April 11, 2018

Wayback Wed: HP group combines, survives

Connect LogoIn the aftermath of the Interex user group bankruptcy, an HP enterprise user group survived. That group remains intact to this day. Its survival is due to an ability to combine forces with other groups, an effort that kicked off 10 years ago this week.

That week was the time when Encompass, the user group that outlasted Interex, gave members a vote on merging with three other HP-related groups. At the time of the April vote, Encompass and these partners weren't even sure what the allied group would call itself. Endeavor was being floated as a possible new name.

The vote of the Encompass members approved the merger with the International Tandem User Group; the European HP Interex group, which was operated separately from the rest of Interex; and a Pacific Rim segment of the Encompass group. The European Interex reported that it had 35,000 members at the time of the merger.

Encompass became Connect, a name announced at HP's Discover conference later that same year. Connect still operates a user group with a large meeting (held at HP's annual event, for the in-person gatherings) as well as smaller Regional User Groups.

The group bills itself as Connect Worldwide, the Independent Hewlett Packard Enterprise Technology, a membership organization. Membership in any user group has evolved during the decade-plus since Interex expired. By now it's free to join the group that serves OpenVMS customers, companies that still employ HP's Unix computers and hardware (Integrity), and sites using the HP NonStop servers (the former Tandem systems).

Those Tandem-NonStop users make up nearly all of the in-person meetings other than the HP Discover event. Discover is devoted to everything HP Enterprise sells and supports. One of the few links remaining to the 3000 at Connect is Steve Davidek, whose management and then migration off 3000s at the City of Sparks made him a good transition leader at Connect.

There are Technical Boot Camps for both NonStop and VMS customers that Connect helps to organize. A boot camp for HP-UX never became a reality. That's one of the choices a group of allied users must face: even some support for a resource like a boot camp (some members were eager) needs to be balanced against the majority membership's desires.

Some missions have survived from the Interex model that drove that group for more than 30 years. Advocacy still has a place in the Connect membership benefits, a project that's called Community Voice by now. The old days of an HP user group with a taste for confrontation ended once Interex refused to join HP's effort to consolidate user groups and things like advocacy. The Interex board voted to stay independent—without giving its members a formal vote like the open balloting which Encompass did.

The benefits of Connect still lean heavy on networking, along with some technical resources steeped heavy in NonStop expertise. Advocacy flows through HP's Discover show, and there are 19 Special Interest Groups. SIGs like these were the hotbed of 3000 customer desires communicated to HP from Interex members.

From the Connect website, the list of membership benefits includes these resources.

  • 19 Connect Communities and SIGs (special interest groups)
     
  • Never miss a beat with Connect Now, a monthly eNewsletter
     
  • Problem solve and stay on top of your game with Connect's ITUG Library (a NonStop Download Library)
     
  • Have a say in HPE with the collective voice of Connect's advocacy programs
     
  • NonStop users receive a subscription and access to the archives of The Connection, a bi-monthly technical journal
     
  • All members receive a digital subscription to Connect Converge, our exclusive quarterly technical journal for HPE business technology users
     
  • Save hundreds of dollars per year with discounted registrations to premier events like HPE Discover, and Connect's signature tech-targeted Boot Camps
     
  • Save while you expand your knowledge base with 15% off HPE Education programs
     
  • Members and their dependents can apply for $2,500 Future Leaders in Technology scholarships

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:33 AM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

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April 09, 2018

Aspects to Ponder in Package Replacements

By Roy Brown

Shining-gemEach kind of migration has its advocates, and each has its pros and cons. Your constraints are going to be cost, time, and risk. Probably in that order. I can’t say much about the first two; that depends on your circumstances. Last week we talked about the differences between conversions and migrations and the risks. Another option is going to a package to execute a migration off MPE/iX. It might even be a familiar package — but on a less familiar platform.

Packages

If you have a package running on your HP 3000 which you are happy with, and the vendor provides that same package, or something very similar, on other platforms, then it’s likely just a case of choosing which platform to go with.

Your vendor-supported migration path should be pretty straightforward, and your hardest problem is going to be to decide what to do with the crust of subsystems and reporting programs that have built up, and which surround the package proper. If there are some you can’t do without, and the features aren’t provided by the package anyway, on the new platform, this may be a good chance to get to grips with the tools and utilities on the new platform, and how things are done there.

But maybe you had a bespoke or home-grown application on the HP 3000, in an area now covered by one or more packages on other platforms, and it makes more sense to move onto a package now than to go bespoke again?

In that case, you have a three-way analysis to do; what does your existing system provide, what does the new package provide, and what are your users looking for?

I’ve heard the advice “don’t go for customization, go for plain vanilla” a lot. It certainly gives cost and risk reduction, though perhaps at the expense of business fit. I reckon that a shame; every company has something that is its USP – unique systems proposition – something in its IT that gives it its edge in its chosen business.

On the other hand, sometimes a company does things differently because it was easier, or “it was always done that way.” Those are things you shouldn’t lose sleep over giving up.

A couple of concrete examples; firstly, meaningful SKU numbers. Chances are your SKU numbers, or product codes, have a structure you understand. If so your homegrown systems will likely have dozens of places where a program takes a different path based on what that SKU number is. A package is unlikely to support that; each property needs an explicit flag on the Part Master, and the package has to work off those.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your meaningful SKUs, where everyone in the business knows what they mean. Just that the package won’t know from the SKU, and so you will need to set those flags for each one. And carefully too, or there will be some real confusion.

That’s a case where you go with what the package does. But in the system I’ve just migrated, we had a critical financial value, set against every order, in a complex and special way that was important to the business. The old system calculated it. The new system would accept a pre-calculated value as input, sure, but it wouldn’t do the calculation.

We could, I guess, have asked for it to be customized in. In practice, we built an Excel spreadsheet as a preprocessor to the package proper, and did the calculations there.

There’s still a little bit of me that says moving stuff off the HP 3000 onto a spreadsheet is going backwards. But then there’s a bit of me that says that of moving anything off the HP 3000.

Custom replacement

This is the Rolls-Royce (or should I say Cadillac?) option. But if your application is unique, so there’s no chance of a package solution, and if rewrite/code conversion doesn’t suit, possibly because of a pent-up backlog of business change requests, or the knowledge that your business area is changing radically, it can be the only sensible way to go.

And if so, you don’t need a few thoughts and observations about compromise; you need to know how to choose from the myriad of possibilities out there. I only wish I knew myself…

Roy Brown is CEO at Kelmscott Ltd., a developer and consultant with more than 35 years’ experience on MPE and the HP 3000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:05 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 06, 2018

How to Measure Aspects of Migrations

Newswire Classic
By Roy Brown

GemSo you are going to migrate. When migrating to a different system or platform, there’s usually something the vendor needs you to lose. But is it essential business functionality, or just an implementation quirk of your old system?

Which migration are you going to have? The luxury option of a custom replacement of your old system? To a package on a new platform, maybe a version of a package you had before, or one new to you? Perhaps the rewrite option, where a team of programmers, possibly offshore, re-implement your system in a whole new environment, while keeping the existing functionality. Or will it be a conversion, where your existing system is transferred to a new platform using automated tools?

Each has its advocates, and each has its pros and cons. Chances are, your constraints are going to be cost, time, and risk. Probably in that order. I can’t say much about the first two; that depends on your circumstances.

Code Conversion

But risk comes in two timescales; immediate risk – “Can we do this? Can we get onto the new platform?” – and the longer-term risk that you are maybe painting your company into a corner by accepting some compromises now that later will turn into shackles.

Those with very long memories may recall some of the early packages being offered for the HP 3000, the apps with KSAM file structures, not IMAGE ones. You just knew they had been ported from elsewhere, not written native on the HP 3000. And if you could find what you wanted, on IMAGE, you were surely glad.

That’s the longer-term risk, then, for some conversions with low short-term risk; you’ll be on the new platform, certainly. But you may have something that plays like the modern-day equivalent of having KSAM, when the smart money is on IMAGE.

Look hard at where you are going to be after a tools-based conversion; will you be fully on the new platform with all-independent code, or will you be running in an environment provided by your conversion specialists? If the latter – and these can indeed lead to faster, cheaper, lower-risk conversions – treat your supplier as a package implementer that you are in with for the long haul, and judge them accordingly.

Likewise, what about ongoing, internal support? One of the reasons to move to new platforms and new paradigms is to tap in to the new generation of people who know their way around them. But if it’s hard to see how you are going to get ongoing support for your HP 3000 apps, how much harder will it be to find people who can support a hybrid old/new system you might wind up with?

Finally, and on the same note, how maintainable is the migrated system going to be? You need to ensure that the generated code is going to be something that a human can easily work with – and likewise the environment the code runs in – or you are going to be effectively frozen in the converted state. Fine if it’s a subsidiary app, perhaps, and this is a stopgap until it dies or you replace it more fundamentally. But not if it’s a key business app that needs to grow with your business going forward.

All this is assuming the conversion is feasible. Hopefully, in the average application suite, you are not going to have done too many unusual things that the automated conversion can’t cope with; maybe some system-y job and user status calls that are done differently on the new platform, and other corner cases, but nothing fundamental.

But sometimes the gotchas can be quite widespread. While inadvertently exploiting the specific way VPlus works, we once had an application that let you put in a partial key and a question mark, hit f2, and go to a lookup screen where you could review matching keys, and select the exact one you wanted.

This was used across quite a range of screens, and relied on VPlus not trying to validate the partial key when you went that route. But move to a screen handler that works rather differently, and you may lose that option. Nothing insurmountable; we just needed to change things so the partial key was entered in the lookup itself, with a code to say what sort of key it was. But this small inconvenience for the user was surely also a bypass of nicer techniques we could have used if we’d had the new handler from scratch.

Rewrites

If a conversion isn’t the way you want to go, then likely you’ll be offered a rewrite. This can be more flexible than a code conversion (though you can bet the conversion team will be using some internal tools for the straightforward bits). And you should wind up with an app that is fully and independently implemented on the new platform, dispensing with any helper environments. Likely, though, it will not quite be what you’d have got starting from a zero base on the new platform – it will retain a few traces of its HP 3000 origins. But hey, is that such a bad thing?

Here again, you need to make sure that you can work with the resulting code going forward, to keep on track with your business needs. But the main issue is what shape is the application you are migrating.

One way of looking at a rewrite is that it’s a full custom conversion—but the results of the business analysis, instead of being expressed as use cases in UML, or whatever, are being presented in “HP 3000 Modeling Language.”

So if you are really happy with how your HP 3000 app fits the business – and if your users are — this can be a better way to go than embarking on a needless rediscovery process. If it ain’t broke – at the business level – then fix it only at the code level.

Not to say you can’t save some money by looking hard at the 3000 app, and maybe trimming out some dead wood – old functionality that is no longer used, and that thus does not need conversion. But do try – at least in the first go-round – not to request new features. Else your rewrite starts creeping towards being a new custom implementation, thus losing you the best of both approaches.

But even with a rewrite, perhaps there will be a few things the rewrite team will balk at, or instances where you will find that the cost of keeping them in is likely to be disproportionately high. Maybe they will come up with an alternative approach, or maybe you will.

But if not, consider what you are losing. A nice-to-have, but which you use once in a blue moon? Or something integral to your business? On a rewrite, it’s less likely to be the latter that when considering packages, which I’ll come to later. And it’s likely to be something system-y again, albeit at the user level, where they interact with job streams, or print queues, or whatever.

Maybe something in the user interface? Though I’m always pleased to see how closely forms on the web follow the VPlus paradigm of fill in all the data, press Enter, get it validated, go forward if okay.

But you do need to be as flexible as possible about doing things a new way on a new platform. People often ask “How do I do x?” where x is an attempted solution they can’t get working. Invariably, the response is “Yes, but what’s the actual problem you are trying to solve?” And the answer turns out to be quite different from x.

Adopt that precept here; go right back to the problem you are trying to solve, and not how to get an envisaged solution working. You’ll get a much better answer.

Roy Brown is CEO at Kelmscott Ltd., and a developer and consultant with more than 35 years’ experience on MPE and the HP 3000

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:08 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 02, 2018

Options for HP 3000 Transformation

By Bruce McRitchie
VerraDyne

GearsTime — it marches on. We can measure it, bend it and try to avoid it. But in the end the clock keeps ticking. This is true for owners of the venerable HP 3000. In its day one of the top minicomputers ever manufactured, it went head-on against IBM (mainframes, AS/400, and System 36), Wang and Digital - and won many of those battles. And many HP 3000s are still running and doing the job they were designed to do. They have been upgraded, repaired and tinkered with to keep them viable. But when is it time for them to retire?

There are options. Many vendors have been working diligently to provide a transformation path to move from the HP 3000 to a modern platform and language. By making such a move these organizational risks are reduced:

  • Hardware failure.
  • Personnel failure - aging programmers.
  • Software failure.

Migration issuesSo why aren't the remaining HP 3000 owners flocking to newer technology? Is it because they know the technology so well — and it works? Have they been through large ugly development projects and never want to go through the pain again?

Whatever the reasoning, the arguments for staying with HP 3000 must be wearing thin. There are options, and to a greater or lesser extent, they all do the transformation job. Today's technology will allow companies to move their whole HP 3000 environment to a new modern environment, with or without changing language and operating system elements. Of course, with the different paths there are trade-offs that must be considered. This article briefly explores some of the options available to transform your HP 3000.

Emulation

At first glance this can appear to be the cheapest and easiest solution. A company picks the supplier of the emulation software, installs it, then puts their code on top and voila—their system is running as it always did. 

But is it? You may now have an emulator interpreting instructions from your HP 3000 and the new operating system you'll use to run the emulator. Is that interpretation always correct?

And what about the MPE commands themselves? Are they being interpreted correctly? Are you getting the results you expect? Although there are no new changes coming for MPE, you may have to learn Linux or another new OS for an emulator.

And what about the cost of emulation? Of course, there is the initial cost. But what of the ongoing costs? You now have to pay for the emulator and the native OS that drives it.

Here are some of the deficiencies we have noted over the years:

• Being an emulation of the existing system, it still requires continued use of old skill-sets. Add that to the new skill-set required to be learned for the emulation layer. Some emulation designs will also require new skill-sets for the target open systems platform and COBOL. You can now have a highly complex skill-set requirement for the IT staff and potentially a new OS to contend with.

• Some emulators only support certain parts of the current system; they do not support all the components that are currently used.

• If the application has to sit on top of the emulation layer, then access to the native operating system is restricted.

• Interoperability with other applications or services on the platform can sometimes be severely restricted.

• Emulators mimic the data structures of the legacy system. This is great for running the current system as is, but does nothing to make the data accessible outside to other systems, inquiry or reporting tools.

• Running emulation renders the customer completely dependent upon the emulation vendor for ongoing support and upgrades, which in itself is a sizable risk factor.

In other words, emulation can bring its own new set of problems.

Redevelopment

The specter of re-development haunts most people (especially those who have been large development projects and cannot forget the late nights, long days, and missed vacations). Defining the business requirements, architecting the new solution, finding business analysts, programmers and project managers. Persevering through a long and drawn out process with hundreds of meetings, thousands of decisions — and finally— testing!

Hours and hours of trying to figure out if it can work well enough for the business needs. And then the bill comes. In some cases, millions of dollars, years of effort—and believe it or not, after all the years of improving —many development projects still fail.

These considerations are even more important today, when business needs are quickly changing and the underlying technology is changing to keep up. The whole platform on which the system is developed will change during the project.

Companies have spent years injecting their business intelligence into their software. Re-developing is a sure way to erode that valuable asset.

Migration

Migration offers a lower risk, lower-cost solution than re-development—so that you can end up with the functionality you need, in a language and operating system that is modern and supported by many resources.

Maybe you are running COBOL on your HP 3000 under MPE/iX but would like to be running VB on Windows. VerraDyne can do such a migration. And we can do it at a reasonable price in a reasonable time frame.

Simply put, migration is the process of moving the current applications onto a new open system platform so that they run in 'true native' mode on that new platform. However, after migration, the application and core business logic are still the mature proven systems that they were on the old legacy platform. The old proprietary legacy components are removed and are replaced by the modern components of the new open system platform.

These are the main points when considering automated conversion with no use of proprietary middleware:

• Migration removes the old legacy skill sets but it does not affect the core business logic, so the customer's systems and existing programming staff can quickly retake ownership of the converted code and continue maintaining it with very little retraining. The converted system can be deployed on the new open system with the same screens and processes that existed on the legacy platform, so user department retraining is virtually eliminated.

• Since the converted applications operate on the new open system identically as they did on the HP 3000, determining successful migration is black and white. The converted system either runs the same or it doesn't — if it doesn't, it is fixed until it does. There is no gray area, there is no 'maybe' — obtaining successful project completion is a clear and concise process.

• By minimizing manual intervention, automated conversion provides an extremely low risk, short timeframe solution. The majority of the project cycle is devoted to the most important task of testing.

• The converted system runs as a 'true native' application on the targeted open system, so there are no roadblocks to gaining the full benefits of the new open systems platform: GUI screens, Web functionality, databases and more

• Conversion provides all the benefits a company seeks without any trade-offs. It absolutely minimizes intrusion into the company's operations. The entire project is performed at very low risk.

• After conversion, the customer has full ownership of its code. There is no dependence on the migration vendor after conversion.

VerraDyne has spent 25 years developing converters that move language and OS code from one platform to another. We have done it with hundreds of systems. At the end of a project you have a system that looks, feels and behaves like the old system, but is able to take advantage of new technologies. This is our claim to fame and our intellectual property, and we are very good at it. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:16 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 21, 2018

Tracking the Prints of 3000 Print Software

Tymlabs logoA reader of ours with a long memory has a 3000 connected to a printer. The printer is capable of printing a 8.5 x 12 sheet, so it's enterprise-grade. The 3000 is running software built by OPT, '90s-era middleware for formatting print jobs from MPE/iX.

To nobody's surprise, the PSP Plus product had problems operating in 2018. "I actually tried to use it in recent times to print to a strange brand of printers, Microplex," our reader said. "The software still ran, but formatting did not work right."

Bruce-Toback

"I was able to print to it with some success, but I could never get the software to do what I wanted it to do, which was to fill up a 12 x 8.5" page and make logical and physical page breaks coincide." The software was a stellar choice for its day, having been developed by the funny, wry and brilliant Bruce Toback (above). Bruce passed away during the month we started this blog, though, more than 12 years ago. His tribute was the subject of our very first blog entry.

Great software that once could manage many printers, but can't do everything, might be revived with a little support. It's a good bet that OPT support contract hasn't been renewed, but asking for help can't hurt if your expectations are reasonably low. The challenge is finding the wizard who still knows the OPT bits.

"We bought and it went from OPT to Tymlabs to Unison to Tivoli to...” These kinds of bit-hunts are the management task that is sometimes crucial to homesteading in 2018. Printing can be a keystone of an IT operation, so if the software that drives the paper won't talk to a printer, even a strange one, that failure can trigger a migration. It's like the stray thread at the bottom of the sweater that unravels the whole garment.

Maybe this product that started at OPT never made its way to Tivoli. My notes say ROC Software took on all of the Unison products. Right here in Austin—where we're breathing with relief after that bomber's been taken down—ROC still supports and sells software for companies using lots of servers. Even HP 3000s.

Tracking these footprints of this print middleware led through some history. Searches turned up a NewsWire article about Toback—many, in fact, where in Hidden Value he was teaching 3000 users on the 3000-L about one kind of software or another. Back in 1997 the discussion was about something rather new called Linux. Linux could be useful, he said, to hook up a PC to the relatively-new World Wide Web.

Searching for OPT—which was the name of Toback's company—turned up plenty of hits about another OPT/3000, the one HP sold to track 3000 performance under MPE. Before we knew it, there was an HP Configuration Guide for the Series III and Series 30 on our monitor. Circa 1979, the HP3000 Family had promise.
 
HP 3000 Series III"The expandable hardware configurations and upward software compatibility of all the models," said the guide, "allow you to choose the system that best fits your current needs, while protecting your investment for the future." HP and everyone else didn't imagine that almost 40 years later that 3000 family would still have living members.
 
HP's OPT was a dead end, since HP stopped supporting that product by 1997. As for the Series III, with its beefy 120MB disk drive (the size of a single daily newspaper edition's PDF file), it was a museum piece before Y2K arrived. One support company featured a Series III at an HP World trade show, setting it up in a booth for people to photograph themselves with. No selfies in that year—you needed somebody else to capture your moment with history.
 
ROC was in the NewsWire archives, though. A 1999 article showed us that the OPT software had become Formation after the product was sold to Tymlabs, another Austin company. ROC bought Formation along with the rest of the stable of products which Tymlabs had sold to Unison—and Unison sold that lineup including Maestro to Tivoli. There's some begat's of vendors we might have left out there. Nevertheless, things like PSP Plus were well-built and useful for more than two decades.
 
That's the lure of homesteading—its low-cost ownership—as well as the curse of staying on too long. Product expertise disappears. We've reached out to ROC to see if the offices on Northland Boulevard still contain some tribal knowledge of the artist formerly known as PSP Plus.
 
Our reader, devoted to the 3000 in more than just spirit, is hopeful about its future even while he relies on software and hardware from the past. "I was so encouraged a couple of days ago that I actually searched the Internet for HP3000 MPE system manager jobs," said Tim O'Neill.

"If I did not have to move too far, I would sure like to go back to MPE. To me, it is still an exciting world—and with Stromasys Charon hardware and massively parallel disk arrays and high-speed networking, it is an exciting NEW world!"

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 19, 2018

Why Support Would Suggest Exits from 3000

Way-OutThe work of a support provider for 3000 customers has had many roles over the last 40 years. These indies have been a source for better response time, more customer-focused services, a one-call resource, affordable alternatives and expertise HP no longer can offer. They've even been advisors to guide a 3000 owner to future investments.

That last category needs expertise to be useful, and sometimes it requires a dose of pragmatism, too. Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions gave us a thoughtful answer to the question of, "How do I get my 3000 ready for post-2028 use?" His advice shows how broad-minded a 3000-focused support company can be.

By Steve Suraci

While the solution to the 2028 problem is going to be fairly trivial, it really is the entry point to a much bigger question: What logical argument could any company make at this time to continue to run an HP 3000 MPE system beyond 2028?

I understand that some companies have regulatory requirements that require data to be available on the 3000 for years beyond its original creation date. Beyond this, what logical justification could an IT manager make to their management for perpetuating the platform in production beyond 2028? 

2028 is a long way out from HP’s end of support date [2010] and even further from the original 2001 announcement by HP of their intentions to no longer support it.  It would seem to me that there was a reasonable risk/reward proposition for extending the platform initially for some period of time.  I have to believe that the justification for that decision will expire as time goes on, if not already.

The homesteading base has not in general been willing to spend to keep the platform viable.  They take bigger and bigger risks and alienate themselves from the few support providers who remain capable of providing support in the event of an actual issue. The stability of the platform has lulled them into believing that this has been a good decision.  But what happens when it’s not?

Who at Beechglen or Allegro—or here for that matter—with any in-depth MPE knowledge will still be working in 2028? MPE guys were getting long in the tooth back in 2004!

The 2028 pitch should be to finally put these systems to pasture. We are pressing our customers to move off the platform, as should any MPE support provider. I challenge any MPE system administrator to come up with a viable argument for using the platform beyond 2028.

Is the risk really still worth the reward? The HP 3000 has been a workhorse that has served us well.  Alas, all good things must come to an end!

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:05 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2018

Fine-tune Friday: SCSI Unleashed

Seagate 73GB driveAlthough disk technology has made sweeping improvements since HP's 3000 hardware was last built, SCSI devices are still being sold. The disk drives on the 15-year-old servers are the most likely point of hardware failure. Putting in new components such as the Seagate 73-GB U320 SCSI 10K hard drive starts with understanding the nature of the 3000's SCSI.

As our technical editor John Burke wrote, using a standard tech protocol means third parties like Seagate have products ready for use in HP's 3000 iron.

SCSI is SCSI

Extend the life of your HP 3000 with non-HP peripherals

By John Burke

This article will address two issues and examine some options that should help you run your HP 3000 for years to come. The first issue: you need to use only HP-branded storage peripherals. The second issue: because you have an old (say 9x7, 9x8 or even 9x9) system, then you are stuck using both old technology and just plain old peripherals. Both are urban legends and both are demonstrably false.

There is nothing magical about HP-branded peripherals

Back in the dark ages when many of us got our first exposure to MPE and the HP 3000, when HP actually made disk drives, there was a reason for purchasing an HP disk drive: “sector atomicity.” 9x7s and earlier HP 3000s had a battery that maintained the state of memory for a limited time after loss of power. In my experience, this was usually between 30 minutes and an hour.

These systems, however, also depended on special firmware in HP-made HP-IB and SCSI drives (sector atomicity) to ensure data integrity during a power loss. If power was restored within the life of the internal battery, the system started right back up where it left off, issuing a “Recover from Powerfail” message with no loss of data. It made for a great demo.

Ah, but you say all your disk drives have an HP label on them? Don’t be fooled by labels. Someone else, usually Seagate, made them. HP may in some cases add firmware to the drives so they work with certain HP diagnostics, but other than that, they are plain old industry standard drives. Which means that if you are willing to forego HP diagnostics, you can purchase and use plain old industry standard disk drives and other peripherals with your HP 3000 system.

Connect just about anything to anything

SCSI stands for Small Computer System Interface. It comes in a variety of flavors with a bewildering set of names attached such as SCSI-2, SCSI-3, SE-SCSI, FW-SCSI, HVD, LVD SCSI, Ultra SCSI, Ultra2 SCSI, Ultra3 SCSI, Ultra4 SCSI, Ultra-160, Ultra-320, etc. Pretty intimidating stuff.

Don’t despair though. Pretty much any kind of SCSI device can be connected to any other with the appropriate intermediary hardware. Various high quality adaptors and cables can be obtained from Paralan (www.paralan.com) or Granite Digital (www.granitedigital.com).

So, SCSI really is SCSI. It is a well-known, well-understood, evolving standard that makes it very easy to integrate and use all sorts of similar devices. MPE and the HP 3000 are rather behind the times, however, in supporting specific SCSI standards. Support for LVD SCSI was added with the A- and N-Class systems—and with MPE/iX 7.5, these same systems would support Fibre Channel (FC). 

Let’s concentrate on the SE-SCSI and FW-SCSI interfaces, both seemingly older than dirt, and disk and tape storage devices. But first, suppose you replace an old drive in your system, where should you put it? The 9x7s, 9x8s and 9x9s all have internal drive cages of varying sizes. It is tempting to fill up these bays with newer drives and, if space is at a critical premium, go ahead.

However, if you can, heed the words of Gavin Scott.

I’d recommend putting the new drives in an external case rather than inside the system, since that gives you much more flexibility and eliminates any hassles associated with installing the drive inside the cabinet. It’s the same SCSI interface that you’d be plugging into, so apart from saving the money for the case and cable, there’s no functional difference. With the external case you can control the power of the drive separately, watch the blinking lights, move the drive from system to system (especially useful if you set it up as its own volume set), etc.

At sites such as Granite Digital you can buy any number of rack mount, desktop and tower enclosures for disk systems. Here is another urban legend; LDEV 1 must be an internal drive. False. Or, the boot tape device has to be internal. False. You cannot tell by the path whether a drive is internal or external, and the path is the only thing MPE knows (or cares) about the physical location of the drive.

Okay, there are some limits

Once you come to terms with the fact that you can use almost any SCSI disk drive in your HP 3000, dealing with SE SCSI is a piece of cake and a whole world of possibilities opens up. With the right cable or adapter (see Paralan or Granite Digital) you are in business.

But just because you can connect the latest LVD drive to your SE-SCSI adaptor, should you? Probably not, because you are still limited by the speed of the SE adaptor and so are just wasting your money. Now that you know you do not need the specific HP drives you once bought, you can pick up used or surplus drives ridiculously cheap. [Ed. note: the 73 GB drive at the top of the article is $129.]

Seagate created new technology drives with the old technology 50-pin SE-SCSI interface, the 18Gb model ST318418N and the 36Gb model ST336918N.

FW-SCSI is more problematic than SE-SCSI because no one even makes FW-SCSI (HVD) disk drives any more and you need more than just a simple cable or adapter to connect newer drives to an HVD adaptor. In fact, from the Paralan site, “HVD SCSI was rendered obsolete in the SPI-3 document of SCSI-3.”

So, what is one to do? Most systems with FW-SCSI adaptors need them for the increased throughput and capacity they provide over SE-SCSI. Paralan and others make HVD-LVD converters. The Paralan MH17 is a standalone converter that allows you to connect a string of LVD disk drives to an HP FW-SCSI adaptor. Pretty cool.

If you're on a Fibre Channel (FC) SAN environment and you would like to store your HP 3000 data on the SAN, then only the PCI-Bus A- and N-Class systems (under MPE/iX 7.5) support native Fibre Channel.

A quick word about configuring your new storage peripherals: Do not get confused by the seemingly endless list of peripherals in IODFAULT.PUB.SYS. And, do not worry if your particular disk or tape drive is not listed in IODFAULT.PUB.SYS. Part of the SCSI standard allows for the interrogation of the device for such things as ID, size, etc. DSTAT ALL shows the disk ID returned by the drive, not what you entered in SYSGEN.

When configuring in a new drives, just use an ID that is close. In fact, there is really no need for any more than two entries for disk drives in IODFAULT, one for SE drives and one for HVD drives so as to automatically configure in the correct driver. The same is true for tape drives.

Summary

Disk drives and tape drives are the devices most likely to fail in your HP 3000 system. The good news is that you do not need to be stuck using old technology, nor are you limited to HP only peripherals. The bottom line is you have numerous options to satisfy your HP 3000 storage needs, both now and into the future.

Special thanks go to Denys Beauchemin, who contributed significant material to this article.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:41 PM in Hidden Value, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2018

Momentum moves towards Museum meeting

CHM displayDave Wiseman continues to pursue a 3000 user reunion for late June, and we've chosen to help invite the friends of the 3000. One of the most common sentiments from 3000 veterans sounds like what we heard from Tom Gerken of an Ohio-based healthcare firm.

"It was really sad seeing the HP 3000s go away," he said, talking about the departure of the system from Promedica. "I really liked MPE as an operating system. It was the BEST!"

The last HP 3000 event 2011 was called a Reunion. A 2018 event might be a Retirement, considering how many of the community's members are moving to semi-retirement.

Wiseman says that he's in retirement status as he defines it. "It's working not because you have to,"he said in a call last week, "but because you want to."

Most of us will be working in some capacity until we're too old to know better. That makes the remaining community members something like the HP 3000 itself—serving until it's worn down to bits. The event this summer will be a social gathering, a chance to see colleagues and friends in person perhaps for the first time in more than a decade.

The weekend of June 23-24 is the target for the 3000 Retirement party. We're inquiring about the Computer History Museum and a spot inside to gather, plus arrangements for refreshments and appetizers. There will be a nominal cover fee, because there's no band. Yet.

If you've got a customer list or a Facebook feed you'd like to spread the word on, get in touch with me. Spread the word. Email your friends.

No matter whether you have a contact list or not, save the date: one afternoon on the fourth weekend of June. Details to come. 

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

March 02, 2018

Fine-Tune Friday: One 3000 and Two Factors

RSA SecurID fobPeople are sometimes surprised where HP 3000s continue to serve. Even in 2018, mission-critical systems are performing in some Fortune 500 companies. When the death knell sounds for their applications, the axe gets swung sometimes because of security. Two-Factor security authentication is a standard now, serving things like Google accounts, iCloud data, and corporate server access.

Eighteen years ago, one HP 3000 shop was doing two-factor. The work was being coded before smartphones existed. Two-factor was delivered using a security fob in most places. Andreas Schmidt worked for Computer Sciences Corporation, which served the needs of DuPont in Bad Homburg, Germany. CSC worked with RSA Security Dynamics to create an RSA Agent that connected a 3000 to an RSA Server.

Back in that day, authentication was done with fobs like the one above. Now it's a smart device sharing the key. Schmidt summarized the work done for what he calls "the chemical company" which CSC was serving.

Two-Factor Token Authentication is a state-of-the-art process to avoid static passwords. RSA Security Dynamics provides an MPE Agent for this purpose which worked perfectly for us with Security/3000, but also with basic MPE security. The technical approach is not simple, but manageable. The main problems may arise during the rollout because of human behavior in keeping known procedures and avoiding changes, especially for security. But to stay on HP 3000 into the future, the effort is worth it, especially for better security.

The project worked better when it relied on the Security/3000 software installed on the server hosting Order Fulfillment. Two-factor security was just gaining widespread traction when this 3000 utilized it. Schmidt acknowledged that the tech work was not simple, but was manageable. When a 3000 site is faced with the alternative of developing a replacement application away from MPE/iX, or selecting an app off the shelf like SAP, creating two-factor is within the limits of possibility. Plus, it may not be as expensive as scrapping an MPE application.

Schmidt's article covers an Agent Solution created by CSC. Even 18 years ago, remaining on the 3000 was an issue worth exploring. When many outside firms access a 3000, two factor can be key.

DuPont wanted two-factor tested on its NT systems, plus the 3000.

NT and MPE were selected as pilots: NT because of the large number of servers running that environment; and MPE because of the thinking that this platform might be different from all others and more difficult to implement. However, the company also recognized the importance of running its 3000-based Order Fulfillment Process with a lot of different outside partners.

RSA’s first attempt to develop an agent for MPE was very simple: A token had to become configured for a combination of MPE-USER-ID.MPE ACCOUNT. This combination could not be reused on another token. It was not possible to use wildcards or to add SESSION-IDs or MPE-GROUP to have a complete logon string. Because of the MPE characteristic to share logons (on all levels of capabilities) this version of the agent was not what we were looking for. (More drastically: This agent could not function for the MPE platform).

The second attempt was much better: everything was changed to the chemical company’s already-existing Security/3000 setup. Now Security/3000 invokes the RSA Agent to contact the RSA Server. It transmits either the SESSION-ID or the MPE-USER-ID as the name of the token. If the token is known and allowed to access the HP 3000, the agent asks the user for the current tokencode plus PIN.

This agent also functions without Security/3000 by adding some lines to the System’s Logon UDC. This drops some additional functions in combination with Security/3000, like verifying a user profile in any case (SESSION-ID,MPE-USER-ID.MPE-ACCOUNT is defined as allowed logon in Security/3000, all others will be refused before starting anything), but it will work.

The project report details show this could be installed even before two-factor took a wide foothold in IT. Schmidt doesn't share the code in his article because it was custom work for a dedicated customer. But the process is worth a look, even if only to prove that custom code brings a 3000 into security compliance.

"One thing is essential," Schmidt wrote. "The RSA Agent for MPE does not replace the MPE password process like it does for Unix or NT. It is activated first when the HELLO string has been entered and the MPE password hurdle has been passed (Account, User, and/or Group Password) and (as an option) the basic check within Security/3000 for profile existence is passed. Now any other logon UDC functions are invoked, and this activates the RSA Agent.

Having Security/3000 in place is a good idea to replace the session passwords (if any) by supplying the tokencode.

Not having session names in place, the RSA Agent will add an additional password. I do not recommend eliminating the MPE password — it’s still a fence around your system and is needed for batch security (depending on the streaming security you have in place).

Complete details are in the NewsWire website's archived Technical Articles. Go forth and secure, if preserving an application is a better choice than locating an app replacement.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:52 PM in Hidden Value, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 26, 2018

Overview compares emulation strategies

MBFA Emulation OptionsMB Foster has put some of its Wednesday Webinars online for streaming. A link to a web page leads to a form for input of your name and email, and eventually a return message gives a link to the streams. The company has a lot of firsts to its name for transition training, and this might be the first delivery online of 3000-specific advice since HP's migration broadcasts of 15 years ago.

Much of the online content wraps around the MB Foster product line: UDACentral, UDASynch, and MBF-Scheduler all have webinars. One broadcast, though, promises to be one of the first overviews of emulation strategies. These are the ways customers can re-host HP 3000 applications. Virtualization, using the Charon HPA solution from Stromasys, is the ultimate solution discussed in 45 minutes of presentation.

"I don't think there's anybody else in the marketplace that's given an overview of the emulators," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "It's been up to each individual company to decipher what they can and cannot use."

He's right, and the webinars from early this year and the middle of last year give a broad overview of what emulation might look like. It's an interesting term with many definitions, according to our overview. For some planners, this word means getting away from MPE/iX-based hardware, creating a shell on a Windows or Unix host where MPE/iX apps run. The infrastructure and surround code changes, along with databases and services like job streaming. A more current solution, from Stromasys, gives modern Intel hosts a Linux cradle, where a PA-RISC lookalike runs existing MPE/iX code, infrastructure and all. Nothing changes except the hardware in that emulation.

CEO Birket Foster said some of his customers have deployed the Charon emulator. A few on the call said the overview was helpful in understanding the options for emulation.

The link to the emulation show is available by following the MB Foster link to its email-collection page. One pass through what the company calls HP 3000 Emulation Options (free signup required) has about 45 minutes of review including slides. The Stromasys information shows up at the 34:00 mark of the show, which includes summaries of EZ-MPE, TI/Ordat, and Marxmeier's Eloquence database — the latter a TurboIMAGE lookalike.

The goal of most emulation is to keep changes to a minimum. Charon does the most complete job of limiting change.HP helped emulation become virtualization for 3000s. Emulation of HP's hardware on Intel came to our community after Stromasys re-engineered code for PA-RISC boot up. HP gave help directly to the company to complete the project after a long pause on HP's part.

Along the way toward explaining how Stromasys became a part of the MB Foster customer experience, there's a comment about the help OpenMPE provided in the effort. After OpenMPE's eight years of lobbying and negotiations, HP in 2010 ultimately made a source code license for MPE/iX available to the market. Seven companies licensed it. Stromasys (called SRI at the time) was not a licensee, though. The code was important to support providers, of course, companies like Pivital Solutions

Adager and Ordat -- the latter the European supplier of the IMAGE wrapper technology mentioned in the webinar, the former the market leader in IMAGE tools -- were among the software development companies, along with healthcare application vendor Neil Harvey & Associates. Pivital Solutions, Allegro Consultants, Beechglen Development and Terix got right to the source code in support of their HP 3000 customers.

The licenses delivered code that couldn't be used in the marketplace until January 1, 2011, the first day that HP no longer offered HP 3000 support services. HP described the read-only licenses as a means for "delivery of system-level technical support."

Whatever the benefits of source code might be for the market—workarounds are a big plus for tech problems on the 3000—emulation in it's least-changing definition doesn't have a link to MPE/iX source.

The link between MPE/iX and the Charon emulation lies in its unique ability to run any code built for the 3000 hardware on Intel systems. OpenMPE opened its quest in 2002 for post-HP 3000 use by hoping for an open source version of MPE. Open hardware arrived instead, using the Stromasys product, an emulation of the iron that HP stopped building in 2003.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:31 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2018

Relief at Finding One Another is Real

Missed-youIt can be difficult to round up a collective of HP 3000 and MPE users. Even the CAMUS user group society meeting of November was dominated by vendors, consultants and non-customers. I began long ago to classify consultants as customers. They're representing a company that needs expertise but can't put an expert on the payroll. During the call one consultant spoke up saying he was doing just that. A representative from Infor was asking how many of the meeting's attendees had MANMAN installed.

After awhile Terry Lanza, who'd organized the meeting conducted on a widespread conference call, asked "Is there an HP 3000 user group still going, or has that kind of folded?" Doug Werth of Beechglen replied, "The user group doesn't really exist much. It's just the HP3000 Listserv."

Even the 3000-L, where the L stands for Listserv, has many moments of absolute quiet. People are curious, reading what's been up there for more than 25 years. But it can be weeks between messages. The Quiet Day Count stands at seven right now, after an exchange about groups residing on multiple volumesets.

That's why it's encouraging to see people like Lanza and Dave Wiseman bring efforts to bear on finding one another. Wiseman, who's hosted some 3000 gatherings over the very-quiet last five years, still has his eye set on a 2018 3000 meeting. He's looking in specific at two dates for a meeting in June: Saturday the 16th or Friday the 22nd. That could be a meeting in Cupertino, or a gathering out on the California coast in Santa Cruz, he says. I'd be voting for that Friday (flights are cheaper on Thursdays) with time to enjoy California for a couple days afterward.

Get in touch with us via email, or better yet with Wiseman, to show a preference. (davebwiseman@googlemail.com or +44 777 555 7017)

The overwhelming emotion I see and hear during meetings like that CAMUS call or an in-person event is relief. "I thought I was the only one left out here running a 3000," someone said during the CAMUS call. You're not, and gatherings reinforce your good stewardship of an IT resource. They might also provide an update on what to do next. It could be virtualization or a migration. Real world experience flows easier in person. You can also learn what you might have missed.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:18 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 05, 2018

Migrations Altered to Appear as Emulation

Terms about transition have been fluid and flexible for more than a decade in the 3000 community. People say migration when the solution is actually conversion. Migration has also been called emulation, a status that was the holy grail when HP canceled its 3000 plans. "If only," said the companies dug in on MPE/iX, "there was a way to make something behave like the 3000 value set."

Altered-Carbon-MigrationOpenMPE spent the first four years of its lifespan chasing that ideal. First there was the goal of getting ahold of enough source code that MPE/iX could continue to evolve in labs outside HP. That was shot down right away, and then there was the goal of getting a replacement platform for HP's hardware. The 3000 experience was lashed to PA-RISC and HP wasn't building any more of those servers by 2003.

Enter the first discussions of making a chip that could mimic PA-RISC, a PA-8000 at the least. This emulation was not going to happen in hardware. One plan proposed that HP would continue to make the chips and sell them to a third party vendor. People wanted to believe something.

What people wanted was a way to slip their 3000 computing into a new body, something fresher than HP's old designs. This past weekend, Altered Carbon dropped on Netflix. The story shows how the things that make up our true selves — like the programs custom-built to run a company — can be re-sleeved into a new body. The brain is called a Stack on the show, the body is a Sleeve. Sleeves are disposable for the right price. The Stack is backed up and treasured. You only experience Real Death when your Stack is destroyed.

The magic is moving the Stack into a new Sleeve. The magic was putting MPE/iX stacks onto the disposable sleeves of Intel hardware. After emulation's ideal went into hibernation, Stromasys opened the door back up with software, and true emulation was born. It's been more than five years by now, and the project became a product quickly. Emulation means making one host mimic another. It's got a powerful attraction: limited change and no re-training.

Emulation looks like migration, though, when it walks like it and sounds like it. This kind of emulation ducky takes non-3000 software (Linux, Windows, even Unix) and plants it in place of MPE/iX. The programs will slip across to the new host after revisions and rewrites, work that's usually delivered by the line of code. There are substitutions for surrounding tools (like MPEX, or a job scheduler) that demand retraining. It probably looks different to the users, too, so there's that adjustment.

Migration still has real benefits. It walks and sounds a lot different than a software engine that takes 3000 programs and runs them on Intel hardware. Emulation has no other changes except to learn how to replace the oil in the engine and learn how to start it up. Charon, really. Everything else is migration. If you'll be headed to migration, it's a straighter path acknowledge you'll migrate and find an agent to apply that change. The 3000's had years of camouflage offered as emulation. In place of a real emulator, it was the best way forward.

Real migration doesn't pretend to be emulation. Migration of legacy systems assumes there are better tech solutions that have been established since the 2001 design of MPE/iX and PA-RISC. Genuine migration retains business logic, line by line, with whatever service expertise is needed. You get what you pay for because you need more. It's not the best solution if all you need is non-HP iron.

You get more from real migration than from emulation. More changes, to be sure, so the benefits revolve around extended connectivity (to other software, non-HP) and a broader future (tools not controlled by a system vendor). A bigger ecosystem then beckons.

Emulation, by now, needs to be virtualization. The level of complexity in emulating software has been demonstrated over the last 20 years. MPUX was a part of the ViaNova/3000 solution back at the start of this century. It was a sub-system enabling 3000 sites to run and maintain MPE/iX applications hosted on non-MPE/iX servers. It was not emulation. MPUX gave system administrators the 3000’s command set, as well as supporting MPE/iX intrinsics, on non-3000 environments. The software doesn't isolate applications or users in an emulation environment, but instead provides Unix, Linux or Windows services to the MPE/iX applications.

A migration and an emulation are two different things, a distinction that's important to acknowledge. Emulation gives standard and supportable hardware to MPE/iX with a minimum of change. Migration changes the development of surround code, can involve re-training users, strives to modernize apps, and must deliver adaptability to link with new software.

Migration also gives new, fresher hardware, just like emulation does. It's just about the only benefit the two solutions have in common by 2018. Ask for migration by name. And for emulation, do the same.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:52 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 17, 2018

VerraDyne adds new 3000 migration savvy

Legacy Migration VerraDyneThe HP 3000 has journeyed on the migration path for more than 16 years. The journey's length hasn't kept the community from gaining new resources give an MPE/iX datacenter a fresh home, though. VerraDyne takes a bow this year with an offer of skills and service rooted in 3000 transitions. The Transition Era isn't over yet, and Windows remains the most likely destination for the remaining journeys.

In-house application suites make up the biggest part of the homesteading HP 3000s. Business Development VP Bruce McRitchie said his MPE experience began in an era before MPE/XL ran the servers at McCloud-Bishop while other partners worked at System House during the 1980s.

In those days the transitions came off of Wang and DEC systems, he said, as well as making changes for HP 3000 customers. The work in those days was called a conversion more often than a migration. In the years since, replacing an in-house solution with a package was a common choice for migrations. Package replacements have their challenges, though. McRitchie reminds us that custom modifications can make replacement a weak choice, and often a business must change its operations to meet the capabilities of a package. There's sometimes data conversions, too.

In contrast, the VerraDyne migration solution is a native implementation to a target environment with no emulation, middleware, or any black box approach. ADO or ODBC enables database access when a VerraDyne project is complete, usually anywhere from three months to a year from code turnover to return to client. Microsoft's .NET platform is a solution that's worked at prior migrations. But there's also been projects where COBOL II has been moved to Fujitsu or AcuCobol.

Matinelli was an organization with a unique challenge for a VerraDyne migration: HP 3000 Basic became VB.net. Other clients have been the Medford Schools, BASF International (both to Fujitsu) and the Jewelers Board of Trade and the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System (both to AcuCobol). The experience set also runs to the Micro Focus COBOL product lineup.

Projects for 3000 migrations are bid by lines of code to be moved. Screens in VPlus are converted to WebForms or WinForms for Windows-bound migrations. For systems headed to a Linux or Unix platform, the forms are converted to screen sections or JavaServer pages.

The typically knotty problem of replacing HP intrinsics is handled by rewrites into COBOL or a language the migrating site chooses. MPE JCL is converted to Windows or Unix command scripts. If there's a scripting language a site prefers, VerraDyne can target that as well.

"Every site has some of that specialized MPE/iX functionality," McRitchie said. He added that a migrated system, whether landing on a Windows VB.NET or C# program base, or in software converted to Java for Unix, is delivered completely compatible. "Bug for bug compatible," he quipped, following the fundamental best practices for every migration: what's running successfully on a 3000 will run on the new migrated platform.

IMAGE migration practices move data to SQL Server, Oracle, or other databases selected by a site. Any third party indexes used, such as Omnidex, are converted to database indexes or views. All relations between tables like automatic or manual masters are preserved. Conversion programs are included to convert IMAGE data from the HP 3000 to a selected database. VerraDyne provides source to migration all IMAGE intrinsics such as DBOPEN, DBUPDATE, or DBPUT.

In-house code that's migrated, as it always has been, lets a site retain the heavy investment made in highly customized systems applications. Preservation of resources has been what's kept HP 3000s running well into their second decade of post-HP manufacture.

Migrations of 3000 in-house systems are likely to come from sites that have been running applications since before the 1990s. McRitchie and his consulting partners Tony Blinco and Masoud Entezari have experience that runs back to the days when 3000 disks were large enough to vibrate when they were busiest. "They'd rub the paint off each other," he said with a wistful chuckle, sounding very much like an expert seasoned in servers which are several decades older than when first booted. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:55 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2018

Rootstock acquires ERP vendor Kenandy

Rootstock logoThe world of cloud-based ERP got a rumble today when Rootstock acquired competitor Kenandy. The Support Group is a MANMAN-ERP service firm that's got a Kenandy migration in its resume by this year, after moving Disston Tools off MANMAN and onto Kenandy. Support Group president Terry Floyd said the combination of the two leading cloud ERP companies looks like good news for the market.

"They're scaling up to get new business," he said, after sending us the tip about the connection of the firms. He compared the acquisition to the period in the 1990s when Computer Associates absorbed ASK Computer and MANMAN.

"After CA bought MANMAN, they kept on putting out releases and putting money into the company," Floyd said. "Salesforce must be behind this acquisition in some way."

Kenandy and Rootstock's software is built upon Salesforce and its Force platform and toolsets. A thorough article on the Diginomica website says that the deal was a result of a set of opportunities around a mega-deal and a key leader for a new unit at Kenandy. The plans to combine forces for the vendors include keeping development in play for both Rootstock and Kenandy products.

The Diginomica reporting by Brian Sommer says that Kenandy has a significant number of software engineers and a strong financial executive. "It's the talent [at Kenandy] that makes the deal fortuitous," Sommer wrote, "as Rootstock was ramping up for a lot expensive and time-consuming recruiting activity." Rootsource, by taking on the vendor with a product that's replaced a 3000 at a discrete manufacturer, "is of more consequence to Salesforce."

Vendors like the Support Group seem likely to benefit from the acquisition. By Sommer's reckoning, Salesforce might not have known which vendor among its network of ERP partners to call for manufacturing prospects. "Now one call will [send] the right response and product onto the prospect."

ERP mergers don't always have this level of synergy. When Oracle bought JD Edwards/Peoplesoft, there was friction and disconnect between the organizations. Floyd said that as a result of the Kenandy acquisition, "There may be new business for us." Companies like the Support Group supply the front-line experience to migrate 3000 manufacturers to a cloud platform.

Expertise like what's been shown from TSG makes cloud ERP an attractive step forward for MANMAN sites ready to make a move. Rootstock's CEO Pat Gerrehy said that developing best practices aid manufacturers in migrating from legacy ERP.

“When it comes to cloud ERP implementations, customer success is often determined by how you implement, not just what you implement,” said Garrehy. “Our combined company is dedicated to making the transition from legacy ERP easier for our customers. We welcome Kenandy customers into the Rootstock fold.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:46 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 20, 2017

Replacement hardware archives key context

Wayback Wednesday

The replacement hardware arrived in a box that fit inside my mailbox. We bought a jumbo-sized mailbox in 1993, one big enough to let the industry trade journals lie flat on its floor. In those days our community relied on big tabloid publications to keep abreast of the future. Today the pages are digital and needing paper for news is fading fast.

MD RecorderThe Minidisc MZ-R50 showed up in great working order, a replacement for the recorder that logged my interviews in the rowdy and roiling days of the 3000's Transition Era. The Minidisc is late '90s tech that can arrive by way of US Mail. A Series 929 wouldn't fit in any cardboard box with padding. That server is 104 pounds of a 2-foot by 18-inch unit that's 22 inches high. UPS could pull it off a truck, though.

My 1997 MZ-R50 has the same age as a Series 997, and like the 3000 server, the hardware has unlocked access to archival information. You buy these things to replace failed hardware, or sometimes for parts. Only the battery had failed on the R50. That's a component likely to be dead on old 3000s, too.

I plucked a Minidisc at random to test my new unit and found an interview about how Interex decided to put distance between itself and Hewlett-Packard. I wrote about the change in the relationship in 2004, but just a fraction of the interview made it into the NewsWire.

The thing about archival data is it can grow more valuable over time. Context is something that evolves as history rolls on. In the late summer of 2004 it wasn't obvious that Interex was overplaying its hand, reaching for a risk to sell the value of a vendor-specific user group. HP told the group's board of directors that user group support was going to be very different in 2005. The reaction to the news sealed the fate of the group. It began with a survey, shifted to a staff recommendation, and ended up as a board decision.

The recorded 2004 interview now puts those views and choices in context. You'll care about this if you ever need a user group, wonder how your enterprise vendor will support customers' desires, or hope to understand how corporate resources influence partnerships.

The key interview quote that made its way into our "HP World stands at brink of changes" report was a line from then-board president Denys Beauchemin. “We’re not competing with HP,” Beauchemin said about HP World 2005. “HP’s going to be there next year. HP will scale back drastically.” The scaling back was a correct assessment. The competition turned out to change everything.

The demise of a 31-year-old user group might seem like an inevitability from a 2017 perspective. Connect is the user group serving anyone in the HP Enterprise market today. It's joined by the small CAMUS user society, the same one that discussed and uncovered the strategy to get beyond the year 2027 with MPE/iX. Membership in both groups is free. Back in 2004 those were $99 memberships, with thousands to count on.

The rescued recording from that chat with Beauchemin gave me context a-plenty to absorb.

What HP said is they have four user group events to go to next year. They're trying to cut back. They're trying to do an HP-produced show and invited user groups to attend.

HP aimed to replace its spending on user group-run HP shows with one event. Cutting back was always going to happen in the plan. Interex got notice a year before it collapsed that HP's spending was going to drop.

If we decide to do our own thing, then HP will be at HP World in San Francisco — but it would not be with the same presence they had in the past. No huge booth. They will scale back drastically. They would sponsor and endorse HP World. It's not like they're yanking the rug out from under us, not at all.

There was no rug-pulling. The deck of the Good Ship User Expo Floor was tilting hard, though. HP said it was going to do enough of a show to let user groups will share revenues from an HP Expo “to support and sustain those organizations," adding that "The user groups’ charters are not to drive revenue and profit, but to train end-users in a way that the groups can recover costs.”

The revenue and profit was the charter of any Interex show. An organization with teeth needs to be fed. Now Interex had a competitor: the vendor at its own heart. Customers and vendors had a choice to make about conferences.

They respect the independence of Interex. They really like the advocacy survey and all of the other stuff we do— which is very much in keeping with our screaming at HP, but in a nice way.

The screaming was customer communication that dated back to the 1980s. A management roundtable was a publicity and customer relations minefield starting in the 1990s. Interex considered itself an advocacy group first. The engine of its enterprises, though, was booth sales for its annual expo.

If we were to go with HP in their mega-event, the impact would be in terms of the independence of third party folks we could have at the show. 

The archival recording off my replacement hardware took note of the kinds of vendors who'd never make it onto an HP-run expo floor. Competitors in systems, in storage, in services. Interex needed those prospects to fill up a healthy show floor.

To his credit, Beauchemin and the board recognized HP was essential to the conference's survival. 

If HP were to say it wasn’t interested in going to San Francisco in 2005, then we would have an issue. They haven't said they'd do that. HP is trying to cut back on the number of events they go to — especially the ones that are not in their control.

The group used this decision process about control: First, survey members about moving closer to HP and giving up independence—and learning that 55 percent favored that move. Then the user group staff got a shot at developing a recommendation about staying independent or ceding control of the conference to HP. Finally, the board took a vote based on that recommendation. There was a short timeframe to decide.

HP World 2004 is fast approaching. We need a story to tell about HP World 2005.

It's easy to see, in the context of 2017, that a user group staff would recommend staying on a course to keep projects and jobs in group control. It's hard to see how a board would vote to oppose any recommendation of joining with HP. So there was an approval to stay at a distance from HP. Cutting across the desires of any organization's managers is tough. What turned out to be just as hard was finding enough revenue to keep the organization alive.

The exhibitors and community leaders who helped found the group already saw a show that focused elsewhere. The fate of HP World had more impact on the 3000 customers who are leaving the platform than those who staying to homestead.

“It’s all focused on migration,” said Terry Floyd of the ERP support company the Support Group. “I expect that a lot of the 3000 people at HP World will be looking for HP 9000 solutions. We’re sending someone to talk to partners on the Unix and Integrity side.”

Pursuing a bigger relationship with partners who competed with HP had a huge cost. It was a risk that the group couldn't afford by the next year. One of the most senior members of the 3000 community said the end was in sight for Interex.

“HP would rather not spend another dime on something that has no future with them,” Olav Kappert said. “It will first be SIG-IMAGE, then other HP 3000 SIGs will follow. Somewhere in between, maybe even Interex will disappear.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2017

Still migrating after all these years

Project-scheduleI began writing about migrations only in 2001, after HP decided that moving was the way forward for 3000 folk. I already had 17 years on the 3000 beat by then. Much has happened over these last 16 years, and yet, less than you would think in some places. Companies began in earnest to move away from MPE/iX, sometimes for very good reasons. For example, if your application vendor starts sending you end-of-life warnings for your software, it's a good time to plan for a trip away from an HP 3000.

At other kinds of companies, migration seemed to be the safest way forward. Starting sooner than later was part of the 3000 ethos, too. That ethos might be one reason why some 3000 customers were working in their second decade of departing the 3000. The apps that were not broken didn't have to replaced right away, did they?

Eleven years have gone by since I produced this 8-minute podcast about one of those customers. From the very first year of the Transition Era we knew about the Speedware shop at Virginia International Terminals. VIT was a success story HP shared with its uncertain customers. VIT made the move to HP's Unix and all was well.

However, more than four years later (in 2006) not everything was moved off the 3000. Earlier this year we heard from someone at VIT about replacing their final MPE/iX app. This year. An interesting thing happened on the way to the exit. First they found the job bigger than they could handle themselves. To their credit, their IT management saw a bigger picture. Why just have a functional migrated application? You want it as efficient as it can be.

Back in 2006 VIT thought that way. It tested its migration about 18 months later than expected. Not everything made its way through that assisted migration process. VIT must have found a way to let migration pay its way, permitting a bit of functional MPE/iX to be left alone. Our 2006 podcast talks about the Why of a migration, as well as what happens when that Why changes.

Start to finish from 2002-2017 might be the longest term of any migration. A good 3000 manager doesn't care how long it takes. They care if it's done right—and on the schedule that best suits their organization. The podcast made a point back then which continues to be true. It's your calendar that matters.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:15 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 08, 2017

Distributor seeks 3000 experts for contract

Help-wantedIt doesn't happen often, but the 3000 world has a request for experts in the employment market. Dwight Demming at National Wine & Spirits posted a notice yesterday, saying he needed two to three "HP 3000 programmers to work on a year-long project."

NWS has been a 3000 user since the 1990s, running an in-house application that tracks shipping of, well, wine and spirits. The customer has always been a forward-looking shop. A few years back the company in Oak Brook Illinois was using Hillary Software's byRequest to move its email and PDF from the 3000 to computers in the rest of the IT environment. byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application.

Kim Borgman of National Wine & Spirits said at the time, "We [use it to] e-mail all our reports now. Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore." byRequest will support secure FTP as well as standard FTP.

The current assignment at the company calls for programmers who are "highly skilled in COBOL, Image/SQL, and VPlus. The work can be done remotely, Demming said in his posting, "with occasional visits to Oak Brook."

The biggest payoff for the employment offer might be in the final line of Demming's post: "Possibly leading to full-time employment." That might be HP 3000 and MPE/iX work, or it might be work on a migrated platform. But a year's worth of HP 3000 work starting around 2018 is a benefit few people could have forseen back when HP turned off its MPE/iX lab lights seven years ago.

Applications for the jobs can be sent to Demming at his email address.

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

December 06, 2017

Staying on target is tough for 3000's exiles

3000 firing squadThe perspective of tech veterans who left the 3000 community used to sway opinions of those who remained. Vendors sold services like support or software for MPE/iX. Then HP made sales difficult by striking the 3000 off its price lists. So the vendors and IT pros who couldn't make a sale or a living left our world. Some departed and remained wistful and respectful of what HP created for MPE/iX. Others have not done so. They departed and began to disrespect and mock the tech solution that made them a pro.

It makes no sense, they've now said for more than a decade, to put any more resources into MPE/iX or a 3000. Some exiles once lined up a 3000 in a cornfield and shot it up with weapons. The act was an effort at comedy. (A great actor on his deathbed reminded the world that dying was easy, and comedy is hard.) The cornfield gunfire was ruthless because those shooters were targeting a legacy.

The bullets hit the computer, but the shooters were off target. The firing squad treatment included an arsenal worthy of Yosemite Sam. A cannon missed the mark and had to be wheeled closer. The buffoons acted out a fantasy, the finale of what they called “an HP 3000 mainframe computer.” 

Those shots felt the same as those the 3000's devotees have endured in the Migration Era. The era is just about over, but so many of its exits were based on fears of parts inventories gone dry or a lack of vendor attention. Some vendors turned on their community, stoking new business by running down the old success. Those parts are rare, they say, and you can pay us to help you change your mind. HP ran aground with its strategies for computing. Now the CEO is leaving and saying that technology wisdom has a better chance of hitting the value target than business experience.

The web, social media, and even 20-year-old mailing lists have made civil speech an endangered species. It's not professional or honest to label a line of work, and those who do it, as "stupid." That ignorant distain has given us Fake News and Alternative Facts. Crackpots and nincompoops make for outlandish exiles. Building something up by tearing something else down still remains Bad Form, as Captain Hook said in Peter Pan. Misfires on migrations have turned three-year exits into 12-year boondoggles. 

I'm sitting on a story about one of those odysseys. After HP gave the 3000 a bum's rush to the business door, the exiles' potshots at MPE's value rang out. Catcalls at MPE from the 3000's exiles won't put such odysseys on course. The simple math of taking four times longer to do something than planned—well, that's a True Fact, even if it's not often told. The target for why anything happens can be tough to find. When life doesn't turn out as you hoped, and your 3000 lifetime doesn't last, taking blind shots at a legacy always looked like going off half-cocked.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 24, 2017

Giving Thanks for Exceeding All Estimates

Thanksgiving-Table-2013
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise sailed into the Thanksgiving holiday beating estimates. The company eked out a "beat" of analyst estimates for quarterly profits, exceeding the forecasts by 1 percent. Overall the fiscal year 2017 results for sales were flat ($37.4 billion) and year-to-year earnings fell. Even that tepid report beat estimates. Nobody's expecting HP Enterprise to rise up soon. Keeping its place is a win.

It's about the same spot the HP 3000 and MPE/iX have shared for some time. After the exodus of migrators tailed off, the community has been losing few of its remaining members. A slice of them met Nov. 16 on a call. Someone asked if there was anything like a user group left for 3000 owners. I was tempted to say "this is it" to the CAMUS members on the line. Someone offered an opinion that the 465 members of the 3000 newsgroup were a user group.

I'm thankful there's still a 3000 community to report to here in 2017. We've exceeded estimates too. Nobody could have estimated that the HP 3000 and MPE/iX would last long enough to try to resolve the 2028 date handling changes. Hewlett-Packard once expected 80 percent of its customers would be migrated by 2006. That was an estimate which was not exceeded, or even met.

I'm grateful for keeping my storytelling and editing lively during this year, halfway through my 61st. I've got my health and vigor to count on, riding more than 2,000 miles this year on my bike around the Hill Country. I'm grateful for family—lovely bride, grandchildren to chase and photograph—and for the fortunes that flow in my life, the work of book editor, coach and seasoned journalist.

HP's steering back to its roots by replacing a sales CEO with a technology expert in Antonio Neri. “The next CEO of the company needs to be a deeper technologist, and that’s exactly what Antonio is," Meg Whitman said on a conference call discussing HPE's succession plan. I can also be grateful for that appreciation of a technologist's vision. Like the death notices for MPE/iX, the fall of technology on the decision ladder was overstated. In 2006 I talked with an HP executive who believed "the time of the technologist" had passed. Strategy was going to trump technology.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise isn't eager to count up its business selling its servers. The report from last week needed this caveat to claim earnings were up for 2017

Net revenue was up 6 percent year over year, excluding Tier-1 server sales and when adjusted for divestitures and currency.

The most recent quarter's results included HP's cut-out of large server sales, too. "When you can't count the numbers that are important, you make the numbers you can count important," said think tanks about Vietnam war results. There are been casualties while HP let non-engineers call the shots. If Hewlett-Packard Enterprise can be led by an engineer for the first time since Lew Platt's 1990s term, then technology has exceeded corporate estimates of its relevance. Our readers learned about their tech bits long ago. We're grateful to have them remain attentive to our pages.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:31 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 22, 2017

Whitman leaves HP better than she found it

WhitmanHP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is stepping down from the company's leadership seat, effective January 31, 2018. After her run of more than six years it can be argued Whitman is leaving an HP in better shape than she found the corporation. One measure of her success lies in HPE's revenue growth in spite of headwinds, as the analysts call challenges like cloud competition. That fact can be offset with the number of layoffs during her tenure. Most estimates put that figure at more than 30,000, an employment disruption that ranges even wider when accounting for divestitures and the split-up of HP.

Numbers don't say enough about Whitman's impact on the future of the vendor which invented HP 3000s and MPE. After a string of three CEOs who ended their terms disgraced or fired, she brought a steady gait to a company in desperate need of a reunion with its roots. The Hewlett-Packard of the 1980s delivered the greatest success to MPE customers. In hand-picking Antonio Neri as her successor, Whitman has returned HP to its 20th Century roots. The Enterprise arm of HP will be led by an engineer who's worked only for HP. The last time that was true, Lew Platt was CEO of an HP that was still in one piece, instead of the two of 2017.

Hewlett-Packard finally made that transition into two companies on Whitman's watch, after a decade when the printer-server split was debated around the industry. She also pruned away the leafy branches that made the HP tree wider but no taller: Autonomy and other ill-matched acquisitions were cut loose. She said in an interview on CNBC today that the time for "supermarket IT" suppliers is gone, and the future belongs to the fast. Whitman's years reversed some damage at HP, which at least beat analyst estimates for its Q4 earnings. 

"What If" was once an ad slogan for Hewlett-Packard. The question could be posed around Whitman's role at the company. What if this executive woman took HP's reins in 1999? She was already a CEO in that year at eBay. From the way Whitman has brought HP's headlong blundering to heel, she might have kept the company focused on the mission of the current day's HP Enterprise.

The rise of mobile computing and off-premise IT was always going to hound HP, a corporation built to sell specialized hardware and proprietary software. Passing the baton to an engineer leader—Neri started in the HP EMEA call center—shows Whitman knows more about HP's culture than anyone who's had the CEO job since 1999. She remains on HP's board and said she'll be available for sales calls in the future, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 20, 2017

Was news of CALENDAR's end Fake News?

Fake-NewsHP 3000 customers, support experts, and vendors have heard a fresh take on the upcoming demise of CALENDAR functions. Date keeping was going to suffer for anybody who needed that intrinsic to steer 3000 date-keeping. Nobody wanted to debate that fact. As I reported in 2015, with considerable help from Vesoft's Vladimir Volokh, CALENDAR doesn't have enough bits to track dates beyond December 31, 2027. It would be easy to conclude the 3000's date capability will go bust at the end of that December.

That's fake news, said Steve Cooper of Allegro to everyone on last week's CAMUS user group call. "A whole lot of fake news," he said, when one user referenced our 2015 article as proof dates were going to be a problem on 3000s in about 10 years. "You need to get the true scoop instead of spreading rumors."

Cooper was one of several 3000 experts who said that dates could be kept accurately in MPE/iX for much longer than 10 years from the end of next month. HP's replacement for CALENDAR—an intrinsic written in the early 1970s—adds bits to let 3000s track data. HPCALENDAR isn't employed inside lots of MPE/iX software, but that will change for anyone who wants their MPE/iX end of life to be determined by utility and value, rather than capability.

In 2015, our story asked Whether the End of 2027 is MPE's End, Too. It isn't, so long as you use HPCALENDAR to replace CALENDAR. MPE/iX app managers will need source code access to make this kind of substitution, using the new intrinsic method of remediation.

There was also talk of a pivot point strategy to handle things without replacing CALENDAR. Pivot points were in vogue for some Y2K repairs. In such designs, software processes a date by comparing the date to the moment it processes the date. The old ColdFusion software from Microsoft did this to add century information for Y2K, for example. A Stack Overflow discussion illustrates how pivot points work in Python.

HPCALENDAR will give MPE/iX date-handling capability that exceeds that of Unix. I reported that in 2015, thanks to help from Vladimir.

HP advised its 3000 customers in 2008 to begin using HPCALENDAR on HP 3000s. HPCALENDAR harks back to version 5.5 of MPE/iX. Its power lies in the 3000 for use by programmers who want accurate dates beyond 2038 (the limit in Unix) for application files.

HP ordered 16 extra bits for date handling through HPCALENDAR in the 1990s, just too late to influence the heart of MPE.

While working in the realm of those original 16-bit MPE intrinsics, "You cannot make less than 9 bits for the date of the year," Vladimir said. "That would be less than 365 days. So that leaves us 7 bits to express the year."

The '90s HPCALENDAR, reaching into the new elbow room of 32 bits, can use as many as 23 bits for the year. That intrinsic will cover 8 million years, even more. HPCALENDAR is available in Native Mode MPE, and it remains the best choice for any new work done on a 3000's applications.

But MPE's existing intrinsics provide the barrier here: the oldest are in Segmented Library (SL)—and the newer HPCALENDAR is in Native Library (NL). And the only companies with any chance of adjusting the 3000's dates into 2028 and beyond are those which have insight into MPE/iX source. Then there's knowing what to do with it. They must get into the MPE source and recompile it to use HPCALENDAR.

That insight into MPE/iX source is needed for a system-wide repair of CALENDAR date intrinsic functionality. It's a broad spectrum fix, though, when a localized alteration will do the job. Even HP's own SHOWCLOCK gets the date correct when you boot a system by setting its date for 2028.

"There are still some pieces of code that are doing date handling by calling CALENDAR," Cooper said. "But the operating system does not fall over dead at that point. The banner will say "1900" and if you do a SHOWTIME it will say 1900. But if you do a SHOWCLOCK it will correctly show '2028'."

Reading a file, modifying a file: these will occur with the correct timestamps. They all use the larger, more modern date format. Programs which use CALENDAR will provide a date in the 1900s when run on 2028. The date-keeping in the MPE/iX banner is going to be incorrect. Any software that reaches out for a date intrinsic will be just fine if it uses HPCALENDAR.

The user group has its board member Ed Stein to thank for the talk about the date changes coming up in a decade or so. Stein says that he'd rather seek out date repairs now for his 3000s, while there are still support and development experts taking on projects. There's a lot less retirement going on for people working in their late 70s. But Stein, like a lot of 3000 pros, understands it's better to take care of things before they become unsolvable problems—when there's nobody working who knows where CALENDAR might be running inside a program on MPE/iX.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:20 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2017

HP's shrinkage includes iconic HQ address

  800px-HP_HQ_campus_4
Hewlett-Packard pointed at a shrinking ecosystem as a reason to cut down its futures for the 3000. Time in the post-HP world for MPE/iX moves into its Year Number 17 starting tomorrow . That's right; the Transition Era completes its 16th year tomorrow at about 1PM. Transitions aren't over, either. In the meantime, MPE's clock now starts catching up with Hewlett-Packard's headquarters. The iconic address of 3000 Hanover Street in Palo Alto will not be HP's much longer. On the subject of icons, that's a oscilloscope wave to the left of the original HP logo on the building above.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 12.09.17 PMHP is moving its corporate throne to a company and a building in Santa Clara soon. The existing HQ has been in service since 1957, but consolidations in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise—which also has a shrinking ecosystem—mandated the move. The offices of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the shrines to the HP Way, management by walking around, and the shirt-pocket calculator designs, will be packed up sometime next year. The HQ look of Silicon Valley's first corporation is distinctive.

Hewlett-packard-original-officesEverything has its lifespan, from ideas to the office desks where overseas currency and coins lay on blotters, resting in the side-by-side rooms Hewlett and Packard used. The coins and bills represented the worldwide reach of the company, left on the desk as a reminder of how far-flung HP's customers were. HPE's CEO Meg Whitman said HPE consolidations are part of making HP Enterprise more efficient.

Dave Packard coins"I’m excited to move our headquarters to an innovative new building that provides a next-generation digital experience for our employees, customers and partners," Whitman said. "Our new building will better reflect who HPE is today and where we are heading in the future."

Companies which use HP's hardware to run MPE/iX might also see efficiency as one benefit of moving out of their use of HP's servers. A virtual platform, based on Intel and Linux, is hosting MPE/iX. Charon goes into its sixth year of MPE/iX service later this month.

A customer could look at that Hanover Street address, which will be without HP for the first time since Eisenhower was President, and see a reduction. HP Enterprise will be sharing office space with Aruba, a wireless networking firm HPE acquired in 2015. Aruba also has big hopes for cloud computing. Cloud is the future for HPE growth, according to the company. HPE is cutting out 5,000 jobs by year's end. The workforce might be considered a part of the HPE ecosystem, too.

Office buildings certainly have to be considered part of an ecosystem for a corporation. Important elements? Perhaps, if only because the statement they make about a company's permanence and continuity. The HPE Aruba building HQ will surpass Hanover Street in longevity by 2077.

In 60 years when MPE/iX apps will run somewhere, if only in a museum, they will be on a virtualized platform. As it turns out, the ecosystem for software—the embodiment of an idea—is more durable than any corporation's. MPE/iX will catch up with the HP HQ lifespan in 2033. When a customer takes custom engineering into 2028, it's just a five-year lifespan to surpass Hanover Street. Ideas have a permanence buildings can wish for. Those ideas get such permanence while they remain useful.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:45 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 06, 2017

Flood drives off HP, even as 3000s churn on

Server_rack_under_FloodLate last week Hewlett Packard Enterprise—the arm that builds HP's replacements for 3000s—announced it will be moving manufacturing out of Texas. According to a story from WQOW in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the facilities from HP's Houston area are pulling out and headed to higher ground in the Midwest. HP said its operations were flooded out beyond repair by Hurricane Harvey. A report from the Houston Business Journal says HPE is sending more than 200 manufacturing jobs north due to the Texas rains. “Because of the destructive effects of flooding two years in a row, the company has decided to move more than 3,000 employees to a new site in the greater Houston area,” HPE said in a press release.

HP 3000s have fared better in high waters. A couple of the servers up in the Midwest keep swimming in front of a wave of migration.

Back in 2013 we reported a story about a once-flooded HP 3000 site at MacLean Power, a manufacturer of mechanical and insulation products. The 3000's history there started with Reliance Electric at that enterprise, becoming Reliant Power and then MacLean-Fogg. Mark Mojonnier told his story, four autumns ago, about the operations at Mundelein, Illinois.

The new company, Reliable Power Products, bought its first HP 3000 Series 48 in 1987. We had a flood in the building later that year and had to buy another one. The disk drives were high enough out of the water to survive, so when the new one arrived, we warm-booted it (with the old disk packs) and it picked up right where it left off.

The 3000s continue to out-swim the waters of change there for awhile longer. Monjonnier updated us on how the servers will work swimmingly until 2021, and why that's so.

More than 200 users are working with the company's N-Class server every day. There's another N-Class running as a disaster recovery system at MacLean. Changes in management, which produced changes in migration strategies, put the 3000s at MacLean above the waterline for an extra four years, by Monjonnier's estimates.

"The long term estimate for the HP 3000 unplug date is now 2021 if all goes according to schedule," Monjonnier said. "In the meantime, the HP 3000s are still chugging along."

About the same time that our half of the company (Power) selected the EPICOR [application] for the future, the other side of the company (Vehicle) decided on JDEdwards. A few years into the implementation, there was a change in management. The new management determined that the entire company would go with JDEdwards. So, after about three years down the EPICOR road, we started all over, going down the JDEdwards road instead. Personally, I think this was a good decision.

So we are still running our pair of HP 3000s. We have implemented JDE at one of the seven "Power" locations. This has reduced the HP 3000 user load down about 15 users, but company growth has increased that load to about 250 users most of the time. We are getting ready for our second (and largest) factory to switch to JDE in June, 2018. There are a lot of people working on this one.

As for HP Enterprise, it's going to move manufacturing out of its current Houston campus because of devastating flooding from the hurricane, and another flood the year before, HPE said in a release. More than 3,000 HPE non-manufacturing employees will move to a new campus the company will build in the Houston area.

The manufacturing facilities on its current Houston campus were “irreparably damaged by Hurricane Harvey,” so it will permanently move manufacturing operations to Chippewa Falls and its supply chain partner Flex in Austin, officials said in a release.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:19 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23, 2017

Clouds? All the time, even Sunday Morning

Communication LinkYou can tell a technology has reached everyday adoption by watching TV. Not the Netflix or basic-cable television. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning yesterday when David Pogue explained cloud computing for the masses. My technology consumer and partner in life Abby was on the couch, inviting me to watch along. I figured CBS would give Pogue about 5 minutes to examine the tech that's driving the world. He got 9 and managed it well. Abby paused the show to ask a question. It's become easier than ever to answer these cloud queries.

HP 3000 Communication ManualThe 3000 manager of today needs to comprehend clouds, even if they don't use them in their MPE/iX environment. The potential to drive a 3000 from the cloud is still out there for the taking, because Stromasys will host Charon from a cloud. Why that's a good idea remains to be tested, but the theory is sound. First of all, you didn't want to manage proprietary hardware from HP to run your MPE/iX. Now with the cloud, you don't have to manage hardware at all. MPE/iX becomes a service, a term that Pogue never mentioned in his 9 minutes.

It's okay. The story needed the visuals of acres of Virginia covered with datacenters (a word Pogue spoke as if it were "Atlantis") and the sounds of his walk inside a cloud facility (Fans. Lots and lots of fans, although not a word was said about what was making all that noise.) You can't expect a deep dive from morning news, but CBS and Pogue did a good job. Cloud's mainstream now. Streaming movies, you know.

Programmer TemplateWe watched the show about the same way most of the homesteading community runs their MPE/iX. Locally hosted (on our DVR unit) and running on our fixed terminal (the old Sony flatscreen in the den). The only cloud involved in the experience was ATT's, since our Uverse account has its listings loaded into the DVR from a big disk someplace.

The best instance of any cloud related to the MPE/iX of today is a replacement for it. Kenandy has a Salesforce-based application suite of the same name. The Support Group has just about wrapped up the first install of the solution for a 3000 site. Salesforce is the big dog in app platforms served via the cloud. Amazon is probably underpinning Salesforce, because Amazon Web Services (AWS) is underneath just about every kind of cloud. The tech that drives Netflix is also powering the next platform for MANMAN sites that need to migrate.

"So it's in the air?" Abby says. "Not much," I say, "unless your laptop is on wi-fi, or you're using a smartphone. You get the cloud's goodness over wires."

While all of that future-tech was over the air, I found myself telling her about a 45-year-old piece of plastic to explain why we call off-premise computing "the cloud." It's my version of an explainer, anyway. The 3000 was cloudy before cloudy was cool.

HP 3000 Packet Switched Net CloudOn the classic programmer's flowchart template shown above, all we get from that durable plastic that's related to cloud computing is the lightning bolt. It denotes communication and it usually referred to the kind of direct-line stuff we use in our house to watch CBS off our DVR. Dedicated to one terminal, on-premise. But it didn't take too long after that for X.25 to come along and add a cloud icon to the end of those bolts. By the early 90s the computer world was describing fast switching packet networks using a cloud. Here's one from a 3000 manual.

The 3000, like most of the world's business computers of the 1980s, had its own X.25 product for communication. Well before The Support Group began to lead customers to Kenandy and Salesforce, the company offered the EDI utility program EDiX/3000, the EDI Subsystem for MANMAN. Data exchange is a deep part of the company's experience.

The shorthand I shared with my partner was that the cloud symbol was born in an era when the 3000 was a first choice for HP business computing. I shared examples from our own life for cloud services: backups for our iPhones and movies from Netflix. Seems like magic. The skepticism about security in the cloud wasn't a part of the CBS show. Too deep for 9 minutes. Pogue asked about power failures at the millions of square feet of Virginia datacenters and the Amazon Web Services spokesman said "it's all backed up."

Those are four words every 3000 manager knows by heart. The security is another matter. The data inside a 3000's building is air-gapped if it's not Web-available. Net resources like AWS have redundancy, but nothing is failure-proof. The extra risk of running sensitive data through networks which are open to the world has given homesteaders pause when they consider alternatives for migrating.

Cloud is getting more mainstream by now. It's worth a look and maybe even a try for a cloud-based Charon. The noise that Pogue walked through for his tour of Atlantis? You won't hear it from your laptop, running ERP that's out there, somewhere.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:41 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 18, 2017

Hardware icon added tools through 3000

WrenchThe HP 3000 had many notable brands on its roster over the last two decades—Hertz, M&Ms, State Farm. Plenty of well-known businesses leveraged their growth and dominance on MPE/iX apps and Hewlett-Packard hardware. In some places, the legacy kingpin of the 3000 has led datacenters to move data better on other platforms. Tools, as it turns out, can find places to work where owners were heading as well as where they're installed. That's what happened at True Value.

True-valueThere's more than 700 retail True Value stores, but the units operate as a cooperative. Together these stores own their distributor True Value, while they operate independently. Local ownership is bolstered by the bargains behind corporate purchasing. Long's Drug in the western US once boasted the greatest number of retail locations connected by 3000s. When it came to the number of locations supported by 3000 technology, True Value had Long's beat by a factor of two.

Hillary Software installed its byRequest solution at True Value in 2004, when the 3000 had fallen from HP's graces. It was an investment to prolong and improve the value of the 3000. More importantly, it was an investment in data. The software transforms MPE/iX data into the formats of the larger world: Word, PDF and Excel. True Value said byRequest revolutionized data and document management for them. Reports traveled via email to be used in the programs that are available everywhere. For some companies, Excel is a platform because it's essential to every decision.

The Hillary software moved data better than classic MPE/iX reports ever had. The software also helped move the company, when it was ready, onward to its next datacenter platform.

When True Value moved its business apps to Microsoft Dynamics under Windows, those Hillary tools like byRequest and onHand were moved as well. Hillary's solutions like onHand, a report portal with extensive search and scan capabilities, were a good fit for True Value. The onHand software includes an audit trail, essential to a document portal. Every store has its own logon to view bills of lading, inventory reports, invoices—the kind of security and access the 3000 has always provided for business operations.

OnHand is storing about one million documents for True Value stores, a capability that was well established when True Value made its migration away from the 3000. The IT pros at the datacenter which supports those hundreds of stores had a choice when they moved into Microsoft Dynamics. They could code up reports as a part of their move, or just continue with the Hillary products to keep user interfaces stable and retain productivity benefits. The powers of byRequest include automated delivery of reports, as well as scheduling, features that would've required a lot of coding to duplicate with the Microsoft app platform. The Hillary products just had better transport options, according to the IT director at True Value.

A migration to a new environment often requires a new set of tools to move data on the new platform. True Value invested in tools that were ready to work in a new world. It's a little like buying a set of wrenches that work with both Imperial and Metric measurements. A well-chosen toolset like this is a crossover solution. It's almost as if Hillary measured for a broad range of software standards when it designed its toolset.

When software that shares critical data can move along with the platform, it can make a migration more sensible. It's fair to say that the HP 3000 got True Value's data ready to move onward. By the time the migration happened, the Hillary software that started working on the 3000 had already been moving data for years.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:45 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2017

Take the Training, A Young 3000 Jedi Can

Jedi-younglingsEarlier this month I enjoyed a cookout at the HQ of The Support Group. The company that migrates MANMAN sites to the cloud of Kenandy and supports homesteading sites had a new face at the office. The young intern was on his way to working for a startup, but was getting some experience in an established software and services company in the legacy market.

He was also learning the HP 3000 for the job. Not yet 35, the intern had a deep array of 3000 expertise to call on while he helped support homesteading sites. Such customers can lose their own deep 3000 workers and then might rely on support for how-to answers.

The intern and some homesteaders are examples of people who'd benefit from 3000 MPE/iX training. When I recounted my experience with trying to learn the mysteries of the Apple Watch, I figured it was safe to say formal MPE training would be out of reach for anybody who didn't have their own support resource. I could be certain HP was unable to teach anyone how to use MPE/iX, at least in person one to one. The HP manuals do remain out in the community on websites outside of HP.

As it turns out, when I state something in the negative, a positive exception emerges. I'm always glad to get news like this. Resources can get overlooked or lose visibility. That's why Paul Edwards reached out this morning to raise his hand in class, as it were. Paul is still offering MPE/iX training.

He hasn't had a student for quite awhile, he said, but his training services are still available. Paul's webpage for education includes MPE/iX Fundamentals and System Manager courses, plus a class on TurboIMAGE. Edwards has also trained people in the use of third party tools.

"This curriculum covers MPE core training and is appropriate for everyone in the MPE community," his webpage reports, "especially those who are homesteading or in the process of moving to another platform. We also offer courses from third party companies.

"In keeping with our conviction that instructor-led, hands-on training is the most effective delivery method, these courses are taught by certified HP and vendor instructors."

And so, the hands-on method of learning the Apple Watch is now officially well-behind the HP 3000. The Watch has been in the world for about three years, and the 3000—well, young Jedi, it's technology that's older than the first Star Wars. Younglings should learn the ways of its force, so they can become a 3000 knight like their fathers.

As for that Watch training, 3000 veteran Bruce Hobbs steered me to a website that covered using the earlier version of the Apple Watch from the ground up. Apple's also got a manual for the Watch, much more modern than the 3000's training online. The 3000 community has always been good about giving a reference for any good learning resource. They are trained to share.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:26 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 04, 2017

Data on 3000s still needs to be synched

SynchronizeSome HP 3000 apps are making their way to other platforms. Many already have, counting across the 15-plus years that might be considered the MPE/iX Migration Era. Data is always making its way from a host to someplace else. Making a sound master data repository is the work of synchronizing software. There's such a product for MPE/iX, one that's been in production use since 2006.

MB Foster makes UDASynch, which it says "supplies high performance and minimal system load synchronization services from server to server, server to website, and to operational data stores within your enterprise." Next week the vendor will talk about its product and its potential in a webinar on Oct. 11 at 2PM EDT.

Minimal load benchmarks, by MB Foster's accounting, mean a less than 2 percent drain on your main 3000, the one whose apps are supplying the data to be synchronized. UDASynch is a multi-platform product. The MB Foster product uses an intermediate Windows-based server to collect the 3000's data. This information then can be passed on to servers running the Unix, Windows or Linux environments.

UDASynch has been built with 3000 specifics in mind. It does a full database name check, has a memory reuse function, a debug option to convert XML to a binary file, the ability to search a table list using the IMAGE database name, a feature to automatically create backup files when the backup file is full, and a feature to call DBGET with '@' list if DBPUT is called with a partial list.

When data elements are routed between several servers, each has the ability to modify original data versions. Data synchronization ensures that regardless of data modifications, all changes are merged with the original data source.

Synchronization is a key part of a modern data architecture. Globalized supply chains and more collaboration between manufacturers and retailers are driving the need for accurate master data. It's a part of what's called a Master Data Management strategy. MDM uses a data hub and data synchronization, according to Saumya Chaki in Enterprise Information Management in Practice. That's the kind of book an IT architect can use to build out a broader platform for data.

Synching an IMAGE database with an SQL database can ease a move in a customer's Migration Era, whenever it occurs, plus provide a solid test environment for converted code and screens.

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

September 25, 2017

Changing the Changing of the Guard of Tech

Much of the way tech is changed has been transformed since the 3000 was built and sold by HP. In the days when source code and modified applications ruled manufacturing, changes to business rules were a matter of finding the code's creators or hoping for great documentation. By the time the 3000's growth path has become a matter of installing a virtualized server on an Intel box, changes to business rules can be handled with modules from Salesforce-based Kenandy.

Apple Watch 3I saw how much changing tech changed for myself at the end of last week. Apple unveiled  a new cellular edition of its Apple Watch, with rollout on the day of my anniversary. My bride wanted something she could listen to with wireless headphones, answer calls, and text. We watched the Emmy broadcast and she saw her anniversary present. It would be my gift to get the day-of-release Watch to her in time for an anniversary dinner at Jack Allen's in the Austin hill country.

In years past, making a change of technology in the Apple world involved lines. Not like the lines of code a MANMAN customer would have to pore over while updating apps. I'm talking the lines where people camped out overnight, or at least lined up like I did one hapless November morning for a Black Friday. Lines are now no more a part of the process for new Apple gear than they are for modifying an ERP suite once you get to the Salesforce era.

I strolled up to the Apple Store in the Domain shopping neighborhood at 7 AM, ready to take a spot in a line I expected to be already swelling away from the door. The store was lit up but the only people at the door were relaxed retail employees. With practiced cheer, I told them I was there to buy an anniversary gift, the Series 3 Watch. Did I have a reservation? I did not, I told them, wondering when a reservation became a milestone on buying something.

There was no problem. I was led to an oak tree in a plaza just a few feet from the store, where a fellow my age asked me what I wanted to buy. I had these numbers ready as certainly as an IT manager's got an inventory of their app modules. The 38mm, gold case, sport band, wi-fi plus cellular model. My bride had looked over the sizes and colors a few days earlier. After a few moments of scrolling on his phone under that oak, he said he had one. He took my phone number, texted me a reservation. and told me to return at 9.

I had time enough to get to the ATT Store to upgrade my wife's phone, which turned out to be essential to getting her Apple Watch present-worthy and working at Jack Allen's that night. Simpler than the old camp-out to purchase drama of five years ago. Modular application design has made the same kind of simplicity a part of ERP. Companies still have to engage experts to take them to that simplicity. What made a difference in the Watch gift journey was having experts that knew what the old tech did and how the new tech fit in.

That's the same kind of experience that 3000 ERP customers can have once they embrace Kenandy and the Salesforce platform that runs it. This is a migration from MPE/iX, much in the same way that my wife's phone had to get onto the latest OS, but have its contacts preserved. Like the platform for Kenandy, the cloud was essential.

There's much to learn about the world of the Watch, just like there's a lot to learn about how to make Kenandy run fast and jump high after a migration. We're signing up for the expert help to learn the essentials. That style of expertise is now available in the 3000 community at the Support Group. For some of their MANMAN customers, it's time for a change. At the end of their mission to change a customer from a 3000 to Kenandy, the app vendor approached them about more work. It will be simpler in the same way that Watch purchase got simpler. Apple learned enough to make the changing of tech less painful. Experience makes that possible.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:43 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 13, 2017

Lexicon migrates jargon, work remains same

Composable infrastructureChurn was always a regular catalyst for commerce in enterprise vendor plans. Making changes a regular event in IT planning seems to be requiring new language. Sometimes it's not easy to translate what the latest, shiniest requirements are, in order to move them back into familiar lexicon. HP Enterprise has added jargon new to the senior tactical pros in the 3000 datacenter.

For example, take HPE Synergy. Offered as an alternative to legacy systems like the 3000, HP Enterprise (HGPE) calls it "a composable infrastructure system." 3000 pros would know this as a roll-your-own enterprise system. Like Unix was in the days HP pitted it against the 3000, with all of its software and components and networking left to the customer's choice.

Composable, okay. It's not a word in the dictionary, but it's made its way into HPE planning jargon. "Provides components that can be selected and assembled in various combinations to satisfy specific user requirements." Like every Windows or Linux system you ever built and configured.

Here's another. HCI: hyperconverged infrastructure. A package of pre-compiled servers, network and storage components in a single engineered offering. This is opposed to buying those components separately, and end-users configuring them.

Hyperconverged. Again, not in the English lexicon. Pre-compiled server, network, storage components offered together. "Turnkey," from 1988. The bedrock of every HP 3000 ever sold.

"We don't hear these terms in the datacenters where we consult," said Sue Kiezel at The Support Group. A big project to move a 3000 MANMAN installation to Kenandy—built upon Salesforce—is wrapping up. The Support Group did the work alongside the IT staff. The shop is forward-looking, seeing as nobody has ever moved MANMAN to Kenandy before now. The new HPE lexicon might be understood and used by analysts or consultants.

TSG's David Floyd says that whatever they need to know at Disston Tools, they learn from experts. Resources like the Support Group bring in new ideas, new architecture. Sometimes there's new jargon to add to the lexicon. Don't feel too bad about hyperconverged or composable being outside your grasp.

Virtual computing will be a part of the MPE/iX backbone the rest of the way, right out to the 2028 deadline for CALENDAR formats. Stromasys has seen to that with Charon. HPE says that HCI is used for virtual desktop infrastructure, or as a type of VM vending machine to offer users virtual or even bare-metal infrastructure.

HPE’s HCI product is the Hyper Converged 380. Analysts see it as trailing offerings from market leaders Nutanix, Simplivity and Dell EMC (VxRail). HPE upgraded its position in the market when it acquired Simplivity,  making the company one of the premier HCI vendors.

Given that the new language, it's not always clear what HPE wants to do for the customers who migrate. One analyst summed it up this way this year. There are three things.

HPE wants to help customers build private clouds on next-generation infrastructure that integrates with public cloud resources.

A second broad focus area is what HP calls the “Intelligent Edge,” which encompass technologies related to the Internet of Things.

Finally, a third pillar revolves around services and helping customers successfully execute projects in the first two areas.

A recent Worldwide Infrastructure Forecast by IDC estimates that through 2020, public cloud infrastructure is set to grow at a 15 percent compound annual growth rate; private cloud is forecast to grow at 11 percent. This compares to traditional IT growing at only 2 percent. If companies like HPE and others can offer compelling options, there is a market for enterprises to upgrade their on-premises infrastructure.

Cloud computing, private or public, is part of most 3000 sites' lexicon by now. HPE will help a customer build their own cloud, using composable infrastructure, or hyperconverged infrastructure. Roll your own, or turnkey. As the traditional means of computing is growing by about 2 percent a year, expect HPE to be big on offering everything to make a great cloud.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:30 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 04, 2017

HPE takes a breath after its software flip

HP-UXAs the company which was once the vendor of HP 3000s and MPE, Hewlett Packard Enterprise has now merged its software operations with British software company Micro Focus International. Not included in the transaction that closed this week: enterprise operating systems. The question to be answered over the next few quarters is whether the enterprise customer cares about infrastructure beyond their choices for cloud computing. Those who've adopted HP-UX should watch the HPE naming-space closely.

HP recently floated a survey by way of the Connect user group, quizzing customers about a name for a new version of an enterprise OS. HP 3000 managers know the OS by its previous monicker, HP-UX. This OS has a growing problem—a lack of compatibility with Intel x86-based computers. HP means to sell enterprise strategists on the merits of what it calls HPE Portable HP-UX.

The new name represents an old idea. HP's been engineering the second coming of HP-UX for a long time. Our first reporting on the new generation of HP's Unix started late in 2011. HPE Portable HP-UX is supposed to "suggest a technology that completely emulates a hardware system in software," or perhaps, "Conveys the idea that HP-UX is now available anywhere." These were the multiple choices on the HP naming survey.

HP says the latest iteration of this concept will "enable re-hosting of existing Itanium HP-UX workloads onto containers running on industry standard x86 Linux servers." A container, in this idea, is a portion of Linux devoted to the carriage of an older operating system. Network World surmised in May that the containers "will likely pull HP-UX workload instances and put them in Linux as micro-services. Containers are different from virtualization, which require hypervisors, software tools, and system resources. Containers allow customers to maintain mixed HP-UX and Linux environments and make the transition smoother."

Network World said the technology offers an escape from an aging OS. All software ages, but it ages more quickly when the vendor adds layers to run it. An emulation or virtualization strategy is expected from third parties. When a vendor creates these layers for its own OS, it's a sign of the end-times for the hardware. HP's Unix customers have to take their applications elsewhere.

Virtualization has been a benefit for customers who continue to rely on MPE/iX applications. Stromasys Charon HPA has preserved the most essential element of the platform, the OS. The point was not to move away from an HP-designed chip. PA-RISC is preserved. In contrast, HPE Portable HP-UX is moving to x86 because the future of Itanium now has a final generation. Kittson is the last iteration of Itanium. It puts HP-UX in a worse spot than MPE/iX. HP-UX has become an OS that Hewlett-Packard has disconnected from the HP chip it built to run it.

While the company that was once called HP has added one letter to its name, it continues to pare away its non-essential lines. Enterprise software is the latest to go. Excising the software from HPE isn't news, so it won't relate to the market's reaction Wednesday to HPE's third-quarter report. That doesn't mean HPE Q3 results won't make waves, though.

None of this software business is in the same league as the products now sent to live in the Micro Focus product lineup. The software that's just been split off from HP first arrived at Hewlett-Packard when, in 2011, HP acquired the British firm Autonomy for $11 billion. Investors were not thrilled at the time, but the biggest loser was probably CEO Leo Apotheker. CEO Leo lost his job even before the Autonomy deal could close. HP ended up taking an $8.8 billion write-down on it. HP's deal of this week at least restored that loss to the bottom line.

“With the completion of this transaction," said CEO Meg Whitman, "HPE has achieved a major milestone in becoming a stronger, more focused company, purpose-built to compete and win in today’s market. This transaction will deliver approximately $8.8 billion to HPE and its stockholders.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:45 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 01, 2017

Steps for a Final Shutdown

Kane-death-deadlineWe're hearing a story about pulling the next-to-last application off an HP 3000 that's run a port facility. At some point, every HP 3000 has to be guided into dock for the last time. These are business critical systems with sensitive data—which requires a rigorous shutdown for sending a 3000 into a salvage yard.

While this is a sad time for the IT expert who's built a career on MPE expertise, doing a shutdown by the numbers is in keeping with the rest of the professional skill-set you can expect from a 3000 manager. I am reminded of the line from Citizen Kane. "Then, as it must for every man, death came to Charles Foster Kane." Nothing escapes death, but a proper burial seems in order for such a legendary system.

Chris Bartram, whose 3k Associates website offers a fine list of public domain MPE/iX software, has chronicled all the details of turning off an HP 3000. "I have performed last rites for a 9x8 server at a customer site," he says, "and have been through the exercise a couple times before."

There are 10 steps that Bartram does before switching off the 3000's power button for the last time.

Bartram reported that he first purged all accounts except sys, hpspool, and 3000devs (and had to log off all jobs, shut down the network, and disable system UDCs to do that). Then:

2) Reset/blanked all system passwords (groups, users, accounts)

3) Purged all groups from SYS account that I could (aside from in-use groups) as well as all users except MANAGER.SYS,OPERATOR.SYS, MANAGER.HPSPOOL.

4) Went through PUB.SYS listf (file by file) looking for anything that might be a job stream or contain user data (or anything not critical to keeping the system up) and PURGEd it

5) Went into VOLUTIL and condensed my discs

6) Created a group called JUNK.SYS (you would need to do this on each volset; this box only had the system vol set)

7) Wrote and ran a short script that copied NL.PUB.SYS (the largest file remaining on the system) into JUNK.SYS in a loop using filenames A####### and X####### until all disc space was used up

8) Typed the command PURGEGROUP JUNK.SYS

9) Went into NMMGR and changed IP addresses on the box to something bland/different; including the default gateway (also deleted any entries in the NS directory if there are any)

10) Sequentially PURGE @.GROUP.ACCT for all groups (leaving PUB.SYS until last)

11) Shut down the box.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:23 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 16, 2017

How Free Lunch Can Cost You The Future

Blue-plate-special-free-lunchStaying put with 3000 homesteading has been a sure road to spending less. That's in the short term, or maybe for intermediate planning. A longer-term strategy for MPE/iX application lifespans, especially the apps serving ERP and manufacturing, includes a migration and less free lunch. Those times are ending in some places.

"Life was really easy for the last 25 years, with no upgrades and no new releases," Terry Floyd of TSG says of the second era of ERP on the 3000s. MANMAN customers looking into that past could track to 1992, and then the versions of MANMAN owned by Computer Associates. MPE/iX was in the 5.0 era, so there have been many revisions of the 3000's OS since then. The hardware was stable, while it was not so aged. It's not unheard of to find a company that hasn't upgraded their 3000 iron since the 1990s. Yes, Series 928 systems work today in production.

"There is just nothing cheaper than running a stable ERP on a stable platform like MPE," Floyd adds. He also notes that migrating a MANMAN site out of the 3000 Free Lunch Cafe is made possible by the latest Social ERP app suite. "If Kenandy was less flexible," he says, "it would be a lot harder in some instances."

Free Lunch, as described above with devotion to existing, well-customized apps, is quite the lure. It can cost a company its future, making the years to come more turbulent with change and creating a gap when a free lunch won't satisfy IT needs. Pulling existing apps into a virtual host with Stromasys Charon can pay for part of the lunch and provide one step into the future.

Migration to a subscription model of application, instead of migrating PA-RISC hardware to an Intel host, makes a company pay for more of the future. The payments are measured, though. If the payoff is in enhancements, the future can brim with value like a golden era of application software.

Kenandy does its ERP magic with its endless flexibility by subscribing a site to the software. Improvements and repairs that extend the value arrive like presents under the tree. The cost is determined in advance and support is wired into the same revenue stream as development. HP separated those streams in its 3000 era. App providers like Computer Associates did the same. Floyd points back to the ASK Computing ownership of MANMAN as a golden enhancement era. That was 1982-85, he says.

However, a subscription model nails a customer down for years of continuous paying. It's more like a very good lease, and if you read the software contracts closely you'll find most of it was licensed, not sold. The exceptions were the MANMAN sites which owned their source code. The idea of owning source that was built by a vendor who won't enhance it -- because you now own the code -- is a big part of the Free Lunch lure. You don't pay anymore for software.

"Free lunch is closing down," Floyd says. Yes, it was a relief to know owning a server and the code outright dialed back operating costs. But a subcription model "is of value because it forces you to move forward. It has continuous upgrades and enhancements."

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:34 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2017

Increasing Challenges of 3000 DIY Support

Beer-fridge-supportDo It Yourself efforts sometimes emerge from ingenuity. Enthusiasts build mashups of products like a beer cooler melded with an old fridge. DIY desktop PC builds were once the rage, but most datacenters' efforts today are Build To Orders. The challenges of DIY support for production-class servers is also starting to become a tall order. The increased efforts are being found in HP's Unix environments, too.

"DIY is increasingly hard to do," says Donna Hofmeister of Allegro, "mostly due to aging hardware. Often, those left in charge of MPE systems have little knowledge of the system. We get called when things are in a real mess. This applies to a lot of HP-UX shops now as well."

The oldest of hardware has its challenges on both sides of the PA-RISC aisle, both HP 3000 and HP 9000s. As an example, last week Larry Simonsen came upon DTC manuals in his cleanup pile. "I have some old manuals I do not find on the Internet using Google," he said. "Where do I upload my scans before I destroy these?" The aged gems cover support for the DTC 16TN Telnet Terminal Server, DTC 16iX Lan Multiplexer and DTC 16MX Communications server. The installation guide is HP part 5961-6412

Destroying old paper is environmentally friendly once the information is captured in some way. The capture gives the community ways to share, too. Keven Miller, a support pro who's stockpiled HP's manuals on the 3000 and MPE/iX, said those DTC manuals are only in his library as versions for HP-UX documentation. Like a good support provider always does in 2017, he got serious about capturing this tech data about the 3000.

"If you happen to choose to scan, send copies my way to include in my collection," Miller said. "Or if that's not going to happen, drop them off or I'll come get them and scan (at some future date) myself."

Parts have driven working HP 3000s into migration scenarios. A depot-based support operation assures a customer they'll never come of short of a crucial component. Pivital's Steve Suraci, whose company specializes in 3000s, pointed out that a weak Service Level Agreement (SLA) has a bigger problem than just not being able to get a replacement HP part.

How many HP 3000 shops are relying on support providers that are incompetent and/or inept? A provider is willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.

The easy questions to answer for a new client are "Can you supply me support 24x7?" or "What references will you give me from your customers?" Harder questions are "Where do you get your answers from for MPE questions?" Or even, "Do you have support experts in the 3000 who can be at my site in less than a day?"

But Suraci was posing one of the harder questions" "Here are my hardware devices: do you have spares in stock you're setting aside for my account?" Hardware has started breaking down more often in the 3000 world. Hewlett-Packard got out of the support business for 3000s for lots of business reasons. One consistent reason was that 3000-related spare parts got scarce in HP's supply chain.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:49 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 19, 2017

Pumped up pro, app teams serve 3000 shops

Inflatated-BalloonsThree years ago, the company that once called itself Speedware had 120 employees. A couple of years earlier, the provider of 3000 software and professional services renamed itself Fresche Legacy, taking a new tack into the winds of the IBM Series i business. The IBM successor to the AS400, Series i had much in common with the architecture of the 3000. Turnkey solutions, a consistent database offering, a wide array of independent software vendors. There was still 3000 business to be conducted at Fresche, though. In the past three years, Fresche has grown to 355 employees. Three times as many 3000 pros work on MPE support and services as did in 2015.

Fresche rebranded again this year, changing the Legacy part of its name to Solutions. Fresche Legacy calls what it does modernization more often than migration. That's a tactic that aims to win business from customers who don't consider their IT architecture a legacy.

Eric Mintz said the full Application Services division accounts for 69 employees. App services encompasses IBM i as well as HP skillsets, among others. It's known as HP skillsets, rather than 3000, because this is a company supporting HP-UX, too. One of the first migration success stories HP pushed was a Speedware-to-Speedware project, 3000 to 9000. The app services are separate from the Fresche Professional Services division. "They also have a variety of skills, associated to defined projects," Mintz said. "Although applications and professional employees are separate, resources can move between departments, depending on project or service needs."

Mintz said the company is always looking for 3000 experience. "Ninety percent of the project work is done remotely," he added. "That works out great for consultants who don't want to travel much."

Mintz has been with the firm for 17 years, and he adds that the company likes to say its client list is 100 percent referenceable—meaning a prospect might talk to any one of the clients to get a report on how things went. That doesn't go for publications, since that level of candor usually needs to be vetted at the clients' PR and legal level. But we'll have a report on a classic 3000 customer soon, one who has been moving away from HP 3000s since the earliest days of migrations.

One element that's key to modernization is Speedweb, first set in motion more than a decade ago to add browser-style connectivity to apps that sometimes look more like DOS. Speedweb is among the family of software products for 3000s, HP-UX, and Windows systems. Mintz said that since 2004 there have been 119 updates, revisions or fixes to Speedweb, 57 of which were enhancements. "Enhancements are primarily related to the addition of GUI controls," he said, "such as radio buttons, combo boxes, check boxes, textboxes and so on."

Back in 2004 we reported on a Speedweb success at Flint Industries, one of several Speedware customers that implemented Speedweb. The company was using it extensively until Flint was purchased by Aberici in 2013, a change that began to move the application slowly  into maintenance mode. Speedweb was a way of modernizing the Speedware V7 app, a service the Fresche continues to provide today. An Aberici app replaced the modernized Speedware, but that's a decade extra that he original HP 3000 code got to do its work.

An old rival to the Speedware 4GL is providing significant business for the services group. Powerhouse migrations flow through the Fresche shops. The hard spot that Powerhouse 3000 users find themselves in, facing a hungry new ownership intent on continuing legacy-era licensing, can be eased by moving off the former Cognos 4GL. It's never been simple task, but a 4GL company that wants to do the work might have a unique perspective on how to succeed at it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:27 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 17, 2017

Does 3000 migration mean modernization?

Powerlifting"Sooner or later, you'll need to do something," says the HP 3000 services manager at Fresche Legacy. 3000 owners probably know the company better as Speedware, but one thing hasn't changed at the Montreal software and services provider. The number of 3000 experts and consultants continues to grow there. Eric Mintz said the resources bench is three times bigger for MPE/iX apps than it was just a year a half ago. There's heavy lifting going on, even in 2017, to bring 3000 shops into compliance. Parts matter, too.

Mintz also considers this a good question: Do 3000 owners today look for help by searching for migration, or for modernization? A simple search for HP3000 modernization brings up one set of results, while "HP3000 migration" yields different ones. I was happy to see that we hit nearly at the top of "HP 3000 migration" searches. (Only an antique PDF from HP tops us.) It matters where a searcher puts the HP and "3000". Fresche has purchased a Google ad for "hp3000 migrations." Try several searches if you're seeking help via Google.

But what's the difference between a modernization and a migration anyway? It depends on your scope for "more modern."

If your idea is "get away from old HP iron, and onto something more modern, Stromasys can cover that without changes to anything else. Using Charon adds an extra layer of software to make modern hardware drive MPE/iX. Buying HP, from that point onward, will never be a requirement again, though. Some 3000 shops have vowed to keep HP Enterprise off their POs forever.

Modernization also can be performed for any application without making the serious changes migration requires. Access to modern databases like SQL Server and Oracle comes by way of Minisoft's ODBC. Hillary Software's byRequest delivers modern file formats like Excel and PDF to MPE/iX apps. However, if leaving your OS platform for something else is the primary goal, it's better to migrate first, and modernize later. Speedware and others always promoted this lift-and-shift strategy. In that scheme, you lift by migrating, then shift by modernizing.

We've written up lift and shift several times already, even capturing some video from eight years ago. but the years keep rolling by for sites relying on MPE/iX. We heard about one shop today that just finished a migration of a handful of key applications. The first MPE/iX apps at the shop were migrated in 2002. This latest set moved out in 2017. Customers migrate when they need to and sometimes when outside requirement force this migration.

The modernization can happen while apps remain in place. Speedware/Fresche have been doing MPE/iX app support for more than a decade. This service is one of the reasons the company needs a deep 3000 bench. The service also makes Fresche one of the place where a 3000 pro can inquire about working on MPE/iX. There are few of those positions in play here in 2017 — probably fewer than the number of 3000 apps that need to migrated. Modernizing with software is a larger field of prospects.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:57 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 12, 2017

Adminstrator to Architect, Aided by 3000s

Architect-bookLinkedIn reminded me today that Randy Stanfield has moved up in the IT management at Vertiv Corporation. The company in Carrolton, Texas is a Fortune 500 firm with 8,700 employees, $8.3 billion in revenue, a leading provider of packaging, print and paper, publishing, facility solutions and logistics. Stanfield has been there for 20 years, working with HP 3000s and going beyond the MPE/iX engines to broader fields.

Prior to that you can read in his LinkedIn profile other 3000 shop experience. Amfac, Wilson Business Products, places where MPE/iX and its resources made companies much smaller than Veritiv run smooth.

Managing HP 3000s can build a special kind of bedrock for a career. When you read the rest of the company description for Veritiv it sounds like the 3000's missions for the last 20 years. "To serve customers across virtually every industry – including more than half of our fellow Fortune 500 companies. We don’t just encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, we embody it."

The company also has an eye out for the future. Back in May, Stanfield said the company needed a plan that reached out farther than 2027. It's the kind of mission an architect takes on, a move away from the four high-end N-Class servers working at Veritiv. Ensuring value for money gets amplified while replacing HP's 3000 hardware for a long run. "We don't need to ignore the issue of hardware," Stanfield said while investigating migration partners. "We need to put together a better long term plan than staying on the HP 3000 for more than 10 years."

The decade to come might be the final one for the MPE/iX, although it's pretty certain some companies will keep 3000s in service beyond 2028. The issue isn't a CALENDAR workaround; we're pretty sure the market will see that emerge in 2027, or maybe sooner. The requirement that can move any company, no matter how devoted they're been to 3000-style computing, is application savvy. Whoever will be supporting MANMAN in 2028 is likely to have that market to themselves. By some accounts, MANMAN only has a handful of working experts left in the market.

Architects like Stanfield, who come from 3000 bedrock, will understand that moving away from such MPE/iX apps takes patience and detailed study. They'll benefit from application expertise while they migrate, too. Stanfield had a list of questions for the 3000 community architects who've already migrated, to help in re-architecting Veritiv's IT.

In May he had specific questions (and would appreciate an email in reply)

1. What system did you convert to (Unix/Windows/Linux)?
2. What system did you convert from(HP3000 A-class/N-class?) and how busy was the system? Number of users?
3. Are you still running that system?
4. Did you convert to using the Eloquence DB?
5. Performance after conversion: good or bad?
6. Any Do's or Don't's?
7. Primary Code base (Speedware/Powerhouse/Cobol/Fortran)? Amount of code converted?

The issue might look like needing to be off the system before MPE/iX stops date-keeping in 2028. But as another savvy veteran of application services said to me this week, "The experts will fix the date issue, but it will be too late—because the app always drives the ecosystem, not the hardware or OS."

One takeaway from that prediction is a homespun app suite stands a greater chance of remaining in service by 2028. The IT manager has long been told that applications can be peeled off into production like aces off a deck of cards. As much as software's commodity future has been promised, though, there's always been customization. Some IT pro must stay available to IT to tend to those modifications of commodity software. Those kind of mods are not the same kind of problem the MANMAN user faces, where source code mods will kick some systems offline on the day all of the MANMAN experts finally retire.

However, future-proofing IT goes beyond choosing a commodity solution. Most companies will want to be "shaping our systems and processes to support a successful and sustainable future," like Veritiv says in its mission statement. Systems and processes were at the heart of the 3000's initial business success. The experience is good bedrock to build a future upon.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:55 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 10, 2017

Migrations often call upon the Mod Squad

Mod-squadManufacturing companies using HP 3000s had license to customize. Many of the MANMAN customers held licenses that gave them source code to the ERP-MRP software for MPE. MM II, from HP, even had a specific toolset called the Customizer. There are so many ways a business process can differ from company to company that these mods, short for modifications, felt essential at the time.

Times change, and the current era is urging some manufacturing companies off HP 3000 hardware. In some cases the firms have retrenched and moved out of Hewlett-Packard's hardware limitations. Stromasys Charon had its evaluation at Magicaire, one of the companies allied to Carrier. One advantage of virtualization of ERP systems: it permits a company to hold onto their mods. The business software  built over several decades remains intact.

Moving away from solutions based on MPE/iX forces a hard look at mods. When you need to keep them all, or even a lot of them, you need to hire wizards who have access to time machines, it seems. One expert shared the reality of being a part of the Mod Squad in 2017, caring for software built in the 1990s. MANMAN is capable of a great deal of uncharted magic, built from the foundations of ASK Systems app suite.

"Some people who asked for these mods have been gone for over 10 years," our expert said. "I can't imagine converting Ed Stein to another system—his mods are very cool. No package is going to be able to duplicate them out of the box.  Some incredibly sophisticated stuff was done to MANMAN after it left ASK's hands."

So while it's not impossible to find the way to carry mods into the future, a Mod Squad expert needs patience and fortitude and a respect for how the 3000 ERP systems got things done. Without that, there's even more disruption and delay, as migrators will struggle to understand the inherent magic of MANMAN.

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

June 14, 2017

Wayback Wed: Blog takes aim at 3000 news

SearchlightTwelve years ago this week we opened the 3000 NewsWire's blog, starting with coverage of a departed 3000 icon, a migration tool built by a 3000 vendor to assist database developers, as well as a split up of HP's two largest operations. The pages of this blog were devoted to these major areas: updates from the 3000 homesteading community, insights on how to move off the 3000, and the latest News Outta HP, as we continue to call it today. After 2,978 articles, we move into the 13th year of online 3000 news.

Bruce Toback died in the week we launched. He was a lively and witty developer who'd created the Formation utility software for managing 3000 forms printing. A heart attack felled him before age 50, one of those jolts that reminded me that we can't be certain how much time we're given to create. Bruce expanded the knowledge of the community with wit and flair.

Quest Software rolled out its first version of Toad, software that migrating 3000 sites could employ to simplify SQL queries. The initial version was all about accessing Oracle database, but the current release is aimed at open source SQL databases. Open source SQL was in its earliest days in 2005, part of what the world was calling LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and Python-PHP-Perl. Quest was also selling Bridgeware in a partnership with Taurus Software in 2005. That product continues to bridge data between 3000s and migration targets like Oracle.

HP was dividing its non-enterprise business to conquer the PC world in our first blog week. The company separated its Printer and PC-Imaging units, a return to the product-focused organization of HP's roots. Infamous CEO Carly Fiorina was gone and replacement Mark Hurd was still in his honeymoon days. Todd Bradley, who HP had hired away from mobile system maker Palm, got the PC unit reins and ran wild. Before he was cut loose in 2013, the PC business swelled to $13 billion a year and HP was Number 1. HP missed the mobile computing wave, a surprise considering Bradley came from Palm. You can't win them all.

That HP success in PCs, all driven by Windows, reflected the OS platform leader and wire-to-wire winner of migration choices for 3000 owners.

During that June we polled 3000 managers about their migration destinations for 2005. Windows had an early lead that it exploded in the years to come, but in the third year of what we called the Transition Era, HP-UX still accounted for almost one-third of migration targets. The raw totals were

Windows: 31 customers
HP-UX: 23 customers
Other Unixes, including Linux, Sun Solaris and IBM AIX: 15 customers

The IBM iSeries got mentioned twice, and one HP 3000 company has moved to Apple's Unix, which most of us know as OS X.

With 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments, HP-UX managed to poke above the 30 percent mark. Unix overall accounts for more than half of the targets.

The main information source at the time we launched the blog was the NewsWire's printed edition. During the summer of 2005 that would shift, so by the end of 2005 the print appeared quarterly and the blog articles flowed on workdays. In the print issue of that first blog month, the migration news read like this.

Larger 3000 sites make up the majority of early migration adopters, many of whom choose HP-UX to replace MPE/iX. Now the smaller sites are turning to a migration challenge they hope to meet on a familiar platform: Microsoft’s Windows.

While HP-UX has notched its victories among MPE/iX sites, the typical small-to-midsize 3000 customer is choosing a more popular platform.

“We have never learned Unix or Linux, only MPE and Windows, and it is a lot easier to hire and train Windows people,” said Dennis Boruck of CMC Software, makers of the Blackstone judicial application. Blackstone’s success in the Clark County, Nevada courts led HP to highlight the Blackstone MPE/iX application in a success story.

Some customers express a reluctance to put mission-critical computing onto Windows platforms. But Windows’ familiarity has won it many converts. “We are moving to a Windows 2003 Server environment because it is the easiest to manage compared to Unix or Linux,” said programmer supervisor E. Martin Gilliam of the Wise County, Va. data processing department.

Carter-Pertaine, makers of K-12 software, said Speedware’s migration path to HP-UX is guiding the first phase of its customer migration strategy. But Quintessential School Systems, which is the C-P parent, is working on a Linux option.

By now Linux is an establishment choice for on-premise datacenters and the bedrock of Amazon Web Services where most computing clouds gather. The platforms of 2017 have evolved to consider databases and infrastructures as their keystones, rather than operating systems. Bridgeware, jointly developed by Quest and Taurus Software, still moves data between 3000s and the rest of the database world. Today's Bridgeware datasheet language acknowledges there's still 3000 IMAGE data at work in the world.

BridgeWare Change Detection permits delta change captures in IMAGE, KSAM and other MPE data structures.

For years, IT managers have been faced with the difficult task of making data from IMAGE and other MPE-based files available. With the retirement of the HP 3000, this has become an even greater need. Taurus’ BridgeWare ETL software solution greatly simplifies the task of moving data between databases and files on MPE, Windows, UNIX and Linux systems, allowing you to easily migrate, or replicate your data to extend the life or phase out your HP 3000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:47 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 17, 2017

Beyond emulations might lie migrations

Crm-data-migration-steps-cloudAs another webinar demo unspooled today for HP 3000 data migration products, the strategy of hold on or move onward demoed another facet. A 3000 might be a candidate for de-commissioning simply because the system has been too successful in the past. The next server will be different, but there's no guarantee the replacement will be better in significant aspects. Waiting for something better is not as easy as moving to something different.

Take COBOL compilers, for example. At the investment firm Fayez Sarofim, the HP 3000 was being evaluated for replacement. One element of the eval was finding a COBOL compiler compatible with the code running on the 3000. The company had to choose a way forward that was mostly different. Better was another phase.

"We chose AcuCOBOL over Micro Focus at the time of our migration because AcuCOBOL better handled the packed HP Floating Point without losing significant decimals," said George Willis. "It also had a more powerful set of debugging tools that were easy to use." Protecting decimal data was the priority. Getting a superior debugger was the improvement.

Time moved onward for the Sarofim strategy though, shifting away from apps and toward software services (SaaS). HP's Unix systems—an HP-UX 4466 Rx using AMXW, Cognos, Micro Focus COBOL, Suprtool and Warehouse—eventually got the boot, just like a 3000 did. The shift to services erased a department at the company. There's no emulation that can oppose that kind of sea change in strategy: "We don't even need our own servers, we'll access an app instead."

While making its move to HP's Unix, Willis said "We did not want to go through another riskier migration until we were stabilized. We are certainly stable now, but the firm has decided to move a different direction." So onward it went to SaaS. Emulation never got a fighting chance.

There are other places where emulation gets its shot. Once in awhile it comes up short, even after yeoman work to fit the performance needs. Veritiv Corp. runs four of the largest HP 3000s, N-Class servers loaded with RAM and HP's fastest PA-RISC processors. This profile of user needs to believe that emulation is a good long-term goal. Hardware for this top-end N-Class level emulation must be specified with an eye to a long-term play. Value for money gets amplified when you're replacing HP's 3000 hardware for a long run on an emulator.  "We don't need to ignore the issue of hardware," said Randy Stanfield this week, while investigating migration partners. "We need to put together a better long term plan than staying on the HP 3000 for more than 10 years."

That's searching for something different, that talk of needing to be off the system before MPE/iX stops date-keeping in 2028. Ten-plus years is a long time, enough to enable the magic of making CALENDAR work in 2028 a reality, perhaps. It's not impossible, although someone has to do the work to salvage MPE's date capability for 2028 use.

The silver lining for the 3000 community in any migration story is that the business often goes to a vendor who's been in the market a long time. MB Foster is one player like that, demonstrating its roots with a demo like today's of UDACentral. MB Foster celebrated its 40th anniversary in the 3000 market this week. 'The HP3000 market is our home market," Birket Foster said in an email today, "and we are grateful for the support, suggestions and collaboration with us."

Stanfield is looking for customer stories about migrating with Fresche Legacy, which earned its 3000 reputation as Speedware.

He had specific questions and would appreciate an email in reply.

1. What system did you convert to (Unix/Windows/Linux)?
2. What system did you convert from(HP3000 A-class/N-class?) and how busy was the system? Number of users?
3. Are you still running that system?
4. Did you convert to using the Eloquence DB?
5. Performance after conversion: good or bad?
6. Any Do's or Don't's?
7. Primary Code base (Speedware/Powerhouse/Cobol/Fortran)? Amount of code converted?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:45 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2017

3000 Cloud Doings: Are, Might, and Never

Flight-simulator-cloudsThe latest news about cloud computing for HP 3000s came from Stromasys. The company selling the Charon virtualizer (many think of it as an emulator) announced a new bundled offer as well as announcing that any public cloud can run Charon. Sites that employ the Oracle Cloud to host their virtualization systems get un-metered cloud services as part of that deal with Stromasys. Oracle Cloud is one of the newer players in the cloud market. There's no place to go but up in market share for Oracle Cloud, carving out its business among providers dominated by Amazon's Web Services.

Emulating HP 3000 servers, however, is a job that's not often suited for a shared Intel-based server. There are exceptions, like light-duty 3000s or those in archival mode. Those are the best profiles for 3000s in the cloud running Charon, according to the Stromasys HP Product Manager Doug Smith. 3000 A-Class systems — Stromasys calls this Charon model the A520 — can be run from the cloud.

Many of the cloud's typical servers make memory and CPUs available on an as-needed basis, swapping processor power and RAM in and out. This is in contrast to dedicating a highly-threaded CPU and all available memory to a task like emulation. "Charon requires dedicated resources," Smith said. "If I say I need a 3.5 GHz CPU response, then I need that 3.5 GHz in the host itself, not being shared among other virtual machines."

It's safe to say there are 3000s in our community that are good candidates for a cloud profile. A-Class systems running the one last MPE application, some app still critical to a datacenter, for example. Better to have this sort of foolproof hardware service chain using virtualization, instead of stocking redundant 3000 memory sticks. (The better option to stay with the 3000 hardware from HP is an independent support company.)

The cloud — a term that doesn't have much traction for classic 3000 pros like Smith — might evolve to the point where dedicated CPU performance at any level could become affordable. Not even Hewlett-Packard knew how to price and sell its HP Cloud so its Unix customers could host datacenters in the cloud. Integrity chips were the next generation of PA-RISC, so emulating any chipset with that pedigree is no small matter. Smith, like any other analyst in IT, considers dedicated performance from a public cloud as cost-prohibitive.

Never-say-neverAny company can arrange to use an offsite, networked host for MPE/iX apps. This seems more like timesharing to the 3000 pros than Infrastructure as a Service. Cloud computing is supposed to reduce costs, and it does so by sharing resources. Sharing is not a great match for emulation at multiple levels. When you use a VMware host to create the Linux cradle on one level, which then virtualizes PA-RISC with Charon, that's a more intense CPU requirement than public clouds can handle. Pull out the VMware and you're fine for a smaller datacenter.

Cloud computing users definitely are shifting their expenditures from capital expenses to operating expenses. OpEx can be easier to place in a budget than CapEx, especially for legacy systems like the 3000. We'll never see a day when there's no more CapEx spending in datacenters like those in the 3000 world. OpEx is on the rise, but like the Paperless Office of the 1980s strategies, CapEx will always have some benefits. One is the constantly dropping cost of HP's hardware, if you can arrange for enough backup components and parts.

OpEx, however, gives vendors and customers a way to tune up a services agreement. At Stromasys, for example, the Oracle Cloud already has advantages for some Charon users. "There is definitely, for example, an added benefit for [Sun Sparc] SSP users," said Marketing Director Sarah Hoysa. "By emulating their SPARC instances on Oracle Cloud, they have an additional way of continuing their close relationship with Oracle."

"The big thing is that customers now have a lot of choice," Hoysa added. "We know people are moving to a wide range of public clouds. We're making our solution on all of those public clouds." Dave Clements of Stromasys said the company's got an insurance firm running Charon in the Microsoft's Azure cloud, for example. It's not a 3000 site. The cloud is all potential for 3000s today.

There are all the software and license arrangements needed to put a 3000 onto any of those public clouds using Charon. Stromasys went to a software-based licensing arrangement two years ago, so the need for a USB stick with HPSUSAN data has been swept aside. The 3000 customers using N-Class systems might have an interest in cloud computing in the future. For now, however, Smith said the security, control, and command of on-premise hardware is preferred by larger manufacturers. The interest has been from smaller manufacturing companies.

It's safe to say—given the competition for customers among a growing rank of cloud companies, we will never see a future with zero HP 3000 cloud computers. It's coming, and companies like Oracle will drive down pricing in ways we've never imagined. The 3000 datacenters will hang on long enough to see that day, because you can never say never when it comes to failures of hardware that's 14 years old and aging.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:06 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 21, 2017

Federal program re-trains HP 3000 pros

US LaborHP 3000 IT pros have a challenge to overcome in their careers: how to add modern skills to the classic toolset they learned managing 3000s. Those between jobs must handle the costs to train, too. Craig Proctor has been spending time to learn the likes of C#, Java and Visual Studio. After one year of study, he didn't have to spend his own money.

"I took a dozen different classes," Proctor said. "The Trade Act paid for it all. It's possible to take one class at TLG Learning, or work with them to design a series of classes."

Proctor worked with a 3000 for more than 20 years at Boeing, as a Configuration Management Analyst and Business Systems Programmer Analyst. He left Boeing and began a period he calls Updating IT Skills in his resume at LinkedIn. TLG, based in Seattle, gave him training that he will blend with the business analysis that's so common in 3000 careers. He understands that by drawing on his recent education he'd accept at an entry level IT position. "You get the merger of an experienced analyst, using new tools," he said of his proposal to any new employer."

An extension of the Trade Act signed into US law by President Obama was one of the few bills to escaped the partisan logjam. A federal website describes it as a way for foreign-trade-affected workers to "obtain the skills, resources, and support they need to become re-employed." $975 billion in federal funds have been sent to states like Proctor's in Washington, adminstered by each state. Furloughed workers file a petition for training, job search and relocation allowances. These pros have an average age of 46, which is the younger side of the HP 3000 workforce.

Proctor didn't believe that his 3000 experience helped in gaining more modern IT skills -- except for his years as an analyst.

I wouldn't say that the HP 3000 skills helped, but the analytical/programmer skills did. All 22.5 years at Boeing were on the HP 3000 (Fortran) and I had a couple of years on it before, as well as Burroughs (now Unisys) using COBOL. The hardest class for me was C#; COBOL and Fortran were so similar, but C# was nothing like that. The other classes were interesting and fun for me -- challenging, but still fun.

Like anybody well-versed in system management and coding under MPE, he was aiming at a job in a business using a 3000. "With so much HP 3000 experience under my belt, I'd feel a lot more comfortable and ready to dive in with another HP 3000 shop," he said. "I also have all the soft skills -- investigative, detail oriented -- that I need." Learning what Proctor called "21st century technology" can help 3000 veterans who've seen their positions eliminated.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:11 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 22, 2017

Webinar explores data migration roadblocks

MB Foster is broadcasting a webinar on Thursday at 11 AM Pacific Daylight Time, a briefing that covers tools and strategies to move data. The program promises to cover components of data migration projects. As is often the case, the webinar also will highlight the potential roadblocks to migrating data. Explanation of methods, project planning, and data governance are also a part of the one-hour show. Registration for access is at the MB Foster website.

PotpourriIt can take months to move data from one platform to another. Just ask Bradley Rish, who as part of the Potpourri Group managed a two-step process to migrate away from Ecometry software on an N-Class HP 3000. Potpourri first went to Ecometry on HP-UX, then a few years later moved away from HP's proprietary environment to Windows. Same application, with each move aimed at a more commodity platform.

But there was nothing commodity about the company's data. Data migration required eight months, more than the IT pros at the company estimated. Rish said that two full-time staffers, working the equivalent of one year each, were need to complete the ultimate migration to Windows.

Migrations of data don't automatically mean there's an exit from the HP 3000. At Potpourri, after a couple of years of research by IT, the exit from the 3000 was based on HP's plans for the computer, not any inability to serve more than 200-plus in-house users, plus process Web transactions. It's a holding company that serves 11 other web and catalog brands. More than half its transactions occur in the final 90 days of each year. Holiday gift season is the freeze-out time for retailer IT changes.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:46 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20, 2017

Data migration practices support cloud IT

Crm-data-migration-steps-cloudCompanies moving from HP 3000s to cloud-based IT are reaching deeper into data migration. In some cases, the records that have never left a datacenter are becoming an asset managed in cloud computing. The process prompts lessons on tools and practices that can be new to IT administrators and ERP developers in 3000 shops.

Work at The Support Group is helping to lead manufacturer Disston Tools onto the Force.com cloud services, leaving the classic MANMAN ERP application behind. Disston is adopting the Kenandy cloud ERP solution as a MANMAN replacement.The tools to migrate Disston's data cover a wide scope of functionality, from the Minisoft IMAGE-savvy ODBC utility to the commonplace Microsoft SQL Server Information Services (SSIS).

The latter tool can be priced more effectively for a smaller enterprise if it can be licensed as a developer version for a one-time data move, said the Support Group's David Floyd. "I'm not running a production database with SSIS," Floyd said. He added that it took four days of training to become fluent in using SSIS. At the Force.com cloud service, a proprietary database takes the place of IMAGE to store company information that has sometimes never left the world of MPE/iX and the 3000.

Migrating a key enterprise asset like ERP can trigger expansion of data capabilities. The Support Group's Terry Floyd said that adding a data warehouse has been part of migration engagements like the Disston project. SQL Server-based warehouses have become a reliable facet of upgraded ERP. Data warehousing was a potential tool in the 3000-based ERP architectures. The services were often provided using non-3000 database repositories.

The pricing for these data mart and data warehouse concoctions were well outside the reach of small- to medium-sized enterprises, though. One offering from the late 1990s, SalesMAN, was a solution that ranged from $95,000 to $160,00, sold as a bundle. The mart database was priced separately.

On the other end of the software cost scale, that one-time SSIS license for a developer was under $100 for a year, Floyd said.

Migrations can also spark consolidations and normalizations of data. For example, the Support Group experts say a company with several product lines created by separate entities will hope to merge part number sequences. An 8-digit number and a 12-digit number for two lines becomes a single numbering scheme.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:20 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 08, 2017

ERP ecosystems now being fed by analysis

EcosystemThere's a rule that Sue Kiezel of the Support Group follows for her ERP clientele. Try not to let the IT department establish architecture for a replacement system. Consultants who have experience with business rules and structure are the best choice to arrange the parts and plan the new flow.

"IT is for infrastructure, and for development," she said while leading me on a tour of the new denizens inside the Kenandy ERP ecosystem. "Put your business experts on the team. You'll find someone to code it inside IT."

The issue to face while relying on the current generation of IT pros is that they no longer have broad views of how companies organize business processes. In the era when the 3000 was growing, the most dynamic beasts of the ecosystem were programmer analysts. The PAs were usually people who knew the business first and learned to program as a way to solve business problems. These days the development skills seem to wag the dog.

The IT department is essential to the success of any ERP ecosystem because that's the source of support. An ecosystem was the aspect of 3000 ownership in the biggest trouble. However, that diagnosis came from the days when outside vendors who sold apps and databases were considered the ecosystem. In some ways, the new ERP that the Support Group implements delivers a new generation of ecosystem: Kenandy's tools and modules, built with the Salesforce software that underpins it all. One surprise is that even the database has become a built-in, specialized choice. Dare we say it, proprietary, even.

The database is "Beyond Relational" according to the Kenandy field guide of software creatures. Instead of Structured Query Language, the Salesforce ecosystem uses Salesforce Object Query Language. SQL becomes SOQL, and the database itself is called the Force database. The architecture is evocative of the world of IMAGE inside of MPE, where a database was built to service the file system and the known programming universe, instead of being something that was built to serve a much wider world—but not nearly as easily or efficiently. Here's how Salesforce describes what you get right in the box to deploy data into apps.

The Force database provides not only a mechanism for creating persistent objects, but also a way of automatically generating a user interface around these objects. Reporting, tagging and much additional related functionality can also be added to applications, all out-of-the-box Force.com platform features.

You can create, configure and deploy persistent objects using the web-based Force.com Setup menu environment. However, database services are also tightly integrated with the Apex programming language, which has a dedicated syntax for invoking searches and iterating over results.

Kenandy's ecosystem is driven by the choices made by Salesforce, design that's been proven in cloud computing over a decade of field use. Programming for Salesforce has become the way to build out the ecosystem that drives Kenandy. Since the platform has become application software tied to services, it's Platform as a Service. TSG's Terry Floyd said that entering the new ecosystem can feel, at times, like relearning MANMAN, MPE, IMAGE and sometimes Fortran. Making that much change to a mission critical app like ERP calls for expertise to make the migration. This is trusted advice that comes more easily to the Support Group; a decade ago they were leading 3000 MANMAN sites to the IFS software platform. ERP based upon Kenandy is an ecosystem even more diverse .

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

March 06, 2017

Add-on applications pour down from clouds

Acrylic-finish-paint-250x250Forecasting software has been a $2 million addition to enterprise resource planning systems. The P in ERP signifies a mission to search for a view of the future. Add-ons like McConnell Chase's FD7, purchased for an additional $2-$4 million on top of software investments in monolithic apps like MANMAN, generate a strong business for vendors. In-house systems are a good match for that kind of app. Today's IT options can bring this kind of forecasting power onto the pallettes of many more companies.

The analyst and software experts at The Support Group have been implementing the Kenandy ERP solution at an HP 3000 MANMAN site. Kenandy runs on the internal architecture of Salesforce, the cloud IT supplier to millions of sites. In a cloud IT solution a company buys a subscription to an application. Kenandy, for example, is an application choice in the world of Salesforce. Rather than hoping for a third party to create a tool that can access Kenandy, the new cloud model delivers forecasting as an option on the bill of fare.

Forecasting was never a built-in MANMAN module, Terry Floyd of TSG reminded us last week. David Floyd of the company recently returned from data integration work at Disston Tools in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Together the two men explained how cloud ERP can bring essentials like forecasting within reach. They're in the the second generation of software expertise at TSG. Terry Floyd wrote archiving software for MANMAN during the 1980s, for example, a product that was sold and added to MANMAN sites. This sort of software can be added to a cloud ERP solution like Kenandy's. Today, however, it's a subscription option, as quick to integrate as adding a tier of TV channels to a cable subscription.

Changes that spring from the migrations forced by HP have been costly. Not every new look triggered by HP's drop of the 3000 is negative, though. Adding planning power has been a multi-million dollar bet in the old 3000-era strategy. There are, however, a few aspects of cloud computing which the old-era model continues to beat.

For example, the Floyds say archival storage can be tricky to cost out in the cloud. Storage can cost more in a cloud solution;  5 to 10 years of company transactions based in the cloud might be a questionable choice. Cloud-based history can be costly. Local storage of history—that familiar disk array sitting beside an in-house host—still is at least as inexpensive as cloud, and often cheaper.

In another example, the data extraction ability of Minisoft's ODBC has been helping David Floyd at the Disston project. Other tools on the non-3000 side of the migration do transformation and loading. The same software being used in 3000s all over is cost-effective and powerful enough to move Disston data into and out of 3000s. The error-handling facilities of the ODBC standard are up against a Salesforce tool in Kenandy, though. Data Loader is a graphical tool that helps get data into Salesforce objects.

Integrated, subscription-based modules for software aren't exactly a new concept to the 3000-era manager. The 3000 shipped with tools like QUERY, for example. It was a crude tool that could be used for sophisticated tasks, so long as a manager had the skills to deploy it with subtle strokes. A little like painting a portrait with a spoon and acrylics. Today's software, included from the cloud, is something like a smart paintbrush that knows exactly how those strokes should appear, and where the best colors are, too.

TSG looks to be on the vanguard of a real replacement for MANMAN. The learning curve can be worth the return—for companies who are able to let go of their MANMAN and 3000s. Change is a rising tide that can lift all ships for the sailors who are watching the horizon. It's a good idea to make sure you have a navigator for this journey.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:28 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 27, 2017

HP quarter invites a peek at a smaller profile

Dorian GreyQuarterly results from the latest report on Hewlett-Packard Enterprise didn't impress investors. On the news of its revenues falling short of estimates—what's called a "miss" in today's markets—the stock got sold down 7 percent a share. Stock prices come and go, and HPE has made a better restart than the HPQ end of the split-up HP. The future, though, is certain to be getting slimmer for HPE. The question is whether something smaller can ever grow like the monolithic HP which carried 3000 customers across more than three decades.

It's easy to dismiss the fortunes of a split-off part of a vendor which doesn't make 3000s anymore. When the plans wrap up on a pair of  "spin-mergers" of two of the company's bigger business units, what's left over might have lost any further ability to change the enterprise computing game. Migrating 3000 customers will still have to take their computing someplace. Looking at the HPE prospects for 2017 is a part of that decision.

Analyst Bert Hochfeld has just written a 4,000-word report on the company on the Seeking Alpha website. That's a huge piece of business reporting that deserves a close read if you're buying stock or working for HPE. IT managers can find some insights as well. Cherry-picking some sections, to look at HPE's business futures, is useful for planning. HP's selling off its Enterprise Services and Software businesses to CSC and Micro Focus, respectively. The deals will wrap up by September. Hochfeld says what remains at HPE is unlikely to grow. A lack of growth is what drove down HP's stock last week.

"I do not think anyone imagines that what will remain of HPE in the wake of its divestitures is a growth business," Hochfeld said. "There are some growth components in otherwise stagnant spaces. The company has yet to demonstrate that it can execute at the speed necessary to exploit the opportunities it has—and to make the right choices in terms of allocating its resources in what are difficult markets."

In a report titled Has the company done a u-turn on a trip to nowhere? Hochfeld notes that what's left over at HPE this year might be viewed like the picture of Dorian Grey. But that would only be true, he adds, in a world where datacenters will only be run by cloud providers. Companies will run their own datacenters, a fact HP will need to stress to stay relevant when it displays a smaller profile.

It's a debate that can't be solved easily, but it's worth considering when making changes to move a 3000 environment. That Dorian Grey picture, a portrait growing more haggard by the day while its subject appears hearty and hale, "seems to me to be a gross over-simplification."

It suggests there will soon be a world without datacenters other than those owned by the cloud vendors. There will be readers and other observers who will cite specific examples of large companies who have chosen to abandon the management of any of their data and who will move all workloads to the cloud.

A systems provider that focuses on datacenter provisioning and business needs a stout sales culture, Hochfeld adds. "What's far more important are questions about the long-term viability of a strategy related to selling a hybrid-cloud infrastructure to enterprise IT customers."

HPE, which through divestiture will be shrinking itself to less than $30 billion a year in annual sales, is going to need to replace the sales strategies that were appropriate when it was a behemoth, and it could use its consulting practice as a lever to promote sales of enterprise servers and storage.

"Core servers and storage is a tough market," he says, "and it is not easy to forecast that the market  will ever return to significant growth numbers. The only way to deal with a market that seems, at best, to be stagnant or at worst to be in long-term secular decline, is to innovate boldly and perhaps ruthlessly. That again is a discipline that is still a work in progress at HPE."

Hochfeld is taking a long-term position in HPE stock, thinking it will maintain its value. The company is retaining business that earns about $900 million a quarter in profits. The HP that offered ProLiant and Integrity alternatives to the 3000 is just as much gone as the 3000 itself is from HP price lists. One observer at the Seeking Alpha site wondered if HPE might take itself private, or become an target of acquisition.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:17 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2017

Harris School Solutions buys K-12 ISV QSS

HSS LogoHarris School Solutions (HSS) has announced its acquisition of Quintessential School Systems (QSS). The latter is an HP 3000 vendor whose products have been running California K-12 schools since 1990. The purchase for an undisclosed amount includes a transfer of QSS Chief Operating Officer Duane Percox to the post of Product Owner. The company's QSS/OASIS is capable of going beyond single school districts; it supports multi-district agencies, such as County Offices of Education, and also community colleges.

Scott Schollenberger, EVP of HSS' Financial Solutions unit said of QSS/OASIS, "We see this product as a way to bolster what we offer now, while opening even more doors for HSS in the future.”

Similarly, QSS expressed its excitement over joining with HSS. “Harris School Solutions is an outstanding organization," Percox said in a press release, "not just because of its products and services, but also because of the people who offer them. The people within the company are the real deal, so I’m thrilled to be working with them. Together, we’re going to offer our same great products and services, but to many, many more schools across North America.”

A company press release  says QSS OASIS will now be available more widely. QSS has always had a very large share of its customers in California school systems. Selling into a school system in California demands a familiarity of some very unique requirements. Harris brings the QSS software into the rest of the US.

The QSS saga includes a long-term migration campaign on behalf of its HP3000 users. When HP cut its 3000 plans short in 2001, finding a replacement platform with no such trap door was paramount to QSS. Well before the solution was established as a commercial choice, QSS was sent down a path toward Linux. The company calls this Version L, with the migrations coming away from Version H. This past year, the majority of QSS sites crossed over from the 3000 to Linux use.

QSS launched the Linux version of its application suite at Lodi Unified School District in 2008, accessing MS SQL. According to the QSS website, various other customers are scheduled to make the transition from the HP 3000 to Linux during 2017.

Calendar year 2016 saw the highest number of conversions of school districts (SD) and County Offices of Education (COE), Eleven organizations cut over to Linux hosts and either SQL Server of PostgreSQL for a database. Those migrated this year include La Habra SD, Mariposa COE, Nevada COE, San Luis Obispo COE and Stanislaus COE, Amador COE, Kern COE, Mendocino COE, Orange USD, Visalia USD, Novato USD

During 2015, five more, schools migrated: Glenn COE, Colusa COE, Modesto City SD, Marin COE, and Santa Clara COE made the switch to version L.
Reports for 2014 covered seven migrations, including the first QSS site making the move from MPE to Linux. Corona-Norco USD was the first QSS customer to make the transition from Version H to Version L in January, 2014. Their HP 3000 was replaced by a Linux application server accessing data from MS SQL databases.

El Dorado COE migrated from Version H to Version L in November 2014 over the Thanksgiving break.  EDCOE is running a monolithic system with the Linux application server and PostgreSQL server on the same virtual machine. EDCOE originally planned to use SQL Server as its database server, but opted to use PostgreSQL based on the results of their evaluations. Sac COE replaced their 3000  with a Linux application server using PostgreSQL as the database. San Benito COE switched over the Labor Day 2014 weekend, accessing data from MS SQL. San Ramon Valley USD made the leap over a 4th of July weekend replacing their  3000 system with a Linux and MS SQL combination. Folsom Cordova USD replaced their HP 3000 system with a Linux application server accessing data from MS SQL databases. Merced County Office of Education made the transition to Version L with PostgreSQL as the choice of database.

QSS/OASIS is a suite made up of modules Base Financial (GL, AP, AR, Budget, PO's), Purchasing, Budget Development, Stores Inventory, Fixed Assets, Base Personnel, Position Control, and Payroll, plus a Financial Companion for interfacing to the School/3000 software. School/3000 is an integrated admin system for HP 3000s distributed by QSS that includes GL, AP, AR, payroll, retirement, position control, human resources, stores warehousing, and fixed asset inventory.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:58 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2017

K-12 vendor still migrates schools to Linux

Editor's Note: We learned today that Quintessential School Systems (QSS) has been acquired by another school software ISV, Harris School Solutions. QSS has been notable for leading customers from its MPE/iX application suite onto Linux—and QSS was one of the very first to do this in the 3000 world. Here's a replay of our report about the how and why of this migration campaign's roots. It's an effort that began in the earliest days of the Transition Era, according to this report from 2002. In the article below, just swap in Linux for any mention of HP-UX. There's not a measurable benefit to leading anyone to HP's Unix anymore.

QSS outlines pilot move of K-12 apps to Open Source

By John Burke

Rolling deskQuintessential School Systems (QSS), founded in 1990, is an HP 3000 ISV providing software and consulting services to K-12 school districts and community college systems. While developing, supporting and providing administrative and student records management computing solutions for these public school districts, QSS created a set of tools for HP 3000 developers. QSDK was a subroutine library toolkit to network applications. QWEBS was a Web server running on the HP 3000. When QSS talks about migrating HP 3000 applications to Open Source, we all need to pay attention to what they are doing and how they are going about it.

Public school systems are understandably very cost-conscious, so for competitive reasons QSS had already started investigating migrating its software to an Open Source solution before HP even announced on November 14, 2001 its intentions about the 3000. This put QSS ahead of most ISVs and non-ISVs in determining how to migrate traditional HP 3000 COBOL and IMAGE applications. At HP World 2002, QSS COO Duane Percox gave a talk titled “Migrating COBOL and IMAGE/SQL to Linux with Open Source.” Percox hoped to share QSS’s pilot project experience for migration approaches.

QSS customers tend to be very cost sensitive, and so an Open Source approach has a lot of appeal for any ISV providing a complete packaged solution. Non-ISVs looking to migrate homegrown applications to other platforms might want to stay with commercial operating systems, databases and compilers for the vendor support. But there are migration choices here that are useful for anyone moving MPE/iX applications.

Before starting that pilot project, QSS had to choose a target OS, database and compiler. For the OS, QSS chose SuSe Linux. I asked Percox why Linux and why the SuSe distribution. “Our migration target is an Open Systems and/or Posix-compliant OS,” he said. “We chose Linux and HP-UX as the target platforms with Linux for the pilot project. With the cost of Linux development systems being so low, doing the pilot on Linux was a natural. We believe that Linux is a wonderful choice for ISV solutions. However, we have large customers who might feel more comfortable with an HP-supported OS. That is why we are targeting both.

“As for the SuSe distribution, we basically had seen good things about it on the Internet and so we chose it for our pilot project. QSS is currently working out business arrangements with SuSe and Red Hat. It will all come down to the business side of things. We are pleased with both distributions, and given that Red Hat owns 52 percent of the market [in 2002 numbers], we are certainly not discounting them.

“Our goal is to be a TSP (total solution provider) and essentially build a custom sub-distribution from one of these two. We will then host a patch-site with approved patches from the source company. We don’t think our customers will care which we choose because we are basically going to say that ‘we own the installation’ of the Linux box. We won’t want anything other than QSS applications to be installed on the application server.”

I asked if QSS had considered system management issues in choosing an OS. Percox replied, “We are building an application environment that will provide for the job scheduling, spooling, etc. The specific library and toolset layer we provide will insulate the application from the particulars of each OS. However, choosing to be Posix-compliant is what will help us be very similar.”

With the choice of an OS platform out of the way, QSS next turned to the database. Percox said, “One of our goals was to migrate to a SQL-92 compliant RDBMS. Within that goal, we wanted to evaluate whether any Open Source RDBMS was sufficiently capable to support a commercial grade application.” QSS evaluated MySQL (www.mysql.com), PostgreSQL (www.postgresql.com), Interbase and SAP DB (www.sapdb.org). The choice for the pilot project was PostgreSQL.

“This is an ever-changing landscape," Percox said in his presentation, "but one which is moving in a reasonably consistent manner. High performance data access (Web-based, read-only systems) favors MySQL. Bulletproof commercial quality with transaction support favors PostgreSQL and SAP DB. Interbase has not established a good open source community. PostgreSQL, Interbase and SAP DB have support for transactions and lock isolation. Version 4 (future) of MySQL is supposed to support transactions. A number of good books have been written about PostgreSQL, making it the easiest to learn. SAP DB is coming on strong and is worth considering down the road.”

I asked whether QSS had considered HP Eloquence and if so, why it had chosen not to use it. Percox said the issue was cost.

“Our customers are public education and they are not just sitting around with spare money waiting to be spent on a database,” he said, “even one as reasonably priced as Eloquence. Since we are doing the migration and spreading the cost over our installed base and future sales we can take the hit on converting the COBOL code from TurboIMAGE to SQL. To help keep the migration cost down for QSS we are developing the SQL abstraction layer that we believe will give us both the ability to drop in replacement calls and the ability to tune for performance when needed without having to re-write the entire COBOL code library.”

The third and final decision was which COBOL compiler to use for the pilot project. "Having a common IDE regardless of language can be very helpful and improve productivity for those developers who code in multiple languages on the server.” QSS chose to use TinyCOBOL for the pilot project.

Percox explained, “The principal reason for choosing an Open Source COBOL was that at the time the project was planned, all the commercial COBOL compilers for Linux required run-time licensing on a per-user-execution basis. As an ISV that serves a cost-sensitive end-user vertical market, we must deploy our solutions with minimal (or no) run-time fees. Gnu COBOL is moving along very slowly and is not yet ready. TinyCOBOL was the only Open Source COBOL we could find that generated IA-32 code for Linux and that supported most of the COBOL-85 constructs. One commercial COBOL for Linux became available doesn't require run-time licensing, Fujitsu NetCOBOL (www.netcobol.com).”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:37 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2017

Migrate, emulate: Wednesday show's for you

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 11.40.52 AMThursday, at 2 PM EST (11 PST, 8 PM CET) there's an MB Foster webinar show covering emulation options. For the 3000 owner and manager who hasn't yet moved off HP's 3000 iron, no what matter where you're headed, there's something in this 60 minutes for you.

Last summer's version of the webinar walked its viewers through Foster's eZ-MPE, Ordat's TI2/SQL, Marxmeier's Eloquence database suite, and the Stromasys 3000 hardware emulator Charon. Only the last product delivers no changes to software and frees you from HP's aging boxes. But the other three offer ways to mimic parts of the 3000's heart and soul.

eZ-MPE is the newest of the emulate-to-migrate products. Introduced in 2013, it's a suite of software to accommodate the data infrastructure and scripting needs of today's HP 3000 sites. The Thursday show includes a demonstration of the MB Foster product.

TI2/SQL gives TurboIMAGE users (pretty much everybody who's still running a 3000) an avenue into SQL databases like SQLServer. And Eloquence replaces the IMAGE database wholesale, using an SQL-based data platform with deep work-alikes for IMAGE intrinsics and features.

It should be an interesting show. The distinctions between the first three products and Charon will be obvious by the end of the presentation, so stick around to the finale. That wrap-up is also the portion of the webinar for free-form questions. It's getting rare to have a place to ask those in a semi-public setting. I hope to hear from you during the webinar. MB Foster's got a means to listen and watch these shows after their airing. But the Q&A part is live-only.

Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem eZ-MPE, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead. 

“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.”

Whitehead says the biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment."

On the subject of those other solutions in MB Foster's perspective, some well-established migration products have received a new label. This is an emulation-to-migration path that lands a 3000 customer in the world of Windows. Eloquence, the database that doesn't run under MPE/iX but has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility Mode, handles data. The Marxmeier product has always been sold as a migration tool. For years the ads on this blog called it "Image migration at its best." Users have testified to the strong value of Eloquence.

Another third party tool, resold and supported by MB Foster, got a mention in last summer's webinar and earned a label as an emulation solution. Ti2SQL, software that moves IMAGE data to SQL databases, was released by Ordat in the early years of the migration era. In 2003, Expeditors International included ORDAT’s Ti2SQL in Expeditors' rollout away from the 3000 because the software emulates IMAGE inside a relational database. The end result produced CLI calls native to a Unix-based database.

"Ti2SQL uses CLI," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "Think of it as going to a complete native environment, while leveraging/using all of the business logic developed on/for the HP. Additionally, Ti2SQL allows someone to go to an off-path server and database, such as AIX and DB2."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:07 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2017

Emulation review will air out all options

January 26On January 26 MB Foster is airing the 2017 edition of its emulation webinar. The 40-minute show will walk 3000 managers through four emulation options. Last year's show had four very different products. Three will address the MPE/iX environment: how to get your applications onto the Windows OS. One will give you emulated hardware. In the first edition of the webinar, Birket Foster called the Charon emulator for 3000 hardware emulation "flawless."

The other three solutions — unless the lineup changes from last year's show — are all based in software methods to replicate databases and surrounding code. They are

The MB Foster environment emulation solution has been working for at least one customer. We introduced it in 2013. Here's our story from that year for reference. We'll all look forward to the update at 11 AM PST.

eZ-MPE opens new Windows for 3000 sites

MB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE, and it’s aiming customers at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for HP 3000 sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications.

Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead. 

“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.”

Whitehead says the biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:12 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)