July 22, 2016
3000-free Southwest suffers airline IT crash
Three straight days of system outages cost Southwest Airlines more than $10 million in lost fares this week. The company's COO Mike Van de Ven said that the router crashes which started the meltdown are not uncommon. But then the routers triggered Web server crashes. Finally, the company's disaster recovery plan failed to save the IT operations. Social media posts from customers complained of delayed flight departures and arrivals and an inability to check in for flights on Southwest's website. The running count by Friday morning was 700 canceled flights, with another 1,300 delayed. People could not get to gates without boarding passes.
Customers running 3000s through the 1990s might remember Southwest as a shining star in the MPE/iX galaxy. The system came online with ticketless travel using MPE/iX software developed at Morris Air. When Southwest started to skip the paper, it was one of the very first major airlines to do so. Dispensing with paper tickets was possible because of the 3000's unparalleled reliability.
Stranding an estimate 4,000 customers was never a part of the 3000's history at Southwest. The computer was the dominant ticketing tool in an era before the elaborate security checks in the US. From Wednesday through today, customers on thousands of its flights could not check in at kiosks or via those web servers. The IT failure happened as the Republican National Convention closed out its Cleveland circus.
It's commonplace for a system vendor who's been shown the door, like the 3000 group was in the first decade of this century, to say "It wasn't on our watch" when a crash like this hits. But being commonplace won't recover those millions of dollars of revenues. Maybe they were a small fraction of the overall savings while leaving the 3000. The reliability of an airline is worth a lot more than delivery of a product, though, like an auto. Hertz was a 3000 shop for many years, and their portion of the travel business didn't suffer these woes, either.
Both companies made their IT 3000-free while the worst fact about the system was that HP stopped selling it. They both had plans to expand, strategies MPE/iX wasn't going to be able to handle easily, too. When a vendor ends their business plans for a server, the sweater of coverage unravels one thread at a time. Mission-critical systems are never supposed to leave a publicly traded company naked from the waist up, however.Mission-critical design of air carrier IT architecture failed this week. In the ultra-competitive market for travel Southwest took a black eye that will cost several times more in lost sales than this week's travel refunds. Anxious travelers or crucial flyers will skip a Southwest flight for awhile. Travel has immense mission-critical demands.
The company's CEO Gary Kelly had to tell reporters something that founding CEO Herb Kelleher never was faced with. "We have significant redundancies built into our mission-critical systems, and those redundancies did not work," Kelly said in a conference call. "We need to understand why and make sure that that doesn't happen again." Southwest's chief commercial officer said every customer affected on Wednesday or Thursday would be contacted. The company extended for a week a fare sale scheduled that was supposed to end July 21.
Southwest also had to contact the travelers affected Friday, too. The contacting of vendors involved was not part of the stories this week. This would not be a good week to be the CIO at Southwest. Randy Sloan got the job this year, inheriting decisions like making Southwest 3000-free. Until Wednesday, that decision didn't seem like a risk.
In related news, Southwest extended its July fare sale by one week.
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July 20, 2016
Manufacturing alternatives rise for 3000 sites
HP 3000 sites are migrating away from their ERP and MRP applications. One of the largest MANMAN users in the world on MPE/iX has started its transition to SAP. That's a long journey for a company with almost a dozen manufacturing sites. But SAP and other software has the potential to give companies customization, features and flexibility beyond MANMAN. It's not to say that MANMAN can't do the job, but the effort to change it requires expertise at many steps.
One of the experts in MANMAN — arguably the leading advisors — say that software designed in the modern era improves ERP for longtime MANMAN users. For example, says Terry Floyd at the Support Group, the software at Nissan Calsonic's US plant made the leap from MANMAN to IFS, a project that Floyd's group engineered and completed this spring.
"IFS is much more suited to what Nissan Calsonic is doing than MANMAN ever was," Floyd said. "They had more modifications [to MANMAN] than anybody." The number of the mods slows the march of change. It also shows how far the business processes of users have drifted beyond the stock architecture of MANMAN. A product like IFS was built to accommodate pinpoint processes, in part because IFS was built at the dawn of the object-oriented era.
IFS has its basis in the late '80s, early '90s, he explained, and pieces of that ERP solution "have some of the earliest object-oriented programming stuff ever written. So IFS has a heck of a head start on other products. They're rewritten things a few times and changed interfaces like everybody has to, in order to stay modern.""Kenandy seems simpler than IFS," he added, "on purpose." This other alternative to MANMAN is now in the works at the Support Group, which is implementing Kenandy at Disston Tools.
"Sandy Kurtzig [who founded the MANMAN line] really wanted to simplify it this time," Floyd said, referring to her Kenandy team's architecture. "She always said that about MANMAN, and it was truly simpler compared to IBM at the time." That's the early 1980s Floyd's talking about, when MANMAN was helping the 3000 rise up beyond 10,000 systems installed worldwide. It seems like a small number here in 2016, but those were simpler, smaller times. People ran manufacturing on batch processing. MANMAN "was the early conversational data entry system. But things are more automated now than ever."
"Kenandy is all one thing, and that's the biggest surprise," he said. "It's not a bunch of modules. It does everything you need, from general ledger to fixed assets to payables. It's not like you buy an extra module to manage your fixed assets. It's free, included in Kenandy. This makes Kenandy really different from everything [used for ERP]. Everything else has modules." Modules have to talk to one another, he explained, so having one application instead of modules makes Kenandy superior, even to more modern solutions like IFS. "But only because it's 20 to 30 years newer."
July 15, 2016
An HP chieftain's last dream is Trumped
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were HP's most famous CEOs, but aside from the founders, the most notorious HP chieftain was Carly Fiorina. With the news today of Donald Trump's VP candidate choice -- not Carly, but an Indiana governor with genuine political chops -- this may be the time when Ms. Fiorina finally settles into that Fox News chair which is the terminus of her trail. As the picture above recalls, announcing Trump's rival Ted Cruz as the next President, then falling through a trap door onstage, might have ended her political hijinks.
Or not. Nobody can be really sure what Ms. Fiorina will do next, which seemed to make her an ideal pairing with The Donald. Unlike the presumptive nominee, she's better known by her first name, as if she was Cher or Hillary. So what follows will cite her as Carly.
I've written about this shiny and shallow CEO since her first day. In 1999, in a July of 17 years ago there was still an active 3000 business to manage at HP. We probably have different reasons to relay a smarmy track record of Carly's at HP, but the headlline "Carly Fiorina pans TSA on Yelp" pretty much sums up how she's always trying to fail better, apparently to teach us her new rules. Yelp, after all, is not so fraud-proof.
Her latest birthday cake was decorated with her Super PAC's logo. It was a show of hubris as raw as forcing out Dave Packard's son from the board of his father's company, or trying to get that board to pay five times what PriceWaterhouse turned out to be worth.
Carly pushed the HP cart into a ditch when she loaded it with Compaq, but she was just one of several CEOs in a row, all hired from outside HP, who ransacked R&D and spent acquisition money like it came off a Monopoly game board. Carly, Hurd, Apotheker. Three people whose smell of success has helped HP focus on enterprise computing once again -- after Carly yoked the company to those Compaq tigers who took over the company's spiritual campus. At least HP's business computing organization got the ProLiant out of it all.
An old friend of the 3000 at HP who watched the wreck of Carly break onto company shores recently marked his 30th anniversary with the system. Carly was called She Who Must Not Be Named inside the workplace, but SWMNBN's CEO behavior was a slap in HP's face as sharp as anything in 2016 politics.
SHMNBN’s disregard for ‘the little people’ has long been demonstrated. Her inability to sync with the company middle management was evidenced by a growth in employment during her self-declared hiring freeze. Then when the cuts did come, rather than having your boss or lab manager inform you, some VP you’d never met invited you to a meeting and delivered the news. From where I sat hard it was to tell if she was just a person encased in an over inflated bubble of self-regard who’s lost touch with reality.
This may be the last time we'll have Carly to kick around, as President Nixon said of himself in 1962. That didn't turn out to be true, either.
"I will agree that the Proliant continues to be a strong product," said the anniversary employee, "one important to migrating HP 3000 sites. Although she couldn’t have foreseen the Oracle stab in the back which basically killed the already declining proprietary UX business, she did establish a base that gives HPE a stronger position than organic HP (Netserver) probably have had on its own."
Which proves that nothing is completely worthless, even as it appears so after thorough scrutiny. "There's got to be a pony in there somewhere," goes the joke about mucking out an impossibly foul stall. ProLiant and a base for HPE might be Carly's pony. She might also be holding out for a cabinet spot. Secretary of Commerce might be above her skill set, though.
July 06, 2016
Low-code solutions give ERP a new face
ERP software such as MANMAN has always carried a burden: it's most useful when it's been modified. Mods, as the customization is called, locks a company into the technology and business choices of the past, though. The old style ERP demanded coding to stay fluent. Software of today wants to avoid all that.
Salesforce, whose engine drives the Kenandy ERP replacement for MANMAN and the like, says that "Low-code development platforms are transforming the way we build apps, opening up app development to a whole new world of point-and-click app developers and designers." Watching a demonstration from the Support Group's Terry Floyd of Kenandy showed how straightforward fine-tuning has become—once you know the settings to make the software dance.
Floyd's company has started taking Disston Tools to Kenandy, leaving behind more than two decades of MANMAN use and a heavy reliance on EDI software bolted into MANMAN. Floyd is providing in-service experience to Disston, based on his own company's use of Kenandy. "It's overkill for us to run our [consulting and development] company on," he said, "but we've learned so much about how to set it up for our clients."
There's configuration to set up internal email in Kenandy for example, the Chatter that can attach notes and comments to items like purchase orders. Kenandy always billed itself as Social ERP for this reason. It puts a new face on how resource planning should work. But it also gives companies of all sizes a way to take charge of changes with less programming.Not zero coding, to be sure. But knowing your way around FORTRAN used to be essential to modifying MANMAN, if your company was lucky enough to have source code to mod. Salesforce explains low-code this way.
- Empowers citizen developers and business analysts to build apps without code
- Turns manual spreadsheets and paper processes into apps
- Builds an agility layer on top of back-office systems
"It's so darn flexible," Floyd says, sitting at a PC and driving Kenandy through an everyday browser. "It's a lot of setup, to set up all the reports that you want to make your income statement, your trial balance, all populated with your accounts. We took our installation of Kenandy completely empty, and we've learned so much in setting it up for our company."
When Kenandy talks about empowering citizen programmers — apparently less-technical employees who can shape the software to fit a company's needs — it's light years away from a MANMAN customer's experience. A manufacturing company can get so deep into mods that it no longer can change the ERP package. Source code gets lost over three decades of use. An ERP solution that can be as flexible as source-mod solutions, but leave room for deep customization, is what Floyd's company is bringing to Disston.
June 27, 2016
Refitting Migration to Look Like Emulation
In a webinar about emulation solutions last week, MB Foster offered a new take on some old tools. The subject was an exam of what 3000 sites could do if their budgets didn't let them take on a full migration on their own. Viewers heard about Stromasys Charon, of course, a software tool that has always proposed the OS in charge will remain the same: MPE/iX. The hardware gets emulated.
The webinar took note of some Charon considerations, but none that haven't already surfaced. Software must be licensed to the new Charon emulated hardware. The greatest percentage of vendors are making that transfer a formality. Many don't even charge a fee to move from HP's PA-RISC iron to the emulated hardware. Of those who do, the fee can be nominal. Issues about revising hardcoded IP addresses were mentioned. Issues about historic data procedures and archival come up for any solution that changes things.
The other solutions in the webinar didn't have any of their issues examined.
On the subject of those other emulation solutions in MB Foster's perspective, some well-established products received a new label. Eloquence, the database that doesn't run under MPE/iX but has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility Mode, got its seven minutes of fame. The Marxmeier product has always been sold as a migration tool. For years the ads on this blog called it "Image migration at its best." Users on the call testified to the strong value of Eloquence.
Another third party tool, resold and supported by MB Foster, got a mention in the webinar and a label as an emulation solution. Ti2SQL, software that moves IMAGE data to SQL databases, was released by Ordat in the early years of the migration era. In 2003, Expeditors International included ORDAT’s Ti2SQL in Expeditors' rollout away from the 3000 because the software emulates IMAGE inside a relational database. The end result produced CLI calls native to a Unix-based database.
"Ti2SQL uses CLI," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "Think of it as going to a complete native environment, while leveraging/using all of the business logic developed on/for the HP. Additionally, Ti2SQL allows someone to go to an off-path server and database, such as AIX and DB2."
"MBFA used the term emulation to capture the interest HP 3000 group," Whitehead said about the webinar. "I would put down the items discussed as emulation solutions. eZ-MPE mimics the HP 3000," he said of the software suite that MB Foster first announced in 2013.
A hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier, eZ-MPE aims 3000 sites at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for MPE/iX sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications. At the time, the company said
It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term. You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.
"We call it a hybrid," Whitehead said this week. "It allows an HP 3000 client to migrate, protect their investment in code developed for the HP — while leveraging the native database environment as part of your long range plans to go in that direction."
Emulation is a long-pursued goal for the 3000 customer who's needed to stay with MPE/iX. The word was charged with hope and potential from the very start of the period where HP wanted its 3000 users to turn off MPE/iX servers. 3000 users believe the definition of emulation is a tool or service that makes an environment pretend that it's something they already use.
"You might use the word ‘pretend’," Whitehead said in a follow-up after the webinar. "I might say mimic, but for the most part you are emulating. Wouldn’t you agree that ‘emulate is the better word?"
No matter what's chosen among the four solutions discussed in the webinar, users need services to do a transition well. Stromasys now sells its emulator in no other way except with installation services and proof of concepts. MB Foster said in its bulk email about the webinar that some 3000 sites cannot afford to migrate. Each of its solutions that were framed as emulation "needs to be investigated, and a path can be chosen that best suits the companies' long range plans, risk, corporate hardware architecture and databases, plus the cost of getting there."
June 24, 2016
A Hybrid Solution to Staying and Going
Editor's note: we ran the following story about eZ-MPE on the product's announcement three years ago. The software suite came up for mention during this week's MB Foster webinar, and since it's offered as a modern solution, it seems useful to revisit the original release story.
MB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE, and it’s aiming customers at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for HP 3000 sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications.
Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead.
“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.”
For example, the database environment mimics the IMAGE database, Whitehead said. A command line utility manages other functions and data types.
The eZ-MPE solution evolved during the migrating of custom code for customers into a Windows environment, the target environment for eZ-MPE migrations. For example, MBF Scheduler has been replacing the features and comprehensive functionality of HP 3000 batch scheduler and job control software including independently managed queues and a “job fence”, mimicking a module which is embedded in MPE/iX.The company’s familiarity with the HP 3000 way of computing management is designed to set eZ-MPE apart from prior efforts to bring across 3000 customers. AMXW, built by Neartek at the start of this century, as well as Ordina’s MPUX, don’t deliver the full range of the MB Foster product, said Whitehead. Lock-in with those other solutions is automatic. There’s no easy way to embrace the best of Windows or Unix.
The biggest nuance of eZ-MPE is its focus on custom code and surround code, “to transition to a supportable platform with the least amount of risk. The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP 3000 environment — but aiming the customer at the advantages of the Windows environment.
“It’s not only going to shorten the time to transition, but it’s also going to be of extreme value long term,” Whitehead said. “You can retool, or go to a native environment as part of a long-range plan.” He said in the company’s engagements with enterprise clients, the sites want to leverage benefits of the new native environment, not just migrate quickly.
Portions of the eZ-MPE package which Whitehead mentioned included a target database for Windows, VPlus screens converted and modernized, a file system library similar to the 3000’s “but one that specifically handles nuances and translations between KSAM and itself.” Utilities include other aspects of handling implementations of items like sorting, merging, log-ins including UDCs, the job control language. “All of those things are necessary within a 3000 environment — but as you transition, they’re also necessary in the Windows world.”
MB Foster is already working with a customer using eZ-MPE, and that customer has implemented the environment, Whitehead said. “It’s been thoroughly tested. It was the original thought we had for this customer, and eZ-MPE is more effective for them than re-writing to a native port.”
Software for migrating data, entire databases, scripts and more has been in the MB Foster stable for several years. Some of the solutions, like the data migration products, have been working in production environments since the late 1980s. Lately, the company has begun to sell some of its software — previously used only for services engagements — to sites for their internal IT use.
More recently, UDAExpress has been developed to take the place of the 3000’s scripting ability. The other product which has had a standalone lifecycle and has become a part of eZ-MPE is MBF Scheduler. Both of those products work exclusively in the Windows environment to replace MPE capabilities. More recently, the UDALink tool including reporting, JDBC and ODBC access was migrated to work with HP’s Itanium servers in the Unix environment.
The vendor has no announced plans to deploy eZ-MPE to any Unix or Linux environments, including HP-UX. They say most 3000 customers who are still on the move want Windows.
“On most days, our clients are looking for a Windows-type of solution,” Whitehead said.” They feel the Windows environment is now stable enough and scalable enough. They’ve had enough exposure to that environment and the Microsoft suite of products. ” Even within any Unix environment, Windows servers will be part of the solution.
eZ-MPE has a menuing system as a native part of its environment; this handles the operations of UDCs running on HP 3000s, as well as “VEsoft MPEX environments,” Whitehead said. A system layer capability handles all system calls and translations.
eZ-MPE manages the nuances of VPlus screens, controls access to applications, and uses its own file system library for call management and translation between KSAM and relational databases. Its IMAGE library converts TurboIMAGE calls to ODBC calls, and facilitates a move to a native environment as part of a site’s long-range plans.
The value of MBF eZ-MPE is more encompassing than simply screen handling, file systems, and databases. A typical in-house developed business application includes scripting, sorting, merging, logins, job control (JCL), FTP services, and scheduling requirements. MBF eZ-MPE includes solutions for all of these as well.
It’s also aimed at 3000 sites which are not using packaged applications. By process of elimination, that is still most of the HP 3000 customers who continue to use the platform.
“Its real target is for organizations that have custom code, and want to preserve it,” Whitehead said, “and also want to transition to a supportable platform.”
The MB Foster software, which is also tied to services such as an assessment of existing environment, offers more range than emulated solutions, according to Whitehead. “We’re not locking anybody into an environment,” he said. “We’re allowing the 3000 customers to modernize, change and grow and prosper — not only with the eZ-MPE environment, but slowly over time, to move away from it, to a native Windows environment too.”
June 20, 2016
Solitary backup tape spurs fresh MPE plea
When a 3000 site did its backups recently, the process did more than protect data on the business server. The procedure made a case for moving off the original HP 3000 hardware. Or keeping a couple of key tapes well protected.
Last week Greg Terterian left a request on 3000-L for help with a client. "They had problems with their disk storage and were going to do a reload," he said. "However, when backing up they were using the same tape over and over for the past three years."
As you might imagine, a solitary piece of backup media used repeatedly developed a problem over those years. The tape's no good. "Now they want to know if they can get or purchase, or if someone will be willing to donate, the MPE/iX 7.5 operating system."
There used to be a way to request new media for MPE/iX from HP, but that's a part of the 3000's legacy by now. Client Systems could once handle upgrade requests for part of the MPE/iX subsystem, but they were not answering calls at the start of 2016. The last HP 3000 distributor, Client Systems' domain is now parked.
Whether Terterian's client gets replacement MPE/iX files isn't the point of the story. (If you're donating, his email address is here.) The lesson is that a single backup tape is a solution that HP's hardware can let you stumble into, because restoring from tape is the norm for non-virtualized MPE/iX systems. If you're using an emulated 3000, however, your backup and bootup happens using disk files off images stored on stock PC hard drives. You could even back up to a cloud service like CrashPlan or Carbonite, if your MPE server runs off such Intel PC hardware.A solitary tape for backups is better than no backup at all, but holding onto a CSLT tape with the operating system on it is a bedrock practice. Best of all would be to eliminate the need for tape backups by using disk images. Charon does this as its way of creating MPE/iX volumes, including LDEV 1.
A donation of a tape with only MPE/iX on it would have to include no company data on it. A CSLT is a crucial component of the HP-based 3000 experience. You can't recover a 3000 only from a nightly backup.
"If your nightly backup is using SYSGEN to output to tape," says 3k Associates' Chris Bartram, "plus you have it set up appropriately, then you could recover from a nightly backup, but that's not common. Normally you should maintain a separate CSLT (actually two copies, to be safe) made after you have done any system configuration changes."
It's key, this CSLT, to homesteading. Overlooking the CSLT is so common that even some admin pros have done it from time to time. For one such pro, an A-Class 3000 was rebuilt and had its apps consolidated. But the rebuilt system didn't have its CSLT freshened, which was discovered when the boot volume failed.
We lost LDEV1 in the 'system' volume-set. The apps and databases are fine, but I'd neglected to make a fresh CSLT once the rebuild/configure/setup was complete. Fortunately, all the data volumes are protected with Mirror/iX -- but rebuilding the system volume accounts, network config, administration jobs and so on has been a pain.
An honest mistake like this is not one you need to make yourself. Even if, as another 3000 consultant notes, your shop has gone into Frugal Mode while it makes in-house migration moves. You have the right to be wrong in Frugal Mode. But you really don't want that right, unless you've got plenty of extra time.
June 15, 2016
Throwback of mid-June marks much change
Amid the midpoint of June, we have reported a lot of change in that month of the 3000 community's calendar. In the blog's first year of 2005, this report said HP's Unix was named in about a third of migrations.
HP-UX gains in later results (2005)
These revised percentage totals keep Windows in the lead. But with 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments to us, HP-UX has managed to poke above the 30 percent mark, to just about one-third of the target platform choices.
And there remains in the community a vibrant devotion to migrating to Windows. Linux was less than 10 percent back then. How enterprise tastes have changed.
MPE-Education.com becomes the hub for 3000 training as of this week, since HP has called off its training courses for the platform. Many companies still have years of HP 3000 use in front of them.
Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith revitalized HP's 3000 training materials and put the education experience online at $1,750 a seat. The market didn't materialize for the noble, useful service.
So much to see, so far to go (2007)
On a rack in one of the Mandalay Bay's wide lobbies at the Encompass show — lobbies so wide that a semi truck can pass unfettered — a stand of adhesive badges sparkles. The array of ribbons stamped with silver letters lays out the known future for an HP customer or prospect.
To no one's surprise, no "MPE/iX" ribbons. This is a conference which looks toward a new future with HP, instead of the past, or MPE's ongoing tomorrow without the vendor. 3000 community members are coming here to make plans for something new from HP—or hear from vendors and experts about how to make better use of something else from Hewlett-Packard.
The new Las Vegas digs for the annual user group show "improved its curb appeal," said the user group president. A sprawling show in a Vegas casino resort still showed off HP-UX training. "Windows on HP" suggested the vendor was scrabbling to keep customers on its platform.
"We did a lot of work in that area," said HP's Jim Hawkins at the Tech Forum. "For a lot of patches that have been languishing in beta test status, we've been able to move them into General Release status so they can be downloaded from the HP ITRC, which makes them freely available."
Indeed, those patches remain free if a 3000 customer knows how to ask for them. Help from an independent support vendor remains a good way to stay in touch with what HP might've forgotten—or which of those patches you ought to avoid.
But while a 3000 issues list logs many HP decisions, some key items remain unresolved.The issue with the broadest potential impact on homesteading customers appears to be resources for the HP 3000 hardware emulator project.
HP didn't release test suites it used to develop MPE/iX, for example. It would be three more years until Stromasys released the Charon emulator. This was the year HP started to change its mind about helping out.
The new Windows-based MBF Scheduler grew up in MB Foster’s labs, nourished by the experience of engagements with several sites migrating from the 3000.The 3000’s depth of scheduling was integrated into the environment from the early days of system delivery. The cloned feature set reminds migrators of what they’ve learned to rely upon.
MBF Scheduler is still the Windows job scheduler that accommodates MPE procedures best. Experience from "true, red-blooded sites" gave the software its feature set.
At one end there's a 20-year-old 927 server still working in a production setting. At the other end, the most powerful 3000s built by HP are now less than $10,000, at least in a spare-parts or hot DR offering with your own licenses.
Prices for N-Class servers have been quoted below $4,000 this year. That 927 may still be working. That's what the indie support companies make possible.
In a Wall Street Journal interview, new CEO Meg Whitman tossed off a message that HP-UX is on its way to the Intel Xeon processor line.
To answer the question: not. The heir apparent to the MPE enterprise-class datacenter will be on Itanium chips for the forseeable future.
Even among the potential allies for the Stromasys emulator, uncertainty is afoot. In a conversation with a reseller last week about the product, he was not sure that IMAGE was a part of the solution. People approach the Charon emulator from their best-known persepective, and in most cases that’s MPE/iX and its database. Good news: Charon doesn’t emulate any of that software. It simply uses what Hewlett-Packard created and installed on everyone's 3000.
This remains a misunderstood point among 3000 customers with very old hardware. The MPE/iX operating system runs the same on Charon as it does on HP's iron.
June 13, 2016
2016 Advice: Emulate Your 3000 System
No kidding, the above strategy is bona fide. It will be online, with time for your questions, next Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern.
MB Foster has a novel webinar scheduled next week, and no, that's not an hour about writing a bestseller. The Web meeting on June 22 will walk through four different HP 3000 emulation options. All of them will mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce year over year costs. In the end, every one of them should use MPE/iX apps, if they are bona fide emulations. Why else would you be emulating? The webinar promises a tour of how to replace the 3000 hardware, it seems.
As hardware emulation goes — and that's the most popular agent of change — there's only one supplier that we know about. Over the last three years Stromasys has enlisted HP 3000 advocates and experts and customers to embrace the Charon software. We're told that each new customer seems to draw out another.
There are other ways to consider emulation, however. Some of them have been around a long time, if preservation of in-house MPE/iX apps is the goal. AMXW was a sort of emulator: Automated Migration to UniX and Windows. It's a shell that runs atop those two platforms, plus Linux and IBM's Unix, connecting to commodity databases and surround-code tools while preserving the 3000's app code.
"MPE speciﬁcs, such as JCL batch jobs, ﬁle equations, JCW, UDCs, command ﬁles and variables are all supported — allowing the MPE environment to run as is on the new platform." Okay, this is probably a migration solution. You're not supposed to need to change your apps, though. HP's 3000 hardware gets dropped, too.
The two other options? We'll be online to see what they are. Registration is online at the MB Foster website, as always.
You can't say that emulation is the right choice for everybody who needs to change things. Cloud-based ERP and manufacturing is on the horizon from Kenandy, for example, a company with ASK MANMAN roots. Terry Floyd of the The Support Group says Kenandy is MANMAN done better, because the software seems simpler. He's developed and managed MANMAN installs since the 3000 was very new. Floyd goes to work migrating Disston Tools off MANMAN starting next month.
We agree that any range of emulation options must mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce costs. Risk is in the eye of the manager; we've said that since 2002, when the Transition Era started. Foster says moving away is too risky and costly for customers who have data on HP 3000s.
"Hewlett Packard said it was obsolete 10 years ago," today's teaser email began, "so why are people still running production environments on the HP 3000? We asked the same question. Much of the time, it is too risky and too costly for them to move."
Emulation has its costs, too. The Stromasys option starts at $9,000 for a permanent license — the kind nearly all of the Charon customers buy, says Doug Smith — and then there's efficient and powerful Intel hardware to buy. Although Charon has been demoed many times on a laptop, a computer with a lid which closes is not the sort to run your commercial computing.
But compared to the expense of hiring out for advice on replacement software (you oughta do that) and implementing a package on locally-hosted servers that behaves differently than employees expect (identical functionality is rare unless Charon HPA's installed) and retraining everybody (IT and users) about the new environment — Charon can be very effective as an emulation. Less costly, probably, than anything but staying on the HP hardware that's at least 13 years old today. At least.
The other elements in the equation are investment protection. That's actually what an independent support company does today (yup, Pivital Solutions) to keep hardware that's in place running. Plus all of the company's experience keeping MPE/iX on its toes.
Companies emulate because they recognize value in the original investment. The unmistakeable value lies in the data. Every kind of emulation protects that asset. Foster says the apps are crucial too.
An emulator retains the value of the application long term, while removing the risk of running on old hardware. Being in an emulation environment also stabilizes the development of surround code, reduces disruption to the business, and avoids the need to re-train employees.
May 25, 2016
MANMAN to journey to cloud-based ERP
The first project to move a MANMAN HP 3000 site to Kenandy's cloud-based ERP has an official start date. Terry Floyd and his team at The Support Group have a one-year mission to move Disston Tools from MANMAN to the Kenandy software, starting at the beginning of July. A manufacturer whose roots go back to 1840, Disston is dependent on EDI, an aspect that will help to prove that Kenandy is a good fit for MANMAN migrators.
"It’s an incredible ERP system – a completely new design concept and paradigm for ERP," Floyd said of Kenandy. "There are no modules; it’s all one thing. It has amazing functionality… and it's ready for MANMAN companies now, as I predicted four years ago."
Like many MANMAN sites on the HP 3000, Disston has a complicated company structure and MANMAN has been modified. Floyd has an insider advantage in leading the journey away from MPE/iX, "since I first started working on their FORTAN in 1986." He adds that they have given themselves a year "to get everything right and do one big cutover." He's been a guru for MANMAN sites through the software's many owners, from the earliest days when he worked for ASK Computer, then on his own and into MANMAN's Computer Associates days, forward to the SSA Global era, and finally to Infor's current stewardship of MANMAN. Kenandy feels like old blood, in a good way, he said.
"All of us [at the Support Group] spent a week at Kenandy Partner Training sessions. We met everybody and what a group they are. It’s just like ASK in 1980." By that Floyd means the creators of MANMAN, ASK. The company's founder Sandy Kurtzig was crucial to getting Kenandy's software ready for the marketplace. Floyd has been talking about the solution since 2011, pegging it as a good destination for MANMAN sites who want to leave the HP 3000.The HP 3000 was just celebrating its final Reunion in the fall of 2011 when Kenandy started showing off its designs to CAMUS, the user group devoted to what we once called CIM, or Computer Integrated Manufacturing. After seeing a 30-minute presentation at a CAMUS meeting held during Reunion Week, Floyd noted one big advantage to Kenandy: its design and development came from Kurtzig, who crept just a bit out of retirement decades after building the first generation of MANMAN.
Floyd said almost five years ago that re-thinking is the key to making a new generation of manufacturing software.
I think Sandra Kurtzig has done it again with the new Kenandy “no-ERP” manufacturing applications. Kenandy was developed over the last year and a half using the Salesforce toolsets which really gave them a good head start. It will be very recognizable to any MANMAN/MFG user, having an Item Master, BOMs, Routings, WO’s, PO’s, demand management and MRP. Apparently Sandy wrote some of the code herself, just like the early days of MANMAN.
One of the roadblocks to putting classic ERP into a Salesforce cloud model are those customizations. HP 3000 sites were so locked in to customization as a strategy that the competing MM II app from HP included a Customizer tool. "A lot of people are rethinking all the crazy customizations they've done," Kenandy's president Rod Butters said. "This is where Sandra's experience makes a huge difference for us. If we didn't have her insights, this product wouldn't be the same."
May 23, 2016
Moving off a 3000, or just some MPE/iX app?
Wednesday afternoon MB Foster leads another of its webinars about migration advice. The company is the community leader in data migration, data migration projects, data migration service. You're moving, they're the folks to contact. On Wednesday at 2 PM EST they're reaching out to explain the methodology the company uses to process departures from the 3000 world.
The options on exits "have not changed much over the last decade," the company's email teaser says. "They include; Stay, Rehost, Replace/Buy, Rebuild. The best choice for you depends on growth expectations, corporate standards, risk and cost." The other determining aspect is how much exiting a migration prospect must do immediately. Several of the current generation of migrators have gone to the app-by-app model.
The largest single migration of educational 3000s, 36 of them at the SBCTC, was pulled off in some pieces. This usually follows a methodology of getting a key app onto another platform in a lift and shift. Rewrites have become rare. Later on the lifted app can be replaced. Sometimes, as is the case at SBCTC, the whole migration platform shifts. Eloquence database to Oracle was the shift there. Another higher-ed site, at Idaho State University, moved its apps a few at a time over several years.
It's always worth mentioning the choice that MB Foster notes: a choice to stay on the HP 3000. But you won't even have to do that if all you need to accomplish is an update of hardware. Choosing Stromasys and the Charon emulator is also a move off the HP 3000: the Hewlett-Packard servers and disks get left behind. New PC hardware and a Linux control center take the place of the HP iron.The pressure to move an app depends on the need to bring it forward with new technology and more wide-ranging interfaces. When Secure FTP was a crucial transfer mechanism for data, the 3000 was often a special-needs case. HP never finished FTP for MPE/iX so it worked fully to industry standards. By now, though, FTP is yesterday's transfer technology. Managed File Transfer came of age several years ago. A 3000 app that was moved to embrace SFTP was hitting a target that moved already.
The point to remember is that the instincts that got a 3000 IT manager to their current post are still sound. Change only what brings needed value and business-competitive features. Foster's strategy says that "In 2006 there was no pressing need to migrate the [MPE/iX] application. A decade later, the pressure to ‘get off’ the HP 3000 has surely increased."
Where the pressure has become higher, the most crucial play involves moving data. More than 20 years ago, IBM was making a play to migrate 3000 systems to AS/400s. Computerworld called me to ask how I believed that'd go. "Not so good," I said at the time, "because there's all that IMAGE data that's essential to a 3000 customer. A tough move today." Migrations are easier now thanks to all the tech advances. It's business choices, though, not technology promises, that propel any migration.
May 20, 2016
Cloud patterns now private, MRP affairs
Two years ago this week we reported that Hewlett-Packard would be spending $1 billion on developments for HP Helion, its private and public cloud offering for enterprise customers. The spending was scheduled to take place over the coming two years, so now's a good time to examine the ceiling of clouds for HP. It turned out to be lower than expected.
That spending plan for Helion outlasted the public version of the cloud service. Within a year of the $1 billion mission statement, HP was saying the company had no business in a cloud space dominated by Amazon Web Services and others. By this January, the final cloud customers at the Helion public service had moved their clouds elsewhere. HP Helion private clouds march onward in a world where the vendor controls all elements in a deal, rather than competing in a tumultuous market. A private cloud behaves more like the HP 3000 world everybody knows: a means to management of dedicated resources.
The use of cloud computing to replace HP 3000 manufacturing applications is reaching beyond hypotheticals this summer. Terry Floyd, founder of the manufacturing services firm The Support Group, has been working with Kenandy to place the cloud company's solution in a classic 3000 shop. A project will be underway to make this migration happen this summer, he said.
The 3000 community that's been moving has been waiting for cloud solutions. Kenandy is the company built around the IT experience and expertise of the creators of MANMAN. They've called their software social ERP, in part because it embraces the information exchange that happens on that social network level. But from the viewpoint of Floyd, Kenandy's was waiting for somebody from the 3000 world to hit that teed-up ball. Kenandy has been tracking 3000 prospects a long time. The company was on hand at the Computer History Museum for the ultimate HP3000 Reunion in 2011.
The Kenandy solution relies on the force.com private cloud, operated by Salesforce.com. Smaller companies, the size of 3000 customers, use Salesforce. The vendor's got a force.com cloud for apps beyond CRM. Floyd said in 2015, "When the project kicks off next year, because we think Kenandy is a good fit for them."
The longer that small companies wait out such cloud pushes as HP's $500 million per year, the better the value becomes for getting onto their cloud. The effort migrates datacenter ops outside company walls, a big shift in 3000-heyday thinking. After its public cloud flame-out, HP ultimately worked to convince companies to build their own private clouds. The option that's firming up this summer is renting cloud apps from firms like Kenandy and Salesforce.
Floyd and his company have said there's good value in switching to cloud-based ERP for some customers. Customization of the app becomes the most expensive issue.
May 13, 2016
Creating 3000 Concept-Proving Grounds
Three years ago today, Stromasys hosted a community meeting at the Computer History Museum. It was the coming-out party for the debutante HP 3000 virtualization product Charon. The software had been running in several production sites for awhile, but the CHM meeting collected several dozen partners, prospects, and Stromasys experts. Some spicy slide decks were shared, along with promises that saving MPE/iX applications just got easier. This was billed as training.
In the 36 months since that day, the Charon HPA software has been enhanced twice to better its performance levels as well as establishing more complete emulation of the HP hardware environments. One major change to the solution came by eliminating an option — a kind of addition through subtraction that's pushing the software into production use more often. The Freeware A-202 of 2013 has been removed, replaced by Proof of Concept. PoC is pretty much the only gateway to using the software that transforms Intel-Linux boxes into PA-RISC 3000 servers.
3000 sites "are coming out of the closets," said product manager Doug Smith when he flew into Austin to update me about the product. He's running a program that discounts PoC engagements, with savings based on the size of the license. Companies that few of us knew were using 3000s have surfaced to adopt Charon, he explained. There's also a 6-way and 8-way configuration of the software that moves above the performance levels of the biggest N-Class server. Meeting and beating HP's 3000 iron performance is a big part of the approval process to get Charon sold and installed.
A proof of concept engagement takes real production data, integrated into the software-server combo of Charon over a period of five days, and shows managers in tech and the boardroom how seamless emulation can look. Smith says that MPE sites don't even need a Linux admin to do this virtualization. One part of that is because of the proof of concept phase gets everything in place to run. Three years ago, the issues to resolve were license-based in some prospects' eyes. By now, putting Charon in play involves five days of time and a license that can be either annual or perpetual.
But Smith says just about all the Charon licenses sold to 3000 sites today are perpetual. This might be one reason why going to Computer History Museum for that 2013 coming-out seemed so fitting. Legacy and history are often co-pilots that deliver stable applications.
That meeting room brimmed at the Computer History Museum in 2013, where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA/3000. This emulator was anticipated more than 11 years ago, but only came to the market in 2012. And that gap, largely introduced by HP's intellectual property lawyers, killed one license needed to run MPE on any Intel server. But the good news is that an HP licensing mechanism still exists for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator -- pretty much on any good-sized Intel system that can run VMware and Linux. However, you need to know how to ask HP for the required license.
The phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to PC hardware is called "an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most SLTs happen between two companies. Who'd sell themselves their own hardware, after all?
In short, HP's using its existing and proven Software License Transfer (SLT) mechanism to license emulated 3000s. It's doing this because of that delay which ran out the clock on a hard-earned path to the future. HP called it the Emulator License back in 2005. It just happened to need an emulator on sale in order for a customer to buy this license.
The Emulator License isn't quite like the mythical griffin of ancient lore. It's not common, but HP will know what a customer is seeking when they ask for a intra-company license transfer.
Perhaps HP's lawyers -- who certainly had to be convinced by the 3000 division at the time -- insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in the license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but HP could never collect that money without a working emulator for a 3000 on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. No RTU, no emulator license: this was a moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron was on hand.
However, this was not the first time HP had ever tried to make it legal to run one of its OS products on non-HP gear. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and got that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was the ongoing support revenue, and the good will, of keeping older systems running where they remain the best solution.
This time around, for the 3000, HP intended to cut off all of its business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still could call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. No matter. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies. At that coming-out, the company said that the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- what a classic 3000 customer calls an emulator.
The company has said they've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. A product like Charon is dedicated to preserving the investments made across more than three decades of HP 3000 hardware generations.
Customers don't get to create MPE/iX licenses for Charon systems, though, and Stromasys cannot sell any licenses. Neither can HP anymore, either. But those licenses come out of the closets, or off the CPU boards of resold systems. HP never got a chance to sell an emulator license, but it wasn't the first time Hewlett-Packard built an item for 3000 customers it never did sell. HP wanted to emulate an HP-UX server on HP 3000 hardware with the legendary MOST project of 1994. Virtualizing operating environments is a long-standing concept, one that's getting proved all the time in this year's 3000 community.
May 11, 2016
Migrations include data: How to handle bags
Earlier this week I wrote about a collective of Washington state colleges that moved away from the HP 3000 and MPE in 2011. The work started years earlier and had a dead-end for awhile, but the 36 HP 3000s eventually became just six Integrity servers. They used the TurboIMAGE data and lifted apps, but the data was the most crucial part of the migration.
Moving data is fraught with challenges, from doing it in a way that the new apps can make sense of it, to making sure everything got transported safely. Good HP 3000 managers are like Marines: no bit of data is left behind. They leave behind applications often, because programs go obsolete or get replaced. Not data.
Later today MB Foster is having a demo of its UDACentral software. There's still a few hours to register, but you need to be at your browser live at 1 PM today, May 11. This is an HP 3000 story, too. Migration is more complicated sometimes than just STORE and RESTORE. Mapping a database to another one is easier with good software.
The demo will show "how to drag and drop and map data from source to target, automatically create migration scripts, and migrate tens of millions of rows per hour." A free trial of UDACentral can be downloaded from the MBFoster website.
"This is a 3000 story, and beyond a 3000 as well," Birket Foster says. "A story of evolution and learning to use data."
Last year, new features appeared in UDACentral.
- Convert CSV files to RDBMS tables
- Support both FTPS (FTP over SSL) and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol)
- Encrypt data in-flight, metadata and migration scripts
Afterlast spring's demo of the software, I commented that "Carrying a company's identity from a TurboIMAGE database to Oracle or SQL Server has been viewed as a complex task for a long time. It looked a lot less complex today."
Choosing source databases, then selecting a target database of another type, was straightforward. More importantly, this software ensures that data makes its move in a way that delivers a useable resource, not one overrun with table errors and illegal dataset names. Warnings before the data's moved keep the identity of the company clear. There's a default data mapping between databases that's done automatically to get database administrators and managers started quickly.
Watching the software in action that day made me realize how far we've come in the task of making transformations to our IT enterprises. There was once a Computerworld reporter who asked me during the 1990s what barriers IBM had to overcome if it stood any chance of converting HP 3000s to AS/400 sites. Well, there are those databases, I said to him. "You might move the applications or replace them. But the data's got to remain the same."
May 09, 2016
First came MPE's migration—now, the apps
By mid-2011, the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) stopped using the 36 HP 3000s that had powered 34 campuses since 1982. Even at that time, though, after the largest transfer of educational apps off MPE, SBCTC knew the target HP-UX systems would see another migration. One migration began another. Migrating off MPE hosts was a prelude to another migration, four years after landing on HP's Unix.
Michael Scroggins, the CIO at SBCTC, checked in with us after we spotted him on next month's HPE Discover conference speaker list. He's talking about the role of a CIO in today's IT. Why Would You Want to be a CIO? promises insights.
The CIO is a high-risk position. There are many thoughts and much advice related to surviving as a CIO. You’ve got to get there first. This discussion will center on strategies and considerations that you can use to get there. Why would anyone want to be a CIO? It is the best job in the world… if you have what it takes.
SBCTC has been taking its data forward for more than 13 years, proposing and moving and re-moving its data since 2003. SQL Server and Windows NT was the first target announced, and by 2009 that HP-led initiative had been shuttered while HP repaid what it hadn't finished to the colleges. The Lift and Shift Project was next and took about 18 months. Then in 2014, the eight HP-UX Integrity servers at SBCTC were upgraded to Itanium 4 systems. The original MPE/iX apps were lifted onto Integrity servers after being virtualized.
"We used AMXW’s MPE virtualization environments," Scroggins said, "and consolidated multiple colleges onto isolated environments on the HP-UX instances of Itanium 2 blade servers on the C7000 chassis. The solution leveraged the state’s data center where all colleges are centrally hosted." Lift and Shift cut the colleges' server count from 36 down to eight, all in a consolidated state datacenter.
Another move, off the lift and shift apps, was always in the plans, however.Some parts of the shifted solutions were supposed to have a 5-7-year lifespan before they moved again, to a managed services platform. Back in 2010 this was the novelty of the cloud. But the foundational move took the MPE apps onto HP-UX. Back then, we asked Bob Adams at SBCTC and heard that a hosted ERP setup without servers onsite was the ultimate goal.
"The bottom line is that this project was our last chance to get this thing done right,” he said. “We weren't going to change technologies. All we wanted to do was extend what we have.” Making the next change means going to Oracle's Peoplesoft applications. This will cut out the Marxmeier Eloquence databases that have subbed in for IMAGE. The migrated apps will be considered legacy systems — to be maintained for several years after the last colleges go live, in order to maintain an archive.
Scroggins says that ctcLink is
the largest higher education project of its kind in the U.S. The goal of the ctcLink Project is the implementation of Oracle/PeopleSoft ERP software applications including Campus Solutions, Finance, Human Capital Management, and Hyperion pillars at all 34 colleges.
"This affects every student, staffer, and faculty member in the college system," Scroggins said. "We went live with the first three colleges last August and are scheduled with the next six in October of this year. The balance of the colleges will go in two additional phases a year apart."
SBCTC moved a Student Management System, Financial Management System, Payroll and Personnel Management System, and Production Management System in that 2010 move. The migration was "with minimal technical changes in programming languages, operating systems, and database and no changes to user application functionality." At the time, Scroggins considered the HP 3000 to be "seven years past end of life. The project was intended to stabilize our applications" by moving away from the hardware that HP stopped building in 2003.
April 29, 2016
Post-migration, there's often more changes
The 2010 timeline update for moving away from the three dozen HP 3000s at SBCTC
Five years ago this spring, work was wrapping up on migrating 36 HP 3000s at a college consortium. This was the largest higher education migration project in the 3000's history, the mission of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. When it finished, 34 colleges in the state started to rely on HP-UX instead of MPE/iX. The work took more than two years to complete. The chief of the IT work at the state board will be speaking this June at the annual Discover conference, which is now called HPE Discover.
Migration change usually signals a new way to look at information's value. Taking legacy systems into the next generation of software and hardware is really everybody's mission in the 3000 world. The elegant Hewlett-Packard 3000 hardware is also elderly for any homesteader. Virtualizing the MPE/iX hardware is a migration of sorts, but one that can be completed in about five days, before testing. As for the migration-bound CIO, leaving behind the bedrock of MPE/iX opens up a redesign opportunity. Perhaps more than one.
Leaving MPE/iX was only the start for the SBCTC. It's got a new ctcLink project in play, one that will reach as many colleges as the effort which the organization called Lift & Shift back in 2010. Once ctcLink is finished, it will implement Oracle/PeopleSoft ERP software applications, including Campus Solutions, Finance, and Human Capital Management pillars, at all of its 34 colleges.
Anything that's one step behind what's freshest can be called a legacy solution. Making a migration can be an opening step in a longer campaign. That's why it's a good practice to think further ahead than four years while eliminating MPE/iX applications. Legacy can apply to software that's still being sold and supported, too. The timeline above plotted only the MPE/iX migration at SBCTC. Making a tactical timeline like that one is a crucial step. Ensuring the choices will be seamlessly integrated with the next step, and they will last, is a bigger task. Because no application platform is ever the last one — not if an organization wants to outlive its IT plans.
April 25, 2016
Proving concepts leads to hardware exits
They've been called straw men, and more lately proof of concept projects. These assessment steps have often represented significant change at HP 3000 sites. Few migrations got the green light to proceed with the raw change and full-on expense without demos of replacement apps. Even when the change was limited to applications only, with no platform replacement, testing with production data was the most secure choice.
That's why the strategy sounded familiar when Stromasys hosted its first webinar in years. The company calls its assessment engagement to test Charon a proof of concept. Led by Global Accounts Manager Ray LeBrun and system engineer Darrell Wright, the talk included a note on how essential the PoC step has been to success with the Charon virtualized system.
"We're pretty confidant that if we engage in a PoC with you, then we're 99-plus percent sure Charon will work for you," LeBrun said. "We will not engage if we're not confident this is the right solution for you."
Stromasys works with a site's production data to prove the concept of giving HP's 3000 hardware an exit date. MPE/iX and the applications, and of course the data, stay in place. However, LeBrun said Charon has also been "a bridge to allow you to get to a migration. We have folks who say, "I'm only going to use that  application for another two years. Well, two more years oftentimes becomes three, four, and five years."
The technology concept behind virtualization is well known by now. People are so familiar with it that LeBrun said the vendor gets asked regularly when HP-UX Integrity server virtualization via Charon is coming. The question came up in the webinar, too."It's not in our roadmap anywhere," LeBrun said of a Charon built to give HP's Unix hardware an exit date. "Even if it was, I probably couldn't say anything about it, but it'd certainly be viable if there was a business case for it."
A business case for migrations — either off HP's hardware, or away from an operating environment — usually gets built at a customer site only after the technology has been given an all-clear. Stromays Proof of Concepts are paid engagements, because they include vendor staff hours spent onsite, services to transfer data to the Intel-based Charon system, and training a customer's IT staff to use the software.
A five-day onsite engagement, followed by a 30-day test period, makes up a PoC. "We basically do a live install of your application [on Charon] in your environment," LeBrun said. "You're not testing for look and feel. You're testing your application with your data."
April 22, 2016
How to Transform MPE Spoolfiles to PDFs
HP 3000 data becomes more useful if it can be e-mailed as industry standard report documents. After more than two decades of pushing at it, Adobe has made its PDF the de-facto way to exchange documents, even complex ones.
Which might have prompted this question from HP consultant and Suprtool trainer Jeff Kubler:
Does anyone have a lead on a tool that converts spoolfiles to PDF files? Are there any Contributed Library tools?
It won't be in the Interex Contributed Library (because the programs have gone underground; ask your colleagues if they have a swap tape) but the txt2pdf product works nicely to make this conversion. Even in its most advanced version it's about $1,000, at last glance. Bob McGregor reports as much.
Jeff, txt2pdf does this. We have a job that runs that:
1. Checks a pseudo device we have setup for any spoolfiles that are on the device with an PRI >0
2. If it finds a spoolfile, we convert it to PDF and move it to a server
3 Sends an e-mail to the streamedby variable telling them the PDF doc is ready on the server.
4. Alters the priority to 0 to mark it processed
We've been using it for a couple years, and it works great — of course, once we got the bugs worked out. What's cool is if someone delete the file, we just adjust the priority to something greater than 0 and it gets reprocessed.
April 20, 2016
Like a Classic Mercedes, Those Old 3000s
Built to last.
That's what a veteran analyst called the HP 3000s at her company. It's a UK firm, The Wesleyan, and it's been running MPE and MPE/iX since at least 1990. Jill Turner says the oldest system is a Series 947. That would be the early part of the 1990s, to be sure.
That 947 and four other HP 3000s including an N-Class, are going offline in 2017. "We are a financial services business, and the HP 3000s hold all the policies sold up to about 2010," she said. "These are serviced daily, weekly, monthly, yearly depending on the type of policy."
Turner called those 900 Series systems, including a 987 and 969, "old proper machines." They're the sort that never quit. They do eventually get out-performed by newer models, or can't run Oracle, or have experts with knowledge about 3000s retiring soon. The hardware does age, though, as it does for all owners. That's not why the 3000s are leaving The Wesleyan.
"The Wesleyan are currently migrating the data from the HP 3000s onto a new system," Turner said, "and we expect everything to be migrated by mid- to end of 2017. As technology moves forward the company is moving to other platforms, and I think the new systems are hosted on IBM Pureflex servers."
Turner admits to being biased in favor of the 3000s. This can happen after a couple of decades of success, when a migration choice is based on the age of the hardware instead of the utility of the software. You can't beat the cost of owning a 3000, she adds.
"The HP 3000s are probably the cheapest platform to run within the business," Turner said. I am very biased as I have only ever worked on the HP 3000s, but one example is we had a disc failure on the 969."
The system carried on as mirrored disc. Our support firm Newcorp couriered one out to me so I received it the next day (and they sent two spares). I changed the disc, no one knew but me. The new replacement system for the 3000s had a failure when the power went off. It took IBM two days to get the part, and it came from Holland.
"I have a 26-year-old Mercedes which I always compare to the old HP 3000s: built to last." The Wesleyan bought into the future of 3000 ownership, even when HP was counseling not to do that. The N-Class server was purchased in 2002, the first full year HP was preaching migration.
April 11, 2016
Yes, Virginia, there is MPE at the Terminal
One of the first HP 3000 migration success locations might have hung on to an MPE/iX app since its story was introduced by the vendor. A lively discussion popped up last week when Don Seay asked on the 3000-L mailing list about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualizer software. The chatter included updates on the work to cross the 2027 hurdle for MPE/iX use, as well as reports on the speediest settings for Charon.
Seay was emailing from an address at VIT.org, the legacy location of Virginia International Terminals. It's the port authority for all shipping in Norfolk, Newport News and environs. A shiny website handles just about all of the data requests at portofvirginia.org. But there's still data being fed to VIT.org, and Seay's request seems to hint that an application continues to work there. We're checking in with him.
Taking a full-on approach to a migration is a typical opening strategy, but there are sometimes good technical reasons why apps remain on 3000 hardware. This didn't seem likely when we first heard about the 3000 and VIT in 2002. HP was promoting the practices and concept of retiring 3000s during that time, the first full year after Hewlett-Packard's announcement it would leave the 3000 marketplace.
VIT’s assistant IT director at the time, Clark Farabaugh, said at HP World 2002's migration roundtable the decision to shift to HP’s Unix servers “has changed our shop, for better or worse.” That summer, IT began to migrate at VIT. The organization took delivery of a HP 9000 rp8400 server to replace its HP 3000s, and Farabaugh said “we were the first ones on board.” We took note of the report of 13 years ago.
Even though Farabaugh described TurboIMAGE as “the fastest database I’ve ever seen,” it was moving toward using Oracle on its migrated system. Three IT staffers — VIT said it was doing all the work in-house — were trained in database admin for Oracle.
The applications running at VIT handle shipments through a terminal with 7,000 international longshoremen at work, and a desire to Web-enable the apps led VIT away from the 3000. The IT director said the migration project will take 12 to 18 months to complete using the 45-person IT staff, taking apps from Speedware on the 3000 to Speedware on HP-UX.
A baker's dozen years later, it's a surprise to see that perhaps something on MPE has continued to lift bits of the cargo of terminal data at VIT. A datacenter manager and IT execs do need to keep everything online, though. If a 3000 survived the HP-UX shift for this long, it's bound to have a better reason than "we don't really want to change things."
Does MPE/iX still exist in the field? Some in your community feel that asking about that is akin to asking about Santa Claus. But yes, at Virginia, it seems there's still MPE at the Terminal. If we're reading the messages right, it's doing more than a fairy, too.
March 28, 2016
For any fate, applications need budgets
At Idaho State University, the HP 3000 is moving into its final months of production use. It's been more than eight years to bring all of the MPE-based applications' duties into a new hosting environment. Sun was the early winner in this migration, but after taking the early round of replacement apps onto Solaris, the university is settling on Linux. This was a migration that didn't give Hewlett-Packard any place as a host.
Even in the realm of replacement software's big bounty, some apps moved across more slowly. Payroll, financials: these things moved in a straight line to Ellucian's ERP software for universities. But telecomm, inventory, motorpool — the 3000 ran all of this — had to be moved separately.
Along the way, the prospect of keeping those extra applications alive included the option of virtualizing the 3000 onto a Stromasys server. The timing didn't work for the university because it was so close to decommissioning its last 3000 apps, according to Senior IT Analyst John MacLerran.
We were hoping to use the emulator for a year or two while we finished migrating our remaining applications off the 3000. However, it was decided that the effort required to obtain software licenses from all of the vendors would be better spent accelerating our migration off the platform.
Whether an application remains on MPE servers, or makes its way to Linux as a replacement or a rewrite, applications require budget. The word "effort" means the expense in man-hours and dollars. Staying has a cost. Analyzing the timing can help a 3000 owner decide when its budget should be turned to departure dollars. It's only possible when the Hewlett-Packard hardware remains sound and healthy."It's not like we saw anything that would keep Charon from working for us," MacLerran said, "but it didn't save us any work in our migration."
The cost/benefit ratio didn't work for us -- we wouldn't have been on the Charon platform long enough to recoup our investment in the emulator. It made more sense for us to pay an additional year of maintenance on the original hardware, since we would've had to do that anyway during the migration to Charon. Instead, we put additional resources into getting the applications migrated.
The University began its look at the Charon solution in 2014, but its thorough evaluation got interrupted when MacLerran was tapped to help a languishing internal project get back on schedule. By 2015, the final evaluation decision was made, based on the finish date of migrating its final MPE applications.
We are in the final stages of shutting our HP 3000s down. Everything we used to use them for has been migrated elsewhere -- much of it to Ellucian, and some of it to other third-party vendors (i.e., where Ellucian doesn't have an equivalent function). The only remaining activity on the HP 3000 is data archival for records-retention purposes.
To satisfy that, we're extracting our data and putting it in Oracle tables. That way, we can query for the information that may still be needed for audit, but not for transactional purposes.
MacLerran said the university expects to pull the plug on its HP 3000s by the end of June, 2016.
March 25, 2016
Replacing apps: a migration option, or not?
More than seven years ago, HP was still offering advice to its HP 3000 customers about migration. The vendor sent everyone down an evaluation path once it announced it was dropping the 3000 from its 2007 lineup. Sales halted in 2003; the HP Services lineup included MPE and hardware support for another seven years, though.
That's by way of noting that HP's plans saw lots of waffling before its time ran out for stewardship of the servers. In the years between its cutting-out announcement and the end of formal support, HP plans to migrate had two major options. Rewrite whatever you had running on MPE, or replace it with a work-alike app. At the time, HP had a VP who'd talk about this. Lynn Anderson was the last HP executive who would even address the 3000 before the press. Her expertise was in services. You can imagine how replacing apps set with her. Bad idea, she said at the time. Bake a fresh loaf, using the sourdough starter of 3000-based business processes.
Anderson was pretty unique in the HP management ranks. She could show IT experience on the HP 3000. She started her career working on an HP 3000 in the mill town where she grew up. A Series II system displayed her first MPE colon prompt. Later on in programming and system engineering for HP, she was a network specialist for MPE, a job that included the high point of bringing up the first HP 1000-to-HP 3000 local area network.
To the HP of 2008, a rewrite looked like the best way to preserve what you'd created. However, MB Foster is going to talk about replacing apps next week. Wednesday the 30th at 2 PM Eastern, George Hay will examine this Replace option. "You will learn the factors that affect application replacements and the steps in the replacement process," the company said in its email notice of the webinar.
In 2008, Anderson spread HP's message that the company preferred rewrites to getting an off-the-shelf app to duplicate years of architecture and development under MPE/iX. She cited an HP-funded study that predicted nearly half of the 2008 IT workforce would be retired by 2011 — a figure that had all the accuracy of HP's 2002 prediction that 80 percent of its customers would leave the 3000 by 2004. Speaking at the HP Technology Forum, Anderson talked about replacements chosen to match existing MPE/iX apps, versus rewrites.
"Matching can disappoint," she said at the time. "We say don’t look at what you want your application to do today, but what do you want it to do tomorrow. For the DIY customer, do you have the personnel?" The question was about brain drain, a very real prospect for a legacy technology customer. It was also the question you'd expect to hear from a services vendor.
There's no code like old code, made new again, HP said. Not just rehosted, but extended and revamped.
I think back to when I was a programmer. We had a guy in our shop who liked to think of himself as writing elegant code. Then he left, and when we had to make a change to his code, we literally had to draw straws, because nobody wanted to touch it. You have to look at that when judging a workforce. We just did a study on datacenter transformation, and by the year 2011 45 percent of the IT workforce will be retired."
We asked how this would impact choices to move forward with IT. "We tell these customers you will never get anything to replace what you had built," she said. "The questions are what will you want to do tomorrow, and are you going to have the staff to be able to go into the code."
As for those exits of IT pros, HP's VP said, "I don’t think we have done a good job of selling the value of a career in technology. During the dot-coms it was a bit cool, but it was never about people doing the IT work. It was more on the idea side. And you know what? It still is cool, and it can be a great way to make a living."
HP's living, of course, is best made today as a purveyor of an IT workforce. Hardware sales are off and operating environments come from outside suppliers like Microsoft, RedHat, and others. HP's Services team of the time was legendary for coming in with the highest engagement prices and the sweetest presentations. Meanwhile, plenty of 3000 customers made a living doing IT. Then HP started to call them “technologists.” Did HP still see technologists as typical influencers in the 3000 ecosystem?
In 2008 Anderson said, "We do."
And I think over the years companies — and I’m not saying this about HP — have forgotten about these influencers. Technologists still play a big role in organizations. There are not too many CIOs that are going to make a decision diametrically opposed to their organization. Based on that, we need to get the information out there so the technologist can understand it. With me starting out in that technology environment, I understand. We got our stripes in the 3000, and it was “live free or die — MPE only.”
Replacement already acknowledges that MPE/iX won't serve the long-term strategy for a company. It seems that rewrites will be the work of an outside team. The real question wasn't do you have the personnel, though. The question is what budget do you have for personnel. Because both rewrites and replacements require man-months and man-years.
Anderson said it was essential for all of the remaining 55 percent of the workforce to focus on learning other technologies. A rewrite project would be one way to establish some new chops. Perhaps a replacement does the same thing for a career. "You can think of bread at the grocery store — what are you doing to reset your “Best Before” date?" she asked. Changing platforms certainly resets lots of things.
March 16, 2016
Brain drain reduces migration options
At a large Eastern Seabord organization in the US, the exit of MPE-skilled staff has cut away the migration choices for its HP 3000 operations. The server ran the organization's management of equipment parts. Some of the parts are being tracked back into the 1980s, so unique are those components.
It's like taking the durability of an HP 3000 and applying its model to vehicles, for example. Old F-150 pickup trucks, or the most beloved Jeeps, need parts that might've been designed decades ago. Get a large enough fleet and you need an extensive and fast database.
IMAGE/SQL drove all of the enterprise business operations until 2002, when other solutions started to rise up at this enterprise. The HP 3000 9x9s there stepped back into a support role, running the parts application. When HP announced the 3000 was leaving its product list, the organization started to plan for a database migration.
"I still had a licensed HP-UX server (HP9000/I70) with paid software support at that time," said the IT manager, who didn't want us to use his name. "The plan was to purchase Eloquence for HP-UX, move IMAGE data to Eloquence, and rewrite our data entry and retrieval programs from their original Pascal to something on HP-UX, which might have been Pascal (if available) or C."
The migration to Eloquence, with what the manager called "universal homing capabilities," would be moved to Linux, which might have required another program rewrite. It could have been as simple as going from C on HP-UX to C## on Linux. Then expertise started leaving the organization.
Then "it became impossible to buy Eloquence," the manager said. "There was almost no one left working here who knew what IMAGE and the HP 3000 are. No one knew what Eloquence was, and no one wanted to know."
This enterprise shop already had MS SQL with paid support on Windows, "so I was led to hire a consultant to migrate the data to SQL and rewrite the apps in PHP. It sounded like a quick way to a good end."
The Windows momentum had carried the organization away from HP-UX, eliminating Eloquence in the process.
With money being dumped into Microsoft as the solution for all, no one would want to hear a request to buy another database. We bought a new-at-the-time HP-UX server (RX 2660) for this project, but could not go ahead without the Eloquence piece and someone to convert the apps. So the server languished, and eventually was boxed up.
Now the plan is to migrate only the 3000's data at that enterprise. "We would rather stay on MPE and keep on developing," the manager said. "What I really wanted to do was to migrate the application from IMAGE to Eloquence, which would have set the stage for future migration to a new OS if necessary."
Migrations can be delayed for many reasons. But with the market's HP 3000 expertise in flux, keeping a migration moving seems to be one way to help ensure the widest range of choices to preserve app code. If application expertise leaves a company, all that's left is to move data. There are good solutions for that in the MPE world. MB Foster talks about some today at 2 PM EDT.
March 02, 2016
Data in motion follows 3000 archival project
HMSHost has been an HP 3000 shop since long before the start of this century. The company that operates duty-free outlets in major US airports has made changes to its datacenter structures that have put its 3000 in cool standby. Regular operations have moved to another server. Archival has become the mission for the MPE/iX server.
Brian Edminster told us about the changes to the company's IT operations, having managed the 3000 solutions for HMSHost for many years.
Edminster said that in either event, he'll be called in to perform that work on the cool backup system. Archival systems still consume some resources, but it's that reduction of human resources that can make a drastic change when a 3000 goes from production to archive. The 3000 server may not even get powered up, as is the case at HMSHost.
The live and current data that was hosted on the application under MPE has been migrated to systems belonging to the new owner of the retail division of HMSHost. Several years ago, HMSHost sold off their retail division to World Duty Free, USA (the US arm of the global World Duty Free Group, WFDG). In a surprise move, WDFG was then acquired by one of its rivals, Dufry. In talking with some friends that still work there, the former-3000 data will likely need to be migrated to yet again—to the Dufry systems. Talk about “data in motion!”
But as it turns out, the historical 3000 data (from before WDFG acquired the retail unit) still has to be retained for compliance reporting for about three more years. They've decided to keep an A-Class system, basically in a cool backup environment. The server is still racked in their server room, but is kept powered off, until one of these events occur:
1) a compliance report and/or analysis is required (a fairly low probability), or
2) a quarterly reboot/confidence check is scheduled.
"They thought about keeping the machine powered up, but idling," Edminster said, "but there was concern regarding remaining the MTBF on the A-Class disc mechanisms and fans. It was determined to be a lower risk—and consume less electricity and generate less heat—to leave the system powered down until access is needed."
In archive, though, backup practices don't change. "We've got several complete backups," he added, "should a boot drive fail, or the RAID-1 (Mirror/iX) data volumes fail catastrophically."
February 26, 2016
21 days of radio silence on the 3000-L
The slowing current of 3000 communication showed a fresh signal by the end of this month. As we write it's been 21 days since a message of any kind on the 3000-L MPE newsgroup. The resource that carried 45 messages during last February has 10 for the current month. All of this month's traffic was wrapped around finding resources: Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies and Vesoft support. Both were located.
However, the three weeks without a new message is new territory for the community's log of technical help and outreach by cohorts. Among those who were posting during 2015, several told us they're on the mailing list-newsgroup out of habit — rather than needing details for their datacenter's 3000s.
"I’m still on the list out of inertia, nostalgia and mild interest," said Dave Heasman, a UK IT manager. "My employer got rid of their 3000s and me in 2008. Bought a series of packages to replace a big bespoke brokerage/investment system."
Robert Mills said he "remained a member of the list, mainly as a lurker, to keep appraised of what was happening in the 3000 community. Except for three requests in September 2012, December 2014, and February 2015, I've only posted to the list when I felt that the 3000 knowledge I had would help somebody solve a problem." Mills said he retired when his company went insolvent in 2009, but he's kept his hand in IT.
"I have been involved with the GnuCOBOL (formerly OpenCOBOL) Project on SourceForge since October 2014, and decided to write a macro preprocessor that emulated the functionality available on the 3000," he said. "The preprocessor, CobolMac, is now in its 5th version (B.04) and has received good reviews by its users."
Others who contacted us said they haven't worked on the 3000 since the days that HP sold support for MPE/iX. "I have been a BizTalk developer full time since 2008," said Kent Wallace. "I needed to work, and this was the direction the world was going." The 3000-L still has more than 500 subscribers on its mailing list rolls, but much of the messaging comes from consultants and vendor experts, supplying answers to questions and tips. A total of 45 messages have passed through the list since the start of 2016. The IT pros like Wallace have taken the path to other platforms, first to HP-UX, then to Windows.
"I left my previous employer in Boise and I moved to a Microsoft shop, whose mainframe was HP-UX," Wallace said. "However, in 2015 we migrated off HP-UX and onto SQL Server on Microsoft Server 2008. We do health insurance and the purchased software, Trizzeto, was moved to MS SQL servers."
Another registered user keeps up with the community, but he can imagine a future where he'd be back on the MPE/iX front lines. "We're totally out of the 3000 business," said Ted Johnson of Wake Forest University, adding a sad-face emoji. "But I love seeing the 3000-L posts and keeping up. Who knows — maybe they'll get rid of me one of these days, and I'll end up back on a 3000."
The 3000-L, hosted at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where the late Jeff Kell launched it the early 1990s, holds more than two decades of traffic. 10 years ago the list was big enough to measure a signal-to noise-ratio, but by now it's almost entirely signal. When John Burke was a monthly columnist for the NewsWire who summarized its content in net.digest, he rounded up the following help in just one month's communications. For a 3000 owner managing a homesteading shop, the 3000-L's tips still carry some value.
• Do you want to know when a particular account or group was created? LISTACCT and LISTGROUP are no help. But “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME,3” for the account or “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME /GROUPNAME,3” for the group tell all. And then some.
• The number of sectors reported by the REPORT command for a group or groups is sometimes inaccurate, sometimes very inaccurate. Running the program FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP and issuing the SYNCACCOUNTING command will fix this problem.
• In case you were wondering, despite many requests for the enhancement, TurboStore will NOT append store sets to tape. Well, it might if you use the proper incantations, but it is unsupported and highly dangerous because under certain circumstances you could overwrite a previous backup without knowing.
• Speaking of things you cannot do that you might like to do, the ALLOW command is not persistent across sign-ons unless you use the extremely dangerous “ALLOW @.@; commands” version. This is another example of an enhancement that has been requested for years, but now will never happen. Fortunately, there are a number of options, for sale and free (MPEX, CSL, etc.).
• CI integer variables are signed 32-bit entities. So be careful if you are doing some wild arithmetic in your CI scripts.
• Here is a little trick when using Apache’s indexing (for example to keep track of documentation) to index file displays. You can override the default ascending sort by name by appending “?N=D” to the url. Instructions on changing Apache’s default behavior are available on the Web.
• If you are trying to program VPlus applications and are interested in working examples programmed in your favorite language, look in the group HP32209.HPPL89 (which should be on every FOS tape). This group contains source code for the ENTRY program in a variety of languages including COBOL, Fortran, Basic and Pascal.
• To see the firmware (aka PDC) Revision of a system (CPU): Run cstm, and at the cstm > prompt, type ‘map’ and note the Dev Num of a CPU and then type ‘sel dev DEV_NUM’ (e.g., ‘sel dev 41’) and then type ‘info’ and then type ‘il’ and look at the output for the ‘PDC Firmware Revision’. Easy, huh? Thanks to Guy Paul of HP for this tip.
• SPFXFER will allow you to write to disk (undocumented “feature/bug”). But don’t do it, because SPFXFER cannot read the disk file it creates! Doing this could lead to a big oops.
• While it would certainly be a nice to have, MPE/iX CI scripts have no provision for inline comments. Sorry, don’t even bother trying.
February 22, 2016
Technologies to study beyond MPE skills
As 3000 experts have seen their jobs eliminated, and their employers focus on other platforms, they have faced a challenge. What should they study next to learn marketable skills? One obvious answer is the tools in the community for migration. Some of these open a new world of learning to 3000 veterans. Learning the tools provides an entry to get familiar with new concepts.
However obvious it has seemed to study .NET and Visual Basic, there are many shops planting outside that Windows-box. Open source software is the choice for prospects that reach farther.
Michael Anderson left the Spring, Texas school district six years ago to found his J3K Solutions consulting practice. Even then, when Linux and open source did not dominate IT plans as they now do, Anderson knew Microsoft wouldn't hold its market share.
In 2009 he suggested a good place to start learning beyond MPE were tools like ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software's Eloquence. "Ordina-Denkart's WingSpan, as well as ScreenJet, are both great products," he said. "They are both great models for software design. I have not found anything that compares to them that's within reach of small companies and independent developers." That's a statement on pricing as well as capability.
A caliber of tools like this is not yet available in the Linux/open source market, though. James Byrne, an IT manager at Harte & Lyne, says his company's "progress towards a final departure from the HP 3000 has not been as rapid as we had hoped. The main reason is the primitive nature of the tools in common use by the *nix community. These have improved greatly over the past decade, but they are still nowhere near the effectiveness of efficiency of software I used on the HP 3000 in the 1980s."
Complaints about the "Cognos Products," now owned by Unicom after a five-year adoption by IBM, have legendary status. But the gripes have been about licensing and pricing, not the subtle efficiency those advanced development tools provided. Byrne's company has been using Powerhouse and its cousins since before the products were named as such. Close to 40 years after they were introduced, the tools are still doing a better job for Byrne than open source alternatives.
The systems at Harte & Lyne are completely written in Quick, Quiz and QTP. "They were started before Quasar re-branded itself as Cognos and began calling their products Powerhouse," Byrne said. "The maintenance load of these programs presently is as close to zero as can be imagined. Nonetheless, modifications are still being made after all these years and the speed at which these are completed is absolutely astounding to people used to coding for *nux and Microsoft environments."
Byrne adds that the programs are sometimes creations from the days before the Web existed. "Sometimes we are working on programs that have not been touched since the late 1980s," Byrne said, "and the ease with which that ancient code is understood illuminates just how poorly most code in other languages conveys its meaning."
ScreenJet employs Windows to do its interface transformations, while Eloquence delivers the IMAGE foundations to Linux, HP's Unix and Windows. If tools like these two above existed in the GNU environment — what Byrne calls *nix — then HP 3000 programmers who are finding themselves out of work could study a workable toolset in the GNU environment. Their decades of experience could be tranferred more easily environments beyond Unix and Windows.
It took a village to build the world of open source choices. A very savvy village is required to open-source the expertise in Powerhouse, Eloquence, ScreenJet and others. Consultants have reported their migration work employs such tools. Now the IT teams like the one at Harte & Lyne have moved on to open source. The shift has had its issues, though.
In the late 2000s a product similar to Powerhouse was created in open source, an Informix 4GL clone called AuBit. However, by the time that project was mature enough to consider for our purposes we were already committed to Ruby on Rails (RoR). We adopted the web application approach because we wished to employ generic browsers in place of specific terminal emulation software.
But the price of using RoR has been constant change to its underlying code base with commensurate breakage in our production code. This is due to the very nature of Open Source. Projects such as RoR are staffed by what are essentially a bunch of ill-disciplined hackers. Each contributor is driven as much as by ego and anything else and thus each attempts to place their individual marks on each iteration of the software.
This often occurs at the same time as they are learning what is really needed from the software. The result is an absolute absence of backward compatibility. There is usually an overarching individual that exercises some restraint. But the the mantra tends to be: what is old is useless, new is better, change is for the best, and who cares what breaks.
Compared to the rock-like stability of the HP 3000, writing software based on RoR is akin to building a castle on quicksand: expensive, time consuming, and as likely to fall down and be swallowed as anything else. Thus we are not as far along as we expected.Things may not be quite as bad as that, but I am feeling somewhat put out with that project at the moment.
Open source emerged from a need to reduce costs and tap a waiting array of expertise. Learning these tools is a better next step for the 3000 expert who wants employment or engagements. There's lots of Windows in the world, but lots of Windows expertise, too. Leading a company toward a path of open source solutions is good, groundbreaking work. It might be a novel achievement to list in a resume or a consulting skill set.
February 17, 2016
Free trial UDACentral makes its debut
A corporate-grade migration tool gained a free trial version for datacenters including the HP 3000 this week, as MB Foster introduced UDACentral's latest version.
"Data migrations are challenging when you need to change database types or attempt to perform data transformations during the migration," said Myles Foster, the company's new head of product development. "With the availability of a free trial our data migration product UDACentral is now easier than ever to obtain.
Along with the free version, MB Foster is also offering corporate and enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) licenses for UDACentral. "I realized that SaaS models of UDACentral will help companies reduce costs to free up capital for other business priorities," Foster said, "and enable strategic decision-making around IT investments."
UDACentral isn't limited to MPE/iX hosts, but Foster said the tool's target includes HP 3000 sites. The software began its lifecycle in 2002 as a means to "gives migration projects the centralized switchyard for replacing data securely while preserving its integrity,” said Birket Foster at the product's rollout. For more than a decade the software was employed in migration engagements, integrated by MB Foster’s Platinum Migration Partner team, working alongside a customer’s IT group.In November 2003 UDACentral was a part of HP's Transition Tools Partner coupon offering. The promotion vendors were named Transition Partners, since customers in that era had little immediate need for migrations. A transfer of IMAGE data to Oracle was among the leading features that year. HP needed a customer to commit through a purchase order for an HP-UX server to replace a 3000.
By now UDACentral converts and migrates data between more than 20 databases. The software uses a Data Explorer to generate an Entity Relationship Diagram. Within a year of its introduction, Graceland University used the software to make its transition from MPE/iX to HP-UX and the Informix database.
UDACentral is also a certified product in the BCIP software innovation program, run by the Canadian government. Software in this Built In Canada Program is available to government agencies and entities such as provincial departments and nationwide organizations. It's pre-qualified for integration into governmental datacenters.
"We used to employ UDACentral in jobs and get paid for our services," Foster said. "Now we're adding the strategy of making our power tools available for people to do the job themselves." The software is aimed at integrators, consultants, and datacenter managers.
January 26, 2016
Migrating apps creates years of 3000 work
A double-handful of HP 3000s, 10 in all, remain on duty a few more years at a North American manufacturer with multiple sites. The systems are a mix of 9x9 and N-Class systems, waiting on a project to complete that will replace the 3000 apps with comparable software on Windows.
This app replacement is an example of one of the three flavors of migration discussed tomorrow (Jan. 27) in an MB Foster webinar. The first of a four-part series, Application Migrations / 3R's of Migration, starts at 2 PM Eastern US time.
At the North American manufacturer, according to systems engineer Dan Barnes, the Fortune 1000 company uses Lawinger Consulting for HP 3000 application management.
Our client has four remaining production locations using individual HP 3000s, plus one EDI server and one development server. All are awaiting conversion to a Wintel-based application alternative, which is still two-to-five years down the road for them. We have an additional 4 DR servers as backup to these systems.
There's nothing virtual about these systems. The servers are physical HP 3000s. "We will stay with these until completion of the application migration, then harvest," Barnes said.
Lawinger's support team does all the 3000 support remotely, unless specific activities require them to be onsite. The application "is being modified as a replacement to the shelf app," Barnes added.
Replacement plans for migration have some of the highest rates of success, even though the software must often be heavily modified to match existing business practices. Lift and shift proposals from the past decade, where tens to hundreds of thousands of lines of code were dropped onto a new platform, are being trimmed back.
Foster's webinars often include advice on the best practices of choosing replacement software. A company making a transition to a replacement app needs to understand what data will be needed, at what detail level, and in what timeframe. The best answers to those questions might come from outside of the IT group. In fact, Foster says they often do. A solid team of transition stakeholders always includes an important seat for a member from the business group.
Replacement of a 15- or 20-year MPE/iX app suite also might not be a favored choice in the IT group. That group includes the experts who know the programs best. Nothing seems like it will be a clean, quick fit for what's been running the company — not at first. Replacing with a non-MPE version of the app sometimes leaves key integrated surround code at the curb, too. Replacing surround code is a good project for outside expertise. Companies which consult on that task have field experience on success to share.
The good news: replacing a business suite is not as dangerous as replacing a human body joint. You get to shop and specify and test for replacement software, even while the worn-down hip of the business suite continues to bear the weight of the company's enterprise. Backing out of a replacement -- replacing the replacement -- is just as extensive in software as it is in medicine. It's like doing it all over again. But replacing after an attempt at rehosting? That's the least effective strategy of all.
January 22, 2016
A 3000, awaiting replacement, still at work
If the above headline sounds like your homesteading situation, then you're an interim homesteader. Or a wannabe migrator, which can amount to the same thing if the pain of retaining a 3000 and MPE is low. In the hospital they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10. Nobody says 0, unless they're deep into morphine. There's usually some.
At Cerro Wire, the pain level must be not more than a 2, but the 3000 is being targeted for replacement. As part of our survey of the 3000 managers who speak up on the 3000-L, we got a report back from Herb Statham. He's led the 3000 computing at the manufacturer based in Alabama, with operations elsewhere in the US, too. Statham notes that the MPE server at Cerro continues to work. It's something like staying on your job even after you've been laid off, because they can't find a replacement yet.
Uncommon for an employee. Commonplace among interim homesteading systems. Statham, who was hiring for 3000 operations as recently as 2014 -- and had a contract 3000 expert at work until October — reports that Intel-based systems are preferred now at Cerro.
We are still running an A500 box at Cerro Wire. The game’s afoot to replace our current business applications with ones that are Intel- and Microsoft-based. I do not know when the final decision will be made, but the HP 3000 just keeps chirping along. I am trying to get “semi-retired” to only work two or three days a week, until the “new and better” system is in place.
Intel had prospects earlier at Cerro, in a different capacity. Statham was public about a 3000 emulator's chances there, even before the Stromasys Charon software had a big footprint. Cerro was going to be a classic 3000 manufacturer pushing their MPE apps into a long-running role. Leaving the HP hardware behind looked to be important, but other apps on other platforms were already working there.Some IT managers call this situation "floating." So long as the MPE applications don't fall short, their cost of ownership and low need for attention keeps them running. A turn-off date at the start of 2016 becomes a midyear close-out, and then that depends on how soon replacement apps on Windows get integrated. Any nagging pains about relying on an environment now in its fifth decade of useful life are offset by the Tylenol of low costs and stability.
It works for companies that don't see massive growth coming soon. At Cerro, which is a Berkshire Hathaway company, business has been good. Back in 2014, just before the help-wanted call went out, the pressure to migrate was low.
In profile stories from 2014, we heard this report.
Statham has no pressure from Cerro management to replace the applications that are successful at running the company. With ample spare parts, independent support and storage consulting, and his own source in hand, he needs only the green light from Dell to move forward. Specifics on pricing and performance are still in play from Stromasys, at least from his vantage point. A 1.5 version of CHARON HPA/3000 was announced late last year, promising increased performance. But meeting the speed needs of an A-Class would be no challenge for the CHARON lineup.
This veteran of 3000 deployment and management has little desire to send his company toward an application replacement that might end up with Cerro "spending millions of dollars." There are many years left for MPE/iX, and his company is an all-HP shop, with the exception of a couple of Dell monitors on Statham's desk. He can see a long future for the app the company has fine-tuned to its business.
The CALENDAR intrinsic roadblock is the only thing he can forecast by now. He's not sure how HP might react to an independent fix for that issue, a date challenge that's still 13 years away. (Of course, now it's 11-plus years until the December 31, 2017 deadline)
"If we could ever get this 2027 thing out of the way, you could run your applications indefinitely, so long as you’ve got someone to support them," he says. "My only concern is HP themselves, in the event that someone said they had a patch to the operating system. You wouldn't have to worry about the year, because there was some type of workaround."
There's a number of ideas in there, from relying on MPE doing its job 11 more years (not out of the range of possibility) to seeing an independent lab develop a 2027 workaround (also not impossible, so long as community experts don't do more than semi-retire) to HP getting in the way of this kind of lifespan extension. There's zero pain to the MPE's creator in letting the OS keep working. It doesn't require much pay by now. That's the sort of thing that makes some migrations wannabes, or at least keeps them floating in the future.
January 21, 2016
Taking a Charge at Transition's Costs
Changing your IT infrastructure might become more critical in 2016. Hardware is older, especially the hardware HP built and sold to run MPE/iX servers. One solution is to migrate to a new OS environment. Another refresh for IT might come from emulating the PA-RISC servers with Intel-based servers. But in either case, some software will have to come along, a move to help contain transition costs.
License transfer practices come into focus during these projects. While moving from MPE/iX to another OS, most shops would like to keep what's been working, if the software's got prospects to grow along with IT's needs. In some cases that's possible, because the vendor has put in its work to adopt a new platform. A couple of middleware providers have done this. MB Foster and Minisoft both reached out to HP-UX users coming out of their MPE/IX environments. Minisoft's Doug Greenup reported this week that Summit Information Systems Spectrum users — whose vendor is now Fiserv, post-migration — headed to HP-UX when leaving the 3000 credit union application. Their target was Eloquence, the database designed to embrace IMAGE applications into an SQL world.
"We have quite a few Eloquence customers," he said, "more then 100. Many of the Fiserv Credit Union customers moved from MPE to HP-UX and use our ODBC driver for Eloquence." Minisoft's also got an ODBC for IMAGE product. That's an example of a cross-platform development strategy, something to keep costs under control. When your existing vendor does a version of your product for a migration target, that's fortunate. It's even more fortunate when you're not expected to re-license the product.
Last week the Minisoft ODBC for IMAGE product became the target of a competitive upgrade campaign. MB Foster says it will let a Minisoft ODBC customer switch to UDALink for MPE/iX for the price of a support contract. We took note of that campaign, a classic move from the days when new MPE/iX software was being sold in a market active enough to support multiple vendors for a single product like middleware. Going into competition, and retaining customers in the face of it, smacks of moxie in a market that's quiet and stable by now. It helps if your product has feature differences, so a 64-Bit ODBC driver, and the ability to use Suprtool's Self Describing (SD) Files, are getting touted in that offer.
Both vendors say they support Windows 10 with their middleware. No matter how much grief the new Microsoft environment is causing, it's still a certain part of IT futures. Windows 10 support is essential to keeping a 3000 current with the latest PC clients tapping IMAGE/SQL data.
Vendors in the 3000 market had to go where new system sales were happening, though. For MB Foster, its HP-UX version of UDALink is preserving investments at a site where the biggest single group of 3000s was migrated. At the same time, this site is using Minisoft's middleware on HP-UX, too. The situation at the college group looks like a lesson in preventing extra costs in a transition. Migration has plenty of prerequisite costs.There are no more MPE/iX computers in service at the Washington Community College Consortium, a group of 34 organizations once run by 3000s. The college collective turned off its 3000s in 2012, giving over the services to Unix systems built by HP. Minisoft's middleware works there for the Unix servers. So does the MB Foster software. The educational organization didn't have to re-develop its hundreds of reports it built over years of 3000 services.
"They use UDALink Reporter for UNIX (formally DataExpress) for reporting on their HP-UX systems," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "We converted DataExpress from the MPE version to the Unix version, so that the college could continue to use the hundreds of host-based reports they created over the years. They also are using it well for bulk extracts, offloading data."
The cost of the software for a fresh platform was not a show-stopper there, which seems to be the case for 3000 vendors who serve with middleware and key utilities. Database management, data extract software, middleware: much of it can be moved to something like the Stromasys Charon emulator, or even a new OS, for little to no charge. "Preservation and continued use of reports created on the 3000 was key to the conversion of UDALink Reporter on MPE to UDALink Reporter on UX," Whitehead said.
Minisoft's product made a move to contain costs, too. "Some of our MPE customers have migrated over the years to the HP-UX platform, running with Eloquence," Greenup said. "So long as a customer is on a current product support contract we allow them to "swap" or transfer licenses at no additional cost."
Even where there are what amounts to administrative charges — the equivalent of HP's license $432 transfer fee to move an MPE/iX instance from one kind of iron to another — many vendors make these minimal. Everybody's budget is important, but I find it interesting to see IT managers squeezing costs so hard that a $125 per month support fee, or $1,000 one-time to administer a license change, gets scrutiny. Yes, that's about $125, or less than my U-Verse TV bill.
This is corporate IT we're talking about here. The minimums shouldn't be that low. There's money needed to be spent on Windows turnover, yes. But a corporate server needs a budget bigger than a TV bill.
Redevelopment costs a great deal more than that, of course. One month's work might not be enough to bring hundreds of reports into an HP-UX environment; it might take much longer. In a case like that, the $1,000 looks like a better option than three months of an IT pro's time, at around $25,000.
Both Minisoft and MB Foster help to enable Charon HPA emulation projects, too. Those kinds of transfers don't require a new license, something that the new-ish owners of Powerhouse can't embrace yet. Containing costs with support-based license transfers is a forward-looking move. Forward is a direction you'd expect vendors to focus upon. IT changes often. It shouldn't be more expensive than absolutely necessary.
January 15, 2016
Competitive upgrading lives on for 3000s
In the 1990s, HP contracted to send its ODBC middleware development to MB Foster. The result was ODBCLink/SE, bundled into MPE/iX from the 5.5 release onward. The software gave the 3000 its first community-wide connection to reporting tools popular on PCs. HP decided that the MB Foster lead in development time was worth licensing, instead of rebuilding inside the 3000 labs. Outside labs had built parts of the 3000's fundamental software before then. But ODBCLink/SE was the first time independent software retained its profile, while it was operating inside of the 3000's FOS. Every 3000 running 5.5 and later now had middleware.
Other ODBC solutions were available in that timeframe. Minisoft still sells and supports its product. That's one reason why MB Foster's running a competitive upgrade offer for users of the Minisoft middleware. The upgrade was announced yesterday. 3000 owners who make the switch from Minisoft for IMAGE ODBC to Foster's software will get a full version of UDALink for the cost of only the annual support payments.
This kind of competitive offer was one of Minisoft's sales tools while it competed with WRQ for terminal emulation seats. There was a period where NS/VT features were not a part of every Reflection package, but were a staple in the Minisoft MS/92.
Foster's ODBC software has been extended to use 64-bit ODBC drivers, embrace Suprtool's Self Describing Files, and more. UDALink was a part of the migration that the Washington State community college consortium pulled off in 2011 when it moved 34 systems to Unix. The vendor has continued to develop to make a state of the art middleware solution.
Almost as notable: seeing MB Foster compete for business like vendors did routinely in the 1990s. The upgrade offer tells us that there are 3000 sites out there still looking to extend their development cycles. UDALink is also built for platforms other than the 3000, but any outreach to capture MPE/iX customers is news here in 2016. Chris Whitehead is fielding the calls and emails for the upgrade offer, which runs through June of this year.
January 11, 2016
What HP's Synergy is Poised to Deliver
"Over the next several months, the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will be shipping a fresh IT platform it calls Synergy. This won't feature a new processor family and it's not going to feature a new operating environment for business customers. Understanding what Synergy might do was a big topic in last month's HP Discover show in London. The product seems to be aimed at changing your plans for IT investment, without sacrifices, as a regular business process.
HP and IBM have sold this concept before, going as far back as the days when you'd buy more computing power than you first planned, just by turning on CPUs and cycles. The vendors levied a temporary charge back then, a bill that would show up like extra long distance fees. Synergy is leagues more complex than that, but it's got a similar aim. Overprovisioning -- stacking up too much power in reserve — will be the black mark to be erased in IT planning.
Like all of HP's innovations, Synergy's only connection to the world of the 3000 exists in leaving the MPE platform. It's a destination, this product HP expects to ship before mid-year. No one knows about its pricing, but the fluid resource pools, auto discovery capabilities, and containerized applications are supposed to reduce the overprovisioning by as much as 60 percent. HP says that will cut immediate capital expenditures up to 17 percent, and cost of ownership capital expenditures up to 30 percent.
The challenge in adapting a new mindset that focuses on resources rather than platforms, one that thinks of apps as pop-up shops, lies in translating the IT-speak of our current decade. We've found an article that does a good job of that, so you can see the hardware and software inside Synergy from a perspective of the IT planning of 15 years ago.
"The new platform named Synergy an is based around the idea of composable infrastucture – hardware that can be programatically composed into the desired form for a specific use case," writes Peter Sellers at the website Techazine.com. Sellers looks like he's got in-trench experience in IT, rather than consultant credentials. The website identifies him as "a senior-level systems administrator for America’s largest telephone cooperative, Horry Telephone Cooperative in South Carolina. Sellers writes
The Synergy platform follows up on the Project Synergy concept HP introduced during the June Discover event in Las Vegas. While HPE has been working with third-parties to get support for its API for composable infrastructure, it was also creating the new generation of hardware needed to power the concept.
It's often a revelation to see new-speak tech explained in classic IT management terms. The article is worth a read. Synergy is likely to be the product the new HPE will push in 2016. The language here sounds like it could be spoken by a manager whose job is to administer hardware, rather than write white papers.
Synergy trims down the number of compute slots from 16 to 12. When asked why, HPE execs told me that the goal of the Synergy platform was to power compute for the next 10 years and that meant flexibility not density as a primary concern. Some peer bloggers scoffed at the 10-year future for the platform, but as an HP customer, that is the lifetime I have received from my existing C7000 BladeSystems as a platform, which are approaching a 10 year anniversary.
December 31, 2015
Throwing Back, and Looking Forward
We'll be taking tomorrow off to celebrate the new year. But first, some HP news.
Hewlett-Packard employees are still having meetings around the 3000. They are employees retired from HP, mostly, and the meetings are not at the HPE campus. Before you get too excited about a wish for a new business prospect for the 3000's new year, I should say these are reunions of a sort. A holiday party happened for CSY happened just before Christmas.
The revelers from that party included some people still working for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Corp. But it was a way to look back, and in one of our Throwback Thursday moments it give us a chance to savor people who made the 3000 what it once was. The wishes are for what might still be.
The meeting was wrapped around a brunch held on the Monday before Christmas and held in Cupertino. Arriving at 9AM in Cupertino to enjoy the company of people with MPE savvy must have felt like a throwback. The notice showed up on Facebook, sent among 43 people with a lot of names you'd recognize from community leadership and tech savvy. "Just seeing all your names makes me happy," one CSY veteran said.
Like the HP3000 Reunion of 2011, people couldn't attend who wanted to do so. One said he was going to reschedule a meeting of his with today's HP so he could rejoin his comrades. Plenty of throwbacks in CSY work for other companies by now. Somebody else in the 3000 community wishes that current HP employees could work in the service of MPE. It won't be among HPE's New Year's Resolutions, but the sentiment illustrates where the 3000 could travel next year.
"Hopefully 2016 will bring renewed rational decision-making by the new folks running the new HP," says 3000 customer Tim O'Neill, "and they will once again concentrate on making excellent hardware matched with software that gives customers reason to buy HP. Maybe they'll bring renewed emphasis on MPE/iX homesteading on Stromasys, instead of a purposeful blind rush towards alternatives."
It's possible that HP, now morphing into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, might have changed enough to be a company the 3000 community would want to associate with it. While looking over the replies to the holiday CSY party, I saw names of good people. Top HP executives were not among these retirees, although Winston Prather chipped in good wishes.
Good things can happen in 2016, but even Tim O'Neill knows that HP hardware running MPE will not see any reunion with the customers who held it dear. Not unless it's a high-powered ProLiant running the Charon emulator.
"HP could announce HP-UX 12.00 running on HP hardware, even if the HP hardware has Intel CPU in it," he suggests. Right now, HP-UX is destined to an 11.4 release for the rest of its lifespan. The vendor isn't moving to Intel hardware with HP-UX, just NonStop. VMS is heading for independent ownership.
O'Neill adds that "Some people I know are buying HP components like blades or storage, but not whole systems. For example, they buy HP blades then run VMWare on them. Curious customers could ask "Why buy HP if you are not running HP software?"
The reason for buying HP hardware speak to the changes in IT management. To celebrate the future with HP, you probably won't be concerned with its invented-here operating environments. Linux, Windows, all the successors to MPE from the commodity world are driving replacements. If the sting has left your cheek from a slap delivered more than a decade ago, then a 2016 with HPE products in it will not be a pipe dream. If Winston's name didn't make you shudder, you've moved onward.
The calendar always moves onward, after all, but the 3000 community tends to remain — even as it does its own morphing into new work. The Christmas meeting "shows why the old HP was so special," one 3000 vet said in a Facebook reply. "Long after CSY and the HP3000 are gone, co-workers are still getting together. What a testament to Dave and Bill's HP."
Happy New Year to you all. We will look forward to new developments, technical or otherwise, in 2016.
December 30, 2015
3000's '15 was littered with crumbs of news
It's the penultimate day of 2015, a date when summary and roundups prevail in the world of news. The year marked some milestones for the NewsWire, some losses of the community's oldest treasures, and one major breakup of an old flame. Here's a breadcrumb trail of stories of extra note, retold in the final stanza of the 3000's 43d full year serving businesses.
Checks on MPE's subsystems don't happen, do they? — We learned that HP's subsystem software doesn't really get checked by MPE to see if it's on a valid HP 3000 license. "None of HP's MPE/iX software subsystems that I've ever administered had any sort of HPSUSAN checks built into them," reported Brian Edminster, our community's open source software resource. Licensing MPE is a formality.
Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s — A new SAN-based service uses storage in the cloud to help back up HP 3000s. The HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data.
NewsWire Goes Green — After 20 years of putting ink on paper and the paper into the mails, we retired the print issues of the NewsWire and went all-digital. We also marked the 10th anniversary of service from this blog and waved a proud flag of history to celebrate our founding Fall of two decades ago. We miss the print, but you won't miss the news. Bless the Web.
Patches Are Custom Products in 2015 — HP licensed the MPE source code five years ago, and just a handful of elite support companies are using it to create customized patches and workarounds. If your support provider doesn't have a source license, it may be time to spruce up your provider chain.Still Emulating, After All of These Years — Several sites where the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator is working reported the solution is as stable and steady as ever, while others continued to emerge in the community. Even a 3000 using antique DTCs could be bought over to the light side of Intel-based virtualization.
N-Class 3000 now priced at $3,000 — The bottom-end price on the top of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware line approached the same number as the server. A $3,000 N-Class 3000, and later a $2,000 model, both appeared on the used marketplace. A fully-transferred license for a server could lift the prices, of course, for a persnickety auditor.
Big companies still use the HP 3000 — A reader asked for proof that large companies were still relying on the 3000, and we discovered more than you'd expect 12 years after HP stopped making the server. Publicly held companies, too.
Work launches on TurboIMAGE Wiki page — Terry O'Brien of DISC started up a new project to document TurboIMAGE on Wikipedia, an effort that drew summertime attention.
MANMAN vendor wants to run datacenters — Infor is still managing MANMAN support for 3000 sites. The vendor is encouraging all of its customers to turn over their datacenter operations to them.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise trots out security in opener — The old flame that spurned the 3000's future ran into another kind of split-up when HP cut itself in two at the end of October. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise got custody of business servers and the support websites split up as HPE became the new name for that old flame.
Returning to Software, After Services — The most primal of the HP Platinum Migration partners, MB Foster, started to turn its focus onto data migration software for sale. The future of UDACentral lies in becoming a product that integrators and consultancies can buy, and customers can rent by the month. The CEO says the year to come will mark a rise in the percentage of software revenues for his company, where migration service has been leading sales for years.
December 28, 2015
Hello, who's still out there? Permanent 404s
2015 has seen comings in the 3000 world, but more goings. Some MPE veterans have signed off of the 3000 mailing list, headed to retirement or the new work on commodity platforms like Linux or Windows. There was a singular departure, too, as Jeff Kell passed away after leaving a legacy of the mailing list-newsgroup of HP3000-L.
Kell was so notable that the iconic tech website Slashdot devoted a front page article to him late last month. Tracy Johnson reported that "I cobbled together a few links from the 3000 mailing lists and managed to get a Slashdot headline accepted for Jeff. The message below is Slashdot's report."
Congratulations, your Slashdot submission was featured on the front page! Every day we review hundreds of submissions, but we can only post a few to the front page.
There have also been also the comings, goings and migrations of Web resources. Stromasys posted a case study about one of its new 3000 emulator customers. There have been other outposts that have gone quiet, or at reported missing, during this year. One of the temporary absences was one portal to the NewsWire. Another community resource is unavailable this week. Client Systems's website is off the radar, notable because it's the resting place for the HP Jazz resources including MPE utilities and tech reports.
In the meantime, those Jazz resources remain available on the Web at the HP Migration server of Fresche Legacy, formerly Speedware. Heading to hpmigrations.com/ HPe3000_resources/HP_jazz/ gets you third party utilities, software, as well as a link to Papers and Training. Speedware licensed everything that was stored on Jazz when HP closed off its server at the end of 2008.We're still on the lookout for the whereabouts of Client Systems, a company that once licensed the stories of the NewsWire. Those were the days when the dot-com boom hadn't gone bust yet. Client Systems was the exclusive North American HP 3000 distributor, during the era when Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise business needed somebody to prep and ship servers loaded with MPE and subsystem software.
While the clientsystems.com domain is pointing at a Network Solutions "website not available" parking page this week, it may not be a permanent goodbye. We know about these misdirections. Back in October, 3000newswire.com landed you at a parking page operated by rascally Russians. The front door to the NewsWire these days is our blog page. However, access to the stories of 1996-2005, presented as printed issues and online updates, became limited to our search engine.
Our Latest News list of links to our blog articles fell out of service during that domain name theft. 3k Associates caught the cold that caused the NewsWire's sniffles, as 3k.com got hijacked for a little while. Those Latest News posts get created at 3k.com. 3k's domain theft meant our main domain went missing awhile.
It didn't look good. It's common to see such a domain theft go un-recovered, so we were happy to see 3k.com get back into its rightful hands. 3000newswire.com never got snatched, but we found a couple of community members who wondered if we were still around. When I mentioned to Vladimir Volokh our front door was being barred, it looked like everything we had was hijacked. His wife Anne, helping me with a story about masters who were improving MPE manufacturing software, sent her condolences.
Vladimir told me about the hijacking of your website--incredible! I'm wondering what developments will follow regarding the 3000 Newswire, if any. What a story!
Anne wasn't the only one who figured we'd gone offline. Prolific commenter Tim O'Neill worried for our health, too. These are too-common comings and goings on the Web, but you can't be certain what they genuinely mean until there's an obituary, or an email. (We'd say a phone call, but that's so 1995.) In the weeks when Chris Bartram of 3k did his mighty work to wrest his domain back from the Russians, it looked like the NewsWire was out of business. Or at least to anybody who doesn't use our 3000newswire.com/blog address.
3k is making a Web move now, a byproduct of seeing value rise in Bartram's two-character domain name. He's been one of our most precious resources here at the NewsWire since before our beginning. In the years before we started our news service, 3k Associates used our business communications expertise for data sheets, advertising, even Interex conference giveaways.
You'll still be able to say hello at 3kassociates.com, Bartram told me today.
The folks wanting to buy 3k.com want it for something un-HP3000 related (I don't know what). But the fact that it's a 2-letter domain name (which they haven't allowed for many years) makes it valuable. DNS appraisal services appraise it as high as six figures.
I went looking for 3k.com resources while I researched Command Interface scripts, since scripting has become a topic of interest to 3000 members. Either they've got 3000 scripts like JCL jobstreams they need to replace, or there's a desire to automate things so less management is required. The 3000 always needed less hand-holding than other servers. But people are the expensive resource today, so as they retire and interim help takes their place, automation keeps things running. In a new era where a veteran's :BYE doesn't mean goodbye to MPE, scripting can minimize maintenance.
There's been more permanent goodbyes to the Hewlett-Packard stewardship of 3000 information. Oh, you can get hits for HP 3000 at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's hpe.com site. But they're a collection of the StoreEasy 3000 storage gateway, or network switches. The HP 3000-24G-PoE+ Wireless Switch comes closest to matching a 3000 search.
The byproduct of that HP goodbye is that some links from the up-and-running web resources like 3kassociates and hpmigration.com point at missing Hewlett-Packard pages. So it continues to go, these resources which help 3000 homesteading or assist in migrations. I give thanks for our sponsors, who keep us from going all 404 on you. The lesson to carry out of here is that appearances on the web can be deceiving -- or as we noted earlier this month, reports of a death can be exaggerated. Instead of wondering, you can call, all '95-style.
December 21, 2015
ETL needs a C phase to migrate data
Extract, Transform, and Load make up the needed steps for a successful data migration. The larger an organization has become — or the longer its history — the greater the need to add a C, for Cleanse, to the ETL. Cleaning data is an essential part of decommissioning a 3000's data on the way to migration. MB Foster has been using its UDACentral for more than 10 years to do the ECTL steps in preparation to decommission 3000s. The software's gained some new features recently, on the way to becoming a tool for sale to system integrators and consultants. It's been in use at MB Foster's migration engagements up to now.
The product now can produce an Entity-Relationship diagram. This visual map can be created for documentation of existing database structures. It can be printed, or shared via email, because it's a PDF document.
During the ECTL process, UDACentral now can call a URL to pass in data and get back values that will be inserted into a virtual column. One customer, according to MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster, "had five scripts they ran in a row to clean up a phone number field. This enabled them to use those scripts. When transferring data, they're moving that column out, get the five scripts run, that place the result in that column." This kind of cleaning does slow down the transformation and loading, "but for most people that's not as big a thing as having clean data."
Clean data eliminates errors on a new platform. Data decommissioning typically occurs when
• An application is being replaced – by a new application or an upgrade.
• Hardware or an application no longer has support
• An OS vendor obsoletes a platform or chipset
• An operating system has reached its usable lifecycle
• A company has a change in status – being merged into or acquired, or an insolvency — and an application will no longer be used.
In order to begin such a decommissioning, IT managers should determine owners and key stakeholders. With the patience 3000 managers are known for, they must discover the data owners' requirements for movement and maintenance of legacy app data. "It's not only important from a compliance perspective, but it may be critical to a line of business or department," Foster says. He advises that IT managers adopt a business process and legal view of long-term requirements, rather than just a technology approach.
During this ID phase, understand that data is indelible. "They say there are two things to count on, death and taxes," Foster said. "Now there are three -- let's add data to the list." When you plan to migrate data to the new app as required, you separate data into transaction categories. For active data, figure out a data migration. For inactive data, determine a historic data plan. A single plan doesn't fit both types of data very well.
Because the company has specialized in data and reports for so many years, MB Foster reminds managers that reporting requirements are a key element of both kinds of plan. Longer-term reporting requirements are often not considered during a data decommissioning process. When you need that kind of information, how will it be presented back to the users who need it? One best practice is collecting line of business and departmental-level reporting requirements -- before you decommission legacy applications and data. The apps and platform may change, but the reporting needs are likely to remain the same.
In some cases, HP 3000 apps are part of a larger, global IT structure. It's a good idea to document corporate data retention policies with the global perspective as a guide. Factor in rules according to individual countries, and remember that specific industries will sometimes dictate compliance policies. It's possible to reach out to corporate internal resources which deal with records management to address their policies.
Once the policies and processes have been established, it's time to standardize on an archiving system. This is the time to work on unifying data and content. That's a process that will proceed smoothly if you can provide a complete view of the archiving system to the data stakeholders and departments. Rules for access to the data will include the issues of security, privacy, and compliance with regulations such as HIPAA for health care, or PCI credit card transactions.
A plan and schedule for decommission will impact plenty of departments and people. When presenting the plan, be prepared to address questions such as "Where will the information go once it's decommissioned?" and "What new application replaces the legacy system?" You'll want ask questions, too, like "What is an acceptable decommissioning timeframe?"
Like any good project that impacts a company asset like data, yours will demand that you create a plan for data integrity validation and auditing. Articulate what quality data means, and share it across the enterprise. "The integrity of your data is vital," Foster said, "and there are many threats to data quality." For example there are hardware problems, old tape archive issues, data entry errors, or carelessness.
Project to decommission legacy data often must consider who owns it. Issues of regulatory and governace must be met, including access to historic data over required periods of time. Some alternatives in these instances include moving the data, providing searchable formatted data, and even having an auditable instance for the "system of record" -- the retiring HP 3000 application or server.
December 17, 2015
TBT: When 2006 Meant 2008 to 3000 Owners
Ten years ago this week, our community was anticipating overtime news for retaining their 3000s. The year 2005's late December marked the HP announcement that the long-running "end of life" date for the server was being delayed an additional two years. After four years of telling customer that the promised end-of-2006 closing of Hewlett-Packard support was indelible, HP erased its plans and added 24 months of HP support availability.
The timing of the news included a message all its own about the 3000's expected life. When a full day-plus elapsed with nary a customer comment, we reported
As for the relative silence from the customer community, this might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. Much of the world is already making plans or departing for R&R. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, well, 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change the options for 2007.
We'd heard all of that year that "2006 means 2006." But by the week before Christmas, 2006 meant 2008. The impact was mixed among the community. The companies who had invested heavily in migration looked up with some dismay at an extended deadline that meant those projects had an extra two years to complete. The homesteading customers who relied on HP's support to justify homesteading breathed a sigh of relief.
But it was the community's vendors who took the bullet for the rest of our world. Platinum Migration Partners were working to fill their project calendars. Some had hired on extra contractor and staff help to service an expected rush of migrations leading to the end of 2006. There was a serious glut of experts during 2006 because of the change. In the homesteading sector, independent support providers looked up to see HP moving the goalposts on the support game. Rather than having a 2006 when expiring HP service contracts could be replaced by indie agreements, the year to come was still more than two years removed from a mandate to switch to third-party support.
HP always like to call the finale of its support program the 3000's End of Life. Prediction of the server's death were like the notices of Mark Twain's demise. That icon of humorists said in 1897, to set the record straight in The New York Journal, "The report of my death was an exaggeration." HP could not be certain even the end of 2008 would be the new end of life for the 3000.
"HP intends to offer basic reactive support services for e3000 systems through at least December, 2008," the company's fact sheet reported. There was the intention part of the statement (no promise) and then the qualifier of "at least." Four full years had elapsed in the migration era by the end of 2005, and Hewlett-Packard had no firm idea of how long its customers would spend using a system whose lifespan was exaggerated — in the wrong direction. As it had for many years, the 3000 was getting short-changed.The year 2005 was the first for the Newswire's blog, so this extension of HP's plans was good news in our office. Rather than starting the Independent-Only Era in just 12 months, it turned out we wouldn't begin that period for another five years. End of 2008 would become End of 2010, an extension not as notable because it was not the first revision of HP plans.
We had the foresight or luck to consider the HP fact sheet to be a piece of history that we'd better preserve ourselves. The company's been scoured and sliced so completely by now that any mention of HP 3000 takes deep detective work to find on the HP Enterprise website. There's printers over in HP Inc with that designation. In 2005, the 3000 extension notice was on an all-3000 page that included migration success stories along with updates about licensing MPE's source code.
When HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties -- if partner interest exists at that time -- to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners.
We spent the next several weeks dissecting the HP announcement for clues about its meaning. Since 2006 no longer meant 2006, extra study of the most current HP strategy was in order. I wrote at the time
As for the third-party MPE source licensing offer, it’s real, but it’s hard to say when it will be extended, or to who. Or what will be in the license. HP's said, "HP intends to license major portions [italics ours] of MPE/iX source code to qualified providers for the purpose of helping them support their customers." Right now HP doesn’t have to open up the source code to anybody until December, 2008, when the vendor is currently scheduled to end all its HP 3000 support. It could be later than that, according to HP. They say they keep listening to what customers want to keep buying (if you overlook the fact that the customers wanted to keep buying 3000s in 2001 -- just not enough customers to keep HP interested in building them.)
As for the support business, guarantees got an extension. Sort of.
HP will remain in the support business in 2007 and 2008, but it will be “basic reactive” support, unless you need mission-critical enterprise level support. Basic reactive gets you HP’s repairs, but nothing proactive. And the vendor’s “6 hours from call to completion” guarantee isn’t part of the basic reactive service, according to Murphy from HP Services — ultimately the arbiter of how long HP will remain in the support business.
It was something to ponder during a lull in business for the community. This news was dropped on the Monday of Christmas Week. Not exactly the most effective and productive time to announce a new lease on life for a mission-critical server and its OS. But for the owner of a 3000 hoping to wring out as much time as possible on a stable platform, HP's change looked like a holiday gift.
December 16, 2015
Returning to Software, After Services
The majority of the HP 3000 community vendors started their practices as software suppliers. The realism of the migration era pushed more than a few out of the 3000 business altogether, while others made their transition to services. But one vendor is making a new push into software, using a product that's been sold as a service until recently.
"We hope to license UDACentral to the main migration group [of the Canadian government]," said Birket Foster of MB Foster. "We're helping to organize that right now. If it all gets to the point where we believe the deal will go, we get into a position where there will be 44 government departments using our software as they go through the migration center."
The licensing of the software is a end-product of Foster's work in the Built In Canada Innovation Program. Rather than using Silicon Valley tech resources, software like UDACentral was built in Foster's Canadian labs. "It was never product-ized to the level we wanted it to be, so we could hand it to a computer-savvy manager and say, "Now you run it.' "
In the summer to come, Foster expects a free version of UDACentral to be available for moving a limited number of data resources, 20,000 database entries, in a DIY data migration task. This Demo Version of the software will be available for personal projects where data must be moved. More importantly, Foster said the year to come will mark a rise in the percentage of software revenues for his company, where migration service has been leading sales for years.
"We used to employ UDACentral in jobs and get paid for our services," Foster said. "Now we're making our power tools available for people to do the job themselves." In the year 2000, MB Foster's revenue was 90 percent software and 10 percent services, but the changes of 2001 flipped that equation. Migrations of data are often handled by systems integrators or resellers, though. Sales and rentals of UDACentral will start to return MB Foster's focus to those pre-migration-era levels, Foster said.
December 14, 2015
Migrations to Windows are game changers
Migrations have always been agents of change, and some of the changes are being triggered by another shift: from an older Windows to a newer version. We're talking Windows Server here, the host software that was once called Windows NT in the days when a 3000 needed an integration strategy with Windows. Plenty of former MPE shops run on Windows. It's been the top choice for migrated customers.
Windows 2016 is on the way, ready to push along the companies who've already moved from Windows 2003 to 2008 to Windows 2012. Application Portfolio Management is letting IT managers look forward to it with an eye toward making the most of investments. 2016 has changes to the datacenter game coming up, including a big hardware refresh. HP is counting on an uptick in its ProLiant business triggered by Windows 2016; the vendor's been looking toward that release date since early this year.
The Tech Preview 4 of 2016 dropped last month. Since there's been previewing and talk about this Windows change since last year, it's given IT managers time to conduct APM assessments. Or get one started, if they haven't already.
"It helps decide which investments need to be done, and when," said Birket Foster of MB Foster about APM. "For example, Windows 2016 uses Docker, and by May, it will be settled down for production use."
Docker will be helping Windows get into the cloud more easily. There are other benefits, payoffs for the Windows 2016 migrations. The open source project has a 1.5 release, one that aims to bring bigger IPV6 addresses to more systems.
Windows upgrades can trigger larger changes, according to another HP 3000 vendor. Dave Clements of Stromasys says that most of the company's Charon virtualizer customers "are on physical platforms. We see some of them moving to VMware when they upgrade from Windows 2003. It's a choice."
The Windows 2016 move is more accurately a re-hosting, to use one of the Five R's of APM Foster has discussed. The hardware stays the same, but it's likely to need an upgrade. Meanwhile, Docker looks like technology that could help in virtualization, too, according to our contributor and 3000 consultant Brian Edminster.
"Docker struck me as an easy mechanism to stand up Linux instances in the cloud -- any number of different clouds, actually," Edminster said earlier this year. According to a Wiki article he pointed out, Docker is based upon open source software, the sort of solution he's been tracking for MPE users for many years.Docker is an open-source project that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers, "thus providing an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating system-level virtualization on Linux. Docker uses resource isolation features of the Linux kernel such as cgroups and kernel namespaces to allow independent "containers" to run within a single Linux instance, avoiding the overhead of starting virtual machines," the Wiki article reports.
Docker is "a standardized software platform for delivering apps at scale," according to an article in Infoworld. And it's taking over the world, the article adds.
Two major operating system projects have already started integrating Docker as a fundamental part of how they work. CoreOS uses Docker to create a pared-down Linux distribution -- one now available on Google Cloud Platform, appropriately enough -- where all software is bundled into Docker containers. Red Hat's already started building major support for Docker into Red Hat Enterprise Linux and has plans for a major reworking of RHEL around Docker, Project Atomic.
December 11, 2015
Virtual testimony: sans servers, sans apps
For the HP 3000 manager who looks at other platforms and longs for their range of choices, a testimonial from HP Enterprise Services might seem like catnip. A story about Lucas Oil that was touted in an email today shows how a 3000-sized IT department improved reliability with virtualization. The story also skips any chapters on application software. Sans servers, sans apps, sans uptime worries, to paraphrase Shakespeare.
It's a success story from HP Services, so it might not be so surprising that the details of custom software are missing. In summary, a two-person IT department (which sounds so much like 3000-class staffing) is cutting down on its physical servers by using a lower-cost quote for vitualization. Lower than Dell's, apparently, which is something of an indictment of VMware, perhaps. Dell and VMware are found everywhere together. Now they're going to belong in the same entity with the upcoming EMC acquisition.
But regarding the case study from HPE, it's more of a hardware infrastructure study rather than a full IT profile. Only Photoshop is mentioned among the software used at Lucas, the company somehow big enough to pay for naming rights to the Indianapolis Colts NFL stadium, but small enough to count on just two people to run a datacenter.
The basics in software tools are mentioned, the building blocks of Windows 2012 users: SQL Server, Windows, Active Directory. There's also a mention of an HR application, which tells us that there are custom apps in there, or HPE didn't consider software a part of the story. This is a testimonial about removing iron from IT. Garrett Geisert is the IT admin at Lucas.
Since we virtualized on our HPE ProLiant DL360 servers and HPE MSA 2040 SAN, management isn’t concerned about availability anymore, because we haven’t had an outage yet. Actually, we did have one outage in the last year but it was because of Google’s file servers, not ours. It’s sure been nice not having to tell people they can’t access their systems.
That's one set of choices that's not available to HP 3000 sites who haven't migrated, unless they consider Stromasys Charon to be a way to virtualize. Hardware failures were vexing Lucas Oil. It's the kind of problem any 3000 site has to plan for, with all of the drives out there being more than a decade old.“If we had a single server with a bad hard drive or blown power supply, it meant kicking of all users of that application until we had the problem fixed," Geisert says in the testimonial. "For us, it could mean shutting down anything from a basic file server to HR to full-on Adobe Photoshop graphics."
Newer hardware can be a serious capital expense. Since migrated sites always have upgrade options — well, the ones that don't use HP-UX, anyway — this expense is always out there lurking, posing as a solution to problems like reliability. Buy newer drives. Buy better power supplies.
The virtualization solution at this 3000-sized IT shop puts multiple servers on a set of ProLiants, and the servers can take over for one another. In the 3000 world this was called high availability with a price tag to match. Virtualization's magic somehow cuts the cost of this while it manages software application nuances like tapping the right databases, even through a virtualized server failure.
It's just like me to think that because there's no application detail in the testimonial, it's not authentic. It makes me curious about whether those app databases needed revision to accommodate virtualization's payoffs. This might be a nuance that HP Services provided or consulted upon. A reseller is mentioned in the story, a resource that's not virtual at all. And everyone seems happy with all this is sans from the story, especially the downtime. It's been that way for HP 3000s for decades, too.
December 10, 2015
Virtual resources, real costs: VMware, Cloud
While doing stories on the Tomorrow of IT, virtualization of resources and platforms comes up a lot. In fact, the most popular choices for virtualization represent the today of IT for anyone budgeted for change. But for the company still tied to the traditional datacenter model, hosting an app on a cloud server or even virtualizing a processor might look like more distant futures. Their costs are very real, though, figures that represent a long-term investment that 3000 managers might find new.
Stromasys stories about the Charon HPA emulator for 3000 CPUs often feature VMware. The company's product manager Dave Clements says that VMware isn't essential to eliminating a physical 3000, replacing HP iron with a virtualized MPE server. A lot of the Charon customer base ends up using VMware, though.
Cloud has its costs to calculate, too. "A pretty good sized virtualized server in the cloud costs about $1,000 a month," Clements said. "We don't discourage it, but we don't sell it, either. We can do [cloud virtualization] but truth be known, it's not high on our list."
Budgets vary a great deal, and so $12,000 might look like a cost for a physical server where you only pay for it once every five years. A price for any virtualized software solution or a service could look out of reach for a smaller customer — plenty of those in the 3000 world — or a bargain for the big players (there are large corporations still in the 3000 user base today, too.). "Crazy expensive" is a phrase that's been tied to VMware. The company has a cost of ownership calculator that's educational, but even a five-server license is $16,000. Those dollars buy an IT manager the flexibility to host any array of platforms, though.
There is a small set of Charon users adopting VMware, according to Clements. "VMware is not a requirement for Charon," he said. "Most of our customers are on physical platforms. If VMware is available it can be used, unless there is a customer requirement for direct access to a physical device, like a tape drive."
VMware has a cloud product line, too. Clouds come up in many stories in 2015. While interviewing Birket Foster for a story about Application Portfolio Management, he made this case for walking away from physical hardware costs.
Virtualization can be physical, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers, or systems installed at Rackspace. Or it can be logical, like VMware as a platform for hosts, or Charon ready for MPE. Blending all three of these is the future of HP 3000 installations. The more virtualization you employ, of course, the more complex the solution becomes. Last week, HP customers and executives testified to keeping tech solutions simple.
If we were to own a fleet of cars or trucks, there'd be a fleet manager sitting at the table. They'd be able to tell me the current mileage on each of their cars, when the next oil change was due, and what it's costing them to maintain each car. Ask somebody the same kind of questions, about a server or anything in their IT fleet, and they have no idea. That's one of the reasons why as soon as they virtualize, they typically get to reduce the cost of their IT infrastructure by 30 percent, maybe as high as 60 percent — just by virtualizing.
Simple plus low-cost always had a price to offset though: paying people smart enough to make it reliable. "The hardware used to be expensive, and the people were cheap," Foster said. "Now, it's just the opposite."
What's offset these people costs are the standardizations for applications. Custom programming was a common choice while the 3000 was on the rise. Now applications can be considered off the shelf. Replacing a custom application with these off-shelf apps is a non-simple project. Most companies need help to do this. They engage virtual people — short-term consulting — to transform an app from custom to common. Then they can invest in the new datacenter tech: virtualization, with the blinking disk lights off in a co-located cloud datacenter.
At MB Foster, the company has an AWS version of its UDACentral software available. "We allow people to be able to migrate data through the cloud," Foster said. "A couple of times a year we test a new version to see how well UDACentral scales. We send a command to AWS to go from the two-processors we normally use to 128. We rent them for the two hours we do the testing. Building a server for that kind of test would be a lot of money invested, and not being used."
That's a physical expense, against virtual promises and opportunity, applied to real-world applications and workloads. There's a reason that the scope of virtualization is broad. Whether it will work in a datacenter's tomorrow is "it depends," but it seems like a test of the prospect is worth an investment — whether its virtualizing hardware to run MPE, or getting away from datacenter servers altogether. The former is the route for a homesteader, the latter a path made possible by migration.
December 09, 2015
More R's for APM's Migration Uses
The third R of the application portfolio management process is Retire, but it might well lead to special storage for HP 3000 app data. A business application can be retired, said Birket Foster in a webinar today, when it has no more business value. However, just like the 3000 itself, retiring software can demand specific decommissioning procedures.
"The application may have to be a system of record," Foster said, "and although it has no more business value, it has a requirement from a compliance point of view. Its data must be preserved in the right manner." In some cases, such compliance has kept 3000s online years after an expected decommissioning date.
While using APM for migration planning, the R's of Rehost, Replace and Retire are most often the paths taken. But there's also a Re-Platform choice that can be appropriate. Rehosting can mean something as direct as migrating the data "and changing a database on the way over, and updating the toolsets in dev, test, and production environments." In a re-platform, "the old system might be dying, but it takes three years to go through the replacement process." Replacements can be done in as little as 3-6 months, but in a larger organization it can take years. Just picking up an app and moving is a re-platform.
"Sometimes, your time is worth more than money," he said. If it's going to take three years, "and my disk drives are already dying, I need to re-platform," Foster said. This is "a temporary move to get you to where to need to get to. You still don't know which of those three R's it would have been — it's just that you need to do an emergency fix."
If the app can stay where it is, "There could be a Retain, if I'm happy with the platform that's currently there," he said. "It needs to have the green light, if we're to use an application dashboard. Green apps can stay where they are. They work both for the business and for the technology."
Five R's in all are likely to make up the scope of a project MB Foster's working on for the Canadian government, work that affects thousands of applications across all of the government's departments. The government wants to consolidate datacenters as well; it's running more than 700 today. UDACentral, the company's data migration wheelhouse, is at the heart of that MB Foster work. Like any APM triage, that project will require an early start in cleaning data.
If you don't start early, you will run into problems. For example, there are many reasons to do a close review of your data mapping requirements. Legacy data types may not have no equivalent SQL data type. "It's important to have someone on your team try it early, for these technical reasons," Foster said, including things like repeated fields, reserved words, overloaded fields, or data names that might be reserved words.
December 08, 2015
Over time, app management changes its R's
Every application is an asset. Every asset deserves evaluation. Changing valuations will affect migration planning, software selection, and the career of the IT pro who manages software like it's a portfolio.
Application Portfolio Management rides on those three tenets. It's a strategy that's been practiced for more than a decade, and even in the HP 3000 world, APM has been promoted as good management. Birket Foster of MB Foster started talking about it in the earliest days, explaining how APM could get an IT managers a seat at the boardroom strategy table.
However, things have changed in the eight years since Foster wrote that article. In 2007 the Three Rs of Applications included Replacement and Rehosting. But back then, the Third R was to Remain. By now that Third R has become Retiring. Retiring apps through APM can be used as a strategy for tuning a migration plan. As Foster says
The quantification and conditions of applications in terms of business fit, stability, quality and maintainability allows for the 3 R’s of migration to be applied. Once the portfolio is triaged and divided into categories, it is time to prioritize, and execute on a plan appropriate to each of the applications.
More details are available Wednesday (Dec. 9) at 2 PM Eastern in a webinar Foster is hosting. Registration is on the company's website. Remaining, rather than Retiring, is the nirvana, available for any application that can sits in the coveted upper-right quadrant of the triage chart. Retiring an application can be the trigger for a migration, though, especially if it's an MPE keystone app. That's to say, an application that has been critical to your company's business success.Why retire something like a keystone? Business fit could be slipping loose, as the static nature of HP 3000s discourages application modernization. Stability isn't an issue, unless that MPE app relies on outside code or middleware that's being mothballed by its vendor. Maintainability might become an issue if a company's MPE expertise retires.
Companies can engage an outside resource to take on development and maintenance of 3000 apps, yes. Managed Business Systems, one of the four founding HP Platinum Migration partners, used to specialize in this, along with other suppliers. (MB Foster is another founder.) However, it takes a manager who's comfortable with legacy IT to adopt the responsibility for MPE and its mission-critical keystones. "I like old tech," one such pro told us this year. He is a fellow who'd cut his teeth on Data General minicomputers.
The word minicomputer has long been retired. Even though they've been renamed servers, it's the software that drives decisions regarding when to migrate, and how to do it. APM gives managers a best practice to judge which R fits which app best. Even if your apps live in that upper-right, and they're candidates to Remain, they'll still need to prove that valuation to boardroom managers. Knowing how to prepare is a good skill in times of change.
December 04, 2015
HP Enterprise discovers words for IT future
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE, as the business arm of HP likes to call itself) used the last week to revise its language for the future. This future is available to the migrated customers who once used MPE PA-RISC systems. It sounds like HPE is ready to admit that staying the traditional infrastructure datacenter course is a path that leads away from the vendor's desires. Wrapping up an hour of high-level presentations, Chief Marketing Officer Susan Blocher said transforming a datacenter is a polarizing path.
"Business transformation is a controversial statement," she said to the London attendees of Discover 2015. "You are either happy about the opportunities transformation provides, or you're scared to death of what transformation means, and how you're going to deliver the agility and speed that your lines of business demand."
The transformation points to what HPE called a hybrid infrastructure, with a combination of "traditional" and "on-premise cloud," Blocher said. The next step is to transition to public cloud, or off-premise cloud. It appears that cloud computing is in three of the four elements of the hybrid transformation. (Click the above graphic for the five-part lineup of HPE server offerings. Dead in the middle is Integrity, still destined for mission-critical although its adoption rate falls with each quarter.)
The conference demanded an Opening Experience, the level of marketing that old hands from the 3000 HP era once dreamed impossible, no matter how badly they needed it. So a pair of backup singers blended vocals behind a symphony rendition of HPE's theme music. A "new class of system to power the next era in hybrid infrastructure" was announced, HPE Synergy. The statement, and the specs and pictures on a website, confirms there is hardware there in that solution, but HPE's aim is to get its customers to consider Synergy as a compute, storage and networking fabric. It wants its customers to give their businesses "a cloud experience in their datacenters."
An SMB Hybrid Cloud "enables workforce productivity," she said. "This is a hot topic for every size customer, whether you're small or large enterprise, but it's particularly important for our small and medium-sized customers, where workforce productivity is essential to your business success."
Blocher said "We are your movers, [the company] that will help you accelerate what can be a daunting but clearly competitive opportunity for you to transform your business, in whatever way you need to, over the next few years." A thicket of video clips compressed the week's talking points into five-minute segments on YouTube. There were detailed charts for the CIO or VP of IT, such as this comparison of IT fabrics (click for details). But tactics of deployment were for another day; this was four days of dreaming up terms for enterprise aspirations.
HPE's chief marketer used the 400 million-user customer base of DropBox as an example of fast-growth needs being met by those movers. DropBox vice president Thomas Hansen (above, with Blocher) testified to HPE's size meeting the company's needs. DropBox uses the HP Apollo hyper-scale object storage portfolio. Hansen said his company's storage is the repository for 35 billion Adobe and Microsoft files.
"Those numbers are just incredible," Blocher said as she wrapped up a 10-minute recap. The four-day meeting that began with a symphony orchestra prelude, complete with backup vocalists, looked pitched to a high-level CIO. Such is the change in industry vendor-to-customer events. Its details emerged in a bevy of high-level presentations rife with terms like composable infrastructure, digital enterprise, and service to The Idea Economy.
Hansen addressed the audience as if they were service providers, telling them that customers want simple, easy solutions that are lightning-fast. Hewlett-Packard has transformed the conference experience to represent a information parade for providers, rather than users.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is not only about servers," Blocher said. "It's about bringing you end-to-end solutions and value." She lined up the five presenters who had about seven minutes apiece, while she exhorted the crowd to review the numbers: Selling five servers per minute; claiming 30 percent market share; 40 million units sold; 100,000 partners. "One million customers today," she said.
The Discover YouTube channel used candy like "A glimpse into the future" from Paul Muller, VP of HPE Strategic Marketing, talking about how the year 2030 will see five generations of humans alive at the same time. Technology must help with that future's problems, but in less than three minutes he had few specifics for a customer to act upon.
November 30, 2015
Final HP fiscal result toes an enterprise start
HP reported lower sales and profits as a combined company in its final fiscal report of 2015's Q4 and FY '15. Starting with the next report, two companies named HPQ and HPE on the New York Stock Exchange will post individual reports. They'll continue to operate on the same fiscal calendar.
The Q4 that ended on Oct. 31 showed an HP still fighting headwinds, as the company financial management likes to describe falling sales and orders periods. The year had $103 billion in sales, down 7 percent. Earnings for the combined company were $2.48 on the year, off 5 percent. But the final quarter of combined operations permitted HP to toe a starting line with a 4 percent increase for Q4 profits. Profits for the fiscal year were slightly off, dropping 1 percent.
Of course, those numbers reflect a company which won't exist anymore as we've come to know it. The vendor which created the HP 3000 and now sells and supports replacement systems at migrated sites lives on in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. That company started out with stock prices behind the HP Inc company, the new entity that sells printers and PCs. But the headwinds are much stiffer there, so of late HPE has traded at higher prices than the business spun off on Nov. 1.
The two units supporting 3000 replacements held their own. A drop in Business Critical Systems sales, the home of Integrity and Itanium, continued, but at a slower rate.
Enterprise Group revenue was up 2 percent year over year with a 14.0 percent operating margin. Industry Standard Servers revenue was up 5 percent, Storage revenue was down 7 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 8 percent, Networking revenue was up 35 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 11 percent.
Enterprise Services revenue was down 9 percent year over year with an 8.2 percent operating margin. Application and Business Services revenue was down 5 percent and Infrastructure Technology Outsourcing revenue declined 11 percent.
"Overall, Hewlett Packard Enterprise is off to a very strong start," said Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman. "First and foremost, the segments that comprise HPE have now had two consecutive quarters of constant currency revenue growth and we believe we are in a strong position to deliver on our plans to grow overall in FY 16 in constant currency."
November 25, 2015
3000 community keystone Jeff Kell dies
Jeff Kell, the man who founded the keystone of 3000 help, advice and support that is the 3000-L mailing list, died on Nov. 25 of liver cancer and complications from damage induced by a diabetic coma. He'd battled that illness in hospitals and hospice since 2014. Kell was 57.
"It is a very sad day when a good wizard passes on," said coworker and colleague Richard Gambrell at the University of Tennesee at Chattanoona. "Jeff had a gentle soul and brilliant mind."
Kell was the rare IT professional who could count upon 40 years of experience running HP 3000s, developing for MPE, and especially contributing to the state of the art of networking for the server. He created the ultimate network for the 3000's community by establishing HP3000-L, a LISTSERV mailing list now populated with several hundred thousand messages that trace the business computer's rise, decline, and then revival, rife with enduring high tech value and a thread of humor and humanity.
Kell's obituary notes that he came by his passion for scuba early, having worked for a short time at the Chattanooga Aquarium where he fed the sharks. A key contributor to the development of LISTSERV, Kell was instrumental in UTC’s earning the LISTSERV 25th Anniversary plaque, which lists UTC as the 10th University to deploy LISTSERV.
Kell also served as a volunteer to chair SIG-MPE, SIG-SYSMAN, as well as a 3000 networking SIG, but it's nearly impossible to sum up the range of experience he shared. In the photo at the top of this post, he's switching off the last N-Class system at the university where he worked. Almost 40 years of MPE service flowed off those university 3000s. In the photo above, from the HP3000 Reunion, he's updating attendees on how networking protocols have changed.
In the mid-1980s he was a pioneer in developing Internet Relay Chat, creating a language that made BITNET Relay possible. Relay was the predecessor to IRC. "Jeff was the main force behind RELAY, the Bitnet message and file transfer program," Gambrell said. "It inspired the creation of IRC."
My partner Abby and I are personally indebted to Kell's work, even though we've never owned or managed a 3000. The 3000-L and its rich chest of information was my assurance, as well as insurance, that the fledgling 3000 NewsWire could grow into the world of the 3000. In the postings from that list, I saw a written, living thread of wisdom and advice from experts on "the L," as its readers came to call the mailing list and newsgroup Kell started. Countless stories of ours began as tips from the L, or connections to people posting there who knew mission-critical techniques. At one point we hired columnists to summarize the best of each month's L discussions in net.digest. In the era where the Internet and the Web rose up, Kell was a beacon for people who needed help at digital speed.
He was a humble and soft-spoken man, with a wry sense of humor, but showed passion while defending the value of technical knowledge -- especially details on a product better-loved by its users than the management at its vendor. Kell would say that all he did was set up another Listserver on a university computer, one devoted to becoming crucial to UTC's success. Chattanooga is one of the best-networked towns of its size in the world. Kell did much more than that for his community, tending to the work that helped the L blossom in the 3000's renaissance.
Kell looked forward to an HP which would value the 3000 as much as the HP 9000. In 1997 he kicked off a meeting with HP to promote a campaign called Proposition 3000: Common hardware across both HP 3000s and HP 9000s, sold from an Open Systems Division, with MPE/iX or HP-UX as an option, both with robust APIs to make ISV porting of applications to MPE/iX "as trivial as any other Unix platform."
HP should be stressing the strengths of MPE/iX, "and not its weaknesses," he said. "We don't have to be told anymore what the 3000 can't do, because a lot of the things we were told it can't do, it now can. If we take the limitations of the Posix shell and remove them, we have Proposition 3000," Kell said to HP managers. "I would encourage you to vote yes for this investment in the future."
More than 16 years later, when MPE's fate had been left to experts outside of HP's labs, Kell offered one solution on how to keep the server running beyond MPE's Jan 1, 2028 rollover dating gateway.
"Well, by 2027, we may be used to employing mm/dd/yy with a 27 on the end, and you could always go back to 1927. And the programs that only did two-digit years would be all set. Did you convert all of 'em for Y2K? Did you keep the old source?" Kell's listserver is the keeper of all 3000 lore, history, and wisdom, a database that can be searched from a Web interface -- even though he started the resource before commonplace use of what we were calling the World Wide Web.
Some might dismiss that resource as a museum of old tech. Others were using it this week, to connect newer-age tape devices to old-school 3000s. He retired the last of UTC's 3000 at the end of 2013 (in the photo above). His own help to the community members on tech specifics and the state of this year's networking will outlive him, thanks to his work setting this keystone for the community's exchange.He had a passion for scuba, and could also dive deep into the latest of networking's crises. At the 2011 HP3000 Reunion, he held forth at a luncheon about the nuances that make up a secure network in our era of hack such as 2013's Heartbleed.
Unless you've had your head in the sand, you've heard about Heartbleed. Every freaking security vendor is milking it for all it's worth. It is pretty nasty, but it's essentially "read-only" without some careful follow-up.
Most have focused on SSL/HTTPS over 443, but other services are exposed (SMTP services on 25, 465, 867; LDAP on 636; others). You can scan and it might show up the obvious ones, but local services may have been compiled against "static" SSL libraries, and be vulnerable as well.
We've cleaned up most of ours (we think, still scanning); but that just covers the server side. There are also client-side compromises possible.
And this stuff isn't theoretical, it's been proven third-party.
Lots of folks say replace your certificates, change your passwords, etc. I'd wait until the services you're changing are verified secure.
Most of the IDS/IPS/detections of the exploits are broken in various ways. STARTTLS works by negotiating a connection, establishing keys, and bouncing to an encrypted transport. IDS/IPS can't pick up heartbleed encrypted. They're after the easy pre-authenticated handshake.
It's a mess for sure. But it’s not yet safe to necessarily declare anything safe just yet.
Even on a day when most people in the US are off work, the tributes to his help and spirit have poured in. "He was smart, soft spoken, and likable," said Gilles Schipper from his support company GSA. "He will be deeply missed. My condolences to his wife Kitty and the entire family."
Ed King, whose 3000 time began in the 1990s, said "Jeff was a great guy, full of wisdom and great stories, and he gave me a chance to flex my wings with some very interesting programming assignments, which kickstarted my career. He will be missed."
Developer Rick Gilligan called him "hard working, brilliant and a great communicator." Alfredo Rego said in a salute that "The members of Jeff’s family, and all of Jeff’s friends and colleagues, know that he made a tremendous difference during his life on this Earth."
Rich Corn, creator of the ESPUL printer software for MPE, said "Jeff was always a joy to talk to. So sharp, but at the same time so humble. Jeff made you feel like friend. A true leader in our profession."
The family's obituary for Kell includes a Tribute Wall on his page on the website of the Wilson Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
Personally, I'll miss his questing spirit and marvel in his legacy. What a Master he was.
Here on this evening of Thanksgiving, we're giving thanks for the richness of a world with humble wizards like Jeff. We're taking a few days off to revere our time together. We'll see you with a fresh report on Monday, including analysis of the final fiscal results from Hewlett-Packard as a full entity, unsplit.
November 23, 2015
Virtualized clouds may shift due to Dell
Although the merger isn't yet complete, EMC will become part of Dell in the year to come. Those are two impact players in the HP enterprise arena, fierce HP rivals as well as providers of gear in HP shops both migrated and homesteading. The biggest impact on HP 3000 customers might come not from either of these companies, though, but from a subsidiary. VMware, which is powering a significant number of virtualized environments, is 80 percent owned by EMC.
That makes Dell the primary owner of the most popular virtualization provider in the industry. In the wake of the merger announcement, consultants, developers and vendors from the community have looked to the future of Dell's VMware ownership. Even a possible impact on cloud computing has come up for discussion.
"Whoever owns VMware next could control and own the future of the cloud," goes the proposition of the new VMware ownership. VMware has certainly promoted its new efforts into cloud computing. But that doesn't make the vendor a controlling force in cloud computing.
The three pillars of cloud computing, according to cloud ERP provider Plex, are elasticity, efficiency, and cloud as a service. VMware is only a backbone for such cloud offerings. The actual cloud applications use a range of backbones. The most common one is Xen, used by Amazon Web Services. HP dropped out of the public cloud business earlier this year, facing losses while going up against Amazon and others.
However, corporate enterprise IT may include clouds on VMware. A VMware-based one might run on an internal security zone not visible to the Internet. Another style can be based on OpenStack, visible to the Internet.
"Dell owning 80 percent of VMware is a huge deal," says Gavin Scott, a developer and a veteran of decades on MPE/iX and former SIG-Java chairman. "But it's not because of clouds. It might actually be bad for VMware because it will push Dell's competitors to look at other solutions. VMware is crazy expensive, so customers may be quite happy to be led to other vendors' doorsteps."
"VMware is like Oracle," Scott told us. "The most expensive way to solve the problem. But it also has the most features and functionality and is a 'safe' choice.""I think of cloud computing as involving the use of a third party's cloud resources," Scott said. "If you've got a big VMware virtualized infrastructure, that might just be running all your previously discreet servers in a bunch of VMs. If you're dynamically bringing clusters of servers on/off line to meet demand, that's more cloud-like."
"I think a lot of VPs of IT like to think they're trendy by having their own "cloud," and at that point the term is relatively meaningless."
November 16, 2015
Webinars set courses for future operations
The next three days each contain a webinar that can help a 3000 manager decide how to best use their IT resources. One of the presentations covers a new cloud-based ERP migration solution, explained in detail, while the other two come from a long-time provider of data solutions for HP 3000s.
On Nov. 17 (Tuesday) Kenandy demos its cloud-based, Salesforce-driven ERP stack. It's a new performance of the overview show broadcast at the end of September. Kenandy has enough features to replace more than a few MPE/iX apps, for any sites which are looking for replacement solutions on the way to migration. Registration is here on the Web, and the program starts at 1 PM Central Time, US.
Over the following two days, MB Foster airs a pair of Q&A, webinar-driven broadcasts about best practices for data management. The company is serving customers beyond MPE/iX sites now, from the experience of carrying out a migration as well as the integration of its software and practices in non-3000 customer sites.
Wednesday Nov 18th's Webinar covers Data Migrations Best Practices. IT operations generate opportunity and challenges to organize data into useable information for the business. The Webinar will deliver practical methodologies to help you prevent costly disruptions and solve challenges. "A data migration project may not be your specialty," says CEO Birket Foster. "We are offering an opportunity to learn from our successes and minimize the business impacts of data migration, through best practices." The Webinar begins at 1 PM Central US, and registration is here on the Web.
Thursday Nov. 19th's Webinar (a 1 PM Central start time; register here) from MB Foster explains the strategy and experience needed to employ Operational Data Stores in a datacenter. An ODS requires integration, Foster says.
"Essentially you’re changing what and why you deliver information, and where that information resides for end-users decision support and reporting," he says. "You would also change ongoing management and operations of the environment."
The meeting will deliver insights into MB Foster’s ODS and DataMart services, its technology, and best practices including:
1. What an Operational Data Store and DataMart are
2. How actionable data can be delivered, quickly
3. Why investing in an ODS and DataMarts are smart choices
November 13, 2015
Quotes On A Happening, 5,111 Days Ago
My career has not changed significantly, but I no longer believe anything HP tells me. They could say the sky is blue, and I'd seek a second opinion. They lied to our face once, I won't give them a chance to do it again. — Terry Simpkins, TE Connectivity
It was very difficult to reinvent and took several years. HP's decision almost killed our company. But we survived and are stronger as a result — Doug Greenup, Minisoft
I had received the news prior to the public announcement. I was very angry with HP after being told by Hewlett-Packard at HP World that there was a long future for the system. — Paul Edwards, Interex director
We felt like we were supporting legacy products already, because most of our MANMAN customers were off of applications software support anyway, so it didn't change our plans much. — Terry Floyd, The Support Group
When I joined the conference call, in which management announced to CSY staff that they were pulling the plug on MPE and the 3000, I remember the date and the hour. My feeling was one of relief that they were going to stop pretending that the 3000 had a future. It might have had a future, but not with the level that management was investing in R&D at the time. — V.N., HP 3000 labs
I remember heaving a big sigh and realizing that, in the aftermath of the Compaq takeover, HP would not keep two proprietary platforms. Between a 71,000-unit installed base (HP 3000) and a 700,000-unit installed base (VMS), the choice was quite obvious. To this day, VMS still exists. — Christian Lheureux, Appic
I was working for a company called Hewlett-Packard at the time. I don't know what's become of them; I think they still sell ink. Last I knew, they sold personal computers too, but they weren't sure about that. — Walter Murray, California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation
This really scared a lot of people at the company where I was working, but I kept telling them we had third party support, and not to worry. The directors decided to leverage our 350-plus programs with a migration to an HP 9000. We secured a used 9000, only to have them reverse their decision and opt instead for a newer 3000. — Connie Sellitto, Cat Fanciers’ Association
We were well into MPE/iX and the Posix environment, and there appeared to be some real solidarity given its Internet capabilities. The 2001 announcement was a knife in the back of our long-term planning, from which we never fully recovered. — Jeff Kell, founder of the 3000-L mailing list
I was working a long-term consulting contract managing HP 3000s and several datacenters for the US government. The job that pays the bills these days has nothing to do with HP 3000s — and thankfully very little to do with HP at all. — Chris Bartram, founding 3000newswire.com webmaster.
Share your memory of the day below. Or email the Newswire.
November 10, 2015
HP reaches to futures with outside labs
Hewlett Packard Enterprise, now in its second full week of business, continues to sell its proprietary OS environments: NonStop, HP-UX, and OpenVMS. MPE/iX was on that list 13 Novembers ago. A business decision ended HP's future MPE developments, and the 3000 lab closed about nine years later.
There's another HP OS lab that's powering down, but it's not the development group building fresher Unix for HPE customers. The HP OpenVMS lab is cutting its development chores loose, sending the creation of future versions of the OpenVMS operating system and layered product components to VMS Software, Inc. (VSI). The Bolton, Mass. company rolled out its first OpenVMS version early this summer.
This is the kind of future that the 3000 community wished for all those Novembers ago, once the anger and dismay had cooled. The HP of that year was a different business entity than the HP of 2014, when Hewlett-Packard first announced a collaboration on new versions of OpenVMS.
What's the difference? HP has much more invested in VMS, because of the size of the environment's installed base. Some key VMS talent that once worked for HP has landed at VSI, too. Sue Skonetski, once the Jeff Vance of the DEC world, told the customer base this summer she's delighted to be working at the indie lab. "I get to work with VMS customers, partners and engineers, so I obviously still have the best job in the world," she posted in a Facebook forum.
The 3000 and MPE probably would've gotten a nice transfer of MPE talents to independent development labs. But there was a matter of the size of the business back then. Today, HP's falling back and splitting itself up.
The Hewlett-Packard of 2001 could not imagine a time when its proprietary systems might be supported by independent tech talent. But what ensued with 3000 homesteading may have led to a lesson for HP, one that's being played out with the VSI transfer. Enterprise customers, it turns out, have longer-term business value tied up in proprietary systems. HP will be at the table to support some OpenVMS sites in the future. But they have an indie alternative to send their customers toward, too. When HP's ready to stop supporting Itanium-based VMS, an outside company will take up that business.The foreseeable future for VMS is tied, for the moment, to the HP Integrity servers and Itanium. But a roadmap for the OS shows that getting VMS onto Intel hardware is a project about three years away. It'll be completed by the non-HP engineers at VSI.
VSI has licensed the source code of the OpenVMS operating system from HP with the intent to further develop the OpenVMS product roadmap by adding new hardware platform support and features, beginning with a version of OpenVMS on HP Integrity i4 servers based on Intel Itanium Processor 9500 Series. It took VSI less than a year to roll out the OpenVMS release it calls Bolton. CEO Duane Harris is proud of a rollout that puts OpenVMS onto the latest Itanium 9500 processors. VSI intends to eventually extend support for HP Integrity servers based on all prior versions of Itanium platform.
In less than 12 months, we have not only assembled a strong team of OpenVMS developers and customer support personnel but we have also developed a roadmap with an aggressive schedule that includes support for new platforms, features and technologies. We are excited about our plans to continue improving this marquee operating system and meeting the needs of a loyal customer base that has relied on OpenVMS to faithfully run their mission critical applications over the last 30 years.
The MPE/iX faithful have been running mission-critical apps for more than 40 years, although the last five have been with no HP involvement. But this has never been about how long a product is useful. It's about numbers of support customers.
HP's walked away from its crucial role in preserving 3000s like the ones at manufacturing firms. Independent support companies now do this work. HP's become inscrutable.
"I’ve honestly given up trying to figure out HP anymore," said Pivital Solutions CEO Steve Suraci. "They are one big giant empty shell of their once formidable selves."
It might be a much better fate to leave these highly integrated environments in the hands of independents. "I certainly hope HP is out of the MPE support business," said Allegro's Steve Cooper. "There is nobody in the company that can even spell MPE at this point."