April 24, 2017
On the Surprises Of Six Decades
I never expected to be doing this on the day that I turned 60. That's today. I joined the world of the HP 3000 when I was 27. I worked out my earliest articles about MPE (there was no iX) on a Kaypro II like the one depicted at right. Yes, that phone there was state of the art, too. I came hungry to write about PCs and Macs and figured the minicomputer beat would be a starting spot. This has become the destination, the world we love together.
In my late 20s I gave little thought to what my job would be by the time I got old enough to buy Senior tickets at the movies. I'm a journalist, so I think about the future more than some fellows, though. I had no vision about reporting about a minicomputer when I turned 60. Like you, I never believed I'd be doing this for so long. More than half my life, I've typed the letters MPE together. My life has been blessed, both with the rich array of people whose stories I get to tell, as well as the sponsors who support this life's work. I am thankful for both.
But here we all are, faithful to work that is rich and comforting, steeped in the knowledge that the 3000 is nearly 45 years old. Just at midlife, perhaps, at least in the measurement of a man. I'm entering my third act, I like to say. Friends are close at hand in my life and I continue to create with words and ideas. My dreams are realized and something I'll never retire from. Perhaps that's true for you as well. The 3000 was supposed to be rubbish by now. Instead, people still want to buy HP's software for it.
I'm here for the surprises like that. Survival is success earned across years and through uncertainty and crisis. Your support of that survival is a point of pride. We all earned our latest act. Enjoy the role you are playing, making way for the future.
On Saturday my bride and publisher Abby cooked up a party for me, a total surprise. It was the first surprise party of my life. Sometimes the universe gives us surprises. When we're lucky, the surprises are enduring and continue to reward our faith and hope. The love, ah, that flows on its own, propelled by our lives together.
April 21, 2017
Federal program re-trains HP 3000 pros
HP 3000 IT pros have a challenge to overcome in their careers: how to add modern skills to the classic toolset they learned managing 3000s. Those between jobs must handle the costs to train, too. Craig Proctor has been spending time to learn the likes of C#, Java and Visual Studio. After one year of study, he didn't have to spend his own money.
"I took a dozen different classes," Proctor said. "The Trade Act paid for it all. It's possible to take one class at TLG Learning, or work with them to design a series of classes."
Proctor worked with a 3000 for more than 20 years at Boeing, as a Configuration Management Analyst and Business Systems Programmer Analyst. He left Boeing and began a period he calls Updating IT Skills in his resume at LinkedIn. TLG, based in Seattle, gave him training that he will blend with the business analysis that's so common in 3000 careers. He understands that by drawing on his recent education he'd accept at an entry level IT position. "You get the merger of an experienced analyst, using new tools," he said of his proposal to any new employer."
An extension of the Trade Act signed into US law by President Obama was one of the few bills to escaped the partisan logjam. A federal website describes it as a way for foreign-trade-affected workers to "obtain the skills, resources, and support they need to become re-employed." $975 billion in federal funds have been sent to states like Proctor's in Washington, adminstered by each state. Furloughed workers file a petition for training, job search and relocation allowances. These pros have an average age of 46, which is the younger side of the HP 3000 workforce.Proctor didn't believe that his 3000 experience helped in gaining more modern IT skills -- except for his years as an analyst.
I wouldn't say that the HP 3000 skills helped, but the analytical/programmer skills did. All 22.5 years at Boeing were on the HP 3000 (Fortran) and I had a couple of years on it before, as well as Burroughs (now Unisys) using COBOL. The hardest class for me was C#; COBOL and Fortran were so similar, but C# was nothing like that. The other classes were interesting and fun for me -- challenging, but still fun.
Like anybody well-versed in system management and coding under MPE, he was aiming at a job in a business using a 3000. "With so much HP 3000 experience under my belt, I'd feel a lot more comfortable and ready to dive in with another HP 3000 shop," he said. "I also have all the soft skills -- investigative, detail oriented -- that I need." Learning what Proctor called "21st century technology" can help 3000 veterans who've seen their positions eliminated.
April 19, 2017
Where will HP even take 3000 money today?
Companies want to do the right thing, even while they're keeping their budgets in order. When a customer of the 3000-only support shop Pivital Solutions needed to add Netbase/iX to their server, it was time to find the correct way of doing that. The customer didn't have a license for the HP software needed to power Netbase.
HP once sold such a thing. More accurately, HP's distributors sold licenses for this subsystem software. The most common purchase was TurboStore, but items like a COBOL II compiler and odd ducks like Business Report Writer and Allbase 4GL were on HP's price list. Now it looks like there's no longer a list, and scarcely anyone left to take a check.
Pivital's Steve Suraci was resolute about serving his customer with integrity. It might've been a lot easier for a 3000 vendor to just load a subsystem onto a server that HP stopped supporting more than six years ago. Some customers need to satisfy license requirements on everything, though. Getting a license meant finding a reseller or someplace inside HP Enterprise to send the check. Media for subsystem software on the 3000 doesn't ship from HPE by now. This would be a license-only transaction. But where was the cash box?
After Suraci reached out to me, I touched base with people in the 3000 world who might still need a contact to purchase MPE/iX software from HPE. The first wave of requests came back stumped to identify who'd be running the 3000 store anymore. A trip to the website for Client Systems, the final 3000 distributor in North America, draws a couple of parking pages for domains. The OpenMPE advocates planned for many things in the eight years they worked with HP. A missing HP pay station was not among those plans."We don't know the answer to this one," said Terry Floyd of The Support Group. "We didn't think HP sold software for the HP 3000 anymore." He reached for some tongue in cheek humor. "Maybe install it and see if they sue — then you'll know who to pay? I'm glad I don't have this problem."
Donna Hofmeister, a director on OpenMPE through most of its existence, was surprised as well.
"Wow. OpenMPE never thought of this particular wrinkle -- what to do if the authorized reseller goes out of business," she said. "I'm not sure if there's anyone (like [former business manager] Jennie Hou) still with HPE who could help. It might be that the best thing to do is to buy a system that the add-on software is already licensed for."
That might be a good strategy in some simple cases, but a transfer of that license to another 3000's hardware might be missing software that was on the target machine already. You'd need a clone license. Even though there are oodles of 3000s out there, finding a clone -- or even a basic FOS lineup, plus one subsystem -- could be tough.
We checked in with Ray Legault at Boeing, and the manager of the MPE operations there said if the 3000 were at Boeing, he'd "have to let the Computer Science Corp. SAs perform the work." Software upgrades are not usually within the reach of hardware support companies, through. For example, the 3000 service at Blueline doesn't include hardware sales "for quite some time," said Bill Towe. "Our only involvement in the HP 3000 is supporting existing hardware and the OS."
Faced with a shrunken HP ecosystem and a vendor whose only operations look like they're limited to taking the $500 to transfer a license, Suraci took a chance on a phone number in his email files. Like a few of us, he's got archives that go back to the glory days when Client Systems was a going concern, full of fire to host the 3KWorld website and sell used hardware. Suraci found a phone number for Casey Crellin, one of the last people left when the doors were wide open at Client Systems.
A phone call off an old email turned up Crellin, who gave Suraci an email address to continue the conversation. It's uncertain where license money collected for 3000 subsystem products would end up. At one point not so long ago — okay, it was eight years — OpenMPE wanted to help HP take money on such sales.
It's not a surprise Suraci needed to do the right thing. His company was one of the last that gained official HP reseller status before Hewlett-Packard clamped off the futures for the 3000. It's a testament to Pivital's persistence that the place to do the correct thing was under the rocks Suraci kept turning over. Due diligence and integrity are behind finding someone to accept 3000 subsystem license money in 2017. Companies that need t's crossed and i's dotted know where to go.
April 17, 2017
3000 Community Meets Up on LinkedIn
More than 660 HP 3000 veterans, pros, and wizards emeritus are members of the only 3000 group on LinkedIn. Last week a message from 3000 vendor and group organizer Dave Wiseman invited them all to meet in the Bay Area in the first week of June.
Wiseman organized a couple of well-run meetings in the UK over the last few years. The latest one he's working to mount is a users group meeting without the work, as he said in a brief LinkedIn discussion message. The message provides a chance to point out one of the best-vetted gatherings of 3000 talent and management, the HP 3000 Community.
I created the 3000 group nine years ago and have screened every applicant for membership. You need to have HP 3000 work history in your resume to capture a spot in this group. As the years have worn down the mailing list for 3000 users on 3000-L, this LinkedIn group now has a greater membership in numbers.
LinkedIn is now a part of the Microsoft empire, a $26 billion acquisition. That's good news for Microsoft customers whether you use Windows or something as explicit as the lightweight ECTL tool for SQL Server, SSIS. The latter is being used by The Support Group on a migration of a MANMAN site to the new Kenandy ERP package.
Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn who ran a social networking site while Mark Zuckerberg was still in middle school, is now on the LinkedIn board of directors. The pedigree of LinkedIn flows toward services as well. The highly regarded training site Lynda.com is now a part of LinkedIn. There's a Premium membership to LinkedIn, priced as low at $29.99 a month, that includes access to every course on Lynda. You'll be staggered to see how much business, design, development, and technical training is available through the same network that hosts the only HP 3000 online community.
Job searches are complex and a trying experience for many HP 3000 tech pros. LinkedIn makes it easier. If nothing else, a good-looking resume complete with video, audio and work portfolio examples is part of being a LinkedIn member. Applying for a job is easier in many places by pointing to your LinkedIn resume.
April 14, 2017
The way to San Jose offers 6-figure 3000 job
Developer posts in the HP 3000 world don't come up often, but companies and organizations need talent. On GovernmentJobs.com, a position is open that has a starting salary of $108,802. For the right professional, the pay could go as high as $132,254.
Seeking a COBOL/HP3000 developer who will be responsible for maintaining the AIMS application which runs on a HP3000 system and support the HP3000 system administration work with other team members. The AIMS application is the main appraisal and assessment application for the Assessor's Office. In addition, the selected candidate will help in the AIMS replacement project, which entails rewriting the legacy AIMS application to run in modern platform.
The software is probably the venerable AIM/3000, a financials package that was shiny and new in 1983. The job is at the County of Santa Clara, a shop where just two years ago the organization was looking for help to rewrite AIMS into an application "running on a modern platform." The listing for this year's job reiterates that movement off MPE/iX systems. This time out, the position is being listed as Information Systems Manager I.
The successful candidate should have experience with program development work in COBOL on HP3000 as well as HP3000 system administration experience. The candidate must have the knowledge and experience performing duties listed below.
- Maintaining the software application running on HP 3000 system.
- Supporting the HP 3000 system administration work with other team members
- Program development work in COBOL on HP 3000
- HP 3000 system administration work such as batch job scheduling, system backup and restore, printer and output management among other system management tasks.
The 2015 listing was seeking an Information Systems Analyst II at a lower pay scale. The new job could well be the manager for the 2015 staffer. The position closes in two weeks, on April 27.
April 12, 2017
Oracle serves a profitable slice of cloud
Amazon Web Services and Microsoft's Azure receive the established reputation for cloud resources. Oracle is the new player in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) game. Within a month after Oracle announced sustained profitability on its cloud operations, Stromasys rolled out its plans for offering HP 3000 virtualization through Oracle Cloud.
Oracle's spring numbers showed the third straight quarter of increasing revenues overall, even while its business in application software declined throughout those months starting in mid-2016. Cloud growth, primarily in platform and software services, is making up the difference at Oracle. Oracle means to get its slice of the cloud's pie. Oracle is not on the chart from 2016. But neither is Salesforce, a company with 4 million subscribers. Revenues are not the only meaningful measure of the clout in cloud computing.
Rodney Nelson, an analyst at Morningstar, said the results show "new cloud revenues are more than offsetting the declines in software license sales." Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison said that Oracle Cloud will eventually be the vendor's largest business, outpacing revenues from the application suites that built the $40 billion a year giant.
The coincidence of a new platform for HP 3000s arriving on the cloud hosts of HP's most ardent competitor is profound. Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise business has cast off the futures of MPE/iX and OpenVMS, exiting markets that were still growing, albeit at low rates. The trends away from legacy infrastructures like proprietary OS on vendor-built hardware are mirrored in Oracle's shifts.
New software licenses, a measure tied to Oracle’s on-premise software business, declined in the latest quarter by 16 percent. The decline was smaller than the drop of 20 percent posted in Oracle's fiscal second quarter. This is the pattern HP's own Mission Critical Business operations followed. Ultimately, trends like that led to dividing HP into two companies. When profitable business shrinks, the computing model must be changed. Those changes track with the concept of eliminating the need for on-premise hardware to host MPE/iX operations.
Oracle's Cloud business includes the traditional Platform as a Service and Software as a Service divisions. It also contains the Infrastructure as a Service offering, the spot where the competition is sharpest for new business. In addition to Amazon and Microsoft, the IaaS pie has existing slices of Google, IBM, and Rackspace, among the major players. Oracle is still making its way to the table while it announces increasing revenues and profitability. There has been doubt about the future of IaaS at Oracle, but the latest numbers dispel some of that uncertainty.
IaaS provides what Stromays needs to host 3000s in the cloud. An IaaS vendor hosts hardware, software, servers, storage and other infrastructure components on behalf of its users. Some IaaS providers also host users' applications and handle tasks including system maintenance, backup and resiliency planning. Those are all tasks the MPE/iX community handled with on-premise staff and systems. Clouds such as Salesforce.com, the heartland of the ERP system Kenandy, hope to eliminate all hardware needs for client companies, except for the laptops, desktops and mobile devices that access the infrastructure.
IaaS environments like Oracle cloud will include of administrative tasks, dynamic scaling, virtualization and policy-based services. While that last item is more of a mainframe-grade artifact, admin and scaling are genuine needs for any company continuing with MPE/iX. IaaS customers pay on a per-use basis. The Stromasys-Oracle bundle includes one year of IaaS service. Some providers charge customers based on the amount of virtual machine space they use. This has not been mentioned in the Stromasys rollout of Charon on the cloud.
is further divided into three sub-segments:
- Cloud (SaaS + PaaS) + On-Premise Software
- Maintenance and support
where SaaS = Software as a Service, PaaS = Platform as a Service, and IaaS = Infrastructure as a Service.
Note: This article assumes the reader understands the differences between the three major cloud business categories above (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS).
Strong SaaS plus PaaS Growth, But IaaS Is a Different Story
After publicly attacking the idea of cloud computing for some time, Larry Ellison and Oracle launched the Oracle Public Cloud service in late 2011, and since that time, the company has touted double-digit growth year over year for its cloud-based business. In the company's recent Q2 FY 2017 press release, Chief Executive Officer Safra Catz notes:
"(For) four consecutive quarters, our Cloud SaaS and PaaS revenue growth rate has increased. As we get bigger in the cloud, we grow faster in the cloud."
Another quote from Founder and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison in the same releases states:
"We expect our...IaaS business will grow even faster than our skyrocketing SaaS business."
April 10, 2017
3000 backup strategy for closing Sundays
Easter Sunday is on this week's horizon. While it's a rare day of closure at our local HEB grocery chain, Sundays are another sort of closure for 3000 managers. Nearly all of them want their partial backups of the weekdays to wrap up before the backup begins that will serve the work week. If you do full backups every night and want to make the new strategy to do partials during the week and a full on Sunday, there's a way to make that work. Donna Hofmeister, one of the former OpenMPE directors, explained the strategy in a message to 3000 managers.
The bit concerns the command restore ....;date>=!my_lastfull. Donna went on to explain.
First you need to decide what kind of partial you want to do. On Tuesday, do you want to backup all files changed since Sunday's full backup or do you want to backup all files changed since Monday's backup? (and so on....)
There are some things to think about here. If your "line in the sand" is always Sunday, then you have to deal with knowing that by Friday/Saturday your "partial" backup is likely going to be sizeable and will take longer to run. On the other hand, if you ever have to do a big restore, your restore plan is plan is pretty simple -- you'll need your last partial and your last full backup.
If your "line in the sand" is always yesterday, then your "partial" backups will be relatively small and quick. The flip-side is your big restore could be very complicated, since you'll need every partial backup through Monday plus your full backup. I think most people set the backup date as "Sunday" and do partials from there. But there's a technical bit that's also important.
"!my_lastfull" is a CI variable that contains a date in "mm/dd/[yy]yy" format. This is a value that your *full backup job* needs to establish. So your full backup job should do something like:
Your partial job will need to do something like this:
input my_lastfull < *lastfull
There's plenty of logic that needs to be added to the above examples. (You'll note that there is NO error checking/what-if handling, etc.) This should be enough to get you started.
On incremental vs. differential backups — the former is a backup of changed files since the last full OR partial. The latter is a backup of changed files since the last full.
HP's wisdom about date management for the built-in STORE facility for HP 3000s is in several places. 3K Ranger's Keven Miller volunteered his, and Neil Armstrong's TeamNA Consulting has a downloadable one on file as well.
April 07, 2017
Friday Fine-Tune: Creating the perfect CSLT
Editor's note: A classic technique, detailed here by the NewsWire's Hidden Value editor emeritus John Burke.
A question about creating a CSLT for a Disaster Recovery test turned into a general discussion about what the perfect CSLT should look like. A system manager wanted to use the STORE option on the SYSGEN TAPE command to store additional files onto the CSLT he was creating for his DR test but was running into trouble trying to specify STORE options as part of the SYSGEN TAPE command. In particular, he wanted to simply add ;SHOW to get a listing of all files stored.
The answer to his original question is to use an indirect file, as in
sysgen>TAPE MODE=VERBOSE DEST=OFFLINE STORE=
where the indirect file contains whatever STORE directives you want in addition to the file list.
One contributor recommended robust efforts to get a listing: “A backup tape is of limited value without a listing. For Disaster Recovery purposes it is also a good idea to have the original HP tapes and patches with you as it is possible to create an SLT that does not install or work on a different HP 3000 system.” This same contributor also suggested creating a disk file with a listing of all the stored files.
However, several people questioned whether this list of files which the thread originator had proposed storing was sufficient. Stan Sieler probably said it best:
“I’d put much more in the STORE section, at the minimum:
/SYS - /SYS/MPEXL/DUMPAREA - /SYS/PUB/NL - /SYS/PUB/SL -/SYS/PUB/XL
(To explain, NL, SL, XL are dumped in the CSLT portion, so no need to dump them in the STORE section; DUMPAREA is a 32Mb file created at INSTALL time and there’s absolutely no need to dump it to a tape.)
/TELESUP - /TELESUP/DUMPS
(or wherever you put your dumps.)
/ALLEGRO, /LPSTOOLS, /REGO, /ROBELLE, /VESOFT
(It’s surprising how much you might want tools at an early stage.)
“If most of your user data is in one or two accounts, other than SYS, TELESUP, and the rest of the system might fit well onto one DDS/DLT, you might find it more useful to do:
/ - /USERS - /SALES
(where USERS, SALES are the ‘user’ accounts)
“Why? It guarantees you’ll get everything you’re likely to need in a recovery/install situation (except, of course, for the major portion of the user’s data). I’d also specify:
April 05, 2017
Stromasys Charon lifts off with Oracle Cloud
The makers of the only emulator for HP's 3000 hardware have announced a new service to deliver the Charon virtualized MPE/iX systems over the cloud. Stromasys eliminated the need for HP-branded hardware when it released Charon for HP 3000 users in 2012. The latest development eliminates the need for any local hosting resources by moving processing to Oracle Cloud.
“We are thrilled to offer a robust cloud solution to our customers by collaborating with Oracle,” said John Prot, Stromasys CEO in a press release. Oracle VP for ISV, OEM and Java Business Development David Hicks added, “The cloud represents a huge opportunity for our partner community."
The release notes that the Oracle Cloud is "the industry’s broadest and most integrated public cloud, offering a complete range of services across SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. It supports new cloud environments, existing ones, and hybrid, and all workloads, developers, and data."
Cloud-based HP 3000 and MPE/iX computing is a solution Stromasys brings to the 3000 community for the first time. While remote-based HP 3000s have been an IT staple for decades, a system hosted without the need to integrate and install any host systems is a breakthrough offering.
Charon for HPA relies on a Linux-based host, making the cloud-provisioned services from Oracle a minimal transition from local-hosted Intel servers. Charon on Oracle Cloud includes a license for the Charon virtualization software along with unmetered Oracle Cloud services and support for the combined solution.
Oracle says its cloud offering is more complete than those from Amazon Web Services. “AWS is an incomplete cloud," said Vice President of Cloud Platform Ashish Mohindroo. "The main AWS focus is IaaS, compute, and storage. If you want to store files in the cloud [or] spin out a new server, you’re good. But most customers want to run applications, and with AWS most of those capabilities come from third parties. So when it comes to integration, you’re on your own.”The total virtualization of an MPE/iX server, including the need for hardware, has been in development for some time at Stromasys. In 2015, Alexandre Cruz, Stromasys Sales Engineer said software-based HPSUSAN licensing was underway, eliminating the need for dongles attached to local hardware.
"This will prevent any licensing problems that might occur while using a cloud provider," he said. "We will create a machine for licensing purposes which has exactly the same structure as a USB dongle. We still require the HPSUSAN and the HPCPUNAME.”
HP 3000 customers were being encouraged two years ago to use the cloud instead of a physical server. The Oracle Cloud solution integrates hosting and provisioning with the virtualization of MPE/iX resources.
Subscriptions are being sold for Charon HPA on a yearly basis, in either single-year or three-year periods. Licenses would be paid in advance with renewals every year. “This means that every 12 months they have the possibility to stop everything without losing what they have invested in the hardware,” Cruz said.
April 01, 2017
History processor heralds new Wayback/iX
A reconfiguration of HPCALENDAR intrinsic capabilities is opening the door for date revisions, one of the last remaining roadblocks to an everlasting MPE/iX lifespan. The design and development of the project has been underway in a Sourceforge repository since 2013, with a handful of volunteers working to deliver the new intrinsic WAYBACK.
Volunteers cited the work of the Stromasys Charon HPA system for providing the ongoing inspiration to keep the work alive. One developer, who requested anonymity for fear of having his report labeled fake news, said that the everlasting platform for MPE/iX software triggered the stealth project. "This is no fool's errand," he said. "We'll bring these apps into a future HP never dreamed about. That's the value of the HP Way, retaining value and profitability."
When successfully tested, WAYBACK will bypass the 2028 roadblock to date processing. The Sourceforge team, which calls itself the League of Joy, believes that an additional processor will have to be added for HP 3000 hardware manufactured by Hewlett-Packard. Emulated and virtualized HP 3000s are expected to need no such separate CPU, although a high number of cores will make date manipulation seamless.
The end of accurate date processing — a state that the League calls Fake Dates — was never a concern when MPE was first developed. "This is not a bug, really," said Vladimir Volokh, who is not a part of the League development team. "It's a limitation. This 'end of 2027' date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." Adding a Wayback/iX to the package of Fundamental Operating System components is the next step in the work to add pages to the 3000's calendar.
HPCALENDAR, rolled out by Hewlett-Packard engineers in the late 1990s for the 6.0 release of MPE/iX, has been a newer tool to solve the old Fake Date problem. Since HPCALENDAR is fresher than CALENDAR, it's only callable in the 3000's Native Mode. WAYBACK intercepts the calls to CALENDAR and pipes them though HPCALENDAR, or so it's hoped once this history processor makes its way through beta testing.
In the meantime, one of the developers in the League of Joy suggested that IT pros who want their MPE/iX apps to run beyond 2028 should bone up on using intrinsics. Suggesting the Using Intrinsics whitepaper on the 3K Associates website, D. D. Browne predicted a swift end to the Fake Date roadblock.
"We've all been keeping the 3000's applications alive for longer than NPR has been broadcasting real news," Browne said. "It's going to carry us all beyond retirement," he said of any system running with WAYBACK. "Back in the days the 3000 was built, TV and radio stations once signed off the air. This operating environment is never going off the air."