May 22, 2013
Finding our Fix-It Chick. Got yours?
As I write my offices are full of the sounds of saws, nail guns, feet shuffling across old floors and power clicking off and on. Let me explain. We’re making a change or 57 here, something that feels as profound as any transition project — whether to an emulator for homesteading, or the revisions for migrations.
People as old as most 3000 veterans can marvel at what the Web has brought since we began our careers. These days I talk to experts who started computing when modems were 110 baud, instead of the networked 18 gigabits that don’t even require a modem. We've upgraded our Internet speed pipe here at the NewsWire, a company that has always called our house its home. That home, like your server, is in need of changes.
For 18 years, our back two side-by-side bedrooms have bristled with wires strung between the rooms of our offices, added for one new device or scheme. We upgraded our infrastructure, as an IT manager would say; much is wireless. But we’ve been doing much more, changes with a senior future in mind. Perhaps like you. Fortunately, we have help to plan, as well as implement. We're clever and bright, but we need the help. Perhaps like you, or like our ally Birket Foster has long suggested.
Abby and I are doing our latest, largest renovation of our 36-year-old house this spring. It’s a task with details, surprises, planning and delight in the results. This morning while I write, we are watching new Ikea cabinets rise in a kitchen that was gutted, but still working before the demo of tile countertops and a stove and oven with many turkeys and pies in its history.
We have moved walls, painted and removed the antiquated ceiling popcorn, watched the sculpture of drywall floating and mudding, the art of tiling with glass. On and on it goes, from a ‘70’s bathtub to a steam shower, from chipped and unforgiving floor tile to nature-friendly bamboo, to creating a space where my lovely yogini can practice her stretching arts in a guest room with a Murphy bed to make a studio floor appear.
Long ago my friend Birket had his kitchen in his Chesterville home remodeled. This too was a house where a business grew up. The basement of his first location had 3000s networked into racks and employees who arrived at the kitchen door to sell and create software and follow a vision.
After his remodel, Birket began to compare a big project like migration or renovation to a remodel. You succeed, he always said, with a great plan and a good guide. Abby and I have been lucky to have both of these, but the most important is our general contractor, designer and now friend, Kristi Copeland.
Kristi left the world of software at Convio to follow her dream of building the dreams of others. It’s been more than four months since we started to work together. My mantra by now, when a cabinet doesn’t quite meet a ceiling or a steam unit delivers Error Code 5 or the automatic closet light misbehaves — my confidence comes from, “Kristi will know.”
I hope that even in this era of Web brilliance, when the sparkle of IT wisdom is a click away, you can find your own Kristi. She blazes through updates via email and texts and shops the Web with passion, so the Internet is making our transition possible on our modest budget. Having someone who will know saves more than money, however. It saves relationships between partners. Abby and I do not need all the knowledge and experience so essential to transforming our office and home. We rely on our Fix-It-Chick, something you can find for your future, too.
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May 09, 2013
IT Security: Too Expensive, Too Difficult?
Editor's Note: Migrating HP 3000 sites must be responsible for security in more extended detail, once they move operations onto open enterprise environments. In the second of a series of articles, CISSP security expert Steven Hardwick of Oxygen Finance outlines the how security regulations, agreed upon by the industry, help the secure IT environment.
By Steven Hardwick
Why do we need security regulations which relate to IT anyway? Many IT professionals believe compliance is way too complicated. and costs a lot of time and money that could be better spent. For example, the HP 3000 might have better security for credit card processing that flows through MPE servers.
If only the data would back up that IT pro's desire. The latest Verizon Data Breach Investigations report should dispel the myth that security is simply a function of the IT department getting firewall configurations up to date. The 2013 report shows attacks varied from hacking, to social engineering and physical attacks. Physical, technological and administrative security controls were breached to make the attacks possible. In many cases, multiple controls were compromised to breach the organizations infrastructure. But a third of IT pros say security is too hard to implement (click on graphic for details.)
Why do we need regulations? It boils down to the two distinct challenges with security: a legal definition of malicious behavior, and a difficult to quantify return on investment. First, to address the legal position of defining a malicious act may not be that simple.
Theft in the information world can involve merely taking a copy of the data. The original data may still be in the possession of the owner. To be able to prove theft in this case, a new definition of “illegal copying” has to be defined. In the information world, the copy or the operation that created it has to be detected. It is now a lot more difficult to define information theft as the concept of copying now has to be legally defined.
To illustrate the legal difficulties, consider this challenge. If a neighbor sees a unprotected wireless network router and is given an IP address by the DHCP server, does it constitute the owner's permission to have Internet access?
Compliance standards establish a set of security controls that are not concerned with legal definitions of malicious activity. This allows an organization to stem the threat of breaches without relying on a legal framework to enforce it. A good example is the Payment Creditcard Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS or just PCI). This compliance standard is solely enforced by the credit card community. As such it can quickly adapt to define requirements that meet mitigating new threats.
I was once involved in a HIPAA audit. After the presenting the audit results to the CIO, the next question was remediation. The CIO’s response was, “After consulting with legal council, we are taking no action to mitigate the deficiencies found in the audit. They have informed us it would be cheaper to litigate than spend funds on security changes.”
That was in the early days of HIPAA. in those days, that regulation lacked teeth. To rectify this, the US government passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act for enforcement. It defines what's a breach of information. plus the responses that organizations must take after a breach. Very quickly, the cost of not putting security controls in place changed, especially due to the enforcement defined by the act.
Why are there so many regulations and laws?
With PCI and HITECH, why are even two needed? Well, the two standards were developed by different specialists, and so the laws are different. PCI's goal is to prevent the misuse of Credit Card information. HITECH/HIPAA is focused on medical information.
To additionally diversify standards, the groups focused only on the threats and impact of breaches in their particular industry. For example, compromised credit card data can be used globally, whereas medical data tends to be country specific. PCI is a global standard, whereas HITECH is only US based.
Standards tend to be focused on the type of information they protect. For example, although a credit card number may be used in conjunction with a medical record for payment of services, HITECH does not define the card as part of the information that needs to be protected.
Organizations that have multiple data sets will fall under multiple regulations and standards. A public Insurance company that uses credit card payments for medical services would, at a minimum, have to comply to PCI (Credit Card data), HITECH (Medical data) and Sarbanes Oxley Act, or SOX, (Public Financial data).
What other challenges are there?
There is hope. In many cases the standard or regulation will give a list of compliance goals. Applying the goal will depend on how the controlled information is used in within the business. Some standards will give guidance on how to implement security controls to comply with the goals.
For exaple, PCI has requirements around penetration testing for network interfaces. Other standards rely on an existing security framework. (This security framework is a definition of security controls for an environment.) They framework is designed for general protection of information -- and not focused on a specific data set.
A good example is that the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) which mandates security controls. Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) is a security framework that is commonly used to assess SOX compliance.
Next Time: More detail on how to use security frameworks to address compliance.
April 29, 2013
MB Foster tips hand on hybrid migrations
In a sneak peek of a May 1 general release, 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.
Software for migrating data, entire databases 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. Data Express moved corporate 3000 IMAGE data into desktop environments; eventually that product was transformed and expanded into Universal Data Access (UDA) software and solutions. Lately, the company has begun to sell some of its software -- previously used only for services engagements -- to sites for their own use.
Two years ago MB Foster released an MBF Scheduler to replace the job scheduling capabilities of MPE/iX for the Windows environment. More recently, the UDALink tool was migrated to work with HP's Itanium servers in the Unix environment.
Now the collection of this software tool development as well as services is making its debut as eZ-MPE. "The value of MBF eZ-MPE is its collective ability to mimic the HP3000 environment," said a release that's on its way to the rest of the 3000 community by May 1.Windows is the primary target for eZ-MPE users, according to that release.
MBF eZ-MPE is a hybrid solution for HP 3000 customers who have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment while preserving the company's competitive advantage and legacy application.
It manages the nuances of VPlus screens, controls access to applications, and has its own file system library for call management and translation between KSAM and relational databases. Its IMAGE library easily converts TurboImage calls to ODBC calls, and facilitates a move to a native environment as part of a company's long-range plans.
The value of MBF eZ-MPE is more encompassing than screen handling, file systems, and databases. A typical in-house developed business application would include scripting, sorting, merging, logins, Job Control (JCL), FTP services, and scheduling requirements. MBF eZ-MPE includes solutions for all of these as well.
We'll have more details on this hybrid solution for migration as they surface.
April 25, 2013
How to Conduct a Security Assessment
Editor's Note: Migrating HP 3000 sites must be responsible for security in more extended detail, once they move operations onto open enterprise environments. In the first of a series of articles, CISSP security expert Steven Hardwick of Oxygen Finance outlines the basic security concepts -- and how security controls fit together to provide an overall protection environment.
By Steven Hardwick
First in a Series
As penalties increase for loss of data, more and more regulations are forcing organizations to protect it. Couple this with new technologies that are moving information into the cloud and a perfect storm is forming -- one that will force IT professionals to regularly evaluate the security status of their infrastructure. To aid this effort, this series will cover
1. Introduction to security controls
2. Overview of security regulations
3. Tips on conducting a security assessment
By understanding how security systems are built as a whole it will be easier to comprehend the myriad of requirements detailed in a security regulation. Sometimes it is difficult for IT professionals to see the woods when they are stood in front of a bunch of trees. Plus, taking a broader view can give a better understanding of the challenge and the potential solution. It is not always as simple as encrypting data or adding another firewall.
Where to Start
The majority of security requirements are focused on protecting information. However, one additional asset that is often overlooked, especially in the commercial sector, is the people.
Once when conducting an audit, I noticed water sprinklers in the computer room. After asking the IT manager where the cut-off switch for the room was, he did not know, nor was it clearly marked. Consequently, if the water came down and someone was in the room, it was not obvious how to turn off the power. Fortunately, it's included in some requirements, but ensuring human safety is not the primary responsibility of the IT department. It's the data that must be protected.
The aspects of protecting data are divided into three areas
• Who/what can view the data (Confidentiality)
• Who/what can change the data (Integrity)
• How can authorized users/applications get to it (Availability)
Security regulations focus on one or maybe two of these categories. For example, PCI (credit card industry regulations) are very focused on confidentiality, whereas SOX (fiscal reporting) is focused on integrity. However, both include some of the other categories.
Another basic concept is that there is no silver bullet that will be a cure-all. Within even a medium-sized organization there may be over 30 different types of security controls. Furthermore, only a portion of them are specified, deployed or maintained by the IT department. Fortunately the security industry has made some sense of this by creating three types of security controls based on the general way they are implemented: Administrative, Technical, Physical.
Each control can be further divided in the way in which it is mitigating the security threat: Preventative, Detective and Corrective.
Our next order of business is to understand the general description of each of these delineations. Bear in mind, I am using a loose classification. Although most security controls clearly fall into one or the other, some are left to interpretation.
It's all in a name
First let's define the three different security control types, and then look how they can be further categorized
Administrative controls are policies and procedures that govern the security infrastructure. In most cases these are written documents that outline the behaviors that are expected. These documents can either be internally generated -- a work at home policy for example -- or an external requirement such as HIPAA.
As well as defining the behavior, in some cases the enforcement of the control is also included. One of the common complaints regarding HIPAA was that it had no enforcement. In the succeeding HITECH Act the US government added enforcement of the security controls it contained.
Here are some general examples of Administrative controls
- Regulations (HIPAA, PCI, SOX)
- Acceptable use policy
- Disaster recovery policy
- Non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements
- Hosting contract (Particularly SLA terms defining availability)
- Employee agreement -- return of all data and equipment
- Equipment logs and maintenance records (includes security equipment such as firewalls)
- Vacation policy
Why is vacation policy considered a security control? Firstly, ask any security professional what is the single weakest link in any security chain. The answer is almost certainly the people. When individuals do not take vacation they can easily burn out. This can cause fundamental mistakes that allow holes to be created in the security environment and put information or people at risk.
Secondly, if an employee goes on vacation, then another employee usually assumes their role. If the original employee is violating security policy, the new person may detected. I have personal experience where a situation of emails were discovered that exposed an employee who was routinely sending sales information to a competitor. The "vacation" in this case was that employee's interview. Another employee assigned to temporarily process the emails noticed that several had been sent to a competitor and notified the security team. Not only was the vacationing employee terminated with cause, but the company receiving the email was threatened with legal action -- and the offer of employment was withdrawn.
Physical controls are generally as they sound, those defined to secure the physical environment they control (sometimes called "Guns, Guards and Gates"). There are few, however, which typically fall into this category that may be overlooked. Here are some examples.
- Building access controls (includes badges, video monitoring, security guards, locks, fire escapes)
- Internal access controls (typically a subset of the overall building controls, but can include addition levels like fingerprint access control)
- Monitoring equipment
- Safety systems for information processing environment
- Disaster recovery equipment (including cooling/heating systems0
- Information disposal (discussed as a specific case)
Over the past several years, information disposal security has grown in terms of what it controls. Originally this type of control was focused on hardcopy data. It included data shredders, for example. However, this has changed in two ways.
First, the bad guys have got more innovative. Most readers will have seen one of the cop shows where the rookie has go through the suspects garbage. Physical controls now include management of waste. Second, disposal of IT equipment is part of physical controls. There are countless stories where someone bought a used computer on eBay only to find tons of information on the hard drive. (I was once given a replacement hard drive for my laptop. It turned out it was an un-erased drive had previously belonged to the CEO. Needless to say, it was returned to the CIO. Why the CIO? He had clearance to receive the data.)
Technical controls are the section most IT guys view as security. (It's sometimes called logical controls.) This includeds firewalls, encryption, IPS, RAID arrays (for availability), and backup. This will be covered in a little more detail during Preventative, Detective and Corrective definitions. (the author has LOTS of examples of this control, but so to have most of the readers)
Going to the next level
Preventative controls, as the name suggests, stop any violation of the security policy. The definition is used to further define a control.
- Administrative Preventative: Training. Most view this as a corrective action as it seems that training is only held after a breach has occurred. However, the training is actually being held to prevent future breaches.
- Physical Preventative: Locks
- Technical Preventative: Encryption
Detective controls are ones that are used to determine if a preventative controls has failed, or breached. They typically sit behind a preventative control and are aligned with its capability.
- Administrative Detective: Log reviews
- Physical Detective: Digital video recorder (This can either be for external or internal cameras)
- Technical Detective: Intrusion Detection System (This is normally a component of an overall system)
Corrective controls come into play to stop a breach that is in process. This class of control works in concert with both preventative and detective to thwart the attack. Typically the detective control will activate the corrective control. The corrective control will then change the behavior of a preventative control to stop the attack.
- Administrative Corrective: Disaster recovery plan
- Physical Corrective: Indecent response team
- Technical Corrective: Intrusion Prevention System (typically linked to a firewall)
What this looks like in practice
Let's consider the deployment of a centrally managed data protection system. The diagram below shows some of the different controls that must be deployed to support it. (Click to see the details.)
In this example, a technical preventative control is being deployed. A technical detective control, the centrally managed policy and log server, will provide alerts if the security is breached. The technical response will be provided by the IPS. The management server will be housed in a datacenter that has physical access control. A video surveillance system can be used to detect unauthorized access and a response team alerted to correct any violations. Once deployed, to prevent misuse, users are trained on how to use the system. The system logs are routinely monitored to detect breaches and the response plan will detail how to respond.
As you can see from this simple example, several different departments (IT, facilities, legal, HR) would be involved in developing the complete set of controls.
Next time: A review of different types of regulations, and why are there so many.
April 23, 2013
How app portfolios increase career value
Getting an HP 3000 back into discussion at the boardroom level can be tough. In a lot of places still running MPE/iX applications, the programs that drive company computing have become invisible as the grain in a fine piece of wood that makes up a boardroom table. Application Portfolio Management (APM) can be a means to increase the visibility of HP 3000s.
And if that visibility leads to a more energized transition plan — because now the executive management sees how vital the MPE/iX application is to meeting company goals — that's a good thing as well. Retiring out with the HP 3000 is an option for some managers. For many others, outlasting the server is becoming the genuine challenge. Leaving a legacy as an IT pro, instead of the just the 3000 expert, is one way of nurturing a career.
You have to know how to treat applications as assets, to frame software as if it's as essential as cash on hand for a company. APM doesn't get cited much by the 3000 manager who's been a technologist to deliver value to a company. This is the business side of business computing. Learning more about it gives a manager a greater skill set. Best of all, these practices make it easier to justify IT acquisition and expansion and yes, even a migration with its profound expense.
Tomorrow (April 24) at 2PM Eastern Time, MB Foster is leading a 45-minute webinar with time for questions about APM as part of its bi-weekly Wednesday Webinars. "Do you want executive management to understand the condition of IT applications -- built, bought or accumulated through M&A, or acquired for a specific need -- and how they grow the business and how they affect future budgets?" The answer to that would probably be yes, just to ensure that the asset called the HP 3000 applications get their accurate valuation.
APM is a proven concept that can make a manager look more modern at an executive level. Best of all, according to CEO Birket Foster, it can be started with something as straightforward as an inventory. In 2007 when the concept was still gaining traction, he explained the introductory steps.
APM helps managers assess value to application assets. To begin, take an inventory of applications and clearly understand the current business and technology fit for each application. Publish the application portfolio so it can become a budget item visible to the management team.
I know, at first it may not be where you would like it to be, but it is what it is — there is nothing that can be done about the past. But when you start the process of APM, you can start managing a budget with the objective of aligning business needs with IT’s, with options for The Three Rs of Applications – remain, replace, or rehost. This way IT can get included at the management table and get the budget needed to renovate when required.
The APM process can have a profound effect on decision making. "It will clarify existing investments, application lifecycles, and any future investments, upgrades, operations, replacements and budgets related to the applications," Foster said in preparation for this Wednesday Webinar. "This will help the entire company know what IT needs to invest in to support the business, as well as the impact on the applications that are used by every department/business unit."
April 22, 2013
Comparing Costs of Staying for 5-10 Years
Last week's CAMUS online-phone RUG meeting included a comprehensive exam of staying on MANMAN for at least another five years. The proposal, outlined by Terry Floyd of the Support Group, showed a cost exceeding $40,000 a year to keep running an HP 3000 with the ERP application plus crucial support for hardware and all software.
His estimation, for a Series 939 low-end system with 30 users' worth of MANMAN (all numbers are annual)
Hardware support - $5,000
MPE/iX support - $2,000
MANMAN application support - $10,000
Support for vendors of third party software - $10,000, on average
Electric power and cooling - $12,000
Including miscellaneous costs of $3,000 yearly, that's a total of $42,000 to stay on MANMAN each year. "That doesn't even include salaries," Floyd said. "These are costs directly related to MANMAN." One user pushed back on the third party software support costs, saying the estimate was low.
One way to cut back on these costs would be to run MANMAN on the cloud, Floyd said. This development, if it ever emerges for the MANMAN community, would be via the Stromasys emulator, which sits in a Linux cradle. Linux is even supported by the HP Cloud, a newcomer to the virtual server vendor lineup. (HP-UX is not supported). The cloud reduces hardware-related expenses and wipes out electrical, versus a cost of $200 a month per user.
(Stromasys officials on the call said they thought Floyd may have been referring to one of the possible options for people wanting to migrate off the 3000. There's been no testing or instances of the emulator running from a cloud service yet.)
So while looking at the numbers and the state of 3000-based cloud options, one of the larger points that Floyd made in his review is that MANMAN, even today on current 3000 hardware, could remain a viable place to stay with manufacturing IT -- so long as the ERP instance has up to date modifications for interfaces and integration, properly documented so they don't become tribal knowledge. Plenty of MANMAN sites have modified their application. Mods are part of the MANMAN Way.
"Interfaces and integration are certainly the best places to spend dollars on improving MANMAN," Floyd said. But the cloud is not free, just a lot less costly. Estimating a 30-user implementation -- plenty of the remaining MANMAN sites are small -- he still came in at $6,000 a month. That's $72,000 against the $17,000 plus the expense of purchasing the 3000 and its storage devices.
"You're spending a heck of lot less than that just for the electricity," Floyd said of the cloud solution.
Of course, most companies running MANMAN -- or nearly any other application -- have long ago paid off capital costs for hardware. The costs that remain fixed are the OS and application support ($12,000 in Floyd's estimate) plus the third party software support at $10,000.
Let's see, $22,000 plus that $72,000 is $94,000 yearly. You're up in the cloud in this picture, running a virtualized 3000 server. The license for that virtualization software and its support fee varies, but nobody is reporting much under $10,000. It's a big advantage when you consider the emulated 3000 will operate many times faster than a Series 939.
So someone who stays by rising to the cloud will be up in the $100,000 annual range for five years, annually, using the solution with the longest lifespan (virtualized OS, virtualized hardware) with an application that's just about the most senior in your community. Factor in the costs of purchasing MANMAN over 10 years and you'd add $25,000 yearly. (This is, of course, another cost that most MANMAN sites have paid off long ago.)
But even if you're able to do computing from the cloud, "IT costs do not go away," Floyd said. "Even if you're in the cloud, for any manufacturing company, better utilization requires an IT function." That IT function is a programmer for ongoing development of modifications, at the least. FORTRAN programmers might be hard to find in the middle of nowhere, Floyd added. Lots of US-based manufacturers using MANMAN operate in such small towns, to keep labor costs contained.
The counterpoint of all that expense of working to stay on MANMAN? "The biggest cost of leaving MANMAN is data migration and implementation of the new system," Floyd said. You would retain the cloud costs, the OS and vendor support costs in this scenario -- while the MANMAN site must pay for SAP, or Oracle, or some other ERP solution.
When calculated with this much detail, "It's not a crazy idea to think of staying on MANMAN another five or 10 years," Floyd said. Mobile connectivity will demand bandwidth that might not exist. "MANMAN is cheaper to operate than either an on-premises replacement or a cloud-based replacement. Inertia is the driver, especially if you're retiring in the near future."
The companies using MANMAN aren't retiring, of course. They face a cost to select, acquire and implement and migrate data to a replacement ERP system from "hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars," Floyd said. "Why did all those companies leave MANMAN? Ten years or so ago, they might have had management with some high ambitions."
Or did they really leave because their users lacked a basic understanding of MANMAN, so relied on tribal knowledge in the organization -- "and then they forgot the way their were going things the way they were. And then a couple of really key users left. And you wonder how this stuff works, and why it works like it does. If you change the heck out of MANMAN and didn't leave a good trail, there's no way you could keep track of why you did that modification."
But after more than three decades in the field, there just aren't many bugs left in MANMAN. The 3000 sites that tracked their mods, can keep knowledge of their implementation documented, can keep a FORTRAN developer available somehow -- these are the sites that have added up the costs to stay on an app that was first released in the 1970s, even it hasn't been changed in more than 15 years.
April 19, 2013
Where Everybody Knows Your CPUNAME
The iconic TV show Cheers splashed a theme song about the fictional Boston tavern every Thursday, way back in the 1980s. It was a drinking outpost "where everybody knows your name, and they're all so glad you came." If attendance works out well for Stromasys at its HP 3000 Social -- four weeks away -- they're likely to have the same sort of turnout. The Tied House will be a place where everybody knows your name because so many will be familiar to each other. That's what more than three decades of community gives you.
This week the blue and white postcards arrived in mailboxes announcing the combination of Social and Training May 9-10. We found one in our mailbox, but word of the event is spreading beyond the reach of the US post. Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft called to report he'll be at the Tied House. Neil Armstrong, developer and curator of Suprtool, has also been tracking the event closely.
These VIPs of your community will be joined by people experienced in 3000 matters who seek a way around aging HP hardware for MPE. And there will be some stopping by to see the names that they know and meet new ones with something in common. Everybody there will be listening for news about licensing. Right now this is a rare brew that prospects are thirsting for if they want to emulate a production machine.That postcard doesn't share much of the agenda for the meeting, some details of which are revealed at the Stromasys RSVP webpage. (The whole thing is free, by the way, right down to the heavy appetizers where everybody knows your name.) More to the point, it doesn't reveal the strategy that will drive your feet to that bar where everybody will know your name. Your interest in the emulator is assumed. Knowledge and experience and boasting and whining, laced with humor, were always the prime reasons for attending an HP 3000 user group event. In the absence of a user group, this kind of gathering will have to provide those usual incentives. Expect a lot of "we migrated awhile ago, and here's how it went" along with "we don't want to, and here's the license and support issues we need to solve."
The technology is not an issue. The training on May 10 will prove that to anyone who hasn't seen a demo yet, and the take-home freeware A202 version will give attendees an easy way to do a proof of concept.
Will the system administrator who's moving away from Powerhouse -- slower than expected -- be at Tied House, or the Computer History Museum the next day? Stromsays is keeping track of the RSVPs. Such an attendee would be interested in how the licensing is going with IBM, the keepers of the Cognos products. Powerhouse users have recent memories about investigations about their licenses, with demands for upgrade fees.
We've begun the effort to get Charlie Maloney of IBM, formerly of Cognos, to tell us anything about licensing Powerhouse for the emulator. No comment yet, after about a week of attempts. But Charlie is busy being the Software Sales Representative at IBM Software Group, Information Management, so he might need repeated attempts. I'll keep trying.
I anticipate that if the Tied House and CHM are filled with more than tire-kickers who want to talk about an emulator in demonstration, they'll get down to license discussions. An IT analyst up at a higher education institution said if license fees to move to the emulator match the annual HP 3000 hardware maintenance contract, it's a deal-breaker.
The issue that would destroy the cost-neutrality concept would be software licensing fees. To save costs during our migration to the ERP software, we let software maintenance lapse on all of the utilities that were permanently licensed -- that is, all of those that would continue to run without a refreshed license key each year.
It almost sounds like utility vendors on that system haven't earned a dime during the migration. Taking those utilities onto the emulator, sans support, is only even remotely possible if the emulator is stopgap on the way to a migration. We'll leave it to the reader to judge if its fair.
Migrating customers will look at these license vs. support tradeoffs and see the challenge of staying with MPE. They've made the decision to stay with hardware that demands a support contract of significant investment, but at least their software licenses have no surprises. It doesn't mean the software is anything close to free, since the 15-20 percent application support fees are in place. All that IBM, nee Cognos, will charge for its 8.49F Powerhouse is Vintage Support.
The tough part for that analyst is that his Powerhouse license is 8.49E, not F. The F version had all of its platform-upgrade fees removed, we learned. The way from 8.49E to F is as uncharted to me as Maloney's reply.
There's always the possibility that customers who know each other's name could get together to arrange a group negotiation with such upgrade-fee vendors. Stromasys won't do this officially; it's up to the emulator customers. As for those utility support dollars, they ought to be going to the vendors if those utilities are key to keeping a production system online. That's the 3000/MPE tradition: guaranteed uptime.
We hope it's a rich brew of license and support insights at Tied House, blended with the eye-opener of the training that includes a Linux cradle for the emulator the day after.
April 18, 2013
How Ending Support Might Change Things
If the above subject seems obvious, then the story of the HP 3000 and MPE has had moments to refute it, as well as prove it. Hewlett-Packard considered the end of its vendor-priced support to be the ultimate change in 3000 ownership. If HP wouldn't support MPE and the 3000, who'd use it?
That one is filed as a refute -- several thousand companies have relied on 3000s and MPE over the four-plus years since full HP support ended. Even as a government-required archival system, the computer outlasted the end of HP support.
But in proof of ending support as a trigger of change, we offer the case of the disappearing database. No, not IMAGE, still wired to this day with elegance into the MPE filesystem and 3000s. No, we're examining Oracle here. Many IT managers consider Oracle to be the industry leader. So if its support drove off the 3000 cliff, and so dropped off for MPE after Y2K, didn't that deal a crashing blow to the user community?
One manager who wants to remain anonymous, but still tends to a 3000, told us this week that he believes it was true. "I asked HP people at a trade show if they had heard how Oracle, recently in court and in the news, began the demise of MPE -- when in a previous pre-Sun business decision, they announced end of support for Oracle on MPE?"
Yes, the end of this support did change the 3000's future -- at HP. In the early 1990s HP was hoping that IMAGE would become only one of several database options for the servers, and so it tried to unbundle the custom-tailored IMAGE from MPE. This was meant to make room for the likes of high-dollar Oracle, or other databases which had not made the port to the 3000. HP wished they would do so. Hewlett-Packard's 3000 group pined for SQL Server on MPE.
But Oracle never was thrilled to be part of the 3000 ecosystem. There was so much more profit to be had in the Unix world, or up on IBM mainframes. In 1985 I was reporting on rumors that Oracle was moving to what we were still calling MPE V at the time. The Oracle VP I reached had a question for me. "Why in the world would we do that?"About four years of market time changed this approach, but in '85 Oracle wondered why in the world any vendor would offer an MPE-ready database while IMAGE was included with every 3000. How could Oracle compete with that value? It wasn't like HP was reducing the prices for 3000s which shipped with no database. Enter, after Oracle's arrival on the 3000, the scheme to unbundle IMAGE -- and the customers' revolt at a public roundtable over this strategy.
Oracle trod its path away from MPE after many versions of the database were built and rejiggered to try to match the IMAGE advantage: speed, and the compatibility with the catalog of HP 3000 applications and tools. While that latter group of software bled away -- cut back by the vendor's forecast of an ailing 3000 ecosystem -- Oracle updated Oracle/iX less and less frequently.
That might be the same situation HP's other enterprise environment will experience with the loss of Oracle support. Oracle didn't want to continue with the successor to the 3000's hardware architecture, Itanium. The courts forced this otherwise, but the last period of that game is yet to be played.
Will the end of Oracle support for HP-UX change things? Of course. Will it be a fatal blow? More fatal than the Oracle evaporation from MPE. Few applications ever relied on Oracle on 3000s. It didn't force a transition. Oracle never got traction as a database for in-house apps. That is a different situation than the reality for HP's Unix servers. But one third-party software platform like Oracle never sinks an enterprise ship on its own. It takes a vendor to deliver the coup de gras -- and even then, the demise can be years away.
However, for a company migrating to a new application, the existence of Oracle on that platform can be welcome news. Oracle administrators and developers are in rich supply. Replacing one who quits to become a coffee cart owner or gun-shop salesman is easy. Oracle is everywhere, and thousands of applications rely on it. In a 3000 migration situation, the absence of Oracle support is more reason to change an application from something in-house to something else. "We always wanted to walk away from those old apps," a MANMAN manager said in a user group. "HP ending support for the 3000 gave us the opening."
The ruler to measure change by: the critical nature of the element whose support is ending. Oracle isn't MPE, but it might as well be for any company that considers itself an Oracle customer first, with a few HP 3000s as outliers. As we can see today, support for IMAGE has not ended, thanks to independent companies. Oracle on HP-UX support -- like the 3000's, without new development -- might trigger changes.
How HP reacts to the eventual Oracle departure this time around, compared to its reaction in the 1990s, will determine how much support can change things. The greatest change from ending support takes place in vendor-built environments which have receding application ecosystems. What's the trend for application vendor enhancements in your target environment?
April 11, 2013
Fast Text Searches speed new Eloquence
Marxmeier Software AG has announced the Eloquence B.08.20 release candidate is available for downloading from the Eloquence web site. Testing was expanded for this IMAGE-workalike database, after a beta period during 2012, and "and we incorporated customer feedback," said company president Michael Marxmeier. The extra development time yielded some details and improved documentation.
A B.08.20 production release of this replacement database for IMAGE applications migrated to Windows, Unix or Linux, "is expected to be available shortly and should be identical to the release candidate."
As we noted here in our 2012 summertime reports, Eloquence 8.20 introduces new functionality and enhancements in various product components. Most noticeable are
• Database full text search, adding fast and flexible search engine capabilities to the Eloquence database.
• Various database enhancements, including support for protected password files, repacking a database and improvements to replication management.
• Support for converting PCL output of existing applications to PDF documents on the fly.
Eloquence, a software solution more in line with HP 3000 budgets than Oracle or SQL Server, also has its own programming language. The company said that substantial improvements to the language include syntax enhancements, supporting path to access files, class methods, external classes, and on-demand loading of program code.
"Now is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with the new release," Marxmeier said. "Download a copy and try out new features or enhancements. We are happy to provide temporary license keys to try out optional features."
The most sparkling enhancement to this database is its FTS fast indexing power. Last summer, MB Foster led workshops for programmers who wanted to apply these fast indexes to a database.
"They might do database architecture based on the kinds of retrievals they'd want to perform," said CEO Birket Foster at the time. DBFINDs, DBGETs, and DBINFOs in the Eloquence IMAGE compatibility module have extra commands in 8.20. "If you have migrated and have this new database, we can help you take advantage of new features."
Inside the new Eloquence library for IMAGE/3000:
- DBFIND mode 1 may be used to ensure compatibility with existing applications
- New TPI DBGET modes obtain the Fast Text Seach results
- DBGET modes 5 and 6 help you check compatibility with existing applications
- A TPI DBINFO has enhanced 8xx modes to support FTS
- DBCONTROL's mode 800 and 801 specify the FTS DBFIND behavior if no records qualify
MB Foster's UDALink series of connectivity software allows access to Eloquence (and its new fast features) over HP-UX as well as Linux platforms.In the Eloquence design of FTS, text fields, dates and numbers are indexed so they can be found by keywords, have a search narrowed by date range, then just get the high-dollar transactions, for example. FTS also enables queries with just partial information, like "find William or Bill in Atlanta." The searches are qualified in seconds, based on the number of records found.
"If you or your users feel the need for speed, you can do fast retrievals built right into Eloquence, without a table scan," Foster said. Minor changes to architecture can produce big results, he added. One example is speeding the searches which would drive a call center.
The innovation in FTS is that its search engine is implemented in the database. A basic functionality level is included in the base product. Extended FTS is a licensing option.
This kind of fast indexing was once a third-party add-on speciality of companies like DISC, which sold Omnidex to speed TurboIMAGE performance. The 8.20 Eloquence even has a separate library to integrate four of the most common Omnidex ODX calls.
Other features being explored in the new version include database encryption and item masking. The latter masks or blanks sensitive information upon retrieval. Database managers can control user authorization for masking. These enhancements help secure sensitive information to help meet the credit card PCI DSS requirements.
April 10, 2013
HP launches Moonshot, chairman Lane
Ray Lane was brought in to Hewlett-Packard's board to refocus HP on the software marketplace. The company could see that the era of hardware margins was fast declining, and all of the highest hopes were aimed at the non-physical product. The actions to purchase Palm for its WebOS, as well as Autonomy for five times as much as that $2 billion, were the realization of a long-time HP dream.
Back in 1990 I rode a tour boat into San Francisco harbor. As a reporter for The Chronicle, I was being hosted for the HP CIMinar, where the CIM stood for Computer Integrated Manfacturing. Hewlett-Packard had a press liasion, Charlie Preston, who told me that the company pined for a day when it would manufacture little to nothing.
"It's all in software and services, Ron," he said. The boat was having a hardware failure at the time, a total loss of power within sight of the famous San Francisco Embarcadero Pier. While we bobbed and they kept filling our glasses, Charlie explained that the real power of computing was in services, aided by software. "In 10 years we don't want to be manufacturing much, including computers," he said.
One extra decade later, HP seems to be taking steps away from a virtual computer resource. Last week's exit of board director Ray Lane from the HP Chairman's seat seems proof enough that software has had its bumpy road of acquisitions. Hewlett-Packard didn't get its cart in the ditch without some risk-taking leadership. Lane arrived after years of Oracle work, savvy and a kingmaker. He remains on the HP board, but new leadership will be launching about the same time as the newest of HP hardware, the Moonshot servers.These servers are evidence that HP R&D is still alive and striving to boost the company with proprietary advantages. This was the model that let the 3000 help the company get started in business computing.
The Moonshot 1500 -- yeah, half of the numeral used for MPE/iX hardware -- is driven by low-power, smartphone-caliber Atom chips, which usually go into mobile devices. A Moonshot is about the size of an envelope, and HP can pack hundreds of them together into a single system. It's a supercomputer that according to HP uses 89 percent less energy, takes up 80 percent less space, and costs 77 percent less than more traditional server designs. Whatever those are. It doesn't matter. HP is building servers again that don't mimic anything.
The HP Moonshot 1500 can work for the Web and cloud computing companies. Clouds need cheap, powerful hardware systems, and all along in HP's history that's been the golden chariot to carry software and spark services. Yes, applications drive enterprise choices. But app providers aim at platforms. The Moonshot represents HP's re-entry into an orbit that launched its enterprise computing business 40 years ago. Yup, with the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. If only there was software that HP had built itself that would make that hardware reach the stars. Maybe the company has that fuel somewhere in its legendary Labs.
April 03, 2013
Decommissioned data forgotten in migration
"It's the most forgotten piece of the migration puzzle," said Birket Foster while he recently led a webinar on best experiences with 3000 transitions. "People are not always remembering that at the end of the day they want to shut off the old 3000."
What Foster means is that even after removing data -- the most essential 3000 and company resource -- project managers need to track what data they must keep to satisfy an auditor. Many companies will still need long term access to historic data. That's either a 3000 and its services that can be outsourced from a third party, or maybe even an emulator virtualization of a 3000, perhaps based in a cloud. Some audits demand that the original 3000 hardware be available, however -- not an Intel-based PC doing a letter-perfect hardware emulation.
After the Great War, the returning soldiers were not welcomed as productive citizens ready to return to work. This kind of veteran was called The Forgotten Man, from Golddiggers of 1933. Perhaps the information in aging 3000s is marching in the same kind of veteran step.
Managers have to consider if they want to move their forgotten 3000 data after a migration, or leave it in a searchable format -- several questions to consider for an auditor's satisfaction. Many 3000 sites we've interviewed have a 3000 running for historical lookups. This is the sort of task that would meet the needs of an audit.
"We often remind people who are migrating that even through the classic steps are assess, plan and execute, there's also decommissioning," Foster said. "So you can shut off the box."
Organizations which must meet extra-stringent requirements -- such as healthcare service providers facing HIPAA, or corporations bound by the Sarbanes-Oxley laws, or even credit card-processing merchants -- bear the greatest burden of auditing. For example, those PCI credit card audits are performed by PCI Qualified Security Assessors. One of the only companies, among the 302 listed as QSAs, which is likely to hold tribal knowledge of HP 3000s is Forsythe Solutions -- which once was a Systems Integrator for the 3000.
Archival 3000s have been an important part of the air travel business, due to the use of credit cards to process transactions. A few years ago, one consultant reported out on the 3000 newsgroup that more than a dozen MPE/iX systems demanded archives for old data.
"We have 21 HP 3000s," said Mark Ranft, "and 18 of them are the largest, fully loaded N4000 4-CPU 750 systems you can get." In 2010, he said, "We have migrations to Windows in various stages, but there is also a very real need for legacy data access after the migration. The alternative is to migrate all the data and all the archival history, and that can be costly."
And perhaps less costly with a good plan for decommissioning data, drawn up by experienced providers of daa migration services. Shadow 3000s run in the community with little to do but wait for an audit from one of those 302 QSAs. There's enough shadow resources needed to demand power, lightweight adminstration, and support contracts for these servers -- the budget that might help to defray the costs to decommission.
On the other hand, shutting off these systems hasn't become urgent in many homesteading sites who are transitioning. What might make it matter more are the systems a responsible 3000 IT manager will leave behind for the next pro who takes the job.
March 27, 2013
3000's endurance replaced easier than yours
System managers who are in charge of HP 3000s might be concerned about the endurance of their hardware. Those who use systems built in the 1990s feel lucky as their 3000 disks keep spinning and the data flows into and out of servers like the Series 929. This is the smallest of the 9x9 3000s, installed in many places as the best 1990s value for entry-level computing.
More than a dozen years later, these 3000s remain on the job. Senior management in these companies might want to ride the lucky tiger as long as they can, to forestall the expense of transitions. However, there's an IT element much tougher to replace than an 18GB drive, a power supply or a processor board.
During an interview this week, a manager who inherited a 929 preached the gospel of newer hardware. It's a problem that has a solution in the wings, as Stromasys makes its way into the homesteading market with its CHARON emulator. This manager said running MPE/iX on Intel PCs sounded "loopy," but he hasn't dismissed HPA/3000. He did look away from a component even more essential than hardware. While that HP iron might go down, the manager going down can also be a major issue. The knowledge of the 3000 is like gold at most homesteading shops, even if management doesn't have a golden budget for the server anymore.
Birket Foster of MB Foster likes to call this the "lottery factor." What if a 3000 manager's circumstances changed overnight, like in winning the lottery? A big annualized jackpot could mean a retirement, and a homesteading company would need a replacement. In-house training before such a change could prepare a company for the day that its 3000 expert goes down, even while the hardware hums along.
This manager's major concern "over anything else, is that I have a super hardware failure, and I can't get any support or replacement parts for my 3000. And while it's down, I'm out of business." Many companies run their HP 3000s around the clock, every day of the week. During the interview, it was suggested that even getting sick could amount to the same concern. That's not in the cards, he answered.
He did have a plan for succession, something a lot of 3000 users haven't formed. The company would hire somebody to come in and learn the 3000 operations over six months, before the IT manager might retire. This can be a difficult situation to engineer as a contingency. If you're not ready to retire, you would find it tough to approach your senior management to say, "let's hire up some IT expertise and make it 3000-ready."
This difficulty becomes a reality at any company where a migration has been "put on the back burner" for 4-5 years, one manager said. Another noted that migration was taking a lot longer than planned, and still another in that confectionary company said migrations have been discussed ever since HP triggered the end of its plans for the 3000. It's money that people are not forced to spend immediately, says Foster. So they don't.
"It's money versus risk where most people end up," he says. "At some point, though, they want to know how much risk they're really facing. It's not really about the hardware risk," he added. In some cases, even a Series 929 could handle twice the business load that it shoulders every day, if sales rocketed. The most critical point of failure is the 3000 expert at the company. Outside help to manage MPE applications, as a backup resource, can mitigate that risk. But it's got to be trained to know your business processes today -- even if senior management sees the 3000 as a less-than-golden resource.
Learning to step in for a manager who goes down, like one at a Florida insurance group did in 2010, takes time. This might be a period where transition planning -- not a migration, but selecting a replacement app -- could mitigate risk over a longer term. The IT pro who knows MPE/iX is the golden goose in these fables.
March 26, 2013
Review a plan for modernizing to migration
Many of the most dedicated HP 3000 users have plans. Not just for how to sustain a server HP hasn't built for nearly a decade. Not just for how to retain the tribal knowledge of business systems while preparing for a succession of IT expertise -- the latter in sync with MPE/iX issues. They're making plans to modernize their hardware and extend their software.
At a major healthcare provider in New England, there's an active project to bring an emulator to task, replacing the HP 3000s and their support expenses with inexpensive Intel servers. But the healthcare provider knows the long term probably won't include MPE/iX applications in production. It might be seven years, or 10. But migration -- or a lift and shift of applications -- is certainly down the road.
At another customer site, the prospect of eliminating HP 3000 applications would mean shutting off order entry, fulfillment, sales auditing. It's not impossible, of course. HP's Unix systems have taken over for a major financial module at this manufacturer. That means that somewhere deeper into the corporate calendar, those MPE/iX systems will give way to another OS. When the time is right, says MB Foster's Birket Foster.
March 27 is a Wednesday, so there's a Webinar on offer from Foster's team. Legacy Application Modernization starts at 2PM Eastern Time. Like all the others -- so many over the last three years -- signup is painless, free, and ensures a way to connect with other homesteaders who are eyeing migrations. They might need the latest strategy on what's important to succeed.
At that healthcare provider, the company is still creating development accounts on its HP 3000 N-Class servers. such organizations are often challenged to extend IT investments and modernize their applications, even as the true costs -- like power and cooling, recruiting competent professionals -- to maintaining their environments increase. Foster's webinar looks at the legacy modernization as one way to start the eventual transition.
Couple these challenges with a continual changing technology landscape, and you will find companies are researching alternatives and possibilities, but are uncertain of where to begin the migration process. During this webinar, you will be leveraging MB Foster’s certified migration specialists, who will help your team to successfully rejuvenate and modernize your legacy application.
Attendees will learn about best practices, and proven risk mitigation strategies that will allow you to get started and deliver a thought provoking synopsis to your senior management team, to drive the business forward with an eye towards moving and modernizing mission critical applications into the 21st century.
Attending these events, for just 45 minutes or so, is most enlightening because of what the 3000 owners can share. Solving a problem with new ideas is the aim for these advisory sessions.
March 22, 2013
AcuCOBOL's bench is a means to transition
COBOL-only 3000 sites have been working with the same set of tools for many years. HP closed its languages lab early in the previous decade, so Hewlett-Packard's brand-name source code managers and the like were last enhanced sometime late in the 1990s. That age doesn't matter very much to the strategy of homesteading. Suppliers such as Robelle have enhanced editors like Qedit in the interim.
There are options for improving COBOL development and managing application maintenance and creation. COBOL has many experts and advocates in the 3000 community. One of our favorites is Alan Yeo; his company ScreenJet created an interface between the 3000 and the development toolbench from Acucorp, AcuBench. Yeo has been a realist about the transition of AcuCOBOL toward a melding with Micro Focus COBOL. It's taken a long time so far -- AcuCOBOL hasn't achieved its melding in more than four years of plans and work on the project.
But the state of an AcuCOBOL-Micro Focus meld doesn't change one axiom: better COBOL project tools will help a 3000 site which is migrating. Micro Focus acquired AcuCOBOL's expertise and its customers in 2007, and first talked about a Project Meld in 2008.
"If you're COBOL shop and you're on the HP 3000," Yeo explained, "and you wanted to move to a very structured and complete environment -- where you've got a lot of development tools, debugging tools -- then the Micro Focus environment wouldn't be bad. But as of this minute, they haven't got anything that's as good as their AcuCOBOL GUI product."
Yeo was quick to praise this AcuBench IDE solution. It's software whose current data sheet looks minted from 2009, and states that it supports Windows environments as current as Vista. However, Yeo's ScreenJet software supplies a VPlus to ACUCOBOL-GT and AcuBench Conversion module.
This VPlus conversion tool kit extracts screen information from a VPlus formfile and delivers it as ready-made GUI screens to the AcuBench IDE (Integrated Development Environment), as though the screens had been created initially in that IDE.
A 3000 site moves to AcuBench and AcuCOBOL as part of a migration -- essentially a lift-and-shift project. The AcuCOBOL-GT compiler is engineered to adopt MPE/iX aspects such as COBOL II extensions. "That was the beauty of the AcuCOBOL stuff," Yeo said. "You could develop anywhere and run anywhere." The software outputs industry-standard COBOL, starting with COBOL code already driving HP 3000 applications.
Micro Focus has advanced software for development managing and team organization, some acquired from Borland (another company assimilated into the Micro Focus lineup.) As an example of the scope of some of these products, the AcuBench IDE offers drag and drop techniques to further enhance application screens, to employ additional GUI elements such as Radio Buttons, Check Boxes and List Boxes.
In contrast, a product such as Micro Focus Caliber includes components used to author applications, visualize both user cases and process flows, and simulate user interaction. These tools, which are next-generation software for most 3000-centric developers, can relate such visualizations to application requirements. A review module in Caliber is essential to letting business stakeholders discuss and collaborate on such visualizations.
Business stakeholder discussions can help bring IT to the boardroom table. Collaboration to create and improve applications feeds the value of an Application Management Portfolio, and APM makes apps shine as key assets.
March 19, 2013
HP's expert estimates Itanium's end-date
We return you to California's Santa Clara County Superior Court, where the future of Itanium and HP-UX is already in progress. HP and Oracle continued their battle over the future and value of Itanium yesterday, with each side trying to wring dollars out of their dispute over whether Itanium is finished at HP. The lawsuit's final phase addresses damages. Oracle hopes to prove HP's public and partner strategies cost them sales of Sun servers where Integrity had already lost the business.
Oracle's expert estimated the company lost $95 million in profits, working on the premise that HP lied about the future of its only HP-UX processor line. The Integrity servers have been a popular platform for Oracle's database. A lawsuit that wrapped up in September forced Oracle to continue its development for the server line. The database vendor wanted to stop enhancing Oracle for HP's platforms including HP-UX, all tied to the Itanium chip.
HP's expert Jonathan Orszag of the consulting firm Compass Lexecon had to counter by estimating the lifespan of HP's Itanium business. Orszag said the ending date for Itanium looked to him like 2020. HP would have surely reviewed Orszag's testimony before he offered it to judge James Kleinberg. HP's expert witness in the damages phase of the suit said he based his testimony on Itanium road maps from HP as well its chip partner, Intel.
If Orszag and Hewlett-Packard are on target, then 2020 would mark about two decades of actual service to the enterprise computing customer. That's a mark that HP's initial chip family for the 3000 didn't achieve. But the period of 1974-1989 was nothing like the 21st Century. For one thing, Intel didn't have competing versions of an enterprise business processor on sale during the '70s and '80s. That split focus for Intel showed up again last month, when the chip maker announced a couple of downgrades to Itanium's future.
Those announcements looked like signals that Intel is shifting its R&D resources away from the only processor that drives HP-UX applications. Many migrated HP 3000 sites are using HP-UX. Those who have a migration in their future, nearby or otherwise, still have Itanium on their menu of choices.
Intel said in a modest post on a webpage that it won't be re-engineering Itanium to use the same sockets as the mainstream Intel chipset Xeon. HP's partner added that it will design and manufacture the Kittson family of Itanium using the 32 nanometer architecture that's in the current Poulson family. Intel has 28-nm designs in store for Xeon. Both the smaller architecture and the socket-compatible design have been withdrawn from Intel's Itanium plans.
Kittson will be manufactured on Intel’s 32-nm process technology and will be socket compatible with the existing Intel Itanium 9300/9500 platforms, providing customers with performance improvements, investment protection, and a seamless upgrade path for existing systems. The modular development model, which converges on a common Intel Xeon/Intel Itanium socket and motherboard, will be evaluated for future implementation opportunities.
Evaluated for future implementation opportunities means, in summary, that the engineering to bring Itanium closer to an assured position at Intel is halted. The HP-UX chip is still a unique design at Intel -- which might be okay if Itanium sales were growing, or even maintaining market share. HP says that's not true. The Intel decision forces HP to gamble that the installed base of Itanium users will buy enough to maintain HP's promises on the roadmap which Orszag used. Winning new customers gets harder with every improvement to Xeon which is denied to Itanium.
Hewlett-Packard was in a similar situation, with the then-fledgling Itanium designs, near the end of its HP 3000 futures. A few years before HP's MPE/iX "opportunities" ended, the 3000 division stood at the crossroads of adopting what was called IA-64. First the division would design toward IA-64 with future 3000s. Then it said it would wait, and make do with existing PA-RISC chip family.
The outcome of the California court's damages phase will result in a material impact on the futures of the Business Critial Systems operation at HP. Just not enough. Even if HP wins its $4.2 billion demand, the money would only provide $600 million a year in lost profits for the group. It would offset the losses BCS will post as it continues its spiral. HP CEO Meg Whitman said last month that BCS "was a big and profitable business, and you see that it's declined by 24 percent year over year. The good news is that we've got the best product lineup we've had in a long time in [the Enterprise Group.]"
The bad news? HP's CEO now refers to BCS-Itanium business in the past tense.
Last year the entire Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit at HP -- whose BCS-Integrity line is a fraction of the Xeon-based Linux servers, ProLiant sales, disk sales and networking products -- posted just $2.1 billion in profit. Whitman noted that HP is making investments behind the Enterprise lineup.
But those Hewlett-Packard and Intel roadmaps, plus the chip-maker's announcements, show the money is going elsewhere. Based on what Intel and that HP expert say about Itanium chip dies in the future, it looks like the final act has been scheduled at Hewlett-Packard. Is six more years enough for today's customers? Probably so -- if they don't arrive on HP-UX with 3000-like expectations for investment protection.
March 14, 2013
Advice on reductions helps manage risk
Most managers of 3000s cope with the same challenges seen on other platforms: fewer resources, layoffs and retirements, aging hardware. Yes, even in the marketplace of HP's Itanium or Windows servers, hardware gets older. Not like the 3000s, those boxes which will, by this fall, be at least one decade old.
If the server is built well, if the budgets hold up, if the headcount doesn't shrink, enterprise server owners won't have to manage any risk. What're the odds of that? Since you'd probably admit that you can't dodge all of those, MB Foster held a Wednesday Webinar yesterday to outline the stategies for how to cope with less.
Any special demands for the 3000 didn't come up during the 1-hour webinar. It didn't need to be highlighted, because the elements of risk management are universal. It's just a matter of degree. Do you have an aging workforce, or is the company thinking of using younger IT pros? There's a career retirement trend out there for the professional who can afford it. Foster said 5,000 people born between 1945 and 1960 retire every day. That's ages 53-68, probably the largest slice of 3000 managers.
The odds are stacked against implementing change without a complete plan. Even an optimist would shudder at figures that MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster shared from the Standish Group. By that group's research, 90 percent of the replacements of ERP systems will finish over budget, behind schedule -- or be scrapped altogether. That slender slice of orange in the pie chart represents the lucky companies who got what they wanted, on time and in budget.
Of the ones that finish, companies are averaging about half of the functionality they pursued with their change. Swapping in an off the shelf app for 3000 application could well overlook customizations for spreadsheet interfaces, for example. "And the spreadsheets weren't part of that IT system, they were part of what the user base used," Foster said.
A company is likely to be just one merger or acquisition away from doing more IT with less resources. The 3000 has built-in restrictions that can leave it serving more computing than intended: storage, memory, capability to connect with the latest peripherals. But even the migrated customer can benefit from a plan to mitigate risks.For example, Foster said a company needs $100,000 on average just to deal with planning for the challenges related to a merger. An application portfolio plan, which starts with a professional assessment, can help a company determine not only what they should do, but what they can stop doing.
"It gives people an opportunity to look at all of the processes in their business," Foster said of a portfolio project. "It helps standardize business practices, so the best ones move forward in a merger."
One newer trend in business is analyzing key performance indicators. The HP 3000, or a replacement, can be delivering data needed to access these KPIs. "You pull that data out of your database and put it into a dashboard," Foster said. You can get ready access to that data by using a data mart -- or as Foster said, "putting your data in a fishing pond instead of an ocean." These data marts are fed by an Operational Data Store, or a data warehouse.
Data warehouses are far from new strategies. The 3000's app family was developed for warehouses as far back as the middle 1990s. But a much newer concept, cloud, also harkens back to 3000 roots. "The cloud is a just a modern version of the service bureau, Foster said. His partner in the webinars Chris Whitehead added that using the cloud "is an effective way to mitigate some of the costs and fewer resources you will have if you've gone through a big round of layoffs." Foster took note that using best of breed applications connected through the cloud still demands you assign an "application of record" to each customer datafile. It could be shipping, billing or a CRM system, but you must decide.
One segment of the webinar held special meaning for the 3000 site which is homesteading. Complete plans on how to weather reductions of resources include plans for aging hardware.
"You can figure out what hardware can go away," using a portfolio plan in an era of cutbacks, Foster said. The estimation should be based on the hardware's business fit, its stability and quality, and its maintainability. Mean Time to Recovery of Operations is "the other side of your disaster plan, understanding the cost of recovering. This helps determine how long a company could afford to be off-line if a system failed.
Mergers help define movement, but the rise of mobile computing also will tax aging resources. "You'll have to think about how mobile fits into your picture. Maybe some of your operations don't have to be done with a web browser. A shipper could look up a status over a smartphone.
But that fishing pond, the reservoir that spills out of a classic data warehouse, delivers insights that can begin with 3000 data. Any 3000 customer who's thinking of moving off the platform will benefit from creating these ponds out of their oceans of data.
"There's a real benefit of being able to have replication of data that exists on an HP 3000 into a seperate repository," Whitehead said. "You can redirect all of the users to that environment on say, Oracle or SQL Server, so they can do their reporting. It facilitates the transformation if they do make the change in ERP -- and stops individuals from hacking away at the production environment, too."
March 05, 2013
What Triggers a Need for New Tools?
Editor's note: One of our 2013 projects is exploring the range of development tools that are waiting on the other side of a move off the 3000. I checked in with Alan Yeo, the founder of ScreenJet and a provider of VPlus transition and modernization tools. He's also offering a Transact for non-3000 platforms, TransAction. More than a decade ago, Yeo wired up an interface from the Acubench COBOL suite into his ScreenJet software. The Acubench technology was acquired by Micro Focus five years ago, as part of absorbing the products and customers of Acucorp into the Micro Focus COBOL tool lineup.
By Alan Yeo
If you're developing on the HP 3000, most of the tools that are available do just about everything that is needed. They don't need to be that much better. Remember, if you're cutting code on the 3000 it's either batch code or it's got a UI. If it's got a UI, it's either home-grown or VPlus, and none of the new tools are going to buy you a lot more than existing tools will for that stuff.
Some old tools did integrate with source version control software — but not a lot of people were doing that on the 3000. There are a ton of tools available for the 3000 that people never used, because they could make do with the simple ones. They didn't get into trouble; they were a lot more professional because they could concentrate their knowledge in a smaller area.
I don't think a better development environment would trigger a migration. Who uses dev environments? Techies. The days when the techies in companies decided and led the choice of software solutions ended about 20 years ago. So there has to be a business need to migrate or implement something new. If a company is in a mindset of going somewhere, the protection of application assets by using new tools is an important point. What you've got available to protect that application investment has value.
Unfortunately, the terms migrate/migration have been mangled in their usage over the last decade. To me, a migration is when you take what you have and move it to a different platform (maybe with some changes on the way) or make a change in the base technology as a result of the migration. Buying a different package/applications isn't a migration.
Sure, you may have moved some of the data. But it's rather like buying a new phone and transferring your old phone numbers. You haven't migrated from one phone to the next. You have bought a new one, and binned the old one.
However, having said that, is there a business need to migrate, or a business need to junk what you have and get something new? Then yes, what tools are available in the new environment, what the applications are written in, how easy are they to maintain, how easy to get people with the needed skills — all these things are part of the equation.
As far as better tools for COBOL tools, if you're a COBOL shop, then moving to a better toolset than just a line editor makes a lot of sense. Something with a built-in debugger, for example. Would I use something like the latest COBOL tools to develop something new with a UI? No. Been there done that, and I've been locked into proprietary products that go away. No, COBOL is great for back-end processing, but it isn't a UI product, regardless of how many bells and whistles you hang on it.
And that's from someone who still thinks COBOL is the best app development language, especially for apps that need ongoing maintenance, development and support.
March 04, 2013
Modern COBOL awaits in migrations
Migrating 3000 sites, as well as prospects, can expect one element to remain the same: COBOL. Unless a company is buying an off-the-shelf application to replace their 3000 suite, COBOL will remain in control even on a platform as novel as Linux. We haven't heard many reports of 3000 sites rewriting from COBOL to anything else, simply to maintain their mission-critical in-house apps. (Ruby, an object oriented programming language, has been stepping in for COBOL at QSS, the K-12 application provider with 3000 customers.) What tips the scales in favor of sticking with COBOL is more than a developer's comfort with the language. Relaxed formatting and structure are hallmarks of any modern COBOL.
Is sticking with COBOL in 2013 a sound choice? To be sure, many 3000 users wouldn't choose COBOL for a brand-new app. Many are developing in other environments (Visual Studio) on what we call surround platforms. The key data remains on a 3000 for now, feeding those other-apps.
But COBOL has changed a great deal, and for the better, if you decide to move away from HP's COBOL II. The language once had a reputation of being verbose. Okay, that hasn't changed. But COBOL in updated flavors has dropped all the fixed A/B margin formatting, uppercase-only text and rigid division-section structure that was still in place when HP left the languages business.
COBOL supporters in your community still like to talk about how readable and maintainable COBOL still is, even in the face of the brace-and-bracket languages world. George Willis of investment house Fayez Sarofim migrated the MPE applications using AMXW, "so that we could 'lift and shift' our COBOL and Powerhouse code with somewhat minimal changes." The company chose HP's Unix as its platform last year, but AMXW works with Windows and Linux, too.
The exception to COBOL is FORTRAN in the 3000 world. MANMAN relies upon FORTRAN for its MRP work, and many a manufacturing site has coded in customizations using FORTRAN. But outside of the manufacturing base, COBOL rules the past as well as the future.
The advantage to starting with a clean slate for a mission-critical application: you choose whatever language fits best. But 3000 sites don't get a clean-slate restart, since the data is always of legacy vintage. You wouldn't write a mobile application in COBOL. But when you consider the tasks 3000 apps perform -- rely on transactions, used record-structured data, handle heavy loads -- COBOL still fits well.
A white paper from Creative Intellect Consulting says that "COBOL's past shortcomings don't compromise its appropriateness for the future." That is only true, however, if a modern COBOL is waiting on the other side of a migration. Everything is more modern than COBOL II, and right at the end of HP's 3000 futures one company modernized COBOL II. The suite that emerged was called AcuCOBOL-GT.
Acucorp released the product as a revamp of MPE/iX COBOL, but it emerged within a few months of HP's 2001 exit announcement. Now AcuCOBOL-GT has been absorbed by Micro Focus, whose Visual COBOL 2.1 is still adding more compatibility for AcuCOBOL. Some companies that made the jump to things like AMXW embraced AcuCOBOL as part of their move.
There are still macro issues to resolve, for the companies which employed them in their 3000 applications. Consultant Michael Anderson of J3k Solutions reports that the way he handled macros in COBOL II while moving to HP-UX is "to compile the original source on MPE, and then use the listfile as the new source code for HP-UX-based AcuCOBOL or Micro Focus COBOL. Then do some cutting and pasting into new copy books (COPYLIBs) on the HP-UX server."
Visual Studio, probably the most widely adopted development environment for companies that rewrote code to .NET, is supported by the Micro Focus product. That support lets customers edit, compile and debug using Visual Studio 2012 or 2010. This COBOL support isn't widely known, if you're examining Visual Studio from the world of Windows. Support for Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual C++ is built in to the free "Express" versions of Visual Studio. But if your frame of reference for development is COBOL rather than Windows, you'll know that going Visual doesn't mean leaving COBOL behind.
MicroFocus doesn't own all of the modern COBOL choices. There's COBOL-IT, a commercialization of the OpenCOBOL open source code. COBOL-IT has been built by former Acucorp managers, using the same model that's worked in other open source advances: improve upon features without erasing compatibility, then add professional-level support. As recently as two years ago, Speedware (now Fresche Legacy) was promoting the use of COBOL-IT in migrated environments. Fresche is now working closely with Micro Focus, too.
There's also Fujitsu's NetCOBOL, which includes support for .NET as well as Windows' Visual tools. There's a difference in pricing as well as reach between Fujitsu and Micro Focus. NetCOBOL supports Linux and Solaris along with Windows, and it doesn't use a runtime pricing model. The Micro Focus tools -- and there are a mighty raft of them, considering the company aquired Borland, too -- run everywhere. (Well, maybe not under MPE. But there's that Acucorp heritage inside the software, after all.)
Proven success keeps COBOL running much of the world's business computing, more than 50 years after the language was invented. It's hard to refuse something that's worked for this long -- if its community keeps reinventing it. If your IT efforts include care for languages and programs, like so many do, then caring about your next COBOL should be an issue to investigate.
February 28, 2013
A Thorough Chill of the OS Business
The consumer product maker LG has announced it's purchasing the webOS team, talent and tech from HP. This means a company whose lineup includes french door refrigerators now owns the most modern mobile OS in the world. As it turns out, great technology like webOS doesn't have much value in the hands of a company which can't create demand for the magic.
There's so little value left in webOS that the joint release about the sale says "HP and LG do not expect this transaction to have a material impact on either company's financial statements." And so, without even a report of what webOS cost, HP froze itself out of another OS product line.
Some operating systems not only have enduring value, but they are also drawing top talent to their community. It happened late last year for RedHat's Linux; Jeff Vance took his next step away from HP's 3000 guru days, when he made his transfer from K-12 vendor QSS to the Hat. Vance arrived at QSS with gusto for newer development environments and got to ply his passion for years there.
But the signals sent by selling off an innovative OS for "no material impact," well, they say a lot about how system makers create their value in 2013. The mobile OS that was going to unseat Apple made its HP departure with the same language as 3000 customers shared about MPE/iX. The end of the line wasn't really the end of the line, was it?
At webOS Nation, the site's editors watched HP turn to a commodity technology the vendor doesn't own. They asked "Is this the end of webOS, or just the end of HP and webOS? Is this news of an HP Android tablet a nail in the coffin of Open webOS -- or is it just a nail in the coffin of HP webOS?"
Just swap in MPE/iX in those questions and you can hear the echo of 2002-05. An avid vendor base wanted a further life for MPE/iX, but HP didn't even want to sell out of that OS. The company got asked, too, in the months that followed the 3000-exit decree from HP. "Sell us the 3000 business, since you're getting out," one MPE stalwart vendor offered. HP declined while it went cold on its most storied business OS -- one used at big sites, too.
However, knowing deep secrets of extraordinary technology still has its advantages, even today. An HP veteran of 31 years sat at the Old Austin Cafe next to us last night. My friend Scott Hirsh, formerly of the 3000 world's system manager leadership and now tackling tech presales at Dell, wanted an authentic Texas chicken-fried steak to enjoy with us. That HP fellow "couldn't help but overhear" us raving about history and HP and the 3000. A handshake later he was sharing colleagues-in-common with Scott.
The HP veteran had started out in sales at the Neely Region (the US West) and soon moved to 3000 sales in the Series III era. He'd held jobs as a CE and an SE in a company where software was designed to sell servers. Where even a Local Area Network offering became LAN/3000. Just because it was a standard tech didn't mean HP wanted to brand it.
"I miss the days of Bill and Dave," he said by way of introduction. We were all on the same team for awhile over our steaks. But he also was carrying the torch of tech in newer environments, installing 3Par storage with its many nuances for an HP site.
"These days I never see the inside of offices at HP," he said when we talked about changing technical structures. He's on the road 80 percent of the time, with the off days at his home office. An expert in the 3000's OS might find a similar future, if they can find customers who still value their operating system.
February 27, 2013
Some version management required
Like the old saying of "some assembly required," the more current demands of application development will require version management, at the least, for 3000-bred apps. They are mission-critical programs, and we've not heard terrific reports about off the shelf replacements for 3000s during a migration. It's possible and has been accomplished, but many more stories are in our files concerning existing code, working on a new platform.
If you're moving code away from a 3000 to another platform, some version management is the minimum you will require. More likely, the solution will integrate a compiler suite with Windows Studio tools. There's something on the market called COBOL Studio from ATX II Tecnologias de Software, S.A. More familiar targets would include the Visual COBOL for Visual Studio, from Micro Focus.
What does it look like when a 3000 is doing more beyond a good programmer's editor? Perhaps like the story that Walter Murray -- who moved from HP's languages lab to a job managing 3000s for the California Corrections System -- shared with us.
For version management, I use HP SRC. I have one master library and one person responsible for keeping it in sync with what's in production. We archive not only the source, but also the compiler listing, object file, and executable, each time a new version is migrated to production. We also archive job streams, UDCs, tables, and so on. We have separate libraries for personal use and projects.
That last part might be just as important as any other Murray mentioned. Good developers have a yen for creating programs, and the ones you'll want to attract will have personal projects. The most broad minded companies set aside time for the code creators to work on these projects.
You never know when some personal coding will yield a breakthrough that can be applied to a mission-critical roadblock. But without management for version changes, the chain of succession for a development team is much weaker.
Murray had other recommendations for the coders who will stay on the 3000 to homestead. (After all, SRC is an MPE/iX tool.) He likes to use Quad, but notes that
the only bothersome limitations with Quad are that it doesn't handle files with variable length records (of which we have very few any more) and the search is case-sensitive (which leads us to avoid lower case in COBOL source code except for comments).
For debugging, I use XDB (HP Symbolic Debugger/iX). It's well worth the time spent learning to use it, even if it's not as good as HP Toolset as a symbolic debugger for COBOL.
February 21, 2013
HP ends red ink overall, but BCS tumbles
HP is likely to remain intact for a long time, based on the comments from its CEO Meg Whitman at the latest quarterly report briefing. "The patient shows signs of improvement," she told an audience of analysts and the press. "We did better than we expected we would, and I think we should be encouraged by that."
Even though the company halted its quarters of red ink at two — Q1 delivered a profit of $1.2 billion, compared to the loss of $8 billion in the previous quarter — the top management delivered a dire report on business server enterprises at HP. Sales dropped company-wide by 6 percent to $28.4 billion. Its Enterprise Group sales fell $245 million, led by the continuing troubles at the Business Critical Systems unit.
"Our server business has a particularly strong market position in EMEA," said CFO Cathy Lesjak, "and the economic backdrop of that [region] is still dismal. The Itanium challenges within BCS are also still with us. There are key challenges still out there."
Lesjak said the news from the PC group — which HP said it has no plans to spin off — couldn't even meet HP's hopes. "Frankly, the business deterioration we are seeing in Personal Systems — particularly in EMEA and with notebooks — is worse than we expected."
One analyst on the call noted that the profit margins for the Enterprise Group have dropped for nine straight quarters. He wanted to know why, and Whitman laid the first pile of blame upon Business Critical Systems, the unit where HP sold 3000s until it dropped the server 10 years ago.
"The negative factor is the decline of BCS," Whitman said. "It was a big and profitable business, and you see that it's declined by 24 percent year over year. The good news is that we've got the best product lineup we've had in a long time in [the Enterprise Group.]" Whitman went on to note that HP is making investments behind the Enterprise lineup.
"R&D is the lifeblood of this business," she said of HP's enterprise products such as HP-UX servers and storage. Whitman believes that the enterprise customers will bring along Technical Services business to improve HP profits overall.
So how did the company turn a profit for the period? It didn't have to write off the value of Autonomy this time around, or subtract the valuation (through a goodwill writedown) of its Enterprise Services Group. Those were multi-billion-dollar hits in the last two quarters, including $8.8 billion in the previous quarter alone.
Even though Whitman called 2013 "a fix and rebuild year," the company still expects to be delivering $3.40 a share in fiscal year profits. That amounts to $6.6 billion HP believes it will earn using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. These non-GAAP numbers are usually twice as high as accepted numbers. It still adds up to billions in profits for a year where HP says it's going to remain a single company.
"We have no plans to break up the company," Whitman said. "I feel quite strongly that we are better and stronger together." She believes that the past 10 years of business has built "the most valuable franchise in IT, particularly as we look forward to the most significant change in how IT is bought, paid for and consumed. We have a terrific set of assets, and we're going to drive that to really great business performance."
Even though HP's PC business contributes only 10 percent of the company's total profit, Whitman managed to spin that number into a positive. HP thinks pricing for PCs is going to be a problem, so it's glad that PCs only contribute a minimal share of earnings. The CEO thinks there's a better road ahead for an HP that remains intact.
"Customers want this company to be together," she stressed. "We heard that loud and clear on August 18, 2011." That was the day when HP released a quarterly report that it was studying a PC-Enterprise breakup. Shareholders sold down the stock that week on the news, along with the damage of dumping CEO Mark Hurd.
The return to black ink on HP's reports is a good sign about the company's futures, Whitman said. "The turnaround is on track. We have three more quarters to go in this year. We feel very confident about delivering the full year results. But we have to deliver, and we have to execute as an organization."
HP executed 3,500 employee departures in the first quarter, and it reduced its headcount by 11,800 in the fiscal year that ended in October. "We've now asked 15,300 people to leave the company," Whitman said. "We can actually see savings from that, and see a more streamlined and focused organization. This is the financial capacity we will need to hit our numbers. And it's the financial capacity we will need to invest."
February 20, 2013
One decade later, change remains complex
I just retired the pages and stories of the latest Newswire printed edition, our 137th. It's always a celebration day when the pages go onto the press for each print edition. But print, plus one monthly Online Extra email update, used to be all there was to the 3000 Newswire. There's been so much change since February of 2003 -- in your community, not just in the Newswire -- that I went back to look at what was crucial one decade ago.
To my surprise, the message from HP was mixed with migration as well as emulation. HP held a Webcast for C-Level staff at their customers' companies. About 70 people arrived online, but it didn't look like a lot of them were CFOs, CIOs, or any of the other Cs. There was a lot of talk to explain how HP got to its decision to drop the 3000 off its lineup. In 2003, every HP message was based upon future directions they believed customers would take. But the company also acknowledged some sites wouldn't ever migrate -- or take so long that HP would not be supporting the server by the end of a migration.
Yes, migrations are still underway. HP predicted that correctly.
In 2003's February, 18 print articles got the reporting done, along with another three articles' worth of Online Extra. In the month of 2013 that led to our printed date, we published 22 articles. A decade later we're one article up on our report count. But the news appears five days a week now, instead of once every 30 days, with one extra day of Online Extra.
How could the news stay so constant, given the reduction of installed 3000s over 10 years? Well, this has been an era full of migrations, as well as the transitions to sustain which the homesteaders have pursued. The migrations are as complex as ever. The homesteading has new wrinkles to write about, like that emulator. But like the change factor of migrations, it turns out we were writing about emulation during 2003, too.
Here's a current report from a customer who's been working on a migration for about six years now. We just heard this on the day we sent off February, 2013 -- or as we say in publishing, Volume 18, Issue 2. The launch date for this project was 2007.
We worked on system configuration and data clean-up/migration during all of 2008, and went live with the first module (H/R and Payroll) in January 2009. We went live with the Finance module (my area of support) in July 2009, and with another critical module in January 2010. A very aggressive implementation schedule. The modules still on the HP 3000 are our telecommunications system and our computer user tracking system.
"Of course," our correspondent added, "the general economic meltdown that occurred in 2008 affected our entire process. It affected the ERP budget as well as the organization's general budget." He went on to say the organization had to stop hiring temp workers to do office tasks while regular workers were in training. "It made an already hard process even harder."
When I thumbed through our pages of 2003, I didn't find any reports like that. Nobody had a current migration project to summarize. Early 2003 was a planning and deciding era, one that would last about another two years before projects genuinely began. Although building 3000s and selling them was going to end eight months later, everyone figured they had at least until December 31, 2006 to get projects finished.
And as it turned out, HP's support end date was extended another four years. Like a lot of migration projects. We talked to the Interex Advocacy Manager Deb Lawson in that issue, and the user group estimated 25 percent of all companies had not made a decision to migrate by early 2003. "Many [of that group] aren't going to migrate at all," she said, "while some will eventually migrate, just not in the short term."
It was a much larger pool in that year, of course. 25 percent of the customer base would've represented 5,000 servers that hadn't decided to migrate yet, if at all. Interex estimated that out of a 25,000-machine base (as estimated by IDG), 77 percent would be underway in a migration by the end of 2004. Nothing moved nearly as quickly as expected. Including the arrival of an emulator.
A hardware replacement for the 3000 boxes was a keen need, according to Lawson. "The biggest need for the 3000 base is a hardware emulator and getting the 2006 date extended," she said. I know HP is aware of those two huge needs."
A decade later, the Stromasys emulator is only now marking its first year of availability. Just like migration got extended or stalled, key elements of Charon HPA/3000 were delayed.
Hewlett-Packard could only go to the brink of devising a license for MPE/iX on any unbuilt, unstarted emulator. A plan to have Intel-based emulator license terms announced in February, 2003 had slipped from the “early in 2003” promises made in the fall of 2002. We believed "HP’s commitment to its homesteading customers shows no apparent signs of slipping."
But that depended on what part of HP you could see. The 3000 division was doing what it could, although it was 2004 before any license plan emerged. But in the HP legal division, decisions were made that held up key technical data that could have made a 2004 license relevant in a few extra years, at most.
And for anyone left in our community who believes OpenMPE didn't have an active role, they can look to our story about that Webcast's homesteading message. HP's Mike Paivinen, working out of the 3000 division, said "We’ll continue to work with OpenMPE to understand the needs of the users they represent.” HP said it would hold teleconferences with some of the homesteading community, to “better understand how customers expect to use their 3000s after HP’s end of support date." The division's last GM, Dave Wilde, said he wanted OpenMPE "to have the lead on this" emulator license issue.
Migrations got compared to homesteading, especially their costs, during that Webcast. Staying versus going was a choice that triggered an HP statement that "many HP 3000 owners have discovered those two curves have already crossed, or will be crossing very shortly." But out on the migration road trip three months earlier, HP said that migrations would cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, unless customers were moving Powerhouse or Speedware apps to HP's Unix. Nobody could say they were spending that much to homestead.
For the HP 3000 customer hiring their first Oracle DBA in a migration effort, HP was advising that a sharp question ought to be asked. "Ask them about data structure differences [between IMAGE and Oracle], automatic masters, have them draw the map for you," said a manager from one of HP's Platinum Migration partners in 2003. " If they don't understand, you don't want them working for you."
That's because just like the situation in 2013, the migration changes were going to be costly enough to trigger scrutiny from the C-level. Birket Foster of migration partner MB Foster said back then that customers "need to start planning from the end, like on what date does it become too risky to say on the 3000? You probably should have started last year. A lot of folks haven't got a grip on when they should have actually started."
A decade later, some people still want to know about how to manage MPEX use, track the latest improvements to Suprtool, or even get support for 9x7 systems. We reported on all of that, too. The complexity of changes led me to advise in an editorial that even measuring twice, before taking one cut at migration, might not be enough. Carpentry experience was a pretty apt allegory, until we mentioned that getting a fresh piece of wood to create a baluster rail was easier than a restart on any migration.
I looked back on our Volume 8, Issue 5 with a fond gaze, admiring a list of more than two dozen sponsors and 50 percent more pages. But there was no blog in that February, or its sponsors, to keep everybody up to date. A lot less was available to report on migrations. But the conclusions about change weren't going to shift. It would take longer than expected and cost more than planned, most of the time. The 3000 story is no less complex today, even after we've all taken a decade's leap in expertise and technology.
February 19, 2013
HP aims at Enterprise ally uptick for 2013
Hewlett-Packard will be reporting about its past in a couple of days, briefing analysts at 5 PM EST Feb. 21 about the quarter just ended in January. But the company will be looking ahead at its fiscal quarters to come starting tomorrow, when it briefs HP allies at its 2013 Global Partner Conference.
Issues and opportunities for customers who are migrating, or have already moved, will dominate the conference. That almost goes without saying; HP's closed off all other 3000-related business including support. But HP is also going to share information that could be just as useful for those analysts, being briefed in the same week. HP's going to talk about its Oracle alliance at the meeting in Las Vegas (see the detail at left). The story might be the same for partners as analysts and the business press. Sales ally presentations will have an optimistic slant in Vegas. Eveyone wants to be hopeful in that town, at least when they arrive.
What HP sketches at this sales meeting -- the year's largest partner conference -- will shape what these partners say to customers about Oracle. The database vendor has been forced by the courts to keep working with HP on Itanium server technology. Nobody knows what that enforced alliance will yield yet. The court ruling and Oracle's capitulation only happened in September. Partners have fielded too many questions about the FUD that Oracle spread, and HP's said in previous quarterly reports that FUD choked off Enterprise business.
However, it's an article of faith: applications determine where a customer will go when they leave the 3000. But an application off the shelf always needs a database, and Oracle is underneath a lot of them, especially on HP-UX. If a migrating customer can ask an HP partner, "What's the database feeding that application?" then the answer -- leavened with this week's Oracle alliance message -- can shape a migration decision. You'd want to know if you were entering the Oracle enterprise airspace by migrating onto an app in Itanium, wouldn't you? Especially with a court order driving Oracle development.Application suppliers will sometimes overlook this kind of tech detail as they present to a customer's higher management. This is the sort of question that an IT manager, or a system architect, would be first to ask. For example, if you're moving your 3000 asset application for higher-ed to Banner on a Unix box, you won't see much reference to Oracle on the Banner webpages.
A migrating manager would have to go into the product roadmap pages at the website of Ellucian, the company that owns Banner after buying up Sungard. Sure enough, there in the PDF presentation for Banner is a twin track -- using Microsoft databases and using Oracle's.
Those columns represent Windows vs. Unix choices. You could probably assume if you're picking HP-UX for any application it'll be running Oracle. That's the same setup for the Ecometry Open migration solution for retailers.
Oracle still has a lot of clout in driving the migration choices for 3000 sites. Some want Windows for staffing reasons and lower hardware/support costs. They might also be choosing a path were the HP alliance with the database vendor isn't something that requires a briefing at a Partner Conference.
February 18, 2013
When Bigger Isn't Better for Commerce
There are at least 60 companies in the world that are still using Ecometry direct commerce software on an HP 3000, according to members of that software's community. Perhaps four times that number have already made a migration off MPE/iX, many taking the road to Ecometry Open on Windows.
But that path might have become steeper than the migrated sites expected since Ecometry's owner RedPrairie decided to join JDA Software. JDA is to logistics software as Infor is to manufacturing: a company with a practice of purchasing other companies. Bigger is better to these kinds of entities.
A deal announced in November to combine the two companies says that RedPrairie is acquiring JDA by purchasing JDA stock, but it's a reverse takeover. RedPrairie is the smaller entity, buying up JDA stock to plow through the regulatory scrutiny if the deal was the other way around. The merger was announced as complete about six weeks later, during the Christmas week where news gets dumped because nobody is supposed to be looking.
A larger owner can sometimes not be looking at the best of interests of smaller, acquired customers. It matters enough that some users say say they're freezing Ecometry projects until they get convinced the software will still exist in a year. The 131 products that are now part of JDA, post-merger, suggest something's got to give -- at least in the software development resource derby. At Infor, plenty of software checks in with an ability to continue to pay for support. But development often slows for these acquired products, such as MANMAN.
There was a time -- and not so long ago -- when Ecometry was the sole focus of its ownership. Those owners included people who'd grown the customer base from its HP roots while the server was rebranded the e3000.It's not easy to remember what the "e" was supposed to stand for in e3000, but HP added the vowel as a way of trying to brand the server as a web resource. (Okay, you'll read something about Enabling growth, Enhancing app partner and solutions focus, and Embracing new technology. Less than two years later, Hewlett-Packard was using the little "e" to mean "extinguish," as it shut off HP futures for the server.)
Ecometry, named to draw upon the new e-commerce strategy, was a flagship app partner in that e3000 era. Even as recently as 2005, Ecometry was just taking its first departure into the realm of equity capital ownership.
The founders of the company, Will Smith and Allan Gardner, retired and sold off their firm in 2004, but that transaction didn't change things for customers as much as another retirement. The equity firm Golden Gate Capital, guided by Ecometry executives led by CEO John Marrah, mothballed a strategy that all Ecometry HP 3000 customers had to leave the platform by HP’s Dec. 31, 2006 support deadline.
Even though that deadline was extended twice by HP, that timetable never mattered as much as establishing a continuing support business. That's the strategy at Infor and JDA, too. MANMAN and Ecometry sites, regardless of their platform, buy support for their applications from the current owners.
Question 17 of an FAQ about the merger explains how a customer would know if their product had been terminated.
JDA’s general policy is that products are not sunset, and that customers are not forced to upgrade to specific versions of our products. Our customers are our top priority and we are committed to continue to provide customers value for the maintenance fees that they pay.
Additionally JDA has a comprehensive solution investment policy available online that outlines JDA’s industry-leading policy for supporting legacy versions of products. This policy will carry forward to the merged company.
JDA established that investment policy in 2011, after it acquired Manugistics and i2. These company brands like Ecometry, Escalate and even RedPraire all become integrated, running behind the shield of JDA. Some of the largest retailers in the world are being served by the combined product roster now, according to the FAQ. The combination of the two companies creates a customer list of more than 3,200. At its height of direct commerce focus, Ecometry had less than 400 companies in its client base.
What JDA now calls an impressive customer roster includes 82 of the STORES Magazine global top 100; 87 of the Consumer Goods Technology global top 100; and 22 of the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25. If that sounds like a mismatch against smaller retail customers such as Seeds of Change, TLA Video, Stumps and Diamond Essence, its because these smaller companies believe they're entitled to some assurances. One problem is the preferred system integrators for JDA, CAPGemini, Tata, and Wipro, can't work on projects of under $5 million. There's too much overhead to start the integration engines for less than that figure. Integrations figure large in the customer experience of "omni-channel" retailers like the Ecometry sites.
Smith and Gardner retired after building up their company to the point where they renamed it Ecometry. As it moved into equity capital ownership, it represented one of the biggest single groups of HP 3000 packaged application customers. There were the best-known brands in the 3000 base there as well, such as M&M/Mars, Brookstone and Title Nine.
The buy-up plan began in 2005 with the Ecometry doing the acquiring. It grew its customer base off competitors through purchases. Marrah said that Ecometry, bolstered by Golden Gate’s $2.5 billion wallet, "would pursue an aggressive acquisition strategy, buying companies to both extend its customer bases and advance its technology."
But in the meantime Ecometry was spreading the word that 3000 sites could expect application support of its MPE-based software during 2007. The 3000 sites can still buy support, six years later.
Customers say they want to know more than support plans for the lifecycle of a retailer app. The JDA Focus conference is scheduled for May 5-7. If there's one thing in common with those classic Ecometry days for these customers, it's the location of Focus. The show is held in Florida, the state where Smith and Gardner founded their company. RedShift, the RedPrairie conference, was to be held in Las Vegas -- where HP is opening its Americas Partner conference tomorrow.
February 15, 2013
3000 pro uses open source version control
We've been polling the 3000 community about its choices for development tools, but the range runs wider than QUAD or versions of Notepad. One enterprising veteran has tapped the free, open source toolset git to create a batch transfer system for EDI.
The git solution is one of those software choices that seems to defy the traditional structures for care and feeding of software. Like the Joomla Content Management System, git is supported by a vast range of users, comes free of charge for any Windows, Unix or Linux-based workstation or server, and is used by very large companies as well as untold thousands of smaller ones.
One 3000 IT pro, James Byrne of the trading specialist and freight forwarder Harte & Lyne Ltd., checked in to report how git is helping him manage the development of new modules which connect to newer enterprise environments. The git techology supports Behavior Driven Developments. BDD provides developers and business analysts with shared tools and a shared process to collaborate on software development.
Last year I had to create an EDI batch transfer system from one of our suppliers into our billing system hosted on the HP 3000 and written in PowerHouse. For that project I created a git repository for the HP on our source archives' Linux host, and then transferred over all of our source code, job files, udc and cmd files -- and anything else I believed to be locally developed source -- into the git repository using the HP 3000s HFS layout.
I then checked out the specific directories and files into a working directory on my Linux workstation, wrote the new stuff and edited the old stuff in GVim, and checked everything back into the remote repository.
Byrne said he then FTP’ed the new stuff onto the HP 3000 and ran it. "If there were any bugs -- and when are there not? -- I edited the source on the workstation, checked it in to the repository, and FTP transferred it from there to the HP 3000 for the next iteration."
It seeems to me that written out it appears more cumbersome than it actually is. It all went fairly smoothly once most of the gotchas and ‘oops-I didn’t-know-that’ were gradually uncovered and weeded out the the workflow.
One of the major benefits of doing things this way was that everything was built using BDD methodology and the new systems is covered by reproducable tests. Recently a change occured external to our system that broke one of the transfer scripts. We were able to identify the exact problem in our code and fix it with remarkably little effort in an amazingly short time, all because the test suite identified exactly where the exception was occuring and in what way the new behaviour varied from what was expected.
Byrne said the next thing he expects to be writing for, if not actually on, the HP 3000 is a set of Quiz reports to extract the company's 3000 database data into XML files, for transfer and loading into a new billing system. "After that is done," he said, "it seems very likely that then we will bid adieu to our old workhorse."
February 14, 2013
Can a new IDE push a migration forward?
We're looking for evidence of this concept in the 3000 community:
"If you get more modern development tools, then a migration to a new platform is worth the effort. Well, more so."
We've received reports from the user community about what they count upon when they need to code for their 3000s. Some answers have run to Whisper Programmer Studio (a fine piece of software that lost its vendor, WhisperTech, years ago) or the QUAD Editor. Even EDITOR/3000 got some votes in our simple poll.
A robust editor -- Robelle's Qedit, ready for both 3000-hosted use and Windows, cited most often -- is a great tool for keeping HP 3000 software maintained. When a company grows fast, however, the change sometimes seems to spark a major uptick in the demands on development. The next thing you know you're being challenged to support mobile versions of applications, integrating with existing apps that were developed elsewhere on other platforms, or tying into expansive Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) in the company that acquired you.
We're thinking Eclipse there, but the product names don't matter as much as the concept.
Those larger companies and wider scopes of app delivery can trigger a need for a bigger IDE. We're pretty sure of that, but just missing some stories that it's been true in the 3000 world. We're on the lookout for reports that the bigger IDE can help push a 3000 migration down the slide. At customers like SBCTC (that college consortium in Washington State) and at an Australian insurance company, 3000 sites became Unix and Linux operations. Did they base their decision, in part, on getting a chance to use big IDEs for growing application development needs?Most of the migrations we have tracked were sparked by two things: a loss of faith in the 3000 because HP's support was ending; or the need to have modern hardware that was still being upgraded by the manufacturer. The other most-cited reason was a departure of 3000 expertise from the IT staff. Also near the top of the list: application software vendors, selling the off-the-shelf solutions, then leaving the MPE marketplace.
But it stands to reason that modernizing what the vendors call a "legacy server" environment includes a shot at more elaborate development tools. The 3000's architecture was simple and elegant in its initial generation. Not much has changed to expand tools into an Eclipse-like scope. 4GL suites came closer than anything, when you recall the modules from Speedware and the Powerhouse tools. It seems an extensive environment has never been needed at most 3000 sites, based on what we've heard from the homesteading customers.
The sites who have made their transition, however, are the ones who could report about the value of using these Eclipse IDEs. Visual Studio becomes the tool that's mostly to be employed by migrated customers. For a former 3000 developer, these IDEs would have to be very friendly to COBOL -- because that's the language in almost universal use among 3000 home-grown applications.
Did you acquire better tools for development -- or bigger ones, anyway -- when you made your migration? The most interesting question of all might be: Did this extra development capability have an impact on your decision to migrate?
We've said in the past that one community analyst considered this "buying a new car because of its tires." That seems unlikely. But maybe it's more like "buying a new car because it's got an integrated GPS navigation system and a hybrid engine." You can go further on that kind of vehicle with the same energy cost, and have a much better idea of what's all around your environment.
Tell me (email to email@example.com) if the concept has made any sense to you -- if you're migrated, or are nearly ready to cut over. I would love to talk to you (512-331-0075) as well.
February 11, 2013
What'll you do if they bring their own?
Whether you approve of outside devices or not, they are in your company. Pretty few places have no smartphone users checking their mail. Many want to tie into company mail systems. That's just the beginning of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) surge. It's said that PCs are pretty much considered dead tech, although that seems severe considering how many laptops you'll see. But the tablets and phones have already assumed their place, even alongside HP 3000s. What happens next is up to you.
HP pushed this message out last week in a small business newsletter article. Management of the BYOD's is their aim, a sound one for a company that's looking for business management opportunities.
Adopting a BYOD strategy can also lower your initial capital expenditures. To manage and secure a wide array of personally owned and hard-to-track devices, your IT team needs to implement clear policies, procedures and safeguards to protect applications and sensitive business data against malware, device loss and failure.
A Wednesday Webinar this week from MB Foster gives the 3000 community, migrated or homesteading, a chance to ask questions and see strategies localized for managers of these systems.Birket Foster, CEO, is your host for the Webinar at 2 PM on the 13th. You can register online. (It's a pretty nifty system that lets them call your number when you're ready to take the call. Pops up with a spiffy web app that includes a chat option as well as a way to see the slides while you listen to Birket speak.)
It is not a question of if, but when companies will embrace BYOD with confidence.
In this webinar we will outline and guide you through some of the key considerations related to the implementation of BYOD polices; including
Virtualization: Provide remote access to computing resources.
Walled garden: Contain data within a secure application so that it is segregated from personal data. Allow secure access to email, applications, and data from outside the corporation.
Limited separation: Policies to ensure minimum security controls.
February 05, 2013
Planning for a Chain of Succession
Editor's note: I missed posting an article Monday because of a serious bout of the flu. (If you think 103 is tough on the outside themometer, try it on the inside.) One of our dauntless and profound supporters and sponsors, Brian Edminster, emailed to ask if everything was okay here. He reads us religiously and often sends articles which I'm happy to publish.
Today is one of those lucky days for me, while I get back on my feet. Brian asked about a chain of succession here at the Newswire, a great subject that most of the community should consider about their own operations, too. I plan to write a bit more about our succession here, later on this week.
By Brian Edminster
Some things are more noticeable by their absence, than by their presence. Highly reliable systems (like the 3000) fit in this category, as does regular delivery of news -- or any other product we've come to regularly rely upon. Can you imagine suddenly not receiving a newspaper or magazine because a key person became permanently unavailable? Most well run businesses have succession plans in place to cover this contingency.
And succession planning for a small business isn't that far removed from the Continuity/DR/Growth-Upgrade-Path planning process for an IT department. Or to put it in even more 'close to the heart' terms: For a small business run by it's founders, succession planning isn't too far removed from the planning required to successfully homestead on a 3000.It's all about how to keep things running -- when key components (or individuals) are no longer available. There's an old adage about: "Failing to plan is planning to fail". It's true in succession planning, and it's true for homesteading.
In a small business, if the founder or other key individual dies, eventually the assets (both physical and intellectual) will likely be acquired by someone. The question is: Will that someone be as interested in continuing the business as the founder -- who might have been keeping the business going as much for the love of it and the platform as for the potential for maximizing profit? If you use third party tools and/or applications, it's prudent to ask about their succession planning. Same goes for your hardware support vendors.
The availability of the new Stromasys emulator for HP PA-RISC hardware greatly extends the potential lifespan of MPE/iX based applications -- by freeing us from the limits of the current pool of HP PA-RISC hardware (processors, interface cards, disk storage, etc), in the same way that having 'new blood' learning, appreciating, and working to keep the wheels turning in a small business does.
The question for long-term viability of the MPE/iX platform is not really just having an an answer to long-term hardware availability, but rather long term availability of those with the skills to program and administer them. When was the last time you found someone fresh out of college that was looking forward to the prospect of working on a 'legacy' platform, and how long until your current technical resources retire, or worse?
Robelle has noticed this and has recently started offering a scripting service -- to help sites that already have their products in house, but may be losing, or have already lost the expertise to use them effectively - to do modifications as application requirements change over time. I expect that we'll be seeing more of this 'maintenance outsourcing' as time goes on.
Don't for a minute believe that application software can remain static forever, and still retain its business value. I once heard an interesting comparison of software and sharks -- in that they both must keep moving, or they'll die. It's as imperative that the expertise required to keep your application systems maintained be preserved, as it is to ensure the availability of hardware to run it on. Fortunately, in the 3000 community, "growing your own" by mentoring new staff is a tradition as old as the platform. Just don't forget to start the process, while it's still possible to learn from those who've blazed the trails we follow.
While it's true that every organization's tolerance for risk is different, it's also true that every organization anticipating long term survival needs to have something in the way of a plan to support that goal. There are several companies in the 3000 community that specialize in this kind of work - any of which would be happy to help develop a plan, regardless of whether it's to replace, migrate, or homestead.
Do you have a plan yet? If not, there's no time like the present to start developing one - before it's desperately needed.
February 02, 2013
Unix's Future: How much does it matter?
At the LinkedIn HP-UX Users Group -- as friendly a spot as you'll find on the Web -- users are deciding that the future of the environment won't matter much to them. As users, of course, and administrators and developers.
Naturally, Linux is talked up as the replacement for HP's proprietary OS. Plenty of HP 3000 migrated sites went for HP-UX over the last decade, although nothing close to what HP desired or the number of Windows replacements for MPE/iX.
But if an admin who's loyal to the OS isn't bothered much by this evolution, why should a company concern itself about the decline of another Hewlett-Packard OS? In this case, the vendors selling off-the-shelf applications will decide how severe the pain of change will be over the next several years. Be sure to ask your app provider about their plans for Linux. If you're astute, like the school districts using the QSS K-12 apps that grew up on MPE, Linux was always the migration target away from the 3000.
Unlike the transition away from MPE/iX, however, a migration off HP-UX to Linux represents little change for the IT pros and their skill set. Nobody is suggesting that HP-UX is the same as Linux or IBM's AIX or Solaris. But in a world where Linux is so ubiquitious that it acts as the cradle for the 3000 hardware emulator, the Little Penguin that Could seems to have almost chugged to the top of the mountain of enterprise choices.
HP 3000 users and vendors remember what happens when new sales fall off in an HP product line. The company cares for its installed base as best it can, all while it keeps its eyes trained on the business figures.
One member of the Linked In group knew his history. "I guess open systems and the Open Software Foundation weren't such a bad idea after all," said Martin Anderson. The OSF, formed two decades ago, supposed that every Unix was alike at its roots. MPE never had a chance at joining those Open Software ranks in the market, not even after HP added Posix extensions and renamed it from MPE/XL to MPE/iX. The technology trench-workers knew the differences. The differences made MPE better in many cases, but bigger mattered more to system suppliers.
Anderson, a former Compaq technologist, belongs to two Red Hat Groups. And so it appears that Linux is the cradle of all virtualized servers, and the graveyard for any OS not named Windows or Mac OS X. The latter seems headed toward its mobile progeny iOS, from the signs I saw this week at the annual Macworld/iWorld show this week. The name of the conference tells the future well.
February 01, 2013
An Emulator's Obstruction, or Opportunities
Change has always cut through certainty with a double-edged sword. HP's elimination of the HP 3000 from its product line is a great example of a stunning swing of that sword. I learned from users immediately that they felt abandonded and betrayed about that decision. I've written novels' worth on that.
Over the years I also heard from some IT directors -- who didn't have much invested personally in MPE -- that cutting the 3000 from HP's line was the opening they craved. Now their IT center could be uniform, in step with something they knew better and admired for different reasons. It might be Unix, so their corporate masters would be pleased, or Windows, to make it easier for them to hire newer, less costly (younger) talent.
Then there has been the migration challenge which introduced new commerce opportunity. Companies could sell services and especially know-how, as well as tools to make changes (almost like Y2K, but with a more serious impact when the work fell short of expectations).
Change is a disruptor, even when it attempts to sustain the status quo.
This sustenance is the role the Stromasys emulator plays in 2013. Some software and service suppliers have been frank about it being an obstruction and a disruptor. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said just that, while he was testing the freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 Model 202A. He also said that after wading through a lot of installing steps, it worked as promised -- and he was impressed with the marvel, one that gave Intel hardware plus Linux a way to preserve MPE/iX. Yeo added that he figured just the promise of an emulator slowed down migrations in 2012, and he was correct about that, too.
Some of the 3000 software vendors have seen the HPA/3000 software tested by their customers, and that's good enough for the vendor's proof. If their customer wants to pay Stromasys $25,0000 to sustain MPE/iX, that's just fine with the vendor. It helps preserve the 3000 -- and its support payments to the vendor. If staying on a 3000 is an obstruction to vital growth, well, a company will see that at the right time. It's always been about timing, since HP's exodus. HP wanted everybody off the server six years ago, even expected it. That didn't happen, because risk is something that's a personal matter.
Risk shows up as problems, and problems always come up when software and hardware get together for mission-critical computing. Homestead or migrate, there's always risk. Perhaps the vendors who will make products for the emulator figure that's why you'll buy support from them, as well as from an indie company like Pivital Solutions, Allegro, Beechglen or others. In IT, things break and you fix them, or you hold your nose and use a workaround.
By now, there's a new aspect to the change introduced by the Stromasys product. People are writing software to help use it. Keven Miller created a free utility to transfer Store to Disk files to the "virtualized 3000" in the HPA/3000. This week's newest wrinkle: a product license created especially for the emulator, one that works inside the limits of the freeware version's 1-2 user license.
It's a small and initial development that almost lets you believe there's a marketplace emerging for the sustaining aspect of the 3000's change of life. There's been a decade of evidence of the commerce for the exodus of HP from the 3000 world.The new business offering, tailored to the Stromasys product, comes from Minisoft. The company's been a 3000 vendor since the 1980s, selling a terminal emulator (remember those, you veterans?) as well as middleware to link 3000 databases with other servers and databases. Years ago the MS92 terminal emulator became Javelin (rewritten to use Java). Now the product's got a Javelin license created for anybody who wants to employ HPA/3000 as a tool toward full virtualization of a 3000, or perhaps just a non-commercial 3000 installation.
"We have a special Javelin 2-user HP700/92 Terminal Emulator that is customized to work with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator," said the company's Danny Greenup. He pointed me to a press release that outlines some details of this, the first license built for an emulator since's HP's MPE/iX license in 2004.
Minisoft has enhanced its Javelin HP700/92 Terminal Emulator to work in concert with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator by adding support for raw connections to the TELNET type and support for SSH tunneling. With the communications set to TELNET(raw)+SSH, the console ports are accessible from outside the Fedora (Linux) system to a user with SSH logon privileges.
The cost of this special 2-user version of Javelin is $49. In addition to HP 700/92 terminal emulation, Javelin support access to legacy host computers requiring IBM 3270, IBM 5250, and DIGITAL VT320/420 terminal emulation. All Minisoft Terminal Emulators include scripting, SSH/SSL connectivity and network file transfer.
Minisoft Terminal Emulation products run on Windows, Windows Mobile, Apple, and Linux. Customers that have a current support contract for the [HP] products listed above may download an update of these products from the Minisoft website at no extra charge.
Minisoft 92 Secure 22.214.171.124
Pocket 92 126.96.36.199
The company also sells these 2-user versions for Digital and IBM host software. For this software supplier, the Stromasys emulator represents an opportunity, and the $49 price is a lot less than the $400 HP demands to transfer a license away from a working 3000 and onto an emulated 3000. A transfer that makes the HP iron a set of bolted-together parts, because that's how HP's business model worked. Any emulator was only going to be tolerated so long as it took 3000s out of IT datacenters.
We've seen a lot of years of migration and decommissioning that sparked the engines of IT spending and vendors' revenue. It's been an amazing example of dexterity and faith and hope to watch that part of your community pivot its business model. Perhaps 2013 will be the first year to watch companies sell software and service to spark IT engines around a model of 3000 sustenance. At least we have this first effort to observe.
January 29, 2013
Trends in Retailing on Wednesday Webinar
Retail users once made up the hottest part of the HP 3000 user base. Hot in terms of their rate of growth, in their visibility by delivering major brands' recommendations about choosing MPE. And hot in terms of handling large data stores and building the most crash-proof applications.
Several dozen customers of the Ecometry multiple Point of Sale technology are waiting to make a switch to another platform. In the meantime, the sector has a lot to teach any manager who's obsessed with uptime and high performance. Few datamarts are larger than those in retail.
The 3000's position in the retail market is shrinking, but the leading edge nature of the sector remains as potent as ever. On Wednesday Jan. 30 at 2 PM EST, data mart solution provider MB Foster shares what they've learned at the most recent National Retail Federation conference. The one-hour webinar intends to pinpoint what mission-critical enterprises are doing with current technology.
MB Foster provides critical technology to leading retailers throughout North America, and Europe. To insure our customers have the right technology and infrastructure to maximize their sales, we review and write about leading conferences in retail incorporating ideas into our vision and roadmap for our solutions.
The National Retail Federation puts on the “Big Show” a conference in New York as a showcase for innovative trends in retail. In this webinar, Birket Foster, CEO of MB Foster, shares his insights on those ideas that retailers can use today to increase customer engagement, build brand, streamline operations, and increase sales.
Registration for the free event is online, as is the content itself. You can have the company's automated phone technology dial your line for the audio portion, of listen to it via a very complete and intutive web interface.
January 28, 2013
Five years after, which environments died?
Five years ago this month, the OpenMPE volunteer group was running another slate of directors for its election. Micro Focus had assimilated Acucorp in its mission to become all things COBOL to all platforms' users. The Greater Houston RUG was releasing details for its 2008 conference, one that would feature Alfredo Rego as keynote speaker. At HP, its 3000 lab savants were starting up their final year of development of patches.
Meanwhile, Windows XP users were lobbying Microsoft to save their OS from extinction. An InfoWorld article reported that a group of users had launched a petition.
With Microsoft saying it will stop both OEM and shrink-wrapped sales of the OS come June 30, the clock is ticking. But we know lots of you want to keep XP alive, to not be forced to upgrade to the less-than-stellar Vista. Millions of us have grown comfortable with XP and don't see a need to change to Vista. It's like having a comfortable apartment, one that you've enjoyed coming home to for years, only to get an eviction notice.
Windows XP just dropped below a 40 percent market share last month, according to Net Applications. That firm uses signatures from Web browsers to calculate these figures. Windows XP patches are still available for free. So are patches for MPE/iX. XP has not changed any more than the 3000's OS during these five years — so they have that in common, too.
But obtaining your free MPE/iX patches might take quite a bit of waiting on hold with the HP Response Center now, five years after HP stopped creating the patches. In a bit of special handling, MPE/iX users got a free pass, literally, on patching, a savings that users of HP's Unix, VMS and NonStop do not get. It's just that acquiring the patches means explaining you want a patch to an enterprise server, not an HP printer.Five years is a long time in the computing business. It's such a long time that the competitors in the enterprise sector now consider cloud computing their best bet to grow a customer base. It's a strategy that didn't even exist in early 2008.
The wait time for seeing enterprise server growth feels like the kind of endurance required to extract MPE patches directly from HP.
"Right now I am on hold with the HPRC, trying to find any existing security patches for MPE/iX 7.5," a 3000 manager told us last week via email. He didn't succeed, ultimately, after more than an hour. It's a good bet that an independent 3000 support company would get whatever patches are needed. There's not that many, compared to the number of patches for XP, or even Windows.
But just like those users of XP, the customers still relying on MPE/iX will not be deterred by a vendor's newer products. The complaints of 2008 were about Windows Vista, and from the looks of them they appear to be spot-on, in a historical review. This year the complaints from these "homesteading" XP users are about Windows 8 -- although Windows 7 has finally gained the largest share of desktop server market.
Put another way, it took Windows XP about five years after Microsoft announced it would stop sales of the OS to cede its No. 1 ranking as the world's most-installed OS version. The same five years have seen the departure of OpenMPE elections, the elimination of RUG groups of all sorts, lab experts from HP's MPE group working at indie software companies, and Micro Focus turning toward the homesteading 3000 sites as a source of new customers.
There are enough prospective 3000 sites out there to encourage a company the size of Micro Focus to pursue them in a North American campaign. It takes a long time to exterminate a user base completely. There are ways to try to do it quickly, like Hewlett-Packard did more than a decade ago. But pushing toward commodity solutions when older ones are working is like extreme pest control. You can release poison gas in the house to get rid of rats, but something that severe harms the existing business, too.
Microsoft never tried to eradicate its XP users this way. But HP performed this on MPE, and now the company's feeling the effects of poison gas over its enterprise practices, with the proprietary legacy profits and growth all but dead. MPE/iX never had a majority of HP's OS business like XP did at Microsoft. It just pattered along on quiet feet doing things like recording tests of military vehicles, a software system still in use today in the US, we've learned.
The manager at that site said today that "I like the idea of keeping MPE alive, even if I don't have a 3000 to run it on." He's got a test archive and a 3000, but would prefer to use modern hardware along with an OS that HP last patched in 2008. He has a sound idea: it's the environment and the software that make a customer stand fast, whether it's MPE or XP.
An emulator probably won't make the 3000 market pick up new customers. A modern development suite can aid in growing new applications. However, if growth in your organization isn't as keen a mandate as stability is, it's feasible to take refuge in a technology designed to cradle MPE and keep it alive.
January 24, 2013
How record sales, profits cost you billions
Unlike Hewlett-Packard, Apple reported record sales, record growth, and record profits for its latest quarter yesterday. The company has more than $100 billion in cash reserves. Its latest products are outselling the records set by preceding models.
And Apple just lost $60 billion in market cap in today's stock trading.
These are the rules of stock shenanigans that have kept scuffling companies alive while rocket-ships get pelted by analyst eggs. Nothing is more important than beating the estimates of these students of business. Beat them all, too. So if a company sells only 22.9 million tablets in 90 days -- a quarter-million iPads a day -- instead of 23 million, that's a "miss." Not just beat the estimates of profits, where Apple posted $250 more than the outrageous $13.55 a share estimate. It needs to exceed all estimates, not just slam out a $13.81 per share mark.
The coverage is being couched in terms of analyst estimates, and they need to protect their “phoney-baloney jobs,” as Mel Blanc’s Governor said in Blazing Saddles. Today’s fallout from the wiseguys’ reports were great news for the analyst clients who want to climb on board the stock at $450, I suppose. There’s been too much hype to withstand the “knock-em-down” counterpunch that always follows a brilliant run-up of anything.
For contrast, recall that HP's entire stock price is $17 today -- and it spent much of the latest quarter priced at the value of Apple's profit per share. HP is looking at a quarterly report in about a month that may determine if the company needs to break up the band. Back in the days of its hits like the 3000, it spun off Agilent and continued to grow. Agilent, the old instrument arm of HP, is where the HP Way went to live and thrive.
What does $60 billion in lost market cap matter? A lot compared to HP. That would be two times the value of all of today's HP cap. Destined to split itself in two, the former rival for personal computing will then have an enterpise business market cap of one-fourth of just what Apple lost today. Just for some perspective, folks.
HP got cuffed around not long ago in the same way by analysts -- but after it announced a fleecing it took in the Autonomy deal, plus reporting record red ink. What matters for any customer is still black ink, and not the kind that propped up half of HP's profits, flowing out of the printer division. Profits fuel R&D, unless a company is buying up its innovation. Even with a $60 billion hit, Apple will still be funding innovation tomorrow after 52 million shares changed hands today.The R&D at HP means the most to an enterprise customer, honestly, and especially to anyone migrating to a non-3000 enterprise product. It's hard to see right now where the R&D funding will come from at HP, unlike the Apple outlook.
With sales and earnings and growth tossed to the winds of worry, there seems to be no number that will generate a story other than “Apple is weakening.” Not an increase in profits to a record level, or a jump in revenues to the same. iPad sales, at 22.9 million, were just 100,000 tablets short of the analyst estimates. This is called a “miss,” even while the sales outstripped every other tablet 2:1.
One hidden issue is the lack of new iMac shipments, but that doesn’t seem to have hurt those top-line numbers. Operating margin decline is an concern, too, a measure of the cost in the future to create those rising profits. The estimate of the cash reserve on hand at Apple is more than $100 billion. And the latest quarter delivered $13 billion in profits. These numbers are so outrageous that it reminds me of the quote from Citizen Kane. Kane’s been told he’s losing $1 million a year on publishing the Enquirer. “You’re right. I lost a million this year. I expect to lose a million next year. At that rate I’ll have to close the Enquirer – in about 60 years.”
Apple could deliver record, quarterly earnings for almost two years just on the strength of its cash on hand — and sell nothing at all. But you can expect the machine to outpace itself by another 7 percent this quarter, by Apple’s now-cautious estimates.
So there’s not much wrong with any company still making the best product in the mobile market and raking in billions in profits for its R&D needs in the future. Contrast it with HP — trading at $17, with analysts forecasting a breakup and terminating dividends. Likely outcome for the former development, perhaps sketchy on the latter. But that’s a 13-cent a share dividend at HP. And Apple’s paying $2.65 a share, right?
HP should be so lucky to have the problems from numbers like Apple just posted. Not again in our lifetime, perhaps like the $700 Apple share price that those cheapskate analysts' clients never want to pay again.
January 22, 2013
Older 3000 Birds, Earning New Wings
Since the 3000 community is full of veteran (older) IT pros, its members face a classic challenge. These old birds must earn new wings in some way, just to stay in flight. Most of us are consigned to a life of working without end -- because we love what we do, or because we must for other, practical reasons.
That means learning new technology and new approaches to information designs. Architecture meant something different while we moved through elementary school, but by college days your community saw it as design of systems. Today there are development tools that include architecture modules. They're not in use in 3000 environments, but they're waiting on the other side of a migration.
New wings come to mind as I read news about one of the older birds in our community, Paul Edwards. He announced that he's mastered a fresh skill at his 70-plus years (more than 40 of them in IT). It's technical in nature, because it engages a complex system: aircraft.
I now have a Commercial Pilot certificate with the following ratings:
Airplane Single Engine Land
Airplane Multiengine Land
And I have had a solo in a Cessna 172R. Now I have to decide what to do with the certificate, and where do I go from here. Any suggestions are welcome.
Edwards also has skills in Suprtool and Speedware, to show a broader range of the tried and true.
Do you have a new certificate that helps you spread your wings in computing? Or even technology experience gained through modernizing systems, something newer than the HP 3000's Perl/iX? One notable 3000 shop that's building migrated 3000 software, QSS, has a deep bench of MPE veterans who've added new feathers to their IT wings over the years, making flights into a fresh environment.QSS has gathered among its developers Jeff Vance and Mark Bixby of HP's 3000 Labs -- as well as most recently Gavin Scott, a longtime vet of the development and support house Allegro Consultants. What all of these pros have in common is expertise in a newer generation of tools. Things like Ruby on Rails, or modern releases of Java. QSS has been using Ruby to get its K-12 customers onto Linux.
Lately, however, there have been warnings about Java -- which while still evolving, looks to be getting less secure. Oracle owns it since it purchased Sun, but the US Department of Homeland Security and some of the 3000 community point out that Java has become the new "foistware." That's software that is foisted upon every PC like Adobe's Flash once was -- and so a funnel for hacker attacks -- with "crucial" automatic updates. That's a billion plug-ins now at risk.
One 3000 vet said that friends don't let friends install Java on their browsers. So what was once a benign and useful new technology has become -- let's push that flight metaphor a little higher -- wings attached with wax like those Icarus wore. And so security plummets while Java is enabled.
However, new technology can be based upon old and secure concepts, like COBOL development environments. Something as basic as an Eclipse environment for COBOL development. Such new wings are waiting on the other side of migrations. Acucorp once developed the Extend environment, which was so 3000-aware that it knew MPE intrinsics, and was integrated with the ScreenJet toolset to transform VPlus screens into ACUCOBOL interfaces. Now the product is called Micro Focus Extend. While it began its life as ACUCOBOL-GT, it now has a COBOLVirtual Machine for app deployment. Micro Focus says this VM gives COBOL apps a reach across more than 600 platforms.
That's the kind of reach that Java was destined to achieve, the push that got it to those 1 billion plug-ins. Now COBOL is reaching into a golden legacy technology that has been spun into virtual deployments. Tools like this probably won't spur migrations -- but once a former 3000 site is on another platform, these wings are waiting to be pinned on, after certification and training.
January 21, 2013
Making Changes to Continue Vital Business
After enjoying the Inauguration's ceremony, pomp and poetry this morning, we turned to the business of the day here in Austin and elsewhere. Our local paper reports that hometown Dell is taking itself private, a serious change in financing that might spark some recovery for HP's primary PC rival.
Financial recovery will be at the top of the US political negotiations starting tomorrow. There's also recovery to consider in the 3000 community. Some of the businesses that remain as 3000 customers do so because the computer is still the best value for their business plans. Even without vendor participation, a server that works because its OS is stable and the hardware is durable looks like a better investment than making changes.
But some businesses are not so fortunate. A recent article in Computerworld tells the tale of several corporations which build change into their plans. They're in high-competition markets, these customers, the kind where even fractions of a dollar per transaction can help turn red ink to black. One example is Hertz, where the HP 3000 held on for so long that Hewlett-Packard extended high-touch MPE support for years after the official end-date. At Hertz, there was no 2009-10 limited support plan.
The Computerworld story comes from the CIO's office, so it's short on details like legacy servers (the CIOs like to call older systems legacies) such as the 3000. But a few notes stand out on this day when changes in the US are now underway, even while the President's strategies strive to continue vital business growth. Like including more middle-class citizens in a recovery. Ironically, if the US economy launches into a robust recovery, more small businesses might be able to follow in the Hertz footsteps -- and afford to make changes which will fail, which lead to changes that succeed.We like Hertz here as a car rental choice, just as we prefer to believe in a middle-class recovery that includes more citizens. Years ago I wrote a fun editorial about a trip to Hawaii to celebrate Abby's 50th birthday, a tale where Hertz played a role. Long's Drug, Chrysler, potato chips, and Hertz -- everywhere we seemed to look, the 3000 was supporting our trip.
So much has changed since that trip of the 1990s in the car rental business. Hertz -- whose bedrock systems looked more like mainframes than 3000s, owing to the need to link to IBM systems -- tried to install kiosks in airports in a significant change to its sales tools. Tried and failed, according to the article. In a section called "A Second Life" the company IT managers described the bad and then good of change.
Sometimes projects fail fast and then sit on a shelf until technology catches up to the idea. For instance, in late 2008, Hertz tried to launch car rental kiosks similar to those used by airlines. "It failed pretty fast," CIO Joseph Eckroth recalls. "Our process is so much more cumbersome than just checking in for your boarding pass and picking a seat. There are so many added things we want to sell, so it really didn't take off."
By 2010, the article notes, new video technology gave the kiosk changes a comeback. The new kiosks have two interactive video screens and Eckroth says they're a game-changer for Hertz.
Hertz, Hyatt Hotels, Steelcase, and Capital One were profiled in that report. They are not part of the 47 percent, as it were, of IT customers. They have large IT teams, and can build in the cost of failure on the way to change. Smaller companies, even if they're market space leaders like Dayton T. Brown, have to manage budgets differently, more slowly. Changes need to succeed sooner, if not on the first try.
A broader-based recovery of middle-class IT customers, just like the one the administration seeks, might be just the thing to trigger changes. To put it another way, if the tide rises for small companies using the HP 3000, some of them might be able to afford major changes to their environments. Like migrations.
January 18, 2013
Bridges to Cross Before Useful Emulation
It's been a month since the community got its hands on a freeware version of the Stromasys emulator. Some reports from these freeware testers have emerged. But the next installment of this saga comes from more installations and software license agreements. An MPE license is in place, but the subsystems such as COBOL II are not covered. More bridges lie ahead for this software to bring some homestead systems back to the future.
One example reported to me came from a manager of healthcare 3000s, all doing work with customized code in a healthy-sized datacenter. The company hears the clock ticking on the life of their MPE commitment. The veteran manager there, already experienced in the consulting world, says some more time needs to elapse with success stories and production testing before his employer would consider HPA/3000 as a new path toward some extra years on the 3000.
He approached the freeware release with gusto. I heard from him more than two weeks before the pre-Christmas unveiling of the A-202 version, crafted to two users only and licensed for non-commercial use -- unless you're evaluating it for production purchase. "I downloaded the emulator as fast as I could the Monday that it became available," he said two weeks ago.
I've been playing with it since, and am currently looking for a new (to me) computer to host it. My current computer is an Intel i3 Core with 6GB of memory. The emulator runs fine on it, but I'd like to find a computer that I can dedicate to the emulator, so that I can have my desktop PC back.
So far I'm happy with what I've seen and have run into only one issue. That being, accessing a remote tape drive. I'll get back to that issue later and gather more info, because I'm not sure of the cause.
I hope to get a copy for my customer so that we can demo it, and hopefully get them to buy a license. But we've got a ways to go before that happens.
Indeed, one vendor of software for the 3000, who's also helping companies migrate, said he's still concerned about protecting his products in a HPSUSAN license strategy that revolves around a USB key. It's a design that is just one removal of a thumb drive away from stopping a production machine, although Stromasys could replace that key in a matter of days, or maybe even hours.
The issues with licensing third party software remain untested, although Robert Dawson in Australia got Cognos software and some other packages transferred without incident. He left his reseller of Cognos to do the finagling. There's plenty of software tool support from the likes of Robelle, Minisoft and more, but application vendors are still in the process of letting their emulator policies be known.
In case the replacement of non-MPE versions of things like healthcare software doesn't go as smoothly as planned, there is an important place for HPA/3000, even in migrating shops. But while an emulator's lifespan is measured in decades, there are only fewer 3000s running as the calendar pages of 2013 flip away.
It needs more than technology success. Out front and obvious commitments from app companies in the 3000 space; controlling virtual disk behavior that might let multiple copies of software run at the same time (a concern voiced by two veteran MPE companies); file transfer that needed to be addressed by a tool from indie software consultant Keven Miller of Ranger 3K; a lack of testimony in regard to scaling the solution -- there is much to document and announce about this invention in order to give it wings in 2013.
We hope there's good information on all this coming out to retain 3000s in production status, using the emulator. The alternative is a freeware hobbyist tool or a clandestine consulting solution (2-user, 948 horsepower 3000s would do nicely for consultants). Not the destiny for something built to carry MPE over the bridges to the future, however.
January 17, 2013
Battleship HP clears the $17 waterline
Hewlett-Packard's share price opened and remained above $17 per share today for the first time in more than three-and-a-half months. The last $17 day was October 2, when CEO Meg Whitman delivered a devastating report to investors and analysts about profits and sales for HP's year to come.
HP shares fell 13 percent on that day, one marked by the admission that Hewlett-Packard's profits would sink by 10 percent in fiscal 2013. Rock bottom for the darkest quarter in HP history came about six weeks later, when the news of fiscal shenaigans by the acquisition of Autonomy drove shares below $12.
That rugged news now behind HP still must be balanced by the company's Q1 performance. Sales close in two weeks, HP's first full quarter without the FUD of Oracle's pullout from the Itanium server line. Stronger sales in the Business Critical Server unit will signal a better investment target for migrating customers -- at least the ones who want to choose HP-UX for the systems to replace HP 3000s.
The HP quarterly Earnings Conference Call will take place on February 21. HP hasn't released any signal that it will spin out its enterprise business from PC operations, a move which investors are calling for.
January 16, 2013
Retailing is up, according to NRF leaders
CEO Birket Foster of MB Foster has just returned from the largest annual conference of retailers, and he's filed this early report on trends that will help shape IT plans to meet rising consumer activity.
By Birket Foster
Retail has become the economy's recovery engine. That's what the National Retail Federation NRF (NRF) touted as its theme at the Big Show in New York this month. Among other companies, Ecometry sites, including some using HP 3000s, have a strong interest in retail trends. They are in a time of change with the software which they consider an ERP application.
They might be encouraged to make such IT changes because business in retail is on the rise. The 102nd version of the NRF show -- what's new in the retail industry -- reports that the sector is creating jobs, careers, community and innovation. Speakers at the Big Show provided insight into the role retail will play in the economic recovery of 2013.
The retail industry (restaurants included) was touted last year as providing 25 percent of the jobs -- and triggering plenty of the votes -- in America. The NRF became active in addressing US candidates and the legislators to send advocacy messages on policies, ones that advance jobs and growth in the retail sector. These included tax reform, retail fairness, workforce flexibility and even healthcare.
During 2013 it is still about changing America, but this time taking a leadership role. The NRF wants to get retail leaders to take action and make plans to help the economic recovery happen. Some of those plans will involve commitments in IT, in expansions or migrations.
The message is clear: retail needs to take a leadership position and set an example for all of America and get everybody to look at how they can help with recovery. Even Newswire readers can be thinking what they can do -- personal consumption is an easy way to boost the economy. [Editor's Note: There's also local consumption in our IT community to consider -- by shopping local for services and software from 3000-savvy vendors.]
At MB Foster we are tracking the trends, and leading a January 30 Webinar on Retail, all to provide more details.
As consumers in your community, you can help through volunteer projects, by buying local where possible, and providing leadership by starting things: hiring people, launching projects, innovating and making changes. These are steps along the path forward to a vibrant economy. Mentor the next generation -- invest in the processes and people that grow your business and keep the economy rolling.
Our January 30 webinar will provide lots more detail. If you are interested in starting a project in 2013, MBFoster would be pleased to be your technology partner and trusted advisor, helping you to change your world by moving from a vision to reality. We deliver on time and on budget -- it sounds cliché but it is what we do -- whether it is a data migration and application migration, integrating systems or even rethinking your customer's mobile experience. Give us a chance to give you a great experience in innovation and change.
Birket Foster can be reached at 1-800-ANSWERS (800-267-9377) extension 204, or by email at Birket@MBFoster.com.
January 15, 2013
Foster looks into IT crystal ball Wednesday
Journalists like me are always a sucker for trend stories. People expect a message of the future to emerge from analysis, and IT consumers look farther ahead into the future than most buyers. You're expected to be ready for change at the moment it occurs. I enjoy it when somebody else is doing the trending.
That's why it will be most interesting to see what Birket Foster and his team at MB Foster have to say about IT trends tomorrow, January 16, starting at 2 PM Eastern Time. This is the first Wednesday Webinar of the new year for the company. They're reaching out to predict what will happen in a wide array of 10 sectors:
- Big Data
- Social Media
Registration for the event is free, at the MB Foster website. The webinars usually take less than an hour, including questions and answer sessions.
Foster and his team have been on the HP 3000 scene for 35 years, starting from his work as an independent software representative and consultant in the days before Cognos was named Cognos. That's why he asks
Remember when we used Excel or Lotus spreadsheets to create sophisticated reports? Whereas today Business Intelligence (BI) and the future trend of analytics and ‘information is power’ are emerging as the norm.
We’ve got our eyes on a list of 10 Information Technology trends that should help anchor your business, present or future, and help you build a broader, more agile enterprise.
Every year we reflect on the IT world and the trends we see that will matter for the coming year. At MB Foster we have the advantage of working with customers in many industries and in different countries; this gives us a unique perspective on upcoming trends in technology.
Even though 2012 was a remarkable year for technology, we’ve got our eyes on a list of 10 Information Technology trends that should help anchor your business, present or future, and help you build a broader, more agile enterprise.
Attending will offer new understanding to tech advancements "that are sure to gain significantly greater mind and market-share over the coming year and by organizations around the globe." Birket loves this stuff and looks forward instinctively. We'll want to watch him connect the dots that lead away from the world of the 3000.
January 14, 2013
Could migrations be sparked by fresher development environments?
In a recent poll I conducted about the tools of the 3000 developer, I found a lot of classics. Finding classics at work is common among the 3000 community. And just because technology is steeped in legacy doesn't make it a fool's tool. Micro Focus likes to tell customers who are using its COBOL and development environment software, "Just because it's old doesn't mean it's not gold."
However, nearly all of the three dozen veteran coders -- architects, designers, maintainers and more -- use something first released in 1980s. And only one who replied to our December poll mentioned any change management or version control software as part of coding and creating for MPE. Perhaps everybody works with code they created, on a small team --perhaps as slim as just themselves.
So when these experts said their software toolset runs to Qedit, QUAD, EDITOR/3000, MPEX, Suprtool -- or in one gruesome report, the bare-bones vi -- we assume they're using what they grew up getting adept with. Success breeds habits, and then practices. It's a good strategy for decades if nothing much changes. But when a corporation acquires other companies and IT environments, it eventually gets a datacenter architecture too big for a few favorite tools and nothing else. These kinds of companies and corporations are on the path to migrations away from the 3000. What they'll use to create systems on the new boxes will be designed to embrace change while it feeds multiple-platform developer teams.
The question is, can these advanced and high-productivity tools ever push a maybe-migrator across to engaged status? Put another way, can the likes of Visual Studio, Eclipse, or InDesign sell a company on Windows PCs, Linux enterprise servers or networks of iMacs? Can a toolset lead a company to modernize its enterprise environment? Perhaps it can, when you consider what IDEs yield: application software, the element that's supposed to trigger all enteprise platform decisions.
There's a nifty IDE primer online at the Mashable website, but it's more of a way of understanding what types of IDEs are out there. It admits it's only a sampler of everything available for enterprise developers.One long-time 3000 vendor, now in heavy engagement with migrators, calls this strategy "offering a great set of tires to try to sell a car." Better development tools are more than just very good tires, though. A better analogy might be smartphones. Apple wants your iPhone purchase, and they lure you with App Store gems. Google wants to sell Android phones, and their hook is the superior contact, syncing and mapping tools built into that phone OS.
Many 3000 companies who are left using the server rely on bulletproof solutions, running at a cost they can justify. Something more than the loss of HP-branded support, or worries about parts supply chains, will have to be at work to get them to migrate. Newer tools might not be enough by themselves. But there's always the skills of newer developers, the kind a company must hire eventually when veterans retire or depart. Younger development teams will expect collaboration and coordination. The 3000 experts are so good at this they don't seem to need an integrated development environment.
In the 3000 world, among those who are not yet migrated, there's no apology about using the battle-tested favorites. "I designed on paper and pencil -- still do, but have added Visio for the diagrams," said the community's security expert Art Bahrs. "Then I used editors on my PC and uploaded the code, compiled/ran/said proper incantations, and debugged on the PC. I repeated the cycle until done."
Chuck Trites, an independent consultant and developer, said "I still use EDITOR, and have used Quad and others too. I also use Ultra Edit, which is nice for large files and large rec sizes. Still doing FORTRAN and COBOL. I use MPEX and Suprtool and a few other gadgets."
Other 3000 sites have a simpler answer about what to use to develop. "Contractors," said Tracy Johnson, a former OpenMPE director who works on the IT staff of Measurement Specialties. Perhaps that means that the tools that a contractor brings along are the spark for any changes and modernizations.
At one point, Acucorp offered a COBOL development environment that hooked up with ScreenJet and Eloquence, all in the service of speeding up modernizations. Acucorp developed a 3000-aware COBOL, just about the time HP was announcing its end-game in the 3000 business. Then Acucorp got acquired by -- wait for it -- Micro Focus. It sells Visual COBOL for Visual Studio 2010. Mike Howard, whose Unicon Conversion Technologies is one of the companies who have made 3000 migrations across to .NET, testifies about Visual COBOL. He calls it the fountain of youth for legacy COBOL shops.
A supplier of COBOL solutions tries to make its developers more powerful and aware as they stick to an olden, golden language. Micro Focus is nearly the only game in the COBOL community by now, aside from Fujitsu. If the language remains constant but expanding across vendors, then the differences might lie in IDE feature sets.
January 10, 2013
Tech countermeasures protect migrators
Editor's Note: HP 3000 shops migrating will encounter new challenges to security. Whether it's a move to Windows, to Unix, or to Linux, all non-3000 environments carry greater risk of breaches. the issues are current, even for existing 3000 sites continuing to homestead. One manager of N-Class servers was seeking backup tape encryption solutions this week, after his auditors required it.
After showing the penetration testing required to assess the risks in yesterday's article, Certified Information Security Professional Steve Hardwick explains tech countermeasures to secure enterprise servers. Passwording always has been a skill in the 3000 community. Entering the commodity systems world makes password practices even more critical to security.
By Steve Hardwick
Second in a series
There are always problems with passwords. Using easy to guess passwords -- especially dictionary words -- creates a vulnerability in any authentication system. It allows a hacker to streamline a brute-force attack (applying specific password attempts to determine the actual password). One way to mitigate this is to develop a password construction rule. For example, a password would have to contain an uppercase/lowercase letter, a number and a symbol, be 6-8 characters long -- and be changed every 90 days. The length is chosen so users can remember the passwords but they are not too short to easily guess. Unfortunately, this approach creates a new vulnerability.
Take an example of a 4-character password. If no rules are applied and any of the 90 standard printable keyboard characters are allowed in passwords, the number of possible combinations is 90x90x90x90 or 65,610,000 combinations. If the above algorithm is used one upper case, one lower case, one number and one symbol, then the resulting number of combinations is 26x26x10x28 or 189,280. This gives a hacker an advantage: if the password rules are known, then the number of allowable password combinations is reduced significantly. This is the basis of Rainbow hacking. Pre-computing these various password combinations, using a Rainbow table, can be fairly straightforward and save a lot of time guessing. In fact, there are websites dedicated to producing Rainbow tables.
Then there is always social engineering: tricking someone into giving you their password over the phone. A typical method is to masquerade as a trusted user. For example, a call into the IT department pretending to be a senior manager and explaining that you have forgot your password. With the right amount of verbal threat ("I'll report you to HR for insubordination") it may be possible to have the IT support tech change the password to something that the hacker gives them.
One of the most publicized security breaches was the loss of system backup tapes. In 2011 an SAIC employee had backup tapes containing 4.9 million healthcare records stolen from their car. The backup tapes were not encrypted. Similarly, many IT departments routinely create system backup tapes that include a copy of the password files (full backup). Very often these backup copies are not encrypted and can provide an easy way to get access to password files.
One other countermeasure to stop brute force or rainbow hacking is to limit the number of password attempts. For example, after three incorrect password attempts are made, the user is locked out of the account until the account is reset. But this has a nasty side-effect. A denial of service attack can be launched that will deliberately use invalid password attempts to block out a user. Although this may not compromise any information, it can cause a lot of frustration and require considerable resources to correct. A disgruntled employee may resort to this type of tactic as a parting gesture.
The next countermeasures fall under Change Management -- an area of security concerned with ensuring that the software platforms are maintained to a specific security standard.
With respect to passwords, there are two key components. First, security measures that ensure no unauthorized changes are made to the software. One of these measures is Unified Threat Management. This encompasses measures to prevent hackers installing tools -- such as key loggers to steal passwords -- onto users' machines. It also detects user privilege escalation used to compromise authentication.
The second measure is server hardening. Among other things, it involves removing default passwords and accounts. The NIST has a good site to review hardening procedures. Part of any pentest should include attempting to access default passwords and accounts.
One area that is overlooked is factory-default passwords. (Ed. note: Even in classic HP 3000s, key accounts were always shipped with defaults that hackers claimed to discover unchanged.) On many devices, there is a factory default password used to access the machine should the user forget their password, particularly an administrative password. A good example of this are routers, wireless or wired.
Such a device can be reset in one of two ways. Physically, when a user uses the reset button, typically using a paper clip, on the device. Remotely, by overloading the system and forcing a hard reboot of the device which results in loading from factory defaults. Another example of a factory default is the Guest account on servers. These most be removed what the system is commissioned or they can offer a simple method of attack as the password is non-existent or trivial.
Finally, let's have a look at passwords used in browsers. Passwords are entered into web applications using a browser, or mobile applications. This can be a web service or part of a cloud-based application. In either case, the authentication mechanism may involve comparing the password value to one stored in a database using SQL queries. This opens up the webserver to SQL injection.
A great place to start to understand this type of vulnerability is the Open Web Application Security Project. This non-profit group is a worldwide organization that is dedicated to improving server-side software. Not only will this site give you valuable information regarding web-based security threats, but it also has tool kits for specialized pentesting of web based password input software.
Managing passwords and other authentication mechanisms is a key component of any security program. There is more just appearing on the horizon. Another driving factor forcing re-evaluation of password security is the new Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy. Not only does it exacerbate the control of classical password methodologies, but new approaches have to be taken into consideration: voice/face recognition, such as the new Windows 8 picture password for example. Even that won’t assure protection: Windows 8 picture password will still be susceptible to shoulder-surfing.
Steve Hardwick manages security for pre-payments provider Oxygen Finance, a Euro-founded company now extending its services to North American IT operations.
January 09, 2013
Secure the Enterprise: Understand, Pentest
Editor's Note: HP 3000 shops which are on the move will be encountering greater challenges in security. Whether it's a move to Windows, to Unix, or to Linux, all non-3000 environments carry greater risk of breaches. Certified Information Security Professional Steve Hardwick explains the investigation and penetration testing that will be needed to secure any enterprise that's migrating away from the obscure-but-less risky MPE operating environment.
By Steve Hardwick
CISPP, Oxygen Finance
First of a series
When making a move in the HP 3000 environment, your first order of business is to understand the security solutions that are currently in place. Many organizations conduct a security assessment in response to a specific regulation, such as a compliance initiative. However, using a broader risk assessment approach can result in a much stronger security posture.
For example, a HIPAA assessment — common in the 3000 healthcare billing environments — may only be directed toward healthcare information. Other users may not be included in that assessment, so would pose as a target for would be hackers. Among the wealth of information regarding how to approach a security assessment — many auditors provide security assessment services — one good free tool is a publication from NIST, a guideline for the Federal government that’s been in place for several years.
SP800-30 has just undergone a revision and a September 2012 version is now available at the NIST website. This document gives a good framework for a general risk assessment. It can form the basis of assessments for specific compliance projects. There is also SP800-63, a more in-depth overview of password and authentication methodologies and vulnerabilities.
An important part of risk assessment methodology is testing. The next countermeasure to look at is penetration testing, or pentesting. Penetration testing actively seeks vulnerabilities within a security architecture.
Unfortunately, in most cases this type of testing is limited to testing technical security countermeasures only. One common approach is network scanning. Network scanning involves presenting network data that’s specifically designed to exploit technical vulnerabilities within a network.
A second type of penetration testing is physical: trying to exploit physical weaknesses within the environment. This type of pentest launches social engineering attacks (trying to trick users into revealing password information through phishing) and searches for physical copies of password information. Pentesting, especially physical, can be a very revealing tool that highlights physical password vulnerabilities.
User training is one countermeasure that is often overlooked. What’s more, this testing can be badly delivered. A lot of user training is dedicated toward telling users what not to do, without explaining the justification for the instruction. This can easily result in users not taking any ownership in the overall security solution. The common response is that the training is viewed as a check-mark on a compliance report, and has little overall value.
IT managers show users the value of security training by showing the impact of a lax approach to security. All too often, security training is a reactive response rather than a proactive response. This results in a view that the training is punitive. When coupled with a good penetration testing philosophy, users can understand how easy it is to gain unauthorized access to their systems.
Other Physical Countermeasures
It can be fairly simple to steal usernames and passwords of individuals by shoulder-surfing. It may seem that the solution to this is fairly simple: make sure no one can see you type in your credentials. You can show your users certain steps to take that facilitate this. First, positioning the computer screen in a way that prevents this type of attack.
However, with mobile devices this may not be so straightforward. There are display solutions which limit the off-angle view from the screen, in order to help reduce shoulder surfing. User training can help prevent this type of attack. This is a key area to include in a physical pentest.
Controlling information as it leaves the corporate environment is also part of physical security. This falls into two areas. Physical transfer of information while in use, as well as decommissioning of computer equipment.
Physically transferring information is typically employed when using back-up media such as tapes. However, it can also include mobile devices, especially any with magnetic storage. One of the best tools for protection is encryption of data while it is at rest. In the case of back-up media and laptops, this involves encrypting any security data that is on the systems — not just user data.
A second option is removing the need to physically transport the data, using electronically transferred back-ups. Quite often a laptop can be lost or stolen. Even if the thief's target was not the data it contains, such a theft can surely compromise it and constitute a security breach.
One caveat regarding encryption: care needs to be taken in storage of encryption keys. The keys should be afforded the same level of protection as a password.
With regard to decommissioning equipment, prior encryption of the data significantly reduces this exposure. In many regulations, loss of encrypted data may not constitute a breach. The best policy is to have a disposal policy that renders any decommissioned machine or media useless. There are a lot of commercially available solutions that securely overwrite the data, or there are physical destruction methods.
One of my personal experiences involved receiving a replacement laptop hard drive. When I ran an unformat program, I found out that the previous owner was the CEO. I immediately returned the drive without viewing any of the data. (Incidentally, using an unformat command was not a violation of my acceptable use policy.)
Next time: Technical Countermeasures
January 02, 2013
2012 Items That You'll See More Of In 2013
Some news signals an end, and other items signal starts of trends. HP probably won't be shedding 43 percent of its market cap in 2013. The HPA/3000 emulator has already had its only debut. But some other 2012 developments will continue to evolve this year to make the 3000 ecosystem appear changed and fresh.
Support interests will continue to make a clear path for indie providers. The HP 3000 owners and the system's managers will move even further away from HP-supplied support contracts, even for hardware. In many of the cases where we've uncovered HP support in a 3000 environment, it's the HP hardware such as disk units that remains under the umbrella of a site-wide service agreement. HP continues to move farther away from a comfort point with spare parts -- something that doesn't worry indie support companies.
It might be commonplace, but HP's exit isn't yet universal. Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions told us that when he does run across HP trying to sell 3000 support, "it’s on a sales office-by-sales office basis, because that’s who’s doing support at this point. When you get your supported equipment list from HP today, there’s three things on it. HP’s being very selective about what they’re actually covering."
Tablet access signals a growing BYOD era for 3000s. Bringing Your Own Device creates new management issues for system administrators, but even HP 3000 users want to connect to the server via tablets and iOS phones. Allegro Consultants came out with the first management tool to collect 3000 data via an iPhone, iAdmin. Managers traded techniques on connecting to a 3000 via Telnet. As tablets replace laptops, expect to hear more about BYOD as it relates to MPE.Archival servers for 3000 services continue to emerge. Even though 3000s were pulled out of production service in 2012, a company's need for an MPE server to run historical data remains on hand. The vendors who invested in many a 3000 to create and maintain products, or those in the support business, are keen to run archival versions of those servers. We saw AICS move into archival service during 2012, after that vendor spent decades selling QueryCalc. The Support Group, Fresche Legacy (nee Speedware), and many others will host your 3000 code and data. There will be even more of these vendors in 2013, expanding the concept of offsite-but-important 3000s, linked well beyond the old-school timesharing roots of MPE.
MPE expertise will become more available, ready and willing for contracting. One 3000 customer wanted to contact prospective contractors to manage a 3000 installation in December. We found dozens of them with just a simple notice to the 3000-L newsgroup and a story in the Newswire. The prospects ranged in size from companies booking several millions of dollars in business to individuals who weren't certain how much longer their employers would be using the HP 3000.
This would be a good place to look back at our predictions for the 3000 world of 2012. We did pretty well with the trio of developments we could see in the near future: Decommissioning, emulation and virtualization, and computing in the cloud. Those latter two showed some prospects for combination, but that mash-up remains a coming-in-2013 story.
Emulation was the biggest story of 2012, and it didn't take much crystal ball mojo to see that one coming. We didn't predict a freeware version of HPA/3000, but it's good news for a community pinched by budget restraints to see a better bridge to any 3000's tomorrow, even if that 3000 is being migrated. A freeware emulator product gives the community the best way to see a pilot in production.
December 28, 2012
2012 marks 3000 flights of Linux penguins
By Ron Seybold
Third in a series
The year 2012 might have been the first to signal a significant decline in the number of migration projects among the HP 3000 installed base. But for those who were making their transition, Linux was more popular than ever, in either a supporting role to protect HP 3000s, or as host environment.
Add in the 2012 doubts about Oracle's database support for Itanium -- with the attached concern about HP-UX -- and Linux took steps forward to stand as an equal migration target to HP's Unix. In an allied story, since Oracle's technology looked doubtful for HP's Unix futures, other database solutions took a higher profile among 3000 migrators.
Marxmeier Software's Eloquence database 8.20 gained indexing features in 2012 so valuable that the 3000 community members once paid extra for them. With a decline in the availability and future of the '90s-era Omnidex indexing tech, Eloquence's creators added a fast indexing technology, one which its advocates called "like a Google search through your database" in speed. The database has been in 3000 migration toolsets since the earliest days of the transition era, in part because Eloquence applies relational database management for Linux (and HP-UX and Windows) in an IMAGE workalike design.
Migrations in total started to show some significant declines at selected service-providing vendors during 2012. Speedware became Fresche Legacy in the spring of the year, a shift that embraced IBM midrange migrations. The company's president said that the period from the start of 2011 through March of 2012 posted no new 3000 migration projects. Fresche's Chris Koppe said he didn't think the era of migration had ended for the community, while fellow Platinum Migration vendor MB Foster said it was still engaging new 3000 migration business.
The shift in the community's migrations was running down to individual companies, said the Eloquence database creator Michael Marxmeier, after ISV customers finished their transitions. "By now the majority of that migration business is over, and that's okay," said Marxmeier. "ISVs have settled in place; they've probably already moved on. At the beginning they had to come up with a solution to keep their customers successful, and quickly."Linux, grown up from more than a decade of hobbyist work and the zeal of open source devotion, started proving its production worth in 2012. Europ Assistance launched the work to replace its MPE host with a Linux system, right down to considering a Powerhouse license re-purchase for the new environment. Linux comes at a price point for purchase and maintenance which matches MPE better than server-grade Windows or Unix environments.
Even HP had its preferences for Linux hosting over HP-UX. HP's clouds are pretty much a non-starter for existing long-time HP customers. You can't host HP-UX apps in HP's cloud.
HP's Odyssey project wants to bring "hardened" HP-UX features to RedHat Linux, since HP doesn't want to be left out of the Linux currents. While there's a clear five-year future of HP-UX, the years beyond that are less defined. Since companies like Europ Assistance are going to take multiple years to make a migration, few of them want a future shorter than a decade.
More analysts and developers spoke up in 2012 about considering Linux the next, best alternative for the customer who doesn't want to embrace a proprietary Unix. (All of the Unix environments are proprietary, starting with HP's Unix, Sun/Oracle's Solaris, as well as IBM's AIX. Code created for one OS must be revised to work in another.)
These changes, however, loom larger than the strategy of moving from a Unix to one of the Linux distros such as Ubuntu (favored for the 3000 emulator) or RedHat. Marxmeier said this kind of migration wouldn't be painful for an Itanium Unix customer.
Itanium certainly has its users, and it’s hard to tell if it will make it or not. However, this shouldn’t be a concern to the customer. But if they’d like to move to something else, the proven technology of Linux is readily available. About half of our customers are using Linux these days.
Bill Highleyman of the High Availability Journal said the HP Odyssey project, one which aims HP-UX key features at a hardened RedHat, could make Linux an easier choice than HP-UX.
"If Project Odyssey is wildly successful, it may drive a huge competitive advantage for HP," he said. "However, if HP customers embrace the move to highly reliable standard operating systems, HP-UX may be the first to go, since migrating Unix applications to Linux is a reasonable task."
December 27, 2012
2012 top losses: Itanium's future, HPQ value
By Ron Seybold
Second in a series
During 2012 the recent legacy of Hewlett-Packard pulled down the company's futures and values openly for the first time. The company's 73 years of business had devolved in full. A lawsuit exposed completely the new wart of borrowing R&D dollars, over a full decade, to boost HP revenues via mergers and buy-ups. The future of competition was mortaged for commodity computing. The same lack of R&D appetite that'd left the HP 3000 out in the cold after acquiring Compaq business computing now showed HP was bereft of enterprise intellectual property. Nowhere did the cupboard look more bare than the tech choice that had dumped its MPE/iX futures: Itanium.
It became plain that the VP of the BCS Unix-Itanium unit, Martin Fink, pushed a plan that might have grown HP-UX stronger just as 3000 sites were getting serious about investing in Unix. The decline of HP 3000 support contracts was even noted in a 2010 document, one that tried to prove that moving Unix to x86 would benefit HP -- by way of sparking new Integrity sales and stronger support revenues for the last OS developed by Hewlett-Packard, HP-UX. One that remained utterly tied to a single chip, Itanium -- until the HP Odyssey emerges from development.
Concocted as a replacement for Intel x86 chips in 1992, the processor that powers all HP Unix servers was uncovered as a product reduced to earning support profits for HP, while taking earnings out of its partner Intel's pockets since 2007. Oracle did lose its lawsuit to halt Itanium releases. But the magnum of evidence uncorked by Oracle -- hundreds of emails that spoke an astounding honesty about the final HP-built enterprise tech environment -- overflowed in the press as well as the courtroom.
Damages to HP from the Oracle lawsuit may fall on the database maker, but the wreckage will not be measured by HP's greatest loss: company valuation. HP sloughed off 43 percent of its market cap during 2012, the largest US slide for the year and a loss attributed to failed mergers fueled by R&D cuts and layoffs. The evidence from HP emails and slides in 2012 made its case of losing up to $4 billion yearly in Itanium-related profits -- even while the company knew, and withheld, facts from its own sales regions about the dire futures of the chip family. The BCS unit continued its slide as of the November financial report (see p. 7 of HP's PDF).
I revisited the turning point of HP's 3000 and MPE/iX exit, but written much larger -- hundreds of thousands of servers put at risk because HP didn't control its own intellectual property for chips anymore. Intel would have to be satisfied, or paid off. In 2012 we learned the latter plan was picked by a board that was still fleeing R&D in 2010.
I wrote a host of articles during 2012 to keep driving home points about investments in HP's Unix. Most of the analysis meant to show that the customers who transitioned HP dollars from MPE to Unix were re-investing in a technology no longer growing (like HP's measure of the 3000 in 2001), one that needed hundreds of millions of HP R&D to keep moving forward.
Even the company's new transition strategy, HP Odyssey, admitted the marketplace had stopped investing in Integrity servers. The business earned profits for HP in the same way that HP collected earnings from MPE/iX. Support contracts, which HP called Technical Services (TS) monies in confidential emails and slides, had dyed Itanium ink from red to black. All was revealed in court exhibits, dumped by Oracle and catalogued by an All Things D reporter for the marketplace to see. Business Critical Systems including HP-UX continued a sales slide -- and a lack of R&D contributed to a decline of vision the markets could now see.
In the email and PowerPoint slide court exhibits listed on Scribd as Oracle Itanium Exhibits Chronological, (a dynamite browse), an urgent HP management story spilled out. Itanium was dying, Intel wasn't cutting HP's minimum purchase requirements, and the sales force and customers were being kept in the dark. In 2009 while the company was trumpeting the advent of a new Integrity system line, Business Critical Systems VP Martin Fink explained in one email that his BCS mission wasn't motivating HP salespeople to keep Itanium-Integrity growing. Not even Intel could be persuaded to help HP discount those Integrity-based systems to make attractive margins.
From the regions' viewpoint, what they see is that
• we have a non-competitive chip
• we are delayed by more than a year, and
• we get no funding relief from Intel to help with margins and keep us in deals.
In short, they're not very impressed with the BCS worldwide team's ability to drive Intel. The Itanium situation is one of our most closely guarded secrets, and we have not wanted to let the region/field know about it, since all it would do is give them another reason not to sell.
There was another way forward for Itanium and HP's Unix, a concept that required the vendor to acquire Sun's Solaris Unix.
Or if only, Fink figured in 2010, HP could invest in an x86 Unix at a cost of $487 million. It could keep Unix revenues stable into 2018. HP considered saving its Unix business in another way in 2009; Fink exhorted its board of directors to buy struggling Sun Microsystems. Oracle acted more decisively on that buy-up, one which HP code-named "Blackbird." (See slide above from early 2009.)
Oracle swept in to snatch the HP Unix competitor. It left HP facing a reality of selling a second-tier Unix on chips that it was paying Intel $88 million a year just to keep developing -- all while the TS support profits declined, from 3000s right down to Integrity servers. (Click on 2010 slide below for details on perhaps the last HP management slide to mention the HP 3000 and its revenues.)
We learned in 2012 that HP knew it had nothing left in its R&D property cupboard to help Unix. Text from the slide below showed HP knew in 2009 that x86 chips would "fulfill all aspects of RISC within 5 years."
Strategic Rationale - Current Situation
• HP-UX is on a death march due to inevitable Itanium trajectory
• Companion Technical Services attach business declines precipitously but with a longer tail than the product business
-- No replacement for 45% revenue and 60% of GM for the TS business
-- TS Value is tied to HP-UX and we do not have a go-forward
• x86 is on a credible trajectory to fulfill all aspects of RISC within 5 years
• Going forward, HP will not own the software IP stack upon which to build value -- the hardware stack gets commoditized
Fink went on to be named as the head of the storied HP Labs during 2012 -- the least technically-proven and most business-savvy leader the labs have ever had. He became a direct report to HP CEO Meg Whitman, who's been given the same kind of save-the-company assignment that Steve Jobs faced at Apple in 1996. In this Chicago Tribune article, note the junk bond status, a rating where HP's debt paper began to drift toward in the fall of 2012.
Already Apple's debt has prompted both Moody's Investors Service Inc. and Standard & Poor's to rate the company's bonds at levels so low that analysts such as Chicago-based Carol Levenson of the Gimme Credit bond industry newsletter are calling them "junk."
Obviously, a third fiscal quarter with a $500 million cash drain would take the company down to the near-zero mark and thus be catastrophic. This, you will recall, is how one goes into bankruptcy.
The Tribune article added that "the fight is far from over" at Apple. But it took a revival of innovative design, over more than a decade, to elevate Apple to a state so powerful it could release tablets which would erase HP's laptop sales growth. A proposed split of HP, to spin off enterprise computing from those laptops, came out in 2012 reports from analysts like Therese Poletti at Market Watch.
December 26, 2012
A virtual 3000 leads the top stories of 2012
Analysis by Ron Seybold
First in a series
When summing up the last year of 3000 community news and developments, the story which appears the biggest covered the first 3000 which a manager could no longer see.
Emulator news from Stromasys, whether about ship dates and demonstration, adoption for production, or a free version including HP's MPE/iX, pulled the system's future into the present day. The Charon HPA/3000 became an installed reality at production sites and a free download for the widest share of the community. At the same time, HP's Unix platform shed the FUD from Oracle, thanks to the courts, and cloud hosts clambered into the server picture.
A dozen stories floated to the top of my news view during the past year, some of them related to another, others standing alone in their importance. The year didn't carry a marker like the 2010 end of all HP support for MPE, or the first-decade anniversary of the HP pullout (and subsequent HP3000 Reunion) of 2011. But 2012 marked 10 years of serious migration plans and actions, and we looked for evidence that the greatest share of migrations were ended. Whether a vendor or a customer was homesteading or making its transition, the year delivered that constant element of any IT calendar: change.
Emulator solution: from demo, to adoption, to freeware -- A virtualized MPE server, working as a 3000 emulator, made the transition from alpha test to a springtime beta demo, and finally a production and freeware reality. The last state of existence emerged as a target in mid-year when Stromasys announced new plans for a 2-user freeware version of HPA/3000. It took more than four months to create a evaluator and hobbyist version of the software. Stromasys referenced production status at an Australian company in October. A public webinar demonstration in April showed how an LDEV 1, acting like the entire HP 3000 cradled on a beefy laptop, could be virtualizated in a disk image file -- to reduce the need for further HP iron to preserve MPE/iX.
Oracle is forced to shed its HP Unix doubt-fest -- The 18 months of lawsuits and a trial between HP and its enterprise rival (and database ally) Oracle came to an end with an HP victory. Oracle was tagged for damages to HP's business in an amount still to be specified, after the database giant produced evidence that the Itanium HP Unix platform had a future in severe doubt over the past five years inside HP.
In the end, a judge in California ruled that the software vendor -- whose hardware unit is run by former HP CEO Mark Hurd -- must keep developing for Itanium hosts like the Integrity servers. The news lifted a shadow off HP's only single-vendor alternative being offered to migrating 3000 sites. Without the court victory, HP would've suffered critical wounds to the only platform for HP-UX. At the same time, HP carried its message of an Odyssey for Unix customers outward, one that could bring HP Unix growth to a standstill.
Cloud destinations emerge for migrations -- In a blend of the stories of migration and emulation, the rise of cloud hosting took significant steps forward for 3000 owners on the move. Solutions as complex as manufacturing systems got enthusiasm and serious looks from longtime 3000 vendors. HP's own cloud solution, HP Cloud, went from beta test to SLA status during 2012, with veteran Terry Floyd also eager to make it serve as a host for the freeware emulator. HP Cloud supports Linux (and Windows, but not HP-UX) to give it the penguin cradle needed for HPA/3000. Kenandy Software pulled from the best of MANMAN designs for a 2.0 release of its social ERP solution. At the same time, cloud outages from Amazon Web Services prompted a closer look at system availability.
December 21, 2012
A Newsworthy Gift That Keeps on Giving
Over the past two weeks, it could seem that we've written about little else than the new HP 3000 emulator. After all, there was the interview (in three parts) with Warren Dawson, who's put the software to work in his company in Australia to replace a Series 9x7 in production duty. There were the early reviews of the first edition of the freeware emulator, conducted by a couple of MPE veterans in Gavin Scott of Allegro and Alan Yeo of ScreenJet.
I believe that those two reviews represent why the emulator is so important to all of the 3000 community. Alan serves migrating HP 3000 sites, both with development services as well as the ScreenJet and TransAction software. Gavin is among the brain trust of experts at Allegro Consultants, which still provides software for MPE/iX servers, plus supports some of the sites which continue to homestead on them.
The emulator is newsworthy, but especially at this moment. It has finally become technology that anyone can afford on a hobbyist, non-commercial basis in a 2-user version. It has also earned its wings in Australia, in Ireland, and even in the US as a choice for replacing HP 3000 hardware. This is more than a proof of concept this month. It arrives in working condition at the end of a fiscal year, one where companies will be planning their 2013-15 strategies for exiting or sustaining MPE.
Even at production-grade pricing points that represent a fresh five-figure expense, this is likely to be a product that pulls revenues into a community that's been hungry for any new sales.
I recognize that the adoption of a software virtualized HP 3000 server will be slow at first. But we are in the opening period of this game, and it's one that's being played for the long term. That schedule is emblematic of the emulator business. In 15 years, when MPE/iX will be facing its own Mayan end of days crisis -- and I mean that literally, since the CALENDAR function will need replacing by then -- virtualized HP 3000s might be the only servers running that could use such a replacement. That's a future that will need imagination to keep giving new stories.But since you're reading this, you already know that we've survived 2012, despite ancient calendar predictions. Starting next week, we'll be looking back over 2012 to recap some stories which had lasting importance to your community. It's easy to put the emulator at the top of the list because of what Yeo told us more than a year ago. He came away from the September 2011 public demonstration of the Stromasys product, and then within a few months predicted the Charon HPA/3000 was going to slow down migrations, even if it didn't get many adoptions during 2012. This, he could see, was a product already infused with the power of potential.
HP delayed the technical exchange of PA-RISC information too long for this emulator to stem the tide of migrations. If an emulator had been available five years ago, a larger percentage of the community would be making plans to continue the purchase of MPE-related products and services. Of course, the 3000 population five years ago was larger in number, too.
Simply put, the emulator itself cannot forestall the end of MPE's days. Not by itself. It needs to feed on open minds and news from the front lines. We need to make room to tell the story of a creation that gives MPE/iX a place to live for decades to come. When someone says, "it seems to fail the first time you start it up," we need to check in with other testers who say, "of course. It doesn't have an HPSUSAN number on that first launch." Both of those reporters concurred, "it runs just fine on the next startup."
By the same token, we also need to keep track of the licensing hoops the emulator must leap through. Customers are going to have do the jumping there, because right now a limited number of software companies are pronouncing the emulator ready to run. However, when a MANMAN-using manufacturer shows up with a virtualized 3000 and wants to continue application support, or a Powerhouse customer like Dawson keeps up with his Quiz license while using the product, you can imagine the potential realized.
There will be other news that will keep on giving in the year to come. But much of it is likely to be related to exiting the 3000 community. That exit isn't really news; it's been in play for most of a decade. The rate of departure has stopped being newsworthy, too; the exits have been in decline for several years.
So I ask you not to mistake the heavy interest here in the emulator as a cheer for the side of homesteading -- even if I did apply that term to the "we're staying" community back in 2001. When old disc drives stop working, or power supplies become dear, or the number of N-Class CPU boards dwindles, there's another way to boot up MPE and keep companies running -- for as many years as they need until their eventual exit. In a way, the emulator makes the owning and relying on MPE/iX a "make your own adventure" kind of gift, one that needs imagination as well as gusto. That means it sounds like a Christmas present to me, and I've always been a real sucker for the holidays.
We're taking a few of those days off next week to celebrate, to finish our Christmas cards, to have Christmas Eve tamales and apple pies, and the Christmas morning pancakes with our grandson Noah after he's unwrapped gifts like a Playmobil figure set from Santa. (I love Playmobil, from my own son's dragon and castle set of the 1990s to those of today; they require imagination to deliver the joy of a toy.) We'll take time to have a big Christmas turkey with old friends -- and maybe even open a present or two for Grandpa Ron and Grandma Abby, two partners in business and love who've received great gifts from our readers, and the sponsors who keep the Newswire thriving and alive.
We'll see you back on December 26 with the first of our roundup reports -- a Newswire tradition we've kept in each holiday-break week for the past six years -- which will include peeks forward at what we expect out of 2013. If you're celebrating anytime this month, happy holidays. May these months of a fresh calendar bring imagination to your IT playrooms.
December 19, 2012
Teaching in legacy tech: a Fresche mission
COBOL is a technology essential to success with HP 3000s. While there are a handful of servers working with other languages under MPE/iX, it's safe to say nothing runs on a 3000 other than Powerhouse and smattering of Speedware 4GL and Transact, once you get away from COBOL. Fresche Legacy is taking steps to ensure the staying power of COBOL. The company which transformed itself from Speedware this year is now educating the world about COBOL.
Fresche Legacy has been working with the IBM AS/400 customer base to extend its business with legacy computing users. Using the IBM Series i servers in its datacenter, Fresche is providing the students and staff of Champlain Regional College with hands-on instruction in legacy technology.
"To a certain extent," said the company's CEO Andy Kulakowski, "Fresche thinks of itself as the retirement home for COBOL and RPG. Our ultimate goal is to help customers modernize, but that can take time."
Here's a surprise to the graduating workers in IT. "We also need graduates with the skills to help our customers with their current legacy technology," Kulakowski said. "And students with legacy IT skills can often count on higher salaries and more opportunities when they graduate." COBOL skills, as it turns out, are much more rare than Java or .NET training.Fresche's Maria Anzini, the VP of HR and Support at the company, notes that Champlain students will have a distinct advantage when they enter the workforce. "They will find that older technology is still very much present and needs to work tightly with more modern technology," she said.
It’s all about training people so that they are fully knowledgeable about the legacy technology that they are certain to encounter in the real world. With Champlain College, we are investing in today’s youth to safeguard and extend the lifecycle of our customers’ applications as well as ensure that those applications can ultimately be transformed to reduce costs and improve business performance.
The company sees part of its modernization mission as bridging the gap between legacy tech like COBOL and the more prevalent languages. Fresche wants to support MPE/iX sites which need contract help to administer and maintain COBOL-based 3000 applications, too.
"We manage and support the HP 3000 as much, if not more, than modernize these days," said the company's VP of Sales and Marketing Jennifer Fisher, adding that these engagements can combine legacy support as well as modernizations. Fresche notes that legacy technology is still used to run most mission-critical systems in business, government and educational institutions.
The Saint-Lambert campus, on Montreal's south shore, offers pre-university and full career programs in a wide variety of disciplines, including Computer Science and Mathematics. Champlain is offering a fully accredited legacy management course to students. "Program instructor Robert Bierman recognizes the business challenges that companies face," Fresche said in a release, "and encourages and fosters programs where graduates will be best positioned for employment because of the added knowledge they bring."
December 13, 2012
HPQ fights its way back, but riding Icahn?
Hewlett-Packard stock prices made their way out of the $11 range and back into the $14.50 territory this week. The backing for the vendor which makes the migration target environment HP-UX saw a rally of 26 percent over the last 15 trading sessions. That's the period since HP last made a comment or a report on its Autonomy debacle, or the second straight quarter of red ink overall.
After trading 154 million shares during that rock-bottom November 20, HP's fortunes have risen. But for what reason, the analysts are asking. Not on the strength of the HP Discover announcements in Germany last week. HP didn't push above $14 a share until Monday. Its appointment of new EVP Mike Nefkens to lead HP Enterprise Services emerged a week earlier. Its beefed-up Converged Cloud Portfolio made its debut December 4. No seemingly plausible connection there, either.
HP announced its bedrock quarterly dividend of $.13.2 a share as usual, payable to stockholders of record as of Dec. 12. That would have helped get the cart out of the trading ditch this week. But another rumor about the maker of Integrity-Itanium servers emerged over the last few days. Takeover king Carl Icahn might be purchasing HP stock.
Or not, since the 5 percent purchase of outstanding shares threshhold hasn't been triggered yet. Once a stock gets a buyer at that rate, SEC rules kick in and the curtain is pulled away. Nobody knows if Icahn could make a difference to a company whose printer business has stopped growing and whose PCs are now running behind Lenovo's. And some are asking if the legendary activist investor even wants to shake up HP's board.Insider Monkey's Marshall Hargrave thinks that the outstanding HP shares, even at $14, are too big of a bite for even Icahn's tastes. Icahn would have to purchase $1.4 billion of HP stock to set off the 5 percent report.
Although the initiatives and far reach of HP makes it a compelling long-term value play, it does appear to be a bit out of Icahn’s scope and size. While it might not be likely that Icahn is backing HP, we believe that investors can buy in at a relatively reasonable price. HP trades at the cheapest forward P/E (4.1x) compared to Dell (6.2x), Microsoft (8.4x) and Apple (9.3x). Assuming HP can initiate key savings, it very well could trade in line with Dell on a P/E basis given its market share dominance.
Therese Poletti at Market Watch notes that some investors would like to see pressure to spin off HP's server business, including that Itanium line that HP 3000 customers follow -- at times -- when they turn off their MPE servers.
An outside investor like Icahn -- or someone else -- could argue that the corporate business, which includes services, servers, and software, does not need to be attached to PCs and printers. Other have argued, however, that the company gets more purchasing power when buying for all the hardware businesses at once.
HP has argued that "we sell more servers when we sell everything" over the last two years, while its fortunes skidded. Post-Mark Hurd, the value of such a consolidated HP has fallen 70 percent.
It's encouraging to see Hewlett-Packard rally itself, if only to protect the futures of its technology from a takeover sell-off. One of the last things HP divested itself of, tech-wise, was the WebOS environment for tablets. HP-UX is unlikely to ever suffer such a fate as being declared open software. If HP couldn't do it for MPE/iX, just imagine how a product serving big customers will fare.
December 11, 2012
Robelle adds to history with its horse tale
Robelle Solutions, mostly known as Robelle in our community, has started to unbridle its Suprtool prowess this fall. The company is offering a Suprtool scripting service for the first time. It's a creation and maintenance service which, for $999 for 10 hours of work, helps "extend the life of your current system and keep it in tune with your company's current needs."
Although a lot of Suprtool is running on MPE/iX servers, this is a data extraction and manipulation tool also performs under Linux and HP-UX. These are favored environments for the IMAGE workalike database Eloquence. The most recent HP-UX version of Suprtool, 5.5, now supports 268 fields in an Eloquence database. The company was the first to integrate Eloquence into its product, "opening up new migration options for TurboIMAGE users. The same Suprtool commands that clients are familiar with on MPE now work on HP-UX, so porting of Suprtool tasks are very little work."
But there's a good deal of ardor left at Robelle for the use of HP 3000s in a production environment. It's a company which took off at the start of the 1980s, when many of today's biggest MPE vendors were establishing a customer base. The company's founder Bob Green recently talked about the humble beginnings of Robelle. In case you're in possession of one of the older conference giveaways, like the Las Vegas splash towels or a simple desktop document clip, Green's latest story explains a little about why that cartoon horse carries the Qedit logo.
Robelle grew up on a horse farm, Green says, a place where it raised software alongside rural creatures great and small.
Once Robelle started adding employees, it needed a real office, but its first one big enough for a staff opened up in an uncommon place, Green says.
Robelle’s first real office, when we started having employees, was in a rural town of British Columbia called Fort Langley (named for an outpost of the Hudson Bay Company which is now a tourist destination). It wasn’t your traditional business office, as it was located on a horse farm. The farm was on a ridge overlooking the Fraser River and the Golden Ears Provincial Park in the distance.
The office consisted of a tiny chalet with loft and a porch that had the best view on the property. The main house was attached, and built later. As our business grew, we added an HP 3000 server and desks in every possible location, including one in the kitchenette! Because it was on a horse farm, there was always a dog on the porch and a cat warming itself on the top of one of the monitors.
We worked closely together with a lot of energy. Business was growing rapidly, which included lots of travel to users group meetings all over the world.
In the earliest days of the 3000 community's social era, the user group meeting and conference was the greatest place to learn about system management and examine new software and hardware products. As a vendor like Robelle, you'd arrive at these meetings and conferences with giveaways. The Qedit horse and the Suprtool cat carried a lot of the helpful tone of the company in that era.
In spite of that deep MPE-era heritage, Robelle continues to stand with a foot in each field of computer environments. Its website suggests that if migrating your applications doesn't make sense you, the homesteading strategy is a good one. However, Green's also got a paper he delivered at the start of the migration era which advises about transforming TurboIMAGE data for Eloquence, Oracle and other database.
It's a long trail from the Silicon Valley heartlands of the 3000 to a horse farm in rural British Columbia. Green and his company continue to make tracks away from the early 1970s.
"From the age of 19, I had worked at Hewlett-Packard in California in the computer division," Green wrote this year, as the company celebrated 35 years in the community. "HP's computer division was very new and small. The software lab had less than 10 people. I did many interesting jobs as the division grew, including programmer, tech writer, training instructor, and software tech support."
But after more than a decade of programming, Green was a 30-year old programmer working for an HP 3000 site.
It was time to make my move. I had an idea for a very fast text editor designed for HP 3000 programmers, which I called Qedit (for Quick Edit). A year later I got the idea for Suprtool, a very fast extract and sort tool for databases and files.
That first office was in my apartment. In those days, there was no easily available Internet (and even if there had been, you could not easily connect to an HP 3000 via Internet). But the 3000 did have serial modem ports, so I bought a portable computer terminal (actually just a small box with a keyboard and an acoustic coupler to hold the phone handset, and a connection for a TV monitor.) Connection speed was a blazing 28 characters per second.