November 30, 2016
This just in: Generalissimo Cobol is not dead
A favorite running gag on the most antique Saturday Night Live shows was Chevy Chase reading the fake news. With each broadcast he'd repeat this joke: "Generalissimo Franciso Franco is still dead." Same result, week after week. A situation with a lot in common with COBOL's current fortunes. Despite what people think they know about it, the Common Business Oriented Language still props up a vast swath of the business data across the world.
Nothing has changed with COBOL's fortunes since we last visited this topic with a podcast in 2014. During that year's spring, the NPR Planet Money radio team posted a show that blamed COBOL for the slow pace of money-changing in clearinghouse transfers. The mistaken report was like fingering English for the outcome of the Presidential election. Yes, the COBOL code in banks turns the IT cranks. The result is not the fault of the tool, but how it has been used. Yes, English was used in the 2016 campaign. [Insert joke about Twittering here.]
Our COBOL correspondent Bruce Hobbs pulled this story back into the light this week. He pointed to an article on the HackerRank blog, examining COBOL's not-dead-yet status once again. If you like numbers, the article included these above. Its still a language that supports 80 percent of all point of sale transactions and routes health care to 60 million patients a day.
To be fair, one of the sources of that graphic is the company still selling COBOL, Microfocus. But Gartner is also cited, an impartial consulting giant. In the NPR show the reporters interviewed an exec from Fiserv, a vendor who might have known better; they made some of their fortunes selling Spectrum/3000 for credit unions.
In the HackerRank piece, the author quotes an article from 20 years ago that surveyed why COBOL has held on so long.
COBOL does the 4 essential business tasks better than most modern languages today:
The capability for heterogenous “record-structure” data
The capability for decimal arithmetic
The capability for convenient report generation
The capability for accessing and manipulating masses of data (typically made up of heterogenous data structure).
“COBOL is either good or adequate in all 4 (except for database access and GUI construction, they were designed into the language from the outset), whereas the COBOL replacement languages, like Visual Basic and Java are good at few if any of them,” notable software engineer Robert L. Glass says.
Since the COBOL community's average age is 55, and the estimated 2 million IT pros who knew the language in 2004 declined by 50 percent since then, the technology that's as old as any Chevy Chase joke on SNL will see a new spotlight soon. Even in replacement, old skills will be in demand. Technology reporter Ritika Trikha looked to the future in her article.
As taboo as COBOL might be in the ping pong rooms of modern startup-driven culture today, its influence and irreplaceability will result in a spotlight on the dinosaur language again. Businesses must figure out who will maintain their mainframes when COBOL programmers retire in the near future.
November 28, 2016
3000 customers ponder what they're leaving
This month's relicense quotes that Unicom delivered to Powerhouse customers could spark some migrations. Although these 3000s have held on by using out-of-support software, the five and six-figure prices to return to MPE/iX support "are difficult to imagine as a sustainable model," said Charles Finley of Xformix. "The price makes it worthwhile to move away from Powerhouse entirely."
Finley, who's been assisting 3000 shops in migrations and conversions for 15 years and more, isn't the only vendor who's skeptical of the Unicom pricing scheme. "That strategy will not last long," he said of the sky-high quotes. "We can move the Powerhouse to a Java-based non-proprietary alternative for something in that [$300,000] ballpark. Pricing like that [from a vendor] only provides incentive for people to leave the product."
The full scope of what a customer is leaving is worth some consideration, however. Finley offered the scope of a typical 3000-using Powerhouse customer's datacenter lineup.
Focusing on the base language is misleading at best. The background processing/shell scripting is usually more difficult to migrate than the base application. I suspect that there could be more to a relicensing story than simply the Powerhouse license. For example, if the customer has some dependent 3GL code such as COBOL, a few third-party products such as Suprtool and MPEX, along with JCL, UDCs, and Command Files—the cost to migrate all of that, and the database and other file types, could well exceed the price of only the Powerhouse license.
Hearing such please-go-away pricing can be hard to comprehend. A decade or two of using a foundational tool like Powerhouse shouldn't end with a six-figure quote, but sometimes such a lengthy relationship drifts to a bottom-line-only state. "Don't they normally look at the financials before determining price?" asked consultant Craig Lalley. We've heard about that same software update strategy from another support consultant.
"They saw the client was Boeing, but it was a very small division of Boeing," the consultant said. "Not at all the size of datacenter budget as the parent corporation." A smaller price tag was negotiated, as it sometimes can be. A smaller tag altogether might mean leaving the Powerhouse licenses alone.
"It sounds cheaper to stay on MPE," said former OpenMPE director Tracy Johnson, "even if it is just a daily copy of the data and the application migrates. You might even save money by moving to a lower tier MPE system to host the copied data." We'd love to hear a story about how a Powerhouse license became less costly.
November 25, 2016
Friday Fine-tune: Adding disks and IP blocks
Is it possible to add a disk drive "on the fly" without doing a reload?
Jeff Kell replied:
You generally have to shut the system down to install and cable the disk to avoid electrical/interface problems. The usual approach is to use SYSGEN to configure the new device on the path where it will reside, keep the new configuration, shutdown the system, install the disk and do a START NORECOVERY.
Once the disk is recognized by the system, you can add it to your running configuration as follows (assuming the new drive will be LDEV 5 in the system volume set):
> newvol mpexl_system_volume_set:member5 5 90 90 (DISC,SPOOL)
[For details, see "Volume Management", HP Part No. 32650-90045 or "Performing System Management Tasks" HP Part No. 32650-90004.]
This will add the volume to the system volume set, but it also has some side effects. Since the new volume is "empty" and the disk space allocation routines attempt to "balance" loads across drives, all of your new files and transient space will be allocated on the new drive until it's capacity approaches that of the other volumes. This will create an I/O bottleneck on that drive, at least initially.
You could selectively :RESTORE certain accounts (or the whole system) to try and balance the allocation. You could also perform an INSTALL and a :RESTORE for better efficiency, but at the cost of a great deal of time. There are also certain third-party utilities that will balance disk utilization across members of a volume set. These utilities work online on a running system and don't require any downtime.
The network configuration of our HP 3000 was originally set up with one block of IP addresses. Now I need to add another block of addresses. Where do I add these in NMMGR?
You can add an IP address using NMMGR the following way:
- After typing NMMGR, select "Open Directory" .
- Then select "Update Dir."
- Now select the "Add" option (F5.)
- You are placed in a screen where you can enter the IP Address of the machine. The type is generally set to 1( IP).
- Now press the "Save Data" (F6) option, back out of NMMGR, and you are done.
November 23, 2016
Mailing news from the HP 3000: an old skill
Internal mail hosts remain a crucial tool in datacenters, even some running MPE/iX. "You still host your own email?" is not a question you'd only pose to a crazy manager. An organization's security standards can be so high that no outside mail server will be trusted. In the earliest days of email, 3k Associates built and sold a beautiful native MPE mailing system, Netmail/3000. It's a smart mailserver, meaning it doesn't require that an organization's e-mail be piped through an Internet provider's mail server for final delivery. Then in the late 1990s, HP's lab started the long process of porting sendmail to MPE/iX.
Now some 3000 sites are looking at how to replace their 3000-based mailing software as they migrate. One of them contacted us this week to ask about an alternative to sendmail. Linux is their migration target, after a history using the 3000 that goes back to the days of HP Deskmanager. Tim O'Neill shared a story while asking about an alternative to sendmail.
I saw that FreeBSD Unix has its version of sendmail. Seeing reference to FreeBSD made me recall a story about FreeBSD running on an old HP 3000, maybe a Series 70 or an early Spectrum system. I think I have read that FreeBSD is at some sites still running in production mode, as MPE and MPE/iX are. It also made me wonder what the installed base of FreeBSD might be — and how that compares to the installed base of MPE and MPE/iX on old hardware and on Charon hardware.
FreeBSD, like MPE/iX, has some surprisingly large companies using it. You might have heard about one of them called Netflix. Of course the Charon HPA emulator from Stromasys makes every remaining product and archival 3000 a candidate for the kind of longevity we see in FreeBSD.
Sendmail has a colorful history. The Unix Hater's Handbook devoted a full chapter to the software's vulnerabilities; sendmail comes from the Unix heritage, after all. By 2003, HP was still patching sendmail to shut down security breaches, although the breaching wasn't nearly as serious on MPE/iX as on Unix variants including Linux. Sendmail's open source capabilities are now under the banner of ProofPoint, the company that purchased the sendmail resources in 2013.
Sendmail's worldwide release was last updated in 2014. HP announced it was testing sendmail to place in the Fundamental Operating System in November, 2001—a month that's famous in the 3000's history for other reasons. But the software moved along to an 8.13.1 release in FOS. It's only one major release behind the worldwide open source version, now advanced to an 8.14 release. Sendmail also includes encryption.Sendmail has included encryption facilities since 8.11. That's where security capabilities descend onto the requirements. Encrypting mail is a common feature in commercial hosting solutions. Sendmail/iX sends mail created by and triggered from HP 3000 applications, given enough technical know-how.
There's a robust webpage about the 3000 mail solution that was started by Mark Bixby. He's the engineer responsible for lighting the fire of open source flames at HP. Keven Miller of 3K Ranger has updated and maintained the page and its knowledge about Sendmail/iX. The software itself is in your 3000's SENDMAIL account in a version-specific group named vuuff.
November 21, 2016
Middleware rescues a Quiz captive, again
Old friends can help with new challenges to homesteading. Minisoft's ODBC software stepped in again to get a 3000 customer away from the pricing schemes of Powerhouse and its Quiz reporting software. That ODBC link between MPE/iX and Windows databases and tools turned out to be the essential component in pulling a client away from Powerhouse, according to the Support Group's Sue Kiezel.
Kiezel said her support client got an eye-popping quote to move Quiz from a 9x9 to an A-500 server: $27,000. Like some sites who are learning about the new regime of pricing from Unicom, this Support Group customer was returning to Quiz support after years of no improvements to the former Cognos product. Quiz made its way onto many MANMAN installations in the during the 1980s on the ERP suite. Getting out from under that legacy required a reasonable tool to connect the data with more modern reporting.
Enter the Minisoft ODBC software. The middleware connected with SQL Server to build a reporting database, data that was used to create the Excel spreadsheets everyone wants to use. As we've seen before, Windows-based reporting solutions like Crystal Reports can carry the 3000's data into departments better than Quiz did.
"SQL Server has turned into a beautiful database," Kiezel says. "You don't need a database administrator for it. Because of this kind of connection, my users no longer need paper for their reports. The middleware opens it up for MANMAN uses, and Excel can make joined tables for reports. Instead of just sending out a paper report, I'm sending out a spreadsheet, with the first three sheets of them working like a visual dashboard."
Visual Basic does analytics in this kind of report solution, too. "We are now in the modern world," Kiezel says. The bonus? Finding an expert to tune up these reports is a $50-75 hourly charge, instead of the $200 hourly that a Powerhouse consultant will charge to beautify and enhance Quiz. There are features and solutions that are worth the extra cost you'll sometimes encounter in MPE/iX. But reporting doesn't turn out to be worth the extra expense in licenses and expertise — not when there's middleware to open up reporting options.
November 18, 2016
Friday Fine-Tune: Tricks with command files
I'm working on a command file on my HP 3000. Is there any way to have it copy part of itself into a separate (temporary) file?
Jeff Vance replies:
MPE does not support the Unix concept of ‘here’ files, where input data for the command can reside in the same file as the command, except in the case of jobs. But even in a job, you may not include inline data for a script or UDC invoked by that job.
The SPOOKHELP script may be of some use. This single script contains the help text for all of the SPOOK commands plus the code to search for and display that text once HELP xyzzy is entered.
How can we execute a command after a user enters the :bye command in MPE?
Olav Kappert replies:
It is possible to execute many commands after the bye has been entered. Simply create a UDC (maybe a cmd file) called bye.
The contents of the UDC for the command bye is up to you. This would be useful if you want to do statistics before the session terminates.
John Pittman adds:
Don’t let them do a bye. We don’t allow any users access to OP system prompt at all. They get a logon no break UDC that runs a menu, and when they end the menu, they get logged off.
Inside that UDC at exit time, we build a string giving user, connection point (LDEV or IP of their PC) connect time, CPU date etc and append it to a log file. Then we know when anybody last used the system, how many users are using different connections, or when different user names are using the same connection point.
November 16, 2016
Noteworthy dates drive views of the future
This week on the 3000 newsgroup, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet picked up the remembrance torch to note the anniversary of 2001's 3000 business shut-off at HP. About your resilient computer he added, "In some ways it seems to have survived in some places in better shape than the HP that announced they were killing it!"
We agree and noted as much in the Nov. 14 NewsWire article. I promised to make not such a big deal about the history of the event; instead I tied it to recent advice about a hybrid of local and cloud-based ERP alternatives.
That event brought some benefit along with all of its carnage. Canceling the HP business operations for the 3000 (never an end-of-life; vendors don't get to define that) also sparked the completion of the first PA-RISC hardware emulator from Stromasys. The software continues to assure us all that the aging HP hardware won't be our only option over the next 11 years or so. Remember, on Jan. 1 2028, at 0000 hours, the dates stop working. Not MPE altogether, however.
A fix for that date issue might become a project for some remaining support company which has an MPE/iX source license. As you might infer from a date in this month's political events, stranger things have already happened.
November 14, 2016
The best wishes for your long life: a Plan B
Congratulations to us all. This is the 15th anniversary of the "we're killing off the 3000" announcement from HP. The end-game hasn't played out like HP expected. In 2001 the company's management didn't see three CEO resignations coming over those 15 years, or the company being forced to split itself to stay relevant to enterprise IT. Those two events are related. Yes, the 3000 got its pink-slip notice at the HP of 2001. So did the overstuffed, unwieldy Hewlett-Packard. The company that lurched toward every business while stepping back from others. It took 14 years almost to the day, but HP is half the size it was: HP Enterprise is the severed sibling from 2001's family.
Inside the 3000's division during that year, no one was talking about emulating the 3000 PA-RISC hardware that the company would stop building in 2003. That's now a reality, a new development since the 10-year anniversary of this sobering date. Hewlett-Packard was going to lead four customers out of every five away from MPE/iX, delivering them to the Unix alternative of HP-UX. Windows was going to get new customers out of the upheaval, too. No one figured three of every four departing companies would choose a non-HP environment.
Here on this date in 2016, the idea of an environment as a crucial strategy is feeling outdated. IT directors always cared about applications. Now they're told they don't have to worry about environments. The cloud computing providers will do that for them. Except when they cannot provide the cloud. Behold (above) the map of Internet outage from last month on an ugly day.
The Support Group's Terry Floyd offered a Plan B strategy to the manufacturing customers of CAMUS last week. More than 30 companies using HP 3000s and MANMAN are in the CAMUS user group. Floyd's company is delivering a fresh alternative to help MANMAN sites move on from the 3000. But he also supports homesteading sites. With a foot in both worlds, he recommends staying safe by having a Plan B, even while you employ cloud computing for your future."I'm still a little bit paranoid about the cloud being out there," Floyd said on the 90-minute RUG conference call. (Keep in mind, he's bringing a traditional manufacturing site's IT onto the Kenandy ERP cloud solution, so he's being extra-careful.) One of the Support Group services runs manufacturing datacenters for some clients.
If any of you are thinking about cloud apps, you should think about a hybrid app. You'd have some stuff in-house on your own boxes, and some stuff out there on the cloud. For instance, we're doing EDI [for a client]. It's pretty much local. We'll be able to receive and send stuff even if the Internet went away for a day. It would kill us not to be able to do EDI. Even hours of Internet downtime would kill us in some situations.
Think about what you might consider really critical to your company—and think about putting some of that stuff in-house. Having shipping on a local server, for example a SQL Server, we'd be able to ship whether the Internet's up or down.
"Sometimes the Internet goes away for different people for different reasons," he said, and it's so very true. DDoS attacks are becoming a too-regular event for the world's Internet. When Twitter, Netfix, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest can be taken offline at once, as they were on that map of Oct. 22, everyone needs to manage the risk. A Plan B once meant staying on the HP 3000 in spite of HP's community exit. Today it means keeping some computing local, no matter what your enivronment.
November 11, 2016
Friday FineTune: Internal disk plus VA array
FiberChannel Storage Area Networks and shared tape libraries became popular in the years after HP stopped making its MPE/iX hardware. The HP 3000 supports SAN from the XP series of RAID devices to the VA7100 disk arrays. But how much should you rely on a RAID or SAN device? Internal storage devices might seem to be yesterday's tools, but the modest drive inside an HP 3000 can still be very useful — even if a company has invested in the FiberChannel storage solution of the VA7100.
Moving to the VA solution has great benefits, as reported in a story about using a VA7100 array with the 3000s. But booting directly from a VA array — well, you'll need an N-Class server (native FiberChannel installed) or a very expensive HP A5814A-003 Fiber/SCSI router (if you can find such a thing) to employ VA in the 9x9s.
The Crossroads SA-40 Fiber/SCSI switch will link a VA array to 9xx 3000s. It just won't let you boot your MPE/iX system from any of its drives. Craig Lalley of EchoTech recommends the affordable Mod 20 arrays for boot capability.
Internal drives remain as important as the VA arrays for a Series 9xx HP 3000, or even to the XP line of HP arrays. Even important enough to even duplicate them.
A second bootable disk inside your 3000 can take some forethought, but can be essential to smooth recovery of an LDEV 1 failure. James Killam of HP once reported to the 3000 mailing list, "Keeping a bootable image of MPE on one of the internal drives... saved me once at 2 AM when we lost total connectivity to the XP array the system was attached to and we had some serious troubleshooting to do."
Donna Hofmeister, former OpenMPE board member, has noted:
I did one internal disc and it was expressly for memory dumps. A second internal disc with a bootable image would be wonderful insurance. It would take some planning to be able to manage it all, but there’s no reason why you can’t have two bootable discs. I’ll point out the obvious: if LDEV 1 is internal, and you have a multi-disc system volume, and the remaining system storage is on a disc array — uh, what’s the point? If LDEV 1 fails, you’re toast.
Hofmeister said she's had a drive fail on a VA array. "That array worked perfectly and switched over to the spare without a blink. Given that I had two systems sharing this array, I was more than pleased with how well it worked."
Drive failures are among the most likely of hardware problems using HP's 3000 devices. A second internal drive in a system can make a big difference in recovery time. The other way around drive failures is to make your way onto emulated PA-RISC systems from Stromasys.
November 09, 2016
A Response to Being Stunned: No Tribute
Citizens of the US woke up this morning to a turn of political events described everywhere as stunning. There's nothing anyone can do to change that today, but in the event of a stunning relicense quote for Powerhouse products, you can respond with software that preserves your reporting administration. Some customers using HP 3000s can stun right back by leaving Powerhouse, using software from Minisoft to pave their data's way.
Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions told us that one of the HP 3000 GrowthPower clients he supports has opened up one of those stunning relicense bids. In trying to get their software back onto support with the vendor, the customer received only an offer to relicense the full version of Powerhouse. "The most current product doesn’t even run on the 3000," Suraci said, explaining the folly of the return to support tribute being demanded by Unicom this year.
It's easy to think of back-support fees, levied in a market the size of the 3000's, as tribute: money demanded for nothing in return except a promise of help. A small promise indeed for software like a Powerhouse suite that hasn't had one MPE bit improved in more than 7 years.
The demand made even less sense considering what the customer was using. Quiz, the reporting end of the GrowthPower application, was the only Powerhouse software running on the 3000. "They originally acquired the product embedded in their ERP application," Suraci said. "They ended up purchasing the Minisoft ODBC and recreating the necessary reports using SQL tools like Crystal Reports, SQL Server, and Access."
Minisoft's products have never had an acquiring entity like Unicom take over and then demand such tributes from 3000 sites. Returning to support is a noble practice, something a manager with integrity does. However, this is a good deed that can be punished by ignoble companies. Support returns are a tradition that can trigger back-support fees. You don't have to pay them, but then your data has to live software else to get its support. The situation mirrors the dilemma of more than half of those who voted in the US yesterday. They don't want their President-elect, but they want to be citizens, too. It'll be awhile to see how much tribute the new President will demand. HP 3000 data is in a luckier situation.Data hosted on HP 3000s goes wherever the tools like ODBC can take it. The reports then flow from non-MPE software like SQL Server or Crystal Reports. That GrowthPower site, new owners of the Minisoft ODBC software, are a small division of a very large corporation. Tribute is not about the size of the IT budget, al it's the integrity that stings when a company gets stunned. Responses to being stunned include resistance, as well as reaching for alternatives.
The alternatives are more affordable for the Powerhouse customer who's only got reporting to replace. The full-development installation of Powerhouse faces a much bigger problem when they get their demand for tribute. They have to move their data's house to another country, if you will—transforming their application's platform. One solution for that is the Core Migration software and services. The transformation is a mighty task, though—a bit like thinking you can become an expat after a lifetime in a country you thought you understood.
While the United States was very new, the young country was put on notice by France. Pay us a stunning sum, said the French, and we won't attack you. The demand sparked a classic cry of resistance from the era of Founding Fathers: "Millions for defense, but not one penny for tribute," said Robert Goodloe Harper. When a 3000 site finds a means to defend its investment in MPE, they're resisting all demands for tribute. When you're lucky, your resistance can be as straightforward as ODBC.
November 07, 2016
Work of 3000s Helps Preserve Democracy
Tomorrow is a very special day in America. In a land called the United States we're going to elect a President to unite us. The kind of future we work toward will be chosen on that day. I'd like it to be the same kind of future the HP 3000 community has always worked toward.
This computer is called a business server because it works to meet the needs of business. A business relationship is at the heart of manufacturing concerns, insurance organizations, e-commerce companies and more. Business is at the heart of good relations with others in our world. MPE/iX software has always been a part of good relations. Much it serves the processes of business like invoicing. Going Forward Together might as well be a way to say Make Relations Through Documents. Business documents are the bedrock of your community.
In the earliest part of our 21st Century, Wirt Atmar was holding a seat as the conscience of this community. The founder of vendor AICS Research railed at HP's plunder of loyal customers, then proposed a Plan B to resist needless change. It was a time of high passions. The most crass and base expressions of the IT pros in our world were on display in the 3000-L listserver in that era. But since this is a republic with freedom of expression, although that trolling was revolting, it was tolerated. Much of that era's tone seems gentle compared to what's assaulted our ears and our spirits since this year began.
Back in 2004, Atmar was teaching his community how affordable Web-based lecture software could give minds a common ground. His QCShow product followed QCTerm, and both of those sprang from the makers of QueryCalc. In an HP World demo and lecture, Atmar explained his belief about how an HP 3000 was an alternative to war and atomic armageddon. These are real prospects for an American future. It feels like a disturbing misfit that anyone devoted to MPE, and having built a life's work from it, should vote for anything but a diplomatic leader.
Atmar had a fascinating background, including a stretch of his life when he worked to estimate and calculate the effects of annihilation. Nuclear throw weights -- the number of tons of atomic bomb to destroy various numbers of people and structures -- were his everyday work as a scientist in a government defense contract. He said he hated every day of his life that he had to wake and perform that work.
In contrast, when he created business tools that delivered invoices and orders, he felt his work spoke to the very root of human decency. Invoices, he said, were the everyday diplomacy of enterprises and organizations. I agree to purchase these goods and services, each would say. I agree to make and deliver them as you ordered, replied each sales receipt. A world still sending invoices, he said, ensured that war and revolt was a poor choice. Invoices were an expression of peace and a shining light for democracy and capitalism.
Something approaching half of America has already voted in this year's Presidential election. For those who have not, asking if a leader should respect business partners, find allies, and preserve relationships with respect— these all are a guide for anyone who's ever programmed or managed an HP 3000. Nobody is perfect. Anyone who wants to lead us should respect invoices, contracts and agreements. Tearing up a legacy is a poor start toward the future. Every HP 3000 community member should agree on that, and agreement is a good start toward where we need to go. We don't need to migrate away from working together and moving forward. Rather than looking back, we should take a hand in making history. Vote tomorrow and make some.
November 04, 2016
Reporting software takes over for pricey 4GL
By some estimates the 4GL software from Cognos sat on 7,000 HP 3000s at the 4GL's high water mark. A very serious share of that installed base was using only the reporting tool associated with Powerhouse, Quiz. Manufacturing sites such as those employing MANMAN, plus other applications, relied on Quiz to produce reports for managers and C-level executives. In many instances, these Quiz licenses came without restrictions or separate support agreements.
These are the sites that never had much of a business relationship with Cognos, and none at all by the time IBM bought the 4GL suite in 2007. Some of these sites eventually felt they needed to buy support, though, and some believed maintaining a license was important -- even though they'd become Quiz users when they implemented their application. The majority of Quiz sites stopped paying for support long ago. Like many bits of MPE/iX software, Quiz was frozen in time, a day when a reporting tool could cost thousands to support.
It was a bolt-on module, something that customers could be taught to un-bolt when pricing got outrageous, though. Cognos used to try to tamp down the outrage during the 1990s about license costs. Renegotiations were common, because the default pricing maintained strategies of an era when Windows was not a lower-cost enterprise option.
Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions supports HP 3000 sites as an exclusive business model. It's an all-3000 vendor. He checked in about the latest shock over Powerhouse re-license prices. In the era of of ownership by Unicom, the licenses have soared agin. But there's another option to letting Powerhouse lock up a company to a 3000 license.
Back in the day, Cognos was always out of their minds regarding pricing. When they were bought by IBM, they got much more realistic and started offering a seat-based licensing model. Then Unicom entered the picture and they lost their minds!
We have a customer that owned the reporting-only version of the product, but was no longer on support. The only option available from Unicom was to re-purchase the full-blown development product in order to upgrade. The most current product doesn’t even run on the HP 3000. Needless to say, we replaced Quiz with something more robust and much less costly.
November 02, 2016
Legacy 4GL sites call foul on license ploys
Life is hard enough for any company that's been homesteading with their legacy-grade development applications working over the last 15 years. Some of these 4GLs haven't seen upgrades since before the Obama administration. Now the users of the Powerhouse products are crying foul over transfer or crossover license fees that have become up to 10 times more expensive.
Once tech experts and consultants on a Powerhouse mailing list got the news about a Canadian HP 3000 site facing a $300,000 quote to move Powerhouse onto Linux, stories emerged about the boosted prices for Powerhouse. At Boeing, the Powerhouse applications were a part of a move to the Stromasys Charon emulator. Ray Legault at the IT shop in Boeing said the transfer to an emulated 3000 was a six-figure purchase, and support fees have increased by 35 percent.
"When we went to the Stromasys virtual MPE/iX server, we found that a lot of the Cognos products were supported by Unicom," he noted.
Instead of our legacy HP 3000s where we paid support of $22,000, we now get to pay $30,000 a year. And it expires every year. We also had to pay over $100,000 to move Powerhouse to our HP ProLiant servers that host Charon. Unicom considers the product to be running on a RedHat Linux server and not the HP 3000 emulator, which raises the price.
Legault added that he's got a 10 percent yearly discount on the $30,000, but he's got to call a Unicom VP to receive that discount.
The initial report of this price spike came from James Byrne of Harte & Lyne, a logistics firm. Even though some migration experts think the $300,000 must include services, that $300K quote only covers licenses for Powerhouse and the related, Cognos-built tools like Quiz and QTP. The company dropped Powerhouse support right after HP pulled out of its business model for the 3000. Cognos, owner of Powerhouse at the time, wasn't getting any further support payments from Harte & Lyne.
"There seemed to be no point in paying our money for something that quite evidently was going to receive no more upgrades," Byrne said. "And we were right. The version sold by Unicom today for the HP3000 is 8.39, which happens to be the same version we have been running since late 2001."
The shop has been moving to open source software, although Byrne says the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) strategy has got its issues, too. In the meantime, Powerhouse prices are hitting the six-figure range to move away from HP's 3000 iron. An all-in migration is coming at Harte & Lyne, but the quote will freeze Powerhouse in place. Byrne said Unicom told him they were canceling his license, too.Moving to FOSS will send the 3000 at Hart & Lyne into deep archive mode, or even out of service completely. But moving Powerhouse is getting in the way of that goal. Or to be more accurate, the $300,000 is getting in the way.
In 2003 Core Migration started to sell a package and services that replaced Powerhouse on HP 3000s with Java. It was not inexpensive. However, 2003 was the first year of full-on migration projects which were funded well enough to be meaningful. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote the year we found Core.
Cognos customers have shown concern over the company’s shift toward BI products, and are researching steps to move away from PowerHouse. CORE Migration, a company operating in Cognos’ headquarters city of Ottawa, has put together a migration suite of tools and services to move customers. One CORE white paper tells the story of an ERP software provider, Visaer, that first shifted away from its MPE PowerHouse roots, then off the 4GL altogether. The company decided that the focus at Cognos had moved away from PowerHouse.
There are two ways of accessing the CORE Migration method, paths which may sound familiar to companies which are studying migration options: CORE-Directed, where the company manages the migration start to finish, and Self-Directed, where CORE plans the migration and trains customers to use its tools. CORE’s VP of Sales and Marketing Wayne Lucky said the CORE-Directed option is fastest, and the majority of its engagements are in this method.
“It depends on the skill set of the customer,” he said, “and whether they want to get involved.
Core does this work to this very day. They call it application modernization. When it's over, you have Oracle SQL Server, DB2 or Eloquence at the heart of the modernized app. Other companies are also modernizing Powerhouse apps by replacing them with less-proprietary frameworks. Many include Java.
A six-figure quote to do this migration isn't unusual. Licensing existing software which hasn't been enhanced in more than eight years for a $100,000 fee—on an emulated 3000 server—is unusual, though. The price might not raise as many eyebrows in the IBM mainframe turf, which is one of the markets that the new owners of Powerhouse, Unicom, have grown their business. While Core is reaching out to the Powerhouse list to trigger migrations, Unicom has been communicating one by one with Powerhouse users. Nobody's reporting a change in pricing yet.