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December 31, 2014

Top Stories Lead MPE Into New Year

The remains of 2014 are down to just a few hours by now, a year that saw the virtualization of the system take new wings while migrations proceeded at a slower pace. We reported stories about surprising homesteading sites and new players in the community which counts MPE as a significant piece of history — and for some, a platform into 2015 and beyond.

But no story of the past year would be complete without a passage devoted to the passing of the enterprise torch into a smaller Hewlett-Packard. The company that created MPE and the 3000 passed the total management mantle to CEO Meg Whitman in the summer, making her chair of the full entity. A few months later it divided itself along enterprise IT and consumer lines. The year 2014 will be the last when HP stands for a complete representation of the creations of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. By this time next year, a spinoff will be vying for attention of the computing marketplace.

1. HP decides to break up the brand

HP Enterprise Corp. StrategyAnd in one stroke of genius, it became 1984 again at Hewlett-Packard. October brought on a new chorus for an old strategy: sell computers to companies, and leave the personal stuff to others. But one of the others selling personal computers and printers usually connected to PCs is a new 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. Genius can be simply 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.

The company to be called Hewlett-Packard will concentrate on a business lineup that harkens back to 1984 a year when the LaserJet joined the product line. CEO Meg Whitman said Hewlett-Packard, devoted to enterprise business, and HP Inc. can focus and be nimble. From a 3000 customer's perspective, that focus would have been useful 13 years ago, when the lust for growth demanded that HP buy Compaq and its PC business for $25 billion on the promise of becoming No. 1.

2. 3000's time extended in schools, manufacturing

SB County schoolsThe San Bernadino County school district in California was working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015. That has now been extended to 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.

In another market segment, 3M continues to use its HP 3000s in production. What began as the Minnesota Minining & Manufacturing Company is still using HP 3000s. And according to a departing MPE expert Mike Caplin, the multiple N-Class systems will be in service there "for at least several more years."

In both cases, the 3000 is outlasting the deep expertise of managers who kept it vital for their organizations. It's taking a :BYE before a :SHUTDOWN, this longer lifespan of MPE than experts.

3. Virtual Legacy Carries MPE from Past to the Future

Stromasys took its virtualization of enterprise server message to VMworld's annual conference, where the event was pointing at cloud-based Platform As A Service (PaaS) for the years to come. The CHARON virtualization engine that turns an Intel server into a 3000 operates on the bare metal of an Intel i5 processor or faster, working inside a Linux cradle. Plenty of customers who use CHARON host the software in a virtualized Linux environment -- one where VMware provides the hosting for Linux, which then carries CHARON and its power to transform Intel chips, bus and storage into PA-RISC boxes. VMware is commonplace among HP 3000 sites, so management is no extra work.

4. A court and a city adjourned their terms with 3000s

In Kansas and in Mountain View, Calif., government organizations stepped off 3000s to move onto replacement applications. At the District Court in Topeka, Kansas, the HP 3000 "has outlived its life expectancy, making it essential that we either move on to another system or we go back to paper and pen," according to a statement on the court's website. Converting data was to be the crucial part of the migration — and will be the crucible of every migration to come. Waiting for a migration to do data cleanup is foolish, according to ScreenJet's Alan Yeo. "Yes, sure you don't want to move crap in a migration," said the CEO. "But you probably should have been doing some housekeeping whilst you lived in the place. Blaming the house when you got it dirty doesn't really wash!"

5. Replacing rose up as the migrator's primary choice

Even before the end of 2014, plenty of IT shops have closed down changes for the calendar year. Many 2015 development budgets have been wrapped up, too. Among those HP 3000 operations which are still considering a strategy for transition, there's only one assured choice for most of who's left. They'll need to replace their application. Not many can rehost it.

6. 2015's migrations will creep onward, some in virtual mode

There are still HP 3000 shops out there in manufacturing, even online retail, that are facing decisions about how to migrate off the platform. Plenty of shadow-bound 30000 systems are running aspects of major corporations. For many others, a verbal and white-board commitment to a migration is all that can be mustered for now. Tools out there today, as well as available expertise, take a migration from virtual to reality.

In the concept of virtualization, a server is replaced by another which pretends to be just like the original. There's no new HP 3000 in emulation, for example. Just the idea of one. The essence of the HP 3000, its PA-RISC architecture, is replaced using the Charon product: software that mimics the HP hardware. Virtualization engines use software to eliminate hardware.

Some MPE migrations which have been underway for years look like they may be using up virtual man-months, so the IT group is not forced have to adopt a new application. The plan and lengthy project time eliminates any need to go live with changes.

In a virtual migration, the organization knows its intention. Get onto another environment with mission-critical apps. But the work never gets completed, something like a "forthcoming" novel that's expected but unfinished. Virtualized migrating can very well be the reason any 3000 project still has something like a 2017 target date.

What are the key stories from your chapters of the 3000's 2014? Let us know in the comments below.

08:21 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 30, 2014

2014's Top Stories: Recapping A Year

Here in the days that lead to the end of 2014, it's a journalism tradition to review events whose effect will last beyond their original dateline. We're not about to break tradition, a feeling that 3000 managers and owners will understand. We also invite you to nominate an important event below, in our comments.

1. Unicom sees PowerHouse as iconic real estate

The new owners of the PowerHouse software products began talking about their end of 2013 purchase in a way that the 4GL's users haven't heard since the golden era of the 3000. While Unicom Systems was still fleshing out its plans and strategy, the company is enhancing the legacy technology using monetary momentum that was first launched from legendary real estate -- an iconic Hollywood film star home and a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion.

2. The Unix-Integrity server business keeps falling

Sliding-cliffHP's proprietary replacement for the 3000 continued its slide. As early as February, HP's CEO said "We continue to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex. "We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future." By year's end the management team had given up on any growth via Unix — because the product line has dropped 20 percent of sales per quarter.

3. Applications swallowed by big vendors tread water

Even the migrated apps such as Ecometry were not immune to a classic business development: smaller bases of application customers seeing road maps get cloudy once they slid into a big product portfolio. JDA and Red Prairie merged, and even a year later the former, which owns the Ecometry suite, had no road map on how the app would grow and go forward. JDA is large enough to join forces with Red Prairie in early 2013. But not large enough to deliver a futures map for the Ecometry customer. These customers have been loath to extend their Ecometry/Escalate installations until they get a read on the tomorrow they can expect from JDA. "I think it's possible there's nobody left in JDA who can even spell MPE," said MB Foster CEO Birket Foster, "let alone know what it means to Ecometry sites."

4. Patches to repair MPE's bugs are still available

They're just customized now. A 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s.

5. An iPad 3000 terminal emulator gained NS/VT

The only tablet-ready terminal emulator for HP 3000 users crossed over even further into the language of MPE. The 1.1.0 version of TTerm Pro adds HP's 3000-specific Network Services/Virtual Terminal protocol. The new feature means that many more MPE applications will run without a flaw over the Apple iPad tablets. The development showed that even an operating environment shucked off by its vendor four years ago still gets consideration for development from third parties.

6. A Northeastern food cooperative plugged in CHARON

A leading milk and dairy product collective, a century-plus old, is drawing on the Stromasys emulator’s opportunity. The Dairylea $1.2 billion milk marketing cooperative — established for more than 100 years and offering services to farmers including lending, insurance and risk management — became an early example of how to replace Hewlett-Packard’s 3000 and retain MPE software, while boosting reliability.

Tell us below: What was the most important development of your 2014?

07:44 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2014

Moving Pictures of HP's Contribution Origins

10,000th

HP's Origins video, filmed nearly a decade ago, includes this picture of employees celebrating the shipment of the 10,000th HP 3000, sometime in the 1980s.

You can't find it on the Hewlett-Packard website, but a 2005 movie called "Origins" is still online at a YouTube address. The 25-minute film chronicles what made HP such a groundbreaker in the computing industry, and it includes interviews with the company's founders. Bill and Dave didn't appear much on camera, being businessmen of a different era and engineering managers and inventors at heart.

The link here takes the viewer directly to the Contribution segment of the story. While it is history by now -- the company transformed itself to a consumer and commodity goods provider thanks to the me-too of CEOs Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd -- the film represents ideals that anybody in the business can set for their own career or decisions. Joel Birnbaum, whose HP Labs leadership helped deliver RISC computing for the business marketplace for the first time in 3000, sings his praise for the love of making a product that could make a difference.

Opening Up VideotapeBut that contribution era passed away once uniformity became the essential feature of enterprise computing. By the middle '90s, HP was busy selling the 3000 as another tool that could handle open systems (read: Unix) computing. In truth, Unix was no more open than any other environment, including Windows. But Unix had some similarities between versions that could be leveraged by large enough software developers. In the videotape at left, HP offered an interview from an unnamed SAP development executive. He said his application suite had been through a test port to MPE/iX, and he believed the software had 99.5 percent code compatibility from Unix to MPE.

That half percent might have presented a technical challenge, of course. It would be thousands of lines of code, considering SAP's footprint. The MPE version of the application never made it into the vendor's price list, however. One specific client may have used SAP on a 3000 via that test port, but it was never offered as a manufacturing solution by its creators. HP's enterprise execs very much wanted an SAP offering for the 3000. That creation would have been as me-too as any product could get. "You could run that on a 3000 instead of a 9000" would've been the HP account rep's message in 1992.

SAP's exec on the video admired the 3000 customer community for its understanding of enterprise applications. But a level of misunderstanding lay at the heart of the SAP organization, whose speaker in the video said the database for HP-UX and MPE was the same. IMAGE, of course, was nothing like Oracle or even Allbase, and the latter had only a thimble's worth of adoption in the 3000 community. IMAGE gave that community its understanding of what enterprise applications should do. 

Large manufacturers were using MPE and the 3000 in 1992 when the video was filmed, including General Mills. Making a contribution by exploiting innovations of the computer's environment — well, that's high on the list of essential features. MANMAN, MM II and other apps offered such a contribution from the beginning. At some customer sites, they still do.

The segment that wraps up the video includes a photo of HP employees posing in the shape of the numeral 10,000 to celebrate the sale of the 10,000th HP 3000. Guy Kawasaki, one of Apple's founding braintrust, asserts that HP's DNA was in its people, "and you couldn't kill it if you tried." Any 3000 customer who's migration is headed to HP systems will want that to be true, want it as much as HP wanted a me-too SAP for MPE two decades ago.

06:16 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2014

Gifts for MPE Owners This Season

Turned OffThe managers and owners of MPE systems have seen much taken from them over the past decade and more. Vendor development, support that's unquestioned by top management, even the crumbs of MPE security patches and bug fixes. A lot has gone dark in this winter of the 3000's seasons. But here on the eve of Christmas Eve, there's still some treasures under the tree of 3000 life as we know it.

Stromasys-logo-smallFuture hardware. Stromasys has made a business mission out of preserving applications written for MPE. The company has done this with Charon HPA, software whose foundation was laid in 2009 and is receiving an updated, speedier release this year. Companies that are relying on MPE apps for many years to come -- so many they need brand-new hardware to host the 3000's OS — can count on the software that makes Intel behave just like PA-RISC. You won't be able to run a company on a laptop, but MPE boots fast enough on what we once called a Portable PC to show off this virtualizer in the boardroom.

Screensie MBFA logoA future for applications. Migration can be messy, feel risky and command a big chunk of budget and human resource, but several companies are still devoting their business missions to transitions. MB Foster comes to mind first here, and there are others with tools, like ScreenJet. More than 12 years after HP announced its pullout, and with a declining number of migrations in the offing, companies still deliver expertise on the biggest IT project a company will ever undertake. Something like doing an aircraft engine replacement while at 30,000 feet.

Series 928Software and help for it. On the cusp of 2015, you can still purchase software that manages enterprise-caliber jobstreams, the tools to manage the 3000's filesystem or its database, and more. The ones that aren't sold still have support lines. Companies like the Support Group host hot spares and help manufacturers keep stately legends like MANMAN online. Even a 20-year-old 9x8 deserves some respect while it continues to manage the finances and production of a competitive manufacturing entity.

SwitchboardSystem-wide support. As the numbers of MPE-savvy pros decline, outsourcing for expertise becomes essential for any customer homesteading long-term, or even through a migration project. Pivital Solutions, and companies like Allegro and Beechglen, ensure older HP iron and the static, classic MPE/iX 7.5 behave as planned. There's even a resource in Applied Technologies that can integrate open source software, ready for MPE and part of any larger project.

That's a lot to unwrap and admire for a 40-year-old computer, all still open at a time of year when presents are present. We're delighted to keep telling stories like million-dollar virtualization configurations, shiny benefits of data cleansing, or the new players taking over icons like PowerHouse. We're taking the remainder of this holiday week off, celebrating a birthday, the end of Hannukah and Christmas with the family. We'll be back with reports on Monday, December 29.

05:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2014

A Quiet December Week's MPE Ripples

The week of Christmas is a quiet one for business and enterprise IT. Sales calls and installations are at a minimum, companies work with skeleton crews, and announcements of news are rare. But nine years ago the week of Christmas was hot with a 3000 development, one that has ripples even today.

HolidayrippleIn the Christmas week of 2005 — back when HP still worked full shifts over the holidays — the 3000 division released news that HP's support lifespan for MPE would be extended. What had been called a firm and solid date of HP's departure got moved another 24 months into the future. The news was the first unmistakable evidence that the migration forecast from HP was more wishful than accurate.

As it said it would offer basic reactive support services for 3000 systems through at least December of 2008, the vendor confirmed that it would license MPE source code to several third parties. The former put a chill on migration business in the market, sending vendors -- services and software suppliers alike -- looking for non-3000 markets to service. The latter gave the support community a shot of fresh competition over the afterlife beyond the Hewlett-Packard exit.

In one of the more mixed messages to the community, HP said customers should work with the vendor to arrange support until migrations could be finished. The 3000 division also said its license for MPE source was going to "help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners." It would take another three years, beyond the closing of the MPE lab, for that source code to emerge.

The source license was limited to read-only informational use, mostly to write patches. The extension of HP's profitable support business put a kink in both migration partners' business as well as the very third party support partners the source was supposed to help.

Officially, the word from HP was that "We see that most HP e3000 customers are moving to new HP solutions, and are working closely with HP and our partners during their transitions." But Windows was moving into the spot that HP swept clean by announcing an MPE exit. An extra two years to make a migration didn't bring more ex-3000 shops into HP environments, unless they were running Windows on HP hardware.

At that time, we reported that the extension of HP's support for the 3000 -- a rollback of the "end of life" as the vendor called its exit — had already been on offer for the biggest 3000 customers.

MB Foster, a North American Platinum migration partner, said the offer of extra support was "one of the worst-kept secrets in the marketplace," according to founder Birket Foster. The extension of HP support doesn't change the business model at Speedware, or MB Foster, according to their officials. But offering basic level reactive support won't meet some customers' needs, Foster added.

While some customers will welcome the potential for more time to migrate, Foster said the HP announcement is introducing some confusion among others. "We had a customer who looked at this and said it would not be enough to make them supportable — but their senior management felt they could take the extra time," Foster said.

The offer has ripples to this day because the migration partners heard the screeching of brakes all through the market on projects. Billings evaporated that would have helped companies still supporting MPE software. It would take another seven years for the migrations to dwindle enough that Speedware announced it was reorganizing as Fresche Legacy, and start embracing transformations for the IBM AS/400 market.

As for the impact on support of 3000s, HP was suggesting that third parties could be part of an HP-branded support offering. 

HP it still considers third parties to be a potential part of its own service supply chain for the HP 3000. For the moment, however, the HP support customers get will come from an HP employee or contractor. Third party support actually now takes a step up in a comparison with the just-announced 2007-08 levels of service. Most companies offering support won’t charge as much as HP to deliver mission-critical support.

Third parties never became part of HP's support products. These independent companies found that HP wouldn't leave the field when its clock was supposed to run out. The vendor chose a next-to-Christmas announcement date to de-emphasize its moving of the goalposts.

As for the relative silence from the customer community, it might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, next year's 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change options for 2007.

It’s too bad this announcement didn’t come when more people were listening, still able to allocate budgets. But HP did more than its last two updates to OpenMPE's requests. In those instances, responses came in the form of postings to mailing lists. This time out there was PR support, and an outreach to business analysts and the mainstream IT press. You’d think the vendor had something to sell here, like goodwill in a holiday season — or another couple of years of support.

07:45 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2014

Making a New Case Against Old Hardware

Try to Order PartsIt won't make the resellers of HP's 3000 hardware happy, but Stromasys has started to make a strong argument against preserving the life of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware. In a link inside a video that was attached to a 2015 happy holidays message, we've spotted a 96-second summary that shakes the bones of the assurance there's plenty of parts in the world to support aging 3000 systems.

Maintaining the original MPE-based systems from Hewlett-Packard is risky and difficult, the commercial that's hosted on the Vimeo website says. The software is worth preserving, it continues, and it notes more than 5,000 companies have used the Stromasys Charon technology to enable hardware emulation. The majority of these Stromasys clients have emulated Digital's server hardware to preserve VMS applications.

Lower than full migrationOf course, there's a mention of emulation's savings versus a full migation. For the customers who are leaving the HP 3000 because the hardware's old, this point might have some traction. The level of support from the original hardware vendor, as well as the end of HP's 3000 manufacturing, drove a significant number of migrations in the past. The Stromasys argument states that with new hardware, an application suite can be preserved. Customers who remain on their homesteaded systems often say they'd be happier if their futures didn't include the expenses and risks of migrating.

There's a short reference to cloud-based Charon installations amid the message, too. In that level of solution, investment in the powerful Intel-based hardware is exchanged for a typical cloud-rental fee. In some cases, the investment in the hardware required to emulate HP-branded 3000 servers can be substantial.

Most interesting, Stromasys now has offered MPE support among the services it sells. It's right there alongside VMS and Solaris software support. The company hasn't issued a press release and there aren't details immediately available on the levels of operating system support, or the staff which will be supplying it.

The well-produced video ad makes its argument for other systems besides the 3000. VAX, Alpha, and Solaris servers from Digital and Sun also have customers who won't be able to carry hardware forward indefinitely. VMS has a home in the Integrity server line for awhile, but that looks like a future of less than six years. MPE's fate on the HP hardware is more certain and less hopeful unless a customer has good third party support for the Hewlett-Packard servers and the operating system — which is what makes the new offer of MPE support most interesting. The new year of support options seems to have started already.

07:14 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 17, 2014

MB Foster extends Ability Commerce's retail

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 6.19.47 PMAbility Commerce, a direct commerce software and provider of JDA Direct Commerce Professional Services, has announced their partnership with MB Foster. The two companies offer services to enterprises that use the JDA products including Escalate Retail, the latest generation of the Ecometry ecommerce software suite.

Ability, in calling MB Foster "a software programming and consulting firm specializing in highly scalable data access and delivery solutions for the  JDA Direct Commerce (Ecometry) software platform," plans to use its new partner to transform and migrate the surround code popular in Escalate installations.

“MB Foster’s addition to our strong partnership solutions dedicated to the JDA Direct Commerce software platform will allow us to provide an even higher level of service to that user base, "said Shawn Ellen, Director of Sales and Marketing for Ability Commerce. "MB Foster is committed to the Ecometry user base and will be joining us as a sponsor at our Ability Commerce User Summit this coming March 11-13 in Delray Beach, Florida."

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

December 16, 2014

How OpenCOBOL Helped Porting COBOL II

Editor's note: A little while ago the 3000 newsgroup was discussing the merits of OpenCOBOL compared to the heartland compiler of MPE, COBOL II. Roy Brown offered his story of how he made the open source COBOL step in to do the work that COBOL did during a 3000 migration. A port, if you will.

By Roy Brown

I used OpenCOBOL to port two HP 3000 COBOL programs — only two, but one of them was the big and critical engine at the heart of a system otherwise written completely in PowerHouse.

Key_to_replacementI first used the portability checker on COBOL II to make a few amendments to bring the program in line with the standards — and was able to roll that version back into the production HP3000 code at the time.

The thing that remained non-standard, but which OpenCOBOL supported, IIRC, was entry points. I could have got round the limitation of not having them, but I was pleased not to have to.

The one remaining issue after that was not having IMAGE on the new platform, but having to use Oracle instead. So I rewrote the IMAGE calls as Oracle PRO*COBOL calls. And I was quite surprised that this made the program shorter, or would have if I hadn't left the IMAGE calls in, but commented out, so I could refer back to them if there were issues.

So, armed with a readable program, I slotted it through the PRO*COBOL precompiler, which spits out unreadable COBOL, put that through the OpenCOBOL compiler, which spits out C (or did then, at any rate — does it still?) and then compiled that with the GNU C compiler.

All this was accomplished in a single makefile, so it was not hard to do.

The prospect of debugging any intermediate stage of this tottering house of cards was not inviting, but fortunately I didn't need to — all my mistakes were clearly visible in the PRO*COBOL source.

Once I got it working, which was a surprisingly smooth process, I handed it over, and left for my next assignment.

Checking back a year later, I was pleased to learn it had all just gone live, and the attentions of the finest Oracle optimisers known to man meant that the system was now up to 'only' twice as slow as the HP 3000 original. Despite running on unimaginably more powerful Intel hardware running RedHat Enterprise Linux 5.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to get back over the event horizon of a black hole than to get off an HP 3000, even "lift and shift," which this was. No wonder so many 3000s are still running, including the four I help look after — ones that should have been pensioned off, as indeed I should have been, years ago.

 

05:53 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 15, 2014

2015 migrations creep on, in virtual mode

HocusPocusIn the concept of virtualization, a server is replaced by another which pretends to be just like the original. There's no new HP 3000 in emulation, for example. Just the idea of one. The essence of the HP 3000, its PA-RISC architecture, is replaced using the Charon product: software that mimics the HP hardware. Virtualization engines use software to eliminate hardware.

Some MPE migrations which have been underway for years look like they may be using up virtual man-months, so the IT group won't have to adopt a new application. The plan and lengthy project time eliminates the need to go live with changes.

In a virtual migration, the organization knows its intention. Get onto another environment with mission-critical apps. But the work never gets completed, something like a "forthcoming" novel that's expected but unfinished. Virtualized migrating can very well be the reason any 3000 project still has a 2017 target date.

"These days with the tools that are available," said Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, "no migration should take more than 12 months." He added that he believes that engaging a migration services company of any reasonable size would get most of of an organization's code running in test-mode in about six weeks.

A few weeks ago we reported that the San Bernadino County School District was now going to have a migration project scheduled to finish after its reigning 3000 expert has retired. The plan was to have a go-live date next year, and the project has slipped forward to 2017.

There can be acceptible reasons for a migration project timeline of more than two years. They often involve changes in the migration itself. A few that come to mind that we've heard of include failures of chosen tools, organizations that downsize during a migration, and discoveries that changed the scope of the project.

There's always the possibility that a seemingly-simple set of programs feeds data to and extracts it from other applications in the organization. But today's set of available tools to extract and clean and transform and load data really makes data more flexible and fluid. If an organization doesn't have these ECTL tools, this is not easy, however. (At this moment we're thinking about MB Foster's UDA Central, and there are others as well.)

Nevertheless, there's also a possibility that IT managers hold existing software in such high regard that a replacement solution has unnecessary expectations attached to it. Yeo had heard of one lengthy migration where payroll and financials were on a long-term timeline.

"Payroll and financials?" he said. "Why is anyone, in this day, migrating payroll and financials? Go out and get something off the shelf, instead of rewriting your payroll and financials."

He makes a good point that might apply to long-standing migrations. The relative complexity of paying employees and tracking P&L on a general ledger is small, compared to things like process and discrete manufacturing systems. Yes, big ERP systems do include financials and payroll integrated into the suite. They don't have to be that integrated, since moving data back and forth has become easier.

Educational organizations have special demands on their budgets -- they often don't have much of one. Projects compete for resources at schools, and it's not like the schools can sell more classroom seats to generate more revenue. That kind of cash generation comes through taxation and elections, both of which can be lengthy processes themselves.

As we approach 2015, it looks like it will be the 13th year when a migration could still be underway in your community. What's unfinished up to now may be just a virtual migration -- the sort that is on the operations calendar but not scheduled with any urgency.

I work with writers who have novels underway, and some of those novels are only virtual books. I tell them that a far-off deadline does not help complete their work and take it out of the status of "forthcoming." Immediate deadlines which are stepping-stones to a genuine goal make up the backbone of creation.

"We're working on a migration" sounds a lot like "I'm working on a novel." These things are never finished, I tell my writers. They're only completed, because we can always devise something else that would make them more perfect.

Even though perfect is a classic IT ideal, even sharp managers have found themselves testing new software in production mode, and getting away with it. "I did this for over 20 years and only once or twice got in trouble," a manager named Milo Simpkins said on the 3000 newsgroup this month. "But it was never something I couldn't recover from quickly, with no one the wiser."

07:44 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2014

Essential Skills: Using Password Vaults

Editor's note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for these multi-talented MPE experts.

By Steve Hardwick, CISSP

Passwords are always a challenge for security professionals. Why is creating a secure password so difficult? More importantly, how can a user tell if their password has been stolen? Typically, when all the damage has been done and the password has been used by someone else. At this point in time it is too late. One way to resolve this is to have a password vault such as KeepPass or 1Password.

VaultA vault is a good investment of your time. A security breach that might result from having no vault might be difficult to even detect. It might be that the time the breach is discovered may not be the first time the hacked credentials were used. This might be how many times a stolen credit card is used before the owner gets the bill. Second, the hacker could have hacked the password and is just keeping it for later use or sale. One of the preventative measures for this is to require users to periodically change passwords. 

This changing strategy can stem the use of stolen passwords and also prevent the future use of any that have not yet been exploited. From a user's perspective, though, generating multiple passwords every 60-90 days just compounds the passwords nightmare.

As a security professional I have seen several solutions that users concoct to try and get around this issue. One common one is to write them all down and hide the resulting list. It turns out there are not that many good hiding places. Under keyboards, behind pictures, inside speakers, taped to the underside of a drawer or chair, back of a bookcase do not qualify as good locations. Also, many users forget to update the sheet with new passwords. Another approach is to create a text file, e.g. shopping_list.txt, and put everything in there. A quick search of the most frequently used files normally finds those. Plus if the hard drive crashes, and the file is not backed up, new ones have to be set up all over again. 

A variation of the last theme is to use a password vault. This is a method where the password information is stored on a file, but the file is encrypted. In this case only one password is needed, to decrypt the vault, and access is granted to all of the other passwords. The most ubiquitous form of encryption is AES - Advance Encryption Standard. AES256 encryption is adequate for most users.

However, one word of caution. If the password used to encrypt the vault is easy to guess, then the contents are at risk. 

Another challenge is storing the password vault file on the computer hard drive -- it does not mitigate the risk of when the drive crashes. (They all crash eventually.) This can easily be overcome by storing the password vault on a cloud storage location. Since the vault file is encrypted, this significantly reduces the impact if it is stolen from the cloud drive. As long as the master password is strong.

Vaults can also help protect you from key-loggers, a program that runs in background and simply copies all of the keystrokes onto a hidden file. A new variation of the Citadel Trojan virus is specifically targeting password vault applications with a key-logger. A password vault solution has some protection against password loggers. The vault can be built on a different machine and placed in the cloud. Once opened from the cloud on the user's system, the password is cut and pasted into the login screen.

Finally, there is a problem that a key-logger will be targeted at the master vault password. This can be mitigated by using two-factor authentication. In addition to the password, the user is required to provide a digital certificate. This specialized encrypted file can be stored on a removable storage device, USB, and accessed at vault login time. Without the password and the digital certificate file, the person trying to access the vault is thwarted.

A quick search on the Internet for Password Vault or Password Manager will result in a lot of options.  Here are some criteria to be considered when choosing a password vault applications.

1) Strong encryption - e.g. AES 256.

2) Can store the vault file in the cloud

3) Runs on multiple platforms. Allows users to get access on desktop or mobile devices

4) Protection elements against keyloggers

5) Allows 2 factor authentication

6) Password generator (Optional -- caution, these normally provides secure but hard to remember passwords)

7) Browser import capability (Optional -- provides a way to import store browser passwords)

8) Password strength indicator (Optional --give a measure of the ease to which the password can be guessed)

Using a password vault will solve a lot of security problems associated with today's Internet world. Taking the storage of passwords to a secure level results in a solution that is easy to use, secure, and readily available. Plus it gets around that common problem, “Honey, what is the password for the banking site again?”

02:34 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2014

Big, unreported computing in MPE's realm

When members gather from the 3000 community, they don't often surprise each other these days with news. The charm and challenge of the computer's status is its steady, static nature. We've written before about how no news is the usual news for a 40-year-old system.

Pegged gaugesBut at a recent outing with 3000 friends I heard two pieces of information that qualify as news. The source of this story would rather not have his name used, but he told me, "This year we actually sold new software to 3000 sites." Any sort of sale would be notable. This one was in excess of $10,000. "They just told us they needed it," my source reported, "and we didn't need to know anything else." A support contract came along with the sale, of course.

The other news item seemed to prove we don't know everything about the potential of MPE and the attraction of the 3000 system. A company was reaching out for an estimate on making a transition to the Charon emulator. They decided not to go forward when they figured it would require $1 million in Intel-based hardware to match the performance of their HP 3000.

"How's that even possible?" I asked. This is Intel-caliber gear being speficied, and even a pricey 3000 configuration shouldn't cost more than a quarter-million dollars to replace. It didn't add up.

"Well, you know they need multiple cores to replace a 3000 CPU," my source explained. Sure, we know that. "And they had a 16-way HP 3000 they were trying to move out."

Somewhere out there in the world there's an HP 3000, installed by Hewlett-Packard, that supports 16 CPUs. Still running an application suite. The value is attractive enough that it's performing at a level twice as powerful as anything HP would admit to, even privately. 

A 4-way N-Class was as big as HP would ever quote. Four 500-MHz or 750-MHz PA-8700 CPUs, with 2.25 MB on-chip cache per CPU, topped the official lineup.

Unix got higher horsepower out of the same HP servers. An 8-way version of the same N-Class box was supported on HP-UX; HP would admit such a thing was possible in the labs, and not supported in the field. But a 16-way? HP won't admit it exists today, and the customer wouldn't want to talk about it either. Sometimes things go unreported because they're too big to admit. It made me wonder how much business HP might've sustained if they'd allowed MPE to run as fast and as far as HP-UX ran, when both of those environments were hosted on the same iron.

09:14 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2014

Getting Macro Help With COBOL II

GnuCOBOL An experienced 3000 developer and manager asked his cohorts about the COBOL II macro preprocessor. There's an alternative to this very-MPE feature: "COPY...REPLACING and REPLACE statements. Which would you choose and why?"

Scott Gates: COPY...REPLACING because I understand it better.  But the Macro preprocessor has its supporters. Personally, I prefer the older "cut and paste" method using a decent programmer's editor to replace the text I need. Makes things more readable.

Donna Hofmeister: I'm not sure I'm qualified to comment on this any longer, but it seems to me that macros were very efficient (and as I recall) very flexible (depending on how they were written, of course). It also seems to me that the "power of macros" made porting challenging. So if your hidden agenda involves porting, then I think you'd want to do the copy thing.

There was even porting advice from a developer who no longer works with a 3000, post-migration.

Tony Summers: When we migrated in 2008 we chose Acucobol partly because of its HP 3000 compatibility, including macro support. However had we gone down a different route, I had already proved that I could pre-process the raw code myself and expand the macros before calling the compiler.

Robert Mills, who started the discussion on the 3000-L, said in reply to Donna, “I admit that I do have a hidden agenda, but the main reason does not involve porting.”

For many years I have used macros to make my life easier. When I left the e3000, back in 2008, and did some work on other platforms I found I missed them. I'm now in semi-retirement and have been using the free version of Micro Focus COBOL (a couple of years) and GnuCOBOL (this last year) to write software for friends, family and my own use.

A couple of times since 2008 I had thought of writing by own macro preprocessor to emulate the one on the e3000. A few months ago I decided to do it and release it as open source under the GNU GPL. The development of preprocessor, using GnuCOBOL, is now completed and in final Beta Testing and I'm writing the manual. Was hoping that I could some additional reasons, from others, as to why you would use macros instead of the copy...replacing and replace statements.

Because a port of GnuCOBOL is a available on several platforms, and my preprocessor is written in GnuCOBOL, I see no problem in taking my macros with me nearly every wherever I go. If I end up doing work on a platform that does not support a feature that it is using it shouldn't be to difficult to develop a workaround.

As it turns out, GnuCOBOL is a newer version of OpenCOBOL — a compiler that Donna says bears a close resemblence to COBOL II. (OpenCOBOL has been ported into a commercial product, too, called IT-COBOL.) Adding that she obviously thinks macros are cool, she explained.

Do my mis-firing neurons recall that GnuCOBOL was formerly OpenCobol... which was actually very close to MPE’s COBOL?  (or something like that?)

I inherited a outstanding collection of macros at one job. Many of them were 'toolbox' functions.  Want to center a string and the overall length of the string doesn't matter?  Got a macro for that.  Want to use a 'db' call? Got a macro for that.  These went far beyond modifying code at compile time -- and that's what made them so valuable (at least to me).

06:10 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2014

IMAGE data schemas get visualized

Is there any program that will show the network of a TurboIMAGE database? I want to output the relationships among sets and items.

CFAWireframeIn 2011, Connie Sellitto researched the above question, while aiding new programmers who were charged with moving a pet organization's operations to a non-MPE system. Understanding the design of the database was important to this team. Sellitto mentioned a popular tool for PCs, but one not as essential as an IT pro's explanations.

You might try Microsoft's Visio, and you may need to have an ODBC connection to your IMAGE database as well. This produces a graphical view with search paths shown, and so on. However, there is still nothing like a detailed verbal description provided by someone who actually knows the interaction between datasets.

To sum up, we can refer to ScreenJet founder's Alan Yeo's testing of that Visio-IMAGE interplay

Taking a reasonably well-formed database into Visio and reverse engineering, you do get the tables and items. It will show you what the indexes in the tables are, but as far as I can see it doesn't show that a detail is linked to a particular master. Automasters are missing anyway, as they are really only for IMAGE.

My conclusion: if you have done all the work to load the databases in the SQL/DBE and done all the data type mappings, then importing in Visio might be a reasonable start to documenting the databases, as all you would have to do is add the linkages between the sets.

If you don't have everything in the SQL/DBE, then I would say we are back where we started.

ScreenJet knows quite a bit about moving 3000 engineering into new formats. It built the EZ View modernization kit for 3000 user screens that are still in VPlus. Yeo said the ubiquitous Visio might be overkill for explaining relationships.

If you have Adager, Flexibase, or DBGeneral -- or already have a good schema file for the databases -- just generate the schema files and import them into Word or Excel and give them to [your migrators]. If they can't put together the data structure from that, no amount of time you can spend with Visio is going to impart any more information.

Visio has free and open source competition, software which HP support veteran Lars Appel pointed out. "Perhaps Visio has similar 'database graph' features, such as the free or open source tools like dbVisualizer or SquirrelSQL."

Barry Lake of Allegro pointed out that users "may want to take a look at Allegro's DBHTML product, which creates a browser viewable HTML file documenting the structure of an IMAGE database." Allegro's site has an example DBHTML output on its website, although it doesn't draw pretty pictures.

At a more fundamental OS level, Michael Anderson points out to understand the structure of a TurboIMAGE database, "you could use QUERY.PUB.SYS, then issue the command FO ALL, or FO SETS."

10:31 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2014

A Forced Migration, One That's Unfortunate

ImagesThis month in the US includes more than the usual ration of Christmas carols and holiday office parties. This is the first month when we US citizens are renewing our healthcare, all of us at once. It's Open Enrollment! According to my insurance agent, everybody's got to be insured by the end of the month. I'm one of the people who's having an experience like 3000 users got in 2001. Blue Cross is migrating me away from a product that it no longer wants to sell.

The parallels, so far, are pretty close. There was nothing that stopped working with my health plan. Like HP, Blue Cross simply stopped selling it because it wasn't making the vendor enough profit. The plan was not removed because of the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). But then, the HP 3000 was not removed because of the HP merger with Compaq. These were simply business decisions, by HP and by Blue Cross of Texas.

Business decisions are taken as a result of events that create situations. Insurers must protect profits, in the same way that HP had to protect its ability to grow after it absorbed $25 billion of Compaq. Customers don't get consulted about discontinuing products.

Much like the experience of the 3000 community with the 2001 migration march, my journey to a new plan will trigger more expense, and let Blue Cross earn more by doing less. I'll see about a 20 percent increase in recurring costs -- which might look cheap compared to how much the 3000 migration has cost the companies being forced to move.

There's a difference that's important, though. The active event that's changed the sale of insurance in America comes with federal rules. It now costs at least $395 a year to homestead, as it were, with no insurance at all. That's a fine that can rise as high as 2 percent of your gross income. A similar bill for a company making $5 million yearly in profit would be $100,000. That would be money spent just to stay on a system which the vendor stopped making or supporting.

Thankfully, there's no such fine for homesteading. There's a bill if a site simply stops support of all kind, however. Every computer system breaks down sooner or later, because nothing is built to never break. A company's insurance on its computer operations is support. The 3000 community got an advantage over those of us who've seen their products discontinued. System support got less costly.

Is a computer system as essential as healthcare? It depends who you ask. Companies can get ill enough to die, too. The continued health of information services is essential to good business practices. There's no guarantee that vendor-based computer support, or even R&D, will keep a company fiscally healthy. It goes a long way when a vendor can deliver new hardware, when older systems can get replacement parts (like artificial hips or shoulders), or when the medicine of improved software and cleansed data remain available.

I'm not happy about seeing my product canceled, and just like HP 3000 customers, I know I need a replacement product. Like 3000 sites, I'll be paying for more than one system, during this month's changeover. I wish I could say that I saw other companies get a chance at affordable computing during the prior decade because HP canceled the 3000 product. I didn't see that. It might have looked like seeing a struggling startup get a computer system built upon Windows and driven by HP's ProLiant hardware. That's a Compaq product that has done very well in the 12 years since the merger.

In contrast, I know there are families who are now getting insurance premium help of some kind. They make less than $62,000 for a family of two, and that number gets higher as the family gets bigger. At some level, their insurance product might be free. There's nothing like that in the computer marketplace.

The phrase "taking a bullet" comes to mind while I look at my insurance costs for the coming year. It's a small bullet. Your community took a bigger one, and some companies didn't survive. That's the cost of some discontinued products. Mine won't kill me.

04:56 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 04, 2014

TBT: When Poetry Sang the 3000's Story

Our extended report on the occasion of Fred White's death let a memory of a poem float to the foreground of collective consciousness. The HP 3000's fans and fanatics have dreamed up verse to go along with the acres of prose written about the computer. One of the youngest fans of all time owns the copyright to three such poems. There has been other verse in song, as well.

SashaComputer poetry -- that is, poems written about a computer -- goes back to the tradition of IBM's company songbooks. Orly Larson of Hewlett-Packard was the chief bandleader for such music about White's creation, IMAGE. A rousing medley of Larson's compositions became part of HP conferences during the mid-1990s. But on another end of the age range, Alexander "Sasha" Volokh (at left, at an HP conference of the day) penned a poem celebrating the Boston Tea Party protest led by White in 1990.

Sasha's The Unbundling of IMAGE (full text at the Adager website) was an account of the SIGIMAGE meeting during that show, "In the style of The Man From Snowy River by A.B 'Banjo' Paterson"

Now Fred White had written IMAGE and was sad, as you can guess.
He said the word "unbundling" was a lie.
IMAGE isn't like a product, but is part of FOS
And that's why you get it when HPs you buy.
But IMAGE, it has always been mistreated by HP
And I wouldn't like to think the end is near.
And I'm working with Alfredo, but in this, I speak for me,
'Cause if not for me, you wouldn't all be here.

There was more, plenty more to protest about at that meeting of 24 years ago. Some of the poem included a reference to an open letter, this one written by a 3000 legend also deceased. That letter of Wirt Atmar's was another means to dispute the vendor's plans for the 3000's future. MPE systems have retained their value to homesteading users, in large measure because the unbundled database scheme was shouted down.

In his letter, Atmar was defending the classic pairing of the IMAGE database with the 3000, a move that brought the first HP minicomputer into the limelight in the middle 1970s. Sasha's poem celebrated Atmar's rally cry, too.

And Wirt Atmar had a letter to the people who're in charge
Of the marketing of those HP machines.
The unbundling, he said, was a mistake, and it was large,
Since about the user, HP don't care beans.
It used to be that users, they came first in HP's thought,
And the vendors, then, were happy campers too;
To make pricing-based decisions — that is not what HP ought!
Engineering plans are what HP should do.

In the fall of that year the users not only stalled the separation of IMAGE from the 3000, but launched a "Customer First" strategy that HP used to retain its 3000 customers — a strategy which HP modeled in its other enterprise computer operations. Glory indeed, rolling off the end of a pointed stick of sharp criticism and some disgust. But as Atmar pointed out, "it was a glorious moment, yes, but as the Roman slaves told the Roman generals, 'All fame is fleeting.' "

But the fame was not so fleeting that it wasn't also commemorated with a song of its own. At a Greater Houston RUG meeting of the middle '90s, Terry Floyd of The Support Group and others pounded on guitars together to belt out a ballad with the chorus of "We're not gonna take it." I'd love to see those lyrics, if anybody's wayback files might let them swim to the surface of our memories. 

Years later, in the aftermath of HP's 3000 exit announcement, Atmar tried to lead a rally to retake the future of MPE. "I believe that it's time for the community of users to stand up and stake their claim to MPE," he said in The Future of MPE. "It is a product that exists in its current state only because of the long-term, deep abiding interest in its success that the users have exhibited. The users have been the faithful shepherds in all of MPE's history, not HP."

But from time to time, even such inspired prose was not enough to punctuate the ideal of customers leading the way in the future of the products they owned.

06:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 03, 2014

Cyber-shop for networked storage this week

AmazonAs Cyber-Week -- the extension of Cyber Monday shopping -- continues to unfold this week, the holiday sale might provide new resources for your old 3000. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a powerful enterprise resource, full of value now that disk prices have plummeted. Everything is even lower this week. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet has shared his secrets for making NAS an HP 3000 tool.

"Like most HP 3000 shops we were looking for a cheap way to [store many gigabytes of data] — and there was no way we could afford a DLT," he said. Digital Linear Tape boasts massive capacities, but most storage these days is going straight to another disk.

LinkstationYeo said that fundamentally, the method to include NAS as an option involves creating STORE to Disk files, "and then you FTP those STORE files up to your NAS device. A simple half-terabyte (500 GB) RAID-1 NAS device is the equivalent of 40 12-GB DDS tape drives." 

It's a little unsettling to hear how many HP 3000 backups still go onto DDS tapes. Even the DLT tapes are a pain to handle, Yeo added.

A system manager needs to free up enough free disk space on a HP 3000 to do the STORE to Disk files, Yeo explained. "If you haven't got 50 percent free disk space and you're doing a complete backup in one hit, you're going to have a problem," he said.

STORE to Disk speeds are not significantly slower than STORE to tapes. One way to speed up the process is to have a few separate volume sets for these STOREs, sets that are two or more high-speed spindles. HP's got disks today which spin up to 15,000 RPM. Third party disks work with HP 3000s, too, in case HP hasn't got a certified product for your MPE/iX server.

FTP bandwidth can be a bottleneck for some older HP 3000s, sometimes as slow as 10 megabits per second. "You may have a protracted FTP process to your NAS device," Yeo said.

Using NAS is not a substitute for having a good SLT tape for your system in case of disaster. Yeo added that doing an @.@.SYS backup onto the same SLT tape, "so you'll have everything you need when you bring the box back up to get the networking started."

Devices available for HP 3000 NAS use? The Buffalo TeraStation Pro worked in one of Yeo's client projects, and the device starts at $450 for 4 TB. Shop online.

It may seem crazy to be ordering HP 3000 storage devices from Amazon this week. But so much has changed for the HP 3000 customer. Some of the change opens up new opportunities to save money and make this server even more efficient.

08:32 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2014

Data leads way to migrations, via support

Migration patternThe heart of a 3000 homestead operation is its collection of IMAGE/SQL databases. Almost 20 years ago, IBM was mounting an effort to turn 3000 customers into AS/400 sites. I commented on the effort for Computerworld, "They'll have to do something about converting IMAGE/SQL data, if they expect to have any success." IBM had little luck in that effort, and not a great deal more nine years later, after HP announced an exit date for its 3000 operations.

From a reader and system manager on the US East Coast, we've heard more about data leading the way to the future. At this long-time 3000 site, the systems are getting a new support provider to keep them online and reliable. Not many sites are changing this sort of arrangement these days. It's been almost four years since HP closed its 3000 and MPE support operations in 2010.

A new company will be supporting that A-Class server on the East Coast before long. The new support is going to open the door to a revamped future, however. 

Our purchasers are still in the process of signing up our new vendor for HP 3000 support. What is sad is that part of the deal includes migration of some TurboIMAGE databases to MS Access or something like that, which will lead to the eventual demise of the HP3000.

There is still the chance the new support might extend the 3000's utility, though. Self-maintainers who don't use support run risks that the 3000 doesn't really have to bear. A stable server is just one short-term reward for signing up with a support provider specializing in 3000s, like Pivital Solutions or The Support Group.

"Yes, I hate doing this support upgrade," the manager reported. "But there is the slim chance that the migration will not be done soon enough to meet the needs of customers -- meaning the usage of the 3000 could actually increase in the short term."

Short-term 3000 usage increases are common in any environment where the data is leading the way to a migration. System managers know the writing is on their shop whiteboards when the data starts to move. While using advanced tools like UDA Central from MB Foster, or back in the day, solutions like DB Migrate when it was offered in service contracts from Speedware, data migrations of IMAGE into other database formats take away the greatest asset of the 3000.

Migration solution companies don't often support servers in the same contract. That arrangement can be an artifact of having a more dedicated resource supporting the HP 3000. While they migrate data, some providers can be keeping the 3000 up to date, too. A customer making a migration might look for a 3000-devoted vendor for moving data.

05:20 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 01, 2014

HP Q4, FY static; 3000 replacement sales fall

Enterprise Group totals Q4 2014Despite all of the challenges Hewlett-Packard faced over the past fiscal year, the company has reported sales and earnings that didn't fall much from FY 2013 levels. Falling sales of HP 3000 replacement systems remain on the balance sheet, however. Nothing has changed but the depth of the plunge.

Both the 2014 fiscal year and the Q4 numbers (click on graphics for details) reflected an ability to keep some declines off the HP financial report. The latest quarter improved on Q2 and Q3 results overall. HP reported a profit of $2.62 per share for 2014. That's nearly $5 billion in earnings company-wide.

If the company sticks to its plan, its total of $115 billion in 2014 sales, only down 1 percent from last year, covers the penultimate period HP reports as a full company. By the end of FY 2015, the corporation will separate its businesses and spin off HP, Inc. for consumer and PC products. Hewlett-Packard will remain to sell servers and enterprise computing products and services. Analysts expect the companies to be of equal size.

Revenue shares Enterprise Group Q4 2014The total of HP's Business Critical Systems revenues took another hit in the fourth quarter, dropping almost 30 percent from Q4 of 2013. Double-digit percentage drops in BCS sales are commonplace by now. The unit produces the HP-UX systems HP once designated as replacements for the HP 3000. Intel-based systems, contained in the Industry Standard Servers operations, also saw their sales decline slightly. Networking revenues were slightly higher for the quarter.

The company's CEO was thrilled about the overall picture for the full company, calling it a sustained turnaround.

"I'm excited to say that HP's turnaround continues on track," said Meg Whitman. "In FY14, we stabilized our revenue trajectory, strengthened our operations, showed strong financial discipline, and once again made innovation the cornerstone of our company. Our product roadmaps are the best they've been in years and our partners and customers believe in us. There's still a lot left to do, but our efforts to date, combined with the separation we announced in October, sets the stage for accelerated progress in FY15 and beyond." 

The HP Enterprise Group, where BCS operations live, saw revenues drop 4 percent year over year with a 14.8 percent operating margin. Industry Standard Servers revenue was down 2 percent, Storage revenue was down 8 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 29 percent, Networking revenue was up 2 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 3 percent. After the report, HP's share price flirted with the $40 mark and hit a 52-week high, before falling away today. The fate of BCS and the Enterprise Group didn't concern many investors, who watch EPS profits versus predictions.

The BCS numbers for the full year showed a 22 percent sales decline, a figure that reflects a total of perhaps $200 million in lost revenues. HP doesn't report individual segment sales totals from its Enterprise Group. But BCS operations accounted for about 3 percent of the Enterprise group's $27.8 billion of activity. BCS did avoid a quarterly revenue decline once during 2014. This latest period countered with the largest quarter-over-quarter sales dive for BCS, up to now.

Even though four of the five HP segments reported revenue declines -- and the fifth, Printing and Personal systems, was flat -- the company continues to post profits. The Enterprise Group managed to return the largest operating profit for Q4 of 2014, even while its sales declined. Profitability from these Enterprise products and services will buoy up the forthcoming HP Enterprise corporation. Only HP Printing, the keystone of the new HP Inc., is more profitable per dollar of revenue.

BCS 3000 replacements won't be providing as much profit during the forthcoming year. But HP predicts that its total, company-wide operations for 2015's fiscal year will net $6 billion in profits. Those are numbers for the combined company -- one which, by this time next year, will operate as two entities. 

07:58 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)