April 20, 2015
Replacing Apps, and Adding On, to Migrate
At Idaho State University, migration away from HP 3000 operations has been underway since before 2007. The school directed nearly all of its business functions using MPE/iX software, a good deal of it hand-tooled in PowerHouse. Within a couple of years of the migration launch the higher-education application Banner, running on Solaris Unix servers, took over for key parts of the 3000 operations. The last set of applications of the project now has a target for completing by July.
John MacLerran, senior IT analyst, updated us on the work at the university, noting that there are three applications, as well as control of the school's PBX, that must still be replaced from the 3000. The bank reconciliation functionality in Banner (by now renamed Ellucian) splits up accounts payable and payroll, while the MPE/iX app unified both AP and payroll. "I am rewriting that in Oracle PL/SQL as an add-on for Ellucian," he said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law."
These revisions are following a strategy that lets the university rely on updates from Sungard, the vendor selling Ellucian. MacLerran said that whenever possible, his department wants to "not to modify Ellucian directly, but to do add-ons instead — and we were able to hold to that in all but a very few cases."
It's a significant choice for any migrating 3000 site that's moved to a replacement suite. (MB Foster calls these migration targets Commercial Off The Shelf apps.) "Having a no-modification policy saved us quite a bit of heartache," MacLerran said, "as Ellucian comes out with patches and updates quite regularly. Since we didn't modify the original code, we don't have to spend too much time making sure it's still in sync."
Ellucian has aspects that are common to wide-ranging replacement applications. There are organizational operations at the university that have been handled by the 3000 which the ERP's inventory module couldn't match, for example. Another bit of replacement software will step in for the existing MPE/iX app.The campus facilities management office has used a 3000 app to track inventory, MacLerran said.
Our stores department maintains an inventory of items used on campus by our facilities management office — plumbing supplies, janitorial supplies, paint, rubber gloves, light bulbs, etc. The inventory management system in Ellucian didn't have the needed functionality. That application will be replaced by an off-the-shelf application called SouthWare that we are licensing through B.A.S Software (bas-solutions.com). We are in the process of implementing it now.
The patient and comprehensive work at Idaho State reflects IT management that's been careful about matching functionality. That's meant the 3000 there will finally see a potential switch-off date this summer, about eight years after migration work started. There have been many months with design and testing and development taking place even as MPE/iX continued to serve. At one point the Stromasys Charon emulator was under consideration, but accelerating the migration schedule with extra in-house resources let Idaho State stay true to its program — going directly from HP's 3000 hardware to Solaris servers.
MacLerran said there's another 3000 app in its Motor Pool -- the university has locations in three Idaho cities -- that's still in need of migration. That operation bills departments or the use of vehicles by professors who travel to class. The solution to that replacement is still in transit. Again, add-ons are the strategy for migration in the Motor Pool, where an existing system called Dossier might get an add-on module.
As for the PBX, it's telecom equipment the university owns and maintains.
We run our own PBX for telephone switching on campus, and charge departments for phones (the physical phone on the desk), for phone lines to the offices, and for long-distance use. The telecom system bills departments for those charges. About 85 percent of it is already ported to a third-party system (from a company named Pinnacle, I believe), and the rest is scheduled to be done by June 1.
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April 10, 2015
Putting ERP Securely On Your Wrist
HP 3000 ERP solutions are hosted natively on servers, and some of them can be accessed and managed over Apple's mobile tablets. But the Apple Watch that's due in two weeks will bring a new and personal interface for enterprise servers. Indeed, a well-known alternative and migration target for MANMAN and other MPE apps is climbing aboard the Apple Watch bandwagon from the very first tick.
Salesforce has a Watch app coming out on launch day that ties into a business installation of the storied application. Incredible Insights Just At A Glance, the promo copy promises.
Access the most relevant, timely data in seconds. Swipe to see dashboards, explore with lenses or use Handoff to work seamlessly between Apple Watch and iPhone. And use Voice Search to surface a report, view a dashboard, or find other vital information in seconds.
As mobile computing takes a new step with the Watch -- a device that Apple's careful not to call a smartwatch, as it's more of an interface for a smartphone -- security remains a concern. Apple has been addressing it by recognizing the Four Pillars of Mobile Security. A little review can be helpful for any IT pro who's got mobile devices coming into their user base. That's the essence of BYOD: Bring Your Own Device.According to enterprise Mac management software vendor JAMF, securing a mobile system, whether it's a tablet like the TTerm Pro-enabled iPad, a smartphone or a laptop, "requires careful attention to four key areas."
- Data at rest — Securing data on a device
- Data in transit — Securing data as it moves over a network connection to the device
- Application security — Installing trustworthy software from a safe source
- Patching — Keeping software up to date to avoid vulnerabilities
To implement good security reliably throughout an organization, three additional capabilities are crucial:
- Device management — Deployment, application distribution, security policy enforcement
- Reporting — Inventory of all devices and their configuration
- Auditing & remediating — Audit for compliance to security standards and tools to remediate as needed
JAMF sells its Casper Suite as a tool to manage enterprise-grade Apple platform installations. There's bound to be something just as thorough for the Windows-based user community. It's one more thing to ensure is a part of a migration plan, as the 3000's ERP data moves into a fresh generation.
For reference, to help research the caliber of such a Windows-based strategy, here's the breakdown that JAMF provides in a white paper about securing mobile data as well as Apple does.
1. Data at rest — The iPhone and iPad features hardware-based encryption for data at rest that is enabled by default. For Mac, the FileVault whole disk encryption system (a native feature in OS X) protects data with virtually no impact to system performance or battery life.
2. Data in transit — Apple devices can connect via VPN (Virtual Private Network) to secure data in transit. No additional software is required to take advantage of this security feature, and once configured it is transparent to the user.
3. Application security — One of Apple’s best contributions to the IT security field is their App Store ecosystem. Apple reviews all software submitted to the App Store to weed out malware. Each software package is cryptographically signed to prevent any tampering with the files. OS X and iOS are configured to reject any software that lacks a signature. IT staff can sign their own software packages to take advantage of this application security layer.
4. Patching — Since the dawn of computing, all software includes some number of defects or bugs. Some of these defects can be used by malicious attackers to gain access or steal information. The best practice for IT security is to keep all software up to date to eliminate vulnerabilities as they’re discovered. Apple makes this easy with native software patching utilities built-in to the OS. IT staff can host an Apple Software Update Server on the corporate network to speed up patching.
There's a bit of "every problem seen as a nail" with Apple's tools acting as a hammer here. But closed ecosystems have been essential to 3000-grade reliability for decades. Apple controls every aspect of the ecosystem as much as HP did with the 3000, making hardware as well as operating systems. A turnkey solution usually saves time and resources.
April 09, 2015
Labels leap over legacy support hurdles
An invention in shipping labels is making headway this year, riding the power and promise of marketing. But DuplexPackSlip, while it's a novel product, still manages to reach back to legacy servers like the HP 3000. One reason the label has gained traction is that it's been shaped around a commerce process rather technology choices.
Minisoft, one of the foundational vendors for HP 3000 connectivity, still sells terminal emulation products to link MPE. But one aspect of its cross-platform support comes from eFORMz, a forms management product that ties into any WMS or WRP system. The labels are an all-in-one duplex label shipping solution that combines a shipping label with a packing slip, using the front and back sides of the same label. The new generation of the solution includes marketing on the reverse of the label.
eFORMz has always been platform-agnostic. The software is driven off PCs that tie into business servers including the HP 3000. But choosing to use eFORMz doesn't lock a company into a particular computing environment. That makes the software something to carry forward during a migration, or choose without being concerned about what environment will come next.
Minisoft says that DuplexPackSlip can streamline warehouse shipping operations and reduce costs by 30 percent. The tie-in with the Minisoft software and the labels lies in eFlex Laser Forms. The multi-use laser forms employ label designs so retailers can incorporate special offers, pre-paid returns, targeted cross-sells, loyalty rewards, or gift cards while fulfilling every customer's order.
First released 15 years ago, eFORMz was created using the ubiquitous platform of Java. That language's promise was write once, run anywhere. Java was developed in an era when the silos of technology were tall and stout. The information industry has mowed down those silos by now, but legacy tech still wants to be included in novel solutions. Cross-platform software that can be implemented into future tech, but used in legacy solutions, presents a great means for looking forward with a flexible view.
April 06, 2015
Trail of support leads to indies, or an alt-OS
Independent support companies have been keeping HP 3000s running for decades. At one point the battle for support dollars was so profound HP tried to file lawsuits to restrict fair commerce in the maintenance marketplace. Companies with 3000 experts on tap have held their ground over more than a dozen years of the declining interest from Hewlett-Packard in the server and its OS.
Recently we've seen independent resources marshaling knowledge bases and documentation on the server. Much of the MPE/iX OS manual set is on hpmmsupport.com, a website set up by some of the creators of the MM II/3000 MRP software. It's a good thing that outside resources like this exist, because now there's more evidence that the archives of Hewlett-Packard are closing their MPE doors tighter.
This retraction of knowledge can lead a 3000 owner in two directions. They can either embrace operating processes that will require an independent expert to field support calls. Or if a company needs another reason to make serious steps to migration, then less vendor information to help fix bugs will be adequate to push the cart down the hill, away from MPE.
Tonight one set of information can be indexed at an HP Support website. There are patch notices and pointers to support documents, but everything is behind a demand for a valid support agreement. And this news about the successor to HP's IT Response Center (ITRC) shutting some MPE doors includes a confusing footnote. Somewhere out in the world, there might be a 3000 site still getting support from HP, deep under the covers of corporate policies.
While the vendor was public about its waning intentions for 3000 futures, it was also eager to preserve such support business. HP's reach for support contracts while advocating migrations slowed the migration business for the community. In the long shadows after two extensions of support deadlines, migration companies and homesteading firms have been finding no vendor help to portray and preserve the state of the 3000. The customers were promised otherwise, years ago, when the information was still fresh on HP's websites.Sometime last week, a support company's 3000 expert looked in on the HP website where she'd been referencing MPE/iX answers for many years. Nothing to see here, HP advised her in a webpage.
"I went to Whatever They're Calling the ITRC These Days to look for a bit of MPE support information," said Donna Hofmeister, "and got told MPE is no longer supported. (Thank you for playing, now please go away.) No more than two weeks ago, all the support information was there."
"So what happened? Has it truly been taken down, or did HP decide to disallow access since we no longer have an MPE support contract? I'm guessing the former."
Guessing about the status of HP 3000 information resources is a murky venture for people regarding HP as a stable resource. And after all, nobody can get an MPE support contract, can they? Hofmeister, like a few others in the support community, says that's a murky situation, too. "I've heard rumors that some people still have support through HP," she said, "but no proof."
The lack of an official resource — or one that stays in the same place for more than a year at a time — could be cause to recoil from a future with the 3000. Or perhaps, just back off of a future with its creator. Independent service providers, or migration missions: those seem to be the choices today.
March 25, 2015
Places Where a Migration Can Lead
This afternoon on a Wednesday Webinar, IT managers were watching what advanced software can do to move the identity of a company. A company knows itself by its data. When transforming IT to a new generation, data's got to move, even if it's just to another generation of HP server. More likely, that shift will eventually be leading to a more comprehensive change: a new environment, new server, new database, new application.
Moving the application is an exercise that requires custom work, the sort of programming, development and testing that'll emerge from a team inside a 3000 shop, plus some help from outside. But moving to a new database demands the checking of database schemas, the review of naming conventions, and more. Carrying a company's identity from a TurboIMAGE database to Oracle or SQL Server has been viewed as a complex task for a long time.
It looked a lot less complex during today's demo of MB Foster's UDA Central. Choosing source databases, then selecting a target database of another type, was straightforward. More importantly, this software ensures that data makes its move in a way that delivers a useable resource, not one overrun with table errors and illegal dataset names. Warnings before the data's moved keep the identity of the company clear. There's a default data mapping between databases that's done automatically to get database administrators and managers started quickly.
Watching the software in action made me realize how far we've come in the task of making transformations to our IT enterprises. There was once a Computerworld reporter who asked me what barriers IBM might have to overcome if it stood a chance of converting HP 3000s to AS/400 sites. Well, those databases, I said to him. "You might move the applications or replace them. But the data's got to remain the same."
Database tools have evolved far enough now, 20 years later, that UDA Central's got everyday uses, not just a one-time utility. It's got operations for data stores, for pulling data out for analytics, and more. Those analytics are crucial. Birket Foster said that "If you've never done data analytics, you don't really have clean data." The company's experience with customers moving data taught MB Foster that, he explained.I saw UDA Central used to transfer a Sybase database hosted on a Linux RedHat server to Oracle on a Windows system, from source to target — and the software had built-in functions such as checks for the length of names. An column bearing a 31-character name won't pass Oracle's 30-character limit, a flag that UDA Central raised automatically. In today's demo the index name was modified right inside of UDA Central to move the data successfully.
Quick data dumps, so you can use the tool to learn about your data without needing to start anything else up. SQL statements called out for a copy and paste, so you don't really have to learn that language to make use of SQL. I watched a lot of power engineered into this software, a tool whose target is successful change. And oh, the places your data can go. From TurboIMAGE to three different flavors of SQL databases, to Oracle and Eloquence and EnterpriseDB and more.
The insight into data through UDA Central makes moving an identity easier. Even if a migration of apps and systems is off in the future, "you can start your data migration today," Foster said. "You can start making a list of what you have for data, you can start figuring out what the fields should look like, and you can start looking at how you can clean up the data."
March 24, 2015
Making a Way Forward by Riding Data
Around midday tomorrow, up-to-date instruction about migration will be offered on a webinar. The presentation is not about the platform and app migration that has galvanized your community. It's even more important, because everybody will need to do this migration. The movement is as undeniable as the tides. Data's got to be moved, because things improve as they change.
It's employing something better and more efficient to handle data — that's what sparks this migration.
At 2 PM EST in the US (11 AM Pacific) MB Foster's showing off the means to migrate HP 3000 data. For about 45 minutes, an interactive Q&A deals with the strategy and processes to move databases, a trip that can lead to MS SQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL and other targets. UDA Central is the means, but the advice goes farther than a straightforward product walkthrough.
You can sign up at the MB Foster website. The meeting gives a manager the opportunity to gather with some like minds. One of the most rewarding parts of a these Wednesday Webinars, as the company calls them, has been getting on the line with other managers. User group meetings used to be the only way to hear about best practices from community members.
For example, answers to these questions will be up for consideration this afternoon:
- How many internal resources are directly involved on a daily basis to extract, transform, migrate and supply supporting data for your organization?
- How much time and effort goes into this process?
- How can you speed up data delivery, reduce the time, effort and internal cost related to data migration?
Data migration is always about transformation, whether the target is outside the MPE realm or not.MB Foster walks managers through the strategies of using UDA Central. The company's founder Birket Foster has compared the subject of data migration to the expected needs for a vacation. You won't necessarily need to bring everything over, even though UDA Central makes it drag-and-drop easy to do so -- even for databases and servers which have little to nothing to do with HP 3000s.
Foster notes that some customers are even purchasing 3000s for the specific reason of putting data onto the equivalent of a railyard siding. Of course, that's a low-speed track section, distinct from a running line or through route such as a main line or branch line or spur. But the sidings might still connect to higher speed sections.
"Among the things we've discovered is that when you go to extract your data, obviously you're reading a lot of data," Foster says. "That has an impact on the amount of CPU cycles and bandwidth being used to help data across to the other machine. You have to make sure you understand the timing of when you do that. It wouldn't be a good idea to do that in the middle of the day." And then, a surprise about expectations: 3000s on a kind of new mission, along with what you can expect to pack up and move.
For that extraction reason, some of our customers have gone and bought a separate 3000 to stage the data. They just move the database. They don't move any of the code. They take that database and use it as a staging area to work with it. On the final extraction, they'll go back to the production database. At least they've got a working area where they're not interfering with day-to-day production. You might be able to come up with a very low-cost HP 3000.
There's more to consider about too-great expectations of migration of data.
Some of our customers have been able to work with us to get a methodology that allows them to move just the last month's records, or the last week's records, at the time of moving between systems. That's because all the rest was already staged. History is just history.
As long as you can prove that the totals of all of the above equals the total of what you've moved, there's not a problem. Except in cases where you've got revisionist history, the history shouldn't be changing. If you look at it, about 90 percent of your database of transactions didn't happen in the last week or month.
Using this method, a customer can do a first run of data extraction, make adjustments to the process (item names that might be reserved words, different transfers between datasets), and then take a larger segment of the database and repeat. If a migrator has great expectations of making a complete move of data in one pass, they're overlooking these adjustments.
March 16, 2015
Tip on sizing up 3000 system replacements
HP 3000 managers who are still looking at migrations might be sizing up replacement hardware. It's getting a little old-school to think of installing a standalone server to replace something in the 3000's ultimate generation like an A-Class. Using a cloud-based server, or just a partition on an HP-UX or a Windows Server, is a more nouveau choice. Eventually, HP-UX will have that desert island feel to it. You can survive, but getting off it will take quite a swim.
Clouds and partitions aside, smaller companies might want to keep their architecture rather than transforming it during a migration. Their planning includes trying to calculate how much box needed to replace an HP 3000. There's good news. Moving out of the HP-hamstrung MPE/iX environment opens up performance room. It's a widely-recognized fact that the A-Class 3000 systems, and just about all of the N-Class servers, aren't running as fast as they could.
In the past -- at least 10 years ago -- HP actually told 3000 customers this hobbling was a benefit. Something about "preserving the customer's investment" by hobbling the PCI-based systems, so the customers using older and more costly systems wouldn't feel so left out. It was never logical to think anything could be preserved through hobbling except the status quo.
Back in 2005 when the president of a 3000 app vendor gave a migrating A-Class user tips on how to size up a new box. During that year at QSS -- where the vendor has been replacing HP 3000s with Linux installs of a new Oasis app for its K-12 and education sector customers -- Duane Percox offered a migrating user advice on sizing up a replacement. His answers back then compared a 3000 to HP's Unix servers, but the notes on the 3000's shortcomings are still valid. The advice began with a warning: You might not have as much HP 3000 power to replace as you think you do.QSS just finished up its 30th Annual QSS Users Group meeting, held in Visalia, California. Since 2014's meeting, they've announced 3000-to-Linux migrations which employ MS SQL. Schools in Sacramento, San Benito, the San Ramon Valley, and the Folsom Cordova Unified School District became Linux sites. HP's Unix isn't really an option by now, considering the mandatory lock-in to HP's product line.
Even 10 years ago, these things about system sizing were obvious to Percox, just from testing of COBOL code on non-3000 systems. Some of his advice follows.
• An A500-140 is not running at 140MHz as advertised by HP. You are actually looking at closer to 72MHz for that A-Class
• Throttled A-Class boxes also exhibit interesting IO timing issues as demonstrated by some very astute folks who would know, given their intimate knowledge of everything MPE. Here again, you might not have as big a box as you think you have.
• Make sure you are getting a 2-way server. I would never recommend running a relational database server with less than a 2-way. And you might even need a 4-way depending on the number of connects.
• Disk subsystems have a big impact on database performance. The number of database connects also has an impact.
• I find that moving from TurboIMAGE to relational is about a 10-12x CPU hit for the parts of the app that are managing the database. Since your app also spends time doing other things, you don’t necessarily have to have 10-12x the CPU, but it might be a reasonable starting point.
• The MPE TCP/IP stack is performance-challenged, so you will see networking improvements when migrating.
• TurboIMAGE/ODBCLink isn’t a performance screamer, so you might be in for some pleasant surprises in the positive direction.
March 13, 2015
Fiorina campaigning again, against Clinton
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina pushed herself to the front of news again, as a story in the New York Times chronicled her campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Fiorina has spent the last several years aiming criticism at Clinton, including a recent swipe that attempts to smear Clinton's travels around the world.
"Like Hillary Clinton, I too, have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe," Fiorina said, "but unlike her, I have actually accomplished something.” The claim recalled memories of Fiorina's most lasting accomplishment from her HP days: hawking a merger that pushed out the values and influence of the Hewlett family.
Thirteen years ago this week, a raucous stockholder showdown in Delaware ended with Fiorina's forces victorious, approving the Compaq merger. Walter Hewlett, son of HP founder Bill Hewlett, contested the vote in a lawsuit. HP directors on Fiorina's team responded by refusing to nominate Hewlett to keep his seat on the HP board.
Many actions of that period were designed to make HP bigger. Low-growth product lines were cut or de-emphasized, most particularly in the HP 3000 world. Despite the efforts to puff up HP, though -- and continue revenue growth to satisfy shareholders -- the plan had no effect on stock value. By the time Fiorina was fired in a board move -- 10 years ago this month -- HP shares sold in the low $20s, just as they did on the day of that Delaware merger victory.
Those inflated accomplishments of her go-go strategy were not misunderstood by the Times writer. "Her business career ended... in one of the more notorious flameouts in modern corporate history," Amy Chozick wrote today. "After orchestrating a merger with Compaq that was then widely seen as a failure, she was ousted in 2005."
The failed merger with Compaq did give HP a product with some foothold in 3000 migration projects, though. The ProLiant servers from Compaq are competitive with Dell and Lenovo systems for installations of Windows Server, the most-chosen alternative to HP 3000s.
Fiorina's tone has been strident, much as it was during her tenure when the 3000 was cut loose by HP. She's most recently tried to assert Clinton has stolen concepts and intellectual property from her.Pushing onward without regard for reality was among the things that got Fiorina fired 10 years ago. HP's board had trouble getting her to relinquish controls that might've tempered her mission to acquire corporations. In her Clinton attacks, Fiorina claims the title of the autobiography she wrote, Tough Choices, was appropriated by Clinton when the former First Lady wrote Hard Choices.
A Twitter image on a Fiorina feed posted the covers of the books side by side. There's also the former CEO's claim that a Clinton speech to female tech professionals, saying that women can "unlock our full potential," is a theft of Fiorina's Unlocking Potential Project.
The Times article, as critical of Fiorina as the former executive has been of Clinton, prodded that claim, too. "Fiorina came in for some derision on The Huffington Post, which recounted the tussle under the headline “Overused Management Bromide Now The Exclusive Property of Carly Fiorina, Apparently.” "
The CEO who led the HP which cut off its 3000 plans has many critics in the community to this day. The impact of a rush to expansion kept HP off its legendary game of R&D, according to HP's former VP of Software Engineering Chuck House. OS marvels of their day like MPE don't flow out of HP labs any longer.
A recent $2.7 billion acquisition of Aruba Networks is the latest HP purchase, buying technology that promises a cutting-edge firewall to enable mobile enterprise computing with the Aruba Mobility-Defined Network. HP says the deal "positions Hewlett-Packard to accelerate enterprise transition to a converged campus network." It's also about 90 percent smaller than the Compaq merger — more in line with the reduced HP of today.
March 12, 2015
Unicom casts meet including PowerHouse
Last summer the new owners of PowerHouse invited the customer base, including HP 3000 sites, to a meeting at Unicom Systems company headquarters. At that time, the venerable automated development tool had only been in the Unicom strategy for about five months. Later this month, those users and the PowerHouse Advisory Board will meet again. This time the meeting will span a handful of user bases.
The March 27 gathering is at the PickFair mansion in Beverly Hills. That movie-industry icon is also a property of Unicom Global, the parent corporation of Unicom Systems. In the months since the PowerHouse acquisition, Unicom has also purchased the customers and products from four other former IBM operations. The latest, announced at the start of this year, was IBM’s Rational brand, which includes the Focal Point product portfolio and Program Management solution, along with the PurifyPlus dynamic Software Analysis Tools solution.
The scope of these purchases is significant for an enterprise software company. Company officials said the Rational acquisition expanded Unicom’s business by adding more than 2,000 enterprise customers in over 40 countries.
Unicom's 2014 event was for PowerHouse customers exclusively, since the other four IBM properties hadn't been acquired yet. But this month's invitation-only event is being called TeamBLUE, with PowerHouse users joining the Rational customers; users of solidDB, an in-memory relational database; and Unicom Finance, an analysis solution that was called Cognos Finance before Unicom acquired it.
The company said in its backgrounder on the meeting that "TeamBLUE represents a dramatic shift in the approach of leveraging technology assets to deliver leadership in your business, transforming technology discussions into management consulting."The strategy of viewing software assets as a business element instead of a technology investment will sound familiar to HP 3000 sites. MB Foster's webinars over the last several years have stressed the business fit of a solution being at least as important as any tech issues. As far back as 2007, the Connect user group started to refer to the prior generation of IT decision makers as technologists.
Unicom has been generating a massive customer base over more than three decades of operations. The parent corporation Unicom Global was started by current CEO Corry Hong as a CICS systems software company in 1981. The corporation now counts over 70 million customers in 140 countries. The operations provide enterprise software, hardware, telecom equipment, IT services, real estate, corporate services, M&A and financing services across 37 corporate entities.
March 11, 2015
MB Foster partners with PowerHouse owner
Data integration vendor and legacy app migration supplier MB Foster has announced a new strategic partnership with the owners of the PowerHouse app development suite. Unicom Systems, which purchased the PowerHouse suite of tools in 2014, will work alongside MB Foster to serve the software's users in the US and Canada.
The deal calls for MB Foster to sell, license and distribute PowerHouse 4GL, PowerHouse Web and Axiant 4GL. Unicom is launching its expansion of the PowerHouse reseller network with the deal. MB Foster will also undertake application and product migration, re-integration, and consulting services within Canada and with selected USA-based clients
Before IBM's 2007 acquisition of the Cognos Corporation and PowerHouse, MB Foster had a development relationship that included the interfacing of MB Foster’s UDALink for the HP 3000 with the PowerHouse PDL dictionary. MB Foster was working with Cognos to facilitate the transition of licenses to new platforms following Hewlett-Packard's announcement in 2001 to end sales of the HP 3000.
"The new partnership with Unicom Global enables us to continue a long-term commitment to PowerHouse users," said MB Foster’s founder, president and CEO Birket Foster. "We are committed to their use of it and the ability to continue leveraging robust capabilities of a 4th Generation Language."PowerHouse has a proven track record of being able to enhance and modernize applications," Foster added, "reducing costs of programming and thus improving a company’s bottom line. We wanted to ensure that we can serve the PowerHouse community in delivering lower cost, high quality programs across a variety of databases and operating systems."
March 02, 2015
Software Repairs vs. Upgrade Budgets
HP 3000s around the world are running with old fashioned releases of software. Until a problem arises with those tools, platforms, or applications, it's not a problem. At least, it's not one to bother the budget officers at the users' organization. It's also an education in paying now, or paying later.
But come up with something odd, and a user might get an solution for a problem that will ripple the waters of IT budgets. On the PowerHouse user group mailing list, an enterprise server manager asked about an issue with subfiles. In time, the solution seemed to be adopting the newest version of PowerHouse.
Oops. Whether that version would repair the trouble or not, making a move to PowerHouse 8.40G wasn't going to fit on the manager's workbench budget. This wasn't the challenge of paying for a user license upgrade. The expense for this enterprise HP server site would be all in the testing.
Truth is, using a more current version is not really an option. PowerHouse is only used for our legacy apps, and management will never expend the time and effort to do all the testing we would have to do to install a new version.
This kind of support solution can be a signal for starting a migration in earnest. If you've got a bug that only a new version of the software can fix, and there's a testing budget to approve, an IT manager can figure out which battle to fight. Neither is without costs. But one of the solutions is long-term. The homesteader just watches for the next bug to fix.There's always the pragmatism of IT operations to consider. "Pay me now, or pay me later," said an old-fashioned advertisement for oil filters from Fram. You could change the filter, or you could pay for a rebuild on the engine later on.
It would be tricky to say that the latest 8.40G release runs on MPE/iX. It doesn't. This manager's repair problem was on an HP VMS system. But the concept is completely applicable to 3000 computing. A PowerHouse consultant couldn't be sure that the latest version would fix the problem.
But the bigger problem is a lack of upgrade budgets for what that manager called a legacy system. If you can't upgrade to resolve legacy problems, there's a bigger problem coming. Later.
February 27, 2015
Dow hits record while HP shares fall out
On the day the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a record pinnacle, Hewlett-Packard released quarterly results that pushed the company's stock down 10 percent.
HP is no longer in the Dow, a revision that the New York Stock Exchange made last year. HP is revising its organization this year in preparing to split in two by October. The numbers from HP's Q1 of 2015 indicate the split can't happen soon enough for the maker of servers targeted to replace HP 3000s. The company is marching toward a future more focused on enterprise systems -- but like a trooper on a hard course, HP fell out during the last 90 days.
HP said that the weakness in the US Dollar accounted for its overall 5 percent drop in sales compared to last year's first quarter. Sales would have only fallen 2 percent on a constant-currency basis, the company said. It mentioned the word "currency" 55 times in just its prepared marks of an earnings conference call this week. The 26.8 billion in sales were off by $1.3 billion on the quarter, a period where HP managed to post $1.7 billion in pre-tax earnings.
That $1.7 billion is a far cry from Apple's $18 billion in its latest quarter profits. HP's arch-rival IBM is partnering with Apple on enterprise-caliber deals.
Meanwhile, the still-combined Hewlett-Packard has rolled from stalled to declining over the last 18 months, which represents some of the reason for its bold move to split itself. "Enterprise trends are set to remain lackluster absent a transformative acquisition," said one analyst while speaking to MarketWatch this week. Two-thirds of the $5.5 billion in Printing came from supplies. Ink is still king in the printing group
Industry Standard Systems (Intel-based Windows servers) provided the lone uptick in the report. Sales of products such as the newest Gen9 ProLiants lifted the revenues up 7 percent compared to the Q1 of 2014. HP is ready to take advantage of upcoming rollovers in Windows Server installations.Results from the Enterprise Group delivered another chorus of downbeat numbers for the Business Critical Systems operations. The group where HP's Unix and VMS enterprise servers are created saw its sales fall 9 percent from last year's Q1. Of course, that period showed a revenue drop as well. BCS operations -- where the HP 3000 resided when it was a Hewlett-Packard product -- haven't seen any recovery in more than two years.
BCS results have been so consistently poor that HP considered that 9 percent drop a good sign. "We also saw some recovery in business-critical systems," said CFO Cathie Lesjak, "with revenue down only 7 percent in constant currency or 9 percent as reported."
Lesjak pointed out to the analysts on its conference call that hardware such as the Integrity HP-UX servers are vulnerable to the value of the US Dollar.
Our personal systems and our Enterprise Group hardware businesses have very little in natural hedges, as our component contracts are typically in US dollars. As a result, these businesses are disproportionately impacted by currency movements. However, we do have some ability to increase pricing in response to currency movements, while being mindful of competition and potential negative impacts to customer demand.
HP is expecting all of the 2015 hardware growth in the Enterprise Group to come from its Gen9 lineup of ProLiant systems. Windows Server 2003 has an expiration date for its support coming up in July, an event that HP believes will give it some fresh wind in its enterprise sales.
"I think we are really well positioned to take advantage of Windows 2003 refresh, just as we were from the XP migration and the PC business," said CEO Meg Whitman. "I think we feel really pretty good about that business for the reminder of the year. And I think we are very well positioned .and the Gen9 server was dead-on, from the market perspective."
February 19, 2015
NewsWire Goes Green
After almost 20 years of reporting news and technology updates using our printed issues, The 3000 NewsWire goes to an all-digital format following this month's Winter 2015 print issue. It's our 153rd, and this announcement marks our new focus on delivering information exclusively online.
This is not a farewell. We're only saying goodbye to our paper and ink.
The articles and papers published on this blog will continue to update and inform the MPE community. After racking up more than nine years of digital publishing, this blog now has more than 2,500 articles, including video, podcasts, and color digital images from resources around the world. We have immediate response capabilities, and rapid updating. We have a wide array of media to tell the stories going forward from 2015.
It’s the reach of our Web outlet that enables the strategy to take the NewsWire all-digital, also reducing the publication’s eco-footprint. Online resources go back to 1996. We'll take special care to bring forward everything that remains useful.
The first paper issue of The 3000 NewsWire appeared in August of 1995 at that year’s Interex conference in Toronto. We hand-carried a four-page pilot issue to Interex '95. To introduce the fresh newsletter to the marketplace, HP announced our rollout during its TV news broadcast 3K Today.Throughout our publication’s history, the Web has offered a growing option for news distribution. After websites became the primary means for news dissemination, in 2005 this blog took over as our primary outlet for reports. The quarterly print issues across the last two decades have summed up the greatest hits of these reports, each covering the prior three-month period.
The blog now becomes the exclusive source for updated 3000-related news and market updates. But there will continue to be digital editions of the NewsWire, edited and curated for our readers in PDF formats. This new Digital Focus product will offer fine-tuned searching capability. The dizzy array of outside weblinks will fall away in a Digital Focus PDF compilation. And creating PDFs for passing on our articles will be easier, too.
Our daily updates for new articles are available via Twitter by following @3000newswire. We've had an RSS digital feed for almost 10 years by now, too.
We're working on evolving our presentation while we go green in 2015. We'd love to hear from you about our growing digital development, and what you'd like to see in this new year.
February 17, 2015
Big IP addresses not un-docking 3000s yet
Four years ago this month we reported that it was time to get ready for the bigger-scale network addresses called IPv6. In that year, the Internet was reported to have run out of the IPv4 addresses, which was the impetus to create the larger IP numbers. It also seemed like the HP 3000's inability to address IPv6 was going to be one of those sparks to getting migrated off the system.
But despite a lack of resources -- which would have been OpenMPE volunteers -- it looks like IPv6 hasn't hemmed in the 3000 from continued service. Now the open source project called Docker has a new 1.5 release, one that aims to bring these bigger IP addresses to more systems. Open source, of course, means Docker might even be of some help to the 3000s that need to be in control of network addresses.
The IPv6 protocol was among those OpenMPE considered when it applied for its license for MPE/iX source. It was suggested back in 2008 that a contract project might revise the 3000's networking to accommodate the new protocol.
As we surmised four years ago, native support for IPv6 networking hasn't been the deal-breaker some 3000 experts expected. Although HP prepared the 3000 to do DNS service, the vendor didn't build a patch in 2009 to eliminate a security hole in DNS for MPE/iX. That's bedrock technology for Internet protocols, so it would have to be made secure. Much of this kind of routing for 3000 shops takes place on external PC systems today.
Making old dogs do new tricks has been demonstrated on Windows. You can even make an older Windows XP box do IPv6, according to Paul Edwards, a former OpenMPE director who's been a training resource for the 3000 community for decades.Four years ago, while Windows XP was still running at many sites, Edwards showed how to make an old system adopt the new protocol.
You may have heard the news: the world officially runs out of IPv4 addresses this month. But never fear. IPv6 is here... well, sort of.
Many companies are converting their networks to IPv6 now, and Windows 7 comes with built in support, but what about those who are still using Windows XP? Luckily, it’s easy to install the IPv6 protocol on your XP machine. Here’s how:
1. Click Start | Run
2. Type cmd to open the command prompt window.
3. At the prompt, type netsh and press ENTER
4. Type interface and press ENTER
5. Type ipv6 and press ENTER
6. Type install and press ENTER
This installs IPv6. You can confirm that’s been installed by typing, at the command prompt, ipconfig /all.
You should see an entry under your Local Area Connection that says “Link-local IPv6 Address” and shows a hexadecimal number, separated by colons. That’s your IPv6 address.
Last fall, our contributor and 3000 consultant Brian Edminster said Docker looks like tech that could help put 3000s into the cloud, too. "Docker struck me as an easy mechanism to stand up Linux instances in the cloud -- any number of different clouds, actually," Edminster said. According to a Wiki article Edminster pointed at, Docker is based upon open source software, the sort of solution he's been tracking for MPE users for many years.
Docker is an open-source project that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers, the Wiki article reports, "thus providing an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating system-level virtualization on Linux. Docker uses resource isolation features of the Linux kernel such as cgroups and kernel namespaces to allow independent "containers" to run within a single Linux instance, avoiding the overhead of starting virtual machines."
February 13, 2015
It's become data mart season for retailers
This second month of the new year is the first full month for changes to retailer or e-tailer enterprises. While the HP 3000 is scarcely involved in retail IT, the e-tail aspects of the industry triggered the fastest growth in the installed base. That was during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, when Ecometry fielded so much growth that it represented more than half of the new HP 3000 installations.
The nature of e-tailing is built around holidays, so the last three months of each year, and much of January, see few changes to IT operations. But now it's a data mart month for these enterprises. Marts have been around a very long time, well back into those 1990s. A mart is a subset of a data warehouse, and the mart has established itself as fundamental database technology.
In the e-tailer sector where 3000s still operate, new data insights are much prized. Catalogs started these businesses, and by now there's a gold standard to capturing customer dollars based on data analysis. The discount website Zulily measures customer interaction on a per-transaction basis, then tunes the landing pages to fit what a customer's shown interest in during prior visits. That's the kind of insight that demands a serious data mart strategy.
Most e-tailers, the kind of 3000 user that does e-commerce, are not that sophisticated. For those Ecometry sites with requirements that outstrip that software suite, Ability Commerce has add-ons like an order management system. For data mart setups, these sites can rely on MB Foster, according to its CEO Birket Foster. Ability and MB Foster are in a new partnership for this data mart season.
"Ability has complementary products to the Ecometry system," Foster said, "but they also can replace the Ecometry system. We, on the other hand, do work on putting together data marts for retail. We expect there will be an opportunity for us to have a chat about how a data mart might work for these people."
These e-tailing sites are just now getting to look at the most recent Ecometry strategy from last June, Foster added. It's a prime time for plans to form up and migrations to proceed. With every migration, data has to move. That's what a big online movie vendor learned last year.TLA Video (Theatre for the Living Arts) migrated off Ecometry (now known as JDA Direct Commerce) and onto Ability’s Order Management System last summer. TLA ran the MPE version of Ecometry. “We had been looking to get off the MPE Ecometry platform," said Eric Moore, Chief Technology Officer at TLA, "and Ability gave us the best package for that.”
Ability acknowledges they're replacing a superior software suite, "one of the top backend ERP platforms for ecommerce and catalog companies in the industry." TLA's Moore said that the migration demanded that "Ability would help us streamline the movement of data between our various systems."
That's the heartland set of practices that's made MB Foster an Ability partner for 2015 and beyond. "These months [up through March] will determine how many people are moving, and how many people are going to find something else. When they're in season — well, at Vermont Country stores the IT manager said during the morning he was on the phone lines in the call center, and in the afternoon he worked in shipping. He told me, 'My job is just to make sure IT doesn't fail during that in-season process.' Extra staff is needed, and it's not uncommon in smaller companies."
In season, this manager is not allowed to change anything in IT, just keep what's running alive. At Vermont Country Stores, the absolute lockdown date is October 15. That means any migration that gets a greenlight this spring has to be completed in less than nine months. It's a schedule that demands experience and proven tools.
"There's a synergy between Ability and us because we have an expertise in moving systems and integrating data marts," Foster said. He notes that JDA transferred its Statements of Work they were doing to Ability Commerce. "JDA won't do any [Ecometry] statements of work now, unless it's a major revamp that the customer will pay for. JDA is doing with PCI [credit card security] assignments for customers, because if you had to do that certification yourself, you'd spend up to $300,000 to hire an independent third party. Two dozen customers might only pay $100,000 each for PCI compliance services. People pay for that support." But less than willingly.
Since other areas of functionality aren't being addressed for smaller customers, there's an opportunity for vendors like Ability and MB Foster to help improve the Ecometry experience. Or lift the customers into a newer, more facile suite like Ability's software.
"We offer something Ability doesn't, the data marts," Foster said. Both companies offer professional services, and Ability is staffed with people from the old Ecometry organization. "There's a lot of Ability Commerce customers who were, or perhaps still are, Ecometry sites," Foster said. Ability Commerce customers like American Musical Supply, Brookstone, Casual Male, Cornerstone — all either current or former 3000 sites — these are the kinds of properties, as the ecommerce sites are called, that are in the season for data marts and migrations.
"To move things ahead in their IT, they have to do some things," Foster said. "We have the experience to be able to pull data around and move it to the places it needs to be."
February 11, 2015
ERP that goes places that are invisible
A webinar briefing this week on data transfer technologies and application portfolios included a new phrase: Going Cloud. It sounded like the ideal of going green for paper-based enterprises, or moving away from something that once served its purpose well. One of the providers of a migration replacement package for 3000 manufacturing users suggests it's high time to consider the unseen potential of the cloud as a place that ERP can go.
In a blog post called Cloud ERP: Inertia Is Not An Option, a technologist at the ERP vendor Kenandy touts an analyst's white paper that says there are "increasingly credible alternatives to the old line behemoths,” and giving Kenandy as an example. The white paper by Cindy Jutras of ERP consultants Mint Jutras is titled Next Generation ERP: Kenandy's Approach. It makes a case for why an HP 3000 stalwart like MANMAN, built by ASK in the 1970s, is ready for a trip to the cloud.
Going Cloud is shorthand for leaving older technologies and architectures behind. The Kenandy blog article, which includes a link to the Jutras white paper, asks, "Can you afford to wait to cross the digital divide?" On the other side of the divide, software like Salesforce -- the heartbeat of Kenandy -- makes the cloud seem like a natural evolution of applications that were first built for HP's 3000 iron. If the first generation of 3000 ERP started in the 1970s, the era of Going Cloud brings them into a new generation.
Kenandy needs to actively engage not only with its prospects, but also its customers. For that type of engagement, it needs to build an active community.
This was something Sandy Kurtzig’s prior company ASK was very good at – so good in fact that the MANMAN community has outlived the company and lives on even today. Can Kenandy replicate this kind of success? Odds are in favor of doing just that. The MANMAN community was built on word of mouth, local and regional user groups and an annual conference.
Not only does Kenandy hope to be able to deliver a full customer list for references (as ASK did for many years), but also has many more tools at its disposal to support that community, including a one-stop customer portal (called the Kenandy Community). Its ability to engage with the community either as a whole, or personally, one customer at a time, has never been more technology-enabled.
February 09, 2015
Managers still linking with 3000 data tools
MB Foster has been holding Wednesday Webinars for years. So far back, in fact, that the first round of webinars appeared less than six weeks after HP announced its drop plans for the 3000 in 2001. Those drop plans might not be working completely as expected, if Foster's response to a new Thursday Webinar is a good measure.
The company has added private Webinars, and it's also setting up by-invitation webinars, too. While we were researching updates on the e-commerce alternatives for 3000 sites, we learned this week's presentation on Thursday covers the UDA Link connectivity software for the HP 3000. Registrations for the guided tour of this software are outpacing the company's general interest The 3 R’s of Migration: Rehost, Replace, Retire.
While UDA Link does run on other servers, its most avid customer base operate their businesses using MPE/iX systems. It's one data marker to show that some system managers are still auditioning tools for 3000s. An invitation to that by-invitation UDA Link webinar is just an e-mail away, a message a manager can send to email@example.com.
The Wednesday Webinar on those 3 Rs starts at 2 PM Eastern time; a web form on the MB Foster site manages registration for that session.
February 06, 2015
How far out can migration assistance lead?
Companies that use Ecometry's ecommerce package have been in transition a long time. Once HP announced in 2001 that the 3000's future was limited at the vendor, Ecometry's campaign to migrate got more intense and focused. After several acquisitions of this software and more than a decade, its customers are still facing some migrations.
But some of the customers are looking at a migration beyond just an alternative platform for running Ecometry's successor, JDA Direct Commerce. When IT operations make a transition like this, one kind of destination can be moving to a different vendor's application. Any existing app vendor would be of little help in this kind of move. Then again, the replacement app's vendor might not know enough about a 3000 Ecometry version, or even the Windows Ecometry version that many 3000 sites have embraced.
This kind of migration is one of several that alliance partners assist with. These partners are companies that have experience with implementing and customizing the IT around the application. Sometimes, as in the case of Ability Commerce, they have an alternative ecommerce app like SmartSite and still operate as a partner with Ecometry's latest owners, JDA. A partner brings deeper experience. When there's data to be moved, a company wants to be sure they've got all of it, ready for the new app, safely transformed from its prior incarnation in whatever version of Ecometry it is still running.
Such IT operations sometimes look for help from a place like MB Foster, which is why the company became a partner with Ability late last year. Ability is hosting its own Ability Commerce User Summit in a month in Delray Beach, Florida. That's the town that used to be the HQ for the old Ecometry. Birket Foster's company will be a sponsor at the Summit. He said his company's work is '"for the standard migration to Ecometry on Windows, or if the customer has a choice of deciding they'll go to something else," he said. "We'd also be able to provide assistance with moving to the Ability Order Management System, for example."
Services companies like Foster's can act like independent insurance agents, or unfettered consulting shops. They'll enable a move off of MPE/iX applications. And sometimes that move can be all way off the existing vendor's alternative apps, and onto another vendor's package. Or in this case, customers can tap a partnership to embrace allied software that will help in a migration.There's still some isolation for Ecometry sites to endure in this year's JDA lineup. Ability's reads the pulse of Ecometry sites well. But moving all the way off Ecometry is just one option.
Foster said many of the forthcoming migrations off 3000-based Ecometry will go to the Ecometry version for Windows, "because a customer might say that retraining their 400 people in a call center will cost a lot of money." That retraining would be necessary if a site migrated all the way off the existing package. "If the current version of Ecometry is doing the job for you," Foster said, "why would you move? And if you're not moving, you may as well be on the Windows version -- it's not much different to the users than the other version. Your people are familiar with it, and it just gets a fancier interface."
But a consultant working directly for Ecometry -- okay, it's JDA-Red Prairie by now, but under the covers it's still what's left of Ecometry's expertise -- won't be able to carry a migrator beyond JDA's software lineup. At last count JDA had more than 100 software apps in its stable. Some of them might be prospects for a migration away from Ecometry, but probably won't be a fit aimed at ecommerce's needs in specific.
Ability Commerce's SmartSite is aimed directly at the ecommerce operation, rather than a meld of point of sale retail and web sales, better suited for the 200,000 item per day retailers. Many of the large Ecometry sites have catalog sales, plus Web -- but no brick and mortar. The JDA Direct Commerce suite is overkill for some -- especially those who are still making do with their 3000 versions of Ecometry.
In simpler terms, using a replacement app can be a better fit if it doesn't come from an acquiring vendor who's ballooned the scope of the app -- and doesn't have enough focus to feel like the old Ecometry. That flavor of Ecometry, of course, disappeared into its merger with GERS Retail in 2006 to become Escalate Retail. It's been a long time since Ecometry was just focused on web sales and logistics. If you only sell over the Web, where's the good in getting a package with point of sale features?
At some point in any services relationship, an IT manager wants to ask, "What do you recommend?" or perhaps, "We think this might be a better target for our migration. Can you help us get there?" They seek out a migration services company with an independent perspective, matched with explicit knowledge of a current app, platform, and data structures.
February 02, 2015
HP's new roster: same minds, old mission
HP has announced its new management lineup for the split company, but many key positions for the refocused Hewlett-Packard Enterprise won't change in the reorganization. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is the name for the corporation that will sell, support and even develop the HP suggested replacements for the HP 3000. Customers who invested in HP's Unix servers, or even those using HP's ProLiants as Linux hosts, will care about who's leading that new company.
But those customers won't have to spend a great deal of time tracking new faces. Current HP CEO Meg Whitman will head the company that promises to increase its focus on enterprise computing, the kind that HP 3000s have done for decades. While reading the tea leaves and doing the Kremlinology for the heads of HP computer operations, the following leaders are unchanged:
- Cathie Lesjak will be the Chief Financial Officer
- John Schultz will be the General Counsel
- Henry Gomez will be the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
- John Hinshaw will be the Chief Customer Officer and lead Technology & Operations
- Martin Fink will be the Chief Technology Officer and lead Hewlett-Packard Labs
While remaining as the General Manager of Enterprise Group, Bill Veghte will lead the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise separation efforts. He's not doing a small job now. The Enterprise group is a $28 billion annual revenue business that includes server, storage, networking, technology services, and cloud solutions. Giving him transition duties is reminiscent of the days when leading the HP 3000 operations as GM had devolved into a part-time job, shared with the GM duties of HP's Business Intelligence Unit. It's different this time; there's a second-in-command who'll manage the Enterprise Group operations in this year of transition.
With HP's Labs, Enterprise chiefs, and the head of the boardroom table all the same, it will be interesting to see what changes get managed with the old team. HP will have an old mission, too -- very old, from the era before it heard the siren song of consumer computing. 3000 customers used to wish for an HP that was marketing-savvy. When that HP arrived, it seemed to quickly forget the 3000. There was a renaissance in the 3000 thinking and plans from Roy Breslawski in marketing, and Harry Sterling as GM. But Sterling was then handed Business Intelligence GM duties alongside his 3000 mission. Within a couple of years after Sterling retired, the 3000 was out on the chopping block.
Nobody knows what will be excised from the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise that's going to have to get even leaner as a smaller entity. But at least that Enterprise won't be spending a lot to lure new executives with fat recruiting packages like the one given to Mark Hurd. That was at the peak of the consumer pursuit at HP. Some might call it the nadir, from an enterprise computing perspective.
January 21, 2015
Cloud takes on manufacturing's IT needs
A company with some ties to the HP 3000 marketplace has implemented a technology transition to cloud-based ERP. A Berkshire-Hathaway collective of firms has moved its manufacturing IT to the Kenandy Cloud ERP solution. Kenandy has been created and refined by a development team that includes the founders of MANMAN.
MANMAN is not a part of the latest official case study about such a transition, but it's companies like those Berkshire-Hathaway subsidiaries who make up a prime target for cloud ERP. Kenandy notes that enterprise resource systems like the ones in place at France Power Solutions, Northland Motor Technologies, and Kingston Products build products that drive other major corporations.
Each of the three is a part of a new Scott Fetzer Electrical Group, an entity that creates behind-the-scenes electrical parts to light up, time, cool, and power some front-and-center products. Scott Fetzer's customers include "Will It Blend" manufacturer Blendtec, P. F. Chang's, the Cleveland Browns FirstEnergy Stadium, and even Hewlett-Packard.
Those three companies that comprise the Scott Fetzer Electrical Group are all manufacturers of electrical or electromechanical products. Their combination triggered consolidation issues, not the least of which was deciding which ERP system to consolidate upon.
Kenandy is a MANMAN migration path that's been introduced to 3000 customers by The Support Group. The company's founder Terry Floyd said cloud computing is ready to take over for legacy applications like MANMAN.
"We are interested in converting some manufacturing companies currently using MANMAN to Kenandy in the next 12 months," Floyd said. "We think the latest release is capable of handling some of the smaller, simpler MANMAN sites."The Support Group has been a Kenandy partner since Kenandy's day one, Floyd added. His support, development, and consulting firm has been evaluating the needs of classic MANMAN sites against the projected benefits of Kenandy. The outlook has gone from "too early to tell" to a readiness that can give 3000 ERP users a better-connected solution.
Built as a native application that's driven by the Salesforce Platform, Kenandy automates all core business processes — order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, planning and production, global financials, and trade promotion management. The vendor calls it a cloud ERP platform for the modern global enterprise.
The general manager of the Scott Fetzger Electrical Group Rob Goldiez said the software has eliminated legacy challenges, after a four-month implementation cycle. Four months is lightning-fast in ERP transitions.
"We're excited that we can use Kenandy to support new features, such as enabling our products to be connected over the Internet," Goldiez said. "We are committed to living and breathing our innovation vision throughout the company, and Kenandy is integral to enabling that vision."
January 15, 2015
New service level: personal private webinar
Software and service providers have long used webinars to deliver information and updates to groups. Now one vendor in the HP 3000 market is making the webinar highly focused. MB Foster is scheduling Personal Webinars.
CEO Birket Foster is available for private bookings with customers or prospects who need questions answered on a variety of topics. According to an email sent this week, the list from the company's Wednesday Webinars over the past few years includes
- Application Migrations, Virtualization, Emulation, Re-host, Retire, Replace
- Data Migration, Transformations, Decommissioning
- Big Data
- Bring Your Own Devise (BYOD)
- Data Quality, Governance, MDM (Master Data Management)
- Decision Support, Advanced Analytics, Dashboarding
- User reporting, ad hoc query and analysis
- Using Powerhouse in the 21st Century
- Enterprise Windows Batch Job Scheduling
- ITIL and APM
- Document Management
- Enterprise Data Storage
The vendor says to schedule this one-to-one briefing contact Chris Whitehead at 905-846-3941, or send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with the desired topic and available dates and times.
For the past 3 years MB Foster has hosted Webinars every Wednesday at 11 am PST and 2 pm EST. As not everyone is available on a Wednesday, we are offering "Book a Private Webinar." If you have a topic your organization needs to address we would be pleased to conduct a webinar with your team.
If you have an alternative suggested topic, we would appreciate the feedback. Whatever the topic, we will have the webinar team include a subject matter expert to address your needs.
January 14, 2015
(Still) ways to turn back time to save apps
Editor's Note: Nine years ago this week we ran these suggestions on how to get abandoned software to keep running on HP 3000s. It's still good advice while a manager and company is homesteading, or keeping a 3000 alive until a migration is complete.
Some HP 3000s are reduced to a single application these days. But the one program that will never move off the platform, however vital it might be, could see its support disappear on a particular date — with no help available from the creators of the software.
A few utilities can help rescue such applications. These products were popular during the Y2K era, when systems needed their dates moved back and forth to test Year 2000 compatibility. Now that some HP 3000 programs are being orphaned, clock rollback utilities are getting a new mission.
A customer of SpeedEdit, the HP 3000 programmer's tool, had lost the ability to run the program at the start of 2006. Both Allegro Consultants' Stan Sieler and former NewsWire Inside COBOL columnist Shawn Gordon offer products to roll back the 3000's clock. These companies don't sanction using their software to dodge legitimate licensing limits. But if a software vendor has left your building, so to speak, then HourGlass/3000 or TimeWarp/3000 (both reviewed) are worth a try to get things running again.
3000 customer Paul Frohlich of DMX Music in the UK asked how to get his SpeedEdit running once again now that the calendar had rolled over to 2006:
When editing a file SpeedEdit creates a work file to hold the changes: it uses a structured name for the work file. According to the manual “ ... the first character of the [work] file name represents the year the [work] file was created, the letter A indicating 1980, B 1981 etc.” Therefore Z was 2005 and so there is no letter for 2006! SpeedEdit may be trying to use the next character in the ASCII table, which is probably non-numeric, resulting in an invalid MPE file name. A very neat way of making software expire. I suppose the authors didn’t think anyone would be using SpeedEdit in 2006!
Gordon replied with a suggestion to try his product, software that he's taking orders for direct these days:
While we don't sanction this for bypassing a programs legitimate timing out, it sounds like you've gotten in a bind with a product you paid for and the vendor is gone. Our TimeWarp product which was originally created to do Y2K virtual dates would likely allow you to keep working; you can get some information from www.smga3000.com/timewarp_detail.html about the product.
Sieler posted notice of an alternative solution from his company:
A date/time simulator may help, if you don’t mind the rest of SpeedEdit getting the wrong time. (E.g., run SpeedEdit with a date of, say, 1980... giving you another 25 years of bliss :)
HourGlass/3000 is still the most complete and most efficient date/time simulator tool. You could use it with a rule like:
@,@.@,@ speededt.pub.bbs @ delta -20 years
(Means: any job/session name, any user, any account, any logon group, program is speededt.pub.bbs, from any ldev, gets the current date/time minus 20 years)
Sieler went on to add a more obvious option if a programming editor stops running on the 3000: Use Robelle's Qedit. He also outlined another workaround for a program that wants a date which its creators didn't expect to need to serve:
Write a CALENDAR intercept intrinsic (trivial in SPLash!, Pascal, C) that returns a modified year, put it in XL (e.g., SPDEDTXL), and modify (via LINKEDIT) SpeedEdit to load with that XL. If SpeedEdit is a CM program, change the above to: (trivial in SPL), put in an SL that SpeedEdit will use (SL.pub.BBS or whatever), and mark SpeedEdit as LIB=P or LIB=G.
January 09, 2015
Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s
Another way around the dilemma of aging 3000 storage invokes virtual data services. In specific, this solution uses the HP DL360 ProLiant server as a key element of connecting RAID storage with MPE/iX. Instead of older storage like the VA arrays, this uses current-era disks in a ProLiant system.
Because there's an Intel server involved, this recalls the 3000 virtualization strategy coming from Stromasys. But the product and service offering from Beechglen — the HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN — doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data. It also works as an tactical tool for everyday homestead operations.
Beechglen's got both kinds of customers, according to Mike Hornsby. He summed up his offering, one that's available as an ongoing data service ($325 a month for 6 TB mirrored) or a $4,900 outright purchase with a year of support included. The company leveraged an MPE/iX source code license to build the SAN.
Having the source code to MPE/iX allowed us to provide an interface to our in-house developed FiberChannel targets that run on HP DL360s. This allows up to 6TB of RAID 1 storage in 1U of rack space, and provides advanced functionality, like replication and high availability.
He adds there are IO performance improvements in this solution, starting at twice as fast up to 100X, depending on what's being replaced. The company recommends an upgrade to an A-Class or N-Class to take advantage of native Fiber Channel. The SCSI-to-Fiber devices tend to develop amnesia, he explained, and the resultant reconfiguring for MPE is a point of downtime. "Those were never built for MPE anyway," he said of SCSI-to-Fiber devices.
The Fiber SAN runs CentOS Linux, and the MPE/iX LUNs are files.Hornsby said the additional storage also allows splitting the traditional 'store to tape' backup into two steps, first to disk, and then to tape. Or to a network server, or to cloud storage. "The idea is to have an onsite backup," Hornsby said, "and an offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes."
One of the most frustrating times in the support role is waiting for tapes to be delivered from offsite storage and then waiting for the slow tape to disk restore. So far we have found that replacing the storage, and providing cloud storage, is less expensive than the onsite maintenance and the tape handling and storage costs.
He adds that "many high end HP 3000s are still using Mirror/iX, Model 20s, VA arrays, and 12H arrays, not to mention dozens of unprotected disks. The vast majority of hardware service calls and system down times are due to replacements of disks and tape drives."
December 31, 2014
Top Stories Lead MPE Into New Year
The remains of 2014 are down to just a few hours by now, a year that saw the virtualization of the system take new wings while migrations proceeded at a slower pace. We reported stories about surprising homesteading sites and new players in the community which counts MPE as a significant piece of history — and for some, a platform into 2015 and beyond.
But no story of the past year would be complete without a passage devoted to the passing of the enterprise torch into a smaller Hewlett-Packard. The company that created MPE and the 3000 passed the total management mantle to CEO Meg Whitman in the summer, making her chair of the full entity. A few months later it divided itself along enterprise IT and consumer lines. The year 2014 will be the last when HP stands for a complete representation of the creations of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. By this time next year, a spinoff will be vying for attention of the computing marketplace.
And in one stroke of genius, it became 1984 again at Hewlett-Packard. October brought on a new chorus for an old strategy: sell computers to companies, and leave the personal stuff to others. But one of the others selling personal computers and printers usually connected to PCs is a new generation of the company. The CEO of Hewlett-Packard is calling the split-off company HP Inc. But for purposes of mission and growth, you could call it HP Ink. Genius can be simply a powerful force for good or for ill. Definition 3 of the word in Apple's built-in dictionary on my desktop calls genius "a person regarded as exerting a powerful influence over another for good or evil: He sees Adams as the man's evil genius." It's from Latin meaning an attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability, or inclination.
The company to be called Hewlett-Packard will concentrate on a business lineup that harkens back to 1984 a year when the LaserJet joined the product line. CEO Meg Whitman said Hewlett-Packard, devoted to enterprise business, and HP Inc. can focus and be nimble. From a 3000 customer's perspective, that focus would have been useful 13 years ago, when the lust for growth demanded that HP buy Compaq and its PC business for $25 billion on the promise of becoming No. 1.
The San Bernadino County school district in California was working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015. That has now been extended to 2017
And with the departure date of those two HP 3000s now more than two years away, the school district steps into another decade beyond HP's original plans for the server line. It is the second decade of beyond-end-of-life service for their 3000.
In another market segment, 3M continues to use its HP 3000s in production. What began as the Minnesota Minining & Manufacturing Company is still using HP 3000s. And according to a departing MPE expert Mike Caplin, the multiple N-Class systems will be in service there "for at least several more years."
In both cases, the 3000 is outlasting the deep expertise of managers who kept it vital for their organizations. It's taking a :BYE before a :SHUTDOWN, this longer lifespan of MPE than experts.
Stromasys took its virtualization of enterprise server message to VMworld's annual conference, where the event was pointing at cloud-based Platform As A Service (PaaS) for the years to come. The CHARON virtualization engine that turns an Intel server into a 3000 operates on the bare metal of an Intel i5 processor or faster, working inside a Linux cradle. Plenty of customers who use CHARON host the software in a virtualized Linux environment -- one where VMware provides the hosting for Linux, which then carries CHARON and its power to transform Intel chips, bus and storage into PA-RISC boxes. VMware is commonplace among HP 3000 sites, so management is no extra work.
In Kansas and in Mountain View, Calif., government organizations stepped off 3000s to move onto replacement applications. At the District Court in Topeka, Kansas, the HP 3000 "has outlived its life expectancy, making it essential that we either move on to another system or we go back to paper and pen," according to a statement on the court's website. Converting data was to be the crucial part of the migration — and will be the crucible of every migration to come. Waiting for a migration to do data cleanup is foolish, according to ScreenJet's Alan Yeo. "Yes, sure you don't want to move crap in a migration," said the CEO. "But you probably should have been doing some housekeeping whilst you lived in the place. Blaming the house when you got it dirty doesn't really wash!"
Even before the end of 2014, plenty of IT shops have closed down changes for the calendar year. Many 2015 development budgets have been wrapped up, too. Among those HP 3000 operations which are still considering a strategy for transition, there's only one assured choice for most of who's left. They'll need to replace their application. Not many can rehost it.
There are still HP 3000 shops out there in manufacturing, even online retail, that are facing decisions about how to migrate off the platform. Plenty of shadow-bound 30000 systems are running aspects of major corporations. For many others, a verbal and white-board commitment to a migration is all that can be mustered for now. Tools out there today, as well as available expertise, take a migration from virtual to reality.
In the concept of virtualization, a server is replaced by another which pretends to be just like the original. There's no new HP 3000 in emulation, for example. Just the idea of one. The essence of the HP 3000, its PA-RISC architecture, is replaced using the Charon product: software that mimics the HP hardware. Virtualization engines use software to eliminate hardware.
Some MPE migrations which have been underway for years look like they may be using up virtual man-months, so the IT group is not forced have to adopt a new application. The plan and lengthy project time eliminates any need to go live with changes.
In a virtual migration, the organization knows its intention. Get onto another environment with mission-critical apps. But the work never gets completed, something like a "forthcoming" novel that's expected but unfinished. Virtualized migrating can very well be the reason any 3000 project still has something like a 2017 target date.
What are the key stories from your chapters of the 3000's 2014? Let us know in the comments below.
December 30, 2014
2014's Top Stories: Recapping A Year
Here in the days that lead to the end of 2014, it's a journalism tradition to review events whose effect will last beyond their original dateline. We're not about to break tradition, a feeling that 3000 managers and owners will understand. We also invite you to nominate an important event below, in our comments.
The new owners of the PowerHouse software products began talking about their end of 2013 purchase in a way that the 4GL's users haven't heard since the golden era of the 3000. While Unicom Systems was still fleshing out its plans and strategy, the company is enhancing the legacy technology using monetary momentum that was first launched from legendary real estate -- an iconic Hollywood film star home and a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion.
HP's proprietary replacement for the 3000 continued its slide. As early as February, HP's CEO said "We continue to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex. "We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future." By year's end the management team had given up on any growth via Unix — because the product line has dropped 20 percent of sales per quarter.
Even the migrated apps such as Ecometry were not immune to a classic business development: smaller bases of application customers seeing road maps get cloudy once they slid into a big product portfolio. JDA and Red Prairie merged, and even a year later the former, which owns the Ecometry suite, had no road map on how the app would grow and go forward. JDA is large enough to join forces with Red Prairie in early 2013. But not large enough to deliver a futures map for the Ecometry customer. These customers have been loath to extend their Ecometry/Escalate installations until they get a read on the tomorrow they can expect from JDA. "I think it's possible there's nobody left in JDA who can even spell MPE," said MB Foster CEO Birket Foster, "let alone know what it means to Ecometry sites."
They're just customized now. A 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s.
The only tablet-ready terminal emulator for HP 3000 users crossed over even further into the language of MPE. The 1.1.0 version of TTerm Pro adds HP's 3000-specific Network Services/Virtual Terminal protocol. The new feature means that many more MPE applications will run without a flaw over the Apple iPad tablets. The development showed that even an operating environment shucked off by its vendor four years ago still gets consideration for development from third parties.
A leading milk and dairy product collective, a century-plus old, is drawing on the Stromasys emulator’s opportunity. The Dairylea $1.2 billion milk marketing cooperative — established for more than 100 years and offering services to farmers including lending, insurance and risk management — became an early example of how to replace Hewlett-Packard’s 3000 and retain MPE software, while boosting reliability.
Tell us below: What was the most important development of your 2014?
December 23, 2014
Gifts for MPE Owners This Season
The managers and owners of MPE systems have seen much taken from them over the past decade and more. Vendor development, support that's unquestioned by top management, even the crumbs of MPE security patches and bug fixes. A lot has gone dark in this winter of the 3000's seasons. But here on the eve of Christmas Eve, there's still some treasures under the tree of 3000 life as we know it.
Future hardware. Stromasys has made a business mission out of preserving applications written for MPE. The company has done this with Charon HPA, software whose foundation was laid in 2009 and is receiving an updated, speedier release this year. Companies that are relying on MPE apps for many years to come -- so many they need brand-new hardware to host the 3000's OS — can count on the software that makes Intel behave just like PA-RISC. You won't be able to run a company on a laptop, but MPE boots fast enough on what we once called a Portable PC to show off this virtualizer in the boardroom.
A future for applications. Migration can be messy, feel risky and command a big chunk of budget and human resource, but several companies are still devoting their business missions to transitions. MB Foster comes to mind first here, and there are others with tools, like ScreenJet. More than 12 years after HP announced its pullout, and with a declining number of migrations in the offing, companies still deliver expertise on the biggest IT project a company will ever undertake. Something like doing an aircraft engine replacement while at 30,000 feet.
Software and help for it. On the cusp of 2015, you can still purchase software that manages enterprise-caliber jobstreams, the tools to manage the 3000's filesystem or its database, and more. The ones that aren't sold still have support lines. Companies like the Support Group host hot spares and help manufacturers keep stately legends like MANMAN online. Even a 20-year-old 9x8 deserves some respect while it continues to manage the finances and production of a competitive manufacturing entity.
System-wide support. As the numbers of MPE-savvy pros decline, outsourcing for expertise becomes essential for any customer homesteading long-term, or even through a migration project. Pivital Solutions, and companies like Allegro and Beechglen, ensure older HP iron and the static, classic MPE/iX 7.5 behave as planned. There's even a resource in Applied Technologies that can integrate open source software, ready for MPE and part of any larger project.
That's a lot to unwrap and admire for a 40-year-old computer, all still open at a time of year when presents are present. We're delighted to keep telling stories like million-dollar virtualization configurations, shiny benefits of data cleansing, or the new players taking over icons like PowerHouse. We're taking the remainder of this holiday week off, celebrating a birthday, the end of Hannukah and Christmas with the family. We'll be back with reports on Monday, December 29.
December 17, 2014
MB Foster extends Ability Commerce's retail
Ability Commerce, a direct commerce software and provider of JDA Direct Commerce Professional Services, has announced their partnership with MB Foster. The two companies offer services to enterprises that use the JDA products including Escalate Retail, the latest generation of the Ecometry ecommerce software suite.
Ability, in calling MB Foster "a software programming and consulting firm specializing in highly scalable data access and delivery solutions for the JDA Direct Commerce (Ecometry) software platform," plans to use its new partner to transform and migrate the surround code popular in Escalate installations.
“MB Foster’s addition to our strong partnership solutions dedicated to the JDA Direct Commerce software platform will allow us to provide an even higher level of service to that user base, "said Shawn Ellen, Director of Sales and Marketing for Ability Commerce. "MB Foster is committed to the Ecometry user base and will be joining us as a sponsor at our Ability Commerce User Summit this coming March 11-13 in Delray Beach, Florida."
December 16, 2014
How OpenCOBOL Helped Porting COBOL II
Editor's note: A little while ago the 3000 newsgroup was discussing the merits of OpenCOBOL compared to the heartland compiler of MPE, COBOL II. Roy Brown offered his story of how he made the open source COBOL step in to do the work that COBOL did during a 3000 migration. A port, if you will.
By Roy Brown
I used OpenCOBOL to port two HP 3000 COBOL programs — only two, but one of them was the big and critical engine at the heart of a system otherwise written completely in PowerHouse.
I first used the portability checker on COBOL II to make a few amendments to bring the program in line with the standards — and was able to roll that version back into the production HP3000 code at the time.
The thing that remained non-standard, but which OpenCOBOL supported, IIRC, was entry points. I could have got round the limitation of not having them, but I was pleased not to have to.
The one remaining issue after that was not having IMAGE on the new platform, but having to use Oracle instead. So I rewrote the IMAGE calls as Oracle PRO*COBOL calls. And I was quite surprised that this made the program shorter, or would have if I hadn't left the IMAGE calls in, but commented out, so I could refer back to them if there were issues.
So, armed with a readable program, I slotted it through the PRO*COBOL precompiler, which spits out unreadable COBOL, put that through the OpenCOBOL compiler, which spits out C (or did then, at any rate — does it still?) and then compiled that with the GNU C compiler.
All this was accomplished in a single makefile, so it was not hard to do.
The prospect of debugging any intermediate stage of this tottering house of cards was not inviting, but fortunately I didn't need to — all my mistakes were clearly visible in the PRO*COBOL source.
Once I got it working, which was a surprisingly smooth process, I handed it over, and left for my next assignment.
Checking back a year later, I was pleased to learn it had all just gone live, and the attentions of the finest Oracle optimisers known to man meant that the system was now up to 'only' twice as slow as the HP 3000 original. Despite running on unimaginably more powerful Intel hardware running RedHat Enterprise Linux 5.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to get back over the event horizon of a black hole than to get off an HP 3000, even "lift and shift," which this was. No wonder so many 3000s are still running, including the four I help look after — ones that should have been pensioned off, as indeed I should have been, years ago.
December 15, 2014
2015 migrations creep on, in virtual mode
In the concept of virtualization, a server is replaced by another which pretends to be just like the original. There's no new HP 3000 in emulation, for example. Just the idea of one. The essence of the HP 3000, its PA-RISC architecture, is replaced using the Charon product: software that mimics the HP hardware. Virtualization engines use software to eliminate hardware.
Some MPE migrations which have been underway for years look like they may be using up virtual man-months, so the IT group won't have to adopt a new application. The plan and lengthy project time eliminates the need to go live with changes.
In a virtual migration, the organization knows its intention. Get onto another environment with mission-critical apps. But the work never gets completed, something like a "forthcoming" novel that's expected but unfinished. Virtualized migrating can very well be the reason any 3000 project still has a 2017 target date.
"These days with the tools that are available," said Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, "no migration should take more than 12 months." He added that he believes that engaging a migration services company of any reasonable size would get most of of an organization's code running in test-mode in about six weeks.A few weeks ago we reported that the San Bernadino County School District was now going to have a migration project scheduled to finish after its reigning 3000 expert has retired. The plan was to have a go-live date next year, and the project has slipped forward to 2017.
There can be acceptible reasons for a migration project timeline of more than two years. They often involve changes in the migration itself. A few that come to mind that we've heard of include failures of chosen tools, organizations that downsize during a migration, and discoveries that changed the scope of the project.
There's always the possibility that a seemingly-simple set of programs feeds data to and extracts it from other applications in the organization. But today's set of available tools to extract and clean and transform and load data really makes data more flexible and fluid. If an organization doesn't have these ECTL tools, this is not easy, however. (At this moment we're thinking about MB Foster's UDA Central, and there are others as well.)
Nevertheless, there's also a possibility that IT managers hold existing software in such high regard that a replacement solution has unnecessary expectations attached to it. Yeo had heard of one lengthy migration where payroll and financials were on a long-term timeline.
"Payroll and financials?" he said. "Why is anyone, in this day, migrating payroll and financials? Go out and get something off the shelf, instead of rewriting your payroll and financials."
He makes a good point that might apply to long-standing migrations. The relative complexity of paying employees and tracking P&L on a general ledger is small, compared to things like process and discrete manufacturing systems. Yes, big ERP systems do include financials and payroll integrated into the suite. They don't have to be that integrated, since moving data back and forth has become easier.
Educational organizations have special demands on their budgets -- they often don't have much of one. Projects compete for resources at schools, and it's not like the schools can sell more classroom seats to generate more revenue. That kind of cash generation comes through taxation and elections, both of which can be lengthy processes themselves.
As we approach 2015, it looks like it will be the 13th year when a migration could still be underway in your community. What's unfinished up to now may be just a virtual migration -- the sort that is on the operations calendar but not scheduled with any urgency.
I work with writers who have novels underway, and some of those novels are only virtual books. I tell them that a far-off deadline does not help complete their work and take it out of the status of "forthcoming." Immediate deadlines which are stepping-stones to a genuine goal make up the backbone of creation.
"We're working on a migration" sounds a lot like "I'm working on a novel." These things are never finished, I tell my writers. They're only completed, because we can always devise something else that would make them more perfect.
Even though perfect is a classic IT ideal, even sharp managers have found themselves testing new software in production mode, and getting away with it. "I did this for over 20 years and only once or twice got in trouble," a manager named Milo Simpkins said on the 3000 newsgroup this month. "But it was never something I couldn't recover from quickly, with no one the wiser."
December 05, 2014
A Forced Migration, One That's Unfortunate
This month in the US includes more than the usual ration of Christmas carols and holiday office parties. This is the first month when we US citizens are renewing our healthcare, all of us at once. It's Open Enrollment! According to my insurance agent, everybody's got to be insured by the end of the month. I'm one of the people who's having an experience like 3000 users got in 2001. Blue Cross is migrating me away from a product that it no longer wants to sell.
The parallels, so far, are pretty close. There was nothing that stopped working with my health plan. Like HP, Blue Cross simply stopped selling it because it wasn't making the vendor enough profit. The plan was not removed because of the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). But then, the HP 3000 was not removed because of the HP merger with Compaq. These were simply business decisions, by HP and by Blue Cross of Texas.
Business decisions are taken as a result of events that create situations. Insurers must protect profits, in the same way that HP had to protect its ability to grow after it absorbed $25 billion of Compaq. Customers don't get consulted about discontinuing products.
Much like the experience of the 3000 community with the 2001 migration march, my journey to a new plan will trigger more expense, and let Blue Cross earn more by doing less. I'll see about a 20 percent increase in recurring costs -- which might look cheap compared to how much the 3000 migration has cost the companies being forced to move.
There's a difference that's important, though. The active event that's changed the sale of insurance in America comes with federal rules. It now costs at least $395 a year to homestead, as it were, with no insurance at all. That's a fine that can rise as high as 2 percent of your gross income. A similar bill for a company making $5 million yearly in profit would be $100,000. That would be money spent just to stay on a system which the vendor stopped making or supporting.
Thankfully, there's no such fine for homesteading. There's a bill if a site simply stops support of all kind, however. Every computer system breaks down sooner or later, because nothing is built to never break. A company's insurance on its computer operations is support. The 3000 community got an advantage over those of us who've seen their products discontinued. System support got less costly.Is a computer system as essential as healthcare? It depends who you ask. Companies can get ill enough to die, too. The continued health of information services is essential to good business practices. There's no guarantee that vendor-based computer support, or even R&D, will keep a company fiscally healthy. It goes a long way when a vendor can deliver new hardware, when older systems can get replacement parts (like artificial hips or shoulders), or when the medicine of improved software and cleansed data remain available.
I'm not happy about seeing my product canceled, and just like HP 3000 customers, I know I need a replacement product. Like 3000 sites, I'll be paying for more than one system, during this month's changeover. I wish I could say that I saw other companies get a chance at affordable computing during the prior decade because HP canceled the 3000 product. I didn't see that. It might have looked like seeing a struggling startup get a computer system built upon Windows and driven by HP's ProLiant hardware. That's a Compaq product that has done very well in the 12 years since the merger.
In contrast, I know there are families who are now getting insurance premium help of some kind. They make less than $62,000 for a family of two, and that number gets higher as the family gets bigger. At some level, their insurance product might be free. There's nothing like that in the computer marketplace.
The phrase "taking a bullet" comes to mind while I look at my insurance costs for the coming year. It's a small bullet. Your community took a bigger one, and some companies didn't survive. That's the cost of some discontinued products. Mine won't kill me.
December 02, 2014
Data leads way to migrations, via support
The heart of a 3000 homestead operation is its collection of IMAGE/SQL databases. Almost 20 years ago, IBM was mounting an effort to turn 3000 customers into AS/400 sites. I commented on the effort for Computerworld, "They'll have to do something about converting IMAGE/SQL data, if they expect to have any success." IBM had little luck in that effort, and not a great deal more nine years later, after HP announced an exit date for its 3000 operations.
From a reader and system manager on the US East Coast, we've heard more about data leading the way to the future. At this long-time 3000 site, the systems are getting a new support provider to keep them online and reliable. Not many sites are changing this sort of arrangement these days. It's been almost four years since HP closed its 3000 and MPE support operations in 2010.
A new company will be supporting that A-Class server on the East Coast before long. The new support is going to open the door to a revamped future, however.
Our purchasers are still in the process of signing up our new vendor for HP 3000 support. What is sad is that part of the deal includes migration of some TurboIMAGE databases to MS Access or something like that, which will lead to the eventual demise of the HP3000.
There is still the chance the new support might extend the 3000's utility, though. Self-maintainers who don't use support run risks that the 3000 doesn't really have to bear. A stable server is just one short-term reward for signing up with a support provider specializing in 3000s, like Pivital Solutions or The Support Group."Yes, I hate doing this support upgrade," the manager reported. "But there is the slim chance that the migration will not be done soon enough to meet the needs of customers -- meaning the usage of the 3000 could actually increase in the short term."
Short-term 3000 usage increases are common in any environment where the data is leading the way to a migration. System managers know the writing is on their shop whiteboards when the data starts to move. While using advanced tools like UDA Central from MB Foster, or back in the day, solutions like DB Migrate when it was offered in service contracts from Speedware, data migrations of IMAGE into other database formats take away the greatest asset of the 3000.
Migration solution companies don't often support servers in the same contract. That arrangement can be an artifact of having a more dedicated resource supporting the HP 3000. While they migrate data, some providers can be keeping the 3000 up to date, too. A customer making a migration might look for a 3000-devoted vendor for moving data.
December 01, 2014
HP Q4, FY static; 3000 replacement sales fall
Despite all of the challenges Hewlett-Packard faced over the past fiscal year, the company has reported sales and earnings that didn't fall much from FY 2013 levels. Falling sales of HP 3000 replacement systems remain on the balance sheet, however. Nothing has changed but the depth of the plunge.
Both the 2014 fiscal year and the Q4 numbers (click on graphics for details) reflected an ability to keep some declines off the HP financial report. The latest quarter improved on Q2 and Q3 results overall. HP reported a profit of $2.62 per share for 2014. That's nearly $5 billion in earnings company-wide.
If the company sticks to its plan, its total of $115 billion in 2014 sales, only down 1 percent from last year, covers the penultimate period HP reports as a full company. By the end of FY 2015, the corporation will separate its businesses and spin off HP, Inc. for consumer and PC products. Hewlett-Packard will remain to sell servers and enterprise computing products and services. Analysts expect the companies to be of equal size.
The total of HP's Business Critical Systems revenues took another hit in the fourth quarter, dropping almost 30 percent from Q4 of 2013. Double-digit percentage drops in BCS sales are commonplace by now. The unit produces the HP-UX systems HP once designated as replacements for the HP 3000. Intel-based systems, contained in the Industry Standard Servers operations, also saw their sales decline slightly. Networking revenues were slightly higher for the quarter.
The company's CEO was thrilled about the overall picture for the full company, calling it a sustained turnaround.
"I'm excited to say that HP's turnaround continues on track," said Meg Whitman. "In FY14, we stabilized our revenue trajectory, strengthened our operations, showed strong financial discipline, and once again made innovation the cornerstone of our company. Our product roadmaps are the best they've been in years and our partners and customers believe in us. There's still a lot left to do, but our efforts to date, combined with the separation we announced in October, sets the stage for accelerated progress in FY15 and beyond."The HP Enterprise Group, where BCS operations live, saw revenues drop 4 percent year over year with a 14.8 percent operating margin. Industry Standard Servers revenue was down 2 percent, Storage revenue was down 8 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 29 percent, Networking revenue was up 2 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 3 percent. After the report, HP's share price flirted with the $40 mark and hit a 52-week high, before falling away today. The fate of BCS and the Enterprise Group didn't concern many investors, who watch EPS profits versus predictions.
The BCS numbers for the full year showed a 22 percent sales decline, a figure that reflects a total of perhaps $200 million in lost revenues. HP doesn't report individual segment sales totals from its Enterprise Group. But BCS operations accounted for about 3 percent of the Enterprise group's $27.8 billion of activity. BCS did avoid a quarterly revenue decline once during 2014. This latest period countered with the largest quarter-over-quarter sales dive for BCS, up to now.
Even though four of the five HP segments reported revenue declines -- and the fifth, Printing and Personal systems, was flat -- the company continues to post profits. The Enterprise Group managed to return the largest operating profit for Q4 of 2014, even while its sales declined. Profitability from these Enterprise products and services will buoy up the forthcoming HP Enterprise corporation. Only HP Printing, the keystone of the new HP Inc., is more profitable per dollar of revenue.
BCS 3000 replacements won't be providing as much profit during the forthcoming year. But HP predicts that its total, company-wide operations for 2015's fiscal year will net $6 billion in profits. Those are numbers for the combined company -- one which, by this time next year, will operate as two entities.
November 24, 2014
Building a Portfolio Away From Retirement
Using analogies of moving out of a house and filling out scorecards, an hour of last week unreeled off a Webinar that showed how portfolios offer a plan for migrating and sustaining applications. Birket Foster and his crew at MB Foster showed how continuous and thorough software management helps available budget meet the most crucial needs.
A classic four-quadrant chart outlined the scoring of applications. One axis showed a business fit, the other a technical fit. Like all of the four-box charts, nobody wanted software in the bottom left, low in both aspects. But it's a business decision that drives most of the changes in IT these days. Scorecard the business fit of applications in a portfolio first, Foster said. If it scores well in that fit, go on to the technical fit.
The portfolio is the tool of governance, he added. Governing is a classic process to ensure the most needy get resources as required. Application Portfolio Management has been a favorite topic at MB Foster. It's only possible if a company knows its applications very well — and very well means with documentation that can be shared over time. The assets in a portfolio can be judged to be worthy of migration based on their risk-benefit-value. What helps a company most, and what could you least afford to let fall into that dreaded lower-left box?
Only about 5 percent of the community's applications can fall off that chart completely, ready for retirement. The largest group are suited for a same-capability migration, when they creep down. That 70 percent of the apps can get a lift-and-shift of their functionality, usually through replacement. It takes hundreds of hours per application.
What makes it less painful and swifter is cleaning in advance. As Foster said, "It's like moving out of a house. If you go through your closets regularly, you'll be moving less that you don't need." In this analogy, the closets are your data, which "has to be made available to the new app. It's not automatic."One tool that helps to automate moving out is UDA Central, software that until recently wasn't sold as a standalone utility. The program MB Foster created came onto the job as part of a services engagement. But after winning an innovation award from the Canadian government, UDA Central is being productized. It will be offered to systems integrators outside of the MB Foster labs.
But the advice shared last week was more than a pointer to useful software. When deciding whether to re-host (lifting code to another computer) or replace, the full range of software assets gets inventoried. The real answer about what needs to be moved, and in what priority, comes from asking about the whole portfolio. While that study's going on, there are those closets to be cleaned. Few people do such cleaning, VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says.
"They see a list of 100,000 files and do not want to scrap any of them," he said. "So they move everything to the new system." A tool like MPEX can assist by looking at the data that drives companies. That's work that can take place even before a transition is underway. There's no such thing as Data Portfolio Management, but governance of data is one way to practice for the informed choices of application governance.
When to set up an APM?
- When there's no accurate accounting of apps used by a business
- When there's a lack of understanding of how apps support business processes
- When assets degrade through declining business fit, agility and maintainability
Deciding where to put new money for IT to maximize returns, mergers and acquisitions, and synchonizing IT and business priorities all lead to APM, too.
November 18, 2014
Replacing rises as migrator's primary choice
It's the end of 2014, just about. Plenty of IT shops have closed down changes for the calendar year. Many 2015 development budgets have been wrapped up, too. Among those HP 3000 operations which are still considering a strategy for transition, there's only one assured choice for most of who's left. They'll need to replace their application. Not many can rehost it.
We've heard this advice from both migration services partners as well as the providers of tools for making a migration. An HP 3000 is pretty likely to be running an application with extensive customization by this year. We've just now edged into the 14th year since HP announced a wrap-up of its interest in all things MPE/iX. Year One began in mid-November of 2011. After completing 13 years on watch during the Transition Era, there's a lot of migration best practices to report. More success has been posted, at a better price and on schedule, when a replacement app can be integrated along with a new server and computing environment.
Of course, massive applications have been moved. One of the largest was in the IT operations of the State of Washington Community College Computing Consortium. It was a project so large it was begun twice, over enough elapsed time that the organization changed its name. The second attempt better understood the nuances of VPlus user interface behaviors. There were 40 staffers and at least four vendor services groups working on the task.
One of the issues that's emerged for rehosting organizations is a reduction in MPE expertise. Companies can still engage some of the world's best developers, project managers, and rewriting wizards for MPE/iX. It's harder to assign enough expert human resources who know your company's business processes. That's why a top-down study of what your apps are doing is the sort of job that's been going out-of-house. By this year, it would be better to engage an outside company to replace what's been reliable. This hired expertise ensures a company doesn't lose any computing capability while it makes a transition.
You'll need the use of tools to manage data in a replacement, though. Everything else is likely to change, even in a replacement, except for the data. "Replacement requires reorganizing data," Birket Foster of MB Foster told us this summer. "You could start cleaning your data now." Foster is presenting a Webinar on the subject of the Three Rs -- Rehosting, Replacing, or Retiring -- tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2PM Eastern Time.A company making a transition to a replacement app needs to understand what data will be needed, at what detail level, and in what timeframe. The best answers to those questions might come from outside of the IT group. In face, Foster says they often do. A solid team of transition stakeholders always includes an important seat for a member from the business group.
Replacement of a 15- or 20-year MPE/iX app suite also might not be a favored choice in the IT group. That group includes the experts who know the programs best. Nothing seems like it will be a clean, quick fit for what's been running the company -- not at first. Replacing with a non-MPE version of the app sometimes leaves key integrated surround code at the curb, too. Replacing surround code is a good project for outside expertise. Companies which consult on that task have field experience on success to share.
The good news: replacing a business suite is not as dangerous as replacing a joint. You get to shop and specify and test for replacement software, even while the worn-down hip of the business suite continues to bear the weight of the company's enterprise. Backing out of a replacement -- replacing the replacement -- is just as extensive in software as it is in medicine. It's like doing it all over again. But replacing after an attempt at rehosting? That's the least effective strategy of all.
November 14, 2014
Our World's Greatest Cartoon, Ever
Because it's so crucial, and because Alan Yeo was brilliant in commissioning it. Mark your calendars. (Click it for detail)
November 11, 2014
Veterans get volunteered for transition's day
Here on Veteran's Day — I'm a vet of the '70's-era military — I'm remembering there are IT pros with another kind of veteran status. They are people who count more than a couple of decades of experience with the HP 3000, managing their servers since before the time that Windows was the default computing strategy. They've been through a different kind of conflict.
I've learned that the most embattled managers employ a surprising tool. It's a sense of humor, reflected in the tone of their descriptions of mothballing the likes of 25-year-old independent apps during migrations. They have to laugh and get to do so, because their attempts to advance their positions might seem like folly at first look, or even in a second attempt.
Really, an assignment like putting Transact code into an HP-UX environment? Or take the case of working around a financial app software from Bi-Tech -- an indie vendor that "really stopped developing it for the 3000 years ago," according to City of Sparks, Nevada Operations & Systems Administrator Steve Davidek. There's been some really old stuff doing everyday duty in HP 3000 shops. The age of the applications was often in line with the tenure of the project's management.
These pros typify the definition of veterans, a term we'll use liberally in the US today to celebrate their sacrifices and courage. Facing battle and bullets is not on par with understanding aged code and logic. But two groups of people do have something similar at heart. Both kinds of veterans have been tested and know how to improve the odds of success in a conflict. Youthful passion is important to bring fresh energy to any engagement, military or technological. What earns the peace is experience, however grey-haired it looks next to Windows warriors.
With each mission accomplished -- from what looks like the Y2K effort of 14 years ago to embracing a roll-your-own Unix that replaced MPE's integrated toolset -- these veterans moved forward in their careers. "Our knowledge base is renewed with this work," one said after migrating apps that served 34 Washington state colleges. "We're on the latest products."
Recruiting IT talent into small towns — and the 3000 runs in many small cities where manufacturing labor is less costly — meant hiring for Windows experience. Adopting Windows into an organization means leaving proprietary environments even more popular than MPE/iX. Like HP-UX.
Leaving a familiar environment means enduring risks. But a tone of "yeah, that'll happen, but we'll manage through it" is what I hear from the 3000 pros marching into the dark of 2015 and beyond. And if a migration is happening next year or the years beyond, you may want to thank a colleague -- anyone whose IT battles have promoted the knowledge that creates veterans, marching in the ranks of both managers and vendors alike.
Les Vejada worked with HP 3000s for more than 20 years at HP, then moved on to HP's other enterprise platforms until the vendor cut his job. It was as if he'd mustered out of a unit. "I don't work with the 3000 anymore," he told us when he joined the Linked In HP 3000 Community. "I know the 3000 is dying, but it brings back a lot of great memories. I probably would still take something on a MPE machine if offered." Whether it's in-house, or in-community, one motto remains as valid today as it did after any conflict: Hire a Vet.
November 05, 2014
Migration plans: Rehost, Replace, or Retire
Migration begins with an inventory. Application by application, an IT manager does triage on every program on their 3000. The goal is to come up with a disposition for each app. Some ccan be rehosted. Apps built with PowerHouse might be moved to other servers, for example. For other apps, they can be replaced. Ecometry sites could adopt the CommercialWare application, in some cases. Or in other instances, an in-house program suite can be replaced by a Commercial Off The Shelf app. Migration services company MB Foster likes to call those replacements COTS. The company has a Wednesday webinar scheduled on Nov. 19 to explore planning to replace COTS and more.
Foster calls the strategy the Three R's of Migration: Rehost, Replace, Retire. At 2 PM Eastern Time in a couple of weeks (register here), Birket Foster will lead a slide talk with time for questions about what to do if you're migrating away from any one of the above types of applications. The word Retire is already on the minds of MPE-savvy managers, since most of them are older than 50. It turns out that applications can find the end of a career even before their caretakers do.
It's not always this way. At the San Bernadino County schools, the apps to run the California district will have a retirement date from the 3000 that falls after the district's 3000 expert. Sometimes, though, a migration can become easier when older programs that have fallen into disuse are simply erased. There's no need to migrate such an app.
However, there's only one sure way to discover these retirees: inventory and analysis. MB Foster's summary for the Nov. 19 webinar breaks that triage process into inventory of app environments; rating the functionality vs. business suitability of each app; then organizing and prioritizing with a study of interfaces and grouping used that applies to each app. COTS carries a different set of requirements to study during migration planning, the company says, than in-house apps.Look at the IT resources in your company as a portfolio, Foster advises. Create a profile for each asset in your portfolio, using an inventory of the documents, tools, and other parts of each application's environment. Pay attention to these elements across the lifecycle of the app.
The first stage in the lifecycle is a requirements document. What are the workflows being supported? Was the application built or bought, and what roles were considered as the project to charter the application began? If the application is built in house, then technical documentation for the app's design and delivery will be required. If the application is COTS software, then the requirements documentation changes, to include the software selection process and a Fit-Gap analysis.
Every application spends time crossing through three environments: Development, Test, and Operations. Migrating anything means that IT management must consider how to move away from Development elements such an IDE, or source control software, change control tools, scripting languages, and compilers.
Foster says in its summary for the webinar that making a transition away from an app's Test environment means analyzing the test tools, methodologies, test scripts, plus documentation for the app's unit test, integration test, and UAT (User Acceptance Test).
The inventory for analysis of an Operations environment studies "scripts for operating daily, weekly, monthly and other periodic functions," as well as "the toolkit for monitoring the production environment (unique or shared), the scheduler, and other production environment tools."
The analysis will allow the 3 R's of migration to be applied – Rehost, Replace or Retire. Once the application portfolio is divided into these categories, it is time to organize and prioritize the applications. Each application may be standalone or grouped – and the triage process will need to note any internal or external interfaces that will be impacted.
Foster says the webinar will examine and teach about those processes. It might be a way to bring something closer to retirement: an aging 3000, or even old business practices for IT.
November 03, 2014
10 years ago, was the 3000 halfway gone?
I revisited a set of user conference slides from 2004 recently, and I found a scheduling milestone. A presentation at that final Interex show in Chicago included a schedule warning. In that year, it was about halfway through the period HP gave the community to get away from their HP 3000s. The deadline for the end of HP support was December 31, 2006, as of the week the presentation rolled out in Chicago.
"Put your plan into the budget during this summer of 2004," one slide suggested. Using that timeline, an IT manager could commence migrating by the summer of '05 and complete a migration by the end of 2006. To be sure, 18 months is a swift migration schedule, but it's possible -- if a company can budget for some outside expertise for project management and coding. The tests will usually be handled in-house. That's up to one third of a migration project's timeline, according to migration services experts like MB Foster.
By the next fall, HP was pulling the carpet out from under such companies. That deadline for HP support got extended by 24 months. With that change, that halfway-gone point was still at the moment of HP's rescheduling. But now there were more than 36 months left. People had not migrated in enough numbers. A greater factor: HP made a business decision to keep support business alive and earning revenues for another two years. It was high-profit revenue. High enough that the deadline got moved again, out by another 24 months.
Since those days, we've seen many customers use the same sort of rolling-forward deadline for their migrations. They plan for the end of 2013, for example, then push out to the end of 2015. Just like HP, customers in places like California school districts and manufacturers in the Southwest are taking more time because they like the return on investment. They can afford to reset the halfway mark.
But what if 2004 was the start of 95 percent of migrations, and the decade since then represents halfway-gone? What's left by now in the user community still includes companies of serious size.Last week we heard of the farthest-out 3000 shutdown date ever scheduled: 2024. Sure, if that replacement project at the MANMAN site gets done sooner, the 3000 will go dark faster. But right now, 2014 is their halfway point, even if you only counted back a full decade ago.
Another customer, the San Bernadino, California school district, will not switch off until the end of 2017. So far away that its resident 3000 guru will already be retired. In that shop, even the exit of expertise won't move things along faster. Operations calendars play a role in scheduling.
The end of the calendar year is a typical time to switch things over for the schools that use the 3000. Classes end in December for a long break. E-commerce and retail companies like Musician's Friend, a former Ecometry site, consider the middle of summer to be their safe cutover time.
A one-month operations break, or even the 90 days before holiday retail time, is a short window compared to a full year. If a site doesn't get to its deadline window in time, there's an extra 6-12 months of 3000 operations to schedule. This mandates a Sustain plan.
Even back in 2004 the presentation advice included Sustain strategy. It included the same counsel given to migrators: Innovate before you migrate. Innovation is the one advantage of extending a halfway point. The IT staff can do some immediate-payback work. Innovation to existing systems helps as soon as it's tested.
Innovations in existing 3000 systems is not as crazy as it sounds. If you're aiming at innovation targets, these three were part of the 2004 slide set.
- Projects that affect operational efficiency and ROI
- Projects that build sills and experience on your staff
- Projects that will help with year-over-year comparisons in the future
If that final target isn't clear, it's a good practice to get another set of eyes on migration planning. IT stakeholders are one set of eyes. Another potential is the migration planners in your community. Knowing what to innovate before you go away: this is also preparing for a migration.
October 29, 2014
Security experts try to rein in POODLE
Sometimes names can be disarming ways of identifying high-risk exploits. That's the case with POODLE, a new SSL-based security threat that comes after the IT community's efforts to contain Heartbleed, and then the Shellshock vulnerability of the bash shell program. HP 3000s are capable of deploying SSL security protocols in Web services. Few do, in the field; most companies assign this kind of service to a Linux server, or sometimes to Windows.
The acronym stands for Padding Oracle on Downgraded Legacy Encryption. This oracle has nothing to do with the database giant. A Wikipedia article reports that such an attack "is performed on the padding of a cryptographic message. The plain text message often has to be padded (expanded) to be compatible with the underlying cryptographic primitive. Leakage of information about the padding may occur mainly during decryption of the ciphertext."
The attack can also be performed on HP's Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), a security appliance that is in place protecting thousands of networks around the world. Other firewalls are at risk. Just this week HP released a security patch to help the NGFW appliances withstand the attack. External firewalls are a typical element in modern web service architectures.
A POODLE attack takes a bite out of SSL protections by fooling a server into falling back to an older SSLv3 protocol. HP reported that its Local Security Manager (LSM) software on the NGFW is at risk. But a software update is available at the HP TippingPoint website, the home of the TippingPoint software that HP acquired when it bought 3Com in 2010. TippingPoint rolled out the first HP NGFW firewalls last year.The TippingPoint experts seem to understand that older protocols -- a bit like the older network apps installed in servers like the 3000 -- are going to be indelibile.
The most effective mitigation is to completely disable the SSLv3 protocol. If this is not possible because of business requirements, alternately the TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV flag can be enabled so that attackers can no longer force the downgrade of protocols to SSLv3.
What's at risk in your data pool? HP says it likely to be sensitive, short strings of data such as session IDs and cookie values, "which can then be used to hijack the users' sessions, etc."
Et cetera indeed. The added challenge which enterprise managers assume once they move into open networks are the POODLEs, shocks to a shell and the bleeding hearts of newer operating environments. The security expertise to meet these challenges is a well-spent investment -- whether it's through a 3000-savvy services provider, or the vendor of the migration target system that's just replaced a 3000.
Basic information on these threats is always provided for free. Implementation savvy can be a valuable extra expense. For example, HP adds this nuance about disabling protocols.
An important note: both the client and server must be updated to support that TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV flag. If both allow for SSLv3 and one of them has not been updated to support the flag, the attack will remain possible.
October 24, 2014
Legacy Management: More than Rehosting
Speedware became Freshe Legacy several years ago, and in 2012 the company's business crossed the watershed from Hewlett-Packard sites to those running IBM's AS/400 servers. The latter is now called IBM i, and in one interview Fresche CEO Andy Kulakowski said the company's customers are now 85 percent IBM users.
The world of IBM i is still populated with product releases, vendor support, and the challenges of keeping a legacy line of computing looking current. Last month Fresche purchased the assets, intellectual property and customer base of looksoftware (yes, all lowercase and all one word.) Next week the newest tool in the Fresche belt goes on display in one of the oldest of enterprise venues: a $949 user conference, COMMON.
COMMON has served IBM users since before there was an Interex. The first meetings of the group surrounded the IBM Series 1800, a data acquisition and control system which was similar to the 3000 in that it used a Multi Programming Executive (MPX) operating system. COMMON meetings began in the 1960s, and the 1800 was used in product for more than 50 years. Even though COMMON attendance has dropped and the gatherings have gotten shorter, the group still assembles the experts and the faithful once a year for a classic expo and education event. This year's is in Indianapolis, following the model that Interex used for HP 3000 customers: a moveable feast taking place in cities both great and, well, common. One forgettable year the Interex show was held in Detroit. In the Midwest, however, a great number of manufacturers and distributors have always used business systems like the 3000 and the i.
Drill into the looksoftware website and you'll find mention of the HP 3000 in the Modernization Solutions section. Along with methodologies such as cloud enablement, database modernization and automated code conversion, MPE/iX customers can find a relevant line, "Re-hosting (HP e3000)." COMMON attendees could very easily hear about rehosting at the conference. After decades of serving just the AS/400 family, it's now an expo that embraces Unix and Linux computing from IBM, too.There are other methods to revitalize an HP 3000, but moving those business applications onto a new host is the classic strategy. Business Rules Extraction, Consolidation and Export is also among the solutions listed in the looksoftware services stable. Taking a customer's business rules along during any transition is a must. A "lift and shift" is what Fresche called the move onto non-3000 hardware back when the firm was called Speedware.
There's not much of that kind of business left in the 3000 customer base by now -- certainly not compared to the number of modernization opportunities for the AS/400 crowd. IBM has a strategy book that's released every year for IT planners called the Redbook. The latest edition, the largest ever in the history of the publication, is Modernizing IBM i Applications from the Database up to the User Interface and Everything in Between. Over at the IT Jungle website, the editors are calling the current Fresche strategy of acquistions "a page right out of the Redbook." The book's 687 pages are summed up thusly by the website.
It refers to modernization as "a sequence of actions" and "a process of rethinking how to approach the creation and maintenance of applications." Much of the focus is on application structure, user interface, data access, and the database. There's a lot of out with the old and in with the new here.
Adding new companies isn't new to the Speedware/Fresche history. The company acquired Neartek for the latter's AMXW software, for example, once the migrations were in full play in the 3000 market. Databorough is a similar acquisition, a database software firm whose products are useful tools in the mission Fresche calls legacy modernization. User interfaces get a rejuvenation, data access and pathways to more current data resources, and usually newer hardware arrives. Not hardware from a vendor other than IBM, however. For that kind of modernization, you have to look to the HP 3000 community. Yes, Fresche Legacy will rehost your MPE/iX apps, using a different methodology than any virtualization supplier. The new technology goes beyond hardware and IO and chip-level environments. It includes a new operating system, databases, and surround code.
One of the other significant throwbacks in legacy enterprise arenas are languages. MPE's got COBOL, and the IBM i has RPG. The RPG langauge was once so central to IBM enterprise computing that HP built an RPG compiler to run on the 3000. Its goal was to steal away Series 38 IBM shops. Next week at COMMON, Kulakowski will be spreading the message that in the IBM world, "There are lots of tools and services that support the move from RPG to more modern environments."
Kulakowski sees the age of the engineer and developer as a factor in modernization. Quoted in IT Jungle, he said
Generations X and Y are coming. They are very big part of population and will be far more demanding than we were. I think it would be a losing battle to try to convince them to use RPG as a development platform. It's up to us to set the table for the generation to come. We have the tools and technology to do that. That's the revolution I would fight for.
Fighting for refreshed MPE/iX hardware is a campaign for the non-migrating 3000 customer -- managers and owners with no conferences left to attend, and nothing like a 678-page Redbook playbook to follow. There's only one virtualization vendor for PA-RISC hardware, so at least the vetting of the suppliers won't take as long. There's not much choice, and that can have its downsides. But it might be a good thing to have no reason to visit Detroit or Indianapolis this fall, just to keep an IT operation modernized. Late-generation hardware is about as modernized as an MPE homesteader will be able to get.
Of course swapping out hosting hardware, by using a Linux cradle for MPE/iX, is a different level of churn than turning out the operating environment. For that sort of change, a trip to a city to ask questions face to face might well be a good business process.
October 22, 2014
What Needs Replacing, at Its Heart?
Hewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware has started to show its age this year. Even the newest of servers was built at least 11 years ago. Although that's an impossible age for PCs or tablets, more than a decade isn't outrageous for systems created by HP. These things were built to the specs of spacecraft, on the good days of the manufacturing line in Roseville, Calif. and elsewhere.
However, even a server of rigorous construction has moving parts and electrical components with a finite lifespan. Lately we're been hearing from customers whose managers have awoken from a peaceful slumber, dreaming of limitless hardware lifetimes. Hey, say they, how did we ever get to be relying on computers built before Y2K?
At this point there are no questions about MPE/iX, or TurboIMAGE, or the pedigree of bash shell software, or the built-in the ODBC data connection capabilities, or jobstream management. These are all stand-up, solid citizens, even through their range of motion can be limited. (So is mine, but like the software above, I work to stay limber.)
No, this is all about the age of the iron. HP stopped building servers that ran MPE apps more than a decade ago. So, is it out those apps go, the baby tossed with the hardware bathwater? It's a simplistic way to approach system reliability. However, until recent years there was no newer hardware to lift those apps onto. Fresh steeds, in the shape of faster and newer computers, hadn't been in the stable in many years.
Users would like to move to implementation straight away, once they get that "What's up?" inquiry from the boardroom. The fastest path to Get Me Outta Here -- indeed, the most ready getaway car -- seems to be the Stromasys virtualization solution. There are more complete, wider-ranging moves. They take a great deal longer, because their details demand they move slower.The last time we were asked about this, and the community's practices, we had to answer there's a growing number of Charon virtualization users out there. There are still many more sites who no longer use the 3000 because they're left MPE and TurboIMAGE.
The best set of practices for each customer is only going to be checked rigorously using an assessment. Which programs are used, what data types are still viable, what networking and sharing services are on demand -- the answers to all of these give the perspective that sees farthest forward into the future of corporate IT strategy.
But if you want to move away from hardware only supported by third parties, computers not built or backed by their creators, the Stromasys Charon package using new iron -- even HP's -- is the fastest path that we have seen. The level of complexity to put MPE onto Linux hosts isn't trivial, but it's well tested. It looks like the kind of getaway vehicle that lets you take the big money of apps away from the bank, instead of just the bank book of application designs and data.
October 20, 2014
3000's class time extended for schools
The San Bernadino County school district in California has been working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. COBOL and its business prowess is proving more complicated to move to Windows than expected. Dave Evans, Systems Security and Research officer, checked in from the IT department at the district.
We are still running two HP 3000s for our Financial and Payroll services. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015, and then I would shut the HP 3000s down as I walked out the door for the last time. That has now been extended to 2017, and I will be gone before then.
We are rewriting the COBOL HP 3000 apps into .NET and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) technologies. Ideal says they can support our HP 3000s until 2017.
And with the departure date of those two HP 3000s now more than two years away, the school district steps into another decade beyond HP's original plans for the server line. It is the second decade of beyond-end-of-life service for their 3000.Evans was checking up on the timeline.
In the original timeline HP published, did HP announce in November 2002 that the HP 3000 was at end of life? That HP 3000 production lines would shut down in 2004, and all HP 3000 support would end 2007?
Very close, but not quite accurate. The 3000's future got its exit notice from Hewlett-Packard in 2001 (almost 13 years ago), and system manufacturing ended in 2003. The first of HP's end of life deadlines was December 2006. Virtually nobody would have figured in 2001 they'd have MPE applications still in service more than a decade after 2006.
But San Bernadino County is giving lessons on how to extend an investment, even while it finishes a migration. By the time those school district servers go offline -- and they won't be the last in the world by any means -- the 3000 product platform will have been in continuous production service somewhere in the world for 43 years.
October 17, 2014
Tracking MPE/iX Vulnerability to Shellshock
Security experts have said that the Shellshock bug in the bash shell program is serious. So much so that they're comparing it to the Heartbleed breach of earlier this year. Many are saying Shellshock is even more of a threat.
Once again, this has some impact on HP 3000s, just like Heartbleed did. But you'll need to be managing a 3000 that's exposed to the Internet to see some risks to address as part of system administration. Web servers, domain name servers, and other net-ready services provide the opportunity for this malware. There's not a lot of that running in the customer base today, but the software is still sitting on the 3000 systems, programs that could enable it.
Authorities fear a deluge of attacks could emerge. The US government has rated the security flaw 10 out of 10 for severity.
Bash is open source software, and our expert on that subject Brian Edminster is working on a specific report about the vulnerabilities. Hewlett-Packard posted a security bulletin that points to a safer version of the bash shell utility. But that version won't help HP 3000s.
It's not that HP doesn't know about the 3000 any longer. The patching menu above shows that MPE is still in the security lexicon at Hewlett-Packard. But Edminster thinks the only way to make bash safe again on MPE might be to port it a-fresh. "The 3000's bash is version 2.04, but the version that's considered 'current' is 4.x (depending on what target system you're on)," he said. "So if v2.04 is broken, the code-diffs being generated to fix the issues [by HP] in late-model bash software won't be of much (if any) use."One report in a UK newspaper suggested that "if online retailers use older, mainframe-style computing systems, they are likely to be vulnerable." That sounds like one way to describe the Ecometry sites still selling online with MPE versions of that software. Many of those customers do not have the 3000 directly exposed to the Internet, though.
The bug allows hackers to send commands to a computer without having admin status, letting them plant malicious software within systems.
HP has released a software update to resolve the vulnerability in HP Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) running Bash Shell. Version NGFW v220.127.116.1153 will fix the breach in that that product. But NGFW doesn't run on MPE/iX.
Edminster forwards this advice while he's working on his report.
It's most likely to be an issue for web services that use bash scripts to process web-page input for example, such as machines exposed to the Internet, and those that have services that can accept input from the 'net. I'll work to round up as many examples of potential places this can be felt on a 3000, so that folks know where to look.
Yep — this one is messy, because it's not quite so cut-and-dried as HeartBleed was.
October 15, 2014
Signed malware stalks HP's Windows boxes
HP will be revoking a security certificate for its Windows-based systems on Oct. 21, and the vendor isn't sure yet how that will impact system reliability.
The bundled software on older HP PC systems has been at risk of being the front-man for malware, according to a report in the Kerbs on Security website. This code-signing is supposed to give computer users and network admins confidence about a program's security and integrity. HP's Global Chief Security Officer Brett Wahlin said the company is revoking a certificate it's been using even before 2010.
HP was recently alerted by Symantec about a curious, four-year-old trojan horse program that appeared to have been signed with one of HP’s private certificates and found on a server outside of HP’s network. Further investigation traced the problem back to a malware infection on an HP developer’s computer.
HP investigators believe the trojan on the developer’s PC renamed itself to mimic one of the file names the company typically uses in its software testing, and that the malicious file was inadvertently included in a software package that was later signed with the company’s digital certificate. The company believes the malware got off of HP’s internal network because it contained a mechanism designed to transfer a copy of the file back to its point of origin.
The means of infection here is the junkware shipped with all PCs, including HP's, according to HP 3000 consultant and open source expert Brian Edminster. In this case, the revoked certificate will cause support issues for administrators. The certificate was used to sign a huge swath of HP software, including crucial hardware and software drivers and components that are critical to Windows.
"This is one of the reasons that I absolutely loath all the 'junkware' that is commonly delivered along with new PCs," Edminster said. "I end up spending hours removing it all before I use a new PC." Recovery partitions on Windows systems will be at unknown risk after the certificate is pulled Oct. 21, too.HP's Windows computers have recovery partitions on the boot hard drive that can restore a system to its original, factory-shipped software configuration. That configuration includes the junkware.
"For me, this junkware is just chaff," Edminster said, "and an opportunity to clog up a machine that's supposed to be pristine and new. To say nothing of increased opportunities for the sort of thing outlined in the Kerbs article."
HP's Security officer Wahlin said that admins will have to wait to see the impact of that revoked certificate, according to the article.
The interesting thing that pops up here — and even Microsoft doesn’t know the answer to this — is what happens to systems with the restore partition, if they need to be restored. Our PC group is working through trying to create solutions to help customers if that actually becomes a real-world scenario, but in the end that’s something we can’t test in a lab environment until that certificate is officially revoked by Verisign on October 21.
October 14, 2014
Making a Migration Down the Mountain View
After an exit off the HP 3000, the City of Mountain View is now also saying goodbye to one of its longest-tenured IT pros. Even beyond the migration away from the municipality's Series 957, Linda Figueroa wanted to keep in touch with the HP 3000 community, she reported in a note. "I started working on a Series III back in the 1980s," she said.
But after 38 years with the City, and turning 55, it's time to retire. At a certain time, city employees with as many years as I have get the "when are you retiring?" look. We had 3000s running at the City of Mountain View from 1979 until 2012.
Our first HP 3000 in 1979 was a Series III system (which I just loved; always felt so important pressing those buttons). It had a 7970E tape drive, four 7920 disc drives and a printer. Then we moved to the monster Series 68, and ended up with the Series 957 with DLT tapes — no more switching reel-to-reels! I still have my MPE:IV software pocket guide from January 1981. (I couldn't get rid of it — coffee stains and all.)
When Mountain View took down its HP 3000, a couple of years after the switchover, the City turned off all of its other Hewlett-Packard servers, too. Only its software suppliers have made the transition, proving the wisdom that customers are closest to their applications — and leave the platforms behind. But MPE — from System IV to MPE/iX 6.5 — and the HP 3000 did more than three decades of service at Mountain View.Mountain View first purchased Dell servers to replace the HP 3000 in 2010. "We had Utility Billing and Business License software from Idaho Computer Systems," Figueroa said. "We still run the same software from DataNow (a vendor previously known as Idaho Computer Systems). But we run it now on Dell servers."
"Up until 2012 we had an HP 9000 Unix system running our IFAS accounting software from SunGard Bi-Tech. These computers were also replaced by Dell servers."
The veteran IT manager added that she used Adager, Suprtool, Reflection and several other products on the 3000. "I also used VEsoft's products, Figueroa said. [VEsoft founder] "Vladimir Volokh would make site visits once a year for years, begging me to update our software."
October 10, 2014
When Smaller Can Be Better
Hewlett-Packard has chosen to cleave itself into two much smaller companies. It will take most of the next year to make that a reality. But it might be an advantage to return to working with a more nimble company. Well, an advantage to the 3000 site that's migrating to HP's other computer enterprise solutions, or has done so recently.
Over at the New York Times, the tech writers found something to praise even while they questioned the wisdom of the move.
In one day, Meg Whitman has created two of America’s biggest companies. All she had to do was break apart Hewlett-Packard, the company credited with creating Silicon Valley. HP Enterprise is targeting a market that appears full of potential innovations, while HP Inc. seems stuck in the low-margin consumer hardware business that has proved a slog for companies not named Apple or Samsung.
It appears Whitman has found a vision: one that looks a bit like the IBM of the West — with an emphasis on products rather than IBM’s consulting services — and another that looks a bit like Compaq Computer, a Texas computer company that HP controversially merged with 12 years ago.
A long time ago, in a marketplace now far away, 3000 owners wished for some breaking off. The HP 3000 wasn't a part of Hewlett-Packard's vision? Fine. Sell the unit off and let's get on with a focused future. At the time, the business was said to turn over $1 billion yearly. Even at half that size, it would've been big enough to survive with customer loyalty. If the 3000 had nothing else going for it, you could count on loyalty.
All opportunities now gone, you say. You just cannot break up an enterprise tech player like that. Then Whitman chops a massive company into two much smaller parts. Smaller has been better for the typical 3000 customer for a long time. Yes, there are times when there are advantages of being big: When a 3000 user got more from a company which sprawls to supersize, in sales and scope of solutions. You get predictability, alliances and headroom from companies sized HP. The vendor so lusted after being No. 1, which did not become a path to long-term success.
3000 community members understand that smaller can be better -- not bigger -- especially when they use what the independent vendor lives upon. Small companies respond faster, polish relationships, and commit for life.
Faster response can mean software that is enhanced sooner, or answers that resolve problems more quickly -- because a smaller company has fewer layers for a customer to dive through. Relationship polishing is the personal attention to a company of any size: the kind of experience that HP 3000 managers, who may now be CIOs and CTOs, recall getting from a smaller HP.As an example, the Support Group knows its customers on a first-name basis. The operations at this 3000 provider include a hotsite datacenter located about 100 yards from the call stations. This integration of support and cloud services is natural, seamless, and don't require a special manager to coordinate.
You can get that kind of integration in an encounter from HP for a migration platform. Whether it slips smoothly into the budgets of small to midsize companies is less certain. So much of the HP offerings don't come from Hewlett-Packard while the vendor engages smaller customers. Independent partners deliver services in what HP considers a smaller marketplace.
Then there's that "outside the product" call that a 3000 user makes to a long-time supplier. This call is really about the 3000, not the product in the support contract. But that doesn't make a difference to a smaller company than HP. Large IT vendors don't even have a coding category to let that call begin, let alone be resolved.
Finally there's the final chapter of a relationship between smaller customer and smaller provider. I call this "commit for life" because it represents the intention to maintain a relationship to the very end, not when a business strategy changes in a boardroom. Years ago, Robelle told the community it would support the 3000 until at least 2016. As long as there's still a customer around, STR Software says they'll support them on the Fax/3000 solution. Commit for life means a smaller vendor's lifespan, most of the time, -- not the lifetime of its business plans.
October 09, 2014
TBT: A 3000 Newsworthy Birth Day
The first issue of the Newswire ran its black and red ink across 24 pages of an early October issue. Inside, the first FlashPaper late-news insert had been waiting a week for main-issue printing to catch up with mailing plans.
In our ThrowBack to this week of 1995, the first issue of The 3000 Newswire rolled out into the mails. The coverage of the HP 3000 was cheerful enough to encourage a belief that the computer would run forever -- but 19 years of future was far from certain for either the system or the first 3000-only publication. Volume 1 (the year), Issue 1 came out in a 24-page edition, the same page count of the printed issue that just mailed this Fall. At the Newswire's introduction, one user group leader wondered aloud, on a bus ride during the Interex '95 conference in Toronto, "what in the world you'll might be able to find to fill up the news in Issue No. 2."
The last of the competing HP-only publications closed its doors 10 years later, when Interex folded its user group overnight. Interact, HP Professional, SuperGroup, HP Omni and others turned out the lights during that decade.
The Newswire's first mailed issue was carrying the news circulating in mid-August during an Interex conference. For the first time in 10 years, an HP CEO spoke at the Interex event. However, Lew Platt was a current CEO when he spoke to the 3000 faithful. David Packard was a former CEO and board member when he addressed the multitudes at Interex '85 in Washington DC.
Platt said that HP 3000 users had nothing to fear from a future where Unix was in vogue at HP. Earlier in the day, speaking before the full assembly of users, he said HP was going to making new business by taking out older products. At an editor's luncheon we asked him what that mission held for the 3000.
Platt explained his prior comments on cannibalizing HP's business to maintain steady growth. MPE/iX won't be served up in a pot anytime soon. "I don't mean leaving customers high and dry," he said. "HP has worked extremely hard with products like the HP 3000 to make the people who have bought them have a good future. We've put an enormous amount of energy out to make sure we can roll those people forward. I'd say we've done a better job than just about any company in the industry in providing a good growth path for those customers."
The CEO went on to explain how cannibalization would work. HP would take a product, such as a printer, that was doing perfectly well and may still be a leadership printer in the market -- and bringing in a new one before it's reached its end of life. If you substitute "business server" for "printer" in that plan, you can see how a computer that was doing perfectly well might see a new computer brought in before the end of its life. In that issue, the Newswire story noted that the project we'd learn to call Itanium six years later was going undercover, so that new product wouldn't lock up existing server business for a year before it would ship.
HP was calling the joint effort with Intel the Tahoe architecture, and Platt would be retired from his job before anything shipped.Sixteen more stories made up the news in that October of 19 years ago. The Series 9x9 line had an 8-user model introduced for just under $50,000. It was the era when a 3000's price was set by the number of its concurrent users. A 40-user 939 sold for $30,000 more, despite having no extra horsepower. User-limited licensing, which HP maintained for the 3000 while Windows was free of limits, would continue for the next six years.
An Interex survey said that three-fourths of 3000 customers were ready to reinvest in the line, but the article focused on the better value of the server in the users' estimation. HP's Unix servers were compared to the 3000.
The story atop Page One addressed the limits of those user-based licenses, and how a requested MPE improvement would help. SIGMPE's Tony Furnivall said that "if you could have multiple, independent job queues, the same algorithms ight be used to limit the number of active sessions." Any 8-user 3000s that were replaced with 800-user systems would be subject to more costly software licenses from third party firms. User-based licensing was prevalent, if not popular, in the 3000 world of October 1995.
On the first three inside pages were a story about the country's oldest pastime, a pointer to a then-new World Wide Web that included a Newswire page, and a full-page HP ad that said, "You want open systems computing. You don't want to move mountains of critical data to a new platform." Hewlett-Packard would hold that view for about six more years. The next 13 have made up the Migration Era, with a Newswire printed across every one of those years. The Newswire has been published more than twice as long during those migrations as all the years before HP announced the end of its 3000 plans.
Cal Ripken, Baltimore Orioles baseball all-star, was breaking a record for consequitive games played that began 13 years earlier. "We're here in your hands this month because of the legendary, Ripken-esque performance of the 3000 deserves more attention," an editorial crowed.
A PC and printer executive at HP got the job as chief of all computer business. It was the second additional layer of management inserted between the CEO and the 3000 group. Rick Belluzzo was 41, commanding a $20 billion sector, and didn't have a specific job title. Olivier Helleboid was 3000 General Manager three levels down.
Windows 95 was launched at that Interex show in Toronto with a mountaineer rappelling down the CN Tower, stopping halfway and "using Win95 from a wireless laptop. It was all too much for Birket Foster, president of HP 3000 channel partner M.B. Foster Associates and a supplier of Windows products."
"It's all a media event," Foster said. "Is the average user going to do that? It's all way too much hype for what's being delivered." A survey showed no manager had installed Win95 company-wide yet.
HP's managers shed their coats and ties at a roundtable en masse, after customers pointed out that IBM's officials dressed casual on the conference's expo floor. A technical article detailed the relief that PatchManager/iX delivered for MPE patch installs. New 3000 integrators were announced for manufacturing and FileNet workflow document services; the latter had six companies listed in the US.
One of those in-between HP managers said the company "now sees the 3000 as something sold to new customers mostly as an engine for specific applications, like manufacturing or healthcare systems." Porting applications from other systems would be made easier with the first C++ for MPE, the freeware GNU C++ suite, bootstrapped by ORBiT Software's Mark Klein. The GNU package made possible a host of open system tools within two years. "HP is helping to distribute GNU C++ form its HP 3000-based World Wide Web server on the Internet," the story added.
Ultimately, the Web server software HP shipped for MPE/iX was ported from Apache source code from the open systems world. HP told its DeskManager office communications users to expect enhancements first on HP's Unix systems. Helleboid, forecasting HP's final act in the 3000 world years later, said in the first Q&A that HP would collaborate with arch-rivals IBM, Digital and Sun to create "a complete environment for Unix applications."
Helleboid also said that the 3000's Customer First strategy would be presented to other HP computer groups such as its Unix group. "Customers are looking for this kind of relationship," he said in a forecast of using 3000 ideas to improve replacement business models.
October 08, 2014
Another Kind of Migration
Change is the only constant in life, and it's a regular part of enterprise IT management, too. Another sort of migration takes place in one shop where the 3000 has been retired. Specialized scripts for automation using Reflection are being replaced. Thousands of them.
Micro Focus, which owns Reflection now as well as its own terminal emulator Rumba, is sparking this wholesale turnover of technology. Customers are being sold on the benefits of the Micro Focus product as part of a suite of interlocking technologies. When that strategic decision is taken, as the British like to say (Micro Focus has its HQ in the country) the following scenario plays out.
Glenn Mitchell of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina reported his story, after reading our report on Micro Focus acquiring Attachmate.
"As a former WRQ PC2622 user," Mitchell added, "it’s as sad to see my days with Reflection coming to an end as much as my days with MPE ended." As for EHLAPPI, it stands for Enhanced High Level Language Application Program Interface. And with any acronymn that has seven letters, it's a design choice that's got quite a, well, legacy air to it.
I can certainly see many parallels between the latest change at our organization and the migrations many of us undertook from MPE to other platforms.
It has been many years since I was heavily involved with the 3000 and the 3000 community. One of the ties back to those old days has been that we use Reflection 3270 as our mainframe terminal emulator here. I’ve done a number of extensive macros in Reflection VBA to assist our customers and developers, and I understand we have thousands of Reflection VBA and Reflection basic scripts in use throughout the company. (We’re a mainframe-centric organization specializing in high-volume claims processing, including Medicare claims in the US.)
Some months ago, I was told we were dropping Reflection and moving to Rumba by Micro Focus (the old Wall Data product) as a cost-saving measure. As part of that move, all of my macros will need to be converted to use the EHLAPPI interface in Rumba. According to the support staff here, a conversion was going to be required anyway to move to the latest version of Reflection. Well, the support staff has done a good job and many thousands of macros run pretty successfully with some special conversion tools they’ve provided.
Of course, mine don’t, yet.
It's an API that goes back to the early PC days, and allowed a program running on the PC to "scrape" data from a terminal emulator session running on the PC. So it represents a big move backwards in technology from Reflection VBA.
Our guys figured out a way to run our VBA scripts in Excel and trap most of the Reflection API calls (e.g. getdisplaytext) and convert them to equivalent EHLAPPI calls for Rumba. The gotcha is that they've only done the most frequently used API functions, and Rumba doesn't support all of the functions Reflection makes available via API.
Scripting inside of a terminal emulator product represents a deep level of technology. Just the sort of tool a 3000 shop deploys when it can command petabytes of data and tens of thousands of users. When things change with vendor plans, whether it's a system maker or a provider of software, support staff shifts its support to migration tasks.
As an interesting footnote to the changes in the outlook for Reflection -- given that Rumba has been offered as a replacement -- we turn to the a recent comment by Doug Greenup of Minisoft. "Minisoft has NS/VT in its HP terminal emulator," he noted when we described the unique 3000 protocol in some versions of Reflection. "And unlike WRQ, we remain independent. We still have HP 3000 knowledgeable developers and support people." The company's terminal emulator for 3000s, Minisoft Secure 92, has a scripting language called TermTalk.
October 07, 2014
HP decides to break up the brand
And in one stroke of genius, it's become 1984 again at Hewlett-Packard. Yesterday brought on a new chorus for an old strategy: sell computers to companies, and leave the personal stuff to others. Except that one of the others selling personal computers, plus the printers usually connected to PCs, is another generation of the company. The CEO of Hewlett-Packard is calling the split-off company HP Inc. But for purposes of mission and growth, you could call it HP Ink.
To be clear, that's a broad definition we used up there to define that stroke of genius. Brilliance is something else, but genius can be just a powerful force for good or for ill. Definition 3 of the word in Apple's built-in dictionary on my desktop calls genius "a person regarded as exerting a powerful influence over another for good or evil: He sees Adams as the man's evil genius." It's from Latin meaning an attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability, or inclination.
What's become the nature of Hewlett-Packard, its innate ability? The company was founded on one ability and then had a second grafted onto its first success. It's been 30 years now since 1984, when the vendor which invented MPE and the 3000 has been inventing products for consumers. The LaserJet opened the door for a torrent of ink and toner to sweep around traditional technology innovations. Before there was a need for a battalion of printing devices and a phalanx of personal devices, the old HP logo represented business and scientific computing. Plus a world-leading instruments business whose profile was an icon for what HP was known for best.
HP's been down this path before, splitting off those instruments into Agilent in 1999. A few months later Carly Fiorina won the approval of then-ink czar Dick Hackborn, placing her in the CEO's seat. Yesterday's announcement of splitting the company into two complementary entities returns the Hewlett-Packard name to enterprise computing. But it seems the core values of the only major IT vendor named after its founders won't rebound into favor. Not on the strength of just splitting off high-cost, high volume ink and PC business. HP needs to impress people with what it builds again. Not just what it can aggregate and integrate.
A few notes we took away from that announcement:
- HP says it aims to be two Fortune 50 companies after breakup, but more nimble and focused
- "The brand is no longer an issue," say HP executives, and breaking up the brand will create equal-sized businesses.
- An extra 5,000 layoffs come along with the split-up. The running total is now 55,000 on the clock that started in 2011.
- HP likes its own idea; prior chairman Ralph Whitworth called it a "Brilliant value-enhancing move at the perfect time in the turnaround."
- CEO Meg Whitman says HP's turnaround made the breakup possible.
- Its stock traded more than five times its usual daily shares on breakup news, and picked up almost 5 percent in share value. HPQ also gave away all of that gain, and more, the very next day.
That's how it goes in the commodity computing market: easy come, say the customers, and easy go. It might be why Whitman is helping the brand called Hewlett-Packard break away from the commodity business.Some analysts have noted the current board chair and CEO of today's un-split entity, the one still called HP, will take charge of the enterprise arm of the company's future. This, they reckon, is where the real innovation and action will take place. The part of the company that pulled Hewlett-Packard into the consumer reseller model, then swallowed up the second-place PC provider in Compaq 12 years ago, has been set free to float at the whims of a roiling market. HP Inc will have to compete without a dynamic mobile product line, and so we can wish the new-ish part of the vendor godspeed and good luck. They'll need it against the likes of Apple and Samsung, or even Lenovo and Lexmark.
HP's story last year was that the company was better together, after hearing seven years of calling for a split up. High volume, low profit business was suited to a market of 1999, but once mobile devices and the Web changed the game for data processing, PCs and printers just wanted different resources than servers and software demanded. Now CEO Meg Whitman says Hewlett-Packard and HP Inc. can focus and be nimble. From a 3000 customer's perspective, that focus would have been more useful 13 years ago, when growth demanded HP buy Compaq for $25 billion on the promise of becoming No. 1.
Being No. 1 didn't last long enough to pay the bills incurred to do so many things at once. Now Whitman says that three years of turnaround action has taught the company how to do more than one thing at a time. There's plenty to do. Maybe the first thing is to choose a new color to represent its oldest business. She said HP blue to going with the multi-colored ink of HP Inc.
Hewlett-Packard didn't need multiple colors to succeed on that 1984 day it added printers to its product line. But it was a company wrapped in a handsome slipcase of collegial traditions, still working to win its way to the front of enteprise IT selections. Canon and Hewlett-Packard collaborated to sell a laser printer to anyone, not just the customers buying HP's specialized business servers. Before long, the trails it blazed in consumer sales gave it an opening for its color ink, which at one point contributed 55 percent of the company profits. That's the consumables bringing home the bacon, not the nearly-disposable printing devices.
During the era when the 3000 was given its last several years of HP life -- first five, then seven, and finally nine -- IBM was happy to point out the passion for printing at HP. One thunderbolt of an IBM sales rep called the company Inky at a HP user group meeting speech in Houston. Those were the days when everyone in 3000 territory was looking at a new future. About three fourths of the business machines became computers without Hewlett-Packard on their badges. Still, the fungible nature of enterprise computing -- that ease of replacement that HP preached against MPE -- also turned out to be true for its own Unix business line. Somehow, the same Windows that would be suitable for 3000 shops was also a good-enough migration target for HP-UX customers.
Unix had its day, and Linux was the new wave and not channeled through a single vendor. HP invited comparisons. Now its customers can compare companies, starting next fall. Do business with HP Inc. and use Windows and probably Linux on HP's iron. Or choose a company that says it's now focused on the new style of computing: cloud services, big data, security and mobility. The company does not mean to suggest there's no place for in-house servers. But it's focused on those four areas, with a mention of software during yesterday's 45-minute presentation and Q&A.
Our readers will remember software. In MPE and IMAGE they got fine-tuned and refreshed software each year, although in some years the refreshes were faint. By the middle of the 1990s Hewlett-Packard had to embrace Windows to remain on planning short lists. Now the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has to attract and retain ever-mobile business on the strength of in-house innovations. Because if you want industry-standard commodity computing, HP Inc. is ready to take that business. It will soon be loose from the legacy of Hewlett-Packard.
October 06, 2014
HP to break itself, dividing into 2 companies
Hewlett-Packard announced this morning that it will divide itself into two publicly-traded corporations, a move that shareholders and stock analysts have been demanding and predicting for years. The division of the company will be along product lines. The business server operations will be contained in the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, while PC and printer businesses will comprise the new HP, Inc.
The vendor said in a press release that the restructuring will "define the next generation of technology infrastructure." The reorganization will also spin out the least profitable, but largest, segment of HP's business into its own unit. HP still ranks in the top five among PC makers and is one of the largest makers of printers in the world.
Meg Whitman will be CEO and president of the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company. Pat Russo will chair a new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise board of directors. Last month Hewlett-Packard -- the full corporation founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1939 -- had named Whitman as chairman of the board and CEO. By breaking up the company, Whitman will cede some control of its most competitive and popular product segments.
Dion Weisler will be the head of the new HP, Inc. as CEO and president. Whitman will chair the HP Inc. board of directors. HP said it will still meet its profit forecasts for the fiscal year that ends on Oct. 31. It also said that it "issues a fiscal 2015 non-GAAP diluted Earnings Per Share outlook of $3.83-$4.03." That is the sweetest way of forecasting a profit, using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. But it's not clear if that's HP Inc. profits, or profits for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. And the vendor said it would take all of fiscal 2015 to complete the transaction.
“The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan," said Whitman, who's led HP through three years of a five-year turnaround plan. "It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders.
"In short, by transitioning now from one HP to two new companies, created out of our successful turnaround efforts, we will be in an even better position to compete in the market, support our customers and partners, and deliver maximum value to our shareholders."Much of the rest of HP's release deals with the visions and mechanics of dividing a $128 billion company into a classic and post-modern product manufacturer. Except that nothing is classic about the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company, with the exception of its three proprietary operating systems: HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop. The company has announced that HP-UX will be extending some of its enterprise-grade features to a version of RedHat. OpenVMS will be curtailed to only the newest generation of servers for the latest version of the OS. And NonStop, the most specialized of the three operating systems, is getting a full port to the x86/Xeon architecture -- an escape hatch from the Itanium chips that power Integrity servers.
But HP is retaining the Financial Services unit inside the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise corporation. It's a move the company noted will give financial advantages to customers and partners.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will have a unique portfolio and strong multi-year innovation roadmap across technology infrastructure, software and services to allow customers to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by cloud, big data, security and mobility in the New Style of IT. By leveraging its HP Financial Services capability, the company will be well positioned to create unique technology deployment models for customers and partners based on their specific business needs.
Additionally, the company intends for HP Financial Services to continue to provide financing and business model innovation for customers and partners of HP Inc. Customers will have the same unmatched choice of how to deploy and consume technology, and with a simpler, more nimble partner. The separation will provide additional resources, and a reduction of debt at the operating company level, to support investments across key areas of the portfolio. The separation will also allow for greater flexibility in completing the turnaround of Enterprise Services and strengthening the company's go-to-market capabilities.
"Over the past three years, we have reignited our innovation engine with breakthrough offerings for the enterprise like Apollo, Gen 9 and Moonshot servers, our 3PAR storage platform, our HP OneView management platform, our HP Helion Cloud and a host of software and services offerings in security, analytics and application transformation," continued Whitman. "Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will accelerate innovation across key next-generation areas of the portfolio."
R&D innovation has been a troubled business operation for Hewlett-Packard since the early years of this century, until Whitman announced a shift in the vendor's priorities in 2012. She named Martin Fink, the former leader of the embattled Business Critical Systems unit where those operating systems are built, to lead HP Labs. Within a year, the Labs were creating The Machine, a way forward into a new architecture for computing -- but one that could demand up to 75 percent of the Labs' resources.
It's not yet clear where HP Labs will go in the reorganization, but the Enterprise unit seems to make the most sense. Labs also contributes to product releases in the printer and PC lineups. HP mentioned the forthcoming 3D printer lineup in the breakup announcement.
HP was to have a meeting with financial analysts in just two days, but "as a result of this separation, its Oct. 8 2014 Securities Analysts Meeting has been postponed." A conference call took place at 5AM today, and is available for replay at the HP Investor Relations website.
Whitman said only a year ago that a single HP was the right approach. She said the same strategy is still the right approach, but added that breaking up the company will accelerate growth. "We now operate from a position of strength," she said, citing a strong balance sheet and returns to shareholders. The stock was nearing $40 a share in recent months, a profound rebound from prices in the teens at the lowest point of the turnaround.
After the split up, shareholders of the HPQ security will hold shares in both companies, CFO Cathie Lesjak said in the confence call. It's a move that will prompt instant investment in the new HP Inc.