March 29, 2013
Hope floats today for a 3000 resurrection
As a former Catholic altar boy, I learned a lot about resurrection during Springs in the 1960s. But the headline above isn't early April Fool's blasphemy. Some 3000 users -- more than a dozen, like disciples -- believe that an emulator in their market is a reason to believe in the server's revival.
They're somewhat correct, but how accurate is a revival of MPE/iX, versus the hardware to host it? Stromasys has accomplished the latter miracle with Charon HPA/3000. Servers as common as bottled water are running MPE/iX today, in production environments or proving the concept that PA-RISC systems have come back from a state of doom. Some are even succeeding with untested chips from AMD, somehow, rather than the approved Intel processors.
We've just approved a comment here on our blog that invests the emulator with these regenerative powers. HP would need a revival of its spirit to start to sell proprietary servers again, but at least there's powerful spirit among a few customers. None of them are paying HP any longer for the 3000. We'll get to that in a minute, and how it affects the salvation of critical MPE/iX applications. But to that prayer:
I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.
This manager doesn't want his name or company mentioned, but I assure you he's real and in charge of several HP 3000s. Third parties provide MPE and 3000 support at his site, and he runs HP's final low-end model of 3000, an A-Class. Although this is the season of miracles for hundreds of millions, marketing MPE/iX would demand a change of ownership at Hewlett-Packard. To kick-start it, people like our manager above would have to become customers of HP once more. The company took a conservative view of "customer" and "owner" five years ago this month. Nothing's changed there yet.
The issue of enabling Intel hardware to host MPE/iX is settled. Over and over, we've heard that the emulator runs the 3000's OS just as well as HP-built iron, the boxes HP stopped building nearly 10 years ago. The big rock to roll back is the status of software ownership. Many of the largest software companies take a dim view of operating their programs on fresh hardware. At least without any notice of the shift in platform.
Some companies -- and the 3000 veterans know who they are -- want a license fee upgrade if there's significant performance boosts on the new platform. The change that triggers this is the HPCPUNAME. Unless it still reports "Series 929" or somesuch, this emulated installation is a newer 3000.
Other software vendors are simply delighted their products will continue to work at customer sites. A customer site, however, is often defined as a company which pays a regular fee to maintain a relationship with the vendor. There's a lot of dropped-support software running out in your community. Vendors always have to live with this. Now there's a new wrinkle with the change of platform.
"If I was a paying customer of a software vendor, I'd keep quiet about using the emulator," one vendor said. He added that he's got no problems with his own customers using Charon. Any company prohibiting a switch "would be stupid, because you'd be losing revenue."
Earlier this week, however, I heard a statement that's true. "There's no application company yet which has approved a license for running software on the emulator." There's one story of Cognos permitting Quiz to run on a production emulator at an Australian insurance corporation. Warren Dawson, who plunged into the emulation pool, got it arranged by his Cognos reseller. Who's dealing with IBM these days, since Big Blue bought Cognos long ago.
IT managers can be lured into beliefs that run afoul of the computer vendor's catechism, however. Some managers believe they own their software once it's abandoned by the vendor. HP made its case that MPE/iX will always belong to HP, and always did, even while people were buying support from HP in 2008.
At a user meeting that year, the business manager of 3000 operations at HP Jennie Hou made HP's position clear.
Hou confirmed the clear intention that HP will cede nothing but "rights" to the community after HP exits the 3000 business."The publisher or copyright owner still owns the software," Hou said when license requirements beyond 2010 were discussed. "You didn't purchase MPE/iX. You purchased a right to use it."
Several years ago, a European Union judge gave an advisory on a case about PC software. The judge said if a company walks away from a product, anybody has any right they'd like to use it in any way. There's a lot of defining to do to arrive at "walks away." It was only one judge. But things are changing very quickly in the world of intellectual property.
To see the cross that such hopeful disciples bear, look at what I wrote five years ago, after hearing HP's statement and seeing the slide below.
We were writing about independent support and source code -- which at the time wasn't released. Now MPE/iX source is in the hands of seven companies. One recently reported they'd used their source to create workarounds for support customers -- just the limit HP hoped for the use of its MPE/iX source.
I wrote in 2008
It's a mystery how HP can give any significant use of MPE/iX to third parties in the years after the vendor won't offer services for the 3000 community. A third party owns nothing under these rules, but should build a business model and employ experts on this basis? Risky business, that.
A third party will just have to hope to rely on access to MPE/iX source. And nothing else but hope. In any contract no better than a typical customer's, a support firm would own nothing but that Right To Use what HP owns. Support for the third party support supplier for MPE/iX from HP? Shut down, by 2010. Support suppliers could consider that deal a sketchy foundation to build a business upon.
The 3000 community can only hope that's not HP's intention for support providers: To make any alternative support for the 3000 community remain sketchy. HP retains its ownership, but the intention of this 2005 announcement was to "help partners" do support business. Here's that HP 2005 statement, as a reminder of Hewlett-Packard's intentions.
"When HP no longer offers services to address basic support needs of e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties — if partner interest exists at that time — to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners."
You generate partner interest with customer purchases, now that HP's made hardware emulation legal. Then you step out of the way and let licenses evolve. For the disciples, the back half of that resurrection is a revelation they must arrange on their own.
March 28, 2013
OpenMPE's afterlife lives on a live server
Eleven years ago this spring, OpenMPE was calling itself OpenMPE Inc. and proposing a business around the HP 3000. The organization was just getting on its feet, led by Jon Backus, a consultant and systems manager who ran his own business and took the first steps toward advocacy for the computer HP was cutting from its futures.
The hopes and dreams of a shell-shocked community of 3000 lovers came to the window of OpenMPE. But even in 2002, the group of volunteers' founders knew the holy grail was hardware to replace the boxes HP would stop selling in about 18 months.
A petition, in the form of customers' Letters of Intent, got presented to HP during that year's Interex 3000 Solutions Symposium.
The document is asking customers if they would support the new organization’s mission to enhance and protect the HP 3000 community’s lifespan, though software development and creation of an emulator that mimics the HP hardware on Intel processors.
And after a decade, the community got its emulator. The software that's now making ripples in the calm pond of 3000 use emerged from hard work at Stromasys, to be sure. But OpenMPE laid the first tracks to demonstrating user interest, as well as an MPE license for emulated 3000s. The HP license is one of the few that were written specifically for the emulator. (Minisoft has announced another.) The other evidence of OpenMPE's work is an HP 3000, hosted at the Support Group in Texas, where it holds software that still matters to MPE managers.
OpenMPE pays a nominal amount to maintain this server inside a hardened datacenter. That's evidence there's still a trace of business going through OpenMPE, although the Support Group volunteers more than a payment can cover. (That's the way volunteers roll, after all. Nobody got paid a dollar for working with OpenMPE, although there was plenty of pay-outs of public scorn.)
But host software on an HP 3000 and you become one of the beacons across the inky landscape of MPE in 2013. One customer wanted a copy of GCC, the Gnu C Compiler that's the bootstrap code for all 3000 open source riches. Mark Klein created an MPE/iX version of GCC to enable printer and file sharing, Internet addressing and advanced networking, perl and so much more on a 3000.
One source for GCC is on Brian Edminster's MPE Open Source server, a repository of free software. But he tipped his hat toward the OpenMPE beacon while answering a question posted on the 3000 newsgroup.
There are several third-party software support providers that could help -- you can find 'em through searching the 3000 newsgroup. And there's also a few of us that are keeping copies available for download on sites of our own.
I have a site that has it as part of a 'OpenSSH sftp client' install (which also happens to include perl as well). But at the moment, probably the best place to get GCC for MPE/iX is from a site that's a partial copy of the old 'Jazz' server at HP.
The direct URL is: http://www.openmpe.com/jazz/MarkK/gnuframe.htm
As the page notes, GCC was ported to MPE by Mark Klein. The community owes him a debt of gratitude for this, even thought the latest version available isn't quite so current anymore. In spite of that, Mark's work has made it possible to port quite a bit of software to MPE.
Klein volunteered his hours to create the MPE GCC, and more than 30 people volunteered their hours through nine years to make OpenMPE a player during the darkest era of the 3000 -- those springtime months of 2002 when it was so easy to hear the HP user group Interex trumpet the "migrate, and soon" message that HP was hawking. Plenty of sites did, although not nearly as soon as HP hoped. During that era, however, HP got to be instructed about how to curtail business for a business computer community -- hearing all the things it overlooked for the transition, denoted by OpenMPE's volunteers.
March was the time of year when OpenMPE volunteers ran for elections, starting in 2002. Although there are just three directors at the group now, it still has its friends in places like Measurement Specialties, where former director Tracy Johnson manages 3000s and a shadowed OpenMPE server. Or at Applied Technologies, where Edminster supports the ideal of free software that drove OpenMPE during its first year. Or out at the datacenter building in Texas, where the live 3000 still dishes out software that homesteaders find useful, once they search for it.
March 27, 2013
3000's endurance replaced easier than yours
System managers who are in charge of HP 3000s might be concerned about the endurance of their hardware. Those who use systems built in the 1990s feel lucky as their 3000 disks keep spinning and the data flows into and out of servers like the Series 929. This is the smallest of the 9x9 3000s, installed in many places as the best 1990s value for entry-level computing.
More than a dozen years later, these 3000s remain on the job. Senior management in these companies might want to ride the lucky tiger as long as they can, to forestall the expense of transitions. However, there's an IT element much tougher to replace than an 18GB drive, a power supply or a processor board.
During an interview this week, a manager who inherited a 929 preached the gospel of newer hardware. It's a problem that has a solution in the wings, as Stromasys makes its way into the homesteading market with its CHARON emulator. This manager said running MPE/iX on Intel PCs sounded "loopy," but he hasn't dismissed HPA/3000. He did look away from a component even more essential than hardware. While that HP iron might go down, the manager going down can also be a major issue. The knowledge of the 3000 is like gold at most homesteading shops, even if management doesn't have a golden budget for the server anymore.
Birket Foster of MB Foster likes to call this the "lottery factor." What if a 3000 manager's circumstances changed overnight, like in winning the lottery? A big annualized jackpot could mean a retirement, and a homesteading company would need a replacement. In-house training before such a change could prepare a company for the day that its 3000 expert goes down, even while the hardware hums along.
This manager's major concern "over anything else, is that I have a super hardware failure, and I can't get any support or replacement parts for my 3000. And while it's down, I'm out of business." Many companies run their HP 3000s around the clock, every day of the week. During the interview, it was suggested that even getting sick could amount to the same concern. That's not in the cards, he answered.
He did have a plan for succession, something a lot of 3000 users haven't formed. The company would hire somebody to come in and learn the 3000 operations over six months, before the IT manager might retire. This can be a difficult situation to engineer as a contingency. If you're not ready to retire, you would find it tough to approach your senior management to say, "let's hire up some IT expertise and make it 3000-ready."
This difficulty becomes a reality at any company where a migration has been "put on the back burner" for 4-5 years, one manager said. Another noted that migration was taking a lot longer than planned, and still another in that confectionary company said migrations have been discussed ever since HP triggered the end of its plans for the 3000. It's money that people are not forced to spend immediately, says Foster. So they don't.
"It's money versus risk where most people end up," he says. "At some point, though, they want to know how much risk they're really facing. It's not really about the hardware risk," he added. In some cases, even a Series 929 could handle twice the business load that it shoulders every day, if sales rocketed. The most critical point of failure is the 3000 expert at the company. Outside help to manage MPE applications, as a backup resource, can mitigate that risk. But it's got to be trained to know your business processes today -- even if senior management sees the 3000 as a less-than-golden resource.
Learning to step in for a manager who goes down, like one at a Florida insurance group did in 2010, takes time. This might be a period where transition planning -- not a migration, but selecting a replacement app -- could mitigate risk over a longer term. The IT pro who knows MPE/iX is the golden goose in these fables.
March 26, 2013
Review a plan for modernizing to migration
Many of the most dedicated HP 3000 users have plans. Not just for how to sustain a server HP hasn't built for nearly a decade. Not just for how to retain the tribal knowledge of business systems while preparing for a succession of IT expertise -- the latter in sync with MPE/iX issues. They're making plans to modernize their hardware and extend their software.
At a major healthcare provider in New England, there's an active project to bring an emulator to task, replacing the HP 3000s and their support expenses with inexpensive Intel servers. But the healthcare provider knows the long term probably won't include MPE/iX applications in production. It might be seven years, or 10. But migration -- or a lift and shift of applications -- is certainly down the road.
At another customer site, the prospect of eliminating HP 3000 applications would mean shutting off order entry, fulfillment, sales auditing. It's not impossible, of course. HP's Unix systems have taken over for a major financial module at this manufacturer. That means that somewhere deeper into the corporate calendar, those MPE/iX systems will give way to another OS. When the time is right, says MB Foster's Birket Foster.
March 27 is a Wednesday, so there's a Webinar on offer from Foster's team. Legacy Application Modernization starts at 2PM Eastern Time. Like all the others -- so many over the last three years -- signup is painless, free, and ensures a way to connect with other homesteaders who are eyeing migrations. They might need the latest strategy on what's important to succeed.
At that healthcare provider, the company is still creating development accounts on its HP 3000 N-Class servers. such organizations are often challenged to extend IT investments and modernize their applications, even as the true costs -- like power and cooling, recruiting competent professionals -- to maintaining their environments increase. Foster's webinar looks at the legacy modernization as one way to start the eventual transition.
Couple these challenges with a continual changing technology landscape, and you will find companies are researching alternatives and possibilities, but are uncertain of where to begin the migration process. During this webinar, you will be leveraging MB Foster’s certified migration specialists, who will help your team to successfully rejuvenate and modernize your legacy application.
Attendees will learn about best practices, and proven risk mitigation strategies that will allow you to get started and deliver a thought provoking synopsis to your senior management team, to drive the business forward with an eye towards moving and modernizing mission critical applications into the 21st century.
Attending these events, for just 45 minutes or so, is most enlightening because of what the 3000 owners can share. Solving a problem with new ideas is the aim for these advisory sessions.
March 25, 2013
Searching for help in all the right places
Today a long-time 3000 site in the candy business called to find out if anybody was available to help with a little contract work. Maybe about two or three years' worth, because that's how long it would take this 3000 stalwart to pull out of their existing 3000 applications.
They've already pulled out of some. Oracle Financials now takes the place of an MPE/iX app, for example. But while Oracle is more popular with the market's experts, the in-house software that it replaced performed better.
The search for 3000 expertise led us to recommend a couple of favorite webpages. The OpenMPE contractor-consultant page has added new consultants in the last few weeks. Over at LinkedIn, the HP 3000 Community is fast approaching 600 members. And while LinkedIn would like the employer prospects such as our candy company -- and its Call Center, Order Entry, Order Fulfillment and Sales Audit apps, all running on N-Class servers -- to pay $295 to list a job opening, it's not needed. You can start a discussion in several places for free about an available job.
Three months ago we dipped our line in the water to attract two dozen applicants with 3000 experience in just under 36 hours, using the redoubtable 3000-L mailing list. We heard from long-time consultants, independent contractors, and even 3000 pros who thought their current company's use of MPE/iX looked a little shaky.
LinkedIn will take on any discussion in the 3000 Community group, regardless of whether it mentions jobs or not. It's hard to describe how many of the nearly 600 are available for work there, but it's not a miniscule percentage.
There's also an HP 3000 Jobs subgroup, which is part of Bill & Dave's Excellent Machine out on LinkedIn. Apply for the Bill and Dave's membership (it's free) and the Jobs subgroup is open to your offering and your seeking, too. Bill and Dave's is another 780 members big, and it's got lots of retired HP 3000 expertise in there. You never know who will want to take on an outside contract, after leaving the good ship HP.
March 22, 2013
AcuCOBOL's bench is a means to transition
COBOL-only 3000 sites have been working with the same set of tools for many years. HP closed its languages lab early in the previous decade, so Hewlett-Packard's brand-name source code managers and the like were last enhanced sometime late in the 1990s. That age doesn't matter very much to the strategy of homesteading. Suppliers such as Robelle have enhanced editors like Qedit in the interim.
There are options for improving COBOL development and managing application maintenance and creation. COBOL has many experts and advocates in the 3000 community. One of our favorites is Alan Yeo; his company ScreenJet created an interface between the 3000 and the development toolbench from Acucorp, AcuBench. Yeo has been a realist about the transition of AcuCOBOL toward a melding with Micro Focus COBOL. It's taken a long time so far -- AcuCOBOL hasn't achieved its melding in more than four years of plans and work on the project.
But the state of an AcuCOBOL-Micro Focus meld doesn't change one axiom: better COBOL project tools will help a 3000 site which is migrating. Micro Focus acquired AcuCOBOL's expertise and its customers in 2007, and first talked about a Project Meld in 2008.
"If you're COBOL shop and you're on the HP 3000," Yeo explained, "and you wanted to move to a very structured and complete environment -- where you've got a lot of development tools, debugging tools -- then the Micro Focus environment wouldn't be bad. But as of this minute, they haven't got anything that's as good as their AcuCOBOL GUI product."
Yeo was quick to praise this AcuBench IDE solution. It's software whose current data sheet looks minted from 2009, and states that it supports Windows environments as current as Vista. However, Yeo's ScreenJet software supplies a VPlus to ACUCOBOL-GT and AcuBench Conversion module.
This VPlus conversion tool kit extracts screen information from a VPlus formfile and delivers it as ready-made GUI screens to the AcuBench IDE (Integrated Development Environment), as though the screens had been created initially in that IDE.
A 3000 site moves to AcuBench and AcuCOBOL as part of a migration -- essentially a lift-and-shift project. The AcuCOBOL-GT compiler is engineered to adopt MPE/iX aspects such as COBOL II extensions. "That was the beauty of the AcuCOBOL stuff," Yeo said. "You could develop anywhere and run anywhere." The software outputs industry-standard COBOL, starting with COBOL code already driving HP 3000 applications.
Micro Focus has advanced software for development managing and team organization, some acquired from Borland (another company assimilated into the Micro Focus lineup.) As an example of the scope of some of these products, the AcuBench IDE offers drag and drop techniques to further enhance application screens, to employ additional GUI elements such as Radio Buttons, Check Boxes and List Boxes.
In contrast, a product such as Micro Focus Caliber includes components used to author applications, visualize both user cases and process flows, and simulate user interaction. These tools, which are next-generation software for most 3000-centric developers, can relate such visualizations to application requirements. A review module in Caliber is essential to letting business stakeholders discuss and collaborate on such visualizations.
Business stakeholder discussions can help bring IT to the boardroom table. Collaboration to create and improve applications feeds the value of an Application Management Portfolio, and APM makes apps shine as key assets.
March 21, 2013
Plug in Linux Appliances for 3000 backups?
Out on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, managers have been apprised this spring of an offering from Beechglen Development called Triple Store. The essence of the advice is sound. Make multiple backups, because it's risky to rely on just one tape -- and too time-consuming to simply make multiple tapes.
(Not a part of the LinkedIn Community for 3000s yet? Join us -- we're well on the way to being 600 members strong.)
Triple Store proposes a primary copy goes to local user volume storage on your 3000. The secondary local copy goes out to a Linux Appliance, as Beechglen calls it. There's a third copy that goes into SSD storage in a cloud which Beechglen hosts offsite.
You can look over the pricing in a single-page datasheet from Beechglen, but it's that Linux Appliance that might be the newest wrinkle in a multi-copy strategy. This particular application encrypts the backup and applies compression. Secure FTP (SFTP) can pass the backups from standard HP 3000 73GB user volumes to this Appliance. For those who unfamilar with the appliance concept, it is a separate server powered by Linux and loaded with an application dedicated to backups.
Brian Edminster, our backup advisor for 3000 operations, keyed in on the Triple Store's appliance, too.
The greatest novelty is having a Linux-driven appliance to act as a secure intermediary. It appears to be to sending backups ultimately to one's own Network Attached Storage (NAS), off to Beechglen's cloud, or onto SSDs (which are being used as the removeable media). I already do backups for the systems I administer in a similar way.
Edminster said that he does a Store-To-Disk, usually to a separate user volume dedicated to holding backups; then he does an FTP or SFTP of this disk-backup to a NAS device, "where it's backed up by an enterprise backup tool."
Not addressed -- but implied in the marketing piece for Triple Store -- is the mechanism for recovering a backup from the backup appliance archive (or from SSD or cloud to the appliance, and then to your 3000).
Sure, you can just FTP/SFTP it back to the 3000's file system, should you need a backup image that's no longer on your user volume. The problem seems to be that won't preserve the MPE-ness of the Store-To-Disk backup files. Unless you take special steps, you might lose the MPE/iX filesystem characteristics of the backup -- making it difficult to restore from without additional processing. Not good.
I've been looking into simple ways to do this (preferably an FOS-only solution), and have been experimenting with a number of methods.
In the weeks to come, we’ll look forward to a report from Edminster on how to do this sort of multiple store using a limited amount of non-MPE software.
March 20, 2013
Emulator connects to terminals, POC efforts
What was restarted as a pilot project more than four years ago at Stromasys is now a full-fledged product. The CHARON-HPA/3000 operations inside Stromasys are receiving continued investment, according to company officials. The emulator is a proof of concept project at several companies who've contacted us, but it's a full-fledged software solution at the vendor which created it.
The software's starting to caper through springtime on laptops and low-cost desktops across North America and elsewhere. One manager who briefed us about the POC work at his site said he put up the A-202 Freeware edition on an HP desktop with an i3 Core Intel chip. The desktop came off eBay with a $150 price tag. The demonstration yielded "a sigh of relief I could hear across the room." Top IT managers are happy to see a way for MPE applications to run onward into the future, independent of HP-built servers.
Installing the emulator software and setting it into service requires an ability to know how to put an IP address into a terminal emulator, in order to connect over a network. Any A-202 freeware users who have limited networking skills are presenting special support needs to Stromasys. The company says it's working in a couple of directions to find a method to help such users in a cost-effective manner.
Stromasys has two versions of the HPA/3000 documentation, one for the A202 Freeware Edition and one for the Demo-to-Production Edition. The company is restructuring these documents to turn them into User Guides, an upgrade from the comprehensive collection of notes available at the moment. Fortunately there are very few issues that only concern Freeware users, so having to spend time supporting freeware users — with advice and instruction that doesn't benefit the vast majority of its customers and prospects — has not been an issue.
Product manager Paul Taffel is at the nexus of this springtime growth. "The momentum is certainly building," he said, "and it really is fulfilling to talk to users who had no hope of finding a solution like CHARON, and to be able to show them such a high-quality product."
The HPA/3000 edition of CHARON will have a fresh release this spring, "and we have also started working on some major enhancements to improve our high-end performance."
Every 3000 manager uses either physical terminals, or a terminal emulators running on a PC (or very rarely on a Mac) to connect to their HP 3000. "This doesn't mean that they're running old-fashioned applications," Taffel said. "It's still the way that everyone who uses an HP3000 connects users to it."
Some sites may use fancy network connections to allow users running PC-based programs to access information stored on the HP 3000, without using a terminal emulator. But pretty much everyone uses software like Reflection or Javelin to open up a terminal emulator window when then need to log on to the system to issue commands or start up programs.
There are very few users still using serially-connected physical terminals (which require a DTC to connect to an HP 3000). Almost everyone who is using Reflection, for example, uses it to connect to their HP 3000 over a local network.
Contrary to our earlier reports, Stromasys believes the HPA/3000 will work with DTCs, although it hopes an enterprising user to try to hook one up and report their findings. And while Alan Yeo has reported that CHARON won't work with DDS tape drives, Stromasys says that's not true.
"My home test system — that $1,300 one — has a DDS-3 drive built in," said Taffel. "Warren Dawson (our first user) built his test system with a tape drive, but then decided against building one into his production system."
VMware can demand some close management in a few cases. When the CHARON Freeware Edition is run inside VMware on a laptop, users normally connect to the virtual HP 3000 machine by running Reflection on the same laptop. Despite the fact that Reflection and CHARON are running on the same physical PC, you connect them to each other using the network. If your laptop is plugged into a wired-network, Windows is provided with an IP address on the network -- and you must configure your virtual HP 3000 to have an address on the same network. When you do this, Reflection can talk to CHARON with no problem.
In VMware, things get much more complicated if your laptop is connected to a network using a wireless adapter. Stromasys has solved the problem of connecting Reflection to CHARON using a laptop connected to a wireless network.
If that laptop isn't connected to any network (wired or wireless), then connecting Reflection to CHARON requires yet another solution. This configuration is also being documented as part of the User Guide.
Freeware users of HPA/3000 are providing opportunities to solve problems such as wireless access points from inside VMware, and document it for the greater good of the 3000 community. Freeware users expect support for their experiments with emulation.
March 19, 2013
HP's expert estimates Itanium's end-date
We return you to California's Santa Clara County Superior Court, where the future of Itanium and HP-UX is already in progress. HP and Oracle continued their battle over the future and value of Itanium yesterday, with each side trying to wring dollars out of their dispute over whether Itanium is finished at HP. The lawsuit's final phase addresses damages. Oracle hopes to prove HP's public and partner strategies cost them sales of Sun servers where Integrity had already lost the business.
Oracle's expert estimated the company lost $95 million in profits, working on the premise that HP lied about the future of its only HP-UX processor line. The Integrity servers have been a popular platform for Oracle's database. A lawsuit that wrapped up in September forced Oracle to continue its development for the server line. The database vendor wanted to stop enhancing Oracle for HP's platforms including HP-UX, all tied to the Itanium chip.
HP's expert Jonathan Orszag of the consulting firm Compass Lexecon had to counter by estimating the lifespan of HP's Itanium business. Orszag said the ending date for Itanium looked to him like 2020. HP would have surely reviewed Orszag's testimony before he offered it to judge James Kleinberg. HP's expert witness in the damages phase of the suit said he based his testimony on Itanium road maps from HP as well its chip partner, Intel.
If Orszag and Hewlett-Packard are on target, then 2020 would mark about two decades of actual service to the enterprise computing customer. That's a mark that HP's initial chip family for the 3000 didn't achieve. But the period of 1974-1989 was nothing like the 21st Century. For one thing, Intel didn't have competing versions of an enterprise business processor on sale during the '70s and '80s. That split focus for Intel showed up again last month, when the chip maker announced a couple of downgrades to Itanium's future.
Those announcements looked like signals that Intel is shifting its R&D resources away from the only processor that drives HP-UX applications. Many migrated HP 3000 sites are using HP-UX. Those who have a migration in their future, nearby or otherwise, still have Itanium on their menu of choices.
Intel said in a modest post on a webpage that it won't be re-engineering Itanium to use the same sockets as the mainstream Intel chipset Xeon. HP's partner added that it will design and manufacture the Kittson family of Itanium using the 32 nanometer architecture that's in the current Poulson family. Intel has 28-nm designs in store for Xeon. Both the smaller architecture and the socket-compatible design have been withdrawn from Intel's Itanium plans.
Kittson will be manufactured on Intel’s 32-nm process technology and will be socket compatible with the existing Intel Itanium 9300/9500 platforms, providing customers with performance improvements, investment protection, and a seamless upgrade path for existing systems. The modular development model, which converges on a common Intel Xeon/Intel Itanium socket and motherboard, will be evaluated for future implementation opportunities.
Evaluated for future implementation opportunities means, in summary, that the engineering to bring Itanium closer to an assured position at Intel is halted. The HP-UX chip is still a unique design at Intel -- which might be okay if Itanium sales were growing, or even maintaining market share. HP says that's not true. The Intel decision forces HP to gamble that the installed base of Itanium users will buy enough to maintain HP's promises on the roadmap which Orszag used. Winning new customers gets harder with every improvement to Xeon which is denied to Itanium.
Hewlett-Packard was in a similar situation, with the then-fledgling Itanium designs, near the end of its HP 3000 futures. A few years before HP's MPE/iX "opportunities" ended, the 3000 division stood at the crossroads of adopting what was called IA-64. First the division would design toward IA-64 with future 3000s. Then it said it would wait, and make do with existing PA-RISC chip family.
The outcome of the California court's damages phase will result in a material impact on the futures of the Business Critial Systems operation at HP. Just not enough. Even if HP wins its $4.2 billion demand, the money would only provide $600 million a year in lost profits for the group. It would offset the losses BCS will post as it continues its spiral. HP CEO Meg Whitman said last month that BCS "was a big and profitable business, and you see that it's declined by 24 percent year over year. The good news is that we've got the best product lineup we've had in a long time in [the Enterprise Group.]"
The bad news? HP's CEO now refers to BCS-Itanium business in the past tense.
Last year the entire Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit at HP -- whose BCS-Integrity line is a fraction of the Xeon-based Linux servers, ProLiant sales, disk sales and networking products -- posted just $2.1 billion in profit. Whitman noted that HP is making investments behind the Enterprise lineup.
But those Hewlett-Packard and Intel roadmaps, plus the chip-maker's announcements, show the money is going elsewhere. Based on what Intel and that HP expert say about Itanium chip dies in the future, it looks like the final act has been scheduled at Hewlett-Packard. Is six more years enough for today's customers? Probably so -- if they don't arrive on HP-UX with 3000-like expectations for investment protection.
March 18, 2013
Still Patching After All These Years
HP solved the problems of the 3000 and MPE with patches, revised software which Hewlett-Packard still distributes today. Probably not as seamlessly as it did while the company supported the system. But just as inexpensively: MPE/iX is one of the only HP operating systems with free patches. The still-engineered and fully-supported OS lineup requires an HP support contract to retrieve patches, even the critical ones.
Patches resurfaced in my reporting this afternoon while I interviewed a consultant to a large site, one where 22 HP 3000s once ran altogether. Today it's a couple of N-Class servers. He was feeling good about the chances for a Stromasys emulator there, partly because the customer is already running on MPE/iX 7.5. The final generation of the OS is required to run the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.
"We got away from using Large Files, too," he added. "I think HP never did fix that corruption bug in those." That would be the >4GB corruptor, discovered in 2006 by Adager and finally fixed in '07 by HP's IMAGE/SQL labs. The repaired software required a millicode patch, the first one HP'd written for the 3000 in 16 years. You can get that patch via HP's Response Center website. But that's not how most 3000 managers are getting these patches today.
The number of HP contract-holding 3000 administrators has dropped since the 2007 date of patch MILNX10A. Most people are calling into HP's support line, then plowing through the confusion that arises when you ask for something related to HP and a 3000.
"If one has a functioning support center logon, then yes -- you can download the patch via the Web," said one indie support provider. "I find most people need to call the support line. I always tell them to take their patience with them, as it can be challenging to get past the initial call handlers. ("No…my 3000 is not a printer…") You’ll eventually get to the one (?) person still handling MPE patching requests."
We are told, by Allegro Consulting's Donna Hofmeister, that "the magic incantation when dealing with the Response Center folks is to use transfer code 798. That’ll get you to an MPE person."
MILNX10A is important enough to patch, especially on a 3000 that's got databases that are still growing. One traditional advisory in the 3000 community is that "there are three things that can happen when you apply a patch, and two of them are not good." So that limits an administrator's gusto for patching -- but this corruption problem was a big enough deal for HP to label that patch critical.
The patch repairs access to any in-house applications that have used Large Files, or do a sort with a temporary file that can exceed 4GB. If your app has not been modified since March 30, 2000, it's safe. That's when HP introduced the Large File feature.
Large Files has been engineering which HP worked to remove from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the 3000 converted to Jumbo files, much better engineered. Jumbos were at work where our consultant was arranging an audition for the emulator.
MILNX10A is not stageable because it requires a installation job. It is most easily installed by using HP's autopat. Autopat, at its conclusion, will say "stream this.job." A couple of blinks later, milli.lib.sys (and friends) is updated.
MILNX10A won't be enough to fix this corruption problem. HP's repair also requires MPENX11A. Unlike the millicode patch, MPENX11A is not stageable, as it is a patch that requires a reboot. A manager can use Patch/iX to get the patch staged and schedule a reboot.
If you don't know if you should apply this patch, contact your support provider. If you're patching, pay attention to when you run 'unpackp.' We'd love to hear any experience you might have while navigating the free phone support from HP for these patches.
March 15, 2013
Freeware emulator user reaches for support
In one of the greater gifts to the 3000 community, Stromasys has unleashed software that permits a 2-user HP 3000 to appear on the hard drive of a PC anywhere in the world. The Charon software could replace consultants' aging 3000 systems immediately after a download and install. These consultants could then demonstrate this emulated 3000 to homesteading companies. A sale to the company might take place.
However, the HP 3000 rose to its highest peaks with the benefit of other emulation, decades ago. The server's oldest software employed proprietary terminals. When PCs displaced terminals because of those desktop computers' industry standard and flexibility, one software product made it possible: terminal emulators. WRQ shipped Reflection. Minisoft distributed MS 92. More than a dozen years ago, a freeware terminal emulator, QCTerm, rolled out of the labs at AICS Research.
When these emulators emerged, prospective customers had questions during proof of concept testing. During the years while that era's emulation was proving itself, tech support was a call-in experience. I don't recall how a company might handle a technical support call from a non-customer. At Adager, the tech team was often contacted about how to repair IMAGE/SQL databases. That kind of call would earn a non-customer some advice, because that's a full-service model being preserved by some vendors.
And freeware? It didn't exist in anything but the most rudimentary bulletin board system-driven downloads for PCs, or the Interex swap tapes for MPE software.
Terminal emulation is still with us, in the form of entrenched applications that rely on linking to a Reflection, MS 92 or something else like QCTerm. Now there's a second level of emulation in the Charon solution. It's not clear yet how the markets, the customers and the vendors of freeware will handle this kind of inquiry.On one hand, it seems obvious that a software company couldn't really be expected to support freeware users 1-to-1. There's not enough revenue to support that expense. However, 3000 emulation is trying to prove its worth this year. It's going to need some of that personal attention for dug-in 3000 managers and consultants.
This afternoon we got a call from a consultant who'd run up against this emulator-to-emulator handshake. Did I know, Dan Miller asked, how to achieve a connection to a 3000 using Reflection and Charon?
We've never pretended to be that smart here, but we know people who can answer that question. Dan got a referral, and we hope to catch up with the answer to his question. He had many others for Stromasys last fall, and must've gotten answers enough to start his proof of concept installation for his client. He might be trying to get a serial connection -- bereft of any outside network -- in step with the emulator, but that might not be true. Dan's is the first question we've seen about Reflection and Charon.
These days, tech support for freeware is handled by user communities, email, SourceForge message boards, explicit user guides -- the kinds of advice channels which can't really walk you through an installation. We don't know where the future is on freeware and support, but it's an interesting aspect of this year's emulation debut.
March 14, 2013
Advice on reductions helps manage risk
Most managers of 3000s cope with the same challenges seen on other platforms: fewer resources, layoffs and retirements, aging hardware. Yes, even in the marketplace of HP's Itanium or Windows servers, hardware gets older. Not like the 3000s, those boxes which will, by this fall, be at least one decade old.
If the server is built well, if the budgets hold up, if the headcount doesn't shrink, enterprise server owners won't have to manage any risk. What're the odds of that? Since you'd probably admit that you can't dodge all of those, MB Foster held a Wednesday Webinar yesterday to outline the stategies for how to cope with less.
Any special demands for the 3000 didn't come up during the 1-hour webinar. It didn't need to be highlighted, because the elements of risk management are universal. It's just a matter of degree. Do you have an aging workforce, or is the company thinking of using younger IT pros? There's a career retirement trend out there for the professional who can afford it. Foster said 5,000 people born between 1945 and 1960 retire every day. That's ages 53-68, probably the largest slice of 3000 managers.
The odds are stacked against implementing change without a complete plan. Even an optimist would shudder at figures that MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster shared from the Standish Group. By that group's research, 90 percent of the replacements of ERP systems will finish over budget, behind schedule -- or be scrapped altogether. That slender slice of orange in the pie chart represents the lucky companies who got what they wanted, on time and in budget.
Of the ones that finish, companies are averaging about half of the functionality they pursued with their change. Swapping in an off the shelf app for 3000 application could well overlook customizations for spreadsheet interfaces, for example. "And the spreadsheets weren't part of that IT system, they were part of what the user base used," Foster said.
A company is likely to be just one merger or acquisition away from doing more IT with less resources. The 3000 has built-in restrictions that can leave it serving more computing than intended: storage, memory, capability to connect with the latest peripherals. But even the migrated customer can benefit from a plan to mitigate risks.For example, Foster said a company needs $100,000 on average just to deal with planning for the challenges related to a merger. An application portfolio plan, which starts with a professional assessment, can help a company determine not only what they should do, but what they can stop doing.
"It gives people an opportunity to look at all of the processes in their business," Foster said of a portfolio project. "It helps standardize business practices, so the best ones move forward in a merger."
One newer trend in business is analyzing key performance indicators. The HP 3000, or a replacement, can be delivering data needed to access these KPIs. "You pull that data out of your database and put it into a dashboard," Foster said. You can get ready access to that data by using a data mart -- or as Foster said, "putting your data in a fishing pond instead of an ocean." These data marts are fed by an Operational Data Store, or a data warehouse.
Data warehouses are far from new strategies. The 3000's app family was developed for warehouses as far back as the middle 1990s. But a much newer concept, cloud, also harkens back to 3000 roots. "The cloud is a just a modern version of the service bureau, Foster said. His partner in the webinars Chris Whitehead added that using the cloud "is an effective way to mitigate some of the costs and fewer resources you will have if you've gone through a big round of layoffs." Foster took note that using best of breed applications connected through the cloud still demands you assign an "application of record" to each customer datafile. It could be shipping, billing or a CRM system, but you must decide.
One segment of the webinar held special meaning for the 3000 site which is homesteading. Complete plans on how to weather reductions of resources include plans for aging hardware.
"You can figure out what hardware can go away," using a portfolio plan in an era of cutbacks, Foster said. The estimation should be based on the hardware's business fit, its stability and quality, and its maintainability. Mean Time to Recovery of Operations is "the other side of your disaster plan, understanding the cost of recovering. This helps determine how long a company could afford to be off-line if a system failed.
Mergers help define movement, but the rise of mobile computing also will tax aging resources. "You'll have to think about how mobile fits into your picture. Maybe some of your operations don't have to be done with a web browser. A shipper could look up a status over a smartphone.
But that fishing pond, the reservoir that spills out of a classic data warehouse, delivers insights that can begin with 3000 data. Any 3000 customer who's thinking of moving off the platform will benefit from creating these ponds out of their oceans of data.
"There's a real benefit of being able to have replication of data that exists on an HP 3000 into a seperate repository," Whitehead said. "You can redirect all of the users to that environment on say, Oracle or SQL Server, so they can do their reporting. It facilitates the transformation if they do make the change in ERP -- and stops individuals from hacking away at the production environment, too."
March 13, 2013
CHARON sets 3000's future
Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing, as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He also points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement. But in his summary, Yeo says the solution is supplying a future for the 3000.
By Alan Yeo
Third of three parts
If you're adopting the Stromasys CHARON HPA emulator for your 3000 operations, you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. For example, on the peripheral side: DDS tapes? I don't think so! Your smart new Intel-based hardware isn't going to allow you to plug in that old DDS drive that you rely on for your backups. [Ed. note: In an update, Stromasys CHARON manager Paul Taffel begs to differ. The company also believes DTCs can be integrated, but it is waiting for a freeware customer to test that theory.] What's more, I think the jury is out on DTCs, as serial terminals and printers don't exactly fit with a modern Intel/Linux environment.
So if you're not already doing it, you are going to need to look at configuring and modifying your new HP 3000 environment to use things like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and networked printer devices. All of this may require an advanced level of expertise to configure.
Another important point made at the European event in Frankfurt was that Stromasys are logically supplying a new PA-RISC server (albeit emulated in software) when you purchase CHARON-HPA. They don't "do" MPE/iX, or third party utilities, and they don't sort out your software licensing for you, or know how to install or upgrade it. That is up to you to organise. Stromasys do not intend to become your support organisation for MPE/iX, Intel hardware, or Linux software issues.
I just mentioned Linux, which is a prompt to clarify an issue regarding the CHARON-HPA emulator. Whilst the Stromasys emulators for other platforms can run on Windows and Linux hosts, the HP 3000 emulator is only going to run on Linux. The only exception to this is the free/hobbyist edition that ships with a copy of VMWare Player and can be installed under Windows. As I understand it, there is no plan for a production Windows version, so I think that is a marker that Windows is itself now regarded as "Legacy."
My conclusion is that Stromasys have done an excellent job, and that their current pricing looks fair.
They are certainly not giving HP 3000 users a get out of jail free card by giving it away. If you're using old HP 3000 hardware and versions of MPE/iX, then the upgrade to a modern CHARON-HPA/3000 server should be no more effort or cost than you would have incurred upgrading to the appropriate A- or N-Class HP 3000 (if they were still available).
I think the free personal 2-user edition is going to be of great service to the HP 3000 community, as it will enable a large group of people to still keep their hands on an HP 3000 — so they will still be available to provide support into the future.
Times they are a-changing
It's perhaps apt to compare this event in Frankfurt with the Ratingen event some nine years earlier, and realise how much has changed, and how much hasn't. Nine years ago if you read the Ratingen review, we got lost and drove around in circles. Today everybody has satellite nav, and probably on their iPhone, smartphone or tablet, none of which existed nine years ago. Nine years ago HP had a large support organisation at Ratingen and a huge production and software centre at Böblingen near Frankfurt. It's now all gone! Just shut down, or outsourced to Poland and Bulgaria.
Nine years ago HP was a big company in Germany; now it's just a few sales offices. Nine years ago there were a bunch of people in Ratingen wondering what the future of the HP 3000 was. On our February night in Frankfurt we finally got the answer: Hello CHARON!
As a final note, I did go back and read my old Ratingen piece from 2004. I'd concluded with "The meeting closed with the normal good-byes — but there was more than a sense that the paths of many of us, which had crossed if only infrequently over the last decades, might not intersect again as we set off in new directions." This has proved unhappily true. However, the upside of the Stromasys event was that as we departed, with freeware copies of an HP 3000 on a CD in our bags, I had the feeling that this time many of us expected to meet again in the future.
By the way, for those of you wondering why the Stromasys emulators are called CHARON: the legendary Charon is the ferryman over the river Styx, carrying you from your old life to the next. I'll leave it to your investigation to work out how Stromasys is derived from that legend.
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.
March 12, 2013
Charon: Think of it as a 3000 upgrade
Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He now points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement.
By Alan Yeo
Second of three parts
I think the most important thing I realised at this event is the CHARON HPA emulator isn't a piece of technology that allows you to do a direct replacement of your current old HP 3000 with a piece of new hardware, by just doing a store and restore. The best way that I think I can describe it is: imagine that HP had just launched a new range of HP 3000 systems called the "B" and "O" Class to replace the "A" and "N" and that these new HP servers would only run MPE/iX 8.0.
That 8.0 analogy doesn't quite apply, as the emulator ships with the final 7.5 version of MPE/iX. But you have to use the supplied 7.5 version, not your own, and if you are on anything earlier then you can think of this as an operating system upgrade as well as a hardware swap. So you probably are not going to get away with a STORE on your old system and a RESTORE with "KEEP" unless where you are coming from is an incredibly simple environment.
Whilst your CHARON box can retain the same HPSUSAN, it can't retain the same HPCPUNAME — and it is almost certainly is going to be running a later version of MPE/iX for most homesteaders. So you are going to have to do a good inventory of what software and third party products you are running; if they will run under 7.5; and possibly how to re-install them — especially if they have any components that hook into anything in SYS.
That means you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. But your reward could be improved performance.
How fast is it? The CHARON product manager Paul Taffel was very open about where the current sweet spot for performance of the CHARON emulator lies, which currently is anything up to the size of a low end N-Class. However they expect this to improve -- and unlike with the real N-Class hardware that officially topped at a 4-CPU system, using the Intel-based servers will enable Stromasys to create 6-way, 8-way and potentially even bigger CPU systems.
One interesting thing was pointed out that hadn't struck me before: we have been used to CPUs getting faster and faster, but these days that isn't quite so true. Most of the new boxes deliver high-quoted MIPS by adding more and more cores, rather than the individual cores getting any quicker. For an emulator that uses two cores to emulate an HP 3000 CPU core, this means there is actually a ceiling on performance. That's the performance from each core. So it might well be a while before commodity Intel hardware can match a high-end HP 3000.
In reality I don't think raw performance is going to an issue for anyone who's homesteading on older hardware. Looking at the great table of relative performance created by Wirt Atmar at his AICS Research site, you would have to be running a heavily loaded 9x9 or 997 for this emulator to struggle. That's not to say that there wasn't one company at the Stromasys event that said it was beta testing the emulator for such a requirement.
Next time: Accommodating tape technology and NAS, and summing up CHARON and where it takes the HP 3000.
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.
March 08, 2013
Change your clocks, all the time
The US will roll its clocks forward by one hour this weekend. That means it's time to anticipate the questions about keeping 3000 clocks in sync, for anyone who hasn't figured this out over the last several years. US law has altered our clock-changing weekends during that time, but the process to do so is proven.
Donna Hofmeister, whose firm Allegro Consultants hosts the free nettime utility, explains how time checks on a regular basis keep your clocks, well, regular.
This Sunday when using SETCLOCK to set the time ahead one hour, should the timezone be advanced one hour as well?
The cure is to run a clock setting job every Sunday and not go running about twice a year. You'll gain the benefit of regular scheduling and a mostly time-sync'd system.
In step a-1 of the job supplied below you'll find the following line:
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
Clearly, this needs to be changed.
If for some dreadful reason you're not running NTP, you might want to check out 'nettime'. And while you're there, pick up a copy of 'bigdirs' and run it -- please!
Also, this job depends on the variable TZ being set -- which is easily done in your system logon udc:
SETVAR TZ "PST8PDT"
Adapt as needed. And don't forget -- if your tztab file is out of date, just grab a copy from another system. It's just a file.
This job below was adapted from logic developed by Paul Christidis:
!TELLOP ALL MPE SYSTEMS
!TELLOP ==SETTIME -- SYNCs SYSTEM CLOCK W/ TIME SERVER !
!# from the help text for setclock....
!# Results of the Time Zone Form
!# If the change in time zone is to a later time (a change to Daylight
!# Savings Time or an "Eastern" geographic movement), both local time
!# and the time zone offset are changed immediately.
!# The effect is that users of local system time will see an immediate
!# jump forward to the new time zone, while users of Universal Time
!# will see no change.
!# If the change in time zone is to an earlier time (a change from
!# Daylight Savings to Standard Time or a "Western" geographic
!# movement), the time zone offset is changed immediately. Then the
!# local time slows down until the system time corresponds to the
!# time in the new time zone.
!# The effect is that users of local system time will see a gradual
!# slowdown to match the new time zone, while users of Universal Time
!# will see an immediate forward jump, then a slowdown until the
!# system time again matches "real" Universal Time.
!# This method of changing time zones ensures that no out-of-sequence
!# time stamps will occur either in local time or in Universal Time.
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME A-1
!/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B timesrv.someplace.com"
!if hpcierr <> 0
! echo hpcierr !hpcierr (!hpcierrmsg)
! tellop NTPDATE problem
!tellop SETTIME -- Pausing for time adjustment to complete....
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME B-1
!setvar FallPoint &
! (hpyyyy<=2006 AND (hpmonth = 10 AND hpdate > 24)) OR &
! (hpyyyy>=2007 AND (hpmonth = 11 AND hpdate < 8))
!setvar SpringPoint &
! (hpyyyy<=2006 AND (hpmonth = 4 AND hpdate< 8)) OR &
! (hpyyyy>=2007 AND (hpmonth = 3 AND (hpdate > 7 AND hpdate < 15)))
!# TZ should always be found
! if hpday = 1
! if SpringPoint
!# switch to daylight savings time
! setvar _tz_offset ![rht(lft(TZ,4),1)]-1
! setclock timezone=w![_tz_offset]:00
! elseif FallPoint
!# switch to standard time
! setvar _tz_offset ![rht(lft(TZ,4),1)]
! setclock timezone=w![_tz_offset]:00
!TELLOP ===================================== SETTIME C-1
Mark Ranft of 3k Pro added some experience with international clocks on the 3000.
If international time conversion is important to you, there are two additional things to do.
1) Set a system-wide UDC to set the TZ variable. (And perhaps account UDCs if accounts are for different locations)
TZ = CST6CDT
2) There is also a tztab.lib.sys that needs to be updated when countries change when or if they do DST.
ACCOUNT= SYS GROUP= LIB
FILENAME CODE ------------LOGICAL RECORD----------- ----SPACE----
SIZE TYP EOF LIMIT R/B SECTORS #X MX
TZTAB 1276B VA 681 681 1 96 1 8
# @(#) HP C/iX Library A.75.03 2008-02-26
# Mitteleuropaeische Zeit, Mitteleuropaeische Sommerzeit
0 3 25-31 3 1983-2038 0 MESZ-2
0 2 24-30 9 1983-1995 0 MEZ-1
0 2 25-31 10 1996-2038 0 MEZ-1
# Middle European Time, Middle European Time Daylight Savings Time
<< snipped >>
March 07, 2013
Enterprise Failure: Selling to the Consumer
COBOL expert and 3000 veteran Bruce Hobbs shared a story with me this week about selling straight to a product's users. That's the way HP 3000s moved into tens of thousands of companies during the 1980s. Back in those simpler sales days IT directors -- we called 'em DP managers in the day -- did the selecting and purchasing of corporate computer assets.
The sale happened in the office of the head computer honcho. This person was the consumer, if you will, of the product being offered. More than anything, they wanted something that would work and be a joy to use. (Joy being a relative term, considering it was the 1980s and ENQ/ACK was still a big part of what we called datacomm. Not networking, which was an even deeper black art.)
The story Mr. Hobbs shared was from the world of Apple, where a blogger took note of Why Nobody Can Copy Apple. In summary, Apple wants to sell directly to the user of its computing solutions. The mobile arm of this vendor now has a large footprint in corporations because of this. People are Bringing their Own Devices to the office. It's enough of a phenomenon to trigger a recent webinar on the topic from MB Foster.
However, current enterprise computing sales -- the kind that displaced the 3000 -- take place in an office outside of DP Departments (as we used to call them in the '80s). Corporate Purchasing began to buy systems, or the perhaps the selection happened in the Office of CFO. These officers were accountable to the cost of what they purchased, more so than how reliable or flexible or value-driven systems behaved. This is what put Intel PCs and Windows onto so many desks, long after the users curtailed all manner of love for these affordable choices.
This is the kind of technology selection that's gotten developers and IT administrators removed from decisions. Now IT must present its applications as a portfolio of assets, just to win a place at the boardroom table. No vendor cares less about enterprise-driven sales than Apple. And yet somehow the company has made itself a permanent resident in the plans of corporate IT. BYOD proves that consumer sales work.
You don't talk for long about Apple's culture without invoking Steve Jobs these days. It's a lot like the Bill and Dave stories that once cradled any Hewlett-Packard business computing discussions. Jobs had this to say about selling directly to the user of any computing device.
What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and if enough of them say ‘yes,’ we get to come to work tomorrow. That’s how it works. It’s really simple.
With the enterprise market, it’s not so simple. The people that use the products don’t decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused.
We all have sad memories of 3000-using companies who were hounded away from MPE by confused corporate purchasing departments. In the realm of the most price-driven organization, government, coming in just 8 percent lower in a bidding contest will earn a sale of something less worthy.
So the 3000 can sometimes earn its owner -- the technologist who still tends to it -- unfair emnity. "Our HP 3000 lives on here, to the immense annoyance of all those who do not understand and love it," said one DP Manager who talked to us on background. "I am personally hated because of my association with it, and viewed hereabouts as a dumb cluck with a degree in useless knowledge."
But corporations don't make products great. Consumers do that, especially when they recognize what they need and delight in getting it. Even when it's different, like Apple or the HP 3000. It doesn't take long to get to the passion then, those moments where the consumer uses the word love on an inanimate object.
March 06, 2013
Emulator earns exam for test databases
An HP 3000 manager is exploring the option of using the Stromasys emulator to host archived test databases as well as an inventory of vehicles and parts. If Stromasys could supply its software, the system could emulate an A500 server installed recently to replace a vintage Series 996.
The 32-year veteran of 3000 programming and management said he'd consider it "a rise in my personal stock if I could go to management and say the emulator could replace TurboIMAGE, VPlus and Pascal programs onto Intel hardware and mass storage.
"If that were true, and we could make it happen for $25,000, we might become a Stromasys customer," he said.
Their app tracks reliability and maintainability of vehicles. Reports have been created using Query and a few dozen customized Pascal programs. One portion of the application is still live: several parts and equipment databases for a warehouse operation. "They still have parts coming in and going out," the manager said.
The HP 3000 is also hosting data that's been static for more than three years. "We're required by regulation to have a way to bring it back online, or keep it there," he said. That 3000 archives hundreds of IMAGE databases that haven't been converted to Oracle.
"There's no new development," he said. "We do not have any COBOL, either,"
However, the situation at the testing center could be tailor-made for the emulator. There are virtually no third-party tools or apps to license, and the application that's online runs off basic HP FOS software, with the exception of those HP Pascal reports. Switching to Intel-based MPE can provide hardware security, so long as software licenses don't get in the way.
He convinced his managers to buy a used A500 HP 3000 several years ago, but the computer requires an ongoing maintenance contract and has had its problems over the last year. It would have been easy to make the case for an emulator while that server was experiencing problems, but the solution wasn't released at that time.
Mass storage support has become a lure for an emulator, too. A disk failure in that Series 996 was on a list of items for this manager to resolve. Emulation could tie newer storage into the system.
"I could have an IMAGE database, and Query files. That's incredible."
Third party solutions like the emulator have seen a rise at the center since HP's decline in the 3000 business. While HP provided support, "As we got to know more, and HP got cheaper, the amount of hand holding from them seriously declined," he said.
March 05, 2013
What Triggers a Need for New Tools?
Editor's note: One of our 2013 projects is exploring the range of development tools that are waiting on the other side of a move off the 3000. I checked in with Alan Yeo, the founder of ScreenJet and a provider of VPlus transition and modernization tools. He's also offering a Transact for non-3000 platforms, TransAction. More than a decade ago, Yeo wired up an interface from the Acubench COBOL suite into his ScreenJet software. The Acubench technology was acquired by Micro Focus five years ago, as part of absorbing the products and customers of Acucorp into the Micro Focus COBOL tool lineup.
By Alan Yeo
If you're developing on the HP 3000, most of the tools that are available do just about everything that is needed. They don't need to be that much better. Remember, if you're cutting code on the 3000 it's either batch code or it's got a UI. If it's got a UI, it's either home-grown or VPlus, and none of the new tools are going to buy you a lot more than existing tools will for that stuff.
Some old tools did integrate with source version control software — but not a lot of people were doing that on the 3000. There are a ton of tools available for the 3000 that people never used, because they could make do with the simple ones. They didn't get into trouble; they were a lot more professional because they could concentrate their knowledge in a smaller area.
I don't think a better development environment would trigger a migration. Who uses dev environments? Techies. The days when the techies in companies decided and led the choice of software solutions ended about 20 years ago. So there has to be a business need to migrate or implement something new. If a company is in a mindset of going somewhere, the protection of application assets by using new tools is an important point. What you've got available to protect that application investment has value.
Unfortunately, the terms migrate/migration have been mangled in their usage over the last decade. To me, a migration is when you take what you have and move it to a different platform (maybe with some changes on the way) or make a change in the base technology as a result of the migration. Buying a different package/applications isn't a migration.
Sure, you may have moved some of the data. But it's rather like buying a new phone and transferring your old phone numbers. You haven't migrated from one phone to the next. You have bought a new one, and binned the old one.
However, having said that, is there a business need to migrate, or a business need to junk what you have and get something new? Then yes, what tools are available in the new environment, what the applications are written in, how easy are they to maintain, how easy to get people with the needed skills — all these things are part of the equation.
As far as better tools for COBOL tools, if you're a COBOL shop, then moving to a better toolset than just a line editor makes a lot of sense. Something with a built-in debugger, for example. Would I use something like the latest COBOL tools to develop something new with a UI? No. Been there done that, and I've been locked into proprietary products that go away. No, COBOL is great for back-end processing, but it isn't a UI product, regardless of how many bells and whistles you hang on it.
And that's from someone who still thinks COBOL is the best app development language, especially for apps that need ongoing maintenance, development and support.
March 04, 2013
Modern COBOL awaits in migrations
Migrating 3000 sites, as well as prospects, can expect one element to remain the same: COBOL. Unless a company is buying an off-the-shelf application to replace their 3000 suite, COBOL will remain in control even on a platform as novel as Linux. We haven't heard many reports of 3000 sites rewriting from COBOL to anything else, simply to maintain their mission-critical in-house apps. (Ruby, an object oriented programming language, has been stepping in for COBOL at QSS, the K-12 application provider with 3000 customers.) What tips the scales in favor of sticking with COBOL is more than a developer's comfort with the language. Relaxed formatting and structure are hallmarks of any modern COBOL.
Is sticking with COBOL in 2013 a sound choice? To be sure, many 3000 users wouldn't choose COBOL for a brand-new app. Many are developing in other environments (Visual Studio) on what we call surround platforms. The key data remains on a 3000 for now, feeding those other-apps.
But COBOL has changed a great deal, and for the better, if you decide to move away from HP's COBOL II. The language once had a reputation of being verbose. Okay, that hasn't changed. But COBOL in updated flavors has dropped all the fixed A/B margin formatting, uppercase-only text and rigid division-section structure that was still in place when HP left the languages business.
COBOL supporters in your community still like to talk about how readable and maintainable COBOL still is, even in the face of the brace-and-bracket languages world. George Willis of investment house Fayez Sarofim migrated the MPE applications using AMXW, "so that we could 'lift and shift' our COBOL and Powerhouse code with somewhat minimal changes." The company chose HP's Unix as its platform last year, but AMXW works with Windows and Linux, too.
The exception to COBOL is FORTRAN in the 3000 world. MANMAN relies upon FORTRAN for its MRP work, and many a manufacturing site has coded in customizations using FORTRAN. But outside of the manufacturing base, COBOL rules the past as well as the future.
The advantage to starting with a clean slate for a mission-critical application: you choose whatever language fits best. But 3000 sites don't get a clean-slate restart, since the data is always of legacy vintage. You wouldn't write a mobile application in COBOL. But when you consider the tasks 3000 apps perform -- rely on transactions, used record-structured data, handle heavy loads -- COBOL still fits well.
A white paper from Creative Intellect Consulting says that "COBOL's past shortcomings don't compromise its appropriateness for the future." That is only true, however, if a modern COBOL is waiting on the other side of a migration. Everything is more modern than COBOL II, and right at the end of HP's 3000 futures one company modernized COBOL II. The suite that emerged was called AcuCOBOL-GT.
Acucorp released the product as a revamp of MPE/iX COBOL, but it emerged within a few months of HP's 2001 exit announcement. Now AcuCOBOL-GT has been absorbed by Micro Focus, whose Visual COBOL 2.1 is still adding more compatibility for AcuCOBOL. Some companies that made the jump to things like AMXW embraced AcuCOBOL as part of their move.
There are still macro issues to resolve, for the companies which employed them in their 3000 applications. Consultant Michael Anderson of J3k Solutions reports that the way he handled macros in COBOL II while moving to HP-UX is "to compile the original source on MPE, and then use the listfile as the new source code for HP-UX-based AcuCOBOL or Micro Focus COBOL. Then do some cutting and pasting into new copy books (COPYLIBs) on the HP-UX server."
Visual Studio, probably the most widely adopted development environment for companies that rewrote code to .NET, is supported by the Micro Focus product. That support lets customers edit, compile and debug using Visual Studio 2012 or 2010. This COBOL support isn't widely known, if you're examining Visual Studio from the world of Windows. Support for Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual C++ is built in to the free "Express" versions of Visual Studio. But if your frame of reference for development is COBOL rather than Windows, you'll know that going Visual doesn't mean leaving COBOL behind.
MicroFocus doesn't own all of the modern COBOL choices. There's COBOL-IT, a commercialization of the OpenCOBOL open source code. COBOL-IT has been built by former Acucorp managers, using the same model that's worked in other open source advances: improve upon features without erasing compatibility, then add professional-level support. As recently as two years ago, Speedware (now Fresche Legacy) was promoting the use of COBOL-IT in migrated environments. Fresche is now working closely with Micro Focus, too.
There's also Fujitsu's NetCOBOL, which includes support for .NET as well as Windows' Visual tools. There's a difference in pricing as well as reach between Fujitsu and Micro Focus. NetCOBOL supports Linux and Solaris along with Windows, and it doesn't use a runtime pricing model. The Micro Focus tools -- and there are a mighty raft of them, considering the company aquired Borland, too -- run everywhere. (Well, maybe not under MPE. But there's that Acucorp heritage inside the software, after all.)
Proven success keeps COBOL running much of the world's business computing, more than 50 years after the language was invented. It's hard to refuse something that's worked for this long -- if its community keeps reinventing it. If your IT efforts include care for languages and programs, like so many do, then caring about your next COBOL should be an issue to investigate.
March 01, 2013
Next weekend, it's all in the 3000's timing
Editor's Note: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2AM local time around most of the world next weekend. A lot of HP 3000s run around the clock to serve companies, so a plan to keep the 3000 on time is essential. The founder of the HP 3000 open source repository MPE-OpenSource.org, Brian Edminster, offers a plan, some experience, and a sample jobstream to help get you through our semi-annual time change.
By Brian Edminster
Here's an important implementation note for anyone that wants to put up a 'time synchronization' client on their HP 3000: Do not use it to adjust for spring and fall time-changes! Use a job that runs on the appropriate dates/times to do a 'setclock timezone=' command. I have an example below that is a derivative work from something originally posted by Sam Knight of Jacksonville University, way back in April, 2004 on the 3000-L mailing list.
I've updated the job to be more readable, to account for a 'looping' effect that I found in the fall from running on a fast CPU, and to run at 2AM -- the 'official' time that time-changes apply. I have this job set to be intiated by 'SYSSTART.PUB.SYS' on server bootup, and then automatically reschedule itself each Sunday at 2AM.
I'd suggest doing whatever sort of time synchronization necessary before this runs each weekend - so the time corrections complete before this job runs.
Here's the spring and fall time change jobstream code. You can use this and modify it for your specific needs. Note that it's set up for the Eastern US time zone. (That's the TIMEZONE = W5:00 -- meaning the number of hours different than GMT -- and TIMEZONE = W4:00 lines.) Modify these lines as necessary for your timezone.
!setvar Sunday, 1
!setvar March, 3
!setvar November, 11
!if hpday = Sunday and &
! hpmonth = November and &
! hpdate < 8 then
! comment (first Sunday of November)
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W5:00
! TELLOP ********************************************
! TELLOP Changing the system clock to STANDARD TIME.
! TELLOP The clock will S L O W D O W N until
! TELLOP we have fallen back one hour.
! TELLOP ********************************************
!elseif hpday = Sunday and &
! hpmonth = March and &
! hpdate > 7 and hpdate < 15 then
! comment (second Sunday of March)
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W4:00
! TELLOP *********************************************
! TELLOP Changing the system clock to DAYLIGHT SAVINGS
! TELLOP TIME. The clock jumped ahead one hour.
! TELLOP *********************************************
! comment (no changes today!)
! TELLOP *********************************************
! TELLOP No Standard/Daylight Savings Time Chgs Req'd
! TELLOP *********************************************
!comment - to avoid 'looping' on fast CPU's pause long enough for
!comment - local clock time to be > 2:00a, even in fall...
!while hphour = 2 and hpminute = 0
! TELLOP Pausing 1 minute... waiting to pass 2am
! TELLOP Current Date/Time: !HPDATEF - !HPTIMEF
! pause 60