ESX uses a Linux boot kernel, separate from the hosted environments -- so on bootup a user would see an MPE/iX prompt first. That's because ESX provides true access to the hardware's horsepower, according to Lalley.

The good news is that this is old tech news for Stromasys. The company's Charon product for the DEC marketplace already has VMware ESX capability. Company officials add that about 70 percent of the code in that DEC product is being used for HPA/3000. This is the kind of advantage that comes from selling an emulation solution for 12 years to enterprise customers. Next year becomes Year One for new HP 3000s.

07:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 06, 2011

HP news mortal, legal, financial this month

Hewlett-Packard may be picking itself up off the mat this quarter, but the immediate news from this supplier of an HP 3000 alternative hasn't been good, just one week into this month.

Dunn06Most immediately, interim HP chairwoman Patty Dunn has died of ovarian cancer, which she first contracted in 2004. The 58-year-old Dunn served as chairman of HP board during 2005, while the company was searching for a successor to Carly Fiorina, who the board had ousted earlier that year. According to the Wall Street Journal, a 4-page memo of "concerns" written by Dunn was instrumental in getting Fiorina sacked by the board. Dunn's time in the chairman's post ended her career at HP. After Congressional hearings where she had to testify in 2006 (above) Dunn was told to resign from the board over her role in the company's "pretexting" actions of '05: News emerged in 2006 about HP's hired and internal investigators trying to locate boardroom leaks to the media, using shams and misidentifying themselves to obtain phone records of directors and reporters. The pretexting sank down to family members of reporters, at its lowest point. (In a smack of irony, Dunn graduated with a journalism degree from U Cal Berkeley.)

HP paid a $14.5 million fine and Dunn faced criminal charges in the case that established a record of HP identity theft. The charges were later dismissed after Dunn refused to accept a plea bargain. With Dunn's resignation, Dick Hackborn was the only director left on HP's board from the pre-Compaq days. An excellent book on the sordid affair is The Big Lie: Spying, Scandal, and Ethical Collapse at Hewlett Packard, by Anthony Bianco, in which the "Dunn and Dusted" chapter is most informative. HP stated that "Pattie Dunn worked tirelessly for the good of HP. We are saddened by the news of her passing, and our thoughts go out to her family on their loss."

Not much further back in this month's timeline, HP felt it had to respond on Dec. 2 to a new counter-suit in its legal battle with Oracle. The maker of the databases which are used in more HP Unix systems than any other is now charging HP with "seven counts, including charges of fraud, defamation, intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, as well as violation of the Lanham Act and two violations of the California Business and Professional Code," according to an article on the website The Register. There's no peaceful settlement in sight between the two tech titans, which is probably why HP has started to recommend DBEnterprise as an Oracle replacement for its HP-UX customers, and Mimer for the OpenVMS sites.

HP has responded to the claim that Hewlett-Packard deceived Oracle and hid a program to pay Intel to prop up Itanium. "Today’s filing is another example of Oracle attempting to distract from the undeniable fact that it has breached its contractual commitment to HP and ignored its repeated promises of support to our shared customers," HP said in a press release, one where it laid out its version of the facts in the relationship. Partners of HP and Oracle have been slow to comment on the battle, not wanting to anger either of the combatants.

The Register says that HP wanted clauses in an agreement that permitted Oracle to hire the ousted HP CEO Mark Hurd, conditions that would have given HP extended access to Java developments, "its ability to sell Solaris on x86 platforms, and ongoing support from Oracle for its software stack on HP-UX."

In the end, HP had to settle for the language below, a legal clause that Hewlett-Packard now says commits Oracle to support Itanium systems.

Oracle and HP reaffirm their commitment to their longstanding strategic relationship and their mutual desire to continue to support their mutual customers. Oracle will continue to offer its product suite on HP platforms and HP will continue to support Oracle products (including Oracle Enterprise Linux and Oracle VM) on its hardware in a manner consistent with that partnership.

Perhaps as a result of that Oracle conflict that's crushing HP's HP-UX sales, along with the $10.2 billion HP acquisition of Autonomy, HP's credit rating has been reduced by Standard & Poors. (It's instructive to remember that S&P ratings were one of the chief elements that created the 2008 financial meltdown, as the company over-rated corporation after corporation to pump up the financial balloon to bursting.)

But the S&P bond reports remain a belwether to finance planning and debt. HP got downgraded corporate credit and senior unsecured ratings to 'BBB' from 'A,' which increases HP's borrowing costs. HP just reports that it increased its long-term debt by almost 50 percent year over year during its M&A spree of the last year, and its cash on hand is down to a level that's brand-new to the company's 21st Century fiscal history. The company's P/E valuation has climbed to 8.2x since the darkest days right after CEO Leo Apotheker was fired. Traders seemed to shrug off the S&P downgrade; HP shares are still trading around $28.

03:54 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2011

Two Dev Editors for One Classic Platform

Brian-EdminsterAs we created our November print issue of the 3000 NewsWire, one of the Q&A subjects, Brian Edminster, gave us a photo of himself in front of a pair of monitors. Each had a different development editor: Robelle's Qedit for Windows, which hardly needs any introduction to 3000 users, who've deployed Qedit since the 1980s and continue to support it in its Windows incarnation; and Programmer Studio -- which, alas, saw its creators Whisper Technology go dark several years ago.

Edminster, who's stocking the HP 3000's community's open source repository, told us he likes both tools, enough to have a paid license for each. (Programmer's Studio had a free trial option that created a lot of shadow customers.) Using his HP 3000 terminal emulator from WRQ, Edminster notes

I've got two Reflection windows open to sessions on different systems on the left monitor, and Programmer Studio on the right (yes, it's kinda like MPE/iX -- no longer maintained, but it works just fine), and about a dozen other apps either web-based or other. I can't even imagine working on a traditional 'green-screen' to do programming anymore. There are good features of both -- but Qedit for Windows is more like a stand-alone editor that uses the Windows GUI. Each has its strengths.

Edminster gave us a rundown on his toolbox for development in 3000 environments and beyond.

Programmer Studio is much more like a conventional IDE -- something that programmers from other platforms (especially Windows) would find more familiar. Both it and Qedit do syntax highlighting/coloring. I like the one-button compiler integration with PStudio (where it can display the source code and after a compile with errors -- position you at each error so you can fix them, then f4 to take you to the next error, etc). It also, for certain languages (C, and COBOL, at least) shows a structure of the program in window on the left allows very easy navigation of the source.

The Regular Expression searches capability is really great too -- not just within a file, but across entire directories of files. I use this often to find references to variables across an entire source library. The results are shown in a 'find results' window. If you double-click on the found line, it'll open the code in another tab, positioning the cursor to that line.

By the way, for people that have to edit files on servers that don't allow FTP access, but do allow ssh/sftp access, there's a third party add-on I found called ExpanDrive (www.ExpanDrive.com).  It's a tool that works on both Macs and Windows to allow 'mounting' file systems on your workstation - and just about any workstation software can then access them.  This has allowed me to use PStudio in places where I wouldn't have, otherwise.   I've mentioned this on the 3000-L a while ago.

I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, but there's a multi-platform open source IDE that's functionally similar to PStudio called Eclipse, a Java-based IDE with plug-in architecture (allows adding functionality/features) that runs under Linux, Mac OS/X, and WIndows.  Unfortunately PStudio is not extensible via plug-ins like Eclipse is -- even though it does have a 'tools' menu -- to allow adding limited integration of external tools. Eclipse is designed such that plug-ins are fully integrated, and can essentially transform how the tool works. Pretty amazing stuff. And yes, there are a number of plug-ins that facilitate working with COBOL, as well a multitude for Java and other more recent languages.

05:22 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2011

HP Connects users on power and cloud

By Terry Floyd
The Support Group

The HP Connect users group sponsored a luncheon seminar meeting in Austin a few weeks ago, with two diverse speakers and topics. Kristi Browder, Executive Director and COO of Connect, lead the meeting and introduced the speakers.

Print-ExclusiveClyde Poole, of TDi Technologies, talked about “What you Should Know Before Moving to the Cloud.” It was not a sales pitch for his Plano-based company; rather, the presentation was a generic and informative speech. Clyde spoke from years of data center experience as he covered the “gotcha’s” of cloud computing. He discussed three or four definitions of “the cloud” and gave examples of each (SalesForce, Amazon, etc.). It was a speech intended to urge caution when moving data to the cloud, covering legal and security issues and their inherent risk exposures.

Clyde’s best tip was to visit wiki.cloudsecurityalliance.org, a site where the CSA describes issues concerning cloud deployment. There you learn where Clyde got some of his ideas about the major Service Models: SaaS (Software), PaaS (Platform), and IaaS (Infrastructure). On that site is also a great piece on Public vs. Private clouds (and Hybrids) and about required characteristics of clouds, such as Resource Pooling, Broad Network Access, Rapid Elasticity, Self-Service provisioning, and what Measured Services means.

David Chetham-Strode, an HP’er of 15 years, spoke on “Power and Cooling”, introducing innovations the invent brand has introduced in the last year or two. He spoke about new power distribution products that have come out of HP’s own data center projects. David spent a lot of time discussing power loss and what Hewlett Packard has done to increase efficiencies from 90 percent to as much as 98 percent, big savings in electricity in big data centers. He revealed secrets of air flow and “cooling from within the row of servers” instead of from above or below.

David also mentioned the “chimney” products and why they have no fans (not just that they are not needed, but that they disrupt the flow). Did you know that the new rear doors on the solidly-built HP cabinets have more holes than their competitors’ cabinets? This presentation was interesting to me, even the minutia about power cabling, the explanation of why blue was used for the A/C connections’ color coding, and the fact that HP is working on eliminating A/C and going with D/C for the most efficiency possible.

A couple of dozen people attended the free seminar and I’m sure all agreed that the meal was excellent. Everyone received a 1GB USB storage device with HP’s name and a Connect koozie. I won one of the two door prizes, a bag of goodies including the ever-present and very high quality HP mouse pad, as well as two different mice, another 1GB thumb drive, and a pedometer (in case I wanted to know how many steps it was back to my car – several hours later it is up to 2,245).

I learned a few useful, interesting items and met some nice people, including four Connect employees and four HP people. It was a good effort and worth my time to try to re-connect with Connect. But it’s lonesome for an MPE guy in this world. I identified Compaq and Non-Stop people, but HP-UX was probably in the majority of the crowd’s resumes.

12:20 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2011

HP starts to suggest an Oracle alternative

It's come to this: Unix managers who are wondering, like Rosen Marudov inside HP's support operation, what's going to replace Oracle on HP-UX are getting an answer. And the reply is not, "hold onto your hat for a friendly outcome of that lawsuit against Oracle." Marudov noted on the LinkedIn HP-UX Users forum, "There should be a program for replacing the Oracle products running on HP-UX. I cannot see any efforts in that direction."

ShawpresentationSteve Shaw, HP Canada's Chief Technologist, suggests, "There are many alternatives, yet one that is relatively minimal risk is to use EnterpriseDB. It has the benefits of open-source (uses Postgres) with an Oracle compatibility layer, so it is a straight replacement. It's not for every situation, but where you have custom code and are only using the Oracle database, this is a great way to drive down costs while maintaining your Integrity/HP-UX/application environment. Check it out at www.enterprisedb.com." More than six years ago, there's Shaw (above) depicted at a user group presentation talking about "HP's corporate strategy for hardware and operating environments including roadmaps and capabilities."

There are other ways to go to replace Oracle in a strategy. Michael Marxmeier told us last month that customers once bought his Eloquence database as a stepping stone to Oracle. There's not much stepping going on anymore. But if an HP Unix customer is trying to move an Oracle-centric homegrown application, HP believes there are still databases to that can step in. The real work in such a plan shows up when HP-UX sites have home-grown code -- the very kind of programs the sites did a "lift-and-shift" operation upon to get away from their HP 3000s.

Project Odyssey is on at HP, a migration that Bob Orton, a Unix support manager at SourceDirect, defined as, "Odyssey: 1. A long wandering or voyage fraught with peril. 2. Any long intellectual or spiritual wandering or quest -- see Hewlett Packard."

Among comments like "I hope the customers are mature enough to understand this," there's a belief that moving HP's Unix advantages to Linux on x86 won't have a negative impact on the Integrity server line, or the future of HP-UX.

HP's Shaw added, "I agree that customers with legacy/home-grown code may be reluctant to change. Hence why HP-UX/Integrity will be around for years to come -- and with a wide variety of database choices to pick from, they don't have the risk or expense to port to another OS platform."

Then there's talk of Mimer's database for the OpenVMS customer at HP as an Oracle replacement. Those folks aren't even part of the Odyssey; HP expects the VMS folks to make do with Integrity/Itanium upgrades for years to come. "I would highly recommend Mimer over Oracle," said Jamie Edgar at Savant Ltd. "It handles complex cluster-wide environments very well." Clusters are essential to the VMS experience, but Mimer isn't a solution aimed at any HP Unix site.

Linux is a migration option for target apps that run on HP's Unix today, Shaw noted. "I do believe that most ISVs today have a certified Linux option for their applications and software," he said on LinkedIn. "Today customers need to choose between different infrastructures for the different OS deployments. Project Odyssey will help their decision because regardless of the OS, they can get a mission-critical experience in a common infrastructure that was previously only on Unix."

HP tried this kind of thinking when it pulled the plug on its HP 3000 futures. The company assumed everybody would flock to HP-UX while replacing HP 3000s. When the dust settled seven years later, the vendor said it'd lost half of the 3000 customers to other vendors. Before the plug was pulled, there was advice to choose different OS environments for differing projects.

Linux on x86 is offered by a score of hardware-software suppliers, and HP doesn't even have to be involved unless a customer needs some of those HP-UX special features. Rather than announce a migration for its HP-UX customers, HP is just showing its Unix users a light away from HP's OS business. HP's not creating its own distro of Linux to make the HP-UX magic appear. It will be delivering its R&D to RedHat and SUSE, hoping to keep something with an HP badge running in any HP-UX shop moving away from Integrity.

03:07 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)