March 11, 2013
HP rolls, but Charon rocks in Frankfurt
It was nightime, it was snowing and we were on foot, walking to our restaurant. Not a format for an American HP 3000 gathering perhaps, but we Europeans are a hardy bunch with the prospect of a good meal, beer and wine in the offing. It was February 5, 2013, and once again I was in Germany for an HP 3000 event. The last time had been nine-plus years earlier for the final official European-Middle East-Africa, Hewlett-Packard-organised event. I reported on it at the time in the Newswire, "After Malta founders on rocks, Ratingen rolls." Hence the borrowed title of this article.
Sheltering under a Virtual Umbrella
This time it wasn't HP who had organised the event, but rather Stromasys, the company who nearly a decade after HP sold the last HP 3000 is gearing up to supply new HP 3000s, albeit they are emulated servers. To be truthful it wasn't a pure HP 3000 event. Stromasys have been supplying emulated DEC PDP-11, VAX and Alpha emulators for nearly a couple of decades, and the event was for vendors and customers of those platforms as well as for those interested in the new HP 3000 emulator. But it was interesting to contemplate this situation in the same manner HP via acquisition had gathered together all these platforms under one company umbrella (I could have done with one of those umbrellas on our snowy night.) As HP are abandoning these users, Stromasys are gathering together the users of those computers under a new emulated umbrella.
The event was a combined introduction to Stromasys and their emulators, plus twin technical tracks, one for the DEC people and one for the HP folks. Those attending the HP 3000 track — approximately 20 had made it, from Finland in the north, Greece in the south, Slovenia in the east and Ireland in the West, in addition to those from more central European countries, and a couple of us from ScreenJet in the UK. In the group there were a few familiar faces from Ratingen, nine years earlier.
For the HP 3000 attendees, it was an opportunity to find out from Paul Taffel — the 3000 veteran is now Stromasys's resident HP 3000 expert who had flown in from California — how the development and testing of the HP 3000 emulator was going. How the first live and beta test sites had gone over, and for most to get our hands on a copy of our own personal freeware copy of the emulator.
A refreshing thing these days was the candor with which Stromasys talked about where they are, how they got there, and where they are going.It wasn't a case of saying they have a magic wand that will solve everyone's problems. Instead it was a frank presentation of where they have gotten to in matching the performance of the real HP 3000 models, and where the real issues are going to be in moving from a real HP 3000 to an emulated one.
Going Live Down Under
On the practicalities of moving a live production HP 3000 to the CHARON emulator, we had an on-line presentation from Warren Dawson of Hannover Life Re in Australia. It was 2 AM Australia time and Dawson had stayed up to share his experiences of moving his company's applications from a 20-plus-year-old HP 3000 947 system to the emulator, and their reasons for doing so.
I won't go into much detail, but some interesting bits for me were that the emulator route was taken quickly after an attempted migration to SQL was taking too long and was cancelled, and a couple of serious hardware failures that took too long to resolve. Both salient points that the wise heads in the HP 3000 community have been trying to get over for a number of years. If you're doing a migration, do a "Lift'n'Shift." Changing any more than the absolute minimum in a migration introduces risk and delays. Save the changes and enhancements until you are safely migrated. And just because there is lots of second-hand HP 3000 hardware around, it doesn't mean the bit you need is available where it's needed, or when it's needed, or that you are going to get up and running again before it starts to impact the business. Your homesteading, plan (and budget) should be for the worst case scenario — not to hope and pray for the best case.
Dawson was also clear that he needed and received the support and assistance of his third-party HP 3000 software vendors to make the transfer.
He was enthusiastic about the support he had received from Stromasys, whose beta test program he'd joined. I got the feeling that he might well have gone live ahead of the curve that Stromasys were anticipating. He was also very pleased with the performance of his new HP 3000, reporting that many procedures were running nine times quicker. Although to be fair, coming from a 947, even a genuine HP lowest-end, crippled A-Class would probably have done the same kind of performance lift.
Next time: The most important thing to realize about Charon HPA/3000.
Alan Yeo is founder of ScreenJet, a vendor in the 3000 community that supplies migration and modernization software for MPE/iX solutions — as well as the organizer of two 3000 HP 3000 Community Meets and the HP3000 Reunion.
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