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October 31, 2013

Looking Forward from a Peaceful Wake

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Ten years ago today, scores of HP 3000 users, managers, vendors and devotees gathered in pubs, cafes, back yards and offices to celebrate the end of something: HP's finale to creating new HP 3000 servers.

On our separate photo gallery page, we've collected some images of that day. But the people in those pictures were holding a wake for Hewlett-Packard's 3000s (and a few for MPE/iX). Even today, it's hard to make a case that the server actually died on Halloween of 2003. What ended was the belief that HP would build any more 3000s. 

I cheated deathThe gatherings ranged from "The Ship" in Wokingham in the UK, to Vernazza, Italy, to Texada Island off British Columbia, to Melbourne, to the Carribbean's Anguilla, and to a backyard BBQ in Austin -- where a decommissioned 3000 system printer and put-aside tape drives sat beside the grill. At a typically warm end of October, the offices of The Support Group gave us a way to gather and mourn a death -- the official passing of any hope of ever seeing a new HP 3000 for sale from Hewlett-Packard.

Company employees chatted with several MANMAN customers under those Austin oaks, along with a few visitors from the local 3000 community. Winston Krieger, whose experience with the 3000 goes back to the system’s roots and even further, into its HP 2100 predecessor, brought several thick notebook binders with vintage brochures, documentation, technical papers and news clippings.

HP, as well as the full complement of those October customers continued to use the server during November. And while the creator of the Wake concept Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said, "the date does sort of mark a point of no return, and it will be sad," Birket Foster had his own view of what just happened.

“The patient’s not dead yet," he said at the time, "but we did pass a milestone.”

One software vendor announced new products at the gathering. Steve Quinn of eXegySys said that "We will not be mourning the death of the HP3000 as much as celebrating the birth of two new products." Both ran on Windows but had deep roots in MPE. Almost 40 people signed in at the company's HQ in Salt Lake City.

The Wake drew the interest of mainstream media in the US and the UK, including some of the first notice from the business press in several years. But no outlets devoted mainline coverage to the impressive array of parties and commemorations; instead, Web-based reports of the Wake appeared from print publishers and ABC News. The Wall Street Journal, Computerworld and the website The Register also reported on HP’s end of sales. 

On the website where Yeo first hosted the photos, Gary Stead of the UK reported in a note he was "looking for a job 1st Nov!" 

But Duane Percox, Doug Perry, Steve Cooper, Rick Ehrhart, Ric Goldman, Mark Slater, John Korondy, Tom McNeal, and Stan Sieler joined HP’s Cathlene Mcrae,  Mike Paivinen, Peggy Ruse, Jeff Vance and Dave Wilde to raise glasses in salute at the pub The Dukes, just down the street from HP’s MPE labs. Everybody went back to work on 3000s the next day.

Quinn of eXegySys said his company's new products, while running on non-3000 servers, "both extend far beyond the capabilities of their forefathers." The same can be said of everyone who attended a wake for an HP Way business and an ideal. Moving onward is natural in a lifecycle. The Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu said "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings."

08:06 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 30, 2013

Marking Moments on Wake Anniversary Eve

AfterlifeT-shirtIn about six hours or so, the HP 3000 community might pause to commemorate one of its last collective acts. Ten years ago the World Wide Wake, organized by event ringleader Alan Yeo, invited members in dozens of locations throughout the world to lift a glass and salute the end of HP's manufacturing of the HP 3000 computer. MPE/iX would be recrafted and revised for another five years, but Oct. 31, 2003 was the last day customers could order a new HP-badged 3000.

At the time we invited a director of the Interex User Group, Denys Beauchemin, to offer a confirmation about the success of the system and record the aftermath of HP's departure. He did so in our Open Mike column in the November printed issue of the NewsWire. (It would be almost two years before we'd start up this blog.) It's fun to track the predictions in that column. Beauchemin, heading up a group that itself would remain open just another 20 months, collected sentiments from community notables including the late, great Wirt Atmar, who would pass away a little more than five years later.

Wirt outlived HP's 3000 business, right down to the closing of its MPE labs at the end of 2008. Unless you're reading this from the blazing-fast Google Fiber of the afterlife, you've also outlived the end of HP's 3000 saga. For HP computer users whose systems are facing an end of manufacture, the following is educational. It's memorable for migrators to revisit that time of reflection, too, and see if anything resonates in today's platform ownership.

Please leave a comment below to share your own story of the 10 years that have followed this anniversary. Or email one to me to tell your tale of what has followed the Wake.

By Denys Beauchemin

On All Hallows Eve of the year 2003, an historic event took place without fanfare and virtually ignored by the vast population at large. Only the cognoscenti will mourn the passing into computer history of the HP e3000, née HP 3000. This magnificent machine, which would be marking its thirty-first year of existence next month, is instead disappearing from the list of HP computer products. End of Sales for the HP 3000 is now upon us.

I was first introduced to the HP 3000 in 1977 somewhere in New Hampshire. At that time I was working in Montreal on an HP 21MX designing and programming applications in a timesharing bureau. I immediately took a liking to the HP 3000, transitioned jobs to be able to work on one and joined the users group for the first time. Over the years wherever I worked, there was always an HP 3000 in my environment. The HP 3000 has been part of my career almost from the beginning. Its passing fills me with melancholy, and whilst I had not been doing as much with it these last several years, I could always count on it being there, adding new capabilities along the way. This is true no more.

I asked a few luminaries of this long-lived computing environment to reflect on the machine, its passing and perhaps to shed some light on this event and what its effect might be.

“A great IT platform: reliable, affordable, flexible, easy to operate, and easy to program. And every release compatible with the previous for over 30 years. Perhaps some future OS team will adopt these same goals.” — Bob Green, Robelle

“The HP 3000 has been one of very few computers with a very important property: it lets people get things done. Because of that, it’s been my primary professional focus for the last 24 years, and hopefully for many years to come. Its cancellation was the straw that broke the camel’s back in my regard for, and trust in, HP as a company.” — Stan Sieler, Executive Vice President, Allegro Consultants. [Ed. note: Sieler marked his 30th anniversary at Allegro this month.]

“One of the worst things a hardware company (which subsequently develops some excellent software) can do to that software is to support it as if it were hardware. The 3000 was a victim of such treatment. RIP.” — Fred White, Co-creator of IMAGE

“My association with Hewlett-Packard began in 1963, when I was first introduced to extraordinary quality of HP instruments. Our official association with MPE began in 1976, and it too represented to me the very highest ideals of quality engineering. MPE was a magnificent operating system, simple, stable and extraordinarily efficient. The death of MPE concerns me greatly about the future of HP itself, not because MPE was ever a substantial contributor to HP’s bottom line, but because its death is indicative of the kind of company that HP is now casting itself as: a manufacturer of commodity products, having wedged itself in between Dell and IBM, a virtually unsustainable niche. I have come to believe that the most likely scenario now for the future of HP is for HP to be bought by Dell in three to seven years, just for the printer division, with the remainder of the organization either sold off or disposed of. If true, that’s a sad end for a company with which I’ve proudly had a life-long association.” — Wirt Atmar, AICS Research, Inc.

“When HP announced that it was no longer in HP’s best interest to continue with the HP 3000, my reaction was one of joy. I believed that — once HP was out of the HP 3000’s way — MPE-IMAGE would be able to prosper ‘under new management’. HP, unfortunately, had other ideas. Be it as it may, I feel a tremendous amount of loyalty towards MPE-IMAGE users and, as HP’s MPE-savvy people dwindle, I keep adding more and more items to my to-do list. I love IMAGE and I continue to work, on a full-time basis, searching for ways to make the lives of TurboIMAGE users as rewarding as possible.” — F. Alfredo Rego, Adager.

“The HP 3000 has been my business companion for 26 years, providing continuity for my COBOL application development. It enabled my company to become an international solution provider and its tragic demise is a reminder of my own mortality on this earth. May the spirit of MPE live on forever in the user community it leaves behind. I believe that inside every HP 9000 there is an HP 3000 waiting to be released after October 2003.” — Jeanette Nutsford, Computometric Systems Ltd, New Zealand/UK/USA

“I came from an IBM mainframe background and then started working on the HP 3000 at HP as a Systems Engineer on the Series II in 1976. I knew I had gone to heaven when I could use a terminal to do compiles and queries in a very short time and on-line with a very user friendly operating system, MPE. Times were good then in the user community because everyone was in a learning mode and helped each other. Times have changed and we must now move on to new challenges. I really miss the good old days but am glad to have met a great circle of friends along the way!” — Paul Edwards, Paul Edwards & Associates.

06:36 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2013

CAMUS schedules manufacturing meeting on epic date for 3000 managers

Just about everyone left tending to an HP 3000 knows the day their plans for career and computing changed. Next month, the CAMUS manufacturing user group will have a call-in conference held on a significant 12th anniversary.

The regional meeting for managers who control ERP, MRP and manufacturing systems of any kind takes place on November 14. Ever since HP announced the end of its 3000 business plans in 2001, there have been many CAMUS meetings where representatives of companies such as Kenandy or Infor (software suppliers, cloud ERP and traditional) have presented to CAMUS users. This year's free meet will give the users the floor to talk about their best practices.

It's a free meeting, but you must register to get call-in information. The date and time, as well as the agenda, are out in the open as of this week. The conference calls starts at 10:30 Central Time (11:30 EST, 8:30 PST). It lasts 90 minutes on that Thursday.

A user group, in its classic and more useful format, gives members the means to better the practices of each other. After 12 years of life after HP's death of its 3000 business desire, the community will be teaching itself how to better manage manufacturing servers. All through those years, we've taken the bitter with some better.

Registration closes two weeks from today, on November 12. Sign up at the Sign Me Up Genius webpage

The organizer Terri Glendon Lanza said that questions and comments are welcome on many topics.

• Managing Multiple Organizations, Centralization, Consolidation, Differentiation
• Radio Frequency / Barcoding / Data Collection
• Reporting Tools / Business Intelligence / Big Data / Data Warehousing
• Electronic Forms Handling
• eCommerce / Web Interface / Cloud
• Connecting to other software packages (aka Surround Strategy)
• Accounting / Finance (Costing, Month-End-Close, SOX, Consolidated GL)
• Document Control - Master Data Management (Items, Boms, Routers, ECOs)
• Planning (RRP / MPS / MRP / CRP, Centralized for multiple organizations)
• Purchasing / Receiving / Centralized Purchasing
• Materials Handling (Inventory, Shipping & Logistics, Distribution Centers)
• Production Control (Work Order job shop or Repetitive (kanban) flow)
• Process Manufacturing and traceability
• Standard Operating Procedures

09:05 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2013

Vladimir resolves a 3000 jobs question

More than one kind of jobs question is on the landscape this year.  The most obvious question is how to keep your job as the head coach of a vital 3000 server in your organization. The other question, which has been on the table since 2002, is how to manage jobs on the server where your applications will run, after your organization makes its transition.

There are too many answers to the first question to list them all here. I invite you to send us helpful answers. Based on your responses, we can pay them forward. On Friday Oct. 25, I wrote about one answer: Be an entrepreneur for the first time in your life, even while you're older than 55. It's the biggest age group of entrepreneurs. Another answer might be to master a more nouveau environment for apps. Your value on MPE/iX is kept vital, but mostly because you've acquired new skills for an environment that runs alongside MPE/iX. Be ready, in that case, to embrace more change, plus adopt respect for much younger colleagues.

The second jobs question has not had good answers for Windows -- the migrator's favorite platform -- until 2011. Then MB Foster released a scheduler that replicates the power of MPE/iX scheduling and jobstream management. MBF-Scheduler was built by developers who were masters of MPE/iX jobs.

But the third aspect of a jobs question emerged in the past week from a longtime, advanced MPE manager, Tracy Johnson. Working at Measurement Specialties -- one of the strongest and most devoted users of MPE/iX servers, running 10 factories around the world -- Johnson posed a question about job numbers.

'What's the highest job number allowed before it rolls back to #J1?"

VEsoft's founder Vladmir Volokh gave Johnson an answer, according to the manager. It resolves an everyday need, even though other answers came from experts with decades of MPE/iX experience. Vladimir's name isn't invoked a lot on the 3000 newsgroup where the question emerged. Johnson tagged the answer as one of the best. But that's because he talked with the creator of MPEX.

"I'm using MPEX in a night job that cleans up old spool files after midnight," Johnson told me this afternoon.

I really care how to set the job number, using MPEX:

%deletespoolfile @.@.@(spool.readydate < today-7)

-----Deleting #O...

... several hundred spool files later...

-----Deleting #O315330, $STDLIST, #J1225, MMAUDJAS,MANAGER.MMV090 (704 sectors)

The above $STDLIST was created the same day, (not > seven days before)

I have noticed this symptom occurs after JOB numbers have rolled over from #J16383 back to #J1, so I there must be a counter when using spool filesets.  In other words, it happily deletes spool files it finds using the date criteria, (working sequentially). But when the job number rolls back to one, it assumes the next spool file with a lower job number encountered is "earlier" than the one before it. (#J1 must be 'earlier' than #J16383, yes?)

Via a phone conversation -- how fundamental, that old-school contact -- Johnson learned this about 3000 jobs:

Before the fix:

%deletespoolfile @.@.@(spool.readydate < today-7)

After the fix: 

%purge @.OUT.HPSPOOL(CREDATE < TODAY - 7 AND NOT OPENED)

03:34 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2013

Age vs. Youth, and Rebooting Your Value

HP 3000 pros usually count several decades of experience or more in IT, but that almost always makes them on the leeward side of age 50. That's a deterrent to getting hired in the next phase of a work life, if you're forced to move away from what you've done well for most of your career.

It doesn't have to read that way, if you believe some of the sharper knives in the modern computing drawer. There is an age bias out there. Younger turks believe the elders are holding them back. Pros who took their first jobs before Reagan was President see a lot of shrugs over an interview desk when a Gen-X or Millennial is looking at their history.

Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia when he was 35, but here he is about 12 years later saying that youth doesn't trump experience every time. There's a balance. Out on the readwrite.com website, a story says, Jimmy Wales To Silicon Valley: Grow Up And Get Over Your Age Bias. "Silicon Valley frowns on age, yet several of its most successful entrepreneurs argue experience tends to trump youthful exuberance."

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show an overall median age of 42.3 for American workers, tech workers skew much, much younger. Only six of the tech companies reviewed by Payscale had a median age (equal number of people above and below a number) above 35.

And only one—HP—came in above 40.

In the article, Wales says it's a mistake to believe tech entrepreneurs are past their prime if they aren't worth a billion dollars by the age of 35, or even 25. "Wales and other successful tech entrepreneurs say this thinking is as wrong as it is dangerous."

The article cites the same study we reported on this summer about older programmers being more productive. Wales is quoted in the article, "A better question might be: How can we in the tech community make sure that unusual success at a very early age is not mistakenly thought to be the norm?"

And for the HP 3000 pro moving into the next phase, being an entrepreneur is sometimes the only likely way to keep working. Join the movement and you'll find lots of people your age.

According to data from the Kauffman Foundation, the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America has shifted to the 55–64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34. Indeed, Kauffman highlights that the 20-34 age bracket has the lowest rate of entrepreneurial activity.

11:57 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 24, 2013

Crime keeps non-3000 platforms most busy

Kinds of Cyber AttacksHP has sponsored a new edition of the Ponemon study of crime commited via computers. The results are trending in the direction everyone expects: upward, with cyber-crime now topping $11 million per typical breach in the US. The chart above tracks the frequency of the type of crime committed. Malware, viruses, worms and trojans are on just about every company's report. Where the cyber-attack takes place -- the location of the webserver -- makes a difference in the cost of the breach.

We found that US companies are much more likely to experience the most expensive types of cyber attacks, which are malicious code, denial of service and web-based incidents. Similarly, Australia is most likely to experience denial of service attacks. In contrast, German companies are least likely to experience malicious code and botnets. Japanese companies are least likely to experience stolen devices and malicious code attacks.

HP worked hard in the late 1990s to establish Web server capability for the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. At first there was a product for sale from HP. A few years later, with little success of selling it, HP gave it away as part of the MPE/iX Fundamental Operating System. But even in FOS, serving web pages never caught on. Web page services, of course, are the top way to distribute malware, bots and other costly disruptors.

In a way, the lack of a Web capability has made the HP 3000 one of the least-attacked environments. But even a 3000 connected to the Internet in any way is susceptible to a hack. It's just tougher to steal something worth fencing, plucked out of an OS built with a ring of privilege at its heart. Not impossible, never. Because like the Ponemon report says, the most costly cyber-crime happens from within datacenter operations.

The report, which HP has sponsored for several years, calls those attacks from within "malicious insiders." They're the most costly of all kinds of cyber-attacks, based on 234 companies that Ponemon has surveyed. But the second- and third-most costly kinds of attacks are unlikely to be unleashed on MPE/iX systems: Denial of Service (DOS) and Web-based attacks.

The most expensive attacks are malicious insiders, denial of service and web-based attacks. In the context of our study, malicious insiders include employees, temporary employees, contractors and, possibly, business partners.

Detecting an attack and recovering from one make up the biggest chunk of the expense of cyber-crime. 54 percent of the cost comes from "productivity loss and direct labor." The latter segment is IT man-hours. The former might well include IT operations that need to be deferred or delayed while crime cleanup goes on. On average, a malicious insider attack takes about six weeks to recover from, according to the survey.

Software to protect computer systems from crime is complex, and according to a Network Computing article, requires significant care and feeding after it's been deployed in a company. The Ponemon report calls this software Security Intelligence Systems. Another common name for it is a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) product. HP sells one that's well-regarded, ArcSight. Longtime HP 3000 vendor Quest Software has moved into the field with its own product.

The greatest target for cyber-crime appears to be Windows-based environments, since they're the most widely used in the world. It's also reflected in an InformationWeek study that shows Symantec's SIEM software is most-installed.

HP 3000s which are still serving credit card usage, or dealing with healthcare records, are the most likely candidates for these kinds of software solutions. The InformationWeek report said that e-commerce and HIPAA drove one out of every four SIEM deployments.

Those turn out to be some of the most likely 3000s to be used in an open-to-the-public setting, too. The costs go beyond the software's expense, of course.

Many SIEM products are expensive, but the full cost isn’t just the software or hardware. These products require extensive system integration to realize their potential. That means you must account for staff hours (or pay consultants) for installation and configuration, as well as integration with other products. SIEM products rely on databases for event and log analysis, which means database administrator resources must also be considered, not only for the ini- tial configuration of the product but also on- going maintenance and tuning. And of course, IT and security teams will need to be trained to use the product. These factors af- fect your total SIEM cost. As one respondent said, “Total cost of acquisition and operating is elusive. When you purchase a SIEM solution, the work is just beginning."

Return on investment for deploying security intelligence is small, at 21 percent. But the cost is reasonable compared to the attack's aftermath -- company reputation, fines and restitution. Ponemon's survey said

Companies deploying security intelligence systems experienced a substantially higher ROI at 21 percent than all other technology categories presented. Also significant are the estimated ROI results for companies that extensively deploy encryption technologies and advanced perimeter controls.

Most 3000s have a perimeter to defend, if nothing else. Keeping a system useful means putting it on a network, and any outside-facing network is going to require defense. If numbers from an outside source can be useful in getting funded for this kind of defense, Ponemon summed up the take-aways.

  • Cyber crimes are costly. We found that the average annualized cost of cyber crime for 234 organizations in our study is $7.2 million per year, with a range of $375,387 to $58 million. This represents an increase in cost of 30 percent from the consolidated global results of last year’s cyber cost study.
  • Cyber attacks have become common occurrences. The companies in our study experienced 343 successful attacks per week and 1.4 successful attacks per company per week. This represents an increase of 20 percent from last year’s successful attack experience. Last year’s study reported 262 successful attacks on average per week.
  • The most costly cyber crimes are those caused by malicious insiders, denial of service and web-based attacks. Mitigation of such attacks requires enabling technologies such as SIEM, intrusion prevention systems, application security testing and enterprise governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) solutions.

Many smaller companies use HP 3000s, and Ponemon's research shows that this size of organization seems to be most susceptible to the kind of attack rarely seen on an MPE/iX system.

Smaller organizations (below the median of enterprise seats) experience a higher proportion of cyber crime costs relating to viruses, worms, trojans, phishing, malware and botnets. In contrast, larger organizations (above the median) experience a higher proportion of costs relating to denial of services, malicious insiders, web-based attacks, stolen devices and malicious code.

06:40 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23, 2013

A Place to Make Plans for Transition

Websites offer a world of advice on how to move toward the future with ease. There's nothing easier than tapping a webinar to find out more about making an HP 3000 transition. And no company has even come within several leagues of teaching with webinars like MB Foster does.

Wednesdays are the regular date, with the presentations starting at 2PM Eastern US time. Today's talk, with an interactive segment as well (Birket Foster asks for questions throughout) is on Application Decommissioning. Even at a place where the 3000 is likely to run another four years, like MacLean-Fogg manufacturers, a custom MPE app will go out of production mode, someday. 

Today's talk (register at the MB Foster website, and get your audio via IP or phone) focuses on the legacy data process and compliance issues in your plans for such a decommission. That data will be moving forward, just as surely as those disk packs at MacLean-Fogg moved on to the next 3000 after a flood. Data always moves onward, but it's no easy task without planning.

"In a time when cost cutting is a necessity, decommissioning legacy application data offers companies cost savings, and resource efficiencies," Foster's website proposes, "all while meeting compliance for your business and legal requirements to retain and access data."

The company's been illuminating the key issues that can serve both homesteading and migration missions. Sometimes this kind of modernization serves homesteading, and then modernization. The list of what's been covered over the last five years of webinars is impressive. There's two more on the way, November 6 and November 20.

November 6 covers Automating Windows Processes and Batch Jobs: learn how you can automate windows processes and manage data processing jobs (scripts), view output, maintain complex scheduling dependencies and relationships easily and effectively. People try to do this after a transition using Windows Task Manager, which lets you schedule many tasks. It's no substitute for the power and control you enjoyed on the HP 3000.

On November 6 the webinar covers Measuring for Meaning, KPI's, Dashboards and ODS. That last acronym stands for Operational Data Stores. KPIs provide visibility into a business’s vital signs, using metrics and dashboards. Moving to bigger-scope IT, which is usually part of a migration or modernization, introduces an IT pro to these strategies.

Many other subjects have been part of the webinar curriculum. Data migration challenges, including a live demonstration of a copy between an HP 3000 IMAGE database to a SQL Server database. Another talk shared data migration best practices. Last year you could learn about the advances in the new Eloquence database and language. The drop-in replacement for IMAGE at migrating 3000 sites gained full text search in the database.

There was a look at the elements of Big Data as they relate to IT planning. For homesteaders, issues got examined on how to transition supporting your customer applications for HP 3000s. 3000 sites are still renewing commitments to using the server for another 3-5 years. A company with experience in serving customers through applications can help companies extend the life of their systems.

There's also been scheduling challenges for Windows managers, synchronization of data. Tips on decommissioning of data. How to plan for Mean Time To Recovery of Operations. Spend about 45 minutes on some Wednesday, today or soon, and get to the place where transition planning sets up shop.

06:08 AM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2013

3000 stays above water at manufacturer

Ed. Note: The HP 3000's ability to remain running over more than 25 years has kept it in service at MacLean-Fogg. IT Director Mark Mojonnier updated us on the current status and future plans for their MPE/iX server. At times, the computer simply needed to keep its (disk) head above water.

We've been running HP 3000 systems since 1983. The company was originally part of Reliance Electric out of Cleveland years ago. In 1986, Reliance sold a piece of that business to MacLean-Fogg company in Mundelein, IL. The new company, Reliable Power Products, bought its first HP 3000 Series 48 in 1987. We had a flood in the building later that year and had to buy another one. The disk drives were high enough out of the water to survive, so when the new one arrived, we warm-booted it (with the old disk packs) and it picked up right where it left off.

At the time we bought our first HP 3000, there was a single manufacturing location to support. Now, there are 11 manufacturing facilities in North America we support. The business has grown from $25 million to about 10-15 times that now. Same base software -- just a lot more functional these days. It evolves constantly.

Since those first days, we have had an Series 925,  Series 957, Series 969, Series 989, and now an N4000-750 (for production) and a N4000-500 for DR. We run home-grown ERP software written in COBOL. We run about 200-250 users pretty much all the time. The system runs 24/7/365, basically unattended. We have developed all sorts of notification software that pages, texts, emails, and calls when the system sees $STDLIST for unexpected things that went bump in the night (or day). There are two of us that write the software, manage the OS (not much to do there), and handle the day-to-day activities.

When we bought our latest HP 3000 systems, we found that these were actually new machines that had simply been in storage for many years. These new ones simply blow the doors off that Series 989. Fiber vs. single-ended SCSI is no match on throughput. Our 2-3 hour overnight processes dropped to 1 hour. Just being able to backup to LTO instead of DLT made a big difference.

We moved from that Franklin Park address simply because the building would have a tendency to flood just about every year. In 1987, we had 18 inches of water. This was called the flood of the century. 18 inches rising up the back of a Series 48 doesn't leave much dry space. Then, starting in 2008, we had a flood almost every year through 2013. Now, 6-8 inches of water in the office doesn't go over too well with furniture and office equipment. But those floods never hurt the HP 3000s.

After about five of these floods, the company decided to sell the building. They moved the factory to Tennessee and the corporate offices to South Carolina. The 3000 now resides in Mundelein, where the two of us continue to keep the 3000 running.

However, as most 3000 sites go, the system is being phased out over the next few years. We are installing EPICOR. It runs on a cluster of Windows and SQL servers. The plan is to phase it in, and phase out the HP 3000, all over the same time period. The two HP 3000s will remain around for a few years after that to hold archived data.

I hate to see them go, but I've been working with them since 1983 (30 years and counting) and hope to see another four to five years. It's been quite a ride. I hope it continues for a few more years.

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

October 21, 2013

Cars and cigars continue to rely on 3000

Thompson CigarMacLean-Fogg is a corporation of almost a billion dollars with operations on five continents. But on one of those, North America, an HP 3000 continues to serve the company. We recently heard from Mark Mojonnier there, whose job title reads, IT Director, Legacy Systems.

The headquarters operation in Mundelein, IL is Mojonnier's charge. This is a manufacturer, one whose corporate message is that if you've been inside a car, the company's parts have been important to the drive. "We form things and we make things," and the processes and expertise at its plants includes hot and cold forming of aluminum and steel, molding of silicon and carbon fiber, secondary injection and insert molding, CNC machining, plus product assembly. The organization even uses what it calls “exotic fastener materials” in something called warm forming.

HP 3000s once broke the ground for Computer Integrated Manufacturing in plants like Mundelein, a village in Lake County with about 30,000 residents. Manufacturing computers usually work in small villages and cities, in part to capitalize on lowered costs of resources. The company just opened a hot forming plant in Savanna, IL this year.

MacLean-Fogg"May our HP 3000 live forever," Mojonnier said as he tended to keeping his subscription with us on target. There's not much reason the system running his application won't, considering that it now has a virtualization future when the company is ready to part ways with HP-built iron, if needed. As for 3000's MPE heart, that is still lighting a fire at the Thompson Cigar Company, too.

Managers Steve Osborne and Russ Anderson oversee and manage the HP 3000 at the maker of fine smokes in Tampa. Long ago, the Ecometry User Group conference provided hand-rolled cigars to all attendees at a late '90s-era gathering. At Thompson, the tradition to tobacco goes back even further. It's the oldest mail order cigar company in the US. Originally opening in Key West, the company will celebrate its centennial in just a couple of years.

Bought in a bundle of 40, its Churchill-sized Victor Sinclair Sampler is just $39.95. Companies using HP 3000s for commerce, either through the stately old-school of catalog shopping or the speed of the Web, can keep costs down on their IT operations using HP 3000s. Like the surround code that's custom-crafted around off-the-shelf applications like Ecometry, Thompson's products -- another manufactured good -- are hand rolled.

Whether it's at MacLean-Fogg Component Solutions -- building items like automotive wheel fasteners and locknuts -- or stocking up the storage humidors of Thompson, some manufacturing companies continue to find good value in their 3000 applications.

 

05:00 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 18, 2013

Dairy co-op skims cream of MPE off 3000s

More than three decades of HP 3000 servers have booted and remained online at Dairylea Cooperative. Now the collective of New York dairy farmers will put its next generation of MPE apps onto Intel iron, running the Stromasys Charon emulator.

Jeff Elmer, the IT director for the co-op, said the HP 3000 has a long history, even longer than his tenure there -- and that's work for him that stretches back to 1985 for the organization. It's a modest operation, and the collective is on its way to using SAP for the long term. In the meantime, though, a virtualized MPE/iX server is going to handle the information flow for these milk producers.

"The company has a long term commitment to switch to SAP," he said, "but MPE will be powering our producer payroll and milk laboratory systems for at least a couple more years in the comfort and safety of the emulator on new hardware, to say nothing of enjoying the various advantages of virtualization. After SAP, the emulator still has a future as an historical repository."

So while HP's 3000 hardware is headed for a shutdown at Dairylea, it's MPE that becomes the cream to be skimmed off Hewlett-Packard computers that stretch back to the early 1980s.

HP forestalled a purchase of the ultimate generation of 3000 iron when it announced it was ending its MPE operations, Elmer said.

I was doing the legwork for an upgrade to an N Class the day I heard that HP had abandoned the 3000; as a result of that announcement, we abandoned that upgrade. As for our current HP 3000, it's a venerable 969 KS/100 that we bought when 969s were new and yes, it is still running like a champ. There was a Series 68, a Series 70, a 925, and a 935 before there was a 969.  The company has a long history with HP. They were using HP 3000s before I started here and I am in my 29th year as of October.

Co-op executives are not confident about the lifespan of drives in those 3000s, however, and so the Charon emulator makes its debut there in the months to come. Elmer also paid the various upgrade/transfer fees for third-party software, as well as submitting paperwork to HP for a license transfer from the physical box to the emulator.

"Our company has always tried to keep our licensing straight, and our maintenance and support up-to-date with all of our business partners," he said. "That policy will continue with the emulator. All that, and we even got a physical DLT8000 tape drive to work with the emulator! Now I know for sure that if there is a legal reason to restore from an old backup tape, I can do it.  What more could you want?"

10:38 AM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2013

How to Rebuild a System Better, Faster

I'm looking at how to save as much time as possible in rebuilding an HP 3000's software and directories. My options seem to be using STORE, versus the sysgen tape command "tape store=@.@.@". What's the best way to go here?

Donna Hofmeister of Allegro replies

Unless your system is small (like a 918 with 8-12GB of disc), you don't want to try to do a full backup via sysgen. If you really do a full backup then I prefer this syntax “store /;...” as it is self-documenting and you know that the Posix files will be backed up as well. (On older releases of MPE, @.@.@ did not back up Posix files <eek>)

You want to make sure that you run 'buldacct' periodically (and routinely). You also want to make sure that you are somehow backing up your directory (store /;*t;directory, for example). Between the two, you have belts and suspenders (for recovering your accounting structure).

On older releases of MPE, you want to make sure that the network is shut down prior to making your SLT tape. And it's still a good idea to have the system quiesced when making an SLT, since everything in the sys account (and .pub.sys in particular) will be locked while the tape is being made. Nothing quite like grumpy users to make your day...

Hofmeister added that one of her own CI scripts, sysinfo, has morphed into "topaz, and is available to Allegro's customers. Getting this job is worth the cost of support!"

Jack Connor of Abtech adds

Just as a matter of preference, I normally do a BULDACCT @ at the beginning of the weekly full backup, then the DIRECTORY option along with ;ONVS=MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET, PRODUCTION_SET, etc as a belt and suspenders approach for that day we all hope never comes.

Mark Ranft of Pro 3K outlined the use of sysgen

Here are instructions for a complete backup of basic MPE/iX system via SYSGEN's TAPE option.  It is best if everything fits on a single DDS (or DDS-2 or DDS-3 or DDS-4) tape cartridge, but it will ask for a second (additional) tape(s) as needed.

Note:  I included a 'second_volume_set' which can be changed or removed

Note 2:  The line below is >80 characters, so you have to know how to create a file so that this does not wrap (or make other adjustments.) 

Step One - Create an indirect file containing the following as a single line... 

@.@.@;onvs=mpexl_system_volume_set, second_volume_set

;progress;maxtapebuf;compress=high;online=start;partialdb;directory

Step Two - Create this job

:job jsltall,manager.sys;outclass=,1          
:sysgen                                      
tape store=^fsltall.job.sys                  
exit                                          
:tellop END OF JSLTALL --------------  EOJ    
:eoj                                          

Feel free to add a BULDACCT to this.

 

06:51 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 16, 2013

For almost all, not the first time to migrate

A recent talk with ScreenJet's Alan Yeo shed some light on the migration process for 3000 owners. Our era is not the first time anybody has made a migration in the 3000 world. This one is different, however, from the transition the entire community performed about 25 years ago. That was an era when HP rolled out radically new hardware, but had engineered a way to carry program code forward. There was work, however, that everyone had to do.

Migration Made EasyIn the fall of 1988, moving from MPE V to MPE XL was being called a migration. In the same way that today's migrations are being shaped as transitions or modernizations, the migration of MPE V systems to a new OS was attempting to avoid being labeled a conversion. Big work, that conversion stuff. Migration, by everybody's measure this year, is bigger stuff than replacing an app while moving off a 3000.

Yeo said this month that a customer of his had already made their migration once -- a "proper migration" if you can imagine the British accent -- and was returning to do another migration. "They're happy they migrated, because they now know that they can," he said. Yeo estimated that about one in every five companies that have left have done this proper migration -- which means keeping business logic and lot of MPE code in hand during the move.

Today's strategy for migrating has much in common with what 3000 owners were doing in 1988, the time when MPE XL was first coming online at customer sites. Victoria Shoemaker of Taurus Software wrote an article in the HP Chronicle that month called From MPE V to MPE XL: Migration Made Easy. Her seven steps make up that year's proper migration: Education; analysis; developing a migration plan; MPE/V conversion; installation of HP-PA RISC machines; Compatibility Mode operation; Migration to Native Mode operation. 

How familiar does this paragraph sound, based on today's advice?

Planning is the single most important element of your migration. Regardless of how many applications that run in your shop, how many machines you have, how much third-party software you run, your migration's success depends on how well you have planned it. Spend the time to plan. It pays off.

There are some differences between the advice you can check out in the PDF of that archive article from the HP Chronicle versus the counsel you'll get today. In late '88 there was not much of a thriving market of experts who were selling professional services for getting onto a new hardware platform with a new OS. HP set up Migration Centers in five US cities, plus one in Germany. You'd bring in code and run it on the new Series 900 HP 3000 system, then resolve errors and get time to do rewriting as needed. The centers even included shredders, so your sensitive data and coding wouldn't be compromised.

But nobody inside HP was doing that work. And travel with your tapes and printed code was essential to using that help. You'd apply for some time on some very new computers, and an even newer OS. The timesharing era wasn't that far in the past. It didn't seem a tremendous throwback.

Today there's other options. You can even have that migration planning done for you after a series of interviews at your own site. Or simply phone calls, after you've sent information over this thing we call the Internet. Didn't exist in 1988, to be sure. You could transfer your files via a terminal emulator, of course. The concept of remote system access and inventory was a rare thing indeed.

Tens of thousands of 3000 sites survived and even thrived after the MPE V to XL migration. HP created a Compatibility Mode to operate the old programs unmolested. Performance was actually worse in many cases in that early migration era, because MPE XL 1.x was a slow and unpredictable release. Operating in Native Mode at least made the brand-new Series 950 and 925 servers as fast as existing top-end Series 70s. Like today's ultimate generation of HP's 3000 iron, Hewlett-Packard was certainly leaving a widely-installed field of hardware behind.

10:24 PM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2013

What Posix Delivered, and Didn't, for 3000s

Open3000 pageThe arrival of the POSIX.1 software standards in MPE was a compatibility milestone. I remember the call I got from HP's Glenn Osaka, then a product manager at the 3000 division, asking what I'd think about a renaming of MPE. In the fall of 1991 the 3000's OS was called MPE/XL. In just a few weeks, HP wanted to start calling it MPE/iX. Those last two letters were the same as Unix, but the OS didn't ever produce commercial apps from that OS. HP was hawking its Unix hard by that time. Starting in 1992, the 3000 was being portrayed as open.

But a decade of HP effort to win applications from the Unix environment came to an end in the fall of 2001. What was left over from the grafting of POSIX onto the 3000's OS? To this very day, you can use open source software that's been ported to MPE. Or port some yourself, if this will solve a compatibility problem.

HP wasn't shy about telling 1991's customers how much difference that iX was going to make. Unix benefits that the 3000 were supposed to gain included app portability, a Unix development environment, and multivendor connectivity. HP called it the Open 3000.

"Customers now have access to a wide breadth of industry-leading applications," said 3000 GM Rich Sevcik. "It should be viewed as a very exciting incremental set of functionality for the MPE owner, and it's just another example of the smooth evolution of the HP 3000."

While the arrival of Micro Focus, Oracle's apps, Lawson Software ERP or SAP never materialized, some key non-commercial software made its way to the 3000. Lots of it has become essential at connecting the servers to non-3000s, especially through networking. One of the first and most prominent results of Posix was the file-sharing tool Samba.

One HP lab engineer of that time said the goal of the POSIX.1 effort was "to increase the availability of some types of applications on the 3000, and to provide for modernization and connectivity with other 'open' platforms. POSIX.1 allowed the Apache Web server, Samba, and many other open source tools to be ported at low cost to the 3000."

The cost was so low that a then-essential Web Server, Apache, was ported by a non-HP engineer who needed the software for his community college's datacenter. Mark Bixby was later hired by the lab and became crucial to what was called Internet & Interoperability.

Posix also brought industry-standard administration interfaces to the OS. The ideal there was to be able to take Unix-trained IT staffers and put them to work managing HP 3000s. Or to make the 3000 no different than Unix management, so the MPE server wouldn't stick out too much. Unix was claiming to be an open choice -- that engineer was correct in putting quotes around open -- ever since the late 1980s.

But Posix was never going to future-proof the 3000's environment, in spite of the promises made about its prospects at HP. It was never engineered enough to provide binary compatibility. By the middle '90s, the Newswire was covering "Proposition 3000" to make the 3000's FTP GET, its tar -xzf, its make and make install work like HP's Unix counterparts.  No vendor would ever certify code for every Unix, or even Linux distros in existence today.

But a majority of open source code has a good track record for just working.

The promise of "open" was always on the other side of serious engineering costs. Until Intel processors ruled the planet, you'd have to worry about hardware support and low-level incompatibilities. Things like page sizes, sector sizes, supported devices, ioctl() codes, incompatible drivers and so on.

Eventually even architectural differences between MPE and the Unix world made Web services a non-starter. A Unix standby called the "fork() of death" that made production web services on the 3000 an impossibility. One legendary MPE expert, Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said the fork simply wouldn't go into the meatiest part of the OS.

"fork() is such an alien and invasive concept to the MPE mindset, yet a laissez-faire operation on *ux," he said. "It would have required some really heavy lifting, perhaps beyond the fork() conversion folks' abilities or resource scope." Plainly put, more engineering time might have brought MPE into line with Unix, but it might have been too great a difference in design, too.

When you can apply Perl, or other open source resources like the ones found at www.mpe-opensource.org, to a 3000's mission, you see the benefit of changing that XL to an iX. Posix was HP’s first effort at making MPE more standards-friendly. The engineering led to the potential for open source programs such as Samba, Apache and more to make it across the porting divide — and give the 3000 its first genuine cross-platform tools. The Posix work in MPE made GNU C for the 3000 a possibility, back in the nascent era of the open source movement. And without GNU C, nothing else would be available from the open source library today.

05:45 PM in Hidden Value, History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 14, 2013

Support paywall can seem to hide manuals

We're investigating another point of confusion between HP's MPE/iX and 3000 manuals and the 3000 community. Donna Hofmeister, one of the former OpenMPE directors who heard HP's promise to keep these manuals available to the general public, emailed us this report.

It appears that HP has cut off public access to the MPE manuals. If you use HP's link through its Business Support Center, and go thru a couple of clicks... you'll eventually be asked for support credentials.

In my opinion, this shouldn't be the case for MPE manuals (since, after all, who has HP's MPE support anyhow?). HP agreed to continue to allow access to the MPE things (including patches) when they vendor was negotiating with OpenMPE.

Hofmeister noted that the patches are still available for free. The good news is that the 3000 community has been compiling the manuals outside HP's servers, just to ensure the vendor kept its promise of open access to 3000 documentation. And there is a more concealed path into the manuals today. Just not through the front door Hofmeister was using.

Straight to the point, things are changing in the HP support operations and its access for users. A support contract might be required, in HP's confusion over the 3000's place on the website, if you head in through the wrong address. Or read a recent HP email.

Last week the HP enterprise computer users received an email that proclaimed the patches and other support materials for servers like the Integrity line and its operating environments would only be available to users who had a current support contract with HP. Hewlett-Packard doesn't support the 3000 or MPE anymore -- a fact the vendor reminded users about constantly in the months leading to the end of support in December, 2010. 

So there's no way to pay for support that would deliver access to MPE materials. Which is why HP told OpenMPE and the 3000 community the access would be free.

Manuals at MMsupportIndependent support companies, third parties and adept managers have been squirreling away the manuals for years by now. In addition to a core set of manuals at yet another HP website address, linked to by Applied Technologies via a direct link off mpe-opensource.org, MM Support has a wide array of these manuals for download. MM Support, a group of 3000 veterans who created the MM/3000 ERP software, says it's hosting these documents, organized by function as well as alphabetically, because of "the great love we have for the HP 3000."

The following list is a beginning. We have laid the HP 3000 MPE Manuals out in a manner that is friendly to use. We will try and have both HTML and PDF format for the HP3000 Manuals. 

As we've noted, MPE patches seem to be available without support credentials. Hofmeister says you need a lot of patience. You're likely to get asked about the HP 3000 latex printer a few times.

I'm still sending people to HP to get patches. Last one was maybe a month ago. The process seems to work, although I always caution them to be prepared to be patient. Getting through the front-line call handlers can be difficult :-(

I suspect many people downloaded all the patches while the FTP site was still available. But in my opinion, they'd be well advised to at least be very careful about who they give these patches to, since HP seems to be in a litigious mood.

04:16 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 11, 2013

The Comment-y Stylings of Tim O'Neill

ComedymicComment sections of blogs are usually tar pits of abusive and misdirected retorts. I feel lucky that comments on the Newswire's blog have been otherwise, for the most part. On many tech blogs the comments that follow a story devolve at lightning pace into rants about the NSA, partisan politics, the insulting disappointments of Windows/Apple/Google, or the zen koan of climate change.

Tim O'Neill has lifted up the reputation of commenting to an enabling art. The manager of a 3000 system in Maryland, he's become prolific in his messages that echo or take a counterpoint to the stories we run here. His comment count is running at 15 over just the past five months. For our unique but modest-sized outpost of 3000 lore and learning, that's a lot. He's got a comment for almost one in every five stories.

CommentsHP's actions of 12 years ago are still a sore point with some 3000 managers. Count O'Neill among them. We ran a story yesterday about HP's best case scenario for 2014: it will lose sales more slowly than this year. Some new products will get R&D focus. Pockets of sales growth will pop up. Overall, less revenue, for yet another year.

O'Neill shot off a comment within an hour of our story.

This does not sound too hopeful, if the best they can promise is slowing the rate of revenue decline while at the same time spending $3B on R&D. At the same time, they have essentially no cutting-edge mobile products (and no WebOS,) a stagnant flagship OS (HP-UX, no new releases in about a decade) a second flagship OS sentenced to death (OpenVMS -- HP finally kills the last of the DEC that they hated for decades) and shuttered sales and support offices (relying on VARs and the Web for sales, instead of interpersonal interaction.)

O'Neill never fails to note that a retained 3000 business would be helping HP, even today. "Meanwhile, the long-ago-jilted MPE lives on, ancient LaserJets continue to crank out print jobs and make money for toner refillers (I still have LJ 2000 and 4000 series printer in service,) and digital signal generators (HP, not Agilent) still generate signals. They do still make nice new printers. Maybe they should buy Blackberry to get into the smartphone business."

It's great to have a chorus behind you when reporting on one 3000 news item after another. It's even better when there's a consistently different-sounding voice on webpages. If there was an Andy Rooney position on the 3000 Newswire's stable of contributors, O'Neill could fill that post.

When my story this week noted that a few N-Class servers, to be mothballed at HP's datacenter next week, would be available for purchase, O'Neill took another tack.
Customers should not be buying cast-off 3000s if they can help it. Instead, they should be ramping up for the future and buying Stromasys-ready hardware.

O'Neill has left fat pitches for other readers to comment upon. "I wonder if anybody still has an HP 150?" Or "Does anybody remember the name of the company that was marketing a wireless 3000 terminal in the late 1980s?" Then there are these comments below, in response to articles about the HP Computer Museum needing older computers, or a new iPad app that gives the 3000 user a wireless terminal for apps or console work.

Well I think the Terminal-on-a-Tablet is a great idea, and gosh we could have really used that and a wireless link 10 years ago when we needed to constantly interact with MPE. I can see great usefulness for people who are using MPE actively, e.g for inventory. It gives one more reason to stay with MPE and one more reason to buy Stromasys boxes on which to run MPE.

Gosh, I wonder if anyone still has a HP 150? It was coolest thing! But people here only used it for a terminal!

O'Neill can also find a silver lining in a report about two 3000 experts replacing themselves (due to age) and moving off an app built long ago.

This article amply demonstrates that: 1) MPE is extremely good at OLTP and business management processes, and is not easily replaced 2) MPE is very cost-effective (e.g. this company had to increase staff after MPE, and 3) "Migration" is incorrect terminology, and vendors made a lot of money, once, by doing it. Now, "if only" a consortium such as a modern-day OpenMPE or OSF could be created, to take command!

Not too many readers remember, or can put into context, the aims of the OSF (the Open Software Foundation) as they related to the HP 3000. OSF was about putting common software platforms in place across Unix servers from many vendors. HP did hope that Posix on MPE would help port some software to the 3000. Both projects fell short of such hopes. O'Neill is hopeful in a way I've rarely seen about the prospects for a rebound of MPE.

I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.

He has observations on the differences in vendors serving his company, sparked by news that HP's taken a dive out of the Dow 30.

"Dive" is being kind. They were thrown out. As an example of their inablity to market themselves, the following is illustrative. Next week Dell Computer will host a technical day at our facility. This will be the second such day in the past six months. Customers go and hear the latest. HP has equal opportunity to rent the space, purvey the lunch, and pitch their wares to willing listeners. HP does not do it. Too few sales people spread too thin?

It's been nice to be noticed, but as you can see from the comment string off our front page, not all of it has been complimentary. Recent reporting on OpenMPE got rapped by a pair of principals who were onstage at the end of the organization's activity. But the rarest of things, outright praise for memories, appeared after I wrote about what we all miss from the August HP conferences of our past years.

It is poignant and evocative, meaning if I were an emotional person, it would have brought me to tears. I actually attended the [August] 1996 show in Anaheim! There I had the privilege of speaking with Fred White, who predicted the demise of MPE while on the sidewalk outside the convention center, as well as the subsequent demise of HP-UX. (When was the last new release of HP-UX? Years ago, right?) You wrote that Interex (later HP World) always left people "invigorated, rededicated or just stirred up." True. "Rededicated" rhymes with "medicated" which, nowadays, we HP 3000 people feel as though we need to be! It will be interesting to see how Stromasys emulation will work with VMWare, of which we are heavy users.

I invite you to write a comment for your own pleasure and our information. Whether you shoot this messenger or toss kudos, it will make its way into our shared story.

03:09 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2013

HP hopes for slower sales declines in 2014

In a typical response to the above news, investors bought in on Hewlett-Packard's vision of the future yesterday. Market analysts who advise the pension plans -- and the rest of the 75 percent of institutional-owners of HP shares -- found this lump of non-dire news under HP's carpet. CEO Meg Whitman said they predicted there would be 1 percent more profit than the analysts' predictions. One estimate bested another by a trace amount, and so hope rose up among shareholders.

The future for HPNone of this has happened yet; even HP's fiscal 2013 still has three weeks left to play out, let alone the realities of 2014. "Pockets" of growth in HP's sales have been promised, although the company cannot say where those pockets will appear. They might be in tablets, where HP could manage revenue growth with sales that become measurable. Or the growth might occur in enterprise servers and software, a prospect with much longer odds.

"Stabilizing revenue declines" are the brightest outlook HP can promise for the year to come. That HP had to promise continuing declines shows how tough its IT sales market has become. People who were buying laptops for business are now investing in tablets or working via smartphones, both of which are more mobile. HP's offerings in both segments are years behind market leaders, echoes of cheaper solutions, or invisible (in the case of the phones).

Mobile computing is one of the many sectors of computing products where HP's got big issues to resolve. One analyst said after yesterday's meet that it wouldn't be a great investment to buy HP stock, given the "growth challenges the company is facing in nearly every product category." Investment in buying HP's products is another matter, but it's the one which determines that growth challenge.

HP's fiscal numbers for its latest quarter won't surface for more than a month. But Whitman's cheerleading came during a two-day meeting with those analysts. HP earned a $2 share bump on a forecast that put its 2014 profits 3 cents a share higher than a $3.62 forecast. Whitman said HP will focus on new products and services next year -- a category that may not include HP's Unix, its Integrity-based servers, or other solutions from the combined enterprise unit that has been producing steady HP 3000 platform replacements. 

Whitman said HP is recommitted to smarter innovation, with R&D spending expected to be in excess of $3 billion for the fiscal year that ends in three weeks.

“While there is a lot more work to be done, I am confident about the progress we are making,” said Whitman. “We’re producing tangible results, strengthening our balance sheet and delivering innovative products across all our key segments. We are implementing the changes needed to support our multi-year turnaround journey, reaffirm HP’s leadership position, and create enduring value for customers as well as for our shareholders”

HP says the core of its strategy for 2014 is focused on “providing unique technology solutions for the ‘New Style of IT.’ "

06:17 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 09, 2013

HP completes 3000 transition, 12 years later

One week from today, according to our sources in the HP IT community, the last four HP 3000s will go off the Hewlett-Packard production grid. The shutdown is scheduled to take place on Oct. 16, which will put it just a few weeks shy of 12 years after HP said it was ending its HP 3000 business. 

N-Class 220There can be many reasons why a transition away from the 3000 could take more than a decade. The most obvious one is that it doesn't make business sense to turn off an application that's still doing yeoman service. We don't know if that's the case with these 3000s and their applications.

But these 3000s run in the HP corporate datacenter based in Austin, Texas, the hometown of the 3000 Newswire. It doesn't take much search to learn that this datacenter is more than 20,000 square feet of office space that was once an outpost of Tandem Computer. HP acquired Tandem's business when it purchased Compaq. Years after HP swallowed its biggest acquisition, these 3000s were being managed into a new datacenter -- one of six targeted to consolidate the 85 HP datacenters.

Even with an opportunity to take 3000s offline in a datacenter reorganization, MPE applications prevailed. That datacenter reorg started in 2006.

"The last 4 internal HP 3000s located at the HP Austin (Old Tandem) datacenter will go lights-out October 16th," said our source. "No special events are planned, since no one within HP understands the significance anymore."

At one point in the 3000's not-too-distant history -- okay, less than 20 years back -- more than 600 3000s were driving company operations. In 1996 we reported that every sales transaction flowed through the HEART application, hosted on 3000s. HEART was replaced by SAP software early in the 21st Century, a switchover that had enough bumps to draw notice in HP's own investor reports at the time.

The Austin datacenter, which can be managed remotely, is actually two physical sites with mirroring capability. One is in the Tandem facility, and the other is at a site 15 miles south which once operated the Freescale (nee Motorola) wafer fabrication operations. We're just guessing here, but it's possible those 3000s going lights-out are replicated in some way at the Freescale building.

If there remains a value policy at HP that would retain MPE apps for a dozen years, it's a good bet these N-Class boxes are going onto the used hardware market soon. The vendor has proven they're a good investment -- having used them for nearly three years beyond its own legendary "end of life" deadline for the server.

01:06 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 08, 2013

Modernization's mission sparks acquisition

Migration companies usually need technology tools to achieve success for their clients. It's always been true in the 3000 world. Putting experienced staff to work is important, but keeping everybody on schedule and productive happens more reliably with software to break decades of programming ice.

This fall we learned that MB Foster was putting an in-house migration solution into its product roster. The software was developed to explore the contents of a database. Information that's retrieved is used to shape the data migration that's part of a transformation. 

But sometimes an efficient way to add this kind of transition muscle is to acquire it. As the Transition Era was ramping up in the aftermath of HP's 3000 announcement, Speedware purchased the Neartek software AMXW in 2003. Now that the company's become Fresche Legacy -- reaching out to a new customer base using IBM Series i (AS400) -- it recently acquired a 100 percent interest in Databorough, a UK-based vendor of knowledge mining and reuse software for Series i servers. 

Fresche Legacy says the acquisition broadens its product portfolio to include X-Analysis, X-Migrate and X2E. This software performs environment analysis and code transformation. In this case, the transition is to Java or C# from RPG, COBOL, or a development language called Synon.

Synon goes back more than 25 years in the Series i marketplace, something like the Powerhouse and Speedware 4GL pedigree but first crafted for IBM's System 38 -- a predecessor to the AS/400. IBM held an equity interest in Synon until the firm was sold to Sterling Software in the late '90s. While you're catering to enterprise environments that've been in service as long as the 3000 or IBM's servers, you need to efficiently modernize the oldest of languages.

"This agreement unites two of the most powerful and knowledgeable players in the System i legacy modernization space," said Andy Kulakowski, president and CEO of Fresche Legacy. “Databorough brings to Fresche Legacy more than 20 years of AS400/iSeries experience, a highly pedigreed list of more than 200 enterprise customers, and deep technical knowledge."

Analysis is a crucial element in migration assessments, the first step on the path to moving off a platform. Fresche Legacy still serves 3000 sites, but the newer part of its business is in the IBM market. Major migrations of in-house software are shrinking in number for MPE's customer base. The depth of analysis needed for such projects is even greater than the prerequisite inventory and ID prior to application replacements. By MB Foster's reckoning, four of every five transitions today are reaching for replacement apps.

Assessments are in this year's news from Fresche. In the late spring the vendor announced IBM i assessments for a large auto manufacturer, a US pharmacy services company, and a large IT services company in Europe. Fresche now has Discover Services that utilize "a unique utility that was purpose-built for analyzing legacy environments." The software utility uncovers "critical application environment details including both active and unused components. This facilitates cost savings, since applications or code that clients no longer use won’t factor into the planning or transitioning costs."

Fresche's VP of Legacy R&D Garry Ciambella says that Databorough’s X-Analysis solution complements and extends the Fresche Legacy product portfolio. Customers of X-Analysis gain access to the array of Fresche modernization solutions. Fresche is also expanding North American opportunity for Databorough.

This strategy mirrors that AMXW product acquisition in its geographic scope. Neartek was a firm based in France with many European customers for AMXW in 2002. Post-acquisition, Speedware extended the software's capabilities with several new releases. Companies who were migrating their code could benefit from this acquired software. Broader support is a part of both stories, too.

"Fresche Legacy directly extends our North American market reach," said Databorough's CEO Mark Tregear, "and [Fresche's] SCP-certified, 24X7 support centre provides our customers with global support coverage --which offers up an entirely new level of assurance and confidence for our products."

06:50 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 07, 2013

Patches remain a revenue producer at HP

HP issued a reminder for the HP 3000 users today that the computer remains special in a significant, cost-saving way. Several years ago, the customers using HP's enterprise computers found that free patches had ceased to be a goodwill item. You had to pay to patch, HP said. But since the MPE/iX patches were written for a discontinued line, HP had no support mechanism to charge for them.

HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 (Digital's Unix) customers are not so fortunate. In an email from today:

HP has made significant investments in its intellectual capital to provide the best value and experience for our customers.  We continue to offer a differentiated customer experience with our comprehensive support portfolio. HP, as an industry leader, is well positioned to provide reliable support services across the globe with proprietary tools, HP trained engineers, and genuine certified HP parts.  Only HP customers and authorized channel partners may download and use support materials.

It's not the first time HP has told its enterprise customers that vendor support is not an optional part of their ownership budget. Hewlett-Packard's labs are still turning out patches for it Unix and VMS systems. Patches are free for many other computer systems, but enterprise servers are becoming an exception.

Beginning October 2013, Hewlett-Packard Company will change the way operating system patches on HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 are accessed. Patches for these operating systems will only be accessible on HP Support Center to customers with an active support agreement  linked to their HP Support Center User ID and for the specific products being updated. We encourage you to review your current support coverage to ensure you have the appropriate coverage to maintain uninterrupted patch access for these operating systems.

The support agreement must have a relevant software product number belonging to one of the following product series:

  • HP-UX Operating Systems

  • HP OpenVMS Operating Systems

  • Tru64 UNIX Operating Systems

In addition, the support agreement must have one of the following Software Update or Previous Version Support offers:

  • HP Software Updates Service

  • HP License Subscription Service

  • HP SW Media and Documentation Updates Service

  • PVS with sustaining engineering

  • PVS without sustaining engineering

  • MPS with sustaining engineering

  • MPS without sustaining engineering

However, IT managers for 3000s might consider themselves lucky to have a guide from an independent support provider, one to be able to locate the MPE/iX patches that remain a free service for 3000 sites. Plenty has moved around on HP's support servers, from manuals to so much more.

10:32 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 04, 2013

HP's documents for 3000s are in the open

Yesterday we bemoaned the lack of working, sensible links for 3000 documents at Hewlett-Packard websites. Links go rotten all the time on the Web. But you'd hope that an enterprise computer vendor might put a better face out there about products it still controls. Well, at least the control of the intellectual property rights.

Give thanks for your independent community, because that's where the elusive information has washed up, like a survivor from a vendor's shipwreck. Brian Edminster updated us on where those 3000 and MPE documents can be found. It's not an HP website. Yesterday I wrote, "The whereabouts of MPE manuals at HP sites is a treasure hunt with no apparent prize at the moment." Edminster replied

I can help with this. www.MPE-OpenSource.org has the current links to the HP MPE/iX manuals.

Navigation via the menus/pulldowns is: (from the site's homepage at MPE-OpenSource.org:)

[Porting Helps]

      [Manuals & Other] Documentation Materials

             [MPE/iX Core Manual Sets] - which has individual links to the 6.x and 7.x manual sets, and which when clicked will open in a new window.

Edminster goes on to offer " a direct link for the menu challenged among us"

And when they do finally fall to the dreaded 'link-rot' (either due to lack of link forwarding, or just plain being taken offline), I have mirrored both v6.x and v7.x manual pages and content, and can make them available directly, if necessary.

There's also the HP MM Support site's copy of HP Manuals (www.hpmmsupport.com/information_links/default.aspx). Plus I'm pretty sure there's a copy at the 'Internet Archives' (www.archive.org) and/or at bitsavers (www.bitsavers.org).  Of course, there's copies that individuals have in PDF format in their own archives -- or heaven forbid, in the original printed-on-paper format.

So no need to panic. There are still organizations and individuals working to make sure MPE and 3000 documentation is available, for as long as necessary.

05:44 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 03, 2013

HP's missing notes as Jazz plays on for 3000

Information that HP licensed for its Jazz support server lives on at two North American HP 3000 vendor sites. While items like white papers and instructions remain intact at Freshe Legacy (formerly Speedware) and Client Systems, the links at Hewlett-Packard references for the 3000 are playing like they're off-key notes.

Jazz is the accepted name for a collection of papers, downloads and software instructions first created by Jerri Ann Smith in the HP 3000 labs. Nicknamed after her initials JAS, Jazz grew full of free help during the 1990s as the vendor worked to sustain its MPE business and service its customers.

HP's Manual pageWhen HP closed down the labs that maintained Jazz, it licensed the use of these materials to Fresche and to Client Systems. Much of the material remains useful for the 3000 manager who's sustaining a server in homesteading or pre-migration missions. But a click on many links to HP drives users to a Hewlett-Packard technical documentation website where the 3000 knowledge is buried deeper than all but the most patient or seasoned owners can uncover.

Even a request to establish an HP Passport account, which might yield more information, generates an Internal Server Error from Hewlett-Packard today. Everybody's website can have this kind of problem from time to time, but standards for the maker and caretaker of an operating system should be higher than nearly everybody.

 At the Fresche Legacy site -- known as hpmigrations.com -- a white paper on a Posix scanner is among the software listed.

A Posix scanner? It's a toolkit "that is useful to analyze an application you may want to port to the HP3000. In two steps, external functions called by the code are collected and then reduced into a report showing which functions are or are not available on MPE/iX."

Perhaps of more use to those who aren't porting to MPE is the VT3K software, which links a 3000 with a server HP was calling an HP 9000. That 9000 should be running HP-UX 10.20, a genuinely antique release of HP's Unix.

VT3K allows you to establish a Virtual Terminal connection from a HP9000 to a HP3000. This version of VT3K is being made available to those HP3000 users that are planning on using HP OpenView IT/Operations to manage their HP3000 systems. This version of VT3K is supported on HP-UX servers running 10.20. VT3K is required in order to install the IT/Operations MPE agent on the HP3000.

Speedware HP 3000Fresche isn't responsible for the condition of the links to HP's documentation on the 3000 however, those listed under Jazz at its server. www.docs.hp.com/mpeix/all returns nothing but 404 Not Found connections. The whereabouts of MPE manuals at HP sites is a treasure hunt with no apparent prize at the moment.

But at the Jazz sites you can find SETDATE, which alters the date in a current session under MPE/iX. The sell-by date for HP's links is in such a state that a support company guide might be the only way to uncover what used to be open and hosted by the 3000's creator. Any link that can deliver a document from the licensed independent companies is operative. But a wall of inscrutable web links appears in any reference to HP's own websites. 

09:36 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 02, 2013

Tablet terminal sale: Telnet now, NS/VT soon

BlockModeTTerm ProHP 3000 managers who'd like to try out a tablet user interface for MPE software can get a half-off price on Turbosoft's TTerm Pro at the iTunes store "for a couple of weeks," according to vendor representative Art Haddad. The app's being run through its paces by numerous 3000 veterans and stamped as suitable for production. For one California IT manager, however, TTerm Pro is going to get better in the future. That's because the app runs via telnet today, but won't have NS/VT services until a later version "In the not-too-distant future."

In the world of iPad apps, these kinds of upgrades are often downloaded at no charge. Dave Evans, systems Security and Research Manager of the San Bernadino Schools, said that telnet would work for him now, but it would require the customary batch job needed to launch telnet on his 3000s. The 3000's config file for inetd must be edited to enable telnet services for users. According to HP's documentation, the services file must include the line telnet 23/tcp. A batch job starts inetd to launch the Telnet server.

But TTerm Pro's half-off price is getting more managers interested in trying the tablet interface in production use.

"The interface looks really nice on the iPad," Evans said, "and at $25 I don't mind spending that much." Evans, who added that he has a lot more to manage at the schools' IT department than just the 3000, acknowledged that no terminal emulator was ever sold for 3000 users for even as low as $49.95, the non-sale price for TTerm Pro.  

Of course, those Windows-based emulators -- you could sometimes find them on sale under $200 a seat -- employed extensive scripting features, something that TTerm Pro won't embrace wholesale from any that are already written for the Reflection emulator, for example.

However, tablets are already in use by the IT support staff at the school district, Evans said. That access runs through Citrix, "because the Citrix receiver client on the iPad works really well. I do it all the time from home when I get an email which tells me there's a 3000 problem. Instead of running over to my computer and firing up Reflection, I just fire it up on the iPad and work on it from there."

Evans and the staff don't need a telnet interface, or even the more ubiquitous NS/VT, to resolve those kinds of issues. A simple colon prompt access will do the job there, so the group doesn't even need an emulator, as it relies on Citrix.

"The screen and the keyboard obviously take a little adjustment on the iPad," Evans said, "but when you need to do something in a bind, it's really nice to have a tablet available." Support access doesn't require the NS/VT block mode data entry. For production use of the TTerm Pro emulator, Evans sees a target "for occasional access out on the road type of use."

Support vendors have looked over the app. "I purchased a copy, and it works quite nicely," said Gilles Schipper of GSA. "There's a minor problem with a persistent incorrect complaint of invalid host, one that is only satisfied by aborting the app and restarting. The so-called 'invalid host' is then connected to just fine. In general, this is a nice app for a reasonable price."

The set of early adopters of the app have been posting positive comments about the response from the Turbosoft R&D team, too. "I also purchased a copy," said Allegro's Stan Sieler. "The R&D team responded to some enhancement suggestions I had, including increasing the amount of terminal memory, pretty quickly."

07:45 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2013

Stromasys updates its rollout sales efforts

It's been close to five months since emulator vendor Stromasys announced its North American sales kickoff at a May Training Day event. In a Q&A interview with the company's senior VP of sales and services, Rich Pugh says the prospects still have interest and questions, but fewer of the queries are about technical capabilities. Pugh said he’s been pitching large companies this summer on 3000 replacements using the CHARON virtualization engine. CEO Ling Chang sat in on the interview, to introduce Pugh to us.

Second of two parts

Is there anything that seems to be in common among your prospects’ installations, regarding horsepower needs? I know that CHARON was going to get a 1.3 refresh for greater performance.

Rich PughAt one site, there’s 11 separate applications that run and one overnight batch job. The way we brainstormed doing their solution is not a like-for-like replacement, but considering breaking apart the application, and possibly stacking multiple processors. There’s Datapipe, a cloud company and hosting provider similar to Rackspace, and do our proof of concept from the cloud. The plan is to reduce the space to the point of eliminating the server from the DR site, and let the physical assets reside in the production environment.

This is the kind of dialogue of flexibility that we’re trying to position, instead of the traditional methodology of just buying a license in capital dollars.

So would that change the investment level for the customer?

Not really. The analogy that I would use is Microsoft Office 365: just another way of using what you might need permanently or temporarily, over the cloud. At Stromasys we’ve had a value prop that’s just been traditional. Buy a license. What Ling and I are suggesting is that this is clearly an area that makes sense, to use the cloud for proof of concept.

Have any of the major third party application suppliers — Ecometry, MANMAN, Amisys, or others — had their customers use CHARON as of today?

Direct access to that application-using community hasn’t been as robust as we’d like. I don’t have a specific response to that question yet; we may have an update soon.

Is that access important in any way? Is the first-year business going to come from customers who have their own application code?

We expect that the direct sales effort will give us more insight into that over the next 90 days.

How might you overcome the late start HP created for this product with MPE customers? This is a new situation for a Stromasys product.  

CEO Ling Chang: That’s a good point. This is a market that remains undefined. It is our challenge to find those who are remaining, and still run their business-critical applications on the HP 3000. Right now, based on preliminary information we received from the service providers at our training day event, the numbers vary. But it’s in terms of the thousands. Not the hundreds of thousands, as in the old Digital product line.

Our challenge is to give those remaining 3000 customers a bridge to their next step — whether it’s to migrate, or stay on.

With the OS already off HP’s support list before the product became available, is there enough customer base remaining to succeed?

Chang: It’s something we have to balance, because Stromasys is still a very small company — and yet we’re going into the enterprise market, which requires resources. While we do that balance, we’re still early in the process. Our goal is to team with HP 3000 partners where we have mutual interests to help get the word out.

Pugh: When Gartner describes what’s going on in the emulation space — where we were named a Cool Vendor — they say that the operating system is just the personality. In the past operating systems were like a religion that you’d never breach. Put MPE against VMS? Give me a break, don’t go there. Now it really doesn’t mean a thing. These are just personalities of what we do, which is a hardware emulation. 

A lot of the problem a customer has to solve is a business problem: risk management, not necessarily when the decision was made to choose a platform to run that application. I’m not minimizing any of the strengths of MPE. But it’s just not as technically important as it was back in the day when IT architectures — because of the proprietary nature of every element — mattered so much. 

I can appreciate that Gartner’s personality conversation would resonate with today’s Millennials. A CFO at the company I’m selling to is in his 30s. They don’t know what MPE means to the business.

What’s the difference in length of project between going to CHARON vs. an application replacement onto a non-MPE platform, or a rewrite?

Chang: As you know, any time you’re looking at a rewrite you’re talking about multiple years. Those projects do not usually come in on time, or under budget for that matter. But even while a customer is doing that, we can be a solution to keep the application up and running. We can implement our solution in a matter of days.

Is there a structure or process in place to develop a network of resellers and consultants for CHARON in the 3000 market?

Chang: We would love to explore the opportunity for a company to become a reseller. We can do a sell-with model, to make it a win-win for a consultant. 

Pugh: We’re refining our channel model. There are certainly companies that could offer presales, or sales and presales support. And then they could be a value added reseller. We’re going to be in the process of introducing a program that allows a company or an individual to get started and get their feet wet, and then become a full VAR. Just months ago we didn’t have that opportunity to give such partners a stair-step approach to building a business around this product.

07:59 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)