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May 31, 2013

What Else Everyone is Doing These Days

Multifaceted-150x150Multi-tasking has been debunked, but a multi-faceted career is common in your 3000 community. We used to think we could work on several things at once. Now it's obvious that what we really need to do is work at something else, even while we all take care of the partner who brought us to the computer dance.

Take Birket Foster, for example. One of the best-known 3000 community members, he has been chairman and director of Storm Internet Services since 2003. The wireless Internet company serves customers in rural and outlying areas of Eastern Ontario. Not a small venture, either, but one built upon HP 3000 success. A recent article in the Eastern Ontario AgriNews took note of Storm's latest "freestanding wireless tower and company support centre, [raised up] on the grounds of his longtime software business on Main Street in Chesterville."

No MB Foster Associates, no Storm. The wireless venture grew up during the transition era for the 3000. This is what I mean by the "else" much of the community does. Take Richard Corn, who created the ESPUL and NP92 printing utilities for MPE, all the way back to the Classic 3000 days. Rich, a charter supporter of the Newswire, is also selling Cloud Print for Windows software today. Again, no RACC, no Software Devices LLC, where that Windows software is developed and sold. He's still supporting ESPUL, by the way.

I could include myself in the What Else Workers. My partner Abby and I established the Newswire when most people knew her as Dottie Lentz, and for years we did nothing else but 3000 information services. From the days of her Bolt Bucks giveaways at HP World conferences, we've evolved into additional ventures. My own What Else is The Writer's Workshop, where writers who range from fledglings to published novelists gather Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and by appointment to learn and practice storytelling. They finish novels like Danuta or Lay Death at Her Door. I finished my novel Viral Times during the transition era. Without missing a day of the 3000 news from our current times, I could re-engage my fundamental skills and desire: storytelling and writing. I strut my stuff on The Write Stuff and Twitter about storytelling at @ronseybold.

Does the 3000 community suffer from the What Else work? It depends on your perspective and role. Did you sell HP 3000s and create them, or launch new customers with your applications? Adding a facet to those jobs might be at the 3000's expense. Ecometry cast away its 3000 aspirations -- although it supports several dozen MPE sites -- to create a Windows multichannel commerce version of what was once known as MACS/3000, built by Alan Gardner and partner Will Smith. Gardner and Smith never get to sell off the company for millions unless they've built up more than 300 customers using their software.

Alas, no new Ecometry sites today, but Robelle is among the companies still supporting the 3000 version of the software. Its website tells the Ecometry user "you are already a Robelle customer, even if you don't realize it, since the Ecometry application uses Robelle's Suprtool to speed up data access." For more than a decade Robelle has sold HP-UX versions of Suprtool, and even more lately, a Linux version. Not exactly a What Else, just another facet. But when we speak of Robelle, we must make a transition in this What Else tale to those who continue to dedicate themselves to the 3000. They've chosen no sort of What Else, often for reasons of strict technical focus.

Adager and VEsoft lead the way in omnipresent vendors with an MPE-only focus. What they're doing works at such a fundamental level of the 3000 that it demands full-time attention. Alan Yeo is also dedicated to the HP 3000 -- in its migrations as well as support of 3000 clients -- at ScreenJet. Pivital Solutions is an all-3000 venture, and using its dedicated focus leads to satisfied support clients. Customers are also happy at Allegro Consultants and Beechglen. Both of those support providers serve as many or more non-3000 sites today. Allegro's What Else is creating iOS applications, some that interact with HP 3000s as well as Linux and Unix servers. And if your name is the MPE Support Group, your focus is pretty clear.

Meanwhile, the Support Group serves MANMAN sites with ERP needs at the same time that it created partner Entsgo, an HP, IBM, IFS, and Openbravo solutions partner. If you haven't heard of Openbravo, you might not be aware that it's "professional open source solutions for business, offering the industry's first real alternative to proprietary enterprise software." And the Support Group is keen on Kenandy Cloud ERP, another solution related to the 3000, but evolved beyond it. Kenandy is built on the ASK Software foundations of Sandy Kurtzing. Before she became Kenandy CEO, she and her partners were working in kitchens with 3000s hooked to acoustical couplers in the 1970s, growing up MANMAN, and therefore the 3000's manufacturing heartland.

And the individuals? Jeff Vance is one of the best-known names in the world with 3000 excellence in his CV. Vance left the HP 3000 lab to join K-12 app provider QSS, a move to drive that ISV into the Linux application marketplace. Not so long ago Vance left QSS to work at Red Hat, pretty much where Linux grew up into a commercial solution.

Again, no MPE lab, no chance to work at the company whose environment will replace HP's Unix. Vance has taken the kind of What Else that becomes All Else, since his days of MPE UDC and utility development are done. Michael Berkowitz was our first paying subscriber to the Newswire, but long after Guess Jeans turned off its 3000 and turned him to other technical work elsewhere, Michael still keeps an eye on 3000 people through the community's 3000-L mail list.

Today he reported on some of the other HP lab experts gone elsewhere. Visiting Vance's LinkedIn page, Berkowitz notes

So I go to the webpage, find that he's working for Red Hat, but also notice the "people also viewed" column on the far right.  Lots of names from the past.

Mike Paivinen
Scott McClellan
Becky McBride
Craig Fairchild
Steve Macsisak
Stephen Watt

Of that group, including Jeff, only two (Becky and Craig) are at HP, the company they might have thought they'd be employed for life.

Fair enough, but HP's been shedding tens of thousands of good people for the entire period of the 3000's transition. Walter Murray went from the HP Langauges Lab to the California Corrections organization. Now he's in an All Else post, managing IBM mainframes there. As a What Else fellow, former HP Support Escalation expert Bob Chase is now at SMS, where his clients include Unix and Linux enterprise managers.

There are others, many others -- maybe the majority of community keystones -- who do a What Else today. Look around to see Fresche Legacy transforming legacy environments in the AS/400 community. Even while it's got its Speedware roots dug in at application support engagements for 3000s, and employing a surprising number of MPE veterans. Applied Technologies, a company building its engagements around open source software to help companies using 3000s, as well as those that do not. 

Of course, there's the biggest debutante of the 3000 ball, Stromasys and its virtualization emulator. This company started up serving the Digital world with Charon and continues to do so. They've added the 3000 to their facets -- and so in a rare turn, Charon PA-RISC servers became a What Else for that vendor.

This is the way of our 2013 working world. We go on to something Else, because of what created our expertise, whether it's What Else or All Else. But the 3000 remains essential to success in multiple facets or in new gems of careers. Charles Finley, once one of the stoutest 3000 resellers from his Southern California Conam base where he grew SCRUG into a user group force, commented on Berkowitz's inventory of who's gone from HP.

I'd like to give Finley, now going after transitions at Transformix, the last word -- but first say this: everybody is doing what it takes to stay busy with what's needed. And the HP 3000 is so solid that it is, as the Skin Horse said in The Velveteen Rabbit, a computer that's Real. "Becoming Real takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept." Much of the 3000's ability to make room for What Else is because it does not break easily.

Finley has it right about what makes everyone who still knows the 3000 well someone who's very Real. It's all about the relationships, the wellsprings of the computer's stories.

Those, admittedly competent, HP people only represent an era in which there was a substantial connection between HP and its loyal installed base. That was not valued by some people in power at the time. Therefore, they dismantled it. What I also believe to be true is that it is unlikely that they at HP can ever get it or anything like it back, even if someone was empowered to try. 

I would venture to guess that those same people are doing a great job at their current employer because that's the kind of people they are. However, I would also guess that it is not likely that their current employer, unless it is some subset of IBM, has a similar relationship with their installed base that HP once had.

07:38 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 30, 2013

10 Simple Steps to Security Compliance

Float-staircaseEditor's Note: Our security expert Steven Hardwick of Oxygen Finance wraps up his tutorial on the process of compliance by providing the list below -- written out as directly as if it were self-help advice in a magazine. Help yourself to a better grasp of meeting any security requirements, especially those which may present themselves for the first time after a migration.

By Steven Hardwick, CISSP
Oxygen Finance

Last in a series

Putting a security program in place can be very simple and extremely effective. Another advantage is that the mitigation effort can be done over a period of time, spreading out the cost and effort required. Plus, this will get more people involved and help create awareness and make compliance easier. Finally, an on-going program will give on-going protection against a breach.

Mapping it out

Here are 10 simple steps that can be followed to help make the process of compliance a lot easier:

1) Identify the various information types that are in your organization. This is called a data categorization exercise. This will give a good understanding of what needs to be protected.

2) Pick a security framework to build a model of what type of security controls you need in your organization.

3) Breakdown the controls into Physical, Technical and Administrative to highlight the owner of the control.

4) Take stock of what is in place already by completing an internal audit. This can be done using internal resources or external companies can be hired to conduct it.

5) Create a baseline. This will give a set of security controls that are in place and broken into definable categorizes. This jump start will make a compliance exercise a lot easier.

6) Pull the team together. Once the baseline has been established, the job of conducting a compliance exercise is a lot easier. Getting the help of the control owners at this point becomes more effective as a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done.

7) Conduct the compliance assessment. At this point the target data, security controls and owners have been identified. 

8) Present results and define a mitigation strategy. This will involve taking the results to the right level -- more often that not, the CEO level.

9) Once the mitigation is complete, conduct another assessment against the compliance requirements to make sure everything has been addressed. It is always a good idea to include the baseline set in this assessment as it will re-establish the baseline

10) Start/continue the ongoing security program making sure that it takes into consideration any new security controls added during the assessment stages. 

Security regulatory compliance can be a nasty business. With the right approach, the disruptions can be minimized. With the right understanding of the compliance goals and effort, a better view of what is being protected can be gained. Splitting the task to the right owners is essential to minimizing effort and getting the right people involved to make decisions. Establishing a baseline and maintaining a security program will make compliance easier and ensure on-going protection.

Steven Hardwick manages security for pre-payments provider Oxygen Financial, a Euro-founded company now extending its services to North American IT operations.

06:58 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 29, 2013

Hardware Cherished, Hardware Valued

HP's 3000 hardware has been taking a free fall in market value for several years by now, a slide that's drawn even the biggest of servers into the low five-figures of price. This is the way of the world for every computer ever built. But it happens more slowly to the computers which are cherished, instead of just used.

CherishA few messages out on the 3000 newsgroup highlighted that fact of our life in 2013. Tom Lang was forced to sell his Series 918RX, because he doesn't have room to use it in his new working space. He announced it was on offer at the end of February. Over "many weeks," as he reported, many enquirers asked lots of questions about the server. In mid-May, he reduced the price of the system to $1,100.

There are a lot of extras in Lang's package. These bonus parts don't show up in a lot of Series 918s. And the system has probably the best feature of all: a valid MPE/iX license. HP doesn't make those any longer, and nobody can emulate that element, either.

However, Lang heard from other 3000 owners and managers that four figures were at least one figure too many to sell a server that HP used as the 1.0 rating benchmark -- back when HP used to rate 3000 performance. For the record, the fastest 3000 ever produced, and sold for well over six figures at the time, ran at 49 times the power of a 918.

In ancient times, HP used a Series 37 Mighty Mouse as its 1.0 rating. The Series 37 did not outlast HP's MPE licensing business, however. Lang was told on the group that two Series 918s went directly to the scrap heap at one UK business. At another site, one manager said the price that seemed reasonable for a server that included a license was $200.

Until HP relents and begins to sell MPE/iX licenses to go with its Reseller Agreement for the Stromasys Charon 3000 emulator, $200 seems pretty low.

The operating system is the most durable part of a 3000, when you include its database in the valuation. If a customer has got their eyes on adding an emulated 3000 to their IT datacenter, these old servers are just the right piece for an audit-proof installation.

Some of the advice on the value of a 3000 was of a more gentle nature. "A rock solid machine," said Michael Anderson of J3K Solutions, "but sadly, not much of a market for it anymore."

Anderson knows of a company that paid about $8,000 for a 918 in 2003. It included a disc-array, DLT, DDS-3, 512 MB of RAM, and about 50Gb of disc. "They sent it to auction in 2007, and I got great deal on it, mostly because nobody at the auction knew what it was," Anderson explained. "It's been running for 5-plus years without any problems, during the same time period I've gone through three PCs. Apparently, now-a-days, it's not a good idea to manufacture products that keep working."

The HP 3000 was always sold at a premium compared to more popular systems. HP insisted that it protect the value (that means "pricing") of the servers sold earlier in the business life of HP's 3000. But the vendor didn't do much to protect the brand of MPE or the 3000 or IMAGE.

So the HP hardware's future and value is riding on the nature of being cherished, instead of its still-indelible durability that Anderson has chronicled. Not so long ago, a strategic analyst on the 3000 web-paths said that "people pay about twice as much for Apple systems as for others," and that Apple just put those extra dollars in its pockets. But being a brand which is cherished is one kind of asset, and being a brand that's cherished out loud by the industry's greatest marketing organization is quite another thing.

Never mind that you cannot find the jackalope of a Windows system priced at half of an Apple system, which will do the same work with equivalent components. Unless you can twist a Torx wrench, or know how to wear a static strap, whatever costs half as much will do less. I went to look for a new $575 SSD-based 11-inch laptop, built to Apple's Macbook Air standards and with the same horsepower. I gave up after about a half-hour. You can hunt for a jackalope a long time.

But the equation works in the other direction, if someone like Anderson is doing the shopping. A $500 Series 918 does so much more than any $1,000 PC, if your applications are already in MPEiX and use IMAGE. Stromasys can't sell MPE/iX licenses to make a copy of Charon HPA/3000 legal. Only HP can do that.

SkinhorseIt will be worth watching to see if Hewlett-Packard can see its way to selling what will make an emulator truly legal. Before too much longer, HP is going to have to do that for HP-UX customers who'll use an emulator -- one that replaces an Itanium server. The natural state of every computer system is virtualization. Being cherished, that's something you cannot virtualize. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, only the love of an owner can make software that Becomes Real. Maybe it's that way for MPE -- like the Skin Horse said about being Real, "it takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept."

07:58 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 28, 2013

How to Comply with Security Audit Requests

Editor's Note: At the intersection of cutting-edge security needs and the new territory of migration environments lay security regulations. HP 3000 managers might not be familiar with any process that goes beyond HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley or PCI credit card demands. (Although that sounds like a pretty big list anyway.) As a result of his job advising the clients of Oxygen Finance, security expert Steven Hardwick has taken us through the steps of responding to security regulation requests -- and proving your system's compliance.

By Steven Hardwick

Third in a series

In many cases, a compliance audit is viewed like a bad case of the flu. While it is ongoing it is miserable and many wish it would end. Once over, everyone is happy it is behind them. Fortunately, like the flu, precautions can be taken to help make the event a lot less traumatic and uncomfortable.

A request to comply to a specific regulations can be daunting. The major challenge is that the regulations are written by security specialists and for security specialists. To make matters worse, the regulations themselves may not be overly specific in the exact response required. 

AuditOne of the first steps is to understand which data set is covered by the regulation. As outlined in our second article, a regulation is directed to a specific set of information: PCI = credit card data, for example. It is very important to identify the people, systems and environments that deal with the data in question. This will give an indication of the minimum scope of the regulations. 

Minimum? Well, one advantage of a regulation is that it is compiled from security specialists. Although the full measure of the regulation applies to specific data sets, there is no reason that elements of the requirements can't be used for other data sets. In fact, it may be easier to apply the certain requirement to all data in a certain system; encryption is a good example.

The next step is to try and categorize the requirements against the security controls they relate to. The goal of a regulation is to look at a wide variety of ways information can be compromised. This will break down into the physical, technical and administrative groups (which we covered in our first article). Doing this, you can make an alignment with the owner of the area that's affected. 

Finally, determine who should be the final decision maker when it comes to defining how well the regulation has been met. Compliance is an exercise in measuring the security environment against an approved set of requirements. One constant challenge is what to do if the environment does not meet the standard. This exposes a risk to the organization. You must decide to either address the risk (mitigate it), transfer the risk (buy insurance) or accept it (do not mitigate). Since senior management is responsible for assessing the risk to the corporation, they must be part of the decision-making when it comes to compliance. Especially mitigating any gaps found during the compliance assessment. 

By the way, “doing nothing” equals accepting the risk.

Another approach is to conduct an internal assessment that is not based on a set of regulations to establish a baseline. This assessment can be simple, but very effective in finding the more obvious gaps in a security infrastructure. It also has an advantage that any mitigation can be carried out at a pace set by the organization instead of reacting to a compliance deadline. Furthermore, the scope can be set to encompass all data within the corporation. 

For example, I have seen data covered by a regulation that was well protected, while other data, such as intellectual property, had little to no protection. Very often there is a misconception that being compliant equals being secure. A comprehensive and free resource on how to conduct an assessment is the NIST SP800-30 Guide to Conducting Risk Assessments.

Using a security framework is another useful approach. One major challenge is the need to comply with multiple regulations. A security framework will help establish a general set of security requirements. Each pertinent regulation can then be stacked up against the framework and the commonalities identified. This will minimize the amount of effort and cost associated with the compliance effort. 

A good example of this type of tool is the security matrix from the Cloud Security Alliance.  Although targeted to cloud services providers, it can provide a good starting point to making a tool to handle multiple compliance requirements. One added benefit of choosing a framework: it will break down the controls into the various control categories, making it easier to identify the owner. 

Next time: 10 Simple Steps to make the process of compliance easier

06:06 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 24, 2013

eZ-MPE opens new Windows for 3000 sites

Print-ExclusiveMB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE, and it’s aiming customers at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for HP 3000 sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications.

Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead. 

“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.” 

For example, the database environment mimics the IMAGE database, Whitehead said. A command line utility manages other functions and data types.

The eZ-MPE solution evolved during the migrating of custom code for customers into a Windows environment, the target environment for eZ-MPE migrations. For example, MBF Scheduler has been replacing the features and comprehensive functionality of HP 3000 batch scheduler and job control software including independently managed queues and a “job fence,” mimicking a module which is embedded in MPE/iX.

The company’s familiarity with the HP 3000 way of computing management is designed to set eZ-MPE apart from prior efforts to bring across 3000 customers. AMXW, built by Neartek at the start of this century, as well as Ordina’s MPUX, don’t deliver the full range of the MB Foster product, said Whitehead. Lock-in with those other solutions is automatic. There’s no easy way to embrace the best of Windows or Unix.

The biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment.

“It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term,” Whitehead said. “You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.” He said in the company’s engagements with enterprise clients, the sites want to leverage benefits of the new native environment, not just migrate quickly.

Portions of the eZ-MPE package which Whitehead mentioned included a target database for Windows, VPlus screens converted and modernized, a file system library similar to the 3000’s “but one that specifically handles nuances and translations between KSAM and itself.” Utilities include other aspects of handling implementations of items like sorting, merging, log-ins including UDCs, the job control language. “All of those things are necessary within a 3000 environment — but as you transition, they’re also necessary in the Windows world.” 

MB Foster is already working with a customer using eZ-MPE, and that customer has implemented the environment, Whitehead said. “It’s been thoroughly tested. It was the original thought we had for this customer, and eZ-MPE is more effective for them than re-writing to a native port.”

Software for migrating data, entire databases, scripts and more has been in the MB Foster stable for several years. Some of the solutions, like the data migration products, have been working in production environments since the late 1980s. Lately, the company has begun to sell some of its software — previously used only for services engagements — to sites for their internal IT use.

More recently, UDAXpress has been developed to take the place of the 3000’s scripting ability. The other product which has had a standalone lifecycle and has become a part of eZ-MPE is MBF Scheduler. Both of those products work exclusively in the Windows environment to replace MPE capabilities. More recently, the UDALink tool—including reporting, JDBC and ODBC access—was migrated to work with HP’s Itanium servers in the Unix environment. 

The vendor has no announced plans to deploy eZ-MPE to any Unix or Linux environments. Most 3000 customers who are still on the move want to adopt Windows.

“On most days, our clients are looking for a Windows-type of solution,” Whitehead said.” They feel the Windows environment is now stable enough and scalable enough. They’ve had enough exposure to that environment and the Microsoft suite of products. ” Even within any Unix environment, Windows servers will be part of the solution.

eZ-MPE has a menu system as a native part of its environment; this handles the operations of UDCs running on HP 3000s, as well as “VEsoft MPEX environments,” Whitehead said. A system layer capability handles all system calls and translations. 

eZ-MPE manages the nuances of VPlus screens, controls access to applications, and uses its own file system library for call management and translation between KSAM and relational databases. Its IMAGE library converts TurboIMAGE calls to ODBC calls, and facilitates a move to a native environment as part of a site’s long-range plans.

The value of MBF eZ-MPE is more encompassing than simply screen handling, file systems, and databases. A typical in-house developed business application includes scripting, sorting, merging, logins, job control (JCL), FTP services, and scheduling requirements. MBF eZ-MPE includes solutions for all of these as well.

It’s also aimed at 3000 sites which are not using packaged applications. By process of elimination, that is still most of the HP 3000 customers who continue to use the platform. 

“Its real target is for organizations that have custom code, and want to preserve it,” Whitehead said, “and also want to transition to a supportable platform.”

The MB Foster software, which is also tied to services such as an assessment of existing environment, offers more range than emulated solutions, according to Whitehead. “We’re not locking anybody into an environment,” he said. “We’re allowing the 3000 customers to modernize, change and grow and prosper — not only with the eZ-MPE environment, but slowly over time, to move away from it, to a native Windows environment too.”

03:18 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2013

Business Critical System Q2 sales plummet

HPQ Q2Hewlett-Packard announced a $1.1 billion profit on its fiscal Q2 today, but the figures were not buoyed by the HP segment which makes replacement systems for HP 3000 migrators. Business Criticial Systems -- the group where Itanium systems are sold, along with the HP-UX that runs only on that server -- saw its sales drop 37 percent from the Q2 of last year.

The overall news was not as grim from the rest of HP Enterprise Group, the organization where Linux-capable ProLiant servers are sold along with networking gear. Enterprise Group revenue declined 10 percent year over year. Networking revenue was flat, but those Industry Standard Servers' revenue that drives Linux hosts was down 12 percent. Storage sales fell 13 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 3 percent year over year.

HP CEO Meg Whitman decided to shine the spotlight on HP's overall ability to beat the market's estimates for profits. The company posted a total of $27.6 billion in overall sales, which was a drop of 10 percent from 2012. Whitman had to point at the Non-Generally Accepted Accounting Pracitces numbers -- always more favorable -- to claim a win.

"We beat the upper end of our non-GAAP diluted [Earings Per Share] EPS outlook for the quarter by 5 cents per share, driven by better than expected performance in Enterprise Services and Printing, coupled with the accelerated capture of restructuring savings and improvement in our operations," said Whitman.

HP estimated its 2013 earnings to be in the range of $2.50 to $2.60, in line with HP's previously communicated outlook. For 2013, HP is accounting for after-tax costs of approximately $1 per share, "related primarily to the amortization of purchased intangible assets, restructuring charges and acquisition-related charges.

"I am encouraged by our performance in the second quarter, and I feel good about the rest of the year," added Whitman. "As I have said many times before, this is a multi-year journey. We have a long way to go, but we are on track to deliver on our fiscal 2013 non-GAAP diluted earnings per share outlook."

Support revenues showed just about the only significant uptick on the HP report. Support revenue was up 12 percent, while license revenue was down 23 percent and services revenue was down 5 percent year over year. Printing revenue declined 1 percent year over year. Total hardware units were down 11 percent year over year. Commercial hardware units were down 5% year over year, and Consumer hardware units were down 13 percent year over year.

Enterprise Services revenue declined 8 percent year over year. Application and Business Services revenue was down 10 percent year over year, and IT Outsourcing revenue declined 6percent  year over year.

Software revenue was also down 3 percent year over year.

HP also announced its board of directors has declared a regular cash dividend of 14.52 cents per share on the company's common stock, which, as previously announced, reflects a 10 percent increase in amount compared to the previous quarterly dividend. The dividend, the third in HP's fiscal year 2013, is payable on July 3, 2013, to stockholders of record as of the close of business on June 12, 2013.

More information on HP's earnings, including additional financial analysis and an earnings overview presentation, is available on HP's Investor Relations website at www.hp.com/investor/home.

HP's Q2 FY13 earnings conference call is accessible via an audio webcast at www.hp.com/investor/2013Q2webcast.

 

03:45 PM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 22, 2013

Finding our Fix-It Chick. Got yours?

WideWorldHead185As I write my offices are full of the sounds of saws, nail guns, feet shuffling across old floors and power clicking off and on. Let me explain. We’re making a change or 57 here, something that feels as profound as any transition project — whether to an emulator for homesteading, or the revisions for migrations.

People as old as most 3000 veterans can marvel at what the Web has brought since we began our careers. These days I talk to experts who started computing when modems were 110 baud, instead of the networked 18 gigabits that don’t even require a modem. We've upgraded our Internet speed pipe here at the NewsWire, a company that has always called our house its home. That home, like your server, is in need of changes.

For 18 years, our back two side-by-side bedrooms have bristled with wires strung between the rooms of our offices, added for one new device or scheme. We upgraded our infrastructure, as an IT manager would say; much is wireless. But we’ve been doing much more, changes with a senior future in mind. Perhaps like you. Fortunately, we have help to plan, as well as implement. We're clever and bright, but we need the help. Perhaps like you, or like our ally Birket Foster has long suggested.

Abby and I are doing our latest, largest renovation of our 36-year-old house this spring. It’s a task with details, surprises, planning and delight in the results. This morning while I write, we are watching new Ikea cabinets rise in a kitchen that was gutted, but still working before the demo of tile countertops and a stove and oven with many turkeys and pies in its history.

We have moved walls, painted and removed the antiquated ceiling popcorn, watched the sculpture of drywall floating and mudding, the art of tiling with glass. On and on it goes, from a ‘70’s bathtub to a steam shower, from chipped and unforgiving floor tile to nature-friendly bamboo, to creating a space where my lovely yogini can practice her stretching arts in a guest room with a Murphy bed to make a studio floor appear.

Long ago my friend Birket had his kitchen in his Chesterville home remodeled. This too was a house where a business grew up. The basement of his first location had 3000s networked into racks and employees who arrived at the kitchen door to sell and create software and follow a vision.

After his remodel, Birket began to compare a big project like migration or renovation to a remodel. You succeed, he always said, with a great plan and a good guide. Abby and I have been lucky to have both of these, but the most important is our general contractor, designer and now friend, Kristi Copeland.

Kristi left the world of software at Convio to follow her dream of building the dreams of others. It’s been more than four months since we started to work together. My mantra by now, when a cabinet doesn’t quite meet a ceiling or a steam unit delivers Error Code 5 or the automatic closet light misbehaves — my confidence comes from, “Kristi will know.”

I hope that even in this era of Web brilliance, when the sparkle of IT wisdom is a click away, you can find your own Kristi. She blazes through updates via email and texts and shops the Web with passion, so the Internet is making our transition possible on our modest budget. Having someone who will know saves more than money, however. It saves relationships between partners. Abby and I do not need all the knowledge and experience so essential to transforming our office and home. We rely on our Fix-It-Chick, something you can find for your future, too. 

09:42 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2013

Six Years of Insight on the Afterlife

HellSix years ago this month I revisited the site where I first heard of the "death of the HP 3000." HP wanted to call its exit from the 3000 community by that phrase in November, 2001. Instead we're thinking about the afterlife this month, in the wake of the North American sales force opening for the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. Who needs this? At the Stromasys event, I heard from third party support companies that Hewlett-Packard continues to use MPE/iX applications -- which must be pretty crucial and costly to migrate.

It's a safe to say that the Worldwide Reseller Agreement for the emulator could be a benefit to HP's own operations. Such systems are usually scheduled for migration. But as Stromasys GM Bill Driest said at this month's Training Day, "I'm a quota-carrying salesman, and the phrase we use is "Liars are buyers.' "

In other words, a customer who says they'll migrate has a chance of being on the server longer than they expect. Does that make them liars when they say they'll be off the 3000? Maybe, but more likely it's a matter of timing and degree -- the same things that tamped down my panic when I heard in a phone booth in Lausanne's train station my distraught partner Abby telling me, "HP says the 3000 is going away. They're not going to make it anymore. They need to talk to you, before they announce."

I ponder the afterlife that's emerged because that's where I think my mom is today. We sent her off in a memorial service on Sunday, when three of us eulogized her with imaginations of her dancing in heaven, catching up my dad in the afterlife, or asserting, like I did (at 12:00 in the YouTube video), "They say nothing dies if it lives on in the hearts and minds of those who love it."

The MPE/iX OS, apps and IMAGE are doing more than living in hearts and minds. They live in companies like HP. The ecosystem was supposed to be the death of the 3000, according to the HP speaking in 2001. Instead, it's becoming a place where the customers who need help are getting supported. Even if they need an interim emulator to buy, so applications can remain where they lie.

The afterlife has a way of entrancing us all. I knew that HP's five-year time-frame for getting customers off the 3000 was outlandish, knew it even before I hung up the phone in that train station. But HP was writing the song that could've been presicent lyrics for the Squirrel Nut Zippers' song "Hell."

In the afterlife
You could be headed for the serious strife
Now you make the scene all day
But tomorrow there'll be Hell to pay

On that tomorrow in 2001, I bought a new notebook and rode the train back to Paris. I began to write 50 questions for my briefing with HP. At the top of the first page I wrote the seminal query, the one that fueled 49 more:

Tell me why it's going away.

Some of those 50 questions I wrote in a fever of inquiry, roaring onward to London on the under-the-Channel Eurostar train. Things like open source or sharing of MPE code with third parties, or a delivery channel of HP-driven 3000 services beyond 2008 — those got resolved. An emulator -- pretty much unheard of in HP's business line of computers -- was still four years away from being licensed and more that 11 years away from having a sales kickoff in Mountain View. The third parties didn't get much of HP's direct help for a homesteading customer -- unless you count the limited-use release of MPE source, and the concessions like that emulator license, wrenched from HP by OpenMPE.

Let's review how some of the 49 have shaken out, six years after I passed that phone booth where the afterlife started to emerge for 3000 owners.

Will the customers and development community get access to HP's internal compilers, to make changes to MPE/iX? Absolutely not, and they probably never will. MPE is as polished as it will ever be. However, seven companies do have source code to MPE/iX. They write patches and workarounds for the OS and the database. It's a compromise, but that source code is something to keep MPE/iX from having Hell to pay.

What are HP's plans for its own 600 internal HP 3000 systems? Five extra years into the afterlife, there are still some 3000 systems running HP company functions.

Are the PA-RISC customers in the HP 9000 customer base being given an obsolescence date as well? Not only is PA-RISC obsolete now, but HP's own expert witness in the Oracle lawsuit said the HP-UX processor's successor, Itanium, has about seven more years of life.

In 1998 HP committed to Itanium for the 3000. What has happened in the market to change that commitment? 
We heard of a decline of "the 3000's ecosystem." What declined was sales from HP and its resellers, working on a 2003 sales cutoff. But replacing hardware is not the name of the game anymore in 2013. Sustaining applications is the essence of the ecosystem. Virtualization is the end state of every hardware system.

Will there be a planned reduction in Response Center staff trained in MPE?  There certainly was, but how planned is a matter of perspective. HP offered two Enhanced Early Retirement programs, plus moved its MPE staff onto concurrent support duties for other operating environments. Then sent most of the remaining support team away. Today, even 16-year vets like Bob Chase of the 3000 Escalation Center are out working for SMS Systems Maintenance Services as a Senior Technical Support Engineer. If you issue the magic transfer code 798 on an HP call, it gets 3000 sites to Response Center folks who know the 3000 is not a printer. You call for free patches. That's about all.

What are the possibilities of having solution providers take over some parts of MPE source, like the spooler or ODBC? Nobody is going to take over development of these parts of source, unless HP gets picked clean for parts in a takeover. Highly unlikely.

Is there any possibility of reviewing this decision? Customers still wish this was possible. Fewer all the time, though. Of those who wished for a reprieve, the ones who need a long-term MPE engine will look at the Stromasys emulator. The others have bitter memories and no hunger for anything HP-centric. Windows or Linux will do. 

Is this decision in the best interest of the 3000 owner, and if so, how? HP said back then that ending its 3000 operations was in the customers' best interest, because HP felt it was risky to remain a 3000 customer. That ongoing ownership of a 3000 was influenced by the vendor's leadership and plans, however -- so HP's decision started the clock on the afterlife. 

The Squirrel Nut Zippers' song does croon some hope for the afterlife, though. The truth and a clear picture emerges there -- like my mom dancing circles around my dad, scolding him for leaving too soon to see the great stuff to come.

Beauty, talent, fame, money, refinement , job skill and brain
And all the things you try to hide
Will be revealed on the other side.

Tomorrow afternoon HP will release its financials for its second quarter of 2013, a year when its CEO said "The patient is showing signs of recovering." People who wrote off HP as a split up company, PCs and enterprise IT, might turn out to have an outlook as hazy as HP's own about the 2013 ecosystem of the 3000. Of Luke Skywalker's friends's future in The Empire Strikes Back, he asked, "Will they die?"

"Difficult to tell," Yoga replied. "Always in motion is the future." As is the afterlife, from the way I see it in my seat this week, beyond that eulogy.

06:25 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 20, 2013

Making Headway with a Static OS

Stromasys has been selling its emulator products for more than a decade, and with significant success since HP's Digital group stopped the sale of Alpha and PDP servers. But VMS -- even while it's made a transition to OpenVMS over the years -- is still updated and supported by Hewlett-Packard. MPE/iX does not enjoy this status. There's a bit of irony by now, as it relates to the Stromasys product. You cannot order an MPE/iX server (with hardware and a fresh OS license) from HP any longer. But the Stromasys Charon HPA software is now part of HP's Worldwide Reseller Agreement.

Yes, this new software product that runs on industry-standard Intel hardware qualifies for HP resale status, unlike the server which it emulates. Go figure; nobody wants to be bothered with building hardware anymore.

But the lack of a supported OS as a keystone to a Stromasys emulator -- well, that seems novel. However, at the recent Training Day for the product, GM Bill Driest said selling a product with a vendor-curtailed OS is not all that unique, in his view.

"We don't see this market as fundamentally different from what we've done for a number of years now, to get 5,000 customers in 50 countries," Driest said on May 10 at the Training. "From a sales and marketing perspective, this is our US launch. I have a handful of customers in the US, so we are just embarking on this new market for us, worldwide. There are existing references and customers in Australia, New Zealand."

But from a tactical perspective, he said, those Digital system successes have taken place with an OS that's not available: the apps use versions of VMS that are locked in and not qualified for any extra engineering HP adds to that OS. This is, he believes, essentially the same situation as an MPE/iX market that can go no further than the 7.5 release.

While the replacement of aging hardware used to be the concern just five years ago, now the prospects for Charon in the 3000 world "are looking for partners, ISVs and consultants to take over more of the application administrator role. There's a revitalization of the important of the app to be done here. They'll be saving the hundreds of thousand to millions of dollars to rewrite that application." 

It's a conscious decision to not let an app retire, Driest added. It's a choice so common up to now that the Digital customers start with a plan to emulate temporarily. Then the reality of replacing an app sets in.

"Customers say they just need their systems a couple more years, and they have a plan to migrate," he said. "But once the monkey's off their back, they realize they have other higher priorities for their IT resources. Rarely do you see them reinvesting in a multimillion dollar project once they realize they can run their application successly in an emulation on industry standard technology.

"They're not coming to us anymore and saying 'Can you fix my HP 3000 hardware?' That's what we thought they were saying five to 10 years ago. We understand that the value is in that application layer. We're just a new hardware refresh. And our average deal size has not been about onesy-twosy sale in testing or development. There's organic growth in legacy systems, new opportunities out there. I wouldn't have predicted that five years ago."

07:58 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 17, 2013

Many Different Ways to Move Your Console

There's been plenty of change in the 3000 manager's life over the last 10 years. Some of it might involve changing the location of HP 3000s from one part of the IT shop to another. Users and support experts have discussed the many ways to adjust a 3000 console's location. The method you choose depends on budget, experience and technical skills depth.

Kent Wallace, a 3000 manager for Idaho-Oregon healthcare delivery system Primary Health, needed to move his 3000 console:

I was asked to move the console another 10 feet (more) from the rack (it's an N-Class HP 3000/N4000-100-22). What are the 3 pin positions on the wire that I need to extend this RS-232 cable?

Reid Baxter of JP Chase offered the most direct answer, for those willing to modify cables. "Pins 2, 3 and 7."

Tracy Johnson of Measurement Specialties added:

In addition to what Reid said, you can also get a 3-pin mini-din extension cord and extend the other end.

Our blog contributing editor Gilles Schipper chipped in with a solution offering even farther movement:

If you want to extend the range of the console to anywhere on the planet (at least where there’s Internet access) you could consider the HP Secure Web Console to replace the physical console.

Depending upon the condition of your physical console, this solution may also save a bit of wear and tear on your eyeballs.

(Schipper wrote us a great article on setting up such a web console.)

Former HP support engineer Lars Appel offered another take on Schipper's strategy:

While Gilles is right about the possibility of using the web console, it would probably be easier to use the already built-in dedicated LAN port of the N-Class systems that gives access to the GSP by telnet.

I prefer the “telnet console” over the “web console” because it gives more freedom in the choice of terminal emulator — whereas the web console typically lacks features like “easy cut and paste” or special key mappings (e.g. German language ;-) or something similar.

This prompted Schipper to clarify his suggestion:

Lars is absolutely right about the built-in “secure-web-console” that comes with all N-Class and all but the earliest A-Class e3000s.

And, yes, the built-in is definitely more functional, allowing cut-and-paste as well as telnet access, whereas the external variety has only Java access to it via a web browser and no cut-and-paste.

So, if one has a choice, the built-in is definitely superior and available with only proper configuration.
However, the external secure web console is available for all HP 3000s, and would still be most useful where is internal secure web console is not an option.

Jeff Kell, curator of the 3000 newsgroup where the advice appeared, added the last word and a little joke:

The internal one isn't really "secure" — it's plaintext telnet. The GSP "documents" some secure access mode (ssh? https?) but I could never get it to work on our A-Class.  Maybe it's an HP-UX thing. 

The external web console was the really insecure "secure" web console.  It used a secret decoder ring :-)

02:37 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2013

Old and Grand, and Still Worthy of Salute

Newswire Editorial 

One week before my latest birthday I was sharing hope about an aging icon. “She’s a tank,” I said to my sister Tina. We said this often to one another about my mom, who was 87 when she passed away late last month. Death and perhaps the  afterlife comes to everything that is vital, endearing and revered. Ginny Seybold, born in the era before radio was king, died peacefully in her bed. She was vital in heart and mind until nearly the end. All of us – brother Bob, Tina, older brother John, my bride and partner Abby — we all desired more years from mom.

But in a few hours from now I will board a jet to fly to Toledo, the place she gave birth to us, and put on the black suit I reserve for occasions of joy (my kids’ weddings) and of sad times. I will give a eulogy and certainly cry through it, just as I am at this very moment I’m creating these words. My mom taught me to read, gave me the first words of countless ones that I would learn to ride like fresh breeze throughout my life and hers. For more than a decade I would work and tinker at a novel, while she was devouring everything her Irish favorite Maeve Binchy wrote, until I could finally finish mine and send it to her, just like the hardbacks I’d buy because she wasn’t getting out to the library as easily. But when a novel would arrive, she’d scamper through the book like she would dance across floors from the 1930s up to her 80th birthday. My mom outlasted expectations of her vivacity.

Since I am her boy, I can use a comparison with a bold stroke. In that outlasting, the push of the tank of her heart, she resembled the computer I have written about for more than half my life. People expected the 3000’s demise many years ago. Now with an emulated version selling and shipping, for the 3000’s relations and disciples, Charon has become the kind of tank that Tina and I marveled at when we visited mom in the Franciscan Care Center.

Tina found that resting place for our mom, relentless and persistent in locating a spot where Ginny could receive the attention to both her heart and her body. The former was strong in spirit, the latter holding out as well as anything created before FDR became President.

I think we all have someone older in our lives who we wish would last forever. For some, this might not be a person they love as a friend or a member of their birth family. People who die like Roger Ebert of the film world, or Steve Jobs of our own industry, or Dr. Suess of everyone’s childhood, they all leave holes in our hearts too. This is the first way I reply when everyone, so kind even if we don’t know one another well, tells me they’re sorry for my loss. “I have a hole in my heart now,” I say. I tap my chest and I can say no more at that moment. Loss is like that, a fog that seeps in and whiles away time as you remember why you loved whatever or whoever you did, their perfection and the parts that were very human, very imperfect.

Like you and your community, I owe my mom a lot. She believed in beginnings and taught me to question and debate and express my imagination. Not always with the best of examples. But as my counselor and friend Jim Hoadley says, “She was a teacher, you know — she taught you how to show compassion.”

I know it’s not the same thing to love a computer’s ideals and elegance, to revere the struggle of years when our community had to learn compassion about the imperfections of the 3000’s creator. Even still, we had our memories that remain beyond the death of the Bill & Dave HP. The times that Marc Hoff of HP, taken by cancer, would give out his home phone number on the back of business cards, or swear to eat a new MPE release tape if it came out with a bug in it. The times that Bruce Toback or Wirt Atmar would make us chortle or fume, and then become richer and smarter through the miracle of the newsgroup, before they were claimed by heart disease. For me, the quiet confidence and spark of revival from Danny Compton in Texas, who took a discarded Maestro software tool and created ROC Software – so many years after he got a death sentence at age 8, and then outlasted the forecast by more than 30 years to build a family, products, and then a company.

For my own family in this sad week, I try to think of the joy that I saw in mom’s face, especially on the night of her 80th birthday party, one my bride created for a pip of a mother in law. Ginny was vivacious, at her very best. She was lively in her later chapters, like the night I saw her dance on roller skates at age 52 with us grown kids, or that night she banged a tambourine onstage in her new home in Vegas, 80 years old and smiling through way too many choruses of the Beatles’ “They Say It’s Your Birthday.” My mom, turning around to look at the cover band playing in that faux Irish pub inside a casino. Turning as if to ask, “Surely you must be done?” And the band looking back at this marvel of a pip, maybe saying, “Wow, I hope I can do that at 80.”

There is so much more to write about endings and the afterlife, a life where I’m sure mom now dances on the legs that she lost in her final years. I only know that words fall short of feelings about long relationships of love. There is one word I will invoke at her service this Sunday, the first Sunday after everybody’s Mother’s Day. The word is pip, and my mom was one. A word with more than one definition, just like my mom. Pip, an excellent person or thing. Pip, a crack of a baby bird’s shell. Pip, a small, hard seed in a fruit. They say that a person never dies if they live in our hearts and minds forever. So I’ve got her in there, and deep inside my heart, too. Here’s to anything old that has become grand. As the British say in salute, pip-pip.

 

01:40 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2013

Virtualization, Emulation and the Cloud

DriestAtEventAt the recent meeting of Charon HPA/3000 experts, prospects, and allies, a question emerged from Steve Cooper of Allegro, who wanted an update on the cloud-based capabilities of Charon for 3000s. “Technologically it’s a slam dunk,” said Stromasys General Manager Bill Driest (above), adding that the implementation on Charon VAX and Alpha versions has been tested and implemented for about eight customers so far. Others have been working with a perpetual license for the product in their private clouds.

"We know some customers who have bought a perpetual license are running it in a private cloud environment," Driest said at the recent HP 3000 Training and Social Event. "How we're going to monetize that market is something I think the people in this room can help us with."

The company was represented at last year's VM World virtualization conference. "Cloud is a growing part of our business," Driest said. "We had a full cloud demonstration, live, and up and running. We're able to provision a machine on the fly. We had two different sized VAXes, two different sized Alphas. We're trying to assess the market for this. How big is that subset?"

 

For manufacturing applications, "You need to be close to the wire, and you're not close to being in the cloud. For certain HIPAA data [in healthcare], it would need to be a private cloud without a public cloud. We've tested, we've sized, we've done some of the cost models.  Today, if we want to sell a perpetual unlimited license we get the money up front. In a cloud model it might be a 3-year, $1,000 a month kind of thing."

Stromasys is looking at how cloud implementations of its product change the dynamics of how the company goes to market. "We are very interested in the conversation, but not from the technology perspective. It works and the customers are starting to ask questions about the cloud for certain sets of apps. They say 'I don't want an emulator, I want you to take the whole thing.' But we're not sure from a business side where we divert some of our resources -- on how we market it, how we price it, and how we sell it."

Is an HP 3000 customer more applicable to this kind of virtualization, where a customer only wants to run an application, without datacenter investment or on-site IT management? "I don't think we have a clear understanding of that yet," Driest said. "From the technology side we're there. But is the world ready for emulation and the cloud on legacy systems all at once?"

Today, Stromasys sales are 40 percent direct to customers, and 60 percent through a reseller channel that includes HP. Some "boutique VARs" know niche products. "Someone's in the MANMAN market with a 3000, and these VARs focus on that," Driest said. "The emulator comes as part of their normal work."

An HP 3000 support provider asked about how that channel could help him help his customers, 135 sites running HP 3000s. "So they don't keep dropping off every July fiscal cycle."

"Well, we could start with my card," Driest said, drawing a gust of laughter from the support company as well as the room full of the 3000 ecosystem players.

09:16 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 14, 2013

HP's 3000 virtualization was MOST-ly done

MOSTBalanceNineteen springtimes ago, HP was offering an operating system to run alongside MPE on the same hardware. To say that HP's Multiple Operating System Technology was virtualization might be an overstatement. But the unreleased product gave Unix and MPE equal footing in a single hardware system. MPE was the cradle that Unix would rest in, much like Linux is the cradle where the PA-RISC virtualization rests in the Stromasys Charon product. The only reason it was not released might have been the horsepower demands on the hardware. MOST was not starved off the price list by a lack of HP desire from the 3000 division. But the daring of its engineering was on a battleground between HP's own products.

I worked on external communications for MOST for Hewlett-Packard in the spring of 1995. It was one of the biggest assignments I took on during the months that led up to creating the 3000 NewsWire. The audacity of putting a venerated OS in as a bootstrap system for HP-UX apps led me to believe HP was exploring every prospect to win any customer who was veering toward the market's magnetic pull of Unix.

HP showed off external specifications for MOST to key partners in '95. The product was scheduled to emerge in the fall of that year on Series 9x9 and 99X PA-RISC systems. These were the highest horsepower 3000s in the HP stable. MOST was to begin with two partitions, one for MPE/iX and the other for HP-UX. Or, a customer could run two separate instances of MPE on a single server. MPE was to be the primary partition, controlling the uptime of the hardware.

In one sense, this product wouldn't have been a 3000 -- because half of it would be dedicated to running Unix apps and processes. Independence, a white paper on the product stated, "is especially important, as the co-dependencies between the different OS should be as small as possible."

MOST might have been ahead of its time in hardware requirements, but it reminds me of the virtualization that nearly every operating system enjoys today. The Stromasys Charon lineup, the VMware partitions which run Windows, Linux, and Mac OS all at once -- all of these flow from the concept that drove MOST. Well, there's a major difference. HP didn't release MOST, even after a beta test period and surveys that showed most of the customers saw it as an evolutionary path to heterogenous computing.

"The future path is almost impossible to foresee," HP's briefing stated. "Windows or OS/2? WARP? Unix or NT? Once proprietary, but now open systems?"

The software would have realized the founding principle of PA-RISC engineering: "Eventually, any PA-RISC operating system will be able to operate concurrently and independently on the same hardware platform."

HP delivered on some of these promises many years later, employing its Superdome designs for high-end servers with flexible partitions. This was not strictly emulation, because the native hardware remained the same. It's a sad piece of history that by the time Superdome was rolled into the markets, MPE/iX was not an environment supported on the high-priced server.

The OS came closest to its rightful place as keystone of HP's business computing strategy with MOST, however. HP said that it "is a natural complement to the four strategic directions of the HP 3000:

  • Reinforce HP 3000's strengths in mission critical OLTP environments
  • Superior integration in a multi-platform environment
  • Provide an evolution to client/sever computing
  • Deliver innovative applications and services

The Hewlett-Packard of 1995 was looking for a way to "let customers add, test and develop new applications without purchasing a new Unix box." That might have been the downfall for MOST. A successful server, steered by MPE but also able to run Unix apps, would surely have been a roadblock to more HP 9000 server sales. HP bet hard on Unix in that era, a play that now seems to have run out of step with the Windows and Linux choices of today.

09:44 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 13, 2013

The magic code for licenses HP never sold

The meeting room brimmed at the Computer History Museum May 10, where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA/3000. This emulator was anticipated more than eight years ago, but only came to the market in 2012. And that gap, largely introduced by HP's intellectual property lawyers, killed one license needed to run MPE on any Intel server.

But the good news is that an HP licensing mechanism still exists for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator -- pretty much on any good-sized Intel system that can run VMware and Linux. However, you need to know how to ask HP for the required license.

Charon HPA product manager Paul Taffel uncorked the phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to PC or Mac hardware. It's called "an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most SLTs happen between two companies. Who'd sell themselves their own hardware, after all?

In short HP's using its existing and proven Software License Transfer (SLT) mechanism to license emulated 3000s. It's doing this because of that delay which ran out the clock on a hard-earned path to the future. HP called it the Emulator License back in 2005. It just happened to need an emulator on sale in order for a customer to buy this license.

The Emulator License isn't quite like the mythical griffin of ancient lore. It made more sense than a jackalope. But the process to earn one of these licenses is not well known yet, which was one of the reasons Stromasys held its training and social event.

Perhaps HP's lawyers -- who certainly had to be convinced by the 3000 division at the time -- insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in the license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but HP could never collect that money without a working emulator for a 3000 on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. No RTU, no emulator license: this was a moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron was on hand.

However, this was not the first time HP had ever tried to make it legal to run one of its OS products on non-HP gear. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and got that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was the ongoing support revenue, and the good will, of keeping older systems running where they remain the best solution.

This time around, for the 3000, HP intended to cut off all of its business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still could call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. No matter. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies. At the Stromasys training event, general manager Bill Driest said that the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- or what the classic 3000 customer would call emulation.

"We're here to help preserve the software investments that you've all made," Driest said. "We've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. For 14 years we've had this tagline that keeps coming back: preserving the investments we've all made across these hardware generations."

So to recap, you contact HP's Software License Transfer department. You tell them you want to do an intra-company transfer. And instead of the $500 that HP said this emulator license would cost eight years ago, it's $400 -- the same fee HP wants to collect on any MPE/iX system transfer. You need to have a 3000 license to begin with, of course.

You don't get to create MPE/iX licenses for Charon systems. Stromasys cannot sell you one. But a copy of MPE/iX does exist in the freeware download, model A202. It's just not licensed, because you attest you won't use this freeware for commercial use when you run through configuration. The licensed copy of MPE/iX in freeware -- the holy grail of open source pursued by OpenMPE for more than nine years -- is as much a mythical creature as an emulator license. This isn't the first time Hewlett-Packard built an item for 3000 customers that it never did sell. But at least the previous one got into testing before it was killed off. More on that tomorrow.

04:08 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2013

Socializing can lead to contained footprints

BeerflowersOur friend and columnist Scott Hirsh just called to confirm he'll be at tonight's Stromasys HP 3000 Social at the Tied House. I took the walk over there today, because it's just down the street from the Caltrain Station as well as the terminal for the San Jose light rail. Buffalo burger is today's special.

But what's more special is the range of 3000 sites who'd be Charon HPA/3000 prospects, if only they knew how to focus on fitting into a new server paradigm. One site that Scott visited out in Union City, Calif. was discussing available IT datacenter floor space. "How are you fixed for that?" says Scott.

"Well, we've got this big system in the back of the datacenter we have to keep running," the IT manager says, explaining the server keeps significant parts of the company running. Even though Scott is out there in Union City to help the manager with Dell solutions, he's curious about what this box is.

"We're pretty sure it's an old HP 3000," the manager says. Scott's invited him tonight for some beverages and heavy appetizers, but there's been no RSVP yet from Union City. If you're in the area, come by tonight, or tomorrow at the Computer History Museum. You might find a way to free up floor space while you don't have to throw your critical MPE applications overboard.

Hope to see you tonight over a pint. You never know what opportunity might bloom, like those curbside flowers growing out of a beer cask on Villa Street at the Tied House.

07:01 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

IT Security: Too Expensive, Too Difficult?

Editor's Note: Migrating HP 3000 sites must be responsible for security in more extended detail, once they move operations onto open enterprise environments. In the second of a series of articles, CISSP security expert Steven Hardwick of Oxygen Finance outlines how security regulations, agreed upon by the industry, help the secure IT environment.

By Steven Hardwick
Oxygen Finance

Why do we need security regulations which relate to IT anyway? Many IT professionals believe compliance is way too complicated. Or that it costs a lot of time and money that could be better spent. For example, the HP 3000 might have better, OS-level security for credit card processing that flows through MPE servers (although that level of protection is available through open source solutions.)

WhySecurityIsHardIf only the data would back up the IT pro's desire to disregard compliance. The latest Verizon Data Breach Investigations report should dispel the myth that security is simply a function of the IT department getting firewall configurations up to date. The 2013 report shows attacks varied from hacking, to social engineering and physical attacks. Physical, technological and administrative security controls were breached to make the attacks possible. In many cases, multiple controls were compromised to breach the organizations infrastructure. But a third of IT pros say security is too hard to implement (click on the graphic for details.)

Why do we need regulations? It boils down to the two distinct challenges with security: a legal definition of malicious behavior, and a difficult to quantify return on investment. First, to address the legal position of defining a malicious act may not be that simple.

Theft in the information world can involve merely taking a copy of the data. The original data may still be in the possession of the owner. To be able to prove theft in this case, a new definition of “illegal copying” has to be defined. In the information world, the copy or the operation that created it has to be detected. It is now a lot more difficult to define information theft as the concept of copying now has to be legally defined.

To illustrate the legal difficulties, consider this challenge. If a neighbor sees a unprotected wireless network router and is given an IP address by the DHCP server, does it constitute the owner's permission to have Internet access?

Compliance standards establish a set of security controls that are not concerned with legal definitions of malicious activity. This allows an organization to stem the threat of breaches without relying on a legal framework to enforce it. A good example is the Payment Creditcard Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS or just PCI). This compliance standard is solely enforced by the credit card community. As such it can quickly adapt to define requirements that meet mitigating new threats.

I was once involved in a HIPAA audit. After the presenting the audit results to the CIO, the next question was remediation. The CIO’s response was, “After consulting with legal council, we are taking no action to mitigate the deficiencies found in the audit. They have informed us it would be cheaper to litigate than spend funds on security changes.”

That was in the early days of HIPAA. in those days, that regulation lacked teeth. To rectify this, the US government passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act for enforcement. It defines what's a breach of information. plus the responses that organizations must take after a breach. Very quickly, the cost of not putting security controls in place changed, especially due to the enforcement defined by the act.

Why are there so many regulations and laws?

With PCI and HITECH, why are even two needed? Well, the two standards were developed by different specialists, and so the laws are different. PCI's goal is to prevent the misuse of Credit Card information. HITECH/HIPAA is focused on medical information. 

To additionally diversify standards, the groups focused only on the threats and impact of breaches in their particular industry. For example, compromised credit card data can be used globally, whereas medical data tends to be country specific. PCI is a global standard, whereas HITECH is only US based.

Standards tend to be focused on the type of information they protect. For example, although a credit card number may be used in conjunction with a medical record for payment of services, HITECH does not define the card as part of the information that needs to be protected. 

Organizations that have multiple data sets will fall under multiple regulations and standards. A public Insurance company that uses credit card payments for medical services would, at a minimum, have to comply to PCI (Credit Card data), HITECH (Medical data) and Sarbanes Oxley Act, or SOX, (Public Financial data).

What other challenges are there?

There is hope. In many cases the standard or regulation will give a list of compliance goals. Applying the goal will depend on how the controlled information is used in within the business. Some standards will give guidance on how to implement security controls to comply with the goals.

For exaple, PCI has requirements around penetration testing for network interfaces. Other standards rely on an existing security framework. (This security framework is a definition of security controls for an environment.) They framework is designed for general protection of information  -- and not focused on a specific data set.

A good example is that the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) which mandates security controls. Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) is a security framework that is commonly used to assess SOX compliance.

Next time: More detail on how to use security frameworks to address compliance.

12:22 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 08, 2013

Who'll Be Social and Train, and Why

Stromasys-NewswireAdWe've been hearing from 3000 community members who are on the way to the Stromasys HP 3000 Social and Training. The official RSVP list is at Stromasys, but we've gotten some notice from people who want to ensure they meet up at the Tied House brewpub -- Thursday evening (tomorrow!) or at the Computer History Museum Friday 10-4.

On the same day I got notice from Doug Smith -- a 3000 consultant and developer and support provider -- that he'll be at the Stromasys event, HP tried again to wrap up the lifespan of Windows XP. The company that gave up on MPE and the HP 3000 might be just as misguided about XP's future as MPE's. It seems so simple to HP.

Let’s face it—reminiscing about old software programs 20 or so years from now won’t bring about nearly half as many warm memories as that 1967 Pontiac Firebird of your youth. 

You could say that updating business software is akin to changing your toothbrush after it’s seen better days. Can you imagine running Windows 98 on your home PC? Then why would you fight tooth and nail, stubbornly looking into a variety of contingency plans and options to hold onto Windows XP?

The why of holding on is obvious. Smaller companies -- and some surprising large ones -- cannot make a good business case for putting their Firebird of a business server up on blocks. The math on an emulator solution, supplied in good stead with support for MPE and indie software tools -- holds up against projects that start in six figures and take at least a year to deploy.

The Tied House and the Computer History Museum will be places to learn why that toothbrush (the HP hardware) might be old, but the fresh toothpaste (MPE) is still worthy of plenty of extra years. Doug Smith thinks so. So does Walter Murray, who developed HP's COBOL products for the 3000 before exiting Hewlett-Packard to manage 3000s for the state of California. Then there's the contract programmers, and more, simply off our heads-up emails.

There's Scott Hirsh, for example. He's the former chairman of SIGSYSMAN and said "Hey, why not stop at the pub and meet some people." Scott, a former Newswire columnist (Worst Practices) is now a storage expert at Dell. He started out managing 3000s for Rosenberg Capital Management in San Francisco, about 15 years before HP started bundling Windows XP.

Bruce Hobbs and Mike Watson are making the trip to the Training on Friday, flying up from Southern California and Colorado, respectively. Just for the day, to see the software in action. There's an opportunity to help out a customer or two, one who's got their own software, no license hurdles and little desire or budget to buy that disruptive toothbrush.

Tom McNeal will be at the Tied House tomorrow evening. He's a veteran of the kernel project when the first 3000 multiprocessor platform was released, in 1991. Tom's adding the brew pub visit to a busy night. You might be similarly inclined. "I thought I'd send this, which is signed by all the folks that worked in that lab."

Multiprocessor980We also had a dinner party commemorating our kernel product, and that was a lot of fun. Frank Ho was the project manager, and I worked on the memory manager, which was primarily developed by Marcia McConnell. The other, going clockwise from Marcia, were Simon Cutting, Peggy Chen, Craig Hada, Hung Nguyen, Kim Rogers, Vijay Bajaj, Dave Rubin, and Satya Mylavarabhatla.  As far as I know, Marcia is the only one still working at HP.

Martin Gorfinkel, creator of 3000 software Fantasia for printing and an advocate for the community, says "I still get support calls for Fantasia. "Mostly I would like to have my editor and Fantasia for my own use. All that should work nicely within the limitations they place on the freeware emulation." He added that he needed to get a new PC to load it. The newest PC he had was about five years old. Gorfinkel will be at Friday's training session.

It's not tough to imagine that between a free pub evening and free lunch at the History Museum -- places where you can meet with 3000 legend Stan Sieler, who says "I'm hoping to be at the Thursday social, and present for most of some or most of Friday -- a 3000 user could network with people who've had firsthand experience with emulation, or are ready to share stories about how they hope Charon HPA/3000 will help them in an interim for migration, or as a hot archival system for MPE data.

I hope to see you there. I'm brining a fresh toothbrush, just to commemorate another run of years with something built as well as the toothpaste that's MPE.

 

08:37 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 07, 2013

Emulator's days are not so early after all

"It's early days," say more than a few community vendors about the lifespan of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator. They point to a lack of reference accounts. Some note that no third parties are engaged to teach and train and support the virtualization solution. Even the vendor acknowledges the performance of this 3000-on-Intel magic needs to surpass the power of a 4-way N-Class system.

BerraBut it's not early according to Adager's CEO Rene Woc. We tried out the accepted wisdom and found him pushing back on the popular view. It's misguided, by the reports he's getting from customers small, medium and very large. He reached out for a Yogi Berra quote to guide his outlook. "The future ain't what it used to be," Yogi said. That's especially apt when customers are gathering license data for your software, to be used on Charon. Or when they share their intentions, which is to keep MPE software running well into that future. How different it is than it used to be.

These are customers getting information about Adager's license transfer plan. "It's just another MPE machine," Woc reported. "We are treating the emulator just like HP3000 hardware."

As has been well-chronicled by now, there's no technical issues in this complete emulation. "Our customers didn't come across any issues," Woc said. Given the reputation of the Adager labs -- a tight-knit group that uncovered the last, corruptive bug in IMAGE and alerted HP to spark a repair -- "no problems" means Charon runs as expected.

Adager charges a $975 license transfer fee to move software from one HPSUSAN number to another. The software does not cross check with an HPCPUNAME, so moving the HPSUSAN to the emulated server, plus that transfer fee, covers the extent of Adager's operations. This is one vendor that 3000 users don't have to work out a license with. One of many (like Minisoft) who see continuing business coming out of emulated 3000s.

"It's to Stromasys credit they've been able to distribute this news about it," Woc said. "Our customers have made the decision to go ahead with it. It's beyond testing. It's between decision and testing, and then putting it to work. We've gotten very encouraging signals, and not necessarily from hobbyists. From actual companies that are at different stages. People have moved on from testing to ordering their license transfers [from us].

"People have called to order a trial Adager license" as a result of Charon HPA/3000 testing, he added. "At this stage it's taking off. As far as tangible results right now, I think it has a good psychological effect. People feel comfortable knowing that they're not facing a closed future."

Yogi's comment about the future that "ain't what it used to be" was a darkening one in the old days of software and systems. A computer fell out of product lineup, then the vendor ended support. The customers fled and the independent software community curtailed support. Now the future includes many years of 3000 production for these license transferring customers.

And Woc said that customers include some very large corporations, because Adager has always been in shops very large and very small. Robelle is on the Stromasys bandwagon too. These kinds of software products don't make up applications off the shelf. But to be honest, software off the shelf has not been the 3000's specialty for a long time. Ecometry and MANMAN aside, and a few dozen Amisys sites -- the 3000 keeps working on customer-written apps. Only these tool providers, like VEsoft and its MPEX -- need to agree to licenses for Charon. The rest of the solution is code a customer owns because they're built it themselves.

The emulator product "takes the pressure off in the sense that MPE cannot be continued," Woc said. "It will run on the latest and greatest Intel hardware." He added that VMware, part of the solution, "is a fully supported product. From that point of view, I think people feel confident  they have an option -- knowing also that the [off the shelf]  3000 applications have very little development. The shops that depended on Ecometry and the like know they will still have an engine to keep running their business."

If the economy fully recovers, some of these emulator sites will move ahead with migrations. "We will see. If they can still handle their business, even after that, they may just stay. If a new business model comes up, like mail order became ecommerce so many years ago. It's so hard to predict." These days are early for some application users. For others, it's a matter of scheduling an emulator product that's a small fraction of the cost of a migration -- both in capital cost as well as the price of disruption of what's not the future, but today.

05:16 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 06, 2013

The Kind of License that Still Matters

Licensing doesn't matter to most of the homesteading community anymore, according to a long-time consultant, former HP SE and board member of the Interex and OpenMPE user and advocate groups. There's an important distinction to be made about what Paul Edwards believes about the 3000 manager. The licenses that matter are the ones that permit the use of supported products.

That puts HP's MPE/iX licenses on the heap of casual concerns while running a 3000 operation in 2013. Hewlett-Packard arranged for a $500 emulator license transfer. The deal was set up six years before an emulator would ever go live on a customer's product site. But the HP license is missing permissions for the Hewlett-Packard subsystem software, some of it still essential. The COBOL II compiler and TurboStore/iX are the most common products among those subsystems.

"Theoretically, the cast of lawyers at HP thinks MPE has got lots of value," Edwards said. "But Joe Computer User, running a 3000 in a little company somewhere, really doesn't care. He'll never see an HP rep who's going to come out and find he doesn't have an MPE license. He'll run whatever applications he's got -- Amisys, something written in Cognos or Speedware, whatever it is -- he'll run that the way it is."

The value of an HP 3000 MPE license seems to be dropping. Edwards, who saw more than a few companies using multiple 3000s on a single license back in the 1980s -- and said he "looked the other way" for the benefit of the customer -- said he bought his latest HP 3000 for less than $500. And with that purchase, a valid license for a 3000 that could be transferred to an emulator. Or sold at a price. Last week the 3000 community saw one of the first open requests to validate an MPE license. By itself, sans hardware, apparently.

It probably happens all the time, but Cypress Technology was putting together a resale that needed a valid HP 3000 license. The wording on the message on the 3000 newsgroup might have been hurried. But the point seemed to be about documentation of the license transfer, not the 3000 system.

I am looking for an original purchase order or invoice showing a sale of one HP 3000 or 9000 box that is dated before August 16, 1994. I'm just looking for the paper showing the sale from HP to whoever, it does not matter the buying entity. I don't need the hardware, license, or rights to anything. The PO or invoice must have one of the below boxes on it and be dated before August 16, 1994. $350 offered.

What followed was a list of six HP PA-RISC workstations and servers, headed up by a Series 918. "I would think some old timers on this list that don't throw anything would have to have something like this. Email me if you have it. I only need one proof of sale."

Proof of sale is one of the chief requirements for an HP Software License Transfer. Although when you think about that date, it's 19 years ago. Maybe it's remarkable that a proof of selling a 3000 -- just an invoice, PO, or a letter -- would be worth that much nearly two decades later. It's likely that this kind of request just shows there are a few Joe Computer Users who care about licenses.

Licenses for independent software, especially the key utilities like data exchange tools or database managers, fall into a different class of respect. These are products still maintained through support by the creator, unlike the 3000 or MPE. Edwards added that if an audit of a homesteading site raised questions about the nature of the MPE/iX license, a manager could rightly say, "Listen, they don't even make this computer anymore." Active development and support are the watchwords for licenses that matter, for much of the community.

06:20 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 03, 2013

Goodie box delivers 3000 skills, tools

3000 KnowledgeHoward Schelin started his HP 3000 career in Miami migrating. It was 20 years ago, and The Miami Herald had to make a move -- away from IBM and onto the 3000. There was much for Schelin to teach the IT department then, and the Interex user group catalogued all of what was needed. This week a generous box of that reference material and software arrived at our office, because the offices of the Herald are moving along, just like the 3000.

In a few weeks the Miami Herald will be relocated to a new building about 15 miles southwest of 1 Herald Plaza. As in any move, there is a lot of material that gets pushed to the curb. I am sending you items that will not be making the trip to the new location.

CSLTapesThe box as big as a Ram Truck battery had a reel of tape on top, a release of the Interex Contributed Software Library from the days of the early '90s, when DAT cassettes were still a novelty to the user group. But then there were a hearty stack of the familiar boxes that contained software treasures created by fellow managers of 3000s, then given away for the community to use.

Now the HP 3000 is making its migration away from the Herald, Schelin says. "The HP 3000 stay at the Herald is drawing to a close, as its last application is on schedule to be migrated to the cloud by April, 2014. I have been an avid reader of the 3000 NewsWire for many, many years, and I hope you find a home for the enclosed material."

Considering that some of these programs and proceedings continue to be useful tools for the homesteader -- and are difficult to locate -- he's probably right. Maybe not so much that 1993 lab handbook on Managing a POSIX HP3000 System, although the lab was taught by MPE legend Jeff Vance. But the Catalog of the CSL for that year, printed and bound, is a working collector's item. 

The goodie box includes eight years' worth of technical papers on CDs, some discs so classic that the boxes advise the user to be sure to have Windows 3.1 to look at the material. But the DDS tapes -- the lingua franca of 3000 data -- start in 1997 and run through 2004. By 1998 there was a Freeware account of software, added to the Contributed Software Library. As Michael Hensley explains in the 1999 Supplement to the CSL Catalog, indexed by name and by keyword

When HP added Posix to MPE, creating MPE/iX 5.0, it became possible to port many popular "Unix" utilities to MPE. Since it was possible, many people started to do so, and then made these utilities available via the Internet. When HP was asked about providing C++ on MPE, HP suggested downloading the GNU G++ product via the Internet. I sarcastically asked if they had actually tried it, over a typical-at-the-time 9600 baud modem.

As a penance, I decided to make these utilities available via tape. Although most people now have access to fater Internet connections, the size of the downloads has grown ever larger. I think the tape will continue to be useful for some time to come.

FreewareContributorsBy the time Schelin and the Herald IT staff were gathering these resources, the HP 3000 was moving into its open source era. The specifics of CSL programs that worked for MPE V (the Classic 3000 OS) as well as XL were being supplemented by the Posix/Unix offerings. (Click on the image at the left to see who was writing the software in the era, and what's available on the tapes.) It was one of the richest times for software on the platform. Y2K was sparking interest and renewed investment in the 3000. We were growing the 3000 NewsWire on the wings of that interest.

These resources have outlasted the user group that marshaled them. In time, the hardcopy delivery seemed unneeded. The Proceedings of the final HP World Conference in 2004 remain shrink-wrapped. But Interex went out of business the following summer. And all of that Internet resource went dark. OpenMPE has gathered some of this online, but good fellows like Schelin keep adding to the community's assets.

I'd be glad to make Howard's desire come true, and let this material work its magic in other shops where 3000s will be working for, as Hensley said, "for some time to come." We can also hope that this classic resource goes to live in the cloud in the future, just like that final HP 3000 application at the Herald. Email me if you'd like more detail of the contents, and I can pass them along. Via US Mail, just like they were delivered in the 3000's classic era. 

05:55 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2013

Congrats, Pivital on 10 years an HP VAR

Ten years ago this month the HP 3000 community gained its final official reseller. Pivital Solutions stepped in to sell HP 3000s, even though Hewlett-Packard only intended to manufacture the computers until the end of October, 2003.

In fact the final HP sales of the 3000 crept into 2004, including deliveries and back inventory. Pivital took on the spot because the company had confidence the 3000 user base would be needing official and trained support for many more years to come. An official place in the HP authorized reseller lineup would enhance what the company had been doing for years already.

That extra service has translated into new resources, even recently. Pivital is one of the few holders of a license for the source code for MPE/iX. Support companies use that resource to create workarounds and even custom patches.

In 2003, we wrote:

Pivital Solutions CEO Steve Suraci hears the tick of a different clock than the one which HP has been counting down for 3000 sales. Less than six months before new HP 3000 sales will end at HP, Pivital is ramping up its efforts as the newest authorized reseller of the servers in North America.

Pivital has taken over the system integrator spot in HP’s 3000 hardware channel that’s being abandoned by Dimension Data. Suraci said that Dimension released much of its 3000-capable integration staff which Pivital was working with, and Pivital saw an opportunity emerging from the situation. It may seem to be late, but Pivital sees its entry as early in the lifespan of the 3000 customer 

“Strategically, we know there’s going to be long-term homesteading customers on the HP 3000 out there,” the CEO said. “Even HP is attesting to a quadrant of the market where people will homestead forever. That is a big portion of the customer base which we deal in today.”

The company had built up a practice of offering the application and then extending MPE support to customers using the GrowthPower ERP application, moving on in the late 1990s to expand its customer base beyond ERP sites. “We found we were becoming more involved in the other business aspects of these companies,” Suraci said, leading to partnerships with Minisoft and Cognos, for example.

But as of late last year, “we felt we no longer had Dimension Data as an outlet to move 3000 hardware to customers. We needed an outlet to sell hardware and get the deals done.”

 National hardware partners couldn’t interest Pivital in becoming part of their folds, and HP was willing to let the 18-person firm with operations across several US states take over the reseller spot from Dimension Data. Suraci said selling 3000 systems to customers is only the start of what Pivital plans to do with its new prospect. Selling the last round of new hardware to sites which need to upgrade from older models lets Pivital position itself for support business in the future, as well as other hardware sales. 

HP has announced it will continue to make N-Class and A-Class CPUs, IO and network cards, peripherals and memory available for new sales during 2004, though Suraci said the vendor hasn’t released specifics of how that aftermarket will work with the authorized channel. The support business that flows from hardware sales looks to be a more reliable prospect for revenues for Pivital. Suraci wants HP to see the company as a contender for any third-party 3000/MPE support partnerships HP may launch in the years to come.

01:28 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

Value Hidden, and Uncovered

This morning I came in to find our backup job stalled. Abortjob was ineffective, as was abortio. I ended up rebooting the system. While coming up, I got the “defective sector” message with “FILE.GROUP.ACCOUNT has an extent with unreadable data.” The file is now locked and I need to use FSCHECK to unlock it. How can I determine which drive this extent is on? I have a good idea which one it is, but I’d like to be 100 percent sure before I replace and reload.

Stan Sieler replies:

FSCHECK’s DISPLAYEXTENTS command may help. Note that, if I recall correctly, it displays logical unit numbers, not exactly LDEVs.

I ran checkslt on the MPE/iX 7.5 SLT and it failed. It failed on a DDS-2 drive on two different systems but passed when a DDS-3 drive was used. The MPE/iX 7.5 SLT is on a 120-meter DDS-2 tape. Is this usual?

Michael Berkowitz replies:

What makes you think you don’t have two bad DDS-2 drives? When we had them, we went through them like water, replacing them every couple of months. They are bad news from the word go.



But how can I have two bad DDS-2 drives?

Gilles Schipper notes:

Not surprising at all. I once experienced the following situation. Our customer had a disk crash. Fortunately, it happened just after a full backup. HP replaced the faulty disk drive and we proceeded to perform a system reload from the just-completed backup that had been to a DDS-2 tape drive.

As soon as we mounted the tape (on exactly the same tape drive that created it), we received a console message indicating AVR error on LDEV 7. I knew right away we had a problem. HP returned to replace the tape drive with another DDS-2 drive. Still no joy. We recommended replacing the drive with a DDS-3 tape drive. As soon as this was done, the reload proceeded without further problems.

The bottom line is stay away from DDS-2 drives, as far away as possible. From this experience and others, I have concluded that the DDS-2 drive is, to put it mildly, flaky.

01:20 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 01, 2013

Who Will Come to the Emulator's Party

Stromasys-SocialNext week the Charon HPA/3000 emulator will have what one vendor calls its coming out party in North America. The software performs the miracle of making low-cost PCs act like HP's PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Just describing that technical ability widens the eyes of 3000 homesteaders, veterans and some vendors.

On the evening of May 9, we'll get to see some of the eyes of people who want to drop by and gaze on each other over a beverage at the Tied House. The next day will reveal who's doing the closer looking at this software solution. Training will commence at 10. Lunch is included. Cooperation and imagination will be optional entrees on the day's menu.

One HP support company called the other day and said they're promoting Charon as a viable path for a homesteader's future. "I feel like I've been hawking the Stromasys product myself awhile," said Chad Lester of the MPE Support Group. Another company in Austin, the Support Group Inc. that serves the MANMAN and ERP customer, has a strong belief in the future of Charon HPA/3000.

But so far, we've only heard of one company that's engaged a third party software vendor in an instance of emulator production use. Cognos is working at the Australian insurance firm where Warren Dawson has testified to us, as well as to the European HP users who attended an event similar to next week's. IBM's Charlie Maloney, a veteran of many Cognos days, has started looking for an IBM PR rep to talk with us about licensing Powerhouse for emulator use.

Technical ability will need to be married to software property rights for this software to make an impact. We're hearing ample talk from MPE/iX software vendors about license support. Robelle's going on record as a Charon supporter. VEsoft wants to work with customers who'd like to run MPEX, Security/3000 and Audit/3000 on the emulator. HP has an emulator license for the product, legally operable so long as a currently licensed 3000 is being turned off to transfer its license to Charon.

More than one vendor with plenty of 3000 software ISV connections believes it's early days for the emulator's commercial merits. It's up to the homesteading customer to arrange all license arrangements to move their software utilities and applications to a PC-Linux host for virtualized MPE/iX hosting. It will be a good sign if some customers arrive at next week's event who have third party apps, such as MANMAN, Ecometry or even Amisys, and they need to arrange the arrival of their software. Some software vendors are waiting to hear about their emulator needs on this unlimited platform.

Of course, nothing is really unlimited in the world of computing. Right now Stromasys says it's hard at work to ensure its highest tier of virtualization software can match and exceed the power of an HP-built N-Class. Even Itanium endured these kinds of early days, many months of them, while it weathered its debut. It was a couple of years before any Itanium powered computer could keep up with the sleekest of PA-RISC processors.

It won't take that long for Charon HPA/3000. A virtualization simply mimics the hardware's architecture, instead of the task of retaining emulation while offering a new instruction set.

Expect the crowd at the Tied House to revel in the return of a 3000 community that hasn't met in North America since 2011. There will be the top executives from Stromasys to make the taps flow at the brewpub, then pour on the technical details and new horsepower developments the day after in training. Hundreds of HP 3000 customers have been contacted about the event. It will only take a handful of commercial applications -- maybe as few as two -- to come to the emulator's party and make it a hit.

08:10 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)