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August 17, 2018

Nike Arrays 101

Hard-DriveJust a few weeks ago, a 3000 manager using an A-Class server checked in on how he might connect the SC-10 arrays from Hewlett-Packard to his A500. As a West Coast service provider carried the manager toward that hardware (it can be done) it seems like a good time to review the use of storage arrays with MPE/iX systems.

Our founding net.digest editor John Burke covered this ground in the years after HP announced it was cutting off its 3000 operations. While the HP label is still anathema to some, the hardware prices are sometimes too compelling. Here's Nike Arrays 101, advice still worthy on the day you're moving around arrays connected to a 3000.

By John Burke
Newswire Classic

Many 3000 homesteaders are picking up used HP Nike Model 20 disk arrays. The interest comes from the fact that there is a glut of these devices on the market — meaning they are inexpensive — and they work with older models of HP 3000s. However, there is a lot of misinformation floating around about how and when to use them. For example, one company posted the following to 3000-L:

We’re upgrading from a Model 10 to a Model 20 Nike array. I’m in the middle of deciding whether to keep it in hardware RAID configuration or to switch to MPE/iX mirroring, since I can now do it on the system volume set. It wasn’t in place when the system was first bought, so we stayed with the Nike hardware RAID. We’re considering the performance issue of keeping it Nike hardware RAID versus the safety of MPE Mirroring. You can use the 2nd Fast-Wide card on the array when using MPE mirroring, but you can’t when using Model 20 hardware RAID.

So, with hardware RAID, you have to consider the single point of failure of the controller card. If we ‘split the bus’ on the array mechanism into two separate groups of drives, and then connect a separate controller to the other half of the bus, you can’t have the hardware mirrored drive on the other controller. It must be on the same path as the ‘master’ drive because MPE sees them as a single device.

Using software mirroring you can do this because both drives are independently configured in MPE. Software mirroring adds overhead to the CPU, but it’s a tradeoff you have to decide to make. We are evaluating the options, looking for the best (in our situation) combination of efficiency, performance, fault tolerance and cost.

First of all, as a number of people pointed out, Mirrored Disk/iX does not support mirroring of the System Volume Set – never did and never will. Secondly, you most certainly can use a second FWSCSI card with a Model 20 attached to an HP 3000

Bob J. elaborated on the second controller. 

All of the drives are accessible from either controller but of course via different addresses. Your installer should set the DEFAULT ownership of drives to each controller. To improve throughput, each controller should share the load. Only one controller is necessary to address all of the drives, but where MPE falls short is not having a mechanism for auto failover of a failing controller.

In other words, sysgen reconfiguration would be necessary to run on a single controller after SP failure in a dual SP configuration. You could have alternate configurations stored on your system to cover both cases of a single failing controller but the best solution is to get it fixed when it breaks. The best news is that SP failures are not very common.

There is a mechanism in MPE for ‘failover’ called HAFO - High Availability FailOver. Unfortunately for the original poster it is only supported with XP and VA arrays and not on Nike’s or AutoRAIDs (because it does not work with those).

Andrew Popay provided some personal experience.

We have seven Nike SP20 arrays, totaling 140 discs spread across all the arrays, using a combination of RAID 1 (for performance) and RAID 5 (for capacity). We use both SP’s on all arrays, with six arrays used over three systems (two per system). One of our systems has two arrays daisy-chained. The only failures we have suffered on any of the arrays have been due to a disc mechanism failing.

We never find any issues with the hardware raiding; in fact, as a lot of people have mentioned, hardware raiding is much more preferred to software raiding. Software raiding has several issues, system volume, performance, ease of use, etc. Hardware raiding is far more resilient.

As for anyone concerned about single points of failure, I would not worry too much about the Nike arrays, I would say they are almost bullet proof. For those who require a 24x7 system and can’t afford any downtime what so ever, maybe they should consider upgrading to an N-Class, with a VA or XP. Bottom line is SP20’s are sound arrays on the HP 3000s, easy to configure, setup and maintain.

11:39 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2018

3000 users linking up, 10 years later

Harland Clarke DMS network
Ten years ago this month the LinkedIn group for HP 3000 users opened for communications. In a posting from August of 2008 we took note of 30 members in a new group devoted to a server that hadn't shipped a new unit in five years.

There's no more new servers today. But by now those 30 members have turned into 669 and growing. It's been a pleasure to curate the group (admit new members) over this decade and spark some conversations, too. A few weeks ago I asked what people were still doing with their HP 3000s. Some of the newer members are old hands at the server. Edwin Clements, who just became a group member this week, worked at Harland Clarke back in 2012 as a COBOL specialist.There's new resources in the group, too. Matt Barker, the CMO of Stromasys, is a group member. 

HP 3000s remain on duty in surprising places. That's the Harland Clarke disaster recovery design up there at the top of this post. A pair of HP 3000s were working in the direct marketing end of one of the world's largest check manufacturers.

The membership of the group is something special, since it's hand-tooled. Anyone can request a spot, but only the clear 3000 users and experienced vendors have a place there. A LinkedIn group is often overrun with careerists whose skills don't match the discussions. Almost 80 pending members are on the outside looking in. If your resume doesn't include MPE, you're probably not a member.

Lately the LinkedIn group has been identifying itself with stories of durability. Some members are continuing to work with the server. Others have experience waiting if the opportunity surfaces to use it. It's a good place to look for someone you might've lost touch with.

08:58 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 13, 2018

Licensed MPE source solves OS mysteries

Rathbone-holmesIn early 2028 I’ll be 70, and some MPE/iX apps could be 40 years old. I can hope retirement is in my rangefinder by then, but at the moment it looks like I’ll be writing until I can’t make sentences anymore. (Gotta remember, first noun, then verb.)

Well before that year, though, the roadblock of 3000-MPE date handling will be cleared. The companies most likely to have a comprehensive workaround are the ones which have licensed MPE/iX source. Or, the companies which are allied with the source licensees. Fixing the use of the CALENDAR intrinsic doesn't need to be a source-level repair. Having source access, though, only makes the fix more robust.

The 3000 owners and managers are all about robust. That's why they're still making use of a computer the vendor hasn't sold since 2003. Many of the companies who don't self-maintain are relying on support services now working more than seven years since HP left that support business, too.

The established independent support companies will be glad to collect money for building a 2028 solution, customer-by-customer. They should be paid. There are some IT managers out there in the 3000 world who see leaving their existing systems in a future-proof state, software-wise, as part of their job whenever they get to retire. Those are the real Boy Scouts, I’d say. On the other hand, you will hear arguments they’re not doing their jobs by leaving their companies running MPE/iX, even today.

The heart wants what it wants, though. If a company hasn't got heart for a migration right now, then the adminstrative work to be done is preparing for a forever journey for MPE/iX. Or at least until I'm 80, when the Unix 2038 roadblock appears.

Nobody should be building a 2028 fix unless they’re going to be paid. This issue is important to the Stromasys customer base. Not all: some Charon 3000 emulator installations are holding a place for a migration that's underway.

The community's elders care about the future. So long as the old managers can get a new expenditure approved, the game's afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say.

05:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 10, 2018

HPCALENDAR joins 3000 intrinsics hits

Newswire Classic

Greatest-HitsTwenty years ago HP took steps forward, into the realm beyond 2028, when it released a set of COBOL-related MPE/iX intrinsics. The community is now looking into the next decade and seeing a possibility of hurdling the Dec. 31, 2027 date handling roadblock. In this Inside COBOL column from the late 1990s, Shawn Gordon took readers on a quick tour of the new intrinsics — new to 1998, at least — that would make the 3000 easier to program for the future. He even wrote a sample program employing the improved data handling.

In 2018 the information might seem more history lesson than operational instruction guide. But when a long-running mission critical app needs repairs, knowing the full set of date capabilities might help. Gordon even mentions that using the official intrinsics will help maintain programs written 20 years earlier. Enough time has passed by now that any new programs at the time of the article would be 20 years old.

3000 managers have always had a sharp focus on coding for long life of applications. 

By Shawn Gordon

Since Year 2000 is rapidly approaching, I'll review the date intrinsics that HP gave us in MPE/iX 5.5 starting with PowerPatch 4.

As I've done a lot of Y2K consulting it seems everyone has written their own date routines. Most I have seen will break by Y2K. My goal in my consulting was to implement an HP-supplied solution, making it easier to support YYMMDD as well as YYYYMMDD date functions during the conversion process.

My only negative comment about these intrinsics is that I wish they had been created with the introduction of the Spectrum series of HP 3000s (PA-RISC systems). I could have used them then, too.

Six new intrinsics are available. All of the parameters for all new intrinsics are now 32-bit. This means they will work for as long as anyone reading this will ever care. I feel it’s important to standardize on these new HP-supplied intrinsics. They will make it a lot safer than trying to maintain some piece of code that was probably written 20 years ago. With code that old, it’s likely that nobody remembers how it works.

Here’s the lineup of intrinsics:

1. HPDATECONVERT: converts dates from one supported format to another 
2. HPDATEFORMAT: converts a date into a display type (I usually use this instead of HPDATECONVERT)
3. HPDATEDIFF: returns the number of days between to given dates 
4. HPDATEOFFSET: returns a date that is plus or minus the number of days from the source date
5. HPDATEVALIDATE: verifies that the date conforms to a supported date format

There are a couple of things you should be sure to do correctly when using these intrinsics. HP’s documentation shows that some parameters on some intrinsics need to be passed by value (see my examples in Figure 1 with DATE-CODE, DAYS-DIFF and DATE-CUTOFF). You do this by putting the \ backward slashes around the variable name.

The other thing that can be confusing is the DATE-CUTOFF. This defines a “split” year. If anything is below this value, it will be translated to the next century. In other words, if the value of DATE-CUTOFF is 50, and you are using a 2 digit year of 00..49, then it will be resolved as 2000..2049, and those in the range of 50..99 will be 1950..1999.

If you use a value of -1, then the intrinsic will pick up the value of the predefined system variable HPSPLITYEAR. This method lets you control the value outside of your program, so I use a DATE-CUTOFF of -1 to stay modular.

The other thing to note is DATE-CODE, which indicates the style of the date that you are working with. I am using 15 because it works with both YYMMDD and YYYYMMDD format.

I’m including some code examples below for the variable declarations, as well as results of running the program MYDATE which uses the functions. 

01 DATE-CODE            PIC S9(9)  COMP VALUE 15.
01 DATE-RESULT          PIC S9(9)  COMP VALUE 0.
  03 S-INFO            PIC S9(4)  COMP VALUE 0.
  03 S-SUBSYS          PIC S9(4)  COMP VALUE 0.
01 DATE-CUTOFF          PIC S9(9)  COMP VALUE -1.
01 FORMAT-LEN           PIC S9(9)  COMP VALUE 20.
01 FROM-DATE            PIC 9(8)   COMP.
01 THRU-DATE            PIC 9(8)   COMP.
01 DAYS-DIFF            PIC S9(9)  COMP.
01 FORMAT-TYPE          PIC X(20).

      IF S-INFO <> 0
         DISPLAY "Error in HPDATEFORMAT".

      IF S-INFO <> 0
        DISPLAY "Error in HPDATEDIFF".

      IF S-INFO <> 0
        DISPLAY "Error in HPDATEOFFSET".

                                       GIVING DATE-RESULT.
      IF S-INFO <> 0


Enter date in YYMMDD or YYYYMMDD format: 19980317
Enter date format string: MM/DD/YY
Formatted date is 03/17/98
Julian date is 01998076

Enter From date: 19980101
Enter Thru date: 19980501
Number of days = +000000120

Enter start date: 19980801
Enter day offset: -31
New date is 19980701

12:35 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2018

Wayback: Linux re-enters the 3000's world

Penguin-shorelineThe Newswire's articles can sometimes be evergreen, even in the hottest months of the year. This week we got an email about a 2001 article that introduced Linux to our readers. A companion to the article from 17 years ago, A Beginners Guide to Linux, includes one outdated link, along with timeless advice.

Linux was already a juggernaut on corporate IT whiteboards and it had a strong following in the field, too. Shawn Gordon wrote a pair of columns about Linux as a 101 course for 3000 experts. The first article was published in the first weeks after HP's exit announcement about the 3000 business. Gordon, who founded a software company built around Linux applications, connected the dots.

To be honest, you can go another seven years quite easily with your existing 3000 system, which is a long time for a system these days. But if you were looking for a change anyway, now is the time. So what does this all have to do with Linux?

Linux seems to be the great equalizer. It runs on watches, set-top boxes, PDAs, Intel chips, PowerPC chips in Macs and IBM systems, Itanium chips, IBM mainframes — the list goes on and on. IBM and HP both are moving their customers towards it, and IBM has done some fantastic work helping Linux on scalability.

In our HP 3000 space we mostly know the players and we are comfortable where we are. Jumping over to Linux required that I learn a lot about things I never cared about before — like the GPL, GNU, Linux, RMS, ESR, and other things that I will explain in a bit. One of the bits that has been floating around a lot on the various 3000 discussion lists is Linux.

The update for the two-part article comes from a company that has a free Linux education website. Alex Nordeen, Editor of Guru99.com, hopes to get your web visits.

The tutorial is for an "absolute beginner's guide to Linux. You don't even have to buy a new PC to learn Linux. You can run Linux, right within your existing Windows or Mac OS systems! (Detailed steps are given in tutorials)."

Nordeen says of the second part of the article series, "In one article, you mentioned and linked to www.tuxedo.org/~esr. However, that site has been pulled out. And it's unclear that the page is going to be available again."

We recently created tutorials on Linux that took 190+ hours to create with beautifully annotated screenshots and videos. They are very comprehensive.

The tutorials are created by a Google veteran and I have personally edited them. The course covers

• Linux Basics like Introduction, Linux Distributions and Installation, Commands, and File Permissions.
• Redirection, Regular Expressions, Commands, and Communication in Linux.
• We also touch on advanced topics like Environment Variables, Managing Processes, VI Editor, Shell Scripting, Virtual Terminal, and Linux Administration.

08:05 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2018

E-commerce keeps making sales on 3000s

E-commerceDespite having both hardware and application vendor deserting them, companies who chose the Ecometry e-commerce software to run on HP 3000s keep making sales. Fluent Edge Technologies has served Ecometry sites for more than 20 years. Cliff Looyenga checked in on the LinkedIn HP 3000 group to mention that five or six companies in his client list continue to use MPE/iX for Ecometry.

"Ecometry is currently owned by JDA," Looyenga said. "They no longer provide any support for the HP 3000 version. They don't even advertise the current Windows version. In my opinion, Ecometry is dying a slow death."

"On the positive side," he added, "they are still enhancing and collecting support revenues for the Windows version. For users of the HP 3000 version, support comes from ourselves, Snapshot Design, Hire Experience, and Odin Technologies."

Here's the best part of the report. "We have continued to see support demand decrease," he said, "as more clients are moving off Ecometry altogether and going with other vendor solutions."

The fate of the 3000-using companies has had many seasons since 2001. Losing the vendor's support for hardware, for MPE/iX, for applications: these are events that trigger opportunities for replacement expertise. There are four suppliers of Ecometry support today, more than 16 years after HP declared the 3000's ecosystem doomed.

"I still have clients running on the HP 3000," Looyenga said. "One of them is running the Charon emulation software. None are planning to get off anytime soon."

06:10 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 03, 2018

2028 calendar changes to hit MPE, not 3000

The coming change for HP 3000 date-keeping is a product of the computer's operating system. The hardware will run as it always has, no matter how far ahead calendars and dates reach into the future. Even into the year 2028 and beyond. For some users, they're heard about this as the "2027 problem."

The CALENDAR problem is in the OS, not the hardware. The old intrinsic was only built to record accurate dates until the end of 2027. Any resolution will involve work within applications' use of intrinsics, among other software revisions. Replacing CALENDAR with HPCALENDAR is part of the solution. Charon sites will have to prepare for it too, because they are running faithful virtualizations of the PA-RISC hardware — and use MPE/iX

Hardware vs. software in 2028 is a common misunderstanding in the 3000 community. Everyone figures the Hewlett-Packard 3000 hardware, pushing 20-25 years in service in most places even today, won't be able to keep up. It's not the PA-RISC chips that will make a mistake identifying the correct year, though. It's MPE/iX.

There's a way around this aging software intrinsic: replacement. HP built a perfectly serviceable improvement of calendar intrinsics, HPCALENDAR, when it became obvious the 3000 community was going to go well past the Year 2000. HPCALENDAR isn't wired into the OS's roots, though. SHOWTIME, for example, is always going to report an incorrect year starting the first day of 2028.

Applications that can be revised to use HPCALENDAR will stream jobs on correct dates. Native job-streaming service in MPE/iX will work if a command uses a request such as "three days from now." In general, the more closely a piece of MPE/iX software relies on CALENDAR, the less likely it will be to deliver accurate dates starting in 2028.

Source code revision will be the most direct solution in some cases. Support companies are assembling certification services for Year 2028 operations. It's a place the 3000 community has worked through before now. We all remember how Y2K didn't halt 3000s. Developers, vendors, and support experts all say that 2028 is nothing as serious as Y2K was — so long as customers are aware of it and prepare.

We put together an FAQ about 2028 last year after vendors and users starting talking about the CALENDAR impact. It's worth a look and perhaps a forward to your support team if their answers are "that's a 3000 thing with HP's hardware" or they don't know how the year 2027 will end for MPE/iX. In December of that year, dates that are supposed to be reported at 2028 will say 1900. There's a strategy to repair that.

05:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 01, 2018

Charon carries Boeing in new 3000 orbit

Pluto and its moons
Illustration by Melanie Demmer

A few years ago the world's astronomers kicked Pluto out of the list of planets. 3000 owners and managers might know how that feels. Pluto was a perfectly acceptable planet for 80 years, like the 3000 was a small yet notable server in HP's enterprise solar system.

Like the 3000, Pluto didn't change to trigger its exile from the list of nine planets. Astronomers started to revise their specs for being a planet. Pluto wasn't big enough and was too far away from the sun to get the dispensation Mercury gets. But this celestial object is still in orbit around that sun. It's a little like the MPE/iX apps that are running at Boeing. 

Pluto and CharonCharon is the largest moon of Pluto's, so big it shares a gravitational field with the planet. (No, wait, it's a dwarf planet, Pluto is.) Charon is so big, compared to Pluto's size, that the two objects face one another with the same aspect constantly. Charon is in tidal lock, as one scientist explains it. That moon reminds me of the Charon software that powers those apps at Boeing today. Its emulation of the 3000 keeps it in lock with the PA-RISC chips that continued the orbit of MPE/iX at the world's largest aircraft maker.

The fate of Pluto and its moons graces the pages of a new children's book, A Place for Pluto. The book is illustrated by Melanie Demmer and written by Stef Wade, both making their debut in kids lit. Pluto does find a place by the end of the book, but I won't give it away. I have a grandson and a granddaughter who will enjoy the book soon.

Those kids are close enough that I don't need any time spent sitting in a Boeing product to see them. While I pawed through recent messages from 3000 users and fans, though, I thought of being exiled and how there's a place for everybody if they keep working and looking.

"Boeing is going as virtual as possible," system administrator Ray Legault of Boeing wrote, "using X86 hosts with .net and Java coded applications where possible. The applications' owners are responsible for funding the re-writing or retiring or migrating of applications, not IT. They are looking into Pivotal Cloud foundry, which requires .net or java coded applications.

Legault said the virtual HP 3000, powered by Charon "will be gone within two years when the Finance organization migrates all Finance applications to 1SAP." That's the moment when the MPE/iX moon will fade from the horizon at Boeing. By that time, it will have been carried through the skies by Charon for more than five years. That's a longer MPE orbit than HP imagined. By 2020 and that last Finance transaction at Boeing, it will be 19 years since HP announced the end of its 3000 business.

06:36 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)