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January 30, 2015

Where a Freeware Emulator Might Go Next

It was always a little proof of a brighter future, this freeware emulator distributed by Stromasys. The A202 release might be shared with prospects in the months and years to come. But for now the program has been discontinued. One of the most ardent users of the product, Brian Edminster, sent along some ideas for keeping an MPE enthusiast's magic wand in a box that's open to the community.

Hosting bayEdminster was trading ideas with the vendor for improvements to Charon HPA more than a year and a half ago. He's noted that having a public cloud instance used for demonstrations, a bit like HP's Invent3K of a decade-plus ago, would be a great offering for enthusiasts. He's had rewarding experience with the freeware's documentation, too -- an element that might've been an afterthought with another vendor.

By Brian Edminster

As much as I hate it, I can understand Stromasys pulling the plug on the freeware version of Charon. I just hope they can come up with a way to make a version of the emulator available to enthusiasts — even if it's for a small fee. At some time or another, that'll be the only way to run an MPE/iX instance because all hardware will fail, eventually. (This is said by someone that still has a few MPE/V systems that run, and many MPE/iX systems that do).

I guess the real trick is finding something that prevents the freeware version of the emulator from being viable for use by anyone but enthusiasts. I'd have thought that a 2-user license would be enough for that, but apparently not.

I'd imagine that limiting the system to only the system volume (MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET), to only allow one emulated drive, and perhaps limiting the emulated drive-size to 2Gb or less might be enough. But not knowing what kind of applications were being hosted against the license terms makes it hard to say for sure.

The only other thing I can think of might be requiring the emulator to 'phone home' (via Internet connection) whenever it was fired up, and have it 'shut off' within a given time if it couldn't. But even that wouldn't always be definitive as to the 'type' of use occuring.

Seems that trying to avoid paying for something can inspire far more creativity than it should, when truthfully, it's probably cheaper to just “pay the fee.” Perhaps having an Archival licence, where the instance is in-the-cloud and payment is based on amount of resources used, might provide enough incentive for enthusiasts and everybody in the community to do the right thing.  

Seems that a limited freeware version, and reasonably 'less-limited' cloud versions with a pay-as-you-use-it license, would be the way to go. Perhaps charge a setup fee with a small annual fee to keep the instance present, then charge for the amount of time used (especially when the intended usage is 'archival'). This harkens back to the days of 'time-sharing', back when it was too expensive to own a box of your own.

I know it may not be possible with the Stromasys Charon-HPA product, but the Eloquence DBMS and it's Basic-like development language system has had a 'freeware/evaluation' copy that's limited in a way that makes it unsuitable for any sort of production use.  It's done by limiting 'storage' (the total database size) to about 50Mb and just a few users.  

Eloquence freeware therefore provides plenty to allow 'personal' use, to learn the tool — but not nearly enough to host any sort of practical production system. It's a unfortunate that Stromasys didn't do something similar with Charon-HPA. 

But there’s still a chance to make things different, going forward.

Brian Edminster is the founder of Applied Technologies, a consulting, development, and systems management firm specializing in HP 3000s and the open source freeware that can make them more powerful.

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

January 29, 2015

TBT: 3K Stands, and a UK Bridge to late '90s

HP User Cover Sept 98Each time we produce a printed edition of the Newswire here — there's a very special one on its way in the mail today — I usually reach into our archives for some research. While writing about the progress of hardware in the 3000 line I revisited 1998. This was a year with conference expo stands and an Ironbridge in the UK for HP Computer Users Association members. The occasion was the annual HPCUA show, offered in a time of 3000 and MPE growth. 

HP 3000 sales were on the rise, thanks to the Internet. The strong catalog-sales customer base was deploying web sites for e-commerce, and the servers of the day were finally getting Web hosting software. HP considered it important to offer just as much for MPE/iX as was available on Unix and Windows NT. Yes, NT, that long ago. Java was supposed to enable cross-platform development of applications. HP's labs had ported the language once touted as "write once, deploy everywhere" for use on MPE/iX.

Watts resignsAs we arrived to man our first overseas stand for the Newswire, one man had stepped away from his HP futures. Dick Watts, an executive VP whose departure was "a great blow to the interests of user groups worldwide," had resigned in a surprise. He was in charge of the salesforce that directed the business futures of the 3000, HP 9000s and more. The departure was so sudden that the HPCUA's magazine was left with a feature interview of an executive who was no longer employed by HP. He'd made promises to user groups about HP's help for their initiatives. The magazine called him suave.

The conference was held at Telford in the UK's Shropshire, notable as the site of the first arched iron bridge erected in the world, more than 200 years earlier. Most HP 3000 shows were being offered in larger cities like Birmingham, or on the seashore in Brighton. Telford and the conference wanted to remind us about foundational technology, the kind like the 3000 had established in the age of business computing.

Telford Mag Ad NewswireThe exhibition offered 22 HP 3000-allied stands in addition to ours (touted at left by General Manager Harry Sterling), including one from a company called Affirm that would eventually become the ScreenJet of today. As unique as shows of that day were also personal, HP Systems User 98 gave commemorative plates of the Iron Bridge to all attendees. Ironbridge plateThey also heard talks about a Grand Prix team, a Microsoft marketing pitch on a scheme called the Digital Nervous System, and "How IT Helps HP's Success." That last included a peek into how much HP 3000 systems still drove the Hewlett-Packard of 16 years ago. As with much of the era, it purported to be an accomplishment served off the plate of Unix.

Some clouds on the vendor's horizon were already growing clear in that September. CEO Lew Platt would be holding his job for less than a year more -- he agreed to help select a successor early in '99 -- and he blasted the company's sales force for a disappointing quarter. HP closed its offices over the Fourth of July and would do a shutdown over Christmas, too. The cuts were in response to a quarter Platt called dismal. HP was being outflanked over dot-com opportunities by Sun and IBM.

In industry-wide concerns, the Confederation of British Industry was warning that "there is little time left for firms to make sure their computer and electronic systems -- which control the air conditioners, lifts and safes -- can cope with the Year 2000 date change."

MPE V had finally come off HP's support -- only 11 years after HP introduced its successor MPE/XL. Plotters were still a valid output device in some engineering companies, the first generation Series 925 and 935s were being replaced by 9x9 systems, and one UK 3000 vendors said "from here on in, Client/Server technology is accepted as a standard component within the HP 3000 Enterprise Environment." Meanwhile, Oracle was saying "We think the platform switch now is to the Internet as a computing platform." Oracle was to swallow up Sun a dozen years later, acquiring the company that was saying in the late '90s, "we put the dot in dot-com."

1998 TechnologiesMeanwhile, HP was telling 3000 users that the technologies being "developed or investigated" for the server included Itanium processor chips (then called IA-64); multi-CPU systems from 16- to 64-way, 1 Gbit LANs, and the faster PCI IO bus. That last would not be delivered for another three years, a better record than the first two technologies, which never left investigation. A 16-way N-Class was recently discovered in the wilds of the homesteading world, but that configuration was never on HP's 3000 model lineup.

07:37 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2015

Stealing After an Emulator's Magic

Radio manIn these new days after the end of the Stromasys freeware emulator offers, it's instructive to recall how much magic the product's concept proposed more than 11 years ago. People in 2003 began by wondering who would ever need something like an emulator, with so much pretty-fresh hardware around. Now companies want an emulator so badly they're trying to make a two-user freeware version do the work of HP-branded iron.

Charon for the 3000 was doubted from the beginning. It began to emerge after five full years of HP delays -- the company didn't want to work with any emulator builder, once it became apparent that the MPE/iX internal boot technology would have to be shared.

Eventually Software Resources International, the company that became Stromasys, was approached. After a half-decade of losing 3000 sites to Sun, Microsoft and IBM, HP wanted to encourage a restart of a project. But back in 2003, an emulator looked like a theory at best. Two additional companies were considering or planning products to give 3000 hardware a real future. Hewlett-Packard had told the community no more new 3000s would be built after fall of '03.

By the time that end-of-manufacture was imminent, Computerworld got interested in the emulation outlook for HP 3000s. The newsweekly ran a front page article called Users Unite to Keep MPE Alive. The subheading was "Get HP to agree to plan for emulator to ease e3000 migration," which meant Computerworld's editors misunderstood what homesteaders desired. Not an easier OS migration, but a way to keep using their systems on fresh hardware.

Third parties such as HP's channel partners and consulting firms don't know if there's enough commercial demand to justify the investment [in buying an emulator]. Potential users who are preparing migration plans say they need to know soon whether an emulator is actually coming.

They needed to know soon because staying with MPE and skipping a migration sounded like a good alternative. Just one company could manage to keep the concept alive in the lost years between 2004-2009. SRI had HP heritage (well, Digital brainpower) and a record of helping HP's VMS customers stay with that OS. Looking at how emulation helped, HP had proof that it could help the 3000 community.

One customer interviewed by Computerworld called anyone's 3000 emulator vaporware. While people couldn't plan for it, General Chemical's manager of tech operations Jim Haeseker also said "if an emulator were available now, that might be a different story."

At the time people were considering the emulator as a migration plan, but not away from MPE. This was a way to get off of HP's iron and on to something with a real future, even in the forecasts of 2003. The only thing that HP had done to help was talk to OpenMPE and then "agree to permit an emulator that would enable MPE to used on other HP hardware."

But the OpenMPE of 2003 had no firm plan on how to make an emulator a reality. No budgeted project, just companies that could make an emulator part of their plans once it existed. HP said it was in discussions with emulator developers "to understand what resources would be helpful." Only SRI, to become Stromasys, pursued what the community wanted.

We told our readers of our Online Extra at the time

Several sites quoted in the story were skeptical about how much OpenMPE’s most recent focus, an emulator to mimic 3000 hardware, might be able to help them soon. Timing appears to be a major issue in the story’s comments that focused on the prospect of a software-based PA-RISC emulator. Gavin Scott, VP of Allegro Consultants and a potential creator of an emulator to replace HP 3000 hardware, was described as “non-committal” about the project, though Scott’s actual quote just detailed the prospective cost, and commented on the uncertainty about how many customers would buy such a product. 

A customer site in Quebec offered a quote that they wouldn’t consider an emulator as a migration plan — unless they were convinced one could be built. And a technical manager of operations at General Chemical called the emulator “vaporware,” but added that if it were available, he might make allowances for it.

We added that we'd thought a more lasting project for OpenMPE would be the access rights to MPE/iX source code, to be used by the members of the organization's virtual lab, with results to be shared among OpenMPE's members. "That's more important than an emulator which competes with used hardware for sales. The heart and soul of the 3000's unique value lies in IMAGE and MPE, not in PA-RISC hardware." We were right, but we wouldn't be today. The newest of HP's iron is now more than 11 years old.

MPE's source code rights would not be released, but an emulator license for MPE arrived in 2004. Here in the light of 2015, it appears that the aging hardware is being kicked to the curb by a few companies in favor of unlicensed use of freeware that was built for enthusiasts or testing.

After the Computerworld piece, we interviewed the chief of a emulator firm, Strobe Data, one that had to mothball its HP 3000 project. Strobe couldn't out-wait HP. "The thing about emulators is that they just get more valuable with time," said Willard West. Now that there's the magic of Charon as a real product, it's become valuable enough to run at any cost. "We just overlooked the license payment" might be offered as an excuse. That argument proves emulation's value to the community. Maybe there's a way back to freeware with limits to protect everybody.

10:25 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 27, 2015

Emulator's downloadable free ride ends

Ride Free AreaStromasys has discontinued the freeware download distribution of the A202 version of its Charon HPA emulator. According to a company official, "We're ending the freeware distribution due to the unfortunate use of that software in commercial environments."

The A202, just powerful enough to permit two simultaneous users to get A-Class 400 performance, was always tempting to very small sites. Stromasys was generous enough to permit downloading of the software, as well as the bundled release of MPE/iX FOS software, with few restrictions starting in November of 2012. But the instructions were explicit: no use in production environments. 

However, A-Class 400 horsepower would be enough for companies putting their 3000s in archival mode. It would also be a workman-grade emulation of a development-class 3000. Some companies may have spoiled the freeware largesse for all. It's unlikely that one customer would report another's commercial use of Charon to emulate 3000s. But there's always the possibility that someone might have, say, contacted the company on a support matter. For a commercial setting.

The virtualization product was pared back to give 3000 sites a way to prove it would match up with the technical requirements of existing 3000s. Indeed, Charon has proven to be a thorough emulation of PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Running it in production requires a paid license and a support contract. The latest information from Stromasys' Alexandre Cruz shows the entry-level price at $9,000.

The Charon HPA freeware that's been installed around the world is still capable of emulating a 3000. But its intended use is for enthusiasts, not working systems managers who administer production machines.

The A202 was offered on the honor system. The software required the installer to supply a valid HPSUSAN number upon installation before the software would boot an Intel system as an HP 3000.

There's no mistaking the intention for the freeware, though. From the Version 1.5 Freeware documentation, under the Licensing Restrictions section:

The CHARON-HPA/3000 Freeware Edition is licensed for use in the following environments only: 

Enthusiasts: unlimited personal non-commercial use.

Commercial: limited to evaluating the product.

The Freeware Edition may not be integrated into production environments. The CHARON-HPA/3000 Freeware Edition is supplied with a preconfigured HP 3000 disk image that contains a copy of  MPE/iX 7.5 FOS. The Freeware Edition will only load after you have configured it with an HPSUSAN number that you are legally entitled to use. You must agree to respect these license restrictions before you will be able to download the Freeware edition installation files from our website.

The freeware will continue to be distributed to prospects who contact the sales force. No other freeware Charon versions -- to be used for the Digital VMS environment, or Sun Solaris -- are available for download from the recently-revamped Stromasys website, either.

Users Guides for the 1.5 release of the freeware, as well as for the older 1.5 release of Charon production-license software, remain online at the Stromasys website.

06:09 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 26, 2015

How to Use MPE/iX Byte Stream Files

Back when HP still had a lab for the HP 3000, its engineers helped the community. In those days, system architect and former community liaison Craig Fairchild explained how to use byte stream files on the 3000. Thanks to the memory of the Web, his advice remains long after the lab has gone dark.

Mountain-streamThese fundamental files are a lot like those used in Windows and Linux and Unix, Fairchild said. HP has engineered "emulation type managers" into MPE/iX, an addition that became important once the 3000 gained an understanding of Posix. In 1994, MPE/XL became MPE/iX when HP added this Unix-style namespace.

Understanding the 3000 at this level can be important to the customer who wants independent support companies to take on uptime responsibility and integration of systems. Fairchild explained the basics of this basic file type.

Byte stream files are the most basic of all file types. They are simply a collection of bytes of data without any structure placed on them by the file system. This is the standard file model that is used in every Unix, Linux and even Windows systems.
 
MPE's file system has always been a structured file system, which means that the file system maintains a certain organization to the data stored in a file. The MPE file system understands things like logical records, and depending on the file type, performs interesting actions on the data (for example, Circular files, Message files, KSAM files and so on).

Fairchild detailed how HP has given bytestream files the knowledge of "organization of data" for applications.

To bridge the gap between standard byte stream file behavior (only the application knows the organization of data) and traditional MPE file type behavior (the file system knows what data belongs to what records), emulation type managers were created. To an MPE application, a byte stream file looks and behaves like a variable record file, even though the data is stored in a way that would allow any Posix application to also read the same data. (Posix applications also have emulator type managers that allow them to read fixed, variable and spool files in addition to plain byte stream files.)

The way that the byte stream emulator detects record boundaries is through the use of the newline (\n) character, which is used, by convention, to separate data in ASCII text files on Unix-based systems.

The underlying properties of a byte stream file are that each byte is considered its own record. In MPE file system terms, a record is the smallest unit of IO that can be performed on a file. (You can write a partial record fixed length record, but the file system will pad it to a full record.) Since the smallest unit of IO that can be performed on a byte stream file is a single byte, that becomes its MPE record size.
 
In the MPE file system, the EOF tracks the number of records that are in a file. Since the record size of a byte stream file is one byte, the EOF of a byte stream file is also equal to the number of bytes in the file. This is why one 4-byte variable sized record is equal to 5 byte stream records (4 bytes of data + 1 \n character).

It's also worth noting that any file can be in any directory location and will behave the same way. (Well, almost. CM KSAM files are restricted to the MPE namespace. And of course the special files (that you don't normally see) that make up the file system root, accounts and groups are also restricted: one root, accounts as children of the root, groups as children of accounts. And lockwords aren't allowed outside the MPE namespace. But other than that, the opening sentence is true.) 

The general model that we had in architecting the whole Posix addition was that behavior of a file does change regardless of where it is located. This was summed up in the saying, "A file is a file." So there are no such things as "MPE files" and "Posix files". There's just files.

What does change is the way you name that file. Files in the MPE namespace can be named either through the MPE syntax (FILE.GROUP.ACCOUNT), or through the HFS syntax (/ACCOUNT/GROUP/FILE). You can also use symbolic links to create alternate names to the same file. This was summed up as a corollary to the first saying, "But a name is not a name."

09:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2015

Pending questions about the latest HPA

It often does not take long for reactions to arrive here to NewsWire stories. It's a prime advantage of having a digital delivery system for our news and tech reports. We learn quickly when we've gotten something incorrect, and then can fix it.

But supplemental information sometimes takes longer to fill in. After we posted our article of yesterday about the new 1.6 release of the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator, Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies offered immediate questions. Like us on this very evening, he's seeking more details about the features and updates of 1.6.

I'm especially interested in anything that would make configuring the networking easier, as I found that to be the most difficult part to deal with on my downloadable evaluation copy (However, I've still got the nearly ancient v1.1). [Editor's note: we suspect that the new Network Configuration Utility will simplify this complex configuration task.]

I'd imagine that if these v1.6 updates are available in the evaluation version, I could find all this out myself. But the Stromasys website only has fairly sparse documentation available (compared to their other emulators), and it's for version 1.5, not 1.6.

I tried finding out if this latest version of the freeware edition is downloadable, but I can't find any links on their website to the download link. The website is newly redesigned, and looks a lot fresher, however.

I've looked in the A202 freeware edition's User Guide (v1.5) and it says that the downloadable edition can be found at a particular URL: www.stromasys.com/hp3000_freeware. But try as I might, that URL wouldn't work for me. I kept getting a '404' error, indicating that the link wasn't present.  

Is there updated documentation coming? I have to say that those v1.5 docs are light years ahead of what was available when my v1.1 was current.

09:07 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2015

Newest Charon version brings fresh features

Changes in the product used for virtualizing an HP 3000 include more than performance increases. The emulator starts at a base price of $9,000 to match performance of an A-Class system enabled for eight users. Officials in the Geneva headquarters of Stromasys say the top-end pricing, the N40X0 to create an N-Class caliber 3000 out of Intel server hardware, is $99,000.

The Stromasys HP 3000 product manager Doug Smith has noted several new features of Charon HPA.

In Version 1.6 there are some performance increases. Once again, overall performance will be based on the Intel server it is to be run on. The more power the better. What's new:

  • New parameter for virtual Ethernet adapter for physical card configuration
  • An NCU (Network Configuration Utility) 
  • License support for primary/secondary (backup) licenses
  • Extending the limit for number of controllers from 6 to 8 for N40X0 series

The market is hungry for the forthcoming performance. At Veritiv Corporation, Randy Stanfield will need the fastest version of Charon that Stromasys can provide. "We tested about a year and half ago," he said. "We’re running five HP N-Class 4-way systems, each with 750 MHz processors and fully loaded RAM."

08:13 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 21, 2015

Cloud takes on manufacturing's IT needs

WideBodyObjects_DiagramA company with some ties to the HP 3000 marketplace has implemented a technology transition to cloud-based ERP. A Berkshire-Hathaway collective of firms has moved its manufacturing IT to the Kenandy Cloud ERP solution. Kenandy has been created and refined by a development team that includes the founders of MANMAN.

MANMAN is not a part of the latest official case study about such a transition, but it's companies like those Berkshire-Hathaway subsidiaries who make up a prime target for cloud ERP. Kenandy notes that enterprise resource systems like the ones in place at France Power Solutions, Northland Motor Technologies, and Kingston Products build products that drive other major corporations.

Each of the three is a part of a new Scott Fetzer Electrical Group, an entity that creates behind-the-scenes electrical parts to light up, time, cool, and power some front-and-center products. Scott Fetzer's customers include "Will It Blend" manufacturer Blendtec, P. F. Chang's, the Cleveland Browns FirstEnergy Stadium, and even Hewlett-Packard.

Those three companies that comprise the Scott Fetzer Electrical Group are all manufacturers of electrical or electromechanical products. Their combination triggered consolidation issues, not the least of which was deciding which ERP system to consolidate upon.

Kenandy is a MANMAN migration path that's been introduced to 3000 customers by The Support Group. The company's founder Terry Floyd said cloud computing is ready to take over for legacy applications like MANMAN.

"We are interested in converting some manufacturing companies currently using MANMAN to Kenandy in the next 12 months," Floyd said. "We think the latest release is capable of handling some of the smaller, simpler MANMAN sites."

The Support Group has been a Kenandy partner since Kenandy's day one, Floyd added. His support, development, and consulting firm has been evaluating the needs of classic MANMAN sites against the projected benefits of Kenandy. The outlook has gone from "too early to tell" to a readiness that can give 3000 ERP users a better-connected solution.

Built as a native application that's driven by the Salesforce Platform, Kenandy automates all core business processes — order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, planning and production, global financials, and trade promotion management. The vendor calls it a cloud ERP platform for the modern global enterprise.

The general manager of the Scott Fetzger Electrical Group Rob Goldiez said the software has eliminated legacy challenges, after a four-month implementation cycle. Four months is lightning-fast in ERP transitions.

"We're excited that we can use Kenandy to support new features, such as enabling our products to be connected over the Internet," Goldiez said. "We are committed to living and breathing our innovation vision throughout the company, and Kenandy is integral to enabling that vision."

08:05 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 20, 2015

Powerhouse customer inquires on emulator

One mission for the Stromasys emulator for HP 3000s is carrying forward legacy applications and systems. In fact, that's the primary reason for making the investment into the Charon-HPA version of the software. Some other companies are using the product to keep an MPE/iX suite alive while they are migrating.

There must be HP 3000 sites that want to move Powerhouse from their HP-built servers to the more modern hardware that drives Charon. Some manufacturing sites would like to do this with as little fanfare as possible. Notice of changing host hardware is optional, for some managers. Nobody in the 3000 community, or in the offices of the new Powerhouse owners Unicom Systems, has checked in with a report of running Powerhouse on Charon.

There is a additional interest for this combination, however. It's on the Digital side of the Charon product lineup.

Steven Philbin at FM Global was inquiring about whether Powerhouse code is compiled or interpreted. In a message on the Powerhouse mailing list, Philbin reached out to find "anyone out there working on a Virtual Stromasys Charon/SMA solution on systems written in Powerhouse."

"We are using Oracle/RDB, VMS, and Powerhouse v7.10 running on an Alpha ES40. Contact points with other users would be really helpful."

Philbin's message doesn't read like a notice that he's already made the Charon investment alongside his Powerhouse operations. But it's a Powerhouse customer query out in public, and that's a first.

MANMAN already has Digital Alpha users who employ the Charon product. Some of the most robust recommendations for the emulator have come out of the Digital community. A CAMUS user group conference call meeting in 2013 included reports from Tim Peer of Envy Systems about Digital MANMAN users running VMS on Charon. The customers were happy with performance and compatibility.

Permission and licensing from such big-scale software providers has been the wild card in the Charon story for MPE/iX. Stromasys has been selling its emulator, but reports of such products running on Charon have not emerged.

One year ago this month, Unicom Systems announced its acquisition of Powerhouse and related products from the Cognos-IBM stable. FM Global is an insurance and services provider, not a manufacturer. The last public event for Powerhouse hosted by Unicom was a re-launch of the Powerhouse user group, along with a customer advisory board meeting, in late June.

08:11 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2015

Get polished advice, bound and free

Evolution and SMUG

Get your very own copy of these out of print gems. Email me at the Newswire for your book.

We're doing a makeover of the Newswire files this week in the office, and we have some duplicate gems to give away. The two books above come from the hard work and deep knowlege of Robelle's tech staff, as well as the voices of many other experts. The ultimate copy of the SMUG Pocket Encylopedia carries great advice and instruction between its covers, plenty of which is useful to the homesteader of 2015.

There's also HP 3000 Evolution, created by a wide array of contributors including many who've had articles and papers edited and published by the Newswire. We're giving away these rare copies. Email me at the Newswire and be sure to include a postal address, and I'll send each of them out to whoever asks first.

Paper seems like a premium these days, a luxury that harkens back to the prior century. But it's classy, and the information inside these two books is timeless. It deserves to be bound and mailed. Not every source works better in paper. We'll say more about that later. But finding this kind of tech instruction can sometimes be tricky using the Web.

As an example, here's advice from our old friend Paul Edwards, who's taught MPE and Suprtool for many years. Doing backups is everybody's responsibility, and doing them well has some nuances.

Verify data backups with VSTORE.PUB.SYS. It only checks that the tape media is good and the files on it can be read. It doesn't compare the files on the tape with the files on disk. Since a CSLT takes only about 20-30 minutes to make regardless of the amount of disk files you have, this process adds little to the time it takes for a backup cycle. You should make one at least every other full backup cycle.

Verify the CSLT with CHECKSLT.MPEXL.TELESUP. Use a proper, secure storage environment and don't use the tapes more often than recommended by the manufacturer. Run BULDACCT.PUB.SYS prior to each full backup to create the BULDJOB1 and BULDJOB2 files so that they will be included on the backup. Remember that they contain passwords and should be purged after the backup.

If you find you've still got some HP documentation in your bookshelf, these books deserve a place there. Because of their scope, they're probably even more valuable than anything HP sent with a blue binder.

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

January 16, 2015

What's ahead for the HPs of 2015?

Business-crystal-ballLast year Hewlett-Packard announced it's going to split up in 2015. Right now it's a combined entity whose stock (HPQ) represents both PC and enterprise business. But by the end of this fiscal year, it will be two companies, one called HP Inc. and another holding the classic Hewlett-Packard name. Any of the enterprise business that HP's managed to migrate from 3000s sits in that Hewlett-Packard future.

Most of time, the things that HP has done to affect your world have been easy to see coming. There's a big exception we all know about from November of 2001. But even the forthcoming split-up of the company was advocated for years by Wall Street analysts. It was a matter of when, some said, not if.

TV ad terminal shotIf can be a big word, considering it has just two letters. There was an HP ad campaign from 30 years ago that was themed What If. In things like TV commercials that included shots of HP 3000 terminals, What If sometimes proposed more radical things for its day, like a seamless integration of enterprise mail with the then-nouveau desktop computers.

What IfHP called that NewWave, and by the time it rolled out the product looked a lot like a me-too of Apple and Microsoft interfaces. But What If, rolled forward to 2015, would be genuinely radical if there were either no HP left any more, or Hewlett-Packard leveraged mergers with competitors.

What If: HP's PC and printer business was purchased by Lenovo, a chief competitor in the laptop-desktop arena? Its new CEO of the HP Inc spinoff ran Lenovo before joining HP. On the other hand, what if HP bought Lenovo?

What If: Hewlett-Packard Enterprise became a property of Oracle? That one is a much bigger If, considering that HP's built hardware in massive quantity for a decade-plus along four different product lines: Integrity, PA-RISC (still generating support revenues in HP-UX), ProLiant x86s, and its dizzying array of networking products. You could even label forthcoming dreams like The Machine, or the Moonshot systems, as hardware lines. Oracle's got just Sun systems. As 3000 customers know, hardware is not a firm stake in the ground for business futures.

If there's anything that seems certain here in January, it's that the creator of MPE, IMAGE and PA-RISC will continue to pursue enterprise business customers of its competitors. The customers of firms like IBM and Oracle (Sun) are just about all that can be nabbed by a purveyor of enterprise environments that are proprietary — the lame-duck VMS, the NonStop OS, and HP-UX.

The computer industry hasn't had an earthquake of a deal that'd register Oracle+HP tremors since HP bought EDS in 2008 for $13.9 billion. HP bought Compaq in 2002 for $25 billion. That's a lot of simoleons in a computing market that's growing. Dollar-wise, Oracle acquiring HP would've been 40 percent cheaper one year ago. HP's market capitalization today is $70 billion, and it was just $50 billion in January 2014.

That is, of course, the size of the un-divided HP. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will be valued at half that. But if you could acquire the entire HP at $50 billion one year ago, and in 2015 that money would only buy half the company — and the part that's growing much more slowly — why do it when it costs more?

Oracle is more than twice the size of HP, though, in market capitalization. Right now Oracle is at $189 billion in market cap. Nobody learns about deals of this size between titans like these until the agreement is right under our noses. Everybody's got to convince their shareholders, too. An epic battle was waged over HP's Compaq purchase over just that circumstance. We can't tell, but your community also knows that kind of surprise is also true about lopping off business product lines — ones that are profitable and beloved, too.

01:58 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2015

New service level: personal private webinar

Software and service providers have long used webinars to deliver information and updates to groups. Now one vendor in the HP 3000 market is making the webinar highly focused. MB Foster is scheduling Personal Webinars.

CEO Birket Foster is available for private bookings with customers or prospects who need questions answered on a variety of topics. According to an email sent this week, the list from the company's Wednesday Webinars over the past few years includes

  • Application Migrations, Virtualization, Emulation, Re-host, Retire, Replace
  • Data Migration, Transformations, Decommissioning
  • Big Data
  • Bring Your Own Devise (BYOD)
  • Data Quality, Governance, MDM (Master Data Management)
  • Decision Support, Advanced Analytics, Dashboarding
  • User reporting, ad hoc query and analysis
  • Using Powerhouse in the 21st Century
  • Enterprise Windows Batch Job Scheduling
  • ITIL and APM
  • Document Management
  • Enterprise Data Storage

The vendor says to schedule this one-to-one briefing contact Chris Whitehead at 905-846-3941, or send a request to info@mbfoster.com, along with the desired topic and available dates and times.

For the past 3 years MB Foster has hosted Webinars every Wednesday at 11 am PST and 2 pm EST. As not everyone is available on a Wednesday, we are offering "Book a Private Webinar." If you have a topic your organization needs to address we would be pleased to conduct a webinar with your team.

If you have an alternative suggested topic, we would appreciate the feedback. Whatever the topic, we will have the webinar team include a subject matter expert to address your needs.

08:22 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 14, 2015

(Still) ways to turn back time to save apps

Editor's Note: Nine years ago this week we ran these suggestions on how to get abandoned software to keep running on HP 3000s. It's still good advice while a manager and company is homesteading, or keeping a 3000 alive until a migration is complete.

Turn back timeSome HP 3000s are reduced to a single application these days. But the one program that will never move off the platform, however vital it might be, could see its support disappear on a particular date — with no help available from the creators of the software.

A few utilities can help rescue such applications. These products were popular during the Y2K era, when systems needed their dates moved back and forth to test Year 2000 compatibility. Now that some HP 3000 programs are being orphaned, clock rollback utilities are getting a new mission.

A customer of SpeedEdit, the HP 3000 programmer's tool, had lost the ability to run the program at the start of 2006. Both Allegro Consultants' Stan Sieler and former NewsWire Inside COBOL columnist Shawn Gordon offer products to roll back the 3000's clock. These companies don't sanction using their software to dodge legitimate licensing limits. But if a software vendor has left your building, so to speak, then HourGlass/3000 or TimeWarp/3000 (both reviewed) are worth a try to get things running again.

3000 customer Paul Frohlich of DMX Music in the UK asked how to get his SpeedEdit running once again now that the calendar had rolled over to 2006:

When editing a file SpeedEdit creates a work file to hold the changes: it uses a structured name for the work file. According to the manual “ ... the first character of the [work] file name represents the year the [work] file was created, the letter A indicating 1980, B 1981 etc.” Therefore Z was 2005 and so there is no letter for 2006! SpeedEdit may be trying to use the next character in the ASCII table, which is probably non-numeric, resulting in an invalid MPE file name. A very neat way of making software expire. I suppose the authors didn’t think anyone would be using SpeedEdit in 2006!

Gordon replied with a suggestion to try his product, software that he's taking orders for direct these days:

While we don't sanction this for bypassing a programs legitimate timing out, it sounds like you've gotten in a bind with a product you paid for and the vendor is gone.  Our TimeWarp product which was originally created to do Y2K virtual dates would likely allow you to keep working; you can get some information from www.smga3000.com/timewarp_detail.html about the product.

Sieler posted notice of an alternative solution from his company:

A date/time simulator may help, if you don’t mind the rest of SpeedEdit getting the wrong time.  (E.g., run SpeedEdit with a date of, say, 1980... giving you another 25 years of bliss :)

HourGlass/3000 is still the most complete and most efficient date/time simulator tool.  You could use it with a rule like:    

@,@.@,@  speededt.pub.bbs  @   delta -20 years

(Means: any job/session name, any user, any account, any logon group, program is speededt.pub.bbs, from any ldev, gets the current date/time minus 20 years)

Sieler went on to add a more obvious option if a programming editor stops running on the 3000: Use Robelle's Qedit. He also outlined another workaround for a program that wants a date which its creators didn't expect to need to serve:

Write a CALENDAR intercept intrinsic (trivial in SPLash!, Pascal, C) that returns a modified year, put it in XL (e.g., SPDEDTXL), and modify (via LINKEDIT) SpeedEdit to load with that XL. If SpeedEdit is a CM program, change the above to: (trivial in SPL), put in an SL that SpeedEdit will use (SL.pub.BBS or whatever), and  mark SpeedEdit as LIB=P or LIB=G.

06:39 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2015

Shedding a Heavy Burden of History

Racking railOn Monday we reported the release of one of the first training videos hosted by computer pro in their 20s, demonstrating equipment from the 1970s. The HP 3000 is shedding the burden of such old iron, just as surely as the video's creator is shedding the equipment used to make the video.

Mark Ranft of Pro3K is making room in his operations in Minnesota by moving out equipment like the HP 7980 tape drive that was the centerpiece of the video. Ranft, who also manages at the company which took over the OpenSkies airline ticketing operations from HP 3000 servers, said his daughter Katie (above) was showing off MPE gear that will soon be out the door at Pro3K.

"We created this video as we soon we will no longer have the capability to create it," Ranft said. "We are downsizing. I will no longer have all this great old equipment."

Three of the tape drives, including a couple which have HP-IB interfaces. Drives so heavy that our reader Tim O'Neill said he had to remove his 7980s from HP racks using a lift table.

Only last month did I dismantle and ship out the last two remaining 9-track tape units from HP, which were the flat-laying vacuum chamber kind. I think they were Model 7980A (as though HP were going to make B and C models.) They were mounted on heavy duty racking rails in HP cabinets. They had not been used in a while, but were retained just in case someone wanted to read a 9-track.

Old iron is moving out, because the MPE/iX services of the future can be performed using drives so lightweight they'd fit in a lunch pail. Drives hosted on ProLiant servers of current era price lists.

     Ranft said he's moving out his gear including the drives, five HP 3000s of 9x7 and 9x8 vintage, 10 6000-Series disk enclosures, and four Jamaica enclosures including disks.

"We have some DTCs and other cool peripherals, too," he said. "We even run one program that I wrote in BASIC/3000 in 1983 while I was a computer operator at Northern Telecom. This really proves backward compatibility!"

When a community can replace old iron and retain the reliable programs that run financials and more, it's looking forward. More than a salvage job, which is where those vintage devices are headed. Replacement is a rebuild to the future.

10:56 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 12, 2015

Video helps with 30-year-old tape operations

Reel Tape Drive video screen capA Facebook page has a new video that assists with decades-old technology. Reel to reel tapes get the how-to treatment on the page of the Pro3K consultancy, a support and operations firm that's run by Mark Ranft. The video shows a restore of a 31-year-old tape.

Using a detailed review of all the steps needed to load and mount a tape, Mark's daughter Katherine demonstrates how to handle the oldest storage technology in the MPE world. While reel to reel was popular, MPE V was in vogue. Some archival backups still have to be pulled from reel to reel. Meanwhile, there are other elderly HP 3000s that will only take tape backups. If a 3000 doesn't support SCSI, then it's HP-IB ready, so to speak. 

Katie RanftIf you've never enjoyed the inner workings of the vacuum loading systems on HP tape drives, you might be fascinated by what you see. There's also a guest appearance of the fabled 4GB disks for 3000s. Katie explains that the standard iPhone has four times as much storage as one of these disk drives.

She also notes that the 31-year-old tape "is four years older than me." Ranft said his daughter has been studying for potential consulting opportunies, and lives in the Chicago area.

Katie might qualify for the youngest person in 2015 who's instructed the world on the operations of an HP 3000. If you visit the Pro3K Facebook page, give it a Like. We like this trend: this is the first ops training for the 3000 ever posted on Facebook.

06:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 09, 2015

Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s

Another way around the dilemma of aging 3000 storage invokes virtual data services. In specific, this solution uses the HP DL360 ProLiant server as a key element of connecting RAID storage with MPE/iX. Instead of older storage like the VA arrays, this uses current-era disks in a ProLiant system.

DL360 Gen 8Because there's an Intel server involved, this recalls the 3000 virtualization strategy coming from Stromasys. But the product and service offering from Beechglen — the HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN — doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data. It also works as an tactical tool for everyday homestead operations.

Beechglen's got both kinds of customers, according to Mike Hornsby. He summed up his offering, one that's available as an ongoing data service ($325 a month for 6 TB mirrored) or a $4,900 outright purchase with a year of support included. The company leveraged an MPE/iX source code license to build the SAN.

Having the source code to MPE/iX allowed us to provide an interface to our in-house developed FiberChannel targets that run on HP DL360s. This allows up to 6TB of RAID 1 storage in 1U of rack space, and provides advanced functionality, like replication and high availability.

He adds there are IO performance improvements in this solution, starting at twice as fast up to 100X, depending on what's being replaced. The company recommends an upgrade to an A-Class or N-Class to take advantage of native Fiber Channel. The SCSI-to-Fiber devices tend to develop amnesia, he explained, and the resultant reconfiguring for MPE is a point of downtime. "Those were never built for MPE anyway," he said of SCSI-to-Fiber devices.

The Fiber SAN runs CentOS Linux, and the MPE/iX LUNs are files.

Hornsby said the additional storage also allows splitting the traditional 'store to tape' backup into two steps, first to disk, and then to tape. Or to a network server, or to cloud storage. "The idea is to have an onsite backup," Hornsby said, "and an offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes."

One of the most frustrating times in the support role is waiting for tapes to be delivered from offsite storage and then waiting for the slow tape to disk restore. So far we have found that replacing the storage, and providing cloud storage, is less expensive than the onsite maintenance and the tape handling and storage costs.

He adds that "many high end HP 3000s are still using Mirror/iX, Model 20s, VA arrays, and 12H arrays, not to mention dozens of unprotected disks. The vast majority of hardware service calls and system down times are due to replacements of disks and tape drives."

07:16 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 08, 2015

Keeping 3000 Storage On The Road

Since data storage is one of the biggest assets in any HP 3000 environment, it's fraught with risks and opportunities. Those are devices with moving parts that capture, exchange, and archive the precious data. A moving part wears out. A good plan to Sustain a 3000 site includes a strategy to protect that data.

Mr. ToadIf a system goes down these days, it's most like to do so because of a storage device failure. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen just reported that, "in our support efforts for both onsite services and being largest provider of hosted HP 3000s, the main ongoing issue is storage." Keeping it available and up to date is like keeping a car on the road.

In particular, the recovery time for a 3000 can be extended or limited by how fast the site manager can restore from a backup. The time to receive off-site backup tapes for restoring might be minimal. But a good plan will account for the expected amount of time. Every minute of it costs the company something.

How much should a site pay to reduce downtime? It's easy to imagine overkill until some stakeholder from the business adds up costs of downtime. For the 3000s that still drive ecommerce, it can be thousands of dollars per minute. Even a manufacturing site -- much more of a classic 3000 shop -- will record costs for interrupted manufacturing processes, or the cost of produced goods that can't move toward sales until the 3000 comes back up.

Modern storage strategy offers opportunities to make this amount of downtime so small that it's meaningless. RAID storage is an essential bedrock. But RAID devices in the 3000 world as old as Model 20s, 12H arrays and even some VA arrays are rolling outside of their safe operation lifecycle.

SATA drives power the current generation of storage that's attached to Intel-based servers. SCSI does not. There was a point 20 years ago when SCSI storage for 3000s was considered state of the art -- because it wasn't HP-IB storage any more. That's not true by now. SCSI storage is a walk on the wild side of reliability. Unprotected SCSI disks are a hairy, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride kind of lark.

Cloud storage is an emerging upgrade, even for HP 3000 sites. Fiber Channel might be dated technology, but it's got prospects for bandwidth and connectivity that SCSI will never attain. The lack of modern storage options has been a significant and bona fide factor in triggering migration projects at 3000 sites. Modern storage is networked, redundant, fast and built upon devices created in the past three years. There are ways to update a 3000's data storage capability. We'll have a report over the next few days about one of them. 

In the meantime, taking a hard look at that data restore downtime is a useful exercise. Better to have a number that pleases nobody than to not know what the number is. A test of a restore is recommended by many systems management experts. From more than 15 years ago, a Scott Hirsh Worst Practices column advised that Backup Is Still Hard to Do. Hard to do well, anyway.

06:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2015

End Days for Antique Disk Drives

HP 3000 servers which use drives made a decade ago are still running. It's not so far back, from a support perspective. Hewlett-Packard was supporting 9-GB and 18-GB units through 2008, and the 36-GB model A5595A through 2009. Those are the end of support dates from the manufacturer. Independent support companies back those models today.

AutoRAID 12HThey do it by replacing devices when they fail, not servicing dead drives. Any 3000s still operating off decade-old storage units are into magic time: those end days when it's a marvel just to see something that old still crucial to a system. Hard disks are the only moving parts of a 3000, after all. Even the redundant ones will fail, since all drives do.

The 3000 community has been facing its aging hardware a very long time. People were checking during 2006 on those end of support dates for the 3000's most common boot drives. A call for sensibility at the time went out from Donna Hofmeister.

It's more than time for many MPE shops to "smell the coffee," or perhaps more accurately, smell the looming disaster. If your disc drive is less than 36GB, odds are it's ready to be replaced. It's past it's expected life span, and you're living on borrowed time. If you got any plans to keep on running these systems, it's more than time to get onto new drives. With how prices have dropped, it's hard to not justify going to new drives. 

Hofmeister added "I wouldn't want to have to explain why, following a disc failure, you can't get your MPE system running again." Replacing these wee discs with newer technology is possible, of course. Little SCSI drives that can be seen by MPE are harder to find by now, though. HP's last significant extension of MPE was to expand the server's vision of storage units, so the 3000 could see devices up to 500GB. But half a terabyte is a small drive today.

Finding an AutoRAID 12H replacement gets tougher still. Not tough to locate. Tough to justify.

The AutoRAID disc units were a small-shop marvel, redundant storage you could pick up for under $20,000. Today that device is still on the used market at about $1,000. But making the investment in antique storage is more costly than the purchase price. Replacing what's failed with something just as old isn't buying a lot of time.

Homesteading shops might not need a lot of time, of course. If they're heading to a migration solution, that overtime might be as short as several months. Here in the early days of 2015, the ecommerce retailers are finally un-freezing systems for makeovers. It's beyond the spending holidays now. They can make changes to their systems, including replacing them altogether.

One way to skip over the end days for these drives is to make a transition to emulated 3000s. That's a homesteading solution with a real strategy. New Intel hardware, current-era storage. The hardware support might even be worked into existing PC-style enterprise hardware agreements. There would be nothing to explain if that generation of hardware failed.

A drive built a decade ago would provide another kind of story to tell.

 

05:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 06, 2015

Essential Steps for Volume Reloads

When a 3000 drive goes dead, especially after a power outage, it often has to be reloaded. For example, when an LDEV2 has to be replaced. For a cheat sheet on reloading a volume, we turned to our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper.

By Gilles Schipper

Assuming your backup includes the ;directory option, as well as the SLT:

1. Boot from alternate path and choose INSTALL (assuming alternate path is your tape drive) 
2. After INSTALL completes, boot from primary path and perform START NORECOVERY. 
3. Use VOLUTIL to add ldev 2 to MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. 
4. Restore directory from backup (:restore *t;;directory) 
5. openq lp
6. Perform a full restore with the following commands
:file t;dev=7(?)
:restore *t;/;keep;show=offline;olddate;create;partdb;progress=5 7.

Perform START NORECOVERY

I would suggest setting permanent and transient space each equal to 100 percent on ldev 2. The 75 percent default on ldev 1 is fine as long as you don’t need the space. And if you did, your solution shouldn’t really be trying to squeeze the little extra you’d get by increasing the default maximum limits.

The reason for limiting ldev1 to 75 percent is to minimize the otherwise already heavy traffic on ldev 1, since the system directory must reside there, as well as many other high traffic “system” files.

You won't want to omit the ;CREATE and ;PARTDB options from the restore command. Doing so will certainly get the job done -- but perhaps not to your satisfaction. If any file that exists on your backup was created by a user that no longer exists, that file (or files) will NOT be restored.

Similarly, if you omit the ;PARTDB option, any file that comprises a TurboIMAGE database whose corresponding root file does not exist, will also not be restored.

I suppose it may be a matter of personal preference, but I would rather have all files that existed on my disks prior to disk crash also exist after the post disk-crash RELOAD. I could then easily choose to re-delete the users that created those files -- as well as the files themselves.

Another reason why the ;SHOW=OFFLINE option is used is so that one can quickly see the users that were re-created as the result of the ;CREATE option. Purging the "orphan" datasets would be slightly more difficult, since they don’t so easily stand out on the stdlist.

Finally, it’s critical that a second START NORECOVERY be performed. Otherwise, you cannot successfully start up your network.

10:37 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2015

Securing cloud promises hardware freedom

Threat-manager-sensor-imageRackspace's cloud hosting security can include Alert Logic Threat services for enhanced security. MPE managers are likely to insist on the advanced service.

If a 3000 manager or owner had one wish for the new year, it might be to gain hardware assurance. No matter how much expertise or development budget is available in 2015, not much will turn back the clock on the servers -- the newest of which were built not very long after Y2K. The option to escape these aging servers lies in Intel hardware. Some sites will look at putting that hardware out in the cloud.

Say the word cloud to an HP 3000 veteran and they'll ask if you mean time-sharing. At its heart, the strategy of the 1970s that bought MPE into many businesses for the first time feels like cloud computing. The server's outside of the company, users access their programs through a network, and everyday management of peripherals and backups is an outsourced task.

But the cloud of 2015 adds a world of public access, and operates in an era when break-ins happen to banks without defeating a time lock or setting off a security alarm. Time-sharing brought the HP 3000 to Austin companies through the efforts of Bill McAfee. Terry Floyd of the MANMAN support company The Support Group described the earliest days of MPE in Austin.

The first HP 3000 I ever saw was in 1976 at Futura Press on South Congress Avenue in Austin.  Bill McAfee owned Futura and was a mentor to many of us in Texas. Futura was an HP reseller, and aside from a wonderful printing company, they wrote their own software and some of the first MPE utilities. Interesting people like Morgan Jones hung out around Futura Press in the late 1970's and I can never thank Bill and Anne McAfee enough for the great times.

Series 42Jones went on to found Tymlabs, the creators of one of the bulwark MPE backup products. The HP Chronicle, the first newspaper devoted to the 3000, processed its typesetting using that Futura server. For all practical purposes this was cloud computing, delivered off mid-range HP 3000s such as the Series 42 (above), even deep into 1984. But 30 years later, this category of resource has become even more private and customized. It also relies on co-located hardware. That's where Rackspace comes in. It's the target provider for the new cloud-based installations of Charon. The Rackspace mantra is "One size doesn't fit all." That harkens to the days of time-sharing.

While other companies have competitive offerings in cloud services, Rackspace has the advantage of building its business model around extreme customization and significant expertise in VMware. That VMware service forms the bedrock for the virtualization in Stromasys' product.

VMware management may not be tribal knowlege at some 3000 sites which are looking to move away from older hardware. Rackspace touts proactive management "24x7x365 by our VMware Certified Professionals. You get VMware's cloud management platform to build upon, while maintaining control through the vCloud web portal and vCloud API-compatible orchestration tools." Rackspace adds that it's one of the largest VMware-powered service providers in the world.

Security can't be virtual, however. Locking down access is as much a matter of physical security of storage and hardware as it is firewall protections. Just last summer, a survey of IT managers across the industry reported that "executives are not sure they can trust what cloud providers are telling them," according to an IDG-Unisys research paper.

Rackspace offers virtual private networks, Sophos anti-virus software, distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection and something called Alert Logic Threat Management in a Security Plus package. Stromasys technical presale manager Alex Cruz said that Rackspace has the flexibility that the virtualization vendor believes will be needed to host MPE servers in the cloud.

Calculating the capital outlay for moving MPE into virtualization is likely to put managers of 3000s into some advanced spending to master extra security. A cloud service provider like Rackspace can standardize that essential feature, even while it customizes the hardware and storage configuration that Charon for MPE will require. "Integrated vulnerability scanning," says the Rackspace brief on its security, "helps you identify possible points of entry and correct them, and assists you with meeting regulatory compliance requirements."

That survey of IT executives from last year reports that 70 percent of them believe security is the biggest obstacle to hosting from the cloud. HP 3000 sites might not have the most stringent enterprise-level security for their Intel-based systems in place already, so engaging a company that promises "Alert Logic security analysts" is one way to pursue expertise. Rackspace says its security services will help customers pass PCI bank-card and HIPAA healthcare audits. Some HP 3000s are still driving ecommerce companies, even more than four years after HP's support ended for MPE. Rackspace says it's the No. 1 hosting provider to the Top 1,000 Ecommerce websites.

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

January 02, 2015

What to Expect in Performance This Year

Legacy systems like the HP 3000 remain entrenched around the world. The reason? Their durability and their standing in the company's business legacy. What's a business legacy, you ask? It's the history of what kinds of servers and programs get used to process business. All MPE/iX applications are business legacies by now. They're more than a decade old. They run, and their performance is adequate. There seems like there's little to be done about making them faster.

Orders-of-magnitudeBut employing an emulator to replace the Hewlett-Packard models of 3000s can change that. The promise is more performance from more modern Intel-based hardware. There are limits, however. Here in 2015, the performance gain is limited by the size of 3000 that's running this week, the first of the new year. This week we read about "orders of magnitude" performance gains, but that's usually a number only applicable to a first order -- times 10. And even that might be a few years away for 3000 managers.

Given enough time, everyone who uses a 3000 emulator will outstrip the raw processing power of the HP-brand iron. Those HP boxes will never get faster, unless you can top them up on memory. In contrast, the Stromasys emulator will get more efficient; 2015 sees a newer, faster version now available. And Intel-based iron will grow stronger, too, at its top-end. The phrase "top-end" matters a great deal. If you're using top-end HP hardware, it might be too soon to look for a significant performance boost from virtualization.

Top-end means the fastest N-Class servers. Those will need to be replaced by top-end Intel hardware: servers with many available CPU cores, and many CPUs. Faster might not be a goal, however, for 2015. As-fast might be enough, to enable a manager can leave behind the aging HP iron.

It's easy to misunderstand. At a website called The VAR Guy, written by former InfoWorld editor in chief Michael Vizard, Stromasys' potential got noticed. "After all," he said, "the latest generation of Intel processors provide orders of magnitude more performance than VAX, Alpha, HP 3000 or Sparc systems that can be more than a decade old." Um, sometimes. But when you're working at the top-end of the old hardware, orders of magnitude is a far-off, wishful goal. If your HP 3000 has a tiny 3000 Performance Unit rating of 2.7, for example, then the first order of magnitude would be 27. The next order is 270, and so on. Several orders may be possible — at the lower levels of 3000 performance.

Simply beating the existing performance is still a valid desire, though. Matching what you're using — so you can leave old hardware behind — is a bona fide need in the 3000 market.

Come to the brink of replicating HP's 3000 performance, and a 3000 owner will have enough reason to invest in a new hardware and new software cradle for MPE. Making those purchases are the requirements of taking a 3000 into emulated, virtualized status.

But The VAR Guy does more than overlook the real-world limits on the current virtualization product. It seems that virtualization is somehow a wedge into bigger replacement plans.

For solution providers, the ability to move those legacy applications to x86 servers should create an opportunity to have discussion not just about saving a few dollars, but more importantly, how that money might then be reallocated somewhere else in 2015.

As we come to the close of 2014, reducing legacy infrastructure costs is almost always top of mind for the internal IT department. Unless they can achieve that goal they typically don’t have enough funds available to allocate to new IT projects.

We're not sure what The Guy means by solution providers. Stromasys is a solution provider, but it doesn't have any interest in discussing the reallocation of money to other operations in 2015. The Charon solution is a replacement with a future that emulates technology driving the business. There will be enough new spending in a virtualization plan anyway, buying new Intel iron that's fast enough to match the old HP iron's performance.

What's certain is that "solution providers" doesn't mean the vendor of the legacy system. Not for the HP 3000. A few years ago, yes, HP was announced as a Global Partner of Stromasys. But we don't know of any stories where HP's introduced Charon to a 3000 site. As a vendor, HP's not going to help a 3000 site much if a customer installs Charon. The extended life of any MPE applications might give a customer more time to migrate.

Other parts of the solution lay in the apps. Some application vendors have abandoned their 3000 apps. Those who have left not solution providers, either.

In short, any solution provider who offers an emulator to reduce legacy infrastructure costs won't have ideas for how to better spend money being saved in dumping old hardware. The old hardware is paid-for. There's not an immediate savings in this equation, unless you can reduce 3000 hardware support spending, by a lot. You only get funds to allocate to new IT projects by cutting costs that don't require any investment to do those cuts. Reducing staff comes to mind. People want to cut out old hardware — not the old hands who know how to manage the hardware's OS.

04:37 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)