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May 29, 2015

Retrieve What's Lost With Wayback

Even when things go dark on the Web, their history doesn't. The Internet Wayback Machine is always watching and recording, taking snapshots of sites or their content that's been removed. So long as there's a Wayback, there's a way back, so to speak.

QCTerm LogoI discovered this yesterday when checking on freeware from AICS Research. The company still supports its HP 3000 users of QueryCalc, but at the moment the feature-rich website has nothing on its face but a static graphic. AICS did business long ago as a tax service, and all the website reports is a gaggle of details about that enterprise.

As 3000 users know, a lot more resided at aics-research.com. In years past, there was a 3000 Relative Performance Chart, an essay to guide users on remaining on the 3000 indefinitely (called Plan B at the time), as well as a rich history of early Hewlett-Packard computing products. But most of all, there was QCTerm, the free 3000 emulator that AICS created for the 3000 community. QCTerm has always been "freely distributed to all users for their personal and corporate use, without time limit or any form of obligation being incurred by any party."

QCTerm is a full-function HP700/92 terminal emulator, very similar to other terminal emulators, running in Windows. The only difference is that QCTerm carries no cost "and may be freely distributed to as many users as you wish."

QCTerm was not constructed as a precise mimic of an HP700/92 terminal, although it identifies itself as such. "Rather, we wanted to make QCTerm simpler, more browser-like, and more intuitive, while retaining the full functionality that would be expected of an HP terminal," the software's description reports.

You can still download Version 3.1 of QCTerm using the Wayback Machine address. It's also available from the software.informer website.

03:58 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 28, 2015

Managing Printers Via Windows and Clouds

HP printerSpooled printing can be a feature tough to duplicate for migrating companies. A software program is being offered by a developer with decades of HP 3000 experience -- and now serving Windows enterprise users. In expanding its lineup beyond HP 3000 utilities, Software Devices is making a product that creates a more productive experience on the environment where most migrating 3000 shops are headed.

From the notable spooling and printer developer Rich Corn at Software Devices comes Cloud Print for Windows. Corn's used his expertise at RAC Consulting, attaching print devices to HP business servers, to help create software that helps Windows systems employ the Google Cloud Print virtual printer service. So long as your printer's host can connect to the Web, Cloud Printing can be accessed from other desktops online.

Cloud Print for Windows then monitors these virtual printers and prints jobs submitted to a virtual printer on the corresponding local PC printer. In addition, Cloud Print for Windows supports printing from your PC to Google Cloud Print virtual printers. All without any need for the Chrome browser.

People expect Windows to be a more affordable platform per desktop, but the costs can add up. Employing cloud services can keep things more manageable in a budget. Cloud Print for Windows costs just $19.95 a seat. There's other levels of functionality — even one for free — including a Professional Edition for integrating with Microsoft's Windows Server environments.

A Free Edition is limited to registering one printer, one-page print jobs, and no printer sharing. Printer sharing is the ability to share a single printer registered with Google by Cloud Print with any number of other Google user accounts or groups. This also includes sharing virtual printers on a Windows network. Submitting print jobs to GCP is limited to three per day using the Free Edition. The Standard Edition at $19.95 has no printer, page or submission limits, but it does not allow printer sharing. The Professional Edition includes printer sharing. The Pro Edition is required for use on any Windows Server operating system.

06:03 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2015

Make old PCs do a console's work

HP PortableGot a wheezing PC someplace in your IT shop? Believe it or not, even the creakiest of desktops can still serve your HP 3000: as a console, a la the HP700/92 variety. This is the kind of PC where, as one veteran puts it,"the keyboards have turned to glue."

...Trying to type a coherent instruction (or even worse, trying to talk someone through that task remotely) where random keys require the application of a sledgehammer to make them respond, at which point they auto repeatttttttttttttttt.

It's enough to give a veteran manager a pain in the posterior, but hey -- some HP 3000s (of the 900 Series) demand a physical console as part of their configuration. Can't you just hook up such an antique PC straight to the 3000's special console port and let it work as a console? Yes, you can.

Overheard among chatter between 3000 vets:

You can connect a PC via its serial port to the console port on the HP3000, and then run a terminal emulator via the serial connection, leaving it logged on as the console. That way, using free remote control software (VNC Free) on the PC, you could even have control of the physical console (as opposed to just taking the virtual console) so that things like Control-A/B would work.

You'll need a little physical cabling help to make this work. Even though those desktop PCs are old, most of them have not had serial ports in many years. Think about it. It's all USB by now. So you buy a USB-to-serial converter. You'll need a copy of an HP 3000 terminal emulator on the PC configured to connect via the serial port.

Just make sure the PC stays up and the emulator's window is open and connected. You don't need the console buffer filling up.

04:31 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 26, 2015

The Legacy of Trusted 3000 Access

Circle of trustIn plenty of HP 3000 customer sites -- or the IT operations that include a 3000 among the servers -- MPE has been an outlier. An important one, however, and that's a good reason that access to the TurboIMAGE data has sparked a generation of tools. Linux, Unix, Windows systems all need to connect to the 3000's data. UDALink software has a track record of keeping 3000s in the computing Circle of Trust. Now there's a new generation.

Finance might need 3000 data to get a firm grip on the current operational profitability of the business. Customers will need to gauge supplier and vendor performance, based on data in 3000s. Accurate data, delivered in a timely way, improves customer relations and sales. And manufacturing processes must measure the time it takes to complete or commit to a product delivery date, for example. 3000 data might be on a legacy system, but it can be crucial to corporate objectives.

MB Foster is showing off the setup, configuration and enabling of secure ODBC/JDBC connections in UDALink to access a HP 3000 or another environment, starting at 2 PM Eastern on Wednesday. The webinar lasts about an hour, and you can register through MB Foster for the free briefing. This is software that connects 3000s to the rest of the world by way of direct access to data.

UDALink is the progeny of ODBCLink/SE, the middleware created, maintained and supported by MB Foster for IMAGE/SQL for more than 20 years. This continuous and current support of 3000-ready middleware, as we once called it, is a community marvel. No server that's been off a vendor's price list for 12 years, as the 3000 has, ever had more care lavished upon its remaining users. UDALink is getting an enhancement to Java Database Connectivity 3.0 API. It's a type 4 interface, and so it's ready for the Windows Server migration that HP is counting upon, the journey of Windows Server 2003 users.

The vendor's CEO Birket Foster said that about 20 percent of the customers using Windows Server are still on the 2003 release. "It was a customer who requested we enhance the JDBC2 driver on UDALink," Foster said. "We were pleased to do so. It ensures that this customer and future customers can continue to leverage newer technologies with legacy business-critical applications."

ODBCLink/SE was first delivered inside of the MPE Fundamental Operating System in the 1990s. A full-featured version of ODBCLink was available for sale, and that full-edition software became UDALink. The latest version of the UDALink JDBC2 module has support for these changes from the JDBC 3.0 API, to name a few.

  • Reuse of prepared statement by connection pools
  • Connection pool configuration
  • Savepoint support
  • Retrieval of parameter metadata and auto-generated keys
  • BOOLEAN data types
  • Updating of columns containing BLOB, CLOB, ARRAY and REF
  • Transformation groups and type mapping
  • Database Metadata APIs

10:53 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 25, 2015

A Memorial to 3000 Advocacy

Wirt AtmarIt's Memorial Day in the US, a holiday where we celebrate those fallen in combat. There's that ultimate sacrifice in uniform and on duty for this country, worthy of a parade. But here on a day when many of us take time away from the job, it's worth a moment to remember those who've left our MPE community after good work to benefit all.

Wirt Atmar was one of those fellows. He passed away more than six years ago of a heart attack, but he's got a living memorial up on the archives of the 3000-L newsgroup. The lifespan of HP's business with the 3000 got a benefit from his work as well. It's safe to say that MPE's 1990s would've been poorer without his advocacy for IMAGE.

1990 was a high-water mark in HP 3000 advocacy. From his company AICS Research, Wirt created the report tool QueryCalc as well as QCReports and a free QCTerm emulator. In the fall of 1990 he helped spark a change in HP's business practices about the 3000 — a change that remains important to those who are changing little about a stable HP 3000 environment.

In 1990 Atmar wrote an open letter to HP published in The HP Chronicle, the monthly news magazine I was editing at the time. In his letter Atmar chastized HP for the way it was relegating IMAGE to minor status among the 3000's futures and features, as well as the general treatment of a loyal customer base. Word was building in the community that HP had plans to separate the IMAGE database from the purchase of any 3000. The database had been included with the 3000 since 1976, a radical move at the time that sparked the creation of untold numbers of utilities and applications.

A programmer or development company could create an application or software for the 3000 community using IMAGE as the database, knowing that every 3000 out there would be able to make use of the creation. 3000=IMAGE was a formula close to being broken. The community reared up on its hind legs and castigated its supplier, using the Interex 1990 user group meeting as the forum for its dismay. SIG-IMAGE, a Special Interest Group of users gone dormant, re-formed to organize the complaints and demand remedies.

Computerworld Boston Tea PartyIn community lore, the protests around the meeting are known as "The Boston Tea Party," in part because they changed HP's course of conduct about customers. I recall Adager's Fred White as the most scathing critic of HP's myopia of the time, but a row of customers lined up behind and in front of him at the public microphones in a Boston meeting hall. This was a time when the HP Roundtable was the highlight of the conference, a chance to quiz the top executives of the company, right out in the open, about shortcoming and problems. The national IT press of Datamation, Computerworld and Information Week, all with HQ just up the road, were on hand that year to report the rebellious talk.

HP looked chagrined and embarrassed fielding customer complaints — during a time when customer communities had a different impact on their vendors.

At the time of the Boston uprising, Atmar noted, HP was easy to take advantage of, because the vendor was afraid of negative publicity. He said that his open letter "basically caused the [1990] Boston riot."

In the fall of that year the users not only stalled the separation of IMAGE from the 3000, but sparked a "Customer First" strategy from HP that was used to retain 3000 customers. HP used Customer First as a model in its other enterprise computer operations. As part of that, customer focused R&D mandated that every employee had to become an expert in understanding customers' businesses so they could know the customers' "pain points.” At its best, Customer First let HP anticipate 3000 customer needs in order to be able to deliver solutions that customers might not have even considered. Every engineer and manager was sent on customer visits, to spend a day or two with HP 3000 customers. HP gained insight at a new level, and refreshed its customer relationships. Customer First became a mantra in a new generation of HP 3000 division managers, the idea of customer delight: unexpected features, beyond commonplace requests.

It was a renovation for customers, even if it came at 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.' "

Even 15 years later, as homesteading advocacy talks were taking place with HP, the outcome -- a better place for homesteading 3000s -- would've been impossible without the ideals of Customer First that were sparked by that 1990 uprising. On the occasion of the 3000's 25th birthday, Atmar talked about what that birthday of the product -- which was still living on the HP price lists in 1997 -- meant to the customers.

Maturity. If you were a business owner or manager, I can't think of a single word that you would want to seek out and celebrate more than a mature solution, one that can easily demonstrate that it can do what it says it does. Immature solutions, on the other hand, are going to cost you an awful lot of money — and a growing segment of the business community is beginning to understand that. You can only be lead down the garden path so many times before it begins to dawn on you what it's truly costing you.

01:11 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 22, 2015

The 3000's Growth: Built Upon Basics

HP 250-260IT managers with MPE applications still hold hope of better futures for the HP 3000. The future of the system is the same as it ever was in many places, companies and organizations that protect the value of the custom apps they've built. HP miscalculated the value of these in-house, hand-tooled apps. The vendor's warnings of a shrinking ecosystem placed little value in these home-grown systems.

Tim O'Neill rarely misses a chance to illustrate what HP missed in 2001. When our report on the fate of Carly Fiorina's presidential run emerged, O'Neill wrote about the vitriol aimed at all things HP including Carly.

Despite all the errors and vitriol and despair that HP inspired — continuing to this day and even in this space (where space refers to my space) — the world still could use an operating system dedicated to managing data for business and industry, and doing so effectively and affordably, and without the risks contained in other systems not designed for such real purposes.

With proper system engineering planning, oversight, and new development, and modern hardware (e.g. using the product from Stromasys,) MPE/iX could fill the requirement not being met by a few popular proprietary operating systems and dozens of competing alternatives. In the mode of the HP 260 business system, a New Age HP 3000 from Stromasys could be a dedicated multi-user business system with storage on a SAN of choice.

But what is this HP 260 in O'Neill's memory, and why was it successful in its era of the late '80s and into the '90s? Business Basic drove that system. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies reminded us of what made an HP-designed integrated solution a good enterprise choice.

Stan Sieler of Allegro, owner of a 250, recalled that "The Classic 3000s had BASIC/3000 and BusinessBASIC. The PA-RISC systems certainly could run programs written in those languages, but also had BusinessBASIC/iX." Edminster cast a light onto the attributes of the business of BASIC.

I first worked on 250/Basic at HP's Rockville office, back before the 250s were even shipping to the public.  I worked for a 3000 OEM at the time, and couldn't help but think that the language on that machine beat the pants off BASIC/3000 (from a sophistication standpoint, at least).

Later, I did some support work on the eastern shore of Maryland, where a canning company was using a HP 250 that had a accounting/distribution system written in 250/Basic.  A little more recently than that, I did some support work on a custom system written in 3000/BusinessBasic on a Series 917 that was used for property management.  It was really very interesting how they integrated credit-card processing via a shared Telamon Engine.  Of course, with PCI requirements being what they are, that application would need to have a number of upgrades in order to remain compliant.

I should check and see if they're still using their 3000.   It's unlikely, after all these years - but I've been surprised like that before. 

Edminster noted that the GrowthPower MRP II system from CSI was another application on the 3000 that was written in BusinessBasic. "It's been ages since I've seen that application either, but I did have a GrowthPower customer nearby that I was helping to keep a 3000 running in archival mode," he said. "It actually had been a GrowthPower site, but had converted to a PC-based MRP system. It took nearly a whole rack of PC equipment to replace what one lowly 917 had previously handled."

The funniest thing was that many of the users still preferred to use the 3000's app, and would, if they were allowed to. It actually took a hard drive failure that made it apparent that some were still using the old system for things that they apparently shouldn't have been. The management had me alter the application to allow read-only access to put a stop to that. (We altered the IMAGE database passwords to only allow read access.) That made the management happy, but didn't earn me any friends with the previous clandestine users of the system.

12:05 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2015

HP disses synergies as Q2 flows downhill

HP Enterprise Group Q2 2015 summaryPenetration rates increased for HP's Business Critical Systems in the company's second quarter of 2015, year over year. And the corporation that sold thousands of HP-UX systems from that BCS to HP 3000 migrators reported that it has spent more than $400 million in dis-synergies in the just-finished quarter. Such were the milestones of financial jargon delivered to explain Q2 business. On the strength of profits that met expectations, analysts said the last 90 days of business didn't sink the SS Hewlett-Packard any further.

But the $25.5 billion in sales dropped from last year's Q2, and the revenues fell from the previous quarter as well. HP is selling less -- especially in the enterprise servers it created like Integrity -- and its already spending hundreds of millions to split itself into Enterprise and PC-printer companies. Halfway through the final year when all of that business is under one corporate banner, the company is looking ahead to rising reports as a split-up entity.

"HP is becoming stronger as we head into the second half of our fiscal year and separation in November," said CEO Meg Whitman at this afternoon's analyst briefing. The stock had closed at $33.83 and rose about 40 cents a share in after-hours trading.

The strength of the company, a subject of interest only to the 3000 customers who've chosen HP for migrations, must be measured in more than the price of its stock. HP hopes so, at least, since HPQ is trading in the same middle $30 range of 2011. Whitman has held her job since then, a time when PC pursuits and big-ticket acquisitions were the order of the day.

Now HP is merging with a new sense of focus. Merger and acquisition plays have both negative and positive prospects. Savings come through synergies. Declines come through dis-synergies, something HP wrote off as restructuring and separations costs that totalled more than a half-billion dollars.

Revenues flowed downhill in all HP segments tied to systems and devices: PCs, printers, and HP-built enterprise servers. Industry Standard Servers sales rose, and HP is looking forward to the migration of customers from Windows 2003 to 2012 to lift sales of Intel-based products. The sales in Business Critical Systems declined another 15 percent versus Q2 of 2014. Year over year declines in BCS have arrived in steady measure for the last four years. But the Enterprise Group where BCS lives -- a unit that'll be a part of this fall's newly-minted HP Enterprise Corp. -- reported just a $7 million drop in profits. Sales were off $84 million.

Business Critical Systems sales -- all of the revenues from HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop servers, plus allied software -- dropped below $200 million for the first time in Q2. "The team delivered growth in operating profit dollars," said CFO Cathie Lesjak, "by improved gross margin and operating expense management." Selling and working out of BCS is a cost-wary enterprise in 2015.

Superdome X and NonStop X are a pair of server projects that will take those platforms across the HP-built to industry standard divide, and HP says those prospects hold hope for the future of those systems.

The price of a better future for a divided HP is those dis-synergies. One definition of this business term:

  • Lower employee productivity during a period of due diligence or arising from the uncertainty of the takeover
  • Loss of key employees to competitors
  • Underestimating the time and complexity of merger integration, particularly integrating different systems
  • Loss of customers who may decide that they wish to reduce the total amount they spend with the two businesses once combined or (worse) switch to a different supplier altogether.

In HP's case, that merger is the classic-line Hewlett-Packard business, enterprise computing, with the realities of competing in 2016 and beyond.

09:49 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 20, 2015

Discovering HP's Futures

In a couple of weeks HP computer users will gather for an annual conference in North America. For the past five years, the meeting has been called HP Discover. This year's event is promising to show off visions of the future. Pictures of stalwart enterprise community members will be harder to find.

Computer historyAmong the HP technologies developed as computing environments, only HP's Unix will have a Special Interest Group Forum at the June 2-4 conference. Searching the sessions database for the letters VMS -- pretty special to the Digital customers that HP preferred to serve futures to versus 3000 sites -- yields no hits. If VMS is being discussed at HP Discover, it's likely to be just a topic on the floor.

Stromasys will be on that floor, talking about several platforms whose HP futures have already or will soon enough expire. Charon HPA, emulating the HP 3000 hardware, as well as virtualization products for the Digital systems and even Sun's Solaris computers will be demonstrated. Sarah Smith of Stromasys says it's a regular stop in the company's itinerary.

"At the booth we'll be doing demos of Charon," she said. "We've been going for years. VAX, Alpha, and PDP were all DEC products, so we talk about all of them at Discover."

Meanwhile, HP will be talking about many commodity solutions along with The Machine, its project to deliver six times more power than current computer systems on 1.25 percent of the energy. Its big idea is universal memory, driven by the elusive memristor HP first began discussing in 2008. Universal memory is as inexpensive as DRAM, as speedy as static RAM, as non-volatile as flash memory, and infinitely durable. The Machine is an HP Labs project reputed to have requisitioned 75 percent of the Labs' resources. Its delivery date is far enough out in the future that hearing about its potential is still just about all anybody expects this year, or next.

The HP North American shows were once all about users, and then after awhile, all about the products the vendor had delivered and were in use in the field. The HP 3000 slipped out of the session list at HP Discover around 2010, and now the VMS platform hasn't qualified for as much time as The Machine. The conference does gather a nice sheaf of customers to go along with a thicket of HP staff. Even before the show was renamed from the HP Tech Forum, it had tilted toward sales-to-customer events with more than a few NDAs to keep out the riff-raff.

HP Innovation Brought to Life in Film will tell attendees they can "Get a glimpse into some of the revolutionary technologies HP is tackling that address the most complex challenges and opportunities for our customers and our society in the next decade and beyond." There's not much point in setting out session times for an hour on something like improving performance of an HP-specific database, because by now such a thing has dropped off HP's discovery map. That's 20th Century computing, anyway.

But despite the habit of eschewing topics like VMS, MPE, and other HP legacy creations, the company hasn't lost its taste for invention altogether. A panel of HP Labs researchers will offer "a closer look at what it takes to make The Machine change everything we know about computing. This radical new approach will fuse memory and storage, flatten data hierarchies, bring processing closer to data, embed security throughout the hardware and software stacks and enable management of the system at scale."

There was a time when HP's chalk talk about such a product would only have emerged when the product shipped, or at least was priced. When the first HP 3000 Spectrum systems -- the PA-RISC emulated by Charon -- slipped into release, the HP Journal ran tech articles on how they were breaking ground. Aiming at a high bar like "changing everything we know about computing" sounds a lot like a concept film of the 1980s or 1990s HP. Great fun, but perhaps not as immediately useful as the networking within a SIG Forum. At least HP-UX still has that much to count upon in two weeks' time.

09:37 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 19, 2015

MANMAN migrations posed by new player

Bullard hatA new resource has begun to scout the MANMAN customer base, hoping to pose the potential for migrating off the venerable ERP solution. Merino Consulting Services contacted us to try to survey the field of MANMAN users that Merino might try to serve. Terry Floyd of The Support Group and Terri Glendon Lanza of Ask Terri know a good deal more about who's still running MANMAN on a 3000 today. The list used to include Rockwell Collins, E.D. Bullard (makers of the iconic three-ridge construction hats) and semiconductor test maker Delta Design.

MANMAN has been in place for decades at places like Delta Design, which installed the ERP suite in 1995.

Merino would like to help migrations off of MANMAN, something that's been an active mission in your community for more than 20 years, according to Floyd. We're scheduled to hear more from Merino next week about what they'll bring to an MPE user in the way of environment expertise during a migration.

Even among the companies that use homesteader solutions for manufacturers, there's a sense that a long-term ERP plan will involve Windows rather than MPE. The length of that term varies, of course, depending on the outlook for the current software in place. Customization keeps MPE systems in charge at companies very small and some large ones (albeit in small spots at those giants, like Boeing.)

Moving a 3000 installation away from MANMAN -- first created in the 1970s and after five ownership changes, still serving some manufacturers -- is a skill at The Support Group's Entsgo group. In that TSG practice, the company has already used the ERP suite from IFS to replace the MANMAN.

Windows-centric replacement solutions include Microsoft Dynamics GP. The suite has a wide range of modules to cover all the needs of a company using a 3000. Like any replace-to-migrate strategy, there's a lot of customized business logic to carry forward.

TSG's Floyd said that Microsoft solution is battle-tested.

Several companies have converted from MANMAN to MS Dynamics, including one company in SoCal; that was 10 years ago. It's a fairly mature product by now, and had some great features when I checked it out way back when.

Windows used to be an anathema to the 3000 IT director, at least when it was considered as an enterprise-grade solution. Those days are long gone -- just as vanished as the sketchy beginnings of MPE itself, from its earliest days, and then again when it became a 32-bit OS in the late 1980s.

So it makes sense that someone who knows the genuine article in ERP, MANMAN, could have a positive review of a Windows replacement -- whether it's Microsoft's Dynamics, or IFS. Floyd said

There are dozens of viable ERP alternatives now (some industry specific, but many general purpose for all types of manufacturers.) There used to be hundreds. MS Dynamics is not as good as IFS, but choosing Microsoft now is considered as safe as choosing IBM was in the early 1980's. And at least you know they won't get bought by [former MANMAN owner] Computer Associates :)   

Microsoft bought several ERP packages from Europe (one big one from Denmark, as I recall) and merged them together about 2002. They didn't write [that app suite] but they certainly have a viable product and a sizable user base, after this many years into it.

05:43 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2015

Portfolios That Make a Path to the Future

Wednesday afternoon (2 PM Eastern time, US) MB Foster is educating IT managers on the business case for using Application Portfolio Management. (Register here for the free event.) APM has gained a lot of traction in boardrooms and the places where analyst reports score points.

Path to FutureGartner's researchers report that "Application portfolio management is critical to understanding and managing the 40-80 percent of IT budgets devoted to maintaining and enhancing software." HP 3000 managers, and especially those who are on the move to a new computing path, understand how much of their work has always gone into extending and repairing apps that make a difference. 

Foster's team says that APM "changes the way you manage IT assets. Without proper visibility, IT executives can never be sure that they are investing appropriately by acquiring enhancing or retiring, the right application at the right time. Without visibility, APM is simply impossible without an ongoing view of IT investments."

In this Wednesday's webinar, Birket Foster will highlight the business case for APM, and outline "where you should start, mapping your portfolio, building a score card, examining business and technical fit, understanding benefit and risks and other subject related content." Foster's been talking about APM for more than 10 years, just about the whole time 3000 migrations have been in play.

APM can begin by delivering a means to increase the visibility of HP 3000 apps. And if that MPE visibility leads to a more energized transition plan — because now the executive management sees how vital the MPE/iX application is to meeting company goals — that's a good thing as well.

Retiring out with the HP 3000 has been an option for some managers. But for many others, outlasting the server is becoming a genuine challenge. Leaving a legacy as an IT pro, instead of just the 3000 expert, is a way to revitalize a career.

You have to know how to treat applications as assets, to frame software as if it's as essential as cash on hand for a company. APM doesn't get cited much by the 3000 manager who's worked as a technologist to deliver value to a company. This is the business side of business computing. Learning more about that side gives a manager a greater skill set. Best of all, these practices make it easier to justify IT acquisition and expansion and yes, even a migration with its profound expenses.

Foster says that IT organizations and technology leaders are missing out on an opportunity to reduce IT costs, optimize applications, and deliver value back to the business. "With a bottom-up analysis for top-down decisions, IT departments move from an unclear inventory of applications with limited understanding of each, to a defined inventory with actionable information on the business value and technical condition of each application."

IT wants executive management to understand the condition of applications, built, bought, or accumulated through M&A, as well as how the apps affect and grow the business, and how they affect the bottom line and future budgets. APM can show what skills are required to manage and maintain the portfolio, and where succession planning plays a role.

 

08:03 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2015

SSDs in use on 3000s: Virtualized by now

Earlier this week, a 3000 devotee and technician asked if anyone was using solid state disc (SSD) on HP 3000s in place of the aging SCSI drives in most servers. "It sounds like a great concept," said Jon Jonston, who's working on a preservation project for the HP Computer Museum.

We are just looking to restore images onto a disc for demo purposes. So, even powered down life is not important, but cost is. We have found that IDE->CF works great as a hard disc replacement in old DOS PCs. SCSI2SD is a great low-cost solution (for Apple), but doesn't work with HP. We are looking for a low-cost, single disc SSD for HP 3000 computers.

SSD DriveAfter one newsgroup user compared putting SSDs in 3000s to a McLaren racing engine in an SUV, a more plausible solution emerged: using SSDs to support a virtualized 3000 running on an Intel-based PC. "You could house your 3000 in a Stromasys emulator running on a Linux box with VMware," said Gilles Schipper, "employing as many SATA SSD disks as you want on your host."

But there was a time in another May when SSDs running native in HP's 3000 hardware was a possibility worth investigating.

It was almost six years ago, and the Charon emulator was not yet announced. Extending the future of the HP hardware was more of a necessity for a homesteading user. Stan Sieler of Allegro said he'd be looking into what would be needed to bring solid state storage to MPE.

"I'm thinking about SSD and SATA/SCSI adapters to speed up the 'obsolete' -- but still world's-best -- business computer, the HP 3000," Sieler said in May of 2009. "I'm hoping to do some tests in the near future."

Sieler said that those SATA/SCSI adapters would be a crucial part of putting SSD on its MPE feet. "Few SSD drives have SCSI interfaces... hence the SATA/SCSI adapter component," he said. "An SSD with a SCSI interface would look completely like an SCSI disk drive."

This kind of design, to mimic the SCSI interface, would've helped to avoid using the SCSI Pass-Through code HP engineered during 2007. The community still hasn't heard reports of how the pass-through works, and HP said that employing it is "not for the faint of heart."

A computer museum would need to ensure that old hardware could be represented in its original form. An IT shop preserving MPE applications, instead of the platform -- not so much. A virtualized 3000 will do. Craig Lalley checked in to report that his Stromasys Charon installation runs from an SSD.

12:58 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 14, 2015

TBT: The Day that HP's 3000 Division Died

On a day in May 13 years ago, Hewlett-Packard took the designation of "division" out of its HP 3000 business. And so that summer started the first era in 36 years when the 3000 and MPE had no dedicated company unit or general manager to call its own. Its final GM believed selling 3000s was not his exclusive focus.

Winston2002-JanOnly six months before the 3000 left the org chart, the vendor announced the term of its swan song for the system. But through the early months of 2002, there was still a Commercial Systems Division -- CSY in the HP naming conventions -- to issue software, business decisions, and pronouncements about the future. General Manager Winston Prather ended that era as he stepped away from the GM post. (The photo at left comes from the Chicago HP World, where HP told customers nothing about a 3000 pullout announced 90 days later.) 

As 2002 began, we asked Prather what he saw in the future for CSY as an HP unit and MPE as a computing environment. Asked if he'd be the last 3000 division manager, Prather said, "Gosh, I don’t know. Part of me wants to say ‘I hope so.’ But there’s a negative sound to that, too." He sounded positive that MPE users would outlast the vendor's lifespan, unless HP planned to be around longer than forever.

Here’s the bottom line: MPE will be around forever. And we want to help that. This is in no way HP trying to kill MPE. We will explore and look at all the different options to enable what I’d call the afterlife — or at least the after-HP life, beyond 2006.

Winston My DecisionPrather was stepping away from a 3000 whose futures he claimed to have curtailed with a personal decision. "It was my decision," he told a user group publication, adding that the server had stopped being strategic to its owners and users. He told us that as GM it wasn't his job to sell 3000s -- just to deliver the right server to the customer from HP's many choices. Later that year he ended HP's 3000 life. He'd been doubling as a GM for another HP division for more than a year by the time HP took CSY off its org chart. And so the community began an eight-year period of referring to a Virtual CSY, and the vCSY nickname earned a place in user group communications.

Prather's vision of 2006 was something that would change, too. 2006 was the first of five more years with a virtual CSY that was impacting real customers. The division folded up without a dedicated marketing manager, after Christine Martino left for a "carrier-grade Linux division" being called TSY. In the clearer focus we have 13 years later, a few things are certain.

1. Prather was a GM of that TSY while HP was deciding the fate of his HP 3000.

2. Martino left to be GM of that TSY after she announced the plans to cut HP's 3000 operations off.

3. HP's High Performance Computing unit then became Prather's next GM post. He vacated a job that Martino took over, while HP ended the need for a 3000 general manager. The term general manager didn't sit well with Prather when asking him about job titles in 2002.

"Just think of us as heads of our organizations, for now," he said, reflecting a bit of work still to be done on HP's internal reorganization. He said Dave Wilde is "the go-to guy" for the 3000 community from here on, making the decisions on things like HP's licensing policies beyond 2003 and when HP will start working with OpenMPE to make a hardware emulator MPE license possible. Wilde had been leading the lengthy HP investigations on OpenMPE development, including meetings with the OpenMPE board members at the recent Solutions Symposium.

As for the employees in CSY, Prather said that "not one employee is doing anything different" as of mid-May, with 3000 offices still in place in California and Bangalore, India and no head count reductions underway. Prather couldn't promise that 3000 staff in HP wouldn't become part of the expected 15,000 layoffs resulting from the Compaq merger. He didn't think that CSY has ceased to exist, except in the sense that it's no longer an HP division.

"As far as a group of people dedicated to the 3000, it has not ceased to exist," Prather said. The reorganization "is a focus on employees, and trying to do the right thing by them to ensure their long-term career path. It sets us up to meet customers' needs in the long run. We needed our marketing teams and R&D teams to stick around for many years. Having them in a silo-ed organization, where they continued to be concerned about not being needed, caused retention problems."

Despite some bonuses to stay, tech staff with 15-25 years of experience departed CSY during the first year there was no more so-named division. Those layoffs had some impact on a small, veteran unit. Recently there's been some reexamination of what date these executives in HP were certain there would be no more releases of 3000s and software. The review is tied to the perception left in customers' minds and hearts after that Chicago show of 2001. Things were going to be okay -- and then they were not.

But the expiration date of the 3000's division is not in doubt. Prather and Wilde have now both retired from HP. Martino now works at Intuit. Her LinkedIn profile has a work history that only begins after she left the 3000 division. The date of ending that effort is less certain.

08:49 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 13, 2015

Deciding Which Cloud Cabin To Ride

Trends in IT management are pushing server management into co-located and cloud-based service providers. If a path toward migration seems to lead toward services rather than servers, there are some developments to note while choosing a place to relocate the apps on critical servers.

Roller cabinAmazon is the leader in the cloud computing space with its AWS business. But just until recently, the world didn't know specifics of how well AWS was earning. It turns out that cloud services are one of the few Amazon products making a generous profit. And the existence of profits goes a long way toward protecting the future of any product or service. The 3000 is supposed to have crossed over from profitable to not so during the period after Y2K.

Once the system's projected revenue line dipped below the projected expense line, at that point you could say even those inside HP considered MPE servers a dead product. It didn't happen until after that Year 2000 bubble, though. The HP 3000 owner, having experienced this, will be wary of any single point of solution failure.

AWS is well above such a line. Other companies, such as HP, are not breaking out their cloud business results. But HP is making a point of promoting its latest HP Discover conference around the cloud concept. You can even ride in a cloud, the vendor promises, next month in Vegas.

AWS owned more than 25 percent of the cloud infrastructure revenues during 2014, according to the Synergy Research Group. It's such a dominant share that the closest competitor, Microsoft, has only 10 percent, and IBM has 7. Rackspace, a preferred solution for the Charon virtual 3000 solution, comes in at 3 percent. HP's at under 1 percent, one of a host of companies who make up almost half of what's left over.

How big is cloud at AWS? Amazon said it had revenue of $1.57 billion during the first three months of the year. The company said its operating income from AWS was $265 million. Nothing that HP builds returns that kind of profit, except ink and paper.

High Roller CabinBut at the Discover show in Las Vegas, attendees can win "a VIP ride in the cloud on the High Roller with Connect and Ingram Micro on June 2, 2015. Join us as we journey 550 feet into the cloud over the beautiful Las Vegas landscape while networking and enjoying the ride."

Amazon is going to sell more than $5 billion in cloud services this year, by the company's reports. HP's still calling cloud computing "the new style of IT," and the strategy is pretty new to the IT director who's been managing local and networked servers for several decades. The Hewlett-Packard view from the clouds will include a Special Interest Group meeting for cloud computing during the June 2-4 show.

Hewlett-Packard has announced that it will spend $1 billion by the end of next year to help its customers build private cloud computing. Private clouds will need security, and they'll begin to behave more like the HP 3000 world everybody knows: management of internal resources. The difference will reside in a standard open source stack, OpenStack. It's not aimed at midsize or smaller firms. But aiding OpenStack might help open some minds about why clouds can be simple to build, as well as feature-rich.

05:31 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 12, 2015

3000 sites of some size still checking in

Last week we were on the hunt for HP 3000 customers of some size. These are organizations that are big enough to be publicly traded. The distinction can be important to any customer who wants to retain their HP 3000 apps after a merger as part of an enterprise-wide portfolio.

Portfolio ManagementA note here on portfolios: they're not just for publicly traded securities. Applications can be managed, portfolio-style. MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster has shared several lessons with the 3000 community on how Application Portfolio Management practices keep a company prepared for discussions about keeping apps, no matter what environment hosts them. The right time to migrate is a question that APM data can answer for any CIOs who are asking about MPE apps.

Sees largest lollipopAs for the 3000 sites of size, three more have checked in. The largest line of candy shops in the US, an online resource for IT products, and a worldwide nutrition company are all current 3000 sites. They all have corporate ownership which must bear the burden of shareholder scrutiny.

The largest candy shop company in the US is See's Candies. Founded in 1921, See's operates more than 200 stores across this country, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, plus it counts on online sales. See's is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire's iconic founder Warren Buffett called See's "the prototype of a dream business." Buffett certainly knows nothing of See's IT choices, but his managers surely do. He commented on See's dreamy business in a book published in 2012 — more than a decade after HP's plans for the 3000 dried up.

(This is the second Berkshire Hathaway 3000-using company we've discovered. Cerro Wire has been a 3000 site for years and is also part of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies.)

Tiger Direct is an operation of the Systemax Corporation, traded on the NYSE. The parent corporation had revenues overall exceeding $3 billion for the current fiscal year. Tiger was acquired and integrated into the corporate IT of Systemax in 1996, the same year the TigerDirect.com website was launched. Like See's, Tiger Direct sells via web outlets directly to customers.

Shaklee manufactures and distributes natural nutrition supplements, weight-management products, beauty products, and household products. Its $150 million in yearly revenues come from operations in the US, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, and Japan; the company is traded on the Japan Stock Exchange.

All three of these companies sell to consumers using e-commerce packages. High volumes of transactions are keeping 3000s busy in these shops. The stability of legacy solutions, and the design to manage thousands of sales per hour, are making these companies' success a matter of public record. 

If you know of other publicly traded corporations still using HP 3000s, let us hear about it.

01:22 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 11, 2015

Who'd ever know where everyone would go?

DeparturesBusiness practices have changed enough over the last decade that even history can't teach us much. When HP dropped its 3000 practices, we all cared about environments and platforms, which OS supported the apps we wanted, and which system maker we could count upon. Then HP embraced Windows to puff itself up, and no platform the vendor created would be as strategic again.

One old story was that customers didn't want to invest in an HP product that was called strategic during an HP presentation. It could easily be the kiss of death. The genuinely strategic parts of the 3000, like IMAGE, never needed that blessing. And sure enough, only about a year after Carly Fiorina anointed the 3000 as a strategic product, HP was pushing it aside.

Fiorina is on my mind today because of a figure related to the destination for 3000 migrations. I told a Computerworld reporter who called about Fiorina last week that I believed that 80 percent of the installed base that left after 2001 didn't land on an HP platform. Long-term, maybe not a good choice.

Not so fast, I heard from a retiring HP employee. My 80 percent was way overstated, because HP tracked where people were going. Nowhere near that percent were leaving HP altogether. 

Sure, to the extent anybody could track moves in a base where HP didn't know more than two-thirds of the customers by the late '90s. "Hey, lots of them are headed to HP-UX. We're working with so many." I'm reminded of the cheery lab reports delivered about MPE XL stability during 1985 or so. Then a one-year delay, while lab management dealt with the less-attractive realities. Whenever the real answer is not popular, effort spent to confirm it will only make you correct. What would anyone in HP do with knowledge that the migration push was separating 3000 sites from HP altogether? HP wouldn't have changed its course.

On to that percentage figure. It didn't come from speculation, just a third-party report of an HP executive's explanation.

In the fall of 2011, Dr. Robert Boers, CTO of Stromasys, told a room of 3000 fans and developers that he wished HP been able support or fund an emulator product earlier than 2009."

In fact, HP eventually wished this at some more executive level than the R&D lab. Boers told the 2011 crowd that HP approached him to wish he'd revive the PA-RISC emulator project that HP's IP unit had roadblocked. ("Give you lab access to trade-secret boot up routines? What for?")

Here's why. By 2009, Boers said, "HP told us that more than much more than half of the systems had been replaced with a non-HP platform." Running Windows on HP ProLiant servers doesn't count for much; not when Dell or Lenovo can sweep in and replace those ProLiants.

Perhaps Boers' story was just a tale HP was telling to get a developer to restart a project that had already cost a pile of money. Or maybe Boers was making it up. But since HP has been and always will be full of people who "can't say more," it's nigh-impossible to fact-check. With everybody having an incomplete picture, then a tale like 80 percent either is "speculative fiction" or "sounds good to me."

"I just never heard many people saying anything other than 'we're leaving for Windows, or Linux,' " Vladimir Volokh told me this afternoon. VEsoft's founder covered a lot of ground, literally, visiting 3000 customers for more than 15 years.

I can retreat back to 66 percent lost customers, but that doesn't change the bigger point. Eliminating HP's futures for the 3000 didn't deliver much to most of the community, except migrations to manage.

Here's another question nobody can answer for certain. If HP in 1999 chose Ann Livermore, the runner-up for Carly's CEO job and someone who knew the 3000 personally, would the system get the ax from HP's futures? Maybe puffing HP up with a merger into low-profit revenues would not have been Livermore's strategy. I can speculate, but the outcome that changed 3000 lives is anything but fiction.

06:47 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 08, 2015

Wiping An MPE Past Clean: Tools and Tips

The 3000 newsgroup readers got a query this week that's fit for our migrating epoch. "It's the end of an era, and we're going to dispose of the HP 3000," said Krikok Gullekian. "After deleting all of the file, is there a way to wipe out the operating system?"

Wiping CleanSuch wipe-outs are the closing notes of the migration's siren song. Nobody should leave evidence behind of business data, even if that 3000 is going out to a tech recycle house. A piece of software, a classic part of hardware, and even wry humor have been offered to meet the wipe-out request.

Donna Hofmeister of Allegro Consultants pointed to WipeDisk, a program that's hosted on the computer that will no longer know its own HPCPUNAME once the software finishes its job. It will sanitize an MPE/iX disk drive. (Versions for MPE/V, HP-UXMac OS X and Linux are also available.)

"You install WipeDisk on your target system and run it when you're really, really really sure you're ready to say good-bye to your old friend," she said.

It's not complete enough just to run MPE's VOLUTIL>FORMATVOL command, Allegro notes on the product's webpage. "You cannot count on VOLUTIL>FORMATVOL to ‘erase’ a disk. It might, or might not, depending upon the disk vendor’s implementation of the device firmware."

Hardware to fully erase the disks magnetically was also offered as a solution. Then there was the reference to the Hewlett-Packard of the era of this month's new Presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina.

After a few suggestions to take a hammer, chain saw, or wood chipper to the drives, Denys Beauchemin pointed managers at the everlasting legacy of magnetic degaussing. "I would think that degaussing the disk drives, or simply taking the disk drives out and destroying them separately, would be the most secure method, if you have any concerns with anyone ever being able to read from these disks. Seems a shame to destroy good hardware, though."

Alan Yeo of ScreenJet got the sharpest word in, during a week when 3000 users began commenting on their ardor for Fiorina's candidacy. To wipe out MPE, Yeo said, "just leave it in the hands of HP. They started a fairly good job in November of 2001."

Fiorina probably never knew of the server, but it was on her watch HP pulled its plug. The vendor failed to wipe out MPE altogether, though. Only 2028 will do that, and even that date might not be able to complete the wipeout.

"You're asking advice on committing a sin," added Michel Adam, Systems Analyst for Canada's Government of the Northwest Territories.

08:01 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 07, 2015

Whether the End of 2027 is MPE's End, Too

We've just reported on a company that's a member of the S&P 500 and is using HP 3000s. It also plans to keep one of them running up to 2023, only about four years away from the CALENDAR reset which the operating system will do at the end of 2027. But will that be the end of MPE's lifespan?

The CALENDAR intrinsic that may block HP 3000 use in 2028 has been described as a bug. On the first day of that year, dates will not be represented accurately. Some in your community consider that year's New Year's Day, less than 13 years from now, as the 3000's final barrier. But it depends on how you look at it -- as a veteran, or a voyager.

VladimirNov2010A voyager might see CALENDAR as a deadline for departure. This is one part of MPE that was designed in the 1970s, a period when HP had just scrapped a 32-bit release of the 3000's first OS. And just like the Y2K date design, HP engineers never figured their server's OS had any shot of working by the 21st Century -- let alone 2027. But VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says, "It's difficult to predict anything, especially the future." An IT pro who's planning to depart the 3000 believes CALENDAR is a bug, but that's not how Vladimir sees it.

"This is not a bug, really," he said. "It's a limitation. The end of 2027 date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." This is a man who defines the term veteran, the kind of professionals who had to work inside 4K memory spaces to build 3000 programs. Limited and expensive resources like memory and disc were supposed to be extended with newer computers. "Every analyst told us a computer would live five years, at most," Vladimir said.

But as a veteran, you've now come to see the day when MPE's lifespan is reaching eight times that prediction. The veteran who chooses to see CALENDAR as a limitation can refer to HP's own lab response. Engineers during the '90s built HPCALENDAR to start extending the 3000's date limits.

The HP 3000's date intrinsics will outlast those in Unix, so long as a program uses HPCALENDAR. HP advised its 3000 customers in 2008 to begin using it on HP 3000s. HPCALENDAR harks back to version 5.5 of MPE/iX. Its power lies in the 3000 for use by programmers who want accurate dates beyond 2038 (the limit in Unix) for application files.

Lifting the limits in application date handling -- that's one level of engineering skill. Extending the operating system limits beyond the 16-bit CALENDAR is a task with a greater challenge. It doesn't mean that it cannot be done. What matters is how healthy the 3000's best experts will be in 10 years or so. Vladimir says he'll be younger than 90 by then. Almost everyone in today's community will be even younger. And isn't 70 the new 60? It will matter when the 3000 needs the last set of bits to move from 16 to 32.

There's a old joke about software shortcomings being called features, rather than a bugs. Veterans learn to call them limitations and look for ways to overcome these aging designs. Everything is aging, even something as omnipresent at Windows XP. It's a fact that XP is dying, and the 3000 is dying. Well yes, says Vladimir. He tells his hundreds of customers who he visits, "We are all dying. But slowly."

Looking at the CALENDAR intrinsic explains its hold on the 3000's far future. But consider that 2028 is not so far away that engineers aren't already conceiving technology for that year. Volkswagen has a concept video about a VW that runs in 2028.

Before that future, though, there's always history. When MPE was created in 1970, it started as a project called Omega. The miracle of this engineering was its use of 32-bit computing, still a novelty at the time. But when HP canceled Omega in favor of a 16-bit 3000 -- a management choice that prompted black armbands among HP staff -- it sealed the server into a 57-year period of service.

That's because, as Vladimir reminded us, 16-bit 3000s left only enough intrinsic room for 127 years of accurate dates. The intrinsic CALENDAR, written for the eldest MPE Segmented Library (SL), uses only 7 bits to describe which year is in effect. That delivers a maximum number of 127 years which you can express, and MPE was built with 1900 as its base for dates.

From HP's Intrinsics Manual:

CALENDAR
date

16-bit unsigned integer
(assigned functional return)
Returns the calendar date in the following format:
Bits Value/Meaning
7:9
Day of year
0:7
Year since 1900

HP only allotted 7 bits to describe the year for MPE. Who'd expect that the OS would have a lifespan of more than 50 years? Someone who figured newer and better tools would take over completely by then. It's commonplace to believe in the equivalent of flying cars -- Volkswagen's 2028 model concepts are on the Web, and up in YouTube in a video. (Enjoy the Apple Watch-like commands at the 1:45 mark that show how to customize the VW Ego's exterior.)

Maybe cars will fly in some places, maybe not in others. Oh, but for that one extra bit. HP ordered 16 extra through HPCALENDAR in the 1990s, just too late to influence the heart of MPE.

While working in the realm of those original 16-bit MPE intrinsics, "You cannot make less than 9 bits for the date of the year," Vladimir said. "That would be less than 365 days. So that leaves us 7 bits to express the year."

The '90s HPCALENDAR, reaching into the new elbow room of 32 bits, can use as many as 23 bits for the year. That intrinsic will cover 8 million years, even more. HPCALENDAR is available in Native Mode MPE, and it remains the best choice for any new work done on a 3000's applications.

But MPE's existing intrinsics provide the barrier here: the oldest are in Segmented Library (SL) -- and the newer HPCALENDAR is in Native Library (NL). And the only companies with any chance of adjusting the 3000's dates into 2028 and beyond are those which have insight into MPE/iX source. Then there's knowing what to do with it. They must get into the MPE source and recompile it to use HPCALENDAR.

For complete reference, here's the manual page for HPCALENDAR:

NM callable only.

This intrinsic returns the date in the supported
date type code 4 listed in the table, 
“Supported Date Formats.”
Syntax

I32

   date := HPCALENDAR;

Operation Notes

Where date is the 32-bit unsigned integer
(assigned functional return). This returns the
calendar date in the following format:

Bits Value/Meaning

23:9 Day of year

0:23 Year since 1900

Dates don't vex MPEX, Vladimir reminded us. It can do operations with DATE. "If you have MPEX, and who doesn’t," he says, "DATETOCALENDAR is a function in MPEX."

Vladimir also talks, on his return from consulting trips to 3000 sites, about the level of 3000 knowledge he sees in even long-time users. Management relies on the HP guys to tell them what’s up, and the HP guys don’t know.

"There are all kinds of excuses not to know what you’re doing," he says. He tells of his philosophy about learning. You draw a circle to represent what you know. "Inside the circle is what you know, outside is what you don’t know. You go along the circumference. Only by going along there can you see what you don’t know. So you learn, and you draw a bigger circle, a bigger circumference. The more you know, the more you know what you don’t know."

In converse, consider the smallest circle of knowledge, just a point. Vladimir adds, "When you know nothing, you think you know everything."

No one knows who will be working in the years near 2028 on HP 3000s. But in an era where Amiga computer games can be played on iPhones -- and companies now earn money for such a creation -- it's easy to say we don't know who will break this 2028 barrier. And they might be driving a car called a Volkswagen, and maybe even using a computer called the 3000, and neither will resemble what we know today.

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

May 06, 2015

Big companies still use the HP 3000

SkyscrapersFrom time to time, HP 3000 managers need specifics on the community's use of the 3000. Who's out there of any size who's devoted to making MPE a realistic 2015 business tool? As it turns out, there's an array of current customers who are large enough to trade on the stock market, even while they use an operating environment first booted up before their companies went public.

Size of company is one measure of the 3000's success over all of those decades. Another way CIOs try to gauge the staying power of a server that doesn't have vendor support is to see how many sites count MPE as an essential corporate business tool. This census-style of measure won't impress anybody in an era where Windows Server powers hundreds of thousands of businesses. (Windows Server customers are facing a migration this year, though, one that's not voluntary anymore.) Forced to an estimate, we'd say there are 2,500 HP 3000s running around the world, with about half as many customers.

But this is a computer still in regular use by publicly-traded companies. Several 3000s run at 3M, where they'll be part of the IT environment for a few more years. Manufacturing and ERP are the usual jobs for long-term, large-company MPE systems. But some sites are using the servers for e-commerce, for distribution, and for general finance operations.

One of the higher-profile organizations using the server is AMETEK, a company which is part of the S&P 500. Two divisions run MANMAN on their 3000s. At last report, one of these systems isn't going to power down until 2023 -- just four years before MPE date-management will start to report the last century's first two digits.

Another public site is Measurement Specialties. About a dozen systems are running in the US and in China at a company that was traded as MEAS before it was acquired by TE Connectivity (TEL) last year. 

As we've reported in the past, Cerro Wire has been a 3000 site for many years. Cerro is part of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies.

This brief and incomplete list of 3000 users would not be complete with mentioning Boeing Corporation. Large companies such as these might only use a few 3000s with legacy applications, but a big organization also has a serious mission to contain costs. The expense of supporting a 3000 by an independent company -- for example, Pivital Solutions, an all-3000 provider -- is lower than it ever was from Hewlett-Packard.

Migration is an inevitable choice for a company that looks out over the next 20 years, unless clever technology will resolve that 2027 date problem. But with the rise of the virtual 3000 hardware from Stromasys, not even the age of disk drives will force a transition until then.

The 3000 is also in use by the US Army, an organization that's about as public as any can get.

03:25 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 05, 2015

When Migrations Are Easy Replacements

PregancyOne day ago Computerworld asked me whether I thought Hewlett-Packard had done the right thing about HP 3000 futures. The deed that changed most of the lives in the 3000 community happened long ago, but those 13-plus years have been put in current focus by the candidacy of the CEO at the time of the 3000 exit plan. Carly Fiorina wants to be America's next president. Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau, having covered 3000 events for close to two decades, knew there would be some permanent marks here from that dark decision of 2001.

But there are people who have come to accept and even embrace the change forced upon customers and suppliers. These are sharp and savvy people who've made changes themselves in the wake of the end of HP's 3000 business. Most of them have extended their skills or product line or service offerings. All of that came at a cost, the risk that entrepreneurs take in business. 

Migrations made business in this market too, just like the Y2K deadline lifted a lot of COBOL experts' revenue reports for 1996-2000. There's one insidious angle to that "new business from HP changes" strategy, though. It's the idea that the HP 3000 was easier to replace than other enterprise systems because it was general purpose and transaction-based.

That's a label that also fits the Digital VMS line as well as IBM's Series i (AS/400). IBM had the good sense not to walk away from its midrange servers, and HP decided to protect a larger customer base in the VMS systems (larger than the MPE base by a factor of 10). But the 3000 was not targeted because of any ease of replacement. "VMS and MPE were general purpose, transaction systems that were much more easily replaceable," the assertion goes, more easy than replacing something like the NonStop fault-tolerant environment.

Using that line of thinking, HP's Unix is up for the next cut, now that VMS has been ushered out of HP's long-term enterprise futures. Nobody who's invested in VMS, MPE, or HP-UX wants to hear that their general purpose computer would lead to a costly long-term choice. It was never about a customer's choice. This was always all about business and HP's hard choices — and so that's why Computerworld wanted to know how your community was adding up the cost, now that Carly's will begin taxing political credibility.

Relative ease of migration is something like being a little pregnant. The change was never going to be easy or without pain. At the end of the migration process a customer has something new, something that looks a little bit like its predecessor. But the ideas of "easily replaceable" and MPE exits won't ever fit together. At least not in the shops of customers. I'm sure these 3000s were easily replaced in PowerPoint slides and white papers, though.

As proof of that complexity, consider all of those migrations still being assisted by 3000 experts. Because nothing of the nature of MPE is easily replaceable. Thibodeau wrote as much.

Another place for clues to Fiorina's leadership could be the decisions around the HP e3000, a mid-range system that was widely regarded for its durability and reliability. To the shock of users, HP in 2001 announced that the HP e3000 was being discontinued.

It was not the right decision, said Ron Seybold, who heads The 3000 Newswire. "'If it isn't growing, then it's going' were her marching orders after buying Compaq," said Seybold. He argued that the system was small, but profitable. In his mind, that decision proved "she wasn't looking any farther ahead than tomorrow's earnings reports."

No, it's not a direct line between the departure of 3000 futures and the lingering malaise of HP's fortunes. But the 3000 represented a trend away from R&D and HP inventions, even while Fiorina ironically installed the word "invent" under a new HP logo. Fiorina made her HP mission about the short-term, not long-term strengths.

The demise of invention resulted in a massive percentage of the 3000 base leaving for non-HP products. That kind of migration eliminated HP's messy problem of taking care of so many enterprise businesses. About a decade or so after 3000s stopped rolling off the HP assembly lines, HP is splitting off the mess that Carly cobbled together and focusing on -- wait for it -- enterprise computing. 

It's important to note that Fiorina didn't sign the 3000 death notice. There's a good chance that until her political operatives read that Computerworld story, she didn't even know the 3000 made an HP exit. The last time she was seen acknowledging the 3000, she'd taped a promise to preserve it in HP's plans. The video got its only airing at an Interex meeting in the year 2000. The Compaq deal was already in play by then.

For those who didn't follow, the genuine ax-swinger of the 3000's demise was Winston Prather -- who moved to HP NonStop division in fairly short order after he opened the scuttle-hatches at CSY. Having executed HP's exit, he seemed to have atoned by preserving NonStop. It's probably because there's nothing else out there that does what that Tandem-created product does so well.

And so the irony is that the best hope for a surviving HP-built environment will come from a product HP did not create. Migrations from NonStop are thought to be nearly impossible. That thought is one protection from believing their replacement is easy.

10:47 PM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 04, 2015

Candidate Carly looms like 3000 migrations

Carly on the Trail3000 community pundits and veterans will say Hewlett-Packard's pushing the server off its price lists was inevitable. Today that migration slog seems to hold the same charms as the just-announced candidacy of the HP CEO during that era: Carly Fiorina.

Announcing her run for the presidency will assure Fiorina of much attention, from the requisite Secret Service detail to a raft of coverage about being a female candidate running against another inevitability, Hillary Clinton. The attention will continue to mount upon her term at the HP helm, though, a period that even her fellow Republicans struggle to present as a success.

The similarities between government politics and tech business politics are now in the spotlight, though. Computerworld was writing a story about the intersection today.

Regarding the US presidency, citizens and voters can't go back for more Barack Obama. The 3000 owners couldn't go back for more servers after HP stopped making the computers in 2003, either. Everybody must move on from our current president, just like Fiorina's HP forced the 3000 owners to move away. So very many have moved. But so very few are using any HP product to replace their 3000 operations.

Showing off the hubris that would be echoed in her other attempts, first business and then political, Fiorina's HP alleged in 2002 that more than 4 of 5 customers would be off MPE within four years. Counting the unfinished or un-funded migration projects, close to 4 in 5 customers remained on MPE and the 3000 when that four-year-deadline rolled past. It was more complicated to curtail 3000 computing, just like it'll be complicated for Fiorina to paint her 5-plus HP years as a success.

But that doesn't mean she won't try. However, as the San Jose Mercury News wrote in an editorial, “She takes the Silicon Valley motto that it’s ‘OK to fail’ a tad too literally.” The paper's calling for more women in politics – except Carly Fiorina. The 3000 community only seems to embrace Fiorina's latest political jitney romp as an alternative in the last resort to a Hillary Clinton presidency.

"Killing the HP 3000 was a small pittance compared to the disaster she did to HP," said EchoTech's Craig Lalley today. "No, I would not vote for Carly. But then again, if the two final candidates are Carly and Hillary..."

Fiorina has inspired vitriol that remains vivid a decade after she left HP. It's hate for unneeded change coming from her detractors among HP customers. "I'd hate to think of her doing to the country what she did to HP," said Ted Johnson on the 3000 newsgroup this afternoon. 

Johnson was one of many around the country today who pointed to a carlyfiorina.org web page that was filled with frowning emoticons. 30,000 of them, the number that Michael Link, assistant director of digital strategy at the Service Employees International Union, says Fiorina laid off at HP. Link adds that Fiorina said she'd only change one thing about those layoffs today: "I would've done them all faster."

A story in the Guardian said the oversight of grabbing such an obvious domain could hurt Fiorina's fundraising.

A campaign team that fails to purchase all permutations of its candidate’s name as even a potential redirected domain is not likely to have repercussions with voters directly, said Peter Shankman, a marketing expert and author of the book Zombie Loyalists. But it might be a more serious problem for backers trying to decide which horse to bankroll in the upcoming election.

“The people who are donating money will look at that as a clear warning sign,” he said. “It’s like spelling something wrong on a cover letter or a resume.”

3000 reseller John Lee said, "If I recall correctly, she didn't kill the 3000, one of her predecessors did. She could have revived it though. Instead, she bought Lear Jets and Compaq. And then tried to follow IBM and Perot Systems by forming a Services group?"

The jets were a sore thumb of a reality, but killing off the 3000 did happen on Fiorina's watch. She joined the company in the summer of 1999, when the vendor was still on the cusp of carrying the 3000 across the Y2K chasm. No killing of 3000s was done deliberately in a period when every customer was shouldering a bigger IT budget, and dot-coms were elevating customer count.

Fiorina claims that HP was a laggard in the computer industry when she arrived, but the company has the ninth-oldest web domain in the world. Where the company lagged was in low-profit computer sales. The Compaq buy-up took care of that lag, even while it drove off those tens of thousands of employees. 

Amid the reports on the reality of Fiorina's tenure — a time when HP nearly doubled its revenue but saw its profits drop by one-third, a time when she was sued by both the board of directors as well as the son of HP founder Bill Hewlett — there's some gallows humor afoot, too. HP was big on ending the 3000 while she served, after all.

"I'm ready to know this," said one 3000 manager who didn't want his name used. "When does Carly announce the End of Life for her bid?" 

08:43 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 01, 2015

Message Files Editing, DLT Autoloading Tips

What tools can I use to 'edit' a message file without destroying the file? I learned the hard way that if you’re using FCOPY to copy from a message file, it destroys the records read from the message file. Can you "COPY" a message file without destroying the records that are copied? 

François Desrochers says

You can use non-destructive reads by specifying the COPY option on a file equation as in:

FILE MSGFILE;COPY
FCOPY FROM=*MSGFILE;TO=NEWFILE

There's also an FOPEN Aoptions (bit 3:1) to enable the option.

As for editing a message file, the only safe way I know is to extract all the records into a regular flat file, edit it and load it back into the message file.

If it's easy to identify which records to remove, you can use FCOPY.

:BUILD MSG2;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;MSG
:FCOPY FROM=MSG1;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1

Extract records with "Y" in column 1. MSG1 is empty at the end of the task. To use non-destructive reads, do: 

:FILE X=MSG1;COPY
:BUILD MSG2;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;MSG
:FCOPY FROM=*X;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1

MSG1 still has all the original records. 

Use FCOPY's EXCLUDE option to extract all records except the ones with a "Y" in column 1 as in:

:FCOPY FROM=*X;TO=MSG2;SUBSET="Y",1,EXCLUDE

I have a HP Q1567A DDS5 auto loader installed on a 987. I installed and configured it on the SE port on the multifunction IO card. I can store files to it fine, but I can't get it to advance each day to the next tape. How do I do this?

Ryan Melander replies

Does it auto-eject the drive when the backup finishes? The reason I ask is I have the same configuration on my account with a DLT7000 autoloader 8/Slot. I have it set up to auto eject after each backup, moving the tape back to its original position. It then auto inserts and mounts the next tape for the next backup time.

Jack Connor notes

I generally set the DLT autoloaders for no circular, stacker mode. This goes through all the tapes in the unit and then stops.

Jim Hawkins says

DEVCTRL.MPEXL.TELESUP should work to set up the eject option. Put it inside your job to be sure that it is set correctly every time.

Gilles Schipper adds,

Specifically,

!DEVCTRL.MPEXL.TELESUP 7 EJECT=ENABLE LOAD=ONLINE

where the "7" is the LDEV number of the tape drive.

04:02 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)