August 31, 2016
What To Do To Succeed In Migrations
In the 3000 community a major manufacturer is making its way off its ERP system. It will take years. We've been told not to say who, but the more important element of this story is the what. As in, what not to do to make a clean move away from applications that drive finances and manufacturing.
It's been a struggle, but mostly due to poor project planning and project management. Migration partners who've served the 3000 community pride themselves on the planning deliverable. Without such good planning, "it's taken significantly longer than they thought it would, primarily because they chose to ignore warnings."
The top IT management refused to perform any business process analysis before beginning the project. Business processes have been traced by MPE/iX applications since the 1980s. The software has been lauded for bending to the needs of processes, instead of the other way around. "They knew what they were doing, and didn't think we understood what it would take to implement new systems in our businesses."
Planning comes at a discount as well as with a price. You get the discount when you plan. You pay the price when you don't. Especially in migrating from a legacy system ERP, where the P stands for Planning.
August 29, 2016
How Good Things Are Slow to Change
Five years ago this week I was debating Apple's place in the future of tablets. The iPad was roaring along with more than 60 percent of the share of tablets shipped at the time. I bought one for my wife a few months later, to help her convalesce following a hip surgery. It was an iPad 2, and it's turned out to be the equivalent of a 9x9 HP 3000. It might run forever.
My debating point in late August of 2011 was Apple would not be chased off its leadership of market share anytime soon. In 2011 nobody offered a tablet featured with apps and an infrastructure like Apple's. I heard the word "slab" to describe tablets for the first time. That label predicted that a tablet could become nothing more special than a PC. White box, commodity, biggest market share will eliminate any out-sold competitors.
The trouble with that thinking is that it's the same thing that drives the accepted wisdom about the future for datacenters still using MPE/iX and the HP 3000. Last Friday I attended a 20th work anniversary lobster boil at The Support Group for Sue Kiezel. She left her datacenter career on MANMAN systems to become a part of Terry Floyd's consulting and support company. All through those years, HP 3000 experience has remained important to her work. There's years ahead, too, years with 3000 replacements -- in their own time. Slowly, usually.
Those 20 years also track with the Newswire's lifespan. It's always a chipper afternoon when I visit the company's HQ out in the Texas oaks near Lake Travis. In addition to things like barbecue and cake -- and last Friday, lobsters large enough to crowd a deep pot--reminders of the success of the 3000 are often laying about. Last week I noticed flyers and documents outlining software from Minisoft. Not all of that software is MPE-centric products, but it is all designed for any company that still makes and ships products using a 3000-driven datacenter. Even if that datacenter is hooking up iMacs to MPE/iX, a specialty Minisoft has come to own completely. The 3000 users who remain in the market believe they have a good thing. Change comes slowly to good things, behavior which mirrors human nature.Change came slowly to the iPad's market share of shipped tablets. It took three years for the shipped-per-quarter numbers to drop below 30 percent. At one point they were below 20 percent -- this is share of units shipped, not total overall share of tablets in use. Then the iPad rallied and grabbed more sales. It was and remains a good thing to use if you need a slab computer.
Like the HP 3000s and those MPE/iX users, the tablets made by Apple are built to last longer. That iPad 2 which first sat on Abby's lap while she healed from her hip? Still working every evening here, five years later, streaming Netflix all through the night and delivering emails. Another model of tablet which captured 16 percent share that fall, from newcomer Amazon -- well, those Fires are well-extinguished now. It's not a snipe hunt to find a Fire from 2011. More like the pursuit of a heffalump.
What's similar to the tablet-slab derbies is the way the ownership shifts. People leave iPad ownership when cost of acquisition becomes the primary factor. Why pay the $400-plus when an LG or a Samsung is less than half as much? Why keep using MPE/iX when Linux can drive less costly hardware? Ownership is about much more than capital costs, whether it's an iPad or an MPE server. When the pad -- Abby just calls hers "my computer" by now -- is doing what's needed and doing a good job, then it gets to stay.
And the 3000 and MPE are helped along by companies that retain experience and expertise in products and professionals. Companies with a realistic view of the long term (things will change, but slowly) and devotion to keeping that solution running well. After eight years of using iOS mobile devices, phones and slabs, I finally got my hands on an Android tablet. ATT did the Android brand no favors by giving it to me for free, unprompted. The phrase "We're gonna give you 40 acres, and a mule" rattled in my head after the ATT business rep told me about my upgrade.
Using Android is different than iOS, but in one particular way it's as different as a mule and a Caterpillar tractor. I don't expect this modest LG G Pad to outlast an old mule. It was inexpensive, but as one owner said on the BestBuy site where you can have the tablet for 99 cents, "If you are looking for the cheapest 8-inch tablet with LTE service, this is it, but one gets what one pays for."
And sometimes you get more than what you pay for because it lasts so long. It's easy to find statistics on how much Android holds over iPad in market share. Proof that MPE/iX and its experts have a slim market share is easy to find, too. It's harder to see how many five-year-old tablets are still in everyday use. Or how many MPE-based applications are pushing into their third decade of service. Good things change slowly. That's a blessing in an era littered with tweets that announce a new world order every day.
August 26, 2016
Expecting the Best, Even During A Disaster
This week marked the onset of cheaper air fares. August 23 was the official day for lower fares to be posted by airlines. A fare between Austin and Bejing -- the country where a dozen HP 3000s are driving a manufacturing corporation's operations — is down to $863.
So the impact of airline companies' failed disaster recoveries will recede. There are fewer people to strand when a system goes dark like the one did at Delta Airlines. The disaster was centered around a single building in the Atlanta power grid. It led to people tweeting “I’ll never fly your airline again.” This is just life in 2016. Get used to it: instant reviews, dashed off in the heat of anger and dismay. Tweets motivate spending millions to do good DR.
But the assumptions are that legacy systems are to blame. "Legacy systems stay on way too long," said one blogger who's had some software experience as well as work at Boeing. "Vendor agreements, support and maintenance — and the pain of switching and upgrading a system that’s by and large pretty reliable and so deeply integrated—are things few CTOs want to touch."
Southwest Airlines had no legacy systems at work during its high-season meltdown. The 3000s had been turned off. The plan was to save money by getting more modern. The disaster recovery was not high on the budget list. Customers don't care about IT budgets. They expect the best, even during a disaster. Plenty of 3000s have come through hell and high water.
That reliability doesn’t come out of thin air. The track record the server built during the advent of ticketless flight operations is one reason it still drives manufacturing in places like China and airports serving See's Candies. Celebrating the days of MPE glory won't return it to those places where DR has failed, though. Turning back only happens when a system fails upon installation. Once you're in, it's hard to turn something away at the gate.
Tim O'Neill — a 3000 manager who qualifies for Most Devoted IT Pro to MPE — was moved by our report of a 3000 doing more magic than SAP could at one company.
Yesterday a new user began using our one remaining MPE application. I could say that utilization is growing. If I were a little smarter, I would be able to rewrite the application in C (or some other new programming language on MPE) give the application a Windows look and feel, and then customers who are currently asking to manage their data in the way that only this application does might say, "I want a system like that." And Stromasys would sell them Charon systems.
Charon is ready. The new programming language, not so much; Java was a candidate, but not for long. In that magic alternative world, the thrill would be new MPE customers buying hardware. "I would think I were dreaming," O'Neill said. We can settle upon the dream of keeping MPE alive where it's working. There's still business out there.
One reason business is still in play is that people expect the best. Any company whose product could get you killed, or injured, or create a sleep-in-the-terminal kind of event, should be expected to put in enough DR to avoid a disaster that’s not an act of God. Nobody expects to read in the ticketing side of the Delta website that “You should know we don’t have millions to improve our disaster recovery. Have a good flight, and may the odds ever be in your favor.”
August 24, 2016
Some 3000 magic is beyond SAP's powers
SAP has taken the place of HP 3000 apps in the last 15 years. Not easily and not completely, in some cases. SAP is known for its switches—choices in configurations that sometimes shape the way a company does business. Some enterprises have to bend their practices to fit SAP, instead of the other way around.
At General Mills, SAP replaced just about everything. As it did, the IT manager there thought "If everyone buys and runs the same generic SAP software, how do you get a competitive advantage over your customers? We had spent years creating custom solutions and with SAP, we transformed the business to be... just like everyone else's."
Success stories are out there, too. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said the SAP migration that he's helped with "went brilliantly."
"It's because the implementation was driven by the user departments who knew exactly what they wanted," he said. "They were given responsibility for doing it, so they used about zero external consultancy. All we had to do was extract the data from the HP 3000. Shame that we lost a good customer."
In another instance that Yeo is aware of, the company began replacing their financials and purchasing systems, went on to billing, inventory and sales. "Then they got to the clever stuff that the HP 3000 was doing and failed. 16 years later they are still running an HP 3000 doing the clever stuff."In public, datacenters like that second example are labeled an SAP success story. Every few years someone in IT looks and finds the HP 3000 magic. There is then an idea to replace the magic. Then there is the giving up, and the carrying on.
"Places like that will go off MPE at some point," Yeo said. But it won't be because they make SAP do what the HP 3000 does.
SAP has been called imanagement by golf course or management by magazine, at some 3000 shops. At one building component manufacturer, "senior executives wanted to play with the big boys, and since the big boys were all running SAP, we also had to run SAP. The implementation budget exploded. The initial promoters of the move to SAP—the ones who gloated when HP pulled the plug on the HP 3000—ultimately lost their jobs because of the huge cost and time overruns."
August 22, 2016
Replacements can trigger re-licensing, fees
HP's 3000 hardware is built well, but aging like any other server manufactured in 2003. Or even longer ago. The boxes are at least 13 years old. Hardware includes storage devices that can be newer. But eventually an MPE/iX server will need to be replaced. No iron lasts forever, even if the 3000 comes closest to feeling that way.
When a 3000 wears out or breaks down, something else that resembles the server takes its place. It could be a system just like what stopped working, delivered right to the datacenter. A new 3000 box will require some license transfers, operations beyond what HP expects for MPE/iX.
Third party software that checks for an HPSUSAN number will find a new one on HP's replacement hardware. This means a call to the software vendor for help in getting the application or tool to fire up again. Some software doesn't do this check. The call won't be required then.
The term re-license can include a couple of things. One of those things is a re-negotiation of fees for use. A few software companies in the MPE world have strict accounting for the size of a server. Only a straight-up replacement box will forestall an extra fee for these vendors.
If somehow you could replace an old 3000 with something much newer, while retaining the HPSUSAN number to skip all this administration, would you do it? What you might choose could have a much newer pedigree, too, iron that was built in our current decade. You might see where this is going.You'll be well served to get some expertise on this matter from your support provider. The one we talked to said replacing a 3000 with HP's iron can come with some administration. In the worst cases, it can be knotty.
"It all depends on how the software does its license check," the support company said. "If the software is HPSUSAN-sensitive and your HPSUSAN changed, you probably have an issue."
Support providers who still work in the community can do magic. If a software vendor has gone out of business — and there's no way to get a copy of software to integrate with the new HPSUSAN — you'll be looking outside of your datacenter for help anyway. One source would be checking on HP3000-L if there's no indie support company for you to call. It's a thought, although it's worth noting that the August traffic on the 3000-L is at 24 messages for this month.
3000-L can be a good resource in part because of its lurk factor. Of those two dozen posts in total this month, 10 of them were about installing an SSD in a PC. But some MPE veterans read it, and the 3000 network might be able to suggest help when a vendor has disappeared.
That newer, same as the old 3000 solution? It looks like it's could be the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. Stromasys doesn't promise any re-license process will go without a hitch. Nobody can promise what other vendors will do. But when MPE/iX software reboots and the HPSUSAN is the same as it was—well, that could eliminate the need for administration on a server the same power as its HP predecessor.
August 19, 2016
Vendor makes its installs a key to emulation
Customers have not been crazy about paying for services along with their software. You can make a case for doing things differently when the expert arrives to put something mission-critical into your datacenter, though. Hardware integration included installing services for a long time, until the commodity era arrived. Software then slid into self-install territory with the advent of PC apps, and then open source.
Thing is, the 3000 community managers learned lessons from an era when they were sometimes as experienced as anyone the vendor could assign to their installs. By the end of the 1980s, though, the vendors often had sharper software engineers than most customers. But the MPE vendors didn't have big staffs for outreach with installs. Here's a tape, stream it like this. Call us if there's a problem. DIY system management was the first option.
Now, if you got a great third party support company, they'd help you with anything. Few software companies wanted to be in that business, though. Adager's Rene Woc would say they got called for every problem someone ever had with an IMAGE database. Sometimes the calls didn't even come from customers. After the call, there was sometimes a sale, though.
Finally, there was freeware. For the price, there was no reason to believe anyone would help install this at your site. Emails and websites gave advice. This was the moment when Charon HPA stepped in. People needed to see the new product working to believe in its magic. For a couple of years anyone could download the software on a single-user license and mount it themselves. The results depended on how adept your administrative skills were. Everybody likes to think of themselves as well-seasoned. It's sometimes less than true.
Charon HPA is a mission-critical part of enterprise computing. Although it doesn't emulate anything in MPE/iX, this is software that transforms an Intel processor into a PA-RISC engine. MPE users have lots of variations in their PA-RISC configurations. That's what happens after 40 years of commercial computing success.
So freeware Charon downloads ended a few years ago. Then over the last year-plus the DIY option has been ended too. "We do it ourselves to be sure it's done right," said one official at Stromasys. There was the freeware era, then the DIY era with customers installing themselves. Now it's the vendor-install era. The proof of this concept comes from a statement by the HPA expert for 3000 sites. Doug Smith says, "All of our installs are successful now."People who did the DIY route for HPA, and some who made a stab at plugging in freeware, have generated a few considerations while installing. These are mostly anecdotal reports from that DIY era. When you quiz them about issues, you hear things like IP address configurations and printer workarounds. There are some embarrassingly old printers out there attached to 3000s. We've even heard reports of DTC-attached print devices. Really, that's the kind of thing that's best replaced. It's not like the newer generation of printers is expensive, after all.
The undeniable consideration is the third-party software re-licensing for Charon HPA. Most of the push-back we hear about from HPA prospects revolves around costs versus the number of years needed to emulate. Migrating customers do a shorter-span cost analysis. We haven't heard of a single software vendor who's unwilling to re-license, though. Yes, every app and tool vendor gets to pick their price for this re-licensing. You charge what you believe you can get.
In one spot, new-ish 3000 systems are shipped out from a hardware support company to replace failing 3000s. It's the kind of thing that can forestall an HPA prospect. Interesting, because none of that replacement HP hardware is getting newer. Just different. Battery life alone on HP gear might give you some pause. Putting a fan in front of the 3000's backplane to lower the temperature to operating level? More common than you'd think.
Help on Charon HPA comes from Stromasys. Some 3000 sites are accustomed to asking their regular support and service providers to assist. But the buck stops at the Stromasys desk. Everybody wants it that way, even the customers. A vendor takes the lead responsibility in exchange for being a key to a stable, essential datacenter running 3000s.
August 17, 2016
Crashed IT Versus Staying On MPE's Course
Earlier this month Delta suffered an IT meltdown that made Southwest Airlines' disaster of DR look puny. Three thousand canceled or delayed flights went idle in a single day. A hasty DR mashup was using dot matrix printers at one airport. Delta was never a 3000 user. It's an easy retort to say, "Of course not. Nobody in the modern world of commerce would be staying in the 3000 business."
However. You exit a flight and go into the concourse this month, and there's a See's Candy kiosk. Oh yes, the clerk says, we sell right here and it goes straight back to the main office. And you just know, if you keep track of who's staying the MPE course, that the new point of sale terminal is tapping a TurboIMAGE database somewhere in California. Because See's stayed the course while Southwest veered away.
The largest candy shop company in the US was founded in 1921. See's operates more than 200 stores across this country, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, plus it counts on online sales. See's is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire's iconic founder Warren Buffett called See's "the prototype of a dream business." Buffett certainly knows nothing of See's IT choices, but his managers surely do. He commented on See's dreamy business in a book published in 2012 — more than a decade after HP's plans for the 3000 dried up.
In another state, one of the biggest manufacturers of mobile air conditioning units manages their ERP with MPE. They're moving away from 3000 hardware, in a way. These days you don't need the HP badge on aged hardware to stay the course with MPE applications. You can virtualize and emulate Hewlett-Packard's iron. Yes, MANMAN is still an everyday tool at a company whose name is synonymous with cooled air.A leading AC maker. America's top candy retailer with a footprint that now goes beyond stores and into airport kiosks. The food in those airports' restaurants, some of it cooled in transit by the AC units. The 3000 usually was under the radar of analysts, mainstream press, and CIOs. That situation contributed to HP's business decision. But the business of running corporations is still entrusted to MPE in some places — transit locations where it's been easy to see when other IT can't get off the ground.
August 15, 2016
Poster anniversary lingers beyond sunburns
The biggest statement 3000 users made worked its way onto a front page. 847,000 OC Register readers took note.
Twenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community staged its most prominent protest. The stunt landed the server on the front page of a metro daily paper's news section for the only time in the 3000's history. It also produced sunburns and filled a football field. The lasting impact was memories, like so many computer stories. But a world record was set that remained unbroken longer than HP's product futures were intact for the server and MPE.
It was August of 1996 when a team of 3000 users, vendors, and developers gathered on the football field of Anaheim's Loara High School to build the world's largest poster. The stunt was also a message aimed at HP's executives of the time: Glenn Osaka, Wim Roelandts, Bernard Guidon and especially CEO Lew Platt. "Pay attention to the 3000's potential and its pedigree," the poster shouted. Acres of it, mounted under the Southern California sun of summer. Computerworld (above) was skeptical.
Summed up, the organizers led by Wirt Atmar unfurled 2,650 3-foot x 4.5-foot panels needed to say "MPE Users Kick Butt." Atmar was one of the most ardent advocates for the power of MPE and the 3000. He printed those thousands of sheets off a 3000 Micro XE, a Classic 3000 because why would you need a PA-RISC system? It drove an HP755CM DesignJet printer for two weeks, printing the required 463 billion pixels. Atmar said, after he and his employees loaded and drove the 687 pounds of sheets in a U-Haul truck from his New Mexico offices to California, that "moving the paper into the vehicle was our company's corporate fitness program."
They all had to be numbered and sorted and placed on the field. That was a spot where the winds arrived by lunchtime or so. It would be a race against the clock to build it, but the 3000 was always racing against an HP clock. The statement made for the server moved the needle for existing customers. General Manager Harry Sterling was just taking his job that summer and pushed for funding and lab time to bring the 3000 into parity with Unix and Windows NT servers HP sold. Often, it sold them against the 3000.
The image of the poster made it onto the Metro front page of the Orange County Register. The NewsWire provided lunch and recorded the event for our newsletter just celebrating its first birthday that month. We supplied sub sandwiches and pizzas, recording every request for things like a vegetarian kosher option. It was easier to get media attention than get a kosher veggie delivered to the Loara sidelines, it turned out.
There was so much white paper on the ground that the rising sun began to give the volunteers tans —and then sunburns. The project had to be assembled and taken down in less than eight hours, because football practice started at 4 PM. The field turns on its Friday Night Lights once again in about two weeks.
Computerworld noted that test assemblies extrapolated from a field trial showed that it would take four days to assemble, not four hours. The wind arrived as promised. A hasty trip to a local hardware store delivered 97 pounds of gutter nails to tack down the sheets. Each nail was gathered up at the end of the stunt, using the precision that only software engineers can supply for a computer they love.
More than 100 volunteers were organized and recruited using the HP3000-L mailing list. That nexus of noteworthy 3000 news had been our inspiration and font to unfurl the NewsWire at the previous year's Interex conference. Robelle reported on the show in its "What's Up Doc" newsletter, another staple of that era's news.
"According to Interex, 6,000 attended in addition to the over 2,000 vendor show staff. The Monday night keynote speaker was Scott Adams, the cartoonist of the now-famous The Dilbert Zone cartoon strip. The HP World '96 Daily wrote, "Never has the 22-year-old [sic] HP World '96 (Interex) conference opened with so much laughter and good feelings. Everyone left the room smiling and ready to buy an autographed copy of Adams' book Still Pumped from Using the Mouse."
Multiple sources of coverage, front page notice, a world record, a new general manager and fresh budget. What could go wrong?
The sunburns faded while the profile of MPE rose for awhile. HP later tried to usurp the record with a stunt inside a high school gym, but that was a different category—and challenge met—than the one the 3000 mastered. Grassroots efforts on high school grass kept the 3000 in the Guinness Book for years until then. Even today the largest poster, built in India, isn't so much larger than the one that was created by a community instead of a corporation.
August 12, 2016
How to purge UDCs on the HP 3000 safely
The software vendors most likely to sell products for a flat rate -- with no license upgrade fees -- have been the system utility and administration providers. Products such as VEsoft's MPEX, Robelle's Suprtool, Adager's product of the same name -- came in one, or perhaps two versions, at most. The software was sold as the start of a relationship, and so the relationship focused on the understanding the product provided for people responsible for HP 3000s.
That kind of understanding might reveal a Lewis Carroll Cheshire Cat's smile inside many an HP 3000. The smile is possible if the 3000 uses UDC files and the manager uses only MPE to do a file PURGE. Of course, PURGE ships on all MPE systems. Using that means you'll have to rebuild the UDC catalog. But even that's not enough.
Stan Sieler of Allegro shared a story about this recently. "We recently encountered a site where—somehow—an HFS filename had gotten into COMMAND.PUB.SYS. You can't delete UDC entries with HFS filenames, nor can you add them. I had to edit the file with Debug to change the name into something delete-able." Then there's the rebuilding of the catalog. Keven Miller has contributed a program that sorts and reorganizes UDC files.
There is a more complete way to remove such things from a 3000's storage. You're careful about this because eliminating UDCs with only MPE might leave a user unable to use the server. That grin that lingers is the UDC's filename.
User Defined Commands are a powerful timesaver for 3000 users, but they have administrative overhead that can become foolproof using the right tools. These UDCs need to be maintained, and as users drop off and come on the 3000, their UDCs come and go. There's always a chance that a UDC file could be deleted, but that file's name could remain in the filesystem's UDC master catalog. When that happens, any other UDCs associated with the user will fail, too. It might include some crucial commands; you can put a wide range of operations into a UDC.
When you add a third party tool to your administrator's box, you can make a purge of such files foolproof. You can erase the Cheshire Cat's grin as well as the cat. It's important because that grin of a filename, noted above, can keep valid users from getting work done on the server with UDCs. This is not the reputation anybody expects from a 3000.First you have to find all of your UDCs on a system, and MPE doesn't make that as straightforward as you might think. Using SHOWCATALOG is the standard, included tool for this. But it has its limitations. It can display the system-level UDC files of all users in all accounts. But that's not all the UDCs on a 3000.
MPE, after all, cannot select to show a complete set files by attributes such as program capability. Or for that matter, by last accessed time, or file size, or file security. It's a long list of things that MPE makes an administrator do on their own. Missing something might be the path to looking foolish.
Employing a couple of third party tools from VEsoft, VEAudit and MPEX, lets you root out UDCs and do a foolproof purge, including file names. VEAudit will list all of the UDCs on a server, regardless of user -- not just the ones associated with the user who's logged in and looking for UDCs. The list VEAudit creates can be inverted so the filename is the first item on each line. Then MPEX will go to work to do a PURGE. Not MPE's, but a user-defined purge that looks for attributes, then warns you about which ones you want to delete, or would rather not.
By using MPEX -- the X stands for extended functionality -- you can groom your own PURGE command to look out for files that have been recently used, not just recently created. MPE doesn't check if a purged file is a UDC file.
Such 3000 utilities provided the server and its managers with abilities that went far beyond what HP had built into MPE and its IMAGE database. Now that MPE is moving on, beyond HP's hardware, knowing these third party tools will transfer without extra upgrade fees is like ensuring that a foolproof MPE will be running on any virtualized HP 3000.
They're an extra-cost item, but how much they're worth depends on a manager's desire to maintain a good reputation.
In the earliest days of the sale of these tools, vendors were known for selling them for the price of the support contract alone. That's usually about 20 percent annually of the purchase price. If a $4,000 package got sold that way, the vendor billed for just $800 at first. It made the purchases easier to pass through a budget, since support at the manager-tool level was an easier sell. Think about it. Such third parties passed up $3,200 per sale in revenues in the earliest days. They also established relationships that were ongoing and growing. They were selling understanding of MPE, not just software.
This kind of practice would be useful for the community's remaining software vendors. This is not the time to be raising prices to sustain MPE computing, simply because there's a way to extend the life of the hardware that runs MPE. As the number of MPE experts declines, vendors will be expected to fill in the gaps in understanding. Those who can do this via support fees stand the best chance of moving into the virtualized future of 3000 computing.
August 10, 2016
Measure 3000 performance for datacenters
Measuring the performance of an HP 3000 used to be a leverage point for increasing investments. By now the numbers help justify continuing to use the server in a datacenter with newer boxes. "We think of our HP 3000s as stable, and even reducing in usage over time," says one systems manager, "though actually as the company grows, the data requirements and load on the 3000s increases."
One way to measure a 3000's footprint is the amount of memory it requires. Memory upgrades cost nothing like what they did even 15 years ago. But any spending at all makes that 15-year-old server suspect. HP's Steve Macsisak recommended sessions x 4, plus jobs x 16, plus 64 MB as the criteria for memory usage.
An HP 3000 uses as much of its memory as possible to make processing efficient. The design of the PA-RISC architecture makes memory the most important element of performance, after IO speed. It's not that unusual to see a 3000 using 100 percent of its memory, according to field reports. There's also CPU usage to measure.
CPU percentages can come via the REPORT command. Count up the CPU seconds used in the week, and divide by the total number of seconds available (604,800). But for all of this, it doesn't feel like a graphic report the rest of the datacenter gets from its Unix and Linux systems using SAR. There may be a program inside a 3000 that can help, even if the company never purchased performance tools from Lund. HP's Glance gives away its reporting power in its name, one manager has joked.
There's freeware available to create handsome graphs like the one at left, suitable for showing in a meeting about datacenter resources. Ploticus/iX was written by Andreas Schmidt. It uses data from SCOPE.SYS. Ploticus even works with SAR's data.
Since there's no port of SAR for MPE/iX, something else must stand in. Some systems have HP Scope, the software that dives in deep enough to produce report-ready numbers. It's not the smooth path a 3000 gets from Lund's Clearview Performance Manager. Scope is the HP Performance Collection Software sold by the vendor while it still had an active 3000 business.
Scope includes a program, EXTRACT.SCOPE.SYS, that permits the software to EXPORT its results to a text file. The manual for the software says it has three components.
SCOPEXL, if you are using an MPE/iX system), UTILITY, and EXTRACT. SCOPEXL is the performance data collector for MPE Systems. It continuously collects and summarizes performance data. UTILITY and EXTRACT are the host programs that let you interact with SCOPEXL and manage the data that it collects.
HP's Scope documentation describes how to use the collection and management software: how the host components interact; detailed command descriptions for each program; and suggestions on how to use the programs to analyze and archive data efficiently.
August 08, 2016
August Throwback: Java and VPlus get cozy
Twenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community was discovering windows into the World Wide Web. At the Interex conference held that month we heard the first about Javelin, a new Java-based terminal emulator that required nothing but a browser to connect a PC to an HP 3000. It was the first MPE terminal to run inside a browser, a technology that was searching for a commercial market in 1996. You requested a session and Javelin delivered one out of a pile of user licenses. At the 25- and 50-user tiers, Javelin got cheaper than Minisoft's MS 92 terminal.
That August was the first one with the NewsWire on hand in the community. Java was sexy and hot and Javelin provided a way to care about it while you managed an MPE/iX system. We reported with a hopeful eye that "Java is maturing as a platform for HP 3000 applications."
The Minisoft product is effectively a Java-based version of the MS92 terminal emulator, and it allows users to connect to HP 3000s without a client-based emulation program installed on their local desktops. Instead, Javelin downloads a Java applet in five to 20 seconds into a Web browser on the desktop. The resulting thin client handles HP 3000 terminal emulation tasks.
But customers won't have to modify existing HP 3000 VPlus application forms to deliver them over browser-based connections using Javelin. It reproduces function keys and special keys as well as performs Windows-grade slave printing. Minisoft's Doug Greenup said the product had been tested against MM/II and MANMAN on the 3000, as well as many custom VPlus applications, Qedit, Speededit, Powerhouse and Quiz.
"It's a little slower than our Windows product right now," Greenup said, "at least with character-mode applications. Block mode screens are faster." He said the product would be a good fit for inquiry and modest data entry applications, as well as public access to HP 3000 databases in government and university settings or for remote sales staff.
The point was to reduce the cost of connectivity and give casual users a simple link to HP 3000s. Java was in vogue at HP's MPE labs at a time when the goal was to give the 3000 an equal set of Web tools. HP-UX and Windows NT were claiming to have all of the momentum at the time.
Minisoft still sells Javelin, which can do so much more now than when its first release emerged in that summer of the Anaheim Interex conference. The show was the first of 10 to be called HP World before the user group folded in 2005.
Another bit of news from that conference was the publication of a new book about the HP 3000, co-written by the engineer who led the way in Java adoption for MPE/iX. Mike Yawn wrote The Legacy Continues along with HP's George Stachnik, a book engineered to show the world that "Despite claims from both the UNIX and Windows NT communities that their respective operating systems will be 'taking over the world,' the reality is that enterprise data centers are increasingly multi-platform."
You can still buy a copy of The Legacy Continues on Amazon. The book marked the last time HP invested in any publishing designed to serve only the 3000 market. Unless you count the many advertising dollars sent to the NewsWire, support for which we remain grateful. Our current sponsors make it possible to remember the many beginnings of the HP 3000, so homesteaders can point at the way their servers were designed to take advantage of forthcoming technology.
August 05, 2016
Whatever you know best becomes a platform
An HP 3000 software vendor called this week to report they put four new installations of their product into customer sites this year. Those aren't new HP 3000s, but they're new customers. In 2016 that's notable. There's a reason there are four new spots for this utility software.
"We turn these HP 3000s into Excel machines," the vendor's founder said. "These new IT managers don't know the HP 3000. But they know what they have used. For these companies, it was important to make these 3000s ready to work with Excel."
There are several ways to do this, and Excel doesn't seem like technology as powerful as IMAGE databases and the deep enterprise-grade applications on MPE/iX. The power doesn't matter. It's the connection to the rest of the IT world, and the familiarity of the staff with the driving technology. "You can't get young guys into these companies who know the HP 3000," the vendor said.
While it's not true everywhere, younger IT pros comprise the workforce for enterprise software management. The HP 3000 can seem like grandpa's server to the CIO who wasn't out of elementary school when the 3000 base was growing strong. (That seems young for a C-level job, but such a CIO could be as old as 45. Think the '80s.) Connecting its data with a newer tool like Excel gives the 3000 a tighter bond to mission-critical work.
What's more, oversimplifying the 3000 as a data resource isn't too far away from its original intent. Wirt Atmar of AICS sold QueryCalc software for reporting and new HP 3000s to companies "who were replacing steel filing cabinets" to access information. Excel is a platform in the same way that those filing cabinets were data repositories. It's easier to integrate a system that at least behaves like the rest of the enterprise. If a utility could attach new value to your older server, for a younger manager, there could be room in the budget for that.
August 03, 2016
Migration's prize: more server surveillance
Servers which replaced the HP 3000s were always delivered with a double-edged sword. More flexible. More complex. Whatever you needed to know about the 3000 could be discovered using tools from Lund, Allegro and other vendors. The products had their fans and the companies always pointed out the differences in reporting and tracking capabilities.
Now another 3000 vendor, MB Foster, is teaming up with Bradmark to serve the non-3000 environments: the Windows, Linux and Unix servers that replaced MPE systems. Bradmark's Surveillance software is being resold by MB Foster. Resale often means extra value to the customer, employing services and expertise. There's a webinar on the product next Wednesday, August 10 at 2PM EDT. IT management needs vary, but there are commonalities. Some of the surveillance capability of these migration platforms simply was not possible using MPE/iX tools. Not even HP's pricier ones.
CPU, disk IO, memory, swap space, file system and process resource utilization can be monitored for the migration target platforms using Surveillance. The software works using a central repository, so a homogenous blend of these servers is handled from a single software console.
The software's list of supported server platforms is broad. In order of 3000 migrator's popularity, Windows Server 2003 or later; Linux x64 - x86; HP-UX, both PA-RISC and Itanium; IBM's Linux POWER and AIX Unix; Solaris SPARC, Solaris x64. Even HP's Tru64 can be included among Surveillance agents. There's also a Surveillance for database administration.
A database administrator can "Execute customized rule sets and event handlers, tailored to specific requirements, for immediate alert notification, or to take remedial action. Use Surveillance’s Central Repository to store historical performance and utilization information for root-cause determination, capacity planning, or service-level reports." Even in an environment where all four of the above databases were deployed, Oracle, Sybase, DB2, and SQL Server can all report history to a single repository.
Database administration is more complex on migrated platforms, in part because the data services are more flexible and powerful. It's good to have more hefty tools to shepherd the data. The MB Foster webinar will explain that, with the opportunity to ask questions. Bradmark has an overview on its website done up in Flash, but it's a few minutes to see something a good datasheet would reveal.
August 01, 2016
1,000-plus sessions propel $1 billion in sales
As HP 3000s and MPE hold on, homesteading managers need to justify their use of the solid server. Big-company users sometimes seal the deal.
Here's a recent number: One company supports a firm that does over $1 billion in revenue a year — and it has at any given time over 1,300 sessions logged on, up to 2,000 during its busy season. It's not the only 3000 site of that size, either.
None of us have any hard data on how many 3000s are doing work, or how many work that hard. The data is scattered, so anecdotal reports revolve around the experiences from each vendor's 3000 support customers. One software vendor said there are more than 800 active licenses of his product, still paying support. These are hard numbers to verify.
Support for a 3000 comes from places like Pivital Solutions (an all-3000 support shop). There's no magic number of customers by today, although if you wanted our estimate we'd say more than 1,500 servers are running. Support was always a good way to take the 3000 census. But that was fractured, too: HP never had more than two out of every three 3000s under support.
By now the third party support is working at the very large companies using the HP 3000. If nothing but vendor support will do, then a 3000 is on the bubble — but realistically, that kind of support can't be found for Windows or Linux (although support from RedHat is available for its distro). There's independent support all over the business world. You're usually better off with support you've contracted with on your own, anyway. It's tuned up to know when your busy season is — and how to keep hundreds to thousands of sessions online.