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April 30, 2012

3000's use in 2028: bug, or feature?

The CALENDAR intrinsic that blocks HP 3000 use in 2028 has been described as a bug. On the first day of that year, dates will not be represented accurately. Some in your community consider that New Year's Day, less than 16 years from now, as the 3000's final barrier. But it depends on how you look at it -- as a veteran, or a voyager.

VladimirNov2010A voyager sees CALENDAR as a deadline for departure. This is a part of MPE that was designed in the 1970s, a period when HP had just scrapped a 32-bit release of the 3000's first OS. And just like the Y2K date design, HP engineers never figured their server's OS had any shot of working by the 21st Century -- let alone 2027. But VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says, "It's difficult to predict anything, especially the future." An IT pro who's planning to depart the 3000 believes CALENDAR is a bug, but that's not how Vladimir sees it.

"This is not a bug, really," he said. "It's a limitation. The end of 2027 date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." This is a man who defines the term veteran, the kind of professionals who had to work inside 4K memory spaces to build 3000 programs. Limited and expensive resources like memory and disc were supposed to be extended with newer computers. "Every analyst told us a computer would live five years, at most," Vladimir said.

But as a veteran, you've now come to see the day when MPE's lifespan is reaching eight times that prediction. The veteran who chooses to see CALENDAR as a limitation can refer to HP's own lab response. Engineers during the '90s built HPCALENDAR to start extending the 3000's date limits.

The HP 3000's date intrinsics will outlast those in Unix, so long as a program uses HPCALENDAR. HP advised its 3000 customers in 2008 to begin using it on HP 3000s. HPCALENDAR harks back to version 5.5 of MPE/iX. Its power lies in the 3000 for use by programmers who want accurate dates beyond 2038 (the limit in Unix) for application files.

Lifting the limits in application date handling -- that's one level of engineering skill. Extending the operating system limits beyond the 16-bit CALENDAR is a task with a greater challenge. It doesn't mean that it cannot be done. What matters is how healthy the 3000's best experts will be in 10 years or so. Vladimir says he'll be younger than 90 by then. Almost everyone in today's community will be even younger. And isn't 70 the new 60? It will matter when the 3000 needs the last set of bits to move from 16 to 32.

There's a old joke about software shortcomings being called features, rather than a bugs. Veterans learn to call them limitations and look for ways to overcome these aging designs. Everything is aging, even something as omnipresent at Windows XP. (Microsoft wants to end the life of that OS, used on more than 90 million computers, by 2014. Good luck with that.) XP is dying, the 3000 is dying. Well yes, says Vladimir. He tells his hundreds of customers who he visits, "We are all dying. But slowly."

12:59 PM in Hidden Value, History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 27, 2012

3000 system census surprises in UK

CensusAt a recent 3000 webinar among CAMUS user group members, the Talk Soup Q&A brushed across the 2011 HP3000 Reunion. While the talk examined activity of 2012, one attendee on the conference call could be heard saying, "Not another reunion!" It's a tiresome but expected response to the scope of the 3000 population.

On one side stand the users and managers who employ an HP 3000 in everyday production. They're grateful for any relevant information to keep 3000s running well and updated as much as possible. These community members don't often ask how many systems are still running. For some, another Reunion would be a chance to attend an event they couldn't enjoy because of a 2011 conflict.

Other HP 3000 managers want to view the community as a seriously shrunken village. They've made the choice to migrate, or they can't find work any longer that taps their MPE and 3000 skills. Perhaps they do business in the community and haven't had new revenue in a long while. Other opportunities call, so they're eager to reinforce their choice to move away.

However, we sometimes encounter census trail-posts that lead away from the "too small to be relevant" viewpoints. In the UK one prominent community member had a trail blaze that opened their eyes about who might still remain in the homesteading populace.

 Like most of these reports, it came by way of a third party. One vendor said he saw a support provider's list of 3000 sites and spotted suprising totals.

"There were twice the number of customers on that single vendor's list as I suspected were in the entirety of the UK," he said.

One thing that might well stall migrations this year -- and sustain that populace -- is the emergence of the HPA/3000 emulator product. This virtualization engine won't even have to show much success at this point in the 3000's life. With a solution other than migration on the horizon, the lean-budgeted 3000 users will have something to use as a risk-aversion strategy. A company with concerns over hardware availability or costs will believe that hosting MPE on commodity hardware resolves those problems.

Whether that's reasonable or not remains to be proven. In the short term, the hardware suppliers to the community will survive, because the costs of shrink-wrapped replacement components will remain well below the fee to install HPA/3000. Even a cloud-based deployment will cost more than fresher hardware with HP's badge. Given enough time, the $25,000 entry to that commodity solution may seem a better long-term strategy.

It's a common belief that a 3000 emulator arrived too late to make a difference in the market. But learning that twice as many customers remain online as expected changes that formula -- especially for each customer who's remaining a homesteader.

03:00 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 26, 2012

IBM's experiment begat 3000's first SQL stab

A reader asked, after enjoying our summary of the 3000's 1984 springtime, whether the computer's Allbase database really arrived off another's vendor's lab shelf. The database never caught on, although HP sold it right up to the final month of 2009 you could order MPE software from HP. Some of the reason that SQL indexing instead took root via IMAGE might be the pedigree of Allbase. IBM built its bones in the same year that the 3000 became a computer that could be used -- instead of one to be returned and rebuilt.

Allbase started its life as RSS, a derivative of IBM's experimental System R. The System R experiment was launched in IBM's San Jose Research Lab the same year as the 3000's successful general release, 1974. System R begat SQL, influenced by E.F. Codd's 1970 ACM paper on relational models. (Click on the System R summary below for details.)

System R reportSystem R began its life as a database system built as a research project. "System R was a seminal project," says the article on Wikipedia. "It was a precursor of SQL. It was also the first system to demonstrate that a relational database management system could provide good transaction processing performance. Design decisions in System R, as well as some fundamental algorithm choices (such as the dynamic programming algorithm used in query optimization), influenced many later relational systems."

Allbase got its chance on the 3000's iron because another internal project was hitting the skids inside HP's software labs. The HPIMAGE project, the first relational database for MPE, was being built to run on the 3000's new RISC hardware as part of the Spectrum project announced in '84. Over at Allegro, Stan Sieler says that co-founder Steve Cooper "recalls HPIMAGE being an unreleased Pascal-based, not-quite-compatible verison of IMAGE for MPE XL ... one that was unreleased because it wasn't compatible enough."

And HPIMAGE never could match the speed of IMAGE/3000 or its successor TurboIMAGE. Bob Green of Robelle remembers HPIMAGE as software that, like the original 3000s, didn't survive in alpha field testing. The Spectrum project included software -- because the 3000's genuine engine was its database, tightly tied to the environment.
The new relational HPIMAGE database was cancelled much later in the project, after a brief encounter with end-users. I don't remember much about HPIMAGE, except that a lot of work went into it and it didn't succeed as hoped. TurboIMAGE ended up as the database of choice on the Spectrum [3000s].

However, HP still had customers who wanted relational indexes for their 3000 data -- and the fast-indexing Omnidex was not going to sell at those customers, because it didn't have the HP brand on it. Enter Allbase -- a database that HP first rolled out to Unix sites -- but caught on at just a few 3000 sites.

These middle '80s were days of debate about database structures. Alfredo Rego spoke at a 1985 user conference about the advantages in performance that IMAGE enjoyed over SQL architectures. Ten years later the veterans of IBM held a symposium to commemorate System R. They claimed Allbase as one of their own.

At a 1995 SQL Reunion: People, Projects, and Politics, Donald Slutz laid bare the bones of Allbase.

I originally thought that this twentieth anniversary [event] should be the twentieth anniversary of some particular event that occurred on some day. The day I was going to pick was the day that the project got named System R. It was full-fledged by then; then this chart that I had up here existed. Once there was a System R, all these names fell out: RDS, RSS.

Eventually, the RSS part of it, we delivered that on VM in nine months, starting with an empty office in Campbell. And then there was an MVS version a few months later.

Roger Bamford: You mean the RSS equivalent.

Slutz: Right.

C. Mohan: That HP bought, right?

Slutz: HP bought that, and that became ALLBASE. So we made a contract with HP in early 1984, and then things changed a lot and a number of us left -- six or so, and then another seven or eight -- and HP picked it up with ALLBASE.

06:36 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 25, 2012

Continuing support key to homesteading

In a webinar last week the makers of the HPA/3000 Charon virtualizing engine (read: emulator) took questions from attendees about licensing. Not the license of MPE/iX (already in place from HP) or licensing their product with customers (something they'd love to do once a customer commits. Soon, we were told.)

The licensing issue in play is how to get a software vendor to embrace use of their product on HPA/3000. For some companies this is an automatic. They generally don't charge for upgrades and haven't created anything that needs special handling inside MPE/iX. Terry Floyd of the Support Group sells software that his company has crafted. His customer, Ed Stein of Magicaire, is on the short list for early adoption of HPA/3000.

"I don’t write any tricky stuff," Floyd said. "We don’t have anything that needs testing. If Ed could get a box with Charon running, our test would be a full month-end close (dozens of jobs) and an MRP run. I think he’ll do a very thorough job – that’s his nature."

Some vendors, especially app suppliers, might have a different approach. The key to getting software from HP iron onto the emulator may well be keeping up support. 3000 software support contracts can be left behind while trimming budgets. This can present a problem that can be fixed by restarting support -- which is a good idea anyway, if the 3000 is mission-critical.

The flow of support money is tricky. For some 3000s this expense will need to be justified. Floyd sketches out the issues, both from the customer's point of view as well as software vendors who still support 3000s.

Nobody who's on support will have any problems with a vendor. So the real crux is: are you on support with each vendor? If not -- in Ed’s case we can use Cognos for an example -- they probably are not going to be very concerned that they intend to charge you to get back on support. Perhaps a considerable amount. As someone who lives on support income, I guess I can feel their pain, But we have never charged anyone extra for back support if they left us, then came back later. 

What is somewhat comparable in our arena is charging higher rates to do any work for MANMAN users not on our support contract. That is our policy and we haven’t broken it yet.  I guess some would think that is hard-nosed, but if Ed has been off support for, let’s say, 10 years on Cognos' Quiz and now wants to go back on support with them, they might begin the negotiation with a charge of the full 10 years back support, Just to get his attention. I can see -- for some HP 3000 users not on support with some vendors -- why this is going to end up being an “every man for himself” negotiation process.

02:25 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 24, 2012

Writing Down a Life with the HP 3000

I'm celebrating my birthday today, marking how many of my 55 years have included the HP 3000. More than half my life has been devoted to telling stories about this server, but it's a period only two thirds the size of the computer's lifespan. I'm lucky to be living in the 3000's era, and I use the present tense of "to live" to indicate a life with a future.

SavethePoppies28 years ago today I was polishing up a feature story about saving the red poppies in Georgetown, Texas for the Williamson County Sun. It was a spirited plea to extend the life of something beautiful. I covered the schools, the festivals, the joyous idle time of life in a small town of 4,500 in 1984. It was work from the first half of my life that prepared me for the next half. You might be feeling the same way, like Craig Proctor bringing his programmer-analyst experience to the next phase of his career, beyond the HP 3000.

In April of 1984 your community was awaiting the future eagerly after a reset. The year's Interex conference had just wrapped up a few weeks earlier, a meeting where HP announced that it was scapping the Vision project to modernize the HP 3000 -- a computer just 10 years old at the time. Vision was HP's plan to turn a 16-bit environment into the 32-bit richness already on offer from Digital and IBM. HP was supposed to deliver a new IMAGE database as part of the program, something based on the ascent of SQL. In a few years HP  brought SQL into the 3000 community with Allbase, a product purchased from a third party. Allbase stuck with customers like crushed poppy leaves in the wind.

HP's work during 1984 started the march to RISC computing, the architecture that lives on beyond the iron in the HPA/3000 emulator from Stromasys. Everything we do in life prepares us in some way for what follows, if we connect the dots. I'm about to start a project to help celebrate the dots of the 3000's life. A biography of the HP 3000 is on my menu for this fall, the 40th anniversary of HP's 3000 rollout. I want your stories to spark the 3000's history, so we can see where our lives are leading us.

At the Sun I polished my skills of community reporting, the ones that would serve me while I chronicled the 3000's community lifestyle. I'd already written government news, sports and arts coverage for five communities at another newspaper, plus editorials and obituaries at still another. The Sun's newsroom crackled with the thunder of a half-dozen IBM Selectrics on deadline, reporters sculpting stories by hammering at keyboards to drive the type-balls across rolled paper.

Schools generated some of the most profound passion among 12,000 homes where we were delivered twice a week. The work in education represented the future, hope, and sometimes anger over short-sighted plans and misspent money. It was good practice for the passion of the 3000 community, already full of personalities and problems with meeting the future.

This book that will tell your HP 3000's past includes a future, too. Shaped by the spirit that will fill its early pages, we'll look forward at the Life Beyond the Iron: a virtualized 3000 that will be running after MPE's 55th birthday. At that point at the end of 2027, the CALENDAR bug will arrive like Y2K hit the community. There will be a solution available to keep the 3000 alive. VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says, "I will only be 90, so I will create one by then." We're all defying age while we expire, adding chapters to our biographies. In the Spring of 1984 your community was eager for Spectrum, the Book Two of the 3000's life. I am eager to hear your stories and gather pictures, too. Together we can polish a vision of the years to come.

06:58 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 23, 2012

Federal program helps 3000 IT pro re-train

ExcellentMachineGroupHP 3000 IT pros have a challenge to overcome in their careers: how to add modern skills to the classic tooset they learned managing 3000s. Those between jobs must handle the costs to train, too. Craig Proctor has been spending time to learn the likes of C#, Java and Visual Studio. After a year of study, he hasn't been spending his own money.

"I took a dozen different classes," Proctor said. "The Trade Act paid for it all. It's possible to take one class at TLG Learning, or work with them to design a series of classes."

ProctorProctor worked with a 3000 for more than 20 years at Boeing, as a Configuration Management Analyst and Business Systems Programmer Analyst. He left Boeing in 2010 and began a period he calls Updating IT Skills in his resume at LinkedIn. TLG, based in Seattle, gave him training that he will blend with the business analysis that's so common in 3000 careers. He understands that by drawing on his recent education he'd accept at an entry level IT position. "You get the merger of an experienced analyst, using new tools," he said of his proposal to any new employer."

Last year an extension of the Trade Act was signed into US law by President Obama in one of the few bills that escaped the partisan logjam. A federal website describes it as a way for foreign-trade-affected workers to "obtain the skills, resources, and support they need to become re-employed." $975 billion in federal funds have been sent to states like Proctor's in Washington, adminstered by each state. Furloughed workers file a petition for training, job search and relocation allowances. These pros have an average age of 46, which is the younger side of the HP 3000 workforce.

Proctor didn't believe that his 3000 experience helped in gaining more modern IT skills -- except for his years as an analyst.

I wouldn't say that the HP 3000 skills helped, but the analytical/programmer skills did. All 22.5 years at Boeing were on the HP 3000 (Fortran) and I had a couple of years on it before. as well as Burroughs (now Unisys) using COBOL. The hardest class for me was C#; COBOL and Fortran were so similar, but C# was nothing like that. The other classes were interesting and fun for me -- challenging, but still fun.

Like anybody well-versed in system management and coding under MPE, he'd like to land a job in a business using a 3000. "With so much HP 3000 experience under my belt, I'd feel a lot more comfortable and ready to dive in with another HP 3000 shop," he said. "I also have all the soft skills -- investigative, detail oriented -- that I need."

Learning what Proctor called "21st century technology" can help 3000 veterans who've seen their positions eliminated. There's a LinkedIn Group devoted to HP 3000 Jobs with more resources and discussion. It's a subgroup of Bill and Dave's Excellent Machine, devoted to the HP experience. Like the HP 3000 Community Group, (now 475 members strong) you request membership -- but a 3000 pro sees nearly-automatic acceptance in these groups.

05:32 PM in Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 20, 2012

A 3000's Efficiency vs. Unix's Soft Bedrock

FlintstonesWhile the HP 3000 was still a going concern at HP (meaning HP concerned itself with the 3000 going away) customers were replacing it with HP-UX servers. The question came up often: how much Unix you'd need to replace MPE. HP's lab engineer Kevin Cooper even wrote a paper about it, presented at user conferences. The simple answer to the question was, "twice as many, if you're not using Oracle." The Oracle users had to buy even more hardware.

That multiplier emerged out of HP-aided tests at some big customers. Cooper says that "IMAGE was highly optimized for the way 3000 applications used it, and it consumed a lot fewer CPU cycles per transaction compared to relational DBs -- on the order of a 1:2 ratio. And this just happens to be where a lot of applications burn a big percentage of their CPU cycles."

MPE/iX managed memory well, especially in the caching of database writes combined with the IMAGE Transaction Manager. The migrated apps which HP studied tended to need about four times the memory on their new platforms, which meant a lot more memory management overhead.

This 3000 advantage emerged because MPE has a database in IMAGE and a programming model that had to perform acceptably on a 2 MHz system with just 1MB of memory. Although the OS bloated up over 30-plus years of redesigns, MPE runs well under 200 times as much CPU power and 8,000 times as much memory. Oracle, well, it's got a lot softer bedrock for app software. It's going to need more system resource to do the same thing.

But MPE was not cheap compared to the investment in Unix. Not in capital costs, until you added all the Unix software that was built upon an OS not designed initially as a business tool. This will become an issue to consider as the homesteader community looks over their in-house apps. When they prepare to move their own code they must play architect, or hire consultants to do this. Mark Ranft, who runs the Pro3K consultancy, has said this architecting relies on knowing both strengths and weaknesses of an enterprise target.

An operating system provides a platform upon which to write your enterprise applications. The enterprise architect must understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the platform and design the application around them. Sometimes this may mean you have large pools of mid-tier systems/application servers to make up for the lack of resiliency in the operating system. This could be compared to using the RAID concept for disk arrays.

Several years ago the trading of single 3000s for multiple servers was in full throat. The costs for this many-from-one calculation are not obvious at first. "I fear that most enterprises will find the licenses, care and feeding of these needed numerous mid-term systems are far from being inexpensive," Ranft summed up in a message on the LinkedIn 3000 Community group.

Your MPE advantages continue to flow from record-level integration with data. It has a shared, re-entrant code, and a unique data division. That's different than the Unix single-threaded kernel shared data model. So the 3000's architecture has more parallelism baked in.

IMAGE remains the keystone of the 3000's advantages. Some engineers say that it forced developers to think about data relationships ahead of time -- a process which therefore uses less resource than SQL's ad hoc indexing. This is why a school district or a gas pump maker gets along fine with a Series 969 or a Series 989 -- hardware whose horsepower is horse-and-buggy, versus the CPU available to modern products like the Stromasys HPA/3000 virtualization engine.

03:31 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 19, 2012

What Made the 3000 Great?

IMAGEmanualWhile HP 3000 hardware approaches emulation, and IT managers look at replacement software environments, it's worthwhile to study what made this server successful in a very competitive marketplace. Digital and IBM grappled with HP for business in the 1980s, and the 3000 won customers. It was simplicity and stunning costs which led to the efficiency of MPE, the 3000, and most importantly, IMAGE.

This week I spoke to a developer and software provider who put it succinctly. They said that more than ever today, they're convinced that the best part of the HP 3000 experience which the community created together was IMAGE. The database that was a common element in the community was good enough to make everybody better. "People with moderate skills could appear better than they were using IMAGE," the developer said.

It also helped the 3000's reputation that IMAGE was in use everywhere, so the add-ons were plentiful and the knowledge base was rich. The 3000 didn't labor under the differing camps of Oracle, SQL Server, Postgres and DB2, for example. If you wanted to hire a good database administrator or developer, IMAGE was -- and remains -- the common language of data in the community.

So how does the power of IMAGE make the transition to other platforms? One obvious way is through the IMAGE-like Eloquence, written and tested and working on Windows, Unix and Linux. But if you're not adapting an IMAGE schema for the new migration target, you're more likely to be following an app provider's replacement. For the lucky customers, that means running a Linux version of the app that was written to employ the IMAGE magic. Those customers have a vendor who knows the standard set by IMAGE. The less fortunate migrators are looking for a replacement app with database access as elegant and efficient.

How important that efficiency has become, here in the era of blade servers and cloud computing, is debatable.

They may need that magic less than they once did. IMAGE was first crafted in an era where resources were costly, while support was best provided by other users or very savvy third parties. In the early days, there was not even phone-in support as a universal option from HP. From the ground up today, CPU cycles are cheap, power consumption down, and expertise is easier to find. One note we'd like to hear from the community that's migrated: How reliable are your migrated systems, compared to the departed MPE-IMAGE apps? Our developer believes there might be very few who find the newer apps and systems less reliable.

06:18 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 18, 2012

Emulation advocate could smooth licenses

At yesterday's demonstration of the current HPA/3000 virtualization engine -- you'd know it as The Emulator -- tech success was in abundance. Everything that the product manager Paul Taffel showed off during the spring CAMUS User Group meeting worked as expected. One hour of demo without a single crash. Glance, third party database tools, even something as esoteric as the OCTCOMP object code translator that HP built, the one that ensures that Classic 3000 programs will run on the PA-RISC systems of the modern era.

That last item was no slower than it behaves under HP's 3000 iron. Taffel was showing off the N-Class version of HPA/3000, and he was doing the demo on a $1,300 PC using a paltry 4GB of RAM within 16GB on a Linux PC.

My test Linux system has 16 GB of memory (although we only recommend or need 8 GB for the A400 emulator).  I was running our N4000-100-750 emulator, with 2 GB of memory available to the virtual HP 3000, and I mentioned that I was actually only using about 4 GB of memory at the time (including Linux overhead). I'm not sure that increasing the memory allocated to the virtual HP 3000 would have resulted in any noticeable speed-up, at least during the relatively low load tests that I was performing.

The marvel of the HPA/3000 design is that it has no measurable ceiling for top performance. Intel will keep improving its chip speeds. That puts more horsepower at the command of this engine.

Licensing advocacy might speed up sales. Some vendors are going to want to test for the market's only 3000 emulator and need to recover the lab costs. Others see a need for more real-world tests. HPA/3000 isn't a software-software interaction, however. Taffel says there's no MPE/iX emulation going on in HPA/3000. Every feature of the 3000's OS operates the same, right down to intrinsics. Yes, even the end-of-2027 date bug exists in the emulated solution.

Terry Floyd suggested that an organization like the storied SIGSOFTVEND could assist in getting 3000 apps and essential tools certified. Taffel called the business that vendors could protect via emulator customers "like money for nothing. It's giving these vendors another few years of software support business."

That's true, unless few members of a vendor's supported customer base have mentioned the emulator. These vendors need to be convinced, by some advocate, that it's good business to include HPA/3000 sites on their approved list. Without any evidence they're going to lose money if they don't do HPA/3000 tests, vendors could play the short game and aim tech resources elsewhere. A 3000 software vendor organization is a good idea anyway, but the HPA/3000 gives it a real business focus. SIGSOFTVEND did its work with no overhead to speak of -- and that group was tracing the impact of HP's changes to MPE/iX. VEsoft's founder knows embracing HPA/3000 is simpler.

The nascent public interest from customers about HPA/3000 might be tied to the early days of the release cycle. At the moment there's a pricing issue for the size of some customers homesteading. We await a report of a sale from Stromasys.

Supported customers do leave a vendor, after awhile. But hesitation over emulator certification may be a sign that a vendor is looking at other places to invest right now, at least until the HPA/3000 gains some customer traction. This reticence represents the cost which HP levied by stalling the Stromasys product for five years. A green light when Stromasys was ready in 2002 would have yielded a product by 2005, or even 2008. At either time, software suppliers would've had a lot more customer support contracts to protect with emulator certifications. Taffel called that delay a tragedy, but he's on the job to create happier endings.

"It's a tragedy if you care about extending the HP 3000 lifetime," he said. "But I'm not singling anyone out for blame. That's just the way things worked out." Stromasys CTO Robert Boers was more explicit last fall about the source of the delay. Everyone agrees that selling this product four years ago would have been easier. As it turned out, HP had lost more than half its migrating sites to other vendors by the time it started to work with Stromasys on HPA/3000.

A test suite for software products need not be extensive, in order to keep them from being expensive. This product does nothing more than make Intel processors behave like PA-RISC chips. VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh said using MPEX on this platform -- a product which literally extends MPE -- didn't require software-software level testing, as far as he was concerned.

If an HPA/3000 prospect has got all in-house code -- and only needs the surround tools which are already certified by third parties -- then they're more likely to arrive on the emulator. Licensing, or even certification, can be very important to closing a sale. Some products like MANMAN don't even look for a HPSUSAN number. Floyd said that in the case of that app suite, it comes down to a matter of ethics. We would add, "and what your auditor expects about licensing."

Stromasys has never launched a product into a market where the vendor was totally absent, so long-gone that you may wonder if there's an HP 3000 license transfer mechanism running anymore. (HP says yes, and we've had reports from resellers who use it.) The customers think it exists, mostly. That's why the first-wave companies are going to be so important to the launch of HPA/3000. People want to see how others are handling the business matters of using an emulator -- and those decisions on licensing may be the crossroads of whether anyone will spend $25K to $100K on HPA/3000.

But at least after yesterday's meeting the world knows it works with MPEX and DBGENERAL and SHOWCLKS. It looks great, and there was a magic moment where an HP 3000 boot volume was duplicated, or compressed, using Ubuntu Linux. Taffel says at some point the product will be called a 1.0, instead of the prerelease 0.8.

Advocacy from someone in the community with business leadership could help include crucial tools on par with MB Foster's connectivity software, or even PowerHouse and Speedware. VEsoft's in a vanguard here with several other software companies fanned out with a few thousand sites. Stromasys can't do certification advocacy as well as a software supplier with deep roots in the 3000 community. There's selling of HPA/3000 to be done on more than one level. Without advocacy, it may be every HPA/3000 customer for themselves in arranging to use the solution with their third party software.

05:07 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 17, 2012

Entry N-Class 3000 demoed on $1300 iron

Stromasys is careful to tell its prospects for the HPA/3000 software that the emulator will be installed on higher-class PC hardware. But for this morning's demo of the product for the CAMUS user group, the product manager Paul Taffel used a $1,300 desktop system. The price included a solid state disk (SSD) drive.

The costs of 3000 hardware aren't a big factor in homesteading for some customers. One manager we interviewed last week cited the price of 3000 disk devices, however, as a reason to follow QSS onto Linux in a migration of their app. Would that company plan to remain on a 3000 if they could employ rock-bottom components and peripherals?

Put it this way: That's one less reason to need to plan for a different environment. It's a serious enough move off homesteading that some customers are taking two or more years to migrate. The product that Stomasys calls a virtualization engine will be eliminating the need to find HP's 9GB drives and shrink wrap them as spares. During the demo, Taffel accessed a 9 GB file -- yes, a file -- that stands in for the 3000's drive. This instance of the 3000 had an MPE/iX 7.5 installation.

Using an SSD to host LDEV 1, while running MPE applications and even HP's diagonostics on $1,300 of iron, should provide a hard reset of what a 3000 will be in the years to come. It's even possible to run a 3000 without so much as a power cord for awhile. The HPA/3000 will run on a laptop.

11:06 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 16, 2012

Migration racks up list of emulated tasks

Some HP 3000s which remain in service are using many MPE nuances to get their jobs accomplished. Each of these tasks needs to be emulated in a migration away from the server. Even as companies embark on migrations to reduce risks, the list of tasks that they hope to replicate from their in-house apps can be surprising.

Such is the case at MM Fab, a fabric manufacturer in LA's South Bay Area. The 3000 shop is now taking its first year of steps off the system, developed and managed by Dave Powell. He shared a list of the things that an emulator must do if it were to succeed at replacing HP's 3000 hardware at his shop. The list also serves as a extensive catalog of the capabilites required of any new operating environment.

"We are thinking about migrating," Powell shared, months before the decision was made. "Which means we have to think about the choice between buying a package vs some form of emulation. Which means I could use some assurance that the [3000 hardware] emulation tools out there would actually work for us."

I can't afford to take this for granted because our system uses some rare features and does unusual things. Lots of them. Example: we do lots of tricky escape-code screen handling (mostly for point-and-shoot, drill down inquiries) that breaks some terminal emulators. Reflection 10.0 works, as does Minisoft WS92 v5.4 and actual terminals from 262x on, but last I checked, Minisoft Secure92 fails big-time. Not trying to make Minisoft look bad, but I need to make the point that software that works elsewhere may not work for us.

"We never cared about portabililty," Powell said, "because we never had any intention of moving to any other platform." From such situations are customers made for the Stromasys virtualization engine. If you're uncertain of whether you're using any MPE nuances in your application, it's a good strategy to get an evaluation of what's in production use today. Even if you're not migrating.

Powell said he doesn't think terminal emulation will be a big migration issue. In an emulation, "I think we could just keep on using the two products that work -- I just need to emphasize that we are off the beaten track, feature-wise."

Since there won't be as much room for all the details of MM Fab's custom-code tricks in our printed edition, we thought we'd put them on display here. This list might be useful to let you see if any of this is working inside your in-house apps. For the record, Stromasys says that anything that's working on MPE today will work in its emulator. The only exceptions they've found were HP's internals diagnotics, like SHOWCLOCKS.

A new platform/replacement app would have to embrace the top-level abilities in Powell's custom-code list. It's the kind of situation that makes some 3000 customers a poor fit for a migration, because these nuances were built over more than 20 years of IT budgets. A migration or replacement would address these all at once -- a cost structure that many 3000 shops cannot endure today.

Powell's MPE magic:

Job queues with separate job limits.

Smart :pause command (wait up to 'x' seconds for that job to log off).

MPE functions like finfo and jinfo.

User functions. Some of them are extra date / calendar routines beyond the built-in ones, like "how many days till end-of-month?" or "how many work-days in the next 'n' days?" and "how many months old is this file?"

MPE variables. User variables plus system variables like hpdatetime, hpaccount, hpfile, hpcpusecs, hpjobcount, hpstreamedby.

Message files / circular files / temp files, including temp message files and temp circular files.

Lots of command files, with tricks like with multiple entry points, input or output or both redirected to files, etc. Command files that use :echo to build a job (in a temp file) which they then stream. (I always wanted a way to have UDCs/command-files run offline, or feed parms into a job like UDCs do, so I finally rolled my own).

Jobs that use :echo or :print to build command-file subroutines (also in temp files), which they can then call lots of times with different parms, like running the same program over and over with one cmd-file parm becoming the info that is passed to the program to tell it what to report, another parm becoming part of the file name where it stores the report output, and another parm telling it who to email the report to.

Lots of do-it-yourself logging, with overglorified :echo to circular files, so I don't need to worry about the logs getting too big.

VPlus, with heavy use of vchangefield in newer apps, and family-of-forms in older ones, both to dynamically make some fields inputable and others display-only, changing the display enhancements so users can see which is which.

Creative escape codes in vplus apps to do things that VPlus didn't do as nicely as we wanted, mostly setting function-key labels and screen-printing.

Lots of escape sequences in non-VPlus terminal IO, mostly in character mode.

Extra terminal control features like turning echo on and off, time-out reads, etc. (Hint: escape codes that cause the terminal to send data back to the computer may work most of the time, but don't get solid unless echo is off. Even so, if something goes wrong you don't want the computer to wait forever for an answer).

Lots of env-files for both lasers and old impact printers, mostly changing orientation, print-size and lines per inch so the same report can print on either type of printer. Some reports have a run-time way to tell them how many lines per page, so by coordinating that with env-files I can have a report that normally does 132-column 60 lines do really-small-print portrait mode 124 lines per page on a laser. Also some tray-selection in env-files.

Do-it-yourself fancy laser-printed invoices with legalese in very-tiny print, company name in big print, etc. No special forms package here, just me spending quality time with the PCL documentation.

Converting simple report output to PC-readable format. That's a one-liner on our 3000 with my HP2RTF command file. The new system doesn't have to use RTF, but it does have support a common PC-readable format, has to preserve/translate HP-style line-spacing and page-breaks, and has to support changing print-size and line spacing so the PC file will look normal on screen and printed page. And it has to be easy to invoke in batch.

Email reports. This is also a one-liner here, thanks to a set of command-files I have wrapped around a nifty mail program originally from Telamon. The command files provide logging, improved error-checking, distribution lists, and even automatic retries at gradually-increasing intervals if there is an internet connection problem. I would like to keep that functionality. If possible I'd like to keep the outer layers of my command files, wrapped around whatever mail-sending pgm exists on a new system.

Mass file rename/delete/print/email, with ability to select by date, file age, file size, etc. Some use MPEX, others use my own routines (listf into a file, read it back, maybe call finfo).

IMAGE b-tree dbfinds.

COBOL macros. Intrinsics like command. Any and every HP extension that ever seemed helpful over the last 30 years.

04:37 PM in Hidden Value, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 13, 2012

HP's 3000 managers, generally, find futures beyond the designs of HP

Prather cease to beI had an afternoon this week that felt like a ride in a time machine. I was turning the pages of a glossy user group magazine, devoted to HP server products. The HP 3000 was even mentioned in its opening pages. And there on an introductory page, right after an HP print ad, was an HP general manager who was bidding his customers farewell, moving out of a division.

But I only had to blink to notice the differences. The magazine was The Connection, 36 pages plus its covers devoted to the world of NonStop servers, the ones you might know as Tandems. The print ad was not devoted to HP iron, but to time software for the NonStop's OS. And that general manager, you may have guessed, was Winston Prather, saying farewell to another of his server customer bases.

Six men have been general managers of HP's 3000 business since the middle 1980s, but Prather is the only one who's remained at HP. Some of the rest have retired to private practices (Rich Sevcik, now an ardent evangelist in the classic sense of that word; Harry Sterling, enjoying a life in real estate) or have simply left HP for the next chapter of their business lives. Dave Wilde, the last fellow to hold the job, even was welcomed at last fall's HP 3000 Reunion. That was a conference which another of the ex-GMs expressed an interest in and best wishes toward: Glenn Osaka left HP before Prather even took his job, and is now working at Juniper Networks.

Networks hold the next opportunity for Prather, an executive best known for the "it was my decision" to end the 3000's futures at HP. This time he's left the NonStop group in the hands of an engineer who's tackling his first GM job at HP. That's the exact position Prather assumed in 1999 -- before he and others at the vendor gave your storied server the paddling it never deserved.

In his farewell Connection column where he passed on leadership of another Business Critical Systems unit, this one to Ric Lewis, Prather bubbled with familiar platform enthusiasm as he headed back to engineering management. With "mixed feelings" he wrote about enjoying his days in the NonStop family.

As NonStop customers and partners, you know that NonStop has been providing unique value for over 35 years. The products have evolved to keep up with the times: modern hardware, open standards and development environments. As I move on to the next stage of my career, let me leave you with a few thoughts. NonStop is truly a special business. You can see it in the products. You can see it in the dedication of the employees. And mostly you can see it in the statements that you, our customers and partners, make about how you depend on NonStop.

Prather FarewellThe customers' dependence on an HP product was not an element in his 3000 decision -- unless he was counting the number of customers. Prather, unlike the community's most-admired 3000 GM Sterling, is moving out of general manager work into HP's Networking unit, one of the few places where HP's still showing profitability growth. He's now Global VP of Engineering there, a management assignment not entirely unlike the R&D Manager job that he toiled at under Sterling in the 3000 division.

Olivier Helleboid, the GM who helmed the 3000 group as we started the 3000 NewsWire, has gone on to become VP of Product Management at Intuit. His encouragement gave us the green light to launch the publication. Sure, that era of mid-90s -- and even before, in the simplicity of the '80s -- might be adequately summed up in the language Prather chose while leaving yet another HP server group. This latest one, he says, can outlive his tenure because it has modern hardware, open standards and development environments. With the notable exception of living beyond his career aspirations, that all sounds familiar.

When Prather cut off the 3000, its PA-RISC hardware -- when unhobbled by management's OS decisions -- was as fast as any other server HP sold; Itanium didn't even have a worthy system to ship. The 3000 was struggling toward adopting modern backplane tech, projects that languished as Prather led the 3000 lab. Y2K was too much stress for those labs, and the new PCI-based servers were as seriously late as the first PA-RISC 3000s were in the '80s. Very little sold as new systems in the years around Y2K. Sales were stymied by the "its coming soon" drumbeats about the N and A Classes. Back in the '80s on the cusp of new RISC tech, the 3000 had management champions to pull the engineering oxcart out of the ditch. No champions could be found at the very end of the '90s. Marching in place with his proscribed headcount was Prather's path into a declining future.

It was his future vision that killed HP's business. In those days MPE, which had been turned toward its Unix features under Osaka's watch, had the same then-current calibre of open standards that NonStop enjoys today. As a GM Prather's predecessor Sterling made sure the division was devoted to the Internet; it captured its first set of open source tools. Development of partner apps had drawn to a standstill after one year of Prather's decisions, something that was due to marketing responses, product delivery and commodity competition. At that point Prather told us that as a GM it wasn't his job to sell 3000s -- just to deliver the right server to the customer from HP's many choices. Later that year he ended HP's 3000 life.

Now that HP is losing ground in such unique server markets, the GM who tolled HP's death knell for its 3000 unit has moved into a commodity unit, Networking. He's rid of the decisions about what to build next, because a higher level of manager will approve the calls that were his to make for the 3000 business. Being tied to a proprietary environment business is becoming a burden for career growth, where execs are measured by revenue increases and rising partner counts. Prather has gotten himself paroled from HP's proprietary jail.

It took a 3000 manager to sum up the last five years of Prather's career, a summary that invoked HP 3000 work on Prather's watch. Connect President Steve Davidek, who we interviewed in a 2010 Q&A, thanks "Winston for his support while at the NonStop Enterprise Division." Davidek said the move "is great news for Winston."

I first met Winston while I was giving the World Wide Advocacy Survey results to HP. Winston was still managing the HP 3000 division at the time. The survey results showed HP that, again, they loved their 3000s but the HP contracts were still a pain.

There was a lot more HP pain to come for Prather's customers and partners. He drank deep from HP's proposals for Unix, predicting at an Interex meeting in February, 2002 that more than 80 percent of the customers would be migrated within a few years. Instead, HP lost two of every three departing customers to other vendors. But HP had an enterprise unit to streamline after buying up Compaq's DEC business. Prather got his bosses to approve the elimination of a unit that was shipping current technology, bearing standards support and boasting a partner network more than 30 years old.

Those components are not enough to survive in HP when your leadership dedicated to the vendor, rather than the customer. Five other men found a circuit beyond HP's changing ways. It's telling to see that only Prather stays plugged in today.

01:19 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 12, 2012

Licenses crank engines of 3000 virtualization

EngineIn a few days Stromasys will update the MANMAN community about its virtualization product that mimics 3000s using Intel hardware. Instead of calling it an emulator, we'll try to stay current and call this software what Stromasys calls it: a virtualization engine. We'll know more about the tech details and the current sales impact next week.

But in the meantime the applications which run on that 3000 iron need licensing. Either they need support fees paid, or in some cases the app itself requires a license fee. Sometimes unexpectly, a fee like this on a homestead 3000 can catapault into an unprecedented tier.

That's what happened to Sako Badalian at Rockwell Collins. The manufacturer of smart communications and aviation electronics in jet fighters uses a 3000 to run MANMAN, software that's now owned by Infor. Badalian reached out to ask if anybody else who uses MANMAN saw a 240 percent increase in the annual fees paid to Infor. That's the bill that Rockwell Collins received from the fifth company to own MANMAN, software whose ownership swaps date back to the 1980s. (CA, Interbiz, SSA Global and Infor have bought the software's customers and the code over that period.)

You would think that after a decade or more of no enhancements to an app, its fees wouldn't rise. But you'd be wrong, apparently, and this practice has become the one of the cranks that turns a 3000 virtualization engine.

There's a much larger field of homesteading 3000 customers for Stromasys to capture. They run custom code and apps, in-house software. Their licenses are limited to the independent tools used by IT pros who've been on the 3000 job for several decades. The vendors such as Adager, VEsoft, Robelle, Minisoft, MB Foster and Hillary Software, having made their initial sales, just want to maintain their service to the customers. These customers buying the Stromasys engines are unlikely to experience what Badalian bemoaned this week to his fellow MANMAN managers.

My main concern is the term license fee that Infor is charging us for use of MANMAN on the HP 3000. Infor has raised the annual term license fee and one-year support for MANMAN by 240 percent over last year's fees. What I am asking is: have your annual term fees increased substantially for this year? If yes, then did Infor notify you of this unexpectedly large annual fee increase?

Infor may not understand that its revenues for MANMAN are not going to go up by 200 percent using this strategy. Faced with this kind of increase, a 3000 owner will find a way not to pay. Some homesteaders don't have that kind of extra budget on hand, especially for a mission-critical app which they enhance themselves, or pay separately to have improved. Not all of the homesteader cost-cutting is going to come through migrations, however.

The higher profile the MANMAN site, the less room it has to economize on this license and remain an Infor customer. If Infor, Escalate (nee Ecometry) Amisys and other packaged app providers don't crank the virtualization engines for their customers, cloud solutions will rise up in their place. As it turns out, one of those solutions has been built using expertise from MANMAN's creators, ASK Software.

Some customers don't want to be tied to platforms anymore, and their genuine risks in using the cloud are offset by unexpected 240 percent price increases. They will also get a shot at virtualization, too, so long as there's some way to move to custom, in-house 3000 apps. (MANMAN has become this very thing over the last two decades, for the lucky customers who have the right to their source code.) Stromasys will be offering a cloud-based HPA/3000 engine later this year.

04:21 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 11, 2012

Changing IP Addresses for HP 3000s

I need to change the IP address of our HP 3000 in the near future, and it's been over 10 years since I've done anything like this. Here's what I think needs to be done:

NMMGR
Open Config
NS
Guided Config
Put in the network interface, (LAN1), then press Config Network
Enter the new IP address
Save Data
Validate

Tracy Johnson replies:

I would go with Unguided Config. Guided may change things (besides the IP address) to defaults that may have modified over the last 10 years.

Craig Lalley adds:

Depending on the old IP address and the new IP address, you may want to also change the subnet, and the gateway. The gateway can be accessed by hitting F4 for Internet. The gateway is found at the path NETXPORT.NI.LAN.INTERNET

If you are making the change because of a new switch/router, make sure the network guys configure the port for the HP 3000 correctly. In other words, if you have a 100MB card, make sure it is set to 100MB/full duplex and do the same on the HP 3000, and turn off auto negotiate.

Lalley noted that this kind of reconfiguration goes smoother when a manager takes the time to check the network timing settings. Those are available at the path NETXPORT.GPROT.TCP.

Independent IT consultant Al Nizzardini adds that creating a new System Load Tape is an important part of the process. Gilles Schipper of indie support company GSA also explained a key step.

After making the change via NMMGR and validating both netexport and DTS, you need to:

netcontrol net=lan1;update=internet

to actually effect the change

04:31 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 10, 2012

Manufacturers pull HP off support lines

CAMUS director Michael Anderson, an IT consultant in the Bay Area and a leader of that MRP/ERP users group, was an IT projects manager and applications manager at manufacturers Tencor and ThermaWave, both using HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard is off the radar at most of these manufacturing sites.

“As far as HP support for the HP 3000, I dropped mine a couple months after they announced the end-of-life,” Anderson said of the period in 2002 where he became Enterprise Wide Applications Manager at ThermaWave. “What are you spending money for at that point?  Long term there was not going to be any meaningful development for MANMAN, so there would also be no demand from the application for new features in MPE or IMAGE.  My employer was going through tough times and really needed the $58,000 in savings.

“As long as the old hardware continued to work and you had a good boot tape, what could HP provide that third parties didn’t already provide better for less?  The damage is done and most of the HP support customers are gone. Maybe if they had announced there would be some support in the afterlife there would be more users holding on.”

User groups, which have some of the most seasoned managers in the community, offer a better application and system resource. “On the other hand, for the companies that still use MANMAN on HP 3000s, CAMUS is still here to provide a supportive environment and forum for knowledge exchange,” Anderson said. “But it’s getting pretty quiet.”

While HP’s not making much noise on these soft feints into a market that it’s abandoned, there’s no doubting the attempts will continue, however unsuccessful. MB Foster’s Birket Foster predicted back in 2009 that HP would become a non-entity in the support field by now.

“Does the market miss the final level of HP’s 3000 support? No, these customers are already working with independent companies,” Foster said. “I’m sure that the only thing that annoys those [independent providers] is that HP keeps taking money for support. The long support tail of HP has already moved resources away from the 3000.”

Off the books, however, the HP methods and pricing are still being applied in some places. “They’re still doing support for some customers under nondisclosure because they don’t want the unwashed masses to know,” Foster said. “They’re willing to ensure there’s a body providing support to those customers. It’s something they’ve managed, to keep employees on for an extra period of time to cover some of the support needs for some larger, more strategic customers. But HP is also working hard to ensure those customers have a plan to move off.”

“They’re definitely there on the hardware side of 3000 support,” Foster said. “They’re offering support, but for certain devices. The list is growing smaller. When you get an HP renewal, it now says, ‘Except for these devices,’ with another set of devices falling off the list. For operating system support, I’m sure you can get it if you’re paying enough money.”

“Some of the people who used to work on the 3000 are still working inside HP. They’re very experienced and support certain customers. But I would say HP’s definitely reduced the number of personnel skilled in HP 3000 support.”

The departure of HP from the field follows a pattern of receding that started long before the vendor closed up its 3000 labs. At the MANMAN and 3000 support provider The Support Group, “We felt like we were supporting legacy products already in 2001,” says founder Terry Floyd. “Most of our MANMAN customers were off of applications software support anyway, so it didn’t change our plans much.”

06:17 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 09, 2012

CAMUS webinar includes emulator update

CharonFrontShotThe CAMUS ERP/MRP users group is hosting an online meeting in about a week, on April 17 starting at 11:30 EDT. CAMUS board member Michael Anderson is taking registrations for that Tuesday's call-in and web briefing, one which includes an update from the makers of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.

Stromasys has added an HP 3000 business manager, Paul Taffel, who will brief attendees on this HP 3000 emulator. Taffel's got airtime on the docket through 1 PM. A demonstration is promised. The meeting is open to anyone who registers with Anderson, by sending him an email. He'll reply with login and call-in details.

In the hour following the Stromasys briefing, users who are managing VMS sites will share information in a Talk Soup about the track record of the Charon technology in the DEC world. The first ERP-MRP production work for the emulator took place in the Alpha and VAX community. Some CAMUS members have already shared high praise for the software's ability to mimic HP hardware (on VMS systems) using Intel PC systems. What's changed since those Charon versions is the hosting environment. It's now Linux instead of Windows.

Anderson says this spring's premiere of the HPA/3000 offer may not fit the users of older, smaller 3000s. The first release of HPA/3000 is only matching A-Class 400MhZ horsepower. Stromasys has proven lab resources to boost that. The rollout schedule promises an N-Class-powered, multiple processor version by sometime after July 1, but sold at a price above $50,000.

Anderson has said that based on the first set of prices, he doubts there's enough of an offer yet from Stromasys to spark growth of MPE application use during 2012.

"I don't see the emulator swelling the ranks of MPE or application users," Anderson said. "I think they are mistaking the ardor of the enthusiast as market demand."

"I think there's a lot of interest in the emulator for contractors who can finally put a development system into their home office," he added. "I don't think we're to the point yet when you can't get parts to keep old hardware running — just rob them from an equivalent HP 9000."

There's also a general discussion of CAMUS activities set for the meeting. Setup for the webinar is scheduled to start at 11:15, to ensure smooth connections.

07:02 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 06, 2012

Sector7 clarifies: We're not a part of IBM

After our report on Sector7's involvement in the retirement of HP's Unix servers, we stand corrected, or least clarified. Even though one part of the company was sold to IBM to do this work, Sector7 remains an independent firm with the skills to do other kinds of migrations. Including some HP 3000s, according to the company's president Jon Power.

"Sector7 was never acquired by IBM," he said. "In addition to doing their migrations as their Migration Factory -- we did their server consolidation projects, which, are just hundreds of less-complex migrations. IBM acquired the server consolidation business, not the HP 3000 or OpenVMS migration business."

Power adds that IBM Global Services unit does try to do HP 3000 and OpenVMS migrations, "but they just aren't very good at them. They do subcontract some of the more complex ones to us. IBM acquired part of our large scale server consolidation business back in 2003. We still retain many HP 3000 experts."

The Sector7 executive mentioned former Interex chairman Denys Beauchemin as one of the 3000 experts the company's worked with, as well as a joint engagement with ScreenJet to migrate Ford Motor off its 3000s and systems written in Transact.

Power also said in reply to our article that 3000 migrations have slowed for the company since 2009. "In all honesty the 'free for all' HP 3000 migration spree slowed down about three years ago," he said. "OpenVMS migrations have always represented Sector7's major market, "and the number of OpenVMS to Linux requests have increased as geometrically as the HP 3000 business has decreased."

Migration houses like Sector7 are "viewed as the anti-christ" by the OpenVMS zealots, he added. But the vendors of these systems are the reason a migrator does its service. "We and others would not be in business if HP had not abandoned their users... Sure, we're here to make money from these migrations. What most zealots don't want to admit is that we are the last resort."

Powers' full comment on the original article -- which includes views on the lifespan of the 3000 as well as echoes from the Digital PDP world -- can be viewed underneath our article from April 3.

06:24 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 05, 2012

Migrating Data for Extended Homesteading

Update: Added advice from Brian Edminster on using Jeff Vance's free UDC, UDCVOL.

The redoubtable 3000-L mailing list still boasts more than 600 readers, and more than 100 of them answer questions about 3000 operations. The discussion helps homesteaders, or those who are making moves to extend the life of 3000s.

Or replace them with other 3000s. A reseller recently asked for help on data migration of the homestead variety. He got instructions useful for anyone populating a fresh disc with production data.

I'm using MPE/iX 6.5 on a 9x7 3000, and trying to move data from a system volume set to a private volume set. I made a full backup and have created a private volume set, but I'm having problems restoring my data to the private volume set.

Craig Lalley of EchoTech replied:

You need to build the accounts and groups on the private volume before the restore. On the old system, run BULDACCT like this

acct_list%VSACCT=user_set

Purge the old accounts, then STREAM BULDJOB1. This will build the "buckets," the accounts/groups on the private volume. Then do the restore.

Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies took note of a free program to control volume operations.

An even better idea is to use Jeff Vance's Volume Mgmt UDC's, available at the OpenMPE 'JAZZ' page. It's a step up from doing it manually, because you can set up a config file that will automagically put accounts/groups on the proper volumes. I use this on all my systems, and for all my clients that have non-system volumes. (Basically, anybody with a system big enough to have more than one disk)

Purging that old account was part of several replies to the question. Keven Miller of 3K Ranger said, "You can avoid doing the NEWACCT,NEWGROUP,ALT... yourself by using the ;CREATE and ;VOLSET=p-volume  on the restore. But you will likely want to purge the old account first."

Tracy Johnson of Measurement Specialties said that the concept for the migration is "to make duplicate accounts with NEWACCT on the new volume set with the ONVS parameter, as well as any NEWGROUP commands you may need. Once done, you need to ALTGROUP the groups with the HOMEVS parameter. A pair of job streams can be created with the BULDACCT command. And purging the old data is a good idea. Otherwise you end up with phantom disc space usage."

12:20 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 04, 2012

HP's 3000 support clears away for indies

Even though HP this week announced its Insight Online enhancement for enterprise support, the changes won't be of help to 3000 owners. The remote management technology, designed to improve response times, is another example of new support products HP won't deliver to the MPE sites it's retained over the eight years since the server's sales ended.

After a full year of absence from the HP 3000 community, the support arm of Hewlett-Packard has been disappearing from customer choices for 3000 maintenance. Hardware is the only public offer that the company pushes on its old clients, according to reports from the field. But HP hasn’t retracted its reach entirely for the insurance-only support dollars backed by a declining set of resources.

“Most people have aligned themselves with an independent provider at this point,” said Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. His shop that’s completely devoted to supporting MPE/iX and HP 3000 systems runs across straggler accounts when customers say they’re in the last 18 months of a migration and therefore stick with HP. But it’s a rare encounter by now, at least in public.

“It’s not as much as it had been,” said Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. “In this new year I had two customers come to me that they never received a message from HP on support renewal — for the first time ever. In other cases I’ve continued to see HP.”

The departure of HP support options still comes as news to a few customers. Last month a manager running 3000s at fuel-pump manufacturer Gilbarco queried the 3000 newsgroup for an update. "Our HP 3000 maintenance contract is up for renewal on June 30th, but HP have told us that they will not be renewing the contract," he said. "Is this commonplace across the globe?"

It might be commonplace, but HP's exit isn't yet universal. Suraci adds that when Pivital does run across HP trying to sell 3000 support, “it’s on a sales office-by-sales office basis, because that’s who’s doing support at this point. When you get your supported equipment list from HP today, there’s three things on it. HP’s being very selective about what they’re actually covering.”

Software support for the systems is just about non-existent, at least on a public basis, Suraci said. “It’s really just been limited to hardware aspects of support.”

Newer CPUs and chassis are most likely to make it onto HP’s supported devices list. N-Class or A-Class servers might be offered from a local sales office as supportable items. MOD 20 storage units are another example of cherry-picked items that would match only a small part of an independent support vendor’s coverage lineup.

But that HP coverage can be wildly uneven. “A lot of times they’re supporting the disk arrays, but not the drives in the arrays,” Suraci said. HP offered to support just one of the two internal disk drives in a customer’s Series 928, and not the internal tape drive.

In a case such as that, a service call could devolve into determining which disk drive may have failed, with the case ending with a report of unsupported devices. Lower-end 3000 systems are rarely on an HP support account by now. Higher-end accounts are more likely to fall into the HP folds after years of more extensive attention.

04:46 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 03, 2012

Leaving legacy: IBM runs Migration Factory

WildebeastmigrationEchoes of the migration bell rung by HP in 2001 are rattling some HP Unix customers loose. During a week when HP's business was considered a carcass by a MarketWatch analyst, news bubbled up on a website in the IBM world about a former 3000-migrating company that's now eliminating HP-UX customers. In a four-month period, hundreds of sites have been converted away from HP's enterprise-grade alternative to the 3000.

That Austin-based consultancy Sector7 has been an expertise resource for migrations since early in the 3000's Transition Era, midway through the previous decade. Some MPE experts have even consulted through Sector7. But even after [some part of] it was acquired by IBM, the company has been able to retain its business motif despite selling its consolidation business to IBM's Global Services group. That portion migrates IBM competitors' systems, whether just a database swap to DB2 or a shift onto IBM's iron in the Power Series. In this world, Unix is considered a legacy carcass.

According to a report at the blog System iNetwork, IBM achieved almost 200 competitive takeouts in the last quarter of 2011 off the HP Unix customer rolls. Each one of these takeouts averages about $1 million per displacement in revenues (although not for Sector7, as we're corrected below by Sector7's Jon Power). That's a yearly total of more than three-quarters of a billion dollars off the backs of HP's Unix, if the analysis from Pund-IT's analyst Charles King is to be believed. From the System i website:

Poaching customers when a competitor is weak is nothing new, and both HP and Oracle have programs to help customers migrate to its own solutions. Still, "I don’t know that any program has worked to the degree that IBM’s has," King says. "IBM is seeing accelerating numbers of migrations both from HP and Oracle. IBM basically has the right tools, and they have a very solid strategy in place to take advantage of uncertainty and concern [in the Unix-focused market]."

IBM and HP have been swiping each others' customers for years, dating back to the days when IBM tried to target HP 3000 shops with the AS/400-Series i systems. There were a few displacements announced around 3000 migrations, but that business didn't show much but exceptions that proved the rule of Windows. However, IBM has had some success selling the System i -- a cousin to the HP 3000 in its integrated design. Some Unix sites have switched to IBM's more proprietary and specialized solution.

King's white paper from his analysis house asserts that HP's strategies of Itanium essence and the new Project Odyssey have been helping Sector7 with the displacements. He takes note of the Intel long-term Poulson and Kittson plans, but then says Oracle and Odyssey have been reducing confidence in the lifespan of the Unix legacy.

Continued wrangling between HP and Oracle is doing little to bolster customers' confidence in the platform, In addition, HP's recently announced "Project Odyssey," which aims to "redefine the future of mission critical computing" by developing Superdome 2 systems that support both traditional Itanium servers and Xeon-based c-Class blades, could further confuse the issue.

Every company that's in the business of advising legacy customers strives to portray itself as vendor-agnostic and a trusted partner. IBM even uses that language in describing the Sector7 services. The term "Trusted Advisor" was used in HP's strategic pitches to the 3000 base, before its 2001 migration bell got rung. Both Oracle and HP are serving up those displacements each quarter to IBM's trustees. The scrap between Oracle and HP -- which triggered the Itanium slowdown and Odyssey -- clouds the future for both of these legacy providers.

"Even if HP succeeds or Oracle capitulates," King says, "customers will wonder how deeply or effectively a forced cooperation will extend."

03:58 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 02, 2012

OpenMPE still open for some downloading

April is the time of year when a new OpenMPE board of directors was being seated, at least from 2002 to 2009. The count of volunteers listed as board members stands at three as of today. Birket Foster, Tony Tibbenham and Alan Tibbetts make up the tightest group in the 10 years that OpenMPE has been at work. This month marks the end of the second year of stasis for a volunteer group that's still serving up bits which are relevant to homesteading HP 3000 users.

The chairman Foster told us that there's still work to do on licenses for any software which will operate under the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. "We ran that emulator project in conjunction with HP," he said in February. Hewlett-Packard came up with the only paid-license project for an enterprise OS running on an emulator, sparked by board direction from OpenMPE. With that HPA/3000 now being shown off in sales calls this spring, it's easy to forget the whole concept wouldn't have existed without an OS license for an emulator.

There's still an Invent3K public access development server online, thanks to the volunteer efforts of the group, as well as supporters like the Support Group Inc. There are proceedings available on that server which contain papers that could help train a replacement generation of managers at homestead sites.

On more everyday matters, the OpenMPE website still hosts some code and scripts useful to a 3000 manager. Scripts by the ever-helpful ex-CSY guru Jeff Vance, Donna Hoffmeister, and others are online today. It's part of the Jazz project on OpenMPE, but the open source dreams of the group are being realized in another web outpost.

OpenMPE began as a push to get the source code for the operating system deeded to the customers who'd be using the 3000 for an unlimited future. Over a five-year period, OpenMPE began to turn toward sparking an emulator with licensing and policy requests to HP. Hewlett-Packard never got the open source religion for MPE, but over at the MPE-OpenSource.org site, software that can help is available for downloads, too.

Brian Edminster, who stocks and curates that website, sees a connection between the emulator and the needs of a 3000 community which is making a transition. Even 3000 sites which have definite plans to migrate could find an role for the emulator to play.

"For migrations that are really replacements rather than just re-hosting," Edminster said, "it could well be a lot 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."

 

07:36 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 01, 2012

3000 community awaits business simulation

Owners and suppliers of HP 3000 systems were counting down today to the rollout of the Hewlett-Packard Business Simulator, the first application designed to turn server clocks back to pre-Y2K settings to normalize enterprise operations. The software-hardware combination, scheduled to roll out in 2007, makes its debut this year, triggered when the vendor's Legacy Calendars Division corrected a five-year timing error in embedded HP 3000 history chips.

CEO Meg Whitman, corrected last month on the age of the company by shareholders old enough to know better, said her executive staff deployed the Day Runner app technology in WebOS to learn that the long-awaited simulator was just as overdue as the 70th anniversary of the company.

"We never meant to fall this far behind on the HP-BS app," Whitman said in a brief statement at the end of March. "We were timing it to coincide with our 70th birthday, which turns out to have been a few years ago." Whitman said the New-News architecture of the chips was thrown off by the four-year delay in retiring HP's 3000 operations, which were scheduled to expire just before HP's actual 70th anniversary. Division R&D manager Oltston Rather said that when the 3000 ops continued to operate, the BS app remained in streaming mode.

The simulator is designed to recreate business opportunities that existed when Hewlett-Packard was selling four vendor-designed enterprise environments, including MPE/iX. The Y2K date was chosen to match the last period when HP stock was trading high enough to split, while new 3000 sales still boosted the company's top as well as bottom lines.

Rather said that instead of installing the BS app in datacenters, customers will recreate the Y2K conditions in the HP Cloud. A new HP Cloud Discovery Workshop demystifies and simplifies this complex world by using human-sized displays which lay out strategies to utilize this new computing environment.

"It's a pie in the sky condition we're generating," Rather said. "Customers would prefer to work in a time when our business and financial success was more in line with our innovative R&D. As profit-sharing employees, so would we."

04:05 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)