December 10, 2013
Google's doodle touts COBOL's relevance
Yesterday was the 107th anniversary of the birth for Dr. Grace Hopper, inventor of the world's most widely distributed business language. That's COBOL, which might puzzle Millennials who manage the world's IT. COBOL's historic ranking won't surprise anyone who earned IT stripes in MPE, of course.
Hopper worked in the US military before her years developing what we call Common Business-Oriented Language. The US Department of Defense provided shelter for researching what we now call the Internet, another technology that's going to have a lifespan longer than its creators'. Dr. Hopper died on New Year's Day 1992, by which time 30 universities had presented her with honorary degrees. From 1959 to 1961, Hopper led the team that invented COBOL at Remington Rand, a company that swelled in size while it built 45-caliber pistols during WW II.
The last COBOL compiler ever developed for the HP 3000 didn't come from its system creator Hewlett-Packard and its language labs. Acucorp created a version of its AcuCOBOL in 2001 that understood MPE/iX and IMAGE nuances. Bad timing, of course, given the business-oriented decision HP made about the 3000 later that year. But while Acucorp eventually became a cog in the Micro Focus COBOL machine, there are still Acucorp voices out there in the IT market. And they speak a business argot that's being celebrated now in this holiday season.Micro Focus has been posting a 12 Days of COBOL feature on its website this month. One of the alerts to the information -- which points at new COBOL capabilities and features -- came from Jackie Anglin, the long-time media coordinator for Transoft. She joined Micro Focus several years ago after her service to migration-transformation supplier Transoft.
The 12 Days items on the Micro Focus blog were up to No. 9 as of yesterday.
Say 'hello' to 21st Century COBOL
COBOL hasn't lasted this long by standing still. As well as its rich OO extensions, take a look at the new XML, SQL and Unicode features in Visual COBOL. They’re there to help you bring apps bang up to date with industry standards.
Migration-bound IT directors might roll their eyes at any message that COBOL is keeping up with newer languages. But according to the online technical publisher Safari Books -- where the ultimate MPE/iX administrator's book is still for sale -- COBOL rules an overwhelming share of the world's information for business. "Applications managing about 85 percent of the world's business data are written in COBOL," it reports on a listing for COBOL for the 21st Century.
Micro Focus likes to say that 35 percent of all new business application development is written in COBOL. That fact may not be as objective as Gartner's 85-percent figure -- but even if it's close, Dr. Hopper should be toasted this week. Few inventions have retained their relevance for more than a half-century, especially ones that are based entirely on brainpower. Dr. Hopper dismantled seven clocks in her home before the age of seven. She also set a language to ticking that hasn't run out of time yet.
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December 09, 2013
Long run of 3000 unreels beyond the dark
By Ron Seybold
This is the time of the year when movie critics everywhere assemble their retrospectives of 2013 films. The HP 3000 has been having something of a revival, as they call the movie's screening of old classics, because of the Stromasys emulator. Such an invention never would have gotten traction without HP's mistakes made after November, 2001. People stood by their servers, in part because they got messages from HP that the computer's run would be extended.
While they remained in their seats, CHARON's MPE-on-Intel debut was spooled up on the next projector.
In 2005, after all, there was the rude surprise to the vendors who became ardent partners of migration off the 3000. The deadline of 2006 became 2008, and then finally 2010. One such vendor said it was a disservice to partners who were ready to pick up the pieces. At HP’s support business lair, the company's lifespan of the 3000 was measured in how many months of payments might arrive from large customers. It had nothing to do with the quality of the server’s ecosystem, and everything to do with the quantity of the revenues it created.
But as the karma police often do, they’ve caught up with the company which made raw business growth its mantra, instead of Next Bench design and Management by Walking Around. Old collegial business got eaten alive by tigers from the PC vendor Compaq, unleashed by the first CEO plucked from outside HP. So when Carly’s proxy fight took HP out of the hands of its family, and then spying and sexual harassment and then being fleeced on acquisitions followed, our friends in this market took bitter solace in seeing karma catch up. The water was still cold out in the sea around that scuttled ship. But at least the captains of the line were getting soaked. Three of every four 3000 owners never bought another HP enterprise server.
But that bitterness, the shaking of our fists at fate, it doesn’t make swimming in the current easier. Better to flatten our hands and stretch our arms into the bracing water and survive, see how it changes our lives. That’s the story we really want to tell, the one that we don’t know how we’ll live though. Only that we know that we will indeed live through it. Just wait. The last reel might be the sweetest.
At the Newswire we’ve lived through more than 18 years to tell some surprising stories. How the spirit and great heart of a community of people who use computers raised thousands of toasts on a single Halloween 10 years ago. You will never see a worldwide wake for a computer again. People love Apple’s products, and Steve Jobs got a floral tribute across the doorsteps of hundreds of his stores. But a little computer line that never had more than 50,000 machines running at once? A number so small that Apple sells that many iPhones in just eight hours? How could something so small ever generate smiles and black armbands and barbecues all at once, around the globe?
It had something to do with people, not with machines. Just like those seats in the dark at the Paramount Theatre had everything to do with light. When the Austin Film Festival opened up this fall, It had been 15 years since I’d been standing on line for a movie, hours at a time. But what was promised was light in black and white with an acting icon (Nebraska, with Bruce Dern at 77, still younger than Fred White) or in color and as obscure as a big-star movie could get (The Art of the Steal with Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon) released in Canada so quick you couldn’t tune into two episodes of Glee before the movie was gone. Or a searing and sobbing documentary about women who were battling obesity with weight loss surgery, All of Me, the movie that won the audience prize at the Festival.
I waited the longest for the movie with the biggest buzz, the Coens’ Inside Llwellen Davis. After two hours on line and three in the theatre, I felt like somebody who’d been eager for an HP Unix replacement. Good, sure, but not equal to my expectations. I’d been set up by Raising Arizona, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Blood Simple, and Fargo. The equivalent of the Series III, MPE V, the Series 68, the Mighty Mouse, the Spectrum computers of PA-RISC. The movie was just average by their standards, like the N-Class servers, or the petite A-Class that Dave Snow carried under his arm in the spring of 2001. At the time, it was so coveted somebody wanted to buy that first unit right there in the room of a conference that was also a casualty, SIG-PROF, dead along with Interex. We learned later HP crippled the A, to prop up prices of other 3000s.
We grew bolder as we all grew older, those of us who found a lifeboat, crafting our own raft away from the wreck. We learned things better than we knew a little bit: writing for story and drama, or Ruby on Rails and .NET, or yoga video production, or the art of teaching. Our friend John Burke, he of so many Newswire words, became a mathematics professor. It was just the way things added up for all of us. Everybody had a new plot of daily work, even while they kept cultivating what was left over from the bounty of the 1980s and 1990s.
There are more surprises yet, things as delicious as Susan Sarandon taking questions after another little known gem, the musical Romance and Cigarettes — so under-appreciated its director John Tuturro bought it back from the studio to save it. When the late great James Gandolfini breaks into song, belting out a Tom Jones tune, I didn’t believe it could work until I saw it. Something like the experience I saw in California when MPE booted up on a laptop, and a 3000 vet learned over and said it felt like everything MPE was brand new again.
Tension makes for a good story, the uncertain outcome of the hero’s greatest desire. Our most essential desire is to survive and grow older in peace and wisdom. Our movie’s last reel hasn’t unspooled yet, and the lights haven’t come up while the credits roll. Keep your thick soled shoes nearby. We can get in line together because we know each other, and say, “I wonder what we’ll see today?” Maybe we’ll hear a story a few more times about our escapes and heroic plans for next year. The business of our lives runs on stories.
December 06, 2013
Waiting in line to see a story of survival
By Ron Seybold
I whiled away hours on the streets of Austin a few weeks ago, waiting to take a place in the dark. The Austin Film Festival was rolling, celebrating its 20th Anniversary with nine days of movies. Anniversaries usually prompt memories. We tell stories of how things used to be in our lives, partly to mark how far we’ve travelled, along with how far we’ve grown.
We don’t like to think about growing older. Not most of us, not when we have to lace on our shoes with extra thick soles like I did to stand on a Congress Avenue concrete sidewalk, waiting for the newest Coen Brothers film to unreel at the gaudy, throwback Paramount Theatre. I stood beside a woman who’d been setting sound stages with props for several decades. She talked for more than an hour about how Bruce Willis loved the tacky statue she chose for Armageddon, loved it so much he bought it after the movie wrapped. I heard that story four times in about 90 minutes.
Some of our readers might feel the same way about the annual November Nightmare story I write, recalling the tacky HP business deke on 3000 owners. It changed all of our lives, though, so it merits its testimony. But as I’ve promised in my last paragraph of this year’s edition of the Nightmare, this year is the last time I’ll tell that story. Everybody knows the Titanic goes down at the end of that North Atlantic voyage. The story we don’t know is how the survivors’ lives went on. Most of all, we want to know what they did next. How did the disaster affect them?The after-effects of late 2001 surprised most of us. Run down the list and you will find surprised parties at the customer sites, of course, and then at the vendors whose entire living was built on the future of the system. Yes, Abby and I at the Newswire were among those surprised, at least by the timing.
But after all, we were surprised we’d made most of the way through 2001 on her dream of serving news about a computer that everyone said was dead in 1995. We got six swelling, hot-growth years out of the gamble. But then another 12, as of this fall, serving news about the survivors, even how to survive, as well as chronicles of the casualties.
Others who were surprised were competitors. HP’s competitors at IBM, who figured on sweeping up plenty of 3000 customers, but that didn’t happen. The 3000’s competitors at HP, who figured on gathering nearly all of the market into Unix folds. Again, didn’t happen. Customers were now free to choose anything, because everything was a struggle. Swimming toward the Unix lifeboats, the ones with the high gunwales painted with the same vendor colors as the scuttled cruise liner — well, that looked less fruitful than letting their Windows ships hold more business passengers.
HP was also surprised that so many 3000 owners went noplace for years, despite a deadline that should’ve made everyone leap into seas of change. Even our competitors we faced at the Newswire surprised us, by leaving us last standing in the HP-only news business. Good man Tim Cullis at HP User in the UK, the Interex volunteers and allies like Chuck Piercey and his HP World. Also, HP Professional and its magazine mavens. All gone away, gone to good grass pasture, or gone under. We didn’t figure we’d be here, left to turn out the lights on whatever day that finale appears. We’re not eager for the dark.
But many of us crave the dark when there's a great story waiting inside it -- like when we sit in front of a movie screen.
December 05, 2013
3000 vet votes for his IMAGE replacement
In the 3000 Newswire's printed edition that's nearly in every subscriber's mailbox, we interviewed Stan Sieler on the occasion of his 30-year anniversary at Allegro Consultants. He co-founded the company with his partner Steve Cooper in the early 1980s, when IMAGE was simply IMAGE/3000, sans Turbo or even SQL in its name.
Sieler and Allegro have written significant parts of the database for HP in those ensuing decades. We figured it would be a fun question to ask him what the best substitute is for IMAGE -- for the 3000 customer who's making a migration. Or the customer who already has migrated, but is finding the obvious Oracle answer doesn't work optimally with lifted-and-shifted code.
Sieler's did the interview with us from his iPad, over Skype, and he's a big fan of Apple products including the Mac Pro. His answer on replacing IMAGE didn't surprise us much, but it's the first time we asked an IMAGE co-creator to weigh in on a replacement.
When I heard that Stan considered the lack of a native Mac OS Eloquence as his only kind of bother, the issue of emulation came up. (I confess to wanting Eloquence to come up with a perfect record; so many developers have said just that during the previous decade of transition.) Surely virtualizing the Mac would work as well as a virtual HP 3000 has already.
I really like Eloquence. Michael [Marxmeier] has done amazing things with it. Tech support from him is immediate and reliable. He doesn’t have problems with you publishing benchmarks. Eloquence has a lot of nice features in it. It has more features than any other SQL database — plus the IMAGE compatibility. It’s a win-win situation, it seems like. The only thing that kind of bothers me is that he doesn’t have a version for the Mac.
Newswire: Isn’t that something solved by running a virtual machine in the Macintosh?
Stan: Yes, and I don’t know why I never really thought about that.
Newswire: Wow, I can’t believe I actually gave you an idea.
Stan: Well, part of the issue is that some of our applications like Rosetta have the ability to restore into an Eloquence database and create it on the fly. I can’t test that aspect of it on the Mac, versus doing it on a Linux machine or an HP-UX server.
December 02, 2013
While you were away, what HP put into play
We're back after a 4-day holiday. The Thanksgiving holiday period can be interesting times for watchers of Hewlett-Packard. We count ourselves among that group, even though the company has little to do with the lives of homesteading 3000 users. (But not nothing at all -- we heard last week that HP Support contracts for 3000-connected HP peripherals have been altered. End-of-support-life dates have been adjusted, according to our source. Check your contract; indie providers are available as an alternative.) HP announced the Odyssey program to give a Linux future path for Unix customers during the week. Of course, the 3000 exit notice took place just a week before Thanksgiving in 2001.
However, much broader items than tactical details of contracts surfaced over this holiday weekend. The most splashy was the news that Hewlett-Packard is now the company providing infrastructure for the US Healthcare.gov website. That's the site that turned away about 80 percent of users during October because of technical and bandwidth problems.
HP signed a $38 million contract with the US Health and Human Services agency this summer, but Terraform (a subsidiary of Verizon) had built out the website hosting that blocked many an attempt to use it. Over the weekend, healthcare.gov doubled its bandwidth and can now reportedly serve 50,000 users simultaneously. That sounds like a lot, but about 800,000 citizens tried to open an account. (Just as a note, as of 2 PM today, we registered an account and shopped for the first time online.)
The largest simultaneous user count we've ever heard reported for a single HP 3000 server was 2,200. Consider that was a single server, built with PA-RISC (two generation-old chips) using SCSI IO. Redundancy has been an essential high-volume aspect of 3000s since Quest Software built its NetBase/Shareplex replication solution in the 1980s. Quest, now a division of Dell, still supports HP 3000 sites using the product, according to John Saylor there.The problem at healthcare.gov has been its architecture, rather than the horsepower of the iron. HP seems to have little to lose in taking over this contract. By the accounting at the Wall Street Journal, 36 states rely on application through healthcare.gov and just under 27,000 people were able to enroll in a plan during the first month. The 14 state exchanges enrolled 79,391 people during the same period.
The Journal article says the government has been aware of "certain problems with the Terremark hosting service since late 2010." HHS moved its Medicare and Medicaid service centers to Terremark during a two-year hosting contract. These service centers oversee Healthcare.gov.
The details in the WSJ report include an oversight, which if true, would be laughable in a standard HP 3000 environment: "Its design didn't include a full backup version of the site in a different data center. Healthcare.gov is still housed with a single data center." The HP 3000s which Hewlett-Packard unplugged from its own datacenter in October had backups in Austin. HP also got a $4 million contract in September for healthcare.gov DR services.
On the company valuation trail, HP played out a Q4 2013 report that Buys Time, Not Triumph according to a WSJ analysis. "Tech Giant Arrested Its Slide in Some Key Areas, but Pressures Will Intensify. One good quarter doesn't equal a turnaround." But the numbers which included dreary figures for HP's Unix operations still managed to push HP's stock to a two-year high as of this morning.
The markets were not spooked by the prospect of business critical server sales dipping once more.
HP also opened up access to its board of directors in a vote during the Thanksgiving week. A vote by a simple majority of shareholders will be enough to change HP rules governing the nomination of directors or the size of the board. Previously, a two-thirds supermajority was required. "The change doesn't immediately let activists storm the boardroom, but could lower the gates that keep them out," said a Journal article.
HP got its current board chairman, Ralph Whitworth, when its rules changed in 2011 to admit that principal at "an activist hedge fund Relational Investors LLC."
Right now, you've got to own at least 3 percent of HP's stock for three years to nominate a director. The Journal said only three people have owned that much sstock since the end of 2012. This makes nomination of new directors an insider affair today.
November 27, 2013
HP quarter beats analyst estimates, but Integrity solutions' profit, sales slide again
HP has managed to eke out a penny more than business analysts estimated for its 2013 fourth quarter earnings. These days such a "beat," as the analysts call it, is essential to avoiding a selloff after a report like yesterday's. But the positive news did not extend to the business group which builds and engineers the Unix Integrity servers -- a significant share of the migrated HP 3000 installed base.
More than once during the one-hour report to financial analysts, HP CEO Meg Whitman and her CFO Cathie Lesjak talked about Unix like it's a market whose growth days have been eclipsed by steady erosion of sales and profits. "We have more opportunity to improve our profitability," Whitman said about a quarter where the overall GAAP earnings were 83 cents a share. That's $1.82 billion of profit on sales of $29.1 billion in sales. Revenues declined 1 percent against last year's Q4.
But R&D, so essential to improving the value of using HP-created environments like HP-UX, has seen its days of growth come to halt, and then decline at the Business Critical Systems unit. Lesjak said the company's year-over-year decline in R&D was a result of "rationalization in Business Critical Systems." In particular, the company's Unix products and business can't justify R&D of prior quarters and fiscal years.
As you look at the year-over-year declines in R&D, that was really driven by two primary things. One is the rationalization of R&D, specifically in the Enterprise Group's Business Critical Systems -- so we really align the R&D investment in that space with the long-term business realities of the Unix market. We did get some of what we call R&D value-added tax subsidy credits that came through. Those basically offset some of the R&D expense.
Business Critical Systems revenue declined 17 percent in the quarter to $334 million, due to "a declining Unix market." On the current run rate, BCS represents 1 percent of HP sales. And BCS sales have been dropping between 15 and 30 percent for every quarter for more than six quarters. HP posted an increase in its enterprise systems business overall, mostly on increased sales of the Linux and Windows systems in its Industry Standard Servers unit.
HP said it expects "continued traction in converged storage, networking, and converged infrastructure," for its enterprise business. But somehow, as the entire Unix market shrinks, HP said it's maintaining market share in that space. R&D at BCS will not be part of HP's planned growth for research and development in 2014, though.
She explained that R&D is down "due to streamlined operations across the Enterprise Group and lower R&D expenses, specifically within BCS." Long term, we remain focused on investing in innovation across the organization, and in fact, we've added headcount in engineering in FY13." In 2011 HP announced an initiative to add Unix features to its Linux environments in the biggest R&D project driven by Martin Fink, then-GM of BCS.
"We saw improved sales in our mainstream server business, but we need to improve our pricing discipline and profitability," Lesjak said. "Although revenue continued to decline in Business Critical Systems, we expect to hold or gain share in calendar Q3. And we have announced plans to bring a 100 percent fault-tolerant HP NonStop platform to the x86 architecture."
HP-UX and OpenVMS have no such plans. BCS revenues, including NonStop operations, dropped 26 percent from 2012 to 2013. This even includes an accounting for last year's deadly Q4, when HP had to report a $6 billion loss overall.
HP finished 2013 with $112 billion in sales, down five percent, and $6.5 billion in profits before taxes. The company restructured its way to about 13,000 fewer jobs during the fiscal year. Almost 25,000 people have exited HP since the program began in 2011.
Two organizational repositions were mentioned during the briefing. Robert Mao, chairman of a new China Region for HP's business, reports directly to Whitman. She also noted that Fink, who was named head of HP Labs last year -- a post that once was a full-time job -- has now added duties of leading the HP Cloud business as its General Manager. HP Cloud competes with Amazon Web Services among others. Whitman said Fink "will significantly accelerate our cloud business."
"Martin is a true technology visionary who brings tremendous understanding of the enterprise hardware and software space, extensive experience in platform development," Whitman said, "and he literally wrote the book on Open Source."
Whitman was referring to a 2002 book of Fink's, The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. The book which is out of print got a glowing back-cover blurb from Tim O'Reilly. But the publisher of textbooks Prentice Hall now touts bestsellers such as How to Succeed with Women and the How to Say It series.
The strategy in Fink's book came from an era when one positive review said, "Linux and Open Source is not 'just' for geeks any more." Linux -- and not the HP-UX and VMS markets where Fink managed before his Labs post -- is what's driving the modest growth in HP server business.
November 25, 2013
Calculating the 3000's Time to Purchase
On an informal call with a 3000 vendor today, he delivered some sound advice about purchasing. "In the end, it's really about how they buy -- not how you sell." This makes a difference to everyone at this time of year, when fiscal year-end closing is less than six weeks away.
Sometimes a buyer of IT products or a service will want to make a purchase, but then the learning curve gets twisted. The manager might have an outdated estimate of how long it takes to get something into a status for a PO. This can be especially true for an HP 3000. Even when the system is on the path away from mission-critical, en route to migration, buying something related to a 3000 can be a distant memory.
This is not to be confused with renewing support contracts. Those are renewals, not outright new purchases. The time needed to get to a PO can include the processing time at related vendors, in some cases. For example, there's the licensing which is part of making a transition to the only emulator for HP 3000s. Software suppliers, or HP, require time to approve transfers. You only learn how much time your organization, or your vendor, needs by purchasing something. Or attempting to, near the end of your fiscal year.At Dairylea Cooperative, transferring the 3000's MPE/iX license to an emulator took almost a week, Jeff Elmer reports. The HP employee Erick learned about the process from Stromasys, the maker of the emulator.
Once Erick was on board, it was just a matter of signing another document and processing a credit card purchase of $432. It took 3 days from the point when they said it could be done to when I had the appropriate documents via e-mail. (It took 3 days to convince them to do it, so the process overall was 6 days. I hope convincing them to do it is no longer necessary.)
Over at Boeing, the internal workings of the purchasing process for emulator hosting hardware will be tested. "I think we are too late in the year to get the hardware," said the 3000 manager there.
One vendor said they figured on 16 months to get to the PO point for their product. Another said their mission to close a purchase was nearly complete -- but the customer's legal counsel still had to weigh in on the deal. It's a good idea to review the timeline for purchasing if you're just getting back to supplying your 3000 with something, even if it's just assessments for transition or sustaining services.
That's especially true if you're left with money in your budget you'll need to spend, or lose it for next year. Only a buyer can put a Rush on an IT purchase. We're in the Season of the Rush now, the same part of the calendar when HP announced its 3000 exit. It was no surprise when nothing related to migration purchasing happened during the following year.
November 22, 2013
Cloud IT needs one migration or another
HP 3000s are being displaced because the servers are aging, at least in some managers' views. But moving IT operations of an organization to cloud-based providers also looks attractive to a company that wants to give up on the local datacenter concept. Why make the ongoing investment in staff and new hardware and maintenance, they figure, when a supplier like Amazon Web Services or even HP's Cloud can handle that systems service?
You just need to remember there's two migrations in a cloud transition. There's a new aspect emerging in cloud migration. It's being called Data as a Service. You must separate your application from its data during the migration phase, according to Michael Daconta, VP of advanced technology at InCadence Strategic Solutions. He's the former metadata program manager for the Department of Homeland Security. Metadata tagging is a part of DaaS, he explained in an InformationWeek article.
A 3000 site that's migrating will be counting on replacing its application in order to shut off the local datacenter. That's the ultimate separation of app and data. App replacement is today's popular choice to transition off the 3000. But there's still a migration to made, even if a replacement app can be used instead of doing a lift and shift of code. Companies have to migrate their data to the cloud, too.
Data migration is just as crucial as replicating the business rules and functions of the 3000's app. This migration also introduces the opportunity to employ the powers of Master Data Management. MDM gives the company the path to a One True Source of data. A half-dozen codes for the color black, for example, all ascribed to the same product, can be organized into a consistent view.
You could assume your data is in great shape and migrate it as is -- but you miss this MDM chance to centralize data. MDM lets you create what's called an enterprise data layer. Data in the cloud is a post-MPE strategy. You won't employ the cloud unless you're leaving 3000 apps behind.At the moment there's no announced solution to host an MPE/iX app at a cloud provider. The general manager of Stromasys, Bill Driest, said in May the company wants to develop such a combination for its CHARON emulator, but so far it's still under consideration. Unannounced products are rich with potential for speculation. However, one reason a product doesn't go into development is because no customer wants to become the test case for the first release.
We've already heard that a New York-based financial services company wants offsite emulation for a disaster recovery option using an emulator. They'll probably be employing a co-location supplier, one that will rack a PC configured for the CHARON emulator. Believe it or not, there's data migration to be done in that instance, too. Hot-switch DR needs data at both locations, updated in real time snychronization.
Data movement tools have been on offer for the the 3000 manager for decades. They will be an essential part of any migration or transition, even to a cloud solution.
November 20, 2013
PowerHouse still hums half-dozen years later
Six years ago this month, IBM tendered an offer to purchase Cognos and make the vendor a part of IBM's business intelligence group. PowerHouse was not the star of that transaction, or even a featured player. The most widely installed 4GL in the 3000's history had a bit part by that time in the Advanced Development Tools group of Cognos. ADT was profitable but not growing. Users were assured the IBM acquisition was not a death knell.
This is clearly the case today, even if some of the familiar faces are gone. Bob Deskin, the product manager for PowerHouse who answered reams of questions about Cognos intentions, retired in July. Christina Hasse, a regular on the conference speaker circuits of the 1990s, remains with the company. Then there's Charlie Maloney, whose name is invoked often today while customers try to locate a PowerHouse-aware executive in IBM.
"Has anyone been able to find someone at IBM/Cognos to deal with Powerhouse Licenses since the takeover?" asked Ken Langendock, a PowerHouse consultant. "I know Marianne Stagg has retired."
Hasse replied, "You can always contact Charlie Maloney to start the conversation and he can help you find the correct person to work with. His contact information is: firstname.lastname@example.org, 978 - 899 - 4722." And if you spend any time at all on the IBM website looking at Cognos products other than Powerhouse, a chat box pops up quickly to offer help.The Business Analytics arm of IBM is where the Cognos products reside today. The Canadian company offered the 3000 market the first third-party reporting option in Quiz, and IBM even hosts a user manual for Quiz on the IBM website. There's a primer for the new PowerHouse user. But an active webpage for the version of the product that runs under MPE is not online any more. IBM operates off of documents pages for these kinds of products, and leaves the live website pages to the Business Intelligence aspects of Cognos.
Cognos would prefer that its HP 3000 customers migrate. In fact, the company says that “As part of our HPe3000 migration strategy, PowerHouse 4GL, PowerHouse Web, and Axiant 4GL support Marxmeier AG’s Eloquence, which has an IMAGE emulation layer.”
The PowerHouse and Axiant operations are a small part of the Cognos business, but the company insists that the products and their customers are a profitable segment. When consultant Robert Edis speculated on the fallout of a late 2006 Cognos-Speedware alliance, Edis said that development was likely to cease. PowerHouse product manager Bob Deskin replied at the time that "Eventually everything comes to an end. But we have a while to go yet."
IBM, to its credit, maintains products much longer than nearly all other vendors. The AS/400 server business, rooted in 1970s systems, has morphed several times during the last decade to include the latest in IBM hardware and software technology, and has now become Series i. Charles Finley of Transformix, an HP migration solutions and consultancy, pointed this out on the PowerHouse list.
The saving grace is that IBM does not seem to “pull the plug” on any software product that produces recurring revenue. My guess is that they will do what they have done with [the database] Informix. They keep supporting it but they do not enhance it much. At the same time they offer substantial migration paths to other IBM offerings.
What I mean is that they offer a comprehensive solution including tools and services to help customers change to some product and technologies that IBM considers sustainable in the current software markets.
Indeed, there's no plug-pulling. In 2011 IBM reiterated its support for PowerHouse on HP 3000s, although it's Vintage support.
IBM has identified PowerHouse 4GL and PowerHouse Web 8.49F as the final version of the ADT product offering on the HPe3000. This was documented in the release notes for that release, and there are no subsequent releases of PowerHouse 4GL or PowerHouse Web for the HPe3000 on our current roadmap. Mature Platform Extended Support is now part of the IBM Cognos Vintage Support offering. We are extending those provisions to PowerHouse 4GL and PowerHouse Web on the HPe3000 – MPE/iX platform.
Vintage Support provides the following services:
• Customers may continue to log cases with Customer Support.
• IBM will attempt to provide a workaround solution. Vintage support has the following restrictions:
– IBM will not provide any additional versions of the product.
– IBM will not provide any additional Interim Fixes, Refresh Packs, Fix Packs.
– IBM cannot guarantee the compatibility of the products on any future versions of Supported Environments beyond those stated for the version of the products current at the date Engineering Support ended.
November 15, 2013
Newer-comers looked forward for us all
Yesterday I wrote about the group of companies who supported this publication at the time of Hewlett-Packard's November 2001 pullout from the 3000 -- and how many of them have survived that numbskull HP strategy. I don't want to overlook another set of stout community members -- those who showed up to help out and spread the word on keeping up with 3000s, well after HP said the party was supposed to be over.
Pivital Solutions comes to mind first. They were HP 3000 official resellers, the last ones to claim a spot for that, more than a year after HP pulled out of the futures business. Started print advertising, became sponsors of the Newswire's blog. All to freshen up our world with another resource to keep 3000s online, running long after HP figured the ecosystem would become toxic.
I'd also like to tip my hat to ScreenJet, another supporter who arrived in our media after November 2001. First in print, then as one of three founding sponsors of the Newswire blog. With a blog not being a thriving commercial concept in 2005, ScreenJet, Marxmeier Software and Robelle were first to the table to ensure we could afford to report and tell stories online as our primary communication. Robelle was with us from our very first year in print, but ScreenJet and Marxmeier joined in after HP said there was no future in 3000s.
Another new face has been Applied Technologies, a modest consultancy which has been a source of articles as well as financial support. You can get surprised by such good things that happen in the wake of something challenging -- like humanitarian acts in the face of natural disasters. If you clicked on a link to help typhoon victims over the last week, you're that kind of person.Add to this list of newer-comers here the MPE Support Group, Transoft, DB-Net, Unicon, Allegro Consultants, Can-Am Software, Bradmark, Viking Software, Acucorp, PIR Group, Comp Three, Ordina Denkart, ROC Software, Blueline Services, Core Software, Printer Systems International, Tally Printer, Managed Business Solutions. All arrived after November 14, 2001. Honestly, the list of companies who've been part of our community by supporting the Newswire, whether for one month or for 216, is long. At our last count there have been 146 companies who've had enough of a yearning for the 3000 that they'd be a part of our blog or print issues.
I'm grateful for every one of those commitments, gestures of looking forward for us all -- to a future of deep changes, or to a tomorrow that preserves the heritage of our yesterdays. This will be the last year I'll recall that sudden dagger of November 2001 with a story and an essay. If you want more stories of that day, leave yours to the comments fields below, or send them along via email.
November 14, 2013
4,383 days for an ecosystem to slip, survive
It's November 14 once again, a date plenty of people don't consider special. I was part of a telephone-only CAMUS user group meeting today. While we chatted before our meet began, I asked if anyone knew the significance of the date. It took a few minutes of hinting before someone -- Cortlandt Wilson of Cortsoft -- said this was the day HP ended its future vision for a 3000 business.
At the time HP said it was worried about the fate of the MPE and 3000 ecosystem. It had good reason to worry. It was about to send a shock wave that would knock out many denizens in that ecosystem. The losses to customers can be counted many ways, and we have done that every year since that fateful day. This is the 12th story I've written about the anniversary of the HP exit. The day remains important to me when I count up what's been pushed to extinction, and what has survived.
Companies come to mind this year. The photo at right shows the vendor lineup for our printed November 3000 Newswire in 2001. (Click it for details.) It was a healthy month, but not extraordinary. Almost 30 vendors, including three in our FlashPaper, had enough 3000 business to make budget to advertise. We'll get to the ones who remain in business after a dozen years. But let's call the roll to see what HP's ecosystem exit pruned or hacked away.
3KWorld.com was a worldwide 3000 website operated by Client Systems. It was large enough to draw its own advertising and used all of the content of the Newswire under a license agreement. It's gone. Client Systems has hung on, though.
Advanced Network Systems (web software circa 2001) and Design 3000 (job scheduling) and Epic Systems (hardware resales) are all gone, too. Interex went out of business in 2005 in a sudden bankruptcy; OmniSolutions (MPE interface software) and TechGroup (consulting) and WhisperTech (a programmer's suite) and COBOL JobShop (programmer services) are all gone, too.
Believe it or not, out of a list of 29, those are the only complete extinctions. Some of the rest have changed their colors like a chameleon, blending into the IT business of 2013. And many have gotten too pared down to consider the broad business outreach they felt confident about in 2001.Still serving under their same flag after all these years? Count on 3K Associates, Adager, Computer Solutions, Genisys, Lund Performance Solutions, MB Foster, Minisoft, Nobix, Open Seas, Orbit Software, RAC Consulting, Robelle, ROC Software, Robust Systems, and The Support Group.
A few others have evolved but remain alive after being absorbed. WRQ is now deep inside Attachmate, so deep the WRQ name is no longer part of the corporation. Quest Software slipped into Dell this year. Both of these acquired companies still sell, or support, MPE clients. The same is true of Speedware, which rebranded as Fresche Legacy while it's now honing in on IBM AS/400 clients.
And then there's Hewlett-Packard. Ah, the hand that threw the switch that sent a shock to the ecosystem. Within six months of November 14, the dominant Compaq managers were led by a CEO in her third year to erase HP's Way. Bill Hewlett's son Walter lost a proxy fight so legendary that it's the example used on the Wikipedia entry for proxy fight.
It's coincidental that the departure of 3000 products from HP's future happened at the same time as the vendor's decade-plus slide. The company has reported profits each year. HP became Number 1 in sales by adding billions in PC business. But the rest of the company's heritage has become a specter. Some community members take some bitter solace in knowing that the HP which believed in their computer died its own death less than a year later in a courtroom, where that proxy fight had its finale.
People must weather change as a regular part of life. One friend of mine took note a personal shift in business opportunity, on the heels of a decline, and uttered the prayer of the pivoting hopeful player: "The only constant is indeed change."
The tally of 3000 pros and resources pushed into extinction after these 12 years isn't limited to the Newswire's November 2001 lineup. Other extinguished companies from the Interex side include Hi Comp (backup software) plus the lineup of Interex conferences including HP World, the HP e3000 Solutions Symposium, and one of the hardest-working technical meetings, SIG/3000. A meeting in person is a high-risk opportunity to learn and grow. The Web filled in, at a rate we couldn't imagine in 2001.
Oh, the irony of that November. We wrote a lead story for our Flash Paper that reported a record month for 3000 sales at the US distributor of the server. We then had to fold over another sheet of paper at presstime, an Extra, to explain that HP said it only started a two-year period of "business as usual," to quote the impossible spin of the vendor's marketing chief. "There really was no other choice," said the company's general manager of the time about the exit scheme.
There was another choice, but HP didn't make it for the 3000. Get over it, or forget it, or take the time to make a good transition -- these were all responses that changed tens of thousands of lives and careers. We don't know of many people who left IT altogether for another career since then. Some have retired, or at least planned to do so.
Through those dozen years I've tried to put the most reasonable face on the inevitable trend that HP started. The vendor said its decision to talk about its walkout on this market was "about concluding it's time to advise customers about the long-term trend." It's certainly been a longer term than HP could imagine in 2001. More than twice as long if the remaining vendors and customers count for anything. I believe they do -- representing sage management of a resource, or the prospect for a transition-migration services company and vendors of products for the same.
If 20 out of those 29 advertising partners are still in business, the impact of that trend is limited to what two-thirds of them have done next, or what they've done with what's left. Downsized with layoffs and canceled projects. Consolidated product lines and froze enhancements. Launched new products into different, crowded markets. Found a buyer or a senior partner to infuse cash and new commerce in a new direction. Timed their own exit with enough fortune to retire.
Unlike these companies -- some so small their operating budget wouldn't buy coffee service for a single HP sales region -- Hewlett-Packard didn't want to be the last person to leave the MPE party. Lead onward to Unix, it figured, telling customers on Transition Day No. 1 that free licenses for HP-UX were available. Six years later, according to Dr. Robert Boers of 3000 emulator vendor Stromasys, HP told them that 75 percent of former 3000 owners were using something other than HP servers.
It's a story with potential to be a rousing case study by business graduates, the exit of a vendor that could bank on more than 25 years of business selling a proprietary product. But it can be debated that a simple roll call of survivors tells just the most public part of the story. The career changes and chameleon shifts, the evolution of the elder generation of computer wizards can only be told one story at a time. If there are any less than 4,383 stories like that to tell, I'd be surprised. But we've all lived though a dozen years of surprises throughout that inevitable trend. I'm still here to tell stories, about survival as well as slippage. Try to permit next year's November -- the 40th year of MPE -- contain a memory of the day your ecosystem changed.
November 13, 2013
The Safety of a Frozen Environment
Much is being made, from one source and another, about how the MPE/iX operating system is now unsupported. This is only true if you consider Hewlett-Packard the one true source of MPE support. The hardware falls into the same category -- beyond the creator's support. But a virtualization engine like CHARON will, given another year or so, make unsupported iron a worry of the past. If your budget allows for CHARON software licensing.
MPE/iX, on the other hand, is getting no virtualization. The same software that's running 3000s today will run them next year. There's no updated, doubly-secured version of the 3000's OS that's coming from any source. That can be seen as a benefit, considering what just happened to Windows users this week.
Microsoft released a refreshed version of its venerable Windows XP, and the software promptly locked up millions of machines that took on the update. Most Windows customers have their systems set to accept and install Microsoft updates as provided. Given the rollicking nature of working in the viral world of Windows, security updates are essential. From InfoWorld, this report:
It isn't a new bug, but it's a killer, and this month's round of Automatic Updates has brought it back with a vengeance. Freshly installed Windows XP SP3 machines running Windows Update -- typically because Automatic Update is turned on -- will stall twice. First, when Windows Update accesses the Microsoft website to gather a list of available updates, the machine can lock up for five, 10, 15 minutes -- or more -- with the CPU and fan running at 100 percent. Then, if the customer waits long enough for the updates to appear, and clicks to install them, the XP machine goes racing away again for five or 10 or more minutes, with the CPU redlined at 100 percent.
If you've turned on Windows Automatic Update, your brand-new WinXP SP3 installation may just sit there and churn and churn. Microsoft has known about the problem for months -- probably years -- but it hasn't fixed it.
This isn't the first time that an XP update stopped machines cold. Microsoft can claim that the problem is that people continue to use an OS that was created more than 12 years ago. But that's the same strategy that seasoned IT pros are following when they don't give up on the HP 3000. In so many places in our lives, old XP systems run a business or an organization. It wasn't broken enough to replace. At least not until Microsoft worked to make it better -- or just different.HP won't be doing this sort of service for the HP 3000 customer. If there are security risks on the horizon, or gaps in the software's capability, these will be for the community to discover or to bridge. But no automated update will make an MPE/iX server freeze into a service problem overnight.
People started to freeze their own HP 3000s into static, stable mode even before Hewlett-Packard announced it would pull out of the community. Companies first put their servers into lockdown in the months leading up to Y2K. Later, as the prospect of robust improvements to MPE/iX dimmed, enterprises decided that changing little to nothing was the best way to move forward with their 3000s.
The exceptions have required workarounds. Today independent companies create these kinds of updates, on demand and under the customer's watchful direction. The safety of an environment that's frozen is only possible on an integrated and secured system. You won't have the latest Java, or IPV6 Internet addressing, or a hundred other things available even before you know you need them on other platforms. But unlike XP users this week, you know what's going to work tomorrow, because it did yesterday and you didn't change anything in your software configuration.
That's the kind of certainty that keeps budget-conscious and efficient companies using a computer whose demise was first scheduled by the vendor 12 years ago tomorrow.
November 12, 2013
Did you sell your disks or give them away?
These days HP 3000s are going onto the auction block, eBay, or to a broker when they're decommissioned. It's a wistful day when Hewlett-Packard server hardware goes offline, followed a period of storage. Eventually purchasing gets ahold of the system. At the University of Washington, for example, the pharmacy school put its Series 969 out in the hands of sellers at the university.
Deane Bell, the pro in charge of the 3000's replacement and an MPE veteran of several decades, said the server isn't likely to draw much attention in the market. A support provider in the community talked about pennies on the dollar for the system. But both experts realized that the storage components are the most valuable parts of an older 3000. They just had different reasons for the retained value.
"The Jamaica drives are possibly the most valuable components," Bell said when we checked in on a server first advertised in the summertime. I mention the drives since last time, several years ago when I attempted to buy some, they were almost impossible to find."
Certified drives for 3000s can be complicated to locate, but even if they're out there, letting yours go with the server might not be the safest strategy. The drives could contain records that are regulated by government law. One expert said that destroying such disks, professionally, is the more secure way to decommission a system. Writing zeros over and over onto such drives gets a manager closer to the destruction level of security. But then there's the RAM, which can do it's own storage.We've heard of resold Unix servers in the HP line DLxxx line with 256MB RAID memory dutifully being kept alive by a built in battery. That's enough room for credit card numbers, user names, passwords, and SSNs. Pulling the battery should resolve that problem.
There's something more unique and valuable in any decommissioned HP 3000. The operating system license is one-off, not to be reproduced ever again. Any customer who's got a possible CHARON emulator in their future -- and wants to run the emulated system alongside a production HP 3000 -- could use another number in tandem with the existing system.
Series 969 hardware, without disk, will sell for pennies on the dollar. But if the OS license is considered, something with no physical attribute might be the most valuable -- and safest -- asset to pass on the market. Purchasing and asset departments could be notified by savvy MPE pros.
November 08, 2013
How to do Digits-to-integer, and EDT to EST
What is the MPE/iX system command to convert a string of digits into an integer value? I find NUMERIC will tell me if I have a string of digits, and DECIMAL converts a number to a string, but I cannot locate the reciprocal function.
Donna Hofmeister of Allegro responds:
It's actually easier than you think to change a string variable into a numeric one. Here's an example, with some blah-blah-blah to go with it.
: setvar foo "123" <--- string with all-number content
: echo ![typeof(foo)] <--- do ': help typeof ' to find out what '2' means
: echo ![numeric(foo)] <--- if you have any doubt about the 'quality' of the content use numeric
: setvar foo_n !foo <--- here's the conversion
: echo ![typeof(foo_n)] <--- and a test for giggles
My HP 3000 system was still on EDT, so I wanted to change it during startup. I answered "N" to the date/time setting at end of startup, and it refused my entry of 11/04/13; it returned a question mark. After several quick CR, it set the clock back to 1 Jan 85, which is where it is now waiting.
Gilles Schipper of GSA responds:
While the system is up and running, you could try (while the system is up and running):
:setclock ;timezone=w5:00 (for example)
:setclock ;cancel (again)
I'd been quite surprised by how many small 'single machine' shops don't properly set the hardware clock to GMT with the software clock offset by 'timezone' Instead, they have their hardware and software clock set to the same time, use the 'setclock correction=' and then give either a +3600 or -3600, for spring or fall time changes.
Allegro's got a simple command file called FIXCLOCK, on their Free Allegro Software page, that allows fixing the hardware clock AND properly setting the time-offset for the software clock -- all without having to take the system down.
Here's the spring and fall time change jobstream code. You can use this and modify it for your specific needs. Note that it's set up for the Eastern US time zone. (That's the TIMEZONE = W5:00 -- meaning the number of hours different than GMT -- and TIMEZONE = W4:00 lines.) Modify these lines as necessary for your timezone.
!setvar Sunday, 1
!setvar March, 3
!setvar November, 11
!if hpday = Sunday and &
! hpmonth = November and &
! hpdate < 8 then
! comment (first Sunday of November)
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W5:00
! TELLOP ********************************************
! TELLOP Changing the system clock to STANDARD TIME.
! TELLOP The clock will S L O W D O W N until
! TELLOP we have fallen back one hour.
! TELLOP ********************************************
!elseif hpday = Sunday and &
! hpmonth = March and &
! hpdate > 7 and hpdate < 15 then
! comment (second Sunday of March)
! SETCLOCK TIMEZONE = W4:00
! TELLOP *********************************************
! TELLOP Changing the system clock to DAYLIGHT SAVINGS
! TELLOP TIME. The clock jumped ahead one hour.
! TELLOP *********************************************
! comment (no changes today!)
! TELLOP *********************************************
! TELLOP No Standard/Daylight Savings Time Chgs Req'd
! TELLOP *********************************************
!comment - to avoid 'looping' on fast CPU's pause long enough for
!comment - local clock time to be > 2:00a, even in fall...
!while hphour = 2 and hpminute = 0
! TELLOP Pausing 1 minute... waiting to pass 2am
! TELLOP Current Date/Time: !HPDATEF - !HPTIMEF
! pause 60
Do a showclock to confirm results. Careful, though, of any existing running jobs or sessions that may be clock-dependent.
November 07, 2013
Staying on Schedule in a Move to Windows
Yesterday we reported on an airline service provider who's made the move from HP 3000s to Windows .NET systems and architecture. While there's a great advantage in development environment in such a transition -- nothing could be easier to hire than experts in Visual Studio, nee Visual Basic -- companies such as Navitaire have to arrange a new schedule. To be precise, the job handling features of MPE/iX must be replaced, and Windows won't begin to match the 3000's strengths.
Enter a third party solution, or independent software as we like to call it here in the 21st Century. in 2010 MB Foster built a scheduler for Windows sites, and yesterday we heard a customer from the Windows world size up the MBF Scheduler tool. This was an IT shop where a HP 3000 has never booted up. But NaturMed, a supplier of supplements and health education, is a user of the JDA Direct Commerce (formerly Ecometry-Escalate Retail) software on its Windows servers. The company's never seen an MPE colon prompt, but it needs that level of functionality to manage its jobs.
"We've helped Ecometry with the move of many customers off the 3000 and onto Windows," said CEO Birket Foster. "If senior management has simply decided that Windows was the place to be, we could help automate the business processes -- by managing batch jobs in the regular day and month-end close, as well as handling Ecometry jobs and SQL Server jobs." Automating jobs makes a Windows IT shop manager more productive, like creating another set of hands to help team members out. For a 3000 shop making a transition, something like an independent job handler means they'll be able to stay on schedule with productivity.Companies that use Windows eventually discover how manual their job scheduling process becomes while hemmed in with native tools for the environment. Credit card batches must be turned in multiple times a day at online retailers, for example. The site that sparked the MBF-Scheduler design didn't have a 3000's tools, either. It just had 14,000 jobs a day running.
"It seems like this is extremely powerful," one Windows shop said of the product after looking it over, "and we could benefit from this."
Job listings, also known as standard lists (STDLISTs), are common to both the 3000 and Windows environment, and the software was built to provide the best of both 3000 and Windows worlds, Foster said. The software's got its own STDLIST reviewer, one that's integrated with a scripting language called MBF-UDAX. Ecometry sites working on HP 3000s usually rely on a tool as advanced as Robelle's Suprtool for job scheduling.
Foster's Scheduler includes filtering buttons in job reports by user, by job name, by status and by subqueue. A recent addition to the product introduced a custom category that managers can use to select or sort jobs. While running thousands of batch jobs a day, some are in distinct categories. Customers like the idea of managing factory floor jobs separately from finance jobs, for example. Managers
Measurement Systems, the manufacturer which runs a dozen HP 3000s in sites across North America, China and Europe, uses the MBF Scheduler. The product manages a complementary farm of MBF Scheduler Windows servers to move jobs among servers throughout Measurement Systems' 3000s. Terry Simpkins there has been devoted to Infor's MANMAN implementations well beyond the vendor's ability to support the application. Like other customers around the community, Simpkins and his team have compared the Scheduler to MPE's mature tools, and favorably. Sites like this don't need a separate Unix or Linux server for job scheduling, which is the usual way to keep Windows IT on schedule.
Windows schedulers serve HP 3000s, but also server Windows-only IT environments where some MPE/iX operations will be headed. At Measurement Specialities, for example, the IT pro who handles scheduling never sees the HP 3000. But enterprise server-born concepts such as job fences are tools which are at his command.
November 06, 2013
Open Skies flies to a .NET transition
Mark Ranft has been reporting on choices being made by his Pro 3k consultancy to move airline transaction processor Navitaire off a farm of 35 HP 3000s, carefully and with precision. The application -- which began its life as IMAGE-MPE software in the 1990s -- has become New Skies, a shift from its Open Skies roots. Windows .NET is the platform of the future.
What remains of the 3000 farm is going up for sale, he noted in a posting at the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn. Asked why Windows and its .NET architecture is a suitable replacement for the MPE/iX operations that served major airlines, Ranft said that Windows, like MPE or Linux or HP-UX, is just a tool.
"The enterprise architect must understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the platform and design the application around them, Ranft told us when the migration was underway, some five years ago. "Sometimes this may mean you have large pools of mid-tier systems/application servers to make up for the lack of resiliency in the operating system. This could be compared to using the RAID concept for disk arrays. However, I fear that most enterprises will find the licenses, care and feeding of the numerous mid-term systems needed is far from being inexpensive. Keep in mind that MPE was never exactly cheap."
.NET has been popular for years, a way to apply the Windows environment with more complete application architecture for enterprises. But some of the latest advice about .NET seems to factor in the slowing speed of the Microsoft juggernaut. One writer has even called .NET a failed Microsoft business line, but IT managers who use the product say it's a good choice for Windows implementations.
Ranft has reported that the enterprise once known as Open Skies ran more than a dozen of the largest HP 3000s that Hewlett-Packard ever sold. Five years ago he said
We have 21 HP 3000s. Eighteen of them are the largest, fully-loaded N4000-4-750 systems you can get. We have migrations to Windows in various stages, but there is also a very real need for legacy data access after the migration. The alternative is to migrate all the data and all the archival history, and that can be costly.
.NET has been on the radar screens for 3000 migration since at least 2004. Back when Managed Business Systems was one of the four HP Platinum Migration partners, Rich Trapp said at an HP World presentation the environment may be involved if an organization chooses:
To port their applications, since some porting tools convert the existing applications into .NET. Tools from Unicon specialized in .NET while they were being used by 3000 sites doing a migration. Once inside the .NET framework, further enhancements may involve .NET development.
For the limited number of companies that choose to re-build their applications, they may be re-written or re- engineered in a .NET development environment.
To replace 3000 apps with off-the-shelf packages, which can mean adopting an implementation in a .NET development environment. After replacement, customizations and interfaces may best be written in .NET.
The development for all of these choices takes place in Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE. Like many transition choices from standard 3000 tools -- VPlus, COBOL II, 4GLs, DEBUG and the like -- stepping into Visual Studio means a serious increase in power, as well as a learning curve if a 3000 pro hasn't developed VB skills yet.
.NET adoption means that a staff will need to be up to speed on Visual Basic .NET, C# and SQL Server -- or another .NET-compatible database. There's also a need to get a scheduler working in the Windows world. Fortunately, a 3000-like scheduler has been available for Windows since 2010, from MB Foster. MBF-Scheduler has gained advanced reporting tools, explicit and fine-grained filters, and the same robust functionality as the MPE/iX job handling tools.
The primary difference between development in an HP 3000 environment and a .NET environment is the HP 3000 is geared toward procedural design, while .NET is geared toward object oriented design. Procedural design establishes procedures or steps as a sequence of commands, acting on data structures. With object oriented design, developers model real-world situations and business scenarios as objects that perform actions, have properties, and trigger events.
Even nine years ago, when .NET was much less entrenched, Trapp said that ".NET provides efficient development, well-structured applications; a large number of interfacing techniques and interfaces; and a large quantity of existing, re-usable source code."
November 01, 2013
3000s a-Wake, become Saints, then Souls
I grew up a Catholic boy, right down to serving Mass at an altar. The start of November was holiday time for us, even through we might have to don our cassocks and surplices and sacrifice part of our days off. While our church was doing Mass in Latin, both Nov. 1 and 2 were days off from school. The first one was All Saints Day, the second All Souls.
This is the time of the year when the dead are celebrated in story. Last night, while I took our little granddaughters to Trick or Treat, there were plenty of zombie costumes around. Some MPE servers might as well be zombies, for all their attributes: they're tough to kill and survive on brains. And even cannibalize each other, as the older 3000s give up their parts for those still roaming the earth.
But despite the anniversary of the World Wide Wake yesterday, the 3000 has become more of a saint in some places, as well as a great soul in many others. A saint can't be annointed until he or she has passed away. Then they live in heaven and inspire us all, plus have a special gift. St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers, patronage that he shares with a computer that "just works," as so many of its fans say.
But when someone or something becomes a saint they fade from the mortal realm. They join a pantheon of holy entities. Some might call the 3000 a saint because of this. It's happening to Apple's Mac, too, or at least its operating system. If Mac OS can head toward sainthood, then another OS based on Unix is on its way, too. HP wrapped up its fiscal year yesterday. Apple released share numbers for its lines of business this week. Both periods showed that once-critical platforms are being dwarfed by newer business lines. The Mac is maintaining its sales numbers but has a smaller percentage than in Apple's sales mix. Every HP quarter, including the once that just ended, that's also true of the Integity Business Critical Systems unit. Oh, except for the maintaining the numbers part of that statement.
As a Mac manager, and an HP reporter, I'm here to note that if you're not finishing as a saint, then your fate is to become a soul. It's not so bad, especially if you get devotion and prayer cards for your protection.HP might not be protecting its Integrity business like it once did. The roar of Unix was once so loud at HP that its CEO gave the OS a Valentine's speech. Lew Platt was reaching out for business when he spoke at Uniforum in 1996. "Good morning, Unix lovers," he began. "I don't use that term because it's Valentine's Day, but because Unix is near and dear to my heart.
As well as to HP's bottom line, way back then. It's hard to imagine that Platt gave a talk eight years earlier with the title Maintaining Momentum: Can Unix Make It? HP was serious enough about that momentum that it spent much of the '90s feeding 3000 customers into its Unix ovens. Those were the days when Windows was little more than a Microsoft experiment, instead of today's dominant business platform.
Apple released that chart that showed the trend of its business growth over the last two years. You might want to dismiss a Mac as a consumer platform. But I think the only genuine consumer platform today are the $100 Android tablets sold as movie viewers and Pandora players. Companies are running their businesses on phones -- at a certain size of enterprise.
If HP were to make such a chart, one of its most recent bars would look like the one at the left. Notice that tiny slice of HP's revenues? Look hard, because it's been diminishing by about 10-20 percent per quarter. That's the business that drives a great OS, Unix. HP's giving in to Linux on that front, as slowly as Apple is creeping on Macs. There's a difference, though. A new release of the Mac OS, Mavericks, brings us Mac managers even closer to the white-hot business of Apple, mobile iOS.
Is HP pushing HP-UX toward its own next-generation products, the ones that make up the biggest and growing share of business? (Oops, sorry: HP's business isn't growing, except for a few pockets that remain to be identified. We'll hear about the pockets in a few weeks.) Enterprise servers won't become printers, and the growth at HP isn't in any environment, but the total HP experience. It's just that you can't get month-end reports done with an experience at the heart of the datacenter.
Mavericks will make Mac OS better in some ways, but the best attribute is that it brings our environment closer to the corporate love, the kind Platt expressed. HP's Unix hasn't experienced its Wake, but one Integrity facet will shine less bright before long: OpenVMS. For the DEC faithful it'll be a saint, and perhaps even inhabit a successor as a soul. The 3000's soul lives on in MPE when the OS runs on an emulated platform.
Is it All Souls Day tomorrow, the time we take to honor the departed? HP's business of unique environments is departing, one customer base at a time. Take a moment to appreciate the HP 3000 computer's afterlife. It is providing the holy card to clutch and read in the future, when the living environments pass through their wake, to be saints, or maybe only souls.
October 30, 2013
Marking Moments on Wake Anniversary Eve
In about six hours or so, the HP 3000 community might pause to commemorate one of its last collective acts. Ten years ago the World Wide Wake, organized by event ringleader Alan Yeo, invited members in dozens of locations throughout the world to lift a glass and salute the end of HP's manufacturing of the HP 3000 computer. MPE/iX would be recrafted and revised for another five years, but Oct. 31, 2003 was the last day customers could order a new HP-badged 3000.
At the time we invited a director of the Interex User Group, Denys Beauchemin, to offer a confirmation about the success of the system and record the aftermath of HP's departure. He did so in our Open Mike column in the November printed issue of the NewsWire. (It would be almost two years before we'd start up this blog.) It's fun to track the predictions in that column. Beauchemin, heading up a group that itself would remain open just another 20 months, collected sentiments from community notables including the late, great Wirt Atmar, who would pass away a little more than five years later.
Wirt outlived HP's 3000 business, right down to the closing of its MPE labs at the end of 2008. Unless you're reading this from the blazing-fast Google Fiber of the afterlife, you've also outlived the end of HP's 3000 saga. For HP computer users whose systems are facing an end of manufacture, the following is educational. It's memorable for migrators to revisit that time of reflection, too, and see if anything resonates in today's platform ownership.
Please leave a comment below to share your own story of the 10 years that have followed this anniversary. Or email one to me to tell your tale of what has followed the Wake.
By Denys Beauchemin
On All Hallows Eve of the year 2003, an historic event took place without fanfare and virtually ignored by the vast population at large. Only the cognoscenti will mourn the passing into computer history of the HP e3000, née HP 3000. This magnificent machine, which would be marking its thirty-first year of existence next month, is instead disappearing from the list of HP computer products. End of Sales for the HP 3000 is now upon us.
I was first introduced to the HP 3000 in 1977 somewhere in New Hampshire. At that time I was working in Montreal on an HP 21MX designing and programming applications in a timesharing bureau. I immediately took a liking to the HP 3000, transitioned jobs to be able to work on one and joined the users group for the first time. Over the years wherever I worked, there was always an HP 3000 in my environment. The HP 3000 has been part of my career almost from the beginning. Its passing fills me with melancholy, and whilst I had not been doing as much with it these last several years, I could always count on it being there, adding new capabilities along the way. This is true no more.
I asked a few luminaries of this long-lived computing environment to reflect on the machine, its passing and perhaps to shed some light on this event and what its effect might be.
“A great IT platform: reliable, affordable, flexible, easy to operate, and easy to program. And every release compatible with the previous for over 30 years. Perhaps some future OS team will adopt these same goals.” — Bob Green, Robelle
“The HP 3000 has been one of very few computers with a very important property: it lets people get things done. Because of that, it’s been my primary professional focus for the last 24 years, and hopefully for many years to come. Its cancellation was the straw that broke the camel’s back in my regard for, and trust in, HP as a company.” — Stan Sieler, Executive Vice President, Allegro Consultants. [Ed. note: Sieler marked his 30th anniversary at Allegro this month.]
“One of the worst things a hardware company (which subsequently develops some excellent software) can do to that software is to support it as if it were hardware. The 3000 was a victim of such treatment. RIP.” — Fred White, Co-creator of IMAGE
“My association with Hewlett-Packard began in 1963, when I was first introduced to extraordinary quality of HP instruments. Our official association with MPE began in 1976, and it too represented to me the very highest ideals of quality engineering. MPE was a magnificent operating system, simple, stable and extraordinarily efficient. The death of MPE concerns me greatly about the future of HP itself, not because MPE was ever a substantial contributor to HP’s bottom line, but because its death is indicative of the kind of company that HP is now casting itself as: a manufacturer of commodity products, having wedged itself in between Dell and IBM, a virtually unsustainable niche. I have come to believe that the most likely scenario now for the future of HP is for HP to be bought by Dell in three to seven years, just for the printer division, with the remainder of the organization either sold off or disposed of. If true, that’s a sad end for a company with which I’ve proudly had a life-long association.” — Wirt Atmar, AICS Research, Inc.
“When HP announced that it was no longer in HP’s best interest to continue with the HP 3000, my reaction was one of joy. I believed that — once HP was out of the HP 3000’s way — MPE-IMAGE would be able to prosper ‘under new management’. HP, unfortunately, had other ideas. Be it as it may, I feel a tremendous amount of loyalty towards MPE-IMAGE users and, as HP’s MPE-savvy people dwindle, I keep adding more and more items to my to-do list. I love IMAGE and I continue to work, on a full-time basis, searching for ways to make the lives of TurboIMAGE users as rewarding as possible.” — F. Alfredo Rego, Adager.
“The HP 3000 has been my business companion for 26 years, providing continuity for my COBOL application development. It enabled my company to become an international solution provider and its tragic demise is a reminder of my own mortality on this earth. May the spirit of MPE live on forever in the user community it leaves behind. I believe that inside every HP 9000 there is an HP 3000 waiting to be released after October 2003.” — Jeanette Nutsford, Computometric Systems Ltd, New Zealand/UK/USA
“I came from an IBM mainframe background and then started working on the HP 3000 at HP as a Systems Engineer on the Series II in 1976. I knew I had gone to heaven when I could use a terminal to do compiles and queries in a very short time and on-line with a very user friendly operating system, MPE. Times were good then in the user community because everyone was in a learning mode and helped each other. Times have changed and we must now move on to new challenges. I really miss the good old days but am glad to have met a great circle of friends along the way!” — Paul Edwards, Paul Edwards & Associates.
October 28, 2013
Vladimir resolves a 3000 jobs question
More than one kind of jobs question is on the landscape this year. The most obvious question is how to keep your job as the head coach of a vital 3000 server in your organization. The other question, which has been on the table since 2002, is how to manage jobs on the server where your applications will run, after your organization makes its transition.
There are too many answers to the first question to list them all here. I invite you to send us helpful answers. Based on your responses, we can pay them forward. On Friday Oct. 25, I wrote about one answer: Be an entrepreneur for the first time in your life, even while you're older than 55. It's the biggest age group of entrepreneurs. Another answer might be to master a more nouveau environment for apps. Your value on MPE/iX is kept vital, but mostly because you've acquired new skills for an environment that runs alongside MPE/iX. Be ready, in that case, to embrace more change, plus adopt respect for much younger colleagues.
The second jobs question has not had good answers for Windows -- the migrator's favorite platform -- until 2011. Then MB Foster released a scheduler that replicates the power of MPE/iX scheduling and jobstream management. MBF-Scheduler was built by developers who were masters of MPE/iX jobs.
But the third aspect of a jobs question emerged in the past week from a longtime, advanced MPE manager, Tracy Johnson. Working at Measurement Specialties -- one of the strongest and most devoted users of MPE/iX servers, running 10 factories around the world -- Johnson posed a question about job numbers.
'What's the highest job number allowed before it rolls back to #J1?"
VEsoft's founder Vladmir Volokh gave Johnson an answer, according to the manager. It resolves an everyday need, even though other answers came from experts with decades of MPE/iX experience. Vladimir's name isn't invoked a lot on the 3000 newsgroup where the question emerged. Johnson tagged the answer as one of the best. But that's because he talked with the creator of MPEX.
"I'm using MPEX in a night job that cleans up old spool files after midnight," Johnson told me this afternoon.
I really care how to set the job number, using MPEX:
%deletespoolfile @.@.@(spool.readydate < today-7)
... several hundred spool files later...
-----Deleting #O315330, $STDLIST, #J1225, MMAUDJAS,MANAGER.MMV090 (704 sectors)
The above $STDLIST was created the same day, (not > seven days before)
I have noticed this symptom occurs after JOB numbers have rolled over from #J16383 back to #J1, so I there must be a counter when using spool filesets. In other words, it happily deletes spool files it finds using the date criteria, (working sequentially). But when the job number rolls back to one, it assumes the next spool file with a lower job number encountered is "earlier" than the one before it. (#J1 must be 'earlier' than #J16383, yes?)
Via a phone conversation -- how fundamental, that old-school contact -- Johnson learned this about 3000 jobs:
Before the fix:
%deletespoolfile @.@.@(spool.readydate < today-7)
After the fix:
%purge @.OUT.HPSPOOL(CREDATE < TODAY - 7 AND NOT OPENED)
October 24, 2013
Crime keeps non-3000 platforms most busy
HP has sponsored a new edition of the Ponemon study of crime commited via computers. The results are trending in the direction everyone expects: upward, with cyber-crime now topping $11 million per typical breach in the US. The chart above tracks the frequency of the type of crime committed. Malware, viruses, worms and trojans are on just about every company's report. Where the cyber-attack takes place -- the location of the webserver -- makes a difference in the cost of the breach.
We found that US companies are much more likely to experience the most expensive types of cyber attacks, which are malicious code, denial of service and web-based incidents. Similarly, Australia is most likely to experience denial of service attacks. In contrast, German companies are least likely to experience malicious code and botnets. Japanese companies are least likely to experience stolen devices and malicious code attacks.
HP worked hard in the late 1990s to establish Web server capability for the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. At first there was a product for sale from HP. A few years later, with little success of selling it, HP gave it away as part of the MPE/iX Fundamental Operating System. But even in FOS, serving web pages never caught on. Web page services, of course, are the top way to distribute malware, bots and other costly disruptors.
In a way, the lack of a Web capability has made the HP 3000 one of the least-attacked environments. But even a 3000 connected to the Internet in any way is susceptible to a hack. It's just tougher to steal something worth fencing, plucked out of an OS built with a ring of privilege at its heart. Not impossible, never. Because like the Ponemon report says, the most costly cyber-crime happens from within datacenter operations.
The report, which HP has sponsored for several years, calls those attacks from within "malicious insiders." They're the most costly of all kinds of cyber-attacks, based on 234 companies that Ponemon has surveyed. But the second- and third-most costly kinds of attacks are unlikely to be unleashed on MPE/iX systems: Denial of Service (DOS) and Web-based attacks.
The most expensive attacks are malicious insiders, denial of service and web-based attacks. In the context of our study, malicious insiders include employees, temporary employees, contractors and, possibly, business partners.
Detecting an attack and recovering from one make up the biggest chunk of the expense of cyber-crime. 54 percent of the cost comes from "productivity loss and direct labor." The latter segment is IT man-hours. The former might well include IT operations that need to be deferred or delayed while crime cleanup goes on. On average, a malicious insider attack takes about six weeks to recover from, according to the survey.
Software to protect computer systems from crime is complex, and according to a Network Computing article, requires significant care and feeding after it's been deployed in a company. The Ponemon report calls this software Security Intelligence Systems. Another common name for it is a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) product. HP sells one that's well-regarded, ArcSight. Longtime HP 3000 vendor Quest Software has moved into the field with its own product.
The greatest target for cyber-crime appears to be Windows-based environments, since they're the most widely used in the world. It's also reflected in an InformationWeek study that shows Symantec's SIEM software is most-installed.
HP 3000s which are still serving credit card usage, or dealing with healthcare records, are the most likely candidates for these kinds of software solutions. The InformationWeek report said that e-commerce and HIPAA drove one out of every four SIEM deployments.
Those turn out to be some of the most likely 3000s to be used in an open-to-the-public setting, too. The costs go beyond the software's expense, of course.
Many SIEM products are expensive, but the full cost isn’t just the software or hardware. These products require extensive system integration to realize their potential. That means you must account for staff hours (or pay consultants) for installation and configuration, as well as integration with other products. SIEM products rely on databases for event and log analysis, which means database administrator resources must also be considered, not only for the ini- tial configuration of the product but also on- going maintenance and tuning. And of course, IT and security teams will need to be trained to use the product. These factors af- fect your total SIEM cost. As one respondent said, “Total cost of acquisition and operating is elusive. When you purchase a SIEM solution, the work is just beginning."
Return on investment for deploying security intelligence is small, at 21 percent. But the cost is reasonable compared to the attack's aftermath -- company reputation, fines and restitution. Ponemon's survey said
Companies deploying security intelligence systems experienced a substantially higher ROI at 21 percent than all other technology categories presented. Also significant are the estimated ROI results for companies that extensively deploy encryption technologies and advanced perimeter controls.
Most 3000s have a perimeter to defend, if nothing else. Keeping a system useful means putting it on a network, and any outside-facing network is going to require defense. If numbers from an outside source can be useful in getting funded for this kind of defense, Ponemon summed up the take-aways.
- Cyber crimes are costly. We found that the average annualized cost of cyber crime for 234 organizations in our study is $7.2 million per year, with a range of $375,387 to $58 million. This represents an increase in cost of 30 percent from the consolidated global results of last year’s cyber cost study.
- Cyber attacks have become common occurrences. The companies in our study experienced 343 successful attacks per week and 1.4 successful attacks per company per week. This represents an increase of 20 percent from last year’s successful attack experience. Last year’s study reported 262 successful attacks on average per week.
- The most costly cyber crimes are those caused by malicious insiders, denial of service and web-based attacks. Mitigation of such attacks requires enabling technologies such as SIEM, intrusion prevention systems, application security testing and enterprise governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) solutions.
Many smaller companies use HP 3000s, and Ponemon's research shows that this size of organization seems to be most susceptible to the kind of attack rarely seen on an MPE/iX system.
Smaller organizations (below the median of enterprise seats) experience a higher proportion of cyber crime costs relating to viruses, worms, trojans, phishing, malware and botnets. In contrast, larger organizations (above the median) experience a higher proportion of costs relating to denial of services, malicious insiders, web-based attacks, stolen devices and malicious code.
October 23, 2013
A Place to Make Plans for Transition
Websites offer a world of advice on how to move toward the future with ease. There's nothing easier than tapping a webinar to find out more about making an HP 3000 transition. And no company has even come within several leagues of teaching with webinars like MB Foster does.
Wednesdays are the regular date, with the presentations starting at 2PM Eastern US time. Today's talk, with an interactive segment as well (Birket Foster asks for questions throughout) is on Application Decommissioning. Even at a place where the 3000 is likely to run another four years, like MacLean-Fogg manufacturers, a custom MPE app will go out of production mode, someday.
Today's talk (register at the MB Foster website, and get your audio via IP or phone) focuses on the legacy data process and compliance issues in your plans for such a decommission. That data will be moving forward, just as surely as those disk packs at MacLean-Fogg moved on to the next 3000 after a flood. Data always moves onward, but it's no easy task without planning.
"In a time when cost cutting is a necessity, decommissioning legacy application data offers companies cost savings, and resource efficiencies," Foster's website proposes, "all while meeting compliance for your business and legal requirements to retain and access data."
The company's been illuminating the key issues that can serve both homesteading and migration missions. Sometimes this kind of modernization serves homesteading, and then modernization. The list of what's been covered over the last five years of webinars is impressive. There's two more on the way, November 6 and November 20.
November 6 covers Automating Windows Processes and Batch Jobs: learn how you can automate windows processes and manage data processing jobs (scripts), view output, maintain complex scheduling dependencies and relationships easily and effectively. People try to do this after a transition using Windows Task Manager, which lets you schedule many tasks. It's no substitute for the power and control you enjoyed on the HP 3000.
On November 6 the webinar covers Measuring for Meaning, KPI's, Dashboards and ODS. That last acronym stands for Operational Data Stores. KPIs provide visibility into a business’s vital signs, using metrics and dashboards. Moving to bigger-scope IT, which is usually part of a migration or modernization, introduces an IT pro to these strategies.
Many other subjects have been part of the webinar curriculum. Data migration challenges, including a live demonstration of a copy between an HP 3000 IMAGE database to a SQL Server database. Another talk shared data migration best practices. Last year you could learn about the advances in the new Eloquence database and language. The drop-in replacement for IMAGE at migrating 3000 sites gained full text search in the database.
There was a look at the elements of Big Data as they relate to IT planning. For homesteaders, issues got examined on how to transition supporting your customer applications for HP 3000s. 3000 sites are still renewing commitments to using the server for another 3-5 years. A company with experience in serving customers through applications can help companies extend the life of their systems.
There's also been scheduling challenges for Windows managers, synchronization of data. Tips on decommissioning of data. How to plan for Mean Time To Recovery of Operations. Spend about 45 minutes on some Wednesday, today or soon, and get to the place where transition planning sets up shop.
October 18, 2013
Dairy co-op skims cream of MPE off 3000s
More than three decades of HP 3000 servers have booted and remained online at Dairylea Cooperative. Now the collective of New York dairy farmers will put its next generation of MPE apps onto Intel iron, running the Stromasys Charon emulator.
Jeff Elmer, the IT director for the co-op, said the HP 3000 has a long history, even longer than his tenure there -- and that's work for him that stretches back to 1985 for the organization. It's a modest operation, and the collective is on its way to using SAP for the long term. In the meantime, though, a virtualized MPE/iX server is going to handle the information flow for these milk producers.
"The company has a long term commitment to switch to SAP," he said, "but MPE will be powering our producer payroll and milk laboratory systems for at least a couple more years in the comfort and safety of the emulator on new hardware, to say nothing of enjoying the various advantages of virtualization. After SAP, the emulator still has a future as an historical repository."
So while HP's 3000 hardware is headed for a shutdown at Dairylea, it's MPE that becomes the cream to be skimmed off Hewlett-Packard computers that stretch back to the early 1980s.HP forestalled a purchase of the ultimate generation of 3000 iron when it announced it was ending its MPE operations, Elmer said.
I was doing the legwork for an upgrade to an N Class the day I heard that HP had abandoned the 3000; as a result of that announcement, we abandoned that upgrade. As for our current HP 3000, it's a venerable 969 KS/100 that we bought when 969s were new and yes, it is still running like a champ. There was a Series 68, a Series 70, a 925, and a 935 before there was a 969. The company has a long history with HP. They were using HP 3000s before I started here and I am in my 29th year as of October.
Co-op executives are not confident about the lifespan of drives in those 3000s, however, and so the Charon emulator makes its debut there in the months to come. Elmer also paid the various upgrade/transfer fees for third-party software, as well as submitting paperwork to HP for a license transfer from the physical box to the emulator.
"Our company has always tried to keep our licensing straight, and our maintenance and support up-to-date with all of our business partners," he said. "That policy will continue with the emulator. All that, and we even got a physical DLT8000 tape drive to work with the emulator! Now I know for sure that if there is a legal reason to restore from an old backup tape, I can do it. What more could you want?"
October 16, 2013
For almost all, not the first time to migrate
A recent talk with ScreenJet's Alan Yeo shed some light on the migration process for 3000 owners. Our era is not the first time anybody has made a migration in the 3000 world. This one is different, however, from the transition the entire community performed about 25 years ago. That was an era when HP rolled out radically new hardware, but had engineered a way to carry program code forward. There was work, however, that everyone had to do.
In the fall of 1988, moving from MPE V to MPE XL was being called a migration. In the same way that today's migrations are being shaped as transitions or modernizations, the migration of MPE V systems to a new OS was attempting to avoid being labeled a conversion. Big work, that conversion stuff. Migration, by everybody's measure this year, is bigger stuff than replacing an app while moving off a 3000.
Yeo said this month that a customer of his had already made their migration once -- a "proper migration" if you can imagine the British accent -- and was returning to do another migration. "They're happy they migrated, because they now know that they can," he said. Yeo estimated that about one in every five companies that have left have done this proper migration -- which means keeping business logic and lot of MPE code in hand during the move.
Today's strategy for migrating has much in common with what 3000 owners were doing in 1988, the time when MPE XL was first coming online at customer sites. Victoria Shoemaker of Taurus Software wrote an article in the HP Chronicle that month called From MPE V to MPE XL: Migration Made Easy. Her seven steps make up that year's proper migration: Education; analysis; developing a migration plan; MPE/V conversion; installation of HP-PA RISC machines; Compatibility Mode operation; Migration to Native Mode operation.How familiar does this paragraph sound, based on today's advice?
Planning is the single most important element of your migration. Regardless of how many applications that run in your shop, how many machines you have, how much third-party software you run, your migration's success depends on how well you have planned it. Spend the time to plan. It pays off.
There are some differences between the advice you can check out in the PDF of that archive article from the HP Chronicle versus the counsel you'll get today. In late '88 there was not much of a thriving market of experts who were selling professional services for getting onto a new hardware platform with a new OS. HP set up Migration Centers in five US cities, plus one in Germany. You'd bring in code and run it on the new Series 900 HP 3000 system, then resolve errors and get time to do rewriting as needed. The centers even included shredders, so your sensitive data and coding wouldn't be compromised.
But nobody inside HP was doing that work. And travel with your tapes and printed code was essential to using that help. You'd apply for some time on some very new computers, and an even newer OS. The timesharing era wasn't that far in the past. It didn't seem a tremendous throwback.
Today there's other options. You can even have that migration planning done for you after a series of interviews at your own site. Or simply phone calls, after you've sent information over this thing we call the Internet. Didn't exist in 1988, to be sure. You could transfer your files via a terminal emulator, of course. The concept of remote system access and inventory was a rare thing indeed.
Tens of thousands of 3000 sites survived and even thrived after the MPE V to XL migration. HP created a Compatibility Mode to operate the old programs unmolested. Performance was actually worse in many cases in that early migration era, because MPE XL 1.x was a slow and unpredictable release. Operating in Native Mode at least made the brand-new Series 950 and 925 servers as fast as existing top-end Series 70s. Like today's ultimate generation of HP's 3000 iron, Hewlett-Packard was certainly leaving a widely-installed field of hardware behind.
October 10, 2013
HP hopes for slower sales declines in 2014
In a typical response to the above news, investors bought in on Hewlett-Packard's vision of the future yesterday. Market analysts who advise the pension plans -- and the rest of the 75 percent of institutional-owners of HP shares -- found this lump of non-dire news under HP's carpet. CEO Meg Whitman said they predicted there would be 1 percent more profit than the analysts' predictions. One estimate bested another by a trace amount, and so hope rose up among shareholders.
None of this has happened yet; even HP's fiscal 2013 still has three weeks left to play out, let alone the realities of 2014. "Pockets" of growth in HP's sales have been promised, although the company cannot say where those pockets will appear. They might be in tablets, where HP could manage revenue growth with sales that become measurable. Or the growth might occur in enterprise servers and software, a prospect with much longer odds.
"Stabilizing revenue declines" are the brightest outlook HP can promise for the year to come. That HP had to promise continuing declines shows how tough its IT sales market has become. People who were buying laptops for business are now investing in tablets or working via smartphones, both of which are more mobile. HP's offerings in both segments are years behind market leaders, echoes of cheaper solutions, or invisible (in the case of the phones).
Mobile computing is one of the many sectors of computing products where HP's got big issues to resolve. One analyst said after yesterday's meet that it wouldn't be a great investment to buy HP stock, given the "growth challenges the company is facing in nearly every product category." Investment in buying HP's products is another matter, but it's the one which determines that growth challenge.
HP's fiscal numbers for its latest quarter won't surface for more than a month. But Whitman's cheerleading came during a two-day meeting with those analysts. HP earned a $2 share bump on a forecast that put its 2014 profits 3 cents a share higher than a $3.62 forecast. Whitman said HP will focus on new products and services next year -- a category that may not include HP's Unix, its Integrity-based servers, or other solutions from the combined enterprise unit that has been producing steady HP 3000 platform replacements.
Whitman said HP is recommitted to smarter innovation, with R&D spending expected to be in excess of $3 billion for the fiscal year that ends in three weeks.
“While there is a lot more work to be done, I am confident about the progress we are making,” said Whitman. “We’re producing tangible results, strengthening our balance sheet and delivering innovative products across all our key segments. We are implementing the changes needed to support our multi-year turnaround journey, reaffirm HP’s leadership position, and create enduring value for customers as well as for our shareholders”
HP says the core of its strategy for 2014 is focused on “providing unique technology solutions for the ‘New Style of IT.’ "
October 09, 2013
HP completes 3000 transition, 12 years later
One week from today, according to our sources in the HP IT community, the last four HP 3000s will go off the Hewlett-Packard production grid. The shutdown is scheduled to take place on Oct. 16, which will put it just a few weeks shy of 12 years after HP said it was ending its HP 3000 business.
There can be many reasons why a transition away from the 3000 could take more than a decade. The most obvious one is that it doesn't make business sense to turn off an application that's still doing yeoman service. We don't know if that's the case with these 3000s and their applications.
But these 3000s run in the HP corporate datacenter based in Austin, Texas, the hometown of the 3000 Newswire. It doesn't take much search to learn that this datacenter is more than 20,000 square feet of office space that was once an outpost of Tandem Computer. HP acquired Tandem's business when it purchased Compaq. Years after HP swallowed its biggest acquisition, these 3000s were being managed into a new datacenter -- one of six targeted to consolidate the 85 HP datacenters.
Even with an opportunity to take 3000s offline in a datacenter reorganization, MPE applications prevailed. That datacenter reorg started in 2006."The last 4 internal HP 3000s located at the HP Austin (Old Tandem) datacenter will go lights-out October 16th," said our source. "No special events are planned, since no one within HP understands the significance anymore."
At one point in the 3000's not-too-distant history -- okay, less than 20 years back -- more than 600 3000s were driving company operations. In 1996 we reported that every sales transaction flowed through the HEART application, hosted on 3000s. HEART was replaced by SAP software early in the 21st Century, a switchover that had enough bumps to draw notice in HP's own investor reports at the time.
The Austin datacenter, which can be managed remotely, is actually two physical sites with mirroring capability. One is in the Tandem facility, and the other is at a site 15 miles south which once operated the Freescale (nee Motorola) wafer fabrication operations. We're just guessing here, but it's possible those 3000s going lights-out are replicated in some way at the Freescale building.
If there remains a value policy at HP that would retain MPE apps for a dozen years, it's a good bet these N-Class boxes are going onto the used hardware market soon. The vendor has proven they're a good investment -- having used them for nearly three years beyond its own legendary "end of life" deadline for the server.
October 08, 2013
Modernization's mission sparks acquisition
Migration companies usually need technology tools to achieve success for their clients. It's always been true in the 3000 world. Putting experienced staff to work is important, but keeping everybody on schedule and productive happens more reliably with software to break decades of programming ice.
This fall we learned that MB Foster was putting an in-house migration solution into its product roster. The software was developed to explore the contents of a database. Information that's retrieved is used to shape the data migration that's part of a transformation.
But sometimes an efficient way to add this kind of transition muscle is to acquire it. As the Transition Era was ramping up in the aftermath of HP's 3000 announcement, Speedware purchased the Neartek software AMXW in 2003. Now that the company's become Fresche Legacy -- reaching out to a new customer base using IBM Series i (AS400) -- it recently acquired a 100 percent interest in Databorough, a UK-based vendor of knowledge mining and reuse software for Series i servers.
Fresche Legacy says the acquisition broadens its product portfolio to include X-Analysis, X-Migrate and X2E. This software performs environment analysis and code transformation. In this case, the transition is to Java or C# from RPG, COBOL, or a development language called Synon.
Synon goes back more than 25 years in the Series i marketplace, something like the Powerhouse and Speedware 4GL pedigree but first crafted for IBM's System 38 -- a predecessor to the AS/400. IBM held an equity interest in Synon until the firm was sold to Sterling Software in the late '90s. While you're catering to enterprise environments that've been in service as long as the 3000 or IBM's servers, you need to efficiently modernize the oldest of languages.
"This agreement unites two of the most powerful and knowledgeable players in the System i legacy modernization space," said Andy Kulakowski, president and CEO of Fresche Legacy. “Databorough brings to Fresche Legacy more than 20 years of AS400/iSeries experience, a highly pedigreed list of more than 200 enterprise customers, and deep technical knowledge."Analysis is a crucial element in migration assessments, the first step on the path to moving off a platform. Fresche Legacy still serves 3000 sites, but the newer part of its business is in the IBM market. Major migrations of in-house software are shrinking in number for MPE's customer base. The depth of analysis needed for such projects is even greater than the prerequisite inventory and ID prior to application replacements. By MB Foster's reckoning, four of every five transitions today are reaching for replacement apps.
Assessments are in this year's news from Fresche. In the late spring the vendor announced IBM i assessments for a large auto manufacturer, a US pharmacy services company, and a large IT services company in Europe. Fresche now has Discover Services that utilize "a unique utility that was purpose-built for analyzing legacy environments." The software utility uncovers "critical application environment details including both active and unused components. This facilitates cost savings, since applications or code that clients no longer use won’t factor into the planning or transitioning costs."
Fresche's VP of Legacy R&D Garry Ciambella says that Databorough’s X-Analysis solution complements and extends the Fresche Legacy product portfolio. Customers of X-Analysis gain access to the array of Fresche modernization solutions. Fresche is also expanding North American opportunity for Databorough.
This strategy mirrors that AMXW product acquisition in its geographic scope. Neartek was a firm based in France with many European customers for AMXW in 2002. Post-acquisition, Speedware extended the software's capabilities with several new releases. Companies who were migrating their code could benefit from this acquired software. Broader support is a part of both stories, too.
"Fresche Legacy directly extends our North American market reach," said Databorough's CEO Mark Tregear, "and [Fresche's] SCP-certified, 24X7 support centre provides our customers with global support coverage --which offers up an entirely new level of assurance and confidence for our products."
October 07, 2013
Patches remain a revenue producer at HP
HP issued a reminder for the HP 3000 users today that the computer remains special in a significant, cost-saving way. Several years ago, the customers using HP's enterprise computers found that free patches had ceased to be a goodwill item. You had to pay to patch, HP said. But since the MPE/iX patches were written for a discontinued line, HP had no support mechanism to charge for them.
HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 (Digital's Unix) customers are not so fortunate. In an email from today:
HP has made significant investments in its intellectual capital to provide the best value and experience for our customers. We continue to offer a differentiated customer experience with our comprehensive support portfolio. HP, as an industry leader, is well positioned to provide reliable support services across the globe with proprietary tools, HP trained engineers, and genuine certified HP parts. Only HP customers and authorized channel partners may download and use support materials.
It's not the first time HP has told its enterprise customers that vendor support is not an optional part of their ownership budget. Hewlett-Packard's labs are still turning out patches for it Unix and VMS systems. Patches are free for many other computer systems, but enterprise servers are becoming an exception.
Beginning October 2013, Hewlett-Packard Company will change the way operating system patches on HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 are accessed. Patches for these operating systems will only be accessible on HP Support Center to customers with an active support agreement linked to their HP Support Center User ID and for the specific products being updated. We encourage you to review your current support coverage to ensure you have the appropriate coverage to maintain uninterrupted patch access for these operating systems.
The support agreement must have a relevant software product number belonging to one of the following product series:
HP-UX Operating Systems
HP OpenVMS Operating Systems
Tru64 UNIX Operating Systems
In addition, the support agreement must have one of the following Software Update or Previous Version Support offers:
HP Software Updates Service
HP License Subscription Service
HP SW Media and Documentation Updates Service
PVS with sustaining engineering
PVS without sustaining engineering
MPS with sustaining engineering
MPS without sustaining engineering
However, IT managers for 3000s might consider themselves lucky to have a guide from an independent support provider, one to be able to locate the MPE/iX patches that remain a free service for 3000 sites. Plenty has moved around on HP's support servers, from manuals to so much more.
October 03, 2013
HP's missing notes as Jazz plays on for 3000
Information that HP licensed for its Jazz support server lives on at two North American HP 3000 vendor sites. While items like white papers and instructions remain intact at Freshe Legacy (formerly Speedware) and Client Systems, the links at Hewlett-Packard references for the 3000 are playing like they're off-key notes.
Jazz is the accepted name for a collection of papers, downloads and software instructions first created by Jerri Ann Smith in the HP 3000 labs. Nicknamed after her initials JAS, Jazz grew full of free help during the 1990s as the vendor worked to sustain its MPE business and service its customers.
When HP closed down the labs that maintained Jazz, it licensed the use of these materials to Fresche and to Client Systems. Much of the material remains useful for the 3000 manager who's sustaining a server in homesteading or pre-migration missions. But a click on many links to HP drives users to a Hewlett-Packard technical documentation website where the 3000 knowledge is buried deeper than all but the most patient or seasoned owners can uncover.
Even a request to establish an HP Passport account, which might yield more information, generates an Internal Server Error from Hewlett-Packard today. Everybody's website can have this kind of problem from time to time, but standards for the maker and caretaker of an operating system should be higher than nearly everybody.At the Fresche Legacy site -- known as hpmigrations.com -- a white paper on a Posix scanner is among the software listed.
A Posix scanner? It's a toolkit "that is useful to analyze an application you may want to port to the HP3000. In two steps, external functions called by the code are collected and then reduced into a report showing which functions are or are not available on MPE/iX."
Perhaps of more use to those who aren't porting to MPE is the VT3K software, which links a 3000 with a server HP was calling an HP 9000. That 9000 should be running HP-UX 10.20, a genuinely antique release of HP's Unix.
VT3K allows you to establish a Virtual Terminal connection from a HP9000 to a HP3000. This version of VT3K is being made available to those HP3000 users that are planning on using HP OpenView IT/Operations to manage their HP3000 systems. This version of VT3K is supported on HP-UX servers running 10.20. VT3K is required in order to install the IT/Operations MPE agent on the HP3000.
Fresche isn't responsible for the condition of the links to HP's documentation on the 3000 however, those listed under Jazz at its server. www.docs.hp.com/mpeix/all returns nothing but 404 Not Found connections. The whereabouts of MPE manuals at HP sites is a treasure hunt with no apparent prize at the moment.
But at the Jazz sites you can find SETDATE, which alters the date in a current session under MPE/iX. The sell-by date for HP's links is in such a state that a support company guide might be the only way to uncover what used to be open and hosted by the 3000's creator. Any link that can deliver a document from the licensed independent companies is operative. But a wall of inscrutable web links appears in any reference to HP's own websites.
September 25, 2013
3000 data experts explore Big Data today
In the latest of its Wednesday Webinars, MB Foster looks at the elements of Big Data as they relate to IT planning. Members of your community who are heading to other platforms have better reason to learn more about the concept, since their new systems are likely to need application interfaces to vast tracts of land from the world of data.
The webinar is free and starts at 2PM Eastern Time today. Registration for the interactive audio and PowerPoint presentation is at MB Foster's website.
As data specialists for operational, analytical and migration purposes and thought leaders on the topic of data, we want to accelerate users' understanding of new data-related topics and practices such as Big Data.
As an example of Big Data usage: In the TV show Criminal Minds, Penelope uses her analytical skills to combat crime. She dives into large and complex structured and unstructured data sets (records, mobile devices, video’s and cameras) to help the FBI team capture criminals in the nick of time.
In the webinar, CEO Birket Foster and his team will discuss.
- What is Big Data?
- How might you use it?
- What do you need to do to organize it?
The subject has potential for employment opportunity. One IBM analysis reveals that every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data and almost 90 percent of the total data in the world has been created just in the last two years. Within five years, the US could be at a 140,000-worker shortage for Big Data IT workers. The expertise is driven into four buckets of skillsets: Data scientist, data architect, data visualizer and data change agent.
According to a Computerworld roundup of the skills among those buckets, it seems that data architect -- the kind of expertise that Foster's software has enabled ever since the earliest days of its DataExpress -- falls closest to 3000-built experience.
Data architects: Programmers who are good at working with messy data, disparate types of data, undefined data and lots of ambiguity. They may be people with traditional programming or business intelligence backgrounds, and are often familiar with statistics programs. They need the creativity and persistence to be able to harness the data in new ways to create new insights.
September 23, 2013
Tuning Out HP News by Labeling it Noise
When something fresh or different enters your IT landscape, it's a good business practice to make time to understand it. A new software application, a different way of defining your networks, the scorecard on your vendor's turnaround. Those first two items are easier to analyze than the third, but a vendor's business news is not noise.
Few communities understand this listening better than the customers who own HP 3000s and run MPE. Their status might be homesteading, or migrating, or homesteading until a migration is possible. But when Hewlett-Packard ended its futures in the 3000 market, it did so because of what it called trouble in the "ecosystem." That's not a jungle of plants and animals outside HP's corporate HQ. The ecosystem is the collection of companies doing business for a platform's users. HP didn't like the look of its 3000 ecosystem. It couldn't do anything more about it, so the vendor pulled up stakes and closed its lab.
The world-rocking difference in that case was HP's business decision, not a technical shortfall. That vendor didn't tick off the missing elements of software (it had skipped out on doing a 64-bit MPE) or the hardware (slim and cheaper servers for Unix customers, but not MPE users). HP talked about the rest of the world's businesses and what it planned to do about connecting with them. It was consistent about choice: Unix, Windows, and other things not crafted by HP.
That's news, but in some quarters HP's business conditions are being labeled noise. The Chief Marketing Officer for the Connect user group Nina Buik not only believes that "the media earns its keep by making noise," she advising members to tune out news like HP's departure from the Dow Jones Industrials. Not important, she wrote this month. The drop from the Dow is symbolic, but it won't change things overnight. Few customers pick a vendor on the basis of its Dow membership. Investors do, and that impacts working capital and profits and growth funding. Dow is interesting, but Buik calls it noise compared to the HP message about becoming monolithic.
That's not really news, except in the latest five-year plan to execute it. Hewlett-Packard has been trying to act as a single company since the moment it started selling PCs in the 1980s. Its quest to monolithic futures is as constant as the direction of rain. Rain falls downward, as it always has.
News and noise can be confused, or just overlooked on purpose. If you don't want to include your vendor's business condition, you might be surprised -- like some of HP's OpenVMS users were -- when the futures run out. You'd want to hear the warnings about that, wouldn't you?Ah, but it's so much simpler, more sweeping to say that since HP's turnaround message is consistent, it's a conversation, instead of noise. Buik shared that view on the user group's website
Of course news about HP, its customers and partners are of special interest to me, because it may or may not be something that impacts our members... noise or conversation?
Recently, I read that the Dow dropped HP and replaced it with financial giant, Visa. While it was newsworthy, I put it in the noise bucket. HP’s Meg Whitman is very focused on her plan to turn the company around and back into the world’s leader of enterprise technology and innovation. Now THAT is a conversation! Adding to that conversation is the notion of ONE HP. I’ve heard this a lot over the past year and I’m looking forward to seeing the monolith come together and sell to customers in a unified, efficient and strategic manner. Otherwise ONE HP becomes noise. After all, there is only ONE HP!
There are many HPs. Some of them require a lot of overhead and generate a thick forest of partners, but scant profits. Another HP is focused on changes in IT shops -- HP works to earn profits as a provider of change services. Then there's the HP that created enterprise servers in focused markets. It's become a very small HP. Some of those markets have fallen from HP's turnaround plan. Others will follow. You don't turn things around by doing the same things, unless those things are profitable and offer growth.
What’s more important is the fact that the first 18 months at the helm, her focused message about who HP is its financial strength, its core focus areas, mutual trust, and the value of the enterprise ecosystem, consistent and crystal clear. Now that’s a conversation.
Those are only conversations when a vendor is responsive to your business needs, flexible about cost of ownership and capital expense, and ready to sustain value in a customer's investment. You'll read about stakeholders sitting with IT and talking about what to buy or build to grow a business. That's important, but those are also talks in private. A user group can do good work when it encourages members to share the best practices from such talks.
Failing that opportunity, you hope to get smarter by finding new information about such practices elsewhere. You'd like the practices to be sized for your organization, too. HP is still in the business of telling the world about its biggest deals, as if it that makes them a better vendor for any size of customer. Sometimes there's news about technology coming from the vendor's marketing group. Just listen to HP's news.
"HP today unveiled a suite of stylish consumer PCs, tablets and services including the world’s first notebook PC with integrated Leap Motion technology." Now, LeapMotion is a gesture-driven technology that's a candidate for replacing some trackpad functions. Noise or news? As always, it depends on whatever's important to the business units which you serve as an IT pro.
You can decide if part of your IT planning includes your vendor's business reports. If you'd like to hear what HP says in specific about its business plans, anyone can access a webpage to listen every 90 days to CEO Meg Whitman. She answers questions, live. It's recorded for later listening, too. It's the only regular conversation you'll hear from HP's leader. It happens because business analysts demand answers, because they want to process and parse new developments. And Whitman's recent answers have included notes about how its Unix servers have stopped being a growth business. The whole BCS unit has stopped growing.
The last time HP took notice of a server business and its growth forecasts, it was the 3000's. This summer the OpenVMS departure clock began to tick. If HP's among your preferred vendors, don't kid yourself. Business matters take a front seat in your vendor's plans. People don't make decisions about IT based entirely on a turnaround CEO's message, no matter how consistent. People using HP servers were once called programmer analysts. They might not program much any more, but they still need to analyze. You need information that's current to do that. A consistent message is important to a turnaround mantra, but probably doesn't keep pace with change.
September 19, 2013
Finding Your Way Into Mastering Data
At one point or another, all data in an IT manager's world in our community was related to MPE and the HP 3000. That day might be today, or it could have been last year, or in the previous century. The prospects for the future of data management are shaped by the existing design of data flow as well as business practices. Those practices define a Master Data Management plan on your migration platform as a business issue, according to MB Foster.
The company's CEO Birket Foster led a webinar on Masters of Data Management last week. "The first thing to do is look at your application portfolio," he said. That begins with a list of applications and their attributes, then fan-tails out to the sources of the data for those apps. Methods to add, change or delete, as well as where data is stored, are other elements to track.
"You want to find the code that relates to each of the screens or batch processes that deal with database items," Foster said. "You want to look at how you enforce those edits of the data."
You also want to understand the architecture of the data, he added, even when you can't control that architecture.Off the shelf apps arrive with their own architecture, usually one that a database manager didn't establish. That's often a non-issue for a classic 3000 shop; most of those companies rolled their own apps. But it becomes an issue when an app on a new platform, cloud or onsite, must replace customized 3000 code. Migrating companies usually end up with something off the shelf.
Foster mentioned that the databases his company is studying for its customers "are just getting retrofitted for geo-location, because it turns out if you put pin-pricks on a map, aligned to data, you can get a whole diferent picture of what's going on." Where a model of car was purchased, or mapping addresses of your patients who have had hip replacements, for example. Marketing benefits from such new data alignments.
Such retrofitting must wade into existing data structures. A data manager might benefit from having professional services to understand and control how these retrofits can be integrated.
The biggest thing in the process is "to figure out where data is held, edited, and where it's searched from," Foster said. He added that his company does an X-ray to show where data is used in apps, or what reports get fed by that data. The main message is to start with a team of people across the effort who can work together "to drive the quality of the data, to make sure it's represented across your enterprise in the same way," said Foster's Account Manager Chris Whitehead.
In addition to being parts of Master Data Management, data cleansing, completion and updating are subjects of a Gartner Group study of Customer Data Integration. List consolidation, purging of duplicates, merging records: this is the work of CDI. Adding new information to existing data -- like the legacy and founding databases at 3000 sites who're on the way to a new platform -- makes it more useful to a company.
Gartner's study denotes six levels of awareness of Master Data Management
- 1. Initial awareness of the problem, but no specifics
- 2. Developing -- firefighting mode, isolated
- 3. Defined -- Silo-level initiatives
- 4. Managed -- higher-level organizational sponsor, unified version of data
- 5. Optimizing -- a defined process, managing your data as an asset
- 6. A continuous learning process
"The thing that's changed about this over the years is that it's not only about the data that might show up in something like a retailer's cash register tape," Foster said. "Now it can be data that also shows up on your website, or a description in a brochure. Or there might be instructions to a customer on how to assemble a purchased product, like something from IKEA."
It's all master data that an IT director needs to be able to be aware of, in order to use it well. Once you've figured out where all the data is, and the workflows in your organization which use that data, then you can to creating One Version of the Truth for the data. This is Master Data Management. "You make sure that if data gets changed in one spot, it gets changed in all the others," Foster said. "How are the fields defined, and who sets those rules? Are they enforced by the programs?"
This really about helping your business, he added. "You have to put stewards in place, with good governance and good policies behind the effort in order to make yourself successful." Creating a plan for Master Data Management means consistent practices, uses a boardroom walk through for buy-in, and can drill in to look at data. The plan must be kept current over time, remembering all stakeholders. "Transparency in the plan can help with a data-driven company," Foster said. "There might be five different places where customer data is kept, and you need to track all of them. Without MDM, it makes it trickier. You have to put in some kind of mechanism in your organization to get there."
September 11, 2013
HP dives out of the Dow Jones average
It was a pretty good run for awhile -- 16 years of Hewlett-Packard stock being part of the greatest run-up in Wall Street securities history. But this week the Dow Jones organization announced the biggest shake-up in the average in a decade, removing Hewlett-Packard's shares. The stock lost half of its value, then regained nearly all of it, in a turbulent 18 months that ushered it out of the best-known average.
The change takes effect with the close of trading on Sept. 20, and was "prompted by the low stock price of the companies slated for removal, and the Index Committee's desire to diversify the sector and industry group representation of the index," according to S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, the company that oversees the Dow. Alcoa Aluminum and Bank of America are also being removed.
HP's shares are not trading much lower than in 1997 when it joined the average. In that year, HP traded at $25.75 a share, just $3 higher than today's price. It became only the second computing company to join the 1997 Dow; Johnson & Johnson, Travelers Group and WalMart were added to the index that year as well. All but HP remain part of the index of international business. The Dow average was about 6700 when HP was added. Today it's above 15,000.
The HP of 1997 had no significant Internet presence, playing catch-up to Sun. Hewlett-Packard also was scurrying to adopt Windows as an enterprise solution, having gambled heavy on Unix through the 1990s instead. That year's Hewlett-Packard also sold HP 3000 Series 9x9 servers, a solution that was just gaining its first open source software programs as well as dropping the Classic CISC-based servers that ran MPE V. HP was a $43 billion company that year with a workforce of 121,000.
But many things have changed along with HP's overall futures and fortunes. In the summer of 1997, 3000 division manager Harry Sterling, in just his first full year on the job, announced that the HP 3000 would be gaining a 64-bit MPE, with designs aimed at using the newest HP chips.Unix came in for specific mention in HP's annual report of 1997, as did Windows NT and a splash about running Barnes & Noble's website with HP gear. (Amazon, still not making a profit, was driven by Linux and Sun systems.) But while the HP of that year pointed to its commodity-grade environments during an era when an OS meant as much as application availability, the HP 3000's future was painted in bright shades at an HP World conference on a steamy Navy Pier in Chicago.
"The growth of the HP 3000 is secure well into the 21st century," Sterling said. "Our engineers are working on a new generation of HP 3000s based on the 64-bit PA-8200 chip." HP said that a new 200MHz, 8200-based system would arrive in the lineup first as a midrange system.
More importantly, HP said it re-evaluated its 1996 decision to wait on delivering a 64-bit implementation of MPE/iX. The new MPE version will "fully exploit the power of the PA-8000 processors. After better understanding your needs, our completed investigations have convinced me that we need to move forward on this front," Sterling said.
HP stalled on its 64-bit MPE/iX program in the years that followed, delivering its final roadmap with a 3000 future on it during an HP World conference in Chicago again, four years later.
Visa International is replacing HP in the Dow Average, the Index Committee reports. Also joining the 30 companies in the average: Nike and Goldman Sachs. The index is designed to represent a broad spectrum of businesses and has included former companies such as ATT and GM. The biggest shift in its membership since the HP removal came in 2004, when "Too Big to Fail" AIG, Pfizer and Verizon replaced ATT, Kodak and International Paper. AIG was dropped in 2008.
Computing firms in the Dow are now represented by IBM, Microsoft and Intel. The latter two vendors joined the average just two years after HP arrived.
September 09, 2013
Community needs story, regardless of media
Just as I was closing out our latest printed issue, our 139th in paper, we got word about a new entry into the HP 3000 emulation derby. It's software that wishes it could enable Intel PCs to boot MPE/iX. It's a long way from ready for prime time. Most of the problem lies in the fact that the effort is open-sourced. There's no open source for the MPE boot routines inside PA-RISC.
You might not even call this one a market entry, largely because it’s open sourced. It would not ever really be for sale, not any more than Linux was ever sold in the first 15 years of its lifespan. Open source relies on the volunteer time of brilliant minds. Some day, marketing and sales might be handled over the Web as well as Git stores program code repositories. However, for putting software into production that will be running a company, there’s nothing like an old-school visit in person, in a meeting room, with customer technicians on hand. That's sales today. And probably sales tomorrow, too.
We might be headed toward a day when some old-school standards seem just old, rather than classic and proven. This momentum is gathering quickly in my world of words for publication. This summer we saw the departure of InformationWeek from the ranks of printed publications. The weekly that covered the HP departure from the 3000 world, as well as HP’s e3000 rebranding of the box, is now a weekly publication of about five articles per issue. That’s around 20 a month, or the same number we put onto the Web in our blog.
Web-based publication can do some things that print struggles to do these days. Some publishers remain devoted to the printed look, but can provide on a laptop screen, or in the case of the picture at left, on a 27-inch desktop. (Go ahead, click on it to see how close that Esquire page can be reproduced on the screen.) Online publications can be searched in a way print won't provide. (Go ahead, click on the link off our front page banner where it says Download our latest print issue. You get a PDF file that can be searched.) What's more, such online information reaches readers nobody knows, people who care about the subject but have escaped the commonplace radar. Anybody hear of Innovest as a 3000 site? We just did this month.
In 18 years of collecting and curating customer names, this one from New York escaped us. But then so did Turbosoft, the Australian firm that started to market its $49.95 iPad app up on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn. A rollout, on a localized website.
The Web provides ways to change the formula for information industries. Some companies never climb on the back of this tiger, while others work to make their paper versions look and behave just like print. Three years ago a company called Zinio was ready to take advantage of the juggernaut of tablets launched by the iPad. Right out of the box at the tablet's debut. This summer they’ve got scores of magazines online, readable through an app, or displayed in glorious 27-inch color on a desktop screen.
I read Esquire and love the online version — which I pay for— better than the print. I still keep print copies around for reference, but they’re not easy to dig into. There’s that index and searching thing that’s tough to offer on paper.
The same sort of quantum leap beckons from the edge of the cloud revolution. We’ve heard of a project to offer proof of concept installations for the Stromasys emulator — that’s the tested emulator, proven at sites and fully licensed for MPE — via the cloud. A company called Datapipe is working with Stromasys to offer these proofs. Some 3000 customers don’t want the hardware in their shop anymore. Just MPE, IMAGE and a proven set of applications.
The Web takes away old-school habits whenever it can improve, and then prove. What will never go away is our need for stories. How we deliver them can always evolve.
September 04, 2013
MPE's Skies app flies from Open to New
A healthy clutch of HP 3000 N-Class servers is going onto the used market soon, the result of a migration off of MPE. These computers represent a couple of futures, one dreamed of in 1998, and another, the reality of some 2013 computing for MPE.
The servers have been running the Open Skies application almost since the N-Class was released. Open Skies in its first incarnation was a software company with an application by the same name. Southwest Airlines put Open Skies, with its reservation breakthroughs, into everyday use. The application only ran on MPE/iX. In time, in a move characteristic of another Hewlett-Packard, the vendor purchased the Open Skies software company. The deal was designed to show markets of 1998 what could be done with an HP 3000 and cloud-based apps. At the time, HP was calling the strategy Apps on Tap.
Here in the waning days of summer 2013, what remains of Open Skies has been migrated to Windows .NET by Accenture and its Navitaire division. Industry-standard environments are easy choices for companies like Accenture, a consulting company that grew out of the '90s-era Anderson Consulting. The migrated app is called New Skies and now takes over for Open Skies completely. Airlines around the world used Open Skies to perform revenue accounting on online ticket sales. But at one time, even the fundamental concept of online ticket sales was a novelty. It was led into the world by MPE servers.
Mark Ranft has been managing the transition from the Skies which were Open to the Skies that are New. The work has been performed for Navitaire, a company Accenture created when HP sold off Open Skies at the end of 2000. Of course, less than a year later, that generation of Hewlett-Packard, led by its revenue growth queen Carly Fiorina, ended 3000 futures at the vendor.
Ranft says that of the 35 N-Class servers which did revenue accounting for airline customers, about six are still installed and will be sold now that the migration is complete. The final customer relying on Open Skies, rather than the New Skies .NET replacement, switched off the 3000 this year. Open Skies founder Dave Evans wrote an eulogy and history for the software that put HP into the airline business.
"We were successful because of the rock-solid nature of HP 3000 and IMAGE," Evans said, "and we competed with the legacy mainframes. But we are set to retire our HP 3000 Airline/Rail reservation system Open Skies after 19 years of faithful service."
Over these years it has been responsible for the efficient handling of over 1.5 Billion passengers. I'm sure many of you have flown carriers that have used the Open Skies system over those years -- more than 60 airlines around the world have used Open Skies. Here is a brief history:
1986 - Morris Air Charters (in Salt Lake City) converted a basic Tour Operator/Charter booking system from our Zicomp minicomputer to a HP 3000 Series 42
1992/1993 - I wrote MARS (Morris Air Reservation System) on the HP 3000. MARS was the first true Ticketless airline reservation system. Remember when you had to have tickets to fly?
1994 - Morris Air merged into Southwest Airlines. MARS became the base of Southwest Airlines Ticketless system for over 10 years.
1994 - Open Skies company was founded -- Open Skies was the next generation of ticketless systems written on the HP 3000.
1995/1997 - With the help of Adager we convinced Southwest Airlines (SWA) that the HP 3000 and IMAGE could support them better than a mainframe, and we commenced a project to write a reservation system for Southwest. That project actually went very well -- we also enlisted the help of Quest's Netbase to get the scale and reliability we needed. Unfortunately, Y2K panic popped up its ugly head, and the current SWA reservation system vendor pushed SWA to invest a lot of money to ensure that their system would work in Y2K. Eventually, for many reasons, SWA decided to invest in the current system and shut down the project.
1998 - Open Skies company WAS sold to Hewlett-Packard Company and became one of the launch "Software as a Service" products for HP.
2000 - Apparently Hewlett-Packard didn't want to do Software as a Service anymore, at least with the airlines. They focused on the more profitable printers, PCs, Servers, and we all know where that got them. Thanks, Carly. She sold us to Navitaire/Accenture in November 2000.
2002 - After HP announced the end of HP 3000, we began a project to rewrite Open Skies on newer technology -- we chose Microsoft .Net. and MS SQL for the database for "New Skies".
2005 - New Skies was launched, first front to back new technology Airline (and bus and rail) Passenger Service System. Major competitors are Amadeus and Sabre, both still rely on Mainframes.
2005 - 2013 ... New Skies has now booked around 1.6 Billion passengers for over 50 Airlines in 30 countries.
Fall of 2013 - last Open Skies customer will move to New Skies. Going to be a sad day...
We owe the success of Open Skies really to many people, many of you in this [community]. We have had our struggles over the years, but this community has always been there to help us.
Our systems are mission-critical, 24x7x365.25 in nature. We have seen many competitors come and go over the years -- their downfall was usually caused by a lack of operational stability and performance scalability. It was easy to pick off all the guys in the '90s that architected their systems on 'open systems,' Unix, and relational databases.
Again, thanks to all who have pushed the HP 3000 forward over the years. Open Skies will probably not make the history books, especially in relation to the HP 3000, but together they did change history for the traveling masses.
August 29, 2013
Data migration requires disk, plus planning
We've written about data migration as the precursor to any kind of transition. Yesterday MB Foster held a webinar to dive deeper into the strategies that can give an IT manager advantages while migrating.
The company says that the drivers for for moving data from one device to another include "Data refreshes, server and application consolidation, data center relocation, data classification/taxonomy, analytics/BI, reporting, MDM, Big Data and mergers/acquisitions. You’d think that any operation performed routinely would become easy. But alas, it is not so."
"These migrations are never going to be trivial, based on our experiences with customers. Not until you've got them scoped, figured out and automated. Even two companies using the exact same application might have stored things in their databases slightly differently."
The webinar included a demonstration of MB Foster’s processes using its product UDACentral, a data migration solution. There was also a mention of a new software tool that can look inside of databases, to see data that would benefit from being merged. For example, many different colors of black inside the records of a garment warehousing application.
Y2K experiences taught the MB Foster team that there are special case date types being used in applications. Among these are zero dates, where zeros were placed into records when the date was unknown; a sentinel date, where a user wasn't sure when an event would occur, so all 9's got placed in the field; as well as invalid dates.
"Those are all dates that you need to understand, and understand early," said CEO Birket Foster.
"We're working on a series of tools will tell you what's in a database, so you could go in and say, 'Dump the vocabulary for this field called color," he said. "One of the customers who'd like us to be doing some work for them has 12 ways of spelling black right now. They're in the retail business, and they know from the buyer to receiving to the distribution center, to stores and to analytics, different spellings of black will produce different results." With 40,000 SKUs, this site is worried about how to aggregate these useages and spellings to black becomes common to all SKUs.
"We think you should automate the process of data migration as much as possible," Foster said. "No migration of data is done once. It's done at least three times." First and second migrations are done to test, and the third is to go live.
"Your objective is not to custom-code every one of your migrations," he added. It's to automate the data extraction, as well as the on-board loading of data to the target database or platform.
The webinar demonstrated the migration of SQL Server data to an Oracle database, (shown above) as a means of showing what the UDACentral software can do to lift and shift data to popular databases, manage complex data structures and mitigate risks.
August 23, 2013
Rocky HP Q3 triggers replacement reorg
Hewlett-Packard has announced another skid in its fortunes for the servers designed to replace HP 3000s. This time around, the results were so disappointing that the Enterprise business unit had its Executive VP removed from the job.
It's not that the numbers for this period were out of line with the last eight quarters. (Details above) But the malaise of the sales at Business Critical Systems -- where the Integrity servers have been losing revenue and profit -- has spread to the sales of the ProLiant systems as well. BCS, which still gets its own baggage to carry in the HP quarterly reports, dropped another 26 percent of sales versus 2012's Q3.
How small has BCS become? It's a question which can be answered at last. HP reported that sales of the Integrity systems' unit represented 4 percent of the total $6.8 billion of the Enterprise group. That's $272 million in sales of HP-UX, NonStop, and OpenVMS servers and related peripherals for a 3-month period. Less than 1 percent of HP's sales, or a run rate of just over $1 billion a year. Except that it's been running downhill since 2011, and Dave Donatelli was all but fired for the results.
HP's CEO Meg Whitman reported that Donatelli -- who came to HP in a contested job change from EMC -- will be "on special assignment," instead of running the futures and fortunes of HP's Enterprise servers. The group includes Industry Standard Xeon-based ProLiants. The whole unit dropped another $600 million in sales during Q3. Like so many of the dropping units on the HP report, the group was listed as working in a "tough compare" to the 2012 business.
Which would make for a good explanation, until you remember HP reported a record loss for last year's Q3. Analysts said after the call that the HP results show, as Mad Money's Jim Cramer brayed, "HP needs three things: new product, worldwide growth and a lot of luck."The only part of the HP third quarter that didn't slip was the Software group. No growth, but no decline in sales, either. All of the declining -- from the steep 26 percent at BCS, to the smallest of 4 percent in Printing --was against the Q3 of 2012. While sales were off by 8 percent company-wide, HP reported a total of $1.7 billion in profits overall after it took its writedowns and amortizations. The Enterprise Group, home to HP Servers, still contributed $1 billion to that total profit. The Enterprise profits dropped 20 percent in real dollars from last year, however.
The company has been maintaining its overall profitability by shaving down costs. Whitman, like her predecessor Mark Hurd, calls this becoming more efficient. The solutions in the business servers unit will run to things like investment in the support of the sales force and operations. Or getting better organized in marketing and product management. Growth is supposed to come from leveraging accounts between Enterprise Services -- another slipping unit -- and Enterprise Servers group.
The slipping results didn't shake out to the bottom line of profits because of those cost savings. HP eliminated another 3,800 jobs in the period. That's a small percentage of the 22,000 it's shaved away for the last 18 months. HP still employs about 300,000 people worldwide.
The actual numbers came out early on August 22, eight hours before the explanations from Whitman and CFO Cathie Lesjak. All day the stock got sold down, losing 14 percent of its value and driving down the Dow by five points all by itself. There was no bounceback during the trading day that followed, which is unusual. A Dow Jones company that takes a swoon like this often gets bought up in the aftermath at the lower prices. HPQ shares recovered just 18 cents.
That might be due to the adjustment of analyst expectations. While HP might have avoided a nose-dive by beating profit estimates, it's become "The Incredible Shrinking Company" (Seeking Alpha) or "headed for an abyss" (ValueWalk). At MarketWatch, John Shinal wrote, "Far from engineering a turnaround, Whitman is overseeing what looks more and more like a voyage to the bottom of the sea." One analyst house shifted its advice from "hold" to "sell" after the report's numbers came out.
Customers care about more the numbers in pricing, however. The forecasts of recovery are often left to business journalists, analysts, and fund managers to fret over. At the Motley Fool, author Anders Bylund noted that "HP never resorted to the ultimate panic strategy of deep discounts in the hunt for revenue targets. Product prices remained firm." That means that despite the loss of business, HP didn't lower pricing for customers and prospects. The stock has "just about matched the Dow's one-year returns." HP's got the advantage of rebounding off an $11.65 nadir last fall. Anything in the $20s seems better.
However, a computer supplier needs to be on a mission to do more than protect its share price and return cash to investors. HP's biggest number on its own infographic touted $283 million returned to shareholders. That counts share buybacks as well as dividends. The fine print for Q3: HP curtailed its share buyback program for "material, non-public information that prevented us from [repurchasing stock]." Nobody asked what that meant during a one-hour analyst call, so it must not be important to financial experts.
The fine print on the infographic was reserved for the percentage in lost sales.
Whitman said more than once that she's satisfied with the progress of what she calls a five-year turnaround project. "We have re-ignited innovation at HP," she said. Then she allowed that more acquisitions, which Whitman halted at first, would have to help spark new products. "We’re very focused, but acquisitions are going to have to be a part of this turnaround," she told analysts in her call. (You can listen for yourself at HP's investor website. Full numbers are at the main page of that site, too.)
Later on, Whitman said that "HP is the product of many acquisitions," going back to the Compaq purchase that triggered the HP 3000 pullout. She added that not all of the acquisitions have been integrated fully.
"We have more work to do," she said. While noting that HP's in a happy place for cash: paying off a $1.2 billion note, buying stock, paying dividends -- Whitman said that an overall increase in sales for 2013 wouldn't be happening. Pockets of the company will see sales increases.
Which pockets increase might have an effect on the fortunes of futures for some products. Whitman said HP's got three segments of businesses, and its "heavily weighted now toward declining businesses."
August 15, 2013
HP wins suit on strength of weak standard
This week a Federal judge ruled that HP won't have to pay lawsuit damages after a CEO violated a code of conduct for the company's workers. The alleged harrassment by Mark Hurd was not studied as closely as that code of conduct for Hewlett-Packard.
Though HP's standards brochure contained provisions like, "We are open, honest, and direct in all our dealings," District Judge Jon Tigar found that such comments aren't material statements. The wording in the code was vague enough that some major shareholders, led by the Cement & Concrete Workers District Council Pension Fund, don't get to collect damages in a lawsuit because the judge called the HP code "puffery."
It's not shocking that a sexual harassment case, one that been broadcast in a lurid story, wouldn't end in jail time for Hurd, or a fine against HP. Those are big players with great legal representation. Hurd's amorous advances earned him a spot at Oracle selling Sun servers, so well that the Business Critical Systems division hasn't had a good quarter since he left HP.
It's probably not even surprising that a current HP code has a vague wording. Somehow, it took more than 18 months to decide that in a District Court matter. What is genuinely surprising is that any corporation code would be considered a cut above a prayer or an advertisement. The old Hewlett-Packard -- the company that current CEO Meg Whitman says remains in the new HP's DNA -- would see a code as a promise. It worded the copy of the HP Way clearly enough that it could defend its practices. Corporate-level creeds such as standards brochures are low bars to clear. Nothing as concrete, so to speak, as "profit is the best single measure of our contribution to society and the ultimate source of our corporate strength. We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives."
That's the old HP, considered benevolent and collegial, talking there in the HP Way. Profit was the biggest goal. Today HP takes its commitment to green manufacturing and the environment more seriously than corporate officer accountability. This is important to remember when choosing a systems vendor for a migration project.The District Court ruled this week that "Adoption of the [shareholder] argument would still render every code of ethics materially misleading, whenever an executive commits an ethical violation following a scandal." Scandal has no impact on a code of ethics in 2013. A shareholder cares more about this than a customer, unless the scandal leads to a weaker pipeline of products and services.
One of the things that can weaken a pipeline is a stronger competitor. Nobody will argue Oracle isn't stronger than it was in 2010, when Mark Hurd was testifying about his romantic advances. (He said he didn't have any, that it was all a misunderstanding.)
HP tried to block releasing the letter of allegations that attorney Gloria Allred filed about those encounters. Whether they are true in their entirety, or just in parts, there's a lot of detail in an account that asserts "You told her to be quiet because there were bodyguards in a room next door [to your hotel room.]"
Accountability from a corporation is a matter of trust. An IT director can be pragmatic, even a cynic, and say you'd better not expect much from any entity that's said for more than 50 years, "We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives." So long as those objectives are carrying you to the next IT platform, HP's a good choice for a partner. Just beware of the puffery. It can show up in places like a corporate speech or a conference, as well as in a Code of Ethics.
August 14, 2013
Having support is a matter of needs
One of the broadest brushes used on MPE systems is "they're no longer supported." This is one way to view the departure of HP from the support options for a 3000 server. Using this perspective, the 3000 was a safe choice in the period ending in 2008 — because no matter who did the everyday critical support, Hewlett-Packard engineers were always a last-resort option under time and materials contracts. Many HP 3000s were not under HP support at the time the vendor announced its exit plan. They were supported, however.
But an unsupported system sounds risky, doesn't it? It's not tough to find computing functions that didn't evolve on the 3000. Many are in the open source categories, such as Java, or SSH server abilities. Others involve fundamental services like domain name hosting. DNS programs like bind never caught on as 3000 tools. And you know, there's just not much call for word processing on HP-UX systems, either.
Reasonable IT planners will get the point. When you need SSH server ability hosted on a 3000, the lack of it will reduce the MPE system's utility. Perhaps enough to make it look risky. Security updates come to mind, but a computer needs a great payback for hackers to throw a flood of malware at it. Windows XP will provide this next year, when the security updates cease. MPE/iX, not so much.
Just this week we located a genuine use for the missing SSH server ability on a 3000. As it turns out, SSH would be very useful if your 3000 users were working from iPads.How's that even possible? A terminal emulator has emerged that puts a block mode terminal onto the screen of iOS devices. (For practical purposes, you wouldn't want to rely too long on an iPhone-sized terminal.) But TTerm Pro will emulate HP's 2392, 700/92 and 700/94 terminals.
"TTerm supports both Telnet and SSH, but since there is no SSH server for the HP 3000, TTerm cannot speak SSH to MPE directly," Diercks writes in a mini-review. There is a way around this, as there has been for more than seven years since an OpenSSH client was ported to the 3000. Set up a tunnel to a router or another system.
The lack of support for features and advances doesn't stop at corner cases for MPE/iX. Serious shortcomings are around many corners, depending on how far your system needs to reach into our heterogenous computing world. But to call a system unsupported when the vendor isn't an option to repair it -- well, that was true when HP had all the answers to what might fell a 3000 from the forest of service. Database problems, critical ones, got discovered in independent vendor labs last decade, for example.
A more serious lack of support might come from the narrowing inventory of HP-branded components. While those impressive 4GB LDEV 1s might be too cheap to charge for, they're only out there on scrapped systems or the shelves of real support vendors. Motherboards, CPUs -- much tougher to grab. This is a reason why there's a virtualization option to keep MPE/iX running beyond the lifespan of components with the HP label.
Making a migration is a tried and true way to eliminate risks of relying on an HP 3000. But if that risk is a lack of support from the vendor, then vendor support should be essential for every system in the IT datacenter. Dell support for the Dell servers, Apple support for the iPads, HP support for the PA-RISC HP 9000s. If an independent company can be trusted to support any of those systems -- or even finally bring tablets into the world of 3000 terminal access -- won't third party supporters get the job done for MPE/iX systems?
The answer will be a better one for the companies which know why, or why not. Those are the finer brushes with which to paint the future of relying on MPE/iX.
August 13, 2013
Glossary to the Future: ITIL, APM, and rank
A 3000 manager's career was once rooted in technology. In the future it will be rooted in management, even when the 3000 in the datacenter is a virtualized one. The most secure place to manage IT is on an executive team. ITIL and APM can help get you earn enough rank to get a seat at that table. (Rank, not stripes, but we'll get to that in a minute.)
Tomorrow, MB Foster offers a webinar on these two concepts. One is a standard (ITIL) and the other a strategy (Application Portfolio Management). Both are designed to make your work more essential to your employer.
"The challenge for IT is adopting a business- and customer-focused approach in terms of delivering high quality IT services," Foster's invitation explains. "Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) mitigates these challenges."
Application Portfolio Management (APM) provides IT departments and management visibility and clearly defines insight into critical applications and data with actionable information on the business value and fit and the technical condition of each application.
The webinar starts at 2PM EDT tomorrow, with an online signup at Foster's website. When combined, ITIL and APM provide guidance to organizations on how to use IT to facilitate business change, transformation, growth and benefits -- and where to focus investment. It's an interesting time for enterprise server management, with cloud and virtualization options front and center. Investment is going to be a constant wedge to get into corporate discussions.What do ITIL and APM have to do with the HP 3000? More than five years ago, the enterprise computer user group Connect said the audience it serves includes far fewer technologists, as it called them. That doesn't necessarily mean there are few technologists out there, but it's become historic thinking to believe they'll get a place in the corporate conversation.
Or as HP's CEO Meg Whitman said in a speech at a conference hosted at Disneyland last month, "Everyone in this room is no longer down in the engine room of the ship. You are all up in the bridge consulting with the captain. She added that HP "is here to help you earn your stripes," which is where her nautical metaphor broke down. (A technologist would point out that most captains of ships wear their rank on their shoulders, but only sometimes on their sleeves.)
We've written about ITIL and APM before today (The new IT library that HP reads, and writes; as well as App Portfolio Management: Get IT into the Boardroom). But six years later, these are still in the future for some 3000 managers. Foster's webinar promises to explain how these concepts can help in the following:
• Aligning IT services with business needs
• Known and manageable IT costs
• Financial savings from improved resource management
• Effective change management
• Improve time to market for new products and services
• Improved user and customer satisfaction
ITIL defines the services required by the business units and puts in place service definitions for the services provided, including SLA’s (Service Level Agreements). IT services are crucial functions that require continual investments and resources to support, deliver and maintain IT systems. The challenge for IT departments and managers is adopting, a business and customer focused approach in terms of delivering high quality IT services.
Implementation of APM and its process, measurement and framework will effect decision making, application lifecycle, current and future IT investments, upgrades, operations, replacements and budgets. Application Portfolio Management will make the current state of the application portfolio visible and quantify the current applications by business fit and IT fit.
August 12, 2013
HP Ready to Renew VMS, Like It Did for You
Even after HP stopped making HP 3000s in 2003, it did not stop selling the servers. No, not those holdover orders placed at the end of '03, computers which were not delivered until the spring of 2004. Cast your memory back to 2005 and 2006, when servers and their MPE licenses were advertised from the company's used computer unit, HP Renew.
Now there's another chapter to this song of sayonara. Customers using OpenVMS systems built on Integrity can buy older machines from HP Renew. "HP Renew helps you to develop, migrate or augment your IT infrastructure at your own pace, without impacting efficiency," says its website. The Integrity 9300 series i2 blades and rackmount servers are on sale, only slightly used.
HP 3000s are not offered in HP Renew any longer. They once were, at the same time as independent resellers and brokers sold this iron. HP iron is "the monkey on your back," according to virtualization vendor Stromasys. You get the monkey off by going to Intel servers that run Linux, and then MPE in that cradle. The monkey is PA-RISC servers.
But the vendor still sells HP 9000 PA-RISC systems through HP Renew, servers built with identical hardware as the HP 3000 iron. There's an HP-UX license sold with these HP 9000s, computers that are 10 years behind HP's latest HP-UX Integrity servers. Today the HP 3000 iron, with its discs of varying age, comes from the resale markets. You get them from vendors like Pivital Solutions (one of the last authorized 3000 resellers), or the MPE Support Group, or even on eBay. HP's turned away from the 3000 customer, as it will for nearly all of them except those who use industry standard environments. Right now that looks like it will be Linux and Windows -- but we're not that certain about the latter, for the longest run.
Whatever the length of its promises which have passed away, the current HP CEO has passed on an ideal that HP never did lose its customer focus. At a recent conference, Meg Whitman gave a speech that concocted a company that would never leave a customer out of its heart. OpenVMS users have already been told their OS will be left off of the next generation of Itanium. There's no other chip that runs OpenVMS, just like no other iron will run HP-UX. Oh, except those 10-year-old PA-RISC systems. Is that resold iron better than nothing when a customer needs a replacement system?Speaking as the keynoter at the Nth Generation Symposium -- at Disneyland, no less -- the CEO said
Customers have always been at the heart of HP. We're one of the only companies, maybe the only company, equally strong in devices, infrastructure and services.
But the unraveling of strong strands with customers has already begun for VMS. HP is demonstrating it's not strong enough to pull OpenVMS into the next generation of Itanium. It's a path similar to the one the vendor took for MPE and the HP 3000, failing to keep a HP-created business server relevant.
Relevance is even more important than being at the heart of HP. Relevance is like being in the soul of a vendor's futures, maybe even in its DNA. The HP 3000 was probably only at HP's heart for about 7 years -- that period before the rise of Windows and Unix, when a customized and proprietary OS was the way to keep customers strong. Like IBM's continued to do with its System i. You might know it as AS/400, as its loyal customers do.
But such vendor-loyal customers aside, then the rest of the HP customers are "at the heart of HP." She said that HP's focus on customers was always a part of the corporate DNA, something she said came from Bill and Dave. "Despite the acquisitions, the boardroom drama, it's hard to kill the culture," she said. And then added that since the company was founded, it is hard to kill the DNA of its founders.
That's an ideal that would be a genuine way for HP to Renew.
August 05, 2013
Bottoms up delivers a bubbling MPE future
Not a single source of information can verify how many HP 3000s are working today. Never mind the complications of whether a 3000 is archival, or running until a migration is started or completed. Nobody knows where the systems are or the number that are working. Islands of information about 3000s were tied to resellers, to the vendor, even to third party software suppliers.
Sometimes the owners themselves don't know there's a 3000 in their IT data environment. MPE experts move on and their replacements just think of an application that supplies computing services. Not the host system or the environment hosting it.
Support companies work to find these 3000 outposts. The IT staff onsite often needs help, instead of making the call they might've to Hewlett-Packard 10 years ago or more. They might even need a path into the future for the server, a way to ensure the hardware will carry onward as far as needed. Even more than two decades. We heard of one 3000 user that needs its applications available until 2035 to meet regulatory requirements.
Stromasys wants to sell its Charon HPA virtualization solution to those companies. They're also recognizing that to find everybody, they need a bottom-up effort to go along with top-down prospecting. The bottom might be considered grassroots. That's where partners come in.A new layer of management at Stromasys is pursuing the top-down engagements with direct access. But the company is looking for ways to engage the support community and others who can help virtualize HP's 3000 gear. That means will come from the companies that know where the 3000s have remained working. Independent support companies as well as individuals know these sites.
The program is still in its earliest days, but it has the potential to involve some providers who've been looking for a way to help get Charon HPA up and running. In some cases, setting aside the testing, the company claims its virtualizer can take over in a matter of days.
The testing is a significant part of this transition. But all Charon does -- that little miracle -- is turn an Intel Core i7 server, running Linux, into a PA-RISC server. The rest to be tested runs the same as it ever did on HP iron.
In the past we've heard from indie consultants Craig Lalley and Paul Edwards about seeking a way in to the Charon story. Depending on how much effort Stromasys makes to reach out to such partners -- Doug Smith of DSC Consulting in the Dallas area is another -- these indies might bring the biggest story of this decade to the smallest of 3000 users. Perhaps including some who only recently learned they've been 3000 users all along.
August 02, 2013
Migration servers live together at new HP
Quietly this year, HP reorganized its server operations. Under the cover of an announcement of a Converged Systems group, Hewlett-Packard combined its Intel Xeon-based server business with the specialized Intel Itanium-based server products. The new unit hasn't reported its results yet; the reorg took place just at the end of the second HP quarter of fiscal 2013. Randy Meyer has been named as the GM of many products.
Numbers for this business won't appear for a few more weeks -- HP closed its third quarter on Wednesday, July 31. However, Hewlett-Packard says the combination of these groups will quicken the pace of something the vendor calls "the speed of transformation of the server industry."
While the un-migrated 3000 customer evaluates platform options, they've been watching a transformation that probably didn't seem to require more speed. Business Critical Servers (BCS), the home of Integrity/Itanium operations, has been on a speedy path to a slimmer profile at HP for nearly two years. Integrity servers have become a tough sell to new customers, but a preferred path for existing companies that have a lot invested already in HP's Unix, for example.
Obviously, the 3000 site that hasn't made a move yet won't have much invested in HP-UX or Integrity. Unless that company already has operations elsewhere that use Unix and Integrity boxes. It might be the place where Integrity can still claim some fresh datacenter real estate, but those won't be new customers.HP started talking to Integrity customers about this at its HP Discover event this summer. That message was brimming with more detail on the level of management change inside Hewlett-Packard's server group.
In a note to NonStop users (also captive to the Integrity line), VP and GM of Integrity Servers Randy Meyer said HP's compression of servers has no impact on its level of committment.
I can assure you that while there's been a change in leadership, there is no change in the focus and commitment to the NonStop business, and no change to what people care about. We are an important part of the HP Server organization, and we'll continue to deliver the quality and value that you depend upon to run your business.
It's all true, but the NonStop customer has now seen Winston Prather (long ago, the HP 3000 GM) leave NonStop, and then the recently-promoted Ric Lewis depart as GM of NonStop. Now Lewis "has moved up, but he's not moving very far. He still owns the NonStop business, and is still deeply invested in its success," Meyer reported.
Perhaps it's a good thing that NonStop-using Integrity customers no longer have their own general manager. And it might even be an improvement to have NonStop -- and for that matter, HP-UX -- inside of a new Enterprise Servers Business Segment. Even as a slice of HP's server industry, HP's packed a lot of business in there.
Within Enterprise Servers, we have created an Integrity Servers business focused on HP's mission critical portfolio include NonStop systems, Integrity server, and HP-UX and OpenVMS operating environments.
This is a better explanation of the what that speedy transformation produces: fewer managers, combined resources and operations, and a single line on the HP quarterly report. It now says Integrity Servers, not BCS. Earlier this year HP's CEO said that BCS was once a big business. Now HP's resizing it and aligning it with the rest of its enterprise server offerings that use a popular intel architecture. When these were Industry Standard and Servers and Business Critical Systems, BCS took all the heat. Now the word Integrity will supplant BCS in the financial reports, and one GM will lead all these products into the future.
August 01, 2013
Keeping XP and MPE follows same path
A few days ago we wrote about a manager of MPE servers who believed in making a transition. However, the financial leadership at his company didn't believe in a non-critical expenditure. At some companies, while profits are low or even worse, replacing something that's still working won't pass the justification test.
Since the HP 3000 drives businesses like storage companies and catalog-web retailers, I found an interesting connection to the replacement strategy in the Windows XP ecosystem. XP runs businesses, too. It has done so a long time, maybe about a third as long as MPE. XP was rolled out at the same time HP announced its exit from the MPE marketplace. Hewlett-Packard bowed out of the MPE enhancement business close to five years ago. Microsoft hasn't updated features in XP for at least that long.
On the Infoworld website, Windows book author Woody Leonhard explained that keeping a business running on old technology was going to trump many reasons to upgrade for better features. In "Why I'm Keeping My Windows Machine," he explained that Windows 8's better features came at the cost of letting crucial things -- like cash registers -- go unsupported on the new platform. Leonhard knows enough about the new Windows to author a book about it. A hardware element of his XP business ecosystem: An ancient IBM ThinkPad with an old-fashioned COM port.
Pieces of brittle plastic fall off it from time to time, and the creaking hinge always leaves me cringing for fear that the screen will finally fall off. But that old beast runs a proprietary piece of software that's vital for updating a specific line of Casio cash registers. My wife's business runs on those old Casio cash registers, and if that ThinkPad goes, her business goes, too.
I have heard from 3000 system managers still supporting a business with aging HP printers, ones that need MPE to drive their CCTL carriage control commands. Other sites have checked in using DTCs for communication with terminals. What about fax machines? I found another fax outpost this week: consumer-level investment companies. At TD Ameritrade, getting authorization to manage a retirement account involves a downloaded form, filled out and mailed. Or you can fax it. No emails, please; not secure enough.
Fax, DTCs, CCTL, it's all antique tech, but it's working. For some companies that's the best report they can hope to hear, while they invest in marketing, retooling their manufacturing line, or trying to position themselves for investment or acquisition.
Working in one of these places, where IT needs to have something broken to get major investment, can be no fun for a forward-looking professional.However, looking forward is just one kind of computer analysis skill. There's also adept stewardship of elderly tech, as a way of being a team player at a company that's stretching for operating budget. Just think of how much clout our Infoworld writer earns by keeping his wife's business running. It's not like he hasn't tried to make newer tech work. The situation begins with a hardwired software reference to COM1.
I can't get it to work on anything but an old-fashioned XP PC with a COM1 port. All the futzing I've done over the years -- USB-to-COM1 adapters, Win7 XP Mode, VM connections, even add-on serial port adapters -- don't work. I've finally given up, realizing it isn't worth spending all that time to fix something that, truly, isn't broken.
Some day my wife will get rid of the old cash registers. When she does, she'll undoubtedly get a cheap, easy Android-based POS system and dump the old Win XP POS. For now, that kind of expense doesn't make any sense. Everywhere I look, I see old Windows XP systems that just work.
There are differences between the future of MPE and Windows XP. One is used by not more than a few thousand computers, while the Microsoft product still runs on millions of PCs. But nobody is really sure how many of either of these systems are running "in the wild," as Leonhard says. A survey of website hosting computers shows 37 percent still run XP.
There are XP systems running businesses for now, and there are MPE servers running businesses for now. And you just know there are 3000s communicating with XP clients. When a 3000 customer "gets rid of those old cash registers," so to speak, the rest of the transition dominoes will tumble in place.
Since an IT manager with a desire to make changes can't always coerce budget, the alternative is to look for the wood that might be causing the logjam. Cash registers. Printers. Fax processes (although some vendors can adapt a 3000's fax needs to other platforms). In the meantime, at least there's something running the company, a system that just works.
July 31, 2013
Tools trace patterns of IMAGE databases
Is there any program that will show the network of a TurboIMAGE database? I want to output the relationships among sets and items.
In 2011, Connie Sellitto researched the above question, a query posed again just today on the HP 3000 newsgroup. Sellitto was aiding new programmers who were charged with moving a pet organization's operations to a non-MPE system. Understanding the design of the database was important to this team. Sellitto mentioned a popular tool for PCs, but one not as essential as an IT pro's explanations.
You might try Microsoft's Visio, and you may need to have an ODBC connection to your IMAGE database as well. This produces a graphical view with search paths shown, and so on. However, there is still nothing like a detailed verbal description provided by someone who actually knows the interaction between datasets.
To sum up from 2011, we'll refer to ScreenJet founder's Alan Yeo's testing of that Visio-IMAGE interplay
Taking a reasonably well-formed database into Visio and reverse engineering, you do get the tables and items. It will show you what the indexes in the tables are, but as far as I can see it doesn't show that a detail is linked to a particular master. Automasters are missing anyway, as they are really only for IMAGE.
My conclusion: if you have done all the work to load the databases in the SQL/DBE and done all the data type mappings, then importing in Visio might be a reasonable start to documenting the databases, as all you would have to do is add the linkages between the sets.
If you don't have everything in the SQL/DBE, then I would say we are back where we started.
ScreenJet knows quite a bit about moving 3000 engineering into new formats. It built the EZ View modernization kit for 3000 user screens that are still in VPlus. Yeo said the ubiquitous Visio might be overkill for explaining relationships.
Visio has free and open source competition, software which HP support veteran Lars Appel pointed out a few years back. "Perhaps Visio has similar 'database graph' features, such as the free or open source tools like dbVisualizer or SquirrelSQL."
If you have Adager, Flexibase, or DBGeneral -- or already have a good schema file for the databases -- just generate the schema files and import them into Word or Excel and give them to [your migrators]. If they can't put together the data structure from that, no amount of time you can spend with Visio is going to impart any more information.
Barry Lake of Allegro pointed out that users "may want to take a look at Allegro's DBHTML product, which creates a browser viewable HTML file documenting the structure of an IMAGE database." Allegro's site has an example DBHTML output on its website, although it doesn't draw pretty pictures.
At a more fundamental OS level, Michael Anderson points out to understand the structure of a TurboIMAGE database, "you could use QUERY.PUB.SYS, then issue the command FO ALL, or FO SETS."
A few other options for tools came up. Yeo said that "I think there was a schema draw option in Flexibase SQL that drew a neat block diagram of the database and the linkages." And finally, Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies looked through his toolbox and found software written by theKompany, an enterprise founded by former Newswire columnist Shawn Gordon. Edminster reports
There's DataArchitect from theKompany, founded by Shawn Gordon. I bought an early copy of it, and found it useful for satisfying those people at my client's sites that just had to have such a tool to believe that the DBMS was 'industrial strength.'
But alas, Edminster's research showed theKompany.com's website is offline today, and so getting a copy of DataArchitect might be a fruitless pursuit. When a database can outlast the industry-standard (Linux-based) tools that are built to track it, that says something about oldest-school design.
July 30, 2013
Resource planning options can be cloud-y
HP 3000 sites who're migrating face a wide range of tasks. Even if some of them can take their operations onto Windows -- and it seems nearly all of them want to -- they may not be able to transfer their applications. Apps like GrowthPower, for example, don't have the design to run on Windows. Making a transition off MPE will trigger the time to choose another resource planning suite at these sites.
"Can I move GrowthPower?" might seem to open the door on a major project. Especially if the MRP solution is tightly integrated with scripts, with job control software, and more. It's possible to rethink the concept of where MRP or ERP is hosted, though. It might not even be in your datacenter.
Kenandy Software has been offering an alternative to MANMAN for example. MANMAN is another one of those MPE applications that don't have a Windows landing pad, so anybody eyeing a new environment will be revamping their hosting architecture. If replacing MANMAN with Epicor or SAP looks like too large a project, Social ERP from Kenandy, run from up in the cloud, might be a better fit. It's for companies that design, manufacture and distribute products.
Kenandy talks about ERP as a collaboration resource, with "clear visibility both upstream and downstream, shared access to the right information for the right people all the time."
The manufacturing and financial management system has a manufacturing business process flow:
- Driving revenue and sales through communication with business partners
- Improving customer satisfaction by sharing real-time information with a supply chain
- Using a unique Salesforce Chatter, so a user can follow business processes between sales, purchasing and suppliers
- Controling supplier portal data access with Kenandy's security profile settings
- Gaining "a single source of truth" and 360 degree view between suppliers, company and customers
Kenandy calls it cloud ERP for the social enterprise, "everything you need for complete manufacturing and financial management in one integrated application, including complete opportunity-to-cash management."
Kenandy made a pitch to MANMAN users about its software at one of the previous CAMUS RUG meetings. The call was full of 3000 managers. The more time that elapses on this new idea, the more study of it appears. Bandwidth, redundancy, security -- the march of technology brings all of these within the realm of replacing an application on MPE.
There's an 8-minute video to explain more at the Kenandy site. This is an alternative that's been tracked and aided by contributions from The Support Group, MANMAN experts. If going into the cloud is being discussed at a un-migrated ERP site, Kenandy looks like it's got MPE bones: ASK Software Sandy Kurzig is one of the architects.
July 29, 2013
'13 economy continues to delay transitions
HP 3000 owners who've already taken their computing to another platform might consider themselves lucky. They may be counting their good fortune of being able to afford a project to replace an app or migrate one -- because some willing migrators now have unwilling budget guidelines.
Even in 2013, a year when the stock markets are roaring and Hewlett-Packard shares have rebounded into the middle $20s, companies still struggle toward profits. "If it were up to me, we'd already be off MPE," one IT manager said during his analysis of transition solutions. "But we didn't earn a profit this year, so we can't get started."
HP 3000 users in the trenches, battling for consumer dollars or selling commodity goods, have the most common struggles. Some understand that their companies might be better served with a newer server hardware line -- even though the virtualization options are erasing that worry. Others believe they owe their companies the pragmatism to replace themselves. Out at LAACO in California, the self-storage company made the move to Windows because its 3000-centric IT staff was 65 and 72 years of age, respectively.
It tells you something about a 3000's utility when just two IT pros can maintain and update a mission-critical application for a company selling storage space. On the other hand, that's an industry that's growing as our consumer class keeps looking for places to store its stuff. When closets, like the tiny rooms where older 3000s live in companies, overflow then LAACO has more customers and revenues. If a closet of clothes overflows, there's always a donation truck coming along to relieve the space. At least there is in my neighborhood.Every other week, the Salvation Army, Texas Paralyzed Veterans, the ARC of Texas and more call up to solicit used goods. The boxes go out onto our porch for pickup and perhaps some consumption of new goods gets delayed. A working HP 3000 could appear as useful as a donated wardrobe, slightly worn.
"In the economy that we're in, its the total cost of the [transition project] that's holding us up right now," another manager said. While explaining that migrating to Windows made plenty of business sense, he still had to acknowledge the lack of gusto for IT spending.
"There is that resistance to spending a big chunk of money," one veteran IT manager said. At some companies -- where an assessment is the smartest way to start -- revenues have to build up before the 3000 shop gets a solid start.
In spots like this, the alternative of a 3000 emulator has to overcome speed gaps. In a best case, migrations could come in at prices similar to making a virtualization transition, if you factor in licensing costs for software as well as the adequate top-end Intel hardware. $20,000 is not out of line for replacing the firepower of a top-grade N-Class server with Intel's multi-core chips.
But a free migration assessment could be worth just about what a customer would pay for it. The success of service vendors such as Speedware (now Fresche Legacy) or MB Foster -- both say they've never had a failed migration project -- doesn't counter some bean counters.
"The most accurate way to begin is an assessment," says MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "The second most accurate way, at least to start, is an estimate."
Such initial cost estimates might include replacing MPE applications -- and the shopping that would accompany the choice of a new app. Or expanding the headcount in IT, when 3000 managers retire and their efforts now fall on the shoulders of industry-standard server managers. Some of these bigger-item costs might be estimated by delayed 3000 managers as a way of toting up the bill.
But the success of transitions, say the migration vendors, usually stems from detailed planning. An inventory of an IT portfolio is at least as crucial as estimating costs -- and it eliminates guesswork.
A sliver of hope in this situation is that economies have been on the rise more recently, according to US financial experts. On Friday, a report came out from Bloomberg that stated US consumer confidence unexpectedly increased in July to the highest level in six years, as Americans’ views of their finances improved. A similar kind of review from boardrooms about IT finances could get some delayed 3000 transitions moving again.
July 23, 2013
IT's print populace loses a weekly citizen
Word came today that the last issue of InformationWeek has left the presses. The weekly magazine that covered Hewlett-Packard's rise into an era of open systems -- and noted HP's shift to the Internet for its 3000 business -- shut down its printed edition with today's issue. InformationWeek started printing 28 years ago when there was no Web. Today it took its steps out of postal boxes by proclaiming, Digital Wins.
There was a time when that headline might've proclaimed a market victory for a computer vendor of the same name. But the realities of producing what had become a 36-page weekly, printed in four colors and mailed around the world, caught up with the advertising preferences of today. My partner Abby Lentz heard the news and said, "They contributed to that win themselves, didn't they?"
This was not the first news of an IT weekly shutdown. PC Week left the postboxes years ago. Earlier this month, PC World stopped its printed editions. Earlier in 2013, Newsweek and US News & World Report took their exits from the world of ink and paper. All were general interest magazines. Specialization is a more modern business model for information.
It's not that these information outlets have outlived their utility. But the means for news delivery has changed as much as the publishing of books. I learned the news of the InformationWeek shutdown from David Thatcher, a former HP 3000 vendor who's seen his MPE software product ADBC thrive and then decline.
ADBC is database middleware which linked the IMAGE/SQL database closely with Java. It was released in the era when Java was touted as the language most likely to succeed at crossing platform barriers. Java might be replacing something else, a technology standing on a predecessor's back as surely as the InformationWeek print issues helped lift the Web into dominance.
ADBC continues to have utility for some 3000 managers. One 3000 manager, whose clients provide a very crucial military service, runs a 3000. The system design at the shop included a tool advanced at its first release, the middleware that uses Adager's Java-based tool designs.Twenty-eight years is a long time in an industry that paves itself over like IT does. Last summer I marked 28 years on the job writing about Hewlett-Packard, and the last 18 of those have included a print edition we've published. It's been an interesting time for print purveyors. At one time, publishing a print edition or hailing from a print staff was needed to confer competence. Today, simply writing on a regular basis with attention to the facts and exclusive reports will do the job. Look in the front of most best-selling paperbacks and see that more than half of the glowing reviews come off websites.
We're heading toward a day when printing a periodical will seem like a luxury, or even a vanity, instead of a stamp of validation. Major publications take their pages out of circulation when the economics of print take a back seat to the habits of readers. We still hear from readers who say they focus on their 3000 news once our print editions arrive in those postal boxes.
One advantage of having a weekly deadline was the ability to research a story without a need for hurling it into plain sight even faster than overnight. But research happens so much quicker than it did in 1984. Archives are online. Our own references to software created in 1997 like ADBC are just a handful of keystrokes away.
Meanwhile, that paving proceeds apace. The technology that once looked invinceable, like Unix or even C, takes its place in the back rows of the parade. InfoWorld, still printing a weekly edition, reported that Java's owner Oracle wants the language to take the place of C -- at least in spots where C's been embedded for years.
With an upgrade to the embedded version of Java announced Tuesday, Oracle wants to extend the platform to a new generation of connected devices, aka the Internet of things. Oracle also hopes that Java can supplant the C language in some embedded development projects.
The Internet of things includes devices ranging from street lights to home automation and security systems, said Peter Utzschneider, Oracle vice president of product management. "It's basically the third generation of the Internet."
Just as there's a Web 3.0 on the horizon, publication has already gained a new generation. We subscribe to the local newspaper here in Austin, because without it there would be only cursory coverage of the city's issues. (You can't rely on 150 seconds of a TV story to understand something.) But our daily is giving us fewer reasons to pick up that recyclable newsprint off our driveway, even as we still purchase it. I read the Statesman's digital edition without getting out of bed, before sunup. When the carrier missed delivery, we could still print out the puzzles to enjoy.
If print reaches out better than digital formats, it can continue to win readers. But in a world of $29-a-month 6-megabit broadband service, the unique format of paper, ink and staples wasn't enough for large publishers like the Washington Post Company (Newsweek) or UBM (InformationWeek) to keep presses running. Companies track when their tools retain their value -- like the 3000 -- and when to take steps away from established solutions. So long as someone reads, regardless of the medium, a proposition of value remains.
July 19, 2013
Software as Service: Answer to OS's Ebbs
Yesterday we noted the story of LAACO, a self-storage company which had to replace HP 3000s, so automated, with Windows partitions running a Windows application. A new which, IT manage John Wolff was quick to note, did not perform all the work of the 3000.
The spark under the kindling, which fed the fires of change and disruption, was the age of the MPE-trained staff. When your average IT employee age is nearly 70, it's probably time to make some changes. But they do not have to include leaving an MPE application that fuels your company.
Welcome to the world of Software as a Service. SaaS, as it's called on the PowerPoint slides in pro-transition presentations, eliminates the need to maintain staff that is savvy in MPE. They now work for a services company, one that hosts the application, maintains the code and adds features as needed. The application becomes as simple to use on-site as opening a browser window. Your own IT staff only need to know business workflow.
HP embraced the concept more than 14 years ago when it promoted the idea as Apps on Tap for the 3000. The computer was taking hits on its populace as Unix and even Windows systems were getting plucked for replacements. Even earlier, 3000 advocate and software engineer Wirt Atmar of AICS used his QueryCalc as the model for what we now call SaaS. Atmar had a mantra about where the 3000 was running in those days of the 1980s and '90s. "These places were using steel filing cabinets instead of computers when we came along," he said.
Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies reminded me of the late, great Atmar and how his idea connects to our modern era's SaaS. Facing the facts, a company should know that going forward there's going to be extra staff to pay when the high-level IT salaries go out the door along with MPE knowledge. Sometimes the veteran programmers don't go, just move on to other projects. Even at LAACO, they had to hire two staffers to do IT tasks which the Windows replacement could not do.
Thinking outside of the box, Edminster said, "I'm surprised more IT managers haven't thought of this -- especially when migrating is cost prohibitive."
Migrating/Transitioning is not the only answer for this application, or any home-grown application. It's come later than it should, but Wirt Atmar's proposed SaaS (Software as a Service), using the 3000 as the host, is a concept whose time has come.
I'd argue that with lower cost than doing a migration, and with less risk (and likely lower total cost) transitioning to alternative software solutions a 'home-grown' app could be documented and turned over to a service organization. One that will host it, and do all operations and maintenance on the application for you.
Replacing also has secondary costs. This is having to add personnel to do work that the system used to do for them, or just plain losing functionality that previously gave them a competitive advantage. There are other examples, for sure, but I'd bet doing this kind of SasS Homesteading would be less costly and disruptive to companies like LAACO. Less costly and disrupting than salaries for two new office clerks, plus the cost and maintenance of the replacement package.
July 18, 2013
Staff's expertise sparks 3000's replacement
One of the more entrenched MPE advocates in the 3000 community has seen his server move into archive status. John Wolff, who was formerly the Vice Chairman of the OpenMPE group, reports that the Series 928 that drove the self-storage provider has been replaced with a Windows application. However, the MPE architecture and the health of the 3000 did not drive this replacement.
This was actually done for an interesting reason. My programmer was 72 years old and an expert at Transact, and I am 67 years old. Looking at the future it would be very difficult to find replacements for us given the "ecosystem" for the HP 3000 at this point. I think the hardware could be kept going for another 10 years, but the personnel could not.
So the programmer retired, and the computer operations were moved to a Windows application. It's less efficient than the 3000 -- so much so that LAACO has hired two additional staffers to do processes manually with the Windows app that MPE and Transact did completely automatically, Wolff said.
The migration mantra says that retaining and finding MPE-savvy staff is the hardest part of homesteading. This case study is about a replacement of the application however. Change is the common element, but replacing an app is less dependent on knowledge of the code's internal structure. A replacing company is making a transition.
We're shifting the name of the "Migration" category to "Migration & Transition" as of today, to reflect the two approaches to change.
Despite the cost of acquiring the Windows application, and hiring the extra staff to do what MPE and Transact did, plus the capital cost of more compute power for an existing server, Wolff said LAACO is in better shape for the future.
Naturally we transferred our data, which was no big deal. The new application does not require any Windows pros, as it is totally maintained by the vendor. Judging support costs between the two systems was not even considered, as they are both nominal. The Windows hardware was already leveraged because it runs as a virtual server. So, costs of ownership were not even considerations. It had much more to do with specialized future human resources.
July 16, 2013
Ecometry's clan plans for JDA changes
As our At-Large columnist Birket Foster wrote in February, application vendors get acquired and trigger changes. Even vendors who've already moved many customers off of the HP 3000. Some portion of the migrated Ecometry community, as well as those still running the MPE version of the ecommerce software, are weighing their timelines for migration and changes.
The company pulling that trigger is JDA, which merged with the current Ecometry owner RedPrairie early this year. The result has been a stable of 133 software products, between the two vendors' lineups. Every one of them has a story for the customer, a report still in the making for many products. JDA recently said that nothing will be discontinued for five years. That makes 2018 something of a execution deadline for retailers using Ecometry, which is being called Escalate Retail.
"This was a merger of equals," Foster told us last week, right after the company educated some managers on data migration practices. Neither of these entities want to obsolete a product, because that would be a big loss of revenue. If nothing else, the current customers pay support fees. If there's versions to upgrade towards, there might be upgrade license fees to pay.
The greater ricochet from the trigger-pull is mapping out and planning for the use of the surround code that supports Escalate Retail, as well as the MPE-based Ecometry. More companies than we'd think have a loose track on workflows that require surround tools, such as Suprtool -- which is pretty much essential to reporting and extracting data out of their applications.
The changes in the environment of ecommerce users became evident at the JDA conference this spring. About 100 people in the Ecometry community were on hand, by Foster's estimate. When the shows were Ecometry-only -- a long while back -- more than 500 attendees was common. There were fewer sessions offered for Ecometry customers who are now looking at if, and when, they'll need to make a migration away from their bedrock application.How many fewer sessions? There were four Ecometry-specific sessions, plus the JDA super-session, to occupy the time of CIOs, IT directors and supporting third party vendors. "They were still adding content to the conference up to the last week," Foster said. As an element in last year's RedPrairie Focus conference, Ecometry sites had 10 sessions. Foster estimated that 300 people from the community were on hand.
JDA has moved its operations for the Ecometry software to India, a change that can require extra effort and patience to embrace for the customer. While the support of the product has been guaranteed for five more years, no software company will ever guarantee the quality of the support.
In the time before that support comes under review once again, a site that's moved along with the Ecometry migration path should come to understand their application's workflows. "You'll want to compare it to the new, approved solution [from JDA]," Foster said, JDA Direct Commerce. He added that documenting the current workflow is an essential step.
MB Foster's got a JDA-Ecometry update webinar set for July 17 (Wednesday) at 2 PM Eastern Time. Register at the website, especially if you're interested in surround code migration expertise, to plan and execute a migration to JDA Direct Commerce. "Attendees will learn about advantages and risk mitigation strategies that will allow you to get started and deliver a rough order of magnitude timeline to the senior management team," the website reports.