October 30, 2014
ITMGR3K + YOLO = CHARON COSTINFO?
The formula above translates into an appeal for budget reporting. IT managers of HP 3000s can complete this formula. YOLO is the ubiquitous You Only Live Once, sometimes broadcast in a tattoo. When added to 3000 IT managers' experiences, the formula may yield some of the most crucial costs of the CHARON virtualization engine for emulation.
The daring of YOLO is required because there's plenty at stake, even at MPE's advanced age. 3000 owners are often working with reduced budgets. Cost-effective computing is one good reason why the MPE/iX apps survive in a company. But some managers could acknowlege you'll only live once through homesteading your MPE/iX applications. It's not the hardware you're saving with Charon. The operating environment, your TurboIMAGE/SQL data, and the apps with their software helpers -- those are the orphans being rescued from any failing HP-branded computer.
So it figures that managers with nothing to lose can help other homesteaders get better information on the costs to virtualize. Costs can be fatal to a project. Many managers know they have something significant at stake: their relations with the software vendors who supply the help for HP 3000 operations. Surround code, it's been called. Some vendors are everywhere, like Robelle, Adager, Vesoft, PowerHouse, and so on. Add in the suppliers of key data transfer tools such as MB Foster. Everybody's got virtualization licensing practices in mind, if not executed yet.
The above list of vendors can include a show-stopper, by some customer reports. PowerHouse products, even something as fundamental as Quiz reports, have still been quoted at rates that can shelve a virtualization project. We recently heard about one at a 3000 manufacturer. The COSTINFO specifics were not forwarded. But in a budget-conscious community like the 3000's, even such prices in the low five figures can cause a HALT.
Then there's the manager whose operational best practices include lowering a profile with vendors. "I'm not old enough to retire," we often hear -- meaning that high visibility on vendors' radars could invite higher costs. Not good for any career built on economic prowess. No, not every vendor operates by watching for such an extra-fee opportunity. But enough do; some can be hungry for back-support revenues when they bring a customer back onto vendor support. Then there are the applications. Update fees for virtualizing an Ecometry installation, or something from the Infor stable of manufacturing apps, are not common-enough knowledge. Not for HP users.We have battled to learn the figures for a forward-motion project that puts MPE/iX onto fresh, Intel hardware. The costs for the Stromasys software are always going to be obvious to a prospective customer. This exercise starts with an emulator price. Where the community can be helped is with all other software costs.
For example, there's no official pricing from Infor for moving MANMAN to the Charon-virtualized 3000. Each such migration -- it's really a transfer -- is being managed on a case by case basis, according to Infor's Jeff Straw. He's the manager who sometimes appeared before customers at events such as CAMUS meetings, explaining how MANMAN would go forward. More than three decades after it rolled out, MANMAN is still running some companies. Good things die hard.
Things have changed a great deal in the 30-plus years I've covered the HP 3000. Not just the technology. The changes have come from strategy and operations management. People used to be glad to go on the record and share what they knew. Pricing was always sensitive, of course. I remember frustration about getting prices for minicomputer software, during an era when PC programs were priced in public. Going public with what you know is now a business decision not often taken. Legal departments get involved. And in today's markets, vendors can negotiate a no-talking rule to keep the dealing on the down-low.
That's easy to understand and a valid way to cut the price on any product. You fly in a jet and sit among a hundred passengers with probably 50 different seat prices. But it's early days for the flight plan of selling emulation and virtualization for 3000 servers. OpenVMS managers have had Charon powering their applications for more than a decade. The practices and even some costs of doing what one customer called an "update" -- those are better known by now.
One successful IT manager says that flying a pattern under the update radar is good business. "I'm doing my best to keep my profile low with the software vendors," he said. He didn't want to be on the record about that. "That's been my policy for the past 15 years. And I'm not ready to retire yet." Such an impending retirement might be what's needed to trigger a YOLO attitude and complete the formula.
October 29, 2014
Security experts try to rein in POODLE
Sometimes names can be disarming ways of identifying high-risk exploits. That's the case with POODLE, a new SSL-based security threat that comes after the IT community's efforts to contain Heartbleed, and then the Shellshock vulnerability of the bash shell program. HP 3000s are capable of deploying SSL security protocols in Web services. Few do, in the field; most companies assign this kind of service to a Linux server, or sometimes to Windows.
The acronym stands for Padding Oracle on Downgraded Legacy Encryption. This oracle has nothing to do with the database giant. A Wikipedia article reports that such an attack "is performed on the padding of a cryptographic message. The plain text message often has to be padded (expanded) to be compatible with the underlying cryptographic primitive. Leakage of information about the padding may occur mainly during decryption of the ciphertext."
The attack can also be performed on HP's Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), a security appliance that is in place protecting thousands of networks around the world. Other firewalls are at risk. Just this week HP released a security patch to help the NGFW appliances withstand the attack. External firewalls are a typical element in modern web service architectures.
A POODLE attack takes a bite out of SSL protections by fooling a server into falling back to an older SSLv3 protocol. HP reported that its Local Security Manager (LSM) software on the NGFW is at risk. But a software update is available at the HP TippingPoint website, the home of the TippingPoint software that HP acquired when it bought 3Com in 2010. TippingPoint rolled out the first HP NGFW firewalls last year.The TippingPoint experts seem to understand that older protocols -- a bit like the older network apps installed in servers like the 3000 -- are going to be indelibile.
The most effective mitigation is to completely disable the SSLv3 protocol. If this is not possible because of business requirements, alternately the TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV flag can be enabled so that attackers can no longer force the downgrade of protocols to SSLv3.
What's at risk in your data pool? HP says it likely to be sensitive, short strings of data such as session IDs and cookie values, "which can then be used to hijack the users' sessions, etc."
Et cetera indeed. The added challenge which enterprise managers assume once they move into open networks are the POODLEs, shocks to a shell and the bleeding hearts of newer operating environments. The security expertise to meet these challenges is a well-spent investment -- whether it's through a 3000-savvy services provider, or the vendor of the migration target system that's just replaced a 3000.
Basic information on these threats is always provided for free. Implementation savvy can be a valuable extra expense. For example, HP adds this nuance about disabling protocols.
An important note: both the client and server must be updated to support that TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV flag. If both allow for SSLv3 and one of them has not been updated to support the flag, the attack will remain possible.
October 28, 2014
Strategies for Redirecting App Spoolfiles
An HP 3000 manager wrote that a 24x7 application at his shop is stable and never goes offline unless it's required. But the everyday management had to include aborting the app once a week.
We take that application offline to close out the spoolfile that the application generates. Is there a way to keep the application running, and just redirect the output to a new spoolfile? We're using an N-Class server.
Robert Schlosser of Global Business Systems replied: Short of closing and reopening the application after n number of pages, you could have the application read (without wait and checking status codes) a message file. It could then close and open the output file on demand, and possibly even close down the application gracefully (no abort).
Our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper replied: I think the only way you could do that would be to actually modify the application program to periodically (say, for example, every 10 pages or every 100 pages) close then re-open the print file.
Olav Kappert of IOMIT International added:
If the program can be slightly modified, then I would suggest creating a message file as a conduit to the application. The program would do a read of the message file with the nowait option every once and awhile. If the application encounters a keyword indicating a new spoolfile, then the program would close the spoolfile and reopen it.
An alternate method would involve the application being modified to close and open the file at a particular day and time during the week.
October 27, 2014
Early 3000 Flights: A New Embattled History
The world is still full of computer aces who flew in the earliest skies of minicomputers. The HP 3000 has history to share about the dogfights to bring interactive computing to businesses and organizations. The new voice of a pilot of that early age, Bill Foster, tells a fresh story about historic 3000 events. (A tip of the hat here to former OpenMPE director and Allegro support engineer Donna Hofmeister, who spotted Foster's blog.)
Bill Foster was in charge of engineering for the first HP 3000 that became a production-grade computer, the Series II. Foster went on to co-found Stratus Computer. In a blog he's called TeamFoster he tells his compelling story I Remember HP, complete with characters memorable and regrettable, about the earliest times in the Data Systems Division labs in California. Up to now, most of the stories about the 3000's birth have had a more abbreviated telling, or they're summarized in less vivid accounts.
Foster's written 15,000 words on his blog to tell his Hewlett-Packard story, which begins in 1971. In that year the HP 3000 is still more than a year away from its ill-fated debut, so he can chronicle the inner workings of a lab where "The engineers were mostly out of control, particularly the programmers."
Foster's story about the earliest days of the 3000 includes accounts of important players such as Barney Oliver, Paul Ely and Ed McCracken. There's even a note about Jim Hewlett, son of HP co-founder Bill Hewlett. A golfer and a nature lover, Hewlett's son got Foster in trouble. As part of the system's revival there was even a face-saving video interview, designed to revive the ruinous reputation of the 3000.Even while Foster puts himself at the center of the story about the rescue of MPE -- an OS that was too memory-hungry for the first System 3000 computer -- he's generous with praise and details from others in the company. Paul Ely was general manager of the DSD at the time the 3000 project was floundering.
While Paul could be a royal pain in the ass, I do give him credit for saving HP’s computer business. The Alpha project eventually morphed into a computer called the HP 3000. It initially flopped in the marketplace and became a total embarrassment to the company.
While my group was focused on programming languages my cubicle-mate, Ron Matsumoto was in charge of MPE, the monster operating system. While you might be able to ship the computer without a language like COBOL, it was totally useless without MPE. And MPE was in trouble, big time.
Hewlett was ready to can the entire program. HP had a reputation to maintain, and part of that reputation was that their products were a cut above everyone else’s. But Paul held his ground with Hewlett -- he told him that the 3000 was basically a very good product, it just needed more time to work out the kinks. Paul saved the 3000 and kept HP in the computer business.
It had been an unqualified failure, that first HP 3000. "We shipped Serial #1 to the Lawrence Hall of Science in nearby Berkeley. A couple of weeks later they shipped it back," Foster writes. "The 3000 could support at most two or three users on a good day -- nowhere near 16 or 32 or whatever they were promised. And MPE was crashing 3 or 4 times a day."
MPE was beefed up all through the period when the hardware part of the project was sidetracked. The software had acquired a taste for a lot more memory than the 128K in the first 3000. That's right, K as in kilobytes. HP launched a business computer with less memory than one meaty Microsoft Word file of today.
The source of MPE's salvation, by Foster's account, was engineer Mike Green, who led the team to re-engineer the OS.
Mike was one of the coolest people in Cupertino, and probably the smartest. A real laid-back hippie-freak: long hair, sandals, slow walking, supremely confident. After a couple of years Mike and I flipped jobs and I became his boss. He decided it was more fun to invent than to manage.
When the 3000 got into trouble I asked Mike to drop what he was doing and take charge of MPE, the operating system. MPE was the most complex part of the computer and it was a disaster. Because of MPE, customers began shipping their 3000’s back to HP -- that was definitely the wrong direction.
Mike agreed to save MPE, and after a week or two we were ready to present his plan to Ely. Mike stood up in a room full of important people and gave the pitch. It was a great plan, and Mike said we would be out of the woods in about five months.
When he finished his presentation Ely said “are you telling me five months because that’s what I want to hear, or is this really what you think will happen?”
Mike looked at Paul in a dismissive manner. “I’m saying this because it’s going to happen. Why would I say anything just to please you?”
For once Ely was speechless. He had no retort. He had met his match. There was dead silence as we left the room. And five months later MPE was working.
Once the computer appeared to be a product promising enough to garner orders from customers, Foster needed to sell it to the HP sales force -- which had been burned by the flame-out of the first 3000. He enlisted David Packard to do it.
Dave Packard was the most revered person at HP -- even more respected and certainly more feared than Bill Hewlett. The idea was that Dave Packard and myself, as the Engineering Manager in charge of the 3000, would sit down and have a “fireside chat.” HP had invested in videotape technology as an employee training tool and had a great studio in Palo Alto for filming such a program. It would be partially scripted with Packard asking me the appropriate questions and eventually giving his blessing of the 3000. The tape would be sent to HP offices around the world.
The big man came into the studio, crisply dressed and intimidating as always. I was very nervous -- this guy was not to be messed with. We sat very close together for the TV cameras, his foot almost touching mine.
The interview went off as scripted. He asked me a bunch of questions about what was wrong with the original 3000 and what we had done to fix it. He ended by telling the audience that he was certain the 3000 Series II was a fine product and would be a big hit in the marketplace.
When the cameras shut off and the lights dimmed, he grabbed my knee with his big hand, squeezed real hard, leaned over and looked me in the eyes. “Foster, you got me on tape endorsing your computer. The goddammed thing better work!”
Foster's stories fill in some key moments about the 3000's success that have never been written about. He also tips his hat to Bob Green's fine, streamlined History of the HP 3000. Foster's expansive version is full of names and players. There's also Chris Edler's 1995 story of the system's origins, The Strongest Castle: The Rise, Fall and Rise of the HP 3000.
By Foster's reckoning -- and he's honest enough to note changes in HP that sent Hewlett and Packard's ideals by the wayside -- the 3000 made the company relevant in the computer world. "The 3000 went on to be an extremely successful product for HP," he writes. "In many respects it launched them as a legitimate player in the computer industry."
October 24, 2014
Legacy Management: More than Rehosting
Speedware became Freshe Legacy several years ago, and in 2012 the company's business crossed the watershed from Hewlett-Packard sites to those running IBM's AS/400 servers. The latter is now called IBM i, and in one interview Fresche CEO Andy Kulakowski said the company's customers are now 85 percent IBM users.
The world of IBM i is still populated with product releases, vendor support, and the challenges of keeping a legacy line of computing looking current. Last month Fresche purchased the assets, intellectual property and customer base of looksoftware (yes, all lowercase and all one word.) Next week the newest tool in the Fresche belt goes on display in one of the oldest of enterprise venues: a $949 user conference, COMMON.
COMMON has served IBM users since before there was an Interex. The first meetings of the group surrounded the IBM Series 1800, a data acquisition and control system which was similar to the 3000 in that it used a Multi Programming Executive (MPX) operating system. COMMON meetings began in the 1960s, and the 1800 was used in product for more than 50 years. Even though COMMON attendance has dropped and the gatherings have gotten shorter, the group still assembles the experts and the faithful once a year for a classic expo and education event. This year's is in Indianapolis, following the model that Interex used for HP 3000 customers: a moveable feast taking place in cities both great and, well, common. One forgettable year the Interex show was held in Detroit. In the Midwest, however, a great number of manufacturers and distributors have always used business systems like the 3000 and the i.
Drill into the looksoftware website and you'll find mention of the HP 3000 in the Modernization Solutions section. Along with methodologies such as cloud enablement, database modernization and automated code conversion, MPE/iX customers can find a relevant line, "Re-hosting (HP e3000)." COMMON attendees could very easily hear about rehosting at the conference. After decades of serving just the AS/400 family, it's now an expo that embraces Unix and Linux computing from IBM, too.There are other methods to revitalize an HP 3000, but moving those business applications onto a new host is the classic strategy. Business Rules Extraction, Consolidation and Export is also among the solutions listed in the looksoftware services stable. Taking a customer's business rules along during any transition is a must. A "lift and shift" is what Fresche called the move onto non-3000 hardware back when the firm was called Speedware.
There's not much of that kind of business left in the 3000 customer base by now -- certainly not compared to the number of modernization opportunities for the AS/400 crowd. IBM has a strategy book that's released every year for IT planners called the Redbook. The latest edition, the largest ever in the history of the publication, is Modernizing IBM i Applications from the Database up to the User Interface and Everything in Between. Over at the IT Jungle website, the editors are calling the current Fresche strategy of acquistions "a page right out of the Redbook." The book's 687 pages are summed up thusly by the website.
It refers to modernization as "a sequence of actions" and "a process of rethinking how to approach the creation and maintenance of applications." Much of the focus is on application structure, user interface, data access, and the database. There's a lot of out with the old and in with the new here.
Adding new companies isn't new to the Speedware/Fresche history. The company acquired Neartek for the latter's AMXW software, for example, once the migrations were in full play in the 3000 market. Databorough is a similar acquisition, a database software firm whose products are useful tools in the mission Fresche calls legacy modernization. User interfaces get a rejuvenation, data access and pathways to more current data resources, and usually newer hardware arrives. Not hardware from a vendor other than IBM, however. For that kind of modernization, you have to look to the HP 3000 community. Yes, Fresche Legacy will rehost your MPE/iX apps, using a different methodology than any virtualization supplier. The new technology goes beyond hardware and IO and chip-level environments. It includes a new operating system, databases, and surround code.
One of the other significant throwbacks in legacy enterprise arenas are languages. MPE's got COBOL, and the IBM i has RPG. The RPG langauge was once so central to IBM enterprise computing that HP built an RPG compiler to run on the 3000. Its goal was to steal away Series 38 IBM shops. Next week at COMMON, Kulakowski will be spreading the message that in the IBM world, "There are lots of tools and services that support the move from RPG to more modern environments."
Kulakowski sees the age of the engineer and developer as a factor in modernization. Quoted in IT Jungle, he said
Generations X and Y are coming. They are very big part of population and will be far more demanding than we were. I think it would be a losing battle to try to convince them to use RPG as a development platform. It's up to us to set the table for the generation to come. We have the tools and technology to do that. That's the revolution I would fight for.
Fighting for refreshed MPE/iX hardware is a campaign for the non-migrating 3000 customer -- managers and owners with no conferences left to attend, and nothing like a 678-page Redbook playbook to follow. There's only one virtualization vendor for PA-RISC hardware, so at least the vetting of the suppliers won't take as long. There's not much choice, and that can have its downsides. But it might be a good thing to have no reason to visit Detroit or Indianapolis this fall, just to keep an IT operation modernized. Late-generation hardware is about as modernized as an MPE homesteader will be able to get.
Of course swapping out hosting hardware, by using a Linux cradle for MPE/iX, is a different level of churn than turning out the operating environment. For that sort of change, a trip to a city to ask questions face to face might well be a good business process.
October 23, 2014
TBT: There Used to Be a Lab Around Here
Above, the Glendenning Barn Picnic Area, one of the signature elements of Hewlett-Packard's Pruneridge Avenue campus, heartland of HP's 3000 business. It's all been razed to below-ground level, as Apple builds its new intergalactic headquarters on the site.
One of the lesser-known tunes from the Frank Sinatra songbook is There Used to Be a Ballpark Around Here. The sentiment of the song wraps around the wistful view that something unique is now gone. Apple has posted the greatest quarter of business in the company's history. All through this year, it's been steadily displacing the HP labs where the 3000 and other products were designed and improved.
One 3000 engineer posted pictures of the current state of the 3000's estate. Only a multi-story mound of earth can be seen where handsome walkways, cooperative parking and stately poplars and pines were once the sentinels around the campus. People called their journeys to this location "a factory visit." One day while I was there on a press briefing, I was shown downstairs to a lower level -- where a manufacturing line was rolling out Series 68 servers.
HP's been cutting back on many things to maintain its profitability. Real estate has been at the head of the list the company no longer needs. You can consider that HP has closed its MPE/iX labs in California, yes. But the labs themselves -- cubicles and miles of network cables and office furniture and meeting rooms named after types of trees like Oak and Maple -- those are all gone now, the home of more than 3000 enterprise computing. It's all been moved away and changed.
Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison once walked the streets of Palo Alto and bemoaned the changes at Hewlett-Packard, not quite five years ago this fall. Apple, Jobs hoped, would be built to last as long as HP and become the kind of headwater for inspiration and innovation that Hewlett-Packard was. The street that faced that Pruneridge Avenue entrance had Tandem Computer on the facing curb. Tandem, spun off from HP by James Treybig, until HP assimilated it to become its NonStop group. Now the spinning comes anew to this street, soon enough to be the site of a spaceship-sized Apple HQ.
Apple has done all that it can to become the HP of innovation, plus added an ability to capture the lightning in a bottle of excitement about new tech. It's a fulfullment of Jobs' dream to see the company rise up on the ballpark site of HP's enterprise computing labs.
October 22, 2014
What Needs Replacing, at Its Heart?
Hewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware has started to show its age this year. Even the newest of servers was built at least 11 years ago. Although that's an impossible age for PCs or tablets, more than a decade isn't outrageous for systems created by HP. These things were built to the specs of spacecraft, on the good days of the manufacturing line in Roseville, Calif. and elsewhere.
However, even a server of rigorous construction has moving parts and electrical components with a finite lifespan. Lately we're been hearing from customers whose managers have awoken from a peaceful slumber, dreaming of limitless hardware lifetimes. Hey, say they, how did we ever get to be relying on computers built before Y2K?
At this point there are no questions about MPE/iX, or TurboIMAGE, or the pedigree of bash shell software, or the built-in the ODBC data connection capabilities, or jobstream management. These are all stand-up, solid citizens, even through their range of motion can be limited. (So is mine, but like the software above, I work to stay limber.)
No, this is all about the age of the iron. HP stopped building servers that ran MPE apps more than a decade ago. So, is it out those apps go, the baby tossed with the hardware bathwater? It's a simplistic way to approach system reliability. However, until recent years there was no newer hardware to lift those apps onto. Fresh steeds, in the shape of faster and newer computers, hadn't been in the stable in many years.
Users would like to move to implementation straight away, once they get that "What's up?" inquiry from the boardroom. The fastest path to Get Me Outta Here -- indeed, the most ready getaway car -- seems to be the Stromasys virtualization solution. There are more complete, wider-ranging moves. They take a great deal longer, because their details demand they move slower.The last time we were asked about this, and the community's practices, we had to answer there's a growing number of Charon virtualization users out there. There are still many more sites who no longer use the 3000 because they're left MPE and TurboIMAGE.
The best set of practices for each customer is only going to be checked rigorously using an assessment. Which programs are used, what data types are still viable, what networking and sharing services are on demand -- the answers to all of these give the perspective that sees farthest forward into the future of corporate IT strategy.
But if you want to move away from hardware only supported by third parties, computers not built or backed by their creators, the Stromasys Charon package using new iron -- even HP's -- is the fastest path that we have seen. The level of complexity to put MPE onto Linux hosts isn't trivial, but it's well tested. It looks like the kind of getaway vehicle that lets you take the big money of apps away from the bank, instead of just the bank book of application designs and data.
October 21, 2014
Macworlds expire. Apple soars. Not linked.
You can file this report under Types of End of Life. The HP 3000 had an alleged end of life. HP announced it about 13 years ago, but that was the vendor's report about its 3000 activities. There can be a demise in classic support structures for a system once it wanes. But those structures, like information and community events, might be wobbly all by themselves. Things do change.
Everything called Macworld has now gone away. There was a print magazine, roaring through the '80s, the '90s, and even until about 10 years ago. Printed publications about computer lines, focused on one vendor, built this industry. IDG owned Macworld, owns PC World, owns Computerworld. Only the last publication still prints news on paper and sends magazines into the mail. Things change. There's this invention called the Internet.
In another post I pointed to the HP publications no longer in print. All of them, except for the Newswire. HP Professional, InterACT, HP Omni. Long ago, SuperGroup, and HP User. Interex Press, HP World. Every one of them exited. The departure for some was the trigger of that HP end of life announcement. Others rolled over when something bigger died: their parent company, or interest in Hewlett-Packard's products. One of the last executive directors of the Interex user group asked a big question: "How do you make a vendor-specific user group relevant in a cross-platform world?" said Chuck Piercey.
Another way to go out of the show business: tell your partners nothing about the departure, and market as if it's all going fine. This, from a web page less than four weeks before the final, canceled HP World conference -- a page still online on the day before the user group's demise.
IDG's expo division has asked the same stay-relevant question about the 30-year-old Macworld conference. And answered it. The expo is now on hiatus, and unlikely to emerge again. Macworld Expo added a sister expo called iWorld to embrace the rocketing mobile products from Apple. More than one third of Macworld/iWorld exhibitors bought booth spots in a bullpen called the Appalooza. More important, though, was the exodus of tens of thousands of square feet of show space, once purchased by the industry's giants. Adobe. HP. Canon. Microsoft. Little vendors in little booths were not enough to counter big changes in our industry's communication.
Apple reported a record profit yesterday, and its stock is trading at $716 a share (corrected for the 7:1 split of the springtime). Apple announced an end of life of its user show exhibitions four years ago. Macworld Expo never was the same. The vendor got healthier and bigger, so why did the magazine and show founder? Things change. Customers, always the prize for a conference or a magazine, found better ways to learn about owning products. And what to purchase.Purchasing is not a big part of the HP 3000 experience anymore. Not like it was when there were seven Hewlett-Packard-focused publications, or even where there were just four left in the world. Purchases for HP 3000s involve replacement systems, virtualized alternatives, support, and migration services. Some software makes its way into the commerce chain. But a replacement package for another system is most likely to be a line item on a budget. Training will be on the new platform, in nearly every encounter.
HP's fortunes have been rocky over the last four years, ever since the company cut loose its majordomo Mark Hurd. That decline hasn't affected trade shows for the vendor -- it runs the only genuine meeting it calls HP Discover. The days and nights of Discover are likely to continue for many years. HP sells at that conference and trains customers and its staff. Education isn't the point of a trade show visit anymore. Seeing products and asking questions about them -- that's done over the Web.
The printed publication, the trade conference: these are artifacts of a world where you needed paper and pacing an expo floor to learn the most important things about a computer you love. I attended seven of the last Macworld Expos, including a couple of memorable Steve Jobs speeches about embracing Intel chips, and yes, the iPhone debut. Special mornings, those were, seeing Intel's CEO emerge in a clean room suit onstage. Or watching the faithful crowd seven-deep around the initial iPhone, rotating in a Gorilla Glass case. As it happens, that iPhone debut was a watershed. More than half of Apple's business now comes from mobile products.
The last six mobile rollouts have been press-only by invitation -- and a short list at that. The events were webcast live, with video and audio ever-better on each rollout day. PR has shifted from in-person, or by-phone, to texts and emails and webinars and live demos. You don't need to be someplace to learn a certain amount about a computer. That certain amount is enough for most customers and partners. Enthusiasts want more. In the Apple world, they'll have to go to their laptop screens or iPhones to get it.
In truth, they're already there. In the HP world, the customers are reading webpages and watching webinars. One of those two vendors, Apple, has its afterburners on full throttle. Hewlett-Packard separated from the 3000's orbit four years ago. HP Enterprise customers will see a new world of a company next year after the vendor's split, but there won't be an HP World again. Not in print, not in an expo hall. Those are legacy means of communication and exchange. The expos hosted community, but newer generations of customers find community on mobile screens. Everything changes, and everything ends.
Here's to you, partner-based expos. You were wondrous fun and a rocket-sled ride while you lasted. The depth of any vendor's ride into the customer's heart will be determined by vessels on other trajectories.
October 20, 2014
3000's class time extended for schools
The San Bernadino County school district in California has been working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. COBOL and its business prowess is proving more complicated to move to Windows than expected. Dave Evans, Systems Security and Research officer, checked in from the IT department at the district.
We are still running two HP 3000s for our Financial and Payroll services. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015, and then I would shut the HP 3000s down as I walked out the door for the last time. That has now been extended to 2017, and I will be gone before then.
We are rewriting the COBOL HP 3000 apps into .NET and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) technologies. Ideal says they can support our HP 3000s until 2017.
And with the departure date of those two HP 3000s now more than two years away, the school district steps into another decade beyond HP's original plans for the server line. It is the second decade of beyond-end-of-life service for their 3000.Evans was checking up on the timeline.
In the original timeline HP published, did HP announce in November 2002 that the HP 3000 was at end of life? That HP 3000 production lines would shut down in 2004, and all HP 3000 support would end 2007?
Very close, but not quite accurate. The 3000's future got its exit notice from Hewlett-Packard in 2001 (almost 13 years ago), and system manufacturing ended in 2003. The first of HP's end of life deadlines was December 2006. Virtually nobody would have figured in 2001 they'd have MPE applications still in service more than a decade after 2006.
But San Bernadino County is giving lessons on how to extend an investment, even while it finishes a migration. By the time those school district servers go offline -- and they won't be the last in the world by any means -- the 3000 product platform will have been in continuous production service somewhere in the world for 43 years.
October 17, 2014
Tracking MPE/iX Vulnerability to Shellshock
Security experts have said that the Shellshock bug in the bash shell program is serious. So much so that they're comparing it to the Heartbleed breach of earlier this year. Many are saying Shellshock is even more of a threat.
Once again, this has some impact on HP 3000s, just like Heartbleed did. But you'll need to be managing a 3000 that's exposed to the Internet to see some risks to address as part of system administration. Web servers, domain name servers, and other net-ready services provide the opportunity for this malware. There's not a lot of that running in the customer base today, but the software is still sitting on the 3000 systems, programs that could enable it.
Authorities fear a deluge of attacks could emerge. The US government has rated the security flaw 10 out of 10 for severity.
Bash is open source software, and our expert on that subject Brian Edminster is working on a specific report about the vulnerabilities. Hewlett-Packard posted a security bulletin that points to a safer version of the bash shell utility. But that version won't help HP 3000s.
It's not that HP doesn't know about the 3000 any longer. The patching menu above shows that MPE is still in the security lexicon at Hewlett-Packard. But Edminster thinks the only way to make bash safe again on MPE might be to port it a-fresh. "The 3000's bash is version 2.04, but the version that's considered 'current' is 4.x (depending on what target system you're on)," he said. "So if v2.04 is broken, the code-diffs being generated to fix the issues [by HP] in late-model bash software won't be of much (if any) use."One report in a UK newspaper suggested that "if online retailers use older, mainframe-style computing systems, they are likely to be vulnerable." That sounds like one way to describe the Ecometry sites still selling online with MPE versions of that software. Many of those customers do not have the 3000 directly exposed to the Internet, though.
The bug allows hackers to send commands to a computer without having admin status, letting them plant malicious software within systems.
HP has released a software update to resolve the vulnerability in HP Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) running Bash Shell. Version NGFW v126.96.36.19953 will fix the breach in that that product. But NGFW doesn't run on MPE/iX.
Edminster forwards this advice while he's working on his report.
It's most likely to be an issue for web services that use bash scripts to process web-page input for example, such as machines exposed to the Internet, and those that have services that can accept input from the 'net. I'll work to round up as many examples of potential places this can be felt on a 3000, so that folks know where to look.
Yep — this one is messy, because it's not quite so cut-and-dried as HeartBleed was.
October 15, 2014
Signed malware stalks HP's Windows boxes
HP will be revoking a security certificate for its Windows-based systems on Oct. 21, and the vendor isn't sure yet how that will impact system reliability.
The bundled software on older HP PC systems has been at risk of being the front-man for malware, according to a report in the Kerbs on Security website. This code-signing is supposed to give computer users and network admins confidence about a program's security and integrity. HP's Global Chief Security Officer Brett Wahlin said the company is revoking a certificate it's been using even before 2010.
HP was recently alerted by Symantec about a curious, four-year-old trojan horse program that appeared to have been signed with one of HP’s private certificates and found on a server outside of HP’s network. Further investigation traced the problem back to a malware infection on an HP developer’s computer.
HP investigators believe the trojan on the developer’s PC renamed itself to mimic one of the file names the company typically uses in its software testing, and that the malicious file was inadvertently included in a software package that was later signed with the company’s digital certificate. The company believes the malware got off of HP’s internal network because it contained a mechanism designed to transfer a copy of the file back to its point of origin.
The means of infection here is the junkware shipped with all PCs, including HP's, according to HP 3000 consultant and open source expert Brian Edminster. In this case, the revoked certificate will cause support issues for administrators. The certificate was used to sign a huge swath of HP software, including crucial hardware and software drivers and components that are critical to Windows.
"This is one of the reasons that I absolutely loath all the 'junkware' that is commonly delivered along with new PCs," Edminster said. "I end up spending hours removing it all before I use a new PC." Recovery partitions on Windows systems will be at unknown risk after the certificate is pulled Oct. 21, too.HP's Windows computers have recovery partitions on the boot hard drive that can restore a system to its original, factory-shipped software configuration. That configuration includes the junkware.
"For me, this junkware is just chaff," Edminster said, "and an opportunity to clog up a machine that's supposed to be pristine and new. To say nothing of increased opportunities for the sort of thing outlined in the Kerbs article."
HP's Security officer Wahlin said that admins will have to wait to see the impact of that revoked certificate, according to the article.
The interesting thing that pops up here — and even Microsoft doesn’t know the answer to this — is what happens to systems with the restore partition, if they need to be restored. Our PC group is working through trying to create solutions to help customers if that actually becomes a real-world scenario, but in the end that’s something we can’t test in a lab environment until that certificate is officially revoked by Verisign on October 21.
October 14, 2014
Making a Migration Down the Mountain View
After an exit off the HP 3000, the City of Mountain View is now also saying goodbye to one of its longest-tenured IT pros. Even beyond the migration away from the municipality's Series 957, Linda Figueroa wanted to keep in touch with the HP 3000 community, she reported in a note. "I started working on a Series III back in the 1980s," she said.
But after 38 years with the City, and turning 55, it's time to retire. At a certain time, city employees with as many years as I have get the "when are you retiring?" look. We had 3000s running at the City of Mountain View from 1979 until 2012.
Our first HP 3000 in 1979 was a Series III system (which I just loved; always felt so important pressing those buttons). It had a 7970E tape drive, four 7920 disc drives and a printer. Then we moved to the monster Series 68, and ended up with the Series 957 with DLT tapes — no more switching reel-to-reels! I still have my MPE:IV software pocket guide from January 1981. (I couldn't get rid of it — coffee stains and all.)
When Mountain View took down its HP 3000, a couple of years after the switchover, the City turned off all of its other Hewlett-Packard servers, too. Only its software suppliers have made the transition, proving the wisdom that customers are closest to their applications — and leave the platforms behind. But MPE — from System IV to MPE/iX 6.5 — and the HP 3000 did more than three decades of service at Mountain View.Mountain View first purchased Dell servers to replace the HP 3000 in 2010. "We had Utility Billing and Business License software from Idaho Computer Systems," Figueroa said. "We still run the same software from DataNow (a vendor previously known as Idaho Computer Systems). But we run it now on Dell servers."
"Up until 2012 we had an HP 9000 Unix system running our IFAS accounting software from SunGard Bi-Tech. These computers were also replaced by Dell servers."
The veteran IT manager added that she used Adager, Suprtool, Reflection and several other products on the 3000. "I also used VEsoft's products, Figueroa said. [VEsoft founder] "Vladimir Volokh would make site visits once a year for years, begging me to update our software."
October 13, 2014
A Little Uptick For Hope
There is new business a-brewing for HP 3000 owners. Not migration business, that wouldn't be news. We just got a small report in the in-box from a long-time 3000 expert about an uptick in Paul Edwards' world. Some of it seems to be wrapped around homesteading, too.
It's titled MPE: Consulting Interest
I have had a lot of interest in MPE consulting lately. It is a two-week training class overseas, a local migration, a file migration in Texas, and a Time & Materials consulting opportunity in Texas. This is after no billing for all of last year. Things are looking up, especially in Texas. I just thought you would like to know that MPE opportunities are still available.
Paul Edwards and Associates consults on Speedware, on Suprtool, on COBOL -- on many of the things that make the HP 3000 unique. He's shared practices for system management of 3000s. He's also got the rights to teach with HP's educational materials for MPE classes. Plus got some links to the Stromasys virtualization world of prospects.
The latest news is not entirely about who closed down their 3000 shop recently.
October 10, 2014
When Smaller Can Be Better
Hewlett-Packard has chosen to cleave itself into two much smaller companies. It will take most of the next year to make that a reality. But it might be an advantage to return to working with a more nimble company. Well, an advantage to the 3000 site that's migrating to HP's other computer enterprise solutions, or has done so recently.
Over at the New York Times, the tech writers found something to praise even while they questioned the wisdom of the move.
In one day, Meg Whitman has created two of America’s biggest companies. All she had to do was break apart Hewlett-Packard, the company credited with creating Silicon Valley. HP Enterprise is targeting a market that appears full of potential innovations, while HP Inc. seems stuck in the low-margin consumer hardware business that has proved a slog for companies not named Apple or Samsung.
It appears Whitman has found a vision: one that looks a bit like the IBM of the West — with an emphasis on products rather than IBM’s consulting services — and another that looks a bit like Compaq Computer, a Texas computer company that HP controversially merged with 12 years ago.
A long time ago, in a marketplace now far away, 3000 owners wished for some breaking off. The HP 3000 wasn't a part of Hewlett-Packard's vision? Fine. Sell the unit off and let's get on with a focused future. At the time, the business was said to turn over $1 billion yearly. Even at half that size, it would've been big enough to survive with customer loyalty. If the 3000 had nothing else going for it, you could count on loyalty.
All opportunities now gone, you say. You just cannot break up an enterprise tech player like that. Then Whitman chops a massive company into two much smaller parts. Smaller has been better for the typical 3000 customer for a long time. Yes, there are times when there are advantages of being big: When a 3000 user got more from a company which sprawls to supersize, in sales and scope of solutions. You get predictability, alliances and headroom from companies sized HP. The vendor so lusted after being No. 1, which did not become a path to long-term success.
3000 community members understand that smaller can be better -- not bigger -- especially when they use what the independent vendor lives upon. Small companies respond faster, polish relationships, and commit for life.
Faster response can mean software that is enhanced sooner, or answers that resolve problems more quickly -- because a smaller company has fewer layers for a customer to dive through. Relationship polishing is the personal attention to a company of any size: the kind of experience that HP 3000 managers, who may now be CIOs and CTOs, recall getting from a smaller HP.As an example, the Support Group knows its customers on a first-name basis. The operations at this 3000 provider include a hotsite datacenter located about 100 yards from the call stations. This integration of support and cloud services is natural, seamless, and don't require a special manager to coordinate.
You can get that kind of integration in an encounter from HP for a migration platform. Whether it slips smoothly into the budgets of small to midsize companies is less certain. So much of the HP offerings don't come from Hewlett-Packard while the vendor engages smaller customers. Independent partners deliver services in what HP considers a smaller marketplace.
Then there's that "outside the product" call that a 3000 user makes to a long-time supplier. This call is really about the 3000, not the product in the support contract. But that doesn't make a difference to a smaller company than HP. Large IT vendors don't even have a coding category to let that call begin, let alone be resolved.
Finally there's the final chapter of a relationship between smaller customer and smaller provider. I call this "commit for life" because it represents the intention to maintain a relationship to the very end, not when a business strategy changes in a boardroom. Years ago, Robelle told the community it would support the 3000 until at least 2016. As long as there's still a customer around, STR Software says they'll support them on the Fax/3000 solution. Commit for life means a smaller vendor's lifespan, most of the time, -- not the lifetime of its business plans.
October 09, 2014
TBT: A 3000 Newsworthy Birth Day
The first issue of the Newswire ran its black and red ink across 24 pages of an early October issue. Inside, the first FlashPaper late-news insert had been waiting a week for main-issue printing to catch up with mailing plans.
In our ThrowBack to this week of 1995, the first issue of The 3000 Newswire rolled out into the mails. The coverage of the HP 3000 was cheerful enough to encourage a belief that the computer would run forever -- but 19 years of future was far from certain for either the system or the first 3000-only publication. Volume 1 (the year), Issue 1 came out in a 24-page edition, the same page count of the printed issue that just mailed this Fall. At the Newswire's introduction, one user group leader wondered aloud, on a bus ride during the Interex '95 conference in Toronto, "what in the world you'll might be able to find to fill up the news in Issue No. 2."
The last of the competing HP-only publications closed its doors 10 years later, when Interex folded its user group overnight. Interact, HP Professional, SuperGroup, HP Omni and others turned out the lights during that decade.
The Newswire's first mailed issue was carrying the news circulating in mid-August during an Interex conference. For the first time in 10 years, an HP CEO spoke at the Interex event. However, Lew Platt was a current CEO when he spoke to the 3000 faithful. David Packard was a former CEO and board member when he addressed the multitudes at Interex '85 in Washington DC.
Platt said that HP 3000 users had nothing to fear from a future where Unix was in vogue at HP. Earlier in the day, speaking before the full assembly of users, he said HP was going to making new business by taking out older products. At an editor's luncheon we asked him what that mission held for the 3000.
Platt explained his prior comments on cannibalizing HP's business to maintain steady growth. MPE/iX won't be served up in a pot anytime soon. "I don't mean leaving customers high and dry," he said. "HP has worked extremely hard with products like the HP 3000 to make the people who have bought them have a good future. We've put an enormous amount of energy out to make sure we can roll those people forward. I'd say we've done a better job than just about any company in the industry in providing a good growth path for those customers."
The CEO went on to explain how cannibalization would work. HP would take a product, such as a printer, that was doing perfectly well and may still be a leadership printer in the market -- and bringing in a new one before it's reached its end of life. If you substitute "business server" for "printer" in that plan, you can see how a computer that was doing perfectly well might see a new computer brought in before the end of its life. In that issue, the Newswire story noted that the project we'd learn to call Itanium six years later was going undercover, so that new product wouldn't lock up existing server business for a year before it would ship.
HP was calling the joint effort with Intel the Tahoe architecture, and Platt would be retired from his job before anything shipped.Sixteen more stories made up the news in that October of 19 years ago. The Series 9x9 line had an 8-user model introduced for just under $50,000. It was the era when a 3000's price was set by the number of its concurrent users. A 40-user 939 sold for $30,000 more, despite having no extra horsepower. User-limited licensing, which HP maintained for the 3000 while Windows was free of limits, would continue for the next six years.
An Interex survey said that three-fourths of 3000 customers were ready to reinvest in the line, but the article focused on the better value of the server in the users' estimation. HP's Unix servers were compared to the 3000.
The story atop Page One addressed the limits of those user-based licenses, and how a requested MPE improvement would help. SIGMPE's Tony Furnivall said that "if you could have multiple, independent job queues, the same algorithms ight be used to limit the number of active sessions." Any 8-user 3000s that were replaced with 800-user systems would be subject to more costly software licenses from third party firms. User-based licensing was prevalent, if not popular, in the 3000 world of October 1995.
On the first three inside pages were a story about the country's oldest pastime, a pointer to a then-new World Wide Web that included a Newswire page, and a full-page HP ad that said, "You want open systems computing. You don't want to move mountains of critical data to a new platform." Hewlett-Packard would hold that view for about six more years. The next 13 have made up the Migration Era, with a Newswire printed across every one of those years. The Newswire has been published more than twice as long during those migrations as all the years before HP announced the end of its 3000 plans.
Cal Ripken, Baltimore Orioles baseball all-star, was breaking a record for consequitive games played that began 13 years earlier. "We're here in your hands this month because of the legendary, Ripken-esque performance of the 3000 deserves more attention," an editorial crowed.
A PC and printer executive at HP got the job as chief of all computer business. It was the second additional layer of management inserted between the CEO and the 3000 group. Rick Belluzzo was 41, commanding a $20 billion sector, and didn't have a specific job title. Olivier Helleboid was 3000 General Manager three levels down.
Windows 95 was launched at that Interex show in Toronto with a mountaineer rappelling down the CN Tower, stopping halfway and "using Win95 from a wireless laptop. It was all too much for Birket Foster, president of HP 3000 channel partner M.B. Foster Associates and a supplier of Windows products."
"It's all a media event," Foster said. "Is the average user going to do that? It's all way too much hype for what's being delivered." A survey showed no manager had installed Win95 company-wide yet.
HP's managers shed their coats and ties at a roundtable en masse, after customers pointed out that IBM's officials dressed casual on the conference's expo floor. A technical article detailed the relief that PatchManager/iX delivered for MPE patch installs. New 3000 integrators were announced for manufacturing and FileNet workflow document services; the latter had six companies listed in the US.
One of those in-between HP managers said the company "now sees the 3000 as something sold to new customers mostly as an engine for specific applications, like manufacturing or healthcare systems." Porting applications from other systems would be made easier with the first C++ for MPE, the freeware GNU C++ suite, bootstrapped by ORBiT Software's Mark Klein. The GNU package made possible a host of open system tools within two years. "HP is helping to distribute GNU C++ form its HP 3000-based World Wide Web server on the Internet," the story added.
Ultimately, the Web server software HP shipped for MPE/iX was ported from Apache source code from the open systems world. HP told its DeskManager office communications users to expect enhancements first on HP's Unix systems. Helleboid, forecasting HP's final act in the 3000 world years later, said in the first Q&A that HP would collaborate with arch-rivals IBM, Digital and Sun to create "a complete environment for Unix applications."
Helleboid also said that the 3000's Customer First strategy would be presented to other HP computer groups such as its Unix group. "Customers are looking for this kind of relationship," he said in a forecast of using 3000 ideas to improve replacement business models.
October 08, 2014
Another Kind of Migration
Change is the only constant in life, and it's a regular part of enterprise IT management, too. Another sort of migration takes place in one shop where the 3000 has been retired. Specialized scripts for automation using Reflection are being replaced. Thousands of them at one 3000 site.
Micro Focus, which owns Reflection now as well as its own terminal emulator Rumba, is sparking this wholesale turnover of technology. Customers are being sold on the benefits of the Micro Focus product as part of a suite of interlocking technologies. When that strategic decision is taken, as the British like to say (Micro Focus has its HQ in the country) the following scenario plays out.
Glenn Mitchell of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina reported his story, after reading our report on Micro Focus acquiring Attachmate.
"As a former WRQ PC2622 user," Mitchell added, "it’s as sad to see my days with Reflection coming to an end as much as my days with MPE ended." As for EHLAPPI, it stands for Enhanced High Level Language Application Program Interface. And with any acronymn that has seven letters, it's a design choice that's got quite a, well, legacy air to it.
I can certainly see many parallels between the latest change at our organization and the migrations many of us undertook from MPE to other platforms.
It has been many years since I was heavily involved with the 3000 and the 3000 community. One of the ties back to those old days has been that we use Reflection 3270 as our mainframe terminal emulator here. I’ve done a number of extensive macros in Reflection VBA to assist our customers and developers, and I understand we have thousands of Reflection VBA and Reflection basic scripts in use throughout the company. (We’re a mainframe-centric organization specializing in high-volume claims processing, including Medicare claims in the US.)
Some months ago, I was told we were dropping Reflection and moving to Rumba by Micro Focus (the old Wall Data product) as a cost-saving measure. As part of that move, all of my macros will need to be converted to use the EHLAPPI interface in Rumba. According to the support staff here, a conversion was going to be required anyway to move to the latest version of Reflection. Well, the support staff has done a good job and many thousands of macros run pretty successfully with some special conversion tools they’ve provided.
Of course, mine don’t, yet.
It's an API that goes back to the early PC days, and allowed a program running on the PC to "scrape" data from a terminal emulator session running on the PC. So it represents a big move backwards in technology from Reflection VBA.
Our guys figured out a way to run our VBA scripts in Excel and trap most of the Reflection API calls (e.g. getdisplaytext) and convert them to equivalent EHLAPPI calls for Rumba. The gotcha is that they've only done the most frequently used API functions, and Rumba doesn't support all of the functions Reflection makes available via API.
Scripting inside of a terminal emulator product represents a deep level of technology. Just the sort of tool a 3000 shop deploys when it can command petabytes of data and tens of thousands of users. When things change with vendor plans, whether it's a system maker or a provider of software, support staff shifts its support to migration tasks.
As an interesting footnote to the changes in the outlook for Reflection -- given that Rumba has been offered as a replacement -- we turn to the a recent comment by Doug Greenup of Minisoft. "Minisoft has NS/VT in its HP terminal emulator," he noted when we described the unique 3000 protocol in some versions of Reflection. "And unlike WRQ, we remain independent. We still have HP 3000 knowledgeable developers and support people." The company's terminal emulator for 3000s, Minisoft Secure 92, has a scripting language called TermTalk.
October 07, 2014
HP decides to break up the brand
And in one stroke of genius, it's become 1984 again at Hewlett-Packard. Yesterday brought on a new chorus for an old strategy: sell computers to companies, and leave the personal stuff to others. Except that one of the others selling personal computers, plus the printers usually connected to PCs, is another generation of the company. The CEO of Hewlett-Packard is calling the split-off company HP Inc. But for purposes of mission and growth, you could call it HP Ink.
To be clear, that's a broad definition we used up there to define that stroke of genius. Brilliance is something else, but genius can be just a powerful force for good or for ill. Definition 3 of the word in Apple's built-in dictionary on my desktop calls genius "a person regarded as exerting a powerful influence over another for good or evil: He sees Adams as the man's evil genius." It's from Latin meaning an attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability, or inclination.
What's become the nature of Hewlett-Packard, its innate ability? The company was founded on one ability and then had a second grafted onto its first success. It's been 30 years now since 1984, when the vendor which invented MPE and the 3000 has been inventing products for consumers. The LaserJet opened the door for a torrent of ink and toner to sweep around traditional technology innovations. Before there was a need for a battalion of printing devices and a phalanx of personal devices, the old HP logo represented business and scientific computing. Plus a world-leading instruments business whose profile was an icon for what HP was known for best.
HP's been down this path before, splitting off those instruments into Agilent in 1999. A few months later Carly Fiorina won the approval of then-ink czar Dick Hackborn, placing her in the CEO's seat. Yesterday's announcement of splitting the company into two complementary entities returns the Hewlett-Packard name to enterprise computing. But it seems the core values of the only major IT vendor named after its founders won't rebound into favor. Not on the strength of just splitting off high-cost, high volume ink and PC business. HP needs to impress people with what it builds again. Not just what it can aggregate and integrate.
A few notes we took away from that announcement:
- HP says it aims to be two Fortune 50 companies after breakup, but more nimble and focused
- "The brand is no longer an issue," say HP executives, and breaking up the brand will create equal-sized businesses.
- An extra 5,000 layoffs come along with the split-up. The running total is now 55,000 on the clock that started in 2011.
- HP likes its own idea; prior chairman Ralph Whitworth called it a "Brilliant value-enhancing move at the perfect time in the turnaround."
- CEO Meg Whitman says HP's turnaround made the breakup possible.
- Its stock traded more than five times its usual daily shares on breakup news, and picked up almost 5 percent in share value. HPQ also gave away all of that gain, and more, the very next day.
That's how it goes in the commodity computing market: easy come, say the customers, and easy go. It might be why Whitman is helping the brand called Hewlett-Packard break away from the commodity business.Some analysts have noted the current board chair and CEO of today's un-split entity, the one still called HP, will take charge of the enterprise arm of the company's future. This, they reckon, is where the real innovation and action will take place. The part of the company that pulled Hewlett-Packard into the consumer reseller model, then swallowed up the second-place PC provider in Compaq 12 years ago, has been set free to float at the whims of a roiling market. HP Inc will have to compete without a dynamic mobile product line, and so we can wish the new-ish part of the vendor godspeed and good luck. They'll need it against the likes of Apple and Samsung, or even Lenovo and Lexmark.
HP's story last year was that the company was better together, after hearing seven years of calling for a split up. High volume, low profit business was suited to a market of 1999, but once mobile devices and the Web changed the game for data processing, PCs and printers just wanted different resources than servers and software demanded. Now CEO Meg Whitman says Hewlett-Packard and HP Inc. can focus and be nimble. From a 3000 customer's perspective, that focus would have been more useful 13 years ago, when growth demanded HP buy Compaq for $25 billion on the promise of becoming No. 1.
Being No. 1 didn't last long enough to pay the bills incurred to do so many things at once. Now Whitman says that three years of turnaround action has taught the company how to do more than one thing at a time. There's plenty to do. Maybe the first thing is to choose a new color to represent its oldest business. She said HP blue to going with the multi-colored ink of HP Inc.
Hewlett-Packard didn't need multiple colors to succeed on that 1984 day it added printers to its product line. But it was a company wrapped in a handsome slipcase of collegial traditions, still working to win its way to the front of enteprise IT selections. Canon and Hewlett-Packard collaborated to sell a laser printer to anyone, not just the customers buying HP's specialized business servers. Before long, the trails it blazed in consumer sales gave it an opening for its color ink, which at one point contributed 55 percent of the company profits. That's the consumables bringing home the bacon, not the nearly-disposable printing devices.
During the era when the 3000 was given its last several years of HP life -- first five, then seven, and finally nine -- IBM was happy to point out the passion for printing at HP. One thunderbolt of an IBM sales rep called the company Inky at a HP user group meeting speech in Houston. Those were the days when everyone in 3000 territory was looking at a new future. About three fourths of the business machines became computers without Hewlett-Packard on their badges. Still, the fungible nature of enterprise computing -- that ease of replacement that HP preached against MPE -- also turned out to be true for its own Unix business line. Somehow, the same Windows that would be suitable for 3000 shops was also a good-enough migration target for HP-UX customers.
Unix had its day, and Linux was the new wave and not channeled through a single vendor. HP invited comparisons. Now its customers can compare companies, starting next fall. Do business with HP Inc. and use Windows and probably Linux on HP's iron. Or choose a company that says it's now focused on the new style of computing: cloud services, big data, security and mobility. The company does not mean to suggest there's no place for in-house servers. But it's focused on those four areas, with a mention of software during yesterday's 45-minute presentation and Q&A.
Our readers will remember software. In MPE and IMAGE they got fine-tuned and refreshed software each year, although in some years the refreshes were faint. By the middle of the 1990s Hewlett-Packard had to embrace Windows to remain on planning short lists. Now the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has to attract and retain ever-mobile business on the strength of in-house innovations. Because if you want industry-standard commodity computing, HP Inc. is ready to take that business. It will soon be loose from the legacy of Hewlett-Packard.
October 06, 2014
HP to break itself, dividing into 2 companies
Hewlett-Packard announced this morning that it will divide itself into two publicly-traded corporations, a move that shareholders and stock analysts have been demanding and predicting for years. The division of the company will be along product lines. The business server operations will be contained in the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, while PC and printer businesses will comprise the new HP, Inc.
The vendor said in a press release that the restructuring will "define the next generation of technology infrastructure." The reorganization will also spin out the least profitable, but largest, segment of HP's business into its own unit. HP still ranks in the top five among PC makers and is one of the largest makers of printers in the world.
Meg Whitman will be CEO and president of the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company. Pat Russo will chair a new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise board of directors. Last month Hewlett-Packard -- the full corporation founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1939 -- had named Whitman as chairman of the board and CEO. By breaking up the company, Whitman will cede some control of its most competitive and popular product segments.
Dion Weisler will be the head of the new HP, Inc. as CEO and president. Whitman will chair the HP Inc. board of directors. HP said it will still meet its profit forecasts for the fiscal year that ends on Oct. 31. It also said that it "issues a fiscal 2015 non-GAAP diluted Earnings Per Share outlook of $3.83-$4.03." That is the sweetest way of forecasting a profit, using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. But it's not clear if that's HP Inc. profits, or profits for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. And the vendor said it would take all of fiscal 2015 to complete the transaction.
“The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan," said Whitman, who's led HP through three years of a five-year turnaround plan. "It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders.
"In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders."Much of the rest of HP's release deals with the visions and mechanics of dividing a $128 billion company into a classic and post-modern product manufacturer. Except that nothing is classic about the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company, with the exception of its three proprietary operating systems: HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop. The company has announced that HP-UX will be extending some of its enterprise-grade features to a version of RedHat. OpenVMS will be curtailed to only the newest generation of servers for the latest version of the OS. And NonStop, the most specialized of the three operating systems, is getting a full port to the x86/Xeon architecture -- an escape hatch from the Itanium chips that power Integrity servers.
But HP is retaining the Financial Services unit inside the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise corporation. It's a move the company noted will give financial advantages to customers and partners.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will have a unique portfolio and strong multi-year innovation roadmap across technology infrastructure, software and services to allow customers to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by cloud, big data, security and mobility in the New Style of IT. By leveraging its HP Financial Services capability, the company will be well positioned to create unique technology deployment models for customers and partners based on their specific business needs.
Additionally, the company intends for HP Financial Services to continue to provide financing and business model innovation for customers and partners of HP Inc. Customers will have the same unmatched choice of how to deploy and consume technology, and with a simpler, more nimble partner. The separation will provide additional resources, and a reduction of debt at the operating company level, to support investments across key areas of the portfolio. The separation will also allow for greater flexibility in completing the turnaround of Enterprise Services and strengthening the company's go-to-market capabilities.
"Over the past three years, we have reignited our innovation engine with breakthrough offerings for the enterprise like Apollo, Gen 9 and Moonshot servers, our 3PAR storage platform, our HP OneView management platform, our HP Helion Cloud and a host of software and services offerings in security, analytics and application transformation," continued Whitman. "Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will accelerate innovation across key next-generation areas of the portfolio."
R&D innovation has been a troubled business operation for Hewlett-Packard since the early years of this century, until Whitman announced a shift in the vendor's priorities in 2012. She named Martin Fink, the former leader of the embattled Business Critical Systems unit where those operating systems are built, to lead HP Labs. Within a year, the Labs were creating The Machine, a way forward into a new architecture for computing -- but one that could demand up to 75 percent of the Labs' resources.
It's not yet clear where HP Labs will go in the reorganization, but the Enterprise unit seems to make the most sense. Labs also contributes to product releases in the printer and PC lineups. HP mentioned the forthcoming 3D printer lineup in the breakup announcement.
HP was to have a meeting with financial analysts in just two days, but "as a result of this separation, its Oct. 8 2014 Securities Analysts Meeting has been postponed." A conference call took place at 5AM today, and is available for replay at the HP Investor Relations website.
Whitman said only a year ago that a single HP was the right approach. She said the same strategy is still the right approach, but added that breaking up the company will accelerate growth. "We now operate from a position of strength," she said, citing a strong balance sheet and returns to shareholders. The stock was nearing $40 a share in recent months, a profound rebound from prices in the teens at the lowest point of the turnaround.
After the split up, shareholders of the HPQ security will hold shares in both companies, CFO Cathie Lesjak said in the confence call. It's a move that will prompt instant investment in the new HP Inc.
October 03, 2014
Wearable computing, cloud IT: not news
By Ron Seybold
Ever since the start of summer, there's been plenty of ThrowBack Thursday pieces available to run. Always with a photo, they seem to get highest readership among our customers.
One throwback piece that’s headed to my recycle bin today is a 1991 press release from Park Engineering. In that springtime, the Spokane company made its news by announcing in a press release, “First ‘Wearable’ Computer Brings Desktop Computing Power to Mobile Workers.” The CompCap weighed a full pound, and you were instructed to wear it on your head. A hardhat version was self-contained, while another to wear around your head or as a hatband needed electronics built into a belt or vest.
What a marvel. What news, this device that had a virtual miniature display called the Private Eye, floating a few feet in front of the user. (Hope they weren’t driving a forklift at the time.) Starting at $1,500 and running up to $3,000 each, the CompCaps had their own OS, perhaps as unique as MPE/XL. Just without the thousands of apps that drove HP’s 3000 sales during year.
It would be news if a CompCap has ever been built, let alone sold. But it’s possible that an HP 3000 manufactured the same year could be running a company’s manufacturing today. It would be a 9x7 and well into antiquity. That would be news too, but of the amazing and astounding variety. That 9x7 is out there somewhere, proving there’s a need for a virtual 3000, the MPE/iX machine that’s not built by HP. Because the age of the iron is not the age of MPE.In these times, the news I can ferret out follows that kind of theme: this is no longer sold, that app hasn’t been updated since the Bush administration, (either one of them) or some other company is taking the plunge into Linux or Windows. It’s rare news when a customer who formerly used a 3000 takes their computing to HP-UX, because there's no news of Hewlett-Packard selling new sites on that enterprise system, either. I don’t miss many chances to point this out, and every Hewlett-Packard financial report gives me fresh news about that ill fortune.
But what is no longer true, or running, or fresh, is also news. It’s just harder for it to be of genuine use. I avoid the Mopac highway here in Austin at every chance because it’s no longer running faster than a crawl during its makeover. But I’d rather hear about a great alternative. From the little news that the Stromasys experts have time to share — they’re out there installing the virtual system with explicit care — CHARON might be that alternate highway for MPE apps.
We’ve promised to chronicle the tricks and practices of the migrating 3000 user here, too. It’s been tricky to do this when that exodus is so far along. Much of the migration activity remains in assessments that people running those 9x7s should be doing. Once again, it’s a story with negative activity, until it’s not and common wisdom prevails. Because the common wisdom says you ought to buy some different boxes to replace the ones HP doesn’t make anymore, running an OS that’s stable but frozen in time.
Except that the investment in different boxes starts to look like a strategy matched to big customers who will serve smaller companies. We’ve run a blog story with news of a new HP Cloud kingpin on staff, a fellow who brought along software which controls a customer’s use of Amazon Web Services. Only a few hundred companies ever bought the kingpin's open source marvel. At least that marvel is certain to run better than the CompCap.
Now HP’s got something new, but it’s not really that fresh, because it hasn’t done the R&D on this offering either. There’s a new range of HP permitting NIH in this latest news, because those servers controlled up in AWS might not be HP’s brand. Nobody seems to care anymore, so long as apps run and the data is secure.
In a time when the news chronicles the alternatives to everything HP’s built its computer strategy around — those specialized servers, hand-crafted environments — news comes from the customer community. Some of them with good stories talk, but a lot more sit in archival mode about their 3000 experiences and knowledge. We balance that by reaching into our archives, more than 2,500 blog articles and another 10 years’ more of printed and Online Extra stories. Nothing new, but its utility is so much more proven.
The best news is that the value of the server remains there. Large companies have bought up major software providers like Cognos and ground-breakers like Stromasys. We chose to skip calling this the HP 3000 Newswire, because we didn’t want any one vendor to have a say in our mission or strategies. But we’re not calling ourselves the Archival NewsWire, either. A good share of what’s out there is running MPE in archival mode. In the fullness of a time, they’ll be off HP’s iron. I’ll be on Social Security benefits before those companies switch off whatever propels those archived apps and they migrate their data. Not retired from writing stories, though. Whenever I stop writing, that will be news.
October 02, 2014
TBT: A Race to Engineering Discipline
October was a month to remember from an engineering era that Hewlett-Packard would rather forget. The era was the cycle of what independent contractors called Destructive Testing, the repeated, broad-spectrum hammering on the new MPE/XL operating system that was going to power the first PA-RISC Series 900 HP 3000. HP paid these experts to break what it had built.
The computer rolled out in the early fall of 1987, a full year after its Unix counterpart. It was just 12 months earlier that HP's tech czar Joel Birnbaum swore that PA-RISC would emerge from a swamp of too-sweet project management.
More than 1,000 engineers would eventually work on pulling MPE/XL and its Reduced Instruction Set Computing steed 900 Series out of a ditch. During 1985 and through much of 1986, status reports about the development of this faster 3000 were encouraging. No show-stoppers there, not with so much pressure on horsepower improvements. The Series 70 was released in 1985, a stop-gap server that ran faster than the Series 64. But not fast enough at plenty of major HP customers, the group called the Red Accounts.
Those lab updates were being sweetened because a replacement for the Series 64 and 70 was overdue. HP had already scrapped the 3000's update plans for HP Vision, broadening the replacement project to call it HP Spectrum. This was design to be used in all HP servers, working through an HP-invented RISC chip architecture. The twinkle in Birnbaum's eye while he was in IBM, RISC was going to be a business success. HP hired him away to deliver on the RISC promise.
But by October 1986 at a conference whose theme was Focus on the Future, the 900 Series was undeliverable as addressed. Birnbaum had to deliver the news to pressmen, reporters assembled in a conference room. We circled him, standing and taking notes, quizzing Birnbaum as he said the horsepower would arrive. More important was stability. Birnbaum explained patiently that interfaces between MPE software modules were not working as forecast. Not yet.
This didn't appear to be a man accustomed to explaining delays to the public, especially critics from the press. But he uttered a phrase that afternoon in Detroit at Interex '86 that seemed to close down the probing questions. We wanted to know, after all, could anyone believe that the vanguard Series 930 server would appear after more than two years of reboots and delays?To begin with, there would be bona fide accounting and reporting on genuine advances in software development, Birnbaum said. And to address this problem, Birnbaum added in a rising voice, HP would display a matter of computer science taking its regular course.
This problem, this issue, will yield to engineering discipline.
And he spoke that sentence as a vow, in a tone with some anger. You had to believe in engineering discipline, if you were to write stories about computing. It was easy enough to believe in the 32-bit computing that MPE/XL was aiming at, since it represented HP's entry in the cutting-edge design of the day. At that same Interex '86, DEC rented a set of rooms in the hotel across the street from the downtown Renaissance of the HP show. Its Vax servers were already running there in 32-bit mode. DEC even tried to offer an IMAGE-workalike on the servers in the display rooms. One of the accounts was even named REGO, a nod to Adager's founder Alfredo.
"Digital Has It Now," was the theme of the competition's campaign that October. Big two-page ads in Byte and Computerworld, printed on silver ink backgrounds and massive white letters on top, assured the markets they didn't have to wait for anyone's discipline if they bought DEC. There was lots of hubris back then, as now. Cullinet ran one ad that used a headline it only made sense to switch to their application suite, since it was the only one built for use in the '80s and '90s.
By the fall of 1987, the Series 930 was squeezed out to a handful of sites including Northern Telecom, as evidence that Birnbaum's discipline had yielded 32 bits of success. But few of those 930s ever booted up in production. Just like the original HP 3000 had buckled under the demands of MPE, the 1.0 release of MPE/XL drove the RISC hardware to regular halts. The problem lay not in the hardware, but in the software which had not been destructively tested.
It took another year for the first, genuinely effective 900 Series HP 3000 to ship. The Series 950 might not have been the first horse out of HP's RISC 3000 gate. But it could promise at least 10 percent more horsepower than the biggest Series 70 running MPE. It was the work of those independent engineers -- many of them former HP employees, developers and SEs -- that let MPE/XL get free of its starting gates.
October 01, 2014
Steady pace means un-news isn't no news
By Ron Seybold
What does it say about the HP 3000 when the steadiest story about the 3000 doesn’t involve an HP 3000? You can’t wear one, like an Apple Watch, or buy a brand-new HP 3000. Your server’s operating system is unchanged after more than four years, unless you’re buying a custom-crafted patch. The mission for this general purpose machine hasn’t changed, either.
It might be that the most constant news about the HP 3000 of 2014 is there’s no fresh news. So what’s an editor to do when his blog and publication includes the word Newswire? To conjure content, I reach back, and I look ahead. What is ahead of us doesn’t involve much HP iron, and certainly nothing new wearing a Hewlett-Packard 3000 badge on its chest. I only have to reach back to see a story where wearing something to compute wasn’t a novel concept. Not according to my files here in the office.
I work a lot out of the files these days.
This rambling is a way of describing my frustration and then a calm acceptance about the limited rate of change. I came into the journalism business with the knowledge that new was best. My first newspapering job came in a small Texas town with a competing paper just down the block. You’d wonder why a county seat of 3,500 would ever need two newspapers. It was 1982, a year when plenty of towns had two papers. Journalism has changed. Now there’s an infographic out there with the Then and Now of information. A reporter is now considered a blogger, and press conferences are now Twitter chats.
I came to tech journalism and got scooped within three weeks. Scoop, for any who’ve forgotten, is when a competitor learns and prints something before you can. One year at an Interex conference, we scooped all day at our booth. Ice cream, supplied by the hotel’s catering department. The word was synonymous with elite information.
There are press releases today, but they’re called content. Some still fill my inbox, but they come from non-3000 markets. The investment of an envelope and stamp is gone, just like an investment in HP-branded iron has been replaced by an offsite, up in the cloud server. Not free, but oh so less costly.I get frustrated when there’s nothing new on each and every blog posting day. Then I take a breath and settle into some calm acceptance -- because like you, I work in a world where a computer’s legacy, and its archival opportunity, is always online. The news here sometimes has to be, well, as NBC TV once said, “New to You.” HP used to tell us, while it provided updates for 3000 customers, “this is new news.”
Even the vendor knew there was more than one kind of news. And HP was where the new models were being crafted.
So here, crossing into the 20th year of the 3000 Newswire, we now print once a quarter. We issue a story or message about 22 times per month, but the news that is new appears on the same ratio as our new print edition to old print issue: one story out of four. There’s the one, of course, but these days it’s as likely to be about a virtual 3000 or a cloud opportunity as anything directly related to MPE software or applications.
What’s a reporter to do? I made my transition to blogger more than nine years ago, wearing a reporter’s fedora at the same time. (Fedora: a short-brimmed hat with a Press card tucked into its brim. For further reference see the 1931 movie, The Front Page.)
But as this 20th fall season arrived in the NewsWire’s office, that fedora is as much a legacy as MPE’s endearing and enduring achievements. I have a short-brim hat I haven’t worn since the '90s. When fall teased us in Austin this month, I opened the windows here and started to clean out the office, tossing things into the Big Recycle Box. Coming from Depression Era hoarders, as I said in a ThrowBack Thursday article, I have way too much stuff in this office that oughta be in the recycle bin.