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July 31, 2012

How Support (With)holds Key to Emulation

At some HP 3000 sites, the servers are working to deliver IT services to a subset of customers. One site in Virginia which handles healthcare administration is keeping an N-Class server online using Amisys/3000. But the issue which concerns the company isn't so much the tech capability of the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. Licenses with existing vendors worry this prospect.

Cognos/IBM is at the top of the list for this company, even through they dropped Powerhouse support long ago. Powerhouse has been an integral part of the Amisys surround code. Cognos wasn't the friendliest company to negotiate with during the MPE heydays. An emulator license for Powerhouse would have to be arranged with IBM.

Other arrangements would include a license for Amisys itself, which is part of the McKesson Group by now. This is one of the software programs running in Virginia where support is being paid -- Adager is another -- and so there's a better chance of getting that license transferred. A transfer license is what's needed for this market. However, it's a lot harder to start up a transfer discussion after you've terminated support.

There are going to be other kinds of prospects where the Stromasys software has a better chance today. The sites where support is intact, or there's plenty of in-house code with no vendors to negotiate with, will have a smoother path. In a spot like that Virginia IT shop, licenses are linked to vendors which will likely expect some support.

This support renewal raises the price bar for the emulator, of course.

We've reported on other strategies on how much an emulator ought to cost. Comparing it to the value of the company works, so long as the 3000 drives the entire company's IT. That's not the case in Virginia. HP's BladeServers drive Windows, while the HP-UX systems are running Facets (another healthcare app), but are soon to be replaced by Sun's hardware and Linux. (Take that, HP; Oracle has won that contest.)

The IT pro we interviewed at the shop asked first about technical capability, and the HPA/3000 has been shining there. In very short order he asked about licenses. Hewlett-Packard's emulator licensing is ensured, and companies like Adager, Robelle and VEsoft have expressed little concern about licensing their software for an emulator. (There are tests to be run at some vendor labs. Robelle reported early this year that the HPA/3000 passed all of its tests through February).

Although it might seem like it's hard to convince a CTO or CIO to maintain support contracts on 3000 software, extending support can keep some options open -- especially if there's no clear migration project timeline. Support relationships, renewed regularly, look like they're holding the key to admit the emulator.

06:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 30, 2012

Security patches still floating HP-UX cloud

Hp_enterprise-cloud-servicesMigrating from the HP 3000 can be an act of faith. Once a vendor has closed down a business platform, the alternatives might look less certain to survive -- at least until a manager can survey the security of a replacement host. HP genuinely dimmed the lights on its MPE/iX activity when it stopped creating security patches. Windows XP is still getting these, but Microsoft has said they'll stop patching in 2017.

Apple's starting to join the previous-platform shutdown crew. Its new OS Mountain Lion is blasting across the downloading bandwidth -- the vendor said more than 3 million copies went out in the first four days of release. With every copy of Mountain Lion that's downloaded, or shipped out on new Macs, the older platform of Snow Leopard loses a step in Apple's march. Snow Leopard shipped out in 2009. Some managers are on watch, waiting to see when that leopard will lose its security spots.

HP continues to support two earlier releases of HP-UX with security patches. Two separate breaches were repaired last week. One vulnerability could be exploited remotely to create a Denial of Service (SSRT100878 rev.2). Another patch (SSRT100824 rev.3) addressed vulnerabilities which "could be exploited remotely to execute arbitrary code or elevate privileges." Samba and BIND opened the gates to these hacks. Both have been supported in MPE/iX, but it's been many years since Samaba or BIND had any access to a security patch on the 3000.

The Mac's OS is built out of the girders of such open-sourced, Unix-based tools and software. Now there's a rising current of change flowing through the Apple community around the two latest releases of the OS. Lion and Mountain Lion change so many things that older, more experienced Mac managers find themselves learning new interfaces and administration in a forced march -- all because Apple sees profit in making Macs behave like mobile phones and tablets.

Whatever's been learned about managing a Mac is now being depreciated with each new OS release. That kind of change is only the early stages of what a 3000 manager experienced when HP stopped creating MPE/iX or patching it for security. The Unix customers of Apple (Mac OS managers) and HP have one thing in common: continuous re-learning and patching of their environments. This will stretch an IT pro's skill sets. It can also stretch out a workday into work nights and weekends. Enterprise customers must always hope that their vendor doesn't get too enterprising about the profits from churn. Apple seems to be doubling down on a strategy that churns up security issues: cloud computing.

HP added this level of capability to MPE once during the history of the OS, when it grafted a Posix interface onto MPE/XL in 1992 to create MPE/iX. The Posix namespace provided instant familiarity to adminstrators who knew Unix admin commands and programs. But MPE/iX didn't stop behaving like administrators expected who wanted nothing to do with Posix. They didn't have to trick the 3000 into the polished and proven processes that established reliability and security.

Apple's iCloud is the default file storage location in that 3-million download OS version. The vendor really doesn't believe in things like a desktop for file management anymore. Let the cloud take care of finding things and keeping them up to date. In other words, let Apple's server farm security maintain the sanctity of personal and professional data.

This turn of events was triggered by the sudden fortunes of Apple's computing business. Mobile devices make up more than 75 percent of the largest capitalized company in the world today. With so many ways to carry a computer out of the office, Apple figures a cloud is the only chance to keep documents and personal data up to date. When a business takes off enough to double a stock price, a company will pivot to capture the opportunity.

The situation illustrates the challenges in staying on a fast track of technology. Apple's "doubling-down" on iCloud, according to its CEO. HP is making a bid for this kind of computing, too, but not by pushing all the chips to the center of its enteprise table. Cloudsystem is good for some businesses, but the top reason that 3000 managers cite for avoiding it: security concerns. HP's got a Enterprise Cloud Services-Continuity version that the vendor says "is part of what makes this an 'enterprise' cloud service."

Some of the security freature include Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention (NIDS/NIPS), firewall and VPN monitoring and management, two-factor authenticated access to privileged user accounts, operating system hardening, physical datacenter security (access by key card or biometric palm scanning, video surveillance, and on-site security personnel) and SIEM monitoring.

That last bit of ackronymn soup stands for Security Information and Event Monitoring, real-time analysis of security alerts generated by networks.

Quite a bit like the MPE/iX customers of just five years ago, us managers of Snow Leopard systems haven't got the latest iCloud, update-everywhere powers, the place where we can abandon our regard for file system skills. We are still getting security patches like the ones that HP-UX admins processed last week through HP-UX Software Assistant.

Every vendor will judge when securing older releases -- like Snow Leopard, MPE/iX or HP-UX B.11.11 -- stops making business sense. Trying to estimate that date is as tough as guessing the thoughts behind the inscrutable face of any cat, either leopard or lion. But knowing that end-of-security deadline is on its way is easy to predict. Every OS gets such a day to test the faith of its customers. And the changes a manager must adopt to keep pace with their OS could be so profound that staying current feels like adopting a new set of administration skills.

02:52 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 27, 2012

MM/3000 stalwart serves, stocks 3000 docs

We're still thinking about how to organize and capture the wealth of lively links at hp3000links.com. This site has been without an administrator for most of a year, and it's still got more than 100 links on it that lead to useful information.

But the links to HP's documentation on the 3000's software and hardware go nowhere. Most of them were hosted on HP servers that have either been retired -- like the 3000 division's Jazz webserver -- or they point at a baffling HP webpage where somewhere or other there's a way to find documentation.

However, there's another web resource that seems to pop up quickly when we do a search for HP manuals like the MPE/iX 7.5 Maintenance Manual. It seems that one of the stalwarts of the HP Manufacturing Management application, Scott Petersen, has been stockpiling 3000 manuals at his hpmmsupport.com site. MM/3000, as it was called through the '90s, sold a lot of new 3000s -- because in choosing a platform it's all about the application, isn't it?

It is, until you make that choice, and then you're facing system administration like keeping an SLT up to date for your 3000. How to create a CSLT is part of that 7.5 manual. Petersen's site has it and much more.

HP's official position on this kind of document archival has been in flux. For awhile in the 2008-2010 era, the manuals were supposed to be in HP's websites only, or hosted as part of a licensing agreement with a third party. At one point HP was saying the manuals wouldn't go public until 2015. But HP's got bigger woes to resolve than whether's there's too much exposure for its 3000 manuals. HP won't even sell you support for your system by now. Unless you insist.

Petersen said that access to these documents is vital to supporting the 3000.

I have needed the 3000 information in the past and felt that it was a good community service to place the manuals and other things oout there for all to see. I am a pack-rat and decided that having access to the information was critical.

Petersen adds that he's "always on the lookout for things that might go away relating to the 3000, and adding them to the site if it is appropriate." MM/3000 didn't go away after HP dropped it. The software was bought and revived and expanded by former HP employees who became eXegeSys, with products named to match. Manufacturers were surprised, too. But the apps have supported a diverse group of users from governments, sports clubs, job shop manufacturers, process manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.

Many of these have migrated to other applications. Our goal is to continue the process of high quality support for those organizations that have either not been willing or able to move to another platform and application. We knew the application when it was designed, and we are aware of how customizations have allowed the application to change.

This was an application vendor as surprised as any about HP's exit from the 3000, if memory serves from my meeting with them in 2002. But they've perserved, well beyond HP's capabilities. Things don't go away easily in a community stocked with these kinds of stalwarts.

06:14 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 26, 2012

Eloquence's new fast indexes get explored

The FTS fast indexing power of Eloquence 8.20 has gone into full release this month. Up at MB Foster HQ, training is underway this week on using this enhancement, as well as others, while designing migrated databases.

UDALink-EloquenceThis week's design and programming workshop helps people understand how fast indexes apply to a database, "and how they might do database architecture based on the kinds of retrievals they'd want to perform," said CEO Birket Foster. DBFINDs, DBGETs, and DBINFOs in the Eloquence IMAGE compatibility module have extra commands in 8.20. "If you have migrated and have this new database, we'll help you take advantage of new features" in the Marxmeier product Eloquence.

Inside the new Eloquence IMAGE3k library:

  • DBFIND mode 1 may be used to ensure compatibility with existing applications
  • New TPI DBGET modes obtain the Fast Text Seach results
  • DBGET modes 5 and 6 help you check compatibility with existing applications
  • A TPI DBINFO has enhanced 8xx modes to support FTS
  • DBCONTROL's mode 800 and 801 specify the FTS DBFIND behavior if no records qualify 

The workshop is also covering forward logging and recovery techniques, database auditing, and database server replication. MB Foster's UDALink series of connectivity software allows access to Eloquence (and its new fast features) over HP-UX as well as Linux platforms.

In the Eloquence design of FTS, text fields, dates and numbers are indexed so they can be found by keywords, have a search narrowed by date range, then just get the high-dollar transactions, for example. FTS also enables queries with just partial information, like "find William or Bill in Atlanta." The searches are qualified in seconds, based on the number of records found.

"If you or your users feel the need for speed, you can do fast retrievals built right into Eloquence, without a table scan," Foster said. Minor changes to architecture can produce big results, he added. One example is speeding the searches which would drive a call center.

The innovation in FTS is that its search engine is implemented in the database. A basic functionality level is included in the base product. Extended FTS is a licensing option.

This kind of fast indexing was once a third-party add-on speciality of companies like DISC, which sold Omnidex to speed TurboIMAGE performance. The 8.20 Eloquence even has a separate library to integrate four of the most common Omnidex ODX calls.

Other features being explored in the new version include database encryption and item masking. The latter masks or blanks sensitive information upon retrieval. Database managers can control user authorization for masking. These enhancements help secure sensitive information to help meet the credit card PCI DSS requirements.

03:20 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2012

Matches of Mountain Lion and MPE/iX

By Brian Edminster
Applied Technologies

Mountain-lionI follow far too many blogs, in my vain attempt to stay informed on the state of technology (software, hardware, and other). When Apple released its state of the art OS today, I kept on researching. As a byproduct of those attempts, I happened on an article from Information Architects, Mountain Lion’s New File System, and found it quite interesting.

In short, it appears that Apple -- in working to move away from a many-leveled folder hierarchy to 'force' a two-level hierarchy in its file-systems (iOS, and now in OSX) -- is now basically moving towards where MPE was from the beginning.

In MPE's case, it's Account and Group, rather than Application, and folder within Application. But the resemblance is striking.

MPE applications can 'see' -- and when necessary -- access, across accounts. I'm not entirely sure how that'll be achieved in OSX or iOS, although I'm fairly sure that those better-versed in Apple products could point it out to me.

I also noted that, perhaps for different reasons of which I'm not sure -- I'm going purely on conjecture here --Microsoft is doing the same basic thing in its folder structures. The folder structures in Windows 7 are becoming more libraries of 'kinds of things'-based, plus it tries to 'hide' you from the 'pathing' to get to a file. So far, I find their implementation far less satisfying that Apple's has been.

I can't honestly say that (for the filesystem structure, at least) that MPE was so far ahead of its time that other OS's are just now catching up. But I am curious about what drove the two-level structure. Perhaps someone who worked in the labs might have that insight to share. 

Regardless of the reason, good designs often converge in a particular direction or way. And I suspect that this may be an example of that as much that as anything else.

I know that the late Wirt Atmar of AICS Research firmly believed in simple paradigms for storage concepts (often explained as file-cabinet drawers and folders) -- and that MPE's filesystem fit that quite well. He firmly believed that was one of MPE's great strengths.

05:20 PM in Hidden Value, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 24, 2012

Make backups, but a CSLT is just as vital

Many homesteading HP 3000 shops are working with limited system administration. If you're reading this blog, that probably doesn't apply to your own 3000 shop. But you can pass on advice about backing up to any 3000 site you know. A backup of applications and databases isn't enough.

The CSLT needs to be fresh and available, too. The Custom System Load Tape tells the 3000 how the configuration is set up for devices attached to the system that you're restoring. (The original SLT that was distributed from HP has a generic configuration. This customized SLT reflects your physical configuration of your specifically-built system.) Also referred to as a boot tape, it contains the system load utilities, diagnostic subsystems, base system files, and other HP system files such as IMAGE, FCOPY and EDITOR.

A CSLT is generated with the system generator (SYSGEN) utility. You can build a CSLT for individual systems, each with a different configuration, after updates. These configurations tell the 3000 what other volumes are available to accept data. You can also put a full backup on the end of a CSLT, but it's better to have that backup on separate tapes. (Separating a backup from the CSLT also speeds up creating a CSLT.) Consultant Paul Edwards advises that managers make a CSLT at least every other time during a backup, plus having two tape drives on each system. "Being paranoid makes for a good system manager," he says. "If you're not paranoid enough, you better have a good resume."

Overlooking the CSLT is so common that even some admin pros have done it from time to time. For one such pro, an A-Class 3000 was recently rebuilt and had its apps consolidated. But the rebuilt system didn't have its CSLT freshened, which was discovered when the boot volume failed. 

We lost LDEV1 in the 'system' volume-set. The apps and databases are fine, but I'd neglected to make a fresh CSLT once the rebuild/configure/setup was complete. Fortunately, all the data volumes are protected with Mirror/iX -- but rebuilding the system volume accounts, network config, administration jobs and so on has been a pain.

An honest mistake like this is not one you need to make yourself. Even if, as another 3000 consultant notes, your shop has gone into Frugal Mode while it makes in-house moves. You have the right to be wrong in Frugal Mode. But you really don't want that right, unless you've got plenty of extra time.

"This is not a mistake I'll ever make again," said our CSLT rebuilder. "Until it's complete and stable, I now make a new CSLT at the end of each day's changes (in addition to the regular backups we do as Store-To-Disk, and then FTP to a NAS). Hopefully I'll never have to go through this hassle again."

AUTOINST updates temporary copies of the system libraries and then creates a CSLT. This can take up to two hours. One set of instructions to do this is available in HP's MPE/iX 7.5 Maintenance Manual. The process hasn't changed much from the 6.0 release of MPE/iX, either. We've got a pointer to each manual; just search for "CSLT" in each PDF file.

We've previously published a paper by Gilles Schipper on the use of BULDACCT versus the STORE command while backing up. The ;DIRECTORY and ;ONVS= options are a key there. What's more, one of our most prodigious contributors Brian Edminster is sketching out a technical, but easy-to-use, Automation of Backups and Effectively Eliminating Use of Tapes article.

Do all the backup that you need when protecting that HP 3000. It's a computer that established the gold standard for recovery in case of powerfail situations. But the success of its backups falls in the lap of the system's managers or owners. (Running CHECKSLT from the TELESUP account will verify if a CSLT is still good enough to boot your system. You'll want that CSLT to run on any tape drive, not just the one it runs on. Alignment issues kick DDS drives out of service regularly.) Don't forget about keeping your CSLT healthy.

04:13 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 23, 2012

For sunset OS rides, the market decides

SunsetAlthough Windows systems have been a popular alternative to the HP 3000 for migrators, they do have one thing in common. The most commonplace version of the Microsoft OS is on notice of an end-date. And just like the 3000's, this deadline is one the vendor has kept extending.

Windows XP doesn't run enterprises the way that Windows Server 2004 or 2008 do, but this desktop client OS has had staying power to rival the HP 3000's MPE/iX. Microsoft released the Embedded version of XP at the end of 2001. HP's 7.0 version of MPE/iX was rolled out the same year. Microsoft intended to cut off XP's lifespan in 2011, then in 2014. The latest announcement is that the XP users who have the OS embedded in things like kiosks now have five more years.

XP Embedded: Born December 2001. Support expired, October 2017.

Riding into the sunset is a strategy that makes good sense at some point for every technology. But Microsoft -- which reported its first-ever loss last quarter -- is having a 3000-like experience with XP. In spite of having a good alternative that's even code-compatible in Windows 7, half its customers run an OS that was designed back when HP was still rolling out new 3000s.

Just like Windows XP, MPE/iX won't expire. It's the one fact that a homesteading customer, or a slow migrator, can count upon. What works today is a good bet for tomorrow, unless security issues rise up. Since Microsoft's product is a Windows client OS, XP has some very serious need for security updates. An OS like MPE, with its Priv Mode designs, doesn't have the same security challenges.

The distinction which really matters is that the vendor remains on the game field of XP. Microsoft is still creating patches for free support, just like HP used to do for its enterprise environments. (Now those are a for-fee element to managing things like HP-UX and OpenVMS.) Some experts in the Windows world think there's a little chance that the XP lifespan might be extended. Ed Bott wrote last week on ZDNet about the desktop versions of XP, non-embedded:

They could also choose to extend support for Windows XP again. But I don't see that happening, at least not by any significant amount. I could see them extending XP's support life to match the end of OEM sales via downgrade rights—from April 2014 to the end of that year—but sooner or later they have to nail the coffin shut.

Existing copies of Windows XP will not expire, of course. But OEM and volume license copies are tied to the hardware they were first installed on and can't be transferred to new systems. So by the end of 2015 you will no longer be able to buy any version of Windows that includes downgrade rights to XP. That's when XP finally rides off into the sunset for good.

Security patches for MPE/iX have already ridden off, but this was an OS which rarely had a security alert compared to the half-dozen per month which HP-UX still gets. The MPE sunset might well be 2027, when on Dec. 31 the system's calendar rolls back to the year 1900. 

But whenever a question arises about how any company could be using software so far "out of date," it's useful to point out that about half of the world's PCs operate using XP. It's an environment already nearing 11 years old, with its lifespan now estimated at 16 years and perhaps counting.

04:16 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2012

Apache helped 3000s live to serve

In a July of 15 years ago, the HP 3000 was struggling for Web relevance. Since it was built as a general purpose computer, the 3000 and its operating system were expected to deliver any service which a business required. Newer elements of the IT landscape by 1997 included serving up websites, something which Unix and Windows NT competitors were handling nicely.

HP thought it had a solution to a requirement which many customers didn't even acknowledge. The Internet was becoming popular, and serving web pages was a novel means of delivering data. The 3000 had been recently supplied with standards-based email through third parties, most notably 3k Associates. But Web services were still in flux in 1997. The first choice for a third party MPE/iX-ready web server pulled out just before its product could get inserted into 3000 IT.

In the dog days of that summer, I fumed over the initial HP response to Open Market's web exit. "One of the first thoughts this division had about losing its Web server solution amounted to 'we can always let NT do it using the 3000's data.' That idea deserves to fall out from heatstroke, and quickly."

The product segment was so novel that HP had an Internet Product Manager for the 3000 (CSY) division. "We're as disappointed as anyone," Daren Connor said. HP had partnered with a company that decided to drop the product HP had ported to MPE/iX. Open Market left the 3000 with a sour aftertaste to two years of negotiations and engineering. Two years was a long period to fall behind in the Web derby while the Internet bloomed.

HP appears to be as surprised as anyone. CSY's spring promotion directly preceded Open Market's notice to HP that it was dropping the software which HP just placed in customers' hands. While HP is the primary support contact for the product, it relies on Open Market to resolve more complex support issues. CSY also looks to Open Market to engineer enhancements to the product.

There was an open solution waiting for the 3000's Internet dilemma. HP had not pinned its enterprise hopes on web services. Sun was stealing that march, but open source software would arrive to bridge the gap. Apache rode in on the steed of a savvy customer who ported it for free. HP eventually hired Mark Bixby to port the 3000 into a future where it was called the e3000. It just took one more feint at a commercial server that didn't plug into the 3000.

The open-source Apache had open hosting options, however. You could easily install it on a cast-off PC or a low-powered Unix workstation -- computers which didn't hold high-rent corporate data stores like the 3000 did. The 3000 could run Apache, once its port was completed. But HP was believing in other platforms as general purpose tools. As sexy as Internet services looked, by sprucing up the 3000's aging attire, 1997 customers wanted to clothe lesser systems with those togs.

Connor said he has been contacting the customers who have been waiting for the Secure Web Server. He also has an idea that many HP 3000 sites who are serious about using the Web with their 3000s are willing to let the server reside on another platform integrated with the HP 3000. 

"It was pretty clear to me that the majority of folks out there who were doing more than playing around with the Web were heading toward a front-end box being their Web server and incorporating the 3000 as a back-end server database," Connor said.

Open Market was important because it worked in the 3000's Posix namespace -- the most standardized element of a server that was just gaining credibility as an open system.

It felt important during that July to keep any more 3000 computing tasks from eroding into the waves of Windows NT. The 3000 was hosting some websites as a result of a third-party product, QWEBS. That MPE-only software sold for under $500, but its abilities were a subset of a Posix-based server.

QWEBS, built by K-12 app vendor QSS, was the only commercially-supported Web server for HP 3000s. Commercial support became an essential in those early days of Web services. Apache had a great reputation but needed vendors to adopt and adapt it for traditional support levels. One server based on Apache, Stronghold, was carrying then-new SSL security. Alas, Stronghold only ran on Unix.

HP recovered well by the time the '97 HP World conference convened a month later in Chicago. General manager Harry Sterling announced a deal to bring the Netscape FastTrack web server to MPE, sometime in 1998. The vendor demoed FastTrack by summer of '98. But the momentum of serving websites through commodity hosts like PCs was too great to resist. FastTrack never got an MPE foothold either at Netscape or in the 3000's community.

Netscape had a 90 percent share of browsers at the time, but any customers savvy enough to integrate their 3000s closely with web services were choosing Apache/iX, ported by a systems administrator in a California community college enterprise. More than six months before FastTrack was even expected for release, Mark Bixby was rolling out a 1.3 beta version of Apache that ran on all of HP's enterprise platforms. It lacked security features HP promised for FastTrack, however.

HP's job was to add that security. Given one more year, HP would embrace Apache as its official 3000 webserver. The computer had just celebrated its 25th birthday. We wanted HP to "create a resource working for the company that won't decide Web server business isn't lucrative enough. Secure web servers can be important at first, and lucrative later. Excuse-me offers of leveraging other platforms don't help CSY's future -- and it doesn't help CSY's customers much, either."

Bixby became that 3000 resource once he joined the labs in HP's Internet and Interoperability 3000 unit. Bixby built that first Apache on his 3000 because "we had all of our student data on the 3000, and the Internet was getting more popular." To acknowledge and recall a time when the Internet wasn't like electricity in our lives, you'd have to admit the 3000 has been working throughout major changes in computing. Open Market and FastTrack weren't firm enough or fast enough to strike what may have been a good spark for new 3000s -- during an era when HP was genuinely trying to sell them.

10:48 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 19, 2012

3000 vendor links, many lost in history

Early this year I started to explore the vitality of links on the hp3000links.com website. After four passes through a pop-up list that's larger than a paperback cover, I bring you to the final 15 suggested connections to 3000 vendors. This is a resource that's without an adminstrator for its content, seeking a volunteer or vendor's resource to maintain its links. After more than 100 searches of its biggest list, I have a summary in the wings about this Web resource, launched about 15 years ago.

1997 was a different time for Web interfaces, and so a vast list of vendors appears on a single pop-up click at the site. These final T-Z links run from TAG Business Computing through the Wick Hill Group. There are only three relevant links on that slice of the list by now.

Other reports on the fate of vendors appeared on this blog covering A-G, H-O, and P-S companies. After a recent talk with volunteer Olav Kappert about the project, I figured it was time to wrap up this safari, and sum up. Among this last group, Taurus Software not only remains vibrant and in business, but still sells software for HP 3000s. Its Bridgeware Bundle was launched last summer, a package of hardware and software that moves data between 3000s and other hosts. Both migrators and homesteaders have uses for Bridgeware.

VEsoft still serves over 1,600 HP 3000 sites with its MPEX and Security/3000 and VEAudit/3000 software. VEsoft's never had a robust Web presence, but that hasn't held the company back. "As the vendor of your software we do this unusual thing -- we visit the customer," says founder Vladimir Volokh. The 3000links pointer to VEsoft refers to the phone of Dan Howard, one of the better-known VEsoft distributors.

(To link to a rollicking website which flows from the Volokhs, visit the Volokh Conspiracy: articles and discussions led by Eugene Volokh, his brother Sasha, and a mighty crew of blog contributors. Politics and law rule that roost.)

Hp3000linkstotal 

The last bit of this T-Z vendor list is not totally bereft of value. Need a C compiler for your HP 3000? The Internet Agency still sells the CCS compiler and the Trax debugger. It also offers ADBC and ADBC-UX, "Java-based API's that provide direct real-time access to TurboIMAGE and Eloquence databases from client applications, without the overhead of ODBC."

However, other 3000-free links include:

• Telamon, now pointing at a "technology deployment partner."
• Tidal Software, a job management vendor that now reverts to Cisco’s website
• TJ Systems, which mentions no 3000 or MPE links
• Unison, another job manager vendor which reverts to the Tivoli IBM page
• Wick Hill, a UK firm which still offers consultancy and resells products -- but none mentioned involve MPE/iX.

Finally there's WRQ, which refers to the website of Attachmate, WRQ's owner after a 2005 merger. If you click on products at Attachmate, you can find the Reflection software, Windows-based products that were once the most widely-installed packages for 3000s.

Completely dead links: TAG Software, Telemarshal, URCA Solutions, Vaske Computer Solutions and Whisper Technology. If you're compelled to do searches on these companies, you might as well be using Google to start.

A great deal of time -- indeed, a generation in computing years -- has passed since hp3000links started its good work. By now the pop-ups that it uses are banned by default in the most modern of browsers, Google Chrome. There might be a last-resort mission that would spark using this site, but telling your every desire to Google's search engine looks like a swifter pursuit. There are resources online that will track most of what's related to the 3000 on the Web. More than anything, the current hp3000links.com pop-up (click above graphic for details) is a catalog of what was once vibrant in 3000 vending.

Even up at the quiet and stable OpenMPE website, a list of application vendor contact data was updated in 2011. The OpenMPE link at hp3000links.com is out of date.

If you're scoring at home, that's 15 vendor links this time, with only Taurus, the Internet Agency and WRQ leading to vendors which know the HP 3000. Over our four journeys, more than half of this epitaph of 110 HP 3000 vendor connections leads a browser astray. Back in January, I supposed there was a means to inform or update the site's caretakers about changes -- but a suggestions box on today's site is missing a "submit" button.

In my view, I'll submit that this website has become a history project. Ther site sports still another massive pop-up menu to track documentation and articles, plus one for some software products by name; many point to HP websites no longer in operation. James Byrne, whose server at Harte & Lyne is hosting the site, said that HP3000links.com has a limited lifespan remaining -- the web address has only been renewed through November 1. 

Its pop-up menus are now crammed with blind alleys. The concept of a portal for all things 3000 was once a viable mission. It might remain so, if enough volunteers' help could extract the validated addresses, then concoct a simple, modern interface. Google is not the final answer to this kind of information challenge. But without more help, these link to these links will expire in a little more than 90 days.

The companies and the software and advice which they point to -- about half the time -- have a much longer lifespan. So long as a vendor still speaks MPE, there's some value in tracking them. After all, one of the most prominent links at the site which still operates points at the classic "Why Migrate?" article written by AICS founder Wirt Atmar. Wirt often pointed at less-obvious but logical strategies, such as in his 2002 advisory.

I do not believe that staying on the HP 3000 indefinitely to be a particularly risky strategy. If your code and business procedures work well today, they will work just as well tomorrow, a week from today, or 20 years from now. In great contrast, migration may be the riskiest thing you can do. 

The real trick to operating obsoleted hardware and an OS is to buy multiple spare equipment. This equipment is going to become startlingly cheap in the next few years, so keep your eyes open for it. In your free time, configure these spare systems to be identical to your production boxes.

06:58 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 18, 2012

Disbursing 3000 Gear to the Next Life

BoydsSome 3000 shops which have made migrations are looking for a new home for older equipment. At the Boyd Coffee Company -- whose motto is "Fuel, not fashion" -- director of IT Lane Rollins has systems which once did good work but might be ready for retirement. Or repurposing.

"I need to get some clutter out of here," he said, "and I'm not sure who is reselling HP 3000 gear these days, or if anyone would be interested in the stuff. We’ve been off of the 3000 for five years now."

His list includes two Series 918s, including a Jamaica storage unit (HASS) and an extra SCSI card. Also on hand at the Coffee Company's shop: DTC controllers, an HP line printer with a LAN card, plus terminals.

If the gear doesn't seem like it could launch a thousand ships, it could well be equipment to keep a 3000 ship afloat. This kind of inventory won't draw much resale value, but some service companies need it for their spare parts depot. There's nothing quite as good as replacing a failed bit of hardware with an identical unit.

If your 3000 gear simply needs a fresh home outside of your datacenter, contacting the support firms which do business in depot repair is a good place to start.

Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci made a point of this kind of resource earlier this year. A manager announced a need for a 3000-model HP router to keep a storage unit linked up to a 3000. A search across the Web -- rather than a text message to their service company -- eventually solved the problem. Suraci said that's not an acceptable service level.

That provider was willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.

Other companies with a need for 3000 parts might be found on our sponsor list: Genisys, the MPE Support Group, or The Support Group. Sometimes a migrated manager simply needs a volunteer to accept a 3000 shipment, or perhaps defray the cost of getting the older gear onto a UPS truck -- or even into the back of a pickup, if the support vendor is nearby.

Boyd's is completely migrated, but there's one last piece of 3000 gear that's not going anywhere yet.

"Someday the 979 will go away, but need to keep it for the time being," Rollins said. We'd bet that some historical archiving is at the heart of that hardware's duty. If you're interested in the Boyd's gear, you can contact Rollins via email or at 503.907.2555.

04:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 17, 2012

Find SSD on SCSI? It might be time for 3000

RevoDrive
OCZ's RevoDrive

SCSI remains the primary method to connect disk to HP 3000s. That means that most of the Solid State Disk (SSD) memory-based devices won't serve for MPE/iX storage. But it's not impossible to make the quantum leap from rotational to RAM storage. It might be worth the experimentation, given the upsides. In short, if a manager can find the SCSI, honey, find the time -- to experiment.

Starting at about $250, the devices are not costly anymore. And even in the more-rare SCSI units, 120-480 GB models are available in online stores.

"You would need to find a SCSI SSD," said Larry Kaufman, a systems engineer with BayPointe Technology. "They are out there, but there are not a lot of choices. Here is something to consider: When a SSD fails, the failure is likely to be catastrophic, with total data loss. HDDs can fail in this way too, but often give warning that they are failing, allowing much or all of their data to be recovered."

Kaufman offered a note about the old HP's "silverback" disks used with 3000s. "They would make tons of noise for weeks, sometimes months, before they would die."

That sound of rotation is also the sound of slower operation, of course. Once you go non-rotational, you won't go back, said one consultant. Using SSD tech in a 3000 carries the usual warning that was often quoted in the 1990s and onward: This is a storage unit not tested for MPE/iX. But there's plenty of tests not yet performed for SSDs. Like any advanced technology, SSD has also got some emerging downsides now being discovered in the field.

For example, there's the lifespan of an SSD unit, which at its heart is just a array of RAM devices. To be fair, some HP 3000s are running with rotational storage that was built before Y2K. SSDs are still new enough, and have tech advancing so quickly, that an MTBF for them is matter of belief in marketing rather than tests.

Arrays help extend these Mean Time Between Failures and offer hot-swap. The 3000's array choices run to the XP and VA models from HP. It can be surprising to see that some well-schooled 3000 managers haven't explored array choices yet. Everybody has something to learn, whether it's RAID or IPv6.

There's also some experimentation going on with setting up a redundant array of SSD units. One tech white paper reminds users that the TRIM command for controlling SSDs should be supported in order to array SSD units, and that older operating systems usually don't TRIM. And by older, the paper's author means Windows XP, which was last released about the time MPE/iX was getting its last disc design. No TRIM in MPE/iX, of course.

The question for the typical 3000 manager is whether SSDs are more reliable or less reliable than hard disc arrays. Choosing XP or VA arrays is a more commonplace storage upgrade for HP 3000 storage configurations. On that subject, Craig Lalley -- who lives to update your 3000 storage -- arrayed the choices.

You could put an XP array with 128GB of cache as a disk subsystem. HP has a whole line of these high speed fault tolerant arrays: XP256, XP512, XP1024, XP12000, XP24000 and a name change to the newest P9500. They all work with MPE. They have software options that provide "hardware mirroring across the WAN", local mirroring and snapshots.

The XP array is much newer, in that they are still making them and the models get updated every other year. Also the XP array is extremely fault tolerant, it is built to be set up, turned on and never turned off.. You can add cache, replace boards without losing data or host connectivity. The VA array only holds 4GB of cache, 2GB per controller. 

The XP is several steps above the VA (to put it mildly). You can literally connect hundreds if not thousands of hosts to an XP Array. Comparing an XP array to a VA7410 is like comparing a VW Beetle to a Formula 1 car.

There's a similar speed increase available by moving to SSD. Native support for SSDs on the 3000 was being explored as far back as 2009 by one indie support company. In the current state of the art, the best way to exploit this new storage technology for MPE/iX will be using the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. It employs whatever storage is attached to the Intel i7 Core PC running the emulator.

11:42 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2012

Still ample time to study IPv6

UnderstandingIPv6A new guidebook to learn the latest-generation Internet protocol will be a useful tool for 3000 pros, at least any who are expanding their networking skills. And while it's true the HP 3000 won't ever support IPv6, this style of trailing the current net technology has been part of the 3000's experience for decades.

In 1984, for example, IBM's System Network Architecture (SNA) ruled a vast swath of a very diverse computing landscape. Almost three decades ago, 75 percent of corporate-level data processing was performed on an IBM or "plug-compatible" system. And about half of those systems were supporting SNA devices. So there you had it: a networking protocol used by more than a third of the world's corporate computers, and completely unsupported by Hewlett-Packard's business computers.

In a story in the venerable InterACT magazine, Sharon Fisher wrote this dominant and rising technology wasn't for sale, just adoption.

The most important fact to remember about SNA is that is is not a tangible product, but an abstract concept. You cannot buy SNA; it is neither hardware nor software. Instead, it is definitions, rules, protocols and formats that govern the structure of hardware and software.

So HP embraced SNA for the 3000, its only business computer, but late. As usual. Adopting standards early might look good in a tech planning presentation, but in practice can be as useful as messaging between a fridge and a TV. We heard as much from a veteran of standards-based networking in the 3000 community.

Chris Bartram manages networks for a DC-area company today, practicing so far forward he's a field expert on HP Site Scope, an enterprise monitoring tool that lets you do a variety of agentless monitoring tasks such as web page checks, database queries, and TCP port checks. But he made his name delivering 3000-ready networked products through the 1990s and onward. Netmail/3000 was his best-known product, email for the 3000 at a time when proprietary HP Deskmanager mail systems dominated the MPE landscape. Netmail was built upon standards like MIME, technology far more complex than a corporate-controlled standard such as SNA.

Bartram, who since 1995 has managed a server in Virginia that's hosted 3000 NewsWire web pages, checked in with us about IPv6. Like 3000 net guru Jeff Kell before him, Bartram doesn't see support of IPv6 as much of a practical payoff for most companies. "I’m fairly up on IPv6 in general," he said, "though I don’t plan to implement it anytime soon. There’s just no real incentive yet." 

Some of the big guys have finally started pushing it into the real world, but since I’m operational and accessible on IPv4 – and many of the tools and some of the OS network stacks really haven’t seen that much public exposure yet -- so I’m not ready to take on that extra overhead. Perhaps if I was just launching an Internet presence and my ISP was only granting IPv6 addresses (as Cox or someone like that is doing) then it might force my hand. But for the moment the hackers probably have a better handle on all things (and vulnerabilities) IPv6 than I have time to keep up with, so I’ll hold out a while longer. IPv6 gets blocked completely at my firewall.

Since we’re never going to see a working IPv6 stack on any of the 3000s, we’re going to be trapped forever in the “compatibility zone” anyway. But that’s okay – I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need for my 3000s to be able to chat with my refrigerator or microwave or light bulbs.

Bartram refers to the IPv6 promise of enough IP addresses that anything smart enough to network can be given its own address. It could be a good while longer before IPv6 takes a practical role in IT management anywhere but at Internet service providers. But it's probably not a bad thing to study if you're seeking fresh employment, though. O'Reilly has a fresh book on the subject that includes references as current as Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

It's entirely possible that only Linux will be fully engineered to understand and adopt IPv6 by the time the next-gen addressing standard becomes practical technology. But it's become a different computing world that it was in the '80s and '90s, when HP routinely played catch-up to the more dominant vendors' standards. That was the typical HP tech strategy, even in those fastest-growth days of the 3000. However, it was an era when being first could be on par with being the best implementer. "HP wasn't always in the forefront," consultant Olav Kappert said while he reviewed his 3000 history with us last week. "But when it came out and it was done by HP, it was done right."

09:13 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2012

Use MPE Input Files to Create Output Files

Intrinsics are a wonderful thing to power HP 3000 development and enhancement. There was a time when file information was hard to procure on a 3000. It was a long time ago, as I was reminded by Olav Kappert in his call about his HP 3000 history. "The high point in MPE software was the JOBINFO intrinsic," he said. Kappert started with the 3000 in 1979.

Fast-forward 33 years later and you'll find questions from a different programmer still working on a 3000, adding features to a system. The Obtaining File Information section of a KSAM manual on MPE/iX holds an answer to what seems like an advanced problem. That manual sits in a tucked-away corner of HP's website today, the HP Business Support Center page for 3000 documentation and manuals.

I'm still using our old HP 3000, and I have access to the HP COBOL compiler. We haven't migrated and aren't intending to. My problem is how to use the characteristics of an input file as HPFOPEN parameters to create an output file. I want that output file to be essentially an exact replica of the input file (give or take some of the data). I want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program. 

I'm using FFILEINFO and FLABELINFO to capture the characteristics of the input file, after I have opened it. After I get the opens/reads/writes working, I want to be able to alter the capacity of the output file.

Francois Desrochers replies

How about calling FFILEINFO on the input file to retrieve all the attributes you may need? Then apply them to the output file HPFOPEN call.

Donna Hofmeister adds 

You might want to get a copy of the "Using KSAM XL and KSAM 64" manual. Chapters 3 and 4 seem to cover the areas you have questions about. Listfile,5 seems to be a rightly nifty thing.

But rather than beat yourself silly trying to get devise a pure COBOL solution, you might be well advised to augment what you're doing with some CI scripts that you call from your program.

In a lively tech discussion on the 3000-L list, Olav Kappert added, 

Since you want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program, the only way is to use one of the MPE intrinsics to determine all the characteristics of the file in question. Then do a command build after parsing that information.

Michael Anderson added details on how the 3000's CI scripting can build upon the fundamentals of file information and COBOL.

I like Donna's plan.This is a strategy that will also help whenever you want similar functionality on a NON-MPE platform. Also, although COBOL is very capable, an external script might be a better tool. You don't always need a hammer.

This is hypothetical, to try to make a point. From your MPE CI prompt, type HELP FINFO. You should be able to set some variables (SETVAR FILEA "XXX"), and using FINFO add some more variables. Then from COBOL using HPCIGETVAR, string together a BUILD command (with a bigger LIMIT maybe), and call "HPCICOMMAND". You could string the build command from a command, into a single variable, then COBOL only needs to HPCIGETVAR once.

You can also write a script to do everything you want, and call HPCICOMMAND to run the script, pass it parms. It's pretty cool, and it makes your COBOL application more portable. (Same program, different script).

For example: On MPE I once wrote (using COBOL) a small utility to CALL DBINFO, extract all the meta-data from any IMAGE database, and then create, and write to the NEW KSAM COPYLIB, ending up with all the COBOL copylib modules needed for all datasets for any database, including call statements and working storage. My point to all this: I used CI scripting to create and write to the copylib. I actually used ECHO to write the copylib ksam file from a CI script. Now, seeing how I work more on HP-UX and Linux, plus OpenCOBOL and Eloquence, I should be able to compile this same program on Linux with minimal modifications, only changing the external script.

I use this method to access SQL databases, and much more, using OpenCOBOL and the Tcl/Tk developer exchange. This way I can run the same program, same script almost anywhere, no matter, Windows, Mac, or Unix.

Eric Sand, another veteran of the 3000, commented that this kind of challenge really shows off the range of possibility for solving development problems. "You can create almost any cause and effect in MPE that you can imagine," he said. "Reading about your concern gave me a little rush, as I mentally organized what I wanted to do to address your concern."

05:50 PM in Hidden Value, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 12, 2012

Robelle opens demos, expands MPE futures

JumperTen years ago this summer, the 3000 community was riding the angry rapids of change. Bedrock technology for mission-critical systems was being pounded by HP's waves of the future: Business servers on Windows and Unix were moving forward in HP's plans. MPE/iX was not.

In a few months' time, the community would gather in LA and face off with HP for the first time since that announcement. During the weeks leading to that annual HP World conference , some vendors were spreading the word that the 3000's days were not being numbered -- not by HP, at least. Robelle issued a press release that established the company's course for the post-HP era of the 3000. CEO and founder Bob Green set the lifespan of 3000 relevance at "a long time."

I started on the HP 3000 before the first system was shipped from HP, and I plan to be there long after the last 3000 is shipped. The 3000 and the people who know and support it will be around for a long time. Robelle along with other committed friends of the HP 3000 like The 3000 Newswire will continue to act as hubs for 3000 information.

While Robelle has remained steadfast, there's more to the company's mission than protecting 3000 investments by homesteaders. This month, demo copies of SuprtoolOpen -- the cross-platform Suprtool which now runs natively on Red Hat Linux -- are available at Robelle for downloading. The company's also extended its MPE futures with successful testing of Suprtool on the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. Development is looking to expand the 3000 lifespan at the same time that it will bridge any migration onto Linux.

Robelle hasn't been shy about telling the community the 3000's life is as long as a customer needs. It was among the first companies anywhere to say they'd be supporting 3000 shops beyond 2015. Those messages started appearing in Robelle's ads and website far back in the previous decade. It might have seemed like bravado at the time.

Needing migration support for Suprtool beyond HP's Unix -- that might have seemed fruitless, too. In the summer of 2002 the proprietary operating systems ruled the enterprise roost: Windows from Microsoft, HP-UX from Hewlett-Packard, AIX from IBM, Solaris from Sun. Linux was an entertaining project of an OS, rather than an enterprise tool. A lot has changed in 10 years time. Now HP's announced a project to put its proprietary Unix features into Red Hat. That's what Project Odyssey amounts to, in a nutshell. In what might take even longer, HP says it's moving HP-UX onto a commodity chip, Intel's Xeon.

Suprtool/Open was a long project for Robelle's Neil Armstrong to undertake. The company followed the needs of its customers in timing the development, testing and full release of its software for data management, extraction and transfer. But Robelle's always taken the long view toward the shortest path to data and migration support. Even in 2002, Green knew the community would be making its moves over a decade and more, slowly and carefully.

Migrate at your own pace… step by step. We all know that the cost to change IT systems is high, especially when switching from a known reliable platform like MPE to a new platform of unknown quality. But these days you do not need everything in your shop on one platform. Suprtool from Robelle is already widely used to help integrate HP systems with Windows, Linux, Sun, and IBM systems by sharing data. One of our customers uses Suprtool to distribute their data from the 3000 to a nationwide network of HP-UX boxes, and then bring new data back to the 3000 for integration.

As for that emulator support, Robelle's moved quickly. Back in January, the company had a release of Suprtool ready for use on the Charon HPA/3000 virtualized 3000 solution. At the same time that this emulator was first emerging from beta testing, Green's team was complimentary of this expansion of 3000 futures.

We have installed and been testing our products and made them available on a test virtual server. So far the test has been relatively issue free. We did bring the system down once with a large and fast read, but Stromasys had the issue fixed over a weekend.

So far the response to issues has been fantastic, and follow up from Stromasys has been very attentive! It is fascinating to know that this all works on an Intel box.

As 2012 began Robelle was both polishing up its first SuprtoolOpen as well as testing and trying out certain functionality on the emulator, "especially those things that drive IO and or memory." That's a demo of another kind. It is proving that its 2002 life-of-the-3000 statement includes both support for migrations (to targets such as Marxmeier's Eloquence database) as well as the technical resources to ride the latest wave of enterprise designs: virtualization.

01:00 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 11, 2012

Web console resets, environment rebuilds, dumping form printers lead Hidden Value

I switched from an A400 to an A500 some time back, and I only realized I had not set up the remote web console after the console was down. Where can I configure this? This last time my only access was via VPN, or verbally over the phone. ("What can you see? Okay, so type...") I want to be able fix this myself next time. The console is the built-in one, and not an external box.

Gilles Schipper replies

You can configure your web console from the main console via the GSP interface. Specifically, the command you're looking for is LC (LAN configuration).

This command can be invoked even while the system is up and running by typing ctl-B (control and B together). For more help, at the GSP interface, type HELP, then HELP LC. 

Craig Lalley adds that if you arrive at a password roadblock and need to clear a console back to the default login, "at the physical console, hit the GSP reset in the back of the system, then press P on the keyboard. It will reset the passwords."

I need to rebuild an environment from one HP 3000 system to another. Trouble is, we want to have groups from the same account end up on different user volumes. Is there a way to do this using BULDACCT? 

Keven Miller adds

BULDACCT was made for processing complete accounts. Do BULDACCT  CHC%VSACCT=MEDADV_1. Then edit BULDJOB1 for the other group, changing MEDADV_1 to _2

After Donna Hofmeister notes that "newacct has to be done on both volumes," Mark Ranft replies 

What I usually do is use BULDACCT to move the entire accounting structure. Then I surgically PURGEGROUP and NEWGROUP (with the appropriate HOMEVS= and ONVS= options, plus CAP= and ACCESS= etc) to duplicate the special groups.

Jim Hawkins notes

MPE/iX RESTORE supports changing volume set specifications on RESTORE (vol, volclass volset) . That is, you can take files/groups/accounts originally on one volume set and place them onto another volume set.

We are still using multipart pre-printed forms and RS-232 dot matrix printers, all direct connected to our HP 3000 for our MANMAN purchase orders, invoices and checks. Obviously, these old HP printers are getting tired and problematic. Our immediate target is the printing of purchase orders. Are there ways to migrate from these form-based printers without breaking the bank?

Lisa Christiansen replies

One option that would work without requiring programming expertise is using ByRequest software from Hillary. We are taking the print ques from MANMAN and overlaying the form/jpeg to print the forms. We also have it set up so that the reports (invoices, POs, and electronic payments) can be emailed to the various parties. 

Ed Stein adds

We moved to the ability to laser-print, or email purchase orders in PDF format, using eFORMz and eDirect from Minisoft. For vendors who require a faxed purchase order, we email the PDF of the purchase order to an email-to-fax service, otherwise we email them a PDF copy. We only laser-print purchase orders for vendors who either require a mailed copy or do not have an email address or fax number.

Can I configure a disk larger than 36GB on MPE/iX 5.5? The reason the customer is locked into 5.5 is they use Oracle 7.3 — so I'm now trying to set up a test bed to see if I can move the system up to 7.5 and still have all the wheels stay on. But we might not be able to migrate off 5.5, and the only way to get the enough disc space is to try going to 73GB drives. It doesn't look like 73GB are supported, but that doesn't mean someone hasn't been able to make them work 

Jim Hawkins replies

Although your mileage may vary, there is nothing "unsafe" about trying to access 73 GB on 5.5. Of course, there is a 4GB cap on LDEV1, regardless of disk's physical capacity). What's unsafe is the fact that you're likely running on 15-plus year old equipment -- and running on disk-to-firmware-to-HBA combinations they were never tested by us at HP. 

When researching "Large Disk" support in early 2000s, my observation was that disk size constraints were last re-engineered around the 4GB mark during MPE/XL 2.x (early 1990s). From there, most of the code worked pretty well up until 512GB, where we run off the rails of some 30 bit limits.

What didn't work okay up to 512GB was addressed by the "Large Disk" patches for 7.5. Things like REPORT running out of space to display a sector count, DISCFREE output etc. The only allocation change I made had to do with trying to spread IO across disks in a more granular way -- really an optimization, rather than an inherent limit.

Allegro's Stan Sieler adds

I remember that when Allegro encouraged HP to handle big disks, I found some definite problems in some obscure things — and that's why we filed a number of bug reports (including JAGad48770 in 2000) and then lobbied with Mike Paivinen, Louis Runnestad, and the CSY lab manager at the time to get really big disks supported. (Ironically, that triggered extra work for me... I had to make sure that De-Frag/X supported them, too.)

Unfortunately, I can't recall the details of what things had problems. Some of the things were offline utilities (for example, DISKCOPY, or DISCUTIL's SAVE command) that could be significant. Some were cosmetic (e.g., incorrect output from DISCFREE). 

In the back of my mind, I have a suspicion that on some releases MPE might create some disk-based data structures that are too small — in a way that could potentially cause an overwrite of data ... but I really don't remember what it was, or which MPE release (might have been *very* long ago, sorry!). 

My old notes say that 5.5 with PowerPatch 5 had an "official" max disk size of 18 GB and that I thought I'd seen a working 36 GB drive on a system. The same notes say that the base release of 5.5 officially had a 9 GB max disk drive size.

04:39 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 10, 2012

IPv6: no MPE/iX support, and no matter, yet

One month ago this week, the latest generation of Internet protocols celebrated a kickoff week. Another one. IPv6 never made it onto the MPE/iX playing field. But some of the sharpest network gurus for HP 3000s say that the new Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard isn't being baked into enterprise network name management. The fact that there's no IPv6 doesn't matter to 3000 managers -- at least not yet.

760px-Ipv6_address_leading_zerosIt's been a long time since IPv6 started its march to relevance. The Internet was built from its roots in the 1980s on the 4.3 billion IP addresses of IPv4, but the IETF estimated that 2011 would be the year when every address would be used up. So this next-generation IP standard was first approved about the time HP was releasing MPE/iX 5.0, in 1998. It's reasonable to think 14 years would be enough time for the world's computing community to embrace a crucial extension of IP addresses. But in the real world, IP addressing is a lot like HP 3000 deployments: What's in place isn't broken for many people, so there's no clamor to replace it.

Jeff Kell is a wizard of networking for the systems at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that host the 3000-L mailing list. He notes that "the 3000 of course will never do IPv6, short of some major overhaul patch -- and due to the extent of it, that seems impossible." But he adds that enterprise servers, from HP 3000s out to the ubiquitous Linux PCs, aren't making a move to IPv6 in any significant number.

Other than some of the much-publicized "World IPv6 Day" experiments, most of the "server" side of the network remains IPv4. To account for the imbalance, most IPv6 client areas have some sort of gateway, emulation, or tunneling solution to maintain connectivity with IPv4 services.

Kell goes on to explain that the IPv6 installations so far "are primarily focused on the 'client' side of the service equation, where the uptick in connected devices is growing at the greatest rate, and where IPv4 address depletion has actually become an issue."

The issue that emptied the world's bucket of IP addresses is similar to the one that is holding the 3000's clock at a 2028 reset point. Internet addresses, made up of four sets of three-digit numbers, are clamped inside a 32-bit design. Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet, said that IPv4 wasn't really intended to be a working implementation of addressing. But after engineers argued for years, Cerf said it was time to make US tax dollars spent by the Defense Department on ARPA pay off.

After a year of fighting, I said—I'm now at ARPA, I'm running the program, I'm paying for this stuff, I'm using American tax dollars, and I wanted some progress because we didn't know if this was going to work. So I said: OK, it's 32-bits. That's enough for an experiment; it's 4.3 billion terminations.

HP 3000 customers, and anybody else who lived through Y2K, know how this kind of plan works out. Two digits were supposed to be enough to describe years. The 3000 CALENDAR intrinsic, written for the most senior MPE Segmented Library (SL), uses only 7 bits to describe which year is in effect. That delivers a maximum number of 127 years which you can express, and MPE was built with 1900 as its base for dates. 2028 is the first year when date stamping becomes inaccurate.

The situation in the IPv6 world has a 3000 echo to it. HP 3000s won't stop running in 2028, even though their calendars will reset. Dates will be off, but it's not a System Abort situation at all. In the same way, IPv4 is likely to have gateway resolution help for many years to come, so those 4.3 billion terminations continue to work.

IPv6 is still fighting for some relevance among large Internet service providers, Kell says.

It is still quite difficult to find end-to-end IPv6 examples in the real world without some intermediary workaround. There are still no backbone providers that can offer you native IPv6 connectivity to all of the current IPv6 networks (it still requires at least two, last I checked).  Very few home / SOHO switches/routers have native IPv6 available, and hardware support is an even smaller subset.

Kell also pointed out that default IPv6 support on client operating systems like Windows has ugly artifacts, so far. Transition technology that runs off something called a Teredo public gateway becomes a time-wasting stop for Internet traffic on Vista-and-later PCs.

So what is driving IPv6? Windows (since Vista) and MacOS (10.5+) both default to making desperate attempts to find some minimal IPv6 connectivity via a number of gateway and tunneling protocols. One of the most inefficient imaginable is Windows and its Teredo tunneling. If Windows cannot find IPv6 connectivity, it will try to connect to one of Microsoft's public Teredo gatways and bounce all  of your subsequent network traffic through there.

It is inefficiencies such as this -- combined with the fact that each of the operating systems will prefer IPv6 over IPv4 if they find any connectivity -- that may haunt system managers of all sorts (not just 3000 owners) as you try to debug and troubleshoot client connectivity issues.

04:26 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 09, 2012

HP proprietary versus commodity hosts: Unix v. MPE

Analysis is spreading about HP's mission for its last in-house computer environment. Hosting will be moving for HP-UX. This is happening at the same time as hosting is on the move for MPE/iX. One distinction is the hardware platform. One is ready now, the other a good while later. You might guess wrong on which is which.

On the HP-UX, there's much work to be accomplished to get HP's Unix onto the Intel Xeon/x86 chipset. No, the entire OS is not on the move, not like MPE/iX is gliding onto Intel i7 multi-core chips. HP's working to get the best of its Unix running on a hardened Linux. The combination will be served from a customized configuration.

At the ServerWatch website, an article quotes the head of HP Industry Standard Servers, who says Unix now moves forward on x86.

The effort will eventually lead HP to favor x86 and Linux over Itanium and Unix, according to Scott Farrand, vice president of Industry Standard Servers and Software in the Enterprise Group at HP.

"Our go-forward strategy for mission-critical systems is shifting to an x86-based world," Farrand said. "It's not by coincidence that folks have de-committed from Itanium, specifically Oracle."

In the same manner, MPE/iX is also moving to x86. The Stromasys HP 3000 emulator, HPA/3000, is running on industry standard PC hardware. It was not demoed on that kind of system in its most recent appearance. The CAMUS user group saw the emulator perform flawlessly running on a custom-built PC. It's the kind of system we once called a white box. By now you might call it Build To Order, if there was a major vendor's label on the front.

It was convenient to use a BTO or white box PC to show off HPA/3000. But users of this solution won't be trying to save $500 building their own PC configuration when they spec up an HPA/3000 host. They're going to want to go high horsepower -- just the right decision considering the $25,000 price of this solution. The genuine and lasting value here is the software.

Software transformation magic has been a classic part of the 3000 experience. You could start by considering MPEX, an expansion of MPE's powers that was created by VEsoft when the computer was still new. Later on there was Chameleon from Taurus Software, which did one thing well: it let customers emulate the then-new PA-RISC MPE/XL operating system commands on Classic MPE V systems.

HP added its own magic in software transformation when it built MPE/XL, designing it to execute programs written for MPE V and earlier. This object code translation was a groundbreaker -- and so unique that OCTCOMP was one of the programs that HPA/3000 product manager Paul Taffel fired up during that April CAMUS demonstration.

However, like more than a few veterans in the 3000 community, VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh has opinions on how HPA/3000 should be shown, and sold. In the first aspect he counsels for a different plan. For the other, he believes Stromasys can help customers see the value in a $25,000 investment.

Specialized hardware configurations should be avoided. "You should sell it as running on a regular PC," Vladimir said. "Why save $500, and leave some doubt in users minds? No manager will build such a computer for their MPE programs."

But that $25,000 price tag -- the current entry-point in the product line -- is a fair match for what a 3000 does: runs businesses. "If you compare it to the size of your business, and the price of the alternative, it should not seem expensive," Vladimir said.

Even the Linux alternative is not going to seem less expensive once HP finishes with what's named Project Dragon Hawk. According to ServerWatch, this target for new business-critical projects "will provide 32-way partitionable processors, certified to run RedHat Enterprise Linux 6." The software that's known as RHEL 6 comes ready for unlimited guests at $3,249, plus numerous add-on essentials, running from $199 to $399 each year. That price only covers two CPU sockets. And that's all to be paid before HP gets its license fee for the Unix-hardening features it'll add to Linux.

There's an important distinction between the industry-standard MPE/iX host and the industry-standard HP Unix host. The former is ready today. HP hasn't announced a delivery date for Dragon Hawk -- which sort of makes HPA/3000 more ready for the new mission-critical projects. HP's not recommending new Unix business on its Itanium systems, if Farrand's go-forward is to be followed.

06:24 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 06, 2012

Quest Software to become a property of Dell

QuestNetBaseQuest Software, makers of HP 3000 software since the late 1980s, has agreed to be purchased by Dell for $2.4 billion, according to company reports. Quest shareholders must vote on an offer to purchase company stock outright at $28 a share. The company was committed to a purchase by Insight Venture Partners at $2 billion. Quest will pay $37 million to back away from that deal.

Quest's CEO Vinny Smith, who owns one third of the company's stock, has agreed to vote in favor of the Dell acquisition. Dell will double the size of its software business by purchasing Quest, which makes the Bridgeware data migration solution being sold to HP 3000 shops both migrating and homesteading.

The history of 3000 software companies purchased by larger partners has had spots both high and low for purchasers and customers of existing products. Quest's got a massive business running in software to help with database management, principally Oracle. The HP 3000 products such as the data-mirroring NetBase (which was once sold as SharePlex by HP) or NFS/iX is a fraction of the revenue Quest generates.

A $2.4 billion acquistion is small compared to the $5 billion IBM paid for Cognos. Speedware sold itself to Activant for $114 million in 2005. Five years later Speedware took itself back from Activant, after the purchasing company didn't fully value the future of the Speedware Ltd. segment of the company. Activant was an ERP company interested in the ERP holdings of Speedware.

The Powerhouse products at Cognos have lost their profile in the much larger IBM software operations. One customer said their license was changed without any notice from IBM. Accuride was also receiving an IBM notice by email every 15 minutes about the need to renew a support license. A day's worth of search was needed to find an IBM staffer to turn off that noise.

Dell will only have a software operation of about $1.5 billion after it purchases Quest, a much smaller enterprise than IBM's total software empire. Quest posted $857 million in sales for its latest fiscal year. The New York Times called Quest a "big software maker," and that increase in revenue will arrive at a spot on Dell's balance sheet where growth is most anticipated.

John Swainson, the president of Dell's software group, said "This becomes the cornerstone asset for Dell’s software business." Dell said in June that it plans to boost its datacenter hardware, software and services business to more than $27 billion by fiscal 2016.

The Times story said monitoring and single sign-on software was the biggest lure to buying Quest.

According to Mr. Swainson, Dell was particularly attracted to Quest’s application monitoring software and its identity access software, which allows users to access multiple password-protected accounts with a single login. At $28 a share, Dell’s offer is 22 percent higher than Insight’s starting bid — and 33 percent higher than the average daily price of Quest’s stock in February. Still, analysts say the company could wring out more value from Quest, based on possible cuts to its sales force and accounting departments.

Quest has 3,850 employees, more than 1,500 in sales and 1,300 developers. Dell's biggest acquisition up to now has been the $3.9 billion Perot Systems in 2009. Dell's profits from the low-margin consumer PC end of its business have been in free-fall. In the most recent quarter the company's profits fell 33 percent to $635 million. Dell's workforce is 109,000.

While there is no mention of Bridgeware or any other HP 3000 software in Quest's press release about the sale, it's possible those products could be sold off by Dell. Such a move would let Dell focus on the Quest One, Performance Monitoring, Windows Server Management and Database Management products -- all of which were noted in the release.

08:33 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 05, 2012

Used MPE licenses may be yours to resell

The European Union Court of Justice has ruled that authors of software can't oppose the resale of used licenses for that software. One member of the 3000 community believes that there's a chance this could open up the exchange of MPE/iX licenses through legitimate sales -- with no HP participation required.

HP still operates a License Transfer operation for shifting MPE/iX installations from one server to another. The fee is a $400 charge. What's sometimes tougher is documenting ownership of a server to HP's satisfaction. Used hardware has been tied to MPE/iX software instances by HP even since a civil lawsuit determined in 1999 that the OS was like a license plate: attached to the iron registered to it until HP certified otherwise.

On July 3 the EU Court of Justice issued a legal interpretation against Oracle in a lawsuit that seeks to block UsedSoft GmbH. UsedSoft markets licenses that it has acquired from users of Oracle's software. The UsedSoft license buyers then download the software directly from the Oracle website. The EU court's directive defines "the legal protection of computer programs." The language below from a court press release seems to show that European courts register only a first-sale right on software. 

The first sale in the EU of a copy of a computer program by the copyright holder or with his consent exhausts the right of distribution of that copy in the EU. A rightholder who has marketed a copy in the territory of a Member State of the EU thus loses the right to rely on his monopoly of exploitation in order to oppose the resale of that copy. In the present case, Oracle claims that the principle of exhaustion laid down by the directive does not apply to user licences for computer programs downloaded from the internet.

"I wonder if this has any effect on the Stromasys and CHARON licensing program?" asked Tracy Johnson, former OpenMPE director, manager of 3000s for Measurement Specialties, and curator of the EMPIRE 3000 server. "If MPE licenses can be bought and sold, there may be some who will hold onto their licenses for a better deal."

Up to now, the MPE/iX license transfer process has operated as much out of tactical need as legal and ethical requirement. While HP was selling support, an unlicensed server wouldn't qualify. Even after support ended, HP's got the exclusive capability to transfer HPSUSAN ID numbers from hardware to hardware -- so the "new" HP 3000 essentially became "the server formerly licensed as" the older hardware.

HPSUSANs are important to the software vendors still selling and supporting tools and applications for MPE/iX. Most 3000 software won't run unless it can verify the HPSUSAN number the app or tool was purchased under.

But the ability to move MPE/iX on its own would be an advantage for Stromasys, in theory. Right now the world's access to MPE/iX instances is limited to the number of registered HP 3000s. HP stopped selling a "catch-me-up" license for the 3000s in 2010.

HP is in the unique position of licensing software which it no longer supports. The independent software vendors in the 3000 community tie their licensing to support. The lawsuit in Europe needs to pass through the German courts, where Oracle filed it against UsedSoft.

Moving software by resale is legal so long as the original copy is rendered unusable. "The directive authorises any reproduction that is necessary for the use of the computer program by the lawful acquirer in accordance with its intended purpose. Such reproduction may not be prohibited by contract."

Licensed HP 3000s sell for a higher price on the used system market today. But an unlicensed 3000 that could be paired up with a copy of MPE/iX might change that market. Much more likely is the prospect that the MPE/iX needed to power the HPA/3000 emulator could become more widely available. Considering all that HP needs to do to keep itself afloat this year, the outcome of resale of MPE/iX seems like a minor issue for the HP Development Company -- property rights holder to MPE/iX -- to pursue.

We hear that HP's got a little larger lawsuit it's chasing, against Oracle on behalf of its HP-UX futures.

01:04 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 04, 2012

Programming Note: Independence at Hand

US BuntingAs this is the Fourth of July in the United States, we're taking a bit of time away from the news desk to celebrate Independence Day, as we call it. If you think about it, your choice to remain on an HP 3000 -- even if it's on a long journey toward migration -- is a celebration of independence.

As examples of what that means in practice, have a look at the following articles:

On support for 3000s: HP's 3000 support clears away for indies

On MPE licenses, and the need for them in the post-HP era: Customers debate definition of a licensed HP 3000

On how respecting an HPSUSAN supports independent software vendors: 3000's IDs protect independent SW vendors

UK BuntingEmbrace your independence as an HP 3000 partner or customer, whenever that new course suits you. If you're migrating, your company's internal schedule will determine your new platform and when you will move. It's obviously not based on HP's support deadline, which is just as expired as George Washington. This is a holiday we celebrate to mark the country's trip down a new path independent of its founding authority figure, Great Britain. I am told the British celebrate today as "the anniversary of the time we got rid of those pesky colonists."

Which goes to show how anything can be viewed from more than one point of view, so long as you have an independent mind.

04:12 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 03, 2012

A Personal Path into Emulator Exposure?

CHARON-HPA3000-roadmapv2Stromasys, the vendor with an exclusive offer of HP 3000 hardware emulation, crosses into its third quarter of the life of the HPA/3000 software this week. While we work out the details of getting an update on the product, it's important to note that the first software-only version of this solution was scheduled to debut over the next 90 days. (Click on the December roadmap above for details.) Getting a foothold with a new concept of 3000 virtualization might be easier if there was a free means to test it. Stromasys has experience with a personal, entry-sized version of its emulator.

Update below: the commodity profile in the HPA/3000

Stromasys comes to its 3000 mission well-steeped in selling emulation. The company's made its mark on the Digital enterprise space, emulating PDP and Vax systems, and finally the Alpha processor which HP stopped creating. Late last year Stromasys updated a Personal Alpha version of its Digital product, calling it Personal Alpha Plus. The update to Personal Alpha -- which Stromasys says was downloaded 10,000 times -- "has twice the power of Personal Alpha." It runs at about 15 percent of the speed of the full AXP Stromasys emulator.

This isn't a hobbyist solution. It's free, yes, but Personal Alpha Plus can be used for commercial purposes. The software creates a virtual DS10 Alpha processor for running OpenVMS or Tru64 applications. Stromasys also sells optional support contracts for Personal Alpha Plus. As a reference, HP called the 600MHz DS10 "an entry-level workstation for the technical user who needs great performance on a shoestring budget." HP retired the DS10 and now sells the $20,000 rx2600 Integrity hardware instead.

There's no such alternative for 3000 customers from HP, but resellers are providing upgraded 3000s. Those larger servers are a proven solution that have real limits. So far, the embrace of the HPA/3000 emulator for PA-RISC 3000s has ramped up slowly. One customer has checked in who explored the product, but wasn't able to run it with his version of VMware. According to its product manager Paul Taffel, HPA/3000 works with the latest version of ESXi, the thin OS instance from VMware. Virtual machine hosting capability was scheduled for a "Son of Zelus" version of HPA/3000, whose release was estimated for this quarter. The Son will also be a version selling without required hardware (cloud service is expected) and therefore priced below $25,000.

Personal Alpha Plus rides on the wings of more than a decade of emulating hardware for the OpenVMS application environment. It's easier to offer a free version of a product which has proven its for-profit sales success. But perhaps a limited-horsepower, limited-quantity Personal version of 3000 emulation is an offer with some potential for traction. If only 50 copies of a Personal HPA/3000 were available, would our community bootstrap this emulator sooner with some testimony?

You'd need a copy of MPE/iX to pilot this bootstrapping, of course. Digital's management established a precedent for extending OpenVMS for free, a Hobbyist license. The Hewlett-Packard management didn't make MPE's community a hobbyist offer and perhaps never will. But it seems -- after six months of in-customer-site trials and examinations -- that a "supplies are limited" offer of the virtualization engine might lift the software beyond an initial hurdle of $25,000-plus pricing.

Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft believes in the prospects for HPA/3000. He's headquartered just up the street from Stromasys product manager Paul Taffel. After a walk down Doheny Drive to visit with Taffel, Vladimir believes the Stromasys proposition might be held back by a need to sell it with fine-tuned hosting hardware.

"That fact that they custom-built hardware for the demo might make it inexpensive, but who will convert from one customized hardware system to another?" Vladimir asks. "It should be run in its demo on a standard, off-the-shelf host computer. This lets every manager be a hero in his company, because it's easy and it's good."

Update: In spite of how we might have first understood Vladimir, Taffel reminded us that there isn't any proprietary hardware in the Charon HPA/3000 solution. Although Stromasys once considered selling reference hardware in the product -- which makes testing, upgrades and support easier for any vendor -- customers usually are offered specifications for suitable commodity hardware.

This is off-the-shelf PC gear: multiple-core Intel i7 CPUs of 2.5 to 3.7 MHz, standard memory and controllers, stock disk devices. About the only thing that's the least bit proprietary is a result of using MPE/iX. Stromasys has to provide an HPSUSAN number for a customer -- code used to be written into 3000 PDC memory -- so that now must come on a USB memory stick. But even that dongle's hardware provided by Stomasys is commodity gear.

So far, Stromasys has been cautious during the early times of this product. The hardware configured as a bundle for HPA/3410 and HPA/3510 ensures consistent test and enhancement processes. But aside from the fact that this HPA hardware uses a specific caliber of commodity components, customers also face an issue of embracing another proprietary platform for their applications, albeit a virtualized one. However vendor-specific HPA/3000 is, the software from Stromasys remains a fresh version of a previously well-known element.

"We wish them success," Vladimir said, "because it's in everybody's best interest in our community. It's in the interest of the system managers, because whatever experience they have [with the 3000] is at least something. With a new box and a conversion they restart everything. And maybe they're not that young to relearn a new environment."

Exploiting the new VMware ESXi support, plus enough customer testing, are milestones to establish a few reference accounts for HPA/3000. Evaluation copies are de rigeur even in enterprise markets. For example, VMware has a download of a free, 60-day eval copy of vSphere that can be run on off-the-shelf software.

There are probably very good reasons why a free, limited-power HPA/3000 isn't breaking the waters in a market where 3000 numbers are on the decline. It's useful to recall that the lifespan of any emulator is measured in many years more than you'd expect. But a time when there are still thousands of 3000s in service seems a better one to establish some kind of beachhead. We'll keep you updated on what Stromasys has in mind for the second half of the first year of HPA/3000's life.

03:37 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 02, 2012

A strike on the cloud lights up cautions

LightningStrikeLate Friday evening, millions of people in North America saw a demo of the worst that can happen to cloud computing users. The streaming film service Netflix went dark, halting in mid-movie. At the same time the social networking photo site Instagram went down. These staples of communication and entertainment stayed down, too. Both were victims of a lightning strike on their host facility, Amazon EC2 in Virginia.

The outage was repaired over a span of several hours, and for the most part there was no loss of commerce. Netflix hasn't contacted customers to offer any compensation; Instagram would have no reason to do so, since it's free. But imagine if your cloud-based manufacturing service took a lightning strike. The disaster recovery scenario is significantly complicated when such a key element is outside IT's control.

Amazon's bandwidth for hire has been discussed as a resource for the forthcoming HPA/3000 emulator product that requires no local host. One lightning bolt won't spoil the track record for outside computing services. The new HP Cloud is also bound to weather an outage like this, sometime. However, taking hosting virtual as well as remote/offshore means reworking disaster recovery concepts. When relying on the cloud to run manufacturing, a rapid cutover capability to another provider could save millions of dollars in lost operations.

It could also save a manager's job. On Infoworld's website one of the most popular stories from June was "Adopt the cloud, kill your IT career." The point is not that cloud computing is less stable. Rather, "It's irresponsible to think that just because you push a problem outside your office, it ceases to be your problem." Since the start of 2012 Kenandy Inc. has been offering a replacement for HP 3000 MANMAN software, all based in the cloud. Its high-level answer about a cloud outage problem has been an interesting part of this kind of transition: We know redundancy. Regardless, salesforce.com experienced an outage Thursday, less than 48 hours before the Amazon lightning strike. A little under five hours of downtime ensued.

Rob Butters of Kenandy told me the Social ERP solution gets its redundancy abilities through its alliance with Salesforce.com. "The good news for us is that Salesforce has been at this game for some time now," Butters said. "They've spent a lot of money on it and have a lot of datacenters. They have full redundancy and full replication. Their track record is extemely good. They even give people lots of notice when there will be a maintenance [downtime] window."

Salesforce is an equity partner in Kenandy, and there's no mention of using Amazon's cloud services in company presentations. Salesforce.com has had other outages in the past. Reports show that the operation is centered in a single Silicon Valley datacenter with data shadowed to another facility on the US East Coast. More than 70,000 customers count on the stability of salesforce.com.

Kenandy calls its product the first cloud ERP built entirely on salesforce.com’s social enterprise cloud computing platform, specifically for product companies. In May, Social ERP added financials and order management to the manufacturing management core. The prospective customer is more than just MANMAN sites. The target is companies that design, manufacture, and distribute products, so they can control and get visibility of their supply and distribution networks.

“With the addition of financials and order management, Kenandy Social ERP becomes the backbone of  the social enterprise,” says Sandra Kurtzig, Chairman and CEO of Kenandy. “It’s time to re-think ERP, and  that’s what we’ve done. Kenandy release 2.0 now offers fully integrated end-to-end ERP and it’s entirely  on the cloud, easy to use, fast to deploy, mobile, global, and social.” 

“Kenandy Social ERP gives our customers the ability to transform into social enterprises across both the  front and back office, entirely in the cloud,” said Ron Huddleston, senior vice president, ISV and  Alliances, salesforce.com. “With the rich set of add-on apps in the AppExchange and user extensibility  through Force.com, companies are only limited by their imagination.”

That Virginia lightning strike could just as easily been a hammer thrown onto a single company's datacenter, or even upon a network service provider that links hosting to the rest of an enterprise. The cost savings in cloud computing go beyond elimination of hardware by moving it into the cloud. For $175 per user per month at Kendandy, you get your share of access to IT staff which won't pay to hire exclusively. But there's little you can do in the event of a problem except call that staff -- just as a half-million East Coast electric customers did starting after Friday night's storms. By Monday morning, 80 percent of them were still without power. As the InfoWorld article states

You're adding another avenue for the blame to follow. The end result of a catastrophic failure or data loss event is exactly the same whether you own the service or contract it out. The difference is you can't do anything about it directly. You jump out of the plane and hope that whoever packed your parachute knew what he or she was doing.

A company can't expect to be able to hire subject experts at every level of IT. In this view, working with a cloud or hosted service vendor makes sense because there's a high concentration of expert skill at a company whose sole focus is delivering that service. There's some truth to that, for sure, but it's not the same as infallibility.

The HP 3000 homesteading customers who are some of the best prospects for using cloud computing are those trying to trim IT budgets. They'll need assurance that the cloud providers of ERP, CRM or financials have those experts on call, as well as a backup set of servers -- not just data -- which are well-separated from bad weather.

Clouds turn out to be just as susceptible to weather disasters as in-house IT. The cautions which the 3000 customers have voiced so far might stem from the out-of-house recovery that the cloud demands. This has always been a belt-and-suspenders community. But that's an old-school expense that can seem less costly after a dark and stormy night, one when the movies flicker to a halt.

06:51 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)