February 20, 2013
One decade later, change remains complex
I just retired the pages and stories of the latest Newswire printed edition, our 137th. It's always a celebration day when the pages go onto the press for each print edition. But print, plus one monthly Online Extra email update, used to be all there was to the 3000 Newswire. There's been so much change since February of 2003 -- in your community, not just in the Newswire -- that I went back to look at what was crucial one decade ago.
To my surprise, the message from HP was mixed with migration as well as emulation. HP held a Webcast for C-Level staff at their customers' companies. About 70 people arrived online, but it didn't look like a lot of them were CFOs, CIOs, or any of the other Cs. There was a lot of talk to explain how HP got to its decision to drop the 3000 off its lineup. In 2003, every HP message was based upon future directions they believed customers would take. But the company also acknowledged some sites wouldn't ever migrate -- or take so long that HP would not be supporting the server by the end of a migration.
Yes, migrations are still underway. HP predicted that correctly.
In 2003's February, 18 print articles got the reporting done, along with another three articles' worth of Online Extra. In the month of 2013 that led to our printed date, we published 22 articles. A decade later we're one article up on our report count. But the news appears five days a week now, instead of once every 30 days, with one extra day of Online Extra.
How could the news stay so constant, given the reduction of installed 3000s over 10 years? Well, this has been an era full of migrations, as well as the transitions to sustain which the homesteaders have pursued. The migrations are as complex as ever. The homesteading has new wrinkles to write about, like that emulator. But like the change factor of migrations, it turns out we were writing about emulation during 2003, too.
Here's a current report from a customer who's been working on a migration for about six years now. We just heard this on the day we sent off February, 2013 -- or as we say in publishing, Volume 18, Issue 2. The launch date for this project was 2007.
We worked on system configuration and data clean-up/migration during all of 2008, and went live with the first module (H/R and Payroll) in January 2009. We went live with the Finance module (my area of support) in July 2009, and with another critical module in January 2010. A very aggressive implementation schedule. The modules still on the HP 3000 are our telecommunications system and our computer user tracking system.
"Of course," our correspondent added, "the general economic meltdown that occurred in 2008 affected our entire process. It affected the ERP budget as well as the organization's general budget." He went on to say the organization had to stop hiring temp workers to do office tasks while regular workers were in training. "It made an already hard process even harder."
When I thumbed through our pages of 2003, I didn't find any reports like that. Nobody had a current migration project to summarize. Early 2003 was a planning and deciding era, one that would last about another two years before projects genuinely began. Although building 3000s and selling them was going to end eight months later, everyone figured they had at least until December 31, 2006 to get projects finished.
And as it turned out, HP's support end date was extended another four years. Like a lot of migration projects. We talked to the Interex Advocacy Manager Deb Lawson in that issue, and the user group estimated 25 percent of all companies had not made a decision to migrate by early 2003. "Many [of that group] aren't going to migrate at all," she said, "while some will eventually migrate, just not in the short term."
It was a much larger pool in that year, of course. 25 percent of the customer base would've represented 5,000 servers that hadn't decided to migrate yet, if at all. Interex estimated that out of a 25,000-machine base (as estimated by IDG), 77 percent would be underway in a migration by the end of 2004. Nothing moved nearly as quickly as expected. Including the arrival of an emulator.
A hardware replacement for the 3000 boxes was a keen need, according to Lawson. "The biggest need for the 3000 base is a hardware emulator and getting the 2006 date extended," she said. I know HP is aware of those two huge needs."
A decade later, the Stromasys emulator is only now marking its first year of availability. Just like migration got extended or stalled, key elements of Charon HPA/3000 were delayed.
Hewlett-Packard could only go to the brink of devising a license for MPE/iX on any unbuilt, unstarted emulator. A plan to have Intel-based emulator license terms announced in February, 2003 had slipped from the “early in 2003” promises made in the fall of 2002. We believed "HP’s commitment to its homesteading customers shows no apparent signs of slipping."
But that depended on what part of HP you could see. The 3000 division was doing what it could, although it was 2004 before any license plan emerged. But in the HP legal division, decisions were made that held up key technical data that could have made a 2004 license relevant in a few extra years, at most.
And for anyone left in our community who believes OpenMPE didn't have an active role, they can look to our story about that Webcast's homesteading message. HP's Mike Paivinen, working out of the 3000 division, said "We’ll continue to work with OpenMPE to understand the needs of the users they represent.” HP said it would hold teleconferences with some of the homesteading community, to “better understand how customers expect to use their 3000s after HP’s end of support date." The division's last GM, Dave Wilde, said he wanted OpenMPE "to have the lead on this" emulator license issue.
Migrations got compared to homesteading, especially their costs, during that Webcast. Staying versus going was a choice that triggered an HP statement that "many HP 3000 owners have discovered those two curves have already crossed, or will be crossing very shortly." But out on the migration road trip three months earlier, HP said that migrations would cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, unless customers were moving Powerhouse or Speedware apps to HP's Unix. Nobody could say they were spending that much to homestead.
For the HP 3000 customer hiring their first Oracle DBA in a migration effort, HP was advising that a sharp question ought to be asked. "Ask them about data structure differences [between IMAGE and Oracle], automatic masters, have them draw the map for you," said a manager from one of HP's Platinum Migration partners in 2003. " If they don't understand, you don't want them working for you."
That's because just like the situation in 2013, the migration changes were going to be costly enough to trigger scrutiny from the C-level. Birket Foster of migration partner MB Foster said back then that customers "need to start planning from the end, like on what date does it become too risky to say on the 3000? You probably should have started last year. A lot of folks haven't got a grip on when they should have actually started."
A decade later, some people still want to know about how to manage MPEX use, track the latest improvements to Suprtool, or even get support for 9x7 systems. We reported on all of that, too. The complexity of changes led me to advise in an editorial that even measuring twice, before taking one cut at migration, might not be enough. Carpentry experience was a pretty apt allegory, until we mentioned that getting a fresh piece of wood to create a baluster rail was easier than a restart on any migration.
I looked back on our Volume 8, Issue 5 with a fond gaze, admiring a list of more than two dozen sponsors and 50 percent more pages. But there was no blog in that February, or its sponsors, to keep everybody up to date. A lot less was available to report on migrations. But the conclusions about change weren't going to shift. It would take longer than expected and cost more than planned, most of the time. The 3000 story is no less complex today, even after we've all taken a decade's leap in expertise and technology.
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