May 04, 2012
One-vendor solution emulates '80s devotion
Owners of the HP 3000 have toiled through decades of being devoted to the work of a single vendor. In the 1980s when the 3000's success started rolling, one-vendor IT was not only smart, but also the only way to get things fixed and keep them working.
Now that we've been through the "open systems" adolescence of the 1990s, and the young-adult years of open source, companies have learned to embrace multiple vendors for computing. At the nerve center of enterprise management, however, a single vendor of bigger size still makes managers feel less risk. Whatever the costs of staying in the MPE environment, at least a bug fix for MPE was going to come from a single source. Usually a company where you paid for support, too.
Here in this century's Teens, 3000 users are still courting single-vendor solutions. Yes, HP is long gone from the community for homesteaders. But the sensible managers are now using a single support vendor for their rare problem from MPE, or the occassional hardware failures of memory boards, 10-year-old disks or even older power supplies. That's not an unreasonable risk. You can replace a failing support company with another. There's a marketplace wide-open for support.
On the question of emulation (or virtualization, if you prefer), a single vendor is a different prospect. Back in the Oughts, a 2003 picture identified three prospects to build an emulator for 3000 iron. Strobe Data and Allegro didn't produce such a product, for very different reasons. Strobe ran short of development resources. Allegro's experts were usually mentioned by other parties in a hopeful tone, based on deep PA-RISC experience. What the community is being offered today is the Stromasys Charon HPA/3000. Like MPE always was, it's a single point of failure. Or success.
It's a good thing this isn't the first dance for the Stromasys emulator creators. They have thousands of satisfied DEC VAX/PDP customers. These are early steps the company is taking for PA-RISC and MPE, however. Nothing comes risk-free, and one community vendor thinks that maybe some software companies might require archival 3000 iron to support HPA/3000.Plenty of 3000 software companies won't need this. They are modest in size and responsive and you can often talk to the creators of their products. These companies tend to produce tools that you will want to continue to use on an emulator. Adager. Suprtool. MPEX. DataExpress (now the UDA Series). ByRequest. The sort of products that helped the 3000 toward that 1980s success.
Other companies are still a mystery on the emulator-support front. Chris Koppe, who's managing business development for Fresche Legacy (nee Speedware) said he didn't know how emulator support might work at larger software suppliers. Cognos -- now an accessory of IBM -- came to mind.
"I think you'll end up getting companies in the vendor ecosystem that'll say, 'I'll keep your support money, but I'll give you best-effort support," he said. "In the end, can you move to Stromasys [products] and still get support from the software vendors? If you're running Powerhouse on [HPA/3000] and it has a problem, will IBM really support you? Did you buy your license on that kind of infrastructure, or will IBM -- or Robelle or VEsoft or any third-party vendor -- will they support you? If there's a problem, will they say, 'Put it on a 3000 box and call me back?' "
There is history to review on this subject from the Stromasys DEC customers. Those who use MANMAN, for example, don't need an archive system for support of Charon-hosted emulated servers. They're delighted with that mature product. We keep trying to get IBM's attention, to ask about this in relation to Powerhouse. But as other software vendors have learned, getting official response to Powerhouse issues of license and development from IBM is a slow process.
Whatever the prospect for support and licensing from third parties, Stromasys becomes the first party in an emulator-user's shop. You can call your PC hardware company to get a board replaced or a new unit installed. But the emulator is software, as essential as MPE. It comes from a single vendor, just like HP provided the OS. Stromasys will need to show a profile as stellar as the old HP's in order for some customers to extend more devotion to a single vendor.
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