January 28, 2015

Stealing After an Emulator's Magic

Radio manIn these new days after the end of the Stromasys freeware emulator offers, it's instructive to recall how much magic the product's concept proposed more than 11 years ago. People in 2003 began by wondering who would ever need something like an emulator, with so much pretty-fresh hardware around. Now companies want an emulator so badly they're trying to make a two-user freeware version do the work of HP-branded iron.

Charon for the 3000 was doubted from the beginning. It began to emerge after five full years of HP delays -- the company didn't want to work with any emulator builder, once it became apparent that the MPE/iX internal boot technology would have to be shared.

Eventually Software Resources International, the company that became Stromasys, was approached. After a half-decade of losing 3000 sites to Sun, Microsoft and IBM, HP wanted to encourage a restart of a project. But back in 2003, an emulator looked like a theory at best. Two additional companies were considering or planning products to give 3000 hardware a real future. Hewlett-Packard had told the community no more new 3000s would be built after fall of '03.

By the time that end-of-manufacture was imminent, Computerworld got interested in the emulation outlook for HP 3000s. The newsweekly ran a front page article called Users Unite to Keep MPE Alive. The subheading was "Get HP to agree to plan for emulator to ease e3000 migration," which meant Computerworld's editors misunderstood what homesteaders desired. Not an easier OS migration, but a way to keep using their systems on fresh hardware.

Third parties such as HP's channel partners and consulting firms don't know if there's enough commercial demand to justify the investment [in buying an emulator]. Potential users who are preparing migration plans say they need to know soon whether an emulator is actually coming.

They needed to know soon because staying with MPE and skipping a migration sounded like a good alternative. Just one company could manage to keep the concept alive in the lost years between 2004-2009. SRI had HP heritage (well, Digital brainpower) and a record of helping HP's VMS customers stay with that OS. Looking at how emulation helped, HP had proof that it could help the 3000 community.

One customer interviewed by Computerworld called anyone's 3000 emulator vaporware. While people couldn't plan for it, General Chemical's manager of tech operations Jim Haeseker also said "if an emulator were available now, that might be a different story."

At the time people were considering the emulator as a migration plan, but not away from MPE. This was a way to get off of HP's iron and on to something with a real future, even in the forecasts of 2003. The only thing that HP had done to help was talk to OpenMPE and then "agree to permit an emulator that would enable MPE to used on other HP hardware."

But the OpenMPE of 2003 had no firm plan on how to make an emulator a reality. No budgeted project, just companies that could make an emulator part of their plans once it existed. HP said it was in discussions with emulator developers "to understand what resources would be helpful." Only SRI, to become Stromasys, pursued what the community wanted.

We told our readers of our Online Extra at the time

Several sites quoted in the story were skeptical about how much OpenMPE’s most recent focus, an emulator to mimic 3000 hardware, might be able to help them soon. Timing appears to be a major issue in the story’s comments that focused on the prospect of a software-based PA-RISC emulator. Gavin Scott, VP of Allegro Consultants and a potential creator of an emulator to replace HP 3000 hardware, was described as “non-committal” about the project, though Scott’s actual quote just detailed the prospective cost, and commented on the uncertainty about how many customers would buy such a product. 

A customer site in Quebec offered a quote that they wouldn’t consider an emulator as a migration plan — unless they were convinced one could be built. And a technical manager of operations at General Chemical called the emulator “vaporware,” but added that if it were available, he might make allowances for it.

We added that we'd thought a more lasting project for OpenMPE would be the access rights to MPE/iX source code, to be used by the members of the organization's virtual lab, with results to be shared among OpenMPE's members. "That's more important than an emulator which competes with used hardware for sales. The heart and soul of the 3000's unique value lies in IMAGE and MPE, not in PA-RISC hardware." We were right, but we wouldn't be today. The newest of HP's iron is now more than 11 years old.

MPE's source code rights would not be released, but an emulator license for MPE arrived in 2004. Here in the light of 2015, it appears that the aging hardware is being kicked to the curb by a few companies in favor of unlicensed use of freeware that was built for enthusiasts or testing.

After the Computerworld piece, we interviewed the chief of a emulator firm, Strobe Data, one that had to mothball its HP 3000 project. Strobe couldn't out-wait HP. "The thing about emulators is that they just get more valuable with time," said Willard West. Now that there's the magic of Charon as a real product, it's become valuable enough to run at any cost. "We just overlooked the license payment" might be offered as an excuse. That argument proves emulation's value to the community. Maybe there's a way back to freeware with limits to protect everybody.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:25 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

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January 27, 2015

Emulator's downloadable free ride ends

Ride Free AreaStromasys has discontinued the freeware download distribution of the A202 version of its Charon HPA emulator. According to a company official, "We're ending the freeware distribution due to the unfortunate use of that software in commercial environments."

The A202, just powerful enough to permit two simultaneous users to get A-Class 400 performance, was always tempting to very small sites. Stromasys was generous enough to permit downloading of the software, as well as the bundled release of MPE/iX FOS software, with few restrictions starting in November of 2012. But the instructions were explicit: no use in production environments. 

However, A-Class 400 horsepower would be enough for companies putting their 3000s in archival mode. It would also be a workman-grade emulation of a development-class 3000. Some companies may have spoiled the freeware largesse for all. It's unlikely that one customer would report another's commercial use of Charon to emulate 3000s. But there's always the possibility that someone might have, say, contacted the company on a support matter. For a commercial setting.

The virtualization product was pared back to give 3000 sites a way to prove it would match up with the technical requirements of existing 3000s. Indeed, Charon has proven to be a thorough emulation of PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Running it in production requires a paid license and a support contract. The latest information from Stromasys' Alexandre Cruz shows the entry-level price at $9,000.

The Charon HPA freeware that's been installed around the world is still capable of emulating a 3000. But its intended use is for enthusiasts, not working systems managers who administer production machines.

The A202 was offered on the honor system. The software required the installer to supply a valid HPSUSAN number upon installation before the software would boot an Intel system as an HP 3000.

There's no mistaking the intention for the freeware, though. From the Version 1.5 Freeware documentation, under the Licensing Restrictions section:

The CHARON-HPA/3000 Freeware Edition is licensed for use in the following environments only: 

Enthusiasts: unlimited personal non-commercial use.

Commercial: limited to evaluating the product.

The Freeware Edition may not be integrated into production environments. The CHARON-HPA/3000 Freeware Edition is supplied with a preconfigured HP 3000 disk image that contains a copy of  MPE/iX 7.5 FOS. The Freeware Edition will only load after you have configured it with an HPSUSAN number that you are legally entitled to use. You must agree to respect these license restrictions before you will be able to download the Freeware edition installation files from our website.

The freeware will continue to be distributed to prospects who contact the sales force. No other freeware Charon versions -- to be used for the Digital VMS environment, or Sun Solaris -- are available for download from the recently-revamped Stromasys website, either.

Users Guides for the 1.5 release of the freeware, as well as for the older 1.5 release of Charon production-license software, remain online at the Stromasys website.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:09 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 26, 2015

How to Use MPE/iX Byte Stream Files

Back when HP still had a lab for the HP 3000, its engineers helped the community. In those days, system architect and former community liaison Craig Fairchild explained how to use byte stream files on the 3000. Thanks to the memory of the Web, his advice remains long after the lab has gone dark.

Mountain-streamThese fundamental files are a lot like those used in Windows and Linux and Unix, Fairchild said. HP has engineered "emulation type managers" into MPE/iX, an addition that became important once the 3000 gained an understanding of Posix. In 1994, MPE/XL became MPE/iX when HP added this Unix-style namespace.

Understanding the 3000 at this level can be important to the customer who wants independent support companies to take on uptime responsibility and integration of systems. Fairchild explained the basics of this basic file type.

Byte stream files are the most basic of all file types. They are simply a collection of bytes of data without any structure placed on them by the file system. This is the standard file model that is used in every Unix, Linux and even Windows systems.
 
MPE's file system has always been a structured file system, which means that the file system maintains a certain organization to the data stored in a file. The MPE file system understands things like logical records, and depending on the file type, performs interesting actions on the data (for example, Circular files, Message files, KSAM files and so on).

Fairchild detailed how HP has given bytestream files the knowledge of "organization of data" for applications.

To bridge the gap between standard byte stream file behavior (only the application knows the organization of data) and traditional MPE file type behavior (the file system knows what data belongs to what records), emulation type managers were created. To an MPE application, a byte stream file looks and behaves like a variable record file, even though the data is stored in a way that would allow any Posix application to also read the same data. (Posix applications also have emulator type managers that allow them to read fixed, variable and spool files in addition to plain byte stream files.)

The way that the byte stream emulator detects record boundaries is through the use of the newline (\n) character, which is used, by convention, to separate data in ASCII text files on Unix-based systems.

The underlying properties of a byte stream file are that each byte is considered its own record. In MPE file system terms, a record is the smallest unit of IO that can be performed on a file. (You can write a partial record fixed length record, but the file system will pad it to a full record.) Since the smallest unit of IO that can be performed on a byte stream file is a single byte, that becomes its MPE record size.
 
In the MPE file system, the EOF tracks the number of records that are in a file. Since the record size of a byte stream file is one byte, the EOF of a byte stream file is also equal to the number of bytes in the file. This is why one 4-byte variable sized record is equal to 5 byte stream records (4 bytes of data + 1 \n character).

It's also worth noting that any file can be in any directory location and will behave the same way. (Well, almost. CM KSAM files are restricted to the MPE namespace. And of course the special files (that you don't normally see) that make up the file system root, accounts and groups are also restricted: one root, accounts as children of the root, groups as children of accounts. And lockwords aren't allowed outside the MPE namespace. But other than that, the opening sentence is true.) 

The general model that we had in architecting the whole Posix addition was that behavior of a file does change regardless of where it is located. This was summed up in the saying, "A file is a file." So there are no such things as "MPE files" and "Posix files". There's just files.

What does change is the way you name that file. Files in the MPE namespace can be named either through the MPE syntax (FILE.GROUP.ACCOUNT), or through the HFS syntax (/ACCOUNT/GROUP/FILE). You can also use symbolic links to create alternate names to the same file. This was summed up as a corollary to the first saying, "But a name is not a name."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:47 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2015

Pending questions about the latest HPA

It often does not take long for reactions to arrive here to NewsWire stories. It's a prime advantage of having a digital delivery system for our news and tech reports. We learn quickly when we've gotten something incorrect, and then can fix it.

But supplemental information sometimes takes longer to fill in. After we posted our article of yesterday about the new 1.6 release of the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator, Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies offered immediate questions. Like us on this very evening, he's seeking more details about the features and updates of 1.6.

I'm especially interested in anything that would make configuring the networking easier, as I found that to be the most difficult part to deal with on my downloadable evaluation copy (However, I've still got the nearly ancient v1.1). [Editor's note: we suspect that the new Network Configuration Utility will simplify this complex configuration task.]

I'd imagine that if these v1.6 updates are available in the evaluation version, I could find all this out myself. But the Stromasys website only has fairly sparse documentation available (compared to their other emulators), and it's for version 1.5, not 1.6.

I tried finding out if this latest version of the freeware edition is downloadable, but I can't find any links on their website to the download link. The website is newly redesigned, and looks a lot fresher, however.

I've looked in the A202 freeware edition's User Guide (v1.5) and it says that the downloadable edition can be found at a particular URL: www.stromasys.com/hp3000_freeware. But try as I might, that URL wouldn't work for me. I kept getting a '404' error, indicating that the link wasn't present.  

Is there updated documentation coming? I have to say that those v1.5 docs are light years ahead of what was available when my v1.1 was current.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:07 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2015

Newest Charon version brings fresh features

Changes in the product used for virtualizing an HP 3000 include more than performance increases. The emulator starts at a base price of $9,000 to match performance of an A-Class system enabled for eight users. Officials in the Geneva headquarters of Stromasys say the top-end pricing, the N40X0 to create an N-Class caliber 3000 out of Intel server hardware, is $99,000.

The Stromasys HP 3000 product manager Doug Smith has noted several new features of Charon HPA.

In Version 1.6 there are some performance increases. Once again, overall performance will be based on the Intel server it is to be run on. The more power the better. What's new:

  • New parameter for virtual Ethernet adapter for physical card configuration
  • An NCU (Network Configuration Utility) 
  • License support for primary/secondary (backup) licenses
  • Extending the limit for number of controllers from 6 to 8 for N40X0 series

The market is hungry for the forthcoming performance. At Veritiv Corporation, Randy Stanfield will need the fastest version of Charon that Stromasys can provide. "We tested about a year and half ago," he said. "We’re running five HP N-Class 4-way systems, each with 750 MHz processors and fully loaded RAM."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:13 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 20, 2015

Powerhouse customer inquires on emulator

One mission for the Stromasys emulator for HP 3000s is carrying forward legacy applications and systems. In fact, that's the primary reason for making the investment into the Charon-HPA version of the software. Some other companies are using the product to keep an MPE/iX suite alive while they are migrating.

There must be HP 3000 sites that want to move Powerhouse from their HP-built servers to the more modern hardware that drives Charon. Some manufacturing sites would like to do this with as little fanfare as possible. Notice of changing host hardware is optional, for some managers. Nobody in the 3000 community, or in the offices of the new Powerhouse owners Unicom Systems, has checked in with a report of running Powerhouse on Charon.

There is a additional interest for this combination, however. It's on the Digital side of the Charon product lineup.

Steven Philbin at FM Global was inquiring about whether Powerhouse code is compiled or interpreted. In a message on the Powerhouse mailing list, Philbin reached out to find "anyone out there working on a Virtual Stromasys Charon/SMA solution on systems written in Powerhouse."

"We are using Oracle/RDB, VMS, and Powerhouse v7.10 running on an Alpha ES40. Contact points with other users would be really helpful."

Philbin's message doesn't read like a notice that he's already made the Charon investment alongside his Powerhouse operations. But it's a Powerhouse customer query out in public, and that's a first.

MANMAN already has Digital Alpha users who employ the Charon product. Some of the most robust recommendations for the emulator have come out of the Digital community. A CAMUS user group conference call meeting in 2013 included reports from Tim Peer of Envy Systems about Digital MANMAN users running VMS on Charon. The customers were happy with performance and compatibility.

Permission and licensing from such big-scale software providers has been the wild card in the Charon story for MPE/iX. Stromasys has been selling its emulator, but reports of such products running on Charon have not emerged.

One year ago this month, Unicom Systems announced its acquisition of Powerhouse and related products from the Cognos-IBM stable. FM Global is an insurance and services provider, not a manufacturer. The last public event for Powerhouse hosted by Unicom was a re-launch of the Powerhouse user group, along with a customer advisory board meeting, in late June.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:11 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2015

Get polished advice, bound and free

Evolution and SMUG

Get your very own copy of these out of print gems. Email me at the Newswire for your book.

We're doing a makeover of the Newswire files this week in the office, and we have some duplicate gems to give away. The two books above come from the hard work and deep knowlege of Robelle's tech staff, as well as the voices of many other experts. The ultimate copy of the SMUG Pocket Encylopedia carries great advice and instruction between its covers, plenty of which is useful to the homesteader of 2015.

There's also HP 3000 Evolution, created by a wide array of contributors including many who've had articles and papers edited and published by the Newswire. We're giving away these rare copies. Email me at the Newswire and be sure to include a postal address, and I'll send each of them out to whoever asks first.

Paper seems like a premium these days, a luxury that harkens back to the prior century. But it's classy, and the information inside these two books is timeless. It deserves to be bound and mailed. Not every source works better in paper. We'll say more about that later. But finding this kind of tech instruction can sometimes be tricky using the Web.

As an example, here's advice from our old friend Paul Edwards, who's taught MPE and Suprtool for many years. Doing backups is everybody's responsibility, and doing them well has some nuances.

Verify data backups with VSTORE.PUB.SYS. It only checks that the tape media is good and the files on it can be read. It doesn't compare the files on the tape with the files on disk. Since a CSLT takes only about 20-30 minutes to make regardless of the amount of disk files you have, this process adds little to the time it takes for a backup cycle. You should make one at least every other full backup cycle.

Verify the CSLT with CHECKSLT.MPEXL.TELESUP. Use a proper, secure storage environment and don't use the tapes more often than recommended by the manufacturer. Run BULDACCT.PUB.SYS prior to each full backup to create the BULDJOB1 and BULDJOB2 files so that they will be included on the backup. Remember that they contain passwords and should be purged after the backup.

If you find you've still got some HP documentation in your bookshelf, these books deserve a place there. Because of their scope, they're probably even more valuable than anything HP sent with a blue binder.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:32 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2015

New service level: personal private webinar

Software and service providers have long used webinars to deliver information and updates to groups. Now one vendor in the HP 3000 market is making the webinar highly focused. MB Foster is scheduling Personal Webinars.

CEO Birket Foster is available for private bookings with customers or prospects who need questions answered on a variety of topics. According to an email sent this week, the list from the company's Wednesday Webinars over the past few years includes

  • Application Migrations, Virtualization, Emulation, Re-host, Retire, Replace
  • Data Migration, Transformations, Decommissioning
  • Big Data
  • Bring Your Own Devise (BYOD)
  • Data Quality, Governance, MDM (Master Data Management)
  • Decision Support, Advanced Analytics, Dashboarding
  • User reporting, ad hoc query and analysis
  • Using Powerhouse in the 21st Century
  • Enterprise Windows Batch Job Scheduling
  • ITIL and APM
  • Document Management
  • Enterprise Data Storage

The vendor says to schedule this one-to-one briefing contact Chris Whitehead at 905-846-3941, or send a request to info@mbfoster.com, along with the desired topic and available dates and times.

For the past 3 years MB Foster has hosted Webinars every Wednesday at 11 am PST and 2 pm EST. As not everyone is available on a Wednesday, we are offering "Book a Private Webinar." If you have a topic your organization needs to address we would be pleased to conduct a webinar with your team.

If you have an alternative suggested topic, we would appreciate the feedback. Whatever the topic, we will have the webinar team include a subject matter expert to address your needs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:22 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 14, 2015

(Still) ways to turn back time to save apps

Editor's Note: Nine years ago this week we ran these suggestions on how to get abandoned software to keep running on HP 3000s. It's still good advice while a manager and company is homesteading, or keeping a 3000 alive until a migration is complete.

Turn back timeSome HP 3000s are reduced to a single application these days. But the one program that will never move off the platform, however vital it might be, could see its support disappear on a particular date — with no help available from the creators of the software.

A few utilities can help rescue such applications. These products were popular during the Y2K era, when systems needed their dates moved back and forth to test Year 2000 compatibility. Now that some HP 3000 programs are being orphaned, clock rollback utilities are getting a new mission.

A customer of SpeedEdit, the HP 3000 programmer's tool, had lost the ability to run the program at the start of 2006. Both Allegro Consultants' Stan Sieler and former NewsWire Inside COBOL columnist Shawn Gordon offer products to roll back the 3000's clock. These companies don't sanction using their software to dodge legitimate licensing limits. But if a software vendor has left your building, so to speak, then HourGlass/3000 or TimeWarp/3000 (both reviewed) are worth a try to get things running again.

3000 customer Paul Frohlich of DMX Music in the UK asked how to get his SpeedEdit running once again now that the calendar had rolled over to 2006:

When editing a file SpeedEdit creates a work file to hold the changes: it uses a structured name for the work file. According to the manual “ ... the first character of the [work] file name represents the year the [work] file was created, the letter A indicating 1980, B 1981 etc.” Therefore Z was 2005 and so there is no letter for 2006! SpeedEdit may be trying to use the next character in the ASCII table, which is probably non-numeric, resulting in an invalid MPE file name. A very neat way of making software expire. I suppose the authors didn’t think anyone would be using SpeedEdit in 2006!

Gordon replied with a suggestion to try his product, software that he's taking orders for direct these days:

While we don't sanction this for bypassing a programs legitimate timing out, it sounds like you've gotten in a bind with a product you paid for and the vendor is gone.  Our TimeWarp product which was originally created to do Y2K virtual dates would likely allow you to keep working; you can get some information from www.smga3000.com/timewarp_detail.html about the product.

Sieler posted notice of an alternative solution from his company:

A date/time simulator may help, if you don’t mind the rest of SpeedEdit getting the wrong time.  (E.g., run SpeedEdit with a date of, say, 1980... giving you another 25 years of bliss :)

HourGlass/3000 is still the most complete and most efficient date/time simulator tool.  You could use it with a rule like:    

@,@.@,@  speededt.pub.bbs  @   delta -20 years

(Means: any job/session name, any user, any account, any logon group, program is speededt.pub.bbs, from any ldev, gets the current date/time minus 20 years)

Sieler went on to add a more obvious option if a programming editor stops running on the 3000: Use Robelle's Qedit. He also outlined another workaround for a program that wants a date which its creators didn't expect to need to serve:

Write a CALENDAR intercept intrinsic (trivial in SPLash!, Pascal, C) that returns a modified year, put it in XL (e.g., SPDEDTXL), and modify (via LINKEDIT) SpeedEdit to load with that XL. If SpeedEdit is a CM program, change the above to: (trivial in SPL), put in an SL that SpeedEdit will use (SL.pub.BBS or whatever), and  mark SpeedEdit as LIB=P or LIB=G.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:39 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2015

Shedding a Heavy Burden of History

Racking railOn Monday we reported the release of one of the first training videos hosted by computer pro in their 20s, demonstrating equipment from the 1970s. The HP 3000 is shedding the burden of such old iron, just as surely as the video's creator is shedding the equipment used to make the video.

Mark Ranft of Pro3K is making room in his operations in Minnesota by moving out equipment like the HP 7980 tape drive that was the centerpiece of the video. Ranft, who also manages at the company which took over the OpenSkies airline ticketing operations from HP 3000 servers, said his daughter Katie (above) was showing off MPE gear that will soon be out the door at Pro3K.

"We created this video as we soon we will no longer have the capability to create it," Ranft said. "We are downsizing. I will no longer have all this great old equipment."

Three of the tape drives, including a couple which have HP-IB interfaces. Drives so heavy that our reader Tim O'Neill said he had to remove his 7980s from HP racks using a lift table.

Only last month did I dismantle and ship out the last two remaining 9-track tape units from HP, which were the flat-laying vacuum chamber kind. I think they were Model 7980A (as though HP were going to make B and C models.) They were mounted on heavy duty racking rails in HP cabinets. They had not been used in a while, but were retained just in case someone wanted to read a 9-track.

Old iron is moving out, because the MPE/iX services of the future can be performed using drives so lightweight they'd fit in a lunch pail. Drives hosted on ProLiant servers of current era price lists.

     Ranft said he's moving out his gear including the drives, five HP 3000s of 9x7 and 9x8 vintage, 10 6000-Series disk enclosures, and four Jamaica enclosures including disks.

"We have some DTCs and other cool peripherals, too," he said. "We even run one program that I wrote in BASIC/3000 in 1983 while I was a computer operator at Northern Telecom. This really proves backward compatibility!"

When a community can replace old iron and retain the reliable programs that run financials and more, it's looking forward. More than a salvage job, which is where those vintage devices are headed. Replacement is a rebuild to the future.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:56 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 12, 2015

Video helps with 30-year-old tape operations

Reel Tape Drive video screen capA Facebook page has a new video that assists with decades-old technology. Reel to reel tapes get the how-to treatment on the page of the Pro3K consultancy, a support and operations firm that's run by Mark Ranft. The video shows a restore of a 31-year-old tape.

Using a detailed review of all the steps needed to load and mount a tape, Mark's daughter Katherine demonstrates how to handle the oldest storage technology in the MPE world. While reel to reel was popular, MPE V was in vogue. Some archival backups still have to be pulled from reel to reel. Meanwhile, there are other elderly HP 3000s that will only take tape backups. If a 3000 doesn't support SCSI, then it's HP-IB ready, so to speak. 

Katie RanftIf you've never enjoyed the inner workings of the vacuum loading systems on HP tape drives, you might be fascinated by what you see. There's also a guest appearance of the fabled 4GB disks for 3000s. Katie explains that the standard iPhone has four times as much storage as one of these disk drives.

She also notes that the 31-year-old tape "is four years older than me." Ranft said his daughter has been studying for potential consulting opportunies, and lives in the Chicago area.

Katie might qualify for the youngest person in 2015 who's instructed the world on the operations of an HP 3000. If you visit the Pro3K Facebook page, give it a Like. We like this trend: this is the first ops training for the 3000 ever posted on Facebook.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 09, 2015

Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s

Another way around the dilemma of aging 3000 storage invokes virtual data services. In specific, this solution uses the HP DL360 ProLiant server as a key element of connecting RAID storage with MPE/iX. Instead of older storage like the VA arrays, this uses current-era disks in a ProLiant system.

DL360 Gen 8Because there's an Intel server involved, this recalls the 3000 virtualization strategy coming from Stromasys. But the product and service offering from Beechglen — the HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN — doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data. It also works as an tactical tool for everyday homestead operations.

Beechglen's got both kinds of customers, according to Mike Hornsby. He summed up his offering, one that's available as an ongoing data service ($325 a month for 6 TB mirrored) or a $4,900 outright purchase with a year of support included. The company leveraged an MPE/iX source code license to build the SAN.

Having the source code to MPE/iX allowed us to provide an interface to our in-house developed FiberChannel targets that run on HP DL360s. This allows up to 6TB of RAID 1 storage in 1U of rack space, and provides advanced functionality, like replication and high availability.

He adds there are IO performance improvements in this solution, starting at twice as fast up to 100X, depending on what's being replaced. The company recommends an upgrade to an A-Class or N-Class to take advantage of native Fiber Channel. The SCSI-to-Fiber devices tend to develop amnesia, he explained, and the resultant reconfiguring for MPE is a point of downtime. "Those were never built for MPE anyway," he said of SCSI-to-Fiber devices.

The Fiber SAN runs CentOS Linux, and the MPE/iX LUNs are files.

Hornsby said the additional storage also allows splitting the traditional 'store to tape' backup into two steps, first to disk, and then to tape. Or to a network server, or to cloud storage. "The idea is to have an onsite backup," Hornsby said, "and an offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes."

One of the most frustrating times in the support role is waiting for tapes to be delivered from offsite storage and then waiting for the slow tape to disk restore. So far we have found that replacing the storage, and providing cloud storage, is less expensive than the onsite maintenance and the tape handling and storage costs.

He adds that "many high end HP 3000s are still using Mirror/iX, Model 20s, VA arrays, and 12H arrays, not to mention dozens of unprotected disks. The vast majority of hardware service calls and system down times are due to replacements of disks and tape drives."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:16 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 08, 2015

Keeping 3000 Storage On The Road

Since data storage is one of the biggest assets in any HP 3000 environment, it's fraught with risks and opportunities. Those are devices with moving parts that capture, exchange, and archive the precious data. A moving part wears out. A good plan to Sustain a 3000 site includes a strategy to protect that data.

Mr. ToadIf a system goes down these days, it's most like to do so because of a storage device failure. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen just reported that, "in our support efforts for both onsite services and being largest provider of hosted HP 3000s, the main ongoing issue is storage." Keeping it available and up to date is like keeping a car on the road.

In particular, the recovery time for a 3000 can be extended or limited by how fast the site manager can restore from a backup. The time to receive off-site backup tapes for restoring might be minimal. But a good plan will account for the expected amount of time. Every minute of it costs the company something.

How much should a site pay to reduce downtime? It's easy to imagine overkill until some stakeholder from the business adds up costs of downtime. For the 3000s that still drive ecommerce, it can be thousands of dollars per minute. Even a manufacturing site -- much more of a classic 3000 shop -- will record costs for interrupted manufacturing processes, or the cost of produced goods that can't move toward sales until the 3000 comes back up.

Modern storage strategy offers opportunities to make this amount of downtime so small that it's meaningless. RAID storage is an essential bedrock. But RAID devices in the 3000 world as old as Model 20s, 12H arrays and even some VA arrays are rolling outside of their safe operation lifecycle.

SATA drives power the current generation of storage that's attached to Intel-based servers. SCSI does not. There was a point 20 years ago when SCSI storage for 3000s was considered state of the art -- because it wasn't HP-IB storage any more. That's not true by now. SCSI storage is a walk on the wild side of reliability. Unprotected SCSI disks are a hairy, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride kind of lark.

Cloud storage is an emerging upgrade, even for HP 3000 sites. Fiber Channel might be dated technology, but it's got prospects for bandwidth and connectivity that SCSI will never attain. The lack of modern storage options has been a significant and bona fide factor in triggering migration projects at 3000 sites. Modern storage is networked, redundant, fast and built upon devices created in the past three years. There are ways to update a 3000's data storage capability. We'll have a report over the next few days about one of them. 

In the meantime, taking a hard look at that data restore downtime is a useful exercise. Better to have a number that pleases nobody than to not know what the number is. A test of a restore is recommended by many systems management experts. From more than 15 years ago, a Scott Hirsh Worst Practices column advised that Backup Is Still Hard to Do. Hard to do well, anyway.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2015

End Days for Antique Disk Drives

HP 3000 servers which use drives made a decade ago are still running. It's not so far back, from a support perspective. Hewlett-Packard was supporting 9-GB and 18-GB units through 2008, and the 36-GB model A5595A through 2009. Those are the end of support dates from the manufacturer. Independent support companies back those models today.

AutoRAID 12HThey do it by replacing devices when they fail, not servicing dead drives. Any 3000s still operating off decade-old storage units are into magic time: those end days when it's a marvel just to see something that old still crucial to a system. Hard disks are the only moving parts of a 3000, after all. Even the redundant ones will fail, since all drives do.

The 3000 community has been facing its aging hardware a very long time. People were checking during 2006 on those end of support dates for the 3000's most common boot drives. A call for sensibility at the time went out from Donna Hofmeister.

It's more than time for many MPE shops to "smell the coffee," or perhaps more accurately, smell the looming disaster. If your disc drive is less than 36GB, odds are it's ready to be replaced. It's past it's expected life span, and you're living on borrowed time. If you got any plans to keep on running these systems, it's more than time to get onto new drives. With how prices have dropped, it's hard to not justify going to new drives. 

Hofmeister added "I wouldn't want to have to explain why, following a disc failure, you can't get your MPE system running again." Replacing these wee discs with newer technology is possible, of course. Little SCSI drives that can be seen by MPE are harder to find by now, though. HP's last significant extension of MPE was to expand the server's vision of storage units, so the 3000 could see devices up to 500GB. But half a terabyte is a small drive today.

Finding an AutoRAID 12H replacement gets tougher still. Not tough to locate. Tough to justify.

The AutoRAID disc units were a small-shop marvel, redundant storage you could pick up for under $20,000. Today that device is still on the used market at about $1,000. But making the investment in antique storage is more costly than the purchase price. Replacing what's failed with something just as old isn't buying a lot of time.

Homesteading shops might not need a lot of time, of course. If they're heading to a migration solution, that overtime might be as short as several months. Here in the early days of 2015, the ecommerce retailers are finally un-freezing systems for makeovers. It's beyond the spending holidays now. They can make changes to their systems, including replacing them altogether.

One way to skip over the end days for these drives is to make a transition to emulated 3000s. That's a homesteading solution with a real strategy. New Intel hardware, current-era storage. The hardware support might even be worked into existing PC-style enterprise hardware agreements. There would be nothing to explain if that generation of hardware failed.

A drive built a decade ago would provide another kind of story to tell.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:52 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 06, 2015

Essential Steps for Volume Reloads

When a 3000 drive goes dead, especially after a power outage, it often has to be reloaded. For example, when an LDEV2 has to be replaced. For a cheat sheet on reloading a volume, we turned to our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper.

By Gilles Schipper

Assuming your backup includes the ;directory option, as well as the SLT:

1. Boot from alternate path and choose INSTALL (assuming alternate path is your tape drive) 
2. After INSTALL completes, boot from primary path and perform START NORECOVERY. 
3. Use VOLUTIL to add ldev 2 to MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. 
4. Restore directory from backup (:restore *t;;directory) 
5. openq lp
6. Perform a full restore with the following commands
:file t;dev=7(?)
:restore *t;/;keep;show=offline;olddate;create;partdb;progress=5 7.

Perform START NORECOVERY

I would suggest setting permanent and transient space each equal to 100 percent on ldev 2. The 75 percent default on ldev 1 is fine as long as you don’t need the space. And if you did, your solution shouldn’t really be trying to squeeze the little extra you’d get by increasing the default maximum limits.

The reason for limiting ldev1 to 75 percent is to minimize the otherwise already heavy traffic on ldev 1, since the system directory must reside there, as well as many other high traffic “system” files.

You won't want to omit the ;CREATE and ;PARTDB options from the restore command. Doing so will certainly get the job done -- but perhaps not to your satisfaction. If any file that exists on your backup was created by a user that no longer exists, that file (or files) will NOT be restored.

Similarly, if you omit the ;PARTDB option, any file that comprises a TurboIMAGE database whose corresponding root file does not exist, will also not be restored.

I suppose it may be a matter of personal preference, but I would rather have all files that existed on my disks prior to disk crash also exist after the post disk-crash RELOAD. I could then easily choose to re-delete the users that created those files -- as well as the files themselves.

Another reason why the ;SHOW=OFFLINE option is used is so that one can quickly see the users that were re-created as the result of the ;CREATE option. Purging the "orphan" datasets would be slightly more difficult, since they don’t so easily stand out on the stdlist.

Finally, it’s critical that a second START NORECOVERY be performed. Otherwise, you cannot successfully start up your network.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:37 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2015

Securing cloud promises hardware freedom

Threat-manager-sensor-imageRackspace's cloud hosting security can include Alert Logic Threat services for enhanced security. MPE managers are likely to insist on the advanced service.

If a 3000 manager or owner had one wish for the new year, it might be to gain hardware assurance. No matter how much expertise or development budget is available in 2015, not much will turn back the clock on the servers -- the newest of which were built not very long after Y2K. The option to escape these aging servers lies in Intel hardware. Some sites will look at putting that hardware out in the cloud.

Say the word cloud to an HP 3000 veteran and they'll ask if you mean time-sharing. At its heart, the strategy of the 1970s that bought MPE into many businesses for the first time feels like cloud computing. The server's outside of the company, users access their programs through a network, and everyday management of peripherals and backups is an outsourced task.

But the cloud of 2015 adds a world of public access, and operates in an era when break-ins happen to banks without defeating a time lock or setting off a security alarm. Time-sharing brought the HP 3000 to Austin companies through the efforts of Bill McAfee. Terry Floyd of the MANMAN support company The Support Group described the earliest days of MPE in Austin.

The first HP 3000 I ever saw was in 1976 at Futura Press on South Congress Avenue in Austin.  Bill McAfee owned Futura and was a mentor to many of us in Texas. Futura was an HP reseller, and aside from a wonderful printing company, they wrote their own software and some of the first MPE utilities. Interesting people like Morgan Jones hung out around Futura Press in the late 1970's and I can never thank Bill and Anne McAfee enough for the great times.

Series 42Jones went on to found Tymlabs, the creators of one of the bulwark MPE backup products. The HP Chronicle, the first newspaper devoted to the 3000, processed its typesetting using that Futura server. For all practical purposes this was cloud computing, delivered off mid-range HP 3000s such as the Series 42 (above), even deep into 1984. But 30 years later, this category of resource has become even more private and customized. It also relies on co-located hardware. That's where Rackspace comes in. It's the target provider for the new cloud-based installations of Charon. The Rackspace mantra is "One size doesn't fit all." That harkens to the days of time-sharing.

While other companies have competitive offerings in cloud services, Rackspace has the advantage of building its business model around extreme customization and significant expertise in VMware. That VMware service forms the bedrock for the virtualization in Stromasys' product.

VMware management may not be tribal knowlege at some 3000 sites which are looking to move away from older hardware. Rackspace touts proactive management "24x7x365 by our VMware Certified Professionals. You get VMware's cloud management platform to build upon, while maintaining control through the vCloud web portal and vCloud API-compatible orchestration tools." Rackspace adds that it's one of the largest VMware-powered service providers in the world.

Security can't be virtual, however. Locking down access is as much a matter of physical security of storage and hardware as it is firewall protections. Just last summer, a survey of IT managers across the industry reported that "executives are not sure they can trust what cloud providers are telling them," according to an IDG-Unisys research paper.

Rackspace offers virtual private networks, Sophos anti-virus software, distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection and something called Alert Logic Threat Management in a Security Plus package. Stromasys technical presale manager Alex Cruz said that Rackspace has the flexibility that the virtualization vendor believes will be needed to host MPE servers in the cloud.

Calculating the capital outlay for moving MPE into virtualization is likely to put managers of 3000s into some advanced spending to master extra security. A cloud service provider like Rackspace can standardize that essential feature, even while it customizes the hardware and storage configuration that Charon for MPE will require. "Integrated vulnerability scanning," says the Rackspace brief on its security, "helps you identify possible points of entry and correct them, and assists you with meeting regulatory compliance requirements."

That survey of IT executives from last year reports that 70 percent of them believe security is the biggest obstacle to hosting from the cloud. HP 3000 sites might not have the most stringent enterprise-level security for their Intel-based systems in place already, so engaging a company that promises "Alert Logic security analysts" is one way to pursue expertise. Rackspace says its security services will help customers pass PCI bank-card and HIPAA healthcare audits. Some HP 3000s are still driving ecommerce companies, even more than four years after HP's support ended for MPE. Rackspace says it's the No. 1 hosting provider to the Top 1,000 Ecommerce websites.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:51 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 02, 2015

What to Expect in Performance This Year

Legacy systems like the HP 3000 remain entrenched around the world. The reason? Their durability and their standing in the company's business legacy. What's a business legacy, you ask? It's the history of what kinds of servers and programs get used to process business. All MPE/iX applications are business legacies by now. They're more than a decade old. They run, and their performance is adequate. There seems like there's little to be done about making them faster.

Orders-of-magnitudeBut employing an emulator to replace the Hewlett-Packard models of 3000s can change that. The promise is more performance from more modern Intel-based hardware. There are limits, however. Here in 2015, the performance gain is limited by the size of 3000 that's running this week, the first of the new year. This week we read about "orders of magnitude" performance gains, but that's usually a number only applicable to a first order -- times 10. And even that might be a few years away for 3000 managers.

Given enough time, everyone who uses a 3000 emulator will outstrip the raw processing power of the HP-brand iron. Those HP boxes will never get faster, unless you can top them up on memory. In contrast, the Stromasys emulator will get more efficient; 2015 sees a newer, faster version now available. And Intel-based iron will grow stronger, too, at its top-end. The phrase "top-end" matters a great deal. If you're using top-end HP hardware, it might be too soon to look for a significant performance boost from virtualization.

Top-end means the fastest N-Class servers. Those will need to be replaced by top-end Intel hardware: servers with many available CPU cores, and many CPUs. Faster might not be a goal, however, for 2015. As-fast might be enough, to enable a manager can leave behind the aging HP iron.

It's easy to misunderstand. At a website called The VAR Guy, written by former InfoWorld editor in chief Michael Vizard, Stromasys' potential got noticed. "After all," he said, "the latest generation of Intel processors provide orders of magnitude more performance than VAX, Alpha, HP 3000 or Sparc systems that can be more than a decade old." Um, sometimes. But when you're working at the top-end of the old hardware, orders of magnitude is a far-off, wishful goal. If your HP 3000 has a tiny 3000 Performance Unit rating of 2.7, for example, then the first order of magnitude would be 27. The next order is 270, and so on. Several orders may be possible — at the lower levels of 3000 performance.

Simply beating the existing performance is still a valid desire, though. Matching what you're using — so you can leave old hardware behind — is a bona fide need in the 3000 market.

Come to the brink of replicating HP's 3000 performance, and a 3000 owner will have enough reason to invest in a new hardware and new software cradle for MPE. Making those purchases are the requirements of taking a 3000 into emulated, virtualized status.

But The VAR Guy does more than overlook the real-world limits on the current virtualization product. It seems that virtualization is somehow a wedge into bigger replacement plans.

For solution providers, the ability to move those legacy applications to x86 servers should create an opportunity to have discussion not just about saving a few dollars, but more importantly, how that money might then be reallocated somewhere else in 2015.

As we come to the close of 2014, reducing legacy infrastructure costs is almost always top of mind for the internal IT department. Unless they can achieve that goal they typically don’t have enough funds available to allocate to new IT projects.

We're not sure what The Guy means by solution providers. Stromasys is a solution provider, but it doesn't have any interest in discussing the reallocation of money to other operations in 2015. The Charon solution is a replacement with a future that emulates technology driving the business. There will be enough new spending in a virtualization plan anyway, buying new Intel iron that's fast enough to match the old HP iron's performance.

What's certain is that "solution providers" doesn't mean the vendor of the legacy system. Not for the HP 3000. A few years ago, yes, HP was announced as a Global Partner of Stromasys. But we don't know of any stories where HP's introduced Charon to a 3000 site. As a vendor, HP's not going to help a 3000 site much if a customer installs Charon. The extended life of any MPE applications might give a customer more time to migrate.

Other parts of the solution lay in the apps. Some application vendors have abandoned their 3000 apps. Those who have left not solution providers, either.

In short, any solution provider who offers an emulator to reduce legacy infrastructure costs won't have ideas for how to better spend money being saved in dumping old hardware. The old hardware is paid-for. There's not an immediate savings in this equation, unless you can reduce 3000 hardware support spending, by a lot. You only get funds to allocate to new IT projects by cutting costs that don't require any investment to do those cuts. Reducing staff comes to mind. People want to cut out old hardware — not the old hands who know how to manage the hardware's OS.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:37 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 31, 2014

Top Stories Lead MPE Into New Year

The remains of 2014 are down to just a few hours by now, a year that saw the virtualization of the system take new wings while migrations proceeded at a slower pace. We reported stories about surprising homesteading sites and new players in the community which counts MPE as a significant piece of history — and for some, a platform into 2015 and beyond.

But no story of the past year would be complete without a passage devoted to the passing of the enterprise torch into a smaller Hewlett-Packard. The company that created MPE and the 3000 passed the total management mantle to CEO Meg Whitman in the summer, making her chair of the full entity. A few months later it divided itself along enterprise IT and consumer lines. The year 2014 will be the last when HP stands for a complete representation of the creations of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. By this time next year, a spinoff will be vying for attention of the computing marketplace.

1. HP decides to break up the brand

HP Enterprise Corp. StrategyAnd in one stroke of genius, it became 1984 again at Hewlett-Packard. October brought on a new chorus for an old strategy: sell computers to companies, and leave the personal stuff to others. But one of the others selling personal computers and printers usually connected to PCs is a new generation of the company. The CEO of Hewlett-Packard is calling the split-off company HP Inc. But for purposes of mission and growth, you could call it HP Ink. Genius can be simply a powerful force for good or for ill. Definition 3 of the word in Apple's built-in dictionary on my desktop calls genius "a person regarded as exerting a powerful influence over another for good or evil: He sees Adams as the man's evil genius." It's from Latin meaning an attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability, or inclination.

The company to be called Hewlett-Packard will concentrate on a business lineup that harkens back to 1984 a year when the LaserJet joined the product line. CEO Meg Whitman said Hewlett-Packard, devoted to enterprise business, and HP Inc. can focus and be nimble. From a 3000 customer's perspective, that focus would have been useful 13 years ago, when the lust for growth demanded that HP buy Compaq and its PC business for $25 billion on the promise of becoming No. 1.

2. 3000's time extended in schools, manufacturing

SB County schoolsThe San Bernadino County school district in California was working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015. That has now been extended to 2017

And with the departure date of those two HP 3000s now more than two years away, the school district steps into another decade beyond HP's original plans for the server line. It is the second decade of beyond-end-of-life service for their 3000.

In another market segment, 3M continues to use its HP 3000s in production. What began as the Minnesota Minining & Manufacturing Company is still using HP 3000s. And according to a departing MPE expert Mike Caplin, the multiple N-Class systems will be in service there "for at least several more years."

In both cases, the 3000 is outlasting the deep expertise of managers who kept it vital for their organizations. It's taking a :BYE before a :SHUTDOWN, this longer lifespan of MPE than experts.

3. Virtual Legacy Carries MPE from Past to the Future

Stromasys took its virtualization of enterprise server message to VMworld's annual conference, where the event was pointing at cloud-based Platform As A Service (PaaS) for the years to come. The CHARON virtualization engine that turns an Intel server into a 3000 operates on the bare metal of an Intel i5 processor or faster, working inside a Linux cradle. Plenty of customers who use CHARON host the software in a virtualized Linux environment -- one where VMware provides the hosting for Linux, which then carries CHARON and its power to transform Intel chips, bus and storage into PA-RISC boxes. VMware is commonplace among HP 3000 sites, so management is no extra work.

4. A court and a city adjourned their terms with 3000s

In Kansas and in Mountain View, Calif., government organizations stepped off 3000s to move onto replacement applications. At the District Court in Topeka, Kansas, the HP 3000 "has outlived its life expectancy, making it essential that we either move on to another system or we go back to paper and pen," according to a statement on the court's website. Converting data was to be the crucial part of the migration — and will be the crucible of every migration to come. Waiting for a migration to do data cleanup is foolish, according to ScreenJet's Alan Yeo. "Yes, sure you don't want to move crap in a migration," said the CEO. "But you probably should have been doing some housekeeping whilst you lived in the place. Blaming the house when you got it dirty doesn't really wash!"

5. Replacing rose up as the migrator's primary choice

Even before the end of 2014, plenty of IT shops have closed down changes for the calendar year. Many 2015 development budgets have been wrapped up, too. Among those HP 3000 operations which are still considering a strategy for transition, there's only one assured choice for most of who's left. They'll need to replace their application. Not many can rehost it.

6. 2015's migrations will creep onward, some in virtual mode

There are still HP 3000 shops out there in manufacturing, even online retail, that are facing decisions about how to migrate off the platform. Plenty of shadow-bound 30000 systems are running aspects of major corporations. For many others, a verbal and white-board commitment to a migration is all that can be mustered for now. Tools out there today, as well as available expertise, take a migration from virtual to reality.

In the concept of virtualization, a server is replaced by another which pretends to be just like the original. There's no new HP 3000 in emulation, for example. Just the idea of one. The essence of the HP 3000, its PA-RISC architecture, is replaced using the Charon product: software that mimics the HP hardware. Virtualization engines use software to eliminate hardware.

Some MPE migrations which have been underway for years look like they may be using up virtual man-months, so the IT group is not forced have to adopt a new application. The plan and lengthy project time eliminates any need to go live with changes.

In a virtual migration, the organization knows its intention. Get onto another environment with mission-critical apps. But the work never gets completed, something like a "forthcoming" novel that's expected but unfinished. Virtualized migrating can very well be the reason any 3000 project still has something like a 2017 target date.

What are the key stories from your chapters of the 3000's 2014? Let us know in the comments below.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:21 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 30, 2014

2014's Top Stories: Recapping A Year

Here in the days that lead to the end of 2014, it's a journalism tradition to review events whose effect will last beyond their original dateline. We're not about to break tradition, a feeling that 3000 managers and owners will understand. We also invite you to nominate an important event below, in our comments.

1. Unicom sees PowerHouse as iconic real estate

The new owners of the PowerHouse software products began talking about their end of 2013 purchase in a way that the 4GL's users haven't heard since the golden era of the 3000. While Unicom Systems was still fleshing out its plans and strategy, the company is enhancing the legacy technology using monetary momentum that was first launched from legendary real estate -- an iconic Hollywood film star home and a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion.

2. The Unix-Integrity server business keeps falling

Sliding-cliffHP's proprietary replacement for the 3000 continued its slide. As early as February, HP's CEO said "We continue to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex. "We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future." By year's end the management team had given up on any growth via Unix — because the product line has dropped 20 percent of sales per quarter.

3. Applications swallowed by big vendors tread water

Even the migrated apps such as Ecometry were not immune to a classic business development: smaller bases of application customers seeing road maps get cloudy once they slid into a big product portfolio. JDA and Red Prairie merged, and even a year later the former, which owns the Ecometry suite, had no road map on how the app would grow and go forward. JDA is large enough to join forces with Red Prairie in early 2013. But not large enough to deliver a futures map for the Ecometry customer. These customers have been loath to extend their Ecometry/Escalate installations until they get a read on the tomorrow they can expect from JDA. "I think it's possible there's nobody left in JDA who can even spell MPE," said MB Foster CEO Birket Foster, "let alone know what it means to Ecometry sites."

4. Patches to repair MPE's bugs are still available

They're just customized now. A 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s.

5. An iPad 3000 terminal emulator gained NS/VT

The only tablet-ready terminal emulator for HP 3000 users crossed over even further into the language of MPE. The 1.1.0 version of TTerm Pro adds HP's 3000-specific Network Services/Virtual Terminal protocol. The new feature means that many more MPE applications will run without a flaw over the Apple iPad tablets. The development showed that even an operating environment shucked off by its vendor four years ago still gets consideration for development from third parties.

6. A Northeastern food cooperative plugged in CHARON

A leading milk and dairy product collective, a century-plus old, is drawing on the Stromasys emulator’s opportunity. The Dairylea $1.2 billion milk marketing cooperative — established for more than 100 years and offering services to farmers including lending, insurance and risk management — became an early example of how to replace Hewlett-Packard’s 3000 and retain MPE software, while boosting reliability.

Tell us below: What was the most important development of your 2014?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:44 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2014

Moving Pictures of HP's Contribution Origins

10,000th

HP's Origins video, filmed nearly a decade ago, includes this picture of employees celebrating the shipment of the 10,000th HP 3000, sometime in the 1980s.

You can't find it on the Hewlett-Packard website, but a 2005 movie called "Origins" is still online at a YouTube address. The 25-minute film chronicles what made HP such a groundbreaker in the computing industry, and it includes interviews with the company's founders. Bill and Dave didn't appear much on camera, being businessmen of a different era and engineering managers and inventors at heart.

The link here takes the viewer directly to the Contribution segment of the story. While it is history by now -- the company transformed itself to a consumer and commodity goods provider thanks to the me-too of CEOs Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd -- the film represents ideals that anybody in the business can set for their own career or decisions. Joel Birnbaum, whose HP Labs leadership helped deliver RISC computing for the business marketplace for the first time in 3000, sings his praise for the love of making a product that could make a difference.

Opening Up VideotapeBut that contribution era passed away once uniformity became the essential feature of enterprise computing. By the middle '90s, HP was busy selling the 3000 as another tool that could handle open systems (read: Unix) computing. In truth, Unix was no more open than any other environment, including Windows. But Unix had some similarities between versions that could be leveraged by large enough software developers. In the videotape at left, HP offered an interview from an unnamed SAP development executive. He said his application suite had been through a test port to MPE/iX, and he believed the software had 99.5 percent code compatibility from Unix to MPE.

That half percent might have presented a technical challenge, of course. It would be thousands of lines of code, considering SAP's footprint. The MPE version of the application never made it into the vendor's price list, however. One specific client may have used SAP on a 3000 via that test port, but it was never offered as a manufacturing solution by its creators. HP's enterprise execs very much wanted an SAP offering for the 3000. That creation would have been as me-too as any product could get. "You could run that on a 3000 instead of a 9000" would've been the HP account rep's message in 1992.

SAP's exec on the video admired the 3000 customer community for its understanding of enterprise applications. But a level of misunderstanding lay at the heart of the SAP organization, whose speaker in the video said the database for HP-UX and MPE was the same. IMAGE, of course, was nothing like Oracle or even Allbase, and the latter had only a thimble's worth of adoption in the 3000 community. IMAGE gave that community its understanding of what enterprise applications should do. 

Large manufacturers were using MPE and the 3000 in 1992 when the video was filmed, including General Mills. Making a contribution by exploiting innovations of the computer's environment — well, that's high on the list of essential features. MANMAN, MM II and other apps offered such a contribution from the beginning. At some customer sites, they still do.

The segment that wraps up the video includes a photo of HP employees posing in the shape of the numeral 10,000 to celebrate the sale of the 10,000th HP 3000. Guy Kawasaki, one of Apple's founding braintrust, asserts that HP's DNA was in its people, "and you couldn't kill it if you tried." Any 3000 customer who's migration is headed to HP systems will want that to be true, want it as much as HP wanted a me-too SAP for MPE two decades ago.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:16 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2014

Gifts for MPE Owners This Season

Turned OffThe managers and owners of MPE systems have seen much taken from them over the past decade and more. Vendor development, support that's unquestioned by top management, even the crumbs of MPE security patches and bug fixes. A lot has gone dark in this winter of the 3000's seasons. But here on the eve of Christmas Eve, there's still some treasures under the tree of 3000 life as we know it.

Stromasys-logo-smallFuture hardware. Stromasys has made a business mission out of preserving applications written for MPE. The company has done this with Charon HPA, software whose foundation was laid in 2009 and is receiving an updated, speedier release this year. Companies that are relying on MPE apps for many years to come -- so many they need brand-new hardware to host the 3000's OS — can count on the software that makes Intel behave just like PA-RISC. You won't be able to run a company on a laptop, but MPE boots fast enough on what we once called a Portable PC to show off this virtualizer in the boardroom.

Screensie MBFA logoA future for applications. Migration can be messy, feel risky and command a big chunk of budget and human resource, but several companies are still devoting their business missions to transitions. MB Foster comes to mind first here, and there are others with tools, like ScreenJet. More than 12 years after HP announced its pullout, and with a declining number of migrations in the offing, companies still deliver expertise on the biggest IT project a company will ever undertake. Something like doing an aircraft engine replacement while at 30,000 feet.

Series 928Software and help for it. On the cusp of 2015, you can still purchase software that manages enterprise-caliber jobstreams, the tools to manage the 3000's filesystem or its database, and more. The ones that aren't sold still have support lines. Companies like the Support Group host hot spares and help manufacturers keep stately legends like MANMAN online. Even a 20-year-old 9x8 deserves some respect while it continues to manage the finances and production of a competitive manufacturing entity.

SwitchboardSystem-wide support. As the numbers of MPE-savvy pros decline, outsourcing for expertise becomes essential for any customer homesteading long-term, or even through a migration project. Pivital Solutions, and companies like Allegro and Beechglen, ensure older HP iron and the static, classic MPE/iX 7.5 behave as planned. There's even a resource in Applied Technologies that can integrate open source software, ready for MPE and part of any larger project.

That's a lot to unwrap and admire for a 40-year-old computer, all still open at a time of year when presents are present. We're delighted to keep telling stories like million-dollar virtualization configurations, shiny benefits of data cleansing, or the new players taking over icons like PowerHouse. We're taking the remainder of this holiday week off, celebrating a birthday, the end of Hannukah and Christmas with the family. We'll be back with reports on Monday, December 29.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2014

A Quiet December Week's MPE Ripples

The week of Christmas is a quiet one for business and enterprise IT. Sales calls and installations are at a minimum, companies work with skeleton crews, and announcements of news are rare. But nine years ago the week of Christmas was hot with a 3000 development, one that has ripples even today.

HolidayrippleIn the Christmas week of 2005 — back when HP still worked full shifts over the holidays — the 3000 division released news that HP's support lifespan for MPE would be extended. What had been called a firm and solid date of HP's departure got moved another 24 months into the future. The news was the first unmistakable evidence that the migration forecast from HP was more wishful than accurate.

As it said it would offer basic reactive support services for 3000 systems through at least December of 2008, the vendor confirmed that it would license MPE source code to several third parties. The former put a chill on migration business in the market, sending vendors -- services and software suppliers alike -- looking for non-3000 markets to service. The latter gave the support community a shot of fresh competition over the afterlife beyond the Hewlett-Packard exit.

In one of the more mixed messages to the community, HP said customers should work with the vendor to arrange support until migrations could be finished. The 3000 division also said its license for MPE source was going to "help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners." It would take another three years, beyond the closing of the MPE lab, for that source code to emerge.

The source license was limited to read-only informational use, mostly to write patches. The extension of HP's profitable support business put a kink in both migration partners' business as well as the very third party support partners the source was supposed to help.

Officially, the word from HP was that "We see that most HP e3000 customers are moving to new HP solutions, and are working closely with HP and our partners during their transitions." But Windows was moving into the spot that HP swept clean by announcing an MPE exit. An extra two years to make a migration didn't bring more ex-3000 shops into HP environments, unless they were running Windows on HP hardware.

At that time, we reported that the extension of HP's support for the 3000 -- a rollback of the "end of life" as the vendor called its exit — had already been on offer for the biggest 3000 customers.

MB Foster, a North American Platinum migration partner, said the offer of extra support was "one of the worst-kept secrets in the marketplace," according to founder Birket Foster. The extension of HP support doesn't change the business model at Speedware, or MB Foster, according to their officials. But offering basic level reactive support won't meet some customers' needs, Foster added.

While some customers will welcome the potential for more time to migrate, Foster said the HP announcement is introducing some confusion among others. "We had a customer who looked at this and said it would not be enough to make them supportable — but their senior management felt they could take the extra time," Foster said.

The offer has ripples to this day because the migration partners heard the screeching of brakes all through the market on projects. Billings evaporated that would have helped companies still supporting MPE software. It would take another seven years for the migrations to dwindle enough that Speedware announced it was reorganizing as Fresche Legacy, and start embracing transformations for the IBM AS/400 market.

As for the impact on support of 3000s, HP was suggesting that third parties could be part of an HP-branded support offering. 

HP it still considers third parties to be a potential part of its own service supply chain for the HP 3000. For the moment, however, the HP support customers get will come from an HP employee or contractor. Third party support actually now takes a step up in a comparison with the just-announced 2007-08 levels of service. Most companies offering support won’t charge as much as HP to deliver mission-critical support.

Third parties never became part of HP's support products. These independent companies found that HP wouldn't leave the field when its clock was supposed to run out. The vendor chose a next-to-Christmas announcement date to de-emphasize its moving of the goalposts.

As for the relative silence from the customer community, it might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, next year's 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change options for 2007.

It’s too bad this announcement didn’t come when more people were listening, still able to allocate budgets. But HP did more than its last two updates to OpenMPE's requests. In those instances, responses came in the form of postings to mailing lists. This time out there was PR support, and an outreach to business analysts and the mainstream IT press. You’d think the vendor had something to sell here, like goodwill in a holiday season — or another couple of years of support.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:45 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2014

Making a New Case Against Old Hardware

Try to Order PartsIt won't make the resellers of HP's 3000 hardware happy, but Stromasys has started to make a strong argument against preserving the life of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware. In a link inside a video that was attached to a 2015 happy holidays message, we've spotted a 96-second summary that shakes the bones of the assurance there's plenty of parts in the world to support aging 3000 systems.

Maintaining the original MPE-based systems from Hewlett-Packard is risky and difficult, the commercial that's hosted on the Vimeo website says. The software is worth preserving, it continues, and it notes more than 5,000 companies have used the Stromasys Charon technology to enable hardware emulation. The majority of these Stromasys clients have emulated Digital's server hardware to preserve VMS applications.

Lower than full migrationOf course, there's a mention of emulation's savings versus a full migation. For the customers who are leaving the HP 3000 because the hardware's old, this point might have some traction. The level of support from the original hardware vendor, as well as the end of HP's 3000 manufacturing, drove a significant number of migrations in the past. The Stromasys argument states that with new hardware, an application suite can be preserved. Customers who remain on their homesteaded systems often say they'd be happier if their futures didn't include the expenses and risks of migrating.

There's a short reference to cloud-based Charon installations amid the message, too. In that level of solution, investment in the powerful Intel-based hardware is exchanged for a typical cloud-rental fee. In some cases, the investment in the hardware required to emulate HP-branded 3000 servers can be substantial.

Most interesting, Stromasys now has offered MPE support among the services it sells. It's right there alongside VMS and Solaris software support. The company hasn't issued a press release and there aren't details immediately available on the levels of operating system support, or the staff which will be supplying it.

The well-produced video ad makes its argument for other systems besides the 3000. VAX, Alpha, and Solaris servers from Digital and Sun also have customers who won't be able to carry hardware forward indefinitely. VMS has a home in the Integrity server line for awhile, but that looks like a future of less than six years. MPE's fate on the HP hardware is more certain and less hopeful unless a customer has good third party support for the Hewlett-Packard servers and the operating system — which is what makes the new offer of MPE support most interesting. The new year of support options seems to have started already.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:14 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2014

Essential Skills: Using Password Vaults

Editor's note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for these multi-talented MPE experts.

By Steve Hardwick, CISSP

Passwords are always a challenge for security professionals. Why is creating a secure password so difficult? More importantly, how can a user tell if their password has been stolen? Typically, when all the damage has been done and the password has been used by someone else. At this point in time it is too late. One way to resolve this is to have a password vault such as KeepPass or 1Password.

VaultA vault is a good investment of your time. A security breach that might result from having no vault might be difficult to even detect. It might be that the time the breach is discovered may not be the first time the hacked credentials were used. This might be how many times a stolen credit card is used before the owner gets the bill. Second, the hacker could have hacked the password and is just keeping it for later use or sale. One of the preventative measures for this is to require users to periodically change passwords. 

This changing strategy can stem the use of stolen passwords and also prevent the future use of any that have not yet been exploited. From a user's perspective, though, generating multiple passwords every 60-90 days just compounds the passwords nightmare.

As a security professional I have seen several solutions that users concoct to try and get around this issue. One common one is to write them all down and hide the resulting list. It turns out there are not that many good hiding places. Under keyboards, behind pictures, inside speakers, taped to the underside of a drawer or chair, back of a bookcase do not qualify as good locations. Also, many users forget to update the sheet with new passwords. Another approach is to create a text file, e.g. shopping_list.txt, and put everything in there. A quick search of the most frequently used files normally finds those. Plus if the hard drive crashes, and the file is not backed up, new ones have to be set up all over again. 

A variation of the last theme is to use a password vault. This is a method where the password information is stored on a file, but the file is encrypted. In this case only one password is needed, to decrypt the vault, and access is granted to all of the other passwords. The most ubiquitous form of encryption is AES - Advance Encryption Standard. AES256 encryption is adequate for most users.

However, one word of caution. If the password used to encrypt the vault is easy to guess, then the contents are at risk. 

Another challenge is storing the password vault file on the computer hard drive -- it does not mitigate the risk of when the drive crashes. (They all crash eventually.) This can easily be overcome by storing the password vault on a cloud storage location. Since the vault file is encrypted, this significantly reduces the impact if it is stolen from the cloud drive. As long as the master password is strong.

Vaults can also help protect you from key-loggers, a program that runs in background and simply copies all of the keystrokes onto a hidden file. A new variation of the Citadel Trojan virus is specifically targeting password vault applications with a key-logger. A password vault solution has some protection against password loggers. The vault can be built on a different machine and placed in the cloud. Once opened from the cloud on the user's system, the password is cut and pasted into the login screen.

Finally, there is a problem that a key-logger will be targeted at the master vault password. This can be mitigated by using two-factor authentication. In addition to the password, the user is required to provide a digital certificate. This specialized encrypted file can be stored on a removable storage device, USB, and accessed at vault login time. Without the password and the digital certificate file, the person trying to access the vault is thwarted.

A quick search on the Internet for Password Vault or Password Manager will result in a lot of options.  Here are some criteria to be considered when choosing a password vault applications.

1) Strong encryption - e.g. AES 256.

2) Can store the vault file in the cloud

3) Runs on multiple platforms. Allows users to get access on desktop or mobile devices

4) Protection elements against keyloggers

5) Allows 2 factor authentication

6) Password generator (Optional -- caution, these normally provides secure but hard to remember passwords)

7) Browser import capability (Optional -- provides a way to import store browser passwords)

8) Password strength indicator (Optional --give a measure of the ease to which the password can be guessed)

Using a password vault will solve a lot of security problems associated with today's Internet world. Taking the storage of passwords to a secure level results in a solution that is easy to use, secure, and readily available. Plus it gets around that common problem, “Honey, what is the password for the banking site again?”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:34 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2014

Big, unreported computing in MPE's realm

When members gather from the 3000 community, they don't often surprise each other these days with news. The charm and challenge of the computer's status is its steady, static nature. We've written before about how no news is the usual news for a 40-year-old system.

Pegged gaugesBut at a recent outing with 3000 friends I heard two pieces of information that qualify as news. The source of this story would rather not have his name used, but he told me, "This year we actually sold new software to 3000 sites." Any sort of sale would be notable. This one was in excess of $10,000. "They just told us they needed it," my source reported, "and we didn't need to know anything else." A support contract came along with the sale, of course.

The other news item seemed to prove we don't know everything about the potential of MPE and the attraction of the 3000 system. A company was reaching out for an estimate on making a transition to the Charon emulator. They decided not to go forward when they figured it would require $1 million in Intel-based hardware to match the performance of their HP 3000.

"How's that even possible?" I asked. This is Intel-caliber gear being speficied, and even a pricey 3000 configuration shouldn't cost more than a quarter-million dollars to replace. It didn't add up.

"Well, you know they need multiple cores to replace a 3000 CPU," my source explained. Sure, we know that. "And they had a 16-way HP 3000 they were trying to move out."

Somewhere out there in the world there's an HP 3000, installed by Hewlett-Packard, that supports 16 CPUs. Still running an application suite. The value is attractive enough that it's performing at a level twice as powerful as anything HP would admit to, even privately. 

A 4-way N-Class was as big as HP would ever quote. Four 500-MHz or 750-MHz PA-8700 CPUs, with 2.25 MB on-chip cache per CPU, topped the official lineup.

Unix got higher horsepower out of the same HP servers. An 8-way version of the same N-Class box was supported on HP-UX; HP would admit such a thing was possible in the labs, and not supported in the field. But a 16-way? HP won't admit it exists today, and the customer wouldn't want to talk about it either. Sometimes things go unreported because they're too big to admit. It made me wonder how much business HP might've sustained if they'd allowed MPE to run as fast and as far as HP-UX ran, when both of those environments were hosted on the same iron.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:14 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2014

Getting Macro Help With COBOL II

GnuCOBOL An experienced 3000 developer and manager asked his cohorts about the COBOL II macro preprocessor. There's an alternative to this very-MPE feature: "COPY...REPLACING and REPLACE statements. Which would you choose and why?"

Scott Gates: COPY...REPLACING because I understand it better.  But the Macro preprocessor has its supporters. Personally, I prefer the older "cut and paste" method using a decent programmer's editor to replace the text I need. Makes things more readable.

Donna Hofmeister: I'm not sure I'm qualified to comment on this any longer, but it seems to me that macros were very efficient (and as I recall) very flexible (depending on how they were written, of course). It also seems to me that the "power of macros" made porting challenging. So if your hidden agenda involves porting, then I think you'd want to do the copy thing.

There was even porting advice from a developer who no longer works with a 3000, post-migration.

Tony Summers: When we migrated in 2008 we chose Acucobol partly because of its HP 3000 compatibility, including macro support. However had we gone down a different route, I had already proved that I could pre-process the raw code myself and expand the macros before calling the compiler.

Robert Mills, who started the discussion on the 3000-L, said in reply to Donna, “I admit that I do have a hidden agenda, but the main reason does not involve porting.”

For many years I have used macros to make my life easier. When I left the e3000, back in 2008, and did some work on other platforms I found I missed them. I'm now in semi-retirement and have been using the free version of Micro Focus COBOL (a couple of years) and GnuCOBOL (this last year) to write software for friends, family and my own use.

A couple of times since 2008 I had thought of writing by own macro preprocessor to emulate the one on the e3000. A few months ago I decided to do it and release it as open source under the GNU GPL. The development of preprocessor, using GnuCOBOL, is now completed and in final Beta Testing and I'm writing the manual. Was hoping that I could some additional reasons, from others, as to why you would use macros instead of the copy...replacing and replace statements.

Because a port of GnuCOBOL is a available on several platforms, and my preprocessor is written in GnuCOBOL, I see no problem in taking my macros with me nearly every wherever I go. If I end up doing work on a platform that does not support a feature that it is using it shouldn't be to difficult to develop a workaround.

As it turns out, GnuCOBOL is a newer version of OpenCOBOL — a compiler that Donna says bears a close resemblence to COBOL II. (OpenCOBOL has been ported into a commercial product, too, called IT-COBOL.) Adding that she obviously thinks macros are cool, she explained.

Do my mis-firing neurons recall that GnuCOBOL was formerly OpenCobol... which was actually very close to MPE’s COBOL?  (or something like that?)

I inherited a outstanding collection of macros at one job. Many of them were 'toolbox' functions.  Want to center a string and the overall length of the string doesn't matter?  Got a macro for that.  Want to use a 'db' call? Got a macro for that.  These went far beyond modifying code at compile time -- and that's what made them so valuable (at least to me).

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:10 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2014

IMAGE data schemas get visualized

Is there any program that will show the network of a TurboIMAGE database? I want to output the relationships among sets and items.

CFAWireframeIn 2011, Connie Sellitto researched the above question, while aiding new programmers who were charged with moving a pet organization's operations to a non-MPE system. Understanding the design of the database was important to this team. Sellitto mentioned a popular tool for PCs, but one not as essential as an IT pro's explanations.

You might try Microsoft's Visio, and you may need to have an ODBC connection to your IMAGE database as well. This produces a graphical view with search paths shown, and so on. However, there is still nothing like a detailed verbal description provided by someone who actually knows the interaction between datasets.

To sum up, we can refer to ScreenJet founder's Alan Yeo's testing of that Visio-IMAGE interplay

Taking a reasonably well-formed database into Visio and reverse engineering, you do get the tables and items. It will show you what the indexes in the tables are, but as far as I can see it doesn't show that a detail is linked to a particular master. Automasters are missing anyway, as they are really only for IMAGE.

My conclusion: if you have done all the work to load the databases in the SQL/DBE and done all the data type mappings, then importing in Visio might be a reasonable start to documenting the databases, as all you would have to do is add the linkages between the sets.

If you don't have everything in the SQL/DBE, then I would say we are back where we started.

ScreenJet knows quite a bit about moving 3000 engineering into new formats. It built the EZ View modernization kit for 3000 user screens that are still in VPlus. Yeo said the ubiquitous Visio might be overkill for explaining relationships.

If you have Adager, Flexibase, or DBGeneral -- or already have a good schema file for the databases -- just generate the schema files and import them into Word or Excel and give them to [your migrators]. If they can't put together the data structure from that, no amount of time you can spend with Visio is going to impart any more information.

Visio has free and open source competition, software which HP support veteran Lars Appel pointed out. "Perhaps Visio has similar 'database graph' features, such as the free or open source tools like dbVisualizer or SquirrelSQL."

Barry Lake of Allegro pointed out that users "may want to take a look at Allegro's DBHTML product, which creates a browser viewable HTML file documenting the structure of an IMAGE database." Allegro's site has an example DBHTML output on its website, although it doesn't draw pretty pictures.

At a more fundamental OS level, Michael Anderson points out to understand the structure of a TurboIMAGE database, "you could use QUERY.PUB.SYS, then issue the command FO ALL, or FO SETS."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:31 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2014

A Forced Migration, One That's Unfortunate

ImagesThis month in the US includes more than the usual ration of Christmas carols and holiday office parties. This is the first month when we US citizens are renewing our healthcare, all of us at once. It's Open Enrollment! According to my insurance agent, everybody's got to be insured by the end of the month. I'm one of the people who's having an experience like 3000 users got in 2001. Blue Cross is migrating me away from a product that it no longer wants to sell.

The parallels, so far, are pretty close. There was nothing that stopped working with my health plan. Like HP, Blue Cross simply stopped selling it because it wasn't making the vendor enough profit. The plan was not removed because of the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). But then, the HP 3000 was not removed because of the HP merger with Compaq. These were simply business decisions, by HP and by Blue Cross of Texas.

Business decisions are taken as a result of events that create situations. Insurers must protect profits, in the same way that HP had to protect its ability to grow after it absorbed $25 billion of Compaq. Customers don't get consulted about discontinuing products.

Much like the experience of the 3000 community with the 2001 migration march, my journey to a new plan will trigger more expense, and let Blue Cross earn more by doing less. I'll see about a 20 percent increase in recurring costs -- which might look cheap compared to how much the 3000 migration has cost the companies being forced to move.

There's a difference that's important, though. The active event that's changed the sale of insurance in America comes with federal rules. It now costs at least $395 a year to homestead, as it were, with no insurance at all. That's a fine that can rise as high as 2 percent of your gross income. A similar bill for a company making $5 million yearly in profit would be $100,000. That would be money spent just to stay on a system which the vendor stopped making or supporting.

Thankfully, there's no such fine for homesteading. There's a bill if a site simply stops support of all kind, however. Every computer system breaks down sooner or later, because nothing is built to never break. A company's insurance on its computer operations is support. The 3000 community got an advantage over those of us who've seen their products discontinued. System support got less costly.

Is a computer system as essential as healthcare? It depends who you ask. Companies can get ill enough to die, too. The continued health of information services is essential to good business practices. There's no guarantee that vendor-based computer support, or even R&D, will keep a company fiscally healthy. It goes a long way when a vendor can deliver new hardware, when older systems can get replacement parts (like artificial hips or shoulders), or when the medicine of improved software and cleansed data remain available.

I'm not happy about seeing my product canceled, and just like HP 3000 customers, I know I need a replacement product. Like 3000 sites, I'll be paying for more than one system, during this month's changeover. I wish I could say that I saw other companies get a chance at affordable computing during the prior decade because HP canceled the 3000 product. I didn't see that. It might have looked like seeing a struggling startup get a computer system built upon Windows and driven by HP's ProLiant hardware. That's a Compaq product that has done very well in the 12 years since the merger.

In contrast, I know there are families who are now getting insurance premium help of some kind. They make less than $62,000 for a family of two, and that number gets higher as the family gets bigger. At some level, their insurance product might be free. There's nothing like that in the computer marketplace.

The phrase "taking a bullet" comes to mind while I look at my insurance costs for the coming year. It's a small bullet. Your community took a bigger one, and some companies didn't survive. That's the cost of some discontinued products. Mine won't kill me.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:56 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 03, 2014

Cyber-shop for networked storage this week

AmazonAs Cyber-Week -- the extension of Cyber Monday shopping -- continues to unfold this week, the holiday sale might provide new resources for your old 3000. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a powerful enterprise resource, full of value now that disk prices have plummeted. Everything is even lower this week. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet has shared his secrets for making NAS an HP 3000 tool.

"Like most HP 3000 shops we were looking for a cheap way to [store many gigabytes of data] — and there was no way we could afford a DLT," he said. Digital Linear Tape boasts massive capacities, but most storage these days is going straight to another disk.

LinkstationYeo said that fundamentally, the method to include NAS as an option involves creating STORE to Disk files, "and then you FTP those STORE files up to your NAS device. A simple half-terabyte (500 GB) RAID-1 NAS device is the equivalent of 40 12-GB DDS tape drives." 

It's a little unsettling to hear how many HP 3000 backups still go onto DDS tapes. Even the DLT tapes are a pain to handle, Yeo added.

A system manager needs to free up enough free disk space on a HP 3000 to do the STORE to Disk files, Yeo explained. "If you haven't got 50 percent free disk space and you're doing a complete backup in one hit, you're going to have a problem," he said.

STORE to Disk speeds are not significantly slower than STORE to tapes. One way to speed up the process is to have a few separate volume sets for these STOREs, sets that are two or more high-speed spindles. HP's got disks today which spin up to 15,000 RPM. Third party disks work with HP 3000s, too, in case HP hasn't got a certified product for your MPE/iX server.

FTP bandwidth can be a bottleneck for some older HP 3000s, sometimes as slow as 10 megabits per second. "You may have a protracted FTP process to your NAS device," Yeo said.

Using NAS is not a substitute for having a good SLT tape for your system in case of disaster. Yeo added that doing an @.@.SYS backup onto the same SLT tape, "so you'll have everything you need when you bring the box back up to get the networking started."

Devices available for HP 3000 NAS use? The Buffalo TeraStation Pro worked in one of Yeo's client projects, and the device starts at $450 for 4 TB. Shop online.

It may seem crazy to be ordering HP 3000 storage devices from Amazon this week. But so much has changed for the HP 3000 customer. Some of the change opens up new opportunities to save money and make this server even more efficient.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:32 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2014

Data leads way to migrations, via support

Migration patternThe heart of a 3000 homestead operation is its collection of IMAGE/SQL databases. Almost 20 years ago, IBM was mounting an effort to turn 3000 customers into AS/400 sites. I commented on the effort for Computerworld, "They'll have to do something about converting IMAGE/SQL data, if they expect to have any success." IBM had little luck in that effort, and not a great deal more nine years later, after HP announced an exit date for its 3000 operations.

From a reader and system manager on the US East Coast, we've heard more about data leading the way to the future. At this long-time 3000 site, the systems are getting a new support provider to keep them online and reliable. Not many sites are changing this sort of arrangement these days. It's been almost four years since HP closed its 3000 and MPE support operations in 2010.

A new company will be supporting that A-Class server on the East Coast before long. The new support is going to open the door to a revamped future, however. 

Our purchasers are still in the process of signing up our new vendor for HP 3000 support. What is sad is that part of the deal includes migration of some TurboIMAGE databases to MS Access or something like that, which will lead to the eventual demise of the HP3000.

There is still the chance the new support might extend the 3000's utility, though. Self-maintainers who don't use support run risks that the 3000 doesn't really have to bear. A stable server is just one short-term reward for signing up with a support provider specializing in 3000s, like Pivital Solutions or The Support Group.

"Yes, I hate doing this support upgrade," the manager reported. "But there is the slim chance that the migration will not be done soon enough to meet the needs of customers -- meaning the usage of the 3000 could actually increase in the short term."

Short-term 3000 usage increases are common in any environment where the data is leading the way to a migration. System managers know the writing is on their shop whiteboards when the data starts to move. While using advanced tools like UDA Central from MB Foster, or back in the day, solutions like DB Migrate when it was offered in service contracts from Speedware, data migrations of IMAGE into other database formats take away the greatest asset of the 3000.

Migration solution companies don't often support servers in the same contract. That arrangement can be an artifact of having a more dedicated resource supporting the HP 3000. While they migrate data, some providers can be keeping the 3000 up to date, too. A customer making a migration might look for a 3000-devoted vendor for moving data.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:20 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 25, 2014

Open source SED manages 3000 streams

Open source resources make it possible to use SED, a stream editor built in the open source community. Since 2001 SED has worked on the HP 3000, thanks to Lars Appel, a former HP support engineer who ported Samba to the platform in the 1990s.

SED's main MPE page is on a page of Appel's. SED is an at your own risk download, but support is available through the 3000 community.

Dan Barnes, working on a problem he had to solve in his 3000 environment, asked:

The issue is incoming data from another platform that is being fed into MM 3000. This data occasionally has some unprintable characters, which of  course wrecks havoc on the MM application when it is encountered. To address this, the user, using a cygwin (Unix-like) environment on their Windows PC, developed a SED script. When they test the script in the cgywin environment it works just fine. But when done on the target HP 3000 it gets an undesirable result.

Barnes added that "The user thought that because MPE/iX is Posix-compliant, that this should work." He explained his user created the expression

sed -e 's/[\x7F-\xFE]/*/g' < COMSHD > COMSHD1

But Appel noted that hex 7F thru hex FE portion of the expression isn't supported on the MPE/iX version of SED. It's a limitation of MPE/iX, but there's a workaround.

Not sure if the regular expression usage here matches Posix or GNU specs, but my guess is the "\xNN" format, that seems to indicate a char by hex code, doesn't work.

How about something like using the command sed -e 's/[^ -~]/*/g' instead, i.e. map the characters outside the range space through tilde?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:05 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2014

HP's 3000 power supply persists in failure

Amid a migration project, Michael Anderson was facing a failure. Not of his project, but a failure of his HP 3000 to start up on a bad morning. HP's original hardware is in line for replacement at customers using the 3000 for a server. Some of these computers are more than 15 years old. But the HP grade of components and engineering is still exemplary.

"I was working with a HP 3000 Series 969, and one morning it was down," he reported. "All power was on, but the system was not running; I got no response from the console. So I power-cycled it, and the display panel (above the key switch) reported the following."

Proceeding to turn DC on

On the console it displayed garbage when the power was turned on, but the message on the display remained. I wasn’t sure what to replace. I was thinking the power supply — but all of the power was on. As it turned out, even in the middle of a power supply failure the 3000 was working to get out a message. The back side, the core I/O, FW SCSI, and so on, all appeared to have power. That is why I found it hard to believe that the power supply was the problem.

Anderson explained that Charles Johnson of Surety Systems replaced the power supply for the system.
He explained that (back in the day) HP engineered some of the best power supplies in world, lots of checks and verifications. Even though the power supply had actually supplied DC power to the various components, it was not able to verify it.

So the message "Proceeding to turn on DC power" remained on the front panel display, meanwhile the boot process on the console would hang, and if you do a <cntrl-B>, RS it would time-out with a msg:

"FATAL ERROR: System held in reset. POW_ON never came back (APERR 21)"

"Waiting until it's reasserted......"

Bill & Dave's Excellent Machine — even with a power supply failure, it still manages to get a message out (in plain English) attempting to explain the failure.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:41 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2014

Our World's Greatest Cartoon, Ever

101 MigrationsBecause it's so crucial, and because Alan Yeo was brilliant in commissioning it. Mark your calendars. (Click it for detail)

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:39 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2014

Thursday Throwback: IMAGE vs. Relational

As a precocious 18-year-old, Eugene Volokh wrote deep technical papers for HP 3000 users who were two or three times his age. While we pointed to the distinctions between IMAGE master and automatic datasets recently, Eugene's dad Vladimir reminded us about a Eugene paper. It was published in the fall of 1986, a time when debate was raging over the genuine value of relational databases.

While the relational database is as certain in our current firmament as the position of any planet, the concept was pushing aside proven technology 28 years ago. IMAGE, created by Fred White and Jon Bale at HP, was not relational. Or was it? Eugene offered the paper below to explore what all the relative fuss was about. Vladimir pointed us to the page on the fine Adager website where the paper lives in its original formatting.

COBO HallThe relationships between master and automatic and detail datasets pointed the way to how IMAGE would remain viable even during the onslaught of relational databases. Soon enough, even Structured Query Language would enter the toolbox of IMAGE. But even in the year this paper emerged, while the 3000 still didn't have a PA-RISC model or MPE/XL to drive it, there was a correlation between relational DBs and IMAGE. Relational databases rely on indexes, "which is what most relational systems use in the same way that IMAGE uses automatic masters," Eugene wrote in his paper presented at COBO Hall in Detroit (above). QUERY/3000 was a relational query language, he added, albeit one less easy to use.

Vladimir admits that very few IT professionals are building IMAGE/SQL databases anymore. "But they do look at them, and they should know what they're looking at," he explained.

Relational Databases Vs. IMAGE:
What The Fuss Is All About

By Eugene Volokh, VESOFT

What are "relational databases" anyway? Are they more powerful than IMAGE? Less powerful? Faster? Slower? Slogans abound, but facts are hard to come by. It seems like HP will finally have its own relational system out for Spectrum (or whatever they call it these days). I hope that this paper will clear up some of the confusion that surrounds relational databases, and will point out the substantive advantages and disadvantages that relational databases have over network systems like IMAGE.

What is a relational database? Let's think for a while about a database design problem.

We want to build a parts requisition system. We have many possible suppliers, and many different parts. Each supplier can sell us several kinds of parts, and each part can be bought from one of several suppliers.

Easy, right? We just have a supplier master, a parts master, and a supplier/parts cross-reference detail:

Relational-IMAGE Fig 1Every supplier has a record in the SUPPLIERS master, every part has a record in the PARTS master, and each (supplier, part-supplied) pair has a record in the SUPPLIER-XREF dataset.

Now, why did we set things up this way? We could have, for instance, made the SUPPLIER-XREF dataset a master, with a key of SUPPLIERS#+PART#.  Or,  we  could have made all three datasets stand-alone details, with no masters at all. The point is that the proof of a database is in the using. The design we showed -- two masters and a detail -- allows us to very efficiently do the following things:

  • Look up supplier information by the unique supplier #.
  • Look up parts information by the unique part #.
  • For each part, look up all its suppliers (by using the cross-reference detail dataset).
  • For each supplier, look up all the parts it sells (by using the cross-reference detail dataset).

This is what IMAGE is good at -- allowing quick retrieval from a master using the master's unique key and allowing quick retrieval from a detail chain using one of the detail's search items. 

However, let’s take a closer look at the parts dataset. It actually looks kind of like this:

PART# <-- unique key item
DESCRIPTION
SHAPE
COLOR
...

What if we want to find all the suppliers that can sell us a "framastat"? A "framastat", you see, is not a part number -- it's a part description. We want to be able to look up parts not only by their part number, but also by their descriptions. The functions supported by our design are:

  • Look up PART by PART#.
  • Look up SUPPLIERS by SUPPLIERS#.
  • Look up PARTs by SUPPLIERS#.
  • Look up SUPPLIERs by PART#.

What we want is the ability to

  • Look up PART by DESCRIPTION.

The sad thing is that the PARTS dataset is a master, and a master dataset supports lookup by ONLY ONE FIELD (the key). We can't make DESCRIPTION the key item, since we want PART# to be the key item; we can't make DESCRIPTION a search item, since PARTS isn't a detail. By making PARTS a master, we got fast lookup by PART# (on the order of 1 or 2 I/Os to do the DBGET), but we forfeited any power to look things up quickly by any other item.

And so, dispirited and dejected, we get drunk and go to bed. And, deep in the night, a dream comes. "Make it a detail!" the voice shouts. "Make it a detail, and then you can have as many paths as you want to."

We awaken elated! This is it! Make PARTS a detail dataset, and then have two search items, PART# and DESCRIPTION. Each search item can have an automatic master dataset hanging off of it, to wit:

Relational-IMAGE Fig 2

What's more, if we ever, say, want to find all the parts of a certain color or shape, we can easily add a new search item to the PARTS dataset. Sure, it may be a bit slower (to get a part we need to first find it in PART#S and then follow the chain to PARTS, two IOs instead of one), and also the uniqueness of part numbers isn't enforced; still, the flexibility advantages are pretty nice.

So, now we can put any number of search items in PARTS. What about SUPPLIERS? What if we want to find a supplier by his name, or city, or any other field? Again, if we use master datasets, we're locked into having only one key item per dataset. Just like we restructured PARTS, we can restructure SUPPLIES, and come up with:

Relational-IMAGE Fig 3Note what we have done in our quest for flexibility. All the real data has been put into detail datasets; every data item which we're likely to retrieve on has an automatic master attached to it.

Believe it or not, this is a relational database.

If this is a relational database, I'm a Hottentot

Surely, you say, there is more to a relational database than just an IMAGE database without any master datasets. Isn't there? Of course, there is. But all the wonderful things you've been hearing about relational databases may have more to do with the features of a specific system that happens to be relational than with the virtues of relational as a whole.

Consider for a moment network databases. IMAGE is one example, in fact an example of a rather restricted kind of network database (having only two levels, master and detail). Let's look at some of the major features of IMAGE:

  • IMAGE supports unique-key MASTERS and non-unique-key DETAILS.
  • IMAGE does HASHING on master dataset records.
  • IMAGE has QUERY, an interactive query language.

Which of these features are actually network database features? In other words, which features would be present in any network database, and which are specific to the IMAGE implementation? Of the three listed above, only the first -- masters and details -- must actually be present in all databases that want to call themselves "network." On the other hand, a network database might very well use B-trees or ISAM as its access method instead of hashing; or, it might not provide an interactive query language. It would still be a network database -- it just wouldn't be IMAGE.

Why is all this relevant? Well, let's say that somebody said "Network databases are bad because they use hashing instead of B-trees." This statement is wrong because the network database model is silent on the question of B-trees vs. hashing. It is incorrect to generalize from the fact that IMAGE happens to use hashing to the theory that all network databases use hashing. If we get into the habit of making such generalizations, we are liable to get very inaccurate ideas about network databases in general or other network implementations in particular.

The same goes for relational databases. The reason that so many people are so keen on relational databases isn't because they have any particularly novel form of data representation (actually, it's much like  a  bunch  of old-fashioned KSAM/ISAM-like files with the possibility of multiple keys); nor is it because of some fancy new access methods (hashing, B-trees, and ISAM are all that relational databases support). Rather, it's because the designers of many of the modern relational databases did a good job in providing people with lots of useful features (ones that might have been just as handy in network databases).

What are relational databases: functionality

The major reason for many of the differences between relational databases and network databases is simple: age. Remember the good old days when people hacked FORTRAN code, spending days or weeks on optimizing out an instruction or two, or saving 1000 bytes of memory (they had only 8K back then) ? Well, those are the days in which many of today's network databases were first designed; maximum effort was placed on making slow hardware run as fast as possible and getting the most out of every byte of disk.

Relational databases, children of the late '70s and early '80s had the benefit of perspective. Their designers saw that much desirable functionality and flexibility was missing in the older systems, and they were willing to include it in relational databases even if it meant some wasted storage and performance slow-down. The bad part of this is that, to some extent, modern relational databases are still hurting from slightly decreased performance; however, this seems to be at most a temporary problem, and the functionality and flexibility advantages are quite great.

For even more IMAGE education, like the advantages of IMAGE over relational databases, and a tour of the flexibility that automatic masters provide, see the remainder of the paper on the Adager website.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:48 PM in Hidden Value, History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2014

Public server with a mission: CHARON cloud

About a month ago, Stromasys announced that the CHARON HP 3000 emulator was going to be finding a home in the cloud. The company says it's talking to prospective partners to put such a 3000 capability onto a standard cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services. That would establish a working environment where the 3000 has already performed a mission. More than a decade ago, Hewlett-Packard believed that a 3000 for public use would help the 3000 community.

The server was dubbed Invent3K, because its mission was to further the 3000's lifespan through the invention of software. HP stocked it with subsystems, offered accounts for free, and let development commence. Some useful products came out of Invent3K. The first that comes to mind is a version of perl ready for MPE/iX. That's a version that continues to work.

Now CHARON might do similar work to help extend the MPE/iX lifespan. Plenty of people want to experience the emulator's powers. Tapping a free server, including free accounts where homesteaders' applications and test databases could reside, would offer the world a useful test bed for transition onto Intel hardware and away from HP-branded boxes.

Last fall the MPE expertise inside Stromasys suggested if there would be interest, from a volunteer, in putting a public-access CHARON-fueled machine on the Internet." It's the sort of mission OpenMPE might have done in its heyday. A lot has changed since HP's labs shut down and OpenMPE was left without much mission. A public access server for the world's only HP 3000 emulator would get ample traffic. It could also be a vital proof of concept for using a 3000 based in the cloud.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:27 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 11, 2014

Veterans get volunteered for transition's day

1stCavHere on Veteran's Day — I'm a vet of the '70's-era military — I'm remembering there are IT pros with another kind of veteran status. They are people who count more than a couple of decades of experience with the HP 3000, managing their servers since before the time that Windows was the default computing strategy. They've been through a different kind of conflict.

I've learned that the most embattled managers employ a surprising tool. It's a sense of humor, reflected in the tone of their descriptions of mothballing the likes of 25-year-old independent apps during migrations. They have to laugh and get to do so, because their attempts to advance their positions might seem like folly at first look, or even in a second attempt.

Really, an assignment like putting Transact code into an HP-UX environment? Or take the case of working around a financial app software from Bi-Tech -- an indie vendor that "really stopped developing it for the 3000 years ago," according to City of Sparks, Nevada Operations & Systems Administrator Steve Davidek. There's been some really old stuff doing everyday duty in HP 3000 shops. The age of the applications was often in line with the tenure of the project's management.

These pros typify the definition of veterans, a term we'll use liberally in the US today to celebrate their sacrifices and courage. Facing battle and bullets is not on par with understanding aged code and logic. But two groups of people do have something similar at heart. Both kinds of veterans have been tested and know how to improve the odds of success in a conflict. Youthful passion is important to bring fresh energy to any engagement, military or technological. What earns the peace is experience, however grey-haired it looks next to Windows warriors.

With each mission accomplished -- from what looks like the Y2K effort of 14 years ago to embracing a roll-your-own Unix that replaced MPE's integrated toolset -- these veterans moved forward in their careers. "Our knowledge base is renewed with this work," one said after migrating apps that served 34 Washington state colleges. "We're on the latest products."

Recruiting IT talent into small towns — and the 3000 runs in many small cities where manufacturing labor is less costly — meant hiring for Windows experience. Adopting Windows into an organization means leaving proprietary environments even more popular than MPE/iX. Like HP-UX.

HireVetLeaving a familiar environment means enduring risks. But a tone of "yeah, that'll happen, but we'll manage through it" is what I hear from the 3000 pros marching into the dark of 2015 and beyond. And if a migration is happening next year or the years beyond, you may want to thank a colleague -- anyone whose IT battles have promoted the knowledge that creates veterans, marching in the ranks of both managers and vendors alike.

Les Vejada worked with HP 3000s for more than 20 years at HP, then moved on to HP's other enterprise platforms until the vendor cut his job. It was as if he'd mustered out of a unit. "I don't work with the 3000 anymore," he told us when he joined the Linked In HP 3000 Community. "I know the 3000 is dying, but it brings back a lot of great memories. I probably would still take something on a MPE machine if offered." Whether it's in-house, or in-community, one motto remains as valid today as it did after any conflict: Hire a Vet.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:23 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 10, 2014

Sharing the Source of SLEEPER for MPE

Sleepy penguin,jpgSLEEPER is one of the best-known Contributed Software Library (CSL) programs in the history of the HP user group Interex. For years after the user group shut down, the CSL tapes -- created once a year and refreshed with new programs after every annual user meeting -- were the most significant Interex asset left to the community. But making the CSL a public asset, after the Interex shutdown, encountered a snag. How could those useful programs like SLEEPER get shared, if they didn't have clearance from the contributing companies?

SLEEPER and BOUNCER were the programs most often cited in the snags, since they were shared by way of the 3000 shop at Boeing. It was heard a lot, this caution, while people were searching for CSL collections after the Interex meltdown. "Oh, we can't go and release that swap tape," people like the Interex curators would say. "There's BOUNCER on there, and we'd have to get permission from Boeing." Well, that's not exactly true.

Maybe one email would've gotten the process of permission started. It's different times by now. The SPL source for SLEEP, a progeny of SLEEPER, was shared up on the 3000-L mailing list last week. (That's a link to the 3000-L archive message, containing the code in the message body.) Ray Legault offered the code when John Korb, a 3000 consultant, was asking around for it.

Korb thinks so highly of SLEEPER that wants to port the program to PHP, for use on a Linux system. "My goal is to create a PHP version of SLEEPER," he said, "something that can run on Linux desktops and servers and Windows 8.1 desktops -- so I can avoid cron on the Linux box, and avoid the Windows task scheduler."

SLEEPER's powers are jobstream-related -- scheduling, after-execution error examination, and so forth. SLEEPER can handle some such scheduling, but the software is not as flexible as the MBF Scheduler written for Windows by MB Foster. That would also be something that can be run on Windows. On MPE/iX systems, the old Nobix Transpooler product is an improvement at sending spoolfiles to printers over the standard MPE/iX jobstream utilties.

However, compared to the built-in job management and scheduling powers of Linux or Windows, the 3000's tools are powerful and nuanced. So much so that MB Foster built Scheduler just for 3000 users who had thousands of jobs to be migrated to Windows application replacements. It's also for sale to non-3000 prospects, too.

Legault created that SLEEP program at a shop outside of Boeing. "The SLEEP I shared was written in Santa Fe drilling by a few of us, including Jay Zimmett and David Mendoza," he said. "I put in Y2K enhancements later on. I still use it today."

As for sharing the code for BOUNCER, Legault said he might be able to help there. BOUNCER logs users off after a specified amount of time, to free up seats on 3000s with limited license counts. VEsoft's LOGOFF also bounces users off a system after a specified amount of time. That is a good security practice, so users who abandon sessions by walking away from a keyboard don't put a system at risk.

The community's never gotten a replacement source for the hundreds of CSL programs that were shared for decades through swap tapes. There was so much value in shared programs that Interex made a business out of it, selling collections as a user group membership benefit. That software exists only inside former members' shops around the world, where DAT tapes live in cabinents or are programs stashed away in 3000 accounts -- ones that might be outside the awareness of IT managers who take on 3000 operations.

There was a time when HP was just as protective of its MPE-related creations, and the vendor still manages license transfers for the ultra-particular 3000 owners who need it. But SLEEPER and BOUNCER were meant to be shared. The CSL was an open source initiative before we ever used the term open source. It's good to see the sharing continue, more than 35 years after the first CSL tapes emerged.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:39 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2014

Manual and Automatic Masters, Detailed

A few days ago we included a Hidden Value question about how manual and automatic masters work in TurboIMAGE. Our ally and friend Vladimir Volokh called to note that in part of the question, the system manager had found "one detail data set that has thousands of entries which do not appear to be connected to any master.

It wasn't exactly a question, but in a reply on the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup, Roy Brown gave a fine tutorial on how these features do their jobs for MPE and the 3000 -- as well as how a detail dataset might have zero key fields.

Manual masters can contain data which you define, like Detail sets can, along with a single Key field. Automatic masters contain only the Key field.

In both cases, there can be only one record for a given key value in a Master dataset.

A Detail dataset contains data fields plus zero, one, or many key fields. There can be as many records as you like for a given key value, and these form a chain accessible from the Master record key value. This chain may be sorted, or it may just be in chronological order of adding the records.

Zero key fields in a Detail dataset would be unusual, but is permissible.

Brown explained that "Where there are keys, referential integrity demands that there are no Detail record entries with a key field that is not found in either a Manual or Automatic master, both Key name and Key value. So a Detail data set with Key fields that are not present in a Master record would be a sign of a seriously corrupted database."

However, I doubt this is the case, and when you do a QUERY FORM command, you will see which fields in Detail datasets are Keys, which fields are used to establish Sort orders, and which fields are data pure and simple.

From the Key name, you can determine which Master set links the keys.

As I said above, it is possible to have a Detail dataset with no keys, but these usually contain only a very few records, since direct access to them without keys is cumbersome, and you would otherwise have to trawl right through one to find any given entry.

So a Detail dataset with thousands of unconnected entries would be very unlikely.

The FORM output will allow you to check how the Detail dataset that you think might have unconnected entries is actually linked in.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:55 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 06, 2014

Throwback: Today's Empire of Invent3K

Five years ago today we watched for notice about a fresh 3000 resource on the Web. Invent3K, a public access development server created by HP in 2001, was searching out a new home in November 2009. The vendor shut off Invent3K in November 2008, along with the Jazz website that hosted shareware utilities created by HP and the user community.

Invent3K was an OpenMPE adoption project five years ago. The community probably didn't need a public access development web server by the end of 2009. But replacing HP's withdrawn assets seemed important. Invent3K harkened back to a more hopeful time. 3000 developers were first offered access to MPE accounts on that HP server only about six months before the vendor announced it would end its 3000 programs.

Invent3K was unique in the 3000's history. The server was the first and only place that hosted free, development-use-only subsystem software from HP. Working from an Invent3K account, a developers employed COBOL II, TurboStore, and other HP-branded products while building apps or utilities.

InventFor a time, OpenMPE wanted to sell $99 yearly development accounts on its replacement Invent3K. The community was not accustomed to paying for public access, so sales were slow. OpenMPE was trying to generate revenues for operating things like a Jazz replacement host where contributed tools could be accessed. By that time, much of Jazz had been re-hosted at servers owned by Client Systems and Speedware. Things were not hosted quite the same as on Jazz, though. HP insisted that those two vendors make users click through an End User License Agreement before using the contributed tools re-hosted from Jazz.

Last month, two of the replacement servers for delivering Jazz and Invent3K had online glitches. Speedware's server went offline for a weekend, so its hpmigrations.com website that hosts Jazz delivered only an error. The HP 3000 where Invent3K was headed in 2009 had a small hiccup, too: the 3000-based Empire 3.9 game server lost use of its domain name for awhile in October. Tracy Johnson is the caretaker for the Empire server and its parent -- Invent3K, whose domain name is invent3k.openmpe.com.

But Invent3K is operating today, at least for anyone who had an account established before OpenMPE curtailed its operations. Access is through any terminal emulator with Telnet or VT/Mgr protocol. Once you've configured your terminal emulator, connect to the address invent3k.empire.openmpe.com.

After years of reduced 3000 development -- the result of many systems frozen to maintain stability -- Invent3K is more than a testament to shared effort of the community. It's a solution in search of a problem. Free access to the 3000's subsystem products for development wasn't much of a problem by 2010. Invent3K was devised as a means to deliver new software for MPE. The community was encouraged to help, back in 2001.

Advocates for MPE/iX waited longer than expected for invent3k.openmpe.com to come online. The wait was so lengthy that a dispute over who would control the server arose in the OpenMPE group. Ultimately the original openmpe.org domain was locked up, kept out of the hands of the OpenMPE board members. Allegro Consultants stepped up to donate the openmpe.com domain, which it had purchased long before Invent3K was up for adoption.

As a result of moving a consolidated version of Jazz out of HP's labs, the community now faces good news and bad for the Jazz web resources. The good news is there's plenty of redundancy, with Fresche Legacy (nee Speedware), Client Systems, and OpenMPE's volunteers like Johnson all hosting the programs.

The bad news is there are three sets of programs and command files and UDCs, some overlapping, and some not, among those redundant resources. Every host gets to use their own organizational map, so finding something specific probably requires a visit to all three sites. And some tools aren't on any of the servers, like the bash shell program for MPE/iX. Bash was the focus of the recent Shellshock hack, one that had administrators examining their servers for security vulnerability.

For the time being, the Jazz portals are located at:

OpenMPE Jazz: invent3k.openmpe.com/jazz/

Client Systems Jazz: www.clientsystems.com/jazzmain.html

Fresh Legacy/Speedware Jazz: hpmigrations.com/HPe3000_resources/HP_jazz

There is only one Invent3K, however. One might be enough, considering it's an HP 3000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:42 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 04, 2014

Tips for Listing SCHEMAs, and FTP Listings

From my existing TurboIMAGE database, I want to generate a listing of data sets, data item names, and their relationships (master, detail). One detail data set has thousands of entries which do not appear to be connected to any master. 

Oh, and I cannot remember the difference between manual and automatic masters.

Francois Desrochers first replies, "Use Query's FORM command."

RUN QUERY.PUB.SYS
B=dbname
PASSWORD = >> password
MODE = >> 5
FORM

Manual masters: programs have to explicitly add entries before you can add related entries in detail sets. Programs have to explicitly delete entries when there are no related detail entries left. In other words, you have to do master dataset maintenance.

Automatic masters: entries are automatically created when a related detail set entry is created. Entries in the master are automatically removed when the last related detail entry is deleted. IMAGE takes care of the maintenance.

Consultant Ron Horner adds, "If you have a tool like Adager or DBGeneral, it can create a file of the database schema. The other way is by using QUERY to get a listing."

Horner also said, "The difference between a manual master and auto master is the following:

1. You have to add records to the manual master that contain the key data for any detail datasets that are linked to the master.

2. When working with automatic masters, you don't have to write data to them at all. IMAGE takes care of populating the master.

Ray Legault suggested using Allegro's free XSCHEMA, "A stripped down version of our commercial product DBHTML, this utility simply reads an Image root file and produces a DBSCHEMA-compatible text file as output."

Krikor Gullekian also noted that "With QUERY you can check the databases as long as you know the password. [Ed. note: Password advice is true, except when you're the database owner. No password is required then, just a semicolon.] FO SETS will give you a lot of details."

How can I tell the HP 3000's FTP server to use a standard 'ls -l', and not 'LISTFILE ,2' ?

Allegro's Donna Hofmeister said, The trick is to turn 'Posix' on. 

Turning Posix On

Keven Miller of 3K Ranger added "check out FTPDOC.ARPA.SYS, mainly the POSIX section. It mentions how to set the default to ON."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:19 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 03, 2014

10 years ago, was the 3000 halfway gone?

I revisited a set of user conference slides from 2004 recently, and I found a scheduling milestone. A presentation at that final Interex show in Chicago included a schedule warning. In that year, it was about halfway through the period HP gave the community to get away from their HP 3000s. The deadline for the end of HP support was December 31, 2006, as of the week the presentation rolled out in Chicago.

Go 95%"Put your plan into the budget during this summer of 2004," one slide suggested. Using that timeline, an IT manager could commence migrating by the summer of '05 and complete a migration by the end of 2006. To be sure, 18 months is a swift migration schedule, but it's possible -- if a company can budget for some outside expertise for project management and coding. The tests will usually be handled in-house. That's up to one third of a migration project's timeline, according to migration services experts like MB Foster.

By the next fall, HP was pulling the carpet out from under such companies. That deadline for HP support got extended by 24 months. With that change, that halfway-gone point was still at the moment of HP's rescheduling. But now there were more than 36 months left. People had not migrated in enough numbers. A greater factor: HP made a business decision to keep support business alive and earning revenues for another two years. It was high-profit revenue. High enough that the deadline got moved again, out by another 24 months.

Since those days, we've seen many customers use the same sort of rolling-forward deadline for their migrations. They plan for the end of 2013, for example, then push out to the end of 2015. Just like HP, customers in places like California school districts and manufacturers in the Southwest are taking more time because they like the return on investment. They can afford to reset the halfway mark.

But what if 2004 was the start of 95 percent of migrations, and the decade since then represents halfway-gone? What's left by now in the user community still includes companies of serious size.

Last week we heard of the farthest-out 3000 shutdown date ever scheduled: 2024. Sure, if that replacement project at the MANMAN site gets done sooner, the 3000 will go dark faster. But right now, 2014 is their halfway point, even if you only counted back a full decade ago.

Another customer, the San Bernadino, California school district, will not switch off until the end of 2017. So far away that its resident 3000 guru will already be retired. In that shop, even the exit of expertise won't move things along faster. Operations calendars play a role in scheduling.

The end of the calendar year is a typical time to switch things over for the schools that use the 3000. Classes end in December for a long break. E-commerce and retail companies like Musician's Friend, a former Ecometry site, consider the middle of summer to be their safe cutover time.

A one-month operations break, or even the 90 days before holiday retail time, is a short window compared to a full year. If a site doesn't get to its deadline window in time, there's an extra 6-12 months of 3000 operations to schedule. This mandates a Sustain plan.

Even back in 2004 the presentation advice included Sustain strategy. It included the same counsel given to migrators: Innovate before you migrate. Innovation is the one advantage of extending a halfway point. The IT staff can do some immediate-payback work. Innovation to existing systems helps as soon as it's tested.

Innovations in existing 3000 systems is not as crazy as it sounds. If you're aiming at innovation targets, these three were part of the 2004 slide set.

  • Projects that affect operational efficiency and ROI
  • Projects that build sills and experience on your staff
  • Projects that will help with year-over-year comparisons in the future

If that final target isn't clear, it's a good practice to get another set of eyes on migration planning. IT stakeholders are one set of eyes. Another potential is the migration planners in your community. Knowing what to innovate before you go away: this is also preparing for a migration.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:25 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 30, 2014

ITMGR3K + YOLO = CHARON COSTINFO?

The formula above translates into an appeal for budget reporting. IT managers of HP 3000s can complete this formula. YOLO is the ubiquitous You Only Live Once, sometimes broadcast in a tattoo. When added to 3000 IT managers' experiences, the formula may yield some of the most crucial costs of the CHARON virtualization engine for emulation.

Elder-tattoosThe daring of YOLO is required because there's plenty at stake, even at MPE's advanced age. 3000 owners are often working with reduced budgets. Cost-effective computing is one good reason why the MPE/iX apps survive in a company. But some managers could acknowlege you'll only live once through homesteading your MPE/iX applications. It's not the hardware you're saving with Charon. The operating environment, your TurboIMAGE/SQL data, and the apps with their software helpers -- those are the orphans being rescued from any failing HP-branded computer.

So it figures that managers with nothing to lose can help other homesteaders get better information on the costs to virtualize. Costs can be fatal to a project. Many managers know they have something significant at stake: their relations with the software vendors who supply the help for HP 3000 operations. Surround code, it's been called. Some vendors are everywhere, like Robelle, Adager, Vesoft, PowerHouse, and so on. Add in the suppliers of key data transfer tools such as MB Foster. Everybody's got virtualization licensing practices in mind, if not executed yet.

The above list of vendors can include a show-stopper, by some customer reports. PowerHouse products, even something as fundamental as Quiz reports, have still been quoted at rates that can shelve a virtualization project. We recently heard about one at a 3000 manufacturer. The COSTINFO specifics were not forwarded. But in a budget-conscious community like the 3000's, even such prices in the low five figures can cause a HALT.

Then there's the manager whose operational best practices include lowering a profile with vendors. "I'm not old enough to retire," we often hear -- meaning that high visibility on vendors' radars could invite higher costs. Not good for any career built on economic prowess. No, not every vendor operates by watching for such an extra-fee opportunity. But enough do; some can be hungry for back-support revenues when they bring a customer back onto vendor support. Then there are the applications. Update fees for virtualizing an Ecometry installation, or something from the Infor stable of manufacturing apps, are not common-enough knowledge. Not for HP users.

We have battled to learn the figures for a forward-motion project that puts MPE/iX onto fresh, Intel hardware. The costs for the Stromasys software are always going to be obvious to a prospective customer. This exercise starts with an emulator price. Where the community can be helped is with all other software costs.

For example, there's no official pricing from Infor for moving MANMAN to the Charon-virtualized 3000. Each such migration -- it's really a transfer -- is being managed on a case by case basis, according to Infor's Jeff Straw. He's the manager who sometimes appeared before customers at events such as CAMUS meetings, explaining how MANMAN would go forward. More than three decades after it rolled out, MANMAN is still running some companies. Good things die hard.

Things have changed a great deal in the 30-plus years I've covered the HP 3000. Not just the technology. The changes have come from strategy and operations management. People used to be glad to go on the record and share what they knew. Pricing was always sensitive, of course. I remember frustration about getting prices for minicomputer software, during an era when PC programs were priced in public. Going public with what you know is now a business decision not often taken. Legal departments get involved. And in today's markets, vendors can negotiate a no-talking rule to keep the dealing on the down-low.

That's easy to understand and a valid way to cut the price on any product. You fly in a jet and sit among a hundred passengers with probably 50 different seat prices. But it's early days for the flight plan of selling emulation and virtualization for 3000 servers. OpenVMS managers have had Charon powering their applications for more than a decade. The practices and even some costs of doing what one customer called an "update" -- those are better known by now.

One successful IT manager says that flying a pattern under the update radar is good business. "I'm doing my best to keep my profile low with the software vendors," he said. He didn't want to be on the record about that. "That's been my policy for the past 15 years. And I'm not ready to retire yet." Such an impending retirement might be what's needed to trigger a YOLO attitude and complete the formula.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:18 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2014

Strategies for Redirecting App Spoolfiles

An HP 3000 manager wrote that a 24x7 application at his shop is stable and never goes offline unless it's required. But the everyday management had to include aborting the app once a week.

We take that application offline to close out the spoolfile that the application generates. Is there a way to keep the application running, and just redirect the output to a new spoolfile? We're using an N-Class server.

Robert Schlosser of Global Business Systems replied: Short of closing and reopening the application after n number of pages, you could have the application read (without wait and checking status codes) a message file. It could then close and open the output file on demand, and possibly even close down the application gracefully (no abort).

Our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper replied: I think the only way you could do that would be to actually modify the application program to periodically (say, for example, every 10 pages or every 100 pages) close then re-open the print file.

Olav Kappert of IOMIT International added:

If the program can be slightly modified, then I would suggest creating a message file as a conduit to the application. The program would do a read of the message file with the nowait option every once and awhile.  If the application encounters a keyword indicating a new spoolfile, then the program would close the spoolfile and reopen it.

An alternate method would involve the application being modified to close and open the file at a particular day and time during the week.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:34 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2014

Early 3000 Flights: A New Embattled History

Bill FosterThe world is still full of computer aces who flew in the earliest skies of minicomputers. The HP 3000 has history to share about the dogfights to bring interactive computing to businesses and organizations. The new voice of a pilot of that early age, Bill Foster, tells a fresh story about historic 3000 events. (A tip of the hat here to former OpenMPE director and Allegro support engineer Donna Hofmeister, who spotted Foster's blog.)

Bill Foster was in charge of engineering for the first HP 3000 that became a production-grade computer, the Series II. Foster went on to co-found Stratus Computer. In a blog he's called TeamFoster he tells his compelling story I Remember HP, complete with characters memorable and regrettable, about the earliest times in the Data Systems Division labs in California. Up to now, most of the stories about the 3000's birth have had a more abbreviated telling, or they're summarized in less vivid accounts.

Foster's written 15,000 words on his blog to tell his Hewlett-Packard story, which begins in 1971. In that year the HP 3000 is still more than a year away from its ill-fated debut, so he can chronicle the inner workings of a lab where "The engineers were mostly out of control, particularly the programmers."

HP Journal 1973Foster's story about the earliest days of the 3000 includes accounts of important players such as Barney Oliver, Paul Ely and Ed McCracken. There's even a note about Jim Hewlett, son of HP co-founder Bill Hewlett. A golfer and a nature lover, Hewlett's son got Foster in trouble. As part of the system's revival there was even a face-saving video interview, designed to revive the ruinous reputation of the 3000.

Even while Foster puts himself at the center of the story about the rescue of MPE -- an OS that was too memory-hungry for the first System 3000 computer -- he's generous with praise and details from others in the company. Paul Ely was general manager of the DSD at the time the 3000 project was floundering.

While Paul could be a royal pain in the ass, I do give him credit for saving HP’s computer business. The Alpha project eventually morphed into a computer called the HP 3000. It initially flopped in the marketplace and became a total embarrassment to the company.

While my group was focused on programming languages my cubicle-mate, Ron Matsumoto was in charge of MPE, the monster operating system.  While you might be able to ship the computer without a language like COBOL, it was totally useless without MPE. And MPE was in trouble, big time.

Hewlett was ready to can the entire program. HP had a reputation to maintain, and part of that reputation was that their products were a cut above everyone else’s.  But Paul held his ground with Hewlett -- he told him that the 3000 was basically a very good product, it just needed more time to work out the kinks. Paul saved the 3000 and kept HP in the computer business.

It had been an unqualified failure, that first HP 3000. "We shipped Serial #1 to the Lawrence Hall of Science in nearby Berkeley. A couple of weeks later they shipped it back," Foster writes. "The 3000 could support at most two or three users on a good day -- nowhere near 16 or 32 or whatever they were promised. And MPE was crashing 3 or 4 times a day."

MPE was beefed up all through the period when the hardware part of the project was sidetracked. The software had acquired a taste for a lot more memory than the 128K in the first 3000. That's right, K as in kilobytes. HP launched a business computer with less memory than one meaty Microsoft Word file of today.

The source of MPE's salvation, by Foster's account, was engineer Mike Green, who led the team to re-engineer the OS.

Mike was one of the coolest people in Cupertino, and probably the smartest.  A real laid-back hippie-freak:  long hair, sandals, slow walking, supremely confident.  After a couple of years Mike and I flipped jobs and I became his boss. He decided it was more fun to invent than to manage. 

When the 3000 got into trouble I asked Mike to drop what he was doing and take charge of MPE, the operating system. MPE was the most complex part of the computer and it was a disaster. Because of MPE, customers began shipping their 3000’s back to HP -- that was definitely the wrong direction.

Mike agreed to save MPE, and after a week or two we were ready to present his plan to Ely. Mike stood up in a room full of important people and gave the pitch. It was a great plan, and Mike said we would be out of the woods in about five months.

When he finished his presentation Ely said “are you telling me five months because that’s what I want to hear, or is this really what you think will happen?” 

Mike looked at Paul in a dismissive manner. “I’m saying this because it’s going to happen. Why would I say anything just to please you?” 

For once Ely was speechless. He had no retort.  He had met his match. There was dead silence as we left the room.  And five months later MPE was working.

Once the computer appeared to be a product promising enough to garner orders from customers, Foster needed to sell it to the HP sales force -- which had been burned by the flame-out of the first 3000. He enlisted David Packard to do it.

Dave Packard was the most revered person at HP -- even more respected and certainly more feared than Bill Hewlett. The idea was that Dave Packard and myself, as the Engineering Manager in charge of the 3000, would sit down and have a “fireside chat.” HP had invested in videotape technology as an employee training tool and had a great studio in Palo Alto for filming such a program. It would be partially scripted with Packard asking me the appropriate questions and eventually giving his blessing of the 3000. The tape would be sent to HP offices around the world.

The big man came into the studio, crisply dressed and intimidating as always. I was very nervous -- this guy was not to be messed with. We sat very close together for the TV cameras, his foot almost touching mine.  

The interview went off as scripted. He asked me a bunch of questions about what was wrong with the original 3000 and what we had done to fix it. He ended by telling the audience that he was certain the 3000 Series II was a fine product and would be a big hit in the marketplace.

  When the cameras shut off and the lights dimmed, he grabbed my knee with his big hand, squeezed real hard, leaned over and looked me in the eyes. “Foster, you got me on tape endorsing your computer. The goddammed thing better work!”

Foster's stories fill in some key moments about the 3000's success that have never been written about. He also tips his hat to Bob Green's fine, streamlined History of the HP 3000. Foster's expansive version is full of names and players. There's also Chris Edler's 1995 story of the system's origins, The Strongest Castle: The Rise, Fall and Rise of the HP 3000.

By Foster's reckoning -- and he's honest enough to note changes in HP that sent Hewlett and Packard's ideals by the wayside -- the 3000 made the company relevant in the computer world. "The 3000 went on to be an extremely successful product for HP," he writes. "In many respects it launched them as a legitimate player in the computer industry."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:10 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2014

What Needs Replacing, at Its Heart?

Porsche-getaway-carHewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware has started to show its age this year. Even the newest of servers was built at least 11 years ago. Although that's an impossible age for PCs or tablets, more than a decade isn't outrageous for systems created by HP. These things were built to the specs of spacecraft, on the good days of the manufacturing line in Roseville, Calif. and elsewhere.

However, even a server of rigorous construction has moving parts and electrical components with a finite lifespan. Lately we're been hearing from customers whose managers have awoken from a peaceful slumber, dreaming of limitless hardware lifetimes. Hey, say they, how did we ever get to be relying on computers built before Y2K?

At this point there are no questions about MPE/iX, or TurboIMAGE, or the pedigree of bash shell software, or the built-in the ODBC data connection capabilities, or jobstream management. These are all stand-up, solid citizens, even through their range of motion can be limited. (So is mine, but like the software above, I work to stay limber.)

No, this is all about the age of the iron. HP stopped building servers that ran MPE apps more than a decade ago. So, is it out those apps go, the baby tossed with the hardware bathwater? It's a simplistic way to approach system reliability. However, until recent years there was no newer hardware to lift those apps onto. Fresh steeds, in the shape of faster and newer computers, hadn't been in the stable in many years.

Users would like to move to implementation straight away, once they get that "What's up?" inquiry from the boardroom. The fastest path to Get Me Outta Here -- indeed, the most ready getaway car -- seems to be the Stromasys virtualization solution. There are more complete, wider-ranging moves. They take a great deal longer, because their details demand they move slower.

The last time we were asked about this, and the community's practices, we had to answer there's a growing number of Charon virtualization users out there. There are still many more sites who no longer use the 3000 because they're left MPE and TurboIMAGE.

The best set of practices for each customer is only going to be checked rigorously using an assessment. Which programs are used, what data types are still viable, what networking and sharing services are on demand -- the answers to all of these give the perspective that sees farthest forward into the future of corporate IT strategy.

But if you want to move away from hardware only supported by third parties, computers not built or backed by their creators, the Stromasys Charon package using new iron -- even HP's -- is the fastest path that we have seen. The level of complexity to put MPE onto Linux hosts isn't trivial, but it's well tested. It looks like the kind of getaway vehicle that lets you take the big money of apps away from the bank, instead of just the bank book of application designs and data.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:14 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 20, 2014

3000's class time extended for schools

SB County schoolsThe San Bernadino County school district in California has been working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. COBOL and its business prowess is proving more complicated to move to Windows than expected. Dave Evans, Systems Security and Research officer, checked in from the IT department at the district.

We are still running two HP 3000s for our Financial and Payroll services. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015, and then I would shut the HP 3000s down as I walked out the door for the last time. That has now been extended to 2017, and I will be gone before then. 

We are rewriting the COBOL HP 3000 apps into .NET and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) technologies. Ideal says they can support our HP 3000s until 2017.

And with the departure date of those two HP 3000s now more than two years away, the school district steps into another decade beyond HP's original plans for the server line. It is the second decade of beyond-end-of-life service for their 3000.

Evans was checking up on the timeline.

In the original timeline HP published, did HP announce in November 2002 that the HP 3000 was at end of life? That HP 3000 production lines would shut down in 2004, and all HP 3000 support would end 2007?

Very close, but not quite accurate. The 3000's future got its exit notice from Hewlett-Packard in 2001 (almost 13 years ago), and system manufacturing ended in 2003. The first of HP's end of life deadlines was December 2006. Virtually nobody would have figured in 2001 they'd have MPE applications still in service more than a decade after 2006. 

But San Bernadino County is giving lessons on how to extend an investment, even while it finishes a migration. By the time those school district servers go offline -- and they won't be the last in the world by any means -- the 3000 product platform will have been in continuous production service somewhere in the world for 43 years.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:26 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2014

Tracking MPE/iX Vulnerability to Shellshock

Security experts have said that the Shellshock bug in the bash shell program is serious. So much so that they're comparing it to the Heartbleed breach of earlier this year. Many are saying Shellshock is even more of a threat.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 8.22.33 PMOnce again, this has some impact on HP 3000s, just like Heartbleed did. But you'll need to be managing a 3000 that's exposed to the Internet to see some risks to address as part of system administration. Web servers, domain name servers, and other net-ready services provide the opportunity for this malware. There's not a lot of that running in the customer base today, but the software is still sitting on the 3000 systems, programs that could enable it.

Authorities fear a deluge of attacks could emerge. The US government has rated the security flaw 10 out of 10 for severity.

Bash is open source software, and our expert on that subject Brian Edminster is working on a specific report about the vulnerabilities. Hewlett-Packard posted a security bulletin that points to a safer version of the bash shell utility. But that version won't help HP 3000s.

It's not that HP doesn't know about the 3000 any longer. The patching menu above shows that MPE is still in the security lexicon at Hewlett-Packard. But Edminster thinks the only way to make bash safe again on MPE might be to port it a-fresh. "The 3000's bash is version 2.04, but the version that's considered 'current' is 4.x (depending on what target system you're on)," he said. "So if v2.04 is broken, the code-diffs being generated to fix the issues [by HP] in late-model bash software won't be of much (if any) use."

One report in a UK newspaper suggested that "if online retailers use older, mainframe-style computing systems, they are likely to be vulnerable." That sounds like one way to describe the Ecometry sites still selling online with MPE versions of that software. Many of those customers do not have the 3000 directly exposed to the Internet, though.

The bug allows hackers to send commands to a computer without having admin status, letting them plant malicious software within systems.

HP has released a software update to resolve the vulnerability in HP Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) running Bash Shell. Version NGFW v1.1.0.4153 will fix the breach in that that product. But NGFW doesn't run on MPE/iX.

Edminster forwards this advice while he's working on his report.

It's most likely to be an issue for web services that use bash scripts to process web-page input for example, such as machines exposed to the Internet, and those that have services that can accept input from the 'net. I'll work to round up as many examples of potential places this can be felt on a 3000, so that folks know where to look.

Yep — this one is messy, because it's not quite so cut-and-dried as HeartBleed was.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:33 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2014

A Little Uptick For Hope

There is new business a-brewing for HP 3000 owners. Not migration business, that wouldn't be news. We just got a small report in the in-box from a long-time 3000 expert about an uptick in Paul Edwards' world. Some of it seems to be wrapped around homesteading, too.

It's titled MPE: Consulting Interest

I have had a lot of interest in MPE consulting lately. It is a two-week training class overseas, a local migration, a file migration in Texas, and a Time & Materials consulting opportunity in Texas. This is after no billing for all of last year. Things are looking up, especially in Texas. I just thought you would like to know that MPE opportunities are still available.

Paul Edwards and Associates consults on Speedware, on Suprtool, on COBOL -- on many of the things that make the HP 3000 unique. He's shared practices for system management of 3000s. He's also got the rights to teach with HP's educational materials for MPE classes. Plus got some links to the Stromasys virtualization world of prospects.

The latest news is not entirely about who closed down their 3000 shop recently.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:06 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2014

When Smaller Can Be Better

SmallgoldfishHewlett-Packard has chosen to cleave itself into two much smaller companies. It will take most of the next year to make that a reality. But it might be an advantage to return to working with a more nimble company. Well, an advantage to the 3000 site that's migrating to HP's other computer enterprise solutions, or has done so recently.

Over at the New York Times, the tech writers found something to praise even while they questioned the wisdom of the move. 

In one day, Meg Whitman has created two of America’s biggest companies. All she had to do was break apart Hewlett-Packard, the company credited with creating Silicon Valley. HP Enterprise is targeting a market that appears full of potential innovations, while HP Inc. seems stuck in the low-margin consumer hardware business that has proved a slog for companies not named Apple or Samsung.

It appears Whitman has found a vision: one that looks a bit like the IBM of the West — with an emphasis on products rather than IBM’s consulting services — and another that looks a bit like Compaq Computer, a Texas computer company that HP controversially merged with 12 years ago.

A long time ago, in a marketplace now far away, 3000 owners wished for some breaking off. The HP 3000 wasn't a part of Hewlett-Packard's vision? Fine. Sell the unit off and let's get on with a focused future. At the time, the business was said to turn over $1 billion yearly. Even at half that size, it would've been big enough to survive with customer loyalty. If the 3000 had nothing else going for it, you could count on loyalty.

All opportunities now gone, you say. You just cannot break up an enterprise tech player like that. Then Whitman chops a massive company into two much smaller parts. Smaller has been better for the typical 3000 customer for a long time. Yes, there are times when there are advantages of being big: When a 3000 user got more from a company which sprawls to supersize, in sales and scope of solutions. You get predictability, alliances and headroom from companies sized HP. The vendor so lusted after being No. 1, which did not become a path to long-term success.

3000 community members understand that smaller can be better -- not bigger -- especially when they use what the independent vendor lives upon. Small companies respond faster, polish relationships, and commit for life.

Faster response can mean software that is enhanced sooner, or answers that resolve problems more quickly -- because a smaller company has fewer layers for a customer to dive through. Relationship polishing is the personal attention to a company of any size: the kind of experience that HP 3000 managers, who may now be CIOs and CTOs, recall getting from a smaller HP.

As an example, the Support Group knows its customers on a first-name basis. The operations at this 3000 provider include a hotsite datacenter located about 100 yards from the call stations. This integration of support and cloud services is natural, seamless, and don't require a special manager to coordinate.

You can get that kind of integration in an encounter from HP for a migration platform. Whether it slips smoothly into the budgets of small to midsize companies is less certain. So much of the HP offerings don't come from Hewlett-Packard while the vendor engages smaller customers. Independent partners deliver services in what HP considers a smaller marketplace.

Then there's that "outside the product" call that a 3000 user makes to a long-time supplier. This call is really about the 3000, not the product in the support contract. But that doesn't make a difference to a smaller company than HP. Large IT vendors don't even have a coding category to let that call begin, let alone be resolved.

Finally there's the final chapter of a relationship between smaller customer and smaller provider. I call this "commit for life" because it represents the intention to maintain a relationship to the very end, not when a business strategy changes in a boardroom. Years ago, Robelle told the community it would support the 3000 until at least 2016. As long as there's still a customer around, STR Software says they'll support them on the Fax/3000 solution. Commit for life means a smaller vendor's lifespan, most of the time, -- not the lifetime of its business plans.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:48 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2014

HP to break itself, dividing into 2 companies

Two public HP companiesCompanies of equal sizes will sell products branded HP. But the blue logo goes to the new HP Inc.

Hewlett-Packard announced this morning that it will divide itself into two publicly-traded corporations, a move that shareholders and stock analysts have been demanding and predicting for years. The division of the company will be along product lines. The business server operations will be contained in the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, while PC and printer businesses will comprise the new HP, Inc.

The vendor said in a press release that the restructuring will "define the next generation of technology infrastructure." The reorganization will also spin out the least profitable, but largest, segment of HP's business into its own unit. HP still ranks in the top five among PC makers and is one of the largest makers of printers in the world.

HP double logoMeg Whitman will be CEO and president of the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company. Pat Russo will chair a new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise board of directors. Last month Hewlett-Packard -- the full corporation founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1939 -- had named Whitman as chairman of the board and CEO. By breaking up the company, Whitman will cede some control of its most competitive and popular product segments.

Dion Weisler will be the head of the new HP, Inc. as CEO and president. Whitman will chair the HP Inc. board of directors. HP said it will still meet its profit forecasts for the fiscal year that ends on Oct. 31. It also said that it "issues a fiscal 2015 non-GAAP diluted Earnings Per Share outlook of $3.83-$4.03." That is the sweetest way of forecasting a profit, using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. But it's not clear if that's HP Inc. profits, or profits for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. And the vendor said it would take all of fiscal 2015 to complete the transaction.

“The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan," said Whitman, who's led HP through three years of a five-year turnaround plan. "It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders.

"In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders."

Much of the rest of HP's release deals with the visions and mechanics of dividing a $128 billion company into a classic and post-modern product manufacturer. Except that nothing is classic about the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company, with the exception of its three proprietary operating systems: HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop. The company has announced that HP-UX will be extending some of its enterprise-grade features to a version of RedHat. OpenVMS will be curtailed to only the newest generation of servers for the latest version of the OS. And NonStop, the most specialized of the three operating systems, is getting a full port to the x86/Xeon architecture -- an escape hatch from the Itanium chips that power Integrity servers.

But HP is retaining the Financial Services unit inside the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise corporation. It's a move the company noted will give financial advantages to customers and partners.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will have a unique portfolio and strong multi-year innovation  roadmap across technology infrastructure, software and services to allow customers to  take full advantage of the opportunities presented by cloud, big data, security and  mobility in the New Style of IT. By leveraging its HP Financial Services capability, the company will be well positioned to create unique technology deployment models for  customers and partners based on their specific business needs.

Additionally, the  company intends for HP Financial Services to continue to provide financing and business  model innovation for customers and partners of HP Inc. Customers will have the same unmatched choice of how to deploy and consume  technology, and with a simpler, more nimble partner. The separation will provide  additional resources, and a reduction of debt at the operating company level, to support  investments across key areas of the portfolio. The separation will also allow for greater  flexibility in completing the turnaround of Enterprise Services and strengthening the  company's go-to-market capabilities. 

"Over the past three years, we have reignited our innovation engine with breakthrough  offerings for the enterprise like Apollo, Gen 9 and Moonshot servers, our 3PAR storage  platform, our HP OneView management platform, our HP Helion Cloud and a host of software and services offerings in security, analytics and application transformation,"  continued Whitman. "Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will accelerate innovation across key next-generation areas of the portfolio."

R&D innovation has been a troubled business operation for Hewlett-Packard since the early years of this century, until Whitman announced a shift in the vendor's priorities in 2012. She named Martin Fink, the former leader of the embattled Business Critical Systems unit where those operating systems are built, to lead HP Labs. Within a year, the Labs were creating The Machine, a way forward into a new architecture for computing -- but one that could demand up to 75 percent of the Labs' resources.

It's not yet clear where HP Labs will go in the reorganization, but the Enterprise unit seems to make the most sense. Labs also contributes to product releases in the printer and PC lineups. HP mentioned the forthcoming 3D printer lineup in the breakup announcement.

HP was to have a meeting with financial analysts in just two days, but "as a result of this separation, its Oct. 8 2014 Securities Analysts Meeting has been postponed." A conference call took place at 5AM today, and is available for replay at the HP Investor Relations website.

Whitman said only a year ago that a single HP was the right approach. She said the same strategy is still the right approach, but added that breaking up the company will accelerate growth. "We now operate from a position of strength," she said, citing a strong balance sheet and returns to shareholders. The stock was nearing $40 a share in recent months, a profound rebound from prices in the teens at the lowest point of the turnaround.

After the split up, shareholders of the HPQ security will hold shares in both companies, CFO Cathie Lesjak said in the confence call. It's a move that will prompt instant investment in the new HP Inc.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:40 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)