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February 01, 2013

An Emulator's Obstruction, or Opportunities

Change has always cut through certainty with a double-edged sword. HP's elimination of the HP 3000 from its product line is a great example of a stunning swing of that sword. I learned from users immediately that they felt abandonded and betrayed about that decision. I've written novels' worth on that.

Over the years I also heard from some IT directors -- who didn't have much invested personally in MPE -- that cutting the 3000 from HP's line was the opening they craved. Now their IT center could be uniform, in step with something they knew better and admired for different reasons. It might be Unix, so their corporate masters would be pleased, or Windows, to make it easier for them to hire newer, less costly (younger) talent.

Then there has been the migration challenge which introduced new commerce opportunity. Companies could sell services and especially know-how, as well as tools to make changes (almost like Y2K, but with a more serious impact when the work fell short of expectations).

Change is a disruptor, even when it attempts to sustain the status quo.

This sustenance is the role the Stromasys emulator plays in 2013. Some software and service suppliers have been frank about it being an obstruction and a disruptor. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said just that, while he was testing the freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 Model 202A. He also said that after wading through a lot of installing steps, it worked as promised -- and he was impressed with the marvel, one that gave Intel hardware plus Linux a way to preserve MPE/iX. Yeo added that he figured just the promise of an emulator slowed down migrations in 2012, and he was correct about that, too.

Some of the 3000 software vendors have seen the HPA/3000 software tested by their customers, and that's good enough for the vendor's proof. If their customer wants to pay Stromasys $25,0000 to sustain MPE/iX, that's just fine with the vendor. It helps preserve the 3000 -- and its support payments to the vendor. If staying on a 3000 is an obstruction to vital growth, well, a company will see that at the right time. It's always been about timing, since HP's exodus. HP wanted everybody off the server six years ago, even expected it. That didn't happen, because risk is something that's a personal matter.

Risk shows up as problems, and problems always come up when software and hardware get together for mission-critical computing. Homestead or migrate, there's always risk. Perhaps the vendors who will make products for the emulator figure that's why you'll buy support from them, as well as from an indie company like Pivital Solutions, Allegro, Beechglen or others. In IT, things break and you fix them, or you hold your nose and use a workaround.

By now, there's a new aspect to the change introduced by the Stromasys product. People are writing software to help use it. Keven Miller created a free utility to transfer Store to Disk files to the "virtualized 3000" in the HPA/3000. This week's newest wrinkle: a product license created especially for the emulator, one that works inside the limits of the freeware version's 1-2 user license.

It's a small and initial development that almost lets you believe there's a marketplace emerging for the sustaining aspect of the 3000's change of life. There's been a decade of evidence of the commerce for the exodus of HP from the 3000 world.

The new business offering, tailored to the Stromasys product, comes from Minisoft. The company's been a 3000 vendor since the 1980s, selling a terminal emulator (remember those, you veterans?) as well as middleware to link 3000 databases with other servers and databases. Years ago the MS92 terminal emulator became Javelin (rewritten to use Java). Now the product's got a Javelin license created for anybody who wants to employ HPA/3000 as a tool toward full virtualization of a 3000, or perhaps just a non-commercial 3000 installation.

"We have a special Javelin 2-user HP700/92 Terminal Emulator that is customized to work with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator," said the company's Danny Greenup. He pointed me to a press release that outlines some details of this, the first license built for an emulator since's HP's MPE/iX license in 2004.

Minisoft has enhanced its Javelin HP700/92 Terminal Emulator to work in concert with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator by adding support for raw connections to the TELNET type and support for SSH tunneling. With the communications set to TELNET(raw)+SSH, the console ports are accessible from outside the Fedora (Linux) system to a user with SSH logon privileges.

The cost of this special 2-user version of Javelin is $49. In addition to HP 700/92 terminal emulation, Javelin support access to legacy host computers requiring IBM 3270, IBM 5250, and DIGITAL VT320/420 terminal emulation. All Minisoft Terminal Emulators include scripting, SSH/SSL connectivity and network file transfer.

Minisoft Terminal Emulation products run on Windows, Windows Mobile, Apple, and Linux. Customers that have a current support contract for the [HP] products listed above may download an update of these products from the Minisoft website at no extra charge.

HP Version

Minisoft 92 Secure
Pocket 92

The company also sells these 2-user versions for Digital and IBM host software. For this software supplier, the Stromasys emulator represents an opportunity, and the $49 price is a lot less than the $400 HP demands to transfer a license away from a working 3000 and onto an emulated 3000. A transfer that makes the HP iron a set of bolted-together parts, because that's how HP's business model worked. Any emulator was only going to be tolerated so long as it took 3000s out of IT datacenters.

We've seen a lot of years of migration and decommissioning that sparked the engines of IT spending and vendors' revenue. It's been an amazing example of dexterity and faith and hope to watch that part of your community pivot its business model. Perhaps 2013 will be the first year to watch companies sell software and service to spark IT engines around a model of 3000 sustenance. At least we have this first effort to observe.

12:00 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink

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