« April 2016 | Main | June 2016 »

May 27, 2016

A Weekend Memorial to the Future's Past

Here in the US we start our Memorial Day holiday weekend today. Plenty of IT experts are taking a few days off. I reported the start of the HP 3000 emulation era over a Memorial Day weekend, five years ago. We'll take our long weekend to celebrate grandkids and a cookout, and see you back here next week.

In the meantime, here's that first report, a three-parter, showing that Stromasys set and met its development schedule, one that gave the 3000 homesteaders a future beyond the lifespan of HP's MPE/iX hardware. One year later, the software, called Zelus at the time, had a formal debut at a Training Day. Now as Charon it's preserving MPE/iX applications.


During that 2011 springtime, Stromasys offered screen shots of the PA-RISC emulator as evidence the software could serve as a virtual platform for the 3000’s OS. The screen above shows the beginning of the boot sequence (click for detailed view). HP provided internals boot-up documentation to assist in the software's design.

A product journey toward a 3000 hardware emulator took another significant step this spring, as the Zelus cross-platform software booted MPE/iX on an Intel server.

CTO Dr. Robert Boers of Stromasys reported that the OS has come up on a version of the emulator that will managed, eventually, by Linux. Although the test screens that Boers sent were hosted by Windows, the "fairly preliminary version" will be released on an open source OS. "Windows is a little passé," Boers said. "But we now have a first prototype."

Stromasys said it has now been able to use Zelus to tap PA-RISC hardware diagnostics to get the bugs out. "The way we had to debug this was just looking at the code instruction by instruction," Boers said, "to figure out what it does. That took us a long time." Compared to the emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."

The accomplishment means that Zelus can do enough to create an MPE/iX image in memory and log to the files. For MPE that was complex, Boers said, while examining and transferring bits and pieces of 32-bit and 64-bit code. Linking to the Processor Dependent Code (PDC) calls that check for 3000 hardware held the project up. One decimal in a table — which turned out to be 666 — "kept us from booting for three months," Boers said. "It's an infamous number that turned out to be a coincidence when we found it."

The pilot milestone comes about one quarter later than the company estimated last year. Pilot versions of the emulator were scheduled to be in beta test by now, with a full release available by mid-year. Boers said the complexity and construction of HP's MPE boot code taxed the tech skills of a company which has built thriving DEC Alpha and VAX and hardware emulators.

"It was a tough one to write," he said of the 3000 effort that began in earnest last year but reaches through HP's licensing delays back to 2004. "It's a pretty deviously complex system. The big problem is that large parts of the operating system are still running in 32-bit mode. MPE's basically an emulated operating environment. We were debugging an emulator running on an emulator."

Hewlett-Packard said in the 1990s that MPE/iX was going to get its full 64-bit version when HP revised it for the Itanium processors. When the vendor cancelled its product futures, the OS remained in emulation mode.

Zelus product delivery to a limited number of sites will take some time, "because it's been such a long project and it's a matter of pride. This has been just a proof of concept. We started trying to build a 918, but then we decided to build something really good, so it now is [software that emulates] an A400."

Making a market for an emulator

HP won't resell an emulator to help the market

01:34 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 25, 2016

MANMAN to journey to cloud-based ERP

Diston SawsThe first project to move a MANMAN HP 3000 site to Kenandy's cloud-based ERP has an official start date. Terry Floyd and his team at The Support Group have a one-year mission to move Disston Tools from MANMAN to the Kenandy software, starting at the beginning of July. A manufacturer whose roots go back to 1840, Disston is dependent on EDI, an aspect that will help to prove that Kenandy is a good fit for MANMAN migrators.

"It’s an incredible ERP system – a completely new design concept and paradigm for ERP," Floyd said of Kenandy. "There are no modules; it’s all one thing. It has amazing functionality… and it's ready for MANMAN companies now, as I predicted four years ago."

Terry-FloydLike many MANMAN sites on the HP 3000, Disston has a complicated company structure and MANMAN has been modified. Floyd has an insider advantage in leading the journey away from MPE/iX, "since I first started working on their FORTAN in 1986." He adds that they have given themselves a year "to get everything right and do one big cutover." He's been a guru for MANMAN sites through the software's many owners, from the earliest days when he worked for ASK Computer, then on his own and into MANMAN's Computer Associates days, forward to the SSA Global era, and finally to Infor's current stewardship of MANMAN. Kenandy feels like old blood, in a good way, he said.

"All of us [at the Support Group] spent a week at Kenandy Partner Training sessions. We met everybody and what a group they are. It’s just like ASK in 1980." By that Floyd means the creators of MANMAN, ASK. The company's founder Sandy Kurtzig was crucial to getting Kenandy's software ready for the marketplace. Floyd has been talking about the solution since 2011, pegging it as a good destination for MANMAN sites who want to leave the HP 3000. 

The HP 3000 was just celebrating its final Reunion in the fall of 2011 when Kenandy started showing off its designs to CAMUS, the user group devoted to what we once called CIM, or Computer Integrated Manufacturing. After seeing a 30-minute presentation at a CAMUS meeting held during Reunion Week, Floyd noted one big advantage to Kenandy: its design and development came from Kurtzig, who crept just a bit out of retirement decades after building the first generation of MANMAN.

Floyd said almost five years ago that re-thinking is the key to making a new generation of manufacturing software.

I think Sandra Kurtzig has done it again with the new Kenandy “no-ERP” manufacturing applications. Kenandy was developed over the last year and a half using the Salesforce toolsets which really gave them a good head start. It will be very recognizable to any MANMAN/MFG user, having an Item Master, BOMs, Routings, WO’s, PO’s, demand management and MRP. Apparently Sandy wrote some of the code herself, just like the early days of MANMAN.

One of the roadblocks to putting classic ERP into a Salesforce cloud model are those customizations. HP 3000 sites were so locked in to customization as a strategy that the competing MM II app from HP included a Customizer tool. "A lot of people are rethinking all the crazy customizations they've done," Kenandy's president Rod Butters said. "This is where Sandra's experience makes a huge difference for us. If we didn't have her insights, this product wouldn't be the same."

07:35 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2016

Moving off a 3000, or just some MPE/iX app?

Wednesday afternoon MB Foster leads another of its webinars about migration advice. The company is the community leader in data migration, data migration projects, data migration service. You're moving, they're the folks to contact. On Wednesday at 2 PM EST they're reaching out to explain the methodology the company uses to process departures from the 3000 world.

Moving VanThe options on exits "have not changed much over the last decade," the company's email teaser says. "They include; Stay, Rehost, Replace/Buy, Rebuild. The best choice for you depends on growth expectations, corporate standards, risk and cost." The other determining aspect is how much exiting a migration prospect must do immediately. Several of the current generation of migrators have gone to the app-by-app model.

The largest single migration of educational 3000s, 36 of them at the SBCTC, was pulled off in some pieces. This usually follows a methodology of getting a key app onto another platform in a lift and shift. Rewrites have become rare. Later on the lifted app can be replaced. Sometimes, as is the case at SBCTC, the whole migration platform shifts. Eloquence database to Oracle was the shift there. Another higher-ed site, at Idaho State University, moved its apps a few at a time over several years.

It's always worth mentioning the choice that MB Foster notes: a choice to stay on the HP 3000. But you won't even have to do that if all you need to accomplish is an update of hardware. Choosing Stromasys and the Charon emulator is also a move off the HP 3000: the Hewlett-Packard servers and disks get left behind. New PC hardware and a Linux control center take the place of the HP iron.

The pressure to move an app depends on the need to bring it forward with new technology and more wide-ranging interfaces. When Secure FTP was a crucial transfer mechanism for data, the 3000 was often a special-needs case. HP never finished FTP for MPE/iX so it worked fully to industry standards. By now, though, FTP is yesterday's transfer technology. Managed File Transfer came of age several years ago. A 3000 app that was moved to embrace SFTP was hitting a target that moved already.

The point to remember is that the instincts that got a 3000 IT manager to their current post are still sound. Change only what brings needed value and business-competitive features. Foster's strategy says that "In 2006 there was no pressing need to migrate the [MPE/iX] application. A decade later, the pressure to ‘get off’ the HP 3000 has surely increased."

Where the pressure has become higher, the most crucial play involves moving data. More than 20 years ago, IBM was making a play to migrate 3000 systems to AS/400s. Computerworld called me to ask how I believed that'd go. "Not so good," I said at the time, "because there's all that IMAGE data that's essential to a 3000 customer. A tough move today." Migrations are easier now thanks to all the tech advances. It's business choices, though, not technology promises, that propel any migration.

06:42 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 20, 2016

Cloud patterns now private, MRP affairs

Moving CloudsTwo years ago this week we reported that Hewlett-Packard would be spending $1 billion on developments for HP Helion, its private and public cloud offering for enterprise customers. The spending was scheduled to take place over the coming two years, so now's a good time to examine the ceiling of clouds for HP. It turned out to be lower than expected.

That spending plan for Helion outlasted the public version of the cloud service. Within a year of the $1 billion mission statement, HP was saying the company had no business in a cloud space dominated by Amazon Web Services and others. By this January, the final cloud customers at the Helion public service had moved their clouds elsewhere. HP Helion private clouds march onward in a world where the vendor controls all elements in a deal, rather than competing in a tumultuous market. A private cloud behaves more like the HP 3000 world everybody knows: a means to management of dedicated resources.

The use of cloud computing to replace HP 3000 manufacturing applications is reaching beyond hypotheticals this summer. Terry Floyd, founder of the manufacturing services firm The Support Group, has been working with Kenandy to place the cloud company's solution in a classic 3000 shop. A project will be underway to make this migration happen this summer, he said. 

The 3000 community that's been moving has been waiting for cloud solutions. Kenandy is the company built around the IT experience and expertise of the creators of MANMAN. They've called their software social ERP, in part because it embraces the information exchange that happens on that social network level. But from the viewpoint of Floyd, Kenandy's was waiting for somebody from the 3000 world to hit that teed-up ball. Kenandy has been tracking 3000 prospects a long time. The company was on hand at the Computer History Museum for the ultimate HP3000 Reunion in 2011.

The Kenandy solution relies on the force.com private cloud, operated by Salesforce.com. Smaller companies, the size of 3000 customers, use Salesforce. The vendor's got a force.com cloud for apps beyond CRM. Floyd said in 2015, "When the project kicks off next year, because we think Kenandy is a good fit for them."

The longer that small companies wait out such cloud pushes as HP's $500 million per year, the better the value becomes for getting onto their cloud. The effort migrates datacenter ops outside company walls, a big shift in 3000-heyday thinking. After its public cloud flame-out, HP ultimately worked to convince companies to build their own private clouds. The option that's firming up this summer is renting cloud apps from firms like Kenandy and Salesforce.

Floyd and his company have said there's good value in switching to cloud-based ERP for some customers. Customization of the app becomes the most expensive issue.

08:52 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2016

Tape drive changer a powerhouse for MPE

Autochanging HensAutochanging tape drives used to be the stuff of science fiction among 3000 managers, but those days passed by before HP cut off making Classic 3000 MPE V systems. Just because an autochanger is a 3000 storage option does not make it automatic to program, however.

A question posed to the community by Ideal Computer Services Ryan Melander reached for help on programmatically controlling such autochangers -- to select a slot, and load the tape and come to ready. "I am trying to configure an old DDS3 auto-changer, one that I don't believe will unload and load the next tape," he said.

Gilles Schipper noted that the command ad ldevno id=hpc1557a path=?? Mode=autoreply configures the device, and to advance tape after use, employ the command (from Devctrl.mpexl.telesup) ldev eject=enable load=online 

DAT tapesDenys Beauchemin mentioned HP's pass-through SCSI driver as a tool to drive the device's robot. The software was built by HP's labs and labeled as "not for the faint of heart" by engineers, but can assert a programmatic control over autochangers. Some third party programs such as Orbit's Software Backup+/iX can also do this work.

If ever there was a theme song for an autochanger at work, it would be a tune called Powerhouse. Children of the Fifties and Sixties will know it as soon as they hear it, if they've ever watched a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Some programming ideas came from Beauchemin, the engineer who developed at HiComp for the HiBack 3000 solution. "For the next tape to be brought online automatically, I seem to remember there had to be a special setting with the dip switches."

As for being able to control the robot itself, you definitely need to have the [HP] SCSI pass-through driver configured and loaded, and then you need a program to actually issue the IOCTL calls to the robot with the properly formatted SCSI commands. There was such a program a long time ago from a vendor, but that's all gone now.

Perhaps the high-test flutes and heavy octane horns of Powerhouse -- used in Duck Dodgers and the 24th and a Half Century -- can be put up on the MP3 player while fitting the driver to MPE. ("Oh drat these computers -- they're so naughty and so complex," says Marvin the Martian in one installment. "I could just pinch them.")

From our archives we found this advice from the late Jack Connor of Abtech, pointing to similar complex answers about controlling DDS changers.

Typically, there's a second SCSI port/address assigned for the transport control which allows the selection of specific tape. For MPE, stacker mode is typically selected, which tells the drive to just mount the next tape in line when requested. I don't know if the DDS autoloaders have a network connection available like the C7145NA DLT autoloaders do; with that device's web interface you can reload any tape, bypass a bad tape, and so on.

Back in 2011, John Pitman checked in to report that a much simpler solution to his changer's control needs popped up. "On re-examining my code for HPDEVCONTROL, I found I had catered for 1- and 2-digit device numbers in the string passed, but I had configured the drive as dev 777. This produced a string dev number of 77, which doesn't exist as a tape drive. Once I fixed this, it works like a treat."

09:16 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2016

A Spring When The Web Was New to You

May 1996 Front PageTwenty years ago this month we were paying special attention to the Web. We called it the World Wide Web in May 1996, the www that does not precede Internet addresses anymore. But on the pages of the 3000 NewsWire released in this week of May, a notable integration of IMAGE and the Internet got its spotlight. We've put that issue online for the first time. The Web was so new to us that our first 10 issues were never coded into HTML. Now you can read and download the issue, and it's even searchable within the limits of Adobe's OCR.

As an application for higher education, IRIS was serving colleges in 1996 using MPE/iX. The colleges wanted this new Web thing, popular among its professors and students, to work with the 3000 applications. Thus was born IRISLink.

IRISLink is not a product that Software Research Northwest will sell to the general market. But SRN's Wayne Holt suspects that a generic version of something like it is probably being built in the basement of more than one third-party vendor for rollout at this summer's HP World meeting.

"The message traffic on the HP 3000-L Internet list shows that a lot of sites prefer the COBOL lI/IMAGE model over writing piles of new code in a nonbusiness oriented language," Holt said. "But people are telling them that won't fly in the world of the Web and - take a deep breath here - the time has come to dump their existing well-developed COBOL lI/IMAGE infrastructure on the HP 3000. Not so."

The integrators on this project made themselves big names in the next few years. David Greer convinced Holt at a face-to-face meeting at a Texas user conference where "I listened to him share his vision of what the Web would someday be in terms of a standard for access to resources and information." Chris Bartram was providing a freeware version of email software that used Internet open systems standards. Take that, DeskManager.

It was far from accepted wisdom in 1996 that the WWW would become useful to corporate and business-related organizations. Even in that year, though, the drag of COBOL II's age could be felt pulling away 3000 users from the server. An HP survey we noted on the FlashPaper pages of that issue "asks customers to give HP a 1-5 rating (5 as most important) on enhancements to COBOL II that might keep you from moving to another language." There wasn't another language to move toward, other than the 4GLs and C, and those languages represented a scant portion of 3000 programs. Without the language improvements, some 3000 customers would have to move on. 

Linking compilers with the Internet for the HP 3000 was not among the requested enhancements. The 4GL vendors were already moving to adopt this Web thing. The 3000 was still without a Web server, something that seemed important while Sun and the Windows NT bases had plenty to choose from.

HP was struggling to find enough engineers to do everything that was being proposed in a wild time of Internet growth and innovation. We complained of this in an editorial. HP would tell a customer who needed something new in 1996, "Help me build a business case for that." As in, let's be sure you'd buy it before we build it. Puh-leeze, I wrote.

One business case - a need for a product - doesn't eliminate another. Some customers need COBOL 97 support, the speed of the Merced chip and the ability to run Java native on their HP 3000s. Maybe they need the COBOL support first, Java after that, and the Merced by decade's end. There are others who need the same things but in a different priority. If CSY draws its input only from customers, they pit one set of priorities against another. I doubt this is the intent of being Customer Focused - but it's what happens when every development needs a Business Case.

HP itself was still pulling away from legacy technology: systems running corporate IT that didn't even have an HP badge on them.

For many years mainframes from IBM and Amdahl have been among the most business-critical servers in the company, and on May 17 HP will replace those systems with its own. According to reports from the Reuters news service. HP 3000 systems as well as HP's Unix systems will take the place of those mainframes. That comment came from HP's CEO Lew Platt, interviewed while on business in Asia. The mention of the HP 3000 by the company's CEO begins to fulfill at least one Proposition 3000 proposal - a higher profile for the computer system within HP's own operations.

Proposition 3000, of course, was the advocacy push launched to put the 3000 in a frame like the propositions on the California ballots of that era. Changes in the infrastructure, voted in by the constituency. Computerworld "asserted that HP had been "put on notice" during the SIGMPE meeting at San Jose in late March where the Proposition was first presented to HP management."

09:38 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 13, 2016

Creating 3000 Concept-Proving Grounds

Proving GroundThree years ago today, Stromasys hosted a community meeting at the Computer History Museum. It was the coming-out party for the debutante HP 3000 virtualization product Charon. The software had been running in several production sites for awhile, but the CHM meeting collected several dozen partners, prospects, and Stromasys experts. Some spicy slide decks were shared, along with promises that saving MPE/iX applications just got easier. This was billed as training.

In the 36 months since that day, the Charon HPA software has been enhanced twice to better its performance levels as well as establishing more complete emulation of the HP hardware environments. One major change to the solution came by eliminating an option — a kind of addition through subtraction that's pushing the software into production use more often. The Freeware A-202 of 2013 has been removed, replaced by Proof of Concept. PoC is pretty much the only gateway to using the software that transforms Intel-Linux boxes into PA-RISC 3000 servers.

3000 sites "are coming out of the closets," said product manager Doug Smith when he flew into Austin to update me about the product. He's running a program that discounts PoC engagements, with savings based on the size of the license. Companies that few of us knew were using 3000s have surfaced to adopt Charon, he explained. There's also a 6-way and 8-way configuration of the software that moves above the performance levels of the biggest N-Class server. Meeting and beating HP's 3000 iron performance is a big part of the approval process to get Charon sold and installed.

A proof of concept engagement takes real production data, integrated into the software-server combo of Charon over a period of five days, and shows managers in tech and the boardroom how seamless emulation can look. Smith says that MPE sites don't even need a Linux admin to do this virtualization. One part of that is because of the proof of concept phase gets everything in place to run. Three years ago, the issues to resolve were license-based in some prospects' eyes. By now, putting Charon in play involves five days of time and a license that can be either annual or perpetual. 

But Smith says just about all the Charon licenses sold to 3000 sites today are perpetual. This might be one reason why going to Computer History Museum for that 2013 coming-out seemed so fitting. Legacy and history are often co-pilots that deliver stable applications.

That meeting room brimmed at the Computer History Museum in 2013, where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA/3000. This emulator was anticipated more than 11 years ago, but only came to the market in 2012. And that gap, largely introduced by HP's intellectual property lawyers, killed one license needed to run MPE on any Intel server. But the good news is that an HP licensing mechanism still exists for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator -- pretty much on any good-sized Intel system that can run VMware and Linux. However, you need to know how to ask HP for the required license.

The phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to PC hardware is called "an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most SLTs happen between two companies. Who'd sell themselves their own hardware, after all?

In short, HP's using its existing and proven Software License Transfer (SLT) mechanism to license emulated 3000s. It's doing this because of that delay which ran out the clock on a hard-earned path to the future. HP called it the Emulator License back in 2005. It just happened to need an emulator on sale in order for a customer to buy this license.

The Emulator License isn't quite like the mythical griffin of ancient lore. It's not common, but HP will know what a customer is seeking when they ask for a intra-company license transfer.

Perhaps HP's lawyers -- who certainly had to be convinced by the 3000 division at the time -- insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in the license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but HP could never collect that money without a working emulator for a 3000 on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. No RTU, no emulator license: this was a moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron was on hand.

However, this was not the first time HP had ever tried to make it legal to run one of its OS products on non-HP gear. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and got that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was the ongoing support revenue, and the good will, of keeping older systems running where they remain the best solution.

This time around, for the 3000, HP intended to cut off all of its business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still could call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. No matter. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies. At that coming-out, the company said that the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- what a classic 3000 customer calls an emulator.

The company has said they've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. A product like Charon is dedicated to preserving the investments made across more than three decades of HP 3000 hardware generations.

Customers don't get to create MPE/iX licenses for Charon systems, though, and Stromasys cannot sell any licenses. Neither can HP anymore, either. But those licenses come out of the closets, or off the CPU boards of resold systems. HP never got a chance to sell an emulator license, but it wasn't the first time Hewlett-Packard built an item for 3000 customers it never did sell. HP wanted to emulate an HP-UX server on HP 3000 hardware with the legendary MOST project of 1994. Virtualizing operating environments is a long-standing concept, one that's getting proved all the time in this year's 3000 community.

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

May 11, 2016

Migrations include data: How to handle bags

BagsonbeltEarlier this week I wrote about a collective of Washington state colleges that moved away from the HP 3000 and MPE in 2011. The work started years earlier and had a dead-end for awhile, but the 36 HP 3000s eventually became just six Integrity servers. They used the TurboIMAGE data and lifted apps, but the data was the most crucial part of the migration.

Moving data is fraught with challenges, from doing it in a way that the new apps can make sense of it, to making sure everything got transported safely. Good HP 3000 managers are like Marines: no bit of data is left behind. They leave behind applications often, because programs go obsolete or get replaced. Not data.

Later today MB Foster is having a demo of its UDACentral software. There's still a few hours to register, but you need to be at your browser live at 1 PM today, May 11. This is an HP 3000 story, too. Migration is more complicated sometimes than just STORE and RESTORE. Mapping a database to another one is easier with good software.

The demo will show "how to drag and drop and map data from source to target, automatically create migration scripts, and migrate tens of millions of rows per hour." A free trial of UDACentral can be downloaded from the MBFoster website.

"This is a 3000 story, and beyond a 3000 as well," Birket Foster says. "A story of evolution and learning to use data."

Last year, new features appeared in UDACentral. 

  • Convert CSV files to RDBMS tables
  • Support both FTPS (FTP over SSL) and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol)
  • Encrypt data in-flight, metadata and migration scripts

Afterlast spring's demo of the software, I commented that "Carrying a company's identity from a TurboIMAGE database to Oracle or SQL Server has been viewed as a complex task for a long time. It looked a lot less complex today."

Choosing source databases, then selecting a target database of another type, was straightforward. More importantly, this software ensures that data makes its move in a way that delivers a useable resource, not one overrun with table errors and illegal dataset names. Warnings before the data's moved keep the identity of the company clear. There's a default data mapping between databases that's done automatically to get database administrators and managers started quickly.

Watching the software in action that day made me realize how far we've come in the task of making transformations to our IT enterprises. There was once a Computerworld reporter who asked me during the 1990s what barriers IBM had to overcome if it stood any chance of converting HP 3000s to AS/400 sites. Well, there are those databases, I said to him. "You might move the applications or replace them. But the data's got to remain the same."

07:28 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2016

First came MPE's migration—now, the apps

Bull-Elk-migratingBy mid-2011, the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) stopped using the 36 HP 3000s that had powered 34 campuses since 1982. Even at that time, though, after the largest transfer of educational apps off MPE, SBCTC knew the target HP-UX systems would see another migration. One migration began another. Migrating off MPE hosts was a prelude to another migration, four years after landing on HP's Unix.

Michael Scroggins, the CIO at SBCTC, checked in with us after we spotted him on next month's HPE Discover conference speaker list. He's talking about the role of a CIO in today's IT. Why Would You Want to be a CIO? promises insights.

The CIO is a high-risk position. There are many thoughts and much advice related to surviving as a CIO. You’ve got to get there first. This discussion will center on strategies and considerations that you can use to get there. Why would anyone want to be a CIO? It is the best job in the world… if you have what it takes.

SBCTC has been taking its data forward for more than 13 years, proposing and moving and re-moving its data since 2003. SQL Server and Windows NT was the first target announced, and by 2009 that HP-led initiative had been shuttered while HP repaid what it hadn't finished to the colleges. The Lift and Shift Project was next and took about 18 months. Then in 2014, the eight HP-UX Integrity servers at SBCTC were upgraded to Itanium 4 systems. The original MPE/iX apps were lifted onto Integrity servers after being virtualized.

"We used AMXW’s MPE virtualization environments," Scroggins said, "and consolidated multiple colleges onto isolated environments on the HP-UX instances of Itanium 2 blade servers on the C7000 chassis. The solution leveraged the state’s data center where all colleges are centrally hosted." Lift and Shift cut the colleges' server count from 36 down to eight, all in a consolidated state datacenter.

Another move, off the lift and shift apps, was always in the plans, however.

Some parts of the shifted solutions were supposed to have a 5-7-year lifespan before they moved again, to a managed services platform. Back in 2010 this was the novelty of the cloud. But the foundational move took the MPE apps onto HP-UX. Back then, we asked Bob Adams at SBCTC and heard that a hosted ERP setup without servers onsite was the ultimate goal.

"The bottom line is that this project was our last chance to get this thing done right,” he said. “We weren't going to change technologies. All we wanted to do was extend what we have.” Making the next change means going to Oracle's Peoplesoft applications. This will cut out the Marxmeier Eloquence databases that have subbed in for IMAGE. The migrated apps will be considered legacy systems — to be maintained for several years after the last colleges go live, in order to maintain an archive.

Scroggins says that ctcLink is

the largest higher education project of its kind in the U.S. The goal of the ctcLink Project is the implementation of Oracle/PeopleSoft ERP software applications including Campus Solutions, Finance, Human Capital Management, and Hyperion pillars at all 34 colleges.

"This affects every student, staffer, and faculty member in the college system," Scroggins said. "We went live with the first three colleges last August and are scheduled with the next six in October of this year. The balance of the colleges will go in two additional phases a year apart."

SBCTC moved a Student Management System, Financial Management System, Payroll and Personnel Management System, and Production Management System in that 2010 move. The migration was "with minimal technical changes in programming languages, operating systems, and database and no changes to user application functionality." At the time, Scroggins considered the HP 3000 to be "seven years past end of life. The project was intended to stabilize our applications" by moving away from the hardware that HP stopped building in 2003.

07:20 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 06, 2016

Options for STORE You May Not Know

StorehouseSTORE is the default backup tool for every HP 3000, but this bedrock of backup has options which might exceed expectations for a subsystem utility. Gilles Schipper, the support guru of three-plus decades on the 3000, told us about a few STORE sweet spots.

To start, using the :MAXTAPEBUF option can cut a four-hour backup to three hours or less. Schipper says that increasing the buffer size default to 32K, from the usual 16K, speeds up the backup when STORE sees MAXTAPEBUF. "That's a pretty good payback for one option."

Backups don't need to be specified with an @.@.@ command to be complete. "People should really be using the forward slash," he says, "because it's easy to accidentally omit the Posix file structure if you're not careful constructing your fileset backup." The slash is so much better that a backup specified by HP's TurboStore will replace any @.@.@ operation with "./" Combining @.@.@ with exclusions can lead to omitting files which should have been in a backup.

Schipper says that including a directory on a backup is smart, but private volumes in use on a 3000 need more than :directory as an option.

"If you're using private volumes and the directory option, you'll only get the system volume directory — and you will not get the private volume directories," he says. The backup must explicitly specify the volumes through the ONVS= command, using the long name of the private volume.

The partdb option on a STORE command ensure that any 3000 databases which are incomplete will get backed up. Without partdb, if a root file "doesn't have its corresponding data sets, the root file won't get stored. It's silly, but partdb ensures they get stored." A privileged file can also look like a partial database, so partdb brings those files into a STORE backup.

A 3000 with HP's TurboStore, rather than just the default STORE, can take advantage of the :online command. "It will give you zero downtime, if you have that version from HP," Schipper says. But that begins to drift away from the no-cost STORE options available to any HP 3000 administrator or owner.

05:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2016

CPR for a Non-Responsive Console

On my HP 3000, after a short power blip, the console is now non-responsive. I can connect to the system's GSP port and the session is connected, but nothing is displayed. Neither <ctrl> A or <ctrl> B works. I type away, but get no response. I can then connect via VT-MGR and take the console :console !hpldevin and I receive all the console messages.

So, the messages are being sent (since I see them on the VT connection), but neither the physical console or the GSP gets any console messages. What can I try?

Gilles Schipper says

I believe a START NORECOVERY reboot is in order here. Since <ctrl> A <ctrl> B do not work, you will need to power-recycle the machine to effect a reboot. Presumably you would want to do this after gracefully stopping all jobs and asking online users to log off, if possible.

Depending upon which patch level your level of MPE is on, the :SHUTDOWN RESTART MPE command may also work from a logged-on session with at least OP capability.

Mark Ranft adds

If you haven't rebooted, I've seen similar issues. From the VT console can you try to do 'abortio 20' until it says no I/O to abort. A WHILE loop may make this easier. I've had luck with this in the past. But since Ctrl-B doesn't work, you may be out of luck.

Robert Thwaites notes

These are the simplest things to try first

<ctrl>Q (x-on)


Among the commonest issues: forgetting to do an x-on after a <ctrl>S (x-off) to stop output, so you can look at the line you are interested in. One time I saw another issue where someone had pressed <space> on the console and hadn't pressed <return>.

10:37 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2016

New encrypted hardware solves aged issues

Tinned-disk-encryptionSecurity standards have advanced in IT, while HP's 3000 hardware has not. Encryption resolves a key need for data security that's a part of the HIPAA regulations. The 3000 components won't allow for full disk encryption. There's another approach. A replacement hardware solution for MPE/iX -- which is still being used in the insurance industry -- has been on the market for more than four years. In fact, the hardware is all around us.

Encryption solutions for an older 3000 hardware's data are available. FluentEdge Technologies has sold a PCI-ready solution for Ecometry sites for more than five years. A built-in full-disk approach is only an option with a fresher OS, though. We don't mean the environment powering the application; that's still MPE/iX. The control of the hardware is where such new hardware can be put into play.

Virtualizing with the Charon HPA software offers several advantages over relying on HP's hardware. Component failures are a matter of when, not if, in 15-year-old hardware. If the 3000 isn't an A- or N-Class, it's even older. Shrink-wrapping replacement drives won't look as good to security auditors as a full disk encryption of recent-model components. Newer drives include broader options.

The virtualization of the MPE/iX hardware can become an encryption strategy. Alternative methods that rely on legal defenses don't exist like they once did. A security expert friend of mine tells a story about using lawyers instead of encryption. It's a story from a different time: the era when 3000 hardware was not so old.

The certified CISSP Steve Hardwick was once involved in a HIPAA audit. After the presenting the audit results to the CIO, the next question to be resolved was remediation -- bringing the systems into compliance. The CIO’s response, Hardwick said, took advantage of an older version of HIPAA instead of newer hardware.

The CIO said that "after consulting with legal counsel, we are taking no action to mitigate the deficiencies found in the audit. They have informed us it will be cheaper to litigate than spend funds on security changes.”

That was in the early days of HIPAA. In those days, that regulation lacked teeth. To rectify this, the US government passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act for enforcement. It defines what's a breach of information. plus the responses that organizations must take after a breach. Very quickly, the cost of not putting security controls in place changed, especially due to the enforcement defined by the act.

Bringing 3000 applications into line with regulations like HIPAA and HITECH usually includes securing the healthcare data. Full disk encryption is an option if the drives are controlled at the host level by an OS other than MPE/iX. At the host level, Linux is the controlling environment in a virtualized environment. Drives in Charon, for example, are disk images in OS instances such as RedHat. Choosing virtualization can supply something to pass an audit. It's not exactly brand-new hardware, but it can be generations newer and leave the old and reliable app software in place.


08:34 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)