November 30, 2015
Final HP fiscal result toes an enterprise start
HP reported lower sales and profits as a combined company in its final fiscal report of 2015's Q4 and FY '15. Starting with the next report, two companies named HPQ and HPE on the New York Stock Exchange will post individual reports. They'll continue to operate on the same fiscal calendar.
The Q4 that ended on Oct. 31 showed an HP still fighting headwinds, as the company financial management likes to describe falling sales and orders periods. The year had $103 billion in sales, down 7 percent. Earnings for the combined company were $2.48 on the year, off 5 percent. But the final quarter of combined operations permitted HP to toe a starting line with a 4 percent increase for Q4 profits. Profits for the fiscal year were slightly off, dropping 1 percent.
Of course, those numbers reflect a company which won't exist anymore as we've come to know it. The vendor which created the HP 3000 and now sells and supports replacement systems at migrated sites lives on in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. That company started out with stock prices behind the HP Inc company, the new entity that sells printers and PCs. But the headwinds are much stiffer there, so of late HPE has traded at higher prices than the business spun off on Nov. 1.
The two units supporting 3000 replacements held their own. A drop in Business Critical Systems sales, the home of Integrity and Itanium, continued, but at a slower rate.
Enterprise Group revenue was up 2 percent year over year with a 14.0 percent operating margin. Industry Standard Servers revenue was up 5 percent, Storage revenue was down 7 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 8 percent, Networking revenue was up 35 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 11 percent.
Enterprise Services revenue was down 9 percent year over year with an 8.2 percent operating margin. Application and Business Services revenue was down 5 percent and Infrastructure Technology Outsourcing revenue declined 11 percent.
"Overall, Hewlett Packard Enterprise is off to a very strong start," said Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman. "First and foremost, the segments that comprise HPE have now had two consecutive quarters of constant currency revenue growth and we believe we are in a strong position to deliver on our plans to grow overall in FY 16 in constant currency."
November 25, 2015
3000 community keystone Jeff Kell dies
Jeff Kell, the man who founded the keystone of 3000 help, advice and support that is the 3000-L mailing list, died on Nov. 25 of liver cancer and complications from damage induced by a diabetic coma. He'd battled that illness in hospitals and hospice since 2014. Kell was 57.
"It is a very sad day when a good wizard passes on," said coworker and colleague Richard Gambrell at the University of Tennesee at Chattanoona. "Jeff had a gentle soul and brilliant mind."
Kell was the rare IT professional who could count upon 40 years of experience running HP 3000s, developing for MPE, and especially contributing to the state of the art of networking for the server. He created the ultimate network for the 3000's community by establishing HP3000-L, a LISTSERV mailing list now populated with several hundred thousand messages that trace the business computer's rise, decline, and then revival, rife with enduring high tech value and a thread of humor and humanity.
Kell's obituary notes that he came by his passion for scuba early, having worked for a short time at the Chattanooga Aquarium where he fed the sharks. A key contributor to the development of LISTSERV, Kell was instrumental in UTC’s earning the LISTSERV 25th Anniversary plaque, which lists UTC as the 10th University to deploy LISTSERV.
Kell also served as a volunteer to chair SIG-MPE, SIG-SYSMAN, as well as a 3000 networking SIG, but it's nearly impossible to sum up the range of experience he shared. In the photo at the top of this post, he's switching off the last N-Class system at the university where he worked. Almost 40 years of MPE service flowed off those university 3000s. In the photo above, from the HP3000 Reunion, he's updating attendees on how networking protocols have changed.
In the mid-1980s he was a pioneer in developing Internet Relay Chat, creating a language that made BITNET Relay possible. Relay was the predecessor to IRC. "Jeff was the main force behind RELAY, the Bitnet message and file transfer program," Gambrell said. "It inspired the creation of IRC."
My partner Abby and I are personally indebted to Kell's work, even though we've never owned or managed a 3000. The 3000-L and its rich chest of information was my assurance, as well as insurance, that the fledgling 3000 NewsWire could grow into the world of the 3000. In the postings from that list, I saw a written, living thread of wisdom and advice from experts on "the L," as its readers came to call the mailing list and newsgroup Kell started. Countless stories of ours began as tips from the L, or connections to people posting there who knew mission-critical techniques. At one point we hired columnists to summarize the best of each month's L discussions in net.digest. In the era where the Internet and the Web rose up, Kell was a beacon for people who needed help at digital speed.
He was a humble and soft-spoken man, with a wry sense of humor, but showed passion while defending the value of technical knowledge -- especially details on a product better-loved by its users than the management at its vendor. Kell would say that all he did was set up another Listserver on a university computer, one devoted to becoming crucial to UTC's success. Chattanooga is one of the best-networked towns of its size in the world. Kell did much more than that for his community, tending to the work that helped the L blossom in the 3000's renaissance.
Kell looked forward to an HP which would value the 3000 as much as the HP 9000. In 1997 he kicked off a meeting with HP to promote a campaign called Proposition 3000: Common hardware across both HP 3000s and HP 9000s, sold from an Open Systems Division, with MPE/iX or HP-UX as an option, both with robust APIs to make ISV porting of applications to MPE/iX "as trivial as any other Unix platform."
HP should be stressing the strengths of MPE/iX, "and not its weaknesses," he said. "We don't have to be told anymore what the 3000 can't do, because a lot of the things we were told it can't do, it now can. If we take the limitations of the Posix shell and remove them, we have Proposition 3000," Kell said to HP managers. "I would encourage you to vote yes for this investment in the future."
More than 16 years later, when MPE's fate had been left to experts outside of HP's labs, Kell offered one solution on how to keep the server running beyond MPE's Jan 1, 2028 rollover dating gateway.
"Well, by 2027, we may be used to employing mm/dd/yy with a 27 on the end, and you could always go back to 1927. And the programs that only did two-digit years would be all set. Did you convert all of 'em for Y2K? Did you keep the old source?" Kell's listserver is the keeper of all 3000 lore, history, and wisdom, a database that can be searched from a Web interface -- even though he started the resource before commonplace use of what we were calling the World Wide Web.
Some might dismiss that resource as a museum of old tech. Others were using it this week, to connect newer-age tape devices to old-school 3000s. He retired the last of UTC's 3000 at the end of 2013 (in the photo above). His own help to the community members on tech specifics and the state of this year's networking will outlive him, thanks to his work setting this keystone for the community's exchange.He had a passion for scuba, and could also dive deep into the latest of networking's crises. At the 2011 HP3000 Reunion, he held forth at a luncheon about the nuances that make up a secure network in our era of hack such as 2013's Heartbleed.
Unless you've had your head in the sand, you've heard about Heartbleed. Every freaking security vendor is milking it for all it's worth. It is pretty nasty, but it's essentially "read-only" without some careful follow-up.
Most have focused on SSL/HTTPS over 443, but other services are exposed (SMTP services on 25, 465, 867; LDAP on 636; others). You can scan and it might show up the obvious ones, but local services may have been compiled against "static" SSL libraries, and be vulnerable as well.
We've cleaned up most of ours (we think, still scanning); but that just covers the server side. There are also client-side compromises possible.
And this stuff isn't theoretical, it's been proven third-party.
Lots of folks say replace your certificates, change your passwords, etc. I'd wait until the services you're changing are verified secure.
Most of the IDS/IPS/detections of the exploits are broken in various ways. STARTTLS works by negotiating a connection, establishing keys, and bouncing to an encrypted transport. IDS/IPS can't pick up heartbleed encrypted. They're after the easy pre-authenticated handshake.
It's a mess for sure. But it’s not yet safe to necessarily declare anything safe just yet.
Even on a day when most people in the US are off work, the tributes to his help and spirit have poured in. "He was smart, soft spoken, and likable," said Gilles Schipper from his support company GSA. "He will be deeply missed. My condolences to his wife Kitty and the entire family."
Ed King, whose 3000 time began in the 1990s, said "Jeff was a great guy, full of wisdom and great stories, and he gave me a chance to flex my wings with some very interesting programming assignments, which kickstarted my career. He will be missed."
Developer Rick Gilligan called him "hard working, brilliant and a great communicator." Alfredo Rego said in a salute that "The members of Jeff’s family, and all of Jeff’s friends and colleagues, know that he made a tremendous difference during his life on this Earth."
Rich Corn, creator of the ESPUL printer software for MPE, said "Jeff was always a joy to talk to. So sharp, but at the same time so humble. Jeff made you feel like friend. A true leader in our profession."
The family's obituary for Kell includes a Tribute Wall on his page on the website of the Wilson Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
Personally, I'll miss his questing spirit and marvel in his legacy. What a Master he was.
Here on this evening of Thanksgiving, we're giving thanks for the richness of a world with humble wizards like Jeff. We're taking a few days off to revere our time together. We'll see you with a fresh report on Monday, including analysis of the final fiscal results from Hewlett-Packard as a full entity, unsplit.
November 24, 2015
The Wide World of Connecting Storage
IO used to be more complex for IT. Sure, the array of choices for disk is vast today. But in the era when 3000s used to think they were lucky to get SCSI plugged into them, configuring disk connections was not simple. HP-IB protocol, built to link HP's instruments, was simple, used for all HP devices, and slow. But it was integrated and seamless compared to the SCSI of single-ended, fast/wide, and Ultra Fast.
Such was the case for one 3000 manager seeking advice from his colleagues. You never think about these things on a 3000 until the hardware breaks. Or backups fail. Or storage media gets rare. Aging hardware is one of several issues that require expertise, even if a 3000 runs the ultimate 7.5 version of MPE/iX. Our manager hunted for his help on the longest-running 3000 classroom in the world, the HP3000-L mailing list.
A single-CPU A-Class was moving away from DDS technology, the DDS-3 that was first launched in the '90s. There are other options for 3000 tape backup. But these options include single-ended, fast/wide, and other cable and termination combinations. DLT technology, introduced more recently but still a 1990s choice, runs with HP 3000s. It helps to get the ends right, though, if DLT is to have a new beginning on an old-school 3000.
"Until now they have done their backup on DDS," a manager talking to the 3000 newsgroup explained. "Lately they had a failure on the DDS drive, and have realized that it is getting difficult to get new tapes. They have decided to move to DLT8000, model C6378A, and have bought two of them. One is supposed to go live on the 3000, and the other to be stored as a spare device."
The DLT is hooked to the Ultra Wide SCSI interface on the A-Class. But ODE/Mapper doesn't recognize the device."
There was an error, and no DLT joy. Soon enough, one veteran consultant said, "You will have trouble connecting a fast wide SCSI device to an ultra-wide SCSI controller." It wasn't a rookie mistake, but the veterans who still prowl 3000-L had a solution and even a link to an inexpensive fix. So it goes, here in the fifth decade of HP 3000 mission-critical service. Answers are everywhere.This wasn't an inexperienced 3000 pro, it seemed, when reading that he tried to "add the device in IOCONFIG by adding first the path 0/0/1/0.2, and then the device with the command: ad 8;path=0/0/1/0.2.0;ID=dlt;mode=autoreply."
SCSI on the 3000 sure isn't the world of USB, where just 2.0 and 3.0 cover the scope of IO choices. A $59 adapter card connected that DLT to the 3000. The IO challenge also prompted advice even a pro might not know — making a case for having fresher hardware than HP's to run MPE.
There was advice about using Mapper on the 3000 to troubleshoot an IO device from Michalis Melis.
Normally the path and the device should be recognized by running ODE/ Mapper without even loading the operating system. You do not have to go to SYSGEN. If Mapper fails you have a problem before the OS loads.
Craig Lalley made the link between two incompatible kinds of SCSI interfaces.
You are trying to hook up a Fast/Wide SCSI device to an Ultrawide interface. The C6378A can only connect to a HVD Fast Wide SCSI interface (A4800A SCSI card comes to mind). Remember, the A-class does not support Dual-Head cards, so your only option is A4800A. You need either a DLT8000 with a Fast-Wide interface, or you need a cheap A4800A HVD (High Voltage Differential) SCSI card. You can daisy chain devices to the card, but I would only use one tape at a time.
Lalley also tipped his hat to Keven Miller, who supplied the link to that $59 adapter card.
Then Denys Beauchemin, who has been among one of the more prolific contributors to the 3000-L, delivered detailed advice about connecting backup devices. His background reaches back to the first decade of 3000 use, including years spent with Hi-Comp on backup software development.
Fast/Wide SCSI (FWSCSI) is essentially HVD SCSI on SCSI-2 standard. This means that the signal is a differential in the voltage between various wires (HVD is High Voltage Differential) and Ultrawide SCSI is SE (Single Ended) SCSI, on the SCSI-2 standard which makes is wide (16 bits), like the FWSCSI.
So what is needed is a converter to power the signal from the Ultra Wide SCSI interface on your server to the FWSCSI interface on the DLT device. I have a number of those somewhere here, but they were for SE SCSI, not UltraSCSI. They might work for that, since all they did was provide the powered signal and the cable is the one that converted from wide to narrow.
Another thing to consider is that since HP nicely crippled the A-class, that 3000 system would not be able to keep the DLT8000 streaming. And that device hates not streaming, so much so that it will enter shoeshine mode and perform abysmally. Just a parting gift from HP to the MPE community. You should hear what they're doing to the VMS crowd.
That last comment comes from Beauchemin's current duties as migration manager for the OpenVMS users who are leaving that platform. VMS had a steady Internet community to help Digital users, just as the 3000 has 3000-L. People like Beauchemin, largely working outside the 3000 world, are still providing advice for homesteaders -- even while assisting in migrations. After migration there is much to manage, but simply migrating off Hewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware makes using MPE/iX less complex.
November 23, 2015
Virtualized clouds may shift due to Dell
Although the merger isn't yet complete, EMC will become part of Dell in the year to come. Those are two impact players in the HP enterprise arena, fierce HP rivals as well as providers of gear in HP shops both migrated and homesteading. The biggest impact on HP 3000 customers might come not from either of these companies, though, but from a subsidiary. VMware, which is powering a significant number of virtualized environments, is 80 percent owned by EMC.
That makes Dell the primary owner of the most popular virtualization provider in the industry. In the wake of the merger announcement, consultants, developers and vendors from the community have looked to the future of Dell's VMware ownership. Even a possible impact on cloud computing has come up for discussion.
"Whoever owns VMware next could control and own the future of the cloud," goes the proposition of the new VMware ownership. VMware has certainly promoted its new efforts into cloud computing. But that doesn't make the vendor a controlling force in cloud computing.
The three pillars of cloud computing, according to cloud ERP provider Plex, are elasticity, efficiency, and cloud as a service. VMware is only a backbone for such cloud offerings. The actual cloud applications use a range of backbones. The most common one is Xen, used by Amazon Web Services. HP dropped out of the public cloud business earlier this year, facing losses while going up against Amazon and others.
However, corporate enterprise IT may include clouds on VMware. A VMware-based one might run on an internal security zone not visible to the Internet. Another style can be based on OpenStack, visible to the Internet.
"Dell owning 80 percent of VMware is a huge deal," says Gavin Scott, a developer and a veteran of decades on MPE/iX and former SIG-Java chairman. "But it's not because of clouds. It might actually be bad for VMware because it will push Dell's competitors to look at other solutions. VMware is crazy expensive, so customers may be quite happy to be led to other vendors' doorsteps."
"VMware is like Oracle," Scott told us. "The most expensive way to solve the problem. But it also has the most features and functionality and is a 'safe' choice.""I think of cloud computing as involving the use of a third party's cloud resources," Scott said. "If you've got a big VMware virtualized infrastructure, that might just be running all your previously discreet servers in a bunch of VMs. If you're dynamically bringing clusters of servers on/off line to meet demand, that's more cloud-like."
"I think a lot of VPs of IT like to think they're trendy by having their own "cloud," and at that point the term is relatively meaningless."
November 20, 2015
Multi-threading traces years of MPE service
Yesterday we explored the prospects of multi-threading for HP 3000 sites. It's an aspect of application and software design that can benefit from virtualization. In years past, when much of the 3000 application base was being created, separate hardware CPUs drove this multi-threading. Stan Sieler of Allegro, one of the authors of the textbook on Precision Architecture RISC "Beyond RISC," told us that multi-threading is likely to have made its way into 3000 software via Unix.
It's a concept, through, that's been possible for MPE ever since its beginning. The MP in MPE stands for Multiprogramming, Sieler reminded me, and that "Multi-threading is a form of multiprogramming or multiprocessing."
Sieler adds that "Multi-processing is where you have more than one CPU … each CPU can run a single process at a time (and, with multi-programming, can appear to be running more than one at a time).
Generally, but not always (as words are often abused), “threads” are related to a single process. E.g., my video compression program might work on several parts of the video simultaneously with three or four threads. On some computers, two separate threads of a single process cannot execute at the same time … on others, they can.
On most computers nowadays, threads are implemented at the operating system level. On older systems, threading was sometimes implemented above the operating system, relying on user code to switch threads. (I’ll skip co-routines, which few systems have now, but the Burroughs MCP did.)
Multi-programming is the concept where two (or more) processes (or “programs”) appear to run at the same time, but in reality each gets a short time to run, and then the CPU pays attention to the other process, then back to the first one… or “time slicing.”
On the 3000, few programs use multi-threading, but it is available. It came about the same time as Posix did, perhaps one release later (I can’t recall). In general, if you show me a 3000 program that uses threading, I’ll bet it’s written in C and originated in the Unix/Linux world.
Essentially all computers nowdays have multi-programming. The original HP 3000 (pre-CX) did, too. (The HP 2100 (running RTE) had, IIRC, no multi-programming.)
"So, you could easily have a program — even on the Classic 3000 — that ran multiple copies of itself (assuming, of course, you had a reason for doing it)."
November 19, 2015
TBT: HP rides into the cloud first on 3000s
In the month of November 17 years ago, Hewlett-Packard drove itself into cloud computing with HP 3000s. It wasn't called cloud computing in 1998. Resolving Y2K was still more than a year away. It was a year with a healthy dose of blue skies for the computer, including the lab manager's plan to put MPE/iX on the company's favored IA-64 chips.
However, HP was positioning the 3000 as a solution for a world that wasn't purchasing as many servers as before. It was a situation much like what HP faces today. New 3000 sales were tough to come by, just like Integrity sales of today. Thanks to HP's efforts, customers were moving off 3000s in favor of Unix and Windows and NT. Today they're all moving away from servers of all kinds, leaving the hardware to offsite management and administration. The Cloud.
The 3000's entry to cloud computing arrived in the form of an acquisition. The 3000 division bought Open Skies, a 38-person software firm which had airlines for clients. Not many major clients for the time. Westjet. Ryan Air. But these were lean airlines that wanted to track miles flown and customers served without developing and maintaining a software application. HP had called the concept Apps on Tap earlier in the year. The 3000's CSY division bought Open Skies to show the way, creating an application that could be tapped.
Roy Breslawski made a shift away from CSY marketing manager to Open Skies marketing manager. Breslawski, like his GM Harry Sterling, took the MPE mission seriously enough to disregard the accepted wisdom about the 3000. (Legacy platform. Fading fast. Jobs there a stepping stone.) Instead, Breslawski set up business with an earnest belief about the product's growth prospects.
The Open Skies deal was sparked by the needs of a much bigger airline, though. British Air was tired of being undercut by smaller operators like Ryan Air and EasyJet, so BA set up Go, a low-end carrier. Go wanted Open Skies to host and manage the HP 3000s handling their reservations.
Those systems came to be owned by HP and configured in a separate datacenter. That commitment led Open Skies to ask HP for help in meeting manpower arrangements, which developed into discussions about HP taking over the growing company.Open Skies was sold off after Y2K, becoming a part of the Navitaire portfolio of software services offered to transportation clients as large as British Air and as modest at WestJet. Go came to a stop as a BA market strategy, but Open Skies held on for more than a decade, and the software — transitioned for commodity environments into a software service called New Skies — was part of the assets purchased this summer by the Amadeus Group, which started to buy Navitaire from Accenture.
In that era of HP's 3000 stewardship, CSY was a division whose managers were virtually out of the market for new customers for several years. CSY had suffered in HP’s shadows before the company’s Unix fanatics fled in the face of the NT juggernaut. However, the customers’ willingness to keep their minds open about operating environments yielded two surprising years of success for CSY, success that attracted Breslawski’s attention when the division’s marketing manager post came open this summer.
The division’s first marketing manager hand-picked by GM Harry Sterling, Breslawski said when he arrived at CSY in 1997 that he was moving to another durable post – both CSY and HP’s calculator businesses turned 25 years old in that year. Breslawski came to the 3000 from work in HP calculators, and before that, work on the company's first portable PC.
As for Open Skies, it started its HP lifespan being run by Sterling. Open Skies was the company, and its offering to customers was called OpenRes. Sterling said that OpenRes was the first non-airline affiliated system of this type, and added that he expected to be managing the new venture closely in the coming months.
“I’ll be spending a lot of time in Salt Lake City,” he said in 1998. “The product line will really report into the software and services part of HP, because it’s laid out in that kind of business model. [HP vice president and Enterprise Computing Solutions Organization GM] Ann Livermore will effectively be who I work with.”
OpenRes was sold as a product without a price on the HP price list. “It’s a service-based business that’s very individually tailored for every customer,” Breslawski said.
“We’re going for a different business model,” Sterling said. “We’re basically not selling servers — we’re selling transactions. HP will actually host and run the systems. It’s a whole new business model for HP. That’s the exciting part of this. The acquisition was exciting, but also the fact that we’re starting a new business model. That’s something we’ve never done in HP before.”
November 18, 2015
Application threading a gate for performance
Many an HP 3000 app was designed in an era when threads were expensive. Multi-threading is another way of describing multiprocessing. It's the M in MPE. But few HP 3000 programs use multi-threading. Multi-processing uses multiple processors. These 2-way and greater 3000s could cost upwards of $200,000 over the last complete decade of sales in the 1990s. Since this was the MPE/iX value model, the cost reflected the combo of hardware and system software, during an era with user-count licenses for the OS driving up the capital cost of 3000 computing.
For any customer who had but one CPU propeller to push along their ship of software, a single-threaded app made good sense. But the single threading programs of MPE/iX are a gating device for engaging the full horsepower of virtualization. Dave Clements of Stromasys mentioned the common threading architecture for MPE/iX apps while we talked about VMware's connection with the Charon product. This is a common reason why every 3000 customer's Charon performance is one of those "it depends" solutions.
A user of Charon can sometimes get along with a relatively slow CPU clock speed for the Charon host hardware. At the Conax Technologies datacenter, a 2.7GHz Intel host is standing in for a Series 928 HP 3000. Virtualized CPU power is almost as fast as the original hardware there, according to the system manager — and then any application process that reaches out to the disk screams along, the manager added. But there's not a lot of multi-threading in the 3000 app world.
"We run into a lot of applications that are not multi-threaded," Clements said. "It makes a difference. We see that a lot in database applications. There's not a lot we can do about single-threaded applications," he added, in order to take advantage of the multi-threading abilities in newer and faster host CPUs. What makes Charon an effective emulator is, in part, its ability to excellerate multiple threading of processes. It's the same kind of lift as if the newer Intel chip designs were to give power upgrades to the PA-RISC CPUs. This is the promise of virtualization. Multithreaded apps get more from it.
Stromasys customers and prospects have not been reporting that speed is a barrier to their adoption of the product. Charon has the potential to run 3000 programs even faster if those apps have been written to use multiple threads. "Every customer poses the potential for a unique solution," Clements said. Other aspects can be changed, he said — things that are easier to update than application code which was probably first conceived before the Web was born.As it turns out, just like in fine sheet sets, a high thread count helps smooth things for application computing, too. However, since app threading isn't going to change in a customer datacenter, other comforts for faster performance can be applied instead.
For example, system IO can be improved easily, from new controllers to faster devices to solid state disks. Hardware is cheap compared to the manpower of rewriting an application to take maximum advantage of newer CPU horsepower.
Controllers on the SANs, on the host, and switches for the storage devices to connect — all are hardware gating components in the formula for virtualization. At Conax, the system manager said the advantage to working with legacy software is "the bits don't change." Those are application bits he's referring to. Charon will be upgraded and improved many more times than most MPE/iX apps, here in 2015. Most of that 3000 software is frozen in time, a very stable time. In a growth business like virtualization, there's always room for improvement: of hardware, and of the virtualization software, too.
November 17, 2015
Putting PDF Into a 3000's Data Flow
HP 3000 experts know of a wide array of techniques to create PDF files from the server's data, then move them via FTP to a Windows server. While the simplest answer for getting reports into PDF format and then out via Windows is probably Hillary Software's byRequest, there are other commercial solutions. There's also several bolt-together techniques if you've got very limited budget to homestead.
Bob McGregor reports:
We use txt2pdfPRO by Sanface. We had a job that would run and check a pseudo device for spoolfile output, and if the pri > 0, would run the sf2html process, convert to PDF and then FTP to a Windows server. The process would then delete spoolfiles=0 on the pseudo device the next day. Setup took a bit... but once done, worked well.
Lars Appel, author of the Samba/iX file sharing tool, adds:
I wonder if it might make sense to configure a "dummy" network printer on MPE/iX and have it send spooler output to a little socket listener on the Windows system (similar to the FakeLP example from the 3000-L archive) and then invoke GhostPCL on the Windows side for generating the PDF output.
The "dummy" network printer would let the MPE spooler take care of the PCL conversion and also perform the "file transfer" automagically. The GhostPCL software is probably easier to get (or build / update) on Windows than on MPE (okay, I admit that it did also build on MPE long ago.)
Nominate a spooled ldev as always suspended (74 in our case, arbitrary). Users can choose this device as their printer in their menu, and all subsequent reports (until changed to another real printer ldev) will go to this device — and therefore NOT physically print. Some reports that are commonly used to import to Excel have been modified to make headings tightly lined up with the data columns, and only print one page heading, to ease the import process.
Run a job on 3000 that every few minutes scans for spoolfiles for this ldev, then copies them to Posix space specific to 74 (for generality), with the creating user and account in the file name (e.g. mgr_stock_O12345.txt), then delete the original spoolfile.
A scheduled program on the Windows box (every minute) connects via FTP to the 3000. When it finds a spool files as above example, it checks for a Windows destination dir of MGR_STOCK, and copies the file to it as O12345.txt, and deletes the 3000 copy of the file. The account name enables segregation of reports for different applications in our case. If the file is > 1MB (an arbitrary size of your choice), it's zipped. It could as easily be converted to any desired form — for example to PDF via the shareware cutepdf.
It could also readily email the output to a user, given access to a mail server, and a way to develop the email address. Users have a client to access the FTP server and obtain their .txt or .zip files
This has been running for more than 10 years with almost no issues. Occasionally a large file might hang FTP, but canceling and restarting the copy usually fixed it. I have seen report selection errors produce 500 MB TXT files.
You might use several suspended ldevs for different types or groups of users. We ran this on four 3000s in different locations, each with their own separate windows boxes using BP-FTP server. This means that users in Australia can run a report on the Houston or China system to the local printer 74, pause, connect their FTP client to the relevant FTP server, and download the report without having to print it.
The process also enables soft storage of month end reports, which can be very useful for comparative purposes, auditing, and general historical reference. We now have about eight years of this information stored, with backups and CD copies. Much more compact than paper, and cheaper.
Michael Anderson of consulting firm J3K Solutions added that there is also a open source PDF tool, pdfcreator, a manager can use to set up a network PDF printer. "Some assembly required, and batteries not included," he noted.
Another vote came in for the Advant/X software from Tracy Johnson, the OpenMPE volunteer who manages the Invent3K shared open source server. Johnson notes that this STR Software product "while intended to convert spool files and then e-mail or fax them, can be used short of the transmission process."
November 16, 2015
Webinars set courses for future operations
The next three days each contain a webinar that can help a 3000 manager decide how to best use their IT resources. One of the presentations covers a new cloud-based ERP migration solution, explained in detail, while the other two come from a long-time provider of data solutions for HP 3000s.
On Nov. 17 (Tuesday) Kenandy demos its cloud-based, Salesforce-driven ERP stack. It's a new performance of the overview show broadcast at the end of September. Kenandy has enough features to replace more than a few MPE/iX apps, for any sites which are looking for replacement solutions on the way to migration. Registration is here on the Web, and the program starts at 1 PM Central Time, US.
Over the following two days, MB Foster airs a pair of Q&A, webinar-driven broadcasts about best practices for data management. The company is serving customers beyond MPE/iX sites now, from the experience of carrying out a migration as well as the integration of its software and practices in non-3000 customer sites.
Wednesday Nov 18th's Webinar covers Data Migrations Best Practices. IT operations generate opportunity and challenges to organize data into useable information for the business. The Webinar will deliver practical methodologies to help you prevent costly disruptions and solve challenges. "A data migration project may not be your specialty," says CEO Birket Foster. "We are offering an opportunity to learn from our successes and minimize the business impacts of data migration, through best practices." The Webinar begins at 1 PM Central US, and registration is here on the Web.
Thursday Nov. 19th's Webinar (a 1 PM Central start time; register here) from MB Foster explains the strategy and experience needed to employ Operational Data Stores in a datacenter. An ODS requires integration, Foster says.
"Essentially you’re changing what and why you deliver information, and where that information resides for end-users decision support and reporting," he says. "You would also change ongoing management and operations of the environment."
The meeting will deliver insights into MB Foster’s ODS and DataMart services, its technology, and best practices including:
1. What an Operational Data Store and DataMart are
2. How actionable data can be delivered, quickly
3. Why investing in an ODS and DataMarts are smart choices
November 13, 2015
Quotes On A Happening, 5,111 Days Ago
My career has not changed significantly, but I no longer believe anything HP tells me. They could say the sky is blue, and I'd seek a second opinion. They lied to our face once, I won't give them a chance to do it again. — Terry Simpkins, TE Connectivity
It was very difficult to reinvent and took several years. HP's decision almost killed our company. But we survived and are stronger as a result — Doug Greenup, Minisoft
I had received the news prior to the public announcement. I was very angry with HP after being told by Hewlett-Packard at HP World that there was a long future for the system. — Paul Edwards, Interex director
We felt like we were supporting legacy products already, because most of our MANMAN customers were off of applications software support anyway, so it didn't change our plans much. — Terry Floyd, The Support Group
When I joined the conference call, in which management announced to CSY staff that they were pulling the plug on MPE and the 3000, I remember the date and the hour. My feeling was one of relief that they were going to stop pretending that the 3000 had a future. It might have had a future, but not with the level that management was investing in R&D at the time. — V.N., HP 3000 labs
I remember heaving a big sigh and realizing that, in the aftermath of the Compaq takeover, HP would not keep two proprietary platforms. Between a 71,000-unit installed base (HP 3000) and a 700,000-unit installed base (VMS), the choice was quite obvious. To this day, VMS still exists. — Christian Lheureux, Appic
I was working for a company called Hewlett-Packard at the time. I don't know what's become of them; I think they still sell ink. Last I knew, they sold personal computers too, but they weren't sure about that. — Walter Murray, California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation
This really scared a lot of people at the company where I was working, but I kept telling them we had third party support, and not to worry. The directors decided to leverage our 350-plus programs with a migration to an HP 9000. We secured a used 9000, only to have them reverse their decision and opt instead for a newer 3000. — Connie Sellitto, Cat Fanciers’ Association
We were well into MPE/iX and the Posix environment, and there appeared to be some real solidarity given its Internet capabilities. The 2001 announcement was a knife in the back of our long-term planning, from which we never fully recovered. — Jeff Kell, founder of the 3000-L mailing list
I was working a long-term consulting contract managing HP 3000s and several datacenters for the US government. The job that pays the bills these days has nothing to do with HP 3000s — and thankfully very little to do with HP at all. — Chris Bartram, founding 3000newswire.com webmaster.
Share your memory of the day below. Or email the Newswire.
November 12, 2015
TBT: HP translates brags about fresh e3000
On a November afternoon fifteen years ago, users and vendors met in an Amsterdam conference center to celebrate integration. A handful of companies had melded their HP 3000 applications with the Internet. "All of the users I spoke with were already doing some kind of e-something, whether elementary or quite advanced,” said Adager CEO Rene Woc. One showed off how Java had helped create an interface for a company that was selling parts for power looms. Their customers were all over the world.
The users' presentations were especially notable because they were offered in five languages. Simultaneous translations were paid for by the HP 3000 division, the only time in more than 30 years of conferences I've been able to pick up a wireless headset and hear technical reports translated. Not into everyday C-level language, but into French, Spanish, German, Dutch and English. HP set up two rooms with a total of 10 translators. The vendor was working to encourage 3000 managers to speak the language of the Web. HP collected $365 per attendee to help defray the cost; 90 customers and partners attended from 14 countries.
Users wanted their 3000s to be better connected because they didn't want their systems left behind as IT expansion ramped up. Everyone had escaped Y2K worries by November of 2000. The dot-com boom hadn't gone bust, and in some segments like e-commerce, Web interfaces were bringing genuine innovation for interfaces.
The surge was less certain for companies which had limited their 3000 communications to data swaps over internal LANs. Some were using an intranet, employing the Web technology without exposing the 3000's data to the outside. Others like Lindauer Dornier used the Enhydra Web application server and Java/iX to send the power loom manufacturer's parts data to its customers across the world.
The HP 3000 at the heart of Dornier's operations was plugged in when Windows NT proved too slow. The Windows product that became Windows Server a few years later got dumped in favor of MPE/iX. The meeting "had a lot of flavor of the old days," said HP's Sally Blackwell. The emphasis was not on sponsorships. It was an exchange of information, with HP's help."
HP 3000 Division Product Marketing Manager Loretta Li-Sevilla made the trek from the HP 3000 headquarters, telling customers that “the 3000 is a rock solid foundation for an Internet future. With the 3000 as your platform of choice, that future is unlimited.” There was another 12 months of future remaining with an unlimited flavor.
The European arm of the HP's 3000 operations always performed with more panache. The extra promotion sprang from a need to compete more head-on with Unix in Europe. Enterprise operations had adopted HP-UX servers sooner than in the US. A 25th Birthday Party for the 3000 unreeled in Stuttgart in 1997, instead of in the US. At the three-day Internet brag meeting for 3000 users, CSY Europe Regional Business Manager Alexandra Wiedenmann said, “We will provide you with the products, technologies to help you move into the e-world. Nothing should stop you from Let’s Go e!”
Going faster than Microsoft: Dornier's Peter Herpich, who’d been managing HP 3000s since 1980, hired an independent consulting group to develop the parts ordering application. He said he learned that Java expertise transfers easily to the e3000, and he didn’t have to look for developers trained in both the 3000 and Java.
His consultants built the application on an NT system, but it performed slowly there. “I said I’m not happy,” he reported. “I said they should bring it to the HP 3000.” HP’s Lars Appel assisted the consultants, and the Java application was ported to the e3000 in six hours.
The company served more than 900 customers across the Web. “For me it was a surprise,” Herpich said. “It’s a success. I have 60 percent of our spare parts orders processed electronically. We have a new communication channel with the customers.”
In 2000 Herpich said he had no faith in Microsoft’s solutions, adding that a problem with a Microsoft system means “you have to install it a-new. I don’t want to use a replacement technology for three years, and then have to reinvest again.” He also noted that, “you don’t need specially trained HP 3000 people to create new applications on that machine. The consultants worked on an order system in Java, and brought it to the HP e3000.”
Enhydra was an open source application server for rapid development and deployment of Java and XML-based apps. The server handled all application operations between browser-based computers and a company’s back-end business applications and databases — in this case, IMAGE/SQL or Allbase and HP 3000 apps written in languages like COBOL.
After his presentation, Herpich joked that he saw the 3000 investment of his company paying off for his staff, too. “I can always tell which of our staff is working with the 3000. They have a tan in the summer, while the other people do not.”
November 11, 2015
Protecting a 3000 by Eliminating Its Services
Here on this day when we celebrate people who have served in the armed forces, a question emerged about enabling HP 3000 JINETD services. Or disabling them, to make a 3000 more powerful and secure. (Yes, it seems to defy the logic about more services being better, one that we can hear in national defense debates. We didn't have such debates at Signal Corps training for the Second Battalion.) The solution to the 3000 service problem included advice on how to trim back risk as well as performance drains on a 3000.
Grigor Terterian said he was having a Series 979 freeze up, because JINETD was receiving a call "for echo udb." Mark Ranft and Denys Beauchemin said the fastest repair would be to comment out echo in the inetdcnf file. Ranft got specific with an example.
:print inetdcnf.net # Internet server configuration database # #echo stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #echo dgram udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #daytime stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #daytime dgram udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #time stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #time dgram udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #discard stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #discard dgram udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #chargen stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #chargen dgram udp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal telnet stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS internal #bootps dgram udp wait MANAGER.SYS /SYS/NET/BOOTPD bootpd #tftp dgram udp wait NET.SYS /SYS/NET/TFTPD tftpd ftp stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS /SYS/ARPA/FTPSRVR ftpsrvr
In the example above, only telnet and ftp services are enabled, Ranft said. This led Art Bahrs, a Certified Security Professional, to add that the services you leave on are the ones that can cause trouble, if you don't need them enabled.Bahrs, who's also a retired Marine, celebrated his Veterans Day with this advice.
You should never, ever, no time, (did I mention 'never'?) run services you don't use or have a business or production need for.
Two reasons: First is security minded. If you have a service active, it is just another way to be hacked. Second is that an active, running service uses machine power, which is wasteful of electrons if there’s no need for it.
Ranft added his experience with inetd on MPE/iX:
Note that the command:
inetd.net.sys - c
will have inetd re-read the configuration.
Your success with this may vary. I've had lots of trouble with inetd in the far past. They got a lot better with the latest (final, for MPE/iX) set of patches. But on occasion, a scheduled restart (inetd.net.sys -k) and re-stream will probably help prevent issues.
I run my inetd with the logging feature.
!job jinetd, manager.sys !.... !run inetd.net.sys;pri=cs;info="-l" !eoj
This allows one to see the offending IP address in the $STDLIST.
Received call for: telnet tcp telnet/tcp: Connection from unknown (10.0.1.226) at Fri Nov 6 19:56:28 2015 Received call for: echo tcp echo/tcp: Connection from unknown (127.0.0.1) at Wed Nov 11 12:56:45 2015 Received call for: echo udp echo/udp: Connection from unknown (127.0.0.1) at Wed Nov 11 12:57:07 2015 Received call for: echo udp echo/udp: Connection from unknown (127.0.0.1) at Wed Nov 11 12:57:25 2015
As one veteran to others, I honor the services of all on this day, and thank you for your efforts toward our security. Long may it wave.
November 10, 2015
HP reaches to futures with outside labs
Hewlett Packard Enterprise, now in its second full week of business, continues to sell its proprietary OS environments: NonStop, HP-UX, and OpenVMS. MPE/iX was on that list 13 Novembers ago. A business decision ended HP's future MPE developments, and the 3000 lab closed about nine years later.
There's another HP OS lab that's powering down, but it's not the development group building fresher Unix for HPE customers. The HP OpenVMS lab is cutting its development chores loose, sending the creation of future versions of the OpenVMS operating system and layered product components to VMS Software, Inc. (VSI). The Bolton, Mass. company rolled out its first OpenVMS version early this summer.
This is the kind of future that the 3000 community wished for all those Novembers ago, once the anger and dismay had cooled. The HP of that year was a different business entity than the HP of 2014, when Hewlett-Packard first announced a collaboration on new versions of OpenVMS.
What's the difference? HP has much more invested in VMS, because of the size of the environment's installed base. Some key VMS talent that once worked for HP has landed at VSI, too. Sue Skonetski, once the Jeff Vance of the DEC world, told the customer base this summer she's delighted to be working at the indie lab. "I get to work with VMS customers, partners and engineers, so I obviously still have the best job in the world," she posted in a Facebook forum.
The 3000 and MPE probably would've gotten a nice transfer of MPE talents to independent development labs. But there was a matter of the size of the business back then. Today, HP's falling back and splitting itself up.
The Hewlett-Packard of 2001 could not imagine a time when its proprietary systems might be supported by independent tech talent. But what ensued with 3000 homesteading may have led to a lesson for HP, one that's being played out with the VSI transfer. Enterprise customers, it turns out, have longer-term business value tied up in proprietary systems. HP will be at the table to support some OpenVMS sites in the future. But they have an indie alternative to send their customers toward, too. When HP's ready to stop supporting Itanium-based VMS, an outside company will take up that business.The foreseeable future for VMS is tied, for the moment, to the HP Integrity servers and Itanium. But a roadmap for the OS shows that getting VMS onto Intel hardware is a project about three years away. It'll be completed by the non-HP engineers at VSI.
VSI has licensed the source code of the OpenVMS operating system from HP with the intent to further develop the OpenVMS product roadmap by adding new hardware platform support and features, beginning with a version of OpenVMS on HP Integrity i4 servers based on Intel Itanium Processor 9500 Series. It took VSI less than a year to roll out the OpenVMS release it calls Bolton. CEO Duane Harris is proud of a rollout that puts OpenVMS onto the latest Itanium 9500 processors. VSI intends to eventually extend support for HP Integrity servers based on all prior versions of Itanium platform.
In less than 12 months, we have not only assembled a strong team of OpenVMS developers and customer support personnel but we have also developed a roadmap with an aggressive schedule that includes support for new platforms, features and technologies. We are excited about our plans to continue improving this marquee operating system and meeting the needs of a loyal customer base that has relied on OpenVMS to faithfully run their mission critical applications over the last 30 years.
The MPE/iX faithful have been running mission-critical apps for more than 40 years, although the last five have been with no HP involvement. But this has never been about how long a product is useful. It's about numbers of support customers.
HP's walked away from its crucial role in preserving 3000s like the ones at manufacturing firms. Independent support companies now do this work. HP's become inscrutable.
"I’ve honestly given up trying to figure out HP anymore," said Pivital Solutions CEO Steve Suraci. "They are one big giant empty shell of their once formidable selves."
It might be a much better fate to leave these highly integrated environments in the hands of independents. "I certainly hope HP is out of the MPE support business," said Allegro's Steve Cooper. "There is nobody in the company that can even spell MPE at this point."
November 09, 2015
Making 3000 Disk Faster By Virtualizing It
Age is an issue for HP 3000 homesteaders, a challenge that must be met on more than one front. Aging in-house expertise will require a replacement IT professional. That can be tricky to locate in 2015, but one way to approach the task is to train a consultant who's already a trusted resource.
At Conax Technologies, the veteran HP 3000 manager Rick Sahr was heading for retirement, an event that threw the spotlight on the suitability of MANMAN for ERP. Consultant Bob Ammerman stepped in to learn MPE/iX and the 3000's operations. That was a solution that followed an effort to replace MANMAN with another ERP software suite, running under Windows.
The trouble with the replacement application stemmed from its database. Oracle drove that app suite, and Conax and Ammerman were assured that having strong experience in Oracle wasn't a requirement of adopting the replacement app. "I'm a SQL Server guy," Ammerman said. His work to interface MANMAN with Windows helped to preserve the 3000's role. That rescue was the best way forward when the company chose to back away from the new app.
The shift in plans opened the door for the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. As it turned out, the $100,000 of server and SAN disk purchased for the ERP replacement app was a good fit for virtualizing the 3000. Charon can just about match the CPU performance of the replaced Series 928. The bonus has been what virtualization has done for storage and disk speed. It's erased the other age barrier, the one presented by old disk drives."As soon as you go out to touch the disk, it just screams," Ammerman said of the Charon solution. Backups now blaze along, because the virtualized 3000 system is writing to virtualized tape drives. A Windows-based backup for the Dell server and the SAN takes care of protecting the disk images which aere created while using Charon.
The emulator's virtualization of the 3000 CPU is governed by the number of CPU cores, threads, and the speed of the chips. The Dell system runs at 2.7 GHz, a little lower than Stromasys has recommended. "It just works," Ammerman said of what's kept the 3000's age from showing. The nips and tucks that came along with the facelift of hardware are protecting the company's MPE/iX investments.
A retiring MPE guru, along with hardware that's more than 15 years old could point to a migration, one with a serious deadline for completion. "Nobody's in a hurry to move now," Ammerman said. "We'd hoped to get off the 3000 years ago." Now the letters of interest for replacing MANMAN have yet to go out to prospective vendors. Infor, the vendor that's holding the reins and license for MANMAN, has a shot at replacing the MPE/iX app.
When a company can expand its IT know-how by hiring the right person to learn MPE/iX, that's a serious gap that's been overcome. The hurdle of disk age was cleared at Conax by virtualizing that hardware so it runs on late-model drives attached to a Windows system. The most important part of the mission-critical solution remains stable and unchanged: the MPE/iX application.
It's all been made possible with the right approach to managing legacy hardware. "I like old tech," Ammerman said, explaining that he started with Data General business servers. DG has emulation solutions, too. Finding something fresh to emulate what's been successful has been a proven strategy for companies that can't justify migration yet.
November 06, 2015
MANMAN vendor wants to run datacenters
The yearly conference for Infor software customers wrapped up this week, meaning that MANMAN sites have some new dogma to process on the way to migration. Infor has lots of alternatives for these established HP 3000 sites to consider when they migrate. We've talked to one IT manager who said Infor prospective apps have made owning MANMAN and running it on a 3000 less costly.
The future for MANMAN and any legacy ERP app is up in the cloud, according to its CEO Charles Phillips. ERP for the cloud has been the mission Kenandy has pursued for more than three years, but it's good to see the concept has gained traction at a major ERP vendor like Infor.
The Infor president Stephan Scholl said this week (hat-tip to the Diginomica website)
Give us your data center. We will take your mission critical applications and run them on Infor Cloud Suite. So before you do an expensive hardware refresh, we can get you up and running in 4-6 weeks.
Getting a customized application environment working in six weeks or less sounds bold, especially to the MANMAN customer who's fine-tuned software to match business processes over the last 20 years. At Conax Technologies, that's exactly what happened. That well-fitted tuning is also what's holding Conax to MANMAN.
Infor's Phillips is not the only CEO aimed at delivering ERP via offsite hosting. (Sorry, I mean the cloud. A fellow can get confused once the development moves out of a company-run datacenter.) Kenandy's CEO was promoting wholesale ERP change earlier this year, in the weeks before Sandy Kurtzig turned over her job to a handpicked successor.Kurtzig, who helped found MANMAN's creators ASK Computers, stepped into the Kenandy executive chairman job a few months back. "This has always been my agenda: to get the company going and get the product accepted so that I could move up to executive chairman," she told Diginomica.
The website went on to quote Kurtzig about the scope of change looming for companies that are using massive ERP like SAP or Oracle.
Every single piece of ERP software in the ERP space is going to be replaced over the next 10 years, so it depends on where each company is in the stage of that replacement.
Kenandy likes to say that it can integrate well with other on-premise ERP software, a claim that could mean MANMAN and Kenandy might be working side by side in the years to come at migrating 3000 sites. Change comes slowly and in phases to companies like Conax. Nobody is in a hurry to move off ERP apps that work, especially after the MPE hardware has been refreshed by adopting the Charon HPA emulator.
That day of change is coming, though. After the Dreamforce conference this fall, Forbes took a look at the prospects for companies like Kenandy to compete with vendors like Infor or SAP, firms who have built empires upon massive software stacks.
In Kenandy’s case, the big question is whether it can take business away from market leader SAP. What it has found is that existing SAP customers come to Kenandy for their ability to orchestrate SAP, Salesforce, and other functionality.
The Kenandy advantage lies in its adoption of the Salesforce1 platform. The newest tool is Salesforce1 Lightning, a suite that enables developers like Kenandy to create intuitive, modern interfaces. Kenandy sponsored Lightning presentations at the Dreamforce conference, and is "Lightning Ready." The company also sponsored a talk by Geoffrey Moore. He's the icon who authored Crossing the Chasm — and once wrote that platforms like the HP 3000 leverage unique value for customers by preserving investment.
The relationship between MANMAN's design and Infor X, or other Infor alternatives, will be measured against Kenandy's software that was kicked off by MANMAN-ASK founder Kurtzig. Infor expects that its cloud-based revenues will make up a majority of company revenues, according to Diginomica. Kenandy has no on-premise business to protect, however. Its success is lashed to cloud ERP exclusively.
November 05, 2015
Licensing advice for hardware transitions
Today the CAMUS user group hosted a phone-in meeting, one where the main topic was how to manage licensing issues while changing hardware. Not HP to HP hardware, within the 3000 family. This migration is an aspect of homesteading: moving off the Hewlett-Packard branded 3000 hardware and onto Intel servers. The servers run Stromasys Charon HPA, which runs the applications and software built for MPE.
In-house apps need no such relicense, but everything else demands disclosure. This is a personal mission for companies that want to leave HP hardware behind, but keep their MPE software. In one story we've heard, a manager said the vendor would allow its software to run under Charon. "But you're on your own for support," the vendor told the manager. No-support licenses are the kind that satisfy auditors. In lots of cases, self-support or help from independent companies is better than the level which that sort of vendor offers.
We've talked with three managers who've done this MPE software relicensing, all reporting success. Two of these managers told their stories at today's meeting. Last year we collected the tale of re-licensing from Jeff Elmer, IT manager for Dairylea Cooperative. They left a Series 969 for a PC-based host when old drives in the 969 posed a risk.
He said licensing the software for the Charon emulator solution at Dairylea was some work, with some suppliers more willing to help in the move than others. The $1.7 billion organization covers seven states and uses at least as many third party vendors. “We have a number of third party tools, and we worked with each vendor to make the license transfers,” said Elmer.
“We won’t mention any names, but we will say that some vendors were absolutely wonderful to work with, while others were less so. It’s probably true that anyone well acquainted with the HP 3000 world could make accurate guesses about which vendors fell in which camp.”
Some vendors simply allowed a transfer at low cost or no cost; others gave a significant discount because Dairylea has been a long-time customer paying support fees. ”A couple wanted amounts of money that seemed excessive, but in most cases a little negotiation brought things back within reason,” Elmer said. The process wasn’t any different than traditional HP 3000 upgrades: hardware costs were low, but software fees were significant.
“The cumulative expense of the third party software upgrades was nearly a deal-breaker,” Elmer said. “In the end, our management was concerned enough about reliance on old disk drives that they made the decision to move forward. In our opinion it was money very well spent.”
Another guest at today's conference, Bob Ammerman, manages 3000 operations at Conex Technologies. He didn't negotiate with Unicom when Conax Technologies did its test runs of Stromasys Charon HPA. Another IT group member did the bargaining, and in the end, Conax still runs its Powerhouse Quiz, QTP and even the 4GL. But its license load is lighter.
The arrangement with what people still think of as "Cognos" took a long while, so long that IBM was dragging its feet in correspondence. As a consulting contractor for the company, he said, "We were bringing our software packages over one by one, and the dealing started all over when the software was bought by Unicom." In the final arrangement there was an approval issued to transfer licenses, but Conax elected to reduce its user count for its software based on these products.
"We now have a 1-user license at the developer level," Ammerman said. "We've moved away from use of the software, too," although Quiz is still important to Conax. A reduction in reporting is possible because Ammerman wrote a set of SQL stored procedures in VB Net to move data from MANMAN operational databases into SQL Server. That's where some reporting has moved, although some canned Quiz reports still operate at the company.
That mission covered the biggest software tool at the company. There was still the matter of MANMAN to transfer. The dealing with Infor, the current owners of the manufacturing app, was still to come.
Conax cut back on its Powerhouse use by developing an in-house reporting system Ammerman calls SQLMan. "We built one application from [the Cognos products] as a sidecar app," he said. Cost codes drive the report queries at this manufacturer of temperature sensors. New reports are only developed as canned queries when they utilize Quiz. Much of the reporting comes out of a SQL Server database that runs off a snapshot of the MANMAN data.
"All the stuff that I've been building has reduced the need for the Cognos software," Ammerman said. The single-3000 shop has ported line-of-business important applications away from Powerhouse.
It's significant to note at this point that arranging these license transfers is the responsibility of the individual company. Stromasys takes no role in making these transfers happen. Any existing deals in the marketplace between other 3000 users and their app vendors don't carry any weight — at least not officially. There's no posted pricing lists for these arrangements at the app vendors.
So Conax cut its own deal with Infor to keep MANMAN on MPE/iX under the emulator. "We moved it relatively cheaply," Ammerman said. "We're now paying an annual license to Infor. They were glad to be nice to us."
In the very first success story for Charon HPA, Warren Dawson moved his company's applications that relied on Powerhouse to the emulator in 2012. His company was using a Series 947 server which was more than 20 years old to take care of mission-critical operations.
Nearly all of Dawson's third party vendors came on board and made efforts to ensure their software works. “One was a little slow in doing so, so we made a workaround," he said, "and then I made that a permanent workaround. I didn’t know when they would come on board. They came on just before we went live, and we’d already decided to move away from their product.”
In the case of a switch in backup processes, Dawson’s procedures now back up twice as much data, using HP’s standard STORE and RESTORE programs — in less time than when the backup was done using the third party software on the HP box.
The change from using HP’s native iron to emulation has also reinvigorated some of Dawson’s MPE software vendors.
“I’ve even gotten better support from some of our vendors now that we’re emulating," he said. "They see that there’s an extended life in the system, and so a couple of them have made efforts in that regard. We’ve been paying support for years, and for some software we’d hadn’t asked for support in 10 years. They’ve come back to our requests to help us and been very good about it."
One backup software solution didn’t make the transition from 3000 hardware and storage devices to the emulated system. DAT tapes presented an extra effort. Dawson used a utility to copy the tapes to disk, “and for some reason when I did that, it didn’t work properly in the backup software. There was some sort of SCSI issue which was at Stromasys’s end, and they’ve since resolved that issue. But the backup vendor said initially they weren’t supporting the emulator, so we worked something else out.
The Quiz reporting tool is part of the software set that’s made the step onto the emulator. The company buys and maintains its Powerhouse licenses through a reseller, and that partner has handed the relicensing of Quiz onto the emulator. “I haven’t dealt directly with Cognos for a long time,” Dawson said.
Minisoft’s ODBC drivers run on the emulated system, since part of the application’s project is to extract data. Since the databases and the application have been emulated, Dawson’s remains able to use Visual Basic programs, using the ODBC drivers, to do reports as well as updates. Dawson singled out the company as taking extra time to help make the emulation succeed.
“Minisoft’s been the most helpful, because that reporting system started out being the most troublesome. We’ve been having a VB 6 program issue, where those programs ran under Windows XP but are an issue under Windows 7. These programs were written 10 years ago, and the people who wrote them are long since gone. They explained how I could run their software in different ways, with the old driver under VB 6 on XP versus a new driver for .NET on Windows 7.”
November 04, 2015
HP C-level legacy hubris perplexes women
Now that the Hewlett-Packard spin off is underway — the initial 1970s concept of selling business computing solutions has returned to the fore at Hewlett Packard Enterprise — a review of who steered the bulky HP cart into the ditch seems worth a note. HP engineering culture was targeted by COO Chris Hsu as an impediment to splitting the company up in a year's time. The HP which ran on engineering desires fell to the wayside after current Republican candidate Carly Fiorina mashed up PC business into IT's legacy at HP, including the HP 3000 heritage.
Some insight as well as bafflement is emerging. Meg Whitman, a board director of HP whose primary job is now CEO of the restored HP Enterprise, doubts that Fiorina's best start in political service will be in the White House. According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News
“I think it’s very difficult for your first role in politics to be President of the United States," she said. Whitman has expressed empathy for Fiorina over cutting HP jobs — between the two of them, they’ve slashed tens of thousands of jobs at HP. But the failed California gubernatorial candidate told CNN, “While I think business strengths are important, I also think having worked in government is an important part of the criteria.” Whitman has thrown her support behind New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
As a punctuation for that measure of suitability, we stumbled upon another woman with a leadership career. Gloria Steinem, the seminal sparkplug of the feminist revolution of the 1970s and ardent advocate for womens' career ceilings, spoke on The Daily Show this week. Served up a fat pitch by the host that "Carly is a big favorite of yours, right?" Steinem shook her head and smiled. "I’m talking about women who got elected because they represented a popular majority opinion. She got promoted by God-knows-who."
My publisher turned to me and asked, "Who did promote Carly? Do you know?" I wondered how many of our readers, especially those ready to vote in GOP primaries, knew the answer.The short answer to the question is HP executive VP and board member Dick Hackborn. The shadowy giant of the printer empire, who rarely left his Idaho aerie for Silicon Valley, pumped Carly in the advent of Y2K. But the rogue's gallery of HP directors who promoted Fiorina have all been sacked, retired or died.
Resigned: Tom Perkins and Patricia Dunn. Plus George Keyworth, after the board discovered he'd leaked the pre-texting offenses which Dunn dished out to the press. Charges against her were dropped after more than a year of investigation.
Retired: Hackborn, Sam Ginn, Phil Condit, Robert Knowling.
Ousted: The son of one of HP's co-founders, Walter Hewlett. (Hard to imagine Walter voting to hire Fiorina, but esprit de corps counts for something. He even supported Fiorina's overpriced attempt to buy Price Waterhouse Cooper for $18 billion.)
Died: Lew Platt, after voting for his successor.
Eight of the 12 current HP directors have been appointed this year. It's a hopeful sign of change from a vendor which is still responsible for billions in products installed at migrated 3000 sites.
The answer to Steinem's question about who promoted Carly Fiorina is "people who've long since been separated from deciding HP's futures." Only Platt comes in with a clean bill, resigning from HP in 2000, after having the grace to step away from a company whose board no longer believed in him. That says much more about that board, and the ditch it pushed HP into, than it does about Platt.
November 03, 2015
How a migration vendor planned for change
HP is telling its story of transformation this week, a tale that the vendor says was completed in 391 days. It's the amount of time between the official announcement of the HP split-up to the day when thousands of systems had to be operational with no faults. The fortunes of a pair of Fortune 50 firms were riding on the outcome of turning Hewlett-Packard into HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.
It was a migration in one aspect: the largest project for internal IT HP has ever taken on. HP's in-house publication, HP Matter, interviewed its COO Chris Hsu about his practices in one of the largest IT change operations in business history. Matter has been renamed HPE Matter, and its article shares some strategic high points.
To develop the highest-level list of how to manage a large-change, high risk project, here's Hsu's items.
1: Determine what the biggest, most critical workstreams are
2. Figure out which ones act as gating items.
3. Get the best people in the company to head up the project; get them full-time, and up and running right away.
4. Make everything else secondary to items 1-3.
5. Get structure, process, governance and people in place.
It takes total management support to make item No. 3 a reality. That same kind of support, one that some HP 3000 sites have enjoyed during migrations, makes No. 4 possible. It all leads to the payoff of No. 5.
"I spent the first month working around the clock, trying to make all of that happen,” Hsu said. “At this scale and this complexity, with the number of interdependencies we were facing, there is no substitute for structure, process and governance. There just isn’t.”None of HP's customers will manage any change this vast. Some of its customers are larger than the old combined HP, but the scope of their changes is likely to be dwarfed by the HP mission. Dell is taking on EMC to create a formidable HP Enterprise rival. Things will be axed, by definition. But HP's breaking itself apart and working to lose nothing of essence. The creator of the HP 3000 had become a $110 billion company, operating in 120 countries, with 700 legal entities.
Hsu's five elements of his change mission beg for details. Since the HP story on how to separate over about 13 months appeared in a Hewlett Packard PR publication, it won't have operational items. But the company says it's taken close notes for any of its customers to employ -- should they employ HP's professional services for a project like a migration. Hsu said getting paychecks and sales under control comprised the most crucial elements.
You essentially have to separate and realign all 700 legal entities, and every one of those entities includes assets, people, revenue and so on. You have to figure out what the phasing and timing of each will be in order to get the IT systems up and running and in order to get employees in place so you can turn those systems on so that everyone will have day-to-day needs met, everyone will get paid and everyone will be able to manage transactions.
While praising his team's efforts at the separation, Hsu took note that this was an emotional journey away from "an engineering company with an innovation mindset, which can sometimes mean that people engineer solutions to perfection by employing perfect information. But during the separation, we had to make big decisions quickly and often with imperfect information."
Those are lessons that can be useful for the largest of migration efforts. Sometimes speed runs roughshod over motivating a workforce.
One thing that struck me... is how emotional the prospect of the separation was for so many people. At the very beginning, some of my colleagues were voicing feelings of loss in a way that I simply didn’t anticipate because from the start, I saw this as a clear, value-creating transaction with a clear mission. But I definitely understand their emotional reactions now, because for that first month and a half after the separation announcement, we were moving at a pace that had people’s heads spinning.
November 02, 2015
HP Enterprise treads out security in opener
In the World Series and on the Sunday US news shows, HP Enterprise put its best step forward with ads. The commercials which aired on US broadcast networks touted image of the new company, rather than its products like ProLiant servers and Linux that have replaced HP 3000s at migrating sites. After the first full trading day on the NY Stock Exchange, investors had bid the HPE stock down by 2 percent. HPQ, the stock for the HP Inc. side of the split, fared better, gaining 13 percent. Together the two entities added $2.5 billion in valuation.
While one day's trading is not enough for a trend, today's investors looked like they believed the higher risk of HP Enterprise plans for next-gen datacenters and security services was a less certain bet than a high-cash, low-risk collection of HP Inc. products. HP Inc.'s sexiest product is its forthcoming 3D printers. The Twitter hashtag #newHPE includes pictures of staffers celebrating day one, including this one above of a friend of the 3000, networking guru James Hofmeister.
The HP Enterprise commercials promised that the company would be "accelerating next." The 30-second spots show a collection of motion-capture video projects, medical imaging, race car design, cargo container logistics, transit mapping, and a gripping clip of an amputee walking on a digital-assisted set of legs.
"A new flexible cloud that harmonizes all operations" refers to the cloud services that remain after the shutdown of the public HP Cloud. An investment of $3 billion in R&D gets touted, perhaps because the risks to be taken to win back business are going to be costly at first. "Because no money is better spent," the copy vows in a 3-minute "HP at 75" online ad. Things are going to be different, this Hewlett Packard says, because everything in IT is changing anyway.
The era of a vendor being essential to holistic customer success is past, however. It's nothing like the HP of 1980, says one of our readers who's still managing a 3000 for fleet vehicle parts tracking. "They thought they could defeat the world by making the world's best PCs and servers," says Tim O'Neill, "but it is a tough market. Systems have largely become unbundled in recent years, but HP seems to think they can first sell services to customers, and then the customer will buy HP hardware on which to run said services."
HP reminds the world it ships a server every six seconds. During the run-time of any of those commercials, five servers left HP shipping. By the accounting from HP's reports, however, four minutes of ads would have to run before a single Integrity server is shipped.Integrity and the Business Critical Systems group is treading water at a 2 percent sales share of HP Enterprise Group business, according to the last HP quarterly report. Sales of servers and expansion of OS environment features are among the few elements that matter to a customer who's remained with HP -- unless they're able to afford HP Professional Services.
It was once very different, with the 3000 customer desperately dependent on Hewlett Packard expertise, O'Neill reminds us.
In HP's salad days customers were very reliant on HP factory support for both hardware and operating system software service. We knew nothing of how MPE worked. Early on, in the 1980s, HP came out and installed things like MPE IV or MPE V, and even came to install patches. Later, we learned how to do some ourselves, but we still had a big contract with HP at the ready to come when called.
This was offset, to some degree, by our decision to contract with competitors for hardware repair, which did cause a lot of consternation, but HP still did the software. Oh, what great days!
The independent services and development marketplace, as well as a massive reseller community, erased the advantage of those old-school days. The key deliverable from a modern company "accelerating next" vendor is research and development. Last year's HP channeled just 3 percent of its revenues for R&D. The 20th Century HP operated at a 9 percent level. The money has been re-channeled into acquisitions, until now. One investment house believes more acquisitions are the way forward, though.
The challenge for HP Enterprise is to become a vendor that once sold products to run in data centers, but now sell cloud services. A total of 96 million shares of the two HPs were traded today. HP's printer-PC group led the way. Enterprise must sell its strategy with more panache, hoping that the image-shaping of YouTube and TV broadcasts will coax investment advisors like Credit Suisse into favorable ratings. On Monday afternoon, the investment house said they expect the company to "embark on a streak of transformative mergers and acquisitions" to plug holes in the HPE product line.
As for tactical changes, Hewlett Packard Enterprise was scheduled to go online as a separate entity three months ago. A CIO World article of this summer recapped the HP split-up plans, as announced at this summer's HP Discover meeting.
HP is documenting it all, so it can share what it learns with any large companies that have to through the same thing, presumably as part of HP services engagements.
The split probably would have been more complex if it weren’t for HP’s former CIO Randy Mott, noted IDC analyst Matt Eastwood. Several years ago he consolidated HP’s infrastructure from 85 data centers to six, making Hinshaw’s job an easier one. It will retool 2,800 applications and 75,000 APIs before the company becomes Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. on Nov. 1.
80 percent of that retooling work was complete at the time of the HP Discover announcement. One analyst, Rob Enderle, has said the HP split was being executed as a way to offer its Enterprise operations for a merger with EMC. An article in the San Jose Mercury News reports the rogue analyst called HP a passed-over bride, since Dell announced it would acquire EMC last month.
"She's the bride at the altar," Enderle said. "The end result is that HP Enterprise is now packaged for sale, except there's nobody to buy them, except maybe Oracle."
To some observers, HP is a giant laid low, a remnant of the behemoth that once bestrode Silicon Valley.
"People looked at what it was, and want some of that back," said technology analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy. "I think people in different parts of the world see it differently. They say, 'Yeah, they had some hard times, but they're in a heck of lot better situation now than before.' I look at it as a glass half full."
The two HPs will share one seminal icon. Bill and Dave's Palo Alto offices, maintained as a shrine that includes loose change on the desk blotter, can be accessed though entrances from both the HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise buildings. In Palo Alto, as in the annals of the 76-year-old company's lore, the two sides of the new HP share campus space.