October 26, 2016
MPE/iX to private licensees: A new HP way?
Fifteen years ago HP was cutting its 3000 business loose and software vendors scrambled. A few of the bigger ones, like Adager, were looking for a way to buy the MPE/iX assets from Hewlett-Packard. Nothing could be arranged. However, HP recently started posting notices about its patented technology it's trying to license.
The IAM Market (free registration required) has started to hawk the intellectual property of both sides of the HP, a company about to mark the first anniversary of its split-up. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is offering a range of patents, all designed to let a company use HP technology to serve business users.
HPE Patent Sale – Mission Critical Computing Portfolio
46 issued patents (41 US, 2 JP, 2 GB, and 1 FR) relating to servers and storage products for Mission Critical Computing (MCC). Key applicable areas include High Availability, High Reliability, Replication/Failover, SSD/HDD, System Management.
Except for that SSD element, everything in the portfolio could fall into the realm of HP 3000 and MPE technology. If only such a marketplace existed 15 years ago. More importantly, if only HP was actively licensing its IP back then. Something could have been worked out. Today, at least there's a mechanism for listing patents for sale and finding interested buyers.By the time the 3000 pullout at HP started to set in stone during 2002, the licensing discussion was being steered toward emulator-ready user licenses. Meanwhile, the source code licenses were more than seven years away from being a reality.
For many customers, the only issue that matters is the licensing of MPE to be used on an emulator that mimics HP 3000s running on Intel hardware. Rumors continued to abound that HP is proposing the destruction of a licensed HP 3000 for every MPE license for an emulator that a customer wanted to deploy. The 3000’s longest advocates are howling over that possibility.
“It’s clear that HP’s intention is to limit the MPE user community to the number of licenses at the time of its death,” said Wirt Atmar of AICS Research, “thereafter drawing the population constantly downwards over the years. This is completely opposite to the future that I believe is possible, where MPE would be distributed world-wide, at prices comparable to Linux distributions.”
Emulator licensing makes the Stromasys Charon product a realistic choice for companies keeping their HP 3000s in use, either as permanent archive machines or in production. But the software communnity was reaching for so much more in the months following HP's 2001 notice of a pullout. Perhaps those MPE/iX bits, as well as the related subsystems, are available today.
The only companies who've even seen MPE/iX source, to use as a support and development reference, are the eight licensees of the code. They don't get to sell it or release modified MPE/iX. But it's there as a resource for support providers like Pivital Solutions and software companies as well.
Any dreams of restarting an MPE/iX business would have to begin with IP licensed for commercial use.
Stranger things have happened. The HP WebOS software developed for the Palm smartphones, as well as the heart of ill-fated HP tablet, found its way into LG Smart TVs, after all. At one point, LG was planning a range of consumer devices that would use the HP IP which the vendor sold to LG. LG never got WebOS into its ThinQ line of refrigerators. MPE/iX, should it ever go into the market, might become an item of the IAM Market.
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September 12, 2016
HP sells software business to boring buyer
Micro Focus, which has already bought Attachmate (nee WRQ) and Acucorp (maker of a COBOL that was once fine-tuned for the 3000) is now sitting on what HP was selling that Hewlett-Packard Enterprise calls software. Like Autonomy, for example. The latter is probably valued at one-tenth what the-CEO Leo Apotheker's HP board paid for it five years ago. Admiral Grace Hopper's invention has ultimately provided a harbor for HP's exit from the software sector. The buyer builds COBOL.
The entire transaction only costs Micro Focus -- makers of boring software that drives thousands of businesses -- $8.8 billion on paper. HP's is cashing out of software for application delivery management, big data, enterprise security, information management and governance, and IT operations management. With Autonomy in the deal, the company HP purchased for $11 billion in 2011, HPE gets an albatross off its back.
Here's one shakeout: Minisoft is now the only vendor selling 3000-ready terminal emulation that remains under the same vendor brand. WRQ has been absorbed, and HP's out of the terminal business they started with AdvanceLink in the 1980s. (Minisoft's still selling connectivity software to MPE/iX users, too — as in active sales, this year.) HP sells almost zero 3000 software today.
A Reuters report says the HPE move tilts its business mix hard towards hardware, with two-thirds of what's left at HP Enterprise now devoted to a sector with slim margins. HP has stopped much of its operating system development over the last 15 years, casting off OpenVMS and MPE/iX, then stalling HP-UX short of a transformation to Intel-ready software. Instead, MPE/iX got its Intel introduction post-HP, when Stromasys made its Charon HPA the gateway to x86.
NonStop remains a part of to HP's enterprise group and enjoys development, but it's tied to Itanium chips. Nothing left in the Business Critical Systems group -- HP-UX, VMS, NonStop -- gets any love anymore during HP's analyst briefings.
HP software, aside from operating systems, could provide a frustrating experience for 3000 customers. Transact and Allbase were strategic, until they were not. IMAGE got removed from the 3000-bundled status it enjoyed. HP had to farm out its ODBC lab work to keep up during the 1990s.
The deal between HP and Micro Focus gets more unusual when you see that HPE has to pay Micro Focus $2.5 billion in cash. In exchange, HPE shareholders will own 50.1 percent of Micro Focus. HPE wanted to get its software out of its enterprise business and into the hands of a company with business success in software. Micro Focus built its rep on embracing backbone technology like mainframe connectivity and COBOL.HPE's CEO Meg Whitman said that Micro Focus knows how to invest in software. The company, which owns the Reflection product line, is supposed to keep HP's software stable.
"Micro Focus' approach to managing both growing and mature software assets will ensure higher levels of investment in growth areas," Whitman said, "like big data analytics and security, while maintaining a stable platform for software products that customers rely on."
Reliability and boring are sometimes conflated, but a stable platform is often built upon software with both attributes. UBS analyst Steve Milunovich, who tracks HPE, said HP's sell off of assets is "strategy that works well for current shareholders, who gain significant ownership in better-run businesses." A company whose backbone is COBOL now owns HP's software assets — a line that lost its COBOL compiler when the 3000 was dismissed.
July 29, 2016
HP's Unix Demise, and Rise of the Machine
Alternatives to MPE/iX and HP 3000s amount to about four choices. Windows, Unix, Linux, and non-HP environments comprise this list that migration projects assess. Most of the time the choice leads to an application or a suite of apps to replace the MPE computing. When the door of migration has been kicked open by an environment re-boot, though, then discussion of operating systems is worth time spent in study.
HP-UX came of age in an era when the 3000 became the old-era product on Hewlett-Packard strategy slide decks. Unix was an open environment in a simple review. Deeper study showed most Unixes carried a stamp of the vendor selling the OS. HP's was no different. Now the demise of HP-UX is being debated, especially among those who do their work in that environment. Almost 4,000 members of an HP-UX Users group on LinkedIn heard from Bill Hassell about the future of HP-UX.
"Reports of the demise of HP-UX are greatly exaggerated," he said in reply to a taunt from Dana French, a fan of IBM's Unix. The lack of a major Version 12 release is of no concern, either.
Itanium and HP-UX are dead? This is definitely not the case as the attendees at the HP-UX BootCamp found out in April. HP-UX will be fully supported on current and future hardware beyond 2020. With the addition of de-dupe on VxFS filesystems and containers for legacy systems, new features will continue to expand the most stable OS in enterprise server offerings. The lack of version 12 is an acknowledgement to hundreds of application providers (not just Oracle) that a major release number change is very costly in regression testing and certification. Instead, major functionality is released as an update to 11.31.
HP hasn't been the greatest help in telling this story of the stable HP-UX's holdout, a tale that's important to several thousand 3000 users who've migrated to HP-UX since 2002. Instead, another version of The Machine, the HP computer intended to make all others obsolete, will appear like it's been transported from a starship. This is a product with no known OS. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise doesn't talk much about operating systems. The Machine has been touted this year like it's a keystone to the future. That's why Star Trek's images have been employed to let this tech vision rise up.
There's nothing wrong with continuing to use HP-UX, according to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. The future belongs to another platform, though. In one of the more surprising aspects to the story about The Machine, the man who hawked it hardest will soon retire from HP. Martin Fink did a lot of work on behalf of keeping HP-UX in orbit, too. It's a matter of debate about how quickly that orbit is degrading.
Fink is the first leader of HP Labs to leave the company in mid-project. Just as this year's prototype of The Machine edges into reality, he'll take his three decades of Hewlett-Packard experience into retirement. CEO Meg Whitman said “Martin has had a remarkable career, driving some of our most important initiatives, including our cloud, open source and Linux strategies, and leading the Business Critical Systems division and The Machine." She added that he left his mark on HP.
We'll overlook the marks of performance from the Business Critical Systems division of HP. It holds the future of HP-UX in its hands, but it's a group that C-level HP management has written off as a money-maker. The Machine is getting the television ad time this month, not HP-UX.
MPE/iX once was hungry for attention, too. It mattered even more to the 3000 user than this month's ads matter to Integrity server sites. The 3000 clan was already beset by HP's inattention inside the company. Hassell and others say that an April BootCamp for HP-UX and a Kittson chip to run the OS look like a steady future.
Just like the NewsWire and its sponsors have a dog in the 3000 fight, Hassell has decades of knowledge and expertise in the struggle for HP-UX. When Hassell stops setting the record in place about the OS, then the 3000 converts to HP-UX will know the end is near. He's says that there's another nine years of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise support in the pipe.
That will be nine years that HP uses to try to make The Machine something more real than a prop in a Star Trek commercial. There's no BootCamp for the memristor memory substrate, silicon photonics, a new operating system, and customized chips, all essentials to The Machine. The HP project for the future of another Enterprise — yours — has been a talking point for more than two years. HP talked about a 3000 architecture replacement for more than five years before anything shipped.
If The Machine is lucky enough to earn the attention that HP gave to PA-RISC, then HP-UX will still have eight years of support left when the first Machine goes out of the HP Labs doors. Fink might be there in an emeritus role to wave it into the future. The timeline above shows The Machine shipping in 2018, but HP walked back that plan last year. PA-RISC had its delays too, but it was still part of HP Labs director Frank Carrubba's job when the first systems emerged in 1987. HP credits him as one of two inventors. The other was Joel Birnbaum, the scientist who campaigned for RISC adoption after he came to HP in 1981 from IBM.
The Machine is rising in a different manner than the PA-RISC architecture which made the HP-UX takeover a reality. The realism kicks in for The Machine because HP said it will "accelerate the time it takes to drive technology from research and development to commercialization. We will move Hewlett Packard Labs into the Enterprise Group." And so pure research takes its dive into a product organization at HP. Fink is the last director of an autonomous HP Labs to hold the job.
The customers who invested in HP's prior offering for vendor-specific tech—those HP-UX users—must now rely on Fink's management vision to carry them into a new generation of their Enterprise. Linux on Intel is a more likely next-generation for HP's Unix customers. It's a choice that needs no special vision. Linux is the open system software that HP-UX was touted to become. The migration to Linux is already underway at 3000 sites which adopted HP's Unix. They're can't tap the power of a transporter, but then neither can HP.
July 27, 2016
Did PCs hold Hewlett-Packard off the pace?
Stock activity is the best-quantified way to assess the strength and prospects for a vendor. Few of the HP 3000 vendors ever reported stock pricing, so we always swung our spotlight on the system creator's stock. The results became entertaining after HP stopped making 3000s—but rarely entertaining in a good way.
Now it appears that shedding its New Money products has pushed Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's stock into fresh territory. HPE hit the low $20s of share price this week. That's a 52-week high, and even higher if factoring in the fact the stock was chopped in two last fall.
Operating systems, software and hardware are only part of the story at HPE. Services were brought across in November, but their performance has skidded. As the break-off firm that reclaimed the HP Old Money business computing that drove enterprises, however, HPE has had a better time since the splitup. HPQ, making a living off the PCs and printers, remained under $14 a share today. The companies started out with equal assets and stock prices. What Enterprise has changed is the company's focus. The vendor is no longer trying to be everything to everybody.
Earlier this summer HPE announced it was getting even leaner. The enterprise services business, which bulked up HP's headcount and revenues as a result of acquiring 144,000 employees from EDS, will now be a separate entity. The move pushes HP closer to the business target it pursued while it was making the HP 3000 soar: sales to IT enterprises of software and hardware. This time around, they want to sell cloud computing too. But the old Apps on Tap program for the 3000 in the late '90s was a lot like that, too.
The extra systems focus, coupled with the stagnant action on the PC-printer side, suggests that straying from enterprise computing was a boat-anchor move. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has put a new-era spin on the box-and-software pursuit, though. The CEO says putting Services on a separate course makes HPE a company with 100 percent of its revenues channel partner-driven. In effect it means all deals need a third party. This is the course the old HP could never adopt, much to the consternation of 3000 vendors.What does it look like when HPE says it's an all-channel vendor? CEO Meg Whitman explained the enthusiasm in an article for Computer Reseller News.
"The message for the partner community around this spinoff is we now are even more enthusiastic about the partner community -- if that is even possible -- because we are pretty enthusiastic," said Whitman in an interview with CRN at June's Discover conference. "We have got to partner even more aggressively with our partner community to deliver software, to deliver converged infrastructure, to deliver hyper-converged. We have no business now that doesn't go through partners."
The convergence of software vendors with a system vendor got a short-circuit in the 1990s. HP adopted printer-style distribution and reseller strategies for its enterprise products. What was once a company-led salesforce became fractured. Software companies that built their business around an HP they knew and partnered with saw the company's focus tilt away from fine-tuned environments like MPE. Commodity computing ruled and the march toward Somebody Else's OS accelerated.
In the new Hewlett-Packard, commodity belongs on the HP Inc. side of the split-up vendor. All of those bodies selling and providing services will now be part of a mega-support corporation HPE is spinning off to Computer Sciences Corporation. Less commodity, less headcount-driven business—it makes the new entity feel more like the old company of the HP Way. Long gone, but apparently not forgotten at the executive level.
May 20, 2016
Cloud patterns now private, MRP affairs
Two years ago this week we reported that Hewlett-Packard would be spending $1 billion on developments for HP Helion, its private and public cloud offering for enterprise customers. The spending was scheduled to take place over the coming two years, so now's a good time to examine the ceiling of clouds for HP. It turned out to be lower than expected.
That spending plan for Helion outlasted the public version of the cloud service. Within a year of the $1 billion mission statement, HP was saying the company had no business in a cloud space dominated by Amazon Web Services and others. By this January, the final cloud customers at the Helion public service had moved their clouds elsewhere. HP Helion private clouds march onward in a world where the vendor controls all elements in a deal, rather than competing in a tumultuous market. A private cloud behaves more like the HP 3000 world everybody knows: a means to management of dedicated resources.
The use of cloud computing to replace HP 3000 manufacturing applications is reaching beyond hypotheticals this summer. Terry Floyd, founder of the manufacturing services firm The Support Group, has been working with Kenandy to place the cloud company's solution in a classic 3000 shop. A project will be underway to make this migration happen this summer, he said.
The 3000 community that's been moving has been waiting for cloud solutions. Kenandy is the company built around the IT experience and expertise of the creators of MANMAN. They've called their software social ERP, in part because it embraces the information exchange that happens on that social network level. But from the viewpoint of Floyd, Kenandy's was waiting for somebody from the 3000 world to hit that teed-up ball. Kenandy has been tracking 3000 prospects a long time. The company was on hand at the Computer History Museum for the ultimate HP3000 Reunion in 2011.
The Kenandy solution relies on the force.com private cloud, operated by Salesforce.com. Smaller companies, the size of 3000 customers, use Salesforce. The vendor's got a force.com cloud for apps beyond CRM. Floyd said in 2015, "When the project kicks off next year, because we think Kenandy is a good fit for them."
The longer that small companies wait out such cloud pushes as HP's $500 million per year, the better the value becomes for getting onto their cloud. The effort migrates datacenter ops outside company walls, a big shift in 3000-heyday thinking. After its public cloud flame-out, HP ultimately worked to convince companies to build their own private clouds. The option that's firming up this summer is renting cloud apps from firms like Kenandy and Salesforce.
Floyd and his company have said there's good value in switching to cloud-based ERP for some customers. Customization of the app becomes the most expensive issue.
April 18, 2016
A Parts Supply Non-Problem for HP's 3000
One part of Hewlett-Packard's end-game fantasy about the 3000 pointed to parts. This was a server the vendor wouldn't build after 2003, HP warned. You could not be sure your server and its essentials could be serviced -- where would the parts come from? For the last decade and more, HP's 3000 parts have come from everywhere. About the only hardware services supplier constricted by the halt in HP manufacturing of parts was -- wait for it -- HP.
While practicing the careful shrink-wrapping of HP-built replacement motherboards, disks, IO buses and power supplies, the market has shared and sold ample hardware to replace 3000 systems. One reseller reported on the 3000-L he has hundreds of HP 3000 terminals on hand and was ready to send them to the scrapper. There might be sites where HP's tubes are essential for production operations, but I hope not. The scrap heap looks like the next stop for those 700/92s.
On the other hand, there are a few consumable items that make HP's hardware hum. One is essential to smooth operation of a service processor. You can get a replacement part for this processor at your grocery store.Craig Lalley reported this week that a customer needed their Guardian Service Processor looked after inside the HP 3000 hardware. The GSP is mighty useful for an A-Class or N-Class customer. However, it carries a battery inside that dies, like all batteries do.
(I still have an HP 14B calculator here, given to me as a 1989 HP 50th anniversary memento, which fires up each time I press the On key. I used to think it was solar-powered. How could any batteries last 27 years? Ah, the HP of old. Perhaps those batteries came by way of a NASA supplier.)
And the GSP's battery? Lalley says it's a CR2032, a part HP installed in a commercial server that once sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Or to put it another way, without ever owning an HP 3000, I've got a replacement part for an essential 3000 subassembly sitting right here in my hutch. Right next to that 14B with its 1989 batteries.
There are good reasons why HP's hardware for MPE/iX may not be a wise very-long-term component for production computing. But a lack of parts never was a good reason back in 2002 -- and it's just a tall tale today, even if the parts are aged like fine wine.
April 01, 2016
MPE source code ID'ed as key to encryption
In a news item that appeared in our inbox early this morning, the researchers at the website darkstuff.com report they have identified the key algorithm for iPhone cracking software to be code from the 1980 release of Q-MIT, a version of MPE. The iPhone seized as part of an FBI investigation was finally cracked this week. But the US government agency only reported that an outside party provided the needed tool, after Apple refused to build such software.
The specific identity of the third party firm has been clouded in secrecy. But the DarkStuff experts say they've done a reverse trace of the signature packets from the FBI notice uploaded to CERT and found links that identify Software House, a firm incorporated in the 1980s which purchased open market source code for MPE V. The bankruptcy trustee of Software House, when contacted for confirmation, would not admit or deny the company's involvement in the iPhone hack.
A terse statement shared with the NewsWire simply said, "Millions of lines of SPL make up MPE, and this code was sold legally to Software House. The software does many things, including operations far ahead of their time." HP sold MPE V source for $500 for the early part of the 1980s, but 3000 customers could never get the vendor to do the same for MPE/iX.
Lore in the 3000 community points to D. David Brown, an MPE guru who ran a consulting business for clients off the grid and off the books, as the leading light to developing the key. An MPE expert who recently helped in the simh emulation of Classic HP 3000s confirmed that Brown's work used HP engineering of the time in a way the vendor never intended. Simh only creates a virtualized CISC HP 3000 running under Linux, so MPE V is the only OS that can be used in simh.
"Lots of commented-out code in there," said the MPE expert, who didn't want to be named for this story. "Parts of MPE got written during the era of phone hacking. Those guys were true rebels, and I mean in a 2600-style of ethics. It's possible that Brown just stumbled on this while he was looking for DEL/3000 stubs in MPE."
The FBI reported this week that its third party also plans to utilize the iPhone cracker in two other cases that are still under investigation. Air-gapped protocols were apparently needed to make the MPE source able to scour the iPhone's contents, using a NAND overwrite. The air gapping pointed the DarkStuff experts toward the HP 3000, a server whose initial MPE designs were years ahead of state-of-the art engineering. "Heck, the whole HP 3000 was air-gapped for the first half of its MPE life," said Winston Rather at DarkMatter. "It's a clever choice, hiding the key in plain sight."
March 23, 2016
Putting a CPUNAME on HPSUSAN's profile
The MPE is a most unique creature of the computer ecosystem. This is software that does not have its own license, specifically. According to HP, the ownership of any MPE/iX version is determined by ownership of an Hewlett-Packard 3000 server, one built to boot up MPE/iX. When a copy of MPE is moved onto a Charon virtualized server, it must come from one that's been assigned to one of HP's 3000s.
We reached out for clarity about this when a major manufacturer was looking into replacing HP's 3000 iron with Charon licenses on Intel systems. After the MPE/iX software is turned off on any replaced 3000 hardware, does its hardware-based license then expire? The operating system license, according to HP's MPE Technical Consultant Cathlene Mc Rae, is related to the HPSUSAN of the original HP hardware.
So wait a minute. Are these HPSUSAN numbers of 3000s considered de-licensed, even if they're going to be used on the Charon emulator? Mc Rae explained.
The HPSUSAN number is different from the MPE/iX license, although there is a relation between the two. The ability to use MPE/iX on the emulator is a result of completing a Software License Transfer. The original MPE/iX license on the HP e3000 would then no longer exist.
In the hardware world of HP 3000s, HPSUSAN takes the original serial and model numbers on the system. It remains the same, as long as the customer owns the system. This combination was used to ID the hardware and enable diagnostics for the correct system.
However, that transferred license for the MPE/iX installation on the Charon emulator -- available via a $432 Software License Transfer Fee -- won't be getting a new HPSUSAN number during the process. HPSUSAN gets re-used, and so it leads us to see what HPSUSAN stands for, and how the HPCPUNAME is a key in emulator installations.The U in HPSUSAN stands for Unique, as in System Unique Serially Assigned Number. Mc Rae said that HPSUSAN is one of a kind for HP-built 3000 systems. But SUSAN doesn't designate an MPE/iX license, even though MPE is licensed via hardware ownership.
Mc Rae explained to us, and to any Charon prospective user, "MPE hardware and software was created before the technology of virtual systems and emulators, in the 1970s. Licenses were based on hardware ownership."
This sounds familiar. HP once compared the licensing of MPE/iX to license plates issued for a car. They could not be separated, these numbers and the car that was the HP 3000 iron. (Let's just put aside the common practice of those metal-plate days, when they'd give you a new number after your plate was older than 8 years in Texas.)
In 1999, HP was busy suing Hardware House and a few other resellers over the resellers' separation of HPSUSANs from HP's 3000 hardware cars. The House was taking other PA-RISC servers and pressing valid HPSUSAN numbers onto the non-3000 iron. People went to jail. Lo-jacks were ordered for ankles.
Thanks to the passage of 17 years' time, an HPSUSAN number can now move to a USB thumb drive plugged into a Charon Intel- or AMD-based server. Those license plates can travel to a newer model of car. The emulator's HPCPUNAME, however, can only be designated as an A-Class or N-Class system, according to HP's knowledge. That'll likely be a reason to contact all software vendors whose products operate on the replaced HP 3000 iron.
You see, vendors use a combo of HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME to control licensing. Products such as Infor's MANMAN or PowerHouse not only want to read HPSUSAN -- which you can move to Charon -- but also HPCPUNAME. If you're moving off a Series 979, for example, "979-100" isn't an emulated system under Charon. No 979-100 for HPCPUNAME. You've got to get license permission from your software vendors to enable an A-Class or N-Class HPCPUNAME.
The HPCPUNAME on the Charon system may not be set to 979, Mc Rae said. "Based on the Charon HPA/3000 family, it is assumed that the HPCPUNAME will be set to an A-Class or N-Class CPUNAME," she said. "For example: HPCPUNAME = SERIES e3000/A500-200-50. As far as I know, Charon can only emulate A- and N-Class systems." That's true: a Series 9xx model isn't on the HPA/3000 product list.
The silver lining in this cloud is that you're only doing this contacting and CPUNAME-changing once. Moving to an A-Class or faster CPU from a 9x9 system is the last time you'll be changing from an unsupported CPUNAME to something included in the Charon product line.
In short, independent software vendors are going to have to be contacted, if they've licensed their products with the HPCPUNAME-HPSUSAN combo on a Series 9xx. Contacting your software vendors about a system upgrade is a fair business practice. But it's more than the right thing to do. Series 9xx users headed to the emulator look like they need that refresh to boot up their indie software.
January 11, 2016
What HP's Synergy is Poised to Deliver
"Over the next several months, the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will be shipping a fresh IT platform it calls Synergy. This won't feature a new processor family and it's not going to feature a new operating environment for business customers. Understanding what Synergy might do was a big topic in last month's HP Discover show in London. The product seems to be aimed at changing your plans for IT investment, without sacrifices, as a regular business process.
HP and IBM have sold this concept before, going as far back as the days when you'd buy more computing power than you first planned, just by turning on CPUs and cycles. The vendors levied a temporary charge back then, a bill that would show up like extra long distance fees. Synergy is leagues more complex than that, but it's got a similar aim. Overprovisioning -- stacking up too much power in reserve — will be the black mark to be erased in IT planning.
Like all of HP's innovations, Synergy's only connection to the world of the 3000 exists in leaving the MPE platform. It's a destination, this product HP expects to ship before mid-year. No one knows about its pricing, but the fluid resource pools, auto discovery capabilities, and containerized applications are supposed to reduce the overprovisioning by as much as 60 percent. HP says that will cut immediate capital expenditures up to 17 percent, and cost of ownership capital expenditures up to 30 percent.
The challenge in adapting a new mindset that focuses on resources rather than platforms, one that thinks of apps as pop-up shops, lies in translating the IT-speak of our current decade. We've found an article that does a good job of that, so you can see the hardware and software inside Synergy from a perspective of the IT planning of 15 years ago.
"The new platform named Synergy an is based around the idea of composable infrastucture – hardware that can be programatically composed into the desired form for a specific use case," writes Peter Sellers at the website Techazine.com. Sellers looks like he's got in-trench experience in IT, rather than consultant credentials. The website identifies him as "a senior-level systems administrator for America’s largest telephone cooperative, Horry Telephone Cooperative in South Carolina. Sellers writes
The Synergy platform follows up on the Project Synergy concept HP introduced during the June Discover event in Las Vegas. While HPE has been working with third-parties to get support for its API for composable infrastructure, it was also creating the new generation of hardware needed to power the concept.
It's often a revelation to see new-speak tech explained in classic IT management terms. The article is worth a read. Synergy is likely to be the product the new HPE will push in 2016. The language here sounds like it could be spoken by a manager whose job is to administer hardware, rather than write white papers.
Synergy trims down the number of compute slots from 16 to 12. When asked why, HPE execs told me that the goal of the Synergy platform was to power compute for the next 10 years and that meant flexibility not density as a primary concern. Some peer bloggers scoffed at the 10-year future for the platform, but as an HP customer, that is the lifetime I have received from my existing C7000 BladeSystems as a platform, which are approaching a 10 year anniversary.
December 31, 2015
Throwing Back, and Looking Forward
We'll be taking tomorrow off to celebrate the new year. But first, some HP news.
Hewlett-Packard employees are still having meetings around the 3000. They are employees retired from HP, mostly, and the meetings are not at the HPE campus. Before you get too excited about a wish for a new business prospect for the 3000's new year, I should say these are reunions of a sort. A holiday party happened for CSY happened just before Christmas.
The revelers from that party included some people still working for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Corp. But it was a way to look back, and in one of our Throwback Thursday moments it give us a chance to savor people who made the 3000 what it once was. The wishes are for what might still be.
The meeting was wrapped around a brunch held on the Monday before Christmas and held in Cupertino. Arriving at 9AM in Cupertino to enjoy the company of people with MPE savvy must have felt like a throwback. The notice showed up on Facebook, sent among 43 people with a lot of names you'd recognize from community leadership and tech savvy. "Just seeing all your names makes me happy," one CSY veteran said.
Like the HP3000 Reunion of 2011, people couldn't attend who wanted to do so. One said he was going to reschedule a meeting of his with today's HP so he could rejoin his comrades. Plenty of throwbacks in CSY work for other companies by now. Somebody else in the 3000 community wishes that current HP employees could work in the service of MPE. It won't be among HPE's New Year's Resolutions, but the sentiment illustrates where the 3000 could travel next year.
"Hopefully 2016 will bring renewed rational decision-making by the new folks running the new HP," says 3000 customer Tim O'Neill, "and they will once again concentrate on making excellent hardware matched with software that gives customers reason to buy HP. Maybe they'll bring renewed emphasis on MPE/iX homesteading on Stromasys, instead of a purposeful blind rush towards alternatives."
It's possible that HP, now morphing into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, might have changed enough to be a company the 3000 community would want to associate with it. While looking over the replies to the holiday CSY party, I saw names of good people. Top HP executives were not among these retirees, although Winston Prather chipped in good wishes.
Good things can happen in 2016, but even Tim O'Neill knows that HP hardware running MPE will not see any reunion with the customers who held it dear. Not unless it's a high-powered ProLiant running the Charon emulator.
"HP could announce HP-UX 12.00 running on HP hardware, even if the HP hardware has Intel CPU in it," he suggests. Right now, HP-UX is destined to an 11.4 release for the rest of its lifespan. The vendor isn't moving to Intel hardware with HP-UX, just NonStop. VMS is heading for independent ownership.
O'Neill adds that "Some people I know are buying HP components like blades or storage, but not whole systems. For example, they buy HP blades then run VMWare on them. Curious customers could ask "Why buy HP if you are not running HP software?"
The reason for buying HP hardware speak to the changes in IT management. To celebrate the future with HP, you probably won't be concerned with its invented-here operating environments. Linux, Windows, all the successors to MPE from the commodity world are driving replacements. If the sting has left your cheek from a slap delivered more than a decade ago, then a 2016 with HPE products in it will not be a pipe dream. If Winston's name didn't make you shudder, you've moved onward.
The calendar always moves onward, after all, but the 3000 community tends to remain — even as it does its own morphing into new work. The Christmas meeting "shows why the old HP was so special," one 3000 vet said in a Facebook reply. "Long after CSY and the HP3000 are gone, co-workers are still getting together. What a testament to Dave and Bill's HP."
Happy New Year to you all. We will look forward to new developments, technical or otherwise, in 2016.
December 18, 2015
Will The Farce always be with us?
It was well past quitting time this week when I saw the force re-awaken on my TV. In our den, that television is a 7-year-old Bravia LCD, which in TV terms is something like an N-Class server today. A fine midrange machine for its day, but mostly revered now for its value. We paid for it long ago and it continues to work without worries or repairs. Remaining 3000 owners, raise your hands if that's your situation.
On the Bravia, Abby and I watched Steven Colbert's late-night show. Like all of the talk shows it opened with comedy, because by 11:30 Eastern you're ready to laugh and forget the troubles of the day. Colbert poked fun at the latest Republican Presidential debate. You probably can see where this is going now, since a famous HP CEO remains in the running for that job.
Within a few minutes I watched the comedy lampoon of CNN's teaser for its debate broadcast. The leaders in that race swoosh by in close-ups, each with a light that washes across their face and their name blazing below. Trump. Cruz. Bush, and so on, but the lineup of hopefuls this week remains too long for everybody to get their name ablaze. The rest of CNN teaser included faces of other candidates, including the infamous Carly Fiorina. No name there.
But Colbert wasn't quite done. Following Carly's face were other close-ups. Faces from the cast of The Walking Dead washed across. We couldn't contain our delight at the skewering of Carly and the rest. HP's third-most-famous CEO was still having the last laugh, though, since HP became two companies as a result of merging with Compaq. Her Farce continues, even while the HP split-up tries to recover from the Hewlett-Packard fall she induced.
We kept watching, even through the late hour, because a J.J. Abrams-Harrison Ford skit would air after the commercial. Oh, what an ad, how it pushed along The Farce. HP Inc. rolled out a commercial for its new Star Wars-themed laptop, a device so crucial to HP Inc success the laptop was mentioned in the latest quarterly analyst report. The tsunami of Star Wars branding is at its peak today while the critically acclaimed blockbuster opens to a sold-out weekend. HP's PC is just the kind of thing Carly would tout with a stage appearance. Thinking a laptop will make a $50 billion corporation's needle move is something of a Farce, but you never know. Nobody knew that The Farce of Carly's HP could cleave off a loyal customer base, either. Then there's the farce of Carly's convenient truthiness about her role in what she did while leading at HP.
It was leadership, but down into a ditch. HP's breakup is the evidence that becoming the biggest computer maker in the world — one that didn't want to make 3000s anymore — was a mistake, if not a misdeed. Low margins on big sales didn't endear customers for decades. The 3000 people stayed true to HP for decades, at least a couple. Unique products like 3000s, not Star Wars laptops, paid the bills with their profits.
Yes, it's a Farce. But will it always be with us, we luminous beings of the MPE community? How can we forgive the past when it's so difficult to forget? It made me wonder how and when we might let Hewlett-Packard off the mat, even while Carly's Farce plays out its end days.When I posed that question to Abby — as she recovered from a hip replacement which my government is helping fund with her Medicare — Abby said it might not be soon. Our futures changed, like yours, when the 3000 became an End of Lifer in the new Very Large HP. Carly's Farce was believing a very large corporation would continue its growth unchecked. Endless growth isn't possible in economics, but endless devotion might be something real, not a farce.
I say of a few people, "I'll hate 'em until I die." It's unkind and unskilled. But mostly it's about sports, a place where passion lives. The 3000 owners, some of them anyway, displayed that kind of passion. Derek Fisher, the Laker who killed off my beloved San Antonio Spurs' chance to defend a title, tossing in a miracle shot with 0.4 seconds left — him, I'll hate until I die. Abby and I sat in seats in the ATT Center and watched that 2004 devastation. We'd already been blindsided by HP more than two years earlier. But for a Lakers fan, Fisher's shot was a stellar moment. Some HP reps and execs found that End of Life promise about the 3000 to be a stellar moment. It rattled my faith in HP. We could all have faith in HP until 2001. HP's first and second most famous CEOs saw to that, because their names were on the company.
As it turns out, faith is at the heart of The Force. The newest movie restores the faith of the Original Three films, but none more so than The Empire Strikes Back. Deep at its core that 1980 movie contains an exchange between Luke and Yoda. The young Jedi is trying to raise his X-Wing out of the Degobah swamp, using the Force. He struggles to lift it and collapses. Yoda takes over and the small creature uses the Force. The fighter soon sits on a bank beside the swamp.
"I don't believe it," Luke says.
"That," says Yoda, "is why you fail."
Okay, forgive me for sharing a moment so dear to my heart. I considered Empire's story my religion, in my years after Catholicism. My point for the readers who are still with me is that belief, shown as faith, is essential to loyalty and continued growth. Apple is going to have to acknowledge, in time, that it's saturated the world's computer users. It'll be a moment like the late '90s when new 3000 customers became as rare as Integrity buyers of today. What's left, to continue the growth, is the same thing the old pre-Carly HP used. Repeat business from existing customers. That is something HP failed to recover, and so it could not lift its X-Wing of the 3000 out of the Hewlett-Packard miasma of "If it's not growing, it's going." The 3000 wasn't going to survive a Compaq merger where VAX systems competed with 3000s.
Waiting for a Jedi master like Yoda to teach us about any faith in the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise would be foolish. We don't need to learn, we have to unlearn what we have learned. Yoda told that to Luke. We need to unlearn our lessons about how a company could promote stock price and market size while its CEO knew and cared little about its products. That neglect might look like Apple coming to care little about its Mac line. Funny thing is, even while Apple made its cuts to the Mac, the force of faith remains strong in its customers. Mac sales keep growing, even while tablets cratered HP's Very Big plan, even while iPhones came to rule Apple rather than laptops and desktops.
LIke those laptops at Apple, there was always a core of profit in those phones, though. Apple charged more for them and relied on the faith of customers to remain loyal. I believe in the power of faith to move hearts and let us all survive the future. Once we have faith in Hewlett-Packard to hold its products in highest regard, instead of its growth and stock price, to see it pursue profits through quality and loyalty, we might release our anger.
Forgiveness is a vulnerable act. In forgiving we believe we're capable of trust after a mistake or a misdeed. Maybe after Carly exits the political field, I can work on forgiveness. She seems too shabby to hate until I die. Whenever forgiveness happens, that day could mark my start of leaving The Farce behind.
December 11, 2015
Virtual testimony: sans servers, sans apps
For the HP 3000 manager who looks at other platforms and longs for their range of choices, a testimonial from HP Enterprise Services might seem like catnip. A story about Lucas Oil that was touted in an email today shows how a 3000-sized IT department improved reliability with virtualization. The story also skips any chapters on application software. Sans servers, sans apps, sans uptime worries, to paraphrase Shakespeare.
It's a success story from HP Services, so it might not be so surprising that the details of custom software are missing. In summary, a two-person IT department (which sounds so much like 3000-class staffing) is cutting down on its physical servers by using a lower-cost quote for vitualization. Lower than Dell's, apparently, which is something of an indictment of VMware, perhaps. Dell and VMware are found everywhere together. Now they're going to belong in the same entity with the upcoming EMC acquisition.
But regarding the case study from HPE, it's more of a hardware infrastructure study rather than a full IT profile. Only Photoshop is mentioned among the software used at Lucas, the company somehow big enough to pay for naming rights to the Indianapolis Colts NFL stadium, but small enough to count on just two people to run a datacenter.
The basics in software tools are mentioned, the building blocks of Windows 2012 users: SQL Server, Windows, Active Directory. There's also a mention of an HR application, which tells us that there are custom apps in there, or HPE didn't consider software a part of the story. This is a testimonial about removing iron from IT. Garrett Geisert is the IT admin at Lucas.
Since we virtualized on our HPE ProLiant DL360 servers and HPE MSA 2040 SAN, management isn’t concerned about availability anymore, because we haven’t had an outage yet. Actually, we did have one outage in the last year but it was because of Google’s file servers, not ours. It’s sure been nice not having to tell people they can’t access their systems.
That's one set of choices that's not available to HP 3000 sites who haven't migrated, unless they consider Stromasys Charon to be a way to virtualize. Hardware failures were vexing Lucas Oil. It's the kind of problem any 3000 site has to plan for, with all of the drives out there being more than a decade old.“If we had a single server with a bad hard drive or blown power supply, it meant kicking of all users of that application until we had the problem fixed," Geisert says in the testimonial. "For us, it could mean shutting down anything from a basic file server to HR to full-on Adobe Photoshop graphics."
Newer hardware can be a serious capital expense. Since migrated sites always have upgrade options — well, the ones that don't use HP-UX, anyway — this expense is always out there lurking, posing as a solution to problems like reliability. Buy newer drives. Buy better power supplies.
The virtualization solution at this 3000-sized IT shop puts multiple servers on a set of ProLiants, and the servers can take over for one another. In the 3000 world this was called high availability with a price tag to match. Virtualization's magic somehow cuts the cost of this while it manages software application nuances like tapping the right databases, even through a virtualized server failure.
It's just like me to think that because there's no application detail in the testimonial, it's not authentic. It makes me curious about whether those app databases needed revision to accommodate virtualization's payoffs. This might be a nuance that HP Services provided or consulted upon. A reseller is mentioned in the story, a resource that's not virtual at all. And everyone seems happy with all this is sans from the story, especially the downtime. It's been that way for HP 3000s for decades, too.
December 04, 2015
HP Enterprise discovers words for IT future
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE, as the business arm of HP likes to call itself) used the last week to revise its language for the future. This future is available to the migrated customers who once used MPE PA-RISC systems. It sounds like HPE is ready to admit that staying the traditional infrastructure datacenter course is a path that leads away from the vendor's desires. Wrapping up an hour of high-level presentations, Chief Marketing Officer Susan Blocher said transforming a datacenter is a polarizing path.
"Business transformation is a controversial statement," she said to the London attendees of Discover 2015. "You are either happy about the opportunities transformation provides, or you're scared to death of what transformation means, and how you're going to deliver the agility and speed that your lines of business demand."
The transformation points to what HPE called a hybrid infrastructure, with a combination of "traditional" and "on-premise cloud," Blocher said. The next step is to transition to public cloud, or off-premise cloud. It appears that cloud computing is in three of the four elements of the hybrid transformation. (Click the above graphic for the five-part lineup of HPE server offerings. Dead in the middle is Integrity, still destined for mission-critical although its adoption rate falls with each quarter.)
The conference demanded an Opening Experience, the level of marketing that old hands from the 3000 HP era once dreamed impossible, no matter how badly they needed it. So a pair of backup singers blended vocals behind a symphony rendition of HPE's theme music. A "new class of system to power the next era in hybrid infrastructure" was announced, HPE Synergy. The statement, and the specs and pictures on a website, confirms there is hardware there in that solution, but HPE's aim is to get its customers to consider Synergy as a compute, storage and networking fabric. It wants its customers to give their businesses "a cloud experience in their datacenters."
An SMB Hybrid Cloud "enables workforce productivity," she said. "This is a hot topic for every size customer, whether you're small or large enterprise, but it's particularly important for our small and medium-sized customers, where workforce productivity is essential to your business success."
Blocher said "We are your movers, [the company] that will help you accelerate what can be a daunting but clearly competitive opportunity for you to transform your business, in whatever way you need to, over the next few years." A thicket of video clips compressed the week's talking points into five-minute segments on YouTube. There were detailed charts for the CIO or VP of IT, such as this comparison of IT fabrics (click for details). But tactics of deployment were for another day; this was four days of dreaming up terms for enterprise aspirations.
HPE's chief marketer used the 400 million-user customer base of DropBox as an example of fast-growth needs being met by those movers. DropBox vice president Thomas Hansen (above, with Blocher) testified to HPE's size meeting the company's needs. DropBox uses the HP Apollo hyper-scale object storage portfolio. Hansen said his company's storage is the repository for 35 billion Adobe and Microsoft files.
"Those numbers are just incredible," Blocher said as she wrapped up a 10-minute recap. The four-day meeting that began with a symphony orchestra prelude, complete with backup vocalists, looked pitched to a high-level CIO. Such is the change in industry vendor-to-customer events. Its details emerged in a bevy of high-level presentations rife with terms like composable infrastructure, digital enterprise, and service to The Idea Economy.
Hansen addressed the audience as if they were service providers, telling them that customers want simple, easy solutions that are lightning-fast. Hewlett-Packard has transformed the conference experience to represent a information parade for providers, rather than users.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is not only about servers," Blocher said. "It's about bringing you end-to-end solutions and value." She lined up the five presenters who had about seven minutes apiece, while she exhorted the crowd to review the numbers: Selling five servers per minute; claiming 30 percent market share; 40 million units sold; 100,000 partners. "One million customers today," she said.
The Discover YouTube channel used candy like "A glimpse into the future" from Paul Muller, VP of HPE Strategic Marketing, talking about how the year 2030 will see five generations of humans alive at the same time. Technology must help with that future's problems, but in less than three minutes he had few specifics for a customer to act upon.
December 03, 2015
TBT: When feeds and speeds led HP's talks
HP used to talk feeds and speeds to its faithful customers. This was never so obvious as in the product update talks delivered by Dave Snow, Product Planning Manager for the HP 3000 line. (He's shown here with Newswire Publisher Abby Lentz at the Chicago HP World conference, the last one where 3000 updates were delivered by Snow.) From those days when the server had its own division, I recall his gait across hotel and conference center meeting room carpets. He was lanky and dressed business casual, holding a mic with a lengthy cord that he'd reel in and coil as he talked in his Texas drawl, walking customers through the improvements to HP's iron. At another show in 2001 he carried in the smallest 3000 ever built, the brand-new A-Class system, tucked under his arm.
This week's HP presentations around servers stood in stark contrast. The high-level view (above) assigned entire product lines to segments ranging from SMB to Service Providers. In the 1990s, customers wanted to know CPU speeds and IO capacity, the number of disks that could be attached to the freshest systems, how fast the LAN speeds were. When HP talked to its customers this week in the London HP Discover show, entire lines of hardware like Integrity and Superdome could be summed up in six minutes. Snow could take six minutes on one branch of the 3000 family, answering questions along the way and pushing through dozens of slides.
Even as recently as a decade ago, Snow was unreeling tech data to customers at shows, but had shifted to the HP-UX servers in this picture from an HP Tech Forum. The passion remains in an HP presentation, but the technical details are often a throwback element. There was little Internet to deploy such details in a breaking news setting of the '90s. But Snow took on explaining details of upcoming hardware releases with relish, it seemed. In 1998 he prepped the crowd in San Diego with feeds and speeds like this:
Our first introduction of FibreChannel will be on the next generation platforms. We have decided to work on next generation platforms before we complete doing anything in the FibreChannel/HSC world. We are still looking at whether it makes business sense — in the timeframe of 2000 — to also bring the FibreChannel bus back to the current platforms. We’ve not made a commitment to do that at this point.
The 3000 really needs higher buses than HSC. The industry is moving toward PCI; not just PCI you might get on a PC, but times-two and times-four PCI. These high-speed interface cards will require a high-speed interface to the devices themselves, a place where Ultra-SCSI is being investigated for HP 3000 use.
Very quickly we see on the horizon gigabit Ethernet LANs coming down the pipe. That’s probably where we’re going to focus our first effort — allowing you to reuse the cable you’ve already put in for 100 megabit LANs, in the 2000 timeframe.
In contrast, during a six-minute segment at Discover this week, the director of Product Management for HP Enterprise Networking said that "Removing complexity is extremely time-consuming. When building a datacenter, the rule is 'Keep It Simple and Stupid." Native English speakers will recognize that the Stupid needs to be addressed to the datacenter designer, not at the solution itself. Meetings with customers today wallow in such simplification. Perhaps it's because the attendees are no longer "technologists," as the Encompass user group and HP started to call the feed and speed fans of the 1990s.It's not that the customer interplay was focused entirely on tech benefits. Snow gets credit for proposing the name change of the 3000 to e3000, a change that included a new color of bezel on the boxes that still didn't have a PCI bus. A full year before the A- and N-Class systems emerged, we reported
HP has created new hardware bezels for rack-mounted HP 3000s in a slate-grey color, “so you’ll be able to look across a crowded computer room at a series of 9000s and 3000s and clearly pick out which are the 3000s,” said Product Planning Manager Dave Snow. It was Snow who brought the rebranding proposal to the division last summer. All new systems will get new nameplates, whether they are racked models or not.
There is far more meat on the bone for the tech-inclined HP customer today, if they're ready to browse webpages or watch Livestream presentations or in YouTube videos. HP used the latter two methods this week to spread the word about its Hewlett-Packard Enterprise products at Discover. The work of a product manager is different at today's HP. When the most serious technologist traveled to learn about new HP servers, they expected tech details delivered in person, and Snow had no equal in that critical mission. My throwback question at the end of such a talk was, "Can I get a copy of those slides?"
November 30, 2015
Final HP fiscal result toes an enterprise start
HP reported lower sales and profits as a combined company in its final fiscal report of 2015's Q4 and FY '15. Starting with the next report, two companies named HPQ and HPE on the New York Stock Exchange will post individual reports. They'll continue to operate on the same fiscal calendar.
The Q4 that ended on Oct. 31 showed an HP still fighting headwinds, as the company financial management likes to describe falling sales and orders periods. The year had $103 billion in sales, down 7 percent. Earnings for the combined company were $2.48 on the year, off 5 percent. But the final quarter of combined operations permitted HP to toe a starting line with a 4 percent increase for Q4 profits. Profits for the fiscal year were slightly off, dropping 1 percent.
Of course, those numbers reflect a company which won't exist anymore as we've come to know it. The vendor which created the HP 3000 and now sells and supports replacement systems at migrated sites lives on in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. That company started out with stock prices behind the HP Inc company, the new entity that sells printers and PCs. But the headwinds are much stiffer there, so of late HPE has traded at higher prices than the business spun off on Nov. 1.
The two units supporting 3000 replacements held their own. A drop in Business Critical Systems sales, the home of Integrity and Itanium, continued, but at a slower rate.
Enterprise Group revenue was up 2 percent year over year with a 14.0 percent operating margin. Industry Standard Servers revenue was up 5 percent, Storage revenue was down 7 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 8 percent, Networking revenue was up 35 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 11 percent.
Enterprise Services revenue was down 9 percent year over year with an 8.2 percent operating margin. Application and Business Services revenue was down 5 percent and Infrastructure Technology Outsourcing revenue declined 11 percent.
"Overall, Hewlett Packard Enterprise is off to a very strong start," said Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman. "First and foremost, the segments that comprise HPE have now had two consecutive quarters of constant currency revenue growth and we believe we are in a strong position to deliver on our plans to grow overall in FY 16 in constant currency."
November 10, 2015
HP reaches to futures with outside labs
Hewlett Packard Enterprise, now in its second full week of business, continues to sell its proprietary OS environments: NonStop, HP-UX, and OpenVMS. MPE/iX was on that list 13 Novembers ago. A business decision ended HP's future MPE developments, and the 3000 lab closed about nine years later.
There's another HP OS lab that's powering down, but it's not the development group building fresher Unix for HPE customers. The HP OpenVMS lab is cutting its development chores loose, sending the creation of future versions of the OpenVMS operating system and layered product components to VMS Software, Inc. (VSI). The Bolton, Mass. company rolled out its first OpenVMS version early this summer.
This is the kind of future that the 3000 community wished for all those Novembers ago, once the anger and dismay had cooled. The HP of that year was a different business entity than the HP of 2014, when Hewlett-Packard first announced a collaboration on new versions of OpenVMS.
What's the difference? HP has much more invested in VMS, because of the size of the environment's installed base. Some key VMS talent that once worked for HP has landed at VSI, too. Sue Skonetski, once the Jeff Vance of the DEC world, told the customer base this summer she's delighted to be working at the indie lab. "I get to work with VMS customers, partners and engineers, so I obviously still have the best job in the world," she posted in a Facebook forum.
The 3000 and MPE probably would've gotten a nice transfer of MPE talents to independent development labs. But there was a matter of the size of the business back then. Today, HP's falling back and splitting itself up.
The Hewlett-Packard of 2001 could not imagine a time when its proprietary systems might be supported by independent tech talent. But what ensued with 3000 homesteading may have led to a lesson for HP, one that's being played out with the VSI transfer. Enterprise customers, it turns out, have longer-term business value tied up in proprietary systems. HP will be at the table to support some OpenVMS sites in the future. But they have an indie alternative to send their customers toward, too. When HP's ready to stop supporting Itanium-based VMS, an outside company will take up that business.The foreseeable future for VMS is tied, for the moment, to the HP Integrity servers and Itanium. But a roadmap for the OS shows that getting VMS onto Intel hardware is a project about three years away. It'll be completed by the non-HP engineers at VSI.
VSI has licensed the source code of the OpenVMS operating system from HP with the intent to further develop the OpenVMS product roadmap by adding new hardware platform support and features, beginning with a version of OpenVMS on HP Integrity i4 servers based on Intel Itanium Processor 9500 Series. It took VSI less than a year to roll out the OpenVMS release it calls Bolton. CEO Duane Harris is proud of a rollout that puts OpenVMS onto the latest Itanium 9500 processors. VSI intends to eventually extend support for HP Integrity servers based on all prior versions of Itanium platform.
In less than 12 months, we have not only assembled a strong team of OpenVMS developers and customer support personnel but we have also developed a roadmap with an aggressive schedule that includes support for new platforms, features and technologies. We are excited about our plans to continue improving this marquee operating system and meeting the needs of a loyal customer base that has relied on OpenVMS to faithfully run their mission critical applications over the last 30 years.
The MPE/iX faithful have been running mission-critical apps for more than 40 years, although the last five have been with no HP involvement. But this has never been about how long a product is useful. It's about numbers of support customers.
HP's walked away from its crucial role in preserving 3000s like the ones at manufacturing firms. Independent support companies now do this work. HP's become inscrutable.
"I’ve honestly given up trying to figure out HP anymore," said Pivital Solutions CEO Steve Suraci. "They are one big giant empty shell of their once formidable selves."
It might be a much better fate to leave these highly integrated environments in the hands of independents. "I certainly hope HP is out of the MPE support business," said Allegro's Steve Cooper. "There is nobody in the company that can even spell MPE at this point."
November 04, 2015
HP C-level legacy hubris perplexes women
Now that the Hewlett-Packard spin off is underway — the initial 1970s concept of selling business computing solutions has returned to the fore at Hewlett Packard Enterprise — a review of who steered the bulky HP cart into the ditch seems worth a note. HP engineering culture was targeted by COO Chris Hsu as an impediment to splitting the company up in a year's time. The HP which ran on engineering desires fell to the wayside after current Republican candidate Carly Fiorina mashed up PC business into IT's legacy at HP, including the HP 3000 heritage.
Some insight as well as bafflement is emerging. Meg Whitman, a board director of HP whose primary job is now CEO of the restored HP Enterprise, doubts that Fiorina's best start in political service will be in the White House. According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News
“I think it’s very difficult for your first role in politics to be President of the United States," she said. Whitman has expressed empathy for Fiorina over cutting HP jobs — between the two of them, they’ve slashed tens of thousands of jobs at HP. But the failed California gubernatorial candidate told CNN, “While I think business strengths are important, I also think having worked in government is an important part of the criteria.” Whitman has thrown her support behind New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
As a punctuation for that measure of suitability, we stumbled upon another woman with a leadership career. Gloria Steinem, the seminal sparkplug of the feminist revolution of the 1970s and ardent advocate for womens' career ceilings, spoke on The Daily Show this week. Served up a fat pitch by the host that "Carly is a big favorite of yours, right?" Steinem shook her head and smiled. "I’m talking about women who got elected because they represented a popular majority opinion. She got promoted by God-knows-who."
My publisher turned to me and asked, "Who did promote Carly? Do you know?" I wondered how many of our readers, especially those ready to vote in GOP primaries, knew the answer.The short answer to the question is HP executive VP and board member Dick Hackborn. The shadowy giant of the printer empire, who rarely left his Idaho aerie for Silicon Valley, pumped Carly in the advent of Y2K. But the rogue's gallery of HP directors who promoted Fiorina have all been sacked, retired or died.
Resigned: Tom Perkins and Patricia Dunn. Plus George Keyworth, after the board discovered he'd leaked the pre-texting offenses which Dunn dished out to the press. Charges against her were dropped after more than a year of investigation.
Retired: Hackborn, Sam Ginn, Phil Condit, Robert Knowling.
Ousted: The son of one of HP's co-founders, Walter Hewlett. (Hard to imagine Walter voting to hire Fiorina, but esprit de corps counts for something. He even supported Fiorina's overpriced attempt to buy Price Waterhouse Cooper for $18 billion.)
Died: Lew Platt, after voting for his successor.
Eight of the 12 current HP directors have been appointed this year. It's a hopeful sign of change from a vendor which is still responsible for billions in products installed at migrated 3000 sites.
The answer to Steinem's question about who promoted Carly Fiorina is "people who've long since been separated from deciding HP's futures." Only Platt comes in with a clean bill, resigning from HP in 2000, after having the grace to step away from a company whose board no longer believed in him. That says much more about that board, and the ditch it pushed HP into, than it does about Platt.
November 03, 2015
How a migration vendor planned for change
HP is telling its story of transformation this week, a tale that the vendor says was completed in 391 days. It's the amount of time between the official announcement of the HP split-up to the day when thousands of systems had to be operational with no faults. The fortunes of a pair of Fortune 50 firms were riding on the outcome of turning Hewlett-Packard into HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.
It was a migration in one aspect: the largest project for internal IT HP has ever taken on. HP's in-house publication, HP Matter, interviewed its COO Chris Hsu about his practices in one of the largest IT change operations in business history. Matter has been renamed HPE Matter, and its article shares some strategic high points.
To develop the highest-level list of how to manage a large-change, high risk project, here's Hsu's items.
1: Determine what the biggest, most critical workstreams are
2. Figure out which ones act as gating items.
3. Get the best people in the company to head up the project; get them full-time, and up and running right away.
4. Make everything else secondary to items 1-3.
5. Get structure, process, governance and people in place.
It takes total management support to make item No. 3 a reality. That same kind of support, one that some HP 3000 sites have enjoyed during migrations, makes No. 4 possible. It all leads to the payoff of No. 5.
"I spent the first month working around the clock, trying to make all of that happen,” Hsu said. “At this scale and this complexity, with the number of interdependencies we were facing, there is no substitute for structure, process and governance. There just isn’t.”None of HP's customers will manage any change this vast. Some of its customers are larger than the old combined HP, but the scope of their changes is likely to be dwarfed by the HP mission. Dell is taking on EMC to create a formidable HP Enterprise rival. Things will be axed, by definition. But HP's breaking itself apart and working to lose nothing of essence. The creator of the HP 3000 had become a $110 billion company, operating in 120 countries, with 700 legal entities.
Hsu's five elements of his change mission beg for details. Since the HP story on how to separate over about 13 months appeared in a Hewlett Packard PR publication, it won't have operational items. But the company says it's taken close notes for any of its customers to employ -- should they employ HP's professional services for a project like a migration. Hsu said getting paychecks and sales under control comprised the most crucial elements.
You essentially have to separate and realign all 700 legal entities, and every one of those entities includes assets, people, revenue and so on. You have to figure out what the phasing and timing of each will be in order to get the IT systems up and running and in order to get employees in place so you can turn those systems on so that everyone will have day-to-day needs met, everyone will get paid and everyone will be able to manage transactions.
While praising his team's efforts at the separation, Hsu took note that this was an emotional journey away from "an engineering company with an innovation mindset, which can sometimes mean that people engineer solutions to perfection by employing perfect information. But during the separation, we had to make big decisions quickly and often with imperfect information."
Those are lessons that can be useful for the largest of migration efforts. Sometimes speed runs roughshod over motivating a workforce.
One thing that struck me... is how emotional the prospect of the separation was for so many people. At the very beginning, some of my colleagues were voicing feelings of loss in a way that I simply didn’t anticipate because from the start, I saw this as a clear, value-creating transaction with a clear mission. But I definitely understand their emotional reactions now, because for that first month and a half after the separation announcement, we were moving at a pace that had people’s heads spinning.
November 02, 2015
HP Enterprise treads out security in opener
In the World Series and on the Sunday US news shows, HP Enterprise put its best step forward with ads. The commercials which aired on US broadcast networks touted image of the new company, rather than its products like ProLiant servers and Linux that have replaced HP 3000s at migrating sites. After the first full trading day on the NY Stock Exchange, investors had bid the HPE stock down by 2 percent. HPQ, the stock for the HP Inc. side of the split, fared better, gaining 13 percent. Together the two entities added $2.5 billion in valuation.
While one day's trading is not enough for a trend, today's investors looked like they believed the higher risk of HP Enterprise plans for next-gen datacenters and security services was a less certain bet than a high-cash, low-risk collection of HP Inc. products. HP Inc.'s sexiest product is its forthcoming 3D printers. The Twitter hashtag #newHPE includes pictures of staffers celebrating day one, including this one above of a friend of the 3000, networking guru James Hofmeister.
The HP Enterprise commercials promised that the company would be "accelerating next." The 30-second spots show a collection of motion-capture video projects, medical imaging, race car design, cargo container logistics, transit mapping, and a gripping clip of an amputee walking on a digital-assisted set of legs.
"A new flexible cloud that harmonizes all operations" refers to the cloud services that remain after the shutdown of the public HP Cloud. An investment of $3 billion in R&D gets touted, perhaps because the risks to be taken to win back business are going to be costly at first. "Because no money is better spent," the copy vows in a 3-minute "HP at 75" online ad. Things are going to be different, this Hewlett Packard says, because everything in IT is changing anyway.
The era of a vendor being essential to holistic customer success is past, however. It's nothing like the HP of 1980, says one of our readers who's still managing a 3000 for fleet vehicle parts tracking. "They thought they could defeat the world by making the world's best PCs and servers," says Tim O'Neill, "but it is a tough market. Systems have largely become unbundled in recent years, but HP seems to think they can first sell services to customers, and then the customer will buy HP hardware on which to run said services."
HP reminds the world it ships a server every six seconds. During the run-time of any of those commercials, five servers left HP shipping. By the accounting from HP's reports, however, four minutes of ads would have to run before a single Integrity server is shipped.Integrity and the Business Critical Systems group is treading water at a 2 percent sales share of HP Enterprise Group business, according to the last HP quarterly report. Sales of servers and expansion of OS environment features are among the few elements that matter to a customer who's remained with HP -- unless they're able to afford HP Professional Services.
It was once very different, with the 3000 customer desperately dependent on Hewlett Packard expertise, O'Neill reminds us.
In HP's salad days customers were very reliant on HP factory support for both hardware and operating system software service. We knew nothing of how MPE worked. Early on, in the 1980s, HP came out and installed things like MPE IV or MPE V, and even came to install patches. Later, we learned how to do some ourselves, but we still had a big contract with HP at the ready to come when called.
This was offset, to some degree, by our decision to contract with competitors for hardware repair, which did cause a lot of consternation, but HP still did the software. Oh, what great days!
The independent services and development marketplace, as well as a massive reseller community, erased the advantage of those old-school days. The key deliverable from a modern company "accelerating next" vendor is research and development. Last year's HP channeled just 3 percent of its revenues for R&D. The 20th Century HP operated at a 9 percent level. The money has been re-channeled into acquisitions, until now. One investment house believes more acquisitions are the way forward, though.
The challenge for HP Enterprise is to become a vendor that once sold products to run in data centers, but now sell cloud services. A total of 96 million shares of the two HPs were traded today. HP's printer-PC group led the way. Enterprise must sell its strategy with more panache, hoping that the image-shaping of YouTube and TV broadcasts will coax investment advisors like Credit Suisse into favorable ratings. On Monday afternoon, the investment house said they expect the company to "embark on a streak of transformative mergers and acquisitions" to plug holes in the HPE product line.
As for tactical changes, Hewlett Packard Enterprise was scheduled to go online as a separate entity three months ago. A CIO World article of this summer recapped the HP split-up plans, as announced at this summer's HP Discover meeting.
HP is documenting it all, so it can share what it learns with any large companies that have to through the same thing, presumably as part of HP services engagements.
The split probably would have been more complex if it weren’t for HP’s former CIO Randy Mott, noted IDC analyst Matt Eastwood. Several years ago he consolidated HP’s infrastructure from 85 data centers to six, making Hinshaw’s job an easier one. It will retool 2,800 applications and 75,000 APIs before the company becomes Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. on Nov. 1.
80 percent of that retooling work was complete at the time of the HP Discover announcement. One analyst, Rob Enderle, has said the HP split was being executed as a way to offer its Enterprise operations for a merger with EMC. An article in the San Jose Mercury News reports the rogue analyst called HP a passed-over bride, since Dell announced it would acquire EMC last month.
"She's the bride at the altar," Enderle said. "The end result is that HP Enterprise is now packaged for sale, except there's nobody to buy them, except maybe Oracle."
To some observers, HP is a giant laid low, a remnant of the behemoth that once bestrode Silicon Valley.
"People looked at what it was, and want some of that back," said technology analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy. "I think people in different parts of the world see it differently. They say, 'Yeah, they had some hard times, but they're in a heck of lot better situation now than before.' I look at it as a glass half full."
The two HPs will share one seminal icon. Bill and Dave's Palo Alto offices, maintained as a shrine that includes loose change on the desk blotter, can be accessed though entrances from both the HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise buildings. In Palo Alto, as in the annals of the 76-year-old company's lore, the two sides of the new HP share campus space.
October 30, 2015
The New HP's Opening Day: What to Expect?
The last business day for Hewlett-Packard as we've come to know it has almost ended. By 5 PM Pacific, only the Hawaiian operations will still be able to count on a vast product and service portfolio offered by a $120 billion firm. Monday means new business for two Hewlett-Packards, HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. It's possible that splitting the company in half could improve things by half. Whether that's enough will take months to tell.
On the horizon is a battle with the bulked-up Dell, which will integrate EMC as well as massive share of VMware in the coming months. The Dell of the future will be a $67 billion entity, larger than HP Enterprise in sales. Dell is a private concern now, while HP is becoming two publicly traded entities. The directions could not be more different, but HP will argue that demand had better be high for a monolith selling everything.
Dell is extending its offerings to a new level of complexity, but the level of product strategy and technology to comprehend has become too great for this week's massive HP. Hewlett-Packard never controlled an operation this large until the last decade. The company that built instruments and business computers and printers added a PC empire from Compaq. But it had just spun off Agilent two years before that PC merger.
But then after loading up with billions of dollars of low-margin desktop and laptop lines, the HP of the early 21st Century blazed forward into services. Headcount rose by more than 140,000 when Carly Fiorina sold the concept of buying EDS for outsourcing and professional services. The printer business swelled into cameras and even an iPod knockoff, built by Apple. HP's TVs made their way into retail outlets. It seemed there was nothing HP could not try to sell. Some of the attempts, like the Palm OS-based tablets or smartphones, shouldn't have been attempted. Their technology advantages couldn't be lifted above entrenched competition.
HP's CEOs since lifer Lew Platt retired — Fiorina, Mark Hurd, Leo Apotheker, and now Meg Whitman — didn't have much chance understanding the nature of so many products. Three years ago, HP started in the public cloud business, yet another branch of IT commerce aimed to take market share from Amazon. Whitman said in the New York Times that outsiders like her who've tried to lead the company have had too broad a beam of corporate ship to steer.
"This is crazy — Carly, Mark, Léo, me — the learning curve is too steep, the technology is too complex for an outsider to have to learn it all," she said in a story about what's next. The most audacious of HP's enterprise efforts was The Machine, technology that was to employ the near-mythical memristor to "change the future of computing as we know it." This summer the company fell back and said it would build that product with more conventional components and assemblies. It doesn't have a target date for releasing The Machine.The New HP, for the purposes of the 3000 customers who have migrated or will sometime soon, aims to do less and try to do it more effectively. Gone is the public cloud, while the EDS headcount is being trimmed. In-house technology like HP-UX and VMS is either going slack (no HP-UX 11.4 will be produced; VMS has been sold to an independent firm) or giving way to standards like Linux, Windows, and Intel servers like the ProLiants. The survival and ascent of ProLiant blade servers is likely to be the hardware backbone for a company that is keen to get customers to consider HP Enterprise as a software and service giant.
HP Enterprise, to be traded as HPE on the NYSE Monday, will sell private clouds that it will build, and staff if customers want HP administration, rather than the retail-level cloud services of AWS. HP Cloud could never host HP-UX customers. The fine-tuning of cloud hosts for Unix apps might be a part of the 2016 offerings. Just about anything to get more Integrity servers installed will have traction at HPE.
Although networking products and mass storage and software like Helion will be parts of the new HP facing the 3000 community, expect this business to be about how servers will drive its fortunes. In a Bloomberg report from this week, Whitman said she spent one full day on the three year plan for HPE's server business. She's been the CEO since 2011, and that was the first full day she concentrated on the business that put HP into business computing.
"There’s a great deal to be said for focus," Whitman said in the article. "You’ve got to be on it. You’ve got to be working on the product road map."
Work on product roadmaps in October used to be commonplace at HP, although it's probably been since Lew Platt's time that the CEO was involved in any way. MPE/iX users who've stayed with the OS, rather than the company, could still benefit from a rise in HP's fortunes. Sales of those allied product lines, as well as research to improve them, have a chance of improving. Homesteading 3000 customers would have to let the HP badge back into their shops. Maybe adding the "Enterprise" to the HP hardware nameplates will help restore the trust.
As for the HP Inc. side of the split-up, it's got less technology to comprehend and more competition with similar products. Some analysts are saying HP Inc. could be a takeover target, given its slim profit margins. HP's combined stock was down 30 percent from the start of this year, as the final day of Hewlett-Packard ended. On Monday HPE will start trading at about $15 a share. What will make the difference will be a fresh share of mind for a company that once specialized in business IT. MPE is gone, HP-UX is fading, and VMS has been sold away. The future will be different, but customers who remember a better HP might hope for a strategy that feels older: focused on how innovation and relationships can deliver success to customers.
September 16, 2015
HP's latest layoffs chop a fresh slice of jobs
A report from HP's semi-annual Analysts Day yesterday included news of an extra round of 30,000 job eliminations. The letters "HP" still appear on the front of many 3000 customer's servers, either on the original 12-year-old or more hardware, or a replacement from the ProLiant or even the Integrity lines. The fate of the enterprise vendor is of differing interest to these groups of migrators and homesteaders.
Some of those customers who've left, or are leaving, will keep an eye on the shrinking headcount. HP means to keep itself healthy by keeping its costs low as it heads into its first split-up year starting this fall.
CEO Meg Whitman told analysts things are still falling in the enterprise services group, an operation that consults, outsources, and manages co-located business servers. Enterprise Services is the unit that grew up around the EDS workforce that HP acquired in 2008. Even back then, HP needed to trim back the job count as part of the acquisition.
In an '08 HP message called Streamlining for Growth the vendor said, "HP intends to implement a restructuring program for the EDS business group that will better align the combined company’s overall structure and efficiency with the operating model that HP has successfully implemented in recent years."
Enterprise Services generates about 40 percent of HP's Enterprise revenues. But the unit hasn't grown recently. Whitman said yesterday, "A big step forward will be if enterprise services can stop shrinking." The unit has posted $4 billion in losses over the last three years.
The game plan for Enterprise Services will sound familiar to an HP 3000 customer: move professional jobs offshore, outside of North America and Europe, to reduce costs. In 1995 the 3000 division opened operations in India, sending database development and other subsystems design into Bangalore. At the time India's pay scale was one-fifth of California's. Lower costs are going to look attractive for the split-off HP Enterprise.The EDS merger added 140,000 positions in 2008. The running total of job eliminations since Whitman took over as CEO, three years later, will be almost 90,000, and the latest cuts are part of the HP split that's now six weeks away. Whitman said last month the company would be done cutting Enterprise operations for the year, but today's slice is a fresh one from the workforce that wants to sell cloud services to enterprises, now that HP's customer-located hardware sales aren't growing.
HP is aiming its Enterprise business at "growing customer share of wallet." That's the part of IT budget HP hopes to win from its customers. It's also a term from finance markets, and just new to IT. Hewlett-Packard made a case for keeping its Enterprise Services business after the Nov. 1 merger, but some rumors floating in the market have the vast unit being cleaned up for a sale.
HP said it expects to take three more years, until the end of its fiscal 2018, to make the Enterprise Services unit cost-competitive. It will increase the number of jobs outside Europe and North America by 50 percent, so by 2018 60 percent of its IT consultants will work from offshore locations.
The cutting goes beyond workforce, including discretionary expenses like travel, datacenter eliminations and consolidations, and reduced procurement budgets. HP had developed a home run strategy up to 2013; the general manager of the Enterprise Services unit said three customers made up 65 percent of operating profits. No single customer represents more than 10 percent of profits today.
But HP continues to make note of wins like landing the largest single deal of the year in the industry. HP's Professional Services were aimed at the largest of its customers throughout the migration push from 2003-2010. Independent companies offering software tools or MPE-focused experts were more likely to be leading a customer onto non-3000 servers.
A series of over-reaching mergers, including Compaq and EDS, came to a halt in 2010 with the $10 billion purchase of Autonomy. Whitman took the helm the next year and has reined in the company's growth aspirations using the old methods. "We haven’t done anything stupid in the past four years, I think you would agree, and we don’t intend to do anything stupid in the future,” she said in the analyst meeting.
A report in the Wall Street Journal quoted an analyst who said HP was working to increase its business in cloud computing, for example, an operation HP expects to grow by 20 yearly for the next three years. But HP's share of the cloud market is slight, compared to Amazon's or even IBM's. In today's report in Fortune, the publication recounted the story of an IBM and an HP rep visiting a major account. As they stood at the elevators, the IBM rep pushed the up button to head for the executive offices. HP's rep, the story went, pushed the down button to head to the IT department in the basement.
Servicing such hardware needs brought HP to the fork in the business road it faces today. The company is proud to report that it leads in market share for Linux systems, x86 server revenues with ProLiant, and "shipped more than 4 servers per minute on average in the 2nd calendar quarter of 2015." But hardware acquisition and replacement is not a growing business in enterprise IT planning. The tigers from the management ranks of Compaq, who took over HP's strategy as the vendor stopped building 3000s, now must find a way forward with enterprise IT business alone. They'll do it with fewer employees. Those who remain from the 3000 division may well be getting a better future on Nov. 1, along with their new hpe.com email addresses.
September 01, 2015
Finding a Virtual Replacement for MPE/iX
This week HP and other vendors are presenting new products, and new ideas about older products, at VMworld. The conference is organized by VMware and offers a stage to show how IT strategies are being changed by virtualization. The only virtualization that MPE/iX hosts can enjoy is the Stromasys Charon HPA server. It makes Intel processors a virtual choice. Stromasys is at the conference, but what HP's got to say about Hewlett-Packard solutions is informative, too.
As it turns out, heading to Intel Xeon hardware is a good idea for all of the other HP enterprise environments. It's as if Charon and the Superdome brand are aimed at the same destination. HP-UX won't get there, though. And Intel Xeon is essential to VMware.
The 3000 customers who've been the slowest to move onward to other platforms might be the ERP companies. Manufacturers customize their applications more than any other kind of app user. This week HP's touting a server at VMworld that it says is the world's fastest 16-socket ERP server. Superdome X is driven by Linux and Windows, though, not the HP-UX environment that ruled HP's enterprise roost in the late '90s — an era when Windows was taking over IT.
HP bet heavy on Unix. Back then, the product which became Windows 2003, 2008 and then 2012 was called Windows NT. Everything that NT did was folded into those subsequent Windows enterprise solutions. Since then, meetings like VM World apparent that HP's Unix lost its high ground, but not because of any lack of virtualization. HP's Unix isn't ever going to the x86 family. HP-UX slipped as an enterprise choice because it was built upon the wrong processor.
That's what HP's manager Doug Strain used as a key point in his VMworld talk about Superdome X. "The only problem was that it didn't have x86 processors," he said of the machine that now can use up to 12TB of memory. "Well, we fixed that." So it seems that the right chipset — based on Intel's Xeon, not Itanium — will make Superdome as useful and fully-featured as it should be for virtualization. It's just one more way to see that Itanium and HP-UX has dropped from HP's futures.
Linux is taking the place of HP-UX in HP's ERP futures. It's not news that VMware and HP's Unix are not a match. What seems new is the way Linux and Windows are positioned as HP's VMware solutions — with specific mention of ERP applications.In a meaningful minute-plus, Strain sums up how the Integrity line is a real VM player, now that it's got Xeon capability. It paints the new-ish HP hardware (Superdome X has been out since this spring) as a powerhouse for ERP. Does it virtualize? Oh boy. What better reason for HP to have a slide show at VMworld, but to talk up this OS-chip combo? Integrity used to mean Itanium, still the only chip that hosts HP-UX. HP says that Integrity, "if you're familiar with it, going back," is now so much more.
Replacing MPE/iX as an ERP solution has been a challenge for a decade on the migration front. There are still major manufacturers using 3000s, and looking to what's next. Virtualization is important for shaping an advanced strategy that wrings the best use from IT investments.
How important? Here's what HP had to say today about its partnership with VMware.
"The software-defined data center enables companies to evolve beyond hardware-centric architectures to create an automated, easy to manage hybrid cloud platform that can meet the demands of both traditional and emerging cloud-native applications," said Carl Eschenbach, president and chief operating officer, VMware. "VMware and HP continue to help our mutual customers drive innovation with greater speed and scale."
Linux has won a victory by evolution. HP decided the best of HP-UX would go into Linux.
MPE/iX got replaced in the same way, by an HP environment that has now gotten eclipsed itself. MPE/iX has a role to play with VMware, as part of the Charon solution. The HP-UX environment certainly has partitioning, as well as virtualization. It just doesn't have enough HP mindshare at VMworld to earn a talk like Strain's. That conference is the epicenter of virtualization this week.
August 28, 2015
Virtual futures become more real next week
Sometime on Sunday night, learning about virtual computing will get more costly. VM World starts its program on Monday, and the last chance for $200 off the registration expires on August 30. Considering who regards virtualization as essential, a visit to the VM World expo floor, at least, could be worthwhile.
Stromasys will be on that show floor, one of the few companies which has a current 3000 project on display there. Virtualization is a reality the heart of the Charon concept, a product whose design was proven over 10 years of deployment in the Digital environment, then first introduced to a 3000 site in 2012.
VMware has a role to play in implementing a homesteading solution for 3000 owners. It can be part of the cradle that houses the software which transforms Intel x86 chipsets into PA-RISC processors. Learning more about VMware would be very good for any IT manager, but especially for the 3000 pros who need to keep enhancing the skills on their CVs.
Virtualization is a subject in heavy rotation these days. Not only is there a legacy of how it's changed choices for enterprise with foundational tech like virtual partitions, there's also a future being patented and proposed. Hewlett-Packard usually has a raft of patents issued each month. Among the 17 it was awarded over the last two weeks: one for virtual machine packet processing. It's a safe bet that the practical application of patent No. 9,110,703 B2 will not be on the HP Inc. side of the HP that's splitting up Oct. 31.
HP is still inventing, at least on the theoretical level. Although more than half of HP's patents are for printing advances, some inventions could exert a positive influence on keeping Hewlett-Packard Enterprise a suitable choice for migrators.The summary of the HP patent will only make a computer scientist's heart sing.
Packet processing for packets from a virtual machine includes receiving a packet from an external switch at a computer system hosting a plurality of virtual machines. If the received packet is a learning packet, storing a packet signature determined from the learning packet. For a packet to be transmitted from a virtual machine in the computer system, determining if the packet's signature matches the stored packet signature. If the packet's signature matches the stored packet signature, performing an action associated with the packet signature.
Packet loss is an issue that VMware customers deal with. "Even the best VMware networking setups hit snags, but you have tools," an article at TechTarget advises. "Adjusting specific VMware network settings can fix packet loss in a VM." HP's invention may be aimed at a problem that can hold back performance in virtualized servers.
There's a lot of nuance out there for virtualized computing. But the benefits of making many servers out of fewer processors are profound. A trip to the expo floor -- and that's a visit that is priced at $300, until Sunday -- would be a good start at making a virtual future more of a reality.
In the style of an Interex conference Convince the Boss letter of a decade ago, VM World offers a suggestion for these benefits.
Hands-on training and experience. You'll be able to choose from 350+ technical and content-rich sessions covering the latest innovations in the data center for storage, networking, security, management, workforce mobility, and hybrid cloud services.
Product research and analysis. In the Solutions Exchange, you'll be able to review the latest competitive solutions side-by-side with more than 275 exhibitors.
Networking with industry experts. You'll learn strategies for achieving top IT priorities and be able to compare notes with other IT professionals. We can leverage these contacts for advice and best practices for years to come.
August 21, 2015
HP's Q3: Tumbling toward a split-up is dicey
The only unit in HP that showed revenue growth, Enterprise, did so on the strength of better networking gear sales and improvements in the ProLiant business.
Hewlett-Packard presented its next-to-last quarterly report to analysts and large customers yesterday. The former are paid to benchmark HP's progress towards being a healthier company after a split-up Oct. 31. The latter group will be paying for the cost to create an Enterprise-laden HP. At the moment, it's looking like they won't be paying out as much as HP would like.
One analyst's summary of the figures for the period: "Is Hewlett-Packard Ready To Separate With These Earnings?" That smacks of clickbait talk, but the results didn't show an HP that's keeping up with its goals for improving sales and profits. All but one HP operating unit reported lower earnings and sales for Q3. The group that improved on Q3 of 2014 might surprise you. It's the Enterprise Group, by a whole 2 percent. The rest of HP's units took a dip in their sales in Q3.
Yes, that's Enterprise, where the remaining HP enterprise servers and platforms do business. This is the unit that's cut short the VMS futures, shut down the HP 3000 almost five years ago, does declining business for HP-UX servers. What gave Enterprise a 2 percent lift from 2014 sales was its networking business. You can sell networking gear into any environment, your own or another vendor's. Networking even gets a lift from the cloud revolution, but we'll get to that in a moment.
The Business Critical Systems unit always comes in for special focus here at the NewsWire. The group that once housed 3000 operations, as well as currently serves up the 3000 alternatives which are not Windows, posted another quarter with a decline in sales. The dollars toted up to 21 percent less than the previous Q3. That 2014 Q3 was down 18 percent from 2013's, and the 2013 Q3 was down 26 percent. Even accounting for currency and percent-of-percent figures, BCS is half the size it was in 2012.
By a rough estimate, the total of all sales for HP critical enterprise systems is now under $1 billion yearly. The good news is that the $1 billion will be twice as big a slice, once HP separates Enterprise from HP Inc.To the specific numbers we go, as they like to say on NPR's Marketplace.
Enterprise Group sales were $7 billion in Q3, and BCS made up 3 percent of that, or about $210 million. The complete HP sold $25.3 billion in software, services, and products, off 8 percent from the Q3 of 2014. Enterprise Group profits made up 45 percent of HP's overall profits, however. Only the Software group's sales are more profitable than Enterprise revenues by percentage, and Enterprise was $725 million ahead of Software in raw profits.
Why care about profits? HP will need them to succeed in paying for its split-up, and the tumbling trends have some analysts concerned. Hewlett-Packard is profitable overall, and for once, its Enterprise operations — the business that includes ProLiant servers as well as Integrity systems — led the way in earnings. That's in part because the legendary Printing unit took a tumble. Printing's falling fortunes not going to be a problem for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise in about 10 weeks' time.
Some analysts and wags have said that the spin-off company being created, HP Inc., is called that because printer ink will drive its heartbeat. The company has come a long way since being an entity that included Agilent instrumentation sales. The HP of 1995 needed nine months to sell as much as the HP of this year sells in a single quarter.
But during that year of 1995, HP took the chief of its PC and Printer business and gave him control of HP's enterprise server units, including the 3000's group. Rick Bulluzzo brought principles that fit consumer reselling to bear on enterprise business. The two businesses couldn't be more different, or at least were unlike one another in 1995. It's something like expecting a fleet of Uber drivers to be able to deliver a year's worth of ball bearings for General Motors. GM would've been looking for different bearings.
What's injured HP's enterprise business growth more than anything has been the rise of cloud computing. HP hopes to replace its lost enterprise server revenues with its Helion Cloud solutions. But while it forgoes the sale of bigger servers to existing customers, as well as the Services it sells to manage such products, the company's got to score against competitors like Microsoft's Azure stack or Amazon Web Services cloud products. It's been looking to make up sales with its own larger customers, and even at that, it expects to win easiest with the companies that are already deploying a virtualized solution.
"Where we win are with enterprises that have stepped all the way through the virtualization steps in the past three to four years," HP Cloud VP Bill Hilf told Network World last fall, "the companies that have more than 50 percent of their environment virtualized. Now they’re getting a lot of pressure on being able to go faster." HP Enterprise aims to capitalize on that pressure, even as it's grappling with pressure to grow on its own.
August 20, 2015
TBT: 3000-TV debuts along with Newswire
Twenty years ago this week, the annual Interex conference included two fresh elements for HP 3000 customers. The ones who stayed in conference hotels could watch closed-circuit TV programs devoted to the HP 3000. The 3000 News/Wire made its entrance at Interex 95 in the Metro Toronto Conference Center's exhibit hall, too. We'd driven 500 copies of our pilot issue from Texas to Canada in a minivan to circulate on the show floow. HP drove its pro-3000 message onto the televisions in four Interex hotels.
Those TV shows have essentially vanished without a trace, and Interex 1995 marked the only show where the computer got its own airtime on TVs in public. Hewlett-Packard's 3000 PR crew extended me an invitation to appear on one of the broadcasts to introduce the News/Wire, a piece of great fortune for a publication that had only four pages of print to its credit by that August.
Some fellow named Lew Platt was on another TV segment, talking about his job as CEO. The management roundtable featured a gag where HP executives got asked why IBM usually came to customer meetings dressed casually. HP's execs stood up on cue and shed their coats and ties. VP Ann Livermore, the only woman on the panel, did not have to alter her dress.
At the conference, an HP of about $24 billion in annual sales was introducing the HP 3000 Coexistence Solution Strategy, "a selection of products and guidelines that ensure complete integration among HP 3000 Business Servers and other open systems, including Unix-based computers."
We interviewed general manager Olivier Helleboid for a Q&A to appear in the first full issue, and he already had a sound bite ready about the new strategy. "Wearing one size fits all computing garments doesn't suit our customers facing today's changing technology," he said, adding that the scheme would "make the HP 3000 fit neatly into environments where companies use more than one platform."It was a time when the vendor referred to the "Internet HTTP protocol" as freeware, "and this enables the HP 3000 to be used as a World Wide Web server without any additional hardware." The World part of those W's was still in transit. MPE was missing domain name services, and Netscape's web server would never arrive as a solution for the 3000. The one customer using their 3000 for web services was running an company-wide intranet. But an enterprising engineer from outside of HP got the bedrock of porting up and running that summer. C++ was a new tool.
Mark Klein, then working in the ORBiT Software lab, used his own time and resources to bootstrap the Gnu C++ suite for MPE/iX 5.0. This would make possible the porting of inetd and bootp capabilities, "software that is common to Unix-based environments," HP reminded us. Such 3000 advances seemed to be reflections of what HP's Unix already had on offer.
The "HP-UX multiuser systems" came in for special mention in the company's quarterly results press release, "with particular strength in the telecommunications market." Striving to paint the 3000 in as many industry-standard hues as possible, HP touted Oracle's Transparent Gateway for IMAGE/SQL, and connections to the Sybase database were promised for the first half of 1996.
The management roundtable, an event that featured customers asking unscreened questions of HP VPs, appeared as it often did, "a process that serves as a sounding board for some customers, as black comedy for others, and can sometimes provide information about unmet needs in the customer base."
The flashiest bit of dark humor came from a Japanese customer who reported he'd bought 200 HP-UX servers to date. "The problem is, their quality sucks," said his interpreter. HP's Sales and Marketing chief Manuel Diaz jumped in quickly as the ballroom rocked with laughs. "Somehow, it sounded better in Japanese," he said.
That Interex show rose its curtain in the classic, sticky Lake Ontario summer air, while Microsoft unfurled the Windows 95 banner, 300 feet worth literally draped off a tower in Toronto. Win95 was about to ground NewWave, marking the end of HP's unique R&D into GUI.
I watched an aerial daredevil rappel down the CN tower that week, one of a half-dozen stunts Microsoft staged in contrast to the laid-back HP marketing. Printer sales continued to be a hit with HP's consumers while the company hoped to capture IT dollars with its Vectra PC line.
But not even agent-based object-oriented software like NewWave could spark sales like a Windows campaign that used the Rolling Stones' Start Me Up, trumpeting Win95's new Start button. Paying $3 million for the rights to use the song, Microsoft tattooed it into our brains -- enough that I played it in a loop while I batted out the first edition of our FlashPaper late-news insert as we rolled the presses on the full NewsWire — taking the slash out of our name because being wired was clearly essential to delivering news.
HP was encouraging its customers to watch another sort of TV in the month to come. An HP Technology Close-up Broadcast, MPE and Unix Interoperability and Management, was going to air in HP's offices in September. HP told its customers at the show that if they couldn't be in an HP office that day, they could get a recording on VHS afterward, ordering over an 800-number — in the days when toll-free was only available using the 800 area code.
August 14, 2015
HP drives its stakes between support posts
As August unfolds and HP's final quarter as a combined company unfurls, the corporation that services some of the targets and platforms for 3000 migrators has already divvied up support access. HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise have become separate support systems. Users are being invited to look in more than one place for answers that were previously at a one-stop shop
In early August, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. will provide two different support portals. When you access HP Support Center, you will be able to select a portal for HP Inc. products or a portal for Hewlett Packard Enterprise products.
HP Enterprise business might have fared a little better in the division.
As of August 1st the HP Support Center Mobile application will only be available for Hewlett Packard Enterprise products such as servers, storage, and networking. A message within the application asks you to update to the latest version.
HP is calling the move a "Welcome to our Two-Car Garage." Assigned to the Enterprise arm of HP (to be known as HPE on the stock market), the MPE/iX operating system still has its small outpost in HPE support pages. For the customers who hold an HP Passport login, access to the existing 3000 patches is promised. However, the web-driven access to patches seems to be locked behind the October, 2013 policy that a current HP support contract is required for patch access.
HP-UX customers can purchase such a contract to use the new HPE support site for patching. Since MPE/iX users can't buy such a thing, access to patches is supposed to be free. Getting the patches requires some extra effort, according to independent support providers in the 3000 community. At least looking into the rest of the official 3000 documents — including 64 PDFs of system manuals — remains in a logical place. A special order is still the order of the day to access the patches, though.
We've tracked down 3000 documents at HP before now, but this link is working as of the split up of support sites. (You'll need that Passport to get inside, no matter where you're heading, for migrated platform help, or researching archival documentation.)
August 13, 2015
TBT: An August Switch of HP Bosses
In an August of 16 summers ago, the first woman to lead a Dow 30 corporation waded into her new job as HP CEO. Carly Fiorina took the job that the HP board handed her after it ushered lifelong HP employee Lew Platt out of the top seat at Hewlett-Packard. At the first press conference announcing the transfer of power, Platt got himself hugged by Fiorina. It was a disarming move that signalled new days for the HP hegemony, and two years later, changes for the future of the HP 3000.
Fiorina made her mission the overhaul of the collegial HP, a company whose directors believed had missed the opportunity of the Internet. Platt was at the helm while Sun Microsystems ran laps around larger vendors like HP, as well as IBM. The 3000 was gaining its first sets of Internet-ready subsystems that summer, but Sun was already dug in as the first choice for a way onto the Web.
Fiorina arrived at her HP job too late to make an appearance at that year's HP World conference in San Francisco. It was an unfortunate circumstance, since the conference represented the largest group of HP customers to gather in one spot for that year, as well as many others. HP was celebrating its 60th anniversary, but it was Year One for the changes that would lead to pursuing growth through acquisitions of ever-increasing size. Within two years, the purchase of Compaq would represent Fiorina's boldest stroke, an acquisition that forced the vendor to select which business lines could be eliminated to prevent overlap.
The Compaq community of VMS users made the cut that the 3000 missed, and some in the MPE community believe that Fiorina knew little to nothing about the division whose futures were considered finished. In time it's become evident that most of the relatively-small businesses in HP built on server and OS technology have little future left at the vendor. One well-known 3000 citizen, the final Interex chairman Denys Beauchemin, reported this summer that VMS is experiencing the same fate as MPE, just a decade and a half later. Its heritage isn't saving it, either.In the midst of a discussion about what the Truck Factor is for the 3000 and MPE, Beauchemin said he remembers MPE and its ecosystem fondly, but "dead is dead."
These days, I am watching the same death spiral with VMS, which HP also recently killed but in a somewhat cruel twist they are prolonging the agony a little bit. Now I migrate VMS/Rdb environments to Linux and Oracle. The VMS ecosystem is larger than the MPE one, but it's also older than when HP killed MPE, if that makes any sense. At the last VMS show, I don't think there was anyone under 55.
In the summer that saw Fiorina's ascent, Ann Livermore set aside her campaign for the CEO job and went to work for the HP Enterprise business afterward. HP was trying to catch up in Internet services including its oldest business platform, offering a solution it called e-services, I noted in an editorial.
Livermore’s team wrote the e-services chorus in lightning speed compared to HP’s classic pace. Now she’s the lightning rod for the company’s continuity, and its spark into the top ranks of Internet businesses. Keeping her at HP after a springtime campaign for HP’s top job will be an interesting challenge for Fiorina — perhaps the place the new CEO can make her quickest contribution.
I don’t mean to minimize Fiorina’s ultimate impact on the 3000 community. Having a fresh perspective on the 3000’s prospects could be a turning point. While outgoing CEO Lew Platt was eyeing HP’s bottom line, he could have been looking up to high-profit businesses like the 3000. His HP Way did not nurture a risk-taking environment. But Platt is more than his oversights. He can take credit for creating an environment that opened the door for the changes of Livermore and Fiorina.
Platt has been keenly aware of a woman’s presence earlier in his life, when his first wife died. In a recent BusinessWeek interview he talked about HP giving him the room to grieve, even afternoons off. “It taught me that things I thought were gender-related were not about gender at all, but about the role you are thrust into in life,” he said.
Platt had made his promises about the future of the HP 3000, starting from the first HP user conference where the NewsWire was present. "HP has worked extremely hard with a product like the HP 3000 to make sure that people who have bought it have a good future," he said in another August, four years before his 1999 retirement. He did envision some kind of transition. "We've put an enormous amount of energy to make sure we can roll those people forward," he said, a message I read as extending the lifespan of MPE.
One year after Fiorina took full hold of the reins of HP's future, she was seen in an Interex user group meeting with a pledge of her own, delivered via video. She made special note of the stumbling start for the system during her remarks broadcast 15 years ago, at HP World 2000.
“HP World has grown out of a single customer commitment, one that has lasted 27 years,” Fiorina said. “In 1972 HP introduced the HP 3000, our first multipurpose enterprise computer, a product that has been praised as one of the computer industry’s more enduring success stories.”
“But it didn’t begin that way,” she added. “In fact by many counts it got off to quite a rocky start. The first few systems were plagued by software glitches. And Dave Packard’s personal commitment to his customers turned the HP 3000 story around dramatically. First he sent teams of engineers to work around the clock until the system worked flawlessly. Second, he made sure that any customer upgrades could be easily integrated into existing 3000s. And thanks to his promise to be flexible and grow with the customer, what we’re now calling the e3000 has experienced almost three decades of success, and continues to thrive with a loyal following.”
Platt died at a young 64 years of age in 2005, a wine lover spending his last years enjoying a director's role at a major vintner. Meanwhile, Fiorina promises to make the coming Republican primary season interesting, daring to unseat others with longer track records.
August 07, 2015
Dress Down Fridays, or any other day at HP
Last week we reported on a culture shift at Hewlett-Packard, relaying a story that the company had a confidential memo in the wild about dress codes. Dress up, it encouraged its Enterprise Group workers. The developers and engineers were a little too comfortable in the presence of clients.
The story became an Internet meme so quickly that HP scrambled to sweep the news away. Alan May (above), the HR director of the complete entity now known as Hewlett-Packard Corporation, even made a dandy video of three minutes full of humor, telling the world that HP workers are grownups and professionals. They decide how to dress themselves.
Running with that latest news, a few veterans of the 3000 community decided the story was just made up by The Register, which uncorked the original report based on a confidential memo they'd acquired. El Reg, as the website likes to call itself, must have been lying or worse.
Not so much, even though that HP video is charming. The Register took note of May's comedy, saying "Fun HP video, but none of this changes anything... except one thing: a webpage in the "HP Technology at Work" section of HP.com, dated August 2013, titled "Being smart about casual" and listing do's and don'ts for workplace attire – such as no short skirts or sandals or ripped jeans, and so on. HP still has a link to the article." HP fixed up that link so it now goes to May's fun video.
These are interesting times for Hewlett-Packard, a company that this week shared its Oct. 31 split-up details with support customers. It's not clear if May will be in the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, or with HP Inc. come November 1. For the sake of the Enterprise customers who were former 3000 sites, we hope he stays in the HP segment serving business computing. His hat calls attention to the picture of Bill and Dave on the cubicle behind him. The founders managed a company with an obvious dress code. White shirt, tie, or a nice top and skirt.
The founding 3000 engineers knew that you only get one chance to make a first impression -- the fits-and-starts launch of the 3000 notwithstanding. It took awhile, but eventually what ran on the HP 3000 inside HP became the focus of customer visits, the same kind of visits that sparked that dress code advice that HP seems to have put under its corporate carpet.On a swell website called the HP Memory Project, contributor Hank Taylor reported on how the array of systems that drove Hewlett-Packard — and had been migrated to the 3000 — impressed customers on visits. Heart, a system that controlled and monitored every sale and transaction across HP, was a showcase.
As the HP 3000 became a stronger and stronger processor, Cort Van Rensselaer had the vision to see that developing manufacturing systems on this platform would have several advantages to the company. It would give us a showplace for customers to see our computers in action. [The 3000 census at HP circa 1996 is below, in a slide made for customers.]
Allan Imamoto made the leap of faith and with his team worked out a way to process Heart on the HP 3000. All these conversions turned out to be a very good thing for the company. During my years with Heart and Corporate Networking Services HP was expanding from the manufacture and sale of engineering products into the business computer market. John Young, the CEO of HP said, "It was hard work; believe me, just getting customers." We were selling to people we had never sold to and at the highest levels in their corporations where we had seldom made contacts before. John said, "IBM owned every company outside of the lab or the factory floor."
The solution to breaking into new companies turned out to be bringing high level executives to Palo Alto to attend HP management seminars where they were introduced to our actual information systems processes. It seems like I was making a presentation, along with many of my fellow IT workers, weekly. These presentations had the credibility of hearing from someone who had actually done the things the customers wanted to do. Heart, Comsys, Manufacturing and Accounting systems were all very impressive to our visitors.
August 03, 2015
HP-UX marks time after five years
When we last visited the HP-UX roadmap, the journey's destination was advice about when to expect the end of 11i v3 support. Plans for system and platform futures have changed greatly since that article of August, 2010. Back then, customers looked like they'd be facing a 2017 end of HP support for the version of the OS that replaced some MPE installations. The good news is that HP-UX support has now been promised through 2025.
The bad news is that HP's dropped plans to introduce any fresh generations of the OS. According to HP's 2015 roadmap, 11i v4 or v5 are nowhere to be seen. HP now plans to carry v3 from 2007 to 2025. An 18-year lifespan for an enterprise OS's major release is remarkable. Serving the expanding needs of enterprise customers with such a base OS, one that's eight years old today, is unprecedented at HP.
These roadmaps change, and sometimes the adjustments jettison implied promises which can form the bedrock of IT investment planning. The current hardware that runs HP-UX is Intel's star-crossed Itanium chipset in the Integrity servers. Support for HP-UX on the PA-RISC HP 9000s ended last year.
Five years have elapsed since any HP roadmap promised a newer future. This year's version of the HP-UX roadmap shows no forward march in a major release. HP's Unix is marking time, but there are promises of some refreshment. Like any platform roadmap of our modern era, the one for HP-UX "is not a commitment to deliver any material, code or functionality and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions." HP 3000 managers who remember 3000-centric conference roundtables will recall what those public promises add up to. Any of those managers who put dollars into Unix are looking at a future with few changes.In our research today we found this opinion about platform futures: "The hardware-software vendor dichotomy is so 20th Century." The comment was offered in reply to a chart that tracks the fortunes of technology suppliers. HP's valuation has waned while new-gen companies like Google and Apple have soared. But only one company that builds its own OS and hardware has seen its valuation soar: Apple. It's a mobile-hardware supplier in its predominant facet by now. And Apple promises nothing about prior OS release support.
However, that's not a market that's in decline like Unix (even though the heart of Apple's OS X is Unix). Choices for mobile environments can now command as much spending as a company's purchase of enterprise environments. But on average, the individual company's investment in HP-UX far outstrips any mobile choice.
What's a company that's commited to HP-UX to do? HP says they should mark time and stay put as long as they want, at least another decade. But with the final release of Itanium's chip line coming this year, and HP-UX parked at a major release that made its debut in 2007, signs point to much easier management for Unix customers who've bought from Hewlett-Packard. Such is the outlook for a company that's bought into HP-UX, a slide toward a stable environment that borders on static as the next 10 years roll by.
The refreshes are more than nothing at all — that post-2007 limbo that MPE/iX fell into. Improved IO and storage management, faster recovery times, extended data security, better and more dynamic virtualization uptime, converged infrastructure and cloud management: these are all that the Unix customer is being promised as of this year. Timing on these is as fluid as anything promised to MPE/iX from 2003-10. When to change horses for software platforms is a question for this year's IT planning, unless a 10-year march in place is a better strategy. HP 3000 customers have done that. They've done it without HP's support ever since the year that previous, v4/v5 HP-UX roadmap emerged.
July 28, 2015
Winds of change blow through HP's closets
It's time to check back in with Hewlett-Packard, the vendor providing enterprise servers and solutions for a meaningful section of the 3000 migrators. Our latest news update involves poaching employees and a nouveau dress code, a subset of the things that any splitting-up corporation might be handling.
Details of the HP split into HP Enterprise and HP Inc were rolled out earlier this month, and there's explicit language on how the workforce will be handled once it is halved. Each of the new entities has a one-year embargo on even approaching the other's employees for hiring. For the six months beginning in November of 2015 -- a period when a lot of serious hiring gets delayed -- the two companies cannot hire from the other's ranks. If an employee is fired by Enterprise or Inc, then it's open season.
To sum up, if a talented HP staffer wants to work at the other HP before next June, getting fired is the fastest way to get permission. That might turn out to matter more than it appears, since the company just floated a memo in the Enterprise Services group, including HP-UX and Proliant operations, about professional dress, according a report from the website The Register.
Men should avoid turning up to the office in T-shirts with no collars, faded or torn jeans, shorts, baseball caps and other headwear, sportswear, and sandals and other open shoes. Women are advised not to wear short skirts, faded or torn jeans, low-cut dresses, sandals, crazy high heels, and too much jewelry.
It wouldn't be unprecedented. When former CEO Carly Fiorina took her first tour of former Compaq facilities, post-merger, employees there were told to don "western wear" as a welcoming gesture.
That was at least a merger. Nothing the size of Hewlett-Packard has ever tried to cleave itself into two complementary pieces remaining in the same business sector. This is uncharted territory, but a dress code memo and limited job transfer options might deliver some new talent into the non-HP workforce. Meanwhile, the current CEO says that turning around the company has been relatively easy.That memo isn't public, but the workforce hiring practices are part of an SEC Form 10 filing that runs more than 300 pages. HP's issuing new email addresses for the employees leaving the full company to work for Enterprise. It will now be hpe.com, although the old addresses will work for a year from the Oct. 31 split-up date.
CEO Meg Whitman, who'll lead Enterprise, said latest chapter of her turnaround of the company is easier than running for California governor. On a Bloomberg TV show, Whitman said running her political campaign that lost the election was harder than a turnaround.
You know, you get up every morning, and you fight the good fight, and you win hearts and minds of HP people, and you restore the confidence of customers and partners. So it’s been hard but it’s been really gratifying. And I have to say, relative to running for governor, this is easy.
The nuances and operational detail of creating two $60 billion entities — which will partner to buy supplies, to jointly sell products to customers, and to share patents and other intellectual property — might start to tax Whitman's estimation. Intellectual property at HP is held in the HP Development Company. The MPE/iX licensing is probably going to remain with Enterprise. If there were any technical resources in the 3000 community that want to take on that license, HP may be up for cleaning out its Enterprise closets.
Sorry, just kidding. Nobody wants those engineers to stop wearing t-shirts, either, do they? It's an exercise for the reader to decide which proposition seems sillier in this season of change at HP.
July 20, 2015
The Weekend a User Group Went Lights-out
Ten years ago this week, the Interex user group went dark in both a digital and literal way. The organization that was launched 30 years earlier to serve HP 3000 customers took down its website, shuttered its servers, and shut out the lights to lock up its Sunnyvale, Calif. offices. A bankruptcy went into its opening days, one that would take more than two years to make its way into Federal Court. But the immediate impact was the loss of the tent-pole gathering for the 3000 community, that year's annual HP World conference.
Millions of dollars in hotel guarantees, prepaid advertising, and booth exhibitor rents went unpaid or unreturned. It was more than the loss of an event that had a 28-year history of joining experts with customers. The Interex blackout turned off a notable light that might've led to a brighter future for a 3000 community still looking for answers and contact with vendors and expertise.
Looking back from a decade later, signs were already evident for the sudden demise of a multi-million dollar organization with 100,000 members of some pedigree. Tens of thousands of those members were names in a database and not much more, places where the Interex tabloid HP World could be mailed to generate advertising revenues. A core group of users, devoted to volunteering and rich with tribal, contributed knowledge about HP's servers, was far smaller.
Interex was all-in on support and cooperation with the Hewlett-Packard of 2005, but only up to a point on a crucial user group mission. The group was glad to re-label its annual conference after the vendor, as well as that monthly tabloid. HP held the rights to both of those names once the group made that transition. There was an HP liaison to the group's board for decades. The key managers in the 3000 division made their first-person 2002 articles explaining HP's 3000 exit available to the Interex publications. Winston Prather wrote "it was my decision" on pages published by Interex.
But in 2004, HP sowed the seeds of change that Interex watered with a no-collaboration decision. User groups from the Digital VMS community agreed to cooperation with HP on a new user conference, one to be funded by HP. Interex's directors polled the member base and chose to follow an independent route. The Interex board would stick to its plans to exclusively produce the next HP World. Advocacy was at stake, they said, and Interex's leaders believed the group would need its own annual meeting to keep asking HP to do better.
HP began to sell exhibitor space for an HP Technology Forum against the Interex HP World booths. Just before the HP World San Francisco Moscone Center wanted its final payment — and a couple of weeks after exhibitors' payments were in hand — the tune the 3000 world heard was Boom-boom, out go the lights.The user group struggled to maintain a financial balance in the years following the Y2K ramp-up, according to one of its directors, an era when attendance at the group's annual shows fell steadily. Membership figures for the group, inflated to six figures in press releases during 2004, included a very broad definition of members. Hotels were reserved for two years in advance, with payments made by the group and still outstanding for millions of dollars.
One conference sponsor, Acucorp, was told by an Interex ad rep that the staff was led to the door. A user community labored mightily to recover contributed white papers, articles, and software from a company that was selling conference memberships right up to July 17.
Ten years ago on this very date, HP was already at work gathering up the orphaned attendees who held prepaid tickets and registrations as well as exhibitors with no show to attend. HP offered a complimentary, comparable registration to the Technology Forum for paid, registered attendees of HP World 2005. HP also offered discounted exhibition space at its Forum to "non-HP competitors" exhibiting at or sponsoring HP World 2005. If you were IBM, or EMC, and bought a booth at the Interex show, you had no recourse but to write off the loss.
The shutdown was not orchestrated with the cleanest of messages. Interex.org, a website archived hundreds of times by the Internet Wayback Machine since 1996, posted a report that was the equivalent of a busy signal.
It is with great sadness, that after 31 years, we have found it financially necessary to close the doors at Interex. Unfortunately our publications, newsletters, services and conference (HPWorld 2005) will be terminated immediately. We are grateful to the 100,000 members and volunteers of Interex for their contributions, advocacy and support. We dearly wish that we could have continued supporting your needs but it was unavoidable.
Within a week, planning from the 3000 user community was underway to gather together any customers who were going to the HP World venue of San Francisco anyway -- since they were holding those nonrefundable tickets, or had already paid for hotel rooms.
Companies go broke every day, victims of poor management, bad luck, or unavoidable catastrophe. Few organizations can avoid closing, given enough time. But for a founding constituency that based its careers on a server that rarely died, the sudden death of the group that'd been alive as long as the 3000 was striking, sad — and a mark of upcoming struggles for any group built to serve a single vendor's customer base. Even a decade earlier, according to former Interex chair Jane Copeland, a proposal to wrap up the group's mission was offered in an ever-growing heterogenous computing world.
“When I left, I said they ought to have a dissolution plan,” said Copeland, owner of API International. “The former Executive Director of Interex Chuck Piercey and I tried to get the board to do it — because we didn’t see the purpose of a vendor-specific group in an open systems market.”
A change in HP’s CEO post sealed the user group’s fate, she added. The arrival of Carly Fiorina shifted the vendor’s focus away from midrange computer users such as HP 3000 and HP 9000 customers.
“I think HP is probably the cause of this more than anything,” Copeland said. “As soon as [CEO] Lew Platt left HP, that was the end of Interex. Carly Fiorina wasn’t interested in a user group. She just wasn’t user-oriented. Before Fiorina, HP had one of the most loyal customer bases in the industry. She did more to kill the HP brand than anyone. She killed it in such a way that the user group’s demise was guaranteed as soon as her reorganization was in place. She didn’t want midrange systems. All she was interested in was PCs.”
Another HP 3000 community member saw HP's declining interest in the server as a signal the user group was living on borrowed time. Olav Kappert, whose IOMIT International firm has served 3000 customers for nearly 30 years, said HP looked eager to stop spending on 3000-related user group events.
"HP would rather not spend another dime on something that has no future with them,” he said. “It will first be SIG-IMAGE, then other HP 3000 SIGs will follow. Somewhere in-between, maybe even Interex will disappear."
June 30, 2015
Run-up to HP split-up sees enterprise splits
Later this week, Hewlett-Packard will announce the financial roadmap for the business that will become HP Enterprise, holder of the futures of the HP 3000 replacements from the vendor. More than the accounting is in flux, though. Today the vendor announced the executive VP of its Enterprise Group will be gone before the split-up takes place.
Bill Veghte will split the HP scene, leaving "later this summer to pursue a new opportunity." Big vendors like HP rarely track where an exec like Veghte is heading next. It's not in the same direction as the business that makes Integrity servers, the HP-UX operating environment, or the competitive mass storage product lines that some migrators have invested in.
He's been leading the efforts to separate the consumer printer PC side of HP from its Enterprise sibling, a sort of cleaving of what's become a Siamese twin of business at the vendor. It's been a project underway since last fall, employing Veghte after COO work. This is not the kind of announcement you want to release before a massive split is completed. HP's original estimate for revenues of HP Enterprise was $58.4 billion, larger than the PC-printer side.
There have been exits from a seat this high before at HP. Dave Donatelli left the company, and now has landed at arch-rival Oracle. From a tactical perspective, or at least not quite as customer-facing, HP's got to clone 2,600 internal IT systems, extracting and separating the data inside. It's the opposite effort of a merger, with no safety net. The Wall Street Journal says the IT enterprise split could stall the split-up of the company, if the project doesn't go well.It's not all glum forecasting among the enterprise industry analysts, though. One report from banking firm Raymond James says the divided HP could purchase its longtime rival EMC. "We continue to believe that an acquisition of EMC by HP is more than a distinct possibility, as HP strives to increase shareholder value following its tax-free spinoff in November, while EMC deals with a high-profile shareholder activist," the report says.
Donatelli was an EMC kingpin before he arrived at HP, a move that EMC sued over during Donatelli's earliest HP months. The EMC scheme didn't have traction anyplace but the Raymond James report. But HP and EMC have tried to merge before, with almost a year of discussions that petered out last fall. HP announced its split-up plans in the same timeframe.
HP's stock dipped below $30 a share today, and it's down about 12 percent over the past month.
June 04, 2015
More open HP shares its source experience
It's not fair to Hewlett-Packard to portray its Discover meeting this week as just another exercise in putting dreams of industry-rocking memristor computing to rest. The company also shared the source code for one of its products with the world, a tool the vendor has used itself in a profitable software product.
HP’s Chief Technology Officer Martin Fink, who also heads up HP Labs, announced the release of Grommet, HP’s own internal-use advanced open source app. The platform will be completely open source, licensed for open use in creating apps' user experience, or UX as it's known in developer circles. Fink said Grommet was HP’s contribution to the IT industry and the open source community.
HP says "Grommet easily and efficiently scales your project with one code base, from phones to desktops, and everything in between." The vendor has been using it to develop its system management software HP OneView for more than three years. The code on GitHub and a style guide help create apps with consumer interfaces, so there's a uniform user experience for internal apps. Application icons like the one on the left are available from an interface template at an HP website.
The gift of HP's software R&D to a community of users is a wide improvement over the strategy in the year that followed an exit announcement from MPE/iX futures. A campaign to win an MPE/iX open source license, like the Creative Commons 4.0 license for Grommet, came to naught within three years of that HP notification. There were some differences, such as the fact that HP still was selling MPE/iX through October of 2003, and it was collecting support money for the environment as well.
The 3000 community wanted to take MPE/iX into open source status, and that's why its advocacy group was named OpenMPE. It took eight more years, but HP did help in a modest way to preserve the maintainability of MPE/iX. The vendor sold source code licenses for $10,000 each to support companies. These were limited licenses, and they remain a vestige of what HP might have done -- a move not only echoed by Grommet, but reflected in HP's plan to move OpenVMS to a third party.
"I guess there is a difference between licensing the MPE code and then distributing it," our prolific commenter Tim O'Neill said last week.
I have heard that HP hangs onto the distribution rights because they are afraid of liability. Surely they do not, at this point, still seek to make money off it, do they? Is there some secret desire within HP to once again market it?
It feels safe to say not a bit of desire exists in HP today, even though Grommet shows the vendor can be generous with more mainstream tech. In at least one case, HP's offer of help with MPE's future was proactive, if not that generous.Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions tells a story about that MPE/iX source license. He was called by Alvina Nishimoto of HP in 2009 and asked, "You want to purchase one of these, don't you?" The answer was yes. Nobody knew what good a source code license might do in the after-market. But HP was not likely to make the licensing offer twice, and the companies who got one took on that $10,000 expense as an investment in support operations.
Pining over Grommet or the sweeter disposition of OpenVMS won't change much in the strategy of owning or migrating from MPE/iX. Open source has become a mainstream enterprise IT scheme by 2015, pumped up by the Linux success story. O'Neill said he still believes an open source MPE/iX would be a Linux alternative. He reported he recently discovered the Posix interface in MPE/iX. Posix was supposed to be a way to give MPE the ability to run Unix applications, using 1990 thinking.
The aim for Posix was widely misunderstood. It was essential to an MPE/iX user experience that didn't materialize as HP hoped. But John Burke, our net.digest and Hidden Value editor for many years, noted in the weeks after that exit announcement that HP's training on Posix expressed that desire of bringing the Unix apps to the 3000.
The following is an example from HP training:
"Before we proceed, let's stop to ask a question, just to ensure you've got the fundamental idea. Which of the following statements best summarizes the reason why HP has brought POSIX compliant interfaces to the MPE/iX operating system and the HP3000?
- POSIX is the first step in HP's plan to move all HP3000 users to UNIX
- POSIX is a tool that HP is using to bring new applications to MPE from the UNIX environment.
- POSIX is a piece of software that HP is using to eventually combine the HP3000 and the HP9000 into a single system.
Choose the best answer, and press the corresponding key: ‘1’, ‘2’ or ‘3’."
June 03, 2015
HP's Machine dream migrates off OS plan
The HP Discover show has wrapped up its second day, an annual event full of sales and engineering staff from the vendor as well as high-line customers. The show included an introduction of the new logo for the Enterprise half of Hewlett-Packard, a spinoff the vendor will cleave off the company in October. It's an empty green rectangle, something that drew some scorn an an icon bereft of content or message.
CEO Meg Whitman said the green represents growth and the rectangle is a window on the future. We can only hope that a logo for a $65 billion corporation that turns out to be a rectangle in green has a good discount attached to the project's invoice.
But another session today that can be consumed on Livestream.com showed a consistent removal of substance from HP's dream factory. The Machine, a project that reportedly was attracting more than half the R&D budget for the full corporation, had its mission backed away from the platform that promised to lead into computing's future. A computer built around the long-pursued memristor will make a debut sometime next year, but bearing standard DRAM chips instead. Of greatest interest to HP 3000 customers, former and those still current, is abandoning the R&D to create a Machine operating system.
An OS for the Machine would have been HP's first such project since MPE. HP hasn't built an environment from scratch since MPE was introduced in the 1970s. Its Unix began in Bell Labs with System V, NonStop was created at Tandem, and VMS was the brainchild of DEC. The Palm OS came from the company of the same name, and HP sold that software to Samsung to be used in refrigerators. HP's head of Labs Martin Fink said that Linux will be the software heartbeat of the Machine going forward. Creating a computer that runs Linux: Nothing there to suggest there's new love for software R&D in Fink's labs.Fink told the New York Times regarding the Machine that "Big will happen first, small will happen later." He was talking about the scale for the Machine, at first being a 320TB RAM device before becoming sized for smartphones and printers.
Big has developed a way of happening later at HP, not first.
The most telling part of this retrench of this big idea: falling back to a customized Linux as the operating environment for the Machine. Operating systems are big, but HP's not going to force software developers to learn something that has a chance to change the world's computing, as proposed for the Machine last year.
In the main hall of the Las Vegas show, thousands of customers and HP employees watched a clip from Avatar as evidence of HP's ambitions during today's talk. When the clip ended, the hall was silent. "You can clap for that, c'mon," Whitman said. She announced three sequels to come, called the movie a franchise, and adding that HP Enterprise has a five-year partnership with the creators of Avatar. HP's goal is create a rich user experience for the science fiction of James Cameron's films.
Science fiction about computer science might be for sale before the first sequel airs in 2017. HP's keynoted Discover content is all available on Livestream this year, for the first time. Tomorrow is the final day for the event.
May 21, 2015
HP disses synergies as Q2 flows downhill
Penetration rates increased for HP's Business Critical Systems in the company's second quarter of 2015, year over year. And the corporation that sold thousands of HP-UX systems from that BCS to HP 3000 migrators reported that it has spent more than $400 million in dis-synergies in the just-finished quarter. Such were the milestones of financial jargon delivered to explain Q2 business. On the strength of profits that met expectations, analysts said the last 90 days of business didn't sink the SS Hewlett-Packard any further.
But the $25.5 billion in sales dropped from last year's Q2, and the revenues fell from the previous quarter as well. HP is selling less -- especially in the enterprise servers it created like Integrity -- and its already spending hundreds of millions to split itself into Enterprise and PC-printer companies. Halfway through the final year when all of that business is under one corporate banner, the company is looking ahead to rising reports as a split-up entity.
"HP is becoming stronger as we head into the second half of our fiscal year and separation in November," said CEO Meg Whitman at this afternoon's analyst briefing. The stock had closed at $33.83 and rose about 40 cents a share in after-hours trading.
The strength of the company, a subject of interest only to the 3000 customers who've chosen HP for migrations, must be measured in more than the price of its stock. HP hopes so, at least, since HPQ is trading in the same middle $30 range of 2011. Whitman has held her job since then, a time when PC pursuits and big-ticket acquisitions were the order of the day.
Now HP is merging with a new sense of focus. Merger and acquisition plays have both negative and positive prospects. Savings come through synergies. Declines come through dis-synergies, something HP wrote off as restructuring and separations costs that totalled more than a half-billion dollars.Revenues flowed downhill in all HP segments tied to systems and devices: PCs, printers, and HP-built enterprise servers. Industry Standard Servers sales rose, and HP is looking forward to the migration of customers from Windows 2003 to 2012 to lift sales of Intel-based products. The sales in Business Critical Systems declined another 15 percent versus Q2 of 2014. Year over year declines in BCS have arrived in steady measure for the last four years. But the Enterprise Group where BCS lives -- a unit that'll be a part of this fall's newly-minted HP Enterprise Corp. -- reported just a $7 million drop in profits. Sales were off $84 million.
Business Critical Systems sales -- all of the revenues from HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop servers, plus allied software -- dropped below $200 million for the first time in Q2. "The team delivered growth in operating profit dollars," said CFO Cathie Lesjak, "by improved gross margin and operating expense management." Selling and working out of BCS is a cost-wary enterprise in 2015.
Superdome X and NonStop X are a pair of server projects that will take those platforms across the HP-built to industry standard divide, and HP says those prospects hold hope for the future of those systems.
The price of a better future for a divided HP is those dis-synergies. One definition of this business term:
- Lower employee productivity during a period of due diligence or arising from the uncertainty of the takeover
- Loss of key employees to competitors
- Underestimating the time and complexity of merger integration, particularly integrating different systems
- Loss of customers who may decide that they wish to reduce the total amount they spend with the two businesses once combined or (worse) switch to a different supplier altogether.
In HP's case, that merger is the classic-line Hewlett-Packard business, enterprise computing, with the realities of competing in 2016 and beyond.
May 20, 2015
Discovering HP's Futures
In a couple of weeks HP computer users will gather for an annual conference in North America. For the past five years, the meeting has been called HP Discover. This year's event is promising to show off visions of the future. Pictures of stalwart enterprise community members will be harder to find.
Among the HP technologies developed as computing environments, only HP's Unix will have a Special Interest Group Forum at the June 2-4 conference. Searching the sessions database for the letters VMS -- pretty special to the Digital customers that HP preferred to serve futures to versus 3000 sites -- yields no hits. If VMS is being discussed at HP Discover, it's likely to be just a topic on the floor.
Stromasys will be on that floor, talking about several platforms whose HP futures have already or will soon enough expire. Charon HPA, emulating the HP 3000 hardware, as well as virtualization products for the Digital systems and even Sun's Solaris computers will be demonstrated. Sarah Smith of Stromasys says it's a regular stop in the company's itinerary.
"At the booth we'll be doing demos of Charon," she said. "We've been going for years. VAX, Alpha, and PDP were all DEC products, so we talk about all of them at Discover."
Meanwhile, HP will be talking about many commodity solutions along with The Machine, its project to deliver six times more power than current computer systems on 1.25 percent of the energy. Its big idea is universal memory, driven by the elusive memristor HP first began discussing in 2008. Universal memory is as inexpensive as DRAM, as speedy as static RAM, as non-volatile as flash memory, and infinitely durable. The Machine is an HP Labs project reputed to have requisitioned 75 percent of the Labs' resources. Its delivery date is far enough out in the future that hearing about its potential is still just about all anybody expects this year, or next.The HP North American shows were once all about users, and then after awhile, all about the products the vendor had delivered and were in use in the field. The HP 3000 slipped out of the session list at HP Discover around 2010, and now the VMS platform hasn't qualified for as much time as The Machine. The conference does gather a nice sheaf of customers to go along with a thicket of HP staff. Even before the show was renamed from the HP Tech Forum, it had tilted toward sales-to-customer events with more than a few NDAs to keep out the riff-raff.
HP Innovation Brought to Life in Film will tell attendees they can "Get a glimpse into some of the revolutionary technologies HP is tackling that address the most complex challenges and opportunities for our customers and our society in the next decade and beyond." There's not much point in setting out session times for an hour on something like improving performance of an HP-specific database, because by now such a thing has dropped off HP's discovery map. That's 20th Century computing, anyway.
But despite the habit of eschewing topics like VMS, MPE, and other HP legacy creations, the company hasn't lost its taste for invention altogether. A panel of HP Labs researchers will offer "a closer look at what it takes to make The Machine change everything we know about computing. This radical new approach will fuse memory and storage, flatten data hierarchies, bring processing closer to data, embed security throughout the hardware and software stacks and enable management of the system at scale."
There was a time when HP's chalk talk about such a product would only have emerged when the product shipped, or at least was priced. When the first HP 3000 Spectrum systems -- the PA-RISC emulated by Charon -- slipped into release, the HP Journal ran tech articles on how they were breaking ground. Aiming at a high bar like "changing everything we know about computing" sounds a lot like a concept film of the 1980s or 1990s HP. Great fun, but perhaps not as immediately useful as the networking within a SIG Forum. At least HP-UX still has that much to count upon in two weeks' time.
February 27, 2015
Dow hits record while HP shares fall out
On the day the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a record pinnacle, Hewlett-Packard released quarterly results that pushed the company's stock down 10 percent.
HP is no longer in the Dow, a revision that the New York Stock Exchange made last year. HP is revising its organization this year in preparing to split in two by October. The numbers from HP's Q1 of 2015 indicate the split can't happen soon enough for the maker of servers targeted to replace HP 3000s. The company is marching toward a future more focused on enterprise systems -- but like a trooper on a hard course, HP fell out during the last 90 days.
HP said that the weakness in the US Dollar accounted for its overall 5 percent drop in sales compared to last year's first quarter. Sales would have only fallen 2 percent on a constant-currency basis, the company said. It mentioned the word "currency" 55 times in just its prepared marks of an earnings conference call this week. The 26.8 billion in sales were off by $1.3 billion on the quarter, a period where HP managed to post $1.7 billion in pre-tax earnings.
That $1.7 billion is a far cry from Apple's $18 billion in its latest quarter profits. HP's arch-rival IBM is partnering with Apple on enterprise-caliber deals.
Meanwhile, the still-combined Hewlett-Packard has rolled from stalled to declining over the last 18 months, which represents some of the reason for its bold move to split itself. "Enterprise trends are set to remain lackluster absent a transformative acquisition," said one analyst while speaking to MarketWatch this week. Two-thirds of the $5.5 billion in Printing came from supplies. Ink is still king in the printing group
Industry Standard Systems (Intel-based Windows servers) provided the lone uptick in the report. Sales of products such as the newest Gen9 ProLiants lifted the revenues up 7 percent compared to the Q1 of 2014. HP is ready to take advantage of upcoming rollovers in Windows Server installations.Results from the Enterprise Group delivered another chorus of downbeat numbers for the Business Critical Systems operations. The group where HP's Unix and VMS enterprise servers are created saw its sales fall 9 percent from last year's Q1. Of course, that period showed a revenue drop as well. BCS operations -- where the HP 3000 resided when it was a Hewlett-Packard product -- haven't seen any recovery in more than two years.
BCS results have been so consistently poor that HP considered that 9 percent drop a good sign. "We also saw some recovery in business-critical systems," said CFO Cathie Lesjak, "with revenue down only 7 percent in constant currency or 9 percent as reported."
Lesjak pointed out to the analysts on its conference call that hardware such as the Integrity HP-UX servers are vulnerable to the value of the US Dollar.
Our personal systems and our Enterprise Group hardware businesses have very little in natural hedges, as our component contracts are typically in US dollars. As a result, these businesses are disproportionately impacted by currency movements. However, we do have some ability to increase pricing in response to currency movements, while being mindful of competition and potential negative impacts to customer demand.
HP is expecting all of the 2015 hardware growth in the Enterprise Group to come from its Gen9 lineup of ProLiant systems. Windows Server 2003 has an expiration date for its support coming up in July, an event that HP believes will give it some fresh wind in its enterprise sales.
"I think we are really well positioned to take advantage of Windows 2003 refresh, just as we were from the XP migration and the PC business," said CEO Meg Whitman. "I think we feel really pretty good about that business for the reminder of the year. And I think we are very well positioned .and the Gen9 server was dead-on, from the market perspective."
February 12, 2015
TBT: Sure, there's 20 more years of the 3000
Just 22 years ago this month, the leader of the HP 3000 division figured HP would still be selling and supporting HP 3000s working in businesses today. Glenn Osaka was in his first few months running what HP called CSY, a group that was coming up hard against HP's own Unix sales force.
"I think there's another 20 years in it," he said in 1993, "but I can tell you that 20 years from now, we'll probably look back and the 3000 won't be looking at all like it looks today."
Nobody could see a virtualized server looking like HP's proprietary hardware. PA-RISC computing was just becoming dominant. In 1993 there was no serious emulation in enterprise servers, let alone virtualization. The magic of Charon had not even dawned for the Digital servers where the Stromasys product notched its first success.
But HP was thinking big in that February. Osaka said the 3000 was about to take on "applications that traditionally would have been thought of as IBM mainframe-class applications. That program is going gangbusters for us. To get that new business on the high end of the product line is very effective for us, because it's the most profitable business we can do. More and more of our new business is going to come from people who are coming from mainframes."
The division was posting annual growth of 5-10 percent, which might have been impressive until HP compared it to 40 percent annual growth in its Unix line.
In a year when HP was just introducing a Unix-like Posix interface to MPE, Osaka said HP's "work that we're doing on Unix is very easily leveraged to the 3000, and we're simply using our sales force to help us find the opportunities to bring it to market first."
He identified the newest generation of the 3000's database as "SQL for IMAGE," something that would help with relationships with partners like Cognos, Gupta Technologies, PowerSoft and more. What HP would call IMAGE/SQL "will give our customers access to these partners' tools without having to change their database management system." A new client-server solutions program was afoot at HP, and the 3000 was being included on a later schedule than the HP 9000 Unix servers.
The server would "carve itself a nice, comfortable niche in some of the spaces we don't even really conceive of today, particularly in transaction-based processing." Osaka would hold the job until 1995, when he'd become the head of the Computer Systems Business Unit at HP. By that time, he'd guessed, HP would still be able to show its customers that "the level of capability that we provide on the 3000 is higher" than HP Unix servers.By the time we interviewed Osaka three years later, in a new post in 1996, he'd dialed back his forecast to say "we have at least 10 more years of very strong presence in large companies and medium sized companies with the 3000 in the marketplace. What I don't know is what people are going to buy. For a long time I have had as a core belief that the life of any computer is tied to the lifespan of the application."
But by 1996, with his unit containing both Unix and MPE divisions, Osaka was giving us at the NewsWire the first notes of warning that things had changed for the server inside HP. In our September 1996 Q&A, he said new applications ought to be launched on other platforms.
The whole dynamics around the application software industry have changed. Because of Microsoft, it's turning into a volume marketplace, and there's not enough volume in the 3000 business to fuel the early growth of such companies. If I were a developer, depending on what kind of application, I'd say put it on Oracle, or Informix, or NT BackOffice. Then I'd feel more comfortable I'd get a return.
You're making us glad we didn't ask you about the NewsWire's chances when we started.The NewsWire is an interesting thing. Information that is critical to this user community has high value, because HP has become less effective at delivering that information to the broad user base. That's a viable business plan, but there are others [in this market] that people talk to me about that don't quite make so much sense.
We left that interview feeling lucky to have pushed out our first year of a publication that was doing what HP couldn't do so well anymore. We'd also be facing the hard reality, within five years, that HP couldn't manage a belief in any future role for the server beyond 2006.
Osaka left HP within two years of our second interview, moving on eventually to Juniper Networks and other high-tech firms. Today he's a private consultant and advisor. Of his work in the 3000 division, MB Foster's Birket Foster says on Linked In
Glenn provided leadership and "out-of-the-box" thinking when running the CSY division. Glenn saw value in the software vendor community, completing solutions for mutual customers. Glenn assisted the formalization of the SIG SoftVend meetings, to exchange directions with software vendors and facilitated non-disclosure meetings for access to MPE source, and working with tool/utility software vendors.
February 05, 2015
Getting Chromed, and Bad Calls
The HP 3000 made its bones against IBM's business computers, and the wires are alive this week with the fortunes of Big Blue circa 2015. Starting with meetings yesterday, the company is conducting a Resource Action, its euphemism for layoffs. IBM employees call these RAs, but this year's edition is so special -- and perhaps so deep -- it's got a project name. The cutting is dubbed Project Chrome, and so the IBM'ers call getting laid off Getting Chromed.
Hewlett-Packard has never wanted to call its layoffs by their real name either. The first major HP layoff action during the 3000's watch came in the fall of 1989, when more than 800 of these separations were called "being excessed." Employees had four months to find a new place inside HP, but had to search on their own time. Engineers and support staff were given the option to remain at the company, but jobs at plant guard shacks were among their new career options. Another virulent strain of HP pink slips came in the middle of the last decade, one of the purges in pursuit of better Earnings Per Share that pared away much of the remaining MPE/iX expertise from the vendor.
Aside from bad quarterly reports, these unemployment actions sometimes come in the aftermath of ill-fated corporate acquisitions. This week on CNBC's Squawk Box, analysts identified HP's Compaq merger as one of the worst calls of all time. The subject surfaced after the questionable call that led to a Seattle defeat in Sunday's SuperBowl. A big company's failures in new markets can also be to blame for getting Chromed. IBM has seen its revenues and profits fall over the last year, while mobile and cloud competitors have out-maneuvered Big Blue.
IBM has already shucked off the Cognos development tool PowerHouse as of early last year, but now comes word that other non-IBM software is getting its support pared back in the RA. In the IEEE's digital edition of Spectrum, one commenter made a case for how IBM is sorting out what's getting Chromed.
The digital article on the IEEE website also includes some reports that employees over 40 have been targeted. They then saw the company threaten to withhold severance packages if age-discrimination lawsuits were filed.
I am the last US resource supporting a non-IBM software package, which is in high demand globally -- yet the powers that be seem oblivious to it. Rather than create a dedicated group to go after that business, they cut anyone with that skill, since it is not an IBM product and therefore, "not strategic." Unfortunately the company continues to gamble on their Tivoli products, which clients seem to embrace about as much as Lotus Notes, rabies and bird flu.
HP and IBM have a lot in common in their workforce makeup. Both employ more than 300,000 workers as of last year, and while those numbers lead the industry, neither is among the top 15 employers worldwide in headcount. However, HP and IBM manufacture goods, so they look up at the largest manufacturing worker employer, Volkwagen. There are 555,000 VW employees.
HP's employee count rose into six digits, and then doubled again, as a result of two acquisitions. Compaq drove the headcount to above 140,000, a 65 percent increase. Then in 2008, EDS became an HP operation, and the headcount soared to 349,000. Since 2011, the workforce at the vendor that's still working to sell some HP 3000 replacements has dropped by 15 percent. The current HP layoff plan — a layoff strategy has been in place for more than five year — calls for a total of 55,000 job eliminations by the end of this fiscal year.
These employee cuts are the result of relentless pursuit of EPS growth, so that the numbers reported to shareholders can show an increase in spite of flat to falling revenues. Stock prices at HP have recovered to 2005 levels amid the HP layoff march. But IBM's share price took a 12 percent dive on a single day this fall, is now below its mark when current CEO Ginni Rommety took over, and hovers today around $160 a share.
Rommety was rewarded for her performance in 2014 with a $1.6 million bonus. The tepid stock of IBM made it "the worst performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average for a second straight year," according to Bloomberg News. The company that once proudly wore the reputation "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" is doing a lot of firing this week.
February 02, 2015
HP's new roster: same minds, old mission
HP has announced its new management lineup for the split company, but many key positions for the refocused Hewlett-Packard Enterprise won't change in the reorganization. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is the name for the corporation that will sell, support and even develop the HP suggested replacements for the HP 3000. Customers who invested in HP's Unix servers, or even those using HP's ProLiants as Linux hosts, will care about who's leading that new company.
But those customers won't have to spend a great deal of time tracking new faces. Current HP CEO Meg Whitman will head the company that promises to increase its focus on enterprise computing, the kind that HP 3000s have done for decades. While reading the tea leaves and doing the Kremlinology for the heads of HP computer operations, the following leaders are unchanged:
- Cathie Lesjak will be the Chief Financial Officer
- John Schultz will be the General Counsel
- Henry Gomez will be the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
- John Hinshaw will be the Chief Customer Officer and lead Technology & Operations
- Martin Fink will be the Chief Technology Officer and lead Hewlett-Packard Labs
While remaining as the General Manager of Enterprise Group, Bill Veghte will lead the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise separation efforts. He's not doing a small job now. The Enterprise group is a $28 billion annual revenue business that includes server, storage, networking, technology services, and cloud solutions. Giving him transition duties is reminiscent of the days when leading the HP 3000 operations as GM had devolved into a part-time job, shared with the GM duties of HP's Business Intelligence Unit. It's different this time; there's a second-in-command who'll manage the Enterprise Group operations in this year of transition.
With HP's Labs, Enterprise chiefs, and the head of the boardroom table all the same, it will be interesting to see what changes get managed with the old team. HP will have an old mission, too -- very old, from the era before it heard the siren song of consumer computing. 3000 customers used to wish for an HP that was marketing-savvy. When that HP arrived, it seemed to quickly forget the 3000. There was a renaissance in the 3000 thinking and plans from Roy Breslawski in marketing, and Harry Sterling as GM. But Sterling was then handed Business Intelligence GM duties alongside his 3000 mission. Within a couple of years after Sterling retired, the 3000 was out on the chopping block.
Nobody knows what will be excised from the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise that's going to have to get even leaner as a smaller entity. But at least that Enterprise won't be spending a lot to lure new executives with fat recruiting packages like the one given to Mark Hurd. That was at the peak of the consumer pursuit at HP. Some might call it the nadir, from an enterprise computing perspective.
January 16, 2015
What's ahead for the HPs of 2015?
Last year Hewlett-Packard announced it's going to split up in 2015. Right now it's a combined entity whose stock (HPQ) represents both PC and enterprise business. But by the end of this fiscal year, it will be two companies, one called HP Inc. and another holding the classic Hewlett-Packard name. Any of the enterprise business that HP's managed to migrate from 3000s sits in that Hewlett-Packard future.
Most of time, the things that HP has done to affect your world have been easy to see coming. There's a big exception we all know about from November of 2001. But even the forthcoming split-up of the company was advocated for years by Wall Street analysts. It was a matter of when, some said, not if.
If can be a big word, considering it has just two letters. There was an HP ad campaign from 30 years ago that was themed What If. In things like TV commercials that included shots of HP 3000 terminals, What If sometimes proposed more radical things for its day, like a seamless integration of enterprise mail with the then-nouveau desktop computers.
HP called that NewWave, and by the time it rolled out the product looked a lot like a me-too of Apple and Microsoft interfaces. But What If, rolled forward to 2015, would be genuinely radical if there were either no HP left any more, or Hewlett-Packard leveraged mergers with competitors.
What If: HP's PC and printer business was purchased by Lenovo, a chief competitor in the laptop-desktop arena? Its new CEO of the HP Inc spinoff ran Lenovo before joining HP. On the other hand, what if HP bought Lenovo?
What If: Hewlett-Packard Enterprise became a property of Oracle? That one is a much bigger If, considering that HP's built hardware in massive quantity for a decade-plus along four different product lines: Integrity, PA-RISC (still generating support revenues in HP-UX), ProLiant x86s, and its dizzying array of networking products. You could even label forthcoming dreams like The Machine, or the Moonshot systems, as hardware lines. Oracle's got just Sun systems. As 3000 customers know, hardware is not a firm stake in the ground for business futures.If there's anything that seems certain here in January, it's that the creator of MPE, IMAGE and PA-RISC will continue to pursue enterprise business customers of its competitors. The customers of firms like IBM and Oracle (Sun) are just about all that can be nabbed by a purveyor of enterprise environments that are proprietary — the lame-duck VMS, the NonStop OS, and HP-UX.
The computer industry hasn't had an earthquake of a deal that'd register Oracle+HP tremors since HP bought EDS in 2008 for $13.9 billion. HP bought Compaq in 2002 for $25 billion. That's a lot of simoleons in a computing market that's growing. Dollar-wise, Oracle acquiring HP would've been 40 percent cheaper one year ago. HP's market capitalization today is $70 billion, and it was just $50 billion in January 2014.
That is, of course, the size of the un-divided HP. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will be valued at half that. But if you could acquire the entire HP at $50 billion one year ago, and in 2015 that money would only buy half the company — and the part that's growing much more slowly — why do it when it costs more?
Oracle is more than twice the size of HP, though, in market capitalization. Right now Oracle is at $189 billion in market cap. Nobody learns about deals of this size between titans like these until the agreement is right under our noses. Everybody's got to convince their shareholders, too. An epic battle was waged over HP's Compaq purchase over just that circumstance. We can't tell, but your community also knows that kind of surprise is also true about lopping off business product lines — ones that are profitable and beloved, too.
December 22, 2014
A Quiet December Week's MPE Ripples
The week of Christmas is a quiet one for business and enterprise IT. Sales calls and installations are at a minimum, companies work with skeleton crews, and announcements of news are rare. But nine years ago the week of Christmas was hot with a 3000 development, one that has ripples even today.
In the Christmas week of 2005 — back when HP still worked full shifts over the holidays — the 3000 division released news that HP's support lifespan for MPE would be extended. What had been called a firm and solid date of HP's departure got moved another 24 months into the future. The news was the first unmistakable evidence that the migration forecast from HP was more wishful than accurate.
As it said it would offer basic reactive support services for 3000 systems through at least December of 2008, the vendor confirmed that it would license MPE source code to several third parties. The former put a chill on migration business in the market, sending vendors -- services and software suppliers alike -- looking for non-3000 markets to service. The latter gave the support community a shot of fresh competition over the afterlife beyond the Hewlett-Packard exit.
In one of the more mixed messages to the community, HP said customers should work with the vendor to arrange support until migrations could be finished. The 3000 division also said its license for MPE source was going to "help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners." It would take another three years, beyond the closing of the MPE lab, for that source code to emerge.
The source license was limited to read-only informational use, mostly to write patches. The extension of HP's profitable support business put a kink in both migration partners' business as well as the very third party support partners the source was supposed to help.
Officially, the word from HP was that "We see that most HP e3000 customers are moving to new HP solutions, and are working closely with HP and our partners during their transitions." But Windows was moving into the spot that HP swept clean by announcing an MPE exit. An extra two years to make a migration didn't bring more ex-3000 shops into HP environments, unless they were running Windows on HP hardware.
At that time, we reported that the extension of HP's support for the 3000 -- a rollback of the "end of life" as the vendor called its exit — had already been on offer for the biggest 3000 customers.
MB Foster, a North American Platinum migration partner, said the offer of extra support was "one of the worst-kept secrets in the marketplace," according to founder Birket Foster. The extension of HP support doesn't change the business model at Speedware, or MB Foster, according to their officials. But offering basic level reactive support won't meet some customers' needs, Foster added.
While some customers will welcome the potential for more time to migrate, Foster said the HP announcement is introducing some confusion among others. "We had a customer who looked at this and said it would not be enough to make them supportable — but their senior management felt they could take the extra time," Foster said.
The offer has ripples to this day because the migration partners heard the screeching of brakes all through the market on projects. Billings evaporated that would have helped companies still supporting MPE software. It would take another seven years for the migrations to dwindle enough that Speedware announced it was reorganizing as Fresche Legacy, and start embracing transformations for the IBM AS/400 market.
As for the impact on support of 3000s, HP was suggesting that third parties could be part of an HP-branded support offering.
HP it still considers third parties to be a potential part of its own service supply chain for the HP 3000. For the moment, however, the HP support customers get will come from an HP employee or contractor. Third party support actually now takes a step up in a comparison with the just-announced 2007-08 levels of service. Most companies offering support won’t charge as much as HP to deliver mission-critical support.
Third parties never became part of HP's support products. These independent companies found that HP wouldn't leave the field when its clock was supposed to run out. The vendor chose a next-to-Christmas announcement date to de-emphasize its moving of the goalposts.
As for the relative silence from the customer community, it might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, next year's 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change options for 2007.
It’s too bad this announcement didn’t come when more people were listening, still able to allocate budgets. But HP did more than its last two updates to OpenMPE's requests. In those instances, responses came in the form of postings to mailing lists. This time out there was PR support, and an outreach to business analysts and the mainstream IT press. You’d think the vendor had something to sell here, like goodwill in a holiday season — or another couple of years of support.
December 01, 2014
HP Q4, FY static; 3000 replacement sales fall
Despite all of the challenges Hewlett-Packard faced over the past fiscal year, the company has reported sales and earnings that didn't fall much from FY 2013 levels. Falling sales of HP 3000 replacement systems remain on the balance sheet, however. Nothing has changed but the depth of the plunge.
Both the 2014 fiscal year and the Q4 numbers (click on graphics for details) reflected an ability to keep some declines off the HP financial report. The latest quarter improved on Q2 and Q3 results overall. HP reported a profit of $2.62 per share for 2014. That's nearly $5 billion in earnings company-wide.
If the company sticks to its plan, its total of $115 billion in 2014 sales, only down 1 percent from last year, covers the penultimate period HP reports as a full company. By the end of FY 2015, the corporation will separate its businesses and spin off HP, Inc. for consumer and PC products. Hewlett-Packard will remain to sell servers and enterprise computing products and services. Analysts expect the companies to be of equal size.
The total of HP's Business Critical Systems revenues took another hit in the fourth quarter, dropping almost 30 percent from Q4 of 2013. Double-digit percentage drops in BCS sales are commonplace by now. The unit produces the HP-UX systems HP once designated as replacements for the HP 3000. Intel-based systems, contained in the Industry Standard Servers operations, also saw their sales decline slightly. Networking revenues were slightly higher for the quarter.
The company's CEO was thrilled about the overall picture for the full company, calling it a sustained turnaround.
"I'm excited to say that HP's turnaround continues on track," said Meg Whitman. "In FY14, we stabilized our revenue trajectory, strengthened our operations, showed strong financial discipline, and once again made innovation the cornerstone of our company. Our product roadmaps are the best they've been in years and our partners and customers believe in us. There's still a lot left to do, but our efforts to date, combined with the separation we announced in October, sets the stage for accelerated progress in FY15 and beyond."The HP Enterprise Group, where BCS operations live, saw revenues drop 4 percent year over year with a 14.8 percent operating margin. Industry Standard Servers revenue was down 2 percent, Storage revenue was down 8 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 29 percent, Networking revenue was up 2 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 3 percent. After the report, HP's share price flirted with the $40 mark and hit a 52-week high, before falling away today. The fate of BCS and the Enterprise Group didn't concern many investors, who watch EPS profits versus predictions.
The BCS numbers for the full year showed a 22 percent sales decline, a figure that reflects a total of perhaps $200 million in lost revenues. HP doesn't report individual segment sales totals from its Enterprise Group. But BCS operations accounted for about 3 percent of the Enterprise group's $27.8 billion of activity. BCS did avoid a quarterly revenue decline once during 2014. This latest period countered with the largest quarter-over-quarter sales dive for BCS, up to now.
Even though four of the five HP segments reported revenue declines -- and the fifth, Printing and Personal systems, was flat -- the company continues to post profits. The Enterprise Group managed to return the largest operating profit for Q4 of 2014, even while its sales declined. Profitability from these Enterprise products and services will buoy up the forthcoming HP Enterprise corporation. Only HP Printing, the keystone of the new HP Inc., is more profitable per dollar of revenue.
BCS 3000 replacements won't be providing as much profit during the forthcoming year. But HP predicts that its total, company-wide operations for 2015's fiscal year will net $6 billion in profits. Those are numbers for the combined company -- one which, by this time next year, will operate as two entities.
November 26, 2014
Something to give thanks for, and envy, too
On the eve of a holiday invented to promote thanks as well as outsized eating, Thanksgiving reminds us of what a 3000 user can thank the gods for -- and something to envy, too.
Prolific commenter Tim O'Neill asked, "Can you write about the current futures of other no-longer-supported systems such as HP 1000, Alpha, and old HP 9000s such as Series 300/400/700?" We can write that the HP 1000, a product line which HP turned off just after Y2K, still has third parties who will maintain and support RTE operating system applications. The HP 1000 got a proper emulator from Strobe Data, engineered in time to capture the business of companies who couldn't part with RTE apps.
A similar story is true of the AlphaServer line from HP. Killed off in the last decade, Alpha is a third-party supported product. No other Alpha computers were built after HP shunted its users to the Integrity line, a migration path of dubious future by now. Alpha has a good emulator in the AXP version of Charon from Stromasys, the company providing a future for long-serving MPE/iX apps, too. The presence of Charon prompts thanks from companies who can't support the concept of decade-old HP hardware running MPE/iX.
But while the Alpha and the 3000 will live on in the virtualization of Stromasys, they can be envious of the deal another retiring environment received this year. OpenVMS will live on in an exclusive license to VMS Software Inc. (VSI). The company got the arrangement to carry OpenVMS forward with new versions using the HP source code for the operating system.
The details released haven't yielded much more than a third-party road map for the OS, up to now. But that's a future with some tantalizing what-if's, both for the OS and for the 3000 user who wanted more MPE/iX future back in 2002. OpenMPE campaigned for use of HP's source code for MPE and got an arrangement that was announced six years ago this week. That source was limited to a technical support resource, however.
If, as happened with OpenVMS, that source had been promised to a single third party, six years before HP would drop support, there could be more to be thankful for this week. Extended third party applications. Support for newer technologies. A replacement vendor, blessed by HP, to mention in boardroom meetings about the 3000's future.
Perhaps OpenVMS customers should be thankful for something else, too: The lessons HP faced about ending the life of a business operating environment, an OS that brought HP to the computing game. Third parties that love and care for a legacy computer were on hand for the 3000. They fell short of convincing Hewlett-Packard to turn over a marketplace. Maybe HP learned that leaving customers with no better choice than replacing a system with Windows wasn't great business.
We'll give thanks for a few days off to celebrate this holiday with family in the Great Lakes -- regardless of frigid weather. We'll be back on Monday.
October 29, 2014
Security experts try to rein in POODLE
Sometimes names can be disarming ways of identifying high-risk exploits. That's the case with POODLE, a new SSL-based security threat that comes after the IT community's efforts to contain Heartbleed, and then the Shellshock vulnerability of the bash shell program. HP 3000s are capable of deploying SSL security protocols in Web services. Few do, in the field; most companies assign this kind of service to a Linux server, or sometimes to Windows.
The acronym stands for Padding Oracle on Downgraded Legacy Encryption. This oracle has nothing to do with the database giant. A Wikipedia article reports that such an attack "is performed on the padding of a cryptographic message. The plain text message often has to be padded (expanded) to be compatible with the underlying cryptographic primitive. Leakage of information about the padding may occur mainly during decryption of the ciphertext."
The attack can also be performed on HP's Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), a security appliance that is in place protecting thousands of networks around the world. Other firewalls are at risk. Just this week HP released a security patch to help the NGFW appliances withstand the attack. External firewalls are a typical element in modern web service architectures.
A POODLE attack takes a bite out of SSL protections by fooling a server into falling back to an older SSLv3 protocol. HP reported that its Local Security Manager (LSM) software on the NGFW is at risk. But a software update is available at the HP TippingPoint website, the home of the TippingPoint software that HP acquired when it bought 3Com in 2010. TippingPoint rolled out the first HP NGFW firewalls last year.The TippingPoint experts seem to understand that older protocols -- a bit like the older network apps installed in servers like the 3000 -- are going to be indelibile.
The most effective mitigation is to completely disable the SSLv3 protocol. If this is not possible because of business requirements, alternately the TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV flag can be enabled so that attackers can no longer force the downgrade of protocols to SSLv3.
What's at risk in your data pool? HP says it likely to be sensitive, short strings of data such as session IDs and cookie values, "which can then be used to hijack the users' sessions, etc."
Et cetera indeed. The added challenge which enterprise managers assume once they move into open networks are the POODLEs, shocks to a shell and the bleeding hearts of newer operating environments. The security expertise to meet these challenges is a well-spent investment -- whether it's through a 3000-savvy services provider, or the vendor of the migration target system that's just replaced a 3000.
Basic information on these threats is always provided for free. Implementation savvy can be a valuable extra expense. For example, HP adds this nuance about disabling protocols.
An important note: both the client and server must be updated to support that TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV flag. If both allow for SSLv3 and one of them has not been updated to support the flag, the attack will remain possible.
October 23, 2014
TBT: There Used to Be a Lab Around Here
Above, the Glendenning Barn Picnic Area, one of the signature elements of Hewlett-Packard's Pruneridge Avenue campus, heartland of HP's 3000 business. It's all been razed to below-ground level, as Apple builds its new intergalactic headquarters on the site.
One of the lesser-known tunes from the Frank Sinatra songbook is There Used to Be a Ballpark Around Here. The sentiment of the song wraps around the wistful view that something unique is now gone. Apple has posted the greatest quarter of business in the company's history. All through this year, it's been steadily displacing the HP labs where the 3000 and other products were designed and improved.
One 3000 engineer posted pictures of the current state of the 3000's estate. Only a multi-story mound of earth can be seen where handsome walkways, cooperative parking and stately poplars and pines were once the sentinels around the campus. People called their journeys to this location "a factory visit." One day while I was there on a press briefing, I was shown downstairs to a lower level -- where a manufacturing line was rolling out Series 68 servers.
HP's been cutting back on many things to maintain its profitability. Real estate has been at the head of the list the company no longer needs. You can consider that HP has closed its MPE/iX labs in California, yes. But the labs themselves -- cubicles and miles of network cables and office furniture and meeting rooms named after types of trees like Oak and Maple -- those are all gone now, the home of more than 3000 enterprise computing. It's all been moved away and changed.
Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison once walked the streets of Palo Alto and bemoaned the changes at Hewlett-Packard, not quite five years ago this fall. Apple, Jobs hoped, would be built to last as long as HP and become the kind of headwater for inspiration and innovation that Hewlett-Packard was. The street that faced that Pruneridge Avenue entrance had Tandem Computer on the facing curb. Tandem, spun off from HP by James Treybig, until HP assimilated it to become its NonStop group. Now the spinning comes anew to this street, soon enough to be the site of a spaceship-sized Apple HQ.
Apple has done all that it can to become the HP of innovation, plus added an ability to capture the lightning in a bottle of excitement about new tech. It's a fulfullment of Jobs' dream to see the company rise up on the ballpark site of HP's enterprise computing labs.
October 17, 2014
Tracking MPE/iX Vulnerability to Shellshock
Security experts have said that the Shellshock bug in the bash shell program is serious. So much so that they're comparing it to the Heartbleed breach of earlier this year. Many are saying Shellshock is even more of a threat.
Once again, this has some impact on HP 3000s, just like Heartbleed did. But you'll need to be managing a 3000 that's exposed to the Internet to see some risks to address as part of system administration. Web servers, domain name servers, and other net-ready services provide the opportunity for this malware. There's not a lot of that running in the customer base today, but the software is still sitting on the 3000 systems, programs that could enable it.
Authorities fear a deluge of attacks could emerge. The US government has rated the security flaw 10 out of 10 for severity.
Bash is open source software, and our expert on that subject Brian Edminster is working on a specific report about the vulnerabilities. Hewlett-Packard posted a security bulletin that points to a safer version of the bash shell utility. But that version won't help HP 3000s.
It's not that HP doesn't know about the 3000 any longer. The patching menu above shows that MPE is still in the security lexicon at Hewlett-Packard. But Edminster thinks the only way to make bash safe again on MPE might be to port it a-fresh. "The 3000's bash is version 2.04, but the version that's considered 'current' is 4.x (depending on what target system you're on)," he said. "So if v2.04 is broken, the code-diffs being generated to fix the issues [by HP] in late-model bash software won't be of much (if any) use."One report in a UK newspaper suggested that "if online retailers use older, mainframe-style computing systems, they are likely to be vulnerable." That sounds like one way to describe the Ecometry sites still selling online with MPE versions of that software. Many of those customers do not have the 3000 directly exposed to the Internet, though.
The bug allows hackers to send commands to a computer without having admin status, letting them plant malicious software within systems.
HP has released a software update to resolve the vulnerability in HP Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) running Bash Shell. Version NGFW v220.127.116.1153 will fix the breach in that that product. But NGFW doesn't run on MPE/iX.
Edminster forwards this advice while he's working on his report.
It's most likely to be an issue for web services that use bash scripts to process web-page input for example, such as machines exposed to the Internet, and those that have services that can accept input from the 'net. I'll work to round up as many examples of potential places this can be felt on a 3000, so that folks know where to look.
Yep — this one is messy, because it's not quite so cut-and-dried as HeartBleed was.
October 15, 2014
Signed malware stalks HP's Windows boxes
HP will be revoking a security certificate for its Windows-based systems on Oct. 21, and the vendor isn't sure yet how that will impact system reliability.
The bundled software on older HP PC systems has been at risk of being the front-man for malware, according to a report in the Kerbs on Security website. This code-signing is supposed to give computer users and network admins confidence about a program's security and integrity. HP's Global Chief Security Officer Brett Wahlin said the company is revoking a certificate it's been using even before 2010.
HP was recently alerted by Symantec about a curious, four-year-old trojan horse program that appeared to have been signed with one of HP’s private certificates and found on a server outside of HP’s network. Further investigation traced the problem back to a malware infection on an HP developer’s computer.
HP investigators believe the trojan on the developer’s PC renamed itself to mimic one of the file names the company typically uses in its software testing, and that the malicious file was inadvertently included in a software package that was later signed with the company’s digital certificate. The company believes the malware got off of HP’s internal network because it contained a mechanism designed to transfer a copy of the file back to its point of origin.
The means of infection here is the junkware shipped with all PCs, including HP's, according to HP 3000 consultant and open source expert Brian Edminster. In this case, the revoked certificate will cause support issues for administrators. The certificate was used to sign a huge swath of HP software, including crucial hardware and software drivers and components that are critical to Windows.
"This is one of the reasons that I absolutely loath all the 'junkware' that is commonly delivered along with new PCs," Edminster said. "I end up spending hours removing it all before I use a new PC." Recovery partitions on Windows systems will be at unknown risk after the certificate is pulled Oct. 21, too.HP's Windows computers have recovery partitions on the boot hard drive that can restore a system to its original, factory-shipped software configuration. That configuration includes the junkware.
"For me, this junkware is just chaff," Edminster said, "and an opportunity to clog up a machine that's supposed to be pristine and new. To say nothing of increased opportunities for the sort of thing outlined in the Kerbs article."
HP's Security officer Wahlin said that admins will have to wait to see the impact of that revoked certificate, according to the article.
The interesting thing that pops up here — and even Microsoft doesn’t know the answer to this — is what happens to systems with the restore partition, if they need to be restored. Our PC group is working through trying to create solutions to help customers if that actually becomes a real-world scenario, but in the end that’s something we can’t test in a lab environment until that certificate is officially revoked by Verisign on October 21.
October 10, 2014
When Smaller Can Be Better
Hewlett-Packard has chosen to cleave itself into two much smaller companies. It will take most of the next year to make that a reality. But it might be an advantage to return to working with a more nimble company. Well, an advantage to the 3000 site that's migrating to HP's other computer enterprise solutions, or has done so recently.
Over at the New York Times, the tech writers found something to praise even while they questioned the wisdom of the move.
In one day, Meg Whitman has created two of America’s biggest companies. All she had to do was break apart Hewlett-Packard, the company credited with creating Silicon Valley. HP Enterprise is targeting a market that appears full of potential innovations, while HP Inc. seems stuck in the low-margin consumer hardware business that has proved a slog for companies not named Apple or Samsung.
It appears Whitman has found a vision: one that looks a bit like the IBM of the West — with an emphasis on products rather than IBM’s consulting services — and another that looks a bit like Compaq Computer, a Texas computer company that HP controversially merged with 12 years ago.
A long time ago, in a marketplace now far away, 3000 owners wished for some breaking off. The HP 3000 wasn't a part of Hewlett-Packard's vision? Fine. Sell the unit off and let's get on with a focused future. At the time, the business was said to turn over $1 billion yearly. Even at half that size, it would've been big enough to survive with customer loyalty. If the 3000 had nothing else going for it, you could count on loyalty.
All opportunities now gone, you say. You just cannot break up an enterprise tech player like that. Then Whitman chops a massive company into two much smaller parts. Smaller has been better for the typical 3000 customer for a long time. Yes, there are times when there are advantages of being big: When a 3000 user got more from a company which sprawls to supersize, in sales and scope of solutions. You get predictability, alliances and headroom from companies sized HP. The vendor so lusted after being No. 1, which did not become a path to long-term success.
3000 community members understand that smaller can be better -- not bigger -- especially when they use what the independent vendor lives upon. Small companies respond faster, polish relationships, and commit for life.
Faster response can mean software that is enhanced sooner, or answers that resolve problems more quickly -- because a smaller company has fewer layers for a customer to dive through. Relationship polishing is the personal attention to a company of any size: the kind of experience that HP 3000 managers, who may now be CIOs and CTOs, recall getting from a smaller HP.As an example, the Support Group knows its customers on a first-name basis. The operations at this 3000 provider include a hotsite datacenter located about 100 yards from the call stations. This integration of support and cloud services is natural, seamless, and don't require a special manager to coordinate.
You can get that kind of integration in an encounter from HP for a migration platform. Whether it slips smoothly into the budgets of small to midsize companies is less certain. So much of the HP offerings don't come from Hewlett-Packard while the vendor engages smaller customers. Independent partners deliver services in what HP considers a smaller marketplace.
Then there's that "outside the product" call that a 3000 user makes to a long-time supplier. This call is really about the 3000, not the product in the support contract. But that doesn't make a difference to a smaller company than HP. Large IT vendors don't even have a coding category to let that call begin, let alone be resolved.
Finally there's the final chapter of a relationship between smaller customer and smaller provider. I call this "commit for life" because it represents the intention to maintain a relationship to the very end, not when a business strategy changes in a boardroom. Years ago, Robelle told the community it would support the 3000 until at least 2016. As long as there's still a customer around, STR Software says they'll support them on the Fax/3000 solution. Commit for life means a smaller vendor's lifespan, most of the time, -- not the lifetime of its business plans.
October 09, 2014
TBT: A 3000 Newsworthy Birth Day
The first issue of the Newswire ran its black and red ink across 24 pages of an early October issue. Inside, the first FlashPaper late-news insert had been waiting a week for main-issue printing to catch up with mailing plans.
In our ThrowBack to this week of 1995, the first issue of The 3000 Newswire rolled out into the mails. The coverage of the HP 3000 was cheerful enough to encourage a belief that the computer would run forever -- but 19 years of future was far from certain for either the system or the first 3000-only publication. Volume 1 (the year), Issue 1 came out in a 24-page edition, the same page count of the printed issue that just mailed this Fall. At the Newswire's introduction, one user group leader wondered aloud, on a bus ride during the Interex '95 conference in Toronto, "what in the world you'll might be able to find to fill up the news in Issue No. 2."
The last of the competing HP-only publications closed its doors 10 years later, when Interex folded its user group overnight. Interact, HP Professional, SuperGroup, HP Omni and others turned out the lights during that decade.
The Newswire's first mailed issue was carrying the news circulating in mid-August during an Interex conference. For the first time in 10 years, an HP CEO spoke at the Interex event. However, Lew Platt was a current CEO when he spoke to the 3000 faithful. David Packard was a former CEO and board member when he addressed the multitudes at Interex '85 in Washington DC.
Platt said that HP 3000 users had nothing to fear from a future where Unix was in vogue at HP. Earlier in the day, speaking before the full assembly of users, he said HP was going to making new business by taking out older products. At an editor's luncheon we asked him what that mission held for the 3000.
Platt explained his prior comments on cannibalizing HP's business to maintain steady growth. MPE/iX won't be served up in a pot anytime soon. "I don't mean leaving customers high and dry," he said. "HP has worked extremely hard with products like the HP 3000 to make the people who have bought them have a good future. We've put an enormous amount of energy out to make sure we can roll those people forward. I'd say we've done a better job than just about any company in the industry in providing a good growth path for those customers."
The CEO went on to explain how cannibalization would work. HP would take a product, such as a printer, that was doing perfectly well and may still be a leadership printer in the market -- and bringing in a new one before it's reached its end of life. If you substitute "business server" for "printer" in that plan, you can see how a computer that was doing perfectly well might see a new computer brought in before the end of its life. In that issue, the Newswire story noted that the project we'd learn to call Itanium six years later was going undercover, so that new product wouldn't lock up existing server business for a year before it would ship.
HP was calling the joint effort with Intel the Tahoe architecture, and Platt would be retired from his job before anything shipped.Sixteen more stories made up the news in that October of 19 years ago. The Series 9x9 line had an 8-user model introduced for just under $50,000. It was the era when a 3000's price was set by the number of its concurrent users. A 40-user 939 sold for $30,000 more, despite having no extra horsepower. User-limited licensing, which HP maintained for the 3000 while Windows was free of limits, would continue for the next six years.
An Interex survey said that three-fourths of 3000 customers were ready to reinvest in the line, but the article focused on the better value of the server in the users' estimation. HP's Unix servers were compared to the 3000.
The story atop Page One addressed the limits of those user-based licenses, and how a requested MPE improvement would help. SIGMPE's Tony Furnivall said that "if you could have multiple, independent job queues, the same algorithms ight be used to limit the number of active sessions." Any 8-user 3000s that were replaced with 800-user systems would be subject to more costly software licenses from third party firms. User-based licensing was prevalent, if not popular, in the 3000 world of October 1995.
On the first three inside pages were a story about the country's oldest pastime, a pointer to a then-new World Wide Web that included a Newswire page, and a full-page HP ad that said, "You want open systems computing. You don't want to move mountains of critical data to a new platform." Hewlett-Packard would hold that view for about six more years. The next 13 have made up the Migration Era, with a Newswire printed across every one of those years. The Newswire has been published more than twice as long during those migrations as all the years before HP announced the end of its 3000 plans.
Cal Ripken, Baltimore Orioles baseball all-star, was breaking a record for consequitive games played that began 13 years earlier. "We're here in your hands this month because of the legendary, Ripken-esque performance of the 3000 deserves more attention," an editorial crowed.
A PC and printer executive at HP got the job as chief of all computer business. It was the second additional layer of management inserted between the CEO and the 3000 group. Rick Belluzzo was 41, commanding a $20 billion sector, and didn't have a specific job title. Olivier Helleboid was 3000 General Manager three levels down.
Windows 95 was launched at that Interex show in Toronto with a mountaineer rappelling down the CN Tower, stopping halfway and "using Win95 from a wireless laptop. It was all too much for Birket Foster, president of HP 3000 channel partner M.B. Foster Associates and a supplier of Windows products."
"It's all a media event," Foster said. "Is the average user going to do that? It's all way too much hype for what's being delivered." A survey showed no manager had installed Win95 company-wide yet.
HP's managers shed their coats and ties at a roundtable en masse, after customers pointed out that IBM's officials dressed casual on the conference's expo floor. A technical article detailed the relief that PatchManager/iX delivered for MPE patch installs. New 3000 integrators were announced for manufacturing and FileNet workflow document services; the latter had six companies listed in the US.
One of those in-between HP managers said the company "now sees the 3000 as something sold to new customers mostly as an engine for specific applications, like manufacturing or healthcare systems." Porting applications from other systems would be made easier with the first C++ for MPE, the freeware GNU C++ suite, bootstrapped by ORBiT Software's Mark Klein. The GNU package made possible a host of open system tools within two years. "HP is helping to distribute GNU C++ form its HP 3000-based World Wide Web server on the Internet," the story added.
Ultimately, the Web server software HP shipped for MPE/iX was ported from Apache source code from the open systems world. HP told its DeskManager office communications users to expect enhancements first on HP's Unix systems. Helleboid, forecasting HP's final act in the 3000 world years later, said in the first Q&A that HP would collaborate with arch-rivals IBM, Digital and Sun to create "a complete environment for Unix applications."
Helleboid also said that the 3000's Customer First strategy would be presented to other HP computer groups such as its Unix group. "Customers are looking for this kind of relationship," he said in a forecast of using 3000 ideas to improve replacement business models.