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February 27, 2017

HP quarter invites a peek at a smaller profile

Dorian GreyQuarterly results from the latest report on Hewlett-Packard Enterprise didn't impress investors. On the news of its revenues falling short of estimates—what's called a "miss" in today's markets—the stock got sold down 7 percent a share. Stock prices come and go, and HPE has made a better restart than the HPQ end of the split-up HP. The future, though, is certain to be getting slimmer for HPE. The question is whether something smaller can ever grow like the monolithic HP which carried 3000 customers across more than three decades.

It's easy to dismiss the fortunes of a split-off part of a vendor which doesn't make 3000s anymore. When the plans wrap up on a pair of  "spin-mergers" of two of the company's bigger business units, what's left over might have lost any further ability to change the enterprise computing game. Migrating 3000 customers will still have to take their computing someplace. Looking at the HPE prospects for 2017 is a part of that decision.

Analyst Bert Hochfeld has just written a 4,000-word report on the company on the Seeking Alpha website. That's a huge piece of business reporting that deserves a close read if you're buying stock or working for HPE. IT managers can find some insights as well. Cherry-picking some sections, to look at HPE's business futures, is useful for planning. HP's selling off its Enterprise Services and Software businesses to CSC and Micro Focus, respectively. The deals will wrap up by September. Hochfeld says what remains at HPE is unlikely to grow. A lack of growth is what drove down HP's stock last week.

"I do not think anyone imagines that what will remain of HPE in the wake of its divestitures is a growth business," Hochfeld said. "There are some growth components in otherwise stagnant spaces. The company has yet to demonstrate that it can execute at the speed necessary to exploit the opportunities it has—and to make the right choices in terms of allocating its resources in what are difficult markets."

In a report titled Has the company done a u-turn on a trip to nowhere? Hochfeld notes that what's left over at HPE this year might be viewed like the picture of Dorian Grey. But that would only be true, he adds, in a world where datacenters will only be run by cloud providers. Companies will run their own datacenters, a fact HP will need to stress to stay relevant when it displays a smaller profile.

It's a debate that can't be solved easily, but it's worth considering when making changes to move a 3000 environment. That Dorian Grey picture, a portrait growing more haggard by the day while its subject appears hearty and hale, "seems to me to be a gross over-simplification."

It suggests there will soon be a world without datacenters other than those owned by the cloud vendors. There will be readers and other observers who will cite specific examples of large companies who have chosen to abandon the management of any of their data and who will move all workloads to the cloud.

A systems provider that focuses on datacenter provisioning and business needs a stout sales culture, Hochfeld adds. "What's far more important are questions about the long-term viability of a strategy related to selling a hybrid-cloud infrastructure to enterprise IT customers."

HPE, which through divestiture will be shrinking itself to less than $30 billion a year in annual sales, is going to need to replace the sales strategies that were appropriate when it was a behemoth, and it could use its consulting practice as a lever to promote sales of enterprise servers and storage.

"Core servers and storage is a tough market," he says, "and it is not easy to forecast that the market  will ever return to significant growth numbers. The only way to deal with a market that seems, at best, to be stagnant or at worst to be in long-term secular decline, is to innovate boldly and perhaps ruthlessly. That again is a discipline that is still a work in progress at HPE."

Hochfeld is taking a long-term position in HPE stock, thinking it will maintain its value. The company is retaining business that earns about $900 million a quarter in profits. The HP that offered ProLiant and Integrity alternatives to the 3000 is just as much gone as the 3000 itself is from HP price lists. One observer at the Seeking Alpha site wondered if HPE might take itself private, or become an target of acquisition.

08:17 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 24, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: Opening Up MPE's Shell

Way back in the middle 1990s HP added the Posix shell to the HP 3000. The improvement meant customers who had Unix and MPE running in the same shop could train operators and managers with a single set of commands. Posix was a plus, making the 3000 appear more Unix-like (which seemed important at the time).

Over the years, however, Posix has been a feature waiting be discovered for most 3000 managers and operators. The computer's operating system was renamed from MPE/XL to MPE/iX just for this added Posix feature. But enough history; Posix is still on the 3000 and remains a powerful interface tool, an alternative to the CI interface that HP created for the system. You can even call Posix commands from the CI, a nifty piece of engineering when it can be done.

That's not always possible, though. A customer wanted to know how to "expand wildcard shells" using Posix. He tried from the CI and had this story to relate.

:LL /BACKUPS/HARTLYNE/S*
ls: File or directory is not found

So how do I do this? I need to be able to tell tar to archive all of the reels of a STD STORE set via a regexp. It does not work in tar, and it apparently does not in ls—so I speculate that there is something special about the innovation of Posix utilities from the CI that I am not aware of. What is it?

Jeff Vance, the 3000 CI guru at while at HP, replied "Wildcards on most (all) Unix systems, including Posix implementations, are done by the shell, not the individual programs or in-lined shell commands, like ls in your example. A solution is to run the shell and execute ll from within.

The magic Posix shell command to do the expansion:

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 11.22.22 PMAn interesting footnote if you've read this far: The Posix shell for the 3000 is one part of the operating system that was not built by HP. The shell was licensed by HP from MKS, and Hewlett-Packard paid royalties to MKS so Posix could work inside of MPE/iX. That was an issue that posed a potential snag for source code licensing from HP. But the outside license issues never ended up blocking emulation or source-license arrangements. Managers have used Posix on the 3000 as a way to get familiar with commands in Unix systems. In the great majority of instances, these commands are the same.

11:10 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2017

Simulator knows what day it is, or was

Feb22The SIMH project has created a software release that mimics the HP 3000 Classic CISC hardware. The software makes it possible to emulate HP 3000 servers that go back to the 1970s—the same systems HP mothballed in the middle 1980s even before the PA-RISC products of the past two decades.

So while SIMH won't give anyone an emulated HP 3000 that can run MPE/iX, the package somehow seems to know its way around the calendar. Even after MPE V has long since gone obsolete, the SIMH combo using MPE V from trailing-edge.com adjusts the year to match the current layout. As it turns out, the year 1989 has the same days of the week falling on the same calendar dates as 2017. It offers some hope of getting MPE/iX rewired so its CALENDAR intrinsic works beyond the end of 2027.

An emulator that virtualizes the ultimate generation HP 3000s is the domain of Stromays Charon HPA. SIMH is more of a hobbyist's dreamland, or as one serious veteran called it, "my version of toy trains."

Glen Cole fired up SIMH and reported that "the only user input below was 'hp3000 mpe-auto' ... Neat how it auto-magically knew that 1989 had the same calendar layout as 2017." He did a SHOWTIME to verify the date.

$ hp3000 mpe-auto

HP 3000 simulator V4.0-0 Beta        git commit id: f9cfae0c
Logging to file "mpe-auto.log"
Listening on port 1054
LP: creating new file

Cold load complete, P: 177664 (PSHR Q)
Press <CR> to start MPE.

HP32002E.01.00
WHICH OPTION <WARMSTART/COOLSTART>? COOLSTART
ANY CHANGES? NO

DATE (M/D/Y)?02/20/89
TIME (H:M)?22:35
MON, FEB 20, 1989, 10:35 PM? (Y/N)Y
LOG FILE NUMBER 5 ON
*WELCOME*
:HELLO OPERATOR.SYS;HIPRI

Another longtime 3000 pro, Gavin Scott, summed up how to get these 30-year-old instances of HP 3000s up and running.

I just successfully created a database and an associated Basic/V program with SIMH/HP3000. If you want to play with your own
Series III get the SIMH 4.0 beta and the MPE V/R software kit.

Extract the MPE V/R zip file into a directory along with the HP3000.exe out of the beta, then drag mpe-auto.sim onto HP3000.

COBOL, COBOLII, BASIC, RPG, SPL, FORTRAN are included along with FOS. You can have Reflection connect via telnet on port 1054 to get an actual HP terminal session going that can run FORMSPEC etc.

 

 

07:48 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2017

Harris School Solutions buys K-12 ISV QSS

HSS LogoHarris School Solutions (HSS) has announced its acquisition of Quintessential School Systems (QSS). The latter is an HP 3000 vendor whose products have been running California K-12 schools since 1990. The purchase for an undisclosed amount includes a transfer of QSS Chief Operating Officer Duane Percox to the post of Product Owner. The company's QSS/OASIS is capable of going beyond single school districts; it supports multi-district agencies, such as County Offices of Education, and also community colleges.

Scott Schollenberger, EVP of HSS' Financial Solutions unit said of QSS/OASIS, "We see this product as a way to bolster what we offer now, while opening even more doors for HSS in the future.”

Similarly, QSS expressed its excitement over joining with HSS. “Harris School Solutions is an outstanding organization," Percox said in a press release, "not just because of its products and services, but also because of the people who offer them. The people within the company are the real deal, so I’m thrilled to be working with them. Together, we’re going to offer our same great products and services, but to many, many more schools across North America.”

A company press release  says QSS OASIS will now be available more widely. QSS has always had a very large share of its customers in California school systems. Selling into a school system in California demands a familiarity of some very unique requirements. Harris brings the QSS software into the rest of the US.

The QSS saga includes a long-term migration campaign on behalf of its HP3000 users. When HP cut its 3000 plans short in 2001, finding a replacement platform with no such trap door was paramount to QSS. Well before the solution was established as a commercial choice, QSS was sent down a path toward Linux. The company calls this Version L, with the migrations coming away from Version H. This past year, the majority of QSS sites crossed over from the 3000 to Linux use.

QSS launched the Linux version of its application suite at Lodi Unified School District in 2008, accessing MS SQL. According to the QSS website, various other customers are scheduled to make the transition from the HP 3000 to Linux during 2017.

Calendar year 2016 saw the highest number of conversions of school districts (SD) and County Offices of Education (COE), Eleven organizations cut over to Linux hosts and either SQL Server of PostgreSQL for a database. Those migrated this year include La Habra SD, Mariposa COE, Nevada COE, San Luis Obispo COE and Stanislaus COE, Amador COE, Kern COE, Mendocino COE, Orange USD, Visalia USD, Novato USD

During 2015, five more, schools migrated: Glenn COE, Colusa COE, Modesto City SD, Marin COE, and Santa Clara COE made the switch to version L.
Reports for 2014 covered seven migrations, including the first QSS site making the move from MPE to Linux. Corona-Norco USD was the first QSS customer to make the transition from Version H to Version L in January, 2014. Their HP 3000 was replaced by a Linux application server accessing data from MS SQL databases.

El Dorado COE migrated from Version H to Version L in November 2014 over the Thanksgiving break.  EDCOE is running a monolithic system with the Linux application server and PostgreSQL server on the same virtual machine. EDCOE originally planned to use SQL Server as its database server, but opted to use PostgreSQL based on the results of their evaluations. Sac COE replaced their 3000  with a Linux application server using PostgreSQL as the database. San Benito COE switched over the Labor Day 2014 weekend, accessing data from MS SQL. San Ramon Valley USD made the leap over a 4th of July weekend replacing their  3000 system with a Linux and MS SQL combination. Folsom Cordova USD replaced their HP 3000 system with a Linux application server accessing data from MS SQL databases. Merced County Office of Education made the transition to Version L with PostgreSQL as the choice of database.

QSS/OASIS is a suite made up of modules Base Financial (GL, AP, AR, Budget, PO's), Purchasing, Budget Development, Stores Inventory, Fixed Assets, Base Personnel, Position Control, and Payroll, plus a Financial Companion for interfacing to the School/3000 software. School/3000 is an integrated admin system for HP 3000s distributed by QSS that includes GL, AP, AR, payroll, retirement, position control, human resources, stores warehousing, and fixed asset inventory.

10:58 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2017

K-12 vendor still migrates schools to Linux

Editor's Note: We learned today that Quintessential School Systems (QSS) has been acquired by another school software ISV, Harris School Solutions. QSS has been notable for leading customers from its MPE/iX application suite onto Linux—and QSS was one of the very first to do this in the 3000 world. Here's a replay of our report about the how and why of this migration campaign's roots. It's an effort that began in the earliest days of the Transition Era, according to this report from 2002. In the article below, just swap in Linux for any mention of HP-UX. There's not a measurable benefit to leading anyone to HP's Unix anymore.

QSS outlines pilot move of K-12 apps to Open Source

By John Burke

Rolling deskQuintessential School Systems (QSS), founded in 1990, is an HP 3000 ISV providing software and consulting services to K-12 school districts and community college systems. While developing, supporting and providing administrative and student records management computing solutions for these public school districts, QSS created a set of tools for HP 3000 developers. QSDK was a subroutine library toolkit to network applications. QWEBS was a Web server running on the HP 3000. When QSS talks about migrating HP 3000 applications to Open Source, we all need to pay attention to what they are doing and how they are going about it.

Public school systems are understandably very cost-conscious, so for competitive reasons QSS had already started investigating migrating its software to an Open Source solution before HP even announced on November 14, 2001 its intentions about the 3000. This put QSS ahead of most ISVs and non-ISVs in determining how to migrate traditional HP 3000 COBOL and IMAGE applications. At HP World 2002, QSS COO Duane Percox gave a talk titled “Migrating COBOL and IMAGE/SQL to Linux with Open Source.” Percox hoped to share QSS’s pilot project experience for migration approaches.

QSS customers tend to be very cost sensitive, and so an Open Source approach has a lot of appeal for any ISV providing a complete packaged solution. Non-ISVs looking to migrate homegrown applications to other platforms might want to stay with commercial operating systems, databases and compilers for the vendor support. But there are migration choices here that are useful for anyone moving MPE/iX applications.

Before starting that pilot project, QSS had to choose a target OS, database and compiler. For the OS, QSS chose SuSe Linux. I asked Percox why Linux and why the SuSe distribution. “Our migration target is an Open Systems and/or Posix-compliant OS,” he said. “We chose Linux and HP-UX as the target platforms with Linux for the pilot project. With the cost of Linux development systems being so low, doing the pilot on Linux was a natural. We believe that Linux is a wonderful choice for ISV solutions. However, we have large customers who might feel more comfortable with an HP-supported OS. That is why we are targeting both.

“As for the SuSe distribution, we basically had seen good things about it on the Internet and so we chose it for our pilot project. QSS is currently working out business arrangements with SuSe and Red Hat. It will all come down to the business side of things. We are pleased with both distributions, and given that Red Hat owns 52 percent of the market [in 2002 numbers], we are certainly not discounting them.

“Our goal is to be a TSP (total solution provider) and essentially build a custom sub-distribution from one of these two. We will then host a patch-site with approved patches from the source company. We don’t think our customers will care which we choose because we are basically going to say that ‘we own the installation’ of the Linux box. We won’t want anything other than QSS applications to be installed on the application server.”

I asked if QSS had considered system management issues in choosing an OS. Percox replied, “We are building an application environment that will provide for the job scheduling, spooling, etc. The specific library and toolset layer we provide will insulate the application from the particulars of each OS. However, choosing to be Posix-compliant is what will help us be very similar.”

With the choice of an OS platform out of the way, QSS next turned to the database. Percox said, “One of our goals was to migrate to a SQL-92 compliant RDBMS. Within that goal, we wanted to evaluate whether any Open Source RDBMS was sufficiently capable to support a commercial grade application.” QSS evaluated MySQL (www.mysql.com), PostgreSQL (www.postgresql.com), Interbase and SAP DB (www.sapdb.org). The choice for the pilot project was PostgreSQL.

“This is an ever-changing landscape," Percox said in his presentation, "but one which is moving in a reasonably consistent manner. High performance data access (Web-based, read-only systems) favors MySQL. Bulletproof commercial quality with transaction support favors PostgreSQL and SAP DB. Interbase has not established a good open source community. PostgreSQL, Interbase and SAP DB have support for transactions and lock isolation. Version 4 (future) of MySQL is supposed to support transactions. A number of good books have been written about PostgreSQL, making it the easiest to learn. SAP DB is coming on strong and is worth considering down the road.”

I asked whether QSS had considered HP Eloquence and if so, why it had chosen not to use it. Percox said the issue was cost.

“Our customers are public education and they are not just sitting around with spare money waiting to be spent on a database,” he said, “even one as reasonably priced as Eloquence. Since we are doing the migration and spreading the cost over our installed base and future sales we can take the hit on converting the COBOL code from TurboIMAGE to SQL. To help keep the migration cost down for QSS we are developing the SQL abstraction layer that we believe will give us both the ability to drop in replacement calls and the ability to tune for performance when needed without having to re-write the entire COBOL code library.”

The third and final decision was which COBOL compiler to use for the pilot project. "Having a common IDE regardless of language can be very helpful and improve productivity for those developers who code in multiple languages on the server.” QSS chose to use TinyCOBOL for the pilot project.

Percox explained, “The principal reason for choosing an Open Source COBOL was that at the time the project was planned, all the commercial COBOL compilers for Linux required run-time licensing on a per-user-execution basis. As an ISV that serves a cost-sensitive end-user vertical market, we must deploy our solutions with minimal (or no) run-time fees. Gnu COBOL is moving along very slowly and is not yet ready. TinyCOBOL was the only Open Source COBOL we could find that generated IA-32 code for Linux and that supported most of the COBOL-85 constructs. One commercial COBOL for Linux became available doesn't require run-time licensing, Fujitsu NetCOBOL (www.netcobol.com).”

11:37 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2017

Wayback Wed: An Emulator's Partners Enter

Javelin-004Four years ago this month, the software that will continue to propel MPE/iX into the next decade earned its first partner. The support for the Stromasys Charon emulator first showed up from Minisoft, the vendor who announced an iPad-ready version of Javelin when Apple's tablet empire was new. Charon got a version of Javelin while the Stromasys product was just making its way into production status.

The promise of an emulator slowed down migrations in 2012. Freeware was showing up during that year that was tuned to Charon's HPA model. Keven Miller created a free utility to transfer Store to Disk files to the virtualized 3000 in the HPA. Minisoft broke the commercial software company ice with a product license created especially for the emulator. For $49, managers could now buy a Javelin to work inside the freeware version's 1-2 user license.

It was a small and initial development to show a marketplace was emerging for the sustaining aspect of the 3000. Freeware Charon (the A-202) was replaced by professional installation and proof of concept within a year. That change elevated the success rate for deployments. Software licensing became the only serious issue to resolve for a Charon site. For nearly all vendors, even though they didn't rework software itself, the licensing became an easy transfer. Software from one 4GL vendor remains an exception, but that company has vexed 3000 sites throughout three different ownerships.

For decades now, Minisoft has been selling a terminal emulator as well as ODBC middleware to link 3000 databases. Years ago, the MS92 terminal emulator became Javelin, rewritten to use Java. Javelin got its Charon groove on in 2013.

"We have a special Javelin 2-user HP700/92 Terminal Emulator that is customized to work with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator," said the company's Danny Greenup. A press release announced the first license to be crafted for an emulator since's HP announced its MPE/iX licensing strategy for the likes of Charon in 2004.

Minisoft has enhanced its Javelin HP700/92 Terminal Emulator to work in concert with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator by adding support for raw connections to the TELNET type and support for SSH tunneling. With the communications set to TELNET(raw)+SSH, the console ports are accessible from outside the Fedora (Linux) system to a user with SSH logon privileges.

The cost of this special 2-user version of Javelin is $49. In addition to HP 700/92 terminal emulation, Javelin support access to legacy host computers requiring IBM 3270, IBM 5250, and DIGITAL VT320/420 terminal emulation. All Minisoft Terminal Emulators include scripting, SSH/SSL connectivity and network file transfer.

As of this year, we've seen 15 years of migration and decommissioning 3000s, all of them projects that sparked engines of IT spending and vendor revenues. Some sparks have been as small as $49. It's been an amazing example of dexterity, faith, and hope as your community has pivoted its business and operational practices. 2013 was not the first year companies sold software and services to spark a model of 3000 sustenance. But four years ago, one vendor saw that emulation was going to provide growth in the 3000's ecosystem, too.

01:30 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 13, 2017

ODBC treasure might be in your system

Treasure ChestSolving HP 3000 challenges can sometimes be as simple as tracking the tools in your hand. Tim O'Neill, a 3000 manager never shy about asking for help, checked in on the 3000 mailing list needing help for his databases.

We would like to export all the data in a format that could be imported by Microsoft Access.  Data relationships would be redefined after import.  It would be nice to export, with relationships defined, that would run on Windows.

Minisoft's Doug Greenup peered over O'Neill's shoulder, as it were, sitting at his console. 

Actually you own our ODBC driver which could be used for the requirement you outline. You were on support until 2009, so you have a version that handles this.The website  support.minisoft.com has extensive documentation on our ODBC tool. You could also renew your support and get the most current ODBC version, along with access to our technical team to assist you.

The HP 3000 community is full of databases that need access to the world of Windows. Sometimes those 3000 servers have lightly-used tools to make the connections. As is customary for a budget-sensitive group, O'Neill's collegues on the mailing list had ideas on how to do that export without buying anything.

Lars Appel, helping out from a perspective of supporting the Eloquence database (an IMAGE workalike) said a migration tool from the Marxmeier labs might do the job.

If ODBC is not an option, you might also try the DBEXPORT program that is available for migrations to Eloquence. By default, it writes output to "comma separated" text files (unless you use binary mode), which will likely work for importing to MS Access. The link page includes a link to the download location, including source code (so customizations would be possible).

However, using ODBC is likely better for transferring structure info.

Appel's sum-up takes note of the advantages of buying tools and maintaining support for them. Paid solutions do more, do it faster, and include access to support pros to explain how the hidden treasure can solve problems. Minisoft is still selling its ODBC solution, too.

10:22 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2017

3000 support branches into multiple types

Tree-branchHardware support for HP 3000 sites comes in differing levels this year. At the top is the system administration and MPE support that production machines demand. It's crucial, but many 3000 sites try to self-maintain their MPE/iX. The next level down comes in application and utility support. One step below is support of the hardware hosting the system. Finally there's peripheral support for anything that's not inside HP's servers.

Comprehensive support is a collaborative effort in many cases. Physical hardware support is often a regional affair. For example, Essential.com is located in Pennsylvania. Its website says "We’re central to several major East Coast cities including Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City." That seems like a clue that the middle or western parts of the US aren't covered as completely. Whether that's true depends on what you need. Peripheral support for larger storage devices is available at more providers.

For example, Ray Legault at Boeing says his organization on the West Coast has used Essential. "They were okay," he said. "They mainly replaced DLT8000 and SCSI drives for our HVD10." There are no more HP hardware hosts for MPE/iX at Legault's branch of Boeing. The Stromasys Charon emulator drives the production computing at Boeing. It uses standard Intel hardware, boxes with ubiquitous options for support.

Legault employs a different support provider for its software and MPE administration. This is a common combo in the 2017 world of 3000 management. For example, the Pivital Solutions arrangement to care for 3000s combines long-term software experience -- they've been providing support since 1995 -- with hardware partners. A manager needs a provider who vets partners and keeps up with expertise.

"A reliable network is an everyday battle," said Pivital's Steve Suraci. "It used to be one primary and one secondary company to cover the entire continental US and they did it well. Not so much anymore. Almost every contract takes an effort to vet out a reliable resource and a backup." If a 3000 manager's plans don't include a backup to their hardware support providers, that can be a problem during a downtime crisis.

Another experienced software company connects with clients from hardware support referrals. "Most of our customers still come through a third party hardware company," Allegro's Steve Cooper said, "but many contract with us directly. Some of those are self-maintainers, some rely on their applications vendor for hardware support, and some are just rolling the dice. We try to be flexible, meeting our customers' needs. As a result, we see a bit of everything."

In some cases a hardware support provider will service those peripherals and offer support for the Series 9xx servers, as well as A-Class and N-Class boxes. Checking out the pedigree and track record on the HP iron can be problematic. Every company has reference accounts, but the references should include some detail on what kind of hardware support issues got resolved. Some companies are stronger in peripheral hardware support than deep knowledge of HP 3000s.

As the community moves into a mature phase with only installed base sites, outside companies new to HP 3000s are thinking of entering this space. Savvy software background is one of the best ways to vet a potential provider of hardware support.

 

 

11:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 08, 2017

3000 hardware support resources requested

Computer-hardware-supportWe're developing a listing of companies and consultants who do HP 3000 hardware support here in 2017. Recently some customers have been searching for resources to help keep HP's 3000 hardware lively and healthy. It's sometimes surprising to learn where HP's 3000s remain active and productive. Archival systems are at one level, and production boxes at another. Everything that's a working machine needs an expert to call upon.

Self-maintainers are abundant in the market by now, but spots like the Ecometry web and catalog shops and manufacturers the world over still need HP's iron to boot up and run as expected. Even if you self-maintain you need a resource for parts. It won't impress your top management to learn your parts resource is eBay.

Obviously the hardware support arm of Pivital Solutions is our first recommendation for North American HP 3000s. Steve Suraci says that hardware service in 2017 demands a network of providers, coordinated and managed by a go-to, first-call company.

"We continue to support both MPE and the underlying HP 3000 hardware as one of the select few remaining support companies with access to HP's original MPE/iX source code," Suraci said. "We maintain 7x24x365 phone support for those requiring a total Service Level Agreement. In New England, we support our hardware agreements with our own local technicians.  Outside of New England, we support our customers through a network of contracted technicians that have agreed in writing with us to support our customers SLA.  In many cases, we will maintain parts on site to help facilitate quicker times to recovery."

That network of technicians covers regional areas. A physical visit is often essential to getting a hardware problem resolved. There are YouTube video services that might be used, or even a FaceTime call or Skype connection that might be a how-to experience. That's a rare solution in your market. The problem with offsite hardware support is liability. Once anybody other than a technician contracted — in writing — troubleshoots and replaces components, the liability lies with the person handling the physical hardware.

We want to build a thorough list of resources, even while the Stromasys Charon emulator continues to replace HP's iron for MPE/iX. Vendors, send an email to us if you've got current clients. Be sure to provide an email and web address, plus a phone number, so we can contact you to follow up. Customers, if you use a hardware support company, tell us who it is. We'd all be happy to hear how it's worked out for you, too. To be fair to everybody, we'll want to use your company name in any references. Share your wealth.

11:10 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 06, 2017

German A-Class sells for $162 per CPU

HP-3000-A400-and-A500Yesterday afternoon the seller of the A-Class twin-processor model A500 closed his auction of the server. After seven days the bidding rose from an opening bid of $1.07 to $323.59, not including shipping. Some lucky bidder who's been using eBay for stocking up on computers, terminals and servers now owns a system that sold for $37,000 new: A greater than 99 percent discount.

One way to sum this up is to watch nearly all of the hardware value of an A-Class—a device that represented the ultimate line of HP's MPE/iX hardware design—evaporate over 15 years. However, the computer sells in today's US market for at least $1,300. That preserves almost 4 percent of original pricing.

However, another way to calculate this turn of events relies on return on investment. These servers are clearly in their 15th year of service. Dividing that original price by its incredible term of service gives you a cost of about $200 a month for hardware which will run a business and doesn't require replacement. The enduring benefit of MPE/iX was its astounding value. This discouraged hardware replacements, a problem HP could not solve.

Half-empty or half-full? HP's 3000 iron keeps dropping in cost. The components are aging, of course. Finding a handful of systems to part-out for spares could keep such a 15-year-old server running. Intel hardware, of much newer vintage, provides an unlimited lifespan if you're using the PA-RISC emulator from Stromasys.

eBay can be a resource for HP's MPE/iX hardware, but my, a manager must be cautious. A hardware resource that's a company rather than an individual seller—or better yet, a coordinated hardware-software support enterprise partnership—is more prudent. At $162 per processor, eBay might be worth a gamble. But getting money for a server returned may not be as simple as for a disappointing collection of sports cards: one of the other purchases the new owner of the German A-Class made last week.

02:36 PM in Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2017

Fine-tune Friday: Care and feeding of UDCs

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 1.53.00 PMMercury Insurance is a long-time HP 3000 shop still running a server in production. Last week Reggie Monroe reached out for a refresher on administration of HP 3000 User Defined Commands (UDCs). These are the HP3000's equivalent of scripting in Unix environments. UDCs are a better version of Command Files, according to Jon Diercks and his MPE/iX System Administration Handbook. UDCs are catalogued, Diercks says, so they can be loaded for individual user accounts.

UDC definition
Click for details

There's a superior PowerPoint slide deck online at the 3K Associates website that covers how to create and use UDCs. But the Diercks book (no longer in print, but available online) is more concise on the use of UDCs. It's also only available as an $80 book today on the used market; put yours in a safe place. Monroe's question asked about "a command to list all users, and the logon UDC associated with them, if one is set."

The initial answer was the command HELP SHOWCATALOG,ALL. This brings an administrator to

SHOWCATALOG [listfile][;USER=username[.accountname]]

But Alan Yeo pointed out that the MPE/iX command only locates system-level UDCs. 

You don't actually get what you think you asked for, so whilst :showcatalog ;user=@.@ sounds very hopeful, in fact it only shows the system level UDCs not account ones. As far as I'm aware the only place you can find them all is in the BULDJOB2 file in PUB.SYS. You do have a BULDJOB2 file don't you? And it's up to date?

And here's where Vesoft's utility does a job the 3000's OS cannot. VEAUDIT LISTUDC @.@ finds UDCs of all kinds.

We have chronicled much of MPEX during the 21 years of the NewsWire's publication. The utility was even the sole subject of the Inside Vesoft column back in the era when HP was starting to lock down 3000 futures. In 2002 Steve Hammond illustrated the distinction of UDC administration under VEAUDIT. It becomes important because security on a 3000 includes management of the UDC catalogs. And yes, there's a tool for the security, too.

VEsoft’s Vladimir Volokh told me he had been asked to find out if any users on a system had the VEsoft utility GOD in one of their UDCs and if it had the lockword embedded in the UDC. He gave me a series of two commands that did the trick and they had some added value to boot. Once I saw the commands, I was impressed with the simple elegance, but like a good programmer, I had to deconstruct it, break it down and reassemble the whole thing. If you’d like to play along, you need: MPEX, VEAUDIT (both available from, who else, VEsoft) and a healthy programmer’s curiosity (you’re going to have to provide that yourself).

The details of the exercise show "GOD.PUB.VESOFT’ [is found using VEAUDIT] and we have accomplished our mission. But wait. What are those CIERR907 files? Those are files in the list that don’t exist! But they are UDCs that have been set! Looks like you can do some housecleaning and those UDCs can be un-set. How about that — you got some value added, you killed two birds with one stone, (insert your favorite cliche here). Time to play system manager again."

When you add a third party tool to your administrator's box, you can make a purge of such files foolproof. MPE/iX 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.

VEAudit and MPEX will 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.

11:49 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: The 3000's e-Moment

SnowWithBezelIn the waning days before the Year 2000, the HP 3000 was running behind popular labels. The position was nothing new to the server and its fans. Hardly anyone outside of the MPE community knew about the computer and its legacy across the final 25 years of the 20th Century. For many years it didn't matter that the computer ran in the shadows of IBM big iron, Unix dot-com servers, and Windows PCs. The 3000 performed without problems and delivered impressive returns on investments in the HP iron.

But as far as the world outside the community could tell, the HP 3000 had little to do with the Internet. Once Y2K's survival mission was in the industry's rear-view mirror, HP decided to do something about the shadows around MPE/iX. In the prior decade MPE became MPE/iX to show the world the 3000 knew a bit about Unix. In February of 2000 HP rebranded the computer as the HPe3000, dropping that lowercase vowel in the middle of a name that hadn't changed in 27 years.

E3000Label-0002A vowel is an easy thing to add to a product. The Internet, not so. Engineers across the community, eventually those inside HP, worked between 1996 and 1999 to bolt on elements like a Web server, DNS software, Unix mainstays like bind, and more. The server was already working on the Web in spots like the e-commerce shops of Hickory Farms and Brookstone retailers. Despite the larger profile of well-known customers like M&M Mars, using the 3000 on the Internet was a secret weapon.

A new name was proposed to change that. HP Product Planning Manager for 3000s Doug Snow brought the idea to division GM Harry Sterling in 1999. By early the next year the entire server lineup had been re-branded. The new server bezels, both those for the standard cabinets as well as racked 3000s, wore a new badge. The name change story extended to our offices as well. The publisher of the NewsWire became known by a new name. Dottie Lentz became Abby Lentz to the world after I spread the news about a name as nascent as the 3000's Internet abilities.

Our publisher's name in every issue since 1995 had been Dottie Lentz. She'd earned her stripes in publishing since 1982 using that first name and never gave a thought to any other. She'd been Dottie since 1948. During those years while the 3000 was earning its Internet abilities, though, she gathered a new name. In her circles at yoga retreats she called herself Abby. She played the lead in a high school play using the name. My yoga name, she called it. I took that name change, and in an editorial alongside the news of e3000, compared hers to HP's re-naming.

Change can be a good magnet for attention, especially changing something as fundamental as a name. While watching the HP 3000 division change the name of its product, I thought of my wife and partner in the NewsWire. To the many people in the 3000 market — er, I mean the e3000 market — she’s known as Dottie Lentz. But some people know her by a different first name, one that represents new ideals and ideas.

The women in my wife’s yoga and healing community know her as Abby, a name she’s long admired. Sometime last year she decided she’d like people who know her in these personal realms to call her by this new name. She didn’t go to the courthouse and have a judge attest to her new name. She simply began to wrap it around her like so much new attire, a glad-rag that represents the changes she intends to make in her life, her heart, and her soul.

For her oldest friends, the change has been a struggle at times. This week one of them introduced her by her new first name. A few minutes later in the meeting he called her Dottie. And while my wife had brought business cards to the meeting with her old name, she had to explain why she was being called by the new one as well.

The lesson seems to be that a name change can draw attention, not only to who you are, but to who you want to become. When Dottie—er, Abby—explains her new name, she talks about goals of fitness, harmony, and creativity. Changing your name can be a sign of commitment to a new future. I expect that the 3000 division will be doing that same kind of explaining this year, especially to its oldest friends.

The complications that rose up for Abby were nothing like the 3000's Internet growing pains. Advertisers called her in those days, and after reading her re-naming story they wanted to call her by her nouveau name. Just like Snow and those who loved the 3000 wanted to call the server the e3000, she answered the phone by one name and left the calls using Abby.

That's where the stories begin to diverge. HPe3000 was the last effort to put the 3000 in a new orbit. Abby was just the beginning of my Dottie's ascent.

The HPe3000 arrived with a lineup of servers that was already running with 12-year-old base technology. The new speed champ was a Series 997 10-CPU system selling for $311,000 without discs and tape backup. One year later the ultimate-generation 3000s, using a new PCI system bus, finally gave the servers a un-numbered name. A 3000 was an A-Class or an N-Class by 2001, but on the day the e3000 made its debut, every model had at least four digits in its name.

AbbyLentz_YogaPose_300dpiAbby Lentz used her name to become a yoga pioneer, if you can forgive the viewpoint of her biggest fan. Search Google for Abby Lentz and she hogs the first three pages of Google results, right down to a credit in TV Guide. She named her concept HeavyWeight Yoga, because it was most of a decade before body-positive and curvy this-or-that became yoga brands.

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 6.16.46 PMDottie Lentzes are out there as well, but those Dotties don't have three DVDs produced, TV and radio and newspaper and magazine credits. Abby's a person who led overweight and obese people to yoga long before the practice was as cool as it is today.

In contrast, HP's 3000 marketing manager Christine Martino said the re-naming of the 3000 was meant to make the server less boring. Not exactly pioneer stuff, that strategy.

Martino said HP’s objective in renaming the system is “to really help people take notice of the 3000 again.” New print advertising including the new brand is being scheduled for what HP calls its “solution-based” publications, those focusing on vertical markets such as healthcare and e-commerce. The installed base will get a mailing of a special coupon book containing discounts from software partners related to the e3000’s launch. And HP came to its press briefing with new data on penetration in credit union and 911 dispatch industries which show the e3000 as a leader.

“We’re not making it a key player in the Internet space; our customers and partners are doing it already,” Martino said. “It’s all of the boring stuff behind the dot-com stuff that’s necessary to have a viable solution."

It's tempting to say that one re-name was part of a launch that's still in orbit; Abby's yoga videos are streamed via Vimeo today as well as shipped from Amazon by the thousands each year. The HPe3000 iron is shipped from one customer to another today, or via brokers, in numbers nobody can track in total. The server isn't often connected to the Internet, although from time to time we see customers who use the DNS naming and IP address improvements to better network the computer. A few customers call it e3000.

The changes HP made in its 3000 software for its e-branding have been vital in keeping the server useful for homesteaders. While the HP iron has a few advantages in those ultimate models, Intel-based virtual servers running Stromasys Charon have the edge in futures. Nobody will ever stamp out another PA-RISC chip. Boxes like ProLiant servers and ever faster iron will continue to use Charon to lift MPE/iX performance beyond HP's 2003 levels.

Could the 3000 have survived this long without its e-features? The installed base had more success with that e than HP did. Less than two years after the e-rollout, Martino was pivoting on HP's message to explain that Hewlett-Packard judged the HPe3000 had a fatally flawed ecosystem. The new vowel didn't impress enough new customers to suit HP's accountants. For the springtime that led off the 3000's fourth decade, though, it appeared that naming something old with a trending letter could help the 3000 stretch and breathe—those yoga keystones—toward a future as laudable as its past.

05:56 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)