January 31, 2012
3000 connections still Padding in the future
Not long ago, HP business server users started to ask about iPad connectivity once again. Some of the answers included pretty good advice on getting access to HP's Unix servers. The HP 3000 connectivity, which would be best served with 700/92 emulation nuances, might be a more complex prospect.
Back in the summer of 2010 we were waiting on the arrival of a 3000-grown solution. Minisoft intended to release its Javelin connection for iOS. It had even set a $9.95 price. But then the developer Neal Kazmi weathered some health issues and the project had to be tabled. But it's not canceled, according to Minisoft's founder and president Doug Greenup.
We were all set to do this with Neal and then had to pospone. He is back working on a number of projects here at Minisoft. The Javelin port to iPad is still on the "to do" list. I know there are people interested in a robust HP connectivity app for iPad. We just haven't had the development resources to finish the project.
So while we'll keep an eye on the App Store for the first 3000-savvy iOS app, there might be another solution available in the meantime. Something demoed on the Macworld show floor, just getting on its feet, can give users control over their desktop back at the office -- and so they'd be able to use a Windows PC running 3000 connectivity solutions, or even something hosted on the Mac.Yes, there is one Mac-based 3000 terminal and connectivity solution. Minisoft sells a Mac-capable version of Javelin. You might have known this Minisoft software as MS/92 in an earlier life. The whole kit's been rewritten in Java, which makes the software capable of running on a wider range of clients, all to attach to servers including the 3000, Unix and even the AS/400 lineup. There's also a Minisoft Secure 92 solution with SSH tunneling that's been released recently.
But back to that desktop control solution. Splashtop Remote Desktop requires a wi-fi connection between the desktop and the tablet. It even supports Android devices. So you can use this app, plus a free Streamer client on that desktop, to control any interface you can drive from the desktop. There's one level of connectivity while inside the same wi-fi network. But Splashtop can also reach outside of a company's net for even greater remote range.
A connection through a working Gmail account lets the desktop certify itself to the iPad or Android tablet. Using this network, a worker in a secured wi-fi net in another location can touch the software on his desktop. I saw the on-the-same-net demonstration at Macworld and was surprised at the level of control. I don't know if I'd try this with an iPad 1, because more processing power is better. It will hum along even faster in a little while when the iPad 3 is released this spring.
There are three kinds of IT managers who respond to these mobile connection needs. The first wants to wall off IT from mobile access. The second is willing to see why mobile will make the enterprise better. The third knows that mobile is essential to keeping a company abreast of modern access. You don't want to be the first for very much longer. This is a wave that's not going to be stopped; it's a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) world out there now. Apple's sold 55 million iPads already, not to mention the 100 million iPhones. Android will bring even more devices into the shop. And there's usually a good chance they arrive under the arm or in the pocket of a VP who simply wants to use their favorite laptop replacement.
As for entrusting Google to certify a remote computer's indentity, it's better than nothing. Even the developers of Splashtop understand Gmail is a stopgap. But an internal wi-fi linkup is a great way to be responsive to a request for mobile 3000 access. The ultrabooks will make laptops lighter, but those are not the devices causing the BYOD wave. You can get ready for tablets now, and keep an eye on what else will emerge this year.
January 30, 2012
HP's not dumping Itanium apps, says editor
It's official: I've become an "industry pundit." The January/February edition of The Connection arrived in the mailbox while I was out covering Macworld, and I got myself put into an article about HP's Odyssey Project, in a footnote. It's a tale that like Sister Mary Ignatius, Explains It All For You. (Apologies to Christopher Durang's play, but I'm a lapsed Catholic boy and can feel a lecture in the air.)
At least I didn't get my knuckles rapped with a ruler. Dr. Bill Highleyman, managing editor of The Availability Digest and a past chair of the Tandem User Group, addressed the serious question about the future of Itanium in his rousing conclusion to The Connection article.
One industry pundit suggested that [HP VP] Markin Fink's reference to a "single platform" signals that the Intel Xeon chip family is going to win out in HP's near future, probably meaning the end of the Itanium developments from Intel after its next two processor rollouts become a reality.
I remember writing that suggestion on November 25, indeed. There were a few other articles that followed it, but I'm not going to cry out "misquoted out of context." No journalist should ever bark that out, although I invite you to read my other article that immediately followed my punditry. If you consider how long it's going to take Intel to do its next two Itanium rollouts, customers will be in the territory of 2016, or even later. (The last two rollouts took a lot more than two years each.) Nobody at HP has shown a roadmap on the future of HP-UX beyond that date.
If Xeon hasn't "won out" already -- and those are Dr. Bill's words, since I'm no fan of racing metaphors -- it will surely represent a walloping majority of Intel's energy in four years. The end of proprietary tech at a vendor can come silently and quickly for no good technical reason. The HP 3000 did not officially lose HP's favor until a blind-side announcement. Right up to the late summer before MPE/iX got its HP dismissal, HP was still encouraging customers to ride that racehorse.
Dr. Bill quotes Pauline Nist of Intel in her company blog as saying
Intel remains equally committed to the Itanium and Xeon platforms, both of which represent our portfolio approach to bringing open standards-based computing to the mission-critical environment.
The next thing you know we'll be hearing how Itanium is "strategic to HP." Lessons from the 3000 division -- whose final GM, Winston "Coup de Grace" Prather, has become the Tandem/NonStop GM -- should make you want to race for the doors if strategic ever gets used to describe a product's future.Highleyman is sharp enough to know that it's the apps for Itanium which will be in jeopardy if anything strategic happens to the processor. So in his closing comments he reaches into the innards of statements from Business Critical Systems GM Martin Fink to try to find some assurance about the future of HP-UX.
"[A product marketing manager at BCS] said that 'HP is not now planning to port HP-UX to x86-based servers.' " But the article wonders, "Was the operative word 'now' intentional?" (I'm reminded of a semantic debate about the definition of "is.") Dr. Bill is ready with an answer, right now, from Mr. Fink.
Martin: [The HP rep] is basically saying, "Never say never." At this point there are no plans; and I predict that it will never happen. The big problem is the software support and the ISV support for the 5,000 current HP-UX ISV applications. The better model is to bring the HP-UX capabilities to Linux, rather than port HP-UX to x86.
These are all very sharp people. I wonder why everybody is missing this point: why you'd ever need to port HP-UX, or whatever this better model is supposed to do. My headline of Nov. 25 said HP was aiming Unix sites at x86 futures. It sure seems to me, as an industry pundit, that once you bring HP-UX's capabilities to Linux, those customers using the capabilities aren't going to be HP-UX users much longer. I might be confused -- because at the same time that one person in HP says "never say never," about a UX port to x86, another says "I predict it will never happen."
I prefer to take my lessons on soothsaying from Yoda. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke asks him if his friends Leia and Han will die. "Difficult to tell," says Yoda. "Always in motion is the future."
All I know for certain is that 2016 looks like a lot more robust year for Linux apps than for HP-UX apps. And if you're still smarting from the knuckle-rapping HP gave you when you last paid the vendor to run a proprietary hardware and software platform -- well, you might not like what Highleyman assures you with. He quotes Martin: "IBM's strategy is not at all like Project Odyssey." But then the Doctor adds this.
IBM's proprietary operating system zOS has survived living alongside a hardened Linux. Hopefully this is an indication that the HP proprietary operating systems will survive alongside HP's hardened Linux and Windows.
If the demand for these operating systems declines, will Itanium survive? Martin: This is not an issue. Most planning cycles are five years or less. Changes like this take a long time. As long as you and I are around, we'll be supporting HP-UX on Itanium.
That sounds like some swell whistling past the graveyard, as our old friend Wirt Atmar used to describe optimism about HP's 3000 intentions. Martin Fink is predicting that UX is never getting to x86 and that HP will support HP-UX on Itanium as long as you and I will be around. I'm only 54. Unix is past 60 and starting to slow in the market. Father Time wins every race, to fall back on that hoary metaphor. Nothing lasts forever, but now HP has defined a new future where a "hardened Linux" somehow apes the best of HP-UX but it doesn't supplant it. Wirt had a professorship in evolutionary biology. He could see how any vendor's product has a lifespan that includes death.
If HP customers' best bet is to believe that IBM's mainframe zOS business will be a model for HP-UX -- well, good luck with that. HP's never liked doing things the IBM way until they're forced into it. I can't predict if there will be enough distubance in The Force of Itanium users to force HP to make HP-UX outlive us youngsters. I can only suggest.
January 27, 2012
Macworld makes Apple work for business
The noteworthy Macworld Expo unfurled its computing charms this week, but the 27-year-old show about all things Apple has a nouveau business patina these days. Almost 75 percent of Apple's historic Q1 sales came off mobile products. It's a remarkable tally considering that was a $46 billion first quarter. Apple is not doing it on the backs of consumers exclusively. Business has embraced the Apple brand, not only in mobile but also on the enterprise's desktops.
It has been many years since a large conference included HP 3000 solutions. Not even the final HP World show of 2004 could be considered large by Macworld standards; Interex was doing very well when it drew 7,000 IT souls, and Macworld hovers near the 20,000 mark these days. A few hundred vendors make up the show floor this week, although it's thick with vendors of covers for any Apple product you can carry -- which if you take a moment to consider it becomes the bulk of the Apple line: ultra-slim laptops like the Macbook Air, beefier models like the Pro and the iPads and iPhones. All accomplished solutions, but there's a growing number of companies that want to out-do Windows desktops here, and I'm not talking about Angry Birds on Windows Phone or MS Office. You can look beyond the common-cloth Unix choices if you're making a migration and plan to buy off the shelf replacement software.
This year a new player entered this market with a software shell that makes Mac management as simple as administering Windows desktops. Mokafive integrates with those Mac systems so an admin with Windows experience -- Active Directory, that sort of thing -- can manage everything from a single screen. (That screen above is on a Macbook Air.) After all, inside the heart of Apple's products beats Unix, the original "open" system that's supposed to connect with everything. Mokafive isn't the only way to convince your IT staff that Macs won't be any extra burden. There are other products aimed at creating a homongenous workplace for computers which tap corporate data.
Okay, full disclosure here: The companies I've worked for and founded since 1987 have been Apple shops. It used to be the domain of pariahs and the source of derisive snorts, but the Mac world has gone corporate on us all. The pro-sumer movement, where iPhones and iPads get carried into an enterprise by C-level officers, has brought along Macs as a sticky complement. In a report on the $46 billion quarter, Apple's CEO Tim Cook said nearly all of the Fortune 500 is using Apple's products, including most companies adopting Macs. It used to be that a localized in-house datacenter kept Apple out. Now there's cloud computing to take the place of an IMAGE/SQL, if you're departing the 3000 world. This cloudy future is helping to make Apple's business outlook brighter.This being a computer conference, some things haven't changed a bit since 1987. More than one vendor had hired "booth babes" -- apologies to the female managers reading that phrase -- to attract attention to one software package or another. A gaggle of these working women simply reminded me of the aisles of Uniforum 25 years ago, where men wearing parrots on shoulders at that Unix show shared space with women who might be modeling when they weren't wearing mini-dresses festooned with booth numbers on their behinds. The difference was that Macworld 2012's aisles and booths were rife with women working in more business-like garb, both buying as well as selling. One example was Mokafive's COO Purnima Padmanaban.
Padmanaban is clear-eyed about the hurdles the Mac faces in IT strategy. "Corporations have trouble adopting Macs because while Macs are beautiful and sleek, but Windows applications don't run on them, and it's very hard to secure a Mac," she said. "What we do is take your standard corporate Windows environment and make it a secure managed app on a Mac." Using a concept that Intel calls Intelligent Desktop virtualization, it means that the Mac takes an equal but familiar place on the console for corporate computing, with Windows losing none of its compatibility with the likes of SQL Server or even a 3000-savvy database like Eloquence for Windows. Mokafive provisions corporate Windows environments for the Mac desktops. You free your users to bring in that Macbook Air they want to use on the job.
Another way to embrace Windows work on Apple's products is through virtualization. While this doesn't provide much of a single-pane administration benefit, the likes of VMWare's Fusion or Parallels have advanced the cause of emulation. That's the vehicle that's carrying MPE into the future. Parallels can either present a Mac-like workspace on the desktop that's completely outfitted with Windows as well. Or it can give a user the Windows experience by day and let them revert to Mac OS X off the job. There's a lively competition between Fusion and Parallels that keeps each product improving at a constant rate. Both have gotten three major improvements in the last two years, and at $79 a desktop it's too inexpensive to trigger even 3000-grade budget shock.
Managing virtualization requires some learning, but it's a good skill set to acquire going into 2012. On the other hand, Padmanaban claimed that IT managers need "zero additional skills" to deploy and administer Mokafive's Player, "an app that is running my standard Windows desktops." She also says that deployment is possible in as little as 90 minutes. The software installation comes on a USB key.
As for the mobile goodies being displayed here, one software solution treats Windows as if it were running on iPads. Splashtop brings the Windows apps and desktops to the ultra-popular tablets by giving the user a remote control of their PCs. (Yes, that's the usually-reviled but necessary Explorer browser in the picture, running on an iPad that's controlling a PC remotely.) If an app can run on the PC, it can be used on an iPad. Because it's an iOS app, the cost is crazy-cheap. This week Splashtop is $2.99 per iPad, and the regular price is only $19.95. I watched a demo that showed a PC desktop running while the iPad gave cursor control, text entry, clicks on buttons -- any aspect of an interface required. It gets even better for remote use, because you can use it over a secured wi-fi environment from across the country. At the moment Google Mail somehow tells your desktop to talk to the remote app, since you sign in with a Gmail account on both iPad and PC. Google is far from perfect, but if its apps can be rolled out to the multi-billion dollar BBVA bank enterprise, it's probably capable of managing the handshake between an iPad and a Windows PC.
Windows and the PC world never cared much about adopting Apple support in the decades where Microsoft had all the mojo. Coming from a humble position in the business world, the Apple solutions have a "can't we all get along" approach. There are millions of Windows desktops out there. But there are now millions of Apple's mobile customers bringing along Macs, a market that showed 26 percent growth over the last year versus zero for the rest of the PC industry. Apple products are going to become a management mission for the IT department, driven along by mobile attachments. Although Apple never aimed at becoming an enterprise darling, the business has arrived anyway. It delivers an user experience that can mimic Windows, or something newer and smoother and yes, popular -- integrated with what you already are adopting for your migration.
January 26, 2012
Amping up 3000s becoming commonplace
The farther away HP's end of support date gets from the system's present day, the more common become the skills to take the hardware beyond HP's constraints. Its processors were crippled by code in the server that threw away as many as three cycles out of four. HP was attempting to introduce a value chain in the lineup, but the customers soon saw it as chains around PA-RISC chips inside.
Now you don't have to ask around for very long to arrange for the chains to be broken. One prominent consultant said it's been six years since he was asked about any MPE/iX license needs while upgrading one of the servers HP's walked away from. The slowdown reverberates throughout a 3000. Its Fibre Channel drivers require CPU power, so crippling the CPU also cripples the IO.
As common as the practice is off the record, it's also common for companies to say little that can be traced to them in public when they do this to a 3000. The irony in the situation is that the HP 3000s which were released without user-based licenses like the A-Class servers got hobbled. On the upside, nearly every HP 3000 released since 2001 can run faster with a few judicious commands inserted at the ISL prompt.
The payoff? The LTO and LTO2 tape devices could get a streaming role on an N-Class. That server uses a speedier PCI bus than the Series 900 HP 3000s. LTO might seem like antique tech, but it's all relative in the world of the homesteading site.The ability to achieve complete CPU power on a 3000 is a limited path, however. Over-clocking a PA-RISC processor simply isn't possible, and even adding twice as many full-speed processors to an N-Class (eight instead of four) has its limits. Enter the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator, which is only limited by the imagination of the Intel Xeon-x86 engineers.
The largest group of processors in the world, this chip family is unlikely to see its demise before nearly all of the 3000 customers retire. (David Floyd at the Support Group, a tender 35 years old, may see Xeon fall. As might anybody else who could work beyond age 90.)
Is there a crossover between the companies interested in getting full speed from their 3000s and those who might invest in HPA/3000? We've heard of it, but the market of 2012 is going to be the first proof of such an intersection.
January 25, 2012
More changes resound at 3000links.com
Welcome to another installment in the historic saga of the HP 3000 resources tracked by hp3000links.com. In our last episode we discovered that about a third of the vendor listings A-G were dead links, while about half of the remainder didn't do 3000 business any longer. The H-O group showed a lot more promise to lead toward active resources. But it's also a strong record of a bygone environment.
Still operating as usual, off the addresses on the links' list, are Horner Consulting (now also Publishing), Ideal Computer Services, MPE/iX Administrator's Guide author Jon Diercks, Lars Appel, Lund Performance Solutions, MB Foster, Cort Wilson's MANMAN Resource website, Mark Bixby of 3000 porting fame, Melander Consulting, Minisoft, Nobix, Opin Systems, OpenSeas and Orbit.
HP Technologies is a programming house that once tended to Amisys healthcare sites and alternatives like the IBM-based Facets. It's all alternatives by now, including the Amisys Advance replacement. Holland House is now at hollandhouse.com, but Holland House has been a member of the Solipsis Group since 2006. Unispool is still for sale there. HP 3000s, or any other specific platform, are not mentioned at the website. Idaho Computer Services became Evolve and then joined Harris Group as it left its municipal 3000 app business. Impact Digital Solutions has dropped off the map and taken down its Discover/3000 search tool.
It's interesting to see how businesses evolved in the turmoil of the post-2001 3000 shakeout. Infocentre's Canadian reservation systems business has become a development house for hotel software, web design and marketing-ecommerce solutions. Operations Control Systems moved its MPE/iX job scheduler to Unix. Instead of a 3000 consultant, the Jim McCoy linked on the site now does bookkeeping and accounting.
Then there's the blindside group, where a link like Interactive Software Systems now leads to a Columbian swinger's club, complete with pounding techno music on its website.Bad links to still-operating 3000 providers are common at hp3000links.com. It's a serious chore to keep up with the comings and goings of web locales. Links among this group even include Iomit International (Olav Kappert, proprietor, has volunteered to help clean up hp3000links). An HP partners webpage lists his current details, as well as a listing on the OpenMPE news blog.
Domains for sale or dead -- and so taking companies into the shadows of the web -- include HiComp, Homestead 3000 Consulting, IT Consulting Consortium, Lancaster Consulting (Bill is four years removed from any 3000, he reports), Managed Business Systems, MIS Resource Group, Monterey Software Group, Omnisolutions and Opus.
January 24, 2012
Relying on a Product That's Market-Proof
The thunder you might have heard today came rumbling down from the stock market, where Apple's shares rose $35 in trading after the company's quarterly report. HP's tablet and PC competitor is nearing the point where it laps Hewlett-Packard in PC sales, so long as you call an iPad a personal computer. There's great evidence you can use one for lightweight mobile tasks. Apple sold more than 15 million iPads, more than 5 million Macs (mostly laptops) and posted $46.3 billion in sales -- in just 90 days including the holidays. Apple is on track to out-sell HP in total numbers for the last four quarters, by a big margin. And speaking of margins, the profits on that $46.3 billion were $13 billion.
If you've forgotten, because HP's numbers don't matter so much to you anymore, HP recorded just $130 billion in sales for its entire 2011 year. There's a message here that matters to a 3000 owner, during this day when Apple's stock rose by more than the full price of an HP share. Public-traded companies are going to chase profits and market share. That's one reason why the life of a 3000 owner is a simpler existence today.
HP had no compelling technical reason for exiting its 3000 business. It was a decision based on revenues, profits and growth of the business. Apple hasn't exited the iPod business, but the popular Touch line got no updates during 2011. Sounds a bit like the 3000's offerings after February 2001, when the A- and N-Class servers finally surfaced. The canary in the mineshaft, warning of a lack of oxygen -- that's a lack of updates. This is something to be expected out of any tech product sold by a public company.
Is it too crazy to believe that in the post-manufacturing era of the 3000, its stable and static future could be a refuge? It's not like there's going to be any less HP involvement with the 3000. The server is now being cared for by the community of its users. Hundreds and hundreds of experts. They don't have investors or any public-trading demands to impact their 3000 curation mission. It's all about the customers.
No, that's not a scenario that will spark fresh installations of HP 3000s. Many a migrating company uses the departure of HP as a spark for a system's exit. But some companies have cleared out all HP gear except for their 3000s. So if a migrating company is stuck on the server for awhile longer, at least surprises are going to be few in that environment. This server has become market-proof, at least stock-market-proof. The history that we recall is that the axe descended after the 3000's creator hired a leader who was directed to boost HP's valuation.The public company that is HP has stepped away from many products other than 3000s. It's the nature of any company that's pursuing profits. Christian Lheureux, a veteran of the 3000 software and HP partner markets, said at the demise of the TouchPad -- a product with a single hardware-software-application chain -- that HP's only looking out for the future of its company.
If history is any lesson, let me note that any market where HP can't grab, say, a 30 percent share is abandoned, period. Remember the Photosmart cameras? Proprietary OS mini-computers like the HP 3000? Dot-matrix printers? HP TVs? Polyserve file clusters? With the TouchPad, they probably quickly realized they would never get 30 percent against the iPad, so they dumped it, full stop.
Remember, it's not at all about tech innovation, but all about market share, actual or future. ROI. Earnings per share. Gross margin. Operating profit. You name it. That's the way companies are run these days, and, by the way, it's what keeps them in business. Anybody remember the seven pillars of the HP Way ? Number One was profit.
It's not that the 3000 community has no regard for profits. Suppliers and tech vendors need profits to keep things stable, so someone can answer a call who knows that a 3000 is not a printer and can fix code that's spitting errors unexpectedly. That's a rare thing for a server that hasn't had an OS change in four years.
While it might not seem possible to avoid public-traded companies' products, open source and commodity hardware give you a chance. Migrating to a different environment controlled by a share-trading vendor is just asking for long-term pain, according to James Byrne at Harte & Lyne Ltd.
Do not buy anything from any publicly traded, joint stock, company, that you plan to depend upon for the long term. Period. The so-called efficiency of the market on the stock exchange amounts to a roulette wheel and companies that thereby choose to dance to the tune whistled by gamblers have no vision beyond that of the end of their own nose. Instead, buy from private firms that have some idea of what it takes to stay in their own 'business' and are not beholden to speculators.
The accomplishment of HP's shareholders is that the last bits of HP gear at our firm were gone by the end of 2011 (with the sole exception of the HP 3000). And good riddance.
So in the glory days of HP's stock, when it was a $70 item from a company paying dividends, there was as much to celebrate as Apple's customers can revel in today. But somewhere out there in this decade an iPod will become a historic footnote at Apple, just like the 3000 did at HP. Unlike your server, you probably can't expect an aftermarket of community stewards to keep the iPods relevant and stable.
January 23, 2012
Quality, emulator futures slowing migrations
Some of the migration tool and service suppliers are expecting migrations from the 3000 to slow to a trickle this year. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet told us last week that the chance of extending the life of 3000 applications, by using the Stromasys HPA/3000 software, is going to put on the brakes for the sites that didn't have a clear future strategy for their 3000 servers.
Even without the possibility of replacing Series 900 hardware with the PC hardware plus software that starts at $15,000, most of the 3000 programs in production are not broken. They continue to do the job they were built for, although they could work faster, or connect better to new peripherals.
3000 managers wonder about these things. "Am I the only one out here?" they ask, in public forums like the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup. The answer is no, you're not the only one out there. In fact, the populace of 3000 customers is surprising, both in its numbers and the work these systems do. The brand-new chairman of the Connect user group's board has managed a 3000 shop for many years. Steve Davidek is on the record as a fan of the 3000, even while his shop at the City of Sparks has migrated numerous 3000 apps.
"The City of Sparks, Nevada will be running an HP 3000 and BiTech Payroll at least through 2011," he said on the newsgroup. "Maybe longer, as the process to convert to our new system was hampered by the amount of budget we are allowed. Then again, why the rush? It is still the best out there.""We have three-year migration plan," said another manager on the 3000 mailing list. "And I doubt my last three HP 3000 shops have a plan in place yet."
Brett Forsyth, a reseller who has more than 20 years experience in the 3000 market, did a survey of his client list and found almost 200 HP 3000s still active within the last year or so.
My number totaled 197 known active. These are HP 3000s in a range running from Micro XEs to N-Class 750 4-way systems — and those are just the ones that I know of personally. Keep in mind that some of these clients have multiple units in multiple locations.
This is the beast that just won't die, in spite of Carly [Fiorina] and all the other MBAs who thought they knew better.
The largest best-known installation might be at Navitaire, the airline billing company. Mark Ranft last reported that the enterprise which was once known as Open Skies runs more than a dozen of the largest HP 3000s that Hewlett-Packard ever sold.
We have 21 HP 3000's. Eighteen of them are the largest, fully-loaded N4000-4-750 systems you can get. We have migrations to Windows in various stages, but there is also a very real need for legacy data access after the migration. The alternative is to migrate all the data and all the archival history, and that can be costly.
These are the sites that Stromasys will hope to attract with an emulator, pushing the horsepower of every emulated system to a minimum of an A-Class, with a top end even higher than those 750s. For those companies and organizations constrained by budgets, the goal of maintaining "the best out there" may dictate a lull in the march to migration. There's nothing wrong with a lull. It gives the companies who help migrate data, or servers, a chance to polish their products and collect a few more reference success stories. We're glad to spread both kinds of stories -- emulation as well as migration -- so get in touch with us as you or your clients make news.
January 20, 2012
Iconic Kodak product may fade to hobbyists
Eastman Kodak's filing for bankruptancy yesterday signaled a transformation for an iconic inventor. The leader in film for more than 100 years, Kodak faces a new future this morning, one that will be tied to printing success. The company's been given until February 2013 to produce a reorganization plan, and it will try to get the sale of $2 billion in imaging patents approved by June 30. But Kodak's breakthrough of film won't go away, not any more than an MPE/iX environment will disappear. For Kodak, the expectation is that film imaging will retreat to hobbyist and enthusiast markets.
Like MPE/iX, film photos will become the standard by which successors are judged. And what's possible is the same fate of vinyl recordings: a modest renaissance as lifelong digital picture-takers consider the advantages of older technology. The same thing will be happening to paper books in the future. Companies without a plan for these newer complimentary technologies will suffer. Most of the 3000's customers are using at least a Windows server somewhere in their enterprise.
Kodak's inventions in film and imaging have become its last stronghold, a redoubt the company fell upon while trying to sell off its patent portfolio. The stock was pounded again today, shares which were de-listed from the NYSE in a stunning reversal for a company of its age and reputation. But that reputation is what's likely to leave Kodak's products in a spot where they'll survive well. A later-era entry like the company's pocket video cameras (above) which included novel features like mic inputs might have the same kind of aftermarket that the 3000 has enjoyed. When you build it well to start, the value remains even after the vendor has fled.As an example of one beloved product's aftermarket, consider the Stereo Realist community. These are the acolytes of stereo photography, the technology that rose in the '50s and '60s until prints took over for slide film. These days you'd call it 3D, but that was not the term my father used when he'd show off his stereo slides on the projector in our basement.
But the old portable stereo slide viewers remain in great demand. A product that was sold for under $50 when it was introduced now sells for $200. Even in constant currency that's a remarkable retention of value.
HP 3000 value, both in hardware and software, is important to your community. Some of the most specialized resources rely on the continued value of this business solution. Unlike Kodak, your happy dovecoat of settled, harmonious owners won't be turning to a highly competitive sales plan. Many suppliers have experienced a stall in growth when making that leap. We'd like to believe in the wake of the Kodak collapse that well-engineered products have a limitless lifespan. The 3000 still has enthusaists who know there's no substitute for the extra dimension of the server.
January 19, 2012
Where Automated Migrations Excise Work
Speedware has been selling and using its AMXW migration software for more than eight years by now. The package has got reference accounts like Lewis Bakeries (think Roman Meal or Bunny bread) and Matco (think the tools in service departments of many a car dealership). The Automated Migration to Unix, Linux and Windows package has grown and been revised over this period, years that cover just about all of the bonafide migration era.
But there are some 3000 veterans who'd look elsewhere when deciding how to lift and shift a 3000 application suite on the way to a non-MPE platform. One argument we heard, while spreading the word about the AMXW Free Gift promotion of 2011, was that COBOL program layouts give you all you'd need to write an extract program "to convert to 'string' or 'numeric' field data definitions for loading into SQL."
While that is technically correct, it shows a fundmental misunderstanding of the field where AMXW can help. It's true that the software has been used by some very large IT shops (the Australian arm of ING's insurance group comes to mind.) But this is an automated tool, so its larger sweet spot seems to be with the more common 3000 site. That's the one run by an undermanned IT staff (sometimes just one soul) who's got little time to be writing data extract programs.
We've heard that using AMXW is "a case of comparing the cost/time savings to complete the project." It certainly is, but not in the sense that there's a less-costly way for anyone but the most savvy 3000 developers and managers. The trend that we've seen in your market is an exodus of these developers off company payrolls. A lot of the computer staff which is left doesn't know MPE/iX or COBOL II or a lot of other essentials. Yesterday we heard another story about a company going bareback on its 3000 support, because the system just ran by itself. And nobody wanted to ever turn it off, for fear it might not come back up. When you're avoiding the off switch, COBOL II extracts probably are a missing skill set.The interesting thing is that this kind of 3000 owner is just as likely to be a migration prospect as a Stealth Homesteader. Yes, that's a new term for 2012, and what it means is that the company is homesteading because it doesn't even know a 3000 is in the critical business path. They call it "the HP" when they mention it at all and are grateful the server doesn't need as much attention as the Windows systems.
Lewis Bakeries and Matco have savvy IT staffs. We even ran an article about the Lewis post-migration plan way back in 2005; the team was sharp enough to locate a heads-down data entry tool to replace a creaky package for MPE called DE/3000.
AMXW does that data migration instead of the DIY extract programs that the undermanned shops won't be writing. It migrates TurboIMAGE, KSAM and flat file databases to Eloquence, as well as to the usual suspects of the more-costly and larger-scaled target databases. But there's so much more to lifting and shifting the applications that a company doesn't even know it's using. Intrinsics libraries. The 3000's command shell. Source code from COBOL II, aside from the program layouts that are revealed by COPYLIB.
Want to maintain the group and account structures already on the 3000? Those applications would really appreciate not running into dead ends on the target server. Need batch jobs to keep running? There's JCL in some 3000 instances, sometimes a lot, and AMXW has an MPE shell facility for those batch commands. This shell also manages to understand Unix, Linux and even Windows native commands. If the 3000 apps are supposed to be moving to another administrator's console, native command support will keep some after-migration questions at bay.
You get what you pay for a lot of the time in IT, just like in many other expense areas. Given the mix of small and large places where AMXW has been working for most of the migration era, the reports show that it's worth the investment. Add on a feature like a Speedware's Quick Start Migration service -- that lets a company get its feet wet with a single COBOL application move to a Unix, Linux or Windows -- and the cost becomes more effective to the majority of 3000 sites. Those are the companies that wouldn't know where to start writing an extract program for a flavor of COBOL not supported by anyone except independent support companies. Those are a good choice too, but not at all the same thing as putting such migration chores in the workflow of an in-house developer-admin. We've talked to a lot of 3000 shops that need to have work excised from their to-do lists. And in-house DIY migration doesn't look like a good fit for 2012.
January 18, 2012
Windows 7 hosts MPE/iX admin software
GUI stands for Graphical User Interface, a concept that's become so mainstream it's simply called UI. But in the days when graphical was a novel concept a software product delivered GUI to 3000 system managers and admins. The software developed by GUI innovations and Pete Vickers 15 years ago is GUI3000 and it is still selling today. The latest Windows can host this product that streamlines the management of multiple HP 3000s using the familiar Explorer Interface.
Gainsborough Software has distributed GUI3000 ever since the product was first released in 1997. Peter Griffiths of Gainsborough said the software has been updated to follow the Windows upgrade path.
"We are still selling the product and it works fine on Windows 7," Griffiths said. "It is also a great tool to have for migration of data from IMAGE, KSAM or MPE files to a range of open system formats including SQL, Excel or comma-delimited."
Back when GUI3000 was supporting Windows 95 and 98, our reviewer John Burke said the software evades a simple summary of its features. "GUI3000 is so feature-rich that no single phrase can adequately describe it. GUI3000 is not just a toolbox, but a collection of toolboxes, each with specialized tools for different tasks, all with a common interface," he said. Other HP 3000 Windows solutions reach across to non-3000 management, too.
Windows is a standard interface for such HP 3000 management tasks. We're not talking a terminal emulator on a PC here, but a native Windows app reaching into MPE/iX administration and workflows.
Another example of a Windows interface on 3000 management comes from Hillary Software's byRequest. And while you may not think you need faxing capability, some US government agencies will accept no email. (The Social Security Administration remains email-free, to complicate businesses' reporting.) Working in a window in byRequest, report or data files, as well as business forms, can be securely selected, formatted and distributed in PDF, Word, Excel or HTML formats. That delivery can send files to PCs, wide or local area networks and network folders, server archives or emailed through the Internet.
While companies plan to hang on to the production HP 3000s for awhile longer -- considering the prospect of this year's 3000 emulator as a stop-gap -- they have the opportunity to make their server more friendly to administrators. Some of these IT pros have never managed a 3000 because they've inherited the system from a 3000-savvy admin. Windows-based tools reduce the admin learning curve and improve productivity. In the case of byRequest, the UI flexibility can be carried to nearly any business server environment once the 3000 has been migrated. Hillary sells this Windows-plus server product with an Enterprise License to supports multiple machines, operating systems or software applications such as MANMAN -- or a MANMAN successor app such as SAP.
January 17, 2012
3000 emulator speeds up, links up
Although the Charon HPA/3000 software-hardware bundle is still several months away from selling as a customer-installed emulator, the product is taking steps forward with both engineering and compatibility. Reports have been emerging about third-party essentials starting to run with the Stromasys product which will bring MPE/iX to the Intel Xeon hardware.
The hardware was the lead item in a brief status update we received today from the Stromasys CTO Robert Boers. The Intel i7 is already doing the job of achieving performance equal to the original A-Class 3000 hardware.
We are moving faster than expected.We now run MPE on our core i7 Charon-HPA system at or above the execution speed on A400-100-110 hardware. Installations are updated this week. Experience shows :-)
Meanwhile, another 3000 software vendor checked in to report on compatibility with the emulator. We'd already heard that Robelle's Suprtool has been run successfully on the HPA/3000. Not long ago, Minisoft's Doug Greenup said his company's software, used to link the 3000 with databases, has been tested against the solution. "Our products worked like they were interacting with an HP 3000," he said. "So if any of our customers deploy Stromasys, we are confident our MPE products will work."EchoTech's Craig Lalley, who demoed the product at the HP3000 Reunion, gave Minisoft access to the Stromasys emulator to test some of what Greenup calls "our legacy MPE products. The HP terminal emulators under Windows and Macintosh worked fine connecting up via Telnet. We ran some VPlus screens with no problems. Connections were reliable and fast. We also tested our ODBC, JDBC, AND OLE DB middleware drivers and connected and ran queries."
January 16, 2012
Picturing your community's future history
January is the month of last year that ScreenJet's Alan Yeo began to envision the first HP3000 Reunion, enjoyed by the community last September. It takes many months to bring together this kind of event as a grassroots organized effort. But that kind of patience is not a problem when it's hosted by IT pros seasoned enough to endure old-as-dirt mainframe and minicomputer management.
After the historic reunion was in the air, Yeo shared a picture of one such beast, a Sperry Univac 90/30, "their version of the IBM 360. (Click the picture at left to enlarge.) The two dials on the right were also used to dial in the register address to which code should start to be loaded on boot, however I think it was a long binary number indicated by the two rows of lights along the front."
2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the System 3000 as an HP product. The official rollout date is this fall. Bob Green, who attended the Reunion, helped to sponsor it and brought memories of working on the first 3000 documentation team, said the motto for the 3000's intro was "November is a Happening." How '70s it all was during that era.
We've put our set of pictures online from the Reunion, a set you can browse as a Flickr photostream. I hope our community has got another Reunion in its tank for this 40th year. After all, there's seed money for the next event already banked, plus organization in place to process tickets. The venue couldn't have been more appropriate, too. On this US holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr., let's all celebrate another kind of freedom -- from the likes of the 360, that Sperry beast, or even HP's predecessors to the 3000 (as shared with that photo above from Terri Glendon Lanza, an ASK/MANMAN pro who won the signed poster of the night.)Yeo reported on the trials and challenges of getting his Sperry to serve computing needs before the 3000.
Yes we ran MRP -- well when we had finished writing it.
I was lucky; I joined the company the week the Sperry was delivered, and everybody else was too busy keeping the old computer system running. It was just handed over to me and I was told go figure out to use it. About three months later when attention switched to doing something with it, I found I was the expert rather than the junior programmer.
My first task was to make the Relational Database useable. Yes it was called a Relational Database. However there was no mechanism to read data in a logical sequence. You could for example go in on a key of customer or part number but there was no mechanism to get the next logical record in ascending/descending sequence. So I implemented indexing in external ISAM files and trapped every database write/delete/update with a routine that updated the indexes. Programs were then modified to call a subroutine I wrote that used the indexes and retrieved the data from the database.
Ah, the days when you always had to roll your own. If I had realized what I was doing was writing a precursor to SQL, I could have written ORACLE at least a decade earlier than it appeared. Ah, the opportunities we missed.
I always remember Roy Brown bemoaning that back in the 70's, to get production and accounting people off his back requesting ad-hoc data analysis, he had written on a mainframe this dynamic grid based program. It had a set of simple arithmetic statements that could be associated with cells on the grid, into which the accountants could type or load numbers and then calculate the results. Yes he had written a spreadsheet (without knowing it) and was most surprised when the PCs came along and spreadsheets were one of the first killer apps.
January 13, 2012
Eloquence smoothing UX-Linux migrations
The HP 3000 isn't the only Business Critical System that's weathering the winds of migration. Some companies are seeing the light at the end of their Unix tunnel and making the move onto an open source environment. Linux has been the choice for CASE, a maker of banking software which had a 3000-using customer base not so very long ago.
A recent chat on the mailing list devoted to the database Eloquence pointed to another HP-UX refugee. Rick Gilligan commented during a discussion about HP-UX future platforms that the company had dumped HP's Unix at the close of 2011. The applications made the move to Linux, where there was "Some minor amount of work in going to Linux on x86_64, to handle the [Big vs. Little] endian issues. Eloquence was the trivial part of the port to Linux on x86_64."
That's 64-bit Linux on Intel's Xeon lineup, usually presented to HP sites as a ProLiant server installation. Eloquence is a equal-opportunity database for 3000 migrators, operating on Linux, HP's Unix as well as Windows. HP's Unix, on the other hand, is locked into the bit-map Endian issues of Integrity/Itanium systems. HP-UX is Big-endian and the current Xeon hardware line is little-endian. That's where the Eloquence list chat began, when someone asked about a new Xeon-based BCS server for HP's Unix. Turns out there is no such thing, despite the hopes from HP's Unix market.HP does have a plan to move the best of its enterprise HP-UX features to Linux. There's no timetable on this plan, called Project Odyssey. But it's a migration destination point for the customer who won't be remaining on HP-UX or the Integrity servers for any reason -- including Oracle's decision to drop Itanium and HP-UX support.
So in one sense, Eloquence will be supporting the new platform for HP-UX features -- because the database is already supported on Linux and Intel Xeon systems.
Christian Scott of Softvoyage, a software company that used Speedware to create a travel agency app for 3000s and then moved to other environments, said "I wouldn't expect to see HP-UX on Xeon." He pointed out an HP webpage that answers questions about Project Odyssey. "And HP was pretty clear to me that there is no port of HP-UX to Xeon in their long term strategy. HP-UX has a roadmap of 10 years, so you can read between the lines."
As for the features that HP will be moving from HP-UX to Linux, Gilligan is skeptical. "So what are these HP-UX features they would bring to Linux? And are they going to only be on Linux running on HP hardware? If so, it's still a proprietary environment. There's nothing from HP-UX which we lost when moving to Linux, except for perhaps the high price."
January 12, 2012
Oracle serves Nordstrom's ex-3000 users
Ecometry e-commerce software once landed the HP 3000 some of its best-known customers. Store chains seen in shopping malls were also among 3000 owner ranks. One of the best-regarded retailers has replaced Ecometry when the company shut down its HP 3000. Both catalog and online sales were changed at Nordstrom. The beneficiaries of the multi-step move at Nordstrom were IBM and Oracle, but HP didn't get shut out completely.
Bob Thompson of Nordstrom's Sales Systems group said that the company's HP 3000 was used only for Ecometry processing. Triggered by HP's pullout of the marketplace, the retailer started to re-evaluate its e-commerce software along with the platform. Ecometry lost out to Sterling Commerce, a software provider which has become part of IBM. The software is listed under IBM's Selling Solutions.
Thompson said the company converted all of its Ecometry data to Oracle. The Sterling solution is running on Java, Oracle and Linux, but Oracle isn't a complete winner: There are a few Solaris boxes waiting to be replaced.
The migration started with a new COBOL program. Nordstrom wrote one to read its IMAGE/SQL data and convert it into XML. Then services were developed to use the Sterling APIs to add the data to Sterling's Oracle database. Nordstrom converted two years worth of data to import into the new software. Then even more Oracle embracing commenced. Nordstrom was not rewriting or doing a lift and shift migration. The strategy called for an application replacement and data migration.
"This part involved a direct conversion of all the Ecometry IMAGE datasets, for all time, to Oracle for historical reporting," Thompson said. "The initial COBOL conversion effort took close to a year," Thompson said, "plus another four months for the second part" to create the historical reporting facility. After leaving behind the HP 3000 and Ecometry and IMAGE, HP was left with a hardware assignment to fulfill at the company. But the Business Critical Systems, running Itanium, haven't been tapped from the HP product lineup."Originally, Solaris hardware replaced the HP 3000," Thompson said, "but now most of it is Red Hat Linux on HP hardware. Ecometry was all that was run on the HP 3000 here; warehousing has been done on the IBM AS/400, and other functions were done on IBM mainframes. But now all that's mostly Unix/Linux."
Choosing Oracle wasn't really the leading option in the decision process. Sterling's software uses the database. This is a typical way for Oracle to extend its reach into a migrating HP 3000 shop. Oracle is everywhere, but so is its reputation. Jeff Kell, working at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where HP 3000s are installed, says Oracle's got its baggage.
"Oracle is more of a third-party-requirement than an elective," he said. "If our applications ran on SQL Server --- for the ones that do, we typically take that route -- or MySQL, or anything else, we would avoid the pain."
But that kind of requirement brings in a database that can soon act as important as any operating system. Eloquence database creator Mike Marxmeier has said, "Being an Oracle user is really like being a user of an operating system, not a database."
Although Oracle now has a complete database-OS-hardware stack, just like the HP 3000 does, Kell said there's not much attraction for the Sun OS or hardware. "We have a similar aversion to Solaris for many of the same reasons as we now have an aversion to HP platforms," he said. "Java is unfortunately inevitable and something we do accept, even after the Sun/Oracle transition -- much as we still use HP's printers."
January 11, 2012
HP's 3000 software practice once wide open
Over the past month, HP has released the source code for WebOS into the open source community (or at least announced its plan to do so). It's been called a watershed event for open source -- the first commercial mobile OS ever nudged onto the homebrew free software shelves. But software was once a passion at HP that invited much more design from users than software gets today. Instead of rising on the energy of volunteers after its lifespan, software once grew up on the power of the user experience. The HP 3000 used a different model than the built-inside, respond to the outside modification requests. One of its best examples was the creation of Transact, a reporting and language solution still working at some sites today.
David Dummer created Transact, software that became a part of HP's Rapid family of products. In that era of advanced productivity for programming, Rapid was Hewlett-Packard's entry. But HP bought Transact and Rapid from Dummer, a deal which gave him the rights to re-create it based on direct input from users. When this project rippled through HP 30 years ago, those users in a classroom were programmers who worked with many languages. "It was like having 35 design engineers in the room," said one ex-HP developer who shaped the product.
Over 16 days of meetings, these programmers discussed each feature in Transact. Dummer wouldn't take lunch, but go off and code up "some of the more simple changes" and bring them back to the users in the class. After-lunch and then overnight coding and tests produced a period "when the product was completely re-invented, and now feature rich enough to support most best practices that we all used to code by hand."
We're not talking about an era of worldwide networks or change management repositories. (HP once operated a repository for the 3000 version of GNU C++ source, hosted on the Invent3k public development server. That was 27 years after Transact grew its robust features in a 16-day open development cycle.) Thanks to the open input on design, the dynamic data handling in Transact was built well enough that it served on 3000s for decades. Dummer went on to create DataExpress, the founding product for MB Foster's UDA Central. He wrapped up his 3000 career consulting on the 34-server Washington state community college migration to HP-UX. Besides using open input to create Transact, Dummer developed technology to move Transact apps to Unix or Linux.
And you can make a case for the length of the lifespan of Transact -- software that's going onward into Unix and Linux -- resulting from the open design that happened in that classroom.In 2003 ScreenJet's Alan Yeo brought Dummer out of semi-retirement to work on migration solutions for Transact. As Dummer told us in 2010, he developed a library of Transact functions written in a system development language and callable from a COBOL host program.
These functions manage the Transact stack handling and data access and map the results back into the static COBOL working storage. "As development proceeded it became apparent that to migrate Transact this library was going to have to do most of heavy work and that COBOL would provide the shell and procedural logic," Dummer said.
Now ScreenJet has a complete replacement for Transact, TransAction, that provides a dictionary and compiler to produce the host code to drive the function library. Transact users like those Washington colleges can move applications to Unix or Linux and continue to develop and maintain in the Transact language.
Dummer was fortunate enough to have been given free reign to enhance the original Transact as he was shown by users, employing his own development methods until a production release. That's old-school open source. What a pleasure to know that an HP 3000 product has benefitted from HP keeping an open mind about software -- three decades before WebOS gained its open source wings.
January 10, 2012
What becomes legacy: everything eventually
What can you do about it? Embrace the virtualized future for any platform you use, or migrate onto. It's the only way to keep the business of the old republic vital.
When Stromasys showed off its first test runs of the HPA/3000 Charon emulator, the company pointed out that the market for virtualization is only getting larger. Some companies have retained environments no longer supported by the vendor. While HP comes to mind here, this is also true of Microsoft. Some people are surprised when they learn MPE/iX drives manufacturing companies as large as Measurement Specialties. That's only a few dozen servers, however. We've heard of one organization that has more than 3,000 Windows NT systems to support.
That story comes from Robert Boers, the CTO of Stromasys who makes a compelling case for virtualization of all environments, whether a dated Windows release or the classic MPE/iX. "The industry is looking away from a growing problem of legacy systems," he said, "one that's got nothing to do with HP or VAX and Alpha servers." Stromasys has sold more than 4,000 installations of those DEC systems, developing a business model and tech design they're applying to HPA/3000. He cited a military organization "who have 3,500 Windows NT 4 servers. They can't run that stuff anymore on a modern [hardware] platform."
While Boers said this legacy wave has little to do with the HP 3000 opportunity, the issues remain the same. Everything which IT purchases has an end-of-life date coming from the vendor. Once that day arrives the IT customer can choose to go independent. But at some point a PA-RISC system like the 3000 or old HP 9000s, or the Itanium servers hosting HP-UX, it all becomes a legacy system -- even the relatively nouveau platform of Windows NT. All of these computers host business critical applications. Boers said the average lifespan of such an app is now 22.5 years. It's not tough to find in-house software that was created more than 20 years ago in your community. What's become harder to do is find gear to keep it running which has room to grow in performance and connectivity."There's still more and more legacy systems around," Boers said. "if you look at the growth of thge worldwide installed base of computers, there's a very interesting period between 1980 and 1990. The worldwide installed base multiplied by a factor of 22 times. The IT installed base kept growing, but it has never hit a factor of 22 in any single decade since then."
"If you combine the two numbers -- 20-30 years of application life, and a growth of 22 times -- over the next decade we will see an unusually large number of business applications which are clearly at the end of life. It's accentuated by the growth bubble of the 80s. It's the equivalent of the post-WW II birth rate." IT managers put the HP 3000 on the map as a popular enterprise destination during that decade. Unix wasn't an option and Windows didn't exist in a practical release.
Whether you homestead or migrate into the future, this baby boom of IT will impact your plans. "We're going into a decade where there will be an extreme need for replacing something to keep these applications running, or find a more efficient way of replacing them. There is not enough time and money in the world or not enough people to rewrite the applications or put them into SAP. This symbolizes there have to be other things to be done with legacy applications."
"We simply can't cope with them over the next 10 years. And very few people know that, because the average of the computer salesman is less than the time when these [legacy] machines were created. They don't know about them, they don't like them -- and they have no clue how important these machines are."
Boers waxes philosophical about the situation once he starts talking about caring for legacy technology. "In the last 200 years or so, every time something was really needed in society to keep it moving, it was invented," he said. "Sometimes multiple people invented multiple things in different places in the world." At this point I think about the wave of minicomputers built in the 1980s from Wang, DEC, Data General, NCR, Burroughs, Sun, HP, IBM and so many more. So many have seen the end of their vendor life. Some of those are supported in virtualization, even today.
Boers said he believes that if the IT industry is maturing -- "which I hope it does, it will come up with newer technologies to deal with this growing problem of legacy software. I'll be less modest: one of the things we at Stromasys have invented is a little bit of that newer technology." The IT industry needs to spend more time helping customers with such dilemmas, he added.
The legacy market will be getting larger once Oracle sets down the end-of-life for its database on the Itanium servers, he said. Oracle's engineering for the RDB database has been done for years on the Stromasys emulators, he said. Over in that DEC community, Oracle provides free transfer licenses for this database onto the Stromasys emulator. Oracle has a presentation "that shows that the RdB database runs about 10 times faster on our emulator than on the original Alpha hardware," Boers said.
In a spot of irony, those Alpha customers were being forced to move to Itanium servers to preserve their environments, although there was a lot of re-engineering to make that migration a success. Oracle's talk of "terminal releases" of Rdb reminds every IT planner that Father Time wins outruns every technology eventually. But Oracle's support of a hardware emulator for Rdb helps make a case for choosing virtualization as a starting point, rather than a migration target. VMware has thorough IT buy-in as an enterprise solution as well as a future on the HPA/3000 solution. Buying specialized servers might build an ecosystem for a vendor to develop. But one business decision like Oracle's -- built upon competition instead of technical ability -- can sweep an ecosystem into hibernation. Although HP's biggest competitor, IBM, has usually given customers a way to protect applications, HP is only learning this now. The prospect of being hibernated doesn't seem to keep HP's customers from buying without a thought for a multiple-decade app lifespan, though.
"Large users of IT technology should be more vocal," Boers said. "They seem to swallow everything the industry does. I am puzzled why large IT consumers of tons of HP systems do this. They should be technically savvy enough to tell HP, "It's nice to go to a new platform -- but are there other ways in which you can sustain my existing business critical applications? A company like IBM has done this forever. In between companies I worked for the biggest bank in the Netherlands. On the Series 360s they had emulation mode for the older applications. They never had a need to replace them."
January 09, 2012
Vendors preserving 3000s for historic use
Our ongoing mission to help clean up the hp3000links.com site uncovered a new line of business at AICS Research. Once known mostly for its QueryCalc reporting software, AICS has expanded its 3000 oursourcing for sites that don't use its software. AICS calls this Keeping History Alive. It's aiming the product at migrating users of HP 3000s.
Archival HP 3000s will be increasing in number over 2012. System migrations will be complete this year, some of them anyway. Even though these 3000s will go to recyclers or resellers, the systems' data lives forever. What's more, the applications refuse to fall to IT's axe.
Enter companies like AICS, The Support Group, Speedware and others, all who will move applications and data onto offsite servers. The accounts will live in password-protected volumes on disks or arrays. And the software needed to run those apps? Support must be maintained for third party tools such as Adager, Suprtool, byRequest, UDC Central or MPEX. This surround code -- even extensive products such as PowerHouse -- will continue to be crucial to make such historic systems deliver accurate reports.
"You may be concerned about how you will access the mass of data you currently have on the HP3000 in five or 10 years from now," says the AICS website. Migrating customers who come off a reliable server that's been active for several decades need to include this aspect in project planning.Given enough time, the applications can be replaced on non-3000 environments. However, that's a task that will either demand an outside expense or require in-house resources. If an IT manager can delay that expense, there's more budget that can be spent keeping up with Windows updates, for example.
So far there's no Archival-Level support agreements on the market for these historic installations. The software companies may not be quick to extend these kinds of discounts -- not in an era when the number of support contracts are declining.
The emulator for HP 3000s will play a role in this change to the MPE/iX business ecosystem. Stromasys director Jean-Paul Bergmans says the company sees its software-only "Son of Zelus" package as a solution ready for archival 3000 needs. In this model a 3000 shop operates its own archival server, hosted in a cloud that Stromasys will maintain.
That's Intel hardware running MPE/iX, a configuration that's being tested by third parties this month. The technical ability of a 3000 manager must be considered for this kind of archiving, too. Bergmans said the first wave of interest in the emulator is coming from less-technical 3000 managers.
"It's fascinating to realize most of the CIOs that we're talking with do not really understand what the HP 3000 is which they have inherited when they took their position," Bergmans said. "They're looking for a solution to that."
There's no shame in relying on technology that's unfamiliar. One clue we've noticed over a quarter-century of talking to customers is when the IT manager refers to the system as "the HP" rather than use the 3000 to name it. They are, however, the kind of CIO that won't know about surround code and tools which have made the server so reliable and cost-effective.
Bergmans understands that the archival role for a 3000 in the Stromasys cloud demands more MPE savvy. "We need to bring in skilled people with us," he said. "We're going to have to take the problem out of the hands of the CIOs, so we can give them a turnkey solution including support, and possibly a move from MPE/iX 6.0 to 7.5." Son of Zelus won't run anything but 7.5.
January 06, 2012
TSG taking MRP into the cloud during 2012
The Support Group hung out its shingle for cloud-based manufacturing solutions this week, posting webpages that outline how it will integrate the new offering of the Kenandy replacement for MANMAN and other 3000-flavored suites. TSG calls this migration target Social MRP, and it's been chatting up the potential for the Chatter networking feature inside Kenandy's software.
It's early in the social-cloud evolution cycle, but TSG wants to be one of the charter Kenandy Consulting Partners. The business model calls for migration, implementation and customization of a new manufacturing system. TSG's reminding the market that the vendor was the original third-party support company for ASK’s MANMAN system developed in the 1970s -- software that's still running a few hundred manufacturing companies around the world.
Kenandy's Rob Butters told us back in September that one objective of the cloud-based solution was to start with a clean page to serve small companies that want streamlined operations to get the most from their manufacturing apps. ASK's founder Sandy Kurtzig has steered the Kenandy designs to get a simplified approach to manufacturing software systems. Small companies that fill the ranks of 3000 owners have a surprising array of unique manufacturing workflows and business rules. 3000 users who need to move onto a new platform are in a position to leverage the transition into a new way of thinking about MRP.One key to the success of this adventure is using a guide who knows the landscape the customer is leaving behind. TSG's already got 18 years of third-party support experience for MANMAN users, plus the extra two decades that founder Terry Floyd and his team supply from the '70s onward.
TSG calls the concept "Hide the Complexity." The approach couldn't be more different from the over-engineered solutions from Oracle and SAP. In particular, the mainframe foundation of SAP -- with "10,000 software switches" by several IT managers' counts -- puts migrations and outsourcing and clouds way out of the reach of the smaller IT shop. But Oracle and SAP become the default options for a migration, following the "nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM" strategy of the '80s.
In contrast, Social MRP is "software that fits the way you do business, not forcing your business to fit the way the software works," said company president David Floyd. Once the company customizes the look and feel for each individual in a company to hide that complexity, it "follows up on a monthly basis with each individual user as they learn more and expand their productivity."
Manufacturing is a bedrock app in the 3000 world. Small companies that couldn't afford a mainframe in the 1980s picked HP 3000s instead, relying on cost efficiency. With the cloud moving IT's capital costs off the books, and fine-tuned app services from a veteran development staff, Social MRP has the potential to give migrators a new value model -- one that won't need large-scale elements that the big IT shops seem to crave.
January 05, 2012
Good foundations support 3000 managers
Editor's note: Yesterday we got a call from a company which had read this "Worst Practices" column written in 1999 as if it were brand-new. Scott Hirsh, who's now leading the charge into cloud-based storage solutions at Nirvanix, wrote these columns for the NewsWire after his years of managing an HP 3000 operation for a capital management firm in San Francisco. It's robust advice for anybody new to managing a 3000, and the guidelines are still useful today. If you're inheriting 3000 management, or passing it along to someone younger and newer, account structures are still a great place to get things correct before anything else happens. He called this one "Shaky Foundation."
By Scott Hirsh
As we board the train on our trip through HP 3000 System Management Hell, our first stop, Worst Practice #1, must be Unplanned Account Structure. By account structure I am referring to the organization of accounts, groups, files and users. (To keep this discussion simple — and typical — I will discuss the standard MPE name space, not the Posix name space.) I maintain that the worst of the worst practices is the failure to design an account structure, then put it into practice and stick with it. If instead you wing it, as most system managers seem to do, you ensure more work for yourself now and in the future. In other words, you are trapped in System Management Hell.
What’s the big deal about account structure? The account structure is the foundation of your system, from a management perspective. Account structure touches on a multitude of critical issues: security, capacity planning, performance, and disaster recovery, to name a few. On an HP 3000, with all of two levels to work with (account and group), planning is even more important than in a hierarchical structure where the additional levels allow one to get away with being sloppy (although strictly speaking, not planning your Unix or Windows account structure will ultimately catch up with you, too). In other words, since we have less to work with on MPE, making the most of what we have is compelling.
As system managers, when not dozing off in staff meetings, the vast majority of our time is spent on account structure-related activities: ensuring that files are safely stored in their proper locations, accessible only to authorized users; ensuring there is enough space to accommodate existing file growth as well as the addition of new files; and occasionally, even today, file placement or disk fragmentation can become a performance issue, so we must take note of that.
In the unlikely event of a problem, we must know where everything is and be able to find backup copies if necessary. Periodically we are asked (perhaps with no advance notice) to accommodate new accounts, groups, users and applications. We must respond quickly, but not recklessly, as this collection of files under our management is now ominously referred to as a “corporate asset.”
I once had a conversation with a co-worker who was an avid outdoorsman. He was discussing rock climbing and I asked him about exciting rock climbing experiences. His reply: “In rock climbing, anything exciting is bad.” I would say the same thing about system management. By getting your account structure under control, you build a solid system management foundation that translates into much more pleasant work.
If this were a “best practices” column, we would discuss the best ways to clean up your system’s account structure. But this is worst practices, so let’s look at the no-nos.
No naming standards, bad naming standards
Oscar Wilde once said, “Consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative.” Do you think he was referring to HP 3000 system management? If so, not much has changed since Oscar’s day.
• In one account the jobs are located in group JCL. In another account, group JOBS. The developers keep “special” jobs in a group you never heard of in the critical application account. And just to make things more interesting, all your so-called “production” jobs are kept in an account called JCL, containing all kinds of groups, including “TEMP.”
By having consistency across accounts I control, I can easily find what I need when I need it. If jobs are always in the same group across accounts, I can LISTF @.JOBS.@, etc. Backups/recoveries are easier, updates are easier, training new operators is easier. Sure, consistency is boring, but we must resist the lure of adrenaline.
• I’m going out on a limb here, but my guess is that your UDCs, the few you have left, are in a different place in every account. Why is that? And your system UDC (singular) is located in the SYS account, right? Because it’s the SYStem UDC, of course! Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to have another, non-SYS account for globally accessible files. What’s the catch? The system UDC file needs to be in the system volume set, for obvious reasons (learned that one the hard way).
• An MPE file name consists of a whopping maximum of eight characters. That should make every character count, right? So why do jobs that live in a group called JCL or an account called JCL all start with the letter J? File that under the department of redundancy department.
• We manage the systems, so we make the rules, right? Wrong. If we want the rules followed, if we want the best rules possible, we must get input and buy-in from all the others who will be expected to honor our rules. Ignoring users when it’s time to develop naming standards and other system policies is a classic Worst Practice, and a good way to ensure continued chaos. And don’t forget that upper management will need to be involved when a little “gentle” persuasion is required.
Trespassing in Vendor Accounts
What is it about the SYS account that system managers can’t resist? Here’s a hint: it belongs to HP. I know it’s tempting to park files here, like any PUB group, because it’s so… public. The people’s account! A good place to put files you want to share with everyone. Well, not really. There’s actually a tiny sign inside this account, barely visible. It says, “This account subject to change without notice.” It’s bad enough that third-party software vendors litter this account with install programs. Don’t pile on.
• Your third-party accounts are also hands off. Consider them the exception to all the rules you lay down on what goes where and what it’s called. In fact, it’s a worst practice to try and reorganize a third-party software account.
Account structure-driven security
MPE security is more flexible than it once was, with the ability now to save across accounts, plus all the new Posix tricks. But I think it pays to stick with the old rules, many of which were described by VESOFT’s Eugene Volokh in his book, “Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software.” [Ed. note: we have copies of this book available at the NewsWire. Contact us to get yours.] Because all the action is at the group level, leaving the account level at ANY access is one less thing to worry about. So once again, the way we organize our account structure is going to weigh heavily on system security.
• “We haven’t had a problem in 15 years, so don’t worry about system security.” (I have actually been told this). No problem, but do you leave your car unlocked in front of your house? Do you leave your front door unlocked at night? Why not? As they say in the investing business: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This argument usually boils down to “I’ve been getting away with murder for 15 years; don’t start messing with me now.”
• The SYS account belongs to HP. So why hang out in there? You’re just going to trash the place and you know it (especially if you’re a guy). Why not set yourself up in your own account, where you can do your system manager thing with impunity?
• And while we’re at it, stop the insanity and take SM away from your users. “But we must have it!” they’ll say, while threatening the end of the world as we know it. Perhaps if we straighten out the account structure and apply proper file access, everything will work out after all. One world, one sky, one user with SM capability.
• But let’s not stop there: Hey, you! No developers messing around in production accounts! Do your thing on the development box or in the development account, then operations will move in the addition/change/fix (with change control software, of course). We’re trying to run a business around here.
• If everyone logs on as a generic user (e.g., ENTRY), then all files created by that user will have the same ownership. Not the worst practice in the world, but we need to be aware of that when it comes time to do some spring cleaning. Sure, security programs allow you to distinguish for security purposes (by session prefix) one generic user from another. But that’s only half the story. Having many files created by user ENTRY will make it more difficult to weed out the dead soldiers later on. And if you need to debug a problem, determining which log file was created by which ENTRY user will be a time-consuming chore.
Nice guys finish last
There’s nothing wrong with being a control freak if you’re ultimately held responsible for areas ostensibly under your control. In other words, don’t blame me for being uptight about disk space if you’re quick to scream at me when your volume set runs out of space. We all want to be liked, but sometimes the system management truth hurts.
• The only way I know of — without third-party software, anyway — to keep track of connect time and disk space is at the group level, as provided by the REPORT command. So doesn’t it make sense to try to work with that limitation? I’m assuming you check at least once per year for users who have zero connect time. And I know you care about how much disk space everyone is using. So unless you can somehow restrict your users to certain groups for logon purposes and disk space purposes, you will have trouble controlling disk space by user — and you will be unable to easily determine which users should be removed for inactivity.
• Another obvious tie-in to account structure is volume sets. Groups reside on volume sets, not accounts, so the way you organize your groups correlates to your efforts to manage disk space at the volume set level. The good news is that system managers seem to be aware of the UDCs for managing accounts and groups (NEWACCT, NEWGROUP), which makes assigning and enforcing volume set standards much easier.
A best practice says “do this,” a worst practice, “don’t do this.” So don’t put off your initiative to get your account structure under control. Don’t be a system management slob. Kick the adrenaline habit and give yourself a break.
Work with everyone who has the potential to undermine your efforts toward system management. Reach consensus on what groups you should have for jobs, executables, UDCs, etc. Collectively decide on a naming convention for accounts, groups, files and users. Have everyone sign off, and get upper management to agree to enforce these standards (on penalty of death, if possible). Document everything, and monitor for compliance. Don’t backslide.
In summary, don’t be afraid to be consistent, don’t be afraid to be boring. In system management, boring is good.
January 04, 2012
Tracing 3000links to Their Breaking Points
Once upon a time there was a vast and charted territory of HP 3000 websites and webpages. The resources that appear on hp3000links.com still include some detailed, straight-line jumps to companies still serving 3000 sites. Or at least companies which still have support customers for software products, or contracts to migrate companies off the server.
We rolled up our browser sleeves and waded into hp3000links this afternoon to see what's gone past its sell-by date. If you've been in the marketplace long enough you'll recognize the list of vendors that pops up on the site's front page -- even if some of those company names are all that remain of community resources. More than a dozen out of the first third of the list's vendor links are landing on dead pages or websites that have evolved into other ventures.
For example, 5 Diamond IT Consulting drops you onto the diamonds.com website, where fine jewelery is sold. The old Diamond Optimum Systems once gave HP 3000 users "the Windows interface to MPE management," but the company was merged with Serena Software. Computech's address has become a racing parts website, CSI Business Solutions' a maker of jars for the cosmetics industry. But the 3000links page pop-up (click for detail) still mainlines directions to community stalwarts like 3k Associates, Adager, DIS International (Mark Klein's consulting), G. Schipper and Associates and even Gainsborough House in the UK -- one of the few places where you can read about MPEX from a supplier of the product. (VEsoft doesn't do websites, just the now-rare customer visits.) At 3k Associates, you'll find a Tech Wiki that traces the last known 3000 businesses across a vast list of companies -- and you can contribute what you've learned yourself, wiki-style.Gainsborough is also handling Surveillance/DB, Surveillance/OS, DBControl-Online, GUI3000, Security/3000, VEaudit/3000, and is an outpost for Bradmark's DBGENERAL, DBAUDIT and Superdex. The 3000links pointer to the Bradmark website directs to the Bradmark main page. Another click or two and a scroll down to the bottom of a products page reveals a small pop-up menu with links to the MPE products. Many more references to SQL databases abound on that website.
Other notes we've gleaned from this first pass and data check of the 3000links.com's Vendors and Consultants menu:
• Advanced Network Systems, where David Thatcher developed the ADBC database middleware, lands on a "not found" 404 page.
• The Aldon Computer Group, which once offered 3000 COBOL tools, has no 3000 notes among its products.
• Carolian Software, Computing Solutions Ltd., Education & Training Consulting Services, Computer Financial Services, Cosmos Technology and Fioravanti Redwood Inc. all point to links that are in hibernation (addresses ready for sale) or retired links.
• Carter-Pertaine's link doesn't lead anywhere, but that's because the maker of school systems long ago merged with K-12 vendor QSS.
• Cognos connects to PowerHouse products, after three clicks
• Crawford Software Consulting is still doing HP 3000 services for MANMAN, GrowthPower, and lists itself as a reseller for Minisoft and MB Foster products
• Former support powerhouse Datagate Incorporated closed at the end of 2010 after 32 years. Datagate Systems LLC was formed by some former engineers and managers from Datagate’s Defense Systems Group. The new, leaner Datagate lists 9GB A4910A disks in its inventory. But that's not a novelty; a refurbished 9GB disk is available on Amazon for $82.76 (from IT Equipment Xpress)
• DataNow now points to Evolve, selling "software for municipalities, utilities and co-ops"
• Denkart NV still includes a link to ViaNova 3000, which as it has for years promises to "transfer entire customer-developed environments from HP 3000 to Open Systems like HP-UX or Linux."
• DISC's Omnidex supported-platforms page does not mention HP 3000 or IMAGE. Only the "Generic ODBC" interface holds any hope of support for MPE/iX databases. Oracle, SQL Server and MySQL are listed as supported database technologies.
• Easy Does It Technologies was acquired by Integrated Information Systems in 2003.
• Entrix Computing looks to be still run by Kim Harris, but it now "specifies solutions for Internet access requirements over mobile phone networks and wired broadband and offers a vast range of fibre to copper media converters."
• eXegeSys has been pointed at Azurri, which bills itself as one of the "UK’s leading IT support and implementation companies." The definition of support follows other indie suppliers. It says it is "committed to supporting the HP 3000 MPE/iX product range beyond the manufacturer's support withdrawal date. New and existing customers can be assured of our continuing support services for HP 3000 range, built on our 20 years experience."
• Glassman Consulting Services reports on its migration progress. Its client Genesis Health System’s Precision 2000 system "is finally getting decommissioned along with the legacy HP3000 hardware platform that it resided."
— G.R. Helm still points to Adager and Robelle on its own links page, but it also lists Interex.org as a resource.
Then this list pops up dead links to an HP 3000 Consultant List and an HP 3000 Vendor List. We'll keep up the digging to help renovate the 3000links.com to some useful extent -- plus point out more current resources on the web, too.
January 03, 2012
Happy New Year: Now we're 400 or so
Most of our in-boxes are full and the calendar planning is in overdrive today. It's the first full day of office work for the new year in many companies, what with the Jan. 2 Monday being a holiday all over. But there's already expansion afoot in the HP 3000 community.
Specifically, the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community now numbers more than 400 members. Fresh faces include Peter Prager, whose company sells XML solutions that work with MPE/iX; AMISYS/3000 developer Blanchard Carter; Lendy Middendorf, Senior System Administrator at Smurfit-Stone; Gavin Scott, VP of development at Allegro Consultants. Some are homesteading, others have moved to new platforms. And sure, there are recruiters in there, but they do have a line on jobs.
LinkedIn is a go-to destination to expand your career options. One of our favorite members, Scott Hirsh, used to manage the HP 3000 System Manager's Special Interest Group. He's long beyond the 3000 community these days, tending to cloud computing storage needs at Nirvanix. But Hirsh said that showing a strong LinkedIn profile with plenty of connections scores you higher when an employer or partner researches you.
If you don't belong to the group, join today. There's hundreds of people there who will make good contacts for you, as well as a news feed and discussions about 3000 issues and the future we're headed for in this new year.