February 17, 2017
K-12 vendor still migrates schools to Linux
Editor's Note: We learned today that Quintessential School Systems (QSS) has been acquired by another school software ISV, Harris School Solutions. QSS has been notable for leading customers from its MPE/iX application suite onto Linux—and QSS was one of the very first to do this in the 3000 world. Here's a replay of our report about the how and why of this migration campaign's roots. It's an effort that began in the earliest days of the Transition Era, according to this report from 2002. In the article below, just swap in Linux for any mention of HP-UX. There's not a measurable benefit to leading anyone to HP's Unix anymore.
QSS outlines pilot move of K-12 apps to Open Source
By John Burke
Quintessential School Systems (QSS), founded in 1990, is an HP 3000 ISV providing software and consulting services to K-12 school districts and community college systems. While developing, supporting and providing administrative and student records management computing solutions for these public school districts, QSS created a set of tools for HP 3000 developers. QSDK was a subroutine library toolkit to network applications. QWEBS was a Web server running on the HP 3000. When QSS talks about migrating HP 3000 applications to Open Source, we all need to pay attention to what they are doing and how they are going about it.
Public school systems are understandably very cost-conscious, so for competitive reasons QSS had already started investigating migrating its software to an Open Source solution before HP even announced on November 14, 2001 its intentions about the 3000. This put QSS ahead of most ISVs and non-ISVs in determining how to migrate traditional HP 3000 COBOL and IMAGE applications. At HP World 2002, QSS COO Duane Percox gave a talk titled “Migrating COBOL and IMAGE/SQL to Linux with Open Source.” Percox hoped to share QSS’s pilot project experience for migration approaches.
QSS customers tend to be very cost sensitive, and so an Open Source approach has a lot of appeal for any ISV providing a complete packaged solution. Non-ISVs looking to migrate homegrown applications to other platforms might want to stay with commercial operating systems, databases and compilers for the vendor support. But there are migration choices here that are useful for anyone moving MPE/iX applications.Before starting that pilot project, QSS had to choose a target OS, database and compiler. For the OS, QSS chose SuSe Linux. I asked Percox why Linux and why the SuSe distribution. “Our migration target is an Open Systems and/or Posix-compliant OS,” he said. “We chose Linux and HP-UX as the target platforms with Linux for the pilot project. With the cost of Linux development systems being so low, doing the pilot on Linux was a natural. We believe that Linux is a wonderful choice for ISV solutions. However, we have large customers who might feel more comfortable with an HP-supported OS. That is why we are targeting both.
“As for the SuSe distribution, we basically had seen good things about it on the Internet and so we chose it for our pilot project. QSS is currently working out business arrangements with SuSe and Red Hat. It will all come down to the business side of things. We are pleased with both distributions, and given that Red Hat owns 52 percent of the market [in 2002 numbers], we are certainly not discounting them.
“Our goal is to be a TSP (total solution provider) and essentially build a custom sub-distribution from one of these two. We will then host a patch-site with approved patches from the source company. We don’t think our customers will care which we choose because we are basically going to say that ‘we own the installation’ of the Linux box. We won’t want anything other than QSS applications to be installed on the application server.”
I asked if QSS had considered system management issues in choosing an OS. Percox replied, “We are building an application environment that will provide for the job scheduling, spooling, etc. The specific library and toolset layer we provide will insulate the application from the particulars of each OS. However, choosing to be Posix-compliant is what will help us be very similar.”
With the choice of an OS platform out of the way, QSS next turned to the database. Percox said, “One of our goals was to migrate to a SQL-92 compliant RDBMS. Within that goal, we wanted to evaluate whether any Open Source RDBMS was sufficiently capable to support a commercial grade application.” QSS evaluated MySQL (www.mysql.com), PostgreSQL (www.postgresql.com), Interbase and SAP DB (www.sapdb.org). The choice for the pilot project was PostgreSQL.
“This is an ever-changing landscape," Percox said in his presentation, "but one which is moving in a reasonably consistent manner. High performance data access (Web-based, read-only systems) favors MySQL. Bulletproof commercial quality with transaction support favors PostgreSQL and SAP DB. Interbase has not established a good open source community. PostgreSQL, Interbase and SAP DB have support for transactions and lock isolation. Version 4 (future) of MySQL is supposed to support transactions. A number of good books have been written about PostgreSQL, making it the easiest to learn. SAP DB is coming on strong and is worth considering down the road.”
I asked whether QSS had considered HP Eloquence and if so, why it had chosen not to use it. Percox said the issue was cost.
“Our customers are public education and they are not just sitting around with spare money waiting to be spent on a database,” he said, “even one as reasonably priced as Eloquence. Since we are doing the migration and spreading the cost over our installed base and future sales we can take the hit on converting the COBOL code from TurboIMAGE to SQL. To help keep the migration cost down for QSS we are developing the SQL abstraction layer that we believe will give us both the ability to drop in replacement calls and the ability to tune for performance when needed without having to re-write the entire COBOL code library.”
The third and final decision was which COBOL compiler to use for the pilot project. "Having a common IDE regardless of language can be very helpful and improve productivity for those developers who code in multiple languages on the server.” QSS chose to use TinyCOBOL for the pilot project.
Percox explained, “The principal reason for choosing an Open Source COBOL was that at the time the project was planned, all the commercial COBOL compilers for Linux required run-time licensing on a per-user-execution basis. As an ISV that serves a cost-sensitive end-user vertical market, we must deploy our solutions with minimal (or no) run-time fees. Gnu COBOL is moving along very slowly and is not yet ready. TinyCOBOL was the only Open Source COBOL we could find that generated IA-32 code for Linux and that supported most of the COBOL-85 constructs. One commercial COBOL for Linux became available doesn't require run-time licensing, Fujitsu NetCOBOL (www.netcobol.com).”
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January 25, 2017
Migrate, emulate: Wednesday show's for you
Thursday, at 2 PM EST (11 PST, 8 PM CET) there's an MB Foster webinar show covering emulation options. For the 3000 owner and manager who hasn't yet moved off HP's 3000 iron, no what matter where you're headed, there's something in this 60 minutes for you.
Last summer's version of the webinar walked its viewers through Foster's eZ-MPE, Ordat's TI2/SQL, Marxmeier's Eloquence database suite, and the Stromasys 3000 hardware emulator Charon. Only the last product delivers no changes to software and frees you from HP's aging boxes. But the other three offer ways to mimic parts of the 3000's heart and soul.
eZ-MPE is the newest of the emulate-to-migrate products. Introduced in 2013, it's a suite of software to accommodate the data infrastructure and scripting needs of today's HP 3000 sites. The Thursday show includes a demonstration of the MB Foster product.
TI2/SQL gives TurboIMAGE users (pretty much everybody who's still running a 3000) an avenue into SQL databases like SQLServer. And Eloquence replaces the IMAGE database wholesale, using an SQL-based data platform with deep work-alikes for IMAGE intrinsics and features.
It should be an interesting show. The distinctions between the first three products and Charon will be obvious by the end of the presentation, so stick around to the finale. That wrap-up is also the portion of the webinar for free-form questions. It's getting rare to have a place to ask those in a semi-public setting. I hope to hear from you during the webinar. MB Foster's got a means to listen and watch these shows after their airing. But the Q&A part is live-only.Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem eZ-MPE, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead.
“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.”
Whitehead says the biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment."
On the subject of those other solutions in MB Foster's perspective, some well-established migration products have received a new label. This is an emulation-to-migration path that lands a 3000 customer in the world of Windows. Eloquence, the database that doesn't run under MPE/iX but has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility Mode, handles data. The Marxmeier product has always been sold as a migration tool. For years the ads on this blog called it "Image migration at its best." Users have testified to the strong value of Eloquence.
Another third party tool, resold and supported by MB Foster, got a mention in last summer's webinar and earned a label as an emulation solution. Ti2SQL, software that moves IMAGE data to SQL databases, was released by Ordat in the early years of the migration era. In 2003, Expeditors International included ORDAT’s Ti2SQL in Expeditors' rollout away from the 3000 because the software emulates IMAGE inside a relational database. The end result produced CLI calls native to a Unix-based database.
"Ti2SQL uses CLI," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "Think of it as going to a complete native environment, while leveraging/using all of the business logic developed on/for the HP. Additionally, Ti2SQL allows someone to go to an off-path server and database, such as AIX and DB2."
January 13, 2017
Emulation review will air out all options
On January 26 MB Foster is airing the 2017 edition of its emulation webinar. The 40-minute show will walk 3000 managers through four emulation options. Last year's show had four very different products. Three will address the MPE/iX environment: how to get your applications onto the Windows OS. One will give you emulated hardware. In the first edition of the webinar, Birket Foster called the Charon emulator for 3000 hardware emulation "flawless."
The other three solutions — unless the lineup changes from last year's show — are all based in software methods to replicate databases and surrounding code. They are
- Ti2SQL middleware from Ordat (a holder of an MPE/iX source code license, along with Pivital Solutions)
- Marxmeier's Eloquence database environment
- MB Foster's eZ-MPE
The MB Foster environment emulation solution has been working for at least one customer. We introduced it in 2013. Here's our story from that year for reference. We'll all look forward to the update at 11 AM PST.
MB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE, and it’s aiming customers at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for HP 3000 sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications.
Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead.
“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.”
Whitehead says the biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment.
January 09, 2017
3000 experience floats up to the Fed
Reid Baxter started his work in the HP 3000 world in 1981. This year he's helping to support the IT at the US Federal Reserve in Richmond, VA. There is no direct line between these two postings. Baxter has made the most of his career that started with MPE and terminals to lead to his current post where he helps maintain computers that serve the US banking bedrock, The Fed.
Baxter, one of the earliest 3000 Newswire subscribers, checked in this week to congratulate us on another anniversary as we crossed into the 22d calendar year of publishing. It's been quite a while, as Baxter says, since an HP 3000 was in his life: seven years ago he transitioned off everyday 3000 duty when his employer JP Morgan-Chase closed down its MPE/iX servers.
Baxter went into support of the 3000's successor at Chase, HP-UX, and then onward into Linux. When your skillset goes as far back as HP's Data Terminal Division, a new environment presents more opportunity than challenge. The 3000 once had a place in banking IT, which is why Chase once deployed the ABLE software suite from CASE for asset management.
After Chase did a downsize in 2015, Baxter went on a lengthy quest to land a new spot in finance computing. He's working today for HP Enterprise Services, by way of the Insight Global staffing enterprise. His mission is support of that Fed IT center, work that he can do remotely. One reason for that telecommute is that banking has often needed remote computing. Banking software on the 3000 once drove the adoption of Internet services on the business server, after all.When the 3000 division at HP had to pick up the pieces of a failed Internet partner Open Market, Inc. 20 years ago, Chase and CASE were reasons to keep the MPE/iX Internet project on target. 3000 sites needed a commercially-supported Web server during that era when open source freeware powered many Web servers.
Customers using HP 3000s in commerce need a secure Web server, according to senior software specialist Rick Gilligan of Computer and Software Enterprises (CASE). The California firm is installing new HP 3000s as part of its business, which includes banks that are among the five biggest in the US. CASE's reference customers include companies like NationsBank and Chase Manhattan.
CASE will soon be offering its HP 3000 clients Internet access within CASE applications, so bank customers will be able to see loan data. Gilligan, who chaired its most recent meeting of the SIGWEB Special Interest group and said a secure Web server native to the HP 3000 makes a lot more sense than using another Web host.
"My clients don't want another box that they have to maintain and get approval for in their company," Gilligan said. "Banks aren't looking for any more boxes or any more bodies when all they want is a Web server. A Web server is a very small part of all the things the 3000 is doing for them, and a Web server on that 3000 certainly makes more sense than putting it on another box."
That server software in 1997 was going to be the Open Market product chosen by HP, but the Web company closed down web server business once Apache and Microsoft's servers rose up. HP bundled the OMI product into the fundamental operating system, only to give it a sudden end of life date months later. Vendors like CASE, and their clients like Chase, looked at a period when Apache running on the 3000 had no support from HP. Some used it anyway and waited for HP to catch up and offer Apache/iX.
Now Baxter is making the best use of his career that started at DTD in 1981, onward to the DeskManager group at the UK's Personal Office Computer Division — another place where connectivity drove the advance of the 3000 using HP's business email suite.
By the time HP was announcing the end of its 3000 business, Baxter moved on "to Bloomington Illinois, contracting through Radiant Systems working for 13 months for HP's Business Continuity Support Hardware 'Hands On' team at State Farm corporate—incidentally, the largest HP 3000 shop in the world."
Changes in the fortunes of the HP 3000 have been easy to spot. It's always a pleasure to discover the continued careers of people like Baxter who help mold your server into a linked business tool. Such experience in IT continues to be a trading option for supporting the newest enterprise solutions. You can think of those many years of working savvy as the common coin in a career, whether in finance or elsewhere.
January 04, 2017
Future Vision: Too complex for the impatient
Seeing the future clearly is not simple, and planning for our tomorrows is a crucial mission for most HP 3000 owners and allies. Changes easily cloud the vision of any futurist—people who dream up scenarios and strategies instead of writing science fiction.
Or as Yoda said, "Difficult to tell; always in motion is the future."
Economics makes every future vision more compelling. A friend who just became a city council member reminded me of this when she talked about taxis and hotel checkouts. These things are the equivalent of COBOL and batch job streaming—just to remind you this post is an IT report. Disruption surrounds them. COBOL, batch, hotels, and taxis still keep our world on its feet. Nearly all of us reach for a legacy solution when we're finished sitting in the bathroom, too.
The new council member forwarded a futurist's article on Facebook—where so many get their news today, alas—an article that pegged so many bits of the economy that are supposed to be going the way of MPE V. (I think we can all agree it's really over for the OS that powered 3000s before PA-RISC.) The Facebook article says we need only to look at Kodak in 1998 when it "had 170,000 employees and sold 85 percent of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt." The timing is wrong, just like the timeframe predicted for total migration of the 3000 base. Was: 2008. Now in 2017: still incomplete.
The futurism you hear predicts things like "What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years — and most people won't see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that three years later you would never take pictures on film again?" Nobody did, because it wasn't true in 2001 that film disappeared. Neither had MPE disappeared by 2006. These predictions get mangled as they are retold. This year's IT skills must include patience to see the future's interlocking parts—a skill that a 3000 owner and manager can call upon right now. Since it's 2017, in one decade we'll be facing the final year of the date-handling in MPE that works as HP designed it. I'll only be 70 and will be looking for the story on who will fix the ultimate HP 3000 bug.
I love reading futurist predictions. They have to concoct a perfect world to make sense, and the timing is almost always wrong. Kodak took another 14 years after 1998 to file for bankruptcy. But after I disagreed with my friend, she reached for her own success at using disruptive tech to make her point. Even an anecdotal report is better than retelling abstracted stories. The danger with anecdotes is that they can be outliers. We heard them called corner cases in support calls with HP. You don't hear the phrase "corner case" during an independent support call. The independent legacy support company is accountable to a customer in the intense way a hotel operator commits to a guest. A guest is essential to keeping a hotel open. A lodger at an Airbnb is not keeping the doors open, or keeping jobs alive for a staff of housekeepers. There can be unexpected results to disrupting legacies. People demand things change back from a future vision. Ask voters in the US how that turned out last year.
You can call the OS running Amazon an environment, but Linux doesn't much care if you succeed with it or not. Investing in your success was what brought companies to HP's 3000. It's too much to hope for benevolence from a corporation. However, if we can all stop peeling the paint off of future visions, if only we can stick to the details and know that change doesn't come easily, or quickly, we'll be okay. They're still building hotels in spite of Airbnb, just like you're still maintaining COBOL code and modifying those jobstreams first written in the previous century.
It helps to get the facts right. AirbnB isn't a hotel company at all, and faces laws to curtail its business in US states including New York. It has few provisions for safety and fraud that can stand the test of a court matter. Watch out for auto-driving cars, auto industry. Another slice of folly is that this industry is headed for the scrapyard by the time MPE/iX gets to the end of its CALENDAR function. Auto-drive car tech is more decade away if it can evade the non-auto-drive cars that will litter the roads for decades.
Onward the bright future goes, with tech saving the day by saving lives and shutting down medicine as we know it. Who needs so many doctors when you have a Tricorder X? Revised rules for that tech-doctor device contest say the Tricorder X won't have to detect tubercolosis, hepatitis A, or stroke. "Goodbye, medical establishment," so long as you don't need those conditions detected. 3D-printed houses might be built, but who will assemble them: robots that cost no more than today's tradesman labor? You can get a 3D selfie today, and a gun's parts printed 3D. We were promised code that writes itself, weren't we, when object-oriented computing and Java swept in?
A sweep of futurism helped HP put away its 3000 business. The lives that are changed and jobs lost are not a concern of the futurist. Then another change enveloped the futurist who was certain that selling systems was a secure spot. This year there are rumors Hewlett-Packard could sell off its servers business. That one is a piece of data like those ever-present reports of HP splitting up. They were just rumors for years. Then it came true. Economics, not technology, made that come true.
Nothing is impervious to change, and to celebrate the marvel of technology upending legacy leads us astray. The future is a blend, not nonsense like "Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans." Or, "In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans." How many faces, and how many humans? I'm still waiting on the flying cars I was promised at the World's Fair of 1964.
My council member says that while in Amsterdam last spring she was struck by the stark difference between ornate 16th Century architecture downtown and the simple square box apartment buildings in the suburbs. "I asked our Airbnb host about it and suggested this: There has not been a reduction in human creative intelligence. It's just that in the 1500s all that creative energy was being put into architecture, and today it's being put into the digital world. Our host, a bright young Dutch digital engineer, smiled and said he agreed with me." As every good host does.
Then Uber arrived for the ride to the airport, I presume, using a car that the company wasn't invested in, driven by a person who was working a 12-hour day pitted against a fleet of freelancers that keep Uber's business model thriving for the corporation. "And no money changes hands" was my friend's punchline, overlooking the part of the Dutch economy using ATMs and currency, or the fact that you tip your housekeeper in currency unless you don't pay one.
The futurists want you to be wary. If you don't prepare for the future, "you're going down with Kodak, the cable companies, landline phone makers, Macy's, video rental places, printed books and tape backup media." Or you can find a life keeping yourself in the present, the happiness of the now. Making good things last longer is resourceful and sometimes inventive work. If the last 15 years have taught our community anything, it's that the future arrives slowly and looks nothing like we expect. Even my council member knows the value of legacy, asking "If we close down all our paper mills, who will make our toilet paper?"
December 28, 2016
HPE losing weight for 2017: in servers, too?
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise made itself smaller during 2016, the natural progression of a slim-down that started in the fiscal 2016 period for the company. Annual results for the first full year of the dual-HP venture—one devoted to business computing, the other to all else—showed a continued decline in sales. HP cut its software group loose this quarter, selling off assets like Autonomy to Micro Focus. Becoming smaller has not helped HPE's overall numbers quite yet.
Sales at the Enterprise group, home to 3000 replacements like ProLiant servers, fell by 9 percent from 2015's Q4. The full HPE sales tally for the quarter dropped by $900 million in year-over-year measures. Were it not for favorable currency shifts, the company would have had to bear the full range of these losses. Until HP could offset its results with divestitures and currency benefits, the Enterprise Group ran $403 million in the red. A total of $50.1 billion in HPE sales was booked in 2016. More than $3 billion in profits were left after expenses were met and taxes were paid.
A report from Patrick Moorhead at Forbes noted that the sell-off of HPE software to Micro Focus was a marriage to a company with a solid history of preserving acquired products. Whitman "bragged on Micro Focus a bit," Moorhead wrote, "saying that the company has never shut down a product that they acquired and merged with, and that their growing assets will be important moving forward." He added that the statement looked like it was crafted to keep the former HPE software customers satisfied with becoming Micro Focus clients.
HPE keeps slimming itself down to ensure its expenses will drop. Since revenues are on a decline year over year, the ploy to sell off businesses with dim short-term prospects seems destined to continue. On the website The Street a story has reported that according to Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha, Hewlett Packard Enterprise could part with its servers, storage, IT support and consulting. One potential buyer might be the Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company Huawei.
Bedrock platform software is moving outside HP, too. There's already a timetable for turning over the OpenVMS software operations. HP 3000 owners remember the days when HP sold application software that could compete because its installed base propped up mainframe server support contracts. Things have peeled apart by today. Support contracts are the shadow profitability tied to OS operations.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise's server business, which Garcha values at $8.9 billion, could interest Huawei. The unit has $15.4 billion in projected fiscal year 2017 sales and $1 billion in Ebitda, Credit Suisse estimates.
Even after paying MicroFocus and losing billions in software support dollars, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise believe it will still save money. Company strategists have looked at this gambit and concluded the savings are genuine. The software business at HPE doesn't include operating systems like OpenVMS; those are groomed and improved in the Enterprise group. sorry for the loss of jobs at HP, and more sorry that customer service levels might decline. Or not; we don't know yet.
HP wanted to be ranked No. 1 in selling everything. It turns out being ranked No. 1 in profits matters most. If that wasn't true, there wouldn't be an HPE today -- just an HP. CEO Meg Whitman said the company's on target for what it wants to become. Divesting software and services in 2016 led Whitman to sum up the year. "The HPE that emerges after the two spin mergers will have a clear vision, the right assets, and direct line of sight to significant market opportunities," she said.
December 19, 2016
University completes its course with regrets
After decades of use in a wide array of business and educational functions, the Idaho State University of has shut down its HP 3000s. The institution worked with Powerhouse tools from the earliest days of the 3000, a period that included some years using MPE V. Idaho State University turned off our HP 3000s. "We have the one N-Class server, plus two A-400s, for sale or for parts if there is interest."
John MacLerran reported to the 3000 mailing list, "with fond memories", the accomplishments and lifespan of MPE/iX at the university based in Pocatello.
The HP 3000 had been in use at ISU since the early 1980s, running everything from Procurement and Payroll to Student Registration and Grading. When I started work at ISU as a programmer in 1984, we had two Series 68s (later upgraded to Series 70s). Over the years, we upgraded as budget allowed. We installed the current boxes in Summer of 2001. Our production box was an N4000 4-way 440 mHZ box, and our development box was an A400 110 mHZ box. In 2004 we added a VA7100 array to our N4000 box, and it was this configuration that we turned off in October.
We went live with Banner, an ERP for universities, in 2009— but some applications on the HP 3000s hung on much longer because there was no suitable replacement in the ERP system.
Since we are a State of Idaho agency, there is a somewhat convoluted process for us to sell the boxes, but if there is any interest, you can contact our Customer Services manager Tony Lovgren at email@example.com for more information.
Idaho State worked, tested, and managed its migration over more than 11 years. Since the choice to migrate was replacing in-house Powerhouse with the Banner application, its exit from the 4GL was simplified. Batch processing was harder to replace.
A bank reconciliation functionality in Banner (by now, renamed Ellucian) splits up accounts payable and payroll, while the MPE/iX app unified both AP and payroll. "I am rewriting that in Oracle PL/SQL as an add-on for Ellucian," MacLerran said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law.
These revisions following a strategy that lets the university rely on updates from Sungard, the vendor selling Ellucian. MacLerran said that whenever possible, his department wants to "not to modify Ellucian directly, but to do add-ons instead — and we were able to hold to that in all but a very few cases."
It's a significant choice for any migrating 3000 site that's moved to a replacement suite. "Having a no-modification policy saved us quite a bit of heartache," MacLerran said, "as Ellucian comes out with patches and updates quite regularly. Since we didn't modify the original code, we don't have to spend too much time making sure it's still in sync."
Ellucian has aspects that are common to wide-ranging replacement applications. There are organizational operations at the university that have been handled by the 3000 which the ERP's inventory module couldn't match, for example. Another bit of replacement software will step in for the existing MPE/iX app.
A more complete spec listing of the available 3000s:
- N4000 - 4-way 440mHZ with 16 GB RAM, 3SCSI ports, PCI Fibre-Channel interface card.
- A400 - 110mHZ -- Perhaps RAM of 512MB
- A400 - 400mHZ -- not sure how much RAM (we got this from another state agency, but never turned it on)
Due to State of Idaho regulations, the university cannot include disk drives -- by law they must wipe, and then shred them.
December 12, 2016
Security in cloud IT expands to fit ERP
HP 3000 sites that make a migration bring a broad array of technology into their planning rooms. In the world of MPE/iX, the server and infrastructure was almost always on the premises of the company or in a subsidiary's offices. Once a company begins to migrate to commodity environments, this structure starts to evaporate. In a meeting about what to do next after something like MANMAN, clouds and the ground they float above get equal valuation.
Security is a challenge in the process of floating clouds for enterprise IT. As Terry Floyd from The Support Group is leading Disston Tools through its migration, he's seen that security is no sacrifice to the gods of change who live in the clouds.
Kenandy is making its way into the command center of Disston. "We are seven months away, on schedule, and on budget," Floyd said when he checked in last week. "There is a lot to do here. MANMAN is very robust, and Disston has a lot of customizations, as well as serious use of EDI."
By its nature EDI passes sensitive information across networks. Kenandy works by riding the Salesforce cloud and its networking. Disston won't have to settle for something less secure.
"We are just getting into setting up user security settings," Floyd said. "Kenandy is as robust as MANMAN is. It can be tightened down as much as you want."
December 07, 2016
Taking Steps into Open Source with a Plan
A significant number of HP 3000 shops have employed Linux as a replacement over the last 15 years. (Yes, it's been that long that the MPE/iX community has been migrating or homesteading their systems). Over that time, open source software has become so mainstream that an architecture meeting often includes a line like, "Well, what can open source do for us here?"
If open sourcing a commercial datacenter sounds enticing—think of the size of the community you join, for example—it's wise to remember a commercial open source is the way to success. Downloading and testing is always essential, but adding open source has its best prospects when there's a commercial, paid support aspect to the choice.
This week we reported on one HP 3000 site where the system is making a slow exit. Harte & Lyne is still using a Series 918 with MPE/iX 7.5. The operations are being supplanted by what manager James Byrne calls FOSS: Free and Open Source Software. He's got his reservations about doing much more in that direction, though. Byrne said a more commercial—though not vendor-specific—approach to new architecture is in order.
HP was advising this to its enterprise computing customers as far back as 2006. Linux in the datacenter was a lot more exotic in that year, a time when HP was still selling support for the 3000. That vendor-based support is all gone by now, right down to the demise of docs.hp.com webpages where advice and training materials once lived. If you need 3000 support, third parties like Pivital Solutions are the best way to go forward, even if you're going away slowly.
An HP exec of 2006 said it only made sense to look for a supported FOSS design. David Claypool said
The rational thing to do is to choose something from a commercial company, whether implementations available and supported by a Linux distribution or non-affiliated Xen implementations like those from XenSource, Virtual Iron, and now Oracle.
Working together in such alliances was part of what FOSS was all about at the beginning. It would be another four years before Oracle would hire the departing CEO of HP, Mark Hurd, to run Oracle's software business. In 2006 all was pretty collegial between Oracle and HP.Campbell said, in a reply to the story we ran about choosing open source software
Certainly, it's possible and may even be prudent for some to download and run the bits from a raw open source project. But it's incumbent upon the adopter to understand the commitment to self-reliance that's being made if it's being used in any operational or revenue-producing capacity.
Linux was free until users understood they still needed a support provider to contact when things went awry. Support is the enduring part of any software relationship, and it's something critical for everyone who's using computers to drive an enterprise. Even HP 3000 shops need someone to call when the bits get out of alignment.
November 28, 2016
3000 customers ponder what they're leaving
This month's relicense quotes that Unicom delivered to Powerhouse customers could spark some migrations. Although these 3000s have held on by using out-of-support software, the five and six-figure prices to return to MPE/iX support "are difficult to imagine as a sustainable model," said Charles Finley of Xformix. "The price makes it worthwhile to move away from Powerhouse entirely."
Finley, who's been assisting 3000 shops in migrations and conversions for 15 years and more, isn't the only vendor who's skeptical of the Unicom pricing scheme. "That strategy will not last long," he said of the sky-high quotes. "We can move the Powerhouse to a Java-based non-proprietary alternative for something in that [$300,000] ballpark. Pricing like that [from a vendor] only provides incentive for people to leave the product."
The full scope of what a customer is leaving is worth some consideration, however. Finley offered the scope of a typical 3000-using Powerhouse customer's datacenter lineup.
Focusing on the base language is misleading at best. The background processing/shell scripting is usually more difficult to migrate than the base application. I suspect that there could be more to a relicensing story than simply the Powerhouse license. For example, if the customer has some dependent 3GL code such as COBOL, a few third-party products such as Suprtool and MPEX, along with JCL, UDCs, and Command Files—the cost to migrate all of that, and the database and other file types, could well exceed the price of only the Powerhouse license.
Hearing such please-go-away pricing can be hard to comprehend. A decade or two of using a foundational tool like Powerhouse shouldn't end with a six-figure quote, but sometimes such a lengthy relationship drifts to a bottom-line-only state. "Don't they normally look at the financials before determining price?" asked consultant Craig Lalley. We've heard about that same software update strategy from another support consultant.
"They saw the client was Boeing, but it was a very small division of Boeing," the consultant said. "Not at all the size of datacenter budget as the parent corporation." A smaller price tag was negotiated, as it sometimes can be. A smaller tag altogether might mean leaving the Powerhouse licenses alone.
"It sounds cheaper to stay on MPE," said former OpenMPE director Tracy Johnson, "even if it is just a daily copy of the data and the application migrates. You might even save money by moving to a lower tier MPE system to host the copied data." We'd love to hear a story about how a Powerhouse license became less costly.
November 23, 2016
Mailing news from the HP 3000: an old skill
Internal mail hosts remain a crucial tool in datacenters, even some running MPE/iX. "You still host your own email?" is not a question you'd only pose to a crazy manager. An organization's security standards can be so high that no outside mail server will be trusted. In the earliest days of email, 3k Associates built and sold a beautiful native MPE mailing system, Netmail/3000. It's a smart mailserver, meaning it doesn't require that an organization's e-mail be piped through an Internet provider's mail server for final delivery. Then in the late 1990s, HP's lab started the long process of porting sendmail to MPE/iX.
Now some 3000 sites are looking at how to replace their 3000-based mailing software as they migrate. One of them contacted us this week to ask about an alternative to sendmail. Linux is their migration target, after a history using the 3000 that goes back to the days of HP Deskmanager. Tim O'Neill shared a story while asking about an alternative to sendmail.
I saw that FreeBSD Unix has its version of sendmail. Seeing reference to FreeBSD made me recall a story about FreeBSD running on an old HP 3000, maybe a Series 70 or an early Spectrum system. I think I have read that FreeBSD is at some sites still running in production mode, as MPE and MPE/iX are. It also made me wonder what the installed base of FreeBSD might be — and how that compares to the installed base of MPE and MPE/iX on old hardware and on Charon hardware.
FreeBSD, like MPE/iX, has some surprisingly large companies using it. You might have heard about one of them called Netflix. Of course the Charon HPA emulator from Stromasys makes every remaining product and archival 3000 a candidate for the kind of longevity we see in FreeBSD.
Sendmail has a colorful history. The Unix Hater's Handbook devoted a full chapter to the software's vulnerabilities; sendmail comes from the Unix heritage, after all. By 2003, HP was still patching sendmail to shut down security breaches, although the breaching wasn't nearly as serious on MPE/iX as on Unix variants including Linux. Sendmail's open source capabilities are now under the banner of ProofPoint, the company that purchased the sendmail resources in 2013.
Sendmail's worldwide release was last updated in 2014. HP announced it was testing sendmail to place in the Fundamental Operating System in November, 2001—a month that's famous in the 3000's history for other reasons. But the software moved along to an 8.13.1 release in FOS. It's only one major release behind the worldwide open source version, now advanced to an 8.14 release. Sendmail also includes encryption.Sendmail has included encryption facilities since 8.11. That's where security capabilities descend onto the requirements. Encrypting mail is a common feature in commercial hosting solutions. Sendmail/iX sends mail created by and triggered from HP 3000 applications, given enough technical know-how.
There's a robust webpage about the 3000 mail solution that was started by Mark Bixby. He's the engineer responsible for lighting the fire of open source flames at HP. Keven Miller of 3K Ranger has updated and maintained the page and its knowledge about Sendmail/iX. The software itself is in your 3000's SENDMAIL account in a version-specific group named vuuff.
November 14, 2016
The best wishes for your long life: a Plan B
Congratulations to us all. This is the 15th anniversary of the "we're killing off the 3000" announcement from HP. The end-game hasn't played out like HP expected. In 2001 the company's management didn't see three CEO resignations coming over those 15 years, or the company being forced to split itself to stay relevant to enterprise IT. Those two events are related. Yes, the 3000 got its pink-slip notice at the HP of 2001. So did the overstuffed, unwieldy Hewlett-Packard. The company that lurched toward every business while stepping back from others. It took 14 years almost to the day, but HP is half the size it was: HP Enterprise is the severed sibling from 2001's family.
Inside the 3000's division during that year, no one was talking about emulating the 3000 PA-RISC hardware that the company would stop building in 2003. That's now a reality, a new development since the 10-year anniversary of this sobering date. Hewlett-Packard was going to lead four customers out of every five away from MPE/iX, delivering them to the Unix alternative of HP-UX. Windows was going to get new customers out of the upheaval, too. No one figured three of every four departing companies would choose a non-HP environment.
Here on this date in 2016, the idea of an environment as a crucial strategy is feeling outdated. IT directors always cared about applications. Now they're told they don't have to worry about environments. The cloud computing providers will do that for them. Except when they cannot provide the cloud. Behold (above) the map of Internet outage from last month on an ugly day.
The Support Group's Terry Floyd offered a Plan B strategy to the manufacturing customers of CAMUS last week. More than 30 companies using HP 3000s and MANMAN are in the CAMUS user group. Floyd's company is delivering a fresh alternative to help MANMAN sites move on from the 3000. But he also supports homesteading sites. With a foot in both worlds, he recommends staying safe by having a Plan B, even while you employ cloud computing for your future."I'm still a little bit paranoid about the cloud being out there," Floyd said on the 90-minute RUG conference call. (Keep in mind, he's bringing a traditional manufacturing site's IT onto the Kenandy ERP cloud solution, so he's being extra-careful.) One of the Support Group services runs manufacturing datacenters for some clients.
If any of you are thinking about cloud apps, you should think about a hybrid app. You'd have some stuff in-house on your own boxes, and some stuff out there on the cloud. For instance, we're doing EDI [for a client]. It's pretty much local. We'll be able to receive and send stuff even if the Internet went away for a day. It would kill us not to be able to do EDI. Even hours of Internet downtime would kill us in some situations.
Think about what you might consider really critical to your company—and think about putting some of that stuff in-house. Having shipping on a local server, for example a SQL Server, we'd be able to ship whether the Internet's up or down.
"Sometimes the Internet goes away for different people for different reasons," he said, and it's so very true. DDoS attacks are becoming a too-regular event for the world's Internet. When Twitter, Netfix, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest can be taken offline at once, as they were on that map of Oct. 22, everyone needs to manage the risk. A Plan B once meant staying on the HP 3000 in spite of HP's community exit. Today it means keeping some computing local, no matter what your enivronment.
November 09, 2016
A Response to Being Stunned: No Tribute
Citizens of the US woke up this morning to a turn of political events described everywhere as stunning. There's nothing anyone can do to change that today, but in the event of a stunning relicense quote for Powerhouse products, you can respond with software that preserves your reporting administration. Some customers using HP 3000s can stun right back by leaving Powerhouse, using software from Minisoft to pave their data's way.
Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions told us that one of the HP 3000 GrowthPower clients he supports has opened up one of those stunning relicense bids. In trying to get their software back onto support with the vendor, the customer received only an offer to relicense the full version of Powerhouse. "The most current product doesn’t even run on the 3000," Suraci said, explaining the folly of the return to support tribute being demanded by Unicom this year.
It's easy to think of back-support fees, levied in a market the size of the 3000's, as tribute: money demanded for nothing in return except a promise of help. A small promise indeed for software like a Powerhouse suite that hasn't had one MPE bit improved in more than 7 years.
The demand made even less sense considering what the customer was using. Quiz, the reporting end of the GrowthPower application, was the only Powerhouse software running on the 3000. "They originally acquired the product embedded in their ERP application," Suraci said. "They ended up purchasing the Minisoft ODBC and recreating the necessary reports using SQL tools like Crystal Reports, SQL Server, and Access."
Minisoft's products have never had an acquiring entity like Unicom take over and then demand such tributes from 3000 sites. Returning to support is a noble practice, something a manager with integrity does. However, this is a good deed that can be punished by ignoble companies. Support returns are a tradition that can trigger back-support fees. You don't have to pay them, but then your data has to live software else to get its support. The situation mirrors the dilemma of more than half of those who voted in the US yesterday. They don't want their President-elect, but they want to be citizens, too. It'll be awhile to see how much tribute the new President will demand. HP 3000 data is in a luckier situation.Data hosted on HP 3000s goes wherever the tools like ODBC can take it. The reports then flow from non-MPE software like SQL Server or Crystal Reports. That GrowthPower site, new owners of the Minisoft ODBC software, are a small division of a very large corporation. Tribute is not about the size of the IT budget, al it's the integrity that stings when a company gets stunned. Responses to being stunned include resistance, as well as reaching for alternatives.
The alternatives are more affordable for the Powerhouse customer who's only got reporting to replace. The full-development installation of Powerhouse faces a much bigger problem when they get their demand for tribute. They have to move their data's house to another country, if you will—transforming their application's platform. One solution for that is the Core Migration software and services. The transformation is a mighty task, though—a bit like thinking you can become an expat after a lifetime in a country you thought you understood.
While the United States was very new, the young country was put on notice by France. Pay us a stunning sum, said the French, and we won't attack you. The demand sparked a classic cry of resistance from the era of Founding Fathers: "Millions for defense, but not one penny for tribute," said Robert Goodloe Harper. When a 3000 site finds a means to defend its investment in MPE, they're resisting all demands for tribute. When you're lucky, your resistance can be as straightforward as ODBC.
November 07, 2016
Work of 3000s Helps Preserve Democracy
Tomorrow is a very special day in America. In a land called the United States we're going to elect a President to unite us. The kind of future we work toward will be chosen on that day. I'd like it to be the same kind of future the HP 3000 community has always worked toward.
This computer is called a business server because it works to meet the needs of business. A business relationship is at the heart of manufacturing concerns, insurance organizations, e-commerce companies and more. Business is at the heart of good relations with others in our world. MPE/iX software has always been a part of good relations. Much it serves the processes of business like invoicing. Going Forward Together might as well be a way to say Make Relations Through Documents. Business documents are the bedrock of your community.
In the earliest part of our 21st Century, Wirt Atmar was holding a seat as the conscience of this community. The founder of vendor AICS Research railed at HP's plunder of loyal customers, then proposed a Plan B to resist needless change. It was a time of high passions. The most crass and base expressions of the IT pros in our world were on display in the 3000-L listserver in that era. But since this is a republic with freedom of expression, although that trolling was revolting, it was tolerated. Much of that era's tone seems gentle compared to what's assaulted our ears and our spirits since this year began.
Back in 2004, Atmar was teaching his community how affordable Web-based lecture software could give minds a common ground. His QCShow product followed QCTerm, and both of those sprang from the makers of QueryCalc. In an HP World demo and lecture, Atmar explained his belief about how an HP 3000 was an alternative to war and atomic armageddon. These are real prospects for an American future. It feels like a disturbing misfit that anyone devoted to MPE, and having built a life's work from it, should vote for anything but a diplomatic leader.
Atmar had a fascinating background, including a stretch of his life when he worked to estimate and calculate the effects of annihilation. Nuclear throw weights -- the number of tons of atomic bomb to destroy various numbers of people and structures -- were his everyday work as a scientist in a government defense contract. He said he hated every day of his life that he had to wake and perform that work.
In contrast, when he created business tools that delivered invoices and orders, he felt his work spoke to the very root of human decency. Invoices, he said, were the everyday diplomacy of enterprises and organizations. I agree to purchase these goods and services, each would say. I agree to make and deliver them as you ordered, replied each sales receipt. A world still sending invoices, he said, ensured that war and revolt was a poor choice. Invoices were an expression of peace and a shining light for democracy and capitalism.
Something approaching half of America has already voted in this year's Presidential election. For those who have not, asking if a leader should respect business partners, find allies, and preserve relationships with respect— these all are a guide for anyone who's ever programmed or managed an HP 3000. Nobody is perfect. Anyone who wants to lead us should respect invoices, contracts and agreements. Tearing up a legacy is a poor start toward the future. Every HP 3000 community member should agree on that, and agreement is a good start toward where we need to go. We don't need to migrate away from working together and moving forward. Rather than looking back, we should take a hand in making history. Vote tomorrow and make some.
November 02, 2016
Legacy 4GL sites call foul on license ploys
Life is hard enough for any company that's been homesteading with their legacy-grade development applications working over the last 15 years. Some of these 4GLs haven't seen upgrades since before the Obama administration. Now the users of the Powerhouse products are crying foul over transfer or crossover license fees that have become up to 10 times more expensive.
Once tech experts and consultants on a Powerhouse mailing list got the news about a Canadian HP 3000 site facing a $300,000 quote to move Powerhouse onto Linux, stories emerged about the boosted prices for Powerhouse. At Boeing, the Powerhouse applications were a part of a move to the Stromasys Charon emulator. Ray Legault at the IT shop in Boeing said the transfer to an emulated 3000 was a six-figure purchase, and support fees have increased by 35 percent.
"When we went to the Stromasys virtual MPE/iX server, we found that a lot of the Cognos products were supported by Unicom," he noted.
Instead of our legacy HP 3000s where we paid support of $22,000, we now get to pay $30,000 a year. And it expires every year. We also had to pay over $100,000 to move Powerhouse to our HP ProLiant servers that host Charon. Unicom considers the product to be running on a RedHat Linux server and not the HP 3000 emulator, which raises the price.
Legault added that he's got a 10 percent yearly discount on the $30,000, but he's got to call a Unicom VP to receive that discount.
The initial report of this price spike came from James Byrne of Harte & Lyne, a logistics firm. Even though some migration experts think the $300,000 must include services, that $300K quote only covers licenses for Powerhouse and the related, Cognos-built tools like Quiz and QTP. The company dropped Powerhouse support right after HP pulled out of its business model for the 3000. Cognos, owner of Powerhouse at the time, wasn't getting any further support payments from Harte & Lyne.
"There seemed to be no point in paying our money for something that quite evidently was going to receive no more upgrades," Byrne said. "And we were right. The version sold by Unicom today for the HP3000 is 8.39, which happens to be the same version we have been running since late 2001."
The shop has been moving to open source software, although Byrne says the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) strategy has got its issues, too. In the meantime, Powerhouse prices are hitting the six-figure range to move away from HP's 3000 iron. An all-in migration is coming at Harte & Lyne, but the quote will freeze Powerhouse in place. Byrne said Unicom told him they were canceling his license, too.Moving to FOSS will send the 3000 at Hart & Lyne into deep archive mode, or even out of service completely. But moving Powerhouse is getting in the way of that goal. Or to be more accurate, the $300,000 is getting in the way.
In 2003 Core Migration started to sell a package and services that replaced Powerhouse on HP 3000s with Java. It was not inexpensive. However, 2003 was the first year of full-on migration projects which were funded well enough to be meaningful. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote the year we found Core.
Cognos customers have shown concern over the company’s shift toward BI products, and are researching steps to move away from PowerHouse. CORE Migration, a company operating in Cognos’ headquarters city of Ottawa, has put together a migration suite of tools and services to move customers. One CORE white paper tells the story of an ERP software provider, Visaer, that first shifted away from its MPE PowerHouse roots, then off the 4GL altogether. The company decided that the focus at Cognos had moved away from PowerHouse.
There are two ways of accessing the CORE Migration method, paths which may sound familiar to companies which are studying migration options: CORE-Directed, where the company manages the migration start to finish, and Self-Directed, where CORE plans the migration and trains customers to use its tools. CORE’s VP of Sales and Marketing Wayne Lucky said the CORE-Directed option is fastest, and the majority of its engagements are in this method.
“It depends on the skill set of the customer,” he said, “and whether they want to get involved.
Core does this work to this very day. They call it application modernization. When it's over, you have Oracle SQL Server, DB2 or Eloquence at the heart of the modernized app. Other companies are also modernizing Powerhouse apps by replacing them with less-proprietary frameworks. Many include Java.
A six-figure quote to do this migration isn't unusual. Licensing existing software which hasn't been enhanced in more than eight years for a $100,000 fee—on an emulated 3000 server—is unusual, though. The price might not raise as many eyebrows in the IBM mainframe turf, which is one of the markets that the new owners of Powerhouse, Unicom, have grown their business. While Core is reaching out to the Powerhouse list to trigger migrations, Unicom has been communicating one by one with Powerhouse users. Nobody's reporting a change in pricing yet.
October 31, 2016
A Scary Kind of October Surprise
James Byrne, a systems manager at Canadian logistics management firm Harte & Lyne, has reported a hair-raising development at his 3000 shop. A straightforward request to relicense Powerhouse from the MPE/iX version of the software to Linux resulted in an eye-popping quote.
The supplier of the software, Byrne said, has told him they want $300,000 to move the 20-seat license. Byrne noted dryly, "I recently had my decision to move our company away entirely from proprietary software validated in a most dramatic way."
It's always possible, when numbers like this surface on a Powerhouse relicense bid, that the wrong person in the Powerhouse business line has responded to a request for a quote. Byrne reported this exchange on the 3000-L mailing list, but didn't want to name the software vendor of Powerhouse. It used to be Cognos, but that stopped being true many years ago.
In a message of nine years ago, the debut of Powerhouse for Linux seemed tied to the fortunes of Powerhouse for HP-UX.
Cognos continues its ongoing commitment to its PowerHouse customers with the upcoming release of PowerHouse 4GL and PowerHouse Web for Linux. This is a direct port of the industry-leading application development tool that is so successful on other UNIX platforms as well as MPE/iX, OpenVMS, and Windows. User-based pricing for PowerHouse 4GL and PowerHouse Web for Linux is the same as for other UNIX versions. Please contact your Cognos Account Representative for availability.
Byrne said the exchange with the current supplier of Powerhouse licenses ended with a termination of the Harte & Lyne license for the software -- just after he was told the annual support fee for the relicensed copy was going to be $60,000 a year.Hopes ran high for awhile when Powerhouse became part of the Unicom Systems software and services business early in 2014. The corporation has a long history of serving the mainframe and IBM communities with products. This legacy business might have made Powerhouse an attractive acquisition more than two years ago.
But the product was acquired from Cognos by IBM just a matter of months after the Linux version of Powerhouse emerged. Even 2007, people wanted to say that Powerhouse was past its use-by date. It became easy to find companies using HP 3000s who were sticking with it, of course. The University of Idaho State was a notable installation, a 3000 site that's moved on to other platforms by now.
Quotes like the one mentioned in Byrne's post are a good reason to try to take a step away from a development platform tied to the rosiest days of 3000 data processing. It's not easy, though -- and doing the right thing by a relicense can generate quite the October surprise of a quote.
October 28, 2016
A Scheduler Built for You
A job scheduler is a good bedrock for keeping an enterprise humming. But leaving the HP 3000 means leaving a very good scheduler behind. Good news: a Windows-based solution that manages non-3000 hosts is on the market. MBF Scheduler was built with the needs and power of the 3000 in mind, too.
On November 9 a webinar shows the details of this product. A note from the company's vendor, MB Foster:
A Windows Scheduled Task may have worked well in the past. Today, your company has grown, and you've acquired more infrastructure. Do you know what jobs have being scheduled, on which server and at what times?
One of the many achievements of MBF Scheduler is its ability to manage complex batches through queues and a fence, ensuring everything runs in the right order and notifies someone if a job stalls or aborts. With the right solution, automating your processes is both practical and beneficial.
Sign up at the MB Foster website to participate and ask questions. Lots of schedulers for migration platforms offer features. Few of them know what a 3000 shop has grown accustomed to reply upon.
September 12, 2016
HP sells software business to boring buyer
Micro Focus, which has already bought Attachmate (nee WRQ) and Acucorp (maker of a COBOL that was once fine-tuned for the 3000) is now sitting on what HP was selling that Hewlett-Packard Enterprise calls software. Like Autonomy, for example. The latter is probably valued at one-tenth what the-CEO Leo Apotheker's HP board paid for it five years ago. Admiral Grace Hopper's invention has ultimately provided a harbor for HP's exit from the software sector. The buyer builds COBOL.
The entire transaction only costs Micro Focus -- makers of boring software that drives thousands of businesses -- $8.8 billion on paper. HP's is cashing out of software for application delivery management, big data, enterprise security, information management and governance, and IT operations management. With Autonomy in the deal, the company HP purchased for $11 billion in 2011, HPE gets an albatross off its back.
Here's one shakeout: Minisoft is now the only vendor selling 3000-ready terminal emulation that remains under the same vendor brand. WRQ has been absorbed, and HP's out of the terminal business they started with AdvanceLink in the 1980s. (Minisoft's still selling connectivity software to MPE/iX users, too — as in active sales, this year.) HP sells almost zero 3000 software today.
A Reuters report says the HPE move tilts its business mix hard towards hardware, with two-thirds of what's left at HP Enterprise now devoted to a sector with slim margins. HP has stopped much of its operating system development over the last 15 years, casting off OpenVMS and MPE/iX, then stalling HP-UX short of a transformation to Intel-ready software. Instead, MPE/iX got its Intel introduction post-HP, when Stromasys made its Charon HPA the gateway to x86.
NonStop remains a part of to HP's enterprise group and enjoys development, but it's tied to Itanium chips. Nothing left in the Business Critical Systems group -- HP-UX, VMS, NonStop -- gets any love anymore during HP's analyst briefings.
HP software, aside from operating systems, could provide a frustrating experience for 3000 customers. Transact and Allbase were strategic, until they were not. IMAGE got removed from the 3000-bundled status it enjoyed. HP had to farm out its ODBC lab work to keep up during the 1990s.
The deal between HP and Micro Focus gets more unusual when you see that HPE has to pay Micro Focus $2.5 billion in cash. In exchange, HPE shareholders will own 50.1 percent of Micro Focus. HPE wanted to get its software out of its enterprise business and into the hands of a company with business success in software. Micro Focus built its rep on embracing backbone technology like mainframe connectivity and COBOL.HPE's CEO Meg Whitman said that Micro Focus knows how to invest in software. The company, which owns the Reflection product line, is supposed to keep HP's software stable.
"Micro Focus' approach to managing both growing and mature software assets will ensure higher levels of investment in growth areas," Whitman said, "like big data analytics and security, while maintaining a stable platform for software products that customers rely on."
Reliability and boring are sometimes conflated, but a stable platform is often built upon software with both attributes. UBS analyst Steve Milunovich, who tracks HPE, said HP's sell off of assets is "strategy that works well for current shareholders, who gain significant ownership in better-run businesses." A company whose backbone is COBOL now owns HP's software assets — a line that lost its COBOL compiler when the 3000 was dismissed.
August 31, 2016
What To Do To Succeed In Migrations
In the 3000 community a major manufacturer is making its way off its ERP system. It will take years. We've been told not to say who, but the more important element of this story is the what. As in, what not to do to make a clean move away from applications that drive finances and manufacturing.
It's been a struggle, but mostly due to poor project planning and project management. Migration partners who've served the 3000 community pride themselves on the planning deliverable. Without such good planning, "it's taken significantly longer than they thought it would, primarily because they chose to ignore warnings."
The top IT management refused to perform any business process analysis before beginning the project. Business processes have been traced by MPE/iX applications since the 1980s. The software has been lauded for bending to the needs of processes, instead of the other way around. "They knew what they were doing, and didn't think we understood what it would take to implement new systems in our businesses."
Planning comes at a discount as well as with a price. You get the discount when you plan. You pay the price when you don't. Especially in migrating from a legacy system ERP, where the P stands for Planning.
August 24, 2016
Some 3000 magic is beyond SAP's powers
SAP has taken the place of HP 3000 apps in the last 15 years. Not easily and not completely, in some cases. SAP is known for its switches—choices in configurations that sometimes shape the way a company does business. Some enterprises have to bend their practices to fit SAP, instead of the other way around.
At General Mills, SAP replaced just about everything. As it did, the IT manager there thought "If everyone buys and runs the same generic SAP software, how do you get a competitive advantage over your customers? We had spent years creating custom solutions and with SAP, we transformed the business to be... just like everyone else's."
Success stories are out there, too. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said the SAP migration that he's helped with "went brilliantly."
"It's because the implementation was driven by the user departments who knew exactly what they wanted," he said. "They were given responsibility for doing it, so they used about zero external consultancy. All we had to do was extract the data from the HP 3000. Shame that we lost a good customer."
In another instance that Yeo is aware of, the company began replacing their financials and purchasing systems, went on to billing, inventory and sales. "Then they got to the clever stuff that the HP 3000 was doing and failed. 16 years later they are still running an HP 3000 doing the clever stuff."In public, datacenters like that second example are labeled an SAP success story. Every few years someone in IT looks and finds the HP 3000 magic. There is then an idea to replace the magic. Then there is the giving up, and the carrying on.
"Places like that will go off MPE at some point," Yeo said. But it won't be because they make SAP do what the HP 3000 does.
SAP has been called imanagement by golf course or management by magazine, at some 3000 shops. At one building component manufacturer, "senior executives wanted to play with the big boys, and since the big boys were all running SAP, we also had to run SAP. The implementation budget exploded. The initial promoters of the move to SAP—the ones who gloated when HP pulled the plug on the HP 3000—ultimately lost their jobs because of the huge cost and time overruns."
August 03, 2016
Migration's prize: more server surveillance
Servers which replaced the HP 3000s were always delivered with a double-edged sword. More flexible. More complex. Whatever you needed to know about the 3000 could be discovered using tools from Lund, Allegro and other vendors. The products had their fans and the companies always pointed out the differences in reporting and tracking capabilities.
Now another 3000 vendor, MB Foster, is teaming up with Bradmark to serve the non-3000 environments: the Windows, Linux and Unix servers that replaced MPE systems. Bradmark's Surveillance software is being resold by MB Foster. Resale often means extra value to the customer, employing services and expertise. There's a webinar on the product next Wednesday, August 10 at 2PM EDT. IT management needs vary, but there are commonalities. Some of the surveillance capability of these migration platforms simply was not possible using MPE/iX tools. Not even HP's pricier ones.
CPU, disk IO, memory, swap space, file system and process resource utilization can be monitored for the migration target platforms using Surveillance. The software works using a central repository, so a homogenous blend of these servers is handled from a single software console.
The software's list of supported server platforms is broad. In order of 3000 migrator's popularity, Windows Server 2003 or later; Linux x64 - x86; HP-UX, both PA-RISC and Itanium; IBM's Linux POWER and AIX Unix; Solaris SPARC, Solaris x64. Even HP's Tru64 can be included among Surveillance agents. There's also a Surveillance for database administration.
A database administrator can "Execute customized rule sets and event handlers, tailored to specific requirements, for immediate alert notification, or to take remedial action. Use Surveillance’s Central Repository to store historical performance and utilization information for root-cause determination, capacity planning, or service-level reports." Even in an environment where all four of the above databases were deployed, Oracle, Sybase, DB2, and SQL Server can all report history to a single repository.
Database administration is more complex on migrated platforms, in part because the data services are more flexible and powerful. It's good to have more hefty tools to shepherd the data. The MB Foster webinar will explain that, with the opportunity to ask questions. Bradmark has an overview on its website done up in Flash, but it's a few minutes to see something a good datasheet would reveal.
July 29, 2016
HP's Unix Demise, and Rise of the Machine
Alternatives to MPE/iX and HP 3000s amount to about four choices. Windows, Unix, Linux, and non-HP environments comprise this list that migration projects assess. Most of the time the choice leads to an application or a suite of apps to replace the MPE computing. When the door of migration has been kicked open by an environment re-boot, though, then discussion of operating systems is worth time spent in study.
HP-UX came of age in an era when the 3000 became the old-era product on Hewlett-Packard strategy slide decks. Unix was an open environment in a simple review. Deeper study showed most Unixes carried a stamp of the vendor selling the OS. HP's was no different. Now the demise of HP-UX is being debated, especially among those who do their work in that environment. Almost 4,000 members of an HP-UX Users group on LinkedIn heard from Bill Hassell about the future of HP-UX.
"Reports of the demise of HP-UX are greatly exaggerated," he said in reply to a taunt from Dana French, a fan of IBM's Unix. The lack of a major Version 12 release is of no concern, either.
Itanium and HP-UX are dead? This is definitely not the case as the attendees at the HP-UX BootCamp found out in April. HP-UX will be fully supported on current and future hardware beyond 2020. With the addition of de-dupe on VxFS filesystems and containers for legacy systems, new features will continue to expand the most stable OS in enterprise server offerings. The lack of version 12 is an acknowledgement to hundreds of application providers (not just Oracle) that a major release number change is very costly in regression testing and certification. Instead, major functionality is released as an update to 11.31.
HP hasn't been the greatest help in telling this story of the stable HP-UX's holdout, a tale that's important to several thousand 3000 users who've migrated to HP-UX since 2002. Instead, another version of The Machine, the HP computer intended to make all others obsolete, will appear like it's been transported from a starship. This is a product with no known OS. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise doesn't talk much about operating systems. The Machine has been touted this year like it's a keystone to the future. That's why Star Trek's images have been employed to let this tech vision rise up.
There's nothing wrong with continuing to use HP-UX, according to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. The future belongs to another platform, though. In one of the more surprising aspects to the story about The Machine, the man who hawked it hardest will soon retire from HP. Martin Fink did a lot of work on behalf of keeping HP-UX in orbit, too. It's a matter of debate about how quickly that orbit is degrading.
Fink is the first leader of HP Labs to leave the company in mid-project. Just as this year's prototype of The Machine edges into reality, he'll take his three decades of Hewlett-Packard experience into retirement. CEO Meg Whitman said “Martin has had a remarkable career, driving some of our most important initiatives, including our cloud, open source and Linux strategies, and leading the Business Critical Systems division and The Machine." She added that he left his mark on HP.
We'll overlook the marks of performance from the Business Critical Systems division of HP. It holds the future of HP-UX in its hands, but it's a group that C-level HP management has written off as a money-maker. The Machine is getting the television ad time this month, not HP-UX.
MPE/iX once was hungry for attention, too. It mattered even more to the 3000 user than this month's ads matter to Integrity server sites. The 3000 clan was already beset by HP's inattention inside the company. Hassell and others say that an April BootCamp for HP-UX and a Kittson chip to run the OS look like a steady future.
Just like the NewsWire and its sponsors have a dog in the 3000 fight, Hassell has decades of knowledge and expertise in the struggle for HP-UX. When Hassell stops setting the record in place about the OS, then the 3000 converts to HP-UX will know the end is near. He's says that there's another nine years of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise support in the pipe.
That will be nine years that HP uses to try to make The Machine something more real than a prop in a Star Trek commercial. There's no BootCamp for the memristor memory substrate, silicon photonics, a new operating system, and customized chips, all essentials to The Machine. The HP project for the future of another Enterprise — yours — has been a talking point for more than two years. HP talked about a 3000 architecture replacement for more than five years before anything shipped.
If The Machine is lucky enough to earn the attention that HP gave to PA-RISC, then HP-UX will still have eight years of support left when the first Machine goes out of the HP Labs doors. Fink might be there in an emeritus role to wave it into the future. The timeline above shows The Machine shipping in 2018, but HP walked back that plan last year. PA-RISC had its delays too, but it was still part of HP Labs director Frank Carrubba's job when the first systems emerged in 1987. HP credits him as one of two inventors. The other was Joel Birnbaum, the scientist who campaigned for RISC adoption after he came to HP in 1981 from IBM.
The Machine is rising in a different manner than the PA-RISC architecture which made the HP-UX takeover a reality. The realism kicks in for The Machine because HP said it will "accelerate the time it takes to drive technology from research and development to commercialization. We will move Hewlett Packard Labs into the Enterprise Group." And so pure research takes its dive into a product organization at HP. Fink is the last director of an autonomous HP Labs to hold the job.
The customers who invested in HP's prior offering for vendor-specific tech—those HP-UX users—must now rely on Fink's management vision to carry them into a new generation of their Enterprise. Linux on Intel is a more likely next-generation for HP's Unix customers. It's a choice that needs no special vision. Linux is the open system software that HP-UX was touted to become. The migration to Linux is already underway at 3000 sites which adopted HP's Unix. They're can't tap the power of a transporter, but then neither can HP.
July 22, 2016
3000-free Southwest suffers airline IT crash
Three straight days of system outages cost Southwest Airlines more than $10 million in lost fares this week. The company's COO Mike Van de Ven said that the router crashes which started the meltdown are not uncommon. But then the routers triggered Web server crashes. Finally, the company's disaster recovery plan failed to save the IT operations. Social media posts from customers complained of delayed flight departures and arrivals and an inability to check in for flights on Southwest's website. The running count by Friday morning was 700 canceled flights, with another 1,300 delayed. People could not get to gates without boarding passes.
Customers running 3000s through the 1990s might remember Southwest as a shining star in the MPE/iX galaxy. The system came online with ticketless travel using MPE/iX software developed at Morris Air. When Southwest started to skip the paper, it was one of the very first major airlines to do so. Dispensing with paper tickets was possible because of the 3000's unparalleled reliability.
Stranding an estimate 4,000 customers was never a part of the 3000's history at Southwest. The computer was the dominant ticketing tool in an era before the elaborate security checks in the US. From Wednesday through today, customers on thousands of its flights could not check in at kiosks or via those web servers. The IT failure happened as the Republican National Convention closed out its Cleveland circus.
It's commonplace for a system vendor who's been shown the door, like the 3000 group was in the first decade of this century, to say "It wasn't on our watch" when a crash like this hits. But being commonplace won't recover those millions of dollars of revenues. Maybe they were a small fraction of the overall savings while leaving the 3000. The reliability of an airline is worth a lot more than delivery of a product, though, like an auto. Hertz was a 3000 shop for many years, and their portion of the travel business didn't suffer these woes, either.
Both companies made their IT 3000-free while the worst fact about the system was that HP stopped selling it. They both had plans to expand, strategies MPE/iX wasn't going to be able to handle easily, too. When a vendor ends their business plans for a server, the sweater of coverage unravels one thread at a time. Mission-critical systems are never supposed to leave a publicly traded company naked from the waist up, however.Mission-critical design of air carrier IT architecture failed this week. In the ultra-competitive market for travel Southwest took a black eye that will cost several times more in lost sales than this week's travel refunds. Anxious travelers or crucial flyers will skip a Southwest flight for awhile. Travel has immense mission-critical demands.
The company's CEO Gary Kelly had to tell reporters something that founding CEO Herb Kelleher never was faced with. "We have significant redundancies built into our mission-critical systems, and those redundancies did not work," Kelly said in a conference call. "We need to understand why and make sure that that doesn't happen again." Southwest's chief commercial officer said every customer affected on Wednesday or Thursday would be contacted. The company extended for a week a fare sale scheduled that was supposed to end July 21.
Southwest also had to contact the travelers affected Friday, too. The contacting of vendors involved was not part of the stories this week. This would not be a good week to be the CIO at Southwest. Randy Sloan got the job this year, inheriting decisions like making Southwest 3000-free. Until Wednesday, that decision didn't seem like a risk.
In related news, Southwest extended its July fare sale by one week.
July 20, 2016
Manufacturing alternatives rise for 3000 sites
HP 3000 sites are migrating away from their ERP and MRP applications. One of the largest MANMAN users in the world on MPE/iX has started its transition to SAP. That's a long journey for a company with almost a dozen manufacturing sites. But SAP and other software has the potential to give companies customization, features and flexibility beyond MANMAN. It's not to say that MANMAN can't do the job, but the effort to change it requires expertise at many steps.
One of the experts in MANMAN — arguably the leading advisors — say that software designed in the modern era improves ERP for longtime MANMAN users. For example, says Terry Floyd at the Support Group, the software at Nissan Calsonic's US plant made the leap from MANMAN to IFS, a project that Floyd's group engineered and completed this spring.
"IFS is much more suited to what Nissan Calsonic is doing than MANMAN ever was," Floyd said. "They had more modifications [to MANMAN] than anybody." The number of the mods slows the march of change. It also shows how far the business processes of users have drifted beyond the stock architecture of MANMAN. A product like IFS was built to accommodate pinpoint processes, in part because IFS was built at the dawn of the object-oriented era.
IFS has its basis in the late '80s, early '90s, he explained, and pieces of that ERP solution "have some of the earliest object-oriented programming stuff ever written. So IFS has a heck of a head start on other products. They're rewritten things a few times and changed interfaces like everybody has to, in order to stay modern.""Kenandy seems simpler than IFS," he added, "on purpose." This other alternative to MANMAN is now in the works at the Support Group, which is implementing Kenandy at Disston Tools.
"Sandy Kurtzig [who founded the MANMAN line] really wanted to simplify it this time," Floyd said, referring to her Kenandy team's architecture. "She always said that about MANMAN, and it was truly simpler compared to IBM at the time." That's the early 1980s Floyd's talking about, when MANMAN was helping the 3000 rise up beyond 10,000 systems installed worldwide. It seems like a small number here in 2016, but those were simpler, smaller times. People ran manufacturing on batch processing. MANMAN "was the early conversational data entry system. But things are more automated now than ever."
"Kenandy is all one thing, and that's the biggest surprise," he said. "It's not a bunch of modules. It does everything you need, from general ledger to fixed assets to payables. It's not like you buy an extra module to manage your fixed assets. It's free, included in Kenandy. This makes Kenandy really different from everything [used for ERP]. Everything else has modules." Modules have to talk to one another, he explained, so having one application instead of modules makes Kenandy superior, even to more modern solutions like IFS. "But only because it's 20 to 30 years newer."
July 15, 2016
An HP chieftain's last dream is Trumped
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were HP's most famous CEOs, but aside from the founders, the most notorious HP chieftain was Carly Fiorina. With the news today of Donald Trump's VP candidate choice -- not Carly, but an Indiana governor with genuine political chops -- this may be the time when Ms. Fiorina finally settles into that Fox News chair which is the terminus of her trail. As the picture above recalls, announcing Trump's rival Ted Cruz as the next President, then falling through a trap door onstage, might have ended her political hijinks.
Or not. Nobody can be really sure what Ms. Fiorina will do next, which seemed to make her an ideal pairing with The Donald. Unlike the presumptive nominee, she's better known by her first name, as if she was Cher or Hillary. So what follows will cite her as Carly.
I've written about this shiny and shallow CEO since her first day. In 1999, in a July of 17 years ago there was still an active 3000 business to manage at HP. We probably have different reasons to relay a smarmy track record of Carly's at HP, but the headlline "Carly Fiorina pans TSA on Yelp" pretty much sums up how she's always trying to fail better, apparently to teach us her new rules. Yelp, after all, is not so fraud-proof.
Her latest birthday cake was decorated with her Super PAC's logo. It was a show of hubris as raw as forcing out Dave Packard's son from the board of his father's company, or trying to get that board to pay five times what PriceWaterhouse turned out to be worth.
Carly pushed the HP cart into a ditch when she loaded it with Compaq, but she was just one of several CEOs in a row, all hired from outside HP, who ransacked R&D and spent acquisition money like it came off a Monopoly game board. Carly, Hurd, Apotheker. Three people whose smell of success has helped HP focus on enterprise computing once again -- after Carly yoked the company to those Compaq tigers who took over the company's spiritual campus. At least HP's business computing organization got the ProLiant out of it all.
An old friend of the 3000 at HP who watched the wreck of Carly break onto company shores recently marked his 30th anniversary with the system. Carly was called She Who Must Not Be Named inside the workplace, but SWMNBN's CEO behavior was a slap in HP's face as sharp as anything in 2016 politics.
SHMNBN’s disregard for ‘the little people’ has long been demonstrated. Her inability to sync with the company middle management was evidenced by a growth in employment during her self-declared hiring freeze. Then when the cuts did come, rather than having your boss or lab manager inform you, some VP you’d never met invited you to a meeting and delivered the news. From where I sat hard it was to tell if she was just a person encased in an over inflated bubble of self-regard who’s lost touch with reality.
This may be the last time we'll have Carly to kick around, as President Nixon said of himself in 1962. That didn't turn out to be true, either.
"I will agree that the Proliant continues to be a strong product," said the anniversary employee, "one important to migrating HP 3000 sites. Although she couldn’t have foreseen the Oracle stab in the back which basically killed the already declining proprietary UX business, she did establish a base that gives HPE a stronger position than organic HP (Netserver) probably have had on its own."
Which proves that nothing is completely worthless, even as it appears so after thorough scrutiny. "There's got to be a pony in there somewhere," goes the joke about mucking out an impossibly foul stall. ProLiant and a base for HPE might be Carly's pony. She might also be holding out for a cabinet spot. Secretary of Commerce might be above her skill set, though.
July 06, 2016
Low-code solutions give ERP a new face
ERP software such as MANMAN has always carried a burden: it's most useful when it's been modified. Mods, as the customization is called, locks a company into the technology and business choices of the past, though. The old style ERP demanded coding to stay fluent. Software of today wants to avoid all that.
Salesforce, whose engine drives the Kenandy ERP replacement for MANMAN and the like, says that "Low-code development platforms are transforming the way we build apps, opening up app development to a whole new world of point-and-click app developers and designers." Watching a demonstration from the Support Group's Terry Floyd of Kenandy showed how straightforward fine-tuning has become—once you know the settings to make the software dance.
Floyd's company has started taking Disston Tools to Kenandy, leaving behind more than two decades of MANMAN use and a heavy reliance on EDI software bolted into MANMAN. Floyd is providing in-service experience to Disston, based on his own company's use of Kenandy. "It's overkill for us to run our [consulting and development] company on," he said, "but we've learned so much about how to set it up for our clients."
There's configuration to set up internal email in Kenandy for example, the Chatter that can attach notes and comments to items like purchase orders. Kenandy always billed itself as Social ERP for this reason. It puts a new face on how resource planning should work. But it also gives companies of all sizes a way to take charge of changes with less programming.Not zero coding, to be sure. But knowing your way around FORTRAN used to be essential to modifying MANMAN, if your company was lucky enough to have source code to mod. Salesforce explains low-code this way.
- Empowers citizen developers and business analysts to build apps without code
- Turns manual spreadsheets and paper processes into apps
- Builds an agility layer on top of back-office systems
"It's so darn flexible," Floyd says, sitting at a PC and driving Kenandy through an everyday browser. "It's a lot of setup, to set up all the reports that you want to make your income statement, your trial balance, all populated with your accounts. We took our installation of Kenandy completely empty, and we've learned so much in setting it up for our company."
When Kenandy talks about empowering citizen programmers — apparently less-technical employees who can shape the software to fit a company's needs — it's light years away from a MANMAN customer's experience. A manufacturing company can get so deep into mods that it no longer can change the ERP package. Source code gets lost over three decades of use. An ERP solution that can be as flexible as source-mod solutions, but leave room for deep customization, is what Floyd's company is bringing to Disston.
June 27, 2016
Refitting Migration to Look Like Emulation
In a webinar about emulation solutions last week, MB Foster offered a new take on some old tools. The subject was an exam of what 3000 sites could do if their budgets didn't let them take on a full migration on their own. Viewers heard about Stromasys Charon, of course, a software tool that has always proposed the OS in charge will remain the same: MPE/iX. The hardware gets emulated.
The webinar took note of some Charon considerations, but none that haven't already surfaced. Software must be licensed to the new Charon emulated hardware. The greatest percentage of vendors are making that transfer a formality. Many don't even charge a fee to move from HP's PA-RISC iron to the emulated hardware. Of those who do, the fee can be nominal. Issues about revising hardcoded IP addresses were mentioned. Issues about historic data procedures and archival come up for any solution that changes things.
The other solutions in the webinar didn't have any of their issues examined.
On the subject of those other emulation solutions in MB Foster's perspective, some well-established products received a new label. Eloquence, the database that doesn't run under MPE/iX but has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility Mode, got its seven minutes of fame. The Marxmeier product has always been sold as a migration tool. For years the ads on this blog called it "Image migration at its best." Users on the call testified to the strong value of Eloquence.
Another third party tool, resold and supported by MB Foster, got a mention in the webinar and a label as an emulation solution. Ti2SQL, software that moves IMAGE data to SQL databases, was released by Ordat in the early years of the migration era. In 2003, Expeditors International included ORDAT’s Ti2SQL in Expeditors' rollout away from the 3000 because the software emulates IMAGE inside a relational database. The end result produced CLI calls native to a Unix-based database.
"Ti2SQL uses CLI," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "Think of it as going to a complete native environment, while leveraging/using all of the business logic developed on/for the HP. Additionally, Ti2SQL allows someone to go to an off-path server and database, such as AIX and DB2."
"MBFA used the term emulation to capture the interest HP 3000 group," Whitehead said about the webinar. "I would put down the items discussed as emulation solutions. eZ-MPE mimics the HP 3000," he said of the software suite that MB Foster first announced in 2013.
A hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier, eZ-MPE aims 3000 sites at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for MPE/iX sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications. At the time, the company said
It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term. You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.
"We call it a hybrid," Whitehead said this week. "It allows an HP 3000 client to migrate, protect their investment in code developed for the HP — while leveraging the native database environment as part of your long range plans to go in that direction."
Emulation is a long-pursued goal for the 3000 customer who's needed to stay with MPE/iX. The word was charged with hope and potential from the very start of the period where HP wanted its 3000 users to turn off MPE/iX servers. 3000 users believe the definition of emulation is a tool or service that makes an environment pretend that it's something they already use.
"You might use the word ‘pretend’," Whitehead said in a follow-up after the webinar. "I might say mimic, but for the most part you are emulating. Wouldn’t you agree that ‘emulate is the better word?"
No matter what's chosen among the four solutions discussed in the webinar, users need services to do a transition well. Stromasys now sells its emulator in no other way except with installation services and proof of concepts. MB Foster said in its bulk email about the webinar that some 3000 sites cannot afford to migrate. Each of its solutions that were framed as emulation "needs to be investigated, and a path can be chosen that best suits the companies' long range plans, risk, corporate hardware architecture and databases, plus the cost of getting there."
June 24, 2016
A Hybrid Solution to Staying and Going
Editor's note: we ran the following story about eZ-MPE on the product's announcement three years ago. The software suite came up for mention during this week's MB Foster webinar, and since it's offered as a modern solution, it seems useful to revisit the original release story.
MB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE, and it’s aiming customers at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for HP 3000 sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications.
Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead.
“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.”
For example, the database environment mimics the IMAGE database, Whitehead said. A command line utility manages other functions and data types.
The eZ-MPE solution evolved during the migrating of custom code for customers into a Windows environment, the target environment for eZ-MPE migrations. For example, MBF Scheduler has been replacing the features and comprehensive functionality of HP 3000 batch scheduler and job control software including independently managed queues and a “job fence”, mimicking a module which is embedded in MPE/iX.The company’s familiarity with the HP 3000 way of computing management is designed to set eZ-MPE apart from prior efforts to bring across 3000 customers. AMXW, built by Neartek at the start of this century, as well as Ordina’s MPUX, don’t deliver the full range of the MB Foster product, said Whitehead. Lock-in with those other solutions is automatic. There’s no easy way to embrace the best of Windows or Unix.
The biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment.
“It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term,” Whitehead said. “You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.” He said in the company’s engagements with enterprise clients, the sites want to leverage benefits of the new native environment, not just migrate quickly.
Portions of the eZ-MPE package which Whitehead mentioned included a target database for Windows, VPlus screens converted and modernized, a file system library similar to the 3000’s “but one that specifically handles nuances and translations between KSAM and itself.” Utilities include other aspects of handling implementations of items like sorting, merging, log-ins including UDCs, the job control language. “All of those things are necessary within a 3000 environment — but as you transition, they’re also necessary in the Windows world.”
MB Foster is already working with a customer using eZ-MPE, and that customer has implemented the environment, Whitehead said. “It’s been thoroughly tested. It was the original thought we had for this customer, and eZ-MPE is more effective for them than re-writing to a native port.”
Software for migrating data, entire databases, scripts and more has been in the MB Foster stable for several years. Some of the solutions, like the data migration products, have been working in production environments since the late 1980s. Lately, the company has begun to sell some of its software — previously used only for services engagements — to sites for their internal IT use.
More recently, UDAExpress has been developed to take the place of the 3000’s scripting ability. The other product which has had a standalone lifecycle and has become a part of eZ-MPE is MBF Scheduler. Both of those products work exclusively in the Windows environment to replace MPE capabilities. More recently, the UDALink tool including reporting, JDBC and ODBC access was migrated to work with HP’s Itanium servers in the Unix environment.
The vendor has no announced plans to deploy eZ-MPE to any Unix or Linux environments, including HP-UX. They say most 3000 customers who are still on the move want Windows.
“On most days, our clients are looking for a Windows-type of solution,” Whitehead said.” They feel the Windows environment is now stable enough and scalable enough. They’ve had enough exposure to that environment and the Microsoft suite of products. ” Even within any Unix environment, Windows servers will be part of the solution.
eZ-MPE has a menuing system as a native part of its environment; this handles the operations of UDCs running on HP 3000s, as well as “VEsoft MPEX environments,” Whitehead said. A system layer capability handles all system calls and translations.
eZ-MPE manages the nuances of VPlus screens, controls access to applications, and uses its own file system library for call management and translation between KSAM and relational databases. Its IMAGE library converts TurboIMAGE calls to ODBC calls, and facilitates a move to a native environment as part of a site’s long-range plans.
The value of MBF eZ-MPE is more encompassing than simply screen handling, file systems, and databases. A typical in-house developed business application includes scripting, sorting, merging, logins, job control (JCL), FTP services, and scheduling requirements. MBF eZ-MPE includes solutions for all of these as well.
It’s also aimed at 3000 sites which are not using packaged applications. By process of elimination, that is still most of the HP 3000 customers who continue to use the platform.
“Its real target is for organizations that have custom code, and want to preserve it,” Whitehead said, “and also want to transition to a supportable platform.”
The MB Foster software, which is also tied to services such as an assessment of existing environment, offers more range than emulated solutions, according to Whitehead. “We’re not locking anybody into an environment,” he said. “We’re allowing the 3000 customers to modernize, change and grow and prosper — not only with the eZ-MPE environment, but slowly over time, to move away from it, to a native Windows environment too.”
June 20, 2016
Solitary backup tape spurs fresh MPE plea
When a 3000 site did its backups recently, the process did more than protect data on the business server. The procedure made a case for moving off the original HP 3000 hardware. Or keeping a couple of key tapes well protected.
Last week Greg Terterian left a request on 3000-L for help with a client. "They had problems with their disk storage and were going to do a reload," he said. "However, when backing up they were using the same tape over and over for the past three years."
As you might imagine, a solitary piece of backup media used repeatedly developed a problem over those years. The tape's no good. "Now they want to know if they can get or purchase, or if someone will be willing to donate, the MPE/iX 7.5 operating system."
There used to be a way to request new media for MPE/iX from HP, but that's a part of the 3000's legacy by now. Client Systems could once handle upgrade requests for part of the MPE/iX subsystem, but they were not answering calls at the start of 2016. The last HP 3000 distributor, Client Systems' domain is now parked.
Whether Terterian's client gets replacement MPE/iX files isn't the point of the story. (If you're donating, his email address is here.) The lesson is that a single backup tape is a solution that HP's hardware can let you stumble into, because restoring from tape is the norm for non-virtualized MPE/iX systems. If you're using an emulated 3000, however, your backup and bootup happens using disk files off images stored on stock PC hard drives. You could even back up to a cloud service like CrashPlan or Carbonite, if your MPE server runs off such Intel PC hardware.A solitary tape for backups is better than no backup at all, but holding onto a CSLT tape with the operating system on it is a bedrock practice. Best of all would be to eliminate the need for tape backups by using disk images. Charon does this as its way of creating MPE/iX volumes, including LDEV 1.
A donation of a tape with only MPE/iX on it would have to include no company data on it. A CSLT is a crucial component of the HP-based 3000 experience. You can't recover a 3000 only from a nightly backup.
"If your nightly backup is using SYSGEN to output to tape," says 3k Associates' Chris Bartram, "plus you have it set up appropriately, then you could recover from a nightly backup, but that's not common. Normally you should maintain a separate CSLT (actually two copies, to be safe) made after you have done any system configuration changes."
It's key, this CSLT, to homesteading. Overlooking the CSLT is so common that even some admin pros have done it from time to time. For one such pro, an A-Class 3000 was rebuilt and had its apps consolidated. But the rebuilt system didn't have its CSLT freshened, which was discovered when the boot volume failed.
We lost LDEV1 in the 'system' volume-set. The apps and databases are fine, but I'd neglected to make a fresh CSLT once the rebuild/configure/setup was complete. Fortunately, all the data volumes are protected with Mirror/iX -- but rebuilding the system volume accounts, network config, administration jobs and so on has been a pain.
An honest mistake like this is not one you need to make yourself. Even if, as another 3000 consultant notes, your shop has gone into Frugal Mode while it makes in-house migration moves. You have the right to be wrong in Frugal Mode. But you really don't want that right, unless you've got plenty of extra time.
June 15, 2016
Throwback of mid-June marks much change
Amid the midpoint of June, we have reported a lot of change in that month of the 3000 community's calendar. In the blog's first year of 2005, this report said HP's Unix was named in about a third of migrations.
HP-UX gains in later results (2005)
These revised percentage totals keep Windows in the lead. But with 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments to us, HP-UX has managed to poke above the 30 percent mark, to just about one-third of the target platform choices.
And there remains in the community a vibrant devotion to migrating to Windows. Linux was less than 10 percent back then. How enterprise tastes have changed.
MPE-Education.com becomes the hub for 3000 training as of this week, since HP has called off its training courses for the platform. Many companies still have years of HP 3000 use in front of them.
Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith revitalized HP's 3000 training materials and put the education experience online at $1,750 a seat. The market didn't materialize for the noble, useful service.
So much to see, so far to go (2007)
On a rack in one of the Mandalay Bay's wide lobbies at the Encompass show — lobbies so wide that a semi truck can pass unfettered — a stand of adhesive badges sparkles. The array of ribbons stamped with silver letters lays out the known future for an HP customer or prospect.
To no one's surprise, no "MPE/iX" ribbons. This is a conference which looks toward a new future with HP, instead of the past, or MPE's ongoing tomorrow without the vendor. 3000 community members are coming here to make plans for something new from HP—or hear from vendors and experts about how to make better use of something else from Hewlett-Packard.
The new Las Vegas digs for the annual user group show "improved its curb appeal," said the user group president. A sprawling show in a Vegas casino resort still showed off HP-UX training. "Windows on HP" suggested the vendor was scrabbling to keep customers on its platform.
"We did a lot of work in that area," said HP's Jim Hawkins at the Tech Forum. "For a lot of patches that have been languishing in beta test status, we've been able to move them into General Release status so they can be downloaded from the HP ITRC, which makes them freely available."
Indeed, those patches remain free if a 3000 customer knows how to ask for them. Help from an independent support vendor remains a good way to stay in touch with what HP might've forgotten—or which of those patches you ought to avoid.
But while a 3000 issues list logs many HP decisions, some key items remain unresolved.The issue with the broadest potential impact on homesteading customers appears to be resources for the HP 3000 hardware emulator project.
HP didn't release test suites it used to develop MPE/iX, for example. It would be three more years until Stromasys released the Charon emulator. This was the year HP started to change its mind about helping out.
The new Windows-based MBF Scheduler grew up in MB Foster’s labs, nourished by the experience of engagements with several sites migrating from the 3000.The 3000’s depth of scheduling was integrated into the environment from the early days of system delivery. The cloned feature set reminds migrators of what they’ve learned to rely upon.
MBF Scheduler is still the Windows job scheduler that accommodates MPE procedures best. Experience from "true, red-blooded sites" gave the software its feature set.
At one end there's a 20-year-old 927 server still working in a production setting. At the other end, the most powerful 3000s built by HP are now less than $10,000, at least in a spare-parts or hot DR offering with your own licenses.
Prices for N-Class servers have been quoted below $4,000 this year. That 927 may still be working. That's what the indie support companies make possible.
In a Wall Street Journal interview, new CEO Meg Whitman tossed off a message that HP-UX is on its way to the Intel Xeon processor line.
To answer the question: not. The heir apparent to the MPE enterprise-class datacenter will be on Itanium chips for the forseeable future.
Even among the potential allies for the Stromasys emulator, uncertainty is afoot. In a conversation with a reseller last week about the product, he was not sure that IMAGE was a part of the solution. People approach the Charon emulator from their best-known persepective, and in most cases that’s MPE/iX and its database. Good news: Charon doesn’t emulate any of that software. It simply uses what Hewlett-Packard created and installed on everyone's 3000.
This remains a misunderstood point among 3000 customers with very old hardware. The MPE/iX operating system runs the same on Charon as it does on HP's iron.
June 13, 2016
2016 Advice: Emulate Your 3000 System
No kidding, the above strategy is bona fide. It will be online, with time for your questions, next Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern.
MB Foster has a novel webinar scheduled next week, and no, that's not an hour about writing a bestseller. The Web meeting on June 22 will walk through four different HP 3000 emulation options. All of them will mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce year over year costs. In the end, every one of them should use MPE/iX apps, if they are bona fide emulations. Why else would you be emulating? The webinar promises a tour of how to replace the 3000 hardware, it seems.
As hardware emulation goes — and that's the most popular agent of change — there's only one supplier that we know about. Over the last three years Stromasys has enlisted HP 3000 advocates and experts and customers to embrace the Charon software. We're told that each new customer seems to draw out another.
There are other ways to consider emulation, however. Some of them have been around a long time, if preservation of in-house MPE/iX apps is the goal. AMXW was a sort of emulator: Automated Migration to UniX and Windows. It's a shell that runs atop those two platforms, plus Linux and IBM's Unix, connecting to commodity databases and surround-code tools while preserving the 3000's app code.
"MPE speciﬁcs, such as JCL batch jobs, ﬁle equations, JCW, UDCs, command ﬁles and variables are all supported — allowing the MPE environment to run as is on the new platform." Okay, this is probably a migration solution. You're not supposed to need to change your apps, though. HP's 3000 hardware gets dropped, too.
The two other options? We'll be online to see what they are. Registration is online at the MB Foster website, as always.
You can't say that emulation is the right choice for everybody who needs to change things. Cloud-based ERP and manufacturing is on the horizon from Kenandy, for example, a company with ASK MANMAN roots. Terry Floyd of the The Support Group says Kenandy is MANMAN done better, because the software seems simpler. He's developed and managed MANMAN installs since the 3000 was very new. Floyd goes to work migrating Disston Tools off MANMAN starting next month.
We agree that any range of emulation options must mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce costs. Risk is in the eye of the manager; we've said that since 2002, when the Transition Era started. Foster says moving away is too risky and costly for customers who have data on HP 3000s.
"Hewlett Packard said it was obsolete 10 years ago," today's teaser email began, "so why are people still running production environments on the HP 3000? We asked the same question. Much of the time, it is too risky and too costly for them to move."
Emulation has its costs, too. The Stromasys option starts at $9,000 for a permanent license — the kind nearly all of the Charon customers buy, says Doug Smith — and then there's efficient and powerful Intel hardware to buy. Although Charon has been demoed many times on a laptop, a computer with a lid which closes is not the sort to run your commercial computing.
But compared to the expense of hiring out for advice on replacement software (you oughta do that) and implementing a package on locally-hosted servers that behaves differently than employees expect (identical functionality is rare unless Charon HPA's installed) and retraining everybody (IT and users) about the new environment — Charon can be very effective as an emulation. Less costly, probably, than anything but staying on the HP hardware that's at least 13 years old today. At least.
The other elements in the equation are investment protection. That's actually what an independent support company does today (yup, Pivital Solutions) to keep hardware that's in place running. Plus all of the company's experience keeping MPE/iX on its toes.
Companies emulate because they recognize value in the original investment. The unmistakeable value lies in the data. Every kind of emulation protects that asset. Foster says the apps are crucial too.
An emulator retains the value of the application long term, while removing the risk of running on old hardware. Being in an emulation environment also stabilizes the development of surround code, reduces disruption to the business, and avoids the need to re-train employees.
May 25, 2016
MANMAN to journey to cloud-based ERP
The first project to move a MANMAN HP 3000 site to Kenandy's cloud-based ERP has an official start date. Terry Floyd and his team at The Support Group have a one-year mission to move Disston Tools from MANMAN to the Kenandy software, starting at the beginning of July. A manufacturer whose roots go back to 1840, Disston is dependent on EDI, an aspect that will help to prove that Kenandy is a good fit for MANMAN migrators.
"It’s an incredible ERP system – a completely new design concept and paradigm for ERP," Floyd said of Kenandy. "There are no modules; it’s all one thing. It has amazing functionality… and it's ready for MANMAN companies now, as I predicted four years ago."
Like many MANMAN sites on the HP 3000, Disston has a complicated company structure and MANMAN has been modified. Floyd has an insider advantage in leading the journey away from MPE/iX, "since I first started working on their FORTAN in 1986." He adds that they have given themselves a year "to get everything right and do one big cutover." He's been a guru for MANMAN sites through the software's many owners, from the earliest days when he worked for ASK Computer, then on his own and into MANMAN's Computer Associates days, forward to the SSA Global era, and finally to Infor's current stewardship of MANMAN. Kenandy feels like old blood, in a good way, he said.
"All of us [at the Support Group] spent a week at Kenandy Partner Training sessions. We met everybody and what a group they are. It’s just like ASK in 1980." By that Floyd means the creators of MANMAN, ASK. The company's founder Sandy Kurtzig was crucial to getting Kenandy's software ready for the marketplace. Floyd has been talking about the solution since 2011, pegging it as a good destination for MANMAN sites who want to leave the HP 3000.The HP 3000 was just celebrating its final Reunion in the fall of 2011 when Kenandy started showing off its designs to CAMUS, the user group devoted to what we once called CIM, or Computer Integrated Manufacturing. After seeing a 30-minute presentation at a CAMUS meeting held during Reunion Week, Floyd noted one big advantage to Kenandy: its design and development came from Kurtzig, who crept just a bit out of retirement decades after building the first generation of MANMAN.
Floyd said almost five years ago that re-thinking is the key to making a new generation of manufacturing software.
I think Sandra Kurtzig has done it again with the new Kenandy “no-ERP” manufacturing applications. Kenandy was developed over the last year and a half using the Salesforce toolsets which really gave them a good head start. It will be very recognizable to any MANMAN/MFG user, having an Item Master, BOMs, Routings, WO’s, PO’s, demand management and MRP. Apparently Sandy wrote some of the code herself, just like the early days of MANMAN.
One of the roadblocks to putting classic ERP into a Salesforce cloud model are those customizations. HP 3000 sites were so locked in to customization as a strategy that the competing MM II app from HP included a Customizer tool. "A lot of people are rethinking all the crazy customizations they've done," Kenandy's president Rod Butters said. "This is where Sandra's experience makes a huge difference for us. If we didn't have her insights, this product wouldn't be the same."
May 23, 2016
Moving off a 3000, or just some MPE/iX app?
Wednesday afternoon MB Foster leads another of its webinars about migration advice. The company is the community leader in data migration, data migration projects, data migration service. You're moving, they're the folks to contact. On Wednesday at 2 PM EST they're reaching out to explain the methodology the company uses to process departures from the 3000 world.
The options on exits "have not changed much over the last decade," the company's email teaser says. "They include; Stay, Rehost, Replace/Buy, Rebuild. The best choice for you depends on growth expectations, corporate standards, risk and cost." The other determining aspect is how much exiting a migration prospect must do immediately. Several of the current generation of migrators have gone to the app-by-app model.
The largest single migration of educational 3000s, 36 of them at the SBCTC, was pulled off in some pieces. This usually follows a methodology of getting a key app onto another platform in a lift and shift. Rewrites have become rare. Later on the lifted app can be replaced. Sometimes, as is the case at SBCTC, the whole migration platform shifts. Eloquence database to Oracle was the shift there. Another higher-ed site, at Idaho State University, moved its apps a few at a time over several years.
It's always worth mentioning the choice that MB Foster notes: a choice to stay on the HP 3000. But you won't even have to do that if all you need to accomplish is an update of hardware. Choosing Stromasys and the Charon emulator is also a move off the HP 3000: the Hewlett-Packard servers and disks get left behind. New PC hardware and a Linux control center take the place of the HP iron.The pressure to move an app depends on the need to bring it forward with new technology and more wide-ranging interfaces. When Secure FTP was a crucial transfer mechanism for data, the 3000 was often a special-needs case. HP never finished FTP for MPE/iX so it worked fully to industry standards. By now, though, FTP is yesterday's transfer technology. Managed File Transfer came of age several years ago. A 3000 app that was moved to embrace SFTP was hitting a target that moved already.
The point to remember is that the instincts that got a 3000 IT manager to their current post are still sound. Change only what brings needed value and business-competitive features. Foster's strategy says that "In 2006 there was no pressing need to migrate the [MPE/iX] application. A decade later, the pressure to ‘get off’ the HP 3000 has surely increased."
Where the pressure has become higher, the most crucial play involves moving data. More than 20 years ago, IBM was making a play to migrate 3000 systems to AS/400s. Computerworld called me to ask how I believed that'd go. "Not so good," I said at the time, "because there's all that IMAGE data that's essential to a 3000 customer. A tough move today." Migrations are easier now thanks to all the tech advances. It's business choices, though, not technology promises, that propel any migration.
May 20, 2016
Cloud patterns now private, MRP affairs
Two years ago this week we reported that Hewlett-Packard would be spending $1 billion on developments for HP Helion, its private and public cloud offering for enterprise customers. The spending was scheduled to take place over the coming two years, so now's a good time to examine the ceiling of clouds for HP. It turned out to be lower than expected.
That spending plan for Helion outlasted the public version of the cloud service. Within a year of the $1 billion mission statement, HP was saying the company had no business in a cloud space dominated by Amazon Web Services and others. By this January, the final cloud customers at the Helion public service had moved their clouds elsewhere. HP Helion private clouds march onward in a world where the vendor controls all elements in a deal, rather than competing in a tumultuous market. A private cloud behaves more like the HP 3000 world everybody knows: a means to management of dedicated resources.
The use of cloud computing to replace HP 3000 manufacturing applications is reaching beyond hypotheticals this summer. Terry Floyd, founder of the manufacturing services firm The Support Group, has been working with Kenandy to place the cloud company's solution in a classic 3000 shop. A project will be underway to make this migration happen this summer, he said.
The 3000 community that's been moving has been waiting for cloud solutions. Kenandy is the company built around the IT experience and expertise of the creators of MANMAN. They've called their software social ERP, in part because it embraces the information exchange that happens on that social network level. But from the viewpoint of Floyd, Kenandy's was waiting for somebody from the 3000 world to hit that teed-up ball. Kenandy has been tracking 3000 prospects a long time. The company was on hand at the Computer History Museum for the ultimate HP3000 Reunion in 2011.
The Kenandy solution relies on the force.com private cloud, operated by Salesforce.com. Smaller companies, the size of 3000 customers, use Salesforce. The vendor's got a force.com cloud for apps beyond CRM. Floyd said in 2015, "When the project kicks off next year, because we think Kenandy is a good fit for them."
The longer that small companies wait out such cloud pushes as HP's $500 million per year, the better the value becomes for getting onto their cloud. The effort migrates datacenter ops outside company walls, a big shift in 3000-heyday thinking. After its public cloud flame-out, HP ultimately worked to convince companies to build their own private clouds. The option that's firming up this summer is renting cloud apps from firms like Kenandy and Salesforce.
Floyd and his company have said there's good value in switching to cloud-based ERP for some customers. Customization of the app becomes the most expensive issue.
May 13, 2016
Creating 3000 Concept-Proving Grounds
Three years ago today, Stromasys hosted a community meeting at the Computer History Museum. It was the coming-out party for the debutante HP 3000 virtualization product Charon. The software had been running in several production sites for awhile, but the CHM meeting collected several dozen partners, prospects, and Stromasys experts. Some spicy slide decks were shared, along with promises that saving MPE/iX applications just got easier. This was billed as training.
In the 36 months since that day, the Charon HPA software has been enhanced twice to better its performance levels as well as establishing more complete emulation of the HP hardware environments. One major change to the solution came by eliminating an option — a kind of addition through subtraction that's pushing the software into production use more often. The Freeware A-202 of 2013 has been removed, replaced by Proof of Concept. PoC is pretty much the only gateway to using the software that transforms Intel-Linux boxes into PA-RISC 3000 servers.
3000 sites "are coming out of the closets," said product manager Doug Smith when he flew into Austin to update me about the product. He's running a program that discounts PoC engagements, with savings based on the size of the license. Companies that few of us knew were using 3000s have surfaced to adopt Charon, he explained. There's also a 6-way and 8-way configuration of the software that moves above the performance levels of the biggest N-Class server. Meeting and beating HP's 3000 iron performance is a big part of the approval process to get Charon sold and installed.
A proof of concept engagement takes real production data, integrated into the software-server combo of Charon over a period of five days, and shows managers in tech and the boardroom how seamless emulation can look. Smith says that MPE sites don't even need a Linux admin to do this virtualization. One part of that is because of the proof of concept phase gets everything in place to run. Three years ago, the issues to resolve were license-based in some prospects' eyes. By now, putting Charon in play involves five days of time and a license that can be either annual or perpetual.
But Smith says just about all the Charon licenses sold to 3000 sites today are perpetual. This might be one reason why going to Computer History Museum for that 2013 coming-out seemed so fitting. Legacy and history are often co-pilots that deliver stable applications.
That meeting room brimmed at the Computer History Museum in 2013, where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA/3000. This emulator was anticipated more than 11 years ago, but only came to the market in 2012. And that gap, largely introduced by HP's intellectual property lawyers, killed one license needed to run MPE on any Intel server. But the good news is that an HP licensing mechanism still exists for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator -- pretty much on any good-sized Intel system that can run VMware and Linux. However, you need to know how to ask HP for the required license.
The phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to PC hardware is called "an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most SLTs happen between two companies. Who'd sell themselves their own hardware, after all?
In short, HP's using its existing and proven Software License Transfer (SLT) mechanism to license emulated 3000s. It's doing this because of that delay which ran out the clock on a hard-earned path to the future. HP called it the Emulator License back in 2005. It just happened to need an emulator on sale in order for a customer to buy this license.
The Emulator License isn't quite like the mythical griffin of ancient lore. It's not common, but HP will know what a customer is seeking when they ask for a intra-company license transfer.
Perhaps HP's lawyers -- who certainly had to be convinced by the 3000 division at the time -- insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in the license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but HP could never collect that money without a working emulator for a 3000 on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. No RTU, no emulator license: this was a moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron was on hand.
However, this was not the first time HP had ever tried to make it legal to run one of its OS products on non-HP gear. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and got that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was the ongoing support revenue, and the good will, of keeping older systems running where they remain the best solution.
This time around, for the 3000, HP intended to cut off all of its business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still could call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. No matter. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies. At that coming-out, the company said that the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- what a classic 3000 customer calls an emulator.
The company has said they've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. A product like Charon is dedicated to preserving the investments made across more than three decades of HP 3000 hardware generations.
Customers don't get to create MPE/iX licenses for Charon systems, though, and Stromasys cannot sell any licenses. Neither can HP anymore, either. But those licenses come out of the closets, or off the CPU boards of resold systems. HP never got a chance to sell an emulator license, but it wasn't the first time Hewlett-Packard built an item for 3000 customers it never did sell. HP wanted to emulate an HP-UX server on HP 3000 hardware with the legendary MOST project of 1994. Virtualizing operating environments is a long-standing concept, one that's getting proved all the time in this year's 3000 community.
May 11, 2016
Migrations include data: How to handle bags
Earlier this week I wrote about a collective of Washington state colleges that moved away from the HP 3000 and MPE in 2011. The work started years earlier and had a dead-end for awhile, but the 36 HP 3000s eventually became just six Integrity servers. They used the TurboIMAGE data and lifted apps, but the data was the most crucial part of the migration.
Moving data is fraught with challenges, from doing it in a way that the new apps can make sense of it, to making sure everything got transported safely. Good HP 3000 managers are like Marines: no bit of data is left behind. They leave behind applications often, because programs go obsolete or get replaced. Not data.
Later today MB Foster is having a demo of its UDACentral software. There's still a few hours to register, but you need to be at your browser live at 1 PM today, May 11. This is an HP 3000 story, too. Migration is more complicated sometimes than just STORE and RESTORE. Mapping a database to another one is easier with good software.
The demo will show "how to drag and drop and map data from source to target, automatically create migration scripts, and migrate tens of millions of rows per hour." A free trial of UDACentral can be downloaded from the MBFoster website.
"This is a 3000 story, and beyond a 3000 as well," Birket Foster says. "A story of evolution and learning to use data."
Last year, new features appeared in UDACentral.
- Convert CSV files to RDBMS tables
- Support both FTPS (FTP over SSL) and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol)
- Encrypt data in-flight, metadata and migration scripts
Afterlast spring's demo of the software, I commented that "Carrying a company's identity from a TurboIMAGE database to Oracle or SQL Server has been viewed as a complex task for a long time. It looked a lot less complex today."
Choosing source databases, then selecting a target database of another type, was straightforward. More importantly, this software ensures that data makes its move in a way that delivers a useable resource, not one overrun with table errors and illegal dataset names. Warnings before the data's moved keep the identity of the company clear. There's a default data mapping between databases that's done automatically to get database administrators and managers started quickly.
Watching the software in action that day made me realize how far we've come in the task of making transformations to our IT enterprises. There was once a Computerworld reporter who asked me during the 1990s what barriers IBM had to overcome if it stood any chance of converting HP 3000s to AS/400 sites. Well, there are those databases, I said to him. "You might move the applications or replace them. But the data's got to remain the same."
May 09, 2016
First came MPE's migration—now, the apps
By mid-2011, the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) stopped using the 36 HP 3000s that had powered 34 campuses since 1982. Even at that time, though, after the largest transfer of educational apps off MPE, SBCTC knew the target HP-UX systems would see another migration. One migration began another. Migrating off MPE hosts was a prelude to another migration, four years after landing on HP's Unix.
Michael Scroggins, the CIO at SBCTC, checked in with us after we spotted him on next month's HPE Discover conference speaker list. He's talking about the role of a CIO in today's IT. Why Would You Want to be a CIO? promises insights.
The CIO is a high-risk position. There are many thoughts and much advice related to surviving as a CIO. You’ve got to get there first. This discussion will center on strategies and considerations that you can use to get there. Why would anyone want to be a CIO? It is the best job in the world… if you have what it takes.
SBCTC has been taking its data forward for more than 13 years, proposing and moving and re-moving its data since 2003. SQL Server and Windows NT was the first target announced, and by 2009 that HP-led initiative had been shuttered while HP repaid what it hadn't finished to the colleges. The Lift and Shift Project was next and took about 18 months. Then in 2014, the eight HP-UX Integrity servers at SBCTC were upgraded to Itanium 4 systems. The original MPE/iX apps were lifted onto Integrity servers after being virtualized.
"We used AMXW’s MPE virtualization environments," Scroggins said, "and consolidated multiple colleges onto isolated environments on the HP-UX instances of Itanium 2 blade servers on the C7000 chassis. The solution leveraged the state’s data center where all colleges are centrally hosted." Lift and Shift cut the colleges' server count from 36 down to eight, all in a consolidated state datacenter.
Another move, off the lift and shift apps, was always in the plans, however.Some parts of the shifted solutions were supposed to have a 5-7-year lifespan before they moved again, to a managed services platform. Back in 2010 this was the novelty of the cloud. But the foundational move took the MPE apps onto HP-UX. Back then, we asked Bob Adams at SBCTC and heard that a hosted ERP setup without servers onsite was the ultimate goal.
"The bottom line is that this project was our last chance to get this thing done right,” he said. “We weren't going to change technologies. All we wanted to do was extend what we have.” Making the next change means going to Oracle's Peoplesoft applications. This will cut out the Marxmeier Eloquence databases that have subbed in for IMAGE. The migrated apps will be considered legacy systems — to be maintained for several years after the last colleges go live, in order to maintain an archive.
Scroggins says that ctcLink is
the largest higher education project of its kind in the U.S. The goal of the ctcLink Project is the implementation of Oracle/PeopleSoft ERP software applications including Campus Solutions, Finance, Human Capital Management, and Hyperion pillars at all 34 colleges.
"This affects every student, staffer, and faculty member in the college system," Scroggins said. "We went live with the first three colleges last August and are scheduled with the next six in October of this year. The balance of the colleges will go in two additional phases a year apart."
SBCTC moved a Student Management System, Financial Management System, Payroll and Personnel Management System, and Production Management System in that 2010 move. The migration was "with minimal technical changes in programming languages, operating systems, and database and no changes to user application functionality." At the time, Scroggins considered the HP 3000 to be "seven years past end of life. The project was intended to stabilize our applications" by moving away from the hardware that HP stopped building in 2003.
April 29, 2016
Post-migration, there's often more changes
The 2010 timeline update for moving away from the three dozen HP 3000s at SBCTC
Five years ago this spring, work was wrapping up on migrating 36 HP 3000s at a college consortium. This was the largest higher education migration project in the 3000's history, the mission of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. When it finished, 34 colleges in the state started to rely on HP-UX instead of MPE/iX. The work took more than two years to complete. The chief of the IT work at the state board will be speaking this June at the annual Discover conference, which is now called HPE Discover.
Migration change usually signals a new way to look at information's value. Taking legacy systems into the next generation of software and hardware is really everybody's mission in the 3000 world. The elegant Hewlett-Packard 3000 hardware is also elderly for any homesteader. Virtualizing the MPE/iX hardware is a migration of sorts, but one that can be completed in about five days, before testing. As for the migration-bound CIO, leaving behind the bedrock of MPE/iX opens up a redesign opportunity. Perhaps more than one.
Leaving MPE/iX was only the start for the SBCTC. It's got a new ctcLink project in play, one that will reach as many colleges as the effort which the organization called Lift & Shift back in 2010. Once ctcLink is finished, it will implement Oracle/PeopleSoft ERP software applications, including Campus Solutions, Finance, and Human Capital Management pillars, at all of its 34 colleges.
Anything that's one step behind what's freshest can be called a legacy solution. Making a migration can be an opening step in a longer campaign. That's why it's a good practice to think further ahead than four years while eliminating MPE/iX applications. Legacy can apply to software that's still being sold and supported, too. The timeline above plotted only the MPE/iX migration at SBCTC. Making a tactical timeline like that one is a crucial step. Ensuring the choices will be seamlessly integrated with the next step, and they will last, is a bigger task. Because no application platform is ever the last one — not if an organization wants to outlive its IT plans.
April 25, 2016
Proving concepts leads to hardware exits
They've been called straw men, and more lately proof of concept projects. These assessment steps have often represented significant change at HP 3000 sites. Few migrations got the green light to proceed with the raw change and full-on expense without demos of replacement apps. Even when the change was limited to applications only, with no platform replacement, testing with production data was the most secure choice.
That's why the strategy sounded familiar when Stromasys hosted its first webinar in years. The company calls its assessment engagement to test Charon a proof of concept. Led by Global Accounts Manager Ray LeBrun and system engineer Darrell Wright, the talk included a note on how essential the PoC step has been to success with the Charon virtualized system.
"We're pretty confidant that if we engage in a PoC with you, then we're 99-plus percent sure Charon will work for you," LeBrun said. "We will not engage if we're not confident this is the right solution for you."
Stromasys works with a site's production data to prove the concept of giving HP's 3000 hardware an exit date. MPE/iX and the applications, and of course the data, stay in place. However, LeBrun said Charon has also been "a bridge to allow you to get to a migration. We have folks who say, "I'm only going to use that  application for another two years. Well, two more years oftentimes becomes three, four, and five years."
The technology concept behind virtualization is well known by now. People are so familiar with it that LeBrun said the vendor gets asked regularly when HP-UX Integrity server virtualization via Charon is coming. The question came up in the webinar, too."It's not in our roadmap anywhere," LeBrun said of a Charon built to give HP's Unix hardware an exit date. "Even if it was, I probably couldn't say anything about it, but it'd certainly be viable if there was a business case for it."
A business case for migrations — either off HP's hardware, or away from an operating environment — usually gets built at a customer site only after the technology has been given an all-clear. Stromays Proof of Concepts are paid engagements, because they include vendor staff hours spent onsite, services to transfer data to the Intel-based Charon system, and training a customer's IT staff to use the software.
A five-day onsite engagement, followed by a 30-day test period, makes up a PoC. "We basically do a live install of your application [on Charon] in your environment," LeBrun said. "You're not testing for look and feel. You're testing your application with your data."
April 22, 2016
How to Transform MPE Spoolfiles to PDFs
HP 3000 data becomes more useful if it can be e-mailed as industry standard report documents. After more than two decades of pushing at it, Adobe has made its PDF the de-facto way to exchange documents, even complex ones.
Which might have prompted this question from HP consultant and Suprtool trainer Jeff Kubler:
Does anyone have a lead on a tool that converts spoolfiles to PDF files? Are there any Contributed Library tools?
It won't be in the Interex Contributed Library (because the programs have gone underground; ask your colleagues if they have a swap tape) but the txt2pdf product works nicely to make this conversion. Even in its most advanced version it's about $1,000, at last glance. Bob McGregor reports as much.
Jeff, txt2pdf does this. We have a job that runs that:
1. Checks a pseudo device we have setup for any spoolfiles that are on the device with an PRI >0
2. If it finds a spoolfile, we convert it to PDF and move it to a server
3 Sends an e-mail to the streamedby variable telling them the PDF doc is ready on the server.
4. Alters the priority to 0 to mark it processed
We've been using it for a couple years, and it works great — of course, once we got the bugs worked out. What's cool is if someone delete the file, we just adjust the priority to something greater than 0 and it gets reprocessed.
April 20, 2016
Like a Classic Mercedes, Those Old 3000s
Built to last.
That's what a veteran analyst called the HP 3000s at her company. It's a UK firm, The Wesleyan, and it's been running MPE and MPE/iX since at least 1990. Jill Turner says the oldest system is a Series 947. That would be the early part of the 1990s, to be sure.
That 947 and four other HP 3000s including an N-Class, are going offline in 2017. "We are a financial services business, and the HP 3000s hold all the policies sold up to about 2010," she said. "These are serviced daily, weekly, monthly, yearly depending on the type of policy."
Turner called those 900 Series systems, including a 987 and 969, "old proper machines." They're the sort that never quit. They do eventually get out-performed by newer models, or can't run Oracle, or have experts with knowledge about 3000s retiring soon. The hardware does age, though, as it does for all owners. That's not why the 3000s are leaving The Wesleyan.
"The Wesleyan are currently migrating the data from the HP 3000s onto a new system," Turner said, "and we expect everything to be migrated by mid- to end of 2017. As technology moves forward the company is moving to other platforms, and I think the new systems are hosted on IBM Pureflex servers."
Turner admits to being biased in favor of the 3000s. This can happen after a couple of decades of success, when a migration choice is based on the age of the hardware instead of the utility of the software. You can't beat the cost of owning a 3000, she adds.
"The HP 3000s are probably the cheapest platform to run within the business," Turner said. I am very biased as I have only ever worked on the HP 3000s, but one example is we had a disc failure on the 969."
The system carried on as mirrored disc. Our support firm Newcorp couriered one out to me so I received it the next day (and they sent two spares). I changed the disc, no one knew but me. The new replacement system for the 3000s had a failure when the power went off. It took IBM two days to get the part, and it came from Holland.
"I have a 26-year-old Mercedes which I always compare to the old HP 3000s: built to last." The Wesleyan bought into the future of 3000 ownership, even when HP was counseling not to do that. The N-Class server was purchased in 2002, the first full year HP was preaching migration.
April 11, 2016
Yes, Virginia, there is MPE at the Terminal
One of the first HP 3000 migration success locations might have hung on to an MPE/iX app since its story was introduced by the vendor. A lively discussion popped up last week when Don Seay asked on the 3000-L mailing list about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualizer software. The chatter included updates on the work to cross the 2027 hurdle for MPE/iX use, as well as reports on the speediest settings for Charon.
Seay was emailing from an address at VIT.org, the legacy location of Virginia International Terminals. It's the port authority for all shipping in Norfolk, Newport News and environs. A shiny website handles just about all of the data requests at portofvirginia.org. But there's still data being fed to VIT.org, and Seay's request seems to hint that an application continues to work there. We're checking in with him.
Taking a full-on approach to a migration is a typical opening strategy, but there are sometimes good technical reasons why apps remain on 3000 hardware. This didn't seem likely when we first heard about the 3000 and VIT in 2002. HP was promoting the practices and concept of retiring 3000s during that time, the first full year after Hewlett-Packard's announcement it would leave the 3000 marketplace.
VIT’s assistant IT director at the time, Clark Farabaugh, said at HP World 2002's migration roundtable the decision to shift to HP’s Unix servers “has changed our shop, for better or worse.” That summer, IT began to migrate at VIT. The organization took delivery of a HP 9000 rp8400 server to replace its HP 3000s, and Farabaugh said “we were the first ones on board.” We took note of the report of 13 years ago.
Even though Farabaugh described TurboIMAGE as “the fastest database I’ve ever seen,” it was moving toward using Oracle on its migrated system. Three IT staffers — VIT said it was doing all the work in-house — were trained in database admin for Oracle.
The applications running at VIT handle shipments through a terminal with 7,000 international longshoremen at work, and a desire to Web-enable the apps led VIT away from the 3000. The IT director said the migration project will take 12 to 18 months to complete using the 45-person IT staff, taking apps from Speedware on the 3000 to Speedware on HP-UX.
A baker's dozen years later, it's a surprise to see that perhaps something on MPE has continued to lift bits of the cargo of terminal data at VIT. A datacenter manager and IT execs do need to keep everything online, though. If a 3000 survived the HP-UX shift for this long, it's bound to have a better reason than "we don't really want to change things."
Does MPE/iX still exist in the field? Some in your community feel that asking about that is akin to asking about Santa Claus. But yes, at Virginia, it seems there's still MPE at the Terminal. If we're reading the messages right, it's doing more than a fairy, too.
March 28, 2016
For any fate, applications need budgets
At Idaho State University, the HP 3000 is moving into its final months of production use. It's been more than eight years to bring all of the MPE-based applications' duties into a new hosting environment. Sun was the early winner in this migration, but after taking the early round of replacement apps onto Solaris, the university is settling on Linux. This was a migration that didn't give Hewlett-Packard any place as a host.
Even in the realm of replacement software's big bounty, some apps moved across more slowly. Payroll, financials: these things moved in a straight line to Ellucian's ERP software for universities. But telecomm, inventory, motorpool — the 3000 ran all of this — had to be moved separately.
Along the way, the prospect of keeping those extra applications alive included the option of virtualizing the 3000 onto a Stromasys server. The timing didn't work for the university because it was so close to decommissioning its last 3000 apps, according to Senior IT Analyst John MacLerran.
We were hoping to use the emulator for a year or two while we finished migrating our remaining applications off the 3000. However, it was decided that the effort required to obtain software licenses from all of the vendors would be better spent accelerating our migration off the platform.
Whether an application remains on MPE servers, or makes its way to Linux as a replacement or a rewrite, applications require budget. The word "effort" means the expense in man-hours and dollars. Staying has a cost. Analyzing the timing can help a 3000 owner decide when its budget should be turned to departure dollars. It's only possible when the Hewlett-Packard hardware remains sound and healthy."It's not like we saw anything that would keep Charon from working for us," MacLerran said, "but it didn't save us any work in our migration."
The cost/benefit ratio didn't work for us -- we wouldn't have been on the Charon platform long enough to recoup our investment in the emulator. It made more sense for us to pay an additional year of maintenance on the original hardware, since we would've had to do that anyway during the migration to Charon. Instead, we put additional resources into getting the applications migrated.
The University began its look at the Charon solution in 2014, but its thorough evaluation got interrupted when MacLerran was tapped to help a languishing internal project get back on schedule. By 2015, the final evaluation decision was made, based on the finish date of migrating its final MPE applications.
We are in the final stages of shutting our HP 3000s down. Everything we used to use them for has been migrated elsewhere -- much of it to Ellucian, and some of it to other third-party vendors (i.e., where Ellucian doesn't have an equivalent function). The only remaining activity on the HP 3000 is data archival for records-retention purposes.
To satisfy that, we're extracting our data and putting it in Oracle tables. That way, we can query for the information that may still be needed for audit, but not for transactional purposes.
MacLerran said the university expects to pull the plug on its HP 3000s by the end of June, 2016.
March 25, 2016
Replacing apps: a migration option, or not?
More than seven years ago, HP was still offering advice to its HP 3000 customers about migration. The vendor sent everyone down an evaluation path once it announced it was dropping the 3000 from its 2007 lineup. Sales halted in 2003; the HP Services lineup included MPE and hardware support for another seven years, though.
That's by way of noting that HP's plans saw lots of waffling before its time ran out for stewardship of the servers. In the years between its cutting-out announcement and the end of formal support, HP plans to migrate had two major options. Rewrite whatever you had running on MPE, or replace it with a work-alike app. At the time, HP had a VP who'd talk about this. Lynn Anderson was the last HP executive who would even address the 3000 before the press. Her expertise was in services. You can imagine how replacing apps set with her. Bad idea, she said at the time. Bake a fresh loaf, using the sourdough starter of 3000-based business processes.
Anderson was pretty unique in the HP management ranks. She could show IT experience on the HP 3000. She started her career working on an HP 3000 in the mill town where she grew up. A Series II system displayed her first MPE colon prompt. Later on in programming and system engineering for HP, she was a network specialist for MPE, a job that included the high point of bringing up the first HP 1000-to-HP 3000 local area network.
To the HP of 2008, a rewrite looked like the best way to preserve what you'd created. However, MB Foster is going to talk about replacing apps next week. Wednesday the 30th at 2 PM Eastern, George Hay will examine this Replace option. "You will learn the factors that affect application replacements and the steps in the replacement process," the company said in its email notice of the webinar.
In 2008, Anderson spread HP's message that the company preferred rewrites to getting an off-the-shelf app to duplicate years of architecture and development under MPE/iX. She cited an HP-funded study that predicted nearly half of the 2008 IT workforce would be retired by 2011 — a figure that had all the accuracy of HP's 2002 prediction that 80 percent of its customers would leave the 3000 by 2004. Speaking at the HP Technology Forum, Anderson talked about replacements chosen to match existing MPE/iX apps, versus rewrites.
"Matching can disappoint," she said at the time. "We say don’t look at what you want your application to do today, but what do you want it to do tomorrow. For the DIY customer, do you have the personnel?" The question was about brain drain, a very real prospect for a legacy technology customer. It was also the question you'd expect to hear from a services vendor.
There's no code like old code, made new again, HP said. Not just rehosted, but extended and revamped.
I think back to when I was a programmer. We had a guy in our shop who liked to think of himself as writing elegant code. Then he left, and when we had to make a change to his code, we literally had to draw straws, because nobody wanted to touch it. You have to look at that when judging a workforce. We just did a study on datacenter transformation, and by the year 2011 45 percent of the IT workforce will be retired."
We asked how this would impact choices to move forward with IT. "We tell these customers you will never get anything to replace what you had built," she said. "The questions are what will you want to do tomorrow, and are you going to have the staff to be able to go into the code."
As for those exits of IT pros, HP's VP said, "I don’t think we have done a good job of selling the value of a career in technology. During the dot-coms it was a bit cool, but it was never about people doing the IT work. It was more on the idea side. And you know what? It still is cool, and it can be a great way to make a living."
HP's living, of course, is best made today as a purveyor of an IT workforce. Hardware sales are off and operating environments come from outside suppliers like Microsoft, RedHat, and others. HP's Services team of the time was legendary for coming in with the highest engagement prices and the sweetest presentations. Meanwhile, plenty of 3000 customers made a living doing IT. Then HP started to call them “technologists.” Did HP still see technologists as typical influencers in the 3000 ecosystem?
In 2008 Anderson said, "We do."
And I think over the years companies — and I’m not saying this about HP — have forgotten about these influencers. Technologists still play a big role in organizations. There are not too many CIOs that are going to make a decision diametrically opposed to their organization. Based on that, we need to get the information out there so the technologist can understand it. With me starting out in that technology environment, I understand. We got our stripes in the 3000, and it was “live free or die — MPE only.”
Replacement already acknowledges that MPE/iX won't serve the long-term strategy for a company. It seems that rewrites will be the work of an outside team. The real question wasn't do you have the personnel, though. The question is what budget do you have for personnel. Because both rewrites and replacements require man-months and man-years.
Anderson said it was essential for all of the remaining 55 percent of the workforce to focus on learning other technologies. A rewrite project would be one way to establish some new chops. Perhaps a replacement does the same thing for a career. "You can think of bread at the grocery store — what are you doing to reset your “Best Before” date?" she asked. Changing platforms certainly resets lots of things.
March 16, 2016
Brain drain reduces migration options
At a large Eastern Seabord organization in the US, the exit of MPE-skilled staff has cut away the migration choices for its HP 3000 operations. The server ran the organization's management of equipment parts. Some of the parts are being tracked back into the 1980s, so unique are those components.
It's like taking the durability of an HP 3000 and applying its model to vehicles, for example. Old F-150 pickup trucks, or the most beloved Jeeps, need parts that might've been designed decades ago. Get a large enough fleet and you need an extensive and fast database.
IMAGE/SQL drove all of the enterprise business operations until 2002, when other solutions started to rise up at this enterprise. The HP 3000 9x9s there stepped back into a support role, running the parts application. When HP announced the 3000 was leaving its product list, the organization started to plan for a database migration.
"I still had a licensed HP-UX server (HP9000/I70) with paid software support at that time," said the IT manager, who didn't want us to use his name. "The plan was to purchase Eloquence for HP-UX, move IMAGE data to Eloquence, and rewrite our data entry and retrieval programs from their original Pascal to something on HP-UX, which might have been Pascal (if available) or C."
The migration to Eloquence, with what the manager called "universal homing capabilities," would be moved to Linux, which might have required another program rewrite. It could have been as simple as going from C on HP-UX to C## on Linux. Then expertise started leaving the organization.
Then "it became impossible to buy Eloquence," the manager said. "There was almost no one left working here who knew what IMAGE and the HP 3000 are. No one knew what Eloquence was, and no one wanted to know."
This enterprise shop already had MS SQL with paid support on Windows, "so I was led to hire a consultant to migrate the data to SQL and rewrite the apps in PHP. It sounded like a quick way to a good end."
The Windows momentum had carried the organization away from HP-UX, eliminating Eloquence in the process.
With money being dumped into Microsoft as the solution for all, no one would want to hear a request to buy another database. We bought a new-at-the-time HP-UX server (RX 2660) for this project, but could not go ahead without the Eloquence piece and someone to convert the apps. So the server languished, and eventually was boxed up.
Now the plan is to migrate only the 3000's data at that enterprise. "We would rather stay on MPE and keep on developing," the manager said. "What I really wanted to do was to migrate the application from IMAGE to Eloquence, which would have set the stage for future migration to a new OS if necessary."
Migrations can be delayed for many reasons. But with the market's HP 3000 expertise in flux, keeping a migration moving seems to be one way to help ensure the widest range of choices to preserve app code. If application expertise leaves a company, all that's left is to move data. There are good solutions for that in the MPE world. MB Foster talks about some today at 2 PM EDT.
March 02, 2016
Data in motion follows 3000 archival project
HMSHost has been an HP 3000 shop since long before the start of this century. The company that operates duty-free outlets in major US airports has made changes to its datacenter structures that have put its 3000 in cool standby. Regular operations have moved to another server. Archival has become the mission for the MPE/iX server.
Brian Edminster told us about the changes to the company's IT operations, having managed the 3000 solutions for HMSHost for many years.
Edminster said that in either event, he'll be called in to perform that work on the cool backup system. Archival systems still consume some resources, but it's that reduction of human resources that can make a drastic change when a 3000 goes from production to archive. The 3000 server may not even get powered up, as is the case at HMSHost.
The live and current data that was hosted on the application under MPE has been migrated to systems belonging to the new owner of the retail division of HMSHost. Several years ago, HMSHost sold off their retail division to World Duty Free, USA (the US arm of the global World Duty Free Group, WFDG). In a surprise move, WDFG was then acquired by one of its rivals, Dufry. In talking with some friends that still work there, the former-3000 data will likely need to be migrated to yet again—to the Dufry systems. Talk about “data in motion!”
But as it turns out, the historical 3000 data (from before WDFG acquired the retail unit) still has to be retained for compliance reporting for about three more years. They've decided to keep an A-Class system, basically in a cool backup environment. The server is still racked in their server room, but is kept powered off, until one of these events occur:
1) a compliance report and/or analysis is required (a fairly low probability), or
2) a quarterly reboot/confidence check is scheduled.
"They thought about keeping the machine powered up, but idling," Edminster said, "but there was concern regarding remaining the MTBF on the A-Class disc mechanisms and fans. It was determined to be a lower risk—and consume less electricity and generate less heat—to leave the system powered down until access is needed."
In archive, though, backup practices don't change. "We've got several complete backups," he added, "should a boot drive fail, or the RAID-1 (Mirror/iX) data volumes fail catastrophically."
February 26, 2016
21 days of radio silence on the 3000-L
The slowing current of 3000 communication showed a fresh signal by the end of this month. As we write it's been 21 days since a message of any kind on the 3000-L MPE newsgroup. The resource that carried 45 messages during last February has 10 for the current month. All of this month's traffic was wrapped around finding resources: Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies and Vesoft support. Both were located.
However, the three weeks without a new message is new territory for the community's log of technical help and outreach by cohorts. Among those who were posting during 2015, several told us they're on the mailing list-newsgroup out of habit — rather than needing details for their datacenter's 3000s.
"I’m still on the list out of inertia, nostalgia and mild interest," said Dave Heasman, a UK IT manager. "My employer got rid of their 3000s and me in 2008. Bought a series of packages to replace a big bespoke brokerage/investment system."
Robert Mills said he "remained a member of the list, mainly as a lurker, to keep appraised of what was happening in the 3000 community. Except for three requests in September 2012, December 2014, and February 2015, I've only posted to the list when I felt that the 3000 knowledge I had would help somebody solve a problem." Mills said he retired when his company went insolvent in 2009, but he's kept his hand in IT.
"I have been involved with the GnuCOBOL (formerly OpenCOBOL) Project on SourceForge since October 2014, and decided to write a macro preprocessor that emulated the functionality available on the 3000," he said. "The preprocessor, CobolMac, is now in its 5th version (B.04) and has received good reviews by its users."
Others who contacted us said they haven't worked on the 3000 since the days that HP sold support for MPE/iX. "I have been a BizTalk developer full time since 2008," said Kent Wallace. "I needed to work, and this was the direction the world was going." The 3000-L still has more than 500 subscribers on its mailing list rolls, but much of the messaging comes from consultants and vendor experts, supplying answers to questions and tips. A total of 45 messages have passed through the list since the start of 2016. The IT pros like Wallace have taken the path to other platforms, first to HP-UX, then to Windows.
"I left my previous employer in Boise and I moved to a Microsoft shop, whose mainframe was HP-UX," Wallace said. "However, in 2015 we migrated off HP-UX and onto SQL Server on Microsoft Server 2008. We do health insurance and the purchased software, Trizzeto, was moved to MS SQL servers."
Another registered user keeps up with the community, but he can imagine a future where he'd be back on the MPE/iX front lines. "We're totally out of the 3000 business," said Ted Johnson of Wake Forest University, adding a sad-face emoji. "But I love seeing the 3000-L posts and keeping up. Who knows — maybe they'll get rid of me one of these days, and I'll end up back on a 3000."
The 3000-L, hosted at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where the late Jeff Kell launched it the early 1990s, holds more than two decades of traffic. 10 years ago the list was big enough to measure a signal-to noise-ratio, but by now it's almost entirely signal. When John Burke was a monthly columnist for the NewsWire who summarized its content in net.digest, he rounded up the following help in just one month's communications. For a 3000 owner managing a homesteading shop, the 3000-L's tips still carry some value.
• Do you want to know when a particular account or group was created? LISTACCT and LISTGROUP are no help. But “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME,3” for the account or “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME /GROUPNAME,3” for the group tell all. And then some.
• The number of sectors reported by the REPORT command for a group or groups is sometimes inaccurate, sometimes very inaccurate. Running the program FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP and issuing the SYNCACCOUNTING command will fix this problem.
• In case you were wondering, despite many requests for the enhancement, TurboStore will NOT append store sets to tape. Well, it might if you use the proper incantations, but it is unsupported and highly dangerous because under certain circumstances you could overwrite a previous backup without knowing.
• Speaking of things you cannot do that you might like to do, the ALLOW command is not persistent across sign-ons unless you use the extremely dangerous “ALLOW @.@; commands” version. This is another example of an enhancement that has been requested for years, but now will never happen. Fortunately, there are a number of options, for sale and free (MPEX, CSL, etc.).
• CI integer variables are signed 32-bit entities. So be careful if you are doing some wild arithmetic in your CI scripts.
• Here is a little trick when using Apache’s indexing (for example to keep track of documentation) to index file displays. You can override the default ascending sort by name by appending “?N=D” to the url. Instructions on changing Apache’s default behavior are available on the Web.
• If you are trying to program VPlus applications and are interested in working examples programmed in your favorite language, look in the group HP32209.HPPL89 (which should be on every FOS tape). This group contains source code for the ENTRY program in a variety of languages including COBOL, Fortran, Basic and Pascal.
• To see the firmware (aka PDC) Revision of a system (CPU): Run cstm, and at the cstm > prompt, type ‘map’ and note the Dev Num of a CPU and then type ‘sel dev DEV_NUM’ (e.g., ‘sel dev 41’) and then type ‘info’ and then type ‘il’ and look at the output for the ‘PDC Firmware Revision’. Easy, huh? Thanks to Guy Paul of HP for this tip.
• SPFXFER will allow you to write to disk (undocumented “feature/bug”). But don’t do it, because SPFXFER cannot read the disk file it creates! Doing this could lead to a big oops.
• While it would certainly be a nice to have, MPE/iX CI scripts have no provision for inline comments. Sorry, don’t even bother trying.
February 22, 2016
Technologies to study beyond MPE skills
As 3000 experts have seen their jobs eliminated, and their employers focus on other platforms, they have faced a challenge. What should they study next to learn marketable skills? One obvious answer is the tools in the community for migration. Some of these open a new world of learning to 3000 veterans. Learning the tools provides an entry to get familiar with new concepts.
However obvious it has seemed to study .NET and Visual Basic, there are many shops planting outside that Windows-box. Open source software is the choice for prospects that reach farther.
Michael Anderson left the Spring, Texas school district six years ago to found his J3K Solutions consulting practice. Even then, when Linux and open source did not dominate IT plans as they now do, Anderson knew Microsoft wouldn't hold its market share.
In 2009 he suggested a good place to start learning beyond MPE were tools like ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software's Eloquence. "Ordina-Denkart's WingSpan, as well as ScreenJet, are both great products," he said. "They are both great models for software design. I have not found anything that compares to them that's within reach of small companies and independent developers." That's a statement on pricing as well as capability.
A caliber of tools like this is not yet available in the Linux/open source market, though. James Byrne, an IT manager at Harte & Lyne, says his company's "progress towards a final departure from the HP 3000 has not been as rapid as we had hoped. The main reason is the primitive nature of the tools in common use by the *nix community. These have improved greatly over the past decade, but they are still nowhere near the effectiveness of efficiency of software I used on the HP 3000 in the 1980s."
Complaints about the "Cognos Products," now owned by Unicom after a five-year adoption by IBM, have legendary status. But the gripes have been about licensing and pricing, not the subtle efficiency those advanced development tools provided. Byrne's company has been using Powerhouse and its cousins since before the products were named as such. Close to 40 years after they were introduced, the tools are still doing a better job for Byrne than open source alternatives.
The systems at Harte & Lyne are completely written in Quick, Quiz and QTP. "They were started before Quasar re-branded itself as Cognos and began calling their products Powerhouse," Byrne said. "The maintenance load of these programs presently is as close to zero as can be imagined. Nonetheless, modifications are still being made after all these years and the speed at which these are completed is absolutely astounding to people used to coding for *nux and Microsoft environments."
Byrne adds that the programs are sometimes creations from the days before the Web existed. "Sometimes we are working on programs that have not been touched since the late 1980s," Byrne said, "and the ease with which that ancient code is understood illuminates just how poorly most code in other languages conveys its meaning."
ScreenJet employs Windows to do its interface transformations, while Eloquence delivers the IMAGE foundations to Linux, HP's Unix and Windows. If tools like these two above existed in the GNU environment — what Byrne calls *nix — then HP 3000 programmers who are finding themselves out of work could study a workable toolset in the GNU environment. Their decades of experience could be tranferred more easily environments beyond Unix and Windows.
It took a village to build the world of open source choices. A very savvy village is required to open-source the expertise in Powerhouse, Eloquence, ScreenJet and others. Consultants have reported their migration work employs such tools. Now the IT teams like the one at Harte & Lyne have moved on to open source. The shift has had its issues, though.
In the late 2000s a product similar to Powerhouse was created in open source, an Informix 4GL clone called AuBit. However, by the time that project was mature enough to consider for our purposes we were already committed to Ruby on Rails (RoR). We adopted the web application approach because we wished to employ generic browsers in place of specific terminal emulation software.
But the price of using RoR has been constant change to its underlying code base with commensurate breakage in our production code. This is due to the very nature of Open Source. Projects such as RoR are staffed by what are essentially a bunch of ill-disciplined hackers. Each contributor is driven as much as by ego and anything else and thus each attempts to place their individual marks on each iteration of the software.
This often occurs at the same time as they are learning what is really needed from the software. The result is an absolute absence of backward compatibility. There is usually an overarching individual that exercises some restraint. But the the mantra tends to be: what is old is useless, new is better, change is for the best, and who cares what breaks.
Compared to the rock-like stability of the HP 3000, writing software based on RoR is akin to building a castle on quicksand: expensive, time consuming, and as likely to fall down and be swallowed as anything else. Thus we are not as far along as we expected.Things may not be quite as bad as that, but I am feeling somewhat put out with that project at the moment.
Open source emerged from a need to reduce costs and tap a waiting array of expertise. Learning these tools is a better next step for the 3000 expert who wants employment or engagements. There's lots of Windows in the world, but lots of Windows expertise, too. Leading a company toward a path of open source solutions is good, groundbreaking work. It might be a novel achievement to list in a resume or a consulting skill set.
February 17, 2016
Free trial UDACentral makes its debut
A corporate-grade migration tool gained a free trial version for datacenters including the HP 3000 this week, as MB Foster introduced UDACentral's latest version.
"Data migrations are challenging when you need to change database types or attempt to perform data transformations during the migration," said Myles Foster, the company's new head of product development. "With the availability of a free trial our data migration product UDACentral is now easier than ever to obtain.
Along with the free version, MB Foster is also offering corporate and enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) licenses for UDACentral. "I realized that SaaS models of UDACentral will help companies reduce costs to free up capital for other business priorities," Foster said, "and enable strategic decision-making around IT investments."
UDACentral isn't limited to MPE/iX hosts, but Foster said the tool's target includes HP 3000 sites. The software began its lifecycle in 2002 as a means to "gives migration projects the centralized switchyard for replacing data securely while preserving its integrity,” said Birket Foster at the product's rollout. For more than a decade the software was employed in migration engagements, integrated by MB Foster’s Platinum Migration Partner team, working alongside a customer’s IT group.In November 2003 UDACentral was a part of HP's Transition Tools Partner coupon offering. The promotion vendors were named Transition Partners, since customers in that era had little immediate need for migrations. A transfer of IMAGE data to Oracle was among the leading features that year. HP needed a customer to commit through a purchase order for an HP-UX server to replace a 3000.
By now UDACentral converts and migrates data between more than 20 databases. The software uses a Data Explorer to generate an Entity Relationship Diagram. Within a year of its introduction, Graceland University used the software to make its transition from MPE/iX to HP-UX and the Informix database.
UDACentral is also a certified product in the BCIP software innovation program, run by the Canadian government. Software in this Built In Canada Program is available to government agencies and entities such as provincial departments and nationwide organizations. It's pre-qualified for integration into governmental datacenters.
"We used to employ UDACentral in jobs and get paid for our services," Foster said. "Now we're adding the strategy of making our power tools available for people to do the job themselves." The software is aimed at integrators, consultants, and datacenter managers.
January 26, 2016
Migrating apps creates years of 3000 work
A double-handful of HP 3000s, 10 in all, remain on duty a few more years at a North American manufacturer with multiple sites. The systems are a mix of 9x9 and N-Class systems, waiting on a project to complete that will replace the 3000 apps with comparable software on Windows.
This app replacement is an example of one of the three flavors of migration discussed tomorrow (Jan. 27) in an MB Foster webinar. The first of a four-part series, Application Migrations / 3R's of Migration, starts at 2 PM Eastern US time.
At the North American manufacturer, according to systems engineer Dan Barnes, the Fortune 1000 company uses Lawinger Consulting for HP 3000 application management.
Our client has four remaining production locations using individual HP 3000s, plus one EDI server and one development server. All are awaiting conversion to a Wintel-based application alternative, which is still two-to-five years down the road for them. We have an additional 4 DR servers as backup to these systems.
There's nothing virtual about these systems. The servers are physical HP 3000s. "We will stay with these until completion of the application migration, then harvest," Barnes said.
Lawinger's support team does all the 3000 support remotely, unless specific activities require them to be onsite. The application "is being modified as a replacement to the shelf app," Barnes added.
Replacement plans for migration have some of the highest rates of success, even though the software must often be heavily modified to match existing business practices. Lift and shift proposals from the past decade, where tens to hundreds of thousands of lines of code were dropped onto a new platform, are being trimmed back.
Foster's webinars often include advice on the best practices of choosing replacement software. A company making a transition to a replacement app needs to understand what data will be needed, at what detail level, and in what timeframe. The best answers to those questions might come from outside of the IT group. In fact, Foster says they often do. A solid team of transition stakeholders always includes an important seat for a member from the business group.
Replacement of a 15- or 20-year MPE/iX app suite also might not be a favored choice in the IT group. That group includes the experts who know the programs best. Nothing seems like it will be a clean, quick fit for what's been running the company — not at first. Replacing with a non-MPE version of the app sometimes leaves key integrated surround code at the curb, too. Replacing surround code is a good project for outside expertise. Companies which consult on that task have field experience on success to share.
The good news: replacing a business suite is not as dangerous as replacing a human body joint. You get to shop and specify and test for replacement software, even while the worn-down hip of the business suite continues to bear the weight of the company's enterprise. Backing out of a replacement -- replacing the replacement -- is just as extensive in software as it is in medicine. It's like doing it all over again. But replacing after an attempt at rehosting? That's the least effective strategy of all.