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.”
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