July 28, 2015
Winds of change blow through HP's closets
It's time to check back in with Hewlett-Packard, the vendor providing enterprise servers and solutions for a meaningful section of the 3000 migrators. Our latest news update involves poaching employees and a nouveau dress code, a subset of the things that any splitting-up corporation might be handling.
Details of the HP split into HP Enterprise and HP Inc were rolled out earlier this month, and there's explicit language on how the workforce will be handled once it is halved. Each of the new entities has a one-year embargo on even approaching the other's employees for hiring. For the six months beginning in November of 2015 -- a period when a lot of serious hiring gets delayed -- the two companies cannot hire from the other's ranks. If an employee is fired by Enterprise or Inc, then it's open season.
To sum up, if a talented HP staffer wants to work at the other HP before next June, getting fired is the fastest way to get permission. That might turn out to matter more than it appears, since the company just floated a memo in the Enterprise Services group, including HP-UX and Proliant operations, about professional dress, according a report from the website The Register.
Men should avoid turning up to the office in T-shirts with no collars, faded or torn jeans, shorts, baseball caps and other headwear, sportswear, and sandals and other open shoes. Women are advised not to wear short skirts, faded or torn jeans, low-cut dresses, sandals, crazy high heels, and too much jewelry.
It wouldn't be unprecedented. When former CEO Carly Fiorina took her first tour of former Compaq facilities, post-merger, employees there were told to don "western wear" as a welcoming gesture.
That was at least a merger. Nothing the size of Hewlett-Packard has ever tried to cleave itself into two complementary pieces remaining in the same business sector. This is uncharted territory, but a dress code memo and limited job transfer options might deliver some new talent into the non-HP workforce. Meanwhile, the current CEO says that turning around the company has been relatively easy.That memo isn't public, but the workforce hiring practices are part of an SEC Form 10 filing that runs more than 300 pages. HP's issuing new email addresses for the employees leaving the full company to work for Enterprise. It will now be hpe.com, although the old addresses will work for a year from the Oct. 31 split-up date.
CEO Meg Whitman, who'll lead Enterprise, said latest chapter of her turnaround of the company is easier than running for California governor. On a Bloomberg TV show, Whitman said running her political campaign that lost the election was harder than a turnaround.
You know, you get up every morning, and you fight the good fight, and you win hearts and minds of HP people, and you restore the confidence of customers and partners. So it’s been hard but it’s been really gratifying. And I have to say, relative to running for governor, this is easy.
The nuances and operational detail of creating two $60 billion entities — which will partner to buy supplies, to jointly sell products to customers, and to share patents and other intellectual property — might start to tax Whitman's estimation. Intellectual property at HP is held in the HP Development Company. The MPE/iX licensing is probably going to remain with Enterprise. If there were any technical resources in the 3000 community that want to take on that license, HP may be up for cleaning out its Enterprise closets.
Sorry, just kidding. Nobody wants those engineers to stop wearing t-shirts, either, do they? It's an exercise for the reader to decide which proposition seems sillier in this season of change at HP.
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July 22, 2015
Replacement rides on software selection
MB Foster's latest webinar on Applications Portfolio Management included an estimate that 80 percent of applications in a migration can be replaced. Migrating app code to a new platform is usually only a solution for 15 percent of the software in a 3000 environment, and an unlucky 5 percent of applications will have to be rebuilt.
So if 4 out of every 5 apps should be replaced, what steps make up the best practices for software selection? The webinar indentified nine.
- Add a detailed current workflow to the software assessment.
- Look at three to seven packages for each replacement
- Compare the selections to the app, to make sure you have no orphaned functionality
- Understand the business process re-engineering tasks. CEO Birket Foster said "If you're changing applications, there will be certain rules where there's a different way to do things, and people will have to be retrained."
- Make all data clean and ready, moving department by department
Then there's a step to plan for surround code, which can sometimes be the trickiest to replace.There may be interfaces plugged into your current applications, Foster said, "that feed data into or out of the application. You have to find those and see how they integrate into the big picture — because if you pull the application out of the middle, these are the loose wires. When you put the new application in, you have to re-integrate those wires."
After all of that work, there's a test plan, a go-live plan, and a plan for decommissioning the 3000.
"You have to have a plan if the computer is a system of record," Foster said. "Systems of record tend to require specific care and treatment when you're decommissioning them."
The webinar also listed a set of common mistakes during a replacement project.
- Not gathering enough information from each department
- Going straight to the software demo stage "without actually building a scorecard," Foster said. "It's hard to do a comparison of 3-7 packages without an objective scorecard. People from each different workflow should participate, to help the weighting of different scorecard items."
- Not having a broad enough Request For Information process; this can reduce the need for details in a subsequent Request For Proposal.
- Not appointing a software selection liaison — a person high up enough in the organization to bring all the company's stakeholders together
- Skipping the appointment of conference room pilots, individuals who explain how workflows operate during a boardroom-level meeting. "If you skip those, nobody has an idea of what they're about to see, and so they don't ask all the questions they should," Foster said. "It's not all about price. A lot of the questions have to do with functionality."
July 21, 2015
User group takes virtual tack for conference
A vendor with ties back to the 1980s of the HP 3000 world took several steps today into the new world of virtual user conferences. The education and outreach at the Virtual Conference & Expo came in part from Fresche Legacy, formerly Speedware, but it was aimed at that company's latest prospects: IBM Series i enterprises. Advances in long-form remote training, with on-demand replays of tech talks, gave the IBM COMMON user group members of today a way to learn about the IBM i without booking time away from workplaces.
The offerings on the day-long agenda included talks about vendors' tools, as well as subjects like "Access your IBM i in the modern world with modern devices." Customer-prepared talks were not a part of today's event; that sort of presentation has become a rare element in the conference experience of 2015. But some of the best HP 3000 talks at the Interex user group meetings came from vendors, lifted up from the ranks of users.
The virtual conference of today won't be mistaken for the full-bore COMMON Fall Conference & Expo of this fall. That's a three-day affair in Fort Lauderdale, complete with opening night reception and conference hotel rates at the Westin. A few days in Florida could be a perk for a hard-working IT manager, even in early October.
But the practices of remotely educating users about enterprise IT have become polished by now. Wednesdays in the 3000 world have often included a webinar from MB Foster, guiding managers in subjects like Application Portfolio Management or data migration. Those are more dynamic opportunities, with individuals on an interactive call using presentation software including a Q&A element. They also cover skills that are more essential to the migration-bound customers — although data migration skills promise great potential payback for any IT pro.But whether it's on-demand talks bolstered by chat requests at the COMMON event, or a phone and demo-slide package at a Wednesday webinar, training doesn't equal travel anymore. A three-day event would've looked small to the HP Interex user group member of the 1990s. Over the final years of that user group's lifespan, though, even a handful of days away to train and network at a conference became an on-the-bubble choice.
Making a migration from a legacy platform like the 3000 opens up the opportunity to increase the level of learning in a career. But even legacy computing like the IBM i can trigger reasons to train and explore fresh features. It's another reminder that what matters to a vendor is not necessarily the strength of a legacy server's ecosystem, but the stickiness and size of the installed base.
IBM's i still counts six figures' worth of installed customers, and many have links to other IBM systems. IBM could afford to take care of an established base of proprietary computer systems. The independent third parties like MB Foster and others that remained after HP exited have been left to care for 3000 users on the move, and otherwise.
July 15, 2015
How to Keep Cloud Storage Fast and Secure
Editor's Note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In our series of Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for multi-talented MPE pros.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
One of the many cloud-based offerings is storage. It moves data from the end device to a remote server that hosts massive amounts of hard disk space. While this saves local storage, what are some of the challenges and risks associated with the type of account?
Cloud data storage applications have been compromised through different weaknesses. Firstly, there is the straight hack. The hacker gains administrative access into the server containing the data and then can access multiple user accounts. The second one is obtaining a set of usernames and passwords from another location. Many people use the same usernames and passwords for multiple accounts. So a hack into an email server can reveal passwords for a cloud storage service. What are the ways to defend against this level of attack?
Encryption is always a good option to protect data from unauthorized users. Many service providers will argue that they already provide encryption services. However, in a lot of cases this is what is called bulk encryption. The data from various users is bundled together in a single data store. Then the whole data store is encrypted with the same password. This gives a certain level of protection, for example of the disk is stolen. But, if administrative access is gained, these systems can be compromised. A better solution is to choose a service that offers encryption at the account level.Another option is to encrypt the data before it is stored.This is probably the safest method, as the encryption application is not part of the cloud server, and neither is the password. There is a penalty of performance and time in creating and restoring the file, as it has to be encrypted/decrypted. Today's computer systems normally make short work of this task.
Finally, there is a common misconception that an encrypted file is bigger than the original. For good encryption they should be about the same size. The only challenge with any encryption is to make sure the password is safe.
If you use the same username and password, the best solution is not to do it. But the difficulty is having 20 different usernames and passwords and remembering them all. One option is to let the browser do the remembering. Browsers have the option of remembering passwords for different websites. The browser creates its own local store of the passwords. However, if the computer's hard drive crashes, so does the password storage.
The next option is to use an on-line password account. The bad news is that they have the same weakness as other types of on-line storage. LastPass was recently hacked, so many users were worried that their password lists were compromised. I use a password vault that locally encrypts the vault file. That file can then be stored in online data storage safely. Plus, if you chose the right password application, the vault is shared across multiple devices. This way, different accounts and passwords can be used for each account and still be available from a secure, but available location.
Online storage, offline access
Most of the time many of us have access to the cloud. But there are times when I would like to have access to my data, but I don't have Internet access. The best example of this is on the plane. Although Internet service is available on many planes, not everyone has access. So it is good to choose a service that has a client application to synchronize the data. This will allow copies of the same file to be kept locally and in the cloud. This can be important when looking at mobile solutions.
In many cases, mobile storage is preserved by moving the data into an online storage location. Storing all the music files in the cloud, and then finding that they are not available offline, can be very infuriating on a plane ride.
Compression to be free
Free storage on-line services are limited to a set amount of storage. One way to get around this is to use data compression. Most raw data files can be compressed to some extent. But bear in mind that most media formats, such as mpeg, mp4, or jpeg, have already been created using compression. Many other files, though, can be compressed before they are stored. Some applications — for example back-up apps — will give the user a choice to compress the file before it is stored. Not only does this reduce the amount of space the data takes in the online storage, it is also faster to upload and download.
July 07, 2015
Migrated systems ready for app portfolios
Once an HP 3000 is migrated, its mission-critical applications are ready to join a wider portfolio of corporate IT assets. Managers who want a place at the boardroom table have learned to place a valuation on these resources. Many of them gained their value while working as MPE-based software.
Studies show that managers spend 80 percent of the IT budget maintaining their current assets. If you are forced to do anything radical you run into real issues, then overrun your budget. At most companies, the IT budget is set at operating level.
Migration can be a radical step. But the duty of an IT manager who oversees a 3000 is to keep track of what is productive. It’s not about the migration, it’s about the whole portfolio. You must assess the 3000’s risk versus the rest of the applications in the portfolio.
MB Foster is covering the high-level issues for APM in a Webinar on July 8 (tomorrow) starting at 2 PM Eastern time. Birket Foster's team says that a successful engagement to implement APM should yield a defined inventory and an action plan specific to your needs along with the business value, a desired strategic landscape and technical conditions for each application.Foster has said that migrating sites should consider the share of budget that a move to Windows requires. "There are lots of people who have never managed where they spend their money," he's said. "So APM offers the chance for some consciousness-raising going on. Sometimes, there's also the possibility that the senior management team doesn’t understand what their investment in IT should be."
Most important in the APM strategy? The concept of getting executive buy-in on IT projects by showing the applications' asset valuation. Just like a portfolio of stocks, or a stringer full of fish, the applications running HP 3000s can be assayed and then assigned the resources to maintain them — or tossed back to start over again.
July 01, 2015
Reflection dives deeper into new brand
Last fall, Micro Focus announced it was acquiring Attachmate and several other companies. The merger of these IT firms marked another step for a popular HP server connection product, Reflection, toward a new life with a new name, even if its functionality remains the same.
The Chief Operating Officer of Micro Focus, Stephen Murdoch, has reported to customers about the strategy to meld the products from Borland, NetIQ, Attachmate, Novell and SUSE. The scope of what these companies have offered is significant. Development, networking, connectivity and evironments make up these acquisitions.
We will be simplifying the branding and packaging of our portfolios. As an example, we will combine our leading host connectivity solutions of Reflection and Rumba into one set of Micro Focus branded solutions offering the best of both technologies. A similar approach of simplification and alignment will be taken systematically, resulting in one company operating two product portfolios, namely Micro Focus and SUSE.
By all reports, Rumba didn't meet HP 3000 manager standards in its versions available before Attachmate acquired Reflection. That was in the days when the blended firm was called AttachmateWRQ. Few HP 3000 sites, if any, have learned to rely on Rumba for their connectivity. Now the tracking will commence on how the feature sets of Reflection and Rumba survive this combination.The deepest level of 3000 integration in Reflection lies in its scripting language. When the news first broke about the Micro Focus acquisition of Attachmate, we checked in with a long-time Reflection user to see how Rumba might fill in. Reflection's macros have to be converted to a Rumba format called ELHAPPI, Enhanced High Level Language Application Program Interface. As with any acronymn that has seven letters, it's a design choice that's got quite a, well, legacy air to it. According to Glenn Mitchell of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina
It's an API that goes back to the early PC days, and allowed a program running on the PC to "scrape" data from a terminal emulator session running on the PC. So it represents a big move backwards in technology from Reflection VBA.
Our guys figured out a way to run our VBA scripts in Excel and trap most of the Reflection API calls (e.g. getdisplaytext) and convert them to equivalent EHLAPPI calls for Rumba. The gotcha is that they've only done the most frequently used API functions, and Rumba doesn't support all of the functions Reflection makes available via API.
Scripting inside of a terminal emulator product represents a deep level of technology. Just the sort of tool a 3000 shop deploys when it can command petabytes of data and tens of thousands of users. When things change with vendor plans, whether it's a system maker or a provider of software, support staff shifts its support to migration tasks.
As an interesting footnote to the changes in the outlook for Reflection -- given that Rumba has been offered as a replacement -- we turn to the a recent comment by Doug Greenup of Minisoft. "Minisoft has NS/VT in its HP terminal emulator," he noted when we described the unique 3000 protocol in some versions of Reflection. "And unlike WRQ, we remain independent. We still have HP 3000 knowledgeable developers and support people." The company's terminal emulator for 3000s, Minisoft Secure 92, has a scripting language called TermTalk.
June 30, 2015
Run-up to HP split-up sees enterprise splits
Later this week, Hewlett-Packard will announce the financial roadmap for the business that will become HP Enterprise, holder of the futures of the HP 3000 replacements from the vendor. More than the accounting is in flux, though. Today the vendor announced the executive VP of its Enterprise Group will be gone before the split-up takes place.
Bill Veghte will split the HP scene, leaving "later this summer to pursue a new opportunity." Big vendors like HP rarely track where an exec like Veghte is heading next. It's not in the same direction as the business that makes Integrity servers, the HP-UX operating environment, or the competitive mass storage product lines that some migrators have invested in.
He's been leading the efforts to separate the consumer printer PC side of HP from its Enterprise sibling, a sort of cleaving of what's become a Siamese twin of business at the vendor. It's been a project underway since last fall, employing Veghte after COO work. This is not the kind of announcement you want to release before a massive split is completed. HP's original estimate for revenues of HP Enterprise was $58.4 billion, larger than the PC-printer side.
There have been exits from a seat this high before at HP. Dave Donatelli left the company, and now has landed at arch-rival Oracle. From a tactical perspective, or at least not quite as customer-facing, HP's got to clone 2,600 internal IT systems, extracting and separating the data inside. It's the opposite effort of a merger, with no safety net. The Wall Street Journal says the IT enterprise split could stall the split-up of the company, if the project doesn't go well.It's not all glum forecasting among the enterprise industry analysts, though. One report from banking firm Raymond James says the divided HP could purchase its longtime rival EMC. "We continue to believe that an acquisition of EMC by HP is more than a distinct possibility, as HP strives to increase shareholder value following its tax-free spinoff in November, while EMC deals with a high-profile shareholder activist," the report says.
Donatelli was an EMC kingpin before he arrived at HP, a move that EMC sued over during Donatelli's earliest HP months. The EMC scheme didn't have traction anyplace but the Raymond James report. But HP and EMC have tried to merge before, with almost a year of discussions that petered out last fall. HP announced its split-up plans in the same timeframe.
HP's stock dipped below $30 a share today, and it's down about 12 percent over the past month.
June 29, 2015
Retiring ERP Systems, or Not-Free Parking
About a month ago, a migration company offered a webinar on leaving behind one use of an HP 3000. But the focus at Merino Services was not on MPE, or HP's 3000. The company wanted to help with an exit off MANMAN. In specific, a march from "MANMAN/ERP LN to Infor 10X."
While many manufacturing companies will recognize MANMAN ERP, it's the LN tag that's a little confusing. Terry Floyd, whose Support Group business has been assisting MANMAN users for more than 20 years, tried to pin it down. "ERP LN is Baan, I think – it’s very difficult to tell anymore. It’s not MANMAN, anyway." The target is Infor's 10X, more of a framework for the migration destinies of Infor's parked software. Such parking keeps up support, but nothing else changes.
Merino, which hasn't been on the 3000 community's radar up to now, might not be blamed for conflating a couple of ERP names, or just running them together in a subject line. The state of ERP applications is changing so fast, and declining, that an ERP Graveyard graphic lists the notables and the little-known, next to their current undertakers. Infor, which is the curator of both Baan and MANMAN, has made a business of this in-active retirement for more than a decade. Younger, more adept alternatives have been offered for MANMAN for several decades.
About Infor, Floyd added, "they have bought a lot of near-bankrupt companies. As you know, a lot of people have been trying to migrate companies off of MANMAN for over 20 years." It's a testament to the sticky integration of ERP and the customization capability of MANMAN that this application leads the graveyard in the number of times it's been acquired.Cloud-based ERP is on the rise today, and a half-dozen newer ERP suites like NetSuite, Workday, Plex, and Kenandy are taking the place of classic MPE-based manufacturing IT. A few years back it looked like Microsoft Dynamics was the stable bet to take on some of this mission, but now people in the ERP world are wondering if Dynamics will be acquired, too. Ned Lilly is the CEO of open source ERP software company xTuple, and he writes about ERP gravesites at his ERP Graveyard website. He pointed out a Diginomica column by Phil Wainewright.
This alternative strategy would allow Microsoft to focus on its core platform and product engineering strategy without the conflict of having a sales team intent on winning business away from its growing army of third-party partner vendors. Some or all of the ERP products would doubtless be part of that transaction, while Microsoft would likely prefer to retain the CRM product because of the tight integration that’s possible to its Office properties.
But the ultimate decision may depend on who the buyer will be.... I think it’s more likely that Microsoft would look to sell off some or all of its legacy ERP portfolio to a ‘friendly’ competitor — one that’s committed to the Microsoft stack.
Open source ERP — the Support Group provided guidance for OpenBravo — looks like it may be a migration choice that wouldn't land in a graveyard. Commercial open source demands that some company product-ize the open software, in much the same way that Novell or RedHat turned Linux into an enterprise-worthy solution.
As for any Infor strategy that a MANMAN site would want to study, the busy world of its acquisitions is covered in an Infor Discovery Guide that runs more than 100 pages and 25 solutions, ranging from CloudSuite to a legacy stalwart like Lawson. Not mentioned anywhere in those pages is MANMAN itself, apparently because Infor considers there's not much to discover.
Software like MANMAN still runs the business of some manufacturers. But these customers pay support as if it's a parking fee, since their software is going nowhere. Well, not nowhere: the customers still have the capability to customize their applications themselves, carrying the companies into a future where parking places are discovered, and places to steer a migration are regularly mapped out, as shown below.
June 23, 2015
Migration platform gets Microsoft's retooling
Moving HP 3000 systems to Windows Server can include the use of the .NET framework, and Microsoft is retooling the framework to remain coupled with Visual Studio, rolling out a 2015 VS. The just-previewed development environment, a popular choice for migrating HP 3000 sites headed to Windows, means a new .NET release, as version 4.6 of the .NET Framework comes as part of the new Visual Studio 2015.
Microsoft is making its chief enterprise environment more feature-rich, but the retooling comes at a price. They all do, these revisions. The newest Visual Studio is powered by the new Roslyn compiler, and there are new APIs. Existing .NET apps aren't going to know much about new API capabilities, and so like everything in IT, the .NET frameworks from 4.5.2 backward will begin to age. But ASP.NET gets an upgrade and the Entity Framework data model increases its support for Azure data services and for non-relational databases. Alas, no IMAGE/SQL support in there, but that's what middleware from providers like MB Foster will continue to provide.
Users like the San Bernadino County Schools have been moving apps to .NET from MPE/iX, a project that was first scheduled to be complete at the schools by 2015. Four years ago, when the school system first started talking about using .NET, 2015 might've been outside of Microsoft's plans to keep .NET a strategic IT choice. VS 2015 as well as the newest framework put that worry to rest.
For more than four years, the COBOL code at the San Bernadino schools has been migrated into Microsoft's C#, and the dev environment has been Visual Studio. NET has been a Microsoft success, despite some bumps over the last 10 years.
As COBOL platforms go, Micro Focus has released Visual COBOL R3 to bring COBOL to a range deployment platforms including .NET, the Java Virtual Machine and the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform.
Dave Evans, who's going to migrate out of the district's IT shop before MPE does completely, said that initially the migration called for a "clean sheet" approach, rethinking and designing the apps from scratch. "As the amount of time left to get this done is decreasing," he said four years ago this week, "we're starting to switch to making a pretty screen for the user from the Windows world. Pretty much, the back end of this stuff we'll take as written on the HP 3000, and rewrite it over to .NET."
June 18, 2015
Throwback: A Zealous Emulator Wonder
Five years ago this week, Stromasys announced the launch of its project to emulate the HP 3000's hardware set. Emulation was a quest for many years before 2010, though. The OpenMPE advocacy group was founded on the pursuit of an emulator for 3000s that would not be built after 2003. By 2004, the community was hearing about the timeline for emulator development. It did not promise to be a short journey.
We revisit those days to remind our readers about a time when then-recent 3000 boxes were standing in the way of making a virtualized 3000. Our podcast for this week includes comments from one of the first emulator vendor candidates, as well as the ultimate developer of a product that marks five years on 3000 planning timelines.
Along the way, the tracks on the trail to making HP's 3000 systems virtually unneeded followed the hard road HP learned about migrations. More than half the systems that were turned off between 2003 and 2008 went to other vendors, according to one report from an emulator vendor. That period saw Hewlett-Packard lose many customers while they departed the 3000, according to the Chief Technology Officer Robert Boers.
What's remarkable about the emergence of Charon from Stromasys is the persistent dedication the vendor showed for the concept. It demands patience to be in the world of emulators. In 2004, nobody was even certain about the best release date for an emulator. HP-branded 3000s in that year were still commonplace, and all had falling price tags. By the time Charon made its debut, that hardware had become seven years older, and used systems were commonly more than a decade old. Time has not enhanced the vintage of these systems. An evergreen emulator, first announced five years ago this week, changed all of that.
June 17, 2015
Passwords, MPE, and Security Flaws
Editor's note: in the past 24 hours the world has faced another breach of the LastPass security database, putting hundreds of thousands of passwords at risk. LastPass assures all of its users their passwords are secure after the breach — but change your master password anyway, they add. This makes it a good time to revisit security practices as they relate to the HP 3000 (thanks to Vesoft's Eugene Volokh) as well as our resident security expert Steve Hardwick. Sound advice stays fresh.
More than 30 years ago, VEsoft's Eugene Volokh chronicled the fundamentals of security for 3000 owners trying to protect passwords and user IDs. Much of that access hasn't changed at all, and the 3000's security by obscurity has helped it evade things like Denial of Service attacks, routinely reported and then plugged for today's Unix-based systems. Consider these 3000 fundamentals from Eugene's Burn Before Reading, hosted on the Adager website.
Logon security is probably the most important component of your security fence. This is because many of the subsequent security devices (e.g. file security) use information that is established at logon time, such as user ID and account name. Thus, we must not only forbid unauthorized users from logging on, but must also ensure that even an authorized user can only log on to his user ID.
If one and only one user is allowed to use a particular use ID, he may be asked to enter some personal information (his mother's maiden name?) when he is initially added to the system, and then be asked that question (or one of a number of such personal questions) every time he logs on. This general method of determining a user's authorizations by what he knows we will call "knowledge security."
Unfortunately, the knowledge security approach, although one of the best available, has one major flaw -- unlike fingerprints, information is easily transferred, be it revealed voluntarily or involuntarily; thus, someone who is not authorized to use a particular user id may nonetheless find out the user's password. You may say: "Well, we change the passwords every month, so that's not a problem." The very fact that you have to change the passwords every month means that they tend to get out through the grapevine! A good security system does not need to be redone every month, especially since that would mean that -- at least toward the end of the month -- the system is already rather shaky and subject to penetration.
There's a broader range of techniques to store passwords securely, especially important for the 3000 owner who's moving to more popular, less secured IT like cloud computing. We've asked a security pro who manages the pre-payment systems at Oxygen Financial to share these practices for that woolier world out there beyond MPE and the 3000.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
There has been a lot in the news recently about password theft and hacking into email accounts. Everything needs a password to access it. One of the side effects of the cloud is the need to be able to separate information from the various users that access a centrally located service. In the case where I have data on my PC, I can create one single password that controls access to all of the apps that reside on the drive plus all of the associated data.There is a one-to-one physical relationship between the owner and the physical machine that hosts the information. This allows a simpler mechanism to validate the user. In the cloud world it is not as easy. There is no longer a physical relationship with the user. In fact a user may be accessing several different physical locations when running applications or accessing information. This has led to a dramatic increase in the number of passwords and authentication methods that are in use.
I just did a count of my usernames and passwords and I have 37 different accounts (most with unique usernames and password). Plus there are several sites where I use the same usernames and password combinations. You may ask why are some unique and why are some shared. The answer is based on the risk of a username or password be compromised. If I consider an account to have a high value, high degree of loss/impact if hacked, then it gets a unique username or password.
Email accounts are a good example. I have a unique username and password for my five email accounts. However, I do have one email account that is reserved solely for providing a username for other types of access. When I go to a site that requires an email address to set up an account , that is the one I use. Plus, I am not always selecting a unique password. The assumption is that if that username and password is stolen, then the other places it can be used are only other web site access accounts of low value. I also have a second email account that I use to set up more sensitive assess, google drive for example. This allows me to limit the damage if one of the accounts is compromised, and so I don't end up with a daisy chain of hacked accounts.
So the next question is how do you go about generating a bunch of passwords? One easy way is to go into your favorite search engine and type in password generator. You will get a fairly good list of applications that you can use to generate medium to strong passwords. But what if you don't want to download an application -- what is another way?
When I used to teach security this was one trick I would share with my students. Write a list of four or five short words that are easy to remember. Since my first name is Steve we can use that. This of four or five short number 4-5 digits in length 1999 for example. Now pick a word and number combination and intersperse the numbers and letters S1t9e9v9e would be the result of Steve and 1999. Longer words and longer numbers make strong passwords – phone numbers and last names works well. With 5 words and 5 numbers you get 25 passwords. One nice benefit of this approach comes when you need to change your password. Write the number backwards and merge the word and data back together.
Once you have created good passwords, your next challenge is how to remember them all. Some of the passwords I use I tend to remember due to repetitive use. The password for logging into my system is one I tend to remember, even through it is 11 characters long. But many of my passwords I use infrequently -- my router for example, and many have the “remember me” function when I log on.
What happens when I want to recall one of these? Well the first thing is not to write them down unless you absolutely have to. You would be amazed how many times I have seen someone password taped on the underside of their laptop. A better option is to store them on your machine. How do you do that securely?Well, there are several ways.
One easy way is to use a password vault or password manager. This creates a single encrypted file that you can access with a single username and password. Username and password combinations can then be entered into the password vault application together with their corresponding account. The big advantage is that it is now easy to access the access data with one username and password.
The one flaw: what happens if the drive crashes that contains the vault application and data? If you wanted to get started with a password vault application, InfoWorld offered a good article that compares some leading products.
Another option is to roll your own vault services. Create a text file and enter all of your account / username / password combinations. Once you are done, obtain some encryption technology. There are open source products -- truecrypt is the leader -- or you can use the encryption built into your OS. The advantage of using open source is that it runs on multiple operating systems. Encrypt the text file by using your software. Take caution to not use the default file name the application gives you, as it will be based on your text file name.
Once you have created your encrypted file from the text file, open the text file again. Select all the text in the file and delete it. Then copy a large block of text into the file and save it (more then you had with the passwords). Then delete the file. This will make sure that the text file cannot easily be recovered. If you know how to securely delete the file do that instead. Now you can remotely store the encrypted password file in a remote location, cloud storage, another computer, USB drive etc. You will then have a copy of your password file you can recover should you lose access to the one on your main machine.
Now, if you do not want to use encryption, let's look at why not. Well, most programs use specific file extensions for their encrypted file. When auditing, the first thing I would look for is files with encryption extensions. I would then look for any files that were similar in size or name to see if I could discover the source. This includes looking through the deleted file history.
The other option is steganography, or stego for short. The simple definition is the ability to bury information into other data – for example, pictures. Rather than give a detailed description of the technology here, take a look at the Wikipedia page. There is also a page with some stego tools on it . For a long time my work laptop had a screen saver that contained all my passwords. I am thinking of putting a picture up on Facebook next.
Here are a few simple rules on handling multiple passwords
1. Try and use uniques usernames and password for sensitive account. You can use the same username password combination for low sensitive accounts.
2. Run through an exercise and ask yourself, what happens if this account is hacked. So don't use the same username and password for everything.
3. Do not write down your passwords to store them.
4. Make sure you have a secure backup copy of your passwords; use encryption or steganography.
If you want to do some extra credit reading on passwords, there are two good references out there and they are free. The National Institute of Standards and Technologies has a library on security topics that is used by the federal government., a good publication on passwords.
The SP 800-118 DRAFT Guide to Enterprise Password Management focuses on topics such as defining password policy requirements and selecting centralized and local password management solutions.
Steve Hardwick is the Product Manager at Oxygen Financial, which offers advanced payment management solutions. He has over 20 years of worldwide technology experience. He was also a CISSP instructor with Global Knowledge for three years and held security positions at several companies.
June 16, 2015
Migrating Like Mercury, or NoSQL Is Plenty
More than a decade ago, database advocate Wirt Atmar said that "killing the HP 3000 was a little bit like hitting a drop of mercury with a hammer; it caused the drops to squirt out in every direction, with people migrating every which way to a whole host of new systems and new databases." The newest databases of that decade were modernized iterations of SQL, like MySQL and Postgres. In our current era, however, the schemas of Structured Query Language data management have begun to turn into a liability. What were once touted as an advantage over IMAGE (at least until IMAGE acquired SQL queries to become IMAGE/SQL) are now being viewed as not fluid enough.
The reason lies in how much we track today. Billion-record databases are not uncommon anymore. Establishing a query structure that remains in place for every search is slower than devising the best one on every search. That's the promise that NoSQL and its cousin file system Hadoop offer. When data leaps into the realm of the Internet of Things and tracks instances as small as light bulb blowouts, then database technology like SQL devised in the 1980s, no matter how much it's updated, won't be able to keep up.
SQL will be replaced with NoSQL, once the messiness of data becomes the norm. Oracle and PostgreSQL and MS SQL rule today. Even Microsoft Access has a ready enterprise base, as simple its structure is. But data is growing fast enough to become BigData. And the HP 3000 community which has migrated, or soon will, is going to look for newer data structures and tools to send its SQL data into NoSQL's schemas.
MB Foster is working to be this kind of tool provider. Tomorrow on June 17 the company will demonstrate how its UDACentral product moves the data today. The aim for versions in the years to come is support for BigData's tools of NoSQL and Hadoop.The demonstration covers the latest workflow for UDACentral, but the questions the company asks go beyond a tour of this year's features. What are the changes to prepare for over the next few years for data integration requirements and workflows? NoSQL and especially Hadoop, designed for managing BigData, tend to be championed by executives at the C-Level of companies.
That's a situation that will feel a lot like the push toward Open Systems in the early '90s. Less technical leaders will start asking for a tool that promises the most. It will be up to the technical managers to deliver, starting with the data they've got on hand today in SQL databases.
Looking ahead, even while increasing today's feature set, is an attribute of a vendor dedicated to the future of data. The HP 3000 was built around the intrinsic combination of file system and database management. The managers of these systems understand the exponential value that such a combination provides. For its time, the HP 3000 never had a rival that blended files and data so efficiently.
More than a decade ago Atmar's company AICS Research looked ahead to supporting "PostgreSQL on Linux, SQLServer on NT, Oracle on IBM, based on whatever migration patterns we see in the user community. Ultimately, it is our intention to support every common combination of host operating systems and databases."
A data extraction and loading tool makes that kind of support more than just a future requirement. Any tool like that — with a track record of embracing one database structure after another — can support the growth of data into BigData. The concept of BigData seems like a buzzword. So did cloud computing, too. And all it takes is one corporate acquisition for a BigData IT shop to develop a need to ingest data from something as relatively modest as an IMAGE/SQL database.
NoSQL and Hadoop offer another benefit, one that will resonate with HP 3000 managers. They're open source solutions, even if the technology is packaged by vendors like Cloudera or MongoDB. After a forced migration from the HP 3000 and IMAGE/SQL, migrators won't have to remain lashed to a proprietary data schema like Oracle's or Microsoft's. The BigData solutions will, as Atmar put it years ago, "be providing users with significantly more protection against vendor abandonment than they've had in the past."
June 15, 2015
ERP floats changes for classic models
Since the HP 3000 got popular in the 1970s, manufacturing has always claimed a majority share of its business use. MANMAN and the work of ASK led the new minicomputer into major corporations and thriving manufacturers. To this day, that software runs operations in places like Rockwell Collins, Calsonic, and Amatek Chandler. But the day of changes to classic ERP is coming. One of the things that's sparking it is the regularity of change.
Terry Floyd of the Support Group, which provides app support for companies using MANMAN and other ERP software, updated us on the use of alternatives to MANMAN. With a package as comprehensive as that suite, companies have to be cautious when replacing it. "Things have changed," he said. "The new stuff is NetSuite, Workday, Plex, and Kenandy, and a dozen others," he said. It's a lot better than Microsoft Dynamics, a solution we reported on earlier. The trend is illustrated in the chart above (click for detail.)
And among the changes taking place today is adoption of cloud ERP.
Kenandy says it's is making headway because it's more flexible and responsive to change in business than the classic ERP platforms. Cloud-based ERP is becoming a replacement choice because its fluid design can be responsive when business grows.
Companies running a legacy ERP system -- those are the MANMAN sites -- have to factor in the cost, time and effort of scaling a system to respond to new business requirements. Some of these MANMAN customers are being acquired, since they're efficient enterprises. "What happens when you open a new facility or attempt to integrate a new acquisition?" Kenandy asks in a white paper.
As a small company running on a combination of business applications, what happens when your business expands? Can you easily integrate new business lines? Can your systems easily adapt to new processes? What happens when you decide to scale and develop a global presence? Do the applications support multiple sites, multiple currencies and multiple languages? Moving to a cloud ERP solution allows you to easily scale across all these dimensions.
In addition to costs for integrating with an acquisition, or a new ownership partner, for additional hardware, ancillary software and maintenance, there's time needed to scale.
Any organization will go through the process of capital planning, hardware and software procurement, installation, and on-boarding — a process that could take weeks or months. Moving to a cloud ERP solution allows you to bypass much of this effort and scale more quickly. New users, new sites or new acquisitions can be on-boarded and then go live in a matter of days.
Floyd's company broke ground for MANMAN alternatives with the IFS ERP package. Kenandy, which traces its roots back to the ASK founders, is a point on the next horizon for ERP replacement.
June 10, 2015
Making Migrations of Data Your Big Tool
Data is the one element that every business computer user has in common. Whether they're still using MPE/iX or never had a single 3000 online, data is what defines a company's profile and mission. Even within the Windows environments that have been so popular for migrating 3000 sites, data must be migrated. The benefits go beyond consolidation and efficiency, too.
Birket Foster checked in with us to catch us up on what he's been showing IT managers for the past year about managing and migrating data. The tool for this kind of project is MB Foster's UDACentral. The software has been the crucial element in the company's services work, both for the 3000 sites on the move as well as companies that have no 3000 history at all. Foster's company does more business all the time with the latter kind of customer, he said.
"Not every 3000 vendor made this leap," he said. "These are becoming a bigger and bigger part of our revenues."
The UDACentral mission is going beyond a tool for MB Foster to use in engagements. The company's now offering it as Software as a Service. It can be rented for the duration of a migration, either of data or systems. On June 17 at 2 PM Eastern, the tool will be demonstrated in a Wednesday Webinar.
Foster said the software has evolved to include an entity relationship mapper, and the migration speed now clocks in at just 8 hours to move 300 million records. "Rows," Foster reminded us, because at one site the SQL term used for them illustrates how IMAGE never ran a day there.Customers are revising data structures when migrating data, in one case consolidating 40 separate databases down to a more efficient number. The Entity-Relationship builder tracks elements like keys, table names and record counts, all of those rows. At one site in the retail world, a migration of data simply wasn't going to finish soon enough to be possible.
"They told us that they had a rogue SQL Server database they wanted to move into Oracle," Foster explained, "and after using their in-house scripts for the migration, it wasn't finishing any faster than 8 days." The customer recognized moving the database, crucial for operations, could only take place on off hours, "and they knew they were never going to get any 8-day weekends. They wanted us to move it for them."
After a couple of days of tech support, it only took 90 minutes using UDACentral to move 80 million records. "We also trained them on our data migration methodology when we trained them on the software," Foster said. His company's already lining up more data migration projects for the fall.
Consolidating databases brings more than efficient management. In one customer site, data was being rekeyed as much as six times for various databases, so introducing errors and creating bad data was a real risk. But getting a Key Performance Indicator dashboard, and perhaps extracting data into a custom data mart, are genuine benefits that come from establishing an up to date relationship with your data structures. The biggest benefit might come from using the techniques in Big Data strategy.
"It's hard to steer your enterprise from the rear view mirror," Foster says. UDACentral will have support for Hadoop, Teradata and NoSQL databases in its next version, the kind of data resources used to develop forward-looking views of what customer transactions can predict in key performance.
"We're trying to help people master how to do Big Data," Foster said. Smaller companies can have this within reach now. "They'll have something to grab trends from their data, because there are patterns in there. Even moving from legacy systems, you can see better from a newer dashboard." That's the long-term benefit of being able to easily migrate, integrate and move data, he says.
June 09, 2015
What to Expect Out Of a Free Emulator
Emulation has been in the toolset of HP 3000 users for decades. It began with emulation of HP's hardware, yes, but it was the hundreds of thousands of HP terminals that were soon replicated in software. Just like with the Stromasys product to mimic 3000 CPU work, terminal emulators like those from Minisoft and WRQ virtualized hardware using Intel-based PCs.
Early in this century, even those emulators received some tribute: the first high-functionality 3000 terminal emulator distributed as freeware. But can you make that QCTerm software do the work of a Reflection, or MS/92? We asked Brian Edminster, curator of the open source repository MPE-OpenSource.org. An early adopter of QCTerm who worked to beta test the early versions, he says he uses the latest version and compared it to Reflection's V. 14.
"QCTerm has a number of things to recommend it," he said. "It's fast, and it's free. In addition to regular Telnet, it also supports Advanced Telnet — which can reduce bandwidth use and feels more responsive over a slow connection, because it works more like NS-VT."
Edminster says that QCTerm is simpler than Reflection, and acts more like a cross between a browser and conventional Windows program. But he notes that there are some drawbacks, too, such as the lack of support for the software.
"It also doesn't do NS-VT," he said, "which is not really a problem, since Telnet and Advanced Telnet are available for all late-model versions of MPE/iX. It is also less sophisticated than Reflection -- not as configurable, no file-transfer ability, and has no 'programmatic' interface."
Another downside for this free emulator is that it won't accommodate using the vi editor and Advanced Telnet. But the list of technology that QCTerm can employ is thorough.Edminster says he uses QCTerm with QEdit, QUAD, VPlus and Formspec, on Windows XP, 7, and 8 PCs. "In general, anything that would work on a 700/92 terminal works with QCTerm, including NMMGR.PUB.SYS, which is notoriously picky." I've heard that it'll work under WINE on Linux systems as well. Come to think of it, I can't recall anything that a CRT would do that QCTerm couldn't, but I'm sure somebody will prove me wrong someday."
The freeware was not intended to be an exact work-alike for a 700/92 terminal, nor was it designed to work like Reflection either. The documentation "makes it clear that QCTerm was intended to be something different, but better," Edminster says. "I think that for the most part, it hit the mark, even though the QCForms feature was never fully realized."
There is also a little-known basic scripting language for QCTerm. Unlike Reflection's scripting, QCTerm's commands are really only useful for automating connections and logins. It allows you to set up a script containing connection and login commands in a text file on the PC. This can then appear as a clickable icon on your desktop that can start QCTerm. "It will either dial a modem or make a network connection, then navigate the login process," Edminster said."I use this quite often now."
A page of the documentation includes instructions on how to utilize this Autolaunch Scripting, Edminster reported.
It's much simpler than what Reflection can do, but for most vanilla access to your MPE/iX based applications (that is, if your application doesn't expect Reflection) the scripting should work just fine. I'd urge testing it in your own environment with your own applications and tools before assuming that you can ditch other terminal programs.
One of the applications that I support actually has dependencies for Reflection coded into it (mostly to programmatically automate file-transfers). But aside from that specific functionality, QCTerm works like a champ.
June 08, 2015
In 20th year, NewsWire digital turns 10 today
A decade ago today, this blog received its first post. On June 8 of 2005, a death in the 3000's family was in the news. Bruce Toback, creator of several 3000 software products and a man whose intellect was as sharp as his wit, died as suddenly as HP's futures for the HP 3000 did. I wrote a brief tribute, because Toback's writing on the 3000-L made him a popular source of information. His posts signed off with Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem about a candle with both ends alight, which made it burn so bright.
I always thought of Bruce as having bright ends of technical prowess along with a smart cynicism that couldn't help but spark a chuckle. His programming lies at the heart of Formation, a ROC Software product which Bruce created for Tymlabs, an extraordinary HP software company here in Austin during 1980s and early 90s. Toback could demonstrate a sharp wit as well as trenchant insight. From one of his messages in 2004:
HP engineer [about a Webcast to encourage migration]: During the program, we will discuss the value and benefits of Transitioning from the HP e3000 platform to Microsoft's .NET.
Bruce: Oh... a very short program, then.
In the same way Toback's candle burned at both ends, I think of this blog as the second light we fired up, a decade after the fire of the NewsWire's launch. Up to this year we burned them both. Now the blog, with its more than 2,600 articles and almost 400,000 pageviews, holds up the light for those who remain, and lights the way for those who are going. This entry is a thank-you for a decade of the opportunity to blog about the present, the future, and the past.
We always knew we had to do more than give the community a place to connect and read what they believed. We're supposed to carry forward what they know. The NewsWire in all of its forms, printed and digital, is celebrating its 20th year here in 2015. A decade ago our June 2005 blogging included a revival of news that's 20 years old by now. It's news that's still can still have an impact on running a 3000 today.In the blog's first month of 2005, I wrote
"HP 3000 enhancements can travel like distant starlight: They sometimes take years to show up on customer systems. A good example is jumbo datasets for the 3000's database. Jumbos, the 3000's best tool for supporting datasets bigger than 4GB, first surfaced out of HP's labs in 1995, just when the NewsWire was emerging. We put our news online in the months before we'd committed to print, and our report of September 1 had this to say."
HP will make the enhancement available as part of its patch system, bypassing the delay of waiting for another full release of MPE/iX. But there are already discussions from the HP 3000 community that a more thorough change will be needed before long — because 40-gigabyte datasets someday might not be large enough, either.
"Why care about 20- or 10-year-old news? Because the 3000 has such a long lifespan where it's permitted to keep serving. In the conservative timeline of 3000 management, jumbos were the distant starlight, only becoming commonplace on 3000s a decade later. Jumbos are finally going to get eclipsed by LargeFile datasets. HP's engineers say their alpha testing to fix a critical bug in LFDS is going well."
"Like the jumbos before them, LFDS are also going to get a slow embrace. How slowly did jumbos go into production systems? Five years after jumbos first emerged, John Burke wrote in our net.digest column "it is hard to tell about the penetration of jumbo datasets in the user community beyond users of the Amisys application." His column also offered some tips on using jumbos, even while database experts in the community continued to lobby for a way to build larger files."
That reporting in 2005 marked the first time in a decade that 3000 customers could build a dataset as big as they needed. Up until then, LFDS had not been recommended for 3000 customers except in experimental implementations.
The nature of the 3000 community's starlight made a 10-year-old enhancement like jumbos current and vital. Alfredo Rego of Adager once said that his database software was designed like a satellite, something that might be traveling for decades or more and need the reliability of spacecraft to go beyond the reach of support transmissions. HP's signal for 3000s has died by now. We hope to repeat signals, as well as report, for more than another decade, onto the cusp of MPE's calendar reset of 2027. Thanks for receiving these transmissions.
June 04, 2015
More open HP shares its source experience
It's not fair to Hewlett-Packard to portray its Discover meeting this week as just another exercise in putting dreams of industry-rocking memristor computing to rest. The company also shared the source code for one of its products with the world, a tool the vendor has used itself in a profitable software product.
HP’s Chief Technology Officer Martin Fink, who also heads up HP Labs, announced the release of Grommet, HP’s own internal-use advanced open source app. The platform will be completely open source, licensed for open use in creating apps' user experience, or UX as it's known in developer circles. Fink said Grommet was HP’s contribution to the IT industry and the open source community.
HP says "Grommet easily and efficiently scales your project with one code base, from phones to desktops, and everything in between." The vendor has been using it to develop its system management software HP OneView for more than three years. The code on GitHub and a style guide help create apps with consumer interfaces, so there's a uniform user experience for internal apps. Application icons like the one on the left are available from an interface template at an HP website.
The gift of HP's software R&D to a community of users is a wide improvement over the strategy in the year that followed an exit announcement from MPE/iX futures. A campaign to win an MPE/iX open source license, like the Creative Commons 4.0 license for Grommet, came to naught within three years of that HP notification. There were some differences, such as the fact that HP still was selling MPE/iX through October of 2003, and it was collecting support money for the environment as well.
The 3000 community wanted to take MPE/iX into open source status, and that's why its advocacy group was named OpenMPE. It took eight more years, but HP did help in a modest way to preserve the maintainability of MPE/iX. The vendor sold source code licenses for $10,000 each to support companies. These were limited licenses, and they remain a vestige of what HP might have done -- a move not only echoed by Grommet, but reflected in HP's plan to move OpenVMS to a third party.
"I guess there is a difference between licensing the MPE code and then distributing it," our prolific commenter Tim O'Neill said last week.
I have heard that HP hangs onto the distribution rights because they are afraid of liability. Surely they do not, at this point, still seek to make money off it, do they? Is there some secret desire within HP to once again market it?
It feels safe to say not a bit of desire exists in HP today, even though Grommet shows the vendor can be generous with more mainstream tech. In at least one case, HP's offer of help with MPE's future was proactive, if not that generous.Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions tells a story about that MPE/iX source license. He was called by Alvina Nishimoto of HP in 2009 and asked, "You want to purchase one of these, don't you?" The answer was yes. Nobody knew what good a source code license might do in the after-market. But HP was not likely to make the licensing offer twice, and the companies who got one took on that $10,000 expense as an investment in support operations.
Pining over Grommet or the sweeter disposition of OpenVMS won't change much in the strategy of owning or migrating from MPE/iX. Open source has become a mainstream enterprise IT scheme by 2015, pumped up by the Linux success story. O'Neill said he still believes an open source MPE/iX would be a Linux alternative. He reported he recently discovered the Posix interface in MPE/iX. Posix was supposed to be a way to give MPE the ability to run Unix applications, using 1990 thinking.
The aim for Posix was widely misunderstood. It was essential to an MPE/iX user experience that didn't materialize as HP hoped. But John Burke, our net.digest and Hidden Value editor for many years, noted in the weeks after that exit announcement that HP's training on Posix expressed that desire of bringing the Unix apps to the 3000.
The following is an example from HP training:
"Before we proceed, let's stop to ask a question, just to ensure you've got the fundamental idea. Which of the following statements best summarizes the reason why HP has brought POSIX compliant interfaces to the MPE/iX operating system and the HP3000?
- POSIX is the first step in HP's plan to move all HP3000 users to UNIX
- POSIX is a tool that HP is using to bring new applications to MPE from the UNIX environment.
- POSIX is a piece of software that HP is using to eventually combine the HP3000 and the HP9000 into a single system.
Choose the best answer, and press the corresponding key: ‘1’, ‘2’ or ‘3’."
June 03, 2015
HP's Machine dream migrates off OS plan
The HP Discover show has wrapped up its second day, an annual event full of sales and engineering staff from the vendor as well as high-line customers. The show included an introduction of the new logo for the Enterprise half of Hewlett-Packard, a spinoff the vendor will cleave off the company in October. It's an empty green rectangle, something that drew some scorn an an icon bereft of content or message.
CEO Meg Whitman said the green represents growth and the rectangle is a window on the future. We can only hope that a logo for a $65 billion corporation that turns out to be a rectangle in green has a good discount attached to the project's invoice.
But another session today that can be consumed on Livestream.com showed a consistent removal of substance from HP's dream factory. The Machine, a project that reportedly was attracting more than half the R&D budget for the full corporation, had its mission backed away from the platform that promised to lead into computing's future. A computer built around the long-pursued memristor will make a debut sometime next year, but bearing standard DRAM chips instead. Of greatest interest to HP 3000 customers, former and those still current, is abandoning the R&D to create a Machine operating system.
An OS for the Machine would have been HP's first such project since MPE. HP hasn't built an environment from scratch since MPE was introduced in the 1970s. Its Unix began in Bell Labs with System V, NonStop was created at Tandem, and VMS was the brainchild of DEC. The Palm OS came from the company of the same name, and HP sold that software to Samsung to be used in refrigerators. HP's head of Labs Martin Fink said that Linux will be the software heartbeat of the Machine going forward. Creating a computer that runs Linux: Nothing there to suggest there's new love for software R&D in Fink's labs.Fink told the New York Times regarding the Machine that "Big will happen first, small will happen later." He was talking about the scale for the Machine, at first being a 320TB RAM device before becoming sized for smartphones and printers.
Big has developed a way of happening later at HP, not first.
The most telling part of this retrench of this big idea: falling back to a customized Linux as the operating environment for the Machine. Operating systems are big, but HP's not going to force software developers to learn something that has a chance to change the world's computing, as proposed for the Machine last year.
In the main hall of the Las Vegas show, thousands of customers and HP employees watched a clip from Avatar as evidence of HP's ambitions during today's talk. When the clip ended, the hall was silent. "You can clap for that, c'mon," Whitman said. She announced three sequels to come, called the movie a franchise, and adding that HP Enterprise has a five-year partnership with the creators of Avatar. HP's goal is create a rich user experience for the science fiction of James Cameron's films.
Science fiction about computer science might be for sale before the first sequel airs in 2017. HP's keynoted Discover content is all available on Livestream this year, for the first time. Tomorrow is the final day for the event.
June 02, 2015
Migrating Data Makes First Step Away
Beginning at 2 PM Eastern US time tomorrow (June 3), Birket Foster leads a Successful Data and Application Migrations webinar, complete with a breakdown on the strategy and ample Q&A opportunity.
Registration for the webinar is through the MB Foster website. Like all of the Wednesday Webinars, it runs for about an hour. The outline for the briefing, as summed up by the company:
A successful migration – application and data - has three major sections. We like to start with the end in mind. What does the business want to accomplish through this transformation? In fact, the best way to organize things is to create a dashboard for the “Application Portfolio” and to visualize the current and future fit of IT investments in aligning with the business needs and where the business plan is going.
As an example; if you use fleet management techniques (capital cost, estimated useful life of asset, next review inspection, number of service incidents, etc.) on your IT assets, a map and the value of each application to the business will emerge. A barometer status of green, yellow or red can be assigned based on a scorecard. A three year forward projection will show the parts of the portfolio that will need attention over time, a forecast of investment of both capital and labor can be forecast; as a result budgets and projects can be put in place so there are no surprises.
Foster says that in the webinar he will discuss a framework to effectively manage the Application Portfolio and the best way to help your business transition into the process of rating, and the risk-benefit value of each Application, for each department’s workflow. There will also be techniques outlined to achieve a successful result and the steps involved to triage applications, the business fit, maintainability, the roles of the team, and desired outcomes.
The company has been in the data migration business since the 1980s. Data Express was its initial product for extracting and controlling data. MB Foster revamped the products after Y2K to create the Universal Data Access (UDA) product line. As an example, UDACentral supports the leading open source databases in PostgreSQL and MySQL, plus Eloquence, Oracle, SQLServer, DB2, and TurboIMAGE, as well as less-common databases such as Progress, Ingres, Sybase and Cache. The software can migrate any of these databases' data between one another.
May 28, 2015
Managing Printers Via Windows and Clouds
Spooled printing can be a feature tough to duplicate for migrating companies. A software program is being offered by a developer with decades of HP 3000 experience -- and now serving Windows enterprise users. In expanding its lineup beyond HP 3000 utilities, Software Devices is making a product that creates a more productive experience on the environment where most migrating 3000 shops are headed.
From the notable spooling and printer developer Rich Corn at Software Devices comes Cloud Print for Windows. Corn's used his expertise at RAC Consulting, attaching print devices to HP business servers, to help create software that helps Windows systems employ the Google Cloud Print virtual printer service. So long as your printer's host can connect to the Web, Cloud Printing can be accessed from other desktops online.
Cloud Print for Windows then monitors these virtual printers and prints jobs submitted to a virtual printer on the corresponding local PC printer. In addition, Cloud Print for Windows supports printing from your PC to Google Cloud Print virtual printers. All without any need for the Chrome browser.
People expect Windows to be a more affordable platform per desktop, but the costs can add up. Employing cloud services can keep things more manageable in a budget. Cloud Print for Windows costs just $19.95 a seat. There's other levels of functionality — even one for free — including a Professional Edition for integrating with Microsoft's Windows Server environments.A Free Edition is limited to registering one printer, one-page print jobs, and no printer sharing. Printer sharing is the ability to share a single printer registered with Google by Cloud Print with any number of other Google user accounts or groups. This also includes sharing virtual printers on a Windows network. Submitting print jobs to GCP is limited to three per day using the Free Edition. The Standard Edition at $19.95 has no printer, page or submission limits, but it does not allow printer sharing. The Professional Edition includes printer sharing. The Pro Edition is required for use on any Windows Server operating system.
May 26, 2015
The Legacy of Trusted 3000 Access
In plenty of HP 3000 customer sites -- or the IT operations that include a 3000 among the servers -- MPE has been an outlier. An important one, however, and that's a good reason that access to the TurboIMAGE data has sparked a generation of tools. Linux, Unix, Windows systems all need to connect to the 3000's data. UDALink software has a track record of keeping 3000s in the computing Circle of Trust. Now there's a new generation.
Finance might need 3000 data to get a firm grip on the current operational profitability of the business. Customers will need to gauge supplier and vendor performance, based on data in 3000s. Accurate data, delivered in a timely way, improves customer relations and sales. And manufacturing processes must measure the time it takes to complete or commit to a product delivery date, for example. 3000 data might be on a legacy system, but it can be crucial to corporate objectives.
MB Foster is showing off the setup, configuration and enabling of secure ODBC/JDBC connections in UDALink to access a HP 3000 or another environment, starting at 2 PM Eastern on Wednesday. The webinar lasts about an hour, and you can register through MB Foster for the free briefing. This is software that connects 3000s to the rest of the world by way of direct access to data.UDALink is the progeny of ODBCLink/SE, the middleware created, maintained and supported by MB Foster for IMAGE/SQL for more than 20 years. This continuous and current support of 3000-ready middleware, as we once called it, is a community marvel. No server that's been off a vendor's price list for 12 years, as the 3000 has, ever had more care lavished upon its remaining users. UDALink is getting an enhancement to Java Database Connectivity 3.0 API. It's a type 4 interface, and so it's ready for the Windows Server migration that HP is counting upon, the journey of Windows Server 2003 users.
The vendor's CEO Birket Foster said that about 20 percent of the customers using Windows Server are still on the 2003 release. "It was a customer who requested we enhance the JDBC2 driver on UDALink," Foster said. "We were pleased to do so. It ensures that this customer and future customers can continue to leverage newer technologies with legacy business-critical applications."
ODBCLink/SE was first delivered inside of the MPE Fundamental Operating System in the 1990s. A full-featured version of ODBCLink was available for sale, and that full-edition software became UDALink. The latest version of the UDALink JDBC2 module has support for these changes from the JDBC 3.0 API, to name a few.
- Reuse of prepared statement by connection pools
- Connection pool configuration
- Savepoint support
- Retrieval of parameter metadata and auto-generated keys
- BOOLEAN data types
- Updating of columns containing BLOB, CLOB, ARRAY and REF
- Transformation groups and type mapping
- Database Metadata APIs
May 21, 2015
HP disses synergies as Q2 flows downhill
Penetration rates increased for HP's Business Critical Systems in the company's second quarter of 2015, year over year. And the corporation that sold thousands of HP-UX systems from that BCS to HP 3000 migrators reported that it has spent more than $400 million in dis-synergies in the just-finished quarter. Such were the milestones of financial jargon delivered to explain Q2 business. On the strength of profits that met expectations, analysts said the last 90 days of business didn't sink the SS Hewlett-Packard any further.
But the $25.5 billion in sales dropped from last year's Q2, and the revenues fell from the previous quarter as well. HP is selling less -- especially in the enterprise servers it created like Integrity -- and its already spending hundreds of millions to split itself into Enterprise and PC-printer companies. Halfway through the final year when all of that business is under one corporate banner, the company is looking ahead to rising reports as a split-up entity.
"HP is becoming stronger as we head into the second half of our fiscal year and separation in November," said CEO Meg Whitman at this afternoon's analyst briefing. The stock had closed at $33.83 and rose about 40 cents a share in after-hours trading.
The strength of the company, a subject of interest only to the 3000 customers who've chosen HP for migrations, must be measured in more than the price of its stock. HP hopes so, at least, since HPQ is trading in the same middle $30 range of 2011. Whitman has held her job since then, a time when PC pursuits and big-ticket acquisitions were the order of the day.
Now HP is merging with a new sense of focus. Merger and acquisition plays have both negative and positive prospects. Savings come through synergies. Declines come through dis-synergies, something HP wrote off as restructuring and separations costs that totalled more than a half-billion dollars.Revenues flowed downhill in all HP segments tied to systems and devices: PCs, printers, and HP-built enterprise servers. Industry Standard Servers sales rose, and HP is looking forward to the migration of customers from Windows 2003 to 2012 to lift sales of Intel-based products. The sales in Business Critical Systems declined another 15 percent versus Q2 of 2014. Year over year declines in BCS have arrived in steady measure for the last four years. But the Enterprise Group where BCS lives -- a unit that'll be a part of this fall's newly-minted HP Enterprise Corp. -- reported just a $7 million drop in profits. Sales were off $84 million.
Business Critical Systems sales -- all of the revenues from HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop servers, plus allied software -- dropped below $200 million for the first time in Q2. "The team delivered growth in operating profit dollars," said CFO Cathie Lesjak, "by improved gross margin and operating expense management." Selling and working out of BCS is a cost-wary enterprise in 2015.
Superdome X and NonStop X are a pair of server projects that will take those platforms across the HP-built to industry standard divide, and HP says those prospects hold hope for the future of those systems.
The price of a better future for a divided HP is those dis-synergies. One definition of this business term:
- Lower employee productivity during a period of due diligence or arising from the uncertainty of the takeover
- Loss of key employees to competitors
- Underestimating the time and complexity of merger integration, particularly integrating different systems
- Loss of customers who may decide that they wish to reduce the total amount they spend with the two businesses once combined or (worse) switch to a different supplier altogether.
In HP's case, that merger is the classic-line Hewlett-Packard business, enterprise computing, with the realities of competing in 2016 and beyond.
May 19, 2015
MANMAN migrations posed by new player
A new resource has begun to scout the MANMAN customer base, hoping to pose the potential for migrating off the venerable ERP solution. Merino Consulting Services contacted us to try to survey the field of MANMAN users that Merino might try to serve. Terry Floyd of The Support Group and Terri Glendon Lanza of Ask Terri know a good deal more about who's still running MANMAN on a 3000 today. The list used to include Rockwell Collins, E.D. Bullard (makers of the iconic three-ridge construction hats) and semiconductor test maker Delta Design.
MANMAN has been in place for decades at places like Delta Design, which installed the ERP suite in 1995.
Merino would like to help migrations off of MANMAN, something that's been an active mission in your community for more than 20 years, according to Floyd. We're scheduled to hear more from Merino next week about what they'll bring to an MPE user in the way of environment expertise during a migration.
Even among the companies that use homesteader solutions for manufacturers, there's a sense that a long-term ERP plan will involve Windows rather than MPE. The length of that term varies, of course, depending on the outlook for the current software in place. Customization keeps MPE systems in charge at companies very small and some large ones (albeit in small spots at those giants, like Boeing.)Moving a 3000 installation away from MANMAN -- first created in the 1970s and after five ownership changes, still serving some manufacturers -- is a skill at The Support Group's Entsgo group. In that TSG practice, the company has already used the ERP suite from IFS to replace the MANMAN.
Windows-centric replacement solutions include Microsoft Dynamics GP. The suite has a wide range of modules to cover all the needs of a company using a 3000. Like any replace-to-migrate strategy, there's a lot of customized business logic to carry forward.
TSG's Floyd said that Microsoft solution is battle-tested.
Several companies have converted from MANMAN to MS Dynamics, including one company in SoCal; that was 10 years ago. It's a fairly mature product by now, and had some great features when I checked it out way back when.
Windows used to be an anathema to the 3000 IT director, at least when it was considered as an enterprise-grade solution. Those days are long gone -- just as vanished as the sketchy beginnings of MPE itself, from its earliest days, and then again when it became a 32-bit OS in the late 1980s.
So it makes sense that someone who knows the genuine article in ERP, MANMAN, could have a positive review of a Windows replacement -- whether it's Microsoft's Dynamics, or IFS. Floyd said
There are dozens of viable ERP alternatives now (some industry specific, but many general purpose for all types of manufacturers.) There used to be hundreds. MS Dynamics is not as good as IFS, but choosing Microsoft now is considered as safe as choosing IBM was in the early 1980's. And at least you know they won't get bought by [former MANMAN owner] Computer Associates :)
Microsoft bought several ERP packages from Europe (one big one from Denmark, as I recall) and merged them together about 2002. They didn't write [that app suite] but they certainly have a viable product and a sizable user base, after this many years into it.
May 18, 2015
Portfolios That Make a Path to the Future
Wednesday afternoon (2 PM Eastern time, US) MB Foster is educating IT managers on the business case for using Application Portfolio Management. (Register here for the free event.) APM has gained a lot of traction in boardrooms and the places where analyst reports score points.
Gartner's researchers report that "Application portfolio management is critical to understanding and managing the 40-80 percent of IT budgets devoted to maintaining and enhancing software." HP 3000 managers, and especially those who are on the move to a new computing path, understand how much of their work has always gone into extending and repairing apps that make a difference.
Foster's team says that APM "changes the way you manage IT assets. Without proper visibility, IT executives can never be sure that they are investing appropriately by acquiring enhancing or retiring, the right application at the right time. Without visibility, APM is simply impossible without an ongoing view of IT investments."
In this Wednesday's webinar, Birket Foster will highlight the business case for APM, and outline "where you should start, mapping your portfolio, building a score card, examining business and technical fit, understanding benefit and risks and other subject related content." Foster's been talking about APM for more than 10 years, just about the whole time 3000 migrations have been in play.
APM can begin by delivering a means to increase the visibility of HP 3000 apps. And if that MPE visibility leads to a more energized transition plan — because now the executive management sees how vital the MPE/iX application is to meeting company goals — that's a good thing as well.Retiring out with the HP 3000 has been an option for some managers. But for many others, outlasting the server is becoming a genuine challenge. Leaving a legacy as an IT pro, instead of just the 3000 expert, is a way to revitalize a career.
You have to know how to treat applications as assets, to frame software as if it's as essential as cash on hand for a company. APM doesn't get cited much by the 3000 manager who's worked as a technologist to deliver value to a company. This is the business side of business computing. Learning more about that side gives a manager a greater skill set. Best of all, these practices make it easier to justify IT acquisition and expansion and yes, even a migration with its profound expenses.
Foster says that IT organizations and technology leaders are missing out on an opportunity to reduce IT costs, optimize applications, and deliver value back to the business. "With a bottom-up analysis for top-down decisions, IT departments move from an unclear inventory of applications with limited understanding of each, to a defined inventory with actionable information on the business value and technical condition of each application."
IT wants executive management to understand the condition of applications, built, bought, or accumulated through M&A, as well as how the apps affect and grow the business, and how they affect the bottom line and future budgets. APM can show what skills are required to manage and maintain the portfolio, and where succession planning plays a role.
May 13, 2015
Deciding Which Cloud Cabin To Ride
Trends in IT management are pushing server management into co-located and cloud-based service providers. If a path toward migration seems to lead toward services rather than servers, there are some developments to note while choosing a place to relocate the apps on critical servers.
Amazon is the leader in the cloud computing space with its AWS business. But just until recently, the world didn't know specifics of how well AWS was earning. It turns out that cloud services are one of the few Amazon products making a generous profit. And the existence of profits goes a long way toward protecting the future of any product or service. The 3000 is supposed to have crossed over from profitable to not so during the period after Y2K.
Once the system's projected revenue line dipped below the projected expense line, at that point you could say even those inside HP considered MPE servers a dead product. It didn't happen until after that Year 2000 bubble, though. The HP 3000 owner, having experienced this, will be wary of any single point of solution failure.
AWS is well above such a line. Other companies, such as HP, are not breaking out their cloud business results. But HP is making a point of promoting its latest HP Discover conference around the cloud concept. You can even ride in a cloud, the vendor promises, next month in Vegas.AWS owned more than 25 percent of the cloud infrastructure revenues during 2014, according to the Synergy Research Group. It's such a dominant share that the closest competitor, Microsoft, has only 10 percent, and IBM has 7. Rackspace, a preferred solution for the Charon virtual 3000 solution, comes in at 3 percent. HP's at under 1 percent, one of a host of companies who make up almost half of what's left over.
How big is cloud at AWS? Amazon said it had revenue of $1.57 billion during the first three months of the year. The company said its operating income from AWS was $265 million. Nothing that HP builds returns that kind of profit, except ink and paper.
But at the Discover show in Las Vegas, attendees can win "a VIP ride in the cloud on the High Roller with Connect and Ingram Micro on June 2, 2015. Join us as we journey 550 feet into the cloud over the beautiful Las Vegas landscape while networking and enjoying the ride."
Amazon is going to sell more than $5 billion in cloud services this year, by the company's reports. HP's still calling cloud computing "the new style of IT," and the strategy is pretty new to the IT director who's been managing local and networked servers for several decades. The Hewlett-Packard view from the clouds will include a Special Interest Group meeting for cloud computing during the June 2-4 show.
Hewlett-Packard has announced that it will spend $1 billion by the end of next year to help its customers build private cloud computing. Private clouds will need security, and they'll begin to behave more like the HP 3000 world everybody knows: management of internal resources. The difference will reside in a standard open source stack, OpenStack. It's not aimed at midsize or smaller firms. But aiding OpenStack might help open some minds about why clouds can be simple to build, as well as feature-rich.
May 12, 2015
3000 sites of some size still checking in
Last week we were on the hunt for HP 3000 customers of some size. These are organizations that are big enough to be publicly traded. The distinction can be important to any customer who wants to retain their HP 3000 apps after a merger as part of an enterprise-wide portfolio.
A note here on portfolios: they're not just for publicly traded securities. Applications can be managed, portfolio-style. MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster has shared several lessons with the 3000 community on how Application Portfolio Management practices keep a company prepared for discussions about keeping apps, no matter what environment hosts them. The right time to migrate is a question that APM data can answer for any CIOs who are asking about MPE apps.
As for the 3000 sites of size, three more have checked in. The largest line of candy shops in the US, an online resource for IT products, and a worldwide nutrition company are all current 3000 sites. They all have corporate ownership which must bear the burden of shareholder scrutiny.The largest candy shop company in the US is See's Candies. Founded in 1921, See's operates more than 200 stores across this country, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, plus it counts on online sales. See's is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire's iconic founder Warren Buffett called See's "the prototype of a dream business." Buffett certainly knows nothing of See's IT choices, but his managers surely do. He commented on See's dreamy business in a book published in 2012 — more than a decade after HP's plans for the 3000 dried up.
(This is the second Berkshire Hathaway 3000-using company we've discovered. Cerro Wire has been a 3000 site for years and is also part of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies.)
Tiger Direct is an operation of the Systemax Corporation, traded on the NYSE. The parent corporation had revenues overall exceeding $3 billion for the current fiscal year. Tiger was acquired and integrated into the corporate IT of Systemax in 1996, the same year the TigerDirect.com website was launched. Like See's, Tiger Direct sells via web outlets directly to customers.
Shaklee manufactures and distributes natural nutrition supplements, weight-management products, beauty products, and household products. Its $150 million in yearly revenues come from operations in the US, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, and Japan; the company is traded on the Japan Stock Exchange.
All three of these companies sell to consumers using e-commerce packages. High volumes of transactions are keeping 3000s busy in these shops. The stability of legacy solutions, and the design to manage thousands of sales per hour, are making these companies' success a matter of public record.
If you know of other publicly traded corporations still using HP 3000s, let us hear about it.
May 08, 2015
Wiping An MPE Past Clean: Tools and Tips
The 3000 newsgroup readers got a query this week that's fit for our migrating epoch. "It's the end of an era, and we're going to dispose of the HP 3000," said Krikok Gullekian. "After deleting all of the file, is there a way to wipe out the operating system?"
Such wipe-outs are the closing notes of the migration's siren song. Nobody should leave evidence behind of business data, even if that 3000 is going out to a tech recycle house. A piece of software, a classic part of hardware, and even wry humor have been offered to meet the wipe-out request.
Donna Hofmeister of Allegro Consultants pointed to WipeDisk, a program that's hosted on the computer that will no longer know its own HPCPUNAME once the software finishes its job. It will sanitize an MPE/iX disk drive. (Versions for MPE/V, HP-UX, Mac OS X and Linux are also available.)
"You install WipeDisk on your target system and run it when you're really, really really sure you're ready to say good-bye to your old friend," she said.
It's not complete enough just to run MPE's VOLUTIL>FORMATVOL command, Allegro notes on the product's webpage. "You cannot count on VOLUTIL>FORMATVOL to ‘erase’ a disk. It might, or might not, depending upon the disk vendor’s implementation of the device firmware."
Hardware to fully erase the disks magnetically was also offered as a solution. Then there was the reference to the Hewlett-Packard of the era of this month's new Presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina.After a few suggestions to take a hammer, chain saw, or wood chipper to the drives, Denys Beauchemin pointed managers at the everlasting legacy of magnetic degaussing. "I would think that degaussing the disk drives, or simply taking the disk drives out and destroying them separately, would be the most secure method, if you have any concerns with anyone ever being able to read from these disks. Seems a shame to destroy good hardware, though."
Alan Yeo of ScreenJet got the sharpest word in, during a week when 3000 users began commenting on their ardor for Fiorina's candidacy. To wipe out MPE, Yeo said, "just leave it in the hands of HP. They started a fairly good job in November of 2001."
Fiorina probably never knew of the server, but it was on her watch HP pulled its plug. The vendor failed to wipe out MPE altogether, though. Only 2028 will do that, and even that date might not be able to complete the wipeout.
"You're asking advice on committing a sin," added Michel Adam, Systems Analyst for Canada's Government of the Northwest Territories.
May 06, 2015
Big companies still use the HP 3000
From time to time, HP 3000 managers need specifics on the community's use of the 3000. Who's out there of any size who's devoted to making MPE a realistic 2015 business tool? As it turns out, there's an array of current customers who are large enough to trade on the stock market, even while they use an operating environment first booted up before their companies went public.
Size of company is one measure of the 3000's success over all of those decades. Another way CIOs try to gauge the staying power of a server that doesn't have vendor support is to see how many sites count MPE as an essential corporate business tool. This census-style of measure won't impress anybody in an era where Windows Server powers hundreds of thousands of businesses. (Windows Server customers are facing a migration this year, though, one that's not voluntary anymore.) Forced to an estimate, we'd say there are 2,500 HP 3000s running around the world, with about half as many customers.
But this is a computer still in regular use by publicly-traded companies. Several 3000s run at 3M, where they'll be part of the IT environment for a few more years. Manufacturing and ERP are the usual jobs for long-term, large-company MPE systems. But some sites are using the servers for e-commerce, for distribution, and for general finance operations.
One of the higher-profile organizations using the server is AMETEK, a company which is part of the S&P 500. Two divisions run MANMAN on their 3000s. At last report, one of these systems isn't going to power down until 2023 -- just four years before MPE date-management will start to report the last century's first two digits.Another public site is Measurement Specialties. About a dozen systems are running in the US and in China at a company that was traded as MEAS before it was acquired by TE Connectivity (TEL) last year.
As we've reported in the past, Cerro Wire has been a 3000 site for many years. Cerro is part of the Berkshire Hathaway group of companies.
This brief and incomplete list of 3000 users would not be complete with mentioning Boeing Corporation. Large companies such as these might only use a few 3000s with legacy applications, but a big organization also has a serious mission to contain costs. The expense of supporting a 3000 by an independent company -- for example, Pivital Solutions, an all-3000 provider -- is lower than it ever was from Hewlett-Packard.
Migration is an inevitable choice for a company that looks out over the next 20 years, unless clever technology will resolve that 2027 date problem. But with the rise of the virtual 3000 hardware from Stromasys, not even the age of disk drives will force a transition until then.
The 3000 is also in use by the US Army, an organization that's about as public as any can get.
May 05, 2015
When Migrations Are Easy Replacements
One day ago Computerworld asked me whether I thought Hewlett-Packard had done the right thing about HP 3000 futures. The deed that changed most of the lives in the 3000 community happened long ago, but those 13-plus years have been put in current focus by the candidacy of the CEO at the time of the 3000 exit plan. Carly Fiorina wants to be America's next president. Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau, having covered 3000 events for close to two decades, knew there would be some permanent marks here from that dark decision of 2001.
But there are people who have come to accept and even embrace the change forced upon customers and suppliers. These are sharp and savvy people who've made changes themselves in the wake of the end of HP's 3000 business. Most of them have extended their skills or product line or service offerings. All of that came at a cost, the risk that entrepreneurs take in business.
Migrations made business in this market too, just like the Y2K deadline lifted a lot of COBOL experts' revenue reports for 1996-2000. There's one insidious angle to that "new business from HP changes" strategy, though. It's the idea that the HP 3000 was easier to replace than other enterprise systems because it was general purpose and transaction-based.
That's a label that also fits the Digital VMS line as well as IBM's Series i (AS/400). IBM had the good sense not to walk away from its midrange servers, and HP decided to protect a larger customer base in the VMS systems (larger than the MPE base by a factor of 10). But the 3000 was not targeted because of any ease of replacement. "VMS and MPE were general purpose, transaction systems that were much more easily replaceable," the assertion goes, more easy than replacing something like the NonStop fault-tolerant environment.
Using that line of thinking, HP's Unix is up for the next cut, now that VMS has been ushered out of HP's long-term enterprise futures. Nobody who's invested in VMS, MPE, or HP-UX wants to hear that their general purpose computer would lead to a costly long-term choice. It was never about a customer's choice. This was always all about business and HP's hard choices — and so that's why Computerworld wanted to know how your community was adding up the cost, now that Carly's will begin taxing political credibility.Relative ease of migration is something like being a little pregnant. The change was never going to be easy or without pain. At the end of the migration process a customer has something new, something that looks a little bit like its predecessor. But the ideas of "easily replaceable" and MPE exits won't ever fit together. At least not in the shops of customers. I'm sure these 3000s were easily replaced in PowerPoint slides and white papers, though.
As proof of that complexity, consider all of those migrations still being assisted by 3000 experts. Because nothing of the nature of MPE is easily replaceable. Thibodeau wrote as much.
Another place for clues to Fiorina's leadership could be the decisions around the HP e3000, a mid-range system that was widely regarded for its durability and reliability. To the shock of users, HP in 2001 announced that the HP e3000 was being discontinued.
It was not the right decision, said Ron Seybold, who heads The 3000 Newswire. "'If it isn't growing, then it's going' were her marching orders after buying Compaq," said Seybold. He argued that the system was small, but profitable. In his mind, that decision proved "she wasn't looking any farther ahead than tomorrow's earnings reports."
No, it's not a direct line between the departure of 3000 futures and the lingering malaise of HP's fortunes. But the 3000 represented a trend away from R&D and HP inventions, even while Fiorina ironically installed the word "invent" under a new HP logo. Fiorina made her HP mission about the short-term, not long-term strengths.
The demise of invention resulted in a massive percentage of the 3000 base leaving for non-HP products. That kind of migration eliminated HP's messy problem of taking care of so many enterprise businesses. About a decade or so after 3000s stopped rolling off the HP assembly lines, HP is splitting off the mess that Carly cobbled together and focusing on -- wait for it -- enterprise computing.
It's important to note that Fiorina didn't sign the 3000 death notice. There's a good chance that until her political operatives read that Computerworld story, she didn't even know the 3000 made an HP exit. The last time she was seen acknowledging the 3000, she'd taped a promise to preserve it in HP's plans. The video got its only airing at an Interex meeting in the year 2000. The Compaq deal was already in play by then.
For those who didn't follow, the genuine ax-swinger of the 3000's demise was Winston Prather -- who moved to HP NonStop division in fairly short order after he opened the scuttle-hatches at CSY. Having executed HP's exit, he seemed to have atoned by preserving NonStop. It's probably because there's nothing else out there that does what that Tandem-created product does so well.
And so the irony is that the best hope for a surviving HP-built environment will come from a product HP did not create. Migrations from NonStop are thought to be nearly impossible. That thought is one protection from believing their replacement is easy.
April 29, 2015
Linking Yesterday's Data To Today's Server
Another migration is underway in the world of enterprise computing, one that will transport millions of customers. It's not from one OS to another, or even from one model of computer to something much newer. It's a transition from one Windows Server release to the latest, although the latest Windows Server doesn't bear the name of our current year.
Business is making a shift from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012, triggered by applications. The apps are making use of a larger computing space, going from 32- to 64-bit software. And in so doing, these IT shops need an upgrade to their data links. HP 3000s that are networked into a Windows Server enterprise have a newer model of connectivity software to handle this migration.
UDALink is the progeny of MB Foster's ODBCLink/SE, the middleware created, maintained and supported by MB Foster for IMAGE/SQL for more than 20 years. This continuous and current support of 3000-ready middleware, as we once called it, is a community marvel. No server that's been off a vendor's price list for 12 years, as the 3000 has, ever had more care lavished upon its remaining users. Now UDALink is getting an enhancement to Java Database Connectivity 3.0 API. It's a type 4 interface, and so it's ready for the Windows Server migration.
The vendor's CEO Birket Foster said that about 20 percent of the customers using Windows Server are still on the 2003 release. "It was a customer who requested we enhance the JDBC2 driver on UDALink," Foster said. "We were pleased to do so. It ensures that this customer and future customers can continue to leverage newer technologies with legacy business-critical applications."Foster's product ODBCLink/SE was delivered inside of the MPE Fundamental Operating System. A full-featured version of ODBCLink was available for sale, and that full-edition software became UDALink. The latest version of the UDALink JDBC2 module has support for these changes from the JDBC 3.0 API, "to name a few."
- Reuse of prepared statement by connection pools
- Connection pool configuration
- Savepoint support
- Retrieval of parameter metadata and auto-generated keys
- BOOLEAN data types
- Updating of columns containing BLOB, CLOB, ARRAY and REF
- Transformation groups and type mapping
- Database Metadata APIs
The feature list will be important to the application developer who's maintaining 3000 programs that reach into databases across platforms. "The flexibility with the new interface will allow new integrations, and access for all HP 3000 and UDALink customers," Foster said. The most up to date Windows Server release can reach into 3000 databases.
Pricing information and procedures to add the JDBC2 module enhancements are available from the vendor at firstname.lastname@example.org
April 28, 2015
Locating Help for 4GL 3000 Projects
A phone call -- how old-school -- to the NewsWire offices today posed an interesting question: Who'd be able to help a site that's got Speedware applications which appear to be layered with Visual Speedware? The list of independent Speedware experts who know MPE isn't a long one. A few months ago we compiled the a collection of 3000 experts into a single webpage here on our website. Only three companies named Speedware skills specifically in their company profiles.
"The Speedware here feels like it's hidden behind high walls," the caller said. "There's an aspect of Windows running in there, and the site doesn't really know where their development server is." Visual Speedware is still a product of Fresche Legacy -- the new name of Speedware since 2012 -- and the software that was created for "Enterprise Client/Server Development" has a presence on the Fresche website. The product's data sheet from 2002 is on the hpmigrations.com wing of the Fresche Web addresses.
Readers here will know there's an opportunity to help with a Speedware installation. It's a skill set in declining supply, this kind of 4GL expertise. PowerHouse users have a mailing-list newsgroup, but there's nothing like that for the Speedware user.
The two brands of 4GL have widely differing early days; Speedware was sometimes white-labeled to create apps sold by other software companies. SoftVoyage is a memorable example. PowerHouse always had its name out front where it was deployed. Later installs of these two 4GLs, through the late 1980s onward, were more similar.
In the ways of the IT world in 2015, both of the vendors of these products consider their 3000 customers to be ready candidates for migrations. The transition arrives in various flavors, but all of it is designed to leave the Hewlett-Packard-branded 3000 hardware behind.Fresche Legacy has been in what it calls the application transformation and migration business a long time. In more recent years the company has focused on the IBM marketplace transitions. Fresche Legacy is exhibiting at this week's COMMON conference for IBM users, one of the biggest in the AS/400-Series i world. But when HP 3000 migrations were a nascent concept, HP pointed to a 3000-to-9000 Speedware transition as an early migration success story.
PowerHouse is supported in the 3000 world by MB Foster; the company founder Birket Foster can call on experience with PowerHouse back into the 1970s when the company was called Quasar, rather than Cognos. Foster's right up to date with this platform's options and structures. This year MB Foster inked an alliance with Unicom Global, the latest PowerHouse owners, to assist companies including HP 3000 owners.
If you go back far enough in the history of these two 4GLs, you'll find a moment where PowerHouse and Cognos were in a services deal together. It was all about migrations of PowerHouse, not the preservation of one 4GL or another. It yielded a then-groundbreaking photo of Cognos and Speedware crews arm in arm in one booth, supporting one another.
April 21, 2015
Scheduling Time for Job Management
Starting Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern, MB Foster will demonstrate in a Webinar what Windows-based scheduling software should look like. The template for success comes from a strong jobstream management design: the one on HP 3000s.
3000 managers are making moves to Windows. It's been the most popular migration destination ever since HP announced it was leaving the 3000 space. Going to Linux is popular too, and the older generation of the Linux concept, Unix, had good scheduling software choices. Managers buy their own scheduler for all of these migration platforms, because what's included won't do anything close to what MPE delivers.
Over at the IT operations of Idaho State University, the scheduler that's recommended for the Banner/Ellucian ERP package under Unix has been installed. "We went with Automic's UC 4," said IT analyst John MacLerran. "That is the one recommended for use in Banner and it has worked quite well for us. We are currently on Solaris, with some Windows servers (for our report writer, named Argos), and Linux servers for the Oracle middleware servers. We will be moving the Solaris bits to Linux in the next 12 months or so, as we undergo a hardware refresh on our servers."
That's well and good for Unix or Linux sites, but Windows installations don't have such clean choices. MBF Scheduler is a selection that Measurement Specialties made a few years ago. That 3000 shop added Windows to its IT mix and needed 14,000 3000 jobs managed.Companies that use Windows eventually discover how manual their job scheduling process can become if they're hemmed in with native tools for Windows. Credit card batches must be turned in multiple times a day at online retailers, for example. Measurement Specialities, the manufacturer which still runs a dozen HP 3000s in sites across North America, China and Europe, uses MBF Scheduler. The product manages a complementary farm of Windows Server-based systems to move jobs among servers in Measurement Systems' 3000s.
Terry Simpkins at Measurement Specialties has been devoted to Infor's MANMAN well beyond that vendor's ability to support the ERP app. Like other customers around the community, Simpkins and his team have compared MBF Scheduler to MPE's mature tools, and favorably. Sites like his don't need a separate Unix or Linux server for job scheduling, which is the usual way to keep Windows 2003 or 2012 on schedule.
At Measurement Specialities, for example, the IT pro who handles scheduling never sees the HP 3000. But enterprise server-born concepts such as job fences are tools at that IT pro's command.
Job listings, known as standard lists (STDLISTs), are common to both the 3000 and Windows environment, and MBF Scheduler was built to provide the best of both 3000 and Windows worlds. The software's got its own STDLIST reviewer, integrated with a scripting language called MBF-UDAX.
At Idaho State, a scheduler that would work with an Eloquence-Unix-PowerHouse mix was an early migration target. Before that PowerHouse project shifted to the Banner ERP, a third-party scheduler filled the university's requirement sheet. It was written for Unix, not Windows. The university's MacLerran reported that the Unix scheduler looked good because it looked like MPE/iX scheduling.
We investigated BatchQue+, from Corporate Practical Solutions (grepit.com). One of the nice things about BQ+ was that you could set up different job queues that could be used to prioritize and categorize batch jobs, similar to the job queue mechanism in MPE. Also, BQ+ was one of the only products that had an Operator-type interface for management of the queues. That meant our console operator could see what was executing in batch and which queue it was in, as well as which jobs were waiting in the queue — very much like MPE showjob commands.
April 20, 2015
Replacing Apps, and Adding On, to Migrate
At Idaho State University, migration away from HP 3000 operations has been underway since before 2007. The school directed nearly all of its business functions using MPE/iX software, a good deal of it hand-tooled in PowerHouse. Within a couple of years of the migration launch the higher-education application Banner, running on Solaris Unix servers, took over for key parts of the 3000 operations. The last set of applications of the project now has a target for completing by July.
John MacLerran, senior IT analyst, updated us on the work at the university, noting that there are three applications, as well as control of the school's PBX, that must still be replaced from the 3000. The 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," he said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law."
These revisions are 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. (MB Foster calls these migration targets Commercial Off The Shelf apps.) "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.The campus facilities management office has used a 3000 app to track inventory, MacLerran said.
Our stores department maintains an inventory of items used on campus by our facilities management office — plumbing supplies, janitorial supplies, paint, rubber gloves, light bulbs, etc. The inventory management system in Ellucian didn't have the needed functionality. That application will be replaced by an off-the-shelf application called SouthWare that we are licensing through B.A.S Software (bas-solutions.com). We are in the process of implementing it now.
The patient and comprehensive work at Idaho State reflects IT management that's been careful about matching functionality. That's meant the 3000 there will finally see a potential switch-off date this summer, about eight years after migration work started. There have been many months with design and testing and development taking place even as MPE/iX continued to serve. At one point the Stromasys Charon emulator was under consideration, but accelerating the migration schedule with extra in-house resources let Idaho State stay true to its program — going directly from HP's 3000 hardware to Solaris servers.
MacLerran said there's another 3000 app in its Motor Pool -- the university has locations in three Idaho cities -- that's still in need of migration. That operation bills departments or the use of vehicles by professors who travel to class. The solution to that replacement is still in transit. Again, add-ons are the strategy for migration in the Motor Pool, where an existing system called Dossier might get an add-on module.
As for the PBX, it's telecom equipment the university owns and maintains.
We run our own PBX for telephone switching on campus, and charge departments for phones (the physical phone on the desk), for phone lines to the offices, and for long-distance use. The telecom system bills departments for those charges. About 85 percent of it is already ported to a third-party system (from a company named Pinnacle, I believe), and the rest is scheduled to be done by June 1.
April 10, 2015
Putting ERP Securely On Your Wrist
HP 3000 ERP solutions are hosted natively on servers, and some of them can be accessed and managed over Apple's mobile tablets. But the Apple Watch that's due in two weeks will bring a new and personal interface for enterprise servers. Indeed, a well-known alternative and migration target for MANMAN and other MPE apps is climbing aboard the Apple Watch bandwagon from the very first tick.
Salesforce has a Watch app coming out on launch day that ties into a business installation of the storied application. Incredible Insights Just At A Glance, the promo copy promises.
Access the most relevant, timely data in seconds. Swipe to see dashboards, explore with lenses or use Handoff to work seamlessly between Apple Watch and iPhone. And use Voice Search to surface a report, view a dashboard, or find other vital information in seconds.
As mobile computing takes a new step with the Watch -- a device that Apple's careful not to call a smartwatch, as it's more of an interface for a smartphone -- security remains a concern. Apple has been addressing it by recognizing the Four Pillars of Mobile Security. A little review can be helpful for any IT pro who's got mobile devices coming into their user base. That's the essence of BYOD: Bring Your Own Device.According to enterprise Mac management software vendor JAMF, securing a mobile system, whether it's a tablet like the TTerm Pro-enabled iPad, a smartphone or a laptop, "requires careful attention to four key areas."
- Data at rest — Securing data on a device
- Data in transit — Securing data as it moves over a network connection to the device
- Application security — Installing trustworthy software from a safe source
- Patching — Keeping software up to date to avoid vulnerabilities
To implement good security reliably throughout an organization, three additional capabilities are crucial:
- Device management — Deployment, application distribution, security policy enforcement
- Reporting — Inventory of all devices and their configuration
- Auditing & remediating — Audit for compliance to security standards and tools to remediate as needed
JAMF sells its Casper Suite as a tool to manage enterprise-grade Apple platform installations. There's bound to be something just as thorough for the Windows-based user community. It's one more thing to ensure is a part of a migration plan, as the 3000's ERP data moves into a fresh generation.
For reference, to help research the caliber of such a Windows-based strategy, here's the breakdown that JAMF provides in a white paper about securing mobile data as well as Apple does.
1. Data at rest — The iPhone and iPad features hardware-based encryption for data at rest that is enabled by default. For Mac, the FileVault whole disk encryption system (a native feature in OS X) protects data with virtually no impact to system performance or battery life.
2. Data in transit — Apple devices can connect via VPN (Virtual Private Network) to secure data in transit. No additional software is required to take advantage of this security feature, and once configured it is transparent to the user.
3. Application security — One of Apple’s best contributions to the IT security field is their App Store ecosystem. Apple reviews all software submitted to the App Store to weed out malware. Each software package is cryptographically signed to prevent any tampering with the files. OS X and iOS are configured to reject any software that lacks a signature. IT staff can sign their own software packages to take advantage of this application security layer.
4. Patching — Since the dawn of computing, all software includes some number of defects or bugs. Some of these defects can be used by malicious attackers to gain access or steal information. The best practice for IT security is to keep all software up to date to eliminate vulnerabilities as they’re discovered. Apple makes this easy with native software patching utilities built-in to the OS. IT staff can host an Apple Software Update Server on the corporate network to speed up patching.
There's a bit of "every problem seen as a nail" with Apple's tools acting as a hammer here. But closed ecosystems have been essential to 3000-grade reliability for decades. Apple controls every aspect of the ecosystem as much as HP did with the 3000, making hardware as well as operating systems. A turnkey solution usually saves time and resources.
April 09, 2015
Labels leap over legacy support hurdles
An invention in shipping labels is making headway this year, riding the power and promise of marketing. But DuplexPackSlip, while it's a novel product, still manages to reach back to legacy servers like the HP 3000. One reason the label has gained traction is that it's been shaped around a commerce process rather technology choices.
Minisoft, one of the foundational vendors for HP 3000 connectivity, still sells terminal emulation products to link MPE. But one aspect of its cross-platform support comes from eFORMz, a forms management product that ties into any WMS or WRP system. The labels are an all-in-one duplex label shipping solution that combines a shipping label with a packing slip, using the front and back sides of the same label. The new generation of the solution includes marketing on the reverse of the label.
eFORMz has always been platform-agnostic. The software is driven off PCs that tie into business servers including the HP 3000. But choosing to use eFORMz doesn't lock a company into a particular computing environment. That makes the software something to carry forward during a migration, or choose without being concerned about what environment will come next.
Minisoft says that DuplexPackSlip can streamline warehouse shipping operations and reduce costs by 30 percent. The tie-in with the Minisoft software and the labels lies in eFlex Laser Forms. The multi-use laser forms employ label designs so retailers can incorporate special offers, pre-paid returns, targeted cross-sells, loyalty rewards, or gift cards while fulfilling every customer's order.
First released 15 years ago, eFORMz was created using the ubiquitous platform of Java. That language's promise was write once, run anywhere. Java was developed in an era when the silos of technology were tall and stout. The information industry has mowed down those silos by now, but legacy tech still wants to be included in novel solutions. Cross-platform software that can be implemented into future tech, but used in legacy solutions, presents a great means for looking forward with a flexible view.
April 06, 2015
Trail of support leads to indies, or an alt-OS
Independent support companies have been keeping HP 3000s running for decades. At one point the battle for support dollars was so profound HP tried to file lawsuits to restrict fair commerce in the maintenance marketplace. Companies with 3000 experts on tap have held their ground over more than a dozen years of the declining interest from Hewlett-Packard in the server and its OS.
Recently we've seen independent resources marshaling knowledge bases and documentation on the server. Much of the MPE/iX OS manual set is on hpmmsupport.com, a website set up by some of the creators of the MM II/3000 MRP software. It's a good thing that outside resources like this exist, because now there's more evidence that the archives of Hewlett-Packard are closing their MPE doors tighter.
This retraction of knowledge can lead a 3000 owner in two directions. They can either embrace operating processes that will require an independent expert to field support calls. Or if a company needs another reason to make serious steps to migration, then less vendor information to help fix bugs will be adequate to push the cart down the hill, away from MPE.
Tonight one set of information can be indexed at an HP Support website. There are patch notices and pointers to support documents, but everything is behind a demand for a valid support agreement. And this news about the successor to HP's IT Response Center (ITRC) shutting some MPE doors includes a confusing footnote. Somewhere out in the world, there might be a 3000 site still getting support from HP, deep under the covers of corporate policies.
While the vendor was public about its waning intentions for 3000 futures, it was also eager to preserve such support business. HP's reach for support contracts while advocating migrations slowed the migration business for the community. In the long shadows after two extensions of support deadlines, migration companies and homesteading firms have been finding no vendor help to portray and preserve the state of the 3000. The customers were promised otherwise, years ago, when the information was still fresh on HP's websites.Sometime last week, a support company's 3000 expert looked in on the HP website where she'd been referencing MPE/iX answers for many years. Nothing to see here, HP advised her in a webpage.
"I went to Whatever They're Calling the ITRC These Days to look for a bit of MPE support information," said Donna Hofmeister, "and got told MPE is no longer supported. (Thank you for playing, now please go away.) No more than two weeks ago, all the support information was there."
"So what happened? Has it truly been taken down, or did HP decide to disallow access since we no longer have an MPE support contract? I'm guessing the former."
Guessing about the status of HP 3000 information resources is a murky venture for people regarding HP as a stable resource. And after all, nobody can get an MPE support contract, can they? Hofmeister, like a few others in the support community, says that's a murky situation, too. "I've heard rumors that some people still have support through HP," she said, "but no proof."
The lack of an official resource — or one that stays in the same place for more than a year at a time — could be cause to recoil from a future with the 3000. Or perhaps, just back off of a future with its creator. Independent service providers, or migration missions: those seem to be the choices today.
March 25, 2015
Places Where a Migration Can Lead
This afternoon on a Wednesday Webinar, IT managers were watching what advanced software can do to move the identity of a company. A company knows itself by its data. When transforming IT to a new generation, data's got to move, even if it's just to another generation of HP server. More likely, that shift will eventually be leading to a more comprehensive change: a new environment, new server, new database, new application.
Moving the application is an exercise that requires custom work, the sort of programming, development and testing that'll emerge from a team inside a 3000 shop, plus some help from outside. But moving to a new database demands the checking of database schemas, the review of naming conventions, and more. 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 during today's demo of MB Foster's UDA Central. 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 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 what barriers IBM might have to overcome if it stood a chance of converting HP 3000s to AS/400 sites. Well, those databases, I said to him. "You might move the applications or replace them. But the data's got to remain the same."
Database tools have evolved far enough now, 20 years later, that UDA Central's got everyday uses, not just a one-time utility. It's got operations for data stores, for pulling data out for analytics, and more. Those analytics are crucial. Birket Foster said that "If you've never done data analytics, you don't really have clean data." The company's experience with customers moving data taught MB Foster that, he explained.I saw UDA Central used to transfer a Sybase database hosted on a Linux RedHat server to Oracle on a Windows system, from source to target — and the software had built-in functions such as checks for the length of names. An column bearing a 31-character name won't pass Oracle's 30-character limit, a flag that UDA Central raised automatically. In today's demo the index name was modified right inside of UDA Central to move the data successfully.
Quick data dumps, so you can use the tool to learn about your data without needing to start anything else up. SQL statements called out for a copy and paste, so you don't really have to learn that language to make use of SQL. I watched a lot of power engineered into this software, a tool whose target is successful change. And oh, the places your data can go. From TurboIMAGE to three different flavors of SQL databases, to Oracle and Eloquence and EnterpriseDB and more.
The insight into data through UDA Central makes moving an identity easier. Even if a migration of apps and systems is off in the future, "you can start your data migration today," Foster said. "You can start making a list of what you have for data, you can start figuring out what the fields should look like, and you can start looking at how you can clean up the data."
March 24, 2015
Making a Way Forward by Riding Data
Around midday tomorrow, up-to-date instruction about migration will be offered on a webinar. The presentation is not about the platform and app migration that has galvanized your community. It's even more important, because everybody will need to do this migration. The movement is as undeniable as the tides. Data's got to be moved, because things improve as they change.
It's employing something better and more efficient to handle data — that's what sparks this migration.
At 2 PM EST in the US (11 AM Pacific) MB Foster's showing off the means to migrate HP 3000 data. For about 45 minutes, an interactive Q&A deals with the strategy and processes to move databases, a trip that can lead to MS SQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL and other targets. UDA Central is the means, but the advice goes farther than a straightforward product walkthrough.
You can sign up at the MB Foster website. The meeting gives a manager the opportunity to gather with some like minds. One of the most rewarding parts of a these Wednesday Webinars, as the company calls them, has been getting on the line with other managers. User group meetings used to be the only way to hear about best practices from community members.
For example, answers to these questions will be up for consideration this afternoon:
- How many internal resources are directly involved on a daily basis to extract, transform, migrate and supply supporting data for your organization?
- How much time and effort goes into this process?
- How can you speed up data delivery, reduce the time, effort and internal cost related to data migration?
Data migration is always about transformation, whether the target is outside the MPE realm or not.MB Foster walks managers through the strategies of using UDA Central. The company's founder Birket Foster has compared the subject of data migration to the expected needs for a vacation. You won't necessarily need to bring everything over, even though UDA Central makes it drag-and-drop easy to do so -- even for databases and servers which have little to nothing to do with HP 3000s.
Foster notes that some customers are even purchasing 3000s for the specific reason of putting data onto the equivalent of a railyard siding. Of course, that's a low-speed track section, distinct from a running line or through route such as a main line or branch line or spur. But the sidings might still connect to higher speed sections.
"Among the things we've discovered is that when you go to extract your data, obviously you're reading a lot of data," Foster says. "That has an impact on the amount of CPU cycles and bandwidth being used to help data across to the other machine. You have to make sure you understand the timing of when you do that. It wouldn't be a good idea to do that in the middle of the day." And then, a surprise about expectations: 3000s on a kind of new mission, along with what you can expect to pack up and move.
For that extraction reason, some of our customers have gone and bought a separate 3000 to stage the data. They just move the database. They don't move any of the code. They take that database and use it as a staging area to work with it. On the final extraction, they'll go back to the production database. At least they've got a working area where they're not interfering with day-to-day production. You might be able to come up with a very low-cost HP 3000.
There's more to consider about too-great expectations of migration of data.
Some of our customers have been able to work with us to get a methodology that allows them to move just the last month's records, or the last week's records, at the time of moving between systems. That's because all the rest was already staged. History is just history.
As long as you can prove that the totals of all of the above equals the total of what you've moved, there's not a problem. Except in cases where you've got revisionist history, the history shouldn't be changing. If you look at it, about 90 percent of your database of transactions didn't happen in the last week or month.
Using this method, a customer can do a first run of data extraction, make adjustments to the process (item names that might be reserved words, different transfers between datasets), and then take a larger segment of the database and repeat. If a migrator has great expectations of making a complete move of data in one pass, they're overlooking these adjustments.
March 16, 2015
Tip on sizing up 3000 system replacements
HP 3000 managers who are still looking at migrations might be sizing up replacement hardware. It's getting a little old-school to think of installing a standalone server to replace something in the 3000's ultimate generation like an A-Class. Using a cloud-based server, or just a partition on an HP-UX or a Windows Server, is a more nouveau choice. Eventually, HP-UX will have that desert island feel to it. You can survive, but getting off it will take quite a swim.
Clouds and partitions aside, smaller companies might want to keep their architecture rather than transforming it during a migration. Their planning includes trying to calculate how much box needed to replace an HP 3000. There's good news. Moving out of the HP-hamstrung MPE/iX environment opens up performance room. It's a widely-recognized fact that the A-Class 3000 systems, and just about all of the N-Class servers, aren't running as fast as they could.
In the past -- at least 10 years ago -- HP actually told 3000 customers this hobbling was a benefit. Something about "preserving the customer's investment" by hobbling the PCI-based systems, so the customers using older and more costly systems wouldn't feel so left out. It was never logical to think anything could be preserved through hobbling except the status quo.
Back in 2005 when the president of a 3000 app vendor gave a migrating A-Class user tips on how to size up a new box. During that year at QSS -- where the vendor has been replacing HP 3000s with Linux installs of a new Oasis app for its K-12 and education sector customers -- Duane Percox offered a migrating user advice on sizing up a replacement. His answers back then compared a 3000 to HP's Unix servers, but the notes on the 3000's shortcomings are still valid. The advice began with a warning: You might not have as much HP 3000 power to replace as you think you do.QSS just finished up its 30th Annual QSS Users Group meeting, held in Visalia, California. Since 2014's meeting, they've announced 3000-to-Linux migrations which employ MS SQL. Schools in Sacramento, San Benito, the San Ramon Valley, and the Folsom Cordova Unified School District became Linux sites. HP's Unix isn't really an option by now, considering the mandatory lock-in to HP's product line.
Even 10 years ago, these things about system sizing were obvious to Percox, just from testing of COBOL code on non-3000 systems. Some of his advice follows.
• An A500-140 is not running at 140MHz as advertised by HP. You are actually looking at closer to 72MHz for that A-Class
• Throttled A-Class boxes also exhibit interesting IO timing issues as demonstrated by some very astute folks who would know, given their intimate knowledge of everything MPE. Here again, you might not have as big a box as you think you have.
• Make sure you are getting a 2-way server. I would never recommend running a relational database server with less than a 2-way. And you might even need a 4-way depending on the number of connects.
• Disk subsystems have a big impact on database performance. The number of database connects also has an impact.
• I find that moving from TurboIMAGE to relational is about a 10-12x CPU hit for the parts of the app that are managing the database. Since your app also spends time doing other things, you don’t necessarily have to have 10-12x the CPU, but it might be a reasonable starting point.
• The MPE TCP/IP stack is performance-challenged, so you will see networking improvements when migrating.
• TurboIMAGE/ODBCLink isn’t a performance screamer, so you might be in for some pleasant surprises in the positive direction.
March 13, 2015
Fiorina campaigning again, against Clinton
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina pushed herself to the front of news again, as a story in the New York Times chronicled her campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Fiorina has spent the last several years aiming criticism at Clinton, including a recent swipe that attempts to smear Clinton's travels around the world.
"Like Hillary Clinton, I too, have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe," Fiorina said, "but unlike her, I have actually accomplished something.” The claim recalled memories of Fiorina's most lasting accomplishment from her HP days: hawking a merger that pushed out the values and influence of the Hewlett family.
Thirteen years ago this week, a raucous stockholder showdown in Delaware ended with Fiorina's forces victorious, approving the Compaq merger. Walter Hewlett, son of HP founder Bill Hewlett, contested the vote in a lawsuit. HP directors on Fiorina's team responded by refusing to nominate Hewlett to keep his seat on the HP board.
Many actions of that period were designed to make HP bigger. Low-growth product lines were cut or de-emphasized, most particularly in the HP 3000 world. Despite the efforts to puff up HP, though -- and continue revenue growth to satisfy shareholders -- the plan had no effect on stock value. By the time Fiorina was fired in a board move -- 10 years ago this month -- HP shares sold in the low $20s, just as they did on the day of that Delaware merger victory.
Those inflated accomplishments of her go-go strategy were not misunderstood by the Times writer. "Her business career ended... in one of the more notorious flameouts in modern corporate history," Amy Chozick wrote today. "After orchestrating a merger with Compaq that was then widely seen as a failure, she was ousted in 2005."
The failed merger with Compaq did give HP a product with some foothold in 3000 migration projects, though. The ProLiant servers from Compaq are competitive with Dell and Lenovo systems for installations of Windows Server, the most-chosen alternative to HP 3000s.
Fiorina's tone has been strident, much as it was during her tenure when the 3000 was cut loose by HP. She's most recently tried to assert Clinton has stolen concepts and intellectual property from her.Pushing onward without regard for reality was among the things that got Fiorina fired 10 years ago. HP's board had trouble getting her to relinquish controls that might've tempered her mission to acquire corporations. In her Clinton attacks, Fiorina claims the title of the autobiography she wrote, Tough Choices, was appropriated by Clinton when the former First Lady wrote Hard Choices.
A Twitter image on a Fiorina feed posted the covers of the books side by side. There's also the former CEO's claim that a Clinton speech to female tech professionals, saying that women can "unlock our full potential," is a theft of Fiorina's Unlocking Potential Project.
The Times article, as critical of Fiorina as the former executive has been of Clinton, prodded that claim, too. "Fiorina came in for some derision on The Huffington Post, which recounted the tussle under the headline “Overused Management Bromide Now The Exclusive Property of Carly Fiorina, Apparently.” "
The CEO who led the HP which cut off its 3000 plans has many critics in the community to this day. The impact of a rush to expansion kept HP off its legendary game of R&D, according to HP's former VP of Software Engineering Chuck House. OS marvels of their day like MPE don't flow out of HP labs any longer.
A recent $2.7 billion acquisition of Aruba Networks is the latest HP purchase, buying technology that promises a cutting-edge firewall to enable mobile enterprise computing with the Aruba Mobility-Defined Network. HP says the deal "positions Hewlett-Packard to accelerate enterprise transition to a converged campus network." It's also about 90 percent smaller than the Compaq merger — more in line with the reduced HP of today.
March 12, 2015
Unicom casts meet including PowerHouse
Last summer the new owners of PowerHouse invited the customer base, including HP 3000 sites, to a meeting at Unicom Systems company headquarters. At that time, the venerable automated development tool had only been in the Unicom strategy for about five months. Later this month, those users and the PowerHouse Advisory Board will meet again. This time the meeting will span a handful of user bases.
The March 27 gathering is at the PickFair mansion in Beverly Hills. That movie-industry icon is also a property of Unicom Global, the parent corporation of Unicom Systems. In the months since the PowerHouse acquisition, Unicom has also purchased the customers and products from four other former IBM operations. The latest, announced at the start of this year, was IBM’s Rational brand, which includes the Focal Point product portfolio and Program Management solution, along with the PurifyPlus dynamic Software Analysis Tools solution.
The scope of these purchases is significant for an enterprise software company. Company officials said the Rational acquisition expanded Unicom’s business by adding more than 2,000 enterprise customers in over 40 countries.
Unicom's 2014 event was for PowerHouse customers exclusively, since the other four IBM properties hadn't been acquired yet. But this month's invitation-only event is being called TeamBLUE, with PowerHouse users joining the Rational customers; users of solidDB, an in-memory relational database; and Unicom Finance, an analysis solution that was called Cognos Finance before Unicom acquired it.
The company said in its backgrounder on the meeting that "TeamBLUE represents a dramatic shift in the approach of leveraging technology assets to deliver leadership in your business, transforming technology discussions into management consulting."The strategy of viewing software assets as a business element instead of a technology investment will sound familiar to HP 3000 sites. MB Foster's webinars over the last several years have stressed the business fit of a solution being at least as important as any tech issues. As far back as 2007, the Connect user group started to refer to the prior generation of IT decision makers as technologists.
Unicom has been generating a massive customer base over more than three decades of operations. The parent corporation Unicom Global was started by current CEO Corry Hong as a CICS systems software company in 1981. The corporation now counts over 70 million customers in 140 countries. The operations provide enterprise software, hardware, telecom equipment, IT services, real estate, corporate services, M&A and financing services across 37 corporate entities.
March 11, 2015
MB Foster partners with PowerHouse owner
Data integration vendor and legacy app migration supplier MB Foster has announced a new strategic partnership with the owners of the PowerHouse app development suite. Unicom Systems, which purchased the PowerHouse suite of tools in 2014, will work alongside MB Foster to serve the software's users in the US and Canada.
The deal calls for MB Foster to sell, license and distribute PowerHouse 4GL, PowerHouse Web and Axiant 4GL. Unicom is launching its expansion of the PowerHouse reseller network with the deal. MB Foster will also undertake application and product migration, re-integration, and consulting services within Canada and with selected USA-based clients
Before IBM's 2007 acquisition of the Cognos Corporation and PowerHouse, MB Foster had a development relationship that included the interfacing of MB Foster’s UDALink for the HP 3000 with the PowerHouse PDL dictionary. MB Foster was working with Cognos to facilitate the transition of licenses to new platforms following Hewlett-Packard's announcement in 2001 to end sales of the HP 3000.
"The new partnership with Unicom Global enables us to continue a long-term commitment to PowerHouse users," said MB Foster’s founder, president and CEO Birket Foster. "We are committed to their use of it and the ability to continue leveraging robust capabilities of a 4th Generation Language."PowerHouse has a proven track record of being able to enhance and modernize applications," Foster added, "reducing costs of programming and thus improving a company’s bottom line. We wanted to ensure that we can serve the PowerHouse community in delivering lower cost, high quality programs across a variety of databases and operating systems."
March 02, 2015
Software Repairs vs. Upgrade Budgets
HP 3000s around the world are running with old fashioned releases of software. Until a problem arises with those tools, platforms, or applications, it's not a problem. At least, it's not one to bother the budget officers at the users' organization. It's also an education in paying now, or paying later.
But come up with something odd, and a user might get an solution for a problem that will ripple the waters of IT budgets. On the PowerHouse user group mailing list, an enterprise server manager asked about an issue with subfiles. In time, the solution seemed to be adopting the newest version of PowerHouse.
Oops. Whether that version would repair the trouble or not, making a move to PowerHouse 8.40G wasn't going to fit on the manager's workbench budget. This wasn't the challenge of paying for a user license upgrade. The expense for this enterprise HP server site would be all in the testing.
Truth is, using a more current version is not really an option. PowerHouse is only used for our legacy apps, and management will never expend the time and effort to do all the testing we would have to do to install a new version.
This kind of support solution can be a signal for starting a migration in earnest. If you've got a bug that only a new version of the software can fix, and there's a testing budget to approve, an IT manager can figure out which battle to fight. Neither is without costs. But one of the solutions is long-term. The homesteader just watches for the next bug to fix.There's always the pragmatism of IT operations to consider. "Pay me now, or pay me later," said an old-fashioned advertisement for oil filters from Fram. You could change the filter, or you could pay for a rebuild on the engine later on.
It would be tricky to say that the latest 8.40G release runs on MPE/iX. It doesn't. This manager's repair problem was on an HP VMS system. But the concept is completely applicable to 3000 computing. A PowerHouse consultant couldn't be sure that the latest version would fix the problem.
But the bigger problem is a lack of upgrade budgets for what that manager called a legacy system. If you can't upgrade to resolve legacy problems, there's a bigger problem coming. Later.
February 27, 2015
Dow hits record while HP shares fall out
On the day the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a record pinnacle, Hewlett-Packard released quarterly results that pushed the company's stock down 10 percent.
HP is no longer in the Dow, a revision that the New York Stock Exchange made last year. HP is revising its organization this year in preparing to split in two by October. The numbers from HP's Q1 of 2015 indicate the split can't happen soon enough for the maker of servers targeted to replace HP 3000s. The company is marching toward a future more focused on enterprise systems -- but like a trooper on a hard course, HP fell out during the last 90 days.
HP said that the weakness in the US Dollar accounted for its overall 5 percent drop in sales compared to last year's first quarter. Sales would have only fallen 2 percent on a constant-currency basis, the company said. It mentioned the word "currency" 55 times in just its prepared marks of an earnings conference call this week. The 26.8 billion in sales were off by $1.3 billion on the quarter, a period where HP managed to post $1.7 billion in pre-tax earnings.
That $1.7 billion is a far cry from Apple's $18 billion in its latest quarter profits. HP's arch-rival IBM is partnering with Apple on enterprise-caliber deals.
Meanwhile, the still-combined Hewlett-Packard has rolled from stalled to declining over the last 18 months, which represents some of the reason for its bold move to split itself. "Enterprise trends are set to remain lackluster absent a transformative acquisition," said one analyst while speaking to MarketWatch this week. Two-thirds of the $5.5 billion in Printing came from supplies. Ink is still king in the printing group
Industry Standard Systems (Intel-based Windows servers) provided the lone uptick in the report. Sales of products such as the newest Gen9 ProLiants lifted the revenues up 7 percent compared to the Q1 of 2014. HP is ready to take advantage of upcoming rollovers in Windows Server installations.Results from the Enterprise Group delivered another chorus of downbeat numbers for the Business Critical Systems operations. The group where HP's Unix and VMS enterprise servers are created saw its sales fall 9 percent from last year's Q1. Of course, that period showed a revenue drop as well. BCS operations -- where the HP 3000 resided when it was a Hewlett-Packard product -- haven't seen any recovery in more than two years.
BCS results have been so consistently poor that HP considered that 9 percent drop a good sign. "We also saw some recovery in business-critical systems," said CFO Cathie Lesjak, "with revenue down only 7 percent in constant currency or 9 percent as reported."
Lesjak pointed out to the analysts on its conference call that hardware such as the Integrity HP-UX servers are vulnerable to the value of the US Dollar.
Our personal systems and our Enterprise Group hardware businesses have very little in natural hedges, as our component contracts are typically in US dollars. As a result, these businesses are disproportionately impacted by currency movements. However, we do have some ability to increase pricing in response to currency movements, while being mindful of competition and potential negative impacts to customer demand.
HP is expecting all of the 2015 hardware growth in the Enterprise Group to come from its Gen9 lineup of ProLiant systems. Windows Server 2003 has an expiration date for its support coming up in July, an event that HP believes will give it some fresh wind in its enterprise sales.
"I think we are really well positioned to take advantage of Windows 2003 refresh, just as we were from the XP migration and the PC business," said CEO Meg Whitman. "I think we feel really pretty good about that business for the reminder of the year. And I think we are very well positioned .and the Gen9 server was dead-on, from the market perspective."
February 19, 2015
NewsWire Goes Green
After almost 20 years of reporting news and technology updates using our printed issues, The 3000 NewsWire goes to an all-digital format following this month's Winter 2015 print issue. It's our 153rd, and this announcement marks our new focus on delivering information exclusively online.
This is not a farewell. We're only saying goodbye to our paper and ink.
The articles and papers published on this blog will continue to update and inform the MPE community. After racking up more than nine years of digital publishing, this blog now has more than 2,500 articles, including video, podcasts, and color digital images from resources around the world. We have immediate response capabilities, and rapid updating. We have a wide array of media to tell the stories going forward from 2015.
It’s the reach of our Web outlet that enables the strategy to take the NewsWire all-digital, also reducing the publication’s eco-footprint. Online resources go back to 1996. We'll take special care to bring forward everything that remains useful.
The first paper issue of The 3000 NewsWire appeared in August of 1995 at that year’s Interex conference in Toronto. We hand-carried a four-page pilot issue to Interex '95. To introduce the fresh newsletter to the marketplace, HP announced our rollout during its TV news broadcast 3K Today.Throughout our publication’s history, the Web has offered a growing option for news distribution. After websites became the primary means for news dissemination, in 2005 this blog took over as our primary outlet for reports. The quarterly print issues across the last two decades have summed up the greatest hits of these reports, each covering the prior three-month period.
The blog now becomes the exclusive source for updated 3000-related news and market updates. But there will continue to be digital editions of the NewsWire, edited and curated for our readers in PDF formats. This new Digital Focus product will offer fine-tuned searching capability. The dizzy array of outside weblinks will fall away in a Digital Focus PDF compilation. And creating PDFs for passing on our articles will be easier, too.
Our daily updates for new articles are available via Twitter by following @3000newswire. We've had an RSS digital feed for almost 10 years by now, too.
We're working on evolving our presentation while we go green in 2015. We'd love to hear from you about our growing digital development, and what you'd like to see in this new year.
February 17, 2015
Big IP addresses not un-docking 3000s yet
Four years ago this month we reported that it was time to get ready for the bigger-scale network addresses called IPv6. In that year, the Internet was reported to have run out of the IPv4 addresses, which was the impetus to create the larger IP numbers. It also seemed like the HP 3000's inability to address IPv6 was going to be one of those sparks to getting migrated off the system.
But despite a lack of resources -- which would have been OpenMPE volunteers -- it looks like IPv6 hasn't hemmed in the 3000 from continued service. Now the open source project called Docker has a new 1.5 release, one that aims to bring these bigger IP addresses to more systems. Open source, of course, means Docker might even be of some help to the 3000s that need to be in control of network addresses.
The IPv6 protocol was among those OpenMPE considered when it applied for its license for MPE/iX source. It was suggested back in 2008 that a contract project might revise the 3000's networking to accommodate the new protocol.
As we surmised four years ago, native support for IPv6 networking hasn't been the deal-breaker some 3000 experts expected. Although HP prepared the 3000 to do DNS service, the vendor didn't build a patch in 2009 to eliminate a security hole in DNS for MPE/iX. That's bedrock technology for Internet protocols, so it would have to be made secure. Much of this kind of routing for 3000 shops takes place on external PC systems today.
Making old dogs do new tricks has been demonstrated on Windows. You can even make an older Windows XP box do IPv6, according to Paul Edwards, a former OpenMPE director who's been a training resource for the 3000 community for decades.Four years ago, while Windows XP was still running at many sites, Edwards showed how to make an old system adopt the new protocol.
You may have heard the news: the world officially runs out of IPv4 addresses this month. But never fear. IPv6 is here... well, sort of.
Many companies are converting their networks to IPv6 now, and Windows 7 comes with built in support, but what about those who are still using Windows XP? Luckily, it’s easy to install the IPv6 protocol on your XP machine. Here’s how:
1. Click Start | Run
2. Type cmd to open the command prompt window.
3. At the prompt, type netsh and press ENTER
4. Type interface and press ENTER
5. Type ipv6 and press ENTER
6. Type install and press ENTER
This installs IPv6. You can confirm that’s been installed by typing, at the command prompt, ipconfig /all.
You should see an entry under your Local Area Connection that says “Link-local IPv6 Address” and shows a hexadecimal number, separated by colons. That’s your IPv6 address.
Last fall, our contributor and 3000 consultant Brian Edminster said Docker looks like tech that could help put 3000s into the cloud, too. "Docker struck me as an easy mechanism to stand up Linux instances in the cloud -- any number of different clouds, actually," Edminster said. According to a Wiki article Edminster pointed at, Docker is based upon open source software, the sort of solution he's been tracking for MPE users for many years.
Docker is an open-source project that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers, the Wiki article reports, "thus providing an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating system-level virtualization on Linux. Docker uses resource isolation features of the Linux kernel such as cgroups and kernel namespaces to allow independent "containers" to run within a single Linux instance, avoiding the overhead of starting virtual machines."
February 13, 2015
It's become data mart season for retailers
This second month of the new year is the first full month for changes to retailer or e-tailer enterprises. While the HP 3000 is scarcely involved in retail IT, the e-tail aspects of the industry triggered the fastest growth in the installed base. That was during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, when Ecometry fielded so much growth that it represented more than half of the new HP 3000 installations.
The nature of e-tailing is built around holidays, so the last three months of each year, and much of January, see few changes to IT operations. But now it's a data mart month for these enterprises. Marts have been around a very long time, well back into those 1990s. A mart is a subset of a data warehouse, and the mart has established itself as fundamental database technology.
In the e-tailer sector where 3000s still operate, new data insights are much prized. Catalogs started these businesses, and by now there's a gold standard to capturing customer dollars based on data analysis. The discount website Zulily measures customer interaction on a per-transaction basis, then tunes the landing pages to fit what a customer's shown interest in during prior visits. That's the kind of insight that demands a serious data mart strategy.
Most e-tailers, the kind of 3000 user that does e-commerce, are not that sophisticated. For those Ecometry sites with requirements that outstrip that software suite, Ability Commerce has add-ons like an order management system. For data mart setups, these sites can rely on MB Foster, according to its CEO Birket Foster. Ability and MB Foster are in a new partnership for this data mart season.
"Ability has complementary products to the Ecometry system," Foster said, "but they also can replace the Ecometry system. We, on the other hand, do work on putting together data marts for retail. We expect there will be an opportunity for us to have a chat about how a data mart might work for these people."
These e-tailing sites are just now getting to look at the most recent Ecometry strategy from last June, Foster added. It's a prime time for plans to form up and migrations to proceed. With every migration, data has to move. That's what a big online movie vendor learned last year.TLA Video (Theatre for the Living Arts) migrated off Ecometry (now known as JDA Direct Commerce) and onto Ability’s Order Management System last summer. TLA ran the MPE version of Ecometry. “We had been looking to get off the MPE Ecometry platform," said Eric Moore, Chief Technology Officer at TLA, "and Ability gave us the best package for that.”
Ability acknowledges they're replacing a superior software suite, "one of the top backend ERP platforms for ecommerce and catalog companies in the industry." TLA's Moore said that the migration demanded that "Ability would help us streamline the movement of data between our various systems."
That's the heartland set of practices that's made MB Foster an Ability partner for 2015 and beyond. "These months [up through March] will determine how many people are moving, and how many people are going to find something else. When they're in season — well, at Vermont Country stores the IT manager said during the morning he was on the phone lines in the call center, and in the afternoon he worked in shipping. He told me, 'My job is just to make sure IT doesn't fail during that in-season process.' Extra staff is needed, and it's not uncommon in smaller companies."
In season, this manager is not allowed to change anything in IT, just keep what's running alive. At Vermont Country Stores, the absolute lockdown date is October 15. That means any migration that gets a greenlight this spring has to be completed in less than nine months. It's a schedule that demands experience and proven tools.
"There's a synergy between Ability and us because we have an expertise in moving systems and integrating data marts," Foster said. He notes that JDA transferred its Statements of Work they were doing to Ability Commerce. "JDA won't do any [Ecometry] statements of work now, unless it's a major revamp that the customer will pay for. JDA is doing with PCI [credit card security] assignments for customers, because if you had to do that certification yourself, you'd spend up to $300,000 to hire an independent third party. Two dozen customers might only pay $100,000 each for PCI compliance services. People pay for that support." But less than willingly.
Since other areas of functionality aren't being addressed for smaller customers, there's an opportunity for vendors like Ability and MB Foster to help improve the Ecometry experience. Or lift the customers into a newer, more facile suite like Ability's software.
"We offer something Ability doesn't, the data marts," Foster said. Both companies offer professional services, and Ability is staffed with people from the old Ecometry organization. "There's a lot of Ability Commerce customers who were, or perhaps still are, Ecometry sites," Foster said. Ability Commerce customers like American Musical Supply, Brookstone, Casual Male, Cornerstone — all either current or former 3000 sites — these are the kinds of properties, as the ecommerce sites are called, that are in the season for data marts and migrations.
"To move things ahead in their IT, they have to do some things," Foster said. "We have the experience to be able to pull data around and move it to the places it needs to be."
February 11, 2015
ERP that goes places that are invisible
A webinar briefing this week on data transfer technologies and application portfolios included a new phrase: Going Cloud. It sounded like the ideal of going green for paper-based enterprises, or moving away from something that once served its purpose well. One of the providers of a migration replacement package for 3000 manufacturing users suggests it's high time to consider the unseen potential of the cloud as a place that ERP can go.
In a blog post called Cloud ERP: Inertia Is Not An Option, a technologist at the ERP vendor Kenandy touts an analyst's white paper that says there are "increasingly credible alternatives to the old line behemoths,” and giving Kenandy as an example. The white paper by Cindy Jutras of ERP consultants Mint Jutras is titled Next Generation ERP: Kenandy's Approach. It makes a case for why an HP 3000 stalwart like MANMAN, built by ASK in the 1970s, is ready for a trip to the cloud.
Going Cloud is shorthand for leaving older technologies and architectures behind. The Kenandy blog article, which includes a link to the Jutras white paper, asks, "Can you afford to wait to cross the digital divide?" On the other side of the divide, software like Salesforce -- the heartbeat of Kenandy -- makes the cloud seem like a natural evolution of applications that were first built for HP's 3000 iron. If the first generation of 3000 ERP started in the 1970s, the era of Going Cloud brings them into a new generation.
Kenandy needs to actively engage not only with its prospects, but also its customers. For that type of engagement, it needs to build an active community.
This was something Sandy Kurtzig’s prior company ASK was very good at – so good in fact that the MANMAN community has outlived the company and lives on even today. Can Kenandy replicate this kind of success? Odds are in favor of doing just that. The MANMAN community was built on word of mouth, local and regional user groups and an annual conference.
Not only does Kenandy hope to be able to deliver a full customer list for references (as ASK did for many years), but also has many more tools at its disposal to support that community, including a one-stop customer portal (called the Kenandy Community). Its ability to engage with the community either as a whole, or personally, one customer at a time, has never been more technology-enabled.
February 09, 2015
Managers still linking with 3000 data tools
MB Foster has been holding Wednesday Webinars for years. So far back, in fact, that the first round of webinars appeared less than six weeks after HP announced its drop plans for the 3000 in 2001. Those drop plans might not be working completely as expected, if Foster's response to a new Thursday Webinar is a good measure.
The company has added private Webinars, and it's also setting up by-invitation webinars, too. While we were researching updates on the e-commerce alternatives for 3000 sites, we learned this week's presentation on Thursday covers the UDA Link connectivity software for the HP 3000. Registrations for the guided tour of this software are outpacing the company's general interest The 3 R’s of Migration: Rehost, Replace, Retire.
While UDA Link does run on other servers, its most avid customer base operate their businesses using MPE/iX systems. It's one data marker to show that some system managers are still auditioning tools for 3000s. An invitation to that by-invitation UDA Link webinar is just an e-mail away, a message a manager can send to email@example.com.
The Wednesday Webinar on those 3 Rs starts at 2 PM Eastern time; a web form on the MB Foster site manages registration for that session.
February 06, 2015
How far out can migration assistance lead?
Companies that use Ecometry's ecommerce package have been in transition a long time. Once HP announced in 2001 that the 3000's future was limited at the vendor, Ecometry's campaign to migrate got more intense and focused. After several acquisitions of this software and more than a decade, its customers are still facing some migrations.
But some of the customers are looking at a migration beyond just an alternative platform for running Ecometry's successor, JDA Direct Commerce. When IT operations make a transition like this, one kind of destination can be moving to a different vendor's application. Any existing app vendor would be of little help in this kind of move. Then again, the replacement app's vendor might not know enough about a 3000 Ecometry version, or even the Windows Ecometry version that many 3000 sites have embraced.
This kind of migration is one of several that alliance partners assist with. These partners are companies that have experience with implementing and customizing the IT around the application. Sometimes, as in the case of Ability Commerce, they have an alternative ecommerce app like SmartSite and still operate as a partner with Ecometry's latest owners, JDA. A partner brings deeper experience. When there's data to be moved, a company wants to be sure they've got all of it, ready for the new app, safely transformed from its prior incarnation in whatever version of Ecometry it is still running.
Such IT operations sometimes look for help from a place like MB Foster, which is why the company became a partner with Ability late last year. Ability is hosting its own Ability Commerce User Summit in a month in Delray Beach, Florida. That's the town that used to be the HQ for the old Ecometry. Birket Foster's company will be a sponsor at the Summit. He said his company's work is '"for the standard migration to Ecometry on Windows, or if the customer has a choice of deciding they'll go to something else," he said. "We'd also be able to provide assistance with moving to the Ability Order Management System, for example."
Services companies like Foster's can act like independent insurance agents, or unfettered consulting shops. They'll enable a move off of MPE/iX applications. And sometimes that move can be all way off the existing vendor's alternative apps, and onto another vendor's package. Or in this case, customers can tap a partnership to embrace allied software that will help in a migration.There's still some isolation for Ecometry sites to endure in this year's JDA lineup. Ability's reads the pulse of Ecometry sites well. But moving all the way off Ecometry is just one option.
Foster said many of the forthcoming migrations off 3000-based Ecometry will go to the Ecometry version for Windows, "because a customer might say that retraining their 400 people in a call center will cost a lot of money." That retraining would be necessary if a site migrated all the way off the existing package. "If the current version of Ecometry is doing the job for you," Foster said, "why would you move? And if you're not moving, you may as well be on the Windows version -- it's not much different to the users than the other version. Your people are familiar with it, and it just gets a fancier interface."
But a consultant working directly for Ecometry -- okay, it's JDA-Red Prairie by now, but under the covers it's still what's left of Ecometry's expertise -- won't be able to carry a migrator beyond JDA's software lineup. At last count JDA had more than 100 software apps in its stable. Some of them might be prospects for a migration away from Ecometry, but probably won't be a fit aimed at ecommerce's needs in specific.
Ability Commerce's SmartSite is aimed directly at the ecommerce operation, rather than a meld of point of sale retail and web sales, better suited for the 200,000 item per day retailers. Many of the large Ecometry sites have catalog sales, plus Web -- but no brick and mortar. The JDA Direct Commerce suite is overkill for some -- especially those who are still making do with their 3000 versions of Ecometry.
In simpler terms, using a replacement app can be a better fit if it doesn't come from an acquiring vendor who's ballooned the scope of the app -- and doesn't have enough focus to feel like the old Ecometry. That flavor of Ecometry, of course, disappeared into its merger with GERS Retail in 2006 to become Escalate Retail. It's been a long time since Ecometry was just focused on web sales and logistics. If you only sell over the Web, where's the good in getting a package with point of sale features?
At some point in any services relationship, an IT manager wants to ask, "What do you recommend?" or perhaps, "We think this might be a better target for our migration. Can you help us get there?" They seek out a migration services company with an independent perspective, matched with explicit knowledge of a current app, platform, and data structures.